Novel ap­proach to telling sto­ries from NZ’s past

Kapi-Mana News - - WHAT’S ON - ME­GAN HUNT

‘‘I would have died to have some­thing like that in front of me at so­cial stud­ies in­stead of a text­book.’’

Could comic books be the way fu­ture Kiwi teens learn about their coun­try’s past?

Au­thor Matt McKin­ley has just re­leased his first graphic novel in a se­ries which will ex­am­ine dif­fer­ent events from the coun­try’s Land Wars.

‘‘As a kid I was en­thralled with books or films about kings, knights and sol­diers,’’ McKin­ley said.

He had thought in­ter­est­ing his­tory only hap­pened over­seas, but as he grew older and learnt more he found New Zealand’s own sto­ries were just as fas­ci­nat­ing.

McKin­ley set out to cre­ate sto­ries with fic­tional char­ac­ters fol­low­ing fac­tual events.

Four years ago he be­gan the re­search for his first book Wars in the White Cloud; Wairau, 1843, to en­sure all fac­tual el­e­ments were ac­cu­rate, ‘‘right down to the chief­tain’s ta moko’’.

Next he story boarded the comic, wrote text, then il­lus­tra­tions.

Each page of pic­tures takes around 16 hours to com­plete, with 58 pages for the first book and the next in the se­ries only grow­ing in size. The first book fol­lowed Arana and Will, un­will­ing par­tic­i­pants in a con­flict at Wairau Val­ley, as Bri­tish set­tlers from Nel­son clashed with the gov­ern­ing iwi Ngati Toa.

Orig­i­nally he was plan­ning on writ­ing for an older au­di­ence ‘‘and mak­ing it quite grim,’’ he said. ‘‘But I thought about it and de­cided I wanted to tar­get it to 13 and 14-year-olds.’’

‘‘I thought back to that age and I would have died to have some­thing like that in front of me at so­cial stud­ies in­stead of a text­book.’’

The first graphic novel was al­ready a hit with stu­dents.

He sent out first copies to schools and re­ceived a call from one li­brar­ian or­der­ing more cop- ies and say­ing it had cap­tured a group of stu­dents who would pass it around dur­ing their lunch times.

It was also short­listed for the Best First Book award at the New Zealand Book Awards for Chil­dren and Young Adults.

McKin­ley, who grew up in Have­lock North, moved to Welling­ton for study and com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of In­dus­trial De­sign then Mas­ter of De­sign with Massey Univer­sity.

He now lives in Cam­bridge where he works as a prod­uct man­ager for Gal­lagher Group dur­ing the day, while writ­ing and il­lus­trat­ing at his din­ner ta­ble by night.

Once he com­pleted or­ders for his de­but book he will con­tinue work­ing on his sec­ond comic about the Flagstaff War in Russell.

Wairau, 1843

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