Barry Linton grew up in a Navy family in Christchurch and Hamilton. He drew from a young age, influenced by his father’s love of cartography. After high school, Linton worked various jobs, before in the late ‘60s deciding to hitch-hike to Auckland to train at the Elam School of Fine Arts. Linton was powerfully influenced by the psychedelic scene emerging at that time, and the new sense of freedom and possibility embodied by the counterculture. While at Elam, he was exposed to the new wave of underground “comix” coming from America: strips by artists such as Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson and Victor Moscoso that explored the triumvirate of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, completely different to the British adventure comics and American superhero and children’s comics available in New Zealand at the time.
Linton didn’t complete his studies at Elam, electing instead to hitch-hike around New Zealand and experience the new freedom of the era for himself. After returning to Auckland, Linton self-published his first comic, the punk- and reggae-infuenced Spud Takes Root, in 1977, and contributed work to the first issue of Strips, New Zealand’s first underground comics fanzine, the same year. Linton would continue to draw for Strips, alongside his friends Colin Wilson, Terence Hogan and Joe Wylie, for the next ten years. Linton’s skill at illustration led to a string of freelance jobs over the next several decades, including illustrating the Vet column in the NZ Women’s Weekly, Dave Barry’s satirical pieces in the NZ Herald and working for five years doing graphics and illustrations for the Auckland Star, in the days when such things still required the skills of a draftsman. Linton also contributed drawings and comics to the Listener and literary journal Landfall, and continued to devote time and energy to his own projects, most of which remain unpublished. A compilation of Linton’s Strips work, Chok! Chok!, was published in 1994, and more recently Linton’s archaeology-inspired comic Lucky Aki in the New Stone Age was published in 2014 by Pikitia Press.
Linton is an elder statesman of New Zealand underground comics, and is regarded very highly by some of New Zealand’s contemporary comics artists, including Dylan Horrocks, who drew a story about Linton’s work for the book Look This Way: New Zealand Writers on New Zealand Artists, ed. Sally Blundell (Auckland University Press, 2007).