The crowd-funding deadline for Brisbane's 2017 Zine and Independent Comic Symposium (ZICS) is tomorrow! As I write this, they are $1000 short. Pledge! Share with your rich friends! Just help them reach their goal....
There are so many things going on in the Brisbane comics community in the next two months, that it is about time I started to scream and shout about them here on my Blog. The first to tell you about is an exhibition of original Brisbane comic book art work, curated by Will Kelly. Will shared that news with me when we shared a community talk about comics at the Garden City Library with Tom Kafa on the last day of last month. Our thanks to Kay Leanne for organising the Library event. Although I will be working on the night of the exhibition's launch (July 21 at Jugglers Art Space in the Valley), I do hope to get around to the exhibition during its run....and if you are in Brisbane, I really urge you to do so too!
I'm also hoping to get along to the Indie Comic Market in the Queen Street Mall at the end of this month (see above). I was too late to book a table, but I am not worried -- I don't have any new comics published recently to sell in any case. There is always a wide selection of new comics available and a great showcase of the increasing comic talent in our city, so I am really looking forward to it. (Actually, it was good to see some talents from other parts of the country appearing at the last event. I'm not sure who is going to be there this time....)
Someone asked on Facebook the other week: How does a creator learn how to say (politely and kindly) "No Thanks" to another, when others seek to sell their wares to you? I suppose I have never had that problem....I usually go with a limited budget, and then blow it anyway! How can one say "No" to good comics?!!
And how can one say "No" to this beautiful poster (see below) by Benjamin Constantine? This is to advertise and promote the fifth annual Zine and Indie Comic Symposium (ZICS) to be held in Brisbane at The Edge, South Brisbane, from 18th to 20th of August. Fundraising for the event is raised through the crowd-funding site Pozible. The team behind this mega-event is still behind in seeking to reach their target, so I do urge you to chip in...even if it is to obtain a copy of Benjamin's poster. There are only 20 copies of the poster that will be available, all signed and printed on heavy card stock. WHAT are you waiting for??! Here is the link: https://pozible.com/project/zine-indie-comic-symposium-1
This is just a small message to those who read every word I write. Although I have continued to be involved in some comic-related activities, I have had to cut back said involvement and activities over the past month or two. This has meant that I was unable to assist The Bunker Cartoon Gallery in preparing to judge their Rotary Cartoon Awards, and I was unable to attend 2017's Comic Con-versations in Sydney. And while I have continued to sporadically work on the Monty Wedd book Bold Ben Hall (nearing completion), the volume of Australian Comic History for Graeme Cliffe, and Inkspot for the Australian Cartoonists' Association, much of my work and enthusiasm on these projects has had to take a back seat for a while. At the present time, some family tragedies (plural) have struck, and without going into the details of them all, let me just say that I have been kept somewhat preoccupied with and prioritising these other matters. Last week, for example, my Mother learnt that she has only a few months to live. And while this may be a sad state of affairs, she has had a good innings. She is 86 years of age, and her needs (and other loved ones) are where I am presently devoting most of my time and attention. Thanks for your understanding. As I said on my Facebook page: "Normal Service will resume as soon as possible"....
This is a post I failed to post last year (who knows why now), but it is one I feel I should, given the recordings at the bottom of the Blog that ought to be preserved for posterity. (My website is captured and preserved by Pandora from the National Library of Australia.) So, please note, when this says "this year", I am actually referring to 2016. Interesting too, to hear of the big plans that Andrez Bergen, Frantz Kantor and I had for Oi Oi Oi!'s Magpie and how Life/God (whatever you want to call her) seems to take us on other paths that we don't even expect
Following my decision this year not to hang onto the coat-tails of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, I have attempted to broadened my market by attending many non-Supanova comic-related events throughout the year, and in as many different cities as possible. In early July, it was Sydney's turn!
(I should point out here that I have nothing against Supanova Pop Culture Expo. Indeed I plan on attending the Brisbane leg later this year -- even though it coincides with the Australian Cartoonists' Association's annual workshop/Award night. There has been some Facebook suggestions about artists boycotting the event -- I am not certain of all the facts or know why this was/is proposed -- and I am not actively choosing to do this by attending these other festivals throughout the year. I simply wasn't able to co-ordinate my work shifts for Sydney's Supanova in June, much as I would have liked to have been there.)
Every year, the Public Libraries in the inner-west of Sydney combine to bring the attention of comics to the community, and this is -- and I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong -- the third year of Comic Con-Versation. The events took place from July 3rd for a whole week, culminating in a Comics Lounge (where local comic publishers can share their wares with the public) at the Ashfield Library.
My work commitments did not allow me to attend for the whole week. (Curse this work! If I would only win Lotto, I could be at all these comic-related events all year long, publishing comics until the end of my days! IF I were to only buy a Lotto ticket!) Anyway, I was able to have the weekend of July 9th and 10th off duty from work....so there was nothing to get in my way to allow me to attend the Comic Lounge. Not even Carlene! And flying to Sydney is always fun, as it gives me an opportunity to catch up with my great friend Rob Feldman and family!
Rob did not hold true to his word and make me lay in blue-hued bed sheets (as he had promised), but by then the New South Wales Rugby League team had well and truly lost the State of Origin. Rob, in fact, had done a better job than I would have had Queensland lost, in getting over the loss. [2017: How little has changed in twelve months in other respects!] Thank you, Rob and Vicki, for allowing me to stay in your home. I digress...
There were many comics and books available at the Comic Lounge at the Ashfield Library on that Sunday afternoon. It was good to see so many other artists and cartoonists, happily engaging with the members of the public that were interested in sharing the mutual love of the comic medium. Here are some of the works that stood out (from my viewpoint)....
Rob Feldman has now just released a new book, Owed to the Taxman that was written by his aunt Lindsay Dalyell. Lindsay was a single mum, who used to write a poem each year to the Tax Department when she submitted her returns: 'a perfect way to vent her spleen and let off steam', and which she did for over forty years! At her 90th birthday party, Rob became aware of these poems and discovered that she had meticulously kept them all in a notebook. And so, with his aunt's permission, Rob lovingly has illustrated these tax-inspired grow-up nursery rhymes! Rob's last book, Fast Freddy's Big Race, was short-listed in the 2016 Ledger Awards and I am sure this one will be another that will keep his Fans happy. I consider myself one! You can obtain copies here: http://www.robfeldman.com.au/humour/
Karen Beilhartz produced the wonderful Kinds Of Blue anthology that Comicoz announced as the best Australian Original Comic Book of 2012. And this year, she has produced another that ranks right up there! Monsters ("An anthology of short comics for children") is wonderfully written by Karen, and illustrated by a variety of illustrators that makes this as one of the fun reads of the the year. [Since writing this, Karen has also produced a colouring book as a companion volume to go with the book, which was short-listed for a Ledger Award in 2017. Both books are available as a package from her website for $27, and you can also find a sample from the book there too: http://hivemindedness.com/monsters/ ]
Thomas Campi remains one of the artists whose colour artwork I have long admired, even though I cannot understand anything about the comics he illustrates! Based in Sydney, Thomas illustrates graphic novels for the European market, and has won many awards for his works. I have secured the Australian rights to his first English-language graphic novel. The title is Joe Shuster, about the life and times of the co-creator of Superman, although the work is not yet complete. I remain convinced that I believe the work will put him in a position where some of the American publishers will be seeking him out for further work, and that he will be better known. [2017: The position, in regards the completion of the work, still remains the same, although it is nearer to completion. So Thomas tells me!]
After purchasing one of his books, Thomas was kind enough to present to me an original (black and white) illustration that he was working on at the time I approached his table. How can I not share it with you here?
This above is an audio of a Panel discussion that I took part in during the day.
And here are the other audio Panel discussions that I didn't take part in during the day (above and below)!
Comic Comrades! Join me in again acknowledging that this meeting is being held on the land of traditional owners. Let us pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
Tonight! Tonight, I come as a man with many hats.
I wear my hat as a lifelong comic fan. Please join with me, as we show our appreciation to those who have organized tonight’s event that is being held for the very first time in Sydney. Let us acclaim – Felicity Blake …Gary Chaloner … and Tim McEwen!
I wear my hat as the Deputy President of the Australian Cartoonists Association – or ACA for short! This association was formed in Sydney. It has a history stretching back almost one hundred years – making it the oldest cartooning body in the world. I am so pleased to have been part of the ACA Committee that has agreed to silver sponsorship of this event tonight. Cartooning and comics are closely linked, and I do encourage anyone interested in joining the Australian Cartoonists Association to do so. And not just because there is an annual Award for Best Comic Book Artist – yes, there is! – but also because you become part of an organization whose history is so intertwined with this beautiful city…
I wear my third hat tonight as Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour Awards. As my colleague and fellow Judge, Daniel Best, has already explained, the Ledger of Honour Awards are an opportunity to acknowledge those who have exalted and trumpeted Australian comics in the past, either as creators or fans, and to honour them alongside those from the present.
This year, for the first time from the outset of the judging process, the Ledger of Honour was divided into two explicit categories – an Award for those who have worked in Australian comics and who have now retired, and a second Award – the one I shall soon present – is to acclaim those who have also made their mark in the comic medium in this country but have since passed away. I like to refer to these Awards as the Living Legends (for those retired). And for those who have passed away, and with no disrespect meant, simply using an Australian slang terminology – we have the Dead-Set Legends.
To select the Awards, a panel of five Judges knowledgeable in Australian comic book history convene. Individually, they nominate and put forward to the panel, persons whom they feel are worthy for consideration. Much animosity and bitterness in debate ensures before one person is seen to have forcibly browbeaten the other combatants, and their choice emerges victorious.
That’s exactly what happened in deciding the Award for the Ledger of Honour (Deceased)!
Comic Comrades! The recipient of the Dead-Set Legend for 2017 is going to be awarded to a pioneer of the comic medium. Today’s Award winner was born on 17th January 1877 – a very different world to the one we live in. Australia was a colony of Mother England, a patriarchal society existed with only men having voting rights, and the books that were read in the colony appeased the new white settlers’ homesickness and longings for places far away. Today we celebrated someone who challenged and changed all that: today we celebrate the contribution of … Cecilia May Gibbs!
Rather than going into a full-blown biography of May Gibbs – the beautiful Ledger Awards book, produced by Bruce Mutard, covers most of that – let me spend some time talking about the reasons why the Judges felt that May’s contribution to this unique art form was so worthy...
May Gibbs. What an astounding, amazing woman! Although born in England, May grew up in rural Australia, developing a love of the bush. Both of May’s parents were accomplished artists, so it is perhaps not surprising to learn that she was first published (in the Western Australian Bulletin) – as a twelve year old!
After studying overseas, May returned and eventually settled in Sydney. She illustrated for the Sydney Mail and The Lone Hand and – for fifty years! – the New South Wales Education Department’s Primary Reader. By the early 1920s, May Gibbs had achieved considerable commercial success with her illustrated children’s books Gum-Nut Babies and Gum-Blossom Babies and the book she is best known for today, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Up until then, Australian children’s books had reflected the leprechauns, kelpies, brownies, pixies, fairies and goblins so well-known in British literature. Almost single-handedly, May Gibbs turned all that on its head!
But it was not her writing that May wanted to be known. Comic strips had taken off in Australian newspapers in the mid-1920s and she felt to illustrate one would ensure that her literary works would continue to be published and remain in the public eye. But what obstacles May Gibbs had to overcome! She was a woman cartoonist in what was a man’s world, and by then in her mid-forties, when she approached the Sydney Sunday News Editor Errol Knox and submitted her strip The Gumnuts. The topic of the strip was everything that was not being run in the weekly newspapers of the day. And then she argued over her rights to retain her own copyright!
May had fought these battles before. She was tenacious! At a time when book publishers were paying 10% royalties to Henry Lawson, ‘Banjo’ Patterson, C J Dennis and Norman Lindsay, May Gibbs had earlier demanded – and won – the right to have her royalty raised to 15%! Can you imagine the scene? A middle age woman in the 1920s not only haggling to have a newspaper run her comic strip, but allowing her to retain the rights to it? However, with the support of fellow cartoonist and senior artist of the newspaper, Syd Nicholls (our winner of last year’s Dead-Set Legend), May Gibbs was successful!
May supplied a half page cartoon each week and was allowed to retain syndication rights and the rights to publish her cartoon in book form. Her comic strip Bib and Bub first appeared in August 1925 and it continued until she retired the strip in 1967 – when she was 90 years of age!
May was also the first cartoonist to have two consecutive comic strips running in two different newspapers at the same time, when Tiggy Touchwood (under the pseudonym of Sam Cottmann) appeared in Sydney’s Sunday Sun in 1925, running until 1931. The earliest forms of comics published in this country were compilations of newspaper strips, and a total of eight comics of May’s works were published.
Throughout May Gibbs’ career, she entertained Australian children (and adults), mixing home-grown philosophy with social and moral comments into her adventures. She lead her readers into the discovery of the bush, which had so inspired her as a child. Her concern about bush creatures, preaching kindness to plants and animals in all her works, clearly placed her ahead of her time. When she died in 1969, she left all her works of art and royalties from her books to both the New South Wales Society of Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services) and the Spastic Centre of New South Wales (now Cerebral Palsy Alliance).
May Gibbs was an inspiration to many artists throughout her lifetime, and continues to inspire young Australians today in the love and artistic representations of nature. Many of her themes continue to be carried on in some comic book artists of today, with Starrytellers and Fly the Colour Fantastica two recent anthologies that most quickly spring to mind.
It was one hundred years ago that May Gibbs’ books, Gum-Nut Babies and Gum-Blossom Babies, were first published. It is fitting then, that we raise our collective hats as we celebrate May Gibbs’ achievements on this special anniversary. It gives me immense pride and pleasure to be able to present this year’s Ledger of Honour to Cecilia May Gibbs’ ‘Head Gumbut’ Rosalie May.
I just recently attended the Ledger Awards in Sydney (perhaps I'll report on that, and the release of the latest Inkspot, when -- or if? -- I have time in the future). In the meantime, here's another draft to the cover of another book that Ryan McDonald-Smith and I are working on, and a record of this morning's "work"...
One of the processes in preparing a book like From 'Sunbeams' to Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Australian Comic Book (1924 to 1965), is the fact there are so many things to check out and change. Graeme Cliffe and I are working on publishing what we believe will be the definitive book on Australian comics. Graeme has spent almost the best part of twenty years working on this research project that has taken him all around the country. A little earlier I posted what was the first draft of the cover, and today I am going to share with you the changes that have taken place since then. We have two designs before us. Both have good qualities; neither can be said are going to be the final version to be chosen. Even though we have not decided on what the final cover will look like, you will be at least able to see some sort of progression since the last posting....
And then you have things like this happen.... Australian comic book writer and illustrator, Arthur "Captain Atom" Mather suddenly passes away. Just as Graeme and I (with Ryan McDonald-Smith) are about to begin working on the interior design of the book's pages, we learn of the sad news of Arthur's passing and realise that there is no way we can ignore this. The entry in the book just has to be amended to give it currency....
Arthur's private funeral is being held this afternoon, and yet another link to Australia's colourful past in the world of comics has passed. Condolences to Arthur's family in their time of sorrow.
Just to give you a small taste (or tease?) of Graeme's book, here's his (quickly) updated history of Arthur Mather:
Arthur Mather was born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1926. His began his working career as a printer's apprentice, in the meantime studying art briefly at Melbourne Technical College. Mather worked his way to the position of sporting cartoonist for the Melbourne Truth. In 1947, he was recruited by Atlas Publications to draw Captain Atom at a starting salary of ten pounds per week. Between 1950 and 1951 his adventure strips Sky Pirates and Danger in the Dead Heart were published as weeklies in the Age. Mather went on to also write and draw a long sequence of the Flynn of the FBI comic book for Atlas Publications. Eventually he took over drawing Atlas’ Sergeant Pat of the Radio Patrol.
Following the demise of the local comic book industry Arthur worked in television and publishing. He went on to make a substantial career in advertising, eventually holding a senior position with the George Patterson Advertising Agency. Arthur’s first novel, “The Pawn”, was published in 1975, and he went on to publish a further seven books. Summing-up Arthur Mather’s appearances in locally created comic books, his strips appeared in more than one hundred and thirty comics. Arthur Mather died in 2017.
This may seem an ordinary suitcase. It was found in an old home that was ready for demolition in Western Australia, some months ago. No-one paid it any heed, and it was going to go to the community rubbish dump, along with many other items. Fortunately, the people who discovered it looked inside before they dropped it off. And inside! Uncovered was a lot of hidden gold....in comic terms, at least! Early runs of Frew's Phantom (see images below) and -- of more interest to me -- copies of some Fatty Finn comics from the 1940s. And many other comic treasures all in perfect condition just as they were when printed!
Somehow, I see this as a metaphor for my life. There are many things that I do in this (comic-related) life I lead that is often left hidden, unsaid and unrecorded here on this blog. Taking out my personal family life -- which, in my case, this year has been filled with more drama than the writers of Home and Away could even imagine! -- and my work occupation, there have been so many events going on in my world of comics in the past six to twelve months that I have not recorded... Sometimes because I have not had time, often because they are private and hidden doings, and occasionally because they are not able to be revealed until later...
I was tempted here to record some of those here, for those who read these words. But, I won't. Not just yet, in any case (pardon the unintended pun). It is Mother's Day; a time to reflect and cherish those who brought us into the world. So, if you can, go and wish your Mother a Happy Day and let her know you are thinking of her....
This picture is only a draft of what may not even be the final cover. I am really excited about publishing this! Author and researcher Graeme Cliffe has been working on this for almost twenty years! The detail he has spent on the research is amazing. Without meaning to demean John Ryan, this book will put Panel by Panel in the shade and will be the seminal work on the topic. More details when they come to hand....
The latest INKSPOT has arrived via courier, and copies are being sent throughout this wide land. And a lot of interest has been generated by its lead topic ... The Phantom. Inside this issue there are exclusive stories -- a short history of Frew Publications, as detailed by Australian comic historian Daniel Best, leads us to Frew Publisher Glenn Ford opening up about some of the future plans he has in store for his new charge. Phantom cover artist Antonio Lemos talks about his background history, and there is an overview of the Phantom exhibition presently travelling here and overseas!
Of course, there are other stories too! Comic book artist Dave Dye talks about his creative process, and there is an interview with Martina Zeitler. Because the magazine is published by the Australian Cartoonists' Association, there are six pages of new cartoons by members on the specially chosen topic of "Space and Aliens". Our organisation is a dynamic one, and sad things happen too, so there is a report on the deaths of some from our organisation since the last issue went to press. How much do you know about these cartoonists: Bill Leak, Edd Aragon, Alex Stitt and Clem Seale? We mourn their passing.
This issue may prove to be the most popular issue of all. How can you get to read a copy? Usually, the best place to obtain a copy is by becoming a (full or associate) member of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, and details about joining appear on one of the internal pages of this issue. However, for the very first time, this edition was also made available to Libraries around the country. Many Librarians in New South Wales have taken up the offer and I thank them for their enthusiasm: see in the next week if your local library has a copy to read! Copies are being sent to:
Blacktown City Libraries
Blue Mountains Library
Broken Hill City Library
Castle Hill Library
Cobar Shire and TAFE Library
Coffs Harbour City Library
Coonamble Shire Library
Goulburn Mulwaree Library
Hilltops Council Library
Hornsby Shire Library
Lake Macquarie City Library
Mona Vale Library
Northern Beaches Council Library
Port Macquarie Library
Randwich City Library
Richmond-Upper Clarence Regional Library
Sutherland Shire Council Libraries
Wagga Wagga City Library
Wentworth Shire Libraries
Yass Valley Library
If YOUR library has missed out, get them to contact me!
Inkspot, for me, is an honour to edit. It does take a lot of my time. But the end results are worth it. This is the sixth issue I have now been involved in. Even Carlene thought this issue was the best yet! My thanks to all the contributors, and to my designer Chris Barr, and my fellow editor Phil Judd....the good men who work behind the scenes!