When I get the opportunity to visit Sydney, I always find I am filling myself with comic-related things to do, and not enough time to do everything. When attending the Ledgers Award in recent years, I have caught up with Richard Rae, an early 1980s Australian comic publisher and entrepreneur, and visited the Mitchell Library to view the original artworks of Emile Mercier (and other artists and cartoonists' works) that they hold.
In 2019, I went visiting and met up with Graeme Belbin and Bodine Amerikah. Graeme is the son of the famous Australian artist (and comic book illustrator, during the local Golden Age), Phil Belbin. I met Phil (1925-1993) before publishing my sixth issue of John Dixon's Air Hawk Magazine in the late 1980s, so it was a wonderful opportunity to talk to Graeme about his Dad's work and view some of his original artwork.
Original cartoon artwork for MAN Magazine, from the 1960s. Many of the cartoons found their way on the cover, although this was an internal page. When we were looking through Graeme's originals, we found an American cartoon with similar themes nearby. Indicating, if you will, that the original IDEA for the cartoon may not have been Phil's.
I've been in touch with Bodine Amerikah (born 1961) sporadically over the years on Facebook, so it was lovely to catch up with him after too long a time. Bo was the writer-artist of the Australian-distributed three-issue comic series (also from the late eighties-early nineties) Niteside and the Rock, as well as the madcap writer for Jason Paulos' Hairbutt the Hippo, when it appeared in Australian Mad Magazine. These days, Bo says his eyesight is fading, but he's in a great headspace, and I was honoured to be shown some of his (best and, to date, unpublished) original comic book work.
I have touched on my major dilemma these days: my age. I am acutely aware, perhaps more-so this year of my own mortality. More than ever, I realise that the books I want to publish on Australian comics are going to be limited, unless I can find a way to continually publish them without placing financial strain on my own personal finances. (I find most book sales are sporadic at best, so I have learnt to not be dependent on sales to funnel the funds into further publishing ventures. Perhaps that speaks of my deficiencies in marketing?) In recent years, I have utilised various crowd-funding sites -- Pozible and Kickstarter, the two I have used -- to at least cover the printing costs of all new publications. And, while this is an increasingly popular mode for comic creators to fund their comics projects, I am concerned that it is becoming saturated with too many similar projects. Crowd-funding sites also demand a lot of time expended on the promotion and 'selling' of the product. I have noted quite a few comic creators these days using the portal Patreon, and I began preparing my own Comicoz Patreon site over a year ago, but have taken it no further. (Why, I cannot really say. Obtaining a book distributor this year has certainly eased a lot of my stress in worrying that I was not getting my books into bookstores.)
My main worry these days, is that I have so many books I want to publish that I may simply run out of time! I have named some of the titles that I'd like to work on over the past few years, with some are in further stages of development than others. Here are some: a book on the one-hundred year history of Ginger Meggs' creators written by Lindsay Foyle, another Air Hawk (or -- more accurately -- a John Dixon) volume, and Gerald Carr's Brigette. (I understand Matt Emery has now abandoned plans to work on this, giving me the chance to start on it.) Volumes on Peter Player's Picture Magazine work and a collection of the complete Iron Outlaw are both limited without a secondary copyright holder agreeing to allow them to go ahead An Emile Mercier volume in conjunction with the National Cartoon Gallery (at Coffs Habour) is most likely in 2020. I've discussed with some people about an expanded work like From 'Sunbeams' detailing the internal pages of Australia's comic history, but this will be hampered by copyright clearances, so this will be many years away. Who else would I like to publish? Alex Gurney, Phil Belbin, the list goes on. What about Syd Nicholls? Syd Miller? Did you know the famous Australian author Alan Marshall once wrote a comic strip: why shouldn't that see print?
And what about new artists and cartoonists? Bruce Mutard has new work I believe deserves to see print. And Thomas Campi. When I left Adelaide, I had an idea (based on a manic mood on my part?) that it would be great to be able to publish one hundred Australian comic artists' works in one hundred stand-alone issues of a comic series. I thought about telling my mate Rob Feldman about it one day, and then got cold feet -- how could I honestly fund such a project? I am still waiting on Michal Dutkiewicz to finish updating his Verity Aloha stories.... Anyway, without further ago, there is a book I am going to soon start working on. Want a clue or four? Here you go....
This Blog written 4 January. More to come!
...acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Australian peoples.
Over the past decade (2011 - 2020) Nat has self-published ten comic-related books and was Publisher-Editor of Oi Oi Oi! - the last nationally-distributed comic book of original comics stories to appear on Australian newsstands. He edited Inkspot, the journal of the Australian Cartoonists Association for 14 issues from late 2015 to 2019 and is a current member of the ACA's Committee. In his spare time, he is a husband, a father (to six) and grandfather (to fourteen), and works in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre in Queensland's largest public hospital.
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.