Ant Sang


NameAnt Sang
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
ArtformVisual arts, Zines, Literature, Screen
Decades Active1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Ant Sang is one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists and graphic novelists in Aotearoa. Author of the award-winning books The Dharma Punks (2001) and Shaolin Burning (2009), Sang is known for his distinct illustration style, visual representations of Chinese mythology and history, and evocative depictions of everyday life and youth culture in Aotearoa. Beyond graphic novels, Sang is also active in the film and television industry as a storyboard artist and character designer — his most notable television work being for mid-00s animation show Bro'Town, for which he won multiple Achievement in Design awards.

Born in Tāmaki Makaurau in 1970, Sang’s family moved to Hong Kong in the mid-'70s, where they lived for eleven years. Sang describes his time in Hong Kong as “an amazing experience that later influenced his work”. The impact of Hong Kong cityscapes, imagery and pop culture (such as Shaw Brothers' kung fu movies) are evident in much of Sang’s work: “with my artwork, it’s a little bit of Western and Eastern and it’s combined into a style that maybe isn’t easy to categorise, but I try to find my own voice and my own style”.

As a child, Sang showed a natural interest in comics and animation, particularly as a reference point for his own art style: “I…was absorbing a lot of different kinds of comics and animation when I was young and, not even consciously, picking bits that I liked out of them and putting them together to make my own style”. Although he was initially inspired by traditional children’s comics such as Tintin and Asterix, Sang cites his time at university in the 90s as a period of change. Whilst studying graphic design at AIT (now Auckland University of Technology), Sang discovered alternative underground comic artists such as Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown and Paul Pope, who inspired him to shift from conventional cartooning to a more “rough, alternative” style.

In 1994, Sang began to self-publish a series of mini-comics called Filth. The comics were a response to Sang’s experience witnessing a classmate die in a traumatic hit-and-run accident: “It was like a wake-up call for me…I was looking at the world in a new way at a particularly angsty time in my life, and what came out of that was Filth. The distinctly personal and raw perspective of Filth led to it developing an immediate cult following in the 90s. The character of Chopstick in the comics would later inspire Sang’s first full-length graphic novel series in 2001, The Dharma Punks.

The Dharma Punks (2001–2003) was a self-published, eight-issue comic book series. It was later commercially reprinted in 2014 by Earth’s End, funded via a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. The 384-page graphic novel is set in Tāmaki Makaurau in 1994 and follows Chopstick, a Buddhist punk, who is struggling to reconcile his spiritual journey with his political actions. Similar to Filth, The Dharma Punks became an outlet for Sang to understand his own experiences: “The death of my classmate had triggered my own spiritual search and interest in Buddhism. I figured that would be an integral part of the story: Chopstick going through what I went through”. The release of The Dharma Punks #1 was met with widespread popularity — it was described as a “sales sensation at comics stores” and reportedly outsold American comics bestsellers such as Uncanny X-Men. Sales remained strong over subsequent years, capturing the attention of television producers who hired Sang to design Bro'Town in 2003.

After the release of The Dharma Punks, Sang became firmly established as a notable graphic novelist and designer in the Aotearoa arts scene. In 2009, Sang was commissioned by HarperCollins to create the bestselling graphic novel Shaolin Burning — a contemporary reimagining of Chinese kung fu mythology and tradition. Shaolin Burning was the first locally produced graphic novel in 10 years and won both an Honour Award at the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and the Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award.

Sang has also been part of several collaborations, including with Helene Wong for the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Being Chinese in Aotearoa exhibition. Sang worked with Wong to illustrate The Quiet Achievers: From Gardens to Gold Medals — a comic that showcases the stories and achievements of Chinese New Zealanders in Tāmaki Makaurau. Sang’s works have been published across North America, the United Kingdom, France and Taiwan, and he has been featured in multiple international festivals including the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Sang is still based in Tāmaki Makaurau where he continues to illustrate children’s picture books, contribute to screen projects and work on commercial design commissions. He is currently working on a Dharma Punks live adaptation.


Key works / presentations

2022 — 4 Yaks and a Yeti, Bateman Books

2018 — Helen and the Go-go Ninjas, Penguin Random House

2017 — The Quiet Achievers: From Gardens to Gold Medals, Auckland War Memorial Museum

2015 — Island to Island: a Graphic Exchange Between Taiwan & New Zealand, Dala Publishing

2014 — The Dharma Punks, Earth’s End Publishing

2011 — Shaolin Burning, self-published

2001 — The Dharma Punks, self-published

1994 — Filth, self-published

Key awards

2012 — Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award

2012 — New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards: Honour Award

2008 — Qantas Film and Television Awards: Achievement in Production Design in General Television

2006 — Air New Zealand Screen Awards: Achievement in Production Design

Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


A black and white comic.

Ant Sang, Dharma Punks (excerpt), 2014

A man standing in an arts studio in front of a book shelf.

Ant Sang in his studio, 2022

Photo by Sylvie Whinray

A man holding a page from a graphic novel.

Ant Sang holding a page from Shaolin Burning, 2009

Earth's End

A sketchbook spread with drawings in blue pencil.

Ant Sang's sketchbook, 2009

Earth's End

Several people around a table concentrating.

Ant Sang masterclass at Massey University, Asian Aotearoa Arts Hui, 2018

Photo by John Lake

A man holding a book in front of an awards backdrop.

Ant Sang at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, 2019

Photo by Vanessa Rushton