Just to update you, my loyal reader. I am presently working on a book on Emile Mercier's cartoons for the National Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour. However, from 26 January to mid-February, I shall be enjoying an impromptu, unplanned holiday with Carlene. I won't be doing any comic-related work, answering emails, and I won't be able to fulfill any orders from this web-site until my return. My apologies for this inconvenience. Carlene says it's the first 'real' holiday she has had where life does not revolve around comics. I'm not quite sure this is true, but I shall be quiet and take her word for it.
Today (5th January) would have been Australian comic book writer-artist Monty Wedd's one hundredth birthday. (He passed away in 2012.) Each year on this date, besides remembering him and his contribution to the local comic scene, I announce what I consider to be the best Australian original comic to have appeared in the preceding twelve months. This is the tenth year I have made this 'award' that carries no financial reward. The award is carefully considered and serious, and also totally subjective. (That is, feel free to disagree!) There are clear limitations on my selection, and this year has shown that to be the case. I usually obtain locally produced comics at comic conventions or get-togethers, and there have been too few of those this year (everyone knows why). As a result, most of the comics I have acquired this year have been from crowd-funding platforms (an increasingly popular method for Australian creatives to get their wares out there). I do not choose books or comics that I have published myself, but there's no problem there in 2020: apart from a small mini-comic I published just before Christmas (for the next copy of Inkspot), I published nothing in 2020. It was a year I spent successfully and quietly rearranging my music-comic room, and reading comics from my own collection for a change. (My favourite ongoing series remains Marvel's Daredevil, but I also delved into the past by reading and completing my collection of the volumes of The Spirit by Will Eisner (published by DC Comics). In fact, this year I have spent more time reading more overseas comics. And enjoying the experience. Visually, the collection of The Trigan Empire (Don Lawrence the artist) took me back to my eight-year-old self, and I have also enjoyed reading the newly-collected manic works of Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid (all from Rebellion). Corto Maltese by Italian Hugo Pratt is, once again, published in English (by IDW): fabulous work. Anyway, what's caught my eye locally in 2020....?
Frew Publications continue to mine their rich history of characters being reprinted in their Giant-Size Phantom. The series' covers -- all fifteen of them so far -- have been lovingly illustrated by Glenn Lumsden, which I am sure has been the main reason for most picking up on the series. With assistance from some Australian comic fans (peek inside the credits of this issue to see who they are) publishers Rene White and Glenn Ford have been in touch with some of Australia's Golden Age publishers and artists' families to allow Frew to obtain permission to publish other works not originally owned by them. This has led to a series that delights me even more than their regularly-published Phantom comic.
Adding to the delight, is the fact that the publisher has been willing to allow some local creatives an opportunity to write and illustrate brand-new stories based on these characters, bringing them into the modern era. So, reading new stories by Jeremy Macpherson and Shane Foley has added to the charm of the series. And Glenn Lumsden! How great is it to see Glenn writing, lettering and illustrating again! Here's the first page of part three of his Phantom-Shadow team-up. The magazine should still be on sale in newsagents around the country.
Daniel Reed has seemed to be 'missing' from the local comic scene of late. Well-known for his nine-issue comic series The Crumpleton Experiments, and his brilliant Grubby Little Smudges of Filth (both Ledger Award recipients), I was an enthusiastic backer when I heard he was planning on running a Kickstarter campaign for his latest project. I was a little disappointed with his communication (sparse and thin) as a creative, although I suspect this might reflect his personality, which might be indicative of someone shy and reserved. (I don't know: I don't really know the guy, although we have once met.) The first issue of The Mycelium Complex arrived in due course and the final product did not disappoint. I found the colour palette a little dark, although that reflected the story being told. The tale was well-written and powered on at a cracking pace. It was well illustrated and had me interested throughout. I'm looking forward to the series continuing, and trust it's not too long until that takes place. I'm not sure how you can obtain a copy if you didn't join the Kickstarter project, but a start might be by emailing Daniel. Those details (and some illustrations from his books) are available by clicking this link.
Darren Close has won a Comicoz Award before (for Struggle in 2015). And I was going to feature the anthology he edited, designed and published earlier in 2020, Australia Burns as a finalist. But then, this came out. I have always felt that his character, Killeroo, has had much untapped potential. Couple the character with The 4Horsemen, created by artist Stuart Black, and you end up with over seventy coloured pages of comic book team-up heaven. At times the artwork looks a little rushed - I personally would have liked to have seen more artwork from Darren - but the colour hides some of the artistic shortfallings. Such a collaborative approach to characters from different publishers is difficult in the first place: the creatives are both striving to highlight their own characters, and as a reader you don't want to feel one is dominating the other in the storyline. All in all, it was a great read (the story was written and illustrated by Stuart), and I do hope it leads to more future team ups. For more Killeroo stories, click here. For more of the Stuart Black's work click here.
Rene Pfitzner's works are colourful and dynamic. There is nothing I don't like about them. When Rene announced he was launching a Kickstarter campaign, I didn't hesitate to commit my money to the project, Mythic Creature Trainer. I was not disappointed. Well, only in one regard: it was Issue One (of Four) and I must try to be patient waiting for the successive episodes. Or do I? Rene prints his comics after their run on his website, so I really don't have to wait. And neither should you. Click here immediately to be taken to his website, where you can download for free the book I paid money for. And look at the extra episodes too. This is fine quality writing and drawing that all ages will enjoy. Highly recommended.
The genesis for this Cyclone Force tale, I like to think, came about when I was 'encouraging' Gary Chaloner to contribute to my Oi Oi Oi! anthology, a few years ago now. The story in question was first published (in black and white) during my editorial tenue at Inkspot (in Issue #80, Summer 2018), when the Australian Cartoonists Association lauded Gary with the 1917 Jim Russell Award for 'significant contribution to Australian cartooning'. The colour in this edition's version (only recently released following a successful Kickstarter campaign) by Graeme Jackson is absolutely brilliant. The best comic-colouring work I have seen in a long time. The other stories in this anthology (Greener Pastures, written by Michael Michalandos with some of Tim McEwen's finest illustrating in years, and Red Kelso, written and illustrated by Gary) are of similar high quality. One of the finest anthologies of the year! The second issue is reportedly slated for a release this month (January), and should be one of the most highly-anticipated releases of the year. Click here for more Greener Pastures magic, and click here for more comics from Gary Chaloner.
So, who is going to be my tenth selection and join the list of previous winners? To save you having to trawl through older blogs, here are those who came before....
2011: Insanity Streak - Striving for Quantity by Tony Lopes
2012: Kinds of Blue (anthology) Karen Beilharz (Editor, Contributor)
2013: The Long Weekend in Alice Springs by Josh Santospirito
2014: The Anzac Legend by Dave Dye
2015: Struggle by Darren Close
2016: These Memories Won't Last (interactive comic) by Stuart (Sutu) Campbell
2017: Post Traumatic (anthology) by Bruce Mutard
2018: A Week in Warrigilla (web comic) by Teloka Berry and Pricilla (Pi) Wu
2019: The Phantom (Issue #1850) by Matt Kyme (writer/artist), Graeme Jackson ('digital special effects') and Roger Stitson (editor)
My selection for the Best Australian Original Comic for 2020 is a web comic. Australian Jason Chatfield was born in Australia in 1984. He won the Bill Mitchell Award for Best Young Australian Cartoonist in 2005 at the Australian Cartoonists Association's Stanley Awards. In 2007 he commenced writing and drawing the Australian comic strip Ginger Meggs. He subsequently went on to become President of the ACA (2010-2012) before moving to New York and becoming the President of the (American) National Cartoonists Society, a position he's held since 2019. With the Ginger Meggs comic strip due to celebrate its centenary in 2021, we're likely to hear/see a lot more of Jason Chatfield in the coming twelve months.
However, it's a non-Ginger Meggs cartoon that I have selected as this year's best. Living in New York, Jason experienced first-hand the ravages of the virus that has swept the world throughout 2020. His COVID-19 Diary is the winner of the 2020 Comicoz Award for Best Original Comic. Here's the link where you can read it in full.
Just before Christmas I worked on my very first self-publishing project for 2020: A mini comic for the next issue of Inkspot called "Remembering Ian Eddy", assisted by Ian C Thomas. (Carlene also needs to take credit for helping me fold and cut all 200 copies!) *Pending family approval.
And for Christmas, a couple of pieces of original artwork that took me by surprise. Above, from Jason Paulos, an illustration of Magpie (Andrez Bergen's and Frantz Kantor's creation) and one of Air Hawk, that Jason did for me many years ago now (and yet to be published). Below, some original artwork by Peter Player that arrived with my purchase of his 2021 All Cats Are Evil calendar. I'm posting this on New Year's Eve. It's been a difficult year for many. Here's wishing you, my reader, a Happy New Year in 2021...
The Ledger Awards ('acknowledging excellence in Australian comics and graphic novels' for the 2019 year) was held towards the end of the year, on 4th December. Like just about everything in 2020, the event -- usually held mid-year -- was delayed and held online. The full hour-long 'show' is preserved for posterity above. As Lead Judge of the Ledger of Honour I was asked by organiser Tim McEwen (at short notice - just a day before I had a night duty shift and two days before the event) to provide a video of the recipients of the awards I oversaw. (You can see my unedited version of my segment way down below a little later in this posting. See if you can note what parts were edited out!)
The Recipients (to save you having to watch the hour-long to the event) were:
(Living) Ledger of Honour: Peter Foster
(Deceased) Ledger of Honour: Keith Chatto
The Bronze Recipients:
Burger Force, Volume 4 by Jackie Ryan. Self-published.
Deep Breaths by Chris Gooch. Top Shelf.
Drawing Power: Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment and Survival. Various artists. (Australian contributors Rachel Ang, Sarah Firth, Meg O’Shae.) Edited by Diane Noomin. Abrams ComicArts.
Free Money Please by David Blumenstein. Self-published.
Meet Me in the Pit, #4. Chris Neill, editor. Blueprint Comics.
Mini Mel & Timid Tom by Ben Hutchings. Squishface Stuido.
It Tolls for Thee by Dr Paul Mason, found within the 2019 Phantom Annual. Published by Frew Publications.
Self/Made written by Mat Groom. Image Comics.
Shadow Portrait by Rachel Ang. World Literature Today and online.
Storm Clouds Collected by Ben Mitchell. Self-published.
The Silver Recipients:
Good Boy by Kim Lam/dangerlam. Self-published.
Haphaven by Norm Harper and Louis Joyce. Lion Forge.
Healing is a Process by Sarah Winifred Searle. Self-Published.
Silver Fox, Number 1 by Darren Dare, writer. Self-Published.
Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle. Graphic Universe.
A Visit from Midnight Mummy by Tatiana Davidson. Self-Published.
The Gold Recipients:
The Adventures of Anders by Gregory Mackay. Allan & Unwin.
Chinyere by Claudia Chinyere Akole. Self-published.
An Interior Life by Bill Hope. Self-published and online web-comic.
Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries. Self-published, online web-comic, Lion Forge.
The Platinum Award: The Comic Art Workshop.
The Platinum Award is awarded to "an individual or organisation presently active in the Australian comics publishing scene, who best represents the ideals of the Awards. The recipient/s need not be directly involved in publishing or creating comics, so the field opens up to include scholars, journalists, bloggers and podcasters, event organisers...." The 2019 winner, The Comic Art Workshop was first begun in 2015 by Dr Pat Grant and Dr Elizabeth Macfarlane for graphic storytellers in Australia. You can learn more about the group by clicking this link here.
And, of course, similarly delayed in 2020, the week before the Ledger Awards in beautiful Coffs Harbour (on 28th November), the Rotary Cartoon Awards, were held at the National Cartoon Gallery (formerly The Bunker). Fortunately, the COVID-19-imposed hard border closure between Queensland and New South Wales had relaxed, so I was able to take time off work to attend the event. Carlene decided at the last minute to come along for the drive (and chose to do most of the driving), so it was a great chance to catch up and connect with each other during the journey.
Some of the money I once allocated to paying the road tolls to get to work, for the past twelve months have now been redirected to the National Cartoon Gallery. So it was good to see that some of my money has been put to good use in getting the extensions of the Gallery in place. Chairman of the Gallery, Paul McKeon, showed some of the cartoonists who arrived early the building progress. And, for future posterity, why don't I include my photos here?
There were many surprise winners this year. For purposes of history, here were the finalists and winners of the 32nd Rotary Cartoon Awards (with winners in bold)...
Open Category: John 'Polly' Farmer, Glen Robinson, George Haddon (Merit Award), and Chris 'Roy' Taylor.
Sports Category: Mark Lynch, George Haddon, Pat Hudson (Merit Award), and a clearly stunned Steve Panozzo the winner.
Political Category: David Rowe, John 'Polly' Farmer, Harry Bruce, Mark Lynch, Pat Hudson, David Rowe (Merit Award), and John 'Polly' Farmer.
Comic Strip Category: Ian Jones, Mark Lynch, Tony Lopes (Merit Award), and Mark Lynch.
Caricature Category: James Brennan, David Rowe, Michael Breen (Merit Award), and Judy Nadin.
Special Theme for the Year was "Crisis, What Crisis?": John 'Polly' Farmer, David Morris, Mark Lynch, Mark Lynch (yes, again!), David Rowe (Merit Award), and George Haddon.
John 'Polly' Farmer was also awarded the 2020 Cartoon of the Year. (I have not sought permission to reproduce it, so you will have to check it out at the Gallery yourself...!)
The National Cartoon Gallery needs your financial help. If you can spare a few dollars (all Tax Deductible) please give generously. More details if you check out this link...
The following morning the Australian Cartoonists Association held its Annual General Meeting. I've already related in an earlier post that Cathy Wilcox was successful in winning the role of President, so I perhaps don't need to go into it. I admit I was momentarily disappointed, but that's the way a democracy works. David Blumenstein held on to his Deputy President position, with Martina Zeitler (Treasurer), Steve Panozzo (Secretary) and Peter Broelman (Membership Secretary) all retaining their roles unopposed. The new-look Committee now consists of Ian McCall, Judy Horacek, Dean Rankine and David Pope. And Nat Karmichael. So, I couldn't be too disappointed, could I?
Following the AGM, it was a matter of a Stanley Award Brunch. Again, much later in the year and totally different from all past Stanley Awards, but then 2020 has been like that. The recipients of all awards were (in no particular order):
Editorial/Political Cartoonist: David Rowe.
Animation Cartoonist: Matt Bissett-Johnson.
Book Illustrator: Dean Rankine.
The new award, Event Cartoonist: Anthony Pascoe.
Single Gag Cartoonist: Matt Golding.
Caricaturist Cartoonist: Judy Nadin.
Illustrator Cartoonist: David Pope.
Comic Strip Cartoonist: Tony Lopes.
Comic Book Cartoonist: Glenn Lumsden.
Into the Australian Cartooning Hall of Fame: Cec Hartt (the first President of the Association) and Dorothy Wall (writer/creator of Blinky Bill).
Jules Faber was awarded the Jim Russell Award for his twelve-year service on the ACA Board (ten of which served as President).
And, three in a 'rowe' was Cartoonist of the Year: David Rowe.
From there, it was time for everyone to head homeward bound. Carlene and I headed back to Queensland, permitted through with our Border Pass. How strange that, as I type this, the Queensland borders have again closed to our friends in New South Wales. Life in 2020 has been strange and -- let's hope -- like no other. May we all wish for brighter days in the New Year....
This month marks the tenth anniversary of this Comicoz website. Each month for the past ten years, I have added (at least) one post relating to comics, and most entries describe my involvement in Australian comics here. Back then, I was about to release my first book: John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor. Since then, I have published nine other books, nine comics, and have become much more active in the Australian 'scene'. From (re-)joining the Australian Cartoonists Association to nominating for the position of President, from leading the judging of the Ledger of Honour to increasing my involvement in the National Cartoon Gallery, these have been heady days.
Looking back to my schooldays, I remember always wanting to be a cartoonist (or a Minister of Religion in Grade Four!), so in some ways I feel I am living my life-long dream (even if my professional occupation is totally different). Looking forward, I know I have limited time available to me. I plan to fill it by mostly dedicating what time I have remaining to the cartooning-comic medium, with the understanding that I must also be a breadwinner, a grandfather, father....and a husband. Without Carlene's willingness to support my passion, I wouldn't be here reflecting on these ten years that have just flown by. I must offer her my unending thanks.
Over the past weekend, the Australian Cartoonists Association has called for nominations for positions for the 2021-22 Committee. It was on these pages that I first announced my intention to run. I had a second-thought about doing so (Carlene would prefer I wait until I have retired from work, to allow me more time to attend to any Committee position), and there is a degree of fatigue about voting in these parts. (We had our State Election on Saturday, and there is the U.S. Election being held as I type this.) Nonetheless, I decided to run, because I fear for the future of the Association if it doesn't find a new direction. I don't want to stand idly by and just 'let that happen' when I feel I could have contributed to ensure it doesn't. So I put my hand up.
The Secretary has informed those nominating that there are only three positions that went uncontested: Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary. Which means someone else (presently unknown) is also running for the President's position! Here's what candidates were asked to supply:
Rather than just a straight brief biography, feel free to include a short "elevator pitch" with your bio; something that tells other members why they should vote for you. Perhaps you might have dreams or hopes for the ACA? Perhaps you just want to give back to your industry.
Anyway, for better or worse, I am giving it a go, and this (for posterity) is what I wrote (giving away some of my future publishing plans in the process):
Over the past decade Nat Karmichael has self-published ten books on Australian cartoonists. He was Editor-Publisher of Oi Oi Oi! – the last nationally-distributed comic book of original cartoons to ever appear in Australian newsagents. He edited Inkspot for 14 issues from late 2015 to 2019 and is a current member of the ACA Committee. He is presently working on a book of Emile Mercier cartoons for the National Cartoon Gallery and one on the 1970s Melbourne comic strip Iron Outlaw for his Comicoz imprint.
These are trying times for professional cartoonists, and there is a need for a new and dynamic leadership to take the Association into its next century. Nat is seeking your support for his nomination as President of the Australian Cartoonists Association. He plans to work towards an increased communication between the Board and our ACA membership. Nat believes that there needs to be a greater community awareness of our Association, especially with our fast-approaching centenary in 2024. To that end, he is seeking a mandate to increase the ACA’s support and sponsorship of cartoon-related events, like the Rotary Cartoon Awards and the Ledger Awards, as well as sharing our history in publications of our own.
Nat Karmichael lives in Queensland with his wife Carlene, and together they have fourteen grandchildren. He really wanted to say something witty and funny for this nomination, but you can’t laugh as voting’s a serious matter. Please choose your candidates carefully.
I have just heard the news on the Australian comic grapevine that Melbourne-based comic artist-cartoonist-publisher Ian Eddy has passed away. He was a pioneer of the early comic self-publishing movement in the early 1980s (when it wasn't as cheap to do so as it is today). His influence on the local (Australian) scene and his enthusiasm for the medium cannot be overstated. He experimented with his artistic style, with his story-telling.
Back in those days, you had to write to each other (no such thing as emails!) and we were reasonably prolific correspondents. I once came down to Melbourne especially to meet him while he was still living at home with his parents. A meeting of comic minds. He was so enthusiastic, full of ideas. We had a long conversation (the exact contents I can no longer recall) that went on for far longer than I imagined. I know he chided me for some of my earlier publishing conditions ("no profanity"), something that inspired him to write his "No Man is an Island" piece, when he contributed to my very first comics anthology in 1982. He was later fully supportive of my efforts to publish a Felix the Cat comic (and wanted to illustrate it). He left me two comic stories in the early 1980s that remained unpublished for many years.
Years later, when I was seeking to reprint one of those stories, I found it difficult to contact Ian. He didn't have an email address I knew of and he wouldn't reply to letters I sent. I'm still not sure why. Somehow, I was able to obtain his phone number, and tried to call him, but as soon as Ian knew it was me, he terminated the call. I eventually contacted his brother Daryl (who co-wrote one of the stories), seeking permission to publish one of the stories. Permission was obtained. So the last published Ian Eddy story ran in the Special Nostalgia Edition of Oi Oi Oi! It was always my favourite piece, so I am pleased it - eventually - saw print.
Ian Eddy's page in the history of Australian comics can now be written. Not only have we lost a great Australian comic artist-writer-publisher, there are those who are grieving for the loss of a fine human being. My condolences to all who knew and loved Ian Eddy. He won't ever be forgotten in these quarters.
It was Vane Lindesay's one hundredth birthday yesterday. I tried to talk to him, but couldn't get through. Too many congratulatory calls, I'm sure! One hundred years! Pretty amazing! For any not familiar with Vane's works, here (above) is a short video produced by the Australian Cartoon Museum a few years back. It's not the best summary of his works or history, but it will suffice.
Vane drew a cartoon in the Australasian Post (1946-2002) every week for an amazing forty years. But more than being a simple cartoonist, Vane was also a book designer and has had (and still has) an interest in the history of the cartooning medium. He contributed to articles to Inkspot when I was editor recently, and continues to do so. He is best known for his book The Inked-in Image, A Survey of Australian Comic Art (first published by William Heinemann in 1970). My favourite book of Vane's is The Way We Were, detailing some of this country's popular magazines between 1856 and 1969. I have a long way to go to catch up with the man: he has had published about 18 books on cartooning. (Or so I am told.)
My fondest memory of Vane is at my first Australian Cartoonists' Association Award Night (then the Bulletin Black and White Artists' Club Awards) in 1988. Have I told this story before? I was sitting in the back of the room (perhaps because the organisers had no idea where to place this new member). I was in seventh heaven! I was in the company of Dan Russell whose comic work I knew (and that he was chuffed to know I cared), and others that I came to know that night: Tony Rafty and Vane Lindesay, and many more. (It was the same night I met Monty and Dorothy Wedd in person, although they were not at our table.) How our table erupted with cheers and congratulations when Vane won the Silver Stanley (now the Jim Russell Award) for his 'significant contribution to Australian Black and White Art'. It was a fabulous night, where many friendships were forged. Here's my record of the night (below). I went around like a fan-boy and obtained the autographs of all who won Awards that evening...
Happy Birthday - 100 years - to Vane Lindesay!
All people who have purchased copies of Graeme Cliffe's book, please note that Graeme has continued to research more material since his book has been published. The above file -- which you are welcome to download -- contains those details to place with your treasured volume.
...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.