I celebrate my birthday on December 21st, which is a particularly interesting time of the year to choose to do so. (I imagine anyone being born on December the 25th, like Jimmy Buffett for example, has an even more interesting slant on their day than I do, but that is a topic for another day...!) With only ten days remaining in the year, December 21st has - for me, at least - often been a day to take stock and reflect on the year almost past. (If you are able, place Jimmy Buffet's song 'Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes' on as you read this, and you may have a small idea of where my head space is, as I type this....)
Artwork here Copyright 1981 Arn Saba
Comicoz, although it is my publishing arm and dedicated to disseminating information about and publishing all manner of Australian comics, has also been about getting the general message about comics out there. One of my all-time favourite comics series has been 'Neil the Horse', published in Canada by Aardvark-Vanaheim, in the early 1980s. The 15-issue run has never been published-collected in a single volume, a situation that I considered such a serious oversight that I offered to rectify the situation earlier this year when I began engaging in discussions with the copyright owner.
I was serious in my offer: I really thought our world needed to have more laughter and happiness in it, to the point where I was willing to explore the possibility of an Australian Comics Publisher (Comicoz) reprinting a Canadian comic book. (I know Mrs Karmichael is not impressed with talk of more comic-book publishing; she is of the belief that John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor should be making a profit before consideration is even made of entertaining another title being published. But that, too, is a topic for another day....!) Anyway, the news I want to share with you today - a few days after my birthday - is that on my birthday, I decided to relinquish the idea of a collected Neil The Horse volume. With a little personal sadness, I have informed Neil's owner that I am happy to allow Hermes Press the opportunity to reprint Neil's run sometime in the future. After all, if they can bring more laughter and happiness into our world, I can only be supportive.
I must now talk about the Two-Day Workshop held during the Australian Cartoonists' Association's Annual get together in Sydney last month. Yes, last month! Time is fleeting and I have yet to complete my update here on this Web-site come Blog. Without hesitation, I feel that the whole two days was just a wonderful experience for anyone interested in the world of Cartooning, Comics, Artwork and the people behind the scenes. Every presenter and presentation was (in my biased view, of course!) well worth attending. From Anton Emdon's demonstation (shown above from a shortened You Tube version), to Ron Cobb sharing his cartoon career (which I knew something about) and his movie contributions (which I knew nothing about), to Reg Mombassa's frank discussion about his works ... and to the buzz I got out of sharing the history of John Dixon and Air Hawk with an audience who had no idea of what to expect!
However, a greater thrill (for me) was catching up with people and friends not seen for many years, like Vane Lindesay, Roger Fletcher, Ian McCall, and the ever-enthusiastic Jim Bridges. And meeting people and friends I have spoken to on the telephone and written to by mail, but never met in person - like Tim McEwan, Dave Follett, Jozef Szekeres and - believe it or not - John Clements! (How could we not have met before?!)
A personal disappointment was the fact I found sales of John Dixon's book difficult to come by. They were on display and for sale for (what I thought was) an almost give-away price ... yet I could only muster sales of less than ten copies. On the up-side, Stephen Little of the Coffs Harbour Bunker Cartoon Gallery expressed an interest in having them available for retail sale at the Gallery. We have also begun informal discussions about having a John Dixon original art exhibition at the Gallery sometime in the future; something most exciting and which I shall have to share with you here when more definite details come to hand. Watch this space!
Tony Lopes, Comic Strip Artist of the Year, for his Insanity Streak comic strip was doing brisk sales with his book of the same name (I have enclosed a copy of the front and back cover artwork with this posting). $39.95 will get you a copy posted out to you (if you live in Australia, slightly more for overseas Fans). I thought this book was the Best Value at the Convention. (Yes, I can be objective: even better than my beloved John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor book!). It is a hardback, with 150 pages of high quality printing on good quality paper stock. About 50 of those pages are in colour. You can order it from Tony by clicking here or by checking out his web-site at http://www.stoneytoons.com/book.php Tony did not pay me to write these words...! My only criticism of the book is that the comic strips are not dated, so we have no idea if they were illustrated when Tony was just beginning his career in creating the strip, or if they were from a more recent vintage. To the average reader it probably won't make any difference, and they may not be interested in that sort of thing in any case; but to someone like myself who likes to view things from a future historical bent, the absense of this detail may be somewhat frustrating to someone seeking that information sometime down in the future....
When I first saw Gary Clark's work (in 1980) I was excited. Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes had me in fits of outright laughter when I read his work for the first time. Now, I want to point out what I consider the finest new individual cartooning talent I have seen in a long time. I have not been as excited at seeing a new cartoonists' work as I have in seeing this new wonderful whacky work. Rob Feldman was attending the convention (I understand for the first time) and was taking in all the information that he could absorb, but it wasn't until the end of the second day that he shared some of his work with Gary Clark and myself...and we were blown away! Have a look at this guy's style! It reminds me of Leo Baxendale's work from the 1960s, with an added free-spirited humour in the captions that it stands out all on its own... Someone needs to help nuture this guy's talent: if he is lost to the world of cartooning, the world will be a sadder place. You can see more of Rob's work by clicking here...
Before I talk about the 2011 Stanley Convention's Workshop, I have just heard about yesterday's passing of Rugby League Legend, Arthur Beetson. To many readers outside of the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, the name may mean nothing. But especially to Queenslanders and those who love the game of Rugby League, he was an absolute giant in the game. I know it may seem somewhat odd to include an item on football within what is essentially a comics-related Blog, but bear with me here...
During some dark days in my life (in 1991), I wrote a comic-book story about another Rugby League Legend, Wally Lewis. In 1992, Joanne Applegate, then a new Member of the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Black and White Artists' Club, agreed to illustrated the story. The comic was published (in a Limited Edition of 500 Copies) by Comicoz in 1993.
In preparing the story, I was pondering how to illustrate what I then considered the Greatest Queensland State of Origin Team, the Unbeaten 1989 side. The 'problem' was solved when the autographs of all the players was obtained with the help of one Arthur Beetson! I have included a copy of the comic on the left, and the page with all the players' autographs (below)..... Artwork Copyright Joanne Applegate 1992.