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).
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 has been 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