Tony Renouf Interview Part Two

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:

Read Tony Renouf Interview Part One

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 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 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.

Treacle #3

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."

Scan 532.jpg

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'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.

Treacle #5

Tony Renouf Interview Part One

One Man and an Anthology: Tony Renouf and display of the first issue of Dunedin anthology Treacle.

The comic above is one of my favourite comic pages of all time. I found it in a New Zealand comics fanzine as an impressionable teen and for better or worse it has encapsulated a lot of my life. Renouf's Treacle along with Corn Stone and Dylan Horrock's Razor, Jonathan King's Scratch, and Chris Knox's Jesus on a Stick were all influential New Zealand comic anthologies that cultivated my early interest in making and publishing comics. I never got to read any of the further issues of Treacle other than the first one but like a lot of New Zealand anthologies I presumed it wound down after a few issues with cartoonists going on to other things like most sensible people do.

A few years ago I was pleasantly surprised to see Treacle Editor Tony Renouf resurface with a blog, Bored in a Record Shop, where he has been consistently filing new comics alongside older works. I approached Tony about doing an interview late last year and over a couple months we batted emails back and forth. After a break of a few months I've finally got around to editing it. Dunedin and Christchurch alongside provincial New Zealand comics scenes get a bit of short shrift in coverage anywhere so it's been very interesting to talk to Tony about his own background with comics and the Dunedin scene of the 1980's and 1990's.

Treacle #1

Matt Emery: Where were you living when you first encountered comics and what were they? How old were you?

Tony Renouf: My folks emigrated to New Zealand from Jersey, Channel Islands in 1967  I would have been 4 when we arrived. My first experience of comics would have been at age 5. I've no recollection of the reason why, but Mum started my brother and I on English weeklies Beano for me & BoBo Bunnie for my bro (which I also read, a mutual truce/swap meet thing which lasted into our teenage years when we ditched fighting over the ownership of comics for posturing in front of girls).

Emery: What part of New Zealand did you move to? Do you remember the point you started buying comics yourself? Did you draw as a child? When did you draw your first comic?

Renouf: ....Oh...we moved to Gordonton just outside of Hamilton, in the Waikato. My first conscious choice of comic was asking Mum if I could ditch the Beano and get the new and flashy looking Cor! Cor! started in 1970, I would have been 7. I think I was enamoured of the free gifts they were offering with the first few issues. We didn't get pocket monies, we got comics (yay mum!) and that decision led to many other changes of weekly comics.  The Newsagent at Davies Corner in Fairfield,Hamilton...just checked google's a medical centre now...that was our "local" as I grew up. I got to choose what I was reading. We were always allowed to choose what we read.

I remember buying a Cracked magazine, unsupervised, on a holiday in Whitianga maybe in '74/'75. It was the first thing I really bought with my own monies (xmas loot). It was confiscated and perused for adult themes and subversive ideals by my folks and returned. Mad mag' was pretty hot with the kids who were a year or so older than me but I'd had access thru mates who had older bro's and was fascinated by the parodies etc. Cracked wasn't as good but it's what I got my hands on first and transferred my ingrained English weekly loyalty (am I off piste yet?...back to the questions...)...or am I jumping ahead...maybe it was the year that the local shop (It was a real country store when we first arrived...nails in wooden bins...pigeon hole post office...) had a rack of Marvel super hero drek and Mum was doing the books at the garage next door so we got to hang out in Gordonton village  and buy one copy of all the titles they had...Thor is the only one I can really picture in my minds eye.

The last comic Renouf drew in 1991: "….oh, that’s right…looking at my archive I noticed that this cartoon was the last that I completed in 1991…I  stopped  drawing ….I think my enthusiasm wained because it didn’t feel like my “art” was going anywhere and it most definitely wasn’t going to feed me…."

I drew a lot as a kid. Mum encouraged us to amuse ourselves with pencils & paper. Country kids can be a little isolated, you can't just nip round the corner to a mates. It's bike ride or a car trip away, it's draw or fight with your kid brother and you can only fight with that little shit for so long before you get separated and sent somewhere to amuse yourself, by yourself.... right?. I was kinda the class illustrator, best with a pencil, it was how I won friends and influenced people. I can't remember ever attempting anything sequential till I moved to Dunedin in '85 but did a lot of school book defacing with word balloons and my school projects were also very well turned out. I wrote  tons of stories all thru primary/intermediate (one school for country kids) very active imagination, again I think the isolation helped (or was that solitary confinement, see :- fighting with bro'....)

Emery: Who were the first cartoonists you met in Dunedin? Were you aware of others making comics in New Zealand at the time?

Renouf: I came to Dunedin in late 1984 with the intention of forming a band with a mate who was coming down to Uni' and being a cartoonist. In about 1981/82, after a break from comics of a couple of 3 years (puberty!),  I'd started getting 2000ad on a weekly basis again and had also discovered the Bijou book of Funnies compendium of US underground cartoonists at Pauls University book shop on Victoria St. My first inkling that comics didn't have to be all about superheroes or white (?) jungle savages, Crumb, Shelton etc...mmmm...I'd been carrying a note book around for awhile whilst I was still in Hamilhole...largely using it to write "songs", angsty punk rock poetry & doodle in, but nothing particularly sequential was going into it.

The first cartoonist I met was Bruce fact Bruce was the first cartoonist I'd met ever...(I won't count meeting Ronken, the Waikato Times political cartoonist at a school fair when I was maybe I was unable to speak to him at all because of AWE... !...) Bruce helped me get my cartoons into Critic, the Otago University Student Newspaper. I was vaguely aware of Bob Scotts "every secret thing" fanzine/comic but didn't really meet anyone else who aspired to draw comics for quite some time after that. I picked up Razor at the Uni book shop (Dunedin)...but I think I was in Chris Knox's Jesus On A Stick's all a bit blurry for me.

I should probably mention that I had no clue whatsoever how to put together comics when I first arrived down here, even at a strip level and got very few pointers from those around me, apart from the dimensions I had to fill!...(which probably led to my publishing catch cry of, "Just fill the space!"). My first "published" cartoon (waiter there's a skinhead in my soup) was actually photocopied and individually taped on poster spots around town like a band poster run. We even got stopped by the cops who asked us what our band was called, "It's not a band officer, its a cartoon" says I, handing a copy through the open window. Hur! Hur! says the cop and hands it over to his driver...Hur! Hur! says the driver, they sent us on our way after explaining that it was illegal to post bills, (but it's not a bill officer...). Years later I was recounting this story at the table of a Uni' Prof' who'd invited my good friend Dee (the long suffering) and her workmates and partners up to his for a feed. The partner who was a cop (and a quiet broody one at that) piped up and said the cartoon in question had graced the station notice board until it was too faded to read!! After a few months of sifting about I secured a position at Budget print...a 3rd generation family run print shop...with the express purpose of furthering my knowledge of how to make comics....what was the question?...

"A self portrait/bio thing from shortly after the Treacle/Umph phase."

Bored in a Record Shop