Previous winners (to save you having to trawl through my blog!):
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
I cannot pretend I have read every Australian comic-book or comic work published within the past twelve months. Some I only hear about, some I learn about when I announce I am making the annual selection (on my Facebook postings). For example, I saw Sorab Del Rio's Bazza the Bogan Barbarian at Brisbane's Supanova last November, and thought it looked colourful enough to pick up a copy -- only to be told the format I was seeking had sold out. Similarly, Dave Dye's artwork on Eureka (written by Hugh Dolan) is known to me, but I have not seen a copy to purchase yet. I have been living blissfully unaware of both Gregory Mackay's The Adventures of Anders and Pat Grant's The Grot #3 until Campbell Whyte and Owen Heitmann respectively pointed out the error of my ways. I have since ordered both books, although (sad to relate) neither are going to arrive in time to allow me to consider the merits of them for this year's award.
And so, here we go....
Best reprint of older material goes to "The Passions of Pussy Willow" published by Dark Mirror Publishing and Press. This Kickstarter-based project was set up by Garth Htimz with the sole purpose of sharing this comic book serial created by Kim Taverner in Sydney way back in 1972. It ran for over ten years and was intentionally designed for the international market. "Over the course of the strip's life, it evolved from being a simple, yet sexy, take on a traditional newspaper adventure strip, to at it's best, being a fabulously designed, well written and exquisitely rendered, graphic storytelling experience."
Issue #1850 of Frew's The Phantom.
So to be able to both write and draw the character is an extra-special opportunity. Melbourne-based, and prolific comic publisher, Matt Kyme (The Demon, That Bulletproof Kid, The Wrath of the Cursed) can now add that string to his impressive bow. Assisted by Roger Stitson (Editor) and Graeme Jackson ("Digital Special Effects"), this is a comic that can be read on so many different layers. First and foremost, it's a comic. A great and easy 28-page read. But the artwork harkens back to an earlier era: almost as if it were written and drawn in the mid-1930s, when the character first appeared. The style of the artwork is totally different to Ray Moore's work, but the use of space and the arrangement of the panels gives the impression of a series of daily comic strips all cobbled together to present a singular story ... just as Frew once published them in their heyday.
That Frew has extended this 'feeling' to include the same paper texture, the similarities to the covers of the 1960s (and earlier) editions, lends itsself to a totally complete package. The yellow strip at the top of the cover (see above) was a device Frew used for many years, giving this new magazine an incredible nostalgic feel, despite the original story/art. (To prevent any casual readers becoming too confused, the strip clearly screams out "New Story!") The whole design continues throughout the book -- even the inside cover, with a similar introduction "for those who came in late" seems to be taken from a comic from the past.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I congratulate Matt, Roger, Graeme, and even Rene and Glenn: I have not enjoyed the nostalgic feel of a new comic as much as I did this one, for many, many years. I am pleased to announce The Phantom, Issue #1850 as being Comicoz' Best Australian Original Comic Book for 2019.