Cartoon Alley : Mat Tait & Mike Brown

Mat Tait is a South Island based cartoonist and illustrator. His self-published comics collection Love Stories was Best Comic winner at the 2010 New Zealand Comics Awards.

Mike Brown lives in Wellington and is currently writing a PhD thesis on New Zealand vernacular musics. Among the comics he has enjoyed over the years are 2000AD, Love and Rockets, and RAW, and work by Charles Burns, Chester Brown, and Mœbius. Previously having made short films and radio documentaries, and written articles on various subjects, this is his first foray into comic scripting.

These comics depict some our favourite New Zealand folk tales, back-country yarns, ghost stories, urban myths, and other folklore. We have both had a long interest in the folk legends of overseas cultures, but until recently little suspected the existence of New Zealand equivalents, aside from traditional Māori mythology. Then, during academic study a few years back, I (Michael) was surprised to discover how many had been collected here over the years. And that some of these stories were very fine indeed! They also began to awaken memories of urban myths encountered in our own pasts (ever heard of the hitchhiker who flagged rides on the road near Plimmerton, then disappeared leaving the seatbelt still buckled?). Thus was born the idea of translating a select few into the comic medium.

As well as being funny, spooky, or simply cracking yarns, these New Zealand folk tales are interesting for a number of reasons. Some are local variants of an archetypal story or “tale type” found elsewhere in the world; others use motifs that crop up time and again in human narrative. Several could only be set in New Zealand, however, whether for their atmosphere, sense of humour, or for the mingling of Māori and Pākeha elements. Not all are unadulterated folklore, either, but have roots in historical events which have taken on the quality of legend. Each of these stories includes a short précis of such matters.

Since starting work on this idea a few years ago, we have discovered others have already covered similar territory using the comic format. As far back as the 1950s, there was Ross Gore’s It Happened in New Zealand (c.1953, Digest Print), while a fine recent example is Chris Slane’s Maui: Legends of the Outcast (1996, Godwit Publishing). We also plan to eventually collate the comics into a publication. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our particular take on these New Zealand stories.

Last updated: June 27th, 2012 (Due to small size of original lettering please click to expand pages.)