Interview with NZ comic artist Ant Sang

05.30.2014

Animation College catches up with cult New Zealand comic artist Ant Sang.

Can you very briefly explain what Dharma Punks is about?

Dharma Punks is about a Buddhist punk, Chopstick, who is involved in a plot to blow up a multi-national fast-food restaurant. The story focuses on the night the bomb is to be planted in the restaurant, and as the night unfolds the punks' plan starts to unravel and Chopstick realises he has to face up to events from the past which are still haunting him.

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When the series’ first came out what effect did it have on the comic scene in NZ?

It had a really great reaction from the NZ comic scene. Dharma Punks was ambitious for a self-published comic (it ended up being a whopping 384 pages over eight issues), and it created a real buzz for a few years. At one stage it was even outselling the big US titles, like X-Men, in the comic shops, which was amazing. And for a lot of people who bought Dharma Punks, they'd never read NZ comics before, so I'm quite chuffed to think I helped shine the light on our small scene.

Obviously you’ve been and done other things (Bro’ Town, Shaolin Burning, becoming a Dad!) did you always intend to revisit the world of the Dharma Punks?

For years Dharma Punks has been unavailable, and I've wanted a collected edition to happen, so that folk could get hold of it. There have been a few close calls, but for various reasons, it never happened until now.

How excited are you about being able to republish all Dharma Punks comics as one graphic novel?

Super excited. It will make for a big, fat graphic novel. And it's great to know it'll be available again soon!

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How did the idea come about to start a Kickstarter campaign and did you have any help putting the campaign together?

About a year ago some of my comic mates approached me with the idea of reprinting Dharma Punks through a crowdfunding campaign. They're all stand up guys, and I was keen to work with them. Kelly Sheehan is one half of the Sheehan Brothers, Adrian Kinnaird is the author of From Earth's End: the Best of New Zealand Comics, and Damon Keen had produced two issues of Faction (comics anthology)... so they have a wealth of experience. They are forming a boutique publishing company, Earth's End Publishing, to publish Dharma Punks. And afterwards plan to publish one NZ comic a year. It's a fantastic idea, and New Zealand really needs a dedicated publisher run by people who know the scene and the creators.

Were you surprised at the swift funding response the campaign had? What does this mean for the project?

We all had nerves before launching the campaign. Theoretically we knew there were a lot of people wanting to get a copy of a collected edition of Dharma Punks. But y'know, talk is cheap, as they say.... so we didn't know if the campaign would be a success. We had planned for nearly a year, working out rewards and costs, so I'm really relieved and thankful that people responded enthusiastically and pledged and spread the word right from the start. We reached our original goal within five days, which was amazing.

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Can you share any future plans you have with the Dharma Punks or any other projects you are developing?

I've been working on a feature film script for Dharma Punks for some years now, so hopefully that will happen in the not too distant future. Currently I’m also working on an animated short film and have a number of ideas for other comic and film projects.

Lastly; what advice would you give to anyone starting out in a creative career or wanting to get into publishing their own comics?

I would say if you have that burning desire to create stuff - whether it be animation, comics or whatever, then just go for it and do it. I started out by self-publishing scrappy, little, photocopied mini-comics. The more you do and experiment and practise, the better you get. Hone your skills, and follow your instincts and passion.

Go and check out Ant's kickstarter for Dharma Punks here.


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