It's with great sadness that I learnt this morning of yesterday's passing of Australian comic great, Peter Foster. I wrote extensively about Peter's contribution to the comic world in a previous blog entry (you can read it by clicking here), so I won't repeat myself again here. Today, I have more personal memories, of the man he was away from the comic book history pages.
Knowing he was back in Australia, way back in the 1980s, I approached Peter with a (hair-brained?) idea of making a new newspaper comic strip, based on a character I published in one of my earlier comics - Hero Australia! I'd written the plot synopsis for about three weeks' worth of strips and was seeking someone to illustrate it. Peter politely declined. He was forever the gentleman. With his letter (because that was how we communicated in those days!) he enclosed some preliminary pages of a character he wanted to publish: The Eagle.
Well, it took some time to see the light of day. (In a coloured version, as The Night Eagle - to prevent any likely copyright infringement being brought by the owners of The Eagle comic - by Matt Emery's Pikitia Press in 2012.) In between those two dates, on August 12 1990, Peter found comic strip employment illustrating the 'picturisation' of the novel Where Hidden Rivers Flow by James H Kemsley and which ran in the Sydney Sun-Herald as the comic strip Ballyantyne.
One of my memories of Peter was during a visit to Brisbane. We were having lunch with Gary Swamp Clark and either Ian Bushy Tales Jones or Neil It's a Baby Matterson in the city. (Or maybe it was someone else? Time plays with my memories these days.) Peter insisted we say Grace before our meal, something that (at the time) I hadn't done since I was a little fella. It was then that I first learnt of his steadfast religious faith.
Rest in Peace, Peter, my good friend.
Peter's passing, in some ways, seems to be the culmination of my reflections over the past three months. My wife has not been well. Probably for the first time in many years, I have began to enjoy more of my time away from work (both my place of employment and the work that I do in front of this computer). My paid work has, in this post-COVID world we are entering, been even more busy: double shifts, overtime shifts, staff shortages. So, I suppose it's no surprise that I am enjoying time away from it.
Further, I've begun to make a conscious decision to walk away from parts of the Australian comic scene medium that I have for so long been involved in. Earlier this month, I decided to 'resign' from my position as Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour Awards (a section of the Comic Arts Awards of Australia). I've been involved in it annually for quite some years now. I first let Dr Bruce Mutard know, before informing the others on the judging panel. And although it's some months away, I've decided not to stand on the future (2023-24) committee of the Australian Cartoonists Association when the nominations are called later this year. While it would be good to be still involved in both collectives, especially during the ACA's centenary in 2024, I feel it's time to make other plans. (You've read it here first. No-one except Carlene knew of these plans!)
I've also had to (perhaps with more reluctance than the other two positions) decided to decline the offer of curating an original comic art exhibition for the National Cartoon Gallery in 2023. I was offered this wonderful opportunity earlier this year. Most of my reasoning is because Carlene is not well. But there's also been other reflections behind these decisions. I'm now 64 years of age. Some of my comic contemporaries (and I won't name them here) are also unwell. I'm 65 years of age this year. It's time to stop - or at least slow down - and smell the roses. Relax. Enjoy life without pressure. To feel what life might be like were I retired. Read some comics. Sell some comics I know I won't read. Buy some that I have wanted to read. Spend less time on Facebook. I want to find some way of slowing down and enjoying being in the moment (although that hasn't happened at work yet).
Will I stop publishing comics? Perhaps not yet. Some of my plans still involve working on some future projects. But someday soon, I know I shall have to stop there too.
And perhaps that is where I should leave this post. For today, at least.
...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.