I haven't heard from Cover Boy Jim Bridges since this issue (the tenth I have edited), was released.... Brilliant artwork by Paul Harvey....
I've had some time off work for the past three weeks (with one week to go). We were planning on going on a trip in our new campervan, but unfortunately it is not quite ready (and, besides, we were given a surprise when son Will came to visit us). Still, the time has been a productive one...
Early in the holiday, I was able to finish editing another issue of INKSPOT (my tenth) and, with the help of caricaturist Steve Panozzo, we were able to work on it and still hope to have it out for next weekend's Supanova in Melbourne. *I'll share the cover once it arrives from the printer, because the person on the cover has no idea they are ON the cover!
I've also had a bit of time to begin cleaning up what is called "the music room" in our home. In its former lifetime, it was a garage. These days there is not too much music being played in there; it also doubles as my 'publishing empire'. I must confess, the place has been a bit of an embarrassment, due to the state of untidiness of the area. So, I have spent a considerable amount of time in there tidying it up....to the point where music now can be played there! And it now looks half decent!
And I am really pleased I did tidy it, for in the meantime, see what is soon coming from the printer....
Also about to soon go to the printer soon will be From SUNBEAMS to Sunset, and the book about Superman's creators. This book was to be called "Truth, Justice and the American Way: The Joe Shuster Story" until it was discovered that "Truth, Justice and the American Way" has been copyrighted by DC Comics. The American publishers are planning on still calling it "The Joe Shuster Story" and are already seeking orders from Diamond (the comic book distribution company).
I admit I feel I am a bit behind the eight-ball in getting the local version out; but then the local version is going to be much improved on the American version. For starters, the Comicoz version will be larger. At 210 x 290 cm it will be a reasonable size, but the Americans - for some reason - are going smaller, and cruelly harming artist Thomas Campi's work, as far as I am concerned. There are also going to be more 'extra' pages in the book, with Thomas describing his artistic process, and writer Julian Voloj providing some additional text pieces that will beef the book up.
The title will now be: "Truth, Justice and the American Dream: The Men Behind Superman"....sounds better, right?
I've also decided to give this website a bit of a spruce-up. At the present, although it is easy for me to work on, there are a lot of factors that seem to mitigate against it. A google search of (say) "Australian comics" does not list Comicoz within the top ten, as many Indian web-designers have been emailing me to tell me. Sales need to improve to justify the space I am taking up in our home, after all!
Now that the 'music room' is tidy (or tidier?), I have found many doubles of books and comics. I plan to sell many of my books and comics from my collection (the ones I did not publish). Besides offering some of my books at cheaper prices, I also plan on listing my publications at Ownaindi. Have you heard of it? It's a web-site that specialises in the sale of Australian-owned comics and books. Click here for the link.
And what else? There is one other bit of news. But I may leave that until next posting. After all, this is a holiday from work, and it should be time spent away from comics and certainly time to spend with my lovely wife. So, perhaps I ought to wind up here and take her to the movies, as I promised her I would...
Here I am, a month later, writing an entry in my Blog...
What do you reckon that means? That I have been doing NOTHING?!
First of all, I have managed to send the Bold Ben Hall book to the printer! Want proof? Here are actual photos of the Bold Ben Hall printing process presently taking place...
Just a shout out to say thanks to Glenn Ford, co-publisher of Frew, who is going to give a free full page advertisement in the upcoming Giant Size Phantom for Graeme Cliffe's book, From SUNBEAMS to Sunset, The Rise and Fall of the Australian Comic Book (1924-1965) soon to be published by Comicoz. The layouts are about half way through completion, and Diamond Distributors (the world's largest comic book distributor) are going to be asked to see if they are willing to carry the book.
I have had many queries about the book, so perhaps I ought to say a little here. "Is it an updated edition of Panel by Panel" is a regular question. And a fair enough question too, given that at one stage I was planning on reprinting that volume, with some editorial corrections and amendments. But the short answer is "No".
From 'SUNBEAMS' to Sunset has been a project of Graeme's for over twenty years. Over those years, he has visited many of the old Australian artists and cartoonists (and their families) and spoken to them about their craft. He has searched them out from old telephone books, Government records available to the public, newspaper clippings, anything and everything. Graeme has visited libraries, comic collectors. You name it, Graeme has researched it!
I would wager my home: if there is something to be known about Australian comic history to 1965, Graeme will know it! To the Nth degree! He will be able to tell you how many Australian comics Hal English illustrated. You don't know Hal English? Graeme will be able to tell you! And all those years of research are now covered in this one volume.
Although Panel by Panel will remain the first book on the topic, this volume will be THE definitive authority on Australian comic history. I have known of the existence of Graeme's research since my first book on an Australian comic artist (John Dixon's Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor) came out in 2011. However, I had no idea of the scope of his work until he more recently shared the manuscript with me, asking me if I would be interested in assisting him in having it published.
The book is written. The cover artwork has been designed. The dust-jacket is ready. The first eight chapters have been prepared for the printer. I'll seek out Graeme, and see how much he will allow me to share before the book is sent to the printer... So, stay tuned!
Here is the latest copy of Inkspot, the journal of the Australian Cartoonists Association that I edit. This cover of David Rowe is by the very talented Judy Nadin. The magazine is available to Libraries around the country. If your Library does not stock it, please tell the chief Librarian to get in touch with me, and I will ensure a copy is posted on.
This is the ninth issue I have edited now, matching the nine issues of Oi Oi Oi! I edited. I know it may not seem like much, but an awfully large amount of hours goes into the making of a magazine, especially when one tries to ensure it comes out regularly (in this case, quarterly). The magazine contains a couple of articles I wrote. (I was really pleased with the article of Tony Thorne's animation work/Award. Tony's work appeared in the first and fourth issue of Oi Oi Oi! and it was great to see he continues to be as creative as ever...)
This edition of Inkspot also contains a eight page comic by Gary Chaloner that was going to appear in the next issue of Oi Oi Oi! The magazine also covers a lot of the fun of the ACA's annual Award night held in Old Parliament House, in Canberra last November....
One of the fun events within the Stanley Awards, is the Silent Auction, where one can bit on some wonderful cartoons, past and present. This (below) is one of a few cartoons that I bid on (and won) that - to me - seems to perfectly sum up the year politically, and a cartoon that will be a reflection of not only the night but of the times. So, it was one I really wanted to win! The cartoon is by Mark Knight, with my original kindly personalised by Mark (that I shall edit out of here).
Next year's Stanley Conference and Award was going to be in Brisbane. I put in a lot of hard yards to get it there, sourcing cartoonists to appear and venues to hold it. But, in the end, it was decided that it should return to Canberra in 2018...and 2019. Ah, well....!
Bunker Cartoon Gallery
PO Box 1483
COFFS HARBOUR NSW 2450
Re: Support for Rotary Cartoon Awards 30th Anniversary
Inaugural Cartooning Festival
As an Australian comic historian and comic publisher, I’d like to offer my support in your great initiative and plans to hold a Cartooning Festival in the beautiful city of Coffs Harbour, to accompany the 30th Rotary Cartoon Awards. That the Awards have been held continuously for thirty years, shows how enamoured many Australians are with the medium – but a Festival would widen the community’s interest in this special art form.
Such a Festival would not only highlight the wonderful collection of well over 23,000 cartoons that you hold in your Gallery – that in itself a marvellous achievement – but it would lend Coffs Harbour being recognised nationally and internationally as being the premiere cartooning city in the southern hemisphere. In short, it would be acknowledgement for all the hard work your staff and volunteers have put in throughout the years and a triumph for cartooning! Count me it!
Sydney artist Thomas Campi has just sent me this absolutely beautiful illustration of Joe Shuster with his friend Jerry Siegel. I am so excited, I have woken from night duty to share this news with you! A version of this illustration will be used for the signed and numbered limited edition copy of the book. Pre-orders are now available from the Comicoz store, as production for this book will commence really soon! Don't miss out on this opportunity to get in early!
It seems that the words "Truth, Justice and the American Way" have been copyrighted (by DC Comics), so the new volume by Thomas Campi and Julian Voloj (and to be published soon by Comicoz), has had to be re-named. Go to our Store now if you want to pre-order...
In the meantime, Bold Ben Hall's files went to the printer yesterday, and design work for the very best reference book on Australian comics, From 'Sunset' to Sunrise, is nearing the end stages of completion from a design perspective...
WHEN do I get time to sleep....???
I have probably said this before (and I shall say it again anyway): I have always found it a blessing to celebrate my birthday on the 21st of December, as it gives me a full ten days to reflect on the year past and to work on future plans for the year ahead. Although the older I have become, the more I have begun to realise that one cannot make plans, because sometimes Life just gets in the way. I am one to celebrate life and all its inherent joys, so I tend to deal positively on the present and remain optimistic about the future. As such, I do not dwell too long on what has passed. By doing this I have been able to overlook some of the personal family pains that my wife Carlene and I have had to endure over the past twelve -- and even further, thirty-six -- months. Twelve months is, after all, just an artificial arbitrary number, just as Time remains a fleeting man-made means of measuring the space that makes our lives. Perhaps it is the fact I have just turned 60, that I feel qualified to be able to wax philosophically about all these matters. In any case, I have begun a 'tradition' some years ago to announce what I consider to be the Best Australian Original Comic Book in the first week of January, and there seems no valid reason (philosophically or otherwise) not to do so again in 2018.
So over the past ten to fifteen days, I have looked through the Australian comics I have purchased and read over the past year. Which one has really resonated with me? Or which one honours the traditions of the medium's past or takes it to an exciting future? Or is there one that feels so uniquely Australian that I have no choice but to select it? I really cannot articulate exactly why or what make me make my selection each year; all I know is that it is a personal one and is purely subjective. The recipient wins no worldly acclaim or even a memento on the announcement of the 'award'. The only comics I have and shall exclude from consideration are those that I have published, as I do not wish to show or appear to show any bias. On that score, I am safe this year. I published no comics in 2017.
That is not to say I haven't been involved in the medium. Although I may not have attended any conventions and few gatherings, I still have an active interest in the local comic scene: I was honoured to have assumed the role of Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour deliberations (for the Ledger Awards), and I was so excited to have presented the 'Dead Set' Ledger to Rosalie Gibbs, on behalf of May Gibbs' family. I remain on the Board of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, and have continued to edit their journal Inkspot, managing to keep it to a more-or-less quarterly schedule throughout the year. I worked with three designers this year: Chris Barr (two issues), Cam Winks and Judy Nadin (one each). Here are the past four issues:
What is the state of the local scene? Having not attended many conventions or comic-specific markets this year, it has limited my exposure and awareness of what comics are presently out there in the comics community. Still, much marketing is present and feedback seen and available on Facebook these days, allowing many people (like me) to keep reasonably up to speed in the scene. I remain disappointed that there are no original nationally produced and distributed comic magazines in this country, because such a magazine could alert readers to even more upcoming creative projects; although having attempted to publish such a magazine myself, I know that releasing such information in a timely manner is no easy task.
However, the one comic that is nationally distributed (The Phantom) has shown that even a magazine that has been going for decades can still make improvements. This year, that comic included more locally-produced stories and covers within its pages than ever before. Frew has also taken to expanding their presence within the community, by publishing new titles and having management and artists appearing at fan-events like Supanova. This has been the most pleasing aspect of this long-time Australian comic publishing house. I admit that I have been fairly critical of Frew in the past, but this year, I can do nothing except lavish praise: that they have actively sought to include more works by local artists and writers pleases me no end.
From a retailers perspective, I suspect things are not all that rosy. It seems that where 2016 saw some growth and expansion in the rural (that is the non-metropolitan) area of Australian comic shops, there seems to have been a contraction in some capital city centres in 2017. Comics Kingdom in Sydney shut up shop, and there were some financial difficulties expressed publicly by Ace Comics and Games in Brisbane over the past twelve months. Fan disquiet about another retail outlet in Brisbane, thought to be a result of changing personnel, was also expressed in social media. Whether these are a result of narrow product choices being available to readers (that is, superheroes) with too much of the same type of stories offered by publishers, or an inability of some stores to be able to attract new comic readers, or whether too many publishers are printing larger amounts of variant covers in order to appeal to the collectors, rather than the readers or perhaps there are other factors in play, I have no real opinion. Could it be that there are too many comic stores in the capital cities? Perhaps a question for another time....
In any case, today is 5th January, the birth-date of Monty Wedd, one of Australia's greatest comic book writer and illustrators. Were he still alive, he would have been 97 today. Reason enough, then, to celebrate what has been good in Australian comics over the past twelve months. Reason to announce what is the first Australian comic award for the year. Here are some that came into my consideration:
I have already made mention of The Phantom comic, which included a serialised tale by Australians Christopher Sequeira (story) and Jason Paulos (art) within its pages. But it was the all-new publications Kid Phantom (illustrated by Brisbane-based Paul Mason) and The Giant-Size Phantom that interested me the most! Seeking to expand their fan base, and taking the character to a new audience, Kid Phantom was an excellent step for younger readers to climb aboard the Frew line of publications. The story (written by Gabriel Henriquez) was fast-paced and exciting, the artwork dynamic. My only criticism would be its size -- I think the magazine (at 15 cm x 23 cm) should have shared the regular comic-book's dimensions.
Giant-Size Phantom's cover artwork by Glenn Lumsden was masterful: it really evoked the covers of a bygone era, yet was modern in its application. The internal pages sought the same goal as Kid Phantom: to take Frew characters to a new audience. However, the characters -- the Shadow, the Phantom Ranger, Sir Falcon, and Catman -- are all from Frew's Golden Age of Australian comics! With the third edition, John Dixon's Crimson Comet's first issue was reprinted. I must confess to some involvement in the selection. I was able to speak to John's family when Frew were seeking to reprint the tale. Still, for mine, the best reprint comic published in Australia in 2017.
Gary Clark's first foray into comic book publishing shouldn't go unmentioned either. Although partially a reprint book, featuring a collection of strips from his long-running daily comic strip Swamp, this all-colour issue also features some work that reads just like a comic. I was uncertain if I ought to include it in my list of year's best, as Gary feels it still is a work in progress (he has numbered it "Issue -1" after all), and I should also disclose giving him some advice on comic publishing prior to its release. So, perhaps I should say instead that this could be one for you to check out next year at Supanova.
Bazza the Bogan Barbarian: Australian Alien Invasion is a comic that was made available at Supanova during the year. Written by Sydney-sider Sorab Del Rio and illustrated by Emerson Dimaya, this soft-cover book (comic book size, about 64 pages) puts the FUN back into comics. It's probably as Aussie as you can get: cricket, drop bears, and Bazza the hero (who 'barracks for South Sydney, loves his Vegemite, he dunks his meat pies in beer'). None of it should or could be taken seriously, and some of it may not be suitable reading material for impressionable youngsters, but it was an entertaining romp.
As I have stated, I didn't get out too much in 2017. However, towards the end of the year, I visited Squishface Studios in Melbourne, and came across 'The Effervescent Pill' by Chris Gooch. The credits say it was originally written in 2014, but was 'revised and re-drawn for the 2017 Sticky Zine Fair' so I think it counts and so I have included it in my end of year summary. The pacing and the use of colour within the story was well done, and had me interested throughout.
My Struggle with Crohn's Disease wasn't your normal comic fare. At 28 pages long, it had more of a zine feel about it. In fact, it was released as a Mini-Comic of the Month (and I forget which month now) and would have been a difficult topic to write about. The artist/writer Safdar Ahmed said he was "pretty embarrassed" about it (it is clearly an autobiographical comic), but felt "it's time to address [the topic] and put it out there". More power to him! It was an attempt to show an aspect of his life, but showed a whole lot more. It showed an Artist sharing a most personal and human struggle, and as a piece of work it showed the potential for the comics medium to educate as well as entertain. It was one of the more powerful comics I read in 2017 and I commend the piece most highly.
The Ledger Awards Annual was released to coincide with the Ledger Awards mid-year, and stands as a souvenir of that night. I was initially uncertain whether to include it in my year's best or not, because technically it is not a comic and was originally published to be a record of the nominations and the winners of the night. Much in the same way as the Australian Cartoonists' Association's Year Book is representative of the cartoonists who have worked in the past year, while doubling as their Voting Book. Each year for the past few years, the Ledger's annual has included a previously unpublished comic story within its pages.
However this year, the Annual (edited by Bruce Mutard and published by his Fabilaux imprint "under the auspices of the Ledger Awards Organising Committee') was printed as a wonderful glossy 96 page book, and that featured about forty pages of comics. Let me repeat: forty pages of comics! There was no way I couldn't consider it! I'm uncertain as to whom one ought to lavish the praise -- the Committee or Bruce? The editorial inside said "some [of the comic creators] are new to the scene, some are veterans" but all were included "just because". I hope no-one quibbles about those selected, with some of the artists' work appearing already published by Bruce. The book carries a wide selection of differing artistic styles, to please even the fussiest fans of the medium. From a personal viewpoint, seeing Gary Chaloner's new work that had been slated for the long-delayed ninth issue of Oi Oi Oi! was a little bitter-sweet, but I was able to live with it. Really the whole publication was just a scrumptious delight.
Which is not the word I shall use to describe Chris Gooch's main foray into being published by a major oversea publisher. Bottled, put out later in the year by Top Shelf Productions, runs for almost three hundred pages (well, two hundred and eighty-seven to be precise) and tells its tale within six chapters. There are some who will marvel at Chris' storytelling ability, but for mine I was impressed by the pacing of his story: he does not hurry it along, using many wordless panels (even over a full page) and with only minor variations in some sequences.
I noted on Facebook that although many Australian readers were aware of the book, many admitted to not having read it. Of that, I have two things to say. One is that I won't disclose any spoilers here, and secondly, you really have to read it. I went to Squishface Studios in late October and found that despite Chris working at the studio, there were no copies available for sale there (apart for a sample copy available for perusal). It must be the first time I went to Minotaur specifically looking for a certain book! (Which they had, by the way!)
There will be some who may be put off by the limited colour palette on show within the story. After a while, I didn't notice the varying shades of red, with the blacks and whites -- I was too engrossed in Chris' tale. Bottled is the crowning achievement in young Chris Gooch's comic storytelling to date. I only trust that the commercial success of his work follows, so that Chris is encouraged to develop more stories in the future and so the world's comic aficionados can look forward to more work from this talent in the future.
And we certainly hope there will be a future. With the latest barbs and taunts being carried between the North Korea and the Americans Governments, one wonders what it will all lead to. Perhaps it was the generation I was born in. My parents lived through the (Second) World War and its spectre haunted my growing up, with the fear that the Americans and Russians would perhaps one day strike each other with their weapons of unspeakable horror. Of course, the fears proved to be all unfounded, with tensions between those countries easing. But the older I get, the more concerned I am that the horrors of a nuclear war (or rather, the aftermath) have been 'forgotten' or are thought to be too remote a possibility to even be considered seriously not only by the 'younger generation' but especially by politicians.
When younger, I read about what it was like to live in a nuclear explosion. There were not a great deal of books, but there were some that I read that I can recommend: When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs and My Hiroshima by Junko Morimoto (who I have just learnt passed away only a few months ago). From a comic perspective, Keiji Nakazawa's ten- volume Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima is worth seeking out. But the most powerful volume (for me) was John Hersey's Hiroshima (initially serialised in The New Yorker, but later released as a paperback, and still available). Or you can read it all here online (click to be taken to the link):
So, what does all this have to do with naming 2017's Best Original Australian Original Comic Book? They were among my first thoughts after reading this year's winner. The winner of the Comicoz 2017 Best Australian Original Comic Book is....
"Post Traumatic", written and illustrated by Bruce Mutard, and published by his imprint Fabliaux.
Now I do need to disclose here that I once published one of the stories reprinted in this fine anthology. ('Merry Christmas' in Oi Oi Oi!'s Special Nostalgia Edition.) My reasons for selecting this book? I'll return to talk of it another day. (It is, after all, almost 2 in the morning ....and I need to work later in the morning at 8!)