Last Sunday, Sharon Hollingsworth posted the very first Review of Monty Wedd's Ned Kelly! Thank you, Sharon, for your kind words! Here is the link dated April 20th (click here).
With ANZAC Day fast approaching, it would be remiss of me not to give a Two Thumbs Up vote for The ANZAC Legend: A Graphic History. Hot off the press on the evening of The Ledger Awards, Writer/Author Dave Dye drove down from Mildura to attend the ceremony. I was happy enough to purchase his book there and then. (RRP is $35 plus $5 postage and packing from within Australia, and $10 if you are from afar.)
The book tells the ANZAC story in chronological pictorial format. From the second page the reader is transported to June 1914 and over the course of a total of 200 pages, Dave takes the reader to May 5th, 1915. That is just ONE YEAR! In his Introduction, Dave Dye warns the reader not to approach the book "as if it is a comic and a light read" and to be frank there is no way that anyone could approach this book in any such manner given the detail that is put before the reader. "The story is presented in a manner which makes it easier for the layman to understand why, who, where and what took place", says Dave. And this is exactly what one gets.
Dave worked full-time on this project from January 2011 before recently completing the book ready for his printer ("over 5000 hours"). I must confess to having some reservations about some of the artwork when I read the in-progress postings on Dave's Blog. (I think they reminded me of an older style that were prevalent with earlier British boy's comics I recalled from my youth.) However, seeing the finished product in its entirety and completed form, I new feel it is eminently suited to Dave's story. The story has been painstakingly put together: two visits to Gallipoli and 28 years in the Australian Regular Army, where Dave obtained his Diploma of Visual Art, have been put to great use.
You can read even more details from Dave's Web-page by clicking here. This will not only give you further links to Dave's Blog and the description of how he went about the production of the artwork in order to prepare the book, but also give you the opportunity to purchase a copy of the book. I suggest you do both.
The Ledger Awards were first awarded to Australian comic personnel in 2005, in a mix of public voting and a judging committee. This system remained in place until 2008 when (for reasons not publically announced) they went on 'hiatus'. Look, people get busy and there were no active sponsors, so I suspect those were the main reasons. And fair enough too.
Since that time, there has been a creative explosion in the local Australian comic publishing area. Cheaper printing costs, a perception that comic creators can make some serious dollars from the medium (especially movie licensing rights), a greater awareness of the medium by people with a creative bent and a desire for people to tell their own stories have (in my opinion) all been reasons for this expansion in the medium. Whether this is translating into a greater public acceptance of comics and an increased propensity of the public in purchasing the local product, is something yet to be established. (From my experience at the Gold Coast and Melbourne Supanova events, my feeling now is that it is not -- although for OiOiOi! 's sake I hope I am wrong. But more of these thoughts on another posting....)
In 2014, with sponsors Supanova Pop Culture Expo (Platinum), State Library of Victoria (Gold), Jeffries Printing Services (Silver), Comic Books on Demand (Silver), All Star Comics (Bronze) and Impact Comics (Bronze) all on board, the Awards were able to be made public. With the influx of this sponsorship money, this allowed some actual physical awards to be crafted as well. This was in the form of a rectangular bracket (in the shape of a comic panel) attached to a square piece of timber large enough to carry an inscription of an Award Winner. (If you scroll down to my April 16th Blog entry, the last photograph in the set illustrates this.)
To give the Award a feeling of continuum from those days since 2007 and perhaps a legitimacy in the local comic community, the 'committee' organising the Ledgers (in essence, Gary Chaloner and Tim McEwan from what I can gather) decided to present some retrospective Ledger Awards for those years during the 2008-2013 'hiatus'.
Given Tim's involvement in Supanova (he is listed as a co-founder) and Gary's past involvement in the earlier Ledger Awards (either as an Award Recipient or part of the Judging Panel), I think it was a reasonable decision to present Awards in these 'Gap Years' to give it this sense of 'history' and, as I said, some legitimacy.
And to prevent any perception of bias, they entrusted a Judging Panel to adjudicate on the merits of various works over the past twelve months (for the 2014 Awards). This panel came from 'a mix of creators, retailers, publishers, scholars and commentators on Australian comics'. The panellists were: Philip Bentley, Mal Briggs, Dr Elizabeth MacFarlane, Tim McBurnie, Joe Morris and Mark Sexton.
I'm unclear how much say these Judges had in the Awards to those winners in the 'Gap Years', but overall I feel the Winners in these intervening years were both deserving and a fair reflection on the state of the Australian comics medium during this time. (My only quibble would have to have included 2009's "Scarygirl" by Nathan Jurevicius from Allen & Unwin.)
So, for the purpose of the record (and for those who read these words and were not able to be present on the evening), here were the 'honorary Gold Awards' for the years the Ledger Awards were absent. Again, if possible, I have tried to provide an external web-link to each of the creative works. This may be useful for those seeking to explore these works in more detail or in trying to purchase copies of the physical product to keep their collection of modern Australian comics up to date.
"The Great Gatsby" by Nicki Greenberg (Allen & Unwin)
"Vowels" by Skye Ogden (Gestalt Publishing)
"The Sacrifice" by Bruce Mutard (Allen & Unwin)
"In For The Krill #1" by Jill Brett and Greg Holfeld (Panic Productions)
"Hollow Fields Omnibus Collection" Madeleine Rosca (Seven Seas)
"Alec: The Years Have Pants" Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf Productions)
"Digested.02" by Bobby.N. (Gestalt Publishing)
"Flinch" by Shaun Tan, Justin Randall, Bobby.N., Colin Wilson, Tom Taylor, and others (Gestalt Publishing)
"Changing Ways. Book 1: Mutation" by Justin Randall (Gestalt Publishing)
"The Playwright" by Daren White and Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf Productions)
"Blue" by Pat Grant (Top Shelf Productions/Giramondo)
"Hidden" by Mirranda Burton (Black Pepper)
"Mad Bonez 4 Lyfe" by Andrew Fulton (Self-published)
"It Shakes and Shines and Laughs" by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
I don't want you to think (from my last posting) that John Dixon was the only recipient of the 2014 Ledger Awards for excellence in Australian comics. The full list of 2014 Winners were:
GOLD: "Toormina Video" by Pat Grant (Self-Published)
SILVER: "Finding Gossamyr: Volume One" by artist Sarah Ellerton and writer David Rodriguez (Th3rd World Studios)
"An Anzac Tale" by author Ruth Starke and illustrator Greg Holfeld (Working Title Press)
"Grubby Little Smudges of Filth" by Daniel Reed (SLG Publishing)
"Mr Unpronounceable Adventures" by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
John Dixon and Ben Hutchings
At today's date, I have included links to each of these books: simply click on the title, and a new window will take you to another web-site that will give you more details about these Award-Winning books, and in some instances how you can purchase them. As well as announcing the Award Winners at the State Library last Friday, the Ledger Committee and Sponsors surprised all who attended the function by offering a free special 28 page comic to commemorate the event. (The cover is shown above.) Comicoz has two copies to give away FREE to readers of this posting. To win, simply be the FIRST and SECOND person to leave a Comment about this posting telling me which of the Award-Winning books you like and why...
Comicoz Publisher Nat Karmichael accepting the 2014 Platinum Ledger Award on behalf of John Dixon, for "Lifetime Achievement in Australian Comics".
Many Thanks to Sebastian Mittelman for supplying these photographs.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land that we gather in this evening. I would also like to pay respect to all elders past and present and extend that respect to other indigenous people present.
Members of the Ledger Awards Organising Committee, Major Sponsor Supanova Pop Culture Expo, Other Sponsors, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen...I thank you for allowing me to say a few words as I accept this Award on behalf of John Dixon.
In the 1930s reading comics was one of the limited entertainment options available to the Australian public. In the 1940s, following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Australian Government banned the importation of foreign (mostly US) comics into this country, allowing a local industry to develop and flourish.
Such was the Australian public's appetite for this medium, that circulations of up to 70,000 copies for a single locally produced comic were not uncommon. John Dixon, then a young man still under the age of 20 years old, entered into what is now considered the Golden Age of Australian comics.
He is acknowledged as one of the more successful talents of the era, writing and drawing The Crimson Comet and Tim Valour Comics (and other titles) during this time.
However, by the late 1950s two events occurred almost simultaneously, leading to the end of the Golden period of Australian comics -- the lifting of import restrictions on the cheaper, more brightly coloured American comics and the advent of television.
After much effort, John Dixon's newspaper adventure strip Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor was sold to various Australian (and later overseas) newspapers in 1959. It was published in over 15 countries and many languages, with the daily strip running continuously from 1963 to 1986 -- an astonishing twenty-three years.
Feeling he was burning out and that story ideas were evaporating, in 1986 John moved overseas and accepted a post as Art Director for an American magazine, Defense and Foreign Affairs. When that magazine ceased production (due to the end of the Cold War), John Dixon accepted other freelance work, before returning to his first love -- comics. John drew for Valiant Comics in the US before deciding to retire in the 1990s. He now lives with his American wife Sue in southern California, and was unable to be present tonight.
Sue Dixon has asked that I read a few words on John's behalf: "With Lewy Body Dementia, John at times has difficulty in making himself understood, and yet at other times his speech is clear. His condition is up and down, but he has a lot of pride and is sometimes aware of how he appears to others. What an honour for John to receive this tribute. This is deeply appreciated."
I am truly honoured and humbled to accept this Ledger Award for Lifetime Achievement in Australian Comics on behalf of my friend John Dixon. Thank you.
The text of a speech I gave to the Ledger Awards, held at the State Library of Victoria last Friday evening, April 11th (2014). "The Ledger Awards acknowledge and promote excellence in comic arts and publishing in Australia." I'll add a few photographs taken on the evening when I return to Queensland, after this weekend and Melbourne's Supanova...
Following the Gold Coast Supanova Experience, I was feeling a little flat. (I sold one copy of Ned Kelly and two copies of Air Hawk to visitors to my rented Gold Coast Holiday Unit, but none during Supanova's two days.) But now I am again feeling energised! I have been told today that 15 advance copies of Oi Oi Oi! are on their way! I just hope they arrive BEFORE I set off for Melbourne's Supanova, so I can SHOW THEM OFF down there!