Ben Mitchell is an Australian artist, designer, writer and comic book slinger from the Australian coastal town of Newcastle.
Recently Ben published his 3rd self released comic – ‘Ghost Beach’. A beautiful object in every regard: it’s murder-mystery-meets-punk-scene narrative, unique and bold art style and art-like production quality.
Indeed, aside from all his work in the art world, Ben sees himself as an ambassador and guide to the indie comic world, for those who haven’t yet given ole funny-books a try. Something that we greatly admire.
With Ben stating,
“I like being an introduction to comics for normal people. I do live readings of my comics all the time, and I’ll usually have the panels projected onto a wall as slides while I do the dialogue and narration, and usually commentary regarding the dumb stuff I hide in the backgrounds, and people will come up to me afterwards like “Oh, I get it now!” Sometimes when people aren’t reading your comics you have to do the reading for them.“
(A photo of Ben’s most recent comic, Ghost Beach, below)
With ‘Ghost Beach’ freshly off the press and available for all of you out there to buy – which you should do, right now people! – now is the perfect time to get to know the man himself, by reading the Art Talk Interview below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
My name is Ben Mitchell, I was born on the 24th of October, 1991.
Currently 26 years old.
I just put out a comic called Ghost Beach!
(A photo of a bemused Ben observing some Ghost Beach news)
City, State n Country you currently call home?
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
City, State n Country you’re from?
I was born in Belmont but raised in Lake Macquarie, which is in between Newcastle and the Central Coast.
People from Newcastle thought I was from the Central Coast and people from the Central Coast thought I was from Newcastle whenever I bounced between the two for events.
Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, politics, crime… ANYTHING really!
* age 5 – beginnings:
I was big into art and drawing as little baby boy.
For as long as I’ve been alive, my dad has worked in IT and I was never short of gigantic, connected sheets of dot matrix printer paper. I would tear the perforated edges off and fill those blue and white striped sheets with (mostly derivative) cartoon characters and caricatures of me and my dad!
I think the first comic book I ever read came with a happy meal toy – this would’ve been like 96 or 97 – it was a big, cartoony story about The Incredible Hulk as a child, and it came with a metallic plastic figurine. I remember being surprised that it was printed on newsprint even though the colours were so bright.
When I was six or seven I would always draw this extremely cool skateboarder with John Lennon sunglasses and a centre part. I used to think it would be a super cool idea to tie empty cans to the back of a skateboard so they would clang around against asphalt, like a car at a wedding. This kid and his noisemaking skateboard would show up in all of my drawings, and my mum kept a big painting I did of him and it currently resides on the kitchen cupboard at my parent’s place.
I was doing a little research into Goosebumps books a little while ago and came across the shocking discovery that I’d actually stolen this character from the front cover of a New Zealand/UK edition of Welcome To Camp Nightmare – something my mum picked up for me from a trip overseas. I had grown up staring at that Skate Bord (sic) Guy every time I went to get some pizza shapes, truly thinking I’d come up with that centre part on my own. My whole life was a lie!
(A childhood photo of Ben with a cat + a sample of his ‘Goosebumps’ inspired art below)
* age 10 – continuations:
I got into comics in a big way when I was 8 or 9 or so, and was deep into it at age 10. I remember in a primary school scripture class (I was not raised Christian, so I didn’t take it heaps seriously) after being asked to write down something I could always depend on, and being strongly guided to write “God”, I had written “comic books”.
The first comic book I remember getting as a kid was Knuckles The Echidna #28 – published by Archie Comics, a spin-off from the Sonic The Hedgehog series. I was big into the Sonic The Hedgehog games as a kid and I guess I wanted to root for the underdog of the series by getting into the comics based on Sonic’s red mate. I think I was expecting it to be a crazy action fantasy story, but that issue in particular turned out to be about the talking echidna going on his first date and stressing out at his friends about it. I remember there was a scene at an arcade where he lashes out at a talking crocodile for being presumptuous about his new girlfriend. I loved it.
This introduced me to the concept of comics being funny stories about teenagers getting into mischief – the Archie Comics way – and after subscribing to the Knuckles series and getting bombarded with ads for comics about Betty and Veronica, it was only a matter of time before I was into the same silly comics my parents were into when they were my age. I actually tried to get into X-men a little later but could not follow all the crazy sci-fi stuff that was happening and all the backstory I needed to know, and I just gave up.
I remember a pivotal moment in my childhood where I saved up my tooth fairy money for ages and had to choose between blowing it on a toy ray gun that lit up and made noises and scared the cat, or a 100-page Archie Comics digest. My parents were understandably stoked when I ended up with the comics.
When I was a little older I went to a very small primary school – 28 people in the entire school – and started making my own comic book series. The series was called Life Of Ben – originally an autobiographical tale about Beyblades that was later rebooted as a post-apocalyptic superhero drama where I could fly, my friend Brayden could control fire and the entire school was in danger. I made the comics in MSPaint, printed them at my Dad’s work and distributed them throughout the school.
…I think it lasted for 15 issues, and I imagine would now be very difficult to read ahahahah
(A panel below from Knuckles The Echidna #28)
* age 15 – getting serious:
When I was a teenager I stopped drawing for a very long time, and got deep into photography, songwriting and playing bass.
I was in a bunch of terrible punk bands at my high school, and later graduated to the local hardcore/metal scene in Newcastle and was in a mosh/metal band as bassist/vocalist and later a terrible hardcore band where I was the singer. Throughout high school I learnt how to play upright bass and was in a blues/rockabilly band with my music teacher for a couple years – session/covers musician was my first job, and I used it to save up for my first SLR.
For a very long time I thought I was going to be a photographer for the rest of my life.
The majority of the art I was paying attention to at this point in my life was based in the hardcore/punk/metal scene in Australia – I collected records and t-shirts and zines and was obsessed with all of it. The first hardcore record I ever bought as a kid was Jungle Fever’s self titled 7inch and I played the heck out of it. I got big into following artists in the Australian hardcore scene – Callum Preston aka The Tooth was a favourite of mine.
I was obsessed with ordering weird records from obscure mail-order distros I found on hardcore message boards, and attempting to collect everything put out by Melbourne metalcore band In Name and Blood. I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of my old vinyl collection since these days – there was a big hardcore fleamarket at a studio around the corner from my house a year or so ago – but have held on to my INAB records even if I never get a chance to listen to them. Their singer lives in Newcastle now, and I briefly met him at a gelato bar last month. It was very weird for me. I imagine it was a lot weirder for him ahahahahah
I sort of forgot about comics for a bit during this period but when I was seventeen or so I read Watchmen and the 80s indie series Zot, which really shook me up. Watchmen taught me that superhero comics could be more than convoluted power fantasies and dumb romance comedies, and Zot taught me that a comic series could actually be drawn/written/published by one guy – Scott McCloud.
A little while after that I saw Dave McKean’s art in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and it changed what I thought comics were supposed to be forever.
I ended up working for a screenprinting studio for a bit and that was how I taught myself graphic design – initially I’d just set up artwork for print, but ended up designing shirts for customers as well. I would always try to work with less colours, because another colour would mean another screen, which would add another $2 to the unit price. Eventually the printers realized all my mates were in bands and got me to convince them to get all their merch done through me.
So when I was eighteen I was designing everything for everyone – I think my first big design job was the album artwork for a local band called Violence. I did this big photo montage of live shots I’d taken for the lyric booklet and thought I knew all about typography – I was super proud at the time but now it’s super cringeworthy for me to look at. The majority of the designs I was doing were based around photography, and my biggest hurdle was that I didn’t think I was good enough at drawing.
* age 20 – young adult:
I went to Uni for graphic design thinking full well I was going to cruise through as a photographer, but ended up learning how to actually draw and never looked back.
I started entering local exhibitions and joined a co-working space called The Roost Creative and was working (remotely) for a record label based in Sydney. My first big illustration gig was for the Vengaboys Austalian Tour, and I drew little cartoons of all the band members, which were pretty much cartoon characters already. Their people loved this and got me on board for whenever the next Vengaboys tour was on, and I got to draw them again and eventually meet the whole band, and the one who dresses as a cowboy got mad at me for drawing him with hairy legs.
My friends at The Roost and I were organizing exhibitions around Newcastle that were getting bigger and bigger – one about 90s nostalgia, one about pixel art and a final, legit international show at a big gallery about superheroes. My life had pretty quickly been swallowed by art at this point, and because I was being told exactly what to draw at work I started twisting all my university assignments into being about whatever I felt like drawing – which, at this point was comics.
I got heaps into Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine – still my big three – at this point, and kept creating convoluted ways for me to address design briefs with comics.
There was this assignment where we had to create a promotional product for a fake printing company that showed off different paper stocks and special embellishments, and I spent like three weeks trying to justify why this could be done in comic form. Everyone else did a series of post cards – I did 25 pages of PRINT BOY IN THE LAIR OF THE EMBELLISHOR. It was very silly. I did a study in how a changing art style could be a narrative element, and made this little sci fi story called Strange Travels. I ended up doing an honours project in how comic books worked, where I did my first legit comic project called Storm Clouds. This, very quickly, took over the rest of my art life.
When I was 22 the majority of my friends at The Roost had moved to Sydney and Melbourne for work and I had just relocated to Newcastle and was still loving it. Even though DIY ethics were a big part of how I approached work and art, I wasn’t really going to hardcore shows anymore, only art/design events around the city. I wanted to do a detective story about all of this – growing out of hardcore, how people in big cities view beach towns like Newcastle, and sort of feeling caught in between all of that. Looking back at Storm Clouds now, it’s a very succinct, abstract summary of that time in my life, but I feel like most people would read it as a dumb detective story. I wanted the comic to feel distinctly different as a hard copy as opposed to being read on a screen – printed on newsprint with super-bright ink. I put the majority of the stuff I learnt working in screen printing to work, and learnt about Risograph through a printing place in Melbourne called Dawn Press.
I still had a lot of friends in the art/design scene and was a boisterous guy, and knew how to get a shit tonne of people to an event, and I launched the comic to 100 or so people at my friend’s café Churchkey Espresso, and nearly sold out of comics in one night. A lot of things went terribly wrong before the opening – including the books nearly not showing up on time and Churchkey folding as a business literally 2 days before the launch party – but it all turned out great in the end! I was so surprised at how stoked everyone was about the comic – people were calling it Twin Peaks: Newcastle and a kid from Brisbane got a Storm Clouds tattoo so I decided to keep going.
I did a sequel named Don’t Panic where I doubled down on the growing-out-of-hardcore theme and focused on Jared Paige, a character based loosely on my mate who ran Churchkey Espresso. As part of the arts festival This Is Not Art, I teamed up with a friend of mine from my hardcore days named Crotty, and we recorded a two-track cassette tape imagining what Jared’s band really sounded like and performed it as part of a live reading at the festival. It was nuts.
(Photos below of Ben’s Print Boy comic)
* age 25 – adult mode:
When I was 23 I wore a whole bunch of obnoxious Aloha shirts and backwards caps and ate heaps of pizza and eventually sent myself to hospital with kidney problems, before spending a year growing up as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. I got heaps better at cooking, lost a lot of weight, read heaps of books and got a lot better at comics.
I was working on the third Storm Clouds book at the time and knew it was leaps-and-bounds ahead of the previous comics narratively, and there was a weird period where I didn’t want people reading the first two and judging my work based on that. I got a lot quieter and took my work a lot more seriously, and the new comic, Ghost Beach, is a distillation of that.
In the break between Don’t Panic and Ghost Beach, I did a short autobio comic called Dear You for This Is Not Art, about how much I’d grown up in the past year and looked at my younger self as a different person. This visual – a wiser Ben lecturing a younger, dumber Ben in a backwards cap – keeps popping up in my personal life. I think a lot of people think I’m still the same loud, boisterous kid I was back then, and think my quieter, more serious persona now is just me ignoring them ahahaha.
For a couple months I was producing one-panel comics for a night club named Cheap Banter, now called Palace. The promoters came to me and told me they wanted me to draw in my own story, but make it heaps dirtier, which seemed like the antithesis for the ligne-claire style I had been developing for the past couple years. I ended up loving how it looked and reworked everything I’d done for Ghost Beach to fit with the style I’d done for these club illustrations.
Ghost Beach came out last year and probably sums up that time of my life better than any autobio comic can. It’s a lot longer than the other two and slows down the action to focus on smaller, more personal moments between the characters and their lives and routines and fears and tribulations. My illustration style changed heaps between this one and the last one, and I had a short-lived gig doing comics for medical journals (I’m published in the Annals of Internal Medicine) and ended up working in a bunch of hospital scenes. As well as cooking scenes, love scenes, exercise scenes and intense housemate confrontation scenes. So much of my life between the ages 23-25 is summed up in those pages. It’s wild.
I also spent a year dicking around with my own risograph press, and experimented with different inks and rendering techniques, which all ended up in the book too. I am super proud of how it turned out, and I am currently going out of my way to trick as many people into reading it as I can!
(Ben’s graphic depiction of the drastic personal changes he made in his mid 20’s)
* age 30 – fully formed:
I am 26 sir.
Can’t wait to be fully formed!
Favorite other artist(s)?
This is a huge question for me, and it’s always changing.
I love John Pham, a risograph comic artist who has been working on a series called Epoxy for like fifteen years, and watching it shift and evolve as he grows as a person and artist has been great.
Adrian Tomine, both as an illustrator and a storyteller, has been a favourite of mine for a very long time. Seeing him do incredible short stories as a kid in his earlier work, then go on to produce a couple long-form narratives, and then go back to short stories as collected in Killing and Dying has been incredible to watch. Little bits from that book are always popping up in conversations for me. He did this incredible story called Hortisculpture about normal people discovering art for the first time, and this perfect tribute to Yoshihiro Tatsumi about a guy who discovers a key to his old house and starts visiting, unbeknownst to the new tenants. That whole Killing and Dying book is perfect.
Apart from that, I love the illustration work of R Kikuo Johnson, the comics from Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes’ Eightball stuff and everyone who is published by Peow! Studios.
I loved John Darnielle’s two novels and the people who wrote and produced the podcast It Makes A Sound.
Cameron Stewart did this one incredible webcomic called Sin Titulo and now I love following him on Instagram because he is insanely good at drawing cool looking women.
I love admiring (from afar) the work of sofubi/vinyl toy artist Mame Moyashi, who makes delightful caricatures of sushi fish holding sushi knives. I have never been able to justify buying any of his stuff but I’ve spent COUNTLESS hours trying to budget spending four hundred-plus Australian dollars on a toy whale.
Also, I don’t know where this fits as ‘favourite art’ but I recently discovered the TV show Search Party, and it’s pretty much exactly what I would do if someone let me make a TV show. Go and suss it on SBS OnDemand.
(Some art by Ben below)
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
This is going to sound really dumb, but it’s surprisingly difficult to trick people into reading my comics if they’ve never really gotten into comics before, and they think all comics are about superheroes and zombies.
I feel like the kind of stories I tell are ones specifically not tailored towards readers accustomed to thinly-veiled power fantasies, and trying to get them to make that leap is a tough one. I have friends who write plays who have the same problem – people are weird about going to their FIRST local drama production, but if it were the exact same story told as a film they’d be all over it.
I think with Ghost Beach I put a lot of time into making it look like a cool object first and foremost, so people will want to pick it up and crack it open – a nicely printed cover, cool paper stock, a fluro ink insert, fat binding – so far, it’s working. A little more than the last comic, at least.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
The opposite of the thing I mentioned before: when people cross the threshold and come back to me beginning their sentence with the coveted “I don’t usually read comics, but…” and I’ve got them into it. The more people I can convert to open-minded art consumers the better.
Hearing people getting excited about stuff I do with composition, or typography, or layout, or colour, as though I’m the first person to ever do it and am not just paying homage to all the artists I mentioned above, is what I’m doing it for.
I like being an introduction to comics for normal people. I do live readings of my comics all the time, and I’ll usually have the panels projected onto a wall as slides while I do the dialogue and narration, and usually commentary regarding the dumb stuff I hide in the backgrounds, and people will come up to me afterwards like “Oh, I get it now!” Sometimes when people aren’t reading your comics you have to do the reading for them.
Do you consider what you are making to be art, design, re-hashed crap?
As someone who actually does graphic design work on the side, as well as commercial illustration stuff, I have to draw these sorts of lines a lot. I am sorry for how dumb that sounded ahahah I mean I have to make those distinctions a lot.
The comics I make that only serve to tell a story are art (or, based on the examples I’ve made of myself in these responses, rehashed crap) but the kind of stuff I do for bars, bands, festivals etc has a very specific purpose behind it so I treat it like design. The amount of time I spend making sure I always draw bushes the same way and hiding stupid jokes in the marquees of cafes is extremely disproportionate to the level of detail my clients care about.
I go way too deep when the only person I’m proving myself to is myself.
(Some images below from Ben’s first two comics – ‘Storms Clouds’ and ‘Don’t Panic’)
When and why did you first start making art – drawings, paintings, etc?
When I was about eighteen and I was part way through my design degree I was doing a t-shirt design for a friend’s band and I remember thinking, “no, no, I’m going to take this one very seriously”, and worked heaps harder on it than I had on previous projects. This was when I was first trying to build a portfolio for design work.
A couple years later, I’d gone through so many false starts with making comics that I looked at Storm Clouds and pulled my head in in a similar manner. Now, I treat basically every new project like this.
I’ve been making art since I was like a toddler but I feel like every year I decide all the work I’ve done previously is trash and I’d REALLY started ‘making art’ yesterday.
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
I think Adrian Tomine’s “32 Stories” really got to me when I was first making comics. If you don’t know, Adrian is now a big-shot cover illustrator for the New Yorker and he makes incredible short-form narrative comics, and did a very good exploration of relationship/racial politics in the comic “Shortcomings”, but he’s been doing a zine/comic called Optic Nerve ever since he was in college.
His publisher wanted to collect all of his early issues into the one book, and once it went out of print a few times they released it all as Xeroxed zines in their original form, collected in a little box as opposed to bound into the one tome. Watching his artwork and design and production all grow like a timelapse video in the same box is what got me really inspired to start putting out my own stuff, even if I thought, by the time it was all finished, it kind of sucked. It meant there was room to get better, and the more steps I added to that process the more fun it would be to follow retrospectively.
(A photo of Ben’s colllection of Adrian Tomine’s ’32 Stories’)
Describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!
With my comics, I always start with a big, vague idea and then slowly focus in on it step by step.
The current story I’m working on is about all the characters from Ghost Beach being put together in the same room for a costume party – that’s where I started – and now I need to turn that into a comic. I will work out how the story starts and finishes, then break it down into chapters. I break the chapters into scenes (as of Ghost Beach, all my scenes go for 4 pages, because I want to make it feel like every time you turn the page you’re advancing time by the same amount) and then I break the scenes into pages. And then I break the pages into panels.
(Secret behind the scenes Ben Mitchell art below)
When I first started doing bigger stories, like with Storm Clouds, I did the whole freakin book as thumbnails and then slowly drew the final art over like six months. By the end of it I felt like I was fighting with a six-month-younger version of myself, and was resenting the stuff I had to draw. Since then, I’ve planned out big visual set pieces, story beats and important lines of dialogue in advance, but I make up all the art and dialogue on the fly, so I don’t get bored. It keeps it interesting, and gives me room to add in extra bits before the ending is set in stone!
(More secret behind the scenes Ben Mitchell art below)
Odds n Ends
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Jo Beth Taylor, host of Funniest Home Videos.
I was a four year old romantic, baby!
(Photo below of Ben’s first crush – Jo Beth Taylor)
Does sex change everything?
Hey, my mum is probably reading this.
It certainly doesn’t have to, if you can be a grown up about it!
Please describe what you think the Australian psyche / zeitgeist is today?
It’s super easy to think that every Australian is socially aware, open minded and respectful of people who are different to them just because that’s how everyone on your heavily curated Facebook feed feels. We still have a very, very long way to go, but we are getting there.
As I get older I’m getting more outspoken and exasperated towards people being ignorant gronks and so are the rest of my friends, which is a step in the right direction.
Who would win in a fight and why: Wonder Woman Vs. Marge Simpson?
(Please draw the battle in all it’s violent beauty!)
I don’t care who wins, so long as Homer loses.
He is always pulling UNFORGIVABLE shit, and the real fight is between Marge and herself. Hopefully Wonder Woman can help her see that.
I’ve never drawn either of these characters before and I am astounded that they are both wearing strapless tops. How are they not constantly yanking them upwards? Women’s fashion is as unforgiving as my vision of Marge’s future.
(Some art by Ben below of the epic battle / eventual team up)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
I know this is a super boring answer, but I do not partake. And I think I am good without it.
There is a big segment of my new comic that revolves around hallucinatory side effects of supposed anti-anxiety medication and it involves fluroescent inks and bizarre overprinting effects to represent an out-of-body experience.
Not based on actual hallucinatory experiences, I’m afraid – I’m a phony.
(A photo by Laura Kebby below of the aforementioned faked / done-with-artistic-license drug scene)
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I was a huge Power Rangers fan as a wee boy, and I had one of those action figures that would swap between teenage Billy’s naked head and his blue ranger helmet if you pressed down on his belt buckle. I have very fond memories of flicking this around and leaving him in a flux state between the two, so he’d have two heads bursting out of his head and torso. Seeing that these morphing figures have been re-released last year has straight up shaken me to my core.
I think toys, in general, had a big effect on why I developed an interest in graphic design and illustration. I would love visiting toy stores – or just toy aisles in regular stores – specifically to look at the packaging as opposed to the toys themselves.
I’d love it when toy packaging had illustrated versions of the products as opposed to photos. This would have been, like, the mid 1990’s, so Street Sharks were particularly guilty of this. I had a Street Sharks ride-on tank with these little machine guns that would flip out of the sides, and the box had this crazy illustration on the front with the cannon on the tank bursting out at you. Street Sharks also came in those boxes with the bent plastic bars on them, as though they were bursting out of a cage! Incredible. I think Street Sharks are also to blame for my obsession with big, bold, chunky aesthetics. They made every other action figure feel too small, or too thin.
This is arguably the most I have thought about Street Sharks in like fifteen years ahahah.
To this day, I still frequent toy aisles specifically to ogle the packaging.
I’d say my favourite thing about those Ninja Turtles retro collection figures is that they kept the little comics on the back!
There are not nearly enough illustrations on today’s action figure packaging.
(Sample photos of some Street Sharks below – one of Ben’s major design inspirations)
What are the top 3 items you own?
(Please include photos or art of them!)
This is difficult!
I am a big fan of Sofubi but I have to admire a lot of it from afar because it’s all prohibitively expensive and I can’t justify spending like three weeks worth of groceries on a toy fish.
The only Japanese vinyl I own is this incredible 8 inch figure of Osamu Tezuka that I picked up from the Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazara, when I visited Japan last year. This museum is incredible, by the way, and is basically the only thing in this whole town apart from an opera theatre – you get off the train and all the tiles in the sidewalks point you towards a bridge that leads to a gigantic statue of Tezuka’s Phoenix. The first exhibit when you walk in is a timeline of all of his work, with these little sculptures that represent what he looked like at that point of his career. I got this vinyl figure from the gift shop, which, I think, is a representation of a character from a film that was based on his appearance, not actually Tezuka himself, but I grabbed it because it reminded me of those timeline sculptures.
The cashier at the giftshop couldn’t understand why I didn’t want a big Astro Boy instead!
Also pictured: My favourite hat, that I got from BEAMS in Osaka.
(Photo below of one of Ben’s favourite toys, A Sofubi of Osamu Tezuka)
The second is the most recent work from risograph artist John Pham, the J + K collection, which was released in Spanish first, for some reason. I think it was so he could apply for a Spanish publishing award.
Either way, I have been a huge fan of John Pham’s stuff ever since I first learnt about risograph and I jumped through a ridiculous amount of hoops to order a copy of this ridiculous book as soon as it came out. It’s a beautiful collection of his dorky cartoons, and features a bunch of bonus goodies tucked into the binding, like a fake teen magazine starring a fake version of The Smiths, and a five inch vinyl single of one of their fake hit songs. This version also comes with a hand-printed translation book, and I have spent several fun afternoons with mates yelling the dialogue at me in Spanish as I translated it for them, slowly. There’s a character named ‘Eggy’, which is ‘Huevy’ in Spanish.
I get this down off my bookshelf whenever I have someone new at my apartment and I am very outspoken regarding why I love art for art’s sake so much – what is the form/function ratio of a risograph-printed label on a vinyl single for a fake band?
(Photo below of one of Ben’s most treasured items – his Spanish language 1st Edition of John Pham’s ‘J+K’)
The other thing I always show people is my gatefold LP of the Josie and The Pussycats soundtrack, released last year by Mondo, complete with bonus Dujour Around The World single. That film is incredible and I will not hear otherwise, and it turned me into a secret sleeper-agent fan of Letters To Cleo in a way I didn’t understand until I was a full grown adult with a Spotify account, years later.
It is alarming to me that my girlfriend’s little sisters have only been exposed to the version of Josie and the Pussycats on the TV show Riverdale, and when I told them about the film they asked me how many songs Veronia Lodge sings on. For shame! This is another example of an object that is too dumb to exist – a vinyl album for a fake band that starred in a box office flop from 2001 that everyone has forgotten about – that I could not be more proud to own.
Especially the bonus seven inch of the fake boyband fronted by Breckin Meyer. Thank god I pre-ordered.
(Photo below of one of Ben’s favourite items – the Josie and the Pussycats film soundtrack LP)
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I currently live in an apartment with a guy named Steve, and I had a dream that my old housemate from when I lived in a sharehouse moved into my apartment overnight and started sleeping in Steve’s bed and wearing all his clothes and stuff.
It lead to a very hard conversation between the two of us.
I had to let him down easy.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Every time I put out a new comic, I am always worried it will be what represents me as an artist forever if I end up getting hit by a bus before the next one is finished. With Ghost Beach, I think I’m okay with that.
But, hopefully, once I’m finished with the Storm Clouds series that can be my mark I’ve left on the world.
Last year as part of the This Is Not Art festival I hosted an impromptu Buffy The Vampire Slayer trivia night that was essentially a standup set with a comprehension section, and I feel like people enjoyed my rambling about David Boreanaz for 90 minutes more than they enjoyed anything else I’ve ever produced.
I feel like I’ll spend most of my life trying to make powerful comics paying tribute to my hometown but always be fondly regarded as the guy who made everyone write a short essay explaining the significance of the Buffy/Angel crossover episode “I Will Remember You”.
Both are fine.
If people wanted to collaborate, work wth you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?
You can contact me via my email address: it’s “hello” at my name, dot com dot au, or find out more about my work at www.benmitchell.com.au and my comics at www.thestormclouds.com. There is a BIG 32 page segment from my latest comic up there which I keep saying I’m going to take down after a week but I don’t think I’m ever going to. It’s heaps better in print, but that’ll give you a taste! You can also listen to the soundtrack that Crotty and I recorded to Don’t Panic, in all its dorky mosh glory.
I am on Instagram and Facebook, and I’m pretty easy to find.
In Australia, my comics are currently on sale at www.ownaindi.com, which is a big marketplace for Australian indie comic artists like me and my friends Matt Kyme and Bruce Murtard.
For the rest of the world, my friend JT distributes my comics from www.birdcagebottombooks.com in New York. New York. The city so nice, they named it again. BBB have a bunch of other incredible zine comics for sale and before I was making my own stuff I would order big packages from them – like, twenty or so books at time, because postage was so nuts – of great stuff you can’t get anywhere else from artists like Box Brown, Anuj Shrestha, Josh Burggraf and Zejian Shen.
(Some art by Ben below)
Any collaborations on the horizon?
We’ll see. I have a bunch of stuff in the works that I don’t think I’m ready to talk about yet.
Most recently I did a cover for Matt Kyme’s comic “The Demon” and Graeme Jackson did a cover for me that was made to look like an old Goosebumps book.
My good friends Carlo Delos Santos (sometimes known as Ceelo Dee) and Alana Tomlin (who I used to live with) are probably my two biggest fans and they are both heaps better at drawing than I am, so I hope to do something Storm Clouds-related with them soon.
I have a bunch of friends who are writers, too, and I’d love to collaborate on a comic in the future.
But I’d like to do more non-fiction comics, too.
I think a dream project for me would be making a comic that documented the behind-the-scenes production of SEGA home console games from the early 90s, or the terrible bootleg Super Nintendo game Hong Kong ‘97. It would be like The Disaster Artist meets Console Wars meets Storm Clouds.
Any major projects you want to hype?
My new comic, Ghost Beach! The one I’ve been talking about for the whole interview!
It’s a 108-page story about a barista thinking he can get involved with crime once and get off scot-free, and how making friends with a manipulative psychopath is slowly blowing up in his face. I’ve written it in a way that it makes sense if you haven’t read the previous comics and can act as an introduction to the series, but is so far up its own butt that it will reward you thoroughly for having read the previous two episodes.
If you’re curious about comics, you should give it a chance!
If you’re in a different country and want to know how Australian twenty-somethings talk to each other, this is the perfect place to start.
If you want to own a cool, thick, two-colour printed risograph art book, this is also a cool opportunity for that.
Hopefully you can get your hands on a copy, and like what you see.
(Some art below from Ben’s latest comic – ‘Ghost Beach’ below)