Sutu is Stu Campbell, a globe-trotting, award-winning Australian comic artist and interactive designer heavily involved in the concepts and ideas of Augmented Reality. He specializes in using technologies to tell stories in new ways.
Campbell’s work includes NAWLZ — an online interactive series set in a futuristic city where young cyber graffiti artists use brain technology to project their imagination onto an Augmented Reality network that covers the metropolis. His These Memories Won’t Last — an html5-driven comic about his grandfather who suffered from dementia — was recently nominated for an Eisner Award.
And then there’s the Gold Ledger-winning NEOMAD, The Gatecrashers, and Razorlegs.
When and why did you start making comic books?
“I was an interactive web designer before making comics. I was always drawing in my spare time and, at some point — back in 2007-2008 — I decided to experiment in combining my drawing skills with my interactive design to tell a story. That story became NAWLZ.
“The reason I made comics this way had little to do with comic books. I never read them. I grew up on the internet and read websites. I always liked how you could click links, playing audio and video, and in doing so weave together a sense of narrative. My intention was always to use this approach-of-agency to allow readers to consume a story in a new way. But at that time there really weren’t any websites using comic style illustration and interactivity to tell stories, nor was there any technology specifically designed to do it.
“So I had to collaborate with a programmer to build our own engine to deliver the story. This part of the process was the beginning of many programmer collaborations to come.”
Who were your comic book influences, if any?
“Mœbius, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Masamune Shirow.”
Do you believe there really is an Australian comics renaissance right now?
“I suppose worldwide interest in comics exploded after the saturation of comics-related films released over the last ten years. These films included Australian IP such as 30 Days of Night, The Deep animated series, the Academy Award-winning Lost Thing, not to mention Ashley Wood having two films in production as we speak.
“There was also the documentary Comic Book Heroes, about Gestalt — the Perth-based indie comics publisher. At the same time, you’ve got Aussie writers such as Tom Taylor writing America’s biggest comics Batman, Superman and Wolverine, and Aussie artists like Nicola Scott and Tristan Jones — to name a few — are drawing them.
“This is not to say that having a comic adapted in to a film or series is the hallmark of success or the end-game, but all these accomplishments help to galvanize a solid international reputation for Australian artists, and locally it has inspired a generation of upcoming artists.
“Also, the advent of Facebook and other social platforms has enabled many artists to share their work and be noticed and for the local community to pull together and support each other. Through these social platforms we’ve seen the organization and rise of many comic-related events, local anthologies, and collaborations.
“Melbourne-based All Star Comics even won best comic shop in the world, and its reputation has a lot to do with how it uses social media to engage its community.”