SPOTLIGHT: Owen Heitmann


Owen Heitmann


Adelaide, South Australia




What comics formats do you work in?

I first published comic strips in a local community newsletter, then began contributing to other people’s comic books before publishing my own, which I followed up with my first webcomic. Later I did zines, more webcomics, and more comic books, and I’m currently working on my first graphic novel. Phew.

What is your skill area and role as a creator?

Most commonly I’m a writer/artist, but I also enjoy collaborating as an artist with a writer and vice versa. My favourite skill area is inking and my least favourite is colouring.

What are your major comics publishing credits so far?

In terms of audience exposure, my major credits are probably drawing a couple of short comics for Dillon Naylor’s nationally-distributed Da ‘n’ Dill comic, and a weekly single-panel cartoon I did for The Weekend Australian newspaper for six months. It’s somewhat dispiriting to think that both of those were last century.

More recently I’ve contributed short stories to comics anthologies in the US, Canada and Australia, including The Tango Collection from Allen & Unwin, Australia! from ComicOz, and Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends from Hic & Hoc.

I also edited and published all six issues of Fist Full Of Comics volume 2, an Adelaide-focused comics anthology that showcased work by emerging creators alongside that of established cartoonists. It wasn’t mainstream publishing but it was a major undertaking for me and I remain very proud of it.

What is a favourite example of your own work? Why is it your favourite and what does it mean to you as a creator?

Usually my favourite comic is the one I’ve just finished. Using that criteria, my current favourite would be A Space Oddity, which I originally drew in August 2016 as a 24-hour online comic and recently revised as a full-colour printed comic book. I love 24-hour comics because the self-imposed spontaneity leads stories in unexpected directions. To me, it’s a reminder that I come up with some of my funniest jokes when I don’t let myself overthink things.

Putting aside the ‘whatever I’ve just finished’ factor, another favourite is Mike Versus Monsters. It’s a 48-page full-colour comic consisting of six short stories about a gang of anthropomorphic kids who encounter a variety of supernatural foes. I like to describe it as ‘Carl Barks meets The Goonies meets the X-Files’. It’s a favourite for a number of reasons. The characters first appeared in an earlier 24-hour comic, followed by several more adventures in various comic anthologies. It’s a great feeling to have all those appearances collected together in one place most in colour for the first time. The stories also hold a special place in my heart as a loving tribute to the type of all-ages adventures that first awakened my love of comics. Additionally, I was honoured to have some of my favourite artists draw guest art of the characters to fill out the book, including an amazing piece by Caanan Grall which captures own characters better than I can. Finally, the cast of characters and some of their antics are loosely inspired by my experiences as a child in the Adelaide hills in the ’80s, which adds a nostalgic appeal for me.

Why do you make comics? What do you think is the one reason you create?

When I started making comics, I was too young to consider why I did it, and I still don’t like to analyse it too much. A glib reason for creating is that it’s fun; I enjoy telling stories and I enjoy drawing pictures. But that ignores the fact that it’s not always fun; I hate it when I can’t find the right words or when I struggle to get a drawing to look right. It’s probably more accurate to say that I create because the alternative is to not create, and that’s like death to me.

What other Australian comics have you recently enjoyed?

Without getting too nauseating, I always enjoy everything my partner Georgina Chadderton creates. I like the way she draws, her facial expressions are excellent, and her comics always make me laugh or tug at my heartstrings. I can’t wait for her to finish her work-in-progress memoir about growing up with a brother with severe autism.

Outside of my own home:

Round by Robin Tatlow-Lord. Robin’s art is always expressive and lively and this story is cute and uplifting.

Madeleine Karutz’s work in Starrytellers, Voiceworks and online. Madeleine is another amazing local artist whose work can be thought provoking or bitingly funny.

Bug and Stump by Mark Sexton and John Petropolous. This series was released in the ’90s but I re-read it recently and it’s still one of my favourite comic books for its hilarious jokes and wonderful art.

They Done Scruffy Wrong by Lluis Fuzzhound. I picked up this wordless comic at the Festival of the Photocopier and really enjoyed the classic, 1930s-style character designs.

I could namedrop dozens of other creators but I’d inevitably leave someone out so I’ll keep the list short rather than try and fail to be comprehensive.

What project/book are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on my debut graphic novel, a YA rom-com called First Dates, Inc. I wrote the script last year with the support of an Arts SA grant, and I’ve just received a follow-up grant to storyboard/thumbnail that script into a rough draft that I can seek feedback on. A graphic novel is a big undertaking for anyone, and I’m a particularly slow artist, so that project is dominating my future for the next few years.

Outside of that mammoth undertaking, I’m considering simultaneously developing a webcomic version of Mike Versus Monsters that would serialise short stories, as a quicker way of getting the sense of gratification that comes from finishing a comic to tide me over while I’m working on the graphic novel.

I also hope to help some other local comic book artists into print through my publishing imprint, Amplified Press, but those are very loose plans at this stage.

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