Comics and zines

Researching comics and zines

This guide will help you find comics and zines at the National Library, including the Alexander Turnbull Library. It’s designed for anyone who wants to access and read comics in our collections, whether for research or pleasure.

If you’re looking for editorial political cartoons, use our research guide dedicated to the New Zealand Cartoon Archive collection.


Does the Library collect comics and zines?

Yes, we actively collect in this area.

Under Legal Deposit, we collect all New Zealand published comic books, comics anthologies, graphic novels and manga, as well as a selection of web comics and zines. We also collect the original artworks used to create comics, and a selection of titles published overseas.

At present, we have over 4000 comics titles and almost 1400 graphic novels. Because they’re so diverse, zines are harder to count. But we have many hundreds of small-run, independently published titles, including fanzines, poetry zines, art zines and independent comics.


Why are these collections important?

Comics studies is a growing field of academic research, acknowledging what readers of comics have always known: that comics provide insights into the artists and cultures that create them.

Comics offer varied opportunities for artists to share their thoughts — from quickly documenting fleeting social events to long-term biographies and research projects.

Our collections are used by school and university students, academics, collectors and artists, as well as anyone who wants to read them for pleasure.

Page from the Rent Rage comic.
Toby Morris, The Pencilsword, #29. Rent Rage (excerpt). Read the full comic

Where do I start?

Start by searching our website. Search for a book’s title or the author’s name, if you know them.

National Library website

If you are interested in a genre or topic, try searching subject terms. The following terms are used by the Library to describe comics, graphic novels, and zines.

Comic books and comics collections

  • “Comic books, strips, etc” OR “Comic books, strips, etc – New Zealand” OR “Comics (Graphic works)” OR “Cartoons and comics”
  • Subjects can also be included — ie “Science fiction comic books, strips"

Graphic novels

“Graphic novels” OR “Graphic novels – New Zealand”

Zines

  • “New Zealand zines” OR “Fanzines” OR “Fan magazines”
  • “Underground comics” OR “Underground publications” OR “Underground press publications”
  • “Popular culture – periodicals”

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines are a great source of comics and won’t turn up in subject-based searches. You’ll need to look through the individual newspapers or magazines to find comic strips.

Have a look at PapersPast, our website of digitised New Zealand newspapers, to see some of New Zealand’s earliest published comics.

Papers Past and early published comics

Student magazines and capping magazines

Student magazines and capping magazines are another great resource for comics. Try searching for them by title on our website (for instance, Canta, Salient, or Craccum).

Original art works

We also collect the original art works used to create comics, try searching for the name of the artist to see what we hold, for instance, “Ball, Murray” or “Laing, Sarah”.

Comics anthologies and magazine

You will find the widest range of artists and styles in comics anthologies and magazines. We’ve compiled a list of these below — if you can think of any others please get in touch!

Title and link to library record Dates
Broadsheet at the National Library, Digitised Broadsheet at the University of Aucklnad 1972 to 1997
The Ponsonby rag 1976 to unknown
Strips 1977 to 1987
Every secret thing 1982 to unknown
Razor 1985 to c.1989
Jesus on a stick 1986 to c.1987
Desperate ink 1989 to c.1990
Funtime comics anthology (previously, Funtime comics presents …) 1992 to ongoing
Treacle : an anthology of Dunedin 'toons 1993 to 1995
New ground 2004 to 2008
DUD : the Dunedin comic revue 2010 to ongoing
Faction : Kiwi comic anthology 2012 to ongoing
Bristle 2013 to ongoing
From Earth's end 2013
3 Words 2016
A collage of comics.

Selection of zines from the collection. Clockwise from top left: This is not a comic / Coco Solid & Pritika, Kōrero i Te Mānia o Horotiu: Hamilton history zine / George Angelo and Maia-Jeanne McAllister, I went to punkfest and all I got was this lousy zine! / Kerry Ann Lee, Philosoflygirl / Coco Solid,

How do I access material?

Very few of the comics, graphic novels and zines in our collection have been digitised because they are still in copyright.

However, you will be able to access some material digitally via our website — for instance, web comics and born-digital comic-strips, and some early newspaper comics strips are accessible on Papers Past.

Digital comics on our website

Papers Past

Visit the library to see items

If you want to view an undigitised item that you have found on our website, use the 'see original record' option. This will navigate to the home database. You can then request the item and view it in our Reading Rooms.

Go to our Registering and Requesting page for more detail about how to register so that you can request items for viewing when you visit the library.
Registering and requesting

Use our 'Ask a librarian' service

If you are not able to visit our Wellington Reading Rooms, use the 'Ask a Librarian' service to get in touch, as we may be able to make a digital research copy of the material you want to see.

Ask a Librarian

Comic strip Adventures of Twing and Wink, The Star Babies— no. 7.
Avis Acres, Adventures of Twink and Wink, the Star Babies – No.7. Auckland Star, 3 August 1945.

Key collections

Here are some of the key collections you can use in researching comics and zines.

National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library collections

The National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library, comprehensively collect New Zealand and Pacific, and some overseas, comics and zines.

National Library search

The New Zealand Cartoon Archive

The New Zealand Cartoon Archive focuses primarily on editorial cartoons, but it contains a wealth of material by comics artists, including Dylan Horrocks, Chris Knox and Murray Ball. Accessing the New Zealand Cartoon Archive is discussed in more detail in this research guide.

New Zealand Cartoon Archive

National Children’s Collection

The National Children’s Collection contains books written for children and young people, including comics and graphic novels. The collection includes material from the 1940s to the present day, and can be accessed via our website.

National Children's Collection

Avis Acres Collection

Avis Acres was an illustrator and creator of the Adventures of Twink and Wink, the Twinkle Twins and Hutu and Kawa comic strips. We hold a large number of Acres’ original art works as well as her papers. You can view our holdings online.

Avis Acres holdings at the Alexander Turnbull Library

Murray Ball comic
Ball, Murray Hone, 1939-2017. 'You will notice kid, as you get older, that the world is divided into two kinds of people...' N.Z. Listener, 1981. Ref: J-045-009, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Can I take comics and zines home? Can I borrow them for my school?

We keep our heritage (Alexander Turnbull Library) collections for access onsite only, but many of the books in our National Library collection can be accessed through your local library via inter-library loan. We are also actively buying comics and graphic novels for the Services to Schools collection, which can be accessed by teachers and school librarians for use in the classroom.


Where else can I look?

This guide has focused on the collections of the National Library, but lots of other New Zealand collecting institutions hold comics, graphics novel and zines.

Public libraries

Your local public library will hold comics and graphic novels, and may also collect zines. Public libraries are a great place to access recently published titles and locally produced independent titles.

Art galleries

Many art galleries and museums collect comics as well, particularly the original art works and related ephemera.

DigitalNZ

Try searching DigitalNZ (which searches for digital content from over 200 New Zealand institutions) for artists’ names or format types (ie 'Noel Cook' or 'comic strips').

DigitalNZ

From Earth’s End

From Earth’s End is a blog dedicated to New Zealand comics, from the earliest to the most contemporary. Creator Adrian Kinnaird has published a comics anthology and reference of the same name.

From Earth's End blog
From Earth's End anthology

Thank you

Thanks to Monty Massuers at the Wellington City Library and Fiona Oliver at the Alexander Turnbull Library for providing feedback on this guide.