On January 5th..... 96 years ago.....one of Australia's great comic book illustrators was born. Today, as we honour the memory of Monty Wedd, Comicoz announces -- on that very same date -- a purely subjective Award that bestows on the recipient neither worldly acclaim or great financial rewards. It is purely a honoury one, this first Australian comic book award for the year. There is no way you can bribe me into selecting your favourite into winning the Award, and there is no way you can win the Award if I publish your work (I don't want to be accused of any bias, you see). You do not have to agree with my selection, and you can debate my selection as much as you like (in fact, that debate is encouraged, as discussion among Australian comic book Fans should be encouraged, as I see that as a healthy sign for the local medium).
What is the state of the local scene? Comic shops are still starting up around the country, and there are more regional areas that are seeing them. I have noticed more Facebook sites that are selling and auctioning comics in the past twelve months. In fact, even I have made some pleasing transactions over the past twelve months through Facebook than I have in the past. (Some I should have documented on this Blog, but for some reason did not, and perhaps that could be a topic for another day.) Pleasing signs, as I say. But are these signs of expansion, or more simply that signs are there that there is an increasing market for American comics (which is, to be honest, what most comic retailers sell)?
Two ventures that have highlighted and supported Australian comic creators have decided to modify their profile this year. The Australian Comic Arts Festival ran for the first time in Canberra last February, and plans were underfoot for a second Festival this year (in 2017) until just recently. I have heard through the comic grapevine that the second Festival will now be held in 2018. I am not sure why the sudden change of plans, although that will suit me in my comic social life. (My wife's auntie is celebrating her 80th birthday in February, and we have been making plans to see her in Tasmania; so my wishes to attend Canberra's ACAF for this year had to be abandoned.) And the Homecooked Comics Festival, usually held in the spacious Northcote Town Hall in Melbourne has lost funding, and will now be held in the small and aptly named Squishface Studios in Brunswick. Is this a sign that the local industry is undergoing some sort of correction? Are there just too many Festivals or Conventions being held around the country; are the larger ones sqeezing out the smaller ones? I don't suppose I have any answers, just a whole lot of questions.
As a sign there is still life in the comic beast in this country, long-time Australian publisher Frew is making new plans. Jason Paulos has announced on Facebook (this week!) that he and Chris Sequeira are to team up for an "on-going series" of stories. This news has just broken, so I am going to find out more, hopefully making this news a future posting. After my frequent criticism of Frew on this Blog in the past, it is going to be a case of Nat Karmichael happily eating his words if all promising signs comes true!
And now, as promised, the announcement of the Best Australian Original Comic Book for the past year. I have read many of the comic books available throughout the year, and I am also sure I have missed reading just as many and maybe more. As I have recently stated, there have been more comic titles released in Australia than at any time during the Golden Era of the mid-1940s to late 1950s (although the sales quantity is not the same as that previous age). So, this task of selecting one comic has been a most difficult one. I also ran into the delemma of what constitutes an Australian comic.
Thomas Campi is now based in Sydney. He produces comic art work that is absolutely first class. His publisher released "Macaroni!" this year, and it is absolutely beautiful to look at. I can't read it, because it is not in English, and Thomas is too busy to read it to me. It was one book I loved from last year. But, is it Australian? I am going to say "Yes": purely on Thomas' involvement. But is it the Best Australian original comic work for the year? Sadly, I am going to say "No", but it is one of those I considered in my final selection. Here's part of the cover.....
Now, I am not an advocate for the Ledger Awards dividing up their annual awards into many different categories. This is a debate that takes place every year after their awards are announced each year. However, when choosing my own selection of comics that made my final short list for my ultimate selection, I found that I had chosen comics that could easily have been seen to belong to different groups.
The Invisible War: A Tale on Two Sides is a solid example of the potential for comics, and I was most impressed with two things in this volume. Firstly, the sharing of science in an easily accessible manner. Want to give me a book to read on Microbes and their discovery? I would not be interested in the slightest. Make it in comic format, and you have me hooked. This book, created by Briony Barr & Dr Gregory Crocetti and written by Ailsa Wild, in collaboration with Dr Jeremy Barr, is an absoulte delight. Science is made fun again. And the second thing in the book that sells it for me is the comic book sequences illustrated by Ben Hutchings. This is Ben's cleanest line work, his finest work: it is this artwork that makes this book the success it surely will become. You can learn more about this team by clicking on this link.
The collected works of Dillon Naylor's Frankie Laine's Comics and Stories featuring Dillon's Da'n'Dill characters is, I believe, the best anthology of the year (outside of Oi Oi Oi! of course) and one of my favourite reads. Disclosure: some of my grand-children call me "Poppie" and some of them call me "Da" (it's a long story, and not worth sharing here). This is a volume that I would be happy to read to them! Or, rather, allow them to read and discover for themselves. This is an absoulte fun read. Although these adventures have been previously published (between 1986 and 1994), there were many I did not read in their first printing, mainly because they appeared in such a variety of magazines. This volume collects a portion of Dillon's works for posterity. That in itself was a good enough reason to print this very large 234 page paperback, in my opinion. You don't need to decide whether or not you need to own a copy, you simply have to buy it. And you will, I promise, thank me for telling you about it! It is available by clicking here.
Comic writing, research and criticism all tend to be forgotten and ignored when it comes to comic fans, buyers and award ceremonies. The Ledger Awards, for example, will never entertain Inkspot as a contender or even on their long list for their annual awards (and I can understand and accept that decision). I know Graeme Cliffe's book on Australian comics that I am presently proud to be working on, is not going to sell in big numbers either. One book like those that is not technically a comic book, and as such will probably be overlooked in all 'best of' reflections of the year past, is this volume called Australia's First Comic Book: A Problem of Definition. It was written by former comic shop owner and comic collector Roger Morrison as part of his quest for his Masters. And despite all this, I am going to include it in my list of finalists for this Award by Comicoz for 2016.
What does Roger consider Australia's first comic book? There is only one way of finding out: and it won't be shared by my posting the answer here. Only 100 copies of the volume (and its companion-piece Twentieth Century Australian Comic Books) were printed, and they do cost a pretty penny. No, they are not cheap. This may only be of interest those who have a passion for the history of the local medium. People like me. If you are interested, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can gladly put you in touch with Roger.
And so, the time has come, to name the "Winner" of this year's Award. Another to be considered included Karen Beilharz' Monsters anthology. I was also going to include my friend Rob Feldman and his manic and oh-so-funny comic Fast Freddy's Big Race, until someone told me (probably Rob) that that was short-listed in last year's Ledgers. So it was not eligible. But, as I have said, it's my Award, and I can make the final selection. And the piece I have chosen may have actually been released before January 2016, although I do not think I discovered it until about that time, or just after, I announced last year's "Winner" (Darren Close's Struggle).
The Honorary Winner of the 2016 Comicoz Award for the Best Australian Original Comic of the past twelve months is ....
These Memories Won't Last, an interactive comic by Stuart Campbell or Sutu as he now likes to be known. Computers are the new medium, where comic strips and comic stories are now presented in digital format. Comics by the major US comic companies are now released in both physical and digital format. That, on its own, is not new. But Sutu takes this further, with a truly interactive comic that you have to actively scroll down to "read".
Sutu has taken part in some wonderful activities over the past few years. He has recently released a book of Augmented Reality, featuring artists and cartoonists from around the world. He has been involved in working collaboratively with a group of indigenous teenagers from the Pilbara (in Western Australia) to bring the complete collection of NEOMAD stories to life (and which won the Gold Ledger Award last year). But it is this project that Sutu brings his own personal history to life, and one that will resonate with many a person who has seen a loved one grow old, that I felt was the year's best.
If you have not experienced These Memories Won't Last, I shall not say any more about it. The artwork conveys the messages clearly, it is a brilliant piece of storytelling. This piece brought into question in my mind: What is a comic? What is the possibilities of a comic? You cannot "read" this comic. You cannot help but be moved by this work. This is more than a comic: this is an experience. This work, for me, transcended all other comics in 2016, because with this piece I was placed in a state of wonder, it was a powerful piece, I was raptured. In simple terms, this piece These Memories Won't Last by Sutu is the future of comics.
Want to experience it for the first time? Want to experience it all over again? You may have to undertake a google search: Key in Sutu eats flies + These Memories Won't Last or try directly by keying in: http://memories.sutueatsflies.com/
If you want to know more about Sutu here's the link, just click here.
As seems to be my wont from 21 December to the end of the calendar year, I tend to be a little reflective of the time that has passed since we circled the sun yet another time. The one pleasing thing from a creative point of view, has been steering the Editorship of the Australian Cartoonists' Association's journal Inkspot to a fourth issue for the year. (Above is the latest Summer issue with cover art by Judy Nadin and design by Chris Barr.) Without meaning to brag, it is the first time this decade that four issues of the magazine have seen print, so I am pretty chuffed to have been able to pull that off (with help from the contributors, artists and cartoonists, our printer, and the assistance of co-editors Phil Judd and Chris Barr). While I take the lead and all the glory in the role, it really is a team effort. I am really looking forward to keeping to this schedule in 2017, to maintain the progress made. As my last Blog stated, copies of the next issue will be available to Australian comic shops and Libraries around the country, and already much interest has already been shown. (If YOUR comic shop or local library is interested in carrying a copy, get them to drop me a quick email email@example.com)
My work on the Monty Wedd book Bold Ben Hall and the publishing frequency of Oi Oi Oi! has taken a bit of a hit, partially due to my work on Inkspot, but also due to some of the financial issues surrounding the magazine (Oi Oi Oi! has been running at a loss), as well as the state of my distress at some of the people that I care about being struck ill since August. From Andrew Bergen (Magpie writer), my son-in-law, to my wife. And now being added to this list is my Mother, who only learnt about a week before Christmas that she has bowel cancer and had to undergo major bowel surgery last Tueday (yes, just a couple of days after Christmas). This latest turn of events has subdued my seasonal celebrations somewhat. (Having to work on Christmas day, and having just completed night duty hasn't helped too much either!)
Anyway, I DO plan on releasing more issues of Oi Oi Oi! although planning may not take place until about March into the new year....
There are also a lot of exciting publishing plans I have for Comicoz in the new year. Mostly involved in helping see in print books that will add to the collection of Australian comics and comic-related books in this country. The major problem is (as in most years) finding the time to work on them, so my poor wife does not feel neglected!
So, let me share just some of them here! I am more committed than ever in getting Bold Ben Hall in print. Sadly, the movie based on this Australian bushranger seems to have sunk without even much of a ripple (it was in so few cinemas locally, I didn't even have time or opportunity to see it myself). I am sure the book by Monty Wedd will do well. The only thing that might cause some to baulk may be the cover price. While the Ned Kelly story was 145 pages long, and the book retailed for about $50 (or $40 from our web-site), Bold Ben Hall is going to be over 400 pages in length!
Other books that are in various stages of preparation include a third volume of Air Hawk, and collection of Gary Chaloner's past Flash Damingo and the Jackaroo works. I am most excited about a book called From Sunbeams to Sunset that Graeme Cliffe has spent the past eight years (plus) researching. We have (just about) managed to secure copyright clearances for this one, that recounts the history of the Australian comic book. You thought John Ryan's Panel by Panel was extensive? Wait until you see what Graeme has detailled! I am also waiting to hear back from Sydney-based artist Thomas Campi to see how advanced his illustrations for Joe Shuster are progressing. I believe this book shows enough promise to break Thomas in the American market.
I am also trying to begin work on retrospective volumes of both Alex Gurney and Phil Belbin's works as well as the collected comic works of Emile Mercier. But maybe one year is too ambitious, and I may have to delay planning of those little beauties until a little later.... Ahh, the New Year is around the corner. It shows promise of better days! May your New Year be a Happy one, whatever YOU have planned, and I shall look forward to talking to you more about Australian comics when next you venture onto this Blog - Web-site!
I am uncomfortable watching myself nervously talking about my passion for Australian comics, so I enter this more for the information shared and for future posterity, rather than with any sense of personal ego. The talk was arranged by Consultant Ellen Forsyth for the State Library of New South Wales and was recorded live last week on the 7th December. If you have any questions (or comments), please leave them in the Comments section (below), and I'll be happy to answer them. (If I know the answer!)
Comicstreet took place in the Queen Street Mall last Saturday. Although the number of stallholders were slightly down on the last event, I still thought it was a worthwhile visit, just before my afternoon shift. Pleasing to see comic creators Karen Beilharz and Queenie Chan had come from Sydney to make it more than just a Brisbane gig. There were some 'old' artists displaying new works and also 'new' ones sharing their art for the first time. Here are some of the stallholders I bought comics from:
This is a short small message that I am not going to shout from the mountains for another year yet. But for those of you who read my Blog, I can tell you that last night the Committee of the Australian Cartoonists Association approved the 2018 Stanley Awards to be held in Brisbane. The official announcement will be made next November (in 2017), when the event is being staged in Canberra. In order not to take away the shine of the 2017 Stanleys being held there, I have been asked NOT to spread this news. So, this message will not be read on Facebook, and not shared on Twitter. I have been given the okay to begin making arrangements for Guests, and for getting a little committee together to work on the event behind the scenes. So if you are in south-east Queensland and want to join in the organising committee, please email me. From here on, on this Blog, I shall say no more about this event now until next November. So it is now our little secret, that you too must now keep secret.
Written and directed by Australian filmmaker Matthew Holmes, 'The Legend of Ben Hall' tells the incredible true story of the New South Wales bushranger, boasting an ensemble of remarkable new talent in a gritty action-drama with an adherence to historical detail rarely seen in movies today. 'The Legend of Ben Hall' is a Two Tone Pictures, RLC Motion Picture Entertainment, Running Panda Films production in association with Odin's Eye Entertainment, Emu Creek Pictures, SunJive Studios, Film Victoria with Soundfirm and Palmarium LLC.Trailer vocals performed by Visnja Prtenjaca. Music produced by Ronnie Minder.
As I have said before, no doubt, there is usually a reason why no entries are found on this Blog of mine. I'm either busy working on the next comic-related project or I am busy working. On this occasion, it's both! Actually, it's more!
I have just finished a four-shift stint of night duty, that has left me spending one of my two days off duty totally spent and doing nothing but sleeping. It's one of the things about night duty: it renders me incapable of doing anything except work the hours required and then come home and do nothing but sleep. Work and sleep. Work and sleep. Fortunately, just before those night shifts, I was able to complete my editorial duties for the next (hopefully) pre-Christmas Inkspot magazine for the Australian Cartoonists' Association. The pages are now being designed by Chris Barr (who does a brilliant job), and I am really hoping we see the results before Christmas. In other news, I am happy to announce that Carlene is now almost 100% back to full health, so my at-home nursing duties are coming to a close.
With so much going on at work and home, then, I have not prepared for or had time to arranged anything for the Second Comicstreet to be held in Brisbane this Suturday. Sadly, I'm actually scheduled to work an afternoon shift, so I may have a small opportunity to see some of the talented people there just before I begin work that afternoon. If you are in Brisbane and are looking for an opportunity to pick up some excellent Christmas gifts for yourself or others, you could do a whole lot worse than zipping down to the Queen Street Mall from 12 noon...
I have other exciting comic news to share, but I may leave that until next time. I now have just one day off before I return to work, and it is expected by Mrs K (now that she is well) that I don't fill the whole day with comic-related activities. Much as I would like to. Besides, I have an Australian Cartoonists Association Committee Meeting tonight, and I have put forward some pretty exciting motions for the Committee to discuss (and -- I hope -- decide) that I want to be able to share with you when next we are here...
A run down on who was honoured at the Stanley Awards, organised by the Australian Cartoonists' Association at the Parramatta Novotel last Saturday night, with the recipients in bold.
Caricaturist, Sponsored by The Australian: Judy Nadin
Other nominees: Rod Emmerson, Terry Dunnett, Anton Emdin, Paul Harvey
Children’s Book Illustrator, Sponsored by Copyright Agency: Leigh Hobbs
Other nominees: Peter Sheehan, George Haddon, Jules Faber, Andrew Weldon
Comic Book Artist, Sponsored by Supanova: Glenn Lumsden
Other nominees: Roger Fletcher, Dean Rankine, Rob Feldman, Gavin Aung Than
(It was pretty gratifying to know, from a purely personal perspective, that both the winner and one of the nominees -- Rob Feldman -- had their comic work published by Comicoz in the past twelve months.)
Comic Strip Artist, Sponsored by the Herald Sun: Gary Clark
Other nominees: Tony Lopes, Jason Chatfield, Ian Jones, Glen Le Lievre
Editorial/Political Cartoonist, Sponsored by Media Super: Glen Le Lievre
Other nominees: David Pope, Christopher Downes, Mark Knight, Pat Campbell
Illustrator, Sponsored by Wacom: Anton Emdin
Other nominees: Pat Campbell, Glen Le Lievre, Warren Brown, Mark Sheard
Single Gag Cartoonist, Sponsored by The Walkley Foundation/MEAA: Matt Golding
Other nominees: Cathy Wilcox, Judy Horacek, Andrew Weldon, Robert Black
There were insufficient entries in the Animation category, so the Award was withheld this year.
Cartoonist of the Year, Sponsored by the Herald Sun: Glen Le Lievre
Other nominees: Anton Emdin, Christopher Downes, Mark Knight, Cathy Wilcox, Bill Leak
Jim Russell Award for Significant Contribution to Australian Cartooning: Gerald Carr
Australian Cartooning Hall of Fame: Geoff Hook, Ken Emerson, Eric Jolliffe
Best Cartoon on the Night: Rod Emmerson on the topic "Trumped".
If you are interested in seeing more photographs of the night, or a three page article on one of the Recipients listed above, then INKSPOT is the magazine for you! Inkspot is the Journal of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, and I am honoured to be the Editor. In the past week, I have been madly editing the next edition, so it is out before Christmas. I would dearly love YOU to become an Associate Member if YOU have a passion for cartoonists. (Or even a full-time Member if you are an Australian cartoonist, in any of the above categories.) Simply send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you a Nomination Form.
Next year's Award Ceremony is going to be held in Canberra, and I am going to begin to lobby to have the 2018 Awards held in Queensland...
One might imagine that I might be torn between attending either Brisbane's Supanova or the Australian Cartoonists' Association's Stanley Awards, being held in Sydney. Both events are on today. The simple fact of the matter is that I have decided to stay at home! Carlene has returned from Bendigo, Victoria, with a viral infection (that required her being hospitalised when down south). Despite numerous blood tests, we are none the wiser to understanding what it is that has caused this disability. The good news is that she is improving. (For a while there she was finding it difficult to walk; and I was saddened to see her coming off the aeroplane shuffling along like an old woman, barely able to lift her feet, when I picked her up from the airport earlier this month.)
Carlene initially went down to Bendigo to give daughter Lora a chance to earn some extra Christmas money, while her children were looked after by Carlene. "I'd like [husband] Adam to slow down, someone to look after my kids, a chance to have some time alone in a motel, perhaps with a spa...." Lora told Carlene before she set off. Sometimes you can have your wishes filled, in the most unexpected of ways.... Sadly, Adam was involved in an accident at the farm where he works, with a quad bike landing on top of him. (He sustained near life-threatening injuries: all of his ribs were fractured, he had two punctured lungs and a broken clavicle.) Thanks to some quick work by Adam himself (who rang his Boss before collapsing), his Boss getting Adam to the Ambulance that had been notified and then the Paramedics stabilising him before being flown by chopper to a Melbourne Hospital, he was able to be saved. But it was touch and go for a while. So, Lora's wishes came true: she spent some anxious nights in a nearby motel while Adam lay in Hospital, her children were well looked after by Carlene, and Adam has now been forced to slow down...after spending some time in the Intensive Care Unit, he has now been given the okay to return home and faces months to recuperate....
One little secret that I have have kept from readers of this Blog, and from people in general, is that in late August, I headed down to Melbourne to meet up with Andrez Bergen and Frantz Kantor. We were planning on discussing the viability of getting Andrez and Frantz' character Magpie published into a stand-alone comic to market via Diamond Distributors. Given Diamond were unwilling to support an anthology title like Oi Oi Oi! ("They just don't sell.") we thought about marketing Magpie, given that superhero comics do sell. From Oi Oi Oi! to the world! Pretty much like Lora, in Life, you cannot make plans....
Out of respect for Andrez' family, I said nothing about the events of (or before) the weekend, It was a most distressing time. Now that Andrez has just recently shared the events publicly (on Facebook), I thought it reasonable to now share here. And I shall allow Andrez to share it in his words....
"As you can perhaps surmise from these photos by Brian Huber, I've sufficiently settled into hospital to attempt cunning camouflage exercises. Why am I here? Well [in later August], I returned to Australia on vacation and somehow contracted a Golden Staph infection en route.
"So...the day after I went to Mum's I collapsed.
"She called an ambulance' which took me to Frankston Hospital. I was then transferred to Alfred Hospital suffering from a cardiac arrest induced by the infection, which then led to a stroke and an operation on my head. I call this my lobotomy scar.
"So I'm not dead (not yet) and I owe my life to the fabulous medical staff here. Not to mention regular visits by Brian, Dad, Mum and others. I'm now at Caulfield Hospital for rehabilitation to rebellious atrophied muscles over the next two months. Exercise? Good Lord! https://www.alfredhealth.org.au/caulfield "
I'd like to publicly wish Andrez (Andrew) a speedy recovery, and wish him all the best in getting back on track ...and back in front of his typewriter/computer where I am sure he feels he belongs....
For me personally, although I was unhurt, it was such a distressing time, that I immediately put my magazine's publishing on hold. I suppose it would be fair to say that I have had a fair amount of time to reflect on what is important in Life over these past few months. I feel less inclined to go mad, bull at a gate to ensure that Oi Oi Oi! comes out strictly every three months (which is what I have done over the past two years). I still plan on putting out a mega issue of Oi Oi Oi! and I am still (slowly) working on Bold Ben Hall and I am also busily working on other areas relating to comics, but I am also conscious of others that I love around me who may need more of my time. So, while this has been a distressing time, I am learning to (better?) prioritise my time between them and my beloved comics...
Here's a picture (left) of me from a year ago, proudly holding Gary Clark's 2015 Stanley (Comic Strip) Award and standing in front of the magnificent Stan Cross cartoon brought down for the Award Night by the National Library of Australia. It seems hard to believe that is twelve months ago...so much has happened in that time. There is a great part of me that would love to be down in Sydney for this year's Awards, but I shall have to be content to simply attend the one in 2017 (where it will be held in Canberra).
The 2016 Cartoonist of The Year will be announced at the 32nd Stanley Awards at a gala dinner at the Novotel in Parramatta tonight. The nominees are:
The prestigious Australian Cartooning Hall Of Fame and the Jim Russell Award for significant contribution to Australian cartooning will also be awarded and announced...
CONGRATULATIONS to all the Nominees! I'll announce all the winners here, when I know and am able to do so....