Matthew Dunn is the Melbourne based creator and artist behind the Lonely Monsters series of comic books and graphic novels (see my piece on the first issue of Lonely Monsters, which I had the privilege of contributing to, in a previous blog on my My Space page), as well as several offshoots such as the Savage Bastard web comic. With his first exhibition coming up on Friday, November 7 at Melbourne’s 696 Gallery in Brunswick (see flyer below), I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with the artist and grill him with a few questions about his art, the exhibition, his influences and future plans.
John Harrison: Tell me a little bit about where you come from as an artist? Who were your earliest influences?
Matthew Dunn: I've been reading and drawing comics for as long as I can remember. My first comic was a crudely drawn collection of lame "gags" back in primary school featuring Australian animals. Unfortunately I shortened all their animal names in order to give them their character names, and as a result had a Wombat named "Womb" (which, at that tender young age, seemed totally fine to me).
Early on I was heavily influenced by the greats (Kirby, Ditko, Adams, etc) but would go out of my way to track down copies of the old black & white masterpieces like Creepy and Eerie, and to this day I still find that stuff amazing. Then as a teen I picked up a copy of Gotham By Gaslight which was the start of my ongoing love affair with the work of Mike Mignola. Although in the last 5 years the affair has been threatened with my infatuation of Ashley Wood's work.
JH: What mediums to you work with, and do you have a preferred or favourite one?
MD: Comics, comics, and more comics, with the occasional larger canvas piece. I work with whatever suits what I'm trying to do at the time, but mostly use various inks and push things around in Photoshop. My Photoshop work doesn't involve much filtering, mostly just layering textured pages on top of each other. I've also broken out the acrylics recently to work on some larger pieces for the exhibition and that's been a nice change of pace from the storytelling aspect of comics (which can really break your brain sometimes).
JH: Zombies have always proven to be consistently popular in pop culture, particularly in terms of film and comic books/graphic novels, but in recent years they have broken out into other fields as well (I recently saw a flyer for a Zombie finger puppet show!). What do you see as the primary appeal of the living dead, and to what do you attribute their current popularity to?
MD: Zombies are, in my opinion, the scariest of all horror fiends. They're relentless monsters who wish you nothing but harm, however the biggest fear is that you will become one yourself. At least if you're a vampire or werewolf you still retain a part of your personality/soul and are able to keep living in some capacity. But as a zombie you don't have anything but hunger that overrides every other desire and cannot be satisfied.
Part of their current popularity just has to do with people finally making really strong zombie movies/comics/etc/etc. Zach Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead as well as the hilarious Shaun of the Dead definitely helped to get them in limelight, as did Marvel's hilarious Marvel Zombies series, and the utterly amazing novel World War Z by Max Brooks. But for me the highpoint has got to be Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood's Zombies VS Robots series (following by Zombies VS Robots VS Amazons, and with more craziness coming in the future) which was just pure insane bliss.
People also apply a social commentary more often than not within the zombie genre these days, and I think that just makes it a more complete, real, and satisfying experience.
JH: What was the inspiration behind the whole Lonely Monsters concept? Is it something that you see continuing and evolving or does it have a set life span?
MD: Lonely Monsters started out as a 6 page short story that I put together to send around in an effort to break into the industry. At the time I was also working my ass off for a guy in the US who had a comic in the works that was a "sure thing" with one of the larger companies. I spent a few months working on that only to discover it wasn't a "sure thing" at all and I had in fact been completely wasting my time. This really bummed me out so I focused my energies on finishing the 6 page sample, and once it was done I had enjoyed it so much (and was happy with the results) that I decided to just dive right into making it a comic series.
I was going to release it as a quarterly comic, and did in fact release a first issue, but wasn't happy with the finished pages at all and decided to redo them. In the process I thought rather than re-release the first issue the story would work best within the larger page-count of a graphic novel.
At this stage Lonely Monsters is going to be a series of 5 graphic novels, but there may be more books depending on where things go. Book 1 is basically my love letter to zombies, and Book 2 is my love letter to Mad Max-style road movies, then Book 3......well I don't want to give anymore away so I'll leave it at that.
JH: What can we expect to see at your exhibition opening?
MD: More zombies than you can handle, including people in make-up wandering around making others feel uneasy (and maybe even a zombie DJ). There will be a stack of first prints of the book, a few special limited edition prints I've done for the night, as well as t-shirts, a bunch of large acrylic and stencilled canvases, and more.
JH: Have you thought much about your future plans beyond the gallery showing?
I've been running on 4 hours sleep a night for the last month so I can barely remember my name at the moment, but I do have a few things planned. But for now the focus is on putting together the best possible solo show I can.
I do plan on doing something special with a US band named The Hope Symphony, who have provided a soundtrack for Lonely Monsters (which will be packaged on CD with the book itself). The music is beautifully creepy and fragile and weird and wonderful and I just can't get enough of it, so I hope to do more with them in the future.
Anyone wanting to keep up with what I'm working on can visit me at www. lonelymonsters. blogspot. com or www. myspace. com/lonelymonsters
Friday, October 31, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
The Greyhound Hotel, Sept 26 2008
The sweaty, beer stained (but no longer smoky) environs of the Greyhound Hotel provides the perfect backdrop to experience the likes of The Sons of Lee Marvin. Having played the local round of grimy traps for a few years now, the band have evolved into an outfit well-oiled enough to be cohesive and confident, yet still retain enough rawness and minor cracks to know you’re watching a real rock & roll band - hard working, and doing what they do for the sheer love of it all.
After punchy sets by Kretch (particularly energetic) and The Hybenators, Sons of Lee Marvin treated the warmed-up crowd to a blistering run through their high-octane repertoire, which includes such ass-shakin’ ditties as Snatch, Sunshine in Her Eyes (which chugs along in a great Dave Clark Five-esque singalong) and the Cramps flavoured Night of the Hunter (named after a film not starring Lee Marvin but rather fellow cinematic tough guy Robert Mitcham).
Powered along by the twin drums of Knuckles O’Hara and Kidd Gloves, who provide a monster backbeat for the dual guitars of Stu Manchu and Cos ‘El Lobo Loco’, The Sons of Lee Marvin (who derived their name from a semi-secret society formed by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch) deliver a potent mix of raucous rockabilly, its more twisted in-bred cousin psychobilly, and 60s guitar pop, all turned up to ten and delivered with an injection of carefree punk sensibilities.
The gig had it’s share of hiccups when bassist/lead vocalist Bryan Mayden broke the E string on his bass mid-song, and El Lobo experienced a PA meltdown that put him out of action for a couple of songs, but they played it cocksure cool and somehow made it seem like such unpredictable mishaps are all just another part of the live rock and roll experience.
Which of course, in many ways, they are.
Review by John Harrison
The Greyhound Hotel, Sept 26 2008