Michel Mulipola is a comic book illustrator and professional wrestler. Auckland-based Mulipola is a self-taught award-winning artist who has produced illustrations for Learning Media, Lift Education, Reading Warrior and independent US graphic novel series Headlocked. In 2006 he won the Gibson Award for Best New Zealand Comic Book Artist, in 2013 he was a grand finalist in the Secret Walls x Aotearoa Live Art Battles, and in 2016 he was awarded the Storylines Notable Book Award for Samoan Heroes with author David Riley. An advocate for comic drawing and creative expression, Mulipola is keen to inspire young talent through regularly visiting schools and running workshops.
Mulipola, Michel (1981 - ) is a comic book artist and professional wrestler from Auckland. Mulipola is actively involved in Impact Pro Wrestling, including participating in the 2016 heavy-weight New Zealand championship. When not drawing comics or wrestling, Mulipola works at Arkham City Comics, a popular comic bookstore that he helped a friend establish in Royal Oak Shopping Mall. He also teaches after-school drawing classes at Te Oro, a music and arts centre in Glen Innes.
After stumbling across his Uncle’s stack of comic books at the age of five, Mulipola dreamed of becoming a comic artist. The bold colours and bright characters drew his eye as a child, and this love continued into adulthood. Mulipola explains his love for the artform: ‘the reason I do comics isn’t for recognition but because I love the medium. I vowed to never let my work be a reflection of everyone else’s expectations, and concentrate on creating the best work I can.’ Mulipola found in the mid-90s that no one was teaching how to create comic books, so he had to learn how to do it on his own. Borrowing a term with negative connotations, ‘Bloody Samoan,’ became Mulipola’s positive and whimsical branding, which ‘de-powered the term of any negativity’ (Mulipola, 2016).
In 2006 Mulipola won the Gibson Award for Best New Zealand Comic Book Artist, for his Sesame Street Fighter comic strip (Dealer Man Comics, New Ground). He published further work with Dealer Man Comics, including Smacktown! (2004) and Lucha-a-Koko (2007, 2008). In 2010 he won the V Energy drink comic strip competition, the $10,000 reward of which enabled him to pursue his passion as a career.
Mulipola’s work has appeared in multiple anthologies both in New Zealand and overseas. He has illustrated work for both Learning Media and Lift Education, including Frogs (2013), The Rules (2015), Breathless (2016)and The Amazing Humans (2017). Mulipola was a Grand Finalist in the 2013 Secret Walls x Aotearoa Live Art Battles.
Mulipola worked with author David Riley and Reading Warrior to produce two illustrated books on Pasifika culture, Samoan Heroes (2015) and Tongan Heroes (2016). Samoan Heroes was awarded a non-fiction Storylines Notable Book Award in 2016.
Mulipola’s graphic novel series Headlocked is a long-running collaboration with US writer Michael Kingston. Combining his love of wrestling with his love of comics, Headlocked follows the trials and tribulations of an aspiring professional wrestler. The latest novel in the series, Headlocked: The Last Territory, was funded by fans through a kickstarter campaign, eventually raising more than $30,000. The novel was published in 2014 and released at the San Diego Comic-Con. Discussing the ultimate combination of his passions, Mulipola states: ‘Comics and pro wrestling are all about storytelling . . . It’s this kind of approach I use when I’m drawing comics and when I’m in the ring. I find immense satisfaction in manipulating my audience in ‘feeling’ what I want them to feel rather than impressing them with Superheroes and Superkicks’ (Mulipola, 2014). Mulipola is working on the next novel in the series, Headlocked: The Hard Way.
In 2017 Mulipola composed the artwork for Animation College Manukau Campus’s advertising, and completed the artwork for Sky TV 25th Anniversary artwork Heroes & Villains.
As a Samoan artist, Mulipola is an enthusiastic promoter of creative pursuits and comic book artistry within the Pasifika community. He is keen to ‘inspire and empower Maori and Pasifika to keep their traditions, customs and myths alive, and to share their cultural stories on the global stage’ (Mulipola, 2017).
As well as sharing his passion through drawing classes and school visits, Mulipola regularly attends Armageddon and Comic Con expos in New Zealand, Australia and the US. Upcoming events can be found on his website.
Media & Links
- Bloody Samoan, Mulipola’s website
- Radio NZ interview
- NZPWI pro-wrestling international interview with Steve McCleary
- 2014 Stuff interview with Arthur Whelan
- 2016 Stuff interview with Tom Carnegie
- 2016 interview on comics w/ a slant
- TKI link to School Journal Level 3 August 2016 introducing info and tips for using comics in the classroom Michel Mulipola: Superhero Secrets
- Youtube interview at OZ Comic Con 2016
- 2017 Stuff interview with Kymberlee Fernandes
- Chromacon 5 Questions with Michel Mulipola
- Michel answers some questions from Lynfield Kāhui Ako staff and students
Updated August 2022.