INCEPTION: What was your reason for producing Sick Puppy Comix, which first saw print back in 1996?
At that time I had just discovered minicomics, and they were locally produced. The idea of self publishing overwhelmed me, I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about this concept. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner? I knew I had to make my own publication. Since my intent was to collect and present other folks’ comix that I really liked, rather than solely my own primitive drawings, I decided to make an anthology.
As SICK PUPPY evolved over the years, did your reasons for publishing it evolve along with it, or did you stay true to your initial ideals?
It’s evolved I’d say. One thing that became very obvious was that I had discovered that I was actually quite good at this – making SICK PUPPY matched my abilities and it was something I actually enjoyed, it didn’t feel at all like work.
Another good reason to continue publishing was that there was so little exposure for comix in this country, it struck me that in this case, one person COULD make a difference (as corny as that sounds).
Considering the content in the comic offended people, did you find it hard to distribute, and get into shops?
A couple of times. Like once when I was in Perth and I rolled up at a shop that I had been assured was “cool”. The guy I showed it to just about flipped his wig. He wanted no part of it.
But mostly it’s OK because I only take it to the kind of stores who deal in that kind of underground stuff, a fine example being Paul Elliott’s PolyEster Books in Melbourne. Paul has been great, he’s supported SICK PUPPY for a long time with such solid commitment that he sells more copies than all other stores put together.
Over the years you’ve had many people inform you of their dissatisfaction with all, or part of the content. Not just by readers, but even by regular contributors. Some fair, others clearly reading the story/article wrong. How do you handle it, and did you fear that some of these people may publicly have point a finger at you at that time?
How do I handle negative feedback? I welcome it. I actually enjoy having to defend SICK PUPPY, I’ve become pretty good at it by now, that’s for sure. The biggest surprise I admit was related to what you mentioned – about contributors offended by something, and that was Mannheim’s columns, and the person who was offended was an icon of the underground comix scene in Australia, I would say, so I was definitely surprised at the reaction. And because I respected this person so much, I felt I really had to justify my decision to run Mannheim’s columns. I certainly never felt guilty or in the wrong, though. I think it comes down to black humour – sometimes it may just be too much for some folks, but ultimately it’s just humour. I have no problem with the fact that SICK PUPPY is not for everybody, my main concern was focussing on making it for the people who I knew WOULD enjoy it.
In the final issue of SP [#13], you published a letter by Ivan Brunetti, who said it was time you, and everyone else stopped producing works of a juvenile, and pathetic nature. It seemed very self-righteous that he was happy to submit stories when he was interested in explicit confronting humour. Yet as soon as he decides he’s “over it” he tells everyone to “grow the fuck up.” What’s the reaction been from that so far?
Most people seem to think it’s a bit rich coming from him. And apparently he’s still doing stuff like that anyway. Still, I can see what he’s trying to say, I feel the same way after doing SICK PUPPY for 13 issues. The problem is it’s very tricky to put this into words. It’s like for me, I am pretty damn sick of the word “sick”. People constantly saying “Aw man I gotta come up with something SICK enough for SICK PUPPY!” When I hear that I think: “Good grief what have I created here? I’ve created a monster!” I’ll admit that I encouraged it to begin with so I’ve nobody to blame but myself. Nevertheless, suddenly it seemed so stale and predictable. So it’s natural to demand something more, you just have to watch how you put it otherwise you could come across like the big been-there-done-that know-it-all like Brunetti is in danger of representing with that letter.
Perhaps one of the best letters summing up SP was also seen in #13. Chris Mikul mentioned that when SPC first came out it was a liberating experience for many contributors, yet in time he, and I guess others struggled to produce comics that were sick enough for your anthology. Were you aware of this, and how did you feel about it?
Yeah I was aware of it alright, but by then it was too late. For many people that’s what a SICK PUPPY contribution demanded – that kind of ‘oneupmanship’ in terms of ‘sickness’. What can you do? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing could be done about that problem.
Was there any story/article that you look back upon now and regret printing due to the confronting content it had? Or are you happy to say you never once stepped over the line I assume you drew for yourself as an editor.
There’s only one strip I regret putting in there, but that’s because it’s so lame. (I won’t say who it’s by, only that it’s in SP#7)
The myth is that women like to hang around bad boys. Did SP prove that to be true or false? I read in the Dr James King interview that friends of one of your ex-girlfriends tried to convince her to stop dating you. I was shocked to read that.
Well, I sure don’t have any groupies. Then again, that could have something to do with the fact that we’re talking comix here.
Yes it’s true that with my girlfriend Kathy, some of her friends were very concerned for her welfare when they found out she was going out with “the guy who does that SICK PUPPY COMIX”. She assured them that I was a very nice boy, yet they would hear nothing of the sort. “No no no! Just look at the comic he does!” They were quite horrified and convinced she was in real danger.
During your time on the comic, did you receive any weird gifts, or letters that made you laugh, freak you out?
I haven’t really received any “weird gifts”, but naturally I do receive some pretty weird zines. One of the more noteworthy of those would have to be The Necroerotic – a newsletter devoted to love/lust of dead folks.
I get the occasional weird letter. Not so long ago I got a letter from a guy telling me how much he enjoyed masturbating over a recent issue. I’m not interested in hearing about stuff like this.
The letters that made me laugh the most, and surely my favourite letters of feedback ever, are the ones from the two ex-girlfriends – reprinted in SP#12 and SP13.
Now that it’s over, do you think SP was a success for you, and where does it stand in the history of Australian comics?
I’d say it definitely was a success for me since publishing SICK PUPPY was where I learnt how to put a comix publication together. You only have to look at SP#1 to see how little of an idea I had to begin with. And it shows what can be done. I’m proud as hell of how far SICK PUPPY has come.
Where does it stand in the history of Australian comics?
I don’t think that’s for me to say. I’m nowhere even near being any kind of authority on the history of Australian comics.
Your new project is called ATOMISER. You’ve hinted that it will be more zine-based, but still contain comics. With the infamous Mannheim Jerkoff who was a regular with SP confirmed for Atomiser, does this mean we will expect similar themes in your new series?
Actually, ATOMISER will still be mostly comix. I think what you’re referring to about the zine thing is that I’m interested in picking up another columnist to join Mannheim Jerkoff and The J Man.
As far as Mannheim is concerned, I think we will see him branch out in new directions from his previous porn themes, although that is not to say that he will finish with his porn-related themes.
What is your main objective with Atomiser, be it personal, professional, or both?
My main objective with ATOMISER will be to make the kind of publication that has the following effect on our readers: they could not possibly imagine a world without ATOMISER in it, and if ever such a day did come it would be beyond sadness. Utter despair. But that is not even a possibility, because even if I were to, say, die prematurely, it would be OK because there would be somebody chosen to step directly into the role as editor and publisher.
Some people are aware of other titles you threw around before selecting Atomiser as the new publication’s name. What made Atomiser your final choice?
I get my best ideas very late at night. After trying so hard for weeks and weeks to come up with a name for the new publication, I was so frustrated I gave up. Some days later, real late one night when I couldn’t sleep, the word ATOMISER appeared in my head. One minute it wasn’t there, the next it was. I instantly knew that was the name I had to use.
Will Atomiser be your publishing project alone, or do you plan on bringing in others to help edit, compile, finance it?
If somebody was prepared to help fund the production and promotion of it, I would certainly be happy to explore that possibility. As far as creative decisions, I wouldn’t dare let anybody else near it.
SP had contributors from around the world, which is rare in local comics. Will this continue with Atomiser?
Yes, definitely. It’s a good thing because overseas contributors show it around to their friends, so a whole load of people internationally get to see what Australian comix folk are doing, what their stuff is like. I’ve had people from overseas admit they had never known there was such a “vibrant” comics scene here.
Will there be an Atomiser web site, I assume that SP web site will go off-line?
Yes, I will soon get around to building an ATOMISER website. The SICK PUPPY site will remain online indefinitely. [actually for some reason I have yet to solve, the site is down]
Are you seeking submissions, or have you already worked out who will be involved?
Yep, always seeking submissions from new folks as well as folks who may have submitted something that ended up not being included.
Finally what will be the one important difference between SP, and Atomiser.
Probably that when I started SICK PUPPY I had very little idea – it was really a case of beginning a creative project with absolutely no knowledge of how to go about it, so I had to learn everything along the way. ATOMISER will emerge with 6 years of experience (putting a comix anthology together) behind it.
ATOMISER will be sharp as a tack from the get go!