No sooner had I entered Comicoz' Bold Ben Hall plans on this web page, than I was informed about a new beaut movie being made about ... "The Legend of Ben Hall"! How co-incidental is that! The film's writer and director, Matthew Holmes, has kindly allowed the Trailer to be posted on this web-site. Thanks, Matthew! The movie "promises to be an action spectacular and a powerful drama, with attention to historic details rarely seen in Australian films" and is planned for release later in the year. If you want to see more (and how can you not?), you simply need to click here....
Just to share with you that work has just begun on the sequel to Monty Wedd's Ned Kelly work! Bold Ben Hall was the next biography undertaken by Monty. Just to give you an insider's look at the task ahead... Above, is a scan of the original artwork and below, a scan of the same page at the same size as it appeared in the newspapers of the day (pictured is the eighth episode dated 4th September 1977).
Yes! Each and every original piece of artwork has been located and will be used for this project! What makes this an even more daunting undertaking than Ned Kelly, is the volume of the material to work with. While Ned Kelly, the bushranger, is perhaps better known than Ben Hall in the minds of everyday Australians, in the world of Monty Wedd's artistic career, this was a major component of his oeuvre: the adventure strip first saw print on 17th July 1977 and ran until 10th February 1985! (With only two one week breaks!)
Let me put that in more simpler terms: Ned Kelly ran for 146 episodes; Bold Ben Hall ran for seven and a half years or 392 episodes!
The reproduction of Bold Ben Hall at newspaper size would make it a most difficult read: most newspapers printed it at about 19 cm x 13 cm (or thereabouts). The original art (for the piece detailed above) is 50 cm x 38 cm and too unwieldy to be read comfortably as a book. SO, a decision has been made to make the resultant book a companion piece to Ned Kelly. While the number of pages will be far greater, the size of the book will remain the same (that's about 36 cm x 26 cm).
Here is just some of the material in my office that I shall have to go through to bring this book to life! Ah, it's a tough gig, but somebody had to do it!
One thing that has been a revelation this time, besides being able to work with all of Monty's original artwork, is also being able to work with Monty's original photocopies and seeing the various corrections he put in place. Not that these corrections are many, but does it gives an insight into his work and his work ethic. Some of them are where he has made a spelling error or he is unhappy with his own artwork (where notes in the margin read "Fix" or "Fix this"), or like the one illustrated below (from Episode 9 of 11th September 1977), where Monty has obviously corrected an inaccuracy. It wasn't the Boro River...it was the Bolo Creek.
Would the change have changed the storyline? Not one iota! Why was it important? In the scheme of things, you wouldn't think it was. But to me, as a researcher of Australian comics, this example shows to me the detail Monty took to make his work as accurate as he could ....with even the little things.
Now, that leads to other questions! As a publisher, which version do I publish? Do I run with the corrected version as documented on the bromides, as the newspapers received their copies? Or do I run with the original artwork without the correction? As I said, it is a tough gig! I'll keep you posted as to it's progress in the months ahead....!
Born Newcastle (New South Wales) February 20th 1929
Died Bonsall (California) May 7th 2015
John Dangar Dixon was born on February 20th 1929 in Newcastle, New South Wales the youngest of three children. As the only boy, it was always expected of John that he carry on the family tradition of becoming an engineer, a surveyor or an adventurer. His Great Grandfather, Robert Dixon, had been one of the first white men to explore the Goulburn Plains in the early 1800s, and a copy of Robert’s original plan to lay out the city of Brisbane (on March 24th 1840) remains in the John Oxley Library.
John Dixon, however, always wanted to be a comic book or comic strip artist. As a schoolboy at East Kempsey Primary School, John was fascinated by the Sunday colour comics and fell under the spell of the works of the American masters of the craft, Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, and most particularly Milton Caniff. His father, a strict school headmaster at Stockton when John attended Newcastle High School, would have none of it. Comic artists were, after all, the worst kind of artists: the creators of literature that were forbidden from his father’s classrooms. So young John Dixon received no formal art training.
On December 7th 1941 – Pearl Harbour! The War had a startling and sudden impact on young people’s lives. American comics had become a recent and popular entertainment medium, but their importation was soon banned by the Australian Government. A local comic industry began to flourish. John Dixon had completed his education at Cooks Hill Intermediate High, and had become a trainee window dresser in a Newcastle softgoods store, before moving to Sydney in 1945 to obtain a series of positions within various Art Departments and Advertising Agencies. Living in a hostel at the time, John was encouraged by a mate to produce his own comic.
In his spare time, John wrote and illustrated an eighteen page story “The Sky Pirates” and submitted it to Sydney publisher, John Edwards of Leisure Productions. Dixon was immediately offered a full-time job as a comic writer and artist, which he “accepted with relish”. Artists of the time were paid at a page rate, and Dixon was a fast worker: not only did he illustrate his stories, he wrote his adventures as well. He managed to produce 15 pages a week.
From an early age, John had always had a fascination with planes, so he created storylines that increasingly centred on flying. At 16 years of age, John Dixon created his first adventure character with continuity potential for his new employer – Tim Valour. The series under Dixon ran for about 150 issues. Due to his speed at producing comic stories, before long Dixon created and was writing and illustrating a second comic: The Crimson Comet. Although he worked on other characters, these were the comics that John Dixon is most fondly remembered for, in what is now termed The Golden Age of Australian Comics.
Two events lead to the end of that era in the late 1950s: the lifting of import restrictions, and the advent of television. The local comic market quickly contracted, and John Dixon had to find an alternative means to earn an income. He combined his fascination with outback flying involving the Royal Flying Doctor Service with the Northern Territory’s Police force and created a Sunday newspaper strip Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor. It wasn’t that easy – it took eighteen months before he could convince a newspaper editor to run with a local adventure serial in opposition to the cheaper imported syndicated strips of the day.
The Perth Weekend News was the first Australian newspaper to run the weekly Sunday strip in May 1959, with the Sydney Sun-Herald coming on board a fortnight later. Brisbane’s Sunday Mail and Adelaide’s Sunday Mail soon followed. Says Australian comic historian John Ryan: “Dixon scripts [were] well-written with plenty of action, drama, suspense, and characterisation. Air Hawk [was] played out against a background of cathedral-like ridges, barren landscapes, caverns, rivers and waterholes of the outback country. The setting [allowed] for the introduction of native fauna, Aborigines and their way of life and Dixon [captured] all of these with graphic authenticity.”
John Dixon then met and married Eleanor and they chose to live at Bungen Head. From his productive comic book days, he had been able to purchase a block of land there. His sister Sheila said that one day John spent many back breaking hours clearing the scrub only to be confronted by an irate owner. He had cleared the wrong block and had to start all over again! The home had an art studio especially built, and this was used the whole time he worked on the Air Hawk comic strip.
In the early 1960s John met Brian Foley. Both men then had young children, and the connections between the two grew from social, then business and family relationships. Both would help each other out with “family needs, like baby-sitting or getting together for barbecues”. The Sunday newspapers began clamouring for a daily version of Air Hawk, so in May 1963 John began working on his adventure strip seven days a week. John had always managed the marketing of the comic strip within Australia, and so Brian began to handle the overseas syndication of it. The Australian newspapers that ran the daily Air Hawk adventures included the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane’s Courier-Mail.
While John Dixon managed to continue writing the Sunday adventures, the pressures to maintain his high artistic standards seven days a week became too much. From about 1964, Dixon employed other Australian artists to assist. Michael Tabrett, Hart Amos, Paul Power and Keith Chatto all individually worked on the art for the Sunday Air Hawk adventures, until Dixon finally chose to discontinue the Sunday version in early 1980. In the meantime, the freedom to concentrate on his daily strip allowed Dixon to develop “a comic strip technique that was equal to any continuity artist in the world. Dixon continued to produce outstanding work and secured his place as the finest adventure strip artist Australia has produced.” This was recognised with Brian Foley making sales around the world. Air Hawk appeared in newspaper from New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Argentina and even to the United States of America.
By the mid-1980s, John felt that he was finding Air Hawk storylines harder to come by and was becoming “burnt out”. In 1986, an opportunity came to work overseas in Washington DC as Art Director/Illustrator on a magazine founded by Australian Gregory Copley called Defense and Foreign Affairs. John accepted the offer, although he found the decision to leave Air Hawk “a difficult one”. His new artistic role ensured that John had to learn new skills: to work both in colour and in oils. Shortly after John moved to the USA, Eleanor died suddenly of a heart attack.
John found the posting in the Defense and Foreign Affairs’ London office quite lonely, until his return to Washington DC. While there John met Sue, the magazine’s Accountant, and they married in 1989. With the end of the Cold War, however, the magazine folded and John had to seek alternative employment. From 1993 to 1995, John again worked in comics: illustrating superheroes tales such as “Eternal Warrior”, and “Solar: Man of the Atom” for Valiant Productions (based in New York). To show his artistic versatility as an illustrator, he also worked on story board work for movies, short films and commercials. In 1993, John and Sue permanently moved to California and he worked on Secret Agent X-9 (Corrigan) for the European comic book market.
John Dixon’s life-long work began to be recognised towards the end of his life. He rated the winning of the inaugural Australian Black & White Artists’ Club Award for “Best Illustrated Adventure Strip Artist” in 1985 as one of the “high points in his life with Air Hawk”. The fact that it was presented by Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, he considered his “proudest moment”.
He won the “Best Illustrated Adventure Strip Artist” Award again in 1986 (for Air Hawk), and in 1992 for his American comic book work. The Platinum Ledger Award for “Significant Contribution to Australian Comics” was presented to John in 2014 at a ceremony at the State Library of Victoria.
In his later years, John Dixon contracted Lewy Body Dementia. He was cared for at home by his wife Sue until he passed away on May 7th.
In early 1990, I conducted an interview with John Dixon (from which many of the quotes in this Obituary have been taken). The interview was first published in 2002 (in Italian) in “Fumetto”, a high-quality magazine that specialised in comics. There was one question (and answer) from that initial interview with John that I did not supply and that – until now – has never been published. It is:
Q: “How would you like to be remembered?”
A: “Let’s see – I think I’d settle for being remembered as a story-teller with a tongue firmly planted in one cheek. To be remembered as someone who loved to share with others his fascinating world of imagination.”
John Dixon, in his Air Hawk series from 1959 to 1986, shared his wonderful imagination of the Australian Outback and the characters therein …not just with Australians, but with the world. With his passing, we have lost Australia’s greatest comic strip story-teller. He leaves behind his wife Sue, his children Andrew, Jaydi, Cindy and Anne, his sister Sheila, his grandchildren Ben and Jake, his extended family, and his many Fans from around the globe.
This Obituary has been written with the full authorisation and input of John Dixon’s Family.
 Call number RBM 841.16 00003 e 1840
 Nat Karmichael interview with John Dixon, January 1990
 Panel by Panel: An illustrated history of Australian Comics (1979: 85). Cassell: Sydney.
 Written correspondence, Nat Karmichael with Sheila Cooke November 2009.
 Nat Karmichael interview with Brian Foley, August 2009.
 Panel by Panel: An illustrated history of Australian Comics (1979: 90). Cassell: Sydney.
 Community Radio Interview with Philip O’Brien, broadcast on May 31st 1997 (92.7 fm Canberra).
 Nat Karmichael interview with John Dixon, January 1990.
 Nat Karmichael interview with John Dixon, January 1990.
 Nat Karmichael interview with John Dixon, January 1990.
 Nat Karmichael interview with John Dixon, January 1990.
News just in: Australian comic book writer/artist and AIR HAWK Creator, John Dixon has just passed peacefully away in the presence of family. Our deepest condolences to his family.
"One of the high-points in my life with Air Hawk. The night of the inaugural Australian Black & White Artists' Club Awards in 1985 when my peers honoured me as "Best Illustrated Adventure Strip Artist". This, and having the Award presented to me by Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, was one of the proudest moments of my life. Something I will never forget."
Am I glutton for punishment? I have now so MANY comic-related projects on the go at the moment, I don't know where I am!....But perhaps I'll talk about them another day! First up, instead, let's talk about a couple of Festivals around the country that Comicoz is going to take part in....
The first will be the Hungry For Art Festival run by the City of Ryde, with pop-up stalls run by the Australian Cartoonists' Association next Saturday May 9th and on May 24th. 10% of all sales of products sold on the day will benefit Foodbank NSW and ACT. Among the many participants will be Comicoz favourite Rob Feldman, selling his funny Comicoz book Cartoons, Comics and Cows in Cars...and other paraphernalia, I'm sure! If you ask nicely he may even autograph his book for free! For more details about the Festival, click here. If you want to go and see what's on offer, then head on to Top Ryde City Shopping Centre (that's on the corner of Devlin Street and Blaxland Road in Ryde) between the hours of 10 am to 5 pm on the 24th (and to 3 pm on the 9th).
The second Festival will be at the 20th Annual Childers Festival on the weekend of July 25th and 26th. Childers is a small Queensland town, about two and a half hours drive north of Noosa (on the Sunshine Coast). Click here for details about the Festival. Within the Festival, will be Copier Jam! a curated exhibition of 'small press publications, zines and independent comics and original art'. Comicoz is being featured as 'a publisher and supporter of Australian comics'. The Exhibition will feature some of the artwork from Issues 1 and 2 of Oi Oi Oi!
Comicoz will be publishing a special commemorative edition of Oi Oi Oi! (and numbered #5) to coincide with the Festival. This Issue will NOT be available on the newsagents' stands (although many comic shops around Australia may stock it). The best way to ensure you don't miss this Issue is to subscribe...or just come along to the Childers Festival! And make sure you say "Hullo!"....
Late July 2011. After many years of letter-writing, faxes, phone calls and emails (not to mention the publishing of six AIR HAWK comics in the late 1980s), I finally met my #1 comic idol, JOHN DIXON for the very first time! Here is one of few photos we took, as I presenting John the book I'd just published. Inside were 5 compete AIR HAWK adventures and (more interesting to John) reflections on his life and work by his family and friends.
I have just spoken to John Dixon's nephew, Terry, who has allowed me to make a statement about this world-famous Australian comic book and comic strip writer and illustrator...
On April 18th, John Dixon had a stroke and has not regained consciousness. The nurse attending last Saturday said that John was "in transition and didn't have long to go". He is on medications to keep him comfortable.
On behalf of all of the comic fraternity, I'd like to pass on our kind thoughts to his wife Sue, his children Andrew and Jaydi, his sister Sheila and to all his family and close friends during this most difficult time.
When I am at Supanova, I have an array of comics thrust before me, and I (usually) cannot resist supporting the local creators by buying their product. Today I need to mention that there were two books that stood tall above all the others I saw at the Conventions, and the two I thought I should highlight here....
The first (above) is a hardback anthology compilation of Australian artists and cartoonists (and all ladies). "Fly the Colour Fantastica" is a compact 150 cm wide, 215 cm depth and 150 pages long, all in colour, book that is so well-presented to the highest possible standards that I am going to call it a work of beauty. The funds raised to produce the book were crowd-sourced (and I here declare that I was one of the Pledgers, although I did not pick up my copy until Melbourne's Supanova). The anthology was compiled and produced by Vikki Ong and Eri Kashima (I think!) who aimed to "present a fantastical and enigmatic collection of stories with a ‘post-anime’ visual style".... Each writer/artist has approximately the same number of pages to tell their story, and perhaps it is the visual style that gives the total work a sense of well-rounded whole. Given the number of lady creatives who worked on this project, this is no mean feat.
The works are by some whose works that I am familiar with and others that I am meeting for the first time. They are: Serendipity by Natasha Sim (from Melbourne), Permanence by Sydney's Sheree Chuang, Freedom by Alisha Jade (my way, Brisbane), Belonging by Viet-My Bui (Melbourne), Intercept by Alicia Braumberger (Melbourne-based), Synthesis by Melbourne's Eevien Tan, Unity by Sai Nitivoranant from Sydney, Capture by Rebecca Hayes (another from Melbourne), Diversity by Eri Kashima (I'm not sure where Eri lives: Melbourne I'm guessing), Clarity by Sydney-based Sam Jacobin, Acceptance by Nadia Attlee from Sydney, and Threshold by Melbourne's Vikki Ong. I was hoping to direct you to an order page where you can buy this $30 bargain, but all I can find on their web-site is a $10 PDF version (available if you click here). The $30 physical version, to be really honest, is the version to buy. Click here and ask if copies are still available (I understand there is a 500 copy limited print run). My challenge to you when you have a copy in your hands: which story do you think is the best? I have had the book for over two weeks now and I still cannot make a choice! A beautiful book, well-presented and immaculately bound, and well-worth adding to your Australian comics Library. http://www.colourfantastica.com/
My second pick from Supanova (below) is also an anthology, but that is about the only similar feature between the two! "Decay" has been regularly appearing at comic conventions since 2010 and is a horror anthology now on its 19th issue. This, on its own, should be reason to celebrate, but regular writer-publisher-sales promoter Darren Koziol has actually excelled in this production that screams out to all those who recall the fabulous Australian comics from the late eighties and early nineties: "LOOK AT ME!"
What started as a plan to include an all-new Southern Squadron story in celebration of the characters' 30th anniversary, Darren says "snowballed" into becoming an anthology of so many Australian independent comic characters from the past. And, what's more, written and drawn, in the main by the original creators! So you have an all-new Southern Squadron story by Dave de Vries (and illustrated by Dargan Vignievic), there is Bug & Stump by John Petropoulous and Mark Sexton, Jason Paulos working on a brand-new Hairbutt the Hippo tale again, Tad Pietrzykowski writing an all-new Dark Nebula (with art by Colin Wells), and wait (there's more!) Da 'n' Dil by creator Dillon Naylor (and, after too long an absence from the medium, art by Greg Gates), and Michael Michalandos and Tim McEwen's Greener Pastures rounding up the "Aussie Classics" issue of Decay.
Many of these characters in their day, as some of you may recall, were printed in black and white on mostly newsprint paper, so the inclusion of colour in all the adventures (bar Greener Pastures) on high-quality paper gives them a real shine that they have never seen before. Reading the issue was like meeting a whole bunch of old friends at a party and talking about the good times. Publisher Darren Koziol seems well-aware of the historical importance of such a gathering. To highlight the occasion he has given each artistic team the opportunity to design a different cover for the issue. Some will see the eight variant covers as a marketing ploy (I am sure it is), but it also allows Darren to gauge present-day market interest in each individual character as well as highlighting his horror anthology. To date, Darren told me that there is no one cover that is presently outselling all the others. So, from a marketing sense, the idea is an outstanding success.
From a comic reader's point of view, the issue is a success too. Darren has included some of his characters (The Sisters and Oz Zombie) within the volume, and all-told the whole issue reads very well. The magazine retails for $10 each (or $14 including postage from Darren's web-page), with 52 large magazine size pages (most in colour). My personal preference, if I had to pick one, was Jason Paulos' Hairbutt story: Jason has learnt how to pace a story well, it was funny, and -- most of all, for me -- he demonstrates how his art has continued to develop over the years. (He was the only one who did a wraparound cover too.) Decay is one Aussie magazine well worth supporting. If you see Darren at any convention, go up and say "Hullo" (and tell him Comicoz sent you!), or click here to be taken to his Decay web-page. Many Australian comic retailers also sell Darren's magazine, so ask for it by name and hopefully #20 will continue the high standard this issue has set...
On April the 10th at the State Library of Victoria, the annual Ledger Awards took place. Here is a run-down of all the winners and grinners:
The two Platinum Awards (which the comic-come-booklet commemorating the occasion for some reason left out) were awarded to the late John Ryan (as detailed in my previous Blog) and Brisbane-based Alisha Jade. Alisha has published many mini-comics in the short time she has been in the scene (all of them well-written and a delight to the eye), as well as her serialised Seven books (that runs in Oi Oi Oi!, with the fifth volume having just been released). Alisha also organised the recent Minicomicon at the Edge (also recently detailed on this Blog), at Southbank. Her speech was impassioned and well-received; her Award, well-deserved.
Following these presentation, there was a performance by the talented Christopher Downes (on artistic duties) and Joshua Santospirito (music accompaniment), all while a poem (The Shipwright and the Banshee) was being displayed on the screen above. While it was sometime difficult to decide what to watch (does one read the poem or focus of Christopher's unfolding imagery?), I felt that this was far greater entertainment value than the previous year (an interview and question and answer session that no longer has stuck in my memory).
Then, before too long, the Ledger Awards were again in full swing. The Bronze Awards were presented first, and the six winners were:
Frankie Holliday by Nick Lawson (click here for the link).
Gente Corriente by Vincent Zabus and Sydney-based Thomas Campi (link here). I don't think there is an English version... yet.
Monster Zero by Frank Candiloro (link here).
Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye by Tim Molloy (link here).
Ned Kelly by Monty Wedd (no link needed, surely?!).
Squishface Brunstown with various artists from Melbourne's Squishface Studios (link here). I don't think any more copies are now available...
Here (at left) is what a Bronze Ledger looks like! With thanks to Monty Wedd and his Family, it was a great honour to accept this on behalf of his family and all who worked on the Ned Kelly book....
The Silver Awards followed. The two winners were:
Itty Bitty Bunnies in Rainbow Pixie Candy Land Save Xmas by Dean Rankine (click here for the link). Not an Official Link, but a link to allow you to obtain a copy of the magazine.
Very Quiet, Very Still by Chris Gooch (link here).
Supanova Pop Culture Expo is funny animal. I really enjoy the opportunity to meet other Australian artists and cartoonists (and fellow publishers) who are putting out their new comics. I like the opportunity to offer them membership of my beloved Australian Cartoonists' Association (on whose table I sell my wares). I enjoy the wonderful camaraderie of the other Members of the Association for the weekends. And I enjoy the opportunity to try to get the Comicoz message out to new buyers or talking to punter who have seen the Oi Oi Oi! comic in the stands.
But I become somewhat melancholy and ill at ease with the knowledge that I am preaching to a small percentage of the large crowds, who have mostly come for reasons other than comics. Most have come to celebrate the pervading Americanisation of our culture and give it no thought, and this leaves me with so many mixed feelings that I (frequently during the course of the Supanova days) become so saddened that I vow to never go again... Which, of course, never happens. I go to Melbourne's event, then a week later I am the Gold Coast's...
Yet there are many bright spots. One (in Melbourne): discovering (in a retailer's box of discards) a mint copy of Captain Sunshine from 1979 for only $10....and then being able to go to Colin Wilson's stand and getting the Master himself to personalise it with his signature...never, ever to go on eBay....
On April 10th, at the State Library of Victoria, the annual Ledger Awards were held. Rather than detailing all of the Award Winners (for the moment, at least), I would like to acknowledge one of the Platinum Award winners: John Ryan.
John Ryan first introduced me to the wonderful history of Australian comics, while I was still a teenager at school, when he sent me copies of his Boomerang writings from 1973 (which I still proudly have in my collection). He was nominated for the Platinum Ledger by Amy Louise Maynard, one of the 2015 Ledger Judges. (Amy is a PhD candidate and freelance writer based at the University of Adelaide.) Here is Amy's speech:
John Ryan was born at Cowra, New South Wales in 1931, but spent most of his life in Brisbane. As a boy he had an interest in comics, but he did not become a serious collector until the 1960s. He was particularly interested in collecting comics published in Australia from the 1940s to 1958, when import restrictions were lifted.
He was in regular correspondence with collectors in the United States and elsewhere and contributed to US fanzines. He was an active member of the Australian and New Zealand Amateur Publishing Association and became involved in the science fiction fandom network. In 1964 he published the first Australian fanzine, Down Under, produced off a spirit duplicator. He won the American Alley Award in 1964, winning ‘Best Article’ in the Fan Category of that year, and he also won in 1967 for his writings on Australian comics.
Ryan continued writing about Australian comics in the 1970s. In 1976 he was the Australian contributor to Maurice Horn's The World Encyclopaedia of Comics, published by Chelsea House of New York. This was one of the first global overviews of the history of the medium, still referenced today.
Ryan’s magnum opus was the creation of the tome Panel by Panel: A History of Australian Comics published by Cassell Australia in 1979.
It is one of, if not the most, comprehensive study of the Australian comic book industry from its inception in the 1930s to the late 1970s, and also looks at early magazines that featured strips, like the short-lived Vumps. And that's just the second half of the book. The first half of the book, looks at the newspaper strip industry.
Ryan painstakingly crafted this tome through interviews, newspaper clippings, his own comics collection, and archives. This was done of his own will and utilising his own time and funds, as this was not a project done with the support of a university - Ryan was just an autodidact (or 'panelologist' as he liked to call himself) who had a passion for comics and wanted to make something that illustrated the hard work that went into the craft. Ryan made many personal friendships throughout his correspondences with those in the industry, with mutual trust and respect forming the basis of his research.
Panel by Panel is comprehensive to the letter - dates, authors, titles of publications, publishing companies, production methods, laws and societal changes that impacted comics production and culture, it's all in there, alongside scanned but clear images. Without the work of John Ryan, a whole history of this artistic medium in Australia would have been lost. He laid the groundwork for the academics and autodidacts that came after him: Ian Gordon, John Foster, Kevin Patrick, Adam Possamai, Paul Mason, Ingrid Unger, Annette Shiell, Michael Hill, Stuart Hale, Daniel Best, Matt Emery, Mark Finnane, Mike Stone, John Clements, Graeme Cliffe, Amy Louise Maynard, and Nat Karmichael.
John Ryan is the godfather of Australian comics history. To understand how the medium has changed through the ages there needs to be the knowledge of how it began, and Ryan gave that to us.
He died of a heart attack aged 48 in 1979, not long after Panel by Panel was released. His Australian comics collection, along with much of his correspondence, are now held at the National Library of Australia.
He died far too soon, and never lived to see how his research impacted so many people in Australian comics, whether they're academics, historians, writers, publishers or artists. But before he died, he made sure to preserve the legacies of those that worked in comics in the 'Golden Age', such as Sid Nichols, Jim Bancks, Moira Bertram, Stanley Pitt, K.G Murray, Keith Chatto, John Dixon, Paul Wheelahan, Emile Mercier, Kath O'Brien, and Monty Wedd, to name just a few.
He celebrated their lives and work, and we should celebrate his, tonight, right now.
Longer-term readers of this Blog will know that John Ryan's family have given Comicoz permission to update and re-publish Panel By Panel (you can find it here on this web-site). And while that project is still many days off being completed, it remains a longer-term goal. Being in touch with the family, then, I was able to assist the Ledger organisers in alerting John's family about the impending Award. Unfortunately, Jan was heading overseas, and his children were unable to attend the ceremony at such short notice. So, it was a great honour for me to be chosen to read Fiona's speech and to accept the Award on the family's behalf. Here, for posterity, is Fiona's speech:
It's amazing to think that 35 years after my father died he is still known and loved in the Comic community. To me, he was simply the father who had thousands of comics carefully stored in a massive wardrobe that covered the full wall of his study. From the smallest age we knew that we weren't allowed to touch those comics -- they were off limits to kids! He made up for that though by buying hundreds of comics of our own. Richie Rich, Little Lota, Little Dot, Spiderman, The Avengers... All cheap from the newsagent and well read and thumbed through by us, over and over and over. It wasn't until I was in high school that I realised that not every kid had thousands of comics to read and pore over.
Over the years, my Dad made friends with many comic creators, illustrators, writers and artists. Much of it was done via correspondence as STD phone calls were expensive and computers and email were unknown (he would have loved the Internet). These friendships were strong and long standing, many well over 20 years, and this helped him greatly when he needed source material for his book.
Panel By Panel was a labour of love. Many, many nights I fell asleep to the sound of him typing on a manual typewriter, creating drafts of chapters. He wasn't a typist, so the entire book was tapped out 'hunt and peck' style. Wasn't everyone's father writing a book in the evenings and in their spare time?
Thank you to everyone here tonight for acknowledging my father, his encyclopaedic knowledge of comics and his dedication to them. I (we) are very happy to accept this Award on his behalf.
This photo came up on the screen when I accepted the Platinum Award on behalf of John Ryan's Family. The photo was supplied by Howard Siegal and features in my first paperback, "John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor". From left to right: Phil Belbin, JOHN RYAN, John Dixon, Hart Amos, Keith Chatto. For those interested, John Ryan's 1964 Award-Winning article ("With the Comics Down Under") is reprinted in full in the aforementioned Air Hawk volume.
Comicoz is releasing a Special Signed and Numbered Limited Edition (to only 100 copies) of the Fourth Issue of Oi Oi Oi! This will be available ONLY to Subscribers, to the Artists included in this issue and -- if any remain -- at the Melbourne and the Gold Coast Supanova. Or from this web-site as a Pre-Order, for a very limited time. Click here for the link. Subscribers will have the option of having a regular unsigned version of the magazine as well (and both will only count as one issue). Any Pre-Orders obtained from this Web-site will be honoured before Supanova sales, and copies are available for $15 (including postage and packing).