Perhaps McEwen’s most iconic creation has been Greener Pastures — starring naive, loveable bull Trevor Bovis — which was initially conjured up with Michael Michalandos in early 1990. This was a regular strip for University of New South Wales’ student newspaper Tharunka, running for 12 episodes, reprinted in Hepcats #7 and 10 (1991/1992) and Nervous Breakdowns # 3-5 (1993). Greener Pastures was then self-published from 1994 under Kronos Komics in comic book format — and has reappeared regularly since.
McEwen co-founded Supanova — Australia’s largest pop culture expo and comic convention — 14 years ago, and until recently was the art director.
He also helped restart the Ledger Awards for Excellence in Australian Comics three years ago, is the inker on Cyclone Force, which is to be published through Comicoz‘s Oi Oi Oi!, and the man story-boarded for Happy Feet Two, Wolf Creek 2, and The Blinky Bill Movie.
Why did you start making comic books?
“That’s a big question! The bottom line is this: because I had to. You’ll get a similar answer from many comics creators. It’s obviously not for the money — the huge money-making hits are few and far between, and even scraping by making a living is very difficult. No, I had to draw and I had to tell stories with the drawings. I had to join that amazing fraternity of comic creators.”
Who were your local comic book influences?
“The biggest local, Australian influence is definitely Gary Chaloner. From the very first time I read his work in the mid-’80s, I wanted to draw like him. He’s one of the best in the world. He has an amazing line, great storytelling/page layout skills, fabulous figure work and character design, and I love the stories that he wants to tell.
“After him, there is a bunch of different people for different reasons… Alisha Jade for her amazing way of creating community and making things happen… Jo Waite for her sticking with her long-time concept that is slowly slowly sllooowwly coming to fruition… Mark Sexton for his incredible attention to storytelling detail and professionalism… and so many more I can’t think of right now.”
Do you believe there really is an Australian comics renaissance right now?
“Well ‘renaissance’ may be too strong a word. It’s a tag that can possibly be attributed in hindsight, when we have a few more years’ perspective on things.
“That being said, this is the most incredible time in Australian comics I’ve witnessed in well over 30 years of involvement.
“The reasons for this high-water-mark, which continues to get higher, are many and varied and it would take up a whole afternoon sitting in the pub to discuss them all! Here’re a few main things, I think: In my experience, seeing the large and small comic convention events come and go, both as a creator/publisher and as an event organizer, there is a definite outcome of a higher amount of activity and more comics created when there are regular such events on offer. When this happens, the higher quality creations grow in at least the same proportion. Then there is a mash of reasons forming a ‘perfect storm’: the more serious consideration given to comics by creators, storytellers, publishers, the arts community and the public, growing since the 1980s; the infusion of manga, specifically its more mature titles and its wide range of genres; the (thankfully, finally) increasing prevalence of female and non-cis creators; the increasing ease of dissemination both through limited-run printing and the web. This is all part of a momentum that’s been building off-and-on since the mid-’80s, and we’re continuing to see its benefits. When you add all this up in a geographically remote place like Australia (regardless of the ever-shrinking internet-connected world), where we want to make our own work our own way, it not only makes for exciting, great comics — but uniquely Australian ones as well.
“It’s a great time to be into Australian-made comics.”