Toowoomba! It has been so long since we have been there! And what a beautiful city it is! The streets are tidy, with very little rubbish. There are old buildings (like the Cinema, above) that were obviously modern and iconic in its day, and that continue to exude a present-day charm. Buildings have artwork plastered all over them (have a look at that beauty, above, where we parked the car).
Although the day started with a lot of fog, we were able to delay our start, and still arrived before lunch. And it wasn't too cool (as we expected): a warm winter's day. Just perfect to check out the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and the Copier Jam! Exhibition curated by Jeremy Staples.
Of course, I didn't just visit the Copier Jam! Exhibition to simply look at all the Oi Oi Oi! works on display. There were many other artworks on display that were well worth viewing too. From a page of Doug Holgate's original pencils that traversed all the way to his completed page, showing the details of his process to get from one to the other. And there were many surprises -- Ben Constantine's original artwork was a lot more detailed than I imagined, and Philip Dearest's was a lot larger than I expected. The Squishface Studios team from Melbourne were well represented; and being a local, it wasn't surprising to see Jeremy Staples' collected Bizoo among the zines on display.
Even Carlene became engaged with the exhibition, and offered her opinions. She found that much of the work -- to her eyes -- was bleak and depressing. This lead us to a discussion as to why this is so. In my opinion, many of the younger zine- makers use the medium as a form of self-expression, and this reflects the type of situation they find themselves in. Many experience unemployment, and cover topics like modern music and drugs. (We were surprised by how little sex was covered as a topic.) But overall, there was a lot of creative energy involved in many of the productions and this was inspiring. It was really worth the drive up from Margate for the day....
If you are local (and if we can drive from Margate, if you live in Brisbane that make you a local!), why not take a trip up for the day? The Exhibition runs Tuesday to Sundays (to 4 p.m.) and is on show until 7th August. Entry is FREE. If you cannot make it before then, just relax: the Exhibition continues to travel around Australia, and is scheduled to appear at The Artspace, Mackay a little later in the year.
While we were there in Toowoomba, I popped into the only comic book store in town, Kaboom Comics in Ruthven Street. Of course, my prime goal was to see if the proprietor would be willing to stock Oi Oi Oi! and some of my other books.
I had seen on Facebook recently that a new Killeroo comic was soon to be released and the store has ordered a special 50 copy print-run, with a cover exclusive to all Kaboom customers. So, I was hopeful.
Without seeking to be disrespectful, the owner was not interested, as my magazine will not fit into their especially designed shelves....designed to fit comics that are American comic book size. On viewing the stock on sale, with little exception, those were the only types of comics on display....
On the other side of the coin, there were a few Op Shops in town (something that Carlene and I will always patronise), and there were some bargains to be found. Here are a couple of hardcover books that I found and already own, that perhaps a student of Australian comics and media might be interested in. Make any reasonable offer; for these are up for sale (as a set). I can post them anywhere within Australia for $14.00 (overseas, please enquire). Once they are sold, I shall state so at the bottom of this posting....
The books are: Remember Smith's Weekly by George Blaikie and The Awful Australian: The Pick of Australian Cartoon Humour compiled by Garrie Hutchinson.
The Awful book has 214 pages of back to back cartoons from Mark Lynch, Ron Tanberg, Gerald Carr, Patrick Cook, Bruce Petty... and many, many more. It was published in 1984 and is in reasonably good condition, although there are two tears on page 203.
The Remember book is the third edition, published in 1967, and runs to 258 pages, mostly text although there are some (small) cartoons throughout. It is a history of that iconic Australian newspaper, Smith's Weekly (1919 to 1950). There are some pencil writings on the inside first page, and some white out on the same page. The dust jacket has some scuffing, and the upper left corner of the dust jacket's cover has a rather large tear. Here are some photos....
Here's a little secret I have been keeping from a lot of people for a while now!
On Wednesday 29th June this year, deep within the bowels of Brisbane City Hall a group of cartoon lovers met to decide the fate of a nation. Well, not exactly. It was decreed that The Rotary Cartoon Awards, held annually at the Bunker Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour, for the past 28 years was to be judged in Brisbane in 2016. And it was a very great honour indeed for me to have been selected as one of the Judges. When you know that you are keeping the esteemed company of some of the Judges of the past, like the late Norman (Mr Squiggle) Hetherington and Jim Russell; Bob Carr, Natasha Stott-Despoja and Peter Beattie; Barry Croker and Jon English, and many, many others, it's better than receiving a knighthood!
Joining me in this exalted task was Rotary Cartoon Awards' co-founder Tom Hamiton-Foster, Brisbane ABC radio announcer Steve Austin, and Sunday Mail cartoonist Brett Lethbridge (when his Editor was unable to attend). And overseeing the whole process, to ensure a fair vote was recorded and that no punch-ups or arguments took place, was Fran Stephenson, the Chair from the Bunker Cartoon Gallery.
To be really honest, it was a lot of fun. Much give and take was needed to obtain a unanimous consensus to judge the winners, but in the end I think we were all both fair and satisfied with our decisions. The Awards Night in Coffs Harbour was held last Saturday night (16th July), so the decisions we made in late June are now official and made public...
Here are the complete list of Winners:
Best Cartoon with a Political Theme
WINNER: John "Polly" Farmer (see above)
MERIT: Christopher Downes
Best Cartoon with an Open Theme
WINNER: Chris "Roy" Taylor
MERIT: Tony Lopes
Best Cartoon with a Sports Theme
WINNER: Chris "Roy" Taylor
MERIT: Lindsay Foyle
Best Comic Strip
WINNER: Shane Hosking
MERIT: Alan Rose
Best Caricature of a Well-Known Person
WINNER: Xavier Ghazi
MERIT: David Rowe
Special 2016 Topic: Social Media
WINNER: Gary Clark
MERIT: Tony Lopes
Rotary Cartoon of the Year: Chris "Roy" Taylor's Open Category Cartoon
There has been so much comic activity for both Comicoz and myself over the past six weeks, I don't really know where to start! But, I'll give it a go....
On June 11th, I joined in with many other Brisbane Indie Comic Makers for the first Comicstreet. I thought the potential for the event was excellent: it was in the city's busiest public thoroughfare, the Queen Street Mall, and was held on a Saturday afternoon when people who wandered past were not at work, and able to take their time with their families and look ...and purchase.
The location of the event allowed the general public the opportunity to see what an amazing undercurrent of comic activity is taking place in our community, and it allowed the creators the opportunity to connect with the members of the public who had long forgotten our entertainment medium. "I have not read a comic since I was a kid" and "I didn't know so many comics were still being made" were common comments among the curious and intrigued members of the public. So, from that point of view alone, I consider this event to be the most successful that I have been involved in ...in all of 2016. It really lived up to its potential.
From a personal viewpoint, it was a bonus having Carlene join me behind the table. She engaged and chatted with the punters and the curious, and even gave me some time out to allow me to have a look at some of the other stalls, meet with creators, and see their works.
It is events like this, that I am (even if ever so briefly) able to talk to creators about their craft, their aspirations within the medium, and even the reasons or motivation behind their work or their processes. It is all fascinating (well, it is to me)!
I thought that I should enclose here a few examples of the works that most excited me in this day of discovery. Above is the first published work by (I hope I have remembered correctly) Phoebe Ayscough that appears as a weekly webcomic on Tumblr. Now, I am not really familiar with Tumblr, but I have completed an "inthemorningcomic" search and found all episodes contained in this publication and more. I suppose I am old school, as I much prefer the physical presence of a book, rather than reading it on line. I imagine Phoebe's idea was to publish Issue #1 of The World in the Morning to introduce readers to her work (as Kissriot), and because I have searched it in order I can write a few words about it here, she has succeeded.
I found Phoebe's artwork to be what drew and draws me in: it is beautifully coloured, and she has a good feel for writing comics in allowing the artwork to tell a sequential story. Although the story could be set anywhere, and there is no indication that it is set in Brisbane, there are enough visual clues that locals will know that that is so. It is always my belief that a comics' artwork and storylines that place works within a specific space and time continuum (even unintentionally), and it is the artwork here that supports my premise although it is not essential to the enjoyment of this short 22 page piece. If I am to be critical about this comic, it is that I found Phoebe's lettering awful. She has a good knowledge of where to place a balloon within the panels and she can write with an economy of words needed in a comic, but the execution of the script (the actual lettering) really spoilt my enjoyment of the end product.
For someone who has never published a comic before, it was a really good solid effort and a personal purchasing highlight. I do hope Phoebe continues to publish her webcomics in this more permanent form, for people like me who don't always have the time to plough through Tumblr to find gems like this...
I found out too late that writer and artist Peter Yong had attempted to crowd-fund his first attempt comic-book story, just a few weeks before Comicstreet. So, I was pleased to hear that he had booked a table and was preparing to sell The Rockabilly Plump Corps with all the other punters at this expo.
Which gave me an opportunity to scan a few of the pages before happily purchasing my own copy. Regular comic book size, this black and white book is a massive 84 pages in length (see the colour cover above at left). Peter has a background in animation, and his artwork showcases a wonderful fluid style that he has no doubt honed over the years in this occupation. He credits his comic idea as being as simple as a couple of sketches: images of 'a rotund rockabilly guy' and 'a bodybuilder in a lab coat' and then imagining the adventures if they should meet.
The result is a visual and hilarious romp that doesn't take itself too seriously, and races at a manic pace all throughout the book. The artwork is lovingly rendered: there are what I understand are black halftones throughout the art, which gives the work a nice retro look. But the story is set in the present day, with President Obama making an appearance, with humourous effect.
The ten-page "Case File" after the story proper didn't really work for me; but that was balanced by a short story near the end of the book, "The Rockabilly Plump Kids!", that I enjoyed. Having a Pin Up Gallery at the end of the book, even though they consisted of artists I was/am not familiar with, was a masterstroke: it gives the sense that there is a community of readers that are both familiar with the characters and are willing to showcase their interpretations of the characters. I can only hope that the readership increases to the point where Peter Yong produces a second volume. At the end of his lead story he urges readers to "tune in next time for more Rockabilly Plump Corp action", and I, for one, am already eagerly awaiting that day. Highly recommended.
Biographical comics, especially those done well, are not often seen in the Australian comics community. "The Big Simp", from Fox Comics in the 1980s is one that comes to mind. (I'm not sure if I should include Eddie Campbell's work here, given he has now returned to England, although much of his autobiographical stuff was done while he was living in Australia.) Dillon Naylor has been sharing some life experiences in recent issues of Oi Oi Oi! and, from recent Facebook postings, Bruce Mutard has been thinking of sharing his thoughts of his past schooldays...
Brisbane artist, Dan Gilmore, who had shared a couple of collaborative projects with Sally Browne under the LUV Comics banner, had a few of his own projects on offer at Comicstreet. Shell, An Autobiography of Relinquished Romances is one I purchased from him that puts many of the others mentioned above in the shade. Most of those have used humour to carry the story and describe events in a reasonably light vein.
Dan's story details the inner turmoil and dynamics of his thinking when he met his very first girlfriend, Lisa, in 2000. Without seeking to spoil your enjoyment of the comic, the book traverses Dan's growth from that time to 2004, 2008 and 2015, with different colour palettes representing the ensuing years. Dan's artwork is what has attracted me to his work in the past, but in this book it is the story that carries the reader. His use of word balloons, especially in conversations, are well-placed and composed with an overall feel for the illustrations within his page design.
The comic, labelled for 'Mature Readers' due to its 'strong language and adult themes', is self-contained and concludes within about thirty pages. However, the book left this reader lingering longer on the pages' thoughts, with a desire to see more work of this nature by this creator. This is an intense and deeply personal work, and Dan Gilmore should be commended for his mature use of the autobiographical comic medium.
The front of a wonderful piece of wraparound cover artwork by Frantz Kantor. MAGPIE is Copyright Andrez Bergen and Frantz Kantor. Have a look inside! There are some wonderful tales by Dave Dye, Alisha Jade, Stuart Walsh, Antoinette Rydyr, Paul Bradford and Austen Mengler, and a really funny "Preston Peace" story by Justin Towers and Owen Heitmann. So, what's keeping you from racing to your newsagent right now??
Issue Eight of Oi Oi Oi! is now available to the general public via many good newsagents around Australia. It went on sale today. If you care about the comic medium in this country, please consider supporting this product and buying a copy for your children, friends, parents and grandchildren (and one for yourself)! A long time ago, comics in this country sold in the tens of thousands. Let's become a nation of readers again, and enjoy some good old Aussie adventure and humour!
Copies are also available in Impact Comics in Canberra, Minotaur in Melbourne, and The Bunker Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour. If your local comic store is not stocking it, tell them to get in touch with me (Nat Karmichael) for supplies!
Comicoz is Nat Karmichael's publishing imprint. Nat is committed to preserving a permanent collection of Australian comic and comic strips. He feels that there is a need to recognise comics' contribution to and depiction of Australian culture.
Since 2011, Nat has self-published over twelve comic-related books and was Publisher-Editor of
Oi Oi Oi! -- the last series of nationally-distributed comic books of original stories to appear on Australian newsstands. He is a member of the Australian Cartoonists Association and edited the Association's journal Inkspot for 14 issues from late 2015. For numerous years he was the Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour Awards for the Comic Arts Awards of Australia (formerly the Ledgers). These days Nat dreams of retiring from his occupation as a Clinical Nurse in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre in Queensland's largest public hospital, so that he can spend more time with his long-suffering wife and their six children and fourteen grandchildren. And perhaps publish some more comic-related books.
Comicoz acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay respects to elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.
Australian Publications since 1976:
1 x Poster
19 x comics (one a co-production with Cyclone Comics in 1988/9, one a co-production with Cowtown Comics in 2022)
2 x Paperback books
10 x Hardcover books