Tony Renouf: "The launch drunkenness for issue 4. Back row l-r...dunno, The Steamer, Anthony Behrens, Ross Campbell, Donald Ferns, Ken Gorrie, sprog of Gorrie, Morris Brown. Middle l-r...dunno (but he was mates with Paul Potiki and did lotsa Dr. Who fan club stuff) Tracy Osbourne, Glen Ross, Jane Gorrie, Front l-r...the guy who used real blood to illustrate his cartoon about using real blood to finish an exam when you run out ink...he committed suicide 3-4 months later, Paul Potiki."
Way back in last month I posted the first part of a three parter interview with Dunedin Cartoonist Tony Renouf, here's part two with the concluding part making an appearance this week.
Tony has recently started a tumblr: boredtootone2.tumblr.com
Matt Emery: One of my formative comics experiences was picking up Treacle #1 in the early 90's, I think from a comic shop in Auckland, I found other New Zealand anthologies, Razor, Scratch, and the last issue of Jesus on a Stick around the same time. Can you talk a bit about the genesis of Treacle? I'm guessing you were taking your cues from those earlier anthologies?
Tony Renouf: Formative?...I think you can get an ointment for that....hmmm...Treacle was definitely inspired by my experiences of being part of the Jesus on a Stick/Razor things and Dunedin's own Larrikin. I was starting to meet more and more folk who were interested in cartooning and we all needed a venue for our work. I think by that stage I was already organising a whole page in the Critic (OUSA newspaper) with three (or was it four?...Four I think 'cos we got $5 each per strip...it was the $25 per week photo development money from the Critic budget!) other 'toonists so was looking to the anthology thing so we could include more folk. Once I'd got the ball rolling I started annoying everyone I knew who could hold a pencil to "Fill the space". I'd already published my own minis and worked in the printing industry for some time (both pre & post press) because I wanted the basic skills to produce a publication by hook or by crook .
When I started putting together Treacle I could not only format my pages with trim marks etc all mounted ready for plate making but I knew how much beer for how many copies...er...and could bind & trim them on commercial machinery without losing a limb...voila... Treacle...boxes & boxes of printed matter that no-one was really that interested in buying.
I guess I fell over on the distribution side of things writing letters, receiving answers then sending stuff out....all pre-intraweb ...and the local market was hard. Everyone thought it was a fabulous idea but nobody wanted to part with cash for them. Eventually I could no longer afford to keep throwing money in the hole. (No nice cushy grants from the arts council in them days). We downsized to A5 for Ummph! Then I buggered off overseas for awhile. Publishing took a back seat when I got back as my next job was at Echo records, I started to focus more on music and cartooning took a back seat but I'm a bit proud that i managed to get close to 50 people (rough guesstimate only!) from the ages of ten thru to 64 (again, figures conjured from failing memory!) into print across 5 issues of Treacle.
Emery: How did you meet Chris Stapp? He's always struck me as one of NZ's most under appreciated cartoonists. Perhaps he's more well known for his other "contributions to the arts" I loved his early ‘Jamie Hewlett style’, and the later cut throat humour strips he did for gig guides.
Renouf: Can't say I have any firm memories of Chris...big fella...walks with a limp...speaks with a faux eastern European accent ...smells like skateboard axle grease....right? I think we probably got introduced thru mutual acquaintances in bands or Radio One or a combination of the two...and it was one of those "oh cool, you can draw, here's the deadlines ring me when you're done" relationships...not sure...I can remember fuming when he "won" the only lucrative cartoon illustration game in town, the OUSA Orientation poster. It was the year after I so badly dropped the ball - I'd had great idea but it just looked worse & worse & worse the more I worked on it and had no other option than to submit it. It sucked, big time & I never got asked back because Chris put his hand up & he is fuckin' brilliant isn't he? Is he still drawing?? (he should be)...or did his career in music & television drag him away from his pens???
Emery: Who was the 64 year old cartoonist in Treacle?
Renouf: Ooooo....The 64 yr old was the staff artist at the Otago Daily Times. His name escapes me ( you might have to refer to the relevant copy of Treacle for that!) but he had been published or had a concept accepted by some UK publishing outfit only to have the idea and the glory snatched away from him by his collaborator. He'd take great pride in showing you the stuff he'd completed (he kept it on a shelf next to his drawing table) and then launch into a rant about his missed (stolen) opportunity. Have a funny feeling the booze took him out shortly after he retired.
Tony Renouf: "Road trip to attend a comics workshop in Christchurch organised by the Funtime crew...L-R Me, The Steamer, Colin Andrews (dick), Morris Brown."
Emery: Where else were your cartoons featuring during the period Treacle was published?
Renouf: When Treacle was coming out I was also doing the strip thing in the Critic with some of the usual suspects from the pages of Treacle, Glenn Ross, Anthony Behrens, Paul Potiki, Morris Brown and (possibly) everybody's least favourite (but very talented) sponging, fuckwit - Colin Andrews can't say if I was contributing to anything else at the time. The weekly strip thing ate up a whole mess of time.
Tony Renouf: "Outside said Christchurch workshop...very early...very hung over...l-r wassaname from Christchurch, Ross Campbell, Glen Ross, The Steamer."
Glen Ross drawing in Christchurch
Ross Campbell drawing in Christchurch
Emery: Were you in touch with other cartoonists around the country during this period?
Renouf: Lotsa folk, I established, built & stocked the NZ comics shelf at Bag End Books. So I was was soliciting copies of everything I could get a hold of to keep it nice and full. So all the Razor crew, Ant Sang, Peter Johnston from Nightcaps...Um...the guy that did the anarchy/rat comics...wrapped in cellophane...er...um...(It's moments like these that I wish I hadn't chucked all my NZ comics into a box and donated them to the Hocken Library).
Emery: Do you recall what the print runs of Treacle were?
Renouf: Treacle print runs would have run to 200 - 250. But the lads on the presses always ran extras...and I mean a lot of extras!!! Silly really because we never sold more than 60 or 70 of the bloody things!!....(wish I'd kept them now...might make a few sales on the back of this article!! Call 'em collectable...double the cover price)... (retire in the Bahamas).
Emery: Did you get much feedback from readers during Treacle's lifespan?
Renouf: No feedback that I can recall. Usual, "Wow! This is great everyone will buy this!".... and plaudits within the local "industry" for the print quality/lay out etc... And I guess that's one reason I gave it away. Everyone liked it but not enough people could support it financially to make it viable Even stuff like the strips in Critic became a real chore because they started to complain about some of the content in a completely read out of context of the whole kinda way. $5 a week for 4 hrs work (and that didn't include the cut & paste of the art work to a page format or the running around to collect/deliver!!)....Fuck that shit for a game of soldiers!!
Emery: Where there any cartoonists that you weren't previously acquainted with that particularly impressed you from the Treacle contributors?
Renouf: No contributor stood out for me - I love them all. The good, the bad, the truly awful...They were expressing themselves in a format that I love and in some (most?!?) circumstances a format that I'd cajoled them into trying out! Fill the space or I'll hound you until you've filled the space.