Dylan Horrocks puts cartoonists on arts radar

Dylan Horrocks receives his Laureate Award. Photo - NZ Arts Foundation / Monster Valley
Dylan Horrocks receives his Laureate Award. Photo - NZ Arts Foundation / Monster Valley
When graphic novelist and cartoonist Dylan Horrocks found out he'd won a Laureate Award he thought it was a prank!


Dylan Horrocks is the first Laureate Award recipient primarily known as a graphic novelist and cartoonist. For this, Dylan is incredibly pleased, as for too long, he feels, cartoonist have flown under the New Zealand arts radar.

Dylan says it is an exciting time for New Zealand comics and feels he is the first of many who will be acknowledged, judging by the incredible work that is being produced at the moment.

Here's his speech from the New Zealand Arts Foundation Awards on 23 November that Dylan kindly shared with us for some inspiration. Enjoy!

* * *

Well, it’s been a good year for Dylans.

I want to say a huge thank you to the Arts Foundation and all who sail with her. When Simon called to tell me about the Laureate, it was such incredible news I thought it must be a prank. Cartoonists are known for that kind of thing, after all, and I know a lot of cartoonists. But looking around tonight, if this is a prank, it’s a hell of an elaborate one. So well done, you.

I also want to say that art doesn’t come from just one person in isolation. There are communities around all of us here tonight: ecosystems of inspiration, context and collaboration. And I want to honour two particular communities that have nurtured the work I’ve done over the years.

First, New Zealand has a long history of comics, or pakiwaituhi. Amazing, beautiful art is being made every day by a diverse community of cartoonists. Some of it is published in multiple languages around the world; other comics appear online or in self-published zines, sometimes seen by only a few people – with print-runs of 100, 50, even 5. And out of that diverse idiosyncratic scene comes extraordinary work for those who know where to find it. So keep an eye on that community; because I expect I won’t be the last comics arts laureate.

The other community I want to honour is my incredibly supportive family: especially my mother, Eleanor Rimoldi, my father Roger Horrocks, my step-mother Shirley Horrocks, my sister Simone and brother Alex, my step-brothers Steve and Tony, all the in-laws, my uncle and nephews and nieces. Above all, my two wonderful, inspiring sons, Louis and Abe, and my wife Terry. 

I’ve been in love with Terry for almost 30 years, and everything I have done in that time has grown in the garden/forest/jungle of that love. She is my collaborator, my spirit guide, my hero. Terry – this is as much yours as mine.

(Luckily, we have a shared bank account.)

About Dylan Horrocks

It is unsurprising that Dylan Horrocks' first words were “Donald Duck”.

A talented writer and visual artist from an early age, Dylan soon realised that cartoons enabled him to use both art forms simultaneously. He was indeed like a duck to water using this “hybrid art form”.

Dylan has been a trail-blazer in the New Zealand comic scene, since the 1980s, co-founding Razor with Cornelius Stone and contributing frequently to the University of Auckland student magazine Craccum. Dylan’s comic book series Pickle is the work that first brought him to wider attention in the 1990s, and ten issues were subsequently published by Black Eye Comics (Canada).  In the decades that followed, Dylan would contribute to international comics such as Batgirl, Legends of the Dark Knight, Hunter: the Age of Magic and The Names of Magic for DC Comics USA.  He would also see his work get published by the likes of Fox Comics, Australia, and the American Fantagraphics Books. 

Dylan has three graphic novels in print: Hicksville, Incomplete Works, and Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen. Hicksville has been published in six languages and has been nominated for, and has won, a number of international accolades. It was included (at number 12) in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 50 Best Non-Super-hero Graphic Novels of All Time and was named one of the top five Books of the Year by The Comics Journal (America’s leading magazine of comics criticism).

Dylan says his work always begins with daydreaming – whilst walking the dog, doing the dishes, sinking into slumber at night – these are the moments in which his stories start to stir. Then come the sketches, followed by an exciting journey into the unknown. He rarely knows where his stories will end up, noting that he is less of a “bus driver” and more of an “explorer”.

NZ Arts Awards 2016

The Arts Foundation 2016 New Zealand Arts Awards featured the coveted Laureate and New Generation awards, Harriet Friedlander New York Residency, the Award for Patronage and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. 

Laureate Award 2016 Recipients

Each Laureate Award includes a cash award of $50,000:

Eleanor Catton – Writer
Lyell Cresswell – Compose
Dylan Horrocks – Cartoonist/Graphic Novelist/Writer
Peter Robinson – Visual Artist
Taika Waititi – Film Maker

The Laureate Award is an investment in excellence across a range of art forms for an artist with prominence and outstanding potential for future growth.  Their work is rich but their richest work still lies ahead of them.  The award should recognise a moment in the artist’s career that will allow them to have their next great success.

About the Arts Foundation 

The Foundation was instigated in the late 90s by arts visionaries who wanted to build a philanthropic organisation to help support New Zealand's finest artists to create more extraordinary work. It was founded with a grant of $5million from the Lottery grants Board, and continues to be invested, with a total equity of $8.2 million. The Foundation has several financial awards for artists and honours significant New Zealand Artists with Icon Awards.


Written by

The Big Idea Editor

30 Nov 2016

The Big Idea Editor

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