Later today - it is 5.30 in the morning as I type this - my Family are having a "20 Years of Remembrance" Ceremony (whatever that is!) at St Michael's Church (The Abbey Place on the Caboolture-Bribie Island Road) for my Father who passed away suddenly 20 years ago today. We were a pretty dysfunctional family on that occasion, so I suppose my Mother and siblings feel they have to have a sort-of 'Anniversary Funeral Service' for him now that we are all getting along. I had been invited to give a speech, but I have declined. I said my 'farewells' to him when I produced a Booklet and 3 x Compact Discs of recordings (based on a 1988 taped interview I did with him) in 2010.
It's not that I wish to disrespect my Father, or not to honour him: it just doesn't feel right at the moment - and I believe I said everything I wanted to say in that Booklet. And after all, I am going to the Ceremony, and I am having (private) memories of him (right now, for example, when I should be sleeping)....
Among all the Memories of my Father, the one that has had the most influence on the person I am today is of the Father who provided me with the joys of reading comics, even in the days before I could read. He used to bring home comics from work for all of us, all throughout my childhood. From Jack and Jill, I enjoyed the nonsense of having Harold Hare's weekly adventures read to me, along with Wee Willie Winkie. There were magazines called Playhour and Teddy Bear. Later on came Treasure (I used to enjoy the adventures of Princess Marigold, often feeling sorry for The Wizard who ultimately ended up in the bad books!), Tiger, Lion, and Look and Learn. How could I forget: The Beano, The Dandy, Victor...
My Father, perhaps noticing I enjoyed reading even my siblings' comics, took out a weekly subscription for me for Ranger and then Valiant (which I loved).... Jack Justice, Kelly's Eye, Mytek the Mighty, The Last Boys in the World (my favourite series - which I don't think I ever read the ending of....), The House of Dolmann, The Steel Claw ... what a wonderful comic!!
I devoured everything that came into the house, to the point my Father went to the local Red Cross Shop (what was then the precursor to the modern day Opportunity Shop) and it seemed he bought everything he could for his family! The Phantom, Smash!, Pow! (two British comics that introduced the Marvel characters to our household - it was my Mother who first began reading Spidernan!), Princess Tina, Bunty, Judy (I didn't care if they were girls' comics - some of the artwork was sensational!), the Commando Comics, my brother's Wizzer & Chips and his Buster comics.... And in the late 1960s my Father began bringing home second-hand Marvel comics that people had donated (Ditko's Spiderman #25 was one of the first I read).... The only problem I found with the Marvel's was 1) the stories were usually continued (and it was difficult to find consecutive issues), and, 2) they came out too infrequently - every month!! I was far too impatient, so the English weeklies were more to my liking at the time.
And this is only one aspect, one living Legacy that my Father provided for me and that endures inside me today. (There are more, but I shall leave off discussing them now...!) So, it is with some sadness I shall (again) say Good-Bye to a Man who gave me so much when he left us all so suddenly 20 years ago today...
But with every Sad Memory that this day brings, there is another Joy and a Happy Memory associated with this day. Today also marks the 50th Anniversary of John Dixon's first daily Air Hawk adventure. On May 11th 1963 (also a Saturday) the above introduction ran on the Brisbane Courier-Mail's front page. I have reproduced a copy of the first strip from that date (see below), which also ran in the Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian newspapers on this date.
Reproducing this strip has not been easy. Although fifty years ago may not seem a long time, I must tell you that much of the original artwork to the early Air Hawk strips is not to be found. And even some of the newspaper proofs of the strip are not available. (I shall write about this in more detail in an upcoming volume of John's Air Hawk works.) In fact, of the forty-one Sunday adventures, John has only six newspaper proofs available and no original artwork. The daily strip fares a little better, although only four adventures of the first twenty adventures (there were eighty daily adventures in total) are available as newspaper proofs, with no original artwork to be found. I have reproduced this very first daily from the archives of the Queensland Library's collection of newspapers (in this case, I accessed The Courier-Mail). Which is all the more reason why we Australians need to treasure our comic book and comic strip heritage and preserve them for posterity, and the reason for Comicoz' existence.
I am still dedicated to preserving works (like Air Hawk) for future generations, and even if this may mean reproducing strips from the newspapers files found in Libraries that is better than reprinting nothing at all. If nothing is preserved, our comic strip history disappears. This joy of Comics (both in strip or periodical format) that my Father has passed on to me, is a legacy I intend to pass on to future Australians who may simply enjoy reading them (as I did) or who may develop a passion for the medium...
...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.