Barry Linton

Cover Illustration for Strips, Issue No.2

c. 1977
ink, Letratone and correction fluid on paper
455mm x 302mm

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Literature

Strips #2 (Auckland: Scorpion Publications, 1977), cover illus.

Essay

Barry Linton’s comics from the 1970s and ‘80s remain eternal. The cover of Strips No. 2 (c.1977) provides a classic image from New Zealand’s “golden age...

Read full text
Estimate $800 - $1,600
Achieved $1,321.38

Barry Linton

Cover Illustration for Strips, Issue No.2

c. 1977

ink, Letratone and correction fluid on paper

455mm x 302mm

Auction N˚6

Estimate $800 - $1,600

Achieved $1,321.38

The Truth and the Proof

by Tim Bollinger

Barry Linton’s comics from the 1970s and ‘80s remain eternal. The cover of Strips No. 2 (c.1977) provides a classic image from New Zealand’s “golden age” of underground comic book art.

Like no other medium, comics are comprised of a unique combination of visual art, poetry, story, rhythm and cultural symbolism, all of which can be seen in this one image. Depicted here are a multi-cultural cast of Auckland street characters, the kind of doped-up, ripped-jeans alternative lifestyle itinerants that Linton rubbed shoulders with in the “hippy” era of 1970s urban Auckland. Dan Dogg, Beava and Spud—the unconscious one on the ground—are believable archetypes who carry the vibe of the time. The small, round, pug-faced old man peering out from the crowd in the middle of the picture is Linton’s version of then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, who in an era of radical discourse was regularly lampooned by cartoonists. Like the underground comics that blossomed a few years prior on America’s Pacific coast, the work of Linton and his fellow Strips contributors in Auckland marked the birth of a new era of local comic book production and publication. A medium of youth, comics were the perfect vehicle for the cultural and artistic revolution that was taking place in New Zealand at the time.

As in America, the limitations of print ruled out multi-coloured images for these do-it-yourself comic makers, and the style of the times is expressed in Linton’s thick lines, strong blacks and lineal tone effects that somehow succeed in being psychedelic using only black and white. The content speaks of its time, with a prominent label reading “Adults Only.” At the time of publication, comic books that were not for children were unusual. The “Adults Only” label alludes to more than just sexual content—this was a magazine that took comics seriously, and its subversive anti-intellectualism was equally adult in nature.

Just as comics were not seen as an “adult” medium in the 1970s, neither were they generally considered to be art. Perhaps more than any other item of popular culture, comics at the time represented the disposability of the reproduced image—to be appropriated and parodied in fine art, but never considered as art themselves. It was much the same for literature. Due to their visual content, comics were regarded as suitable only for the illiterate. “Mat Rata reads comics,” read the famous “graffiti” that Bob Jones had painted on the wall of a building he owned in downtown Wellington, in order to publicly denigrate his Labour Party opponents. Thus, Linton was drawing this image as the cover of a comic book, not as a piece of art or literature. It had a functional purpose to fulfil, and a design problem to resolve. How do you fit that many bodies into a single panel anyway? Where should I position the speech balloons?