Why not surprise someone you love with a copy of Dillon Naylor's Batrisha and the Creepy Caretaker this Halloween? Special discounted price from now until the end of October! Click here for details.
As Australians today wake up to learn that Queen Elizabeth II has passed away, there will be many filled with grief and sadness. Many more will be feeling an increasing anxiousness about the future. She has, after all, been a part of the lives of most of us – the Australian Head of State since 1952. Whether you agree or disagree with the notion that a foreigner ought to be in that role is a question for another day.
“Always look on the bright side of death – just before you draw your terminal breath!” is a well-known couplet from a Monty Python film. And while it’s not a time to be flippant, one of the proven means of reducing stress, increasing our energy levels, and promoting a sense of well-being is by laughing. Australians have had a long history of being able to laugh at themselves.
One of “the funniest cartoons in the world” was how the 1933 Stan Cross cartoon “For Gorsake, Stop Laughing – This is Serious” was once described. The era was known for the early construction of city skyscrapers and rising unemployment, and these buildings were seen as a sign of optimism for the future. The cartoon features one of the workers losing his grip, saved only from certain death by grabbing the pants of one of his mates.
And with the death and destruction of World War II all around them, Bluey and Curley were two comic strip diggers who shared laughs with Australians during their darkest days of the War. It’s a humorous heritage that has spanned decades, sustaining us over the trials and tribulations of the past. Simply, comic strips have been around since the turn of last century, and we have been a happier nation for their presence.
From Ginger Meggs, now running in newspapers for over one hundred years, to more recent features like Swamp and Insanity Strip, comic strips have done more than entertain us. Over the years, they have released endorphins, a natural chemical in the body promoting a sense of well-being in Australians. These daily features are well-loved, and for so many years and for so many people, are the bedrock of the reading experience of a newspaper.
So, who would decide to remove them? Some unsmiling bean counter from the Murdoch Press, apparently. From the 11th September, a decision has been made to remove all daily comic strips from all Murdoch newspapers. It’s unclear why. Economics, perhaps. Just as staff artists, photographers, and journalists have been cut over the years, someone has decided that the daily comic strip feature must go. It’s a short-sighted decision, to my thinking.
When life is difficult, or when we’re in a disagreement with someone, having an ability to laugh or having a sense of humour can help. Isn’t that how we got through COVID? Without laughter, we are lesser people. Cancelling the daily comic strip in Australia is a serious decision. It indicates to the world we have stopped laughing.
Today’s headlines are filled with grief and sadness. We can’t bring back Queen Elizabeth II. Someone somewhere can choose to ensure the daily comic strip continues in the daily newspapers. We need laughter to bring some light to an already grim world.
Here's the link: nationalcartoongallery.com.au/rotary-cartoon-awards/
I've just completed a review of the Emile Mercier Exhibition-Book Launch at the National Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour for the Australian Cartoonists Association's next issue of their Inkspot journal. There are also some pretty pictures that I sent with the words.
In the early evening of Friday 27th July, a casually dressed man of slight build, was wandering alone in the National Cartoon Gallery. His warm brown eyes were examining the many framed Emile Mercier cartoons on the wall and was clearly a little emotional.
Michael Mercier, son of the famed cartoonist, was reflecting on some of the times he was able to recall his late father drawing some of the cartoons on display. “I can remember him clear as anything, sitting at the table at home illustrating this one”, he told me as I approached, pointing to an original. “And nearby, a small glass of whiskey!”
Michael and his wife Donna had flown up from Melbourne to attend the opening of the Exhibition of these cartoons (and on display at the NCG until 3rd October). Michael was so overwhelmed with memories of life with his father, Emile Mercier (1901-1981). He shared with all who were willing to listen of his many recollections of his dad’s work and the type of person he was, from the time he took to draw an individual cartoon (about three hours) to the antics of a passionate North Sydney rugby league fan!
A few years ago, Michael donated almost two thousand of his father’s cartoon originals to the National Cartoon Gallery, with the hope that they would be shared with the Australian public. Although there was not enough room for them all to be displayed in this exhibition, the selection at least gave an idea of the breadth of Emile Mercier’s cartooning skills. From 1949 to 1968 when he worked for the Sydney newspaper The Sun, Mercier was able to depict a way of life that no other cartoonist has since: from the inner-city Sydney wives sharing life over a fence, to the Australian preoccupation with sport, and so much more. His New Caledonian heritage clearly gave him that unique perspective.
Choosing the cartoons for a book to commemorate this exhibition was no easy task. ACA members Gary Clark, Ian Jones, Phil Judd, and Dr Richard Scully (and others) were able to pick and comment on a selection, and these cartoons were all displayed on the night. The book Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons was published by Nat Karmichael’s Comicoz imprint (www.comicoz.com) with the express purpose of raising funds for the National Cartoon Gallery. The book was launched on the opening night of the exhibition.
Lindsay Foyle, who also wrote an introduction to the book, formally opened the exhibition, and launched the book. Nat Karmichael and Margaret Cameron gave speeches, both acknowledging Michael Mercier’s generosity and Emile Mercier’s wonderful talents. As the evening wore on, Michael’s earlier emotions were overtaken by an immense sense of family pride. And rightly so.
After a couple of problems with my web-page for a couple of months (even up to yesterday), I'm pleased to report that ... as far as I know ... things are now back to normal and working well on this site. In just over a week's time, I'm heading off to Coffs Harbour to attend the National Cartoon Gallery's launch of their book (my boook?), Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons. It's going to be held on the evening of Friday, July 22nd. Yes, of course, you are invited! If you are able and would like to come, click here to obtain your tickets! Only $10 for adults (and less for seniors and children over the age of five).
Okay! I just have to crow! Dillon Naylor's book, Batrisha and the Creepy Caretaker, has been nominated for not one, but two awards with the Children's Book Council of Australia. Nominated for Best Picture Book and Best Book for Younger Readers.
To celebrate, Comicoz is going to offer a rare opportunity to buy this book, with a couple of others (as pictured) that we've recently published for a super-special price (*for a limited time only). Click here for details!
It's been a busy month at Comicoz HQ -- despite my comments last month -- as I have sought to post all the Kickstarter rewards to all who kindly pledged in the two campaigns that ran late last year. The last of the Emile Mercier books went in yesterday's mail. Here (below) are just some of them!
For those of you too late (or dubious) about joining the Kickstarter campaigns, I'll be placing the books on this webpage's Store in the coming days (or weeks if work continues to get in the way). The books will (or should) now be available at all good bookstores around the country. As well as at the National Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour, where the launch for the Emile Mercier book will take place later next month.
I've been slow to update this page this month (mostly due to continued work demands). I have also been enjoying some time away from the computer and taking time out to listen to a little music (Jimmy Buffett, as always of course, as well as 'discovering' The Tiger Lillies of late) and reading some comics for a change (completing, and enjoying, Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire). Wordle has also kept me amused for the past 100 days, although I am going to retire that obsession while my score remains an impressive 99%.
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.
I was planning on updating this blog shortly after my last entry. Life, however, has a way of keeping me so busy that I barely have time to do so. Well, it's easy to blame Life.
While attending the (informal) 2021 Stanley Award Dinner (in Coffs Harbour), the rain began to pelt down. My room mate, cartoonist Rev Ian (Busy Tales) Jones, and I decided to stay the night in Coffs before driving home. The rain was torrential and pretty-much non-stop all the way. Some of the water was lapping at the highway at some parts, and there were road signs indicating that Lismore was likely to flood and suggesting drivers seek alternative routes. Of course, it wasn't until Ian dropped me off at Brunswick Street Station in Brisbane that the full extent of the flooding became apparent....
Just as I arrived, the trains went off-line. I wasn't able to get home! Accommodation became a premium, and at some point I really thought I might either end up staying on the streets, or having to bunk down at my workplace (just up the road). Fortunately, there was a cancellation at the hotel I booked on line, but it was only due to my turning up there that I was able to secure it. Even the manager wasn't able to get in and his worker couldn't get home, so she was managing the numerous phone booking requests alone...!
February-March were strange months. Carlene wasn't well. Ross River Fever. So, attending comic functions and working on promoting Dillon's book (and just working on comics in general) somehow ended up taking a back seat. As it should. Work got in the way too. Many people distressed, co-workers getting COVID (including some of our girls), with general community depression and anxiety being wide-spread. Although I didn't get rostered too many night duty shifts (always a plus), I ended up working many long stretches, including numerous double shifts. The war in the Ukraine put things in perspective, I suppose. There were people doing it harder than we were here in Australia. That was my spin on it, at any rate. I may talk of this more in the future.
Of course, there were some comic activities. For some time, Graeme Cliffe and I had been booked to speak at a Chapel Hill Probus lunchtime meeting on March the 15th.
Within the world of comics that I work, there are always disappointments and challenges. The Emile Mercier book has been one. There was a bit of a delay in the design-stage of the book once the first proofs arrived. The text pages of the book were too close to the margins, and both designers who worked on the book were (understandably) taking a Christmas break. By the time the design 'faults' were rectified, the printer was having his annual break!
And just recently, after being told the books were printed and ready to ship (there they are, on the left), I received word from Ian, my Customs Agent saying:
The local Shenzhen government has decreed a full lockdown in the area due to a COVID outbreak. All commercial buildings and warehouse have been closed. This means your shipment is delayed as the container had not been packed at the warehouse before the lockdown was imposed.
Sad, but that's how the publishing game goes some times. I had to let all the Kickstarter backers know late in March (yesterday as I type this). Another disappointment has been the lack of response to my Comicoz-Wedd mentored Australian Graphic Storytelling Project (see link here): not one response to date. Perhaps it is just an idea that will fall by the wayside. Similarly, the idea of retailing books and comics from other publishers to raise funds for my own publishing projects, seems to have failed, although that was more my fault. To be fair, I've really not had the time to promote either idea. Something that I have come to learn to live with in the world of comics over the years... You move on. No time to be too disappointed. There are other challenges ahead, and some I could (or should) mention, but which I might leave the sharing of to a future blog.
Rounding off the month, caricaturist and Sydney-sider Steve Panozzo invited me to the first Brisbane Comic Con to be held for a while. I wasn't able to attend both days (Carlene still remained unwell), but I put in some hours on the last Sunday of the month, and caught up with some fellow-creatives, including Dr Paul Mason and Christopher Sequeira. And sold some copies of Dillon Naylor's books.
Life appears to be moving ever-faster, and I don't think I am catching up, let alone catching my breath. Since I last wrote on this blog, Dillon Naylor's new book (Batrisha and the Creepy Caretaker) has arrived, and all Kickstarter supporters have had their rewards posted to them. The book is also available now in all good Australian bookstores. If you can't find a copy, hustle your local bookstore and suggest they get copies in from Novella Distribution. Or, if you'd rather, click here to be directed to the Comicoz bookstore to have your copy sent to you (with a bonus copy of the limited edition copy of "Batrisha the Vampire Girl: Ze Collected Comics, Volume One").
Yes, for the first time in ... can it be?! ... seven years .... I have published a new comic. Well, co-produced, at any rate. Dillon Naylor (as Cowtown Comics) and myself (as Comicoz) worked together on this one. It reproduces some of the original Batrisha comics, in consecutive order, as they first appeared in the children's magazine K-Zone over twenty years ago.
In the past month, I was also able to attend the Rotary Cartoon Awards* at the National Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour ... bunking down with the Rev Ian Jones, creator of the Bushy Tails comic strip.
...and at the Australian Cartoonists Association's informal Stanly Awards...the 37th, the day after (also in Coffs Harbour). The recipients were:
Book Illustrator: Judy Nadin
Caricaturist: Judy Nadin
Comic Book Artist (please excuse me as I expand on this one, you know I am passionate about comic books!): Finalists: Gary Chaloner, Eleri Harris, Glenn Lumsden, Paul Mason, Stuart McMillen
Recipient: Glenn Lumsden.
Comic Strip: Jason Chatfield, Gary Clark, Ian Jones, Tony Lopes, Al Rose
I was really hoping Ian Jones would win this one, this year, to break the Gary Clark-Tony Lopes domination of the last ... um, many years. Still it was not to be...
Recipient: Tony Lopes.
At least Ian can say (and did say) that he's been a finalist for the past seven years in a row...
Editorial/Political Cartoonist: Mark Knight.
Event Cartoonist: Paul Harvey.
Illustrator: David Rowe.
Single Gag Cartoonist: Peter Player.
Jim Russell Award: Kaz Cooke.
Cartoonist of the Year (the "Golden Stanley")....
And the Finalists were: Paul Harvey, Mark Knight, Judy Nadin, David Pope, David Rowe, Cathy WIlcox.
Recipient of the Cartoonist of the Year: Cathy Wilcox
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.
Since 2011, Nat has self-published over twelve comic-related books and was Publisher-Editor of
Oi Oi Oi! -- the last series of nationally-distributed comic books of original stories to appear on Australian newsstands. He is a member of the Australian Cartoonists Association and edited the Association's journal Inkspot for 14 issues from late 2015. For numerous years he was the Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour Awards for the Comic Arts Awards of Australia (formerly the Ledgers). These days Nat dreams of retiring from his occupation as a Clinical Nurse in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre in Queensland's largest public hospital, so that he can spend more time with his long-suffering wife and their six children and fourteen grandchildren. And perhaps publish some more comic-related books.
Comicoz acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay respects to elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.
Australian Publications since 1976:
1 x Poster
19 x comics (one a co-production with Cyclone Comics in 1988/9, one a co-production with Cowtown Comics in 2022)
2 x Paperback books
10 x Hardcover books