Is due to an old man’s intuition or merely an underlying paranoia that I can sense an underlying societal change taking place in in the Australian community? I first noticed it within the state (of Queensland) that I live in. There was a state election held, with a different political team elected to replace the previous government that the people (collectively) felt had stopped representing them, only to later find that those elected were just as out of touch in seeking to represent society’s goals and aspirations. Nationally, I have a sense the same thing is happening. There is, I believe, a growing frustration in the wider Australian community that people are realising – certainly not for the first time – that politicians do not have answers, and there is an undercurrent for change, or a desire for something better, afoot.
Along with these thoughts, I remain convinced in my belief that comics reflect the changing mores and fashions in our community. Certainly there have been changes in comics in the past twelve months. Mirroring the monetary tightening of the corporate environment, Murdoch’s newspaper press has cruelly truncated the daily offerings, especially the quality Australian strips. After running for many years, Gary Clark’s Swamp and Roger Fletcher’s Staria, were both unceremoniously dumped. Comic books on the other hand, seem to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance. More creators are producing more product – and of a higher quality and a greater content variation – than have been seen in years. With the introduction of computers and the availability of cheaper printing processes, the local comic book scene reminds me of the DIY (do it yourself) ethic of the music scene from the late 1970s with the advent of punk and new wave.
Whether there will be a large enough local fan base to financially sustain this wonderful creativity has yet to be seen. I am optimistic, though, that these changes can translate into a greater public acceptance and embracing of the comic book medium. At the present time, there are pockets of imagination in differing parts of the country. I remain hopeful, that there may yet be an opportunity for someone to develop a national magazine that captures the imagination of all Australians. I’d like to think that Comicoz might be able to position itself into becoming one of the major players in that scene.
Reflecting the growing optimism in the local scene, is the re-emergence of the Ledger Awards. Announced just a short while ago, these have been "established to acknowledge and promote excellence in comic arts and publishing in Australia, [and] are being re-launched with a ceremony to be held in Melbourne in April 2014. Inaugurated in 2005, they return after a five-year hiatus with a new structure and a new major sponsor: Supanova Pop Culture Expo." (Please click here for more details.) In order to promote itself in the growing Australian comics community, Comicoz plans to attend most (or maybe all) six events in 2014.
Only one book has been released by Comicoz this year: John Dixon's Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor (A Second Volume). The signed copy of this volume was made available just a few days before Christmas. Earlier this year, savvy readers of this Blog were offered a copy at a pre-publication price of $25. Savvy readers again take note: all autographed editions of the book will be sold on a first come, first served basis! There are only 50 signed editions available and they will be the same cost as the regular price of the book! The book (shown in the photograph above) is -- in my personal biased opinion, of course -- a vast improvement from its predecessor. Michal Dutkiewicz' cover illustration leaps of the page, with its beautiful colours. Besides the three Air Hawk stories inside, there are two historical pieces included: a history of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and an index of all of John Dixon's daily Air Hawk adventures from 1963 to 1986. You can order a copy on line (simple click on the Store Tab of this Blog); and when you are there, why not order one for a friend?
In my next posting, I will look to detailing the delays to our other books that were slated for late 2013 release (Monty Wedd's Ned Kelly and Rob Feldman's Cartoons, Comics, and Cows in Cars) and when to expect them. I hope to announce other Comicoz projects for 2014, as well as our annual Award for Best Australian Original Comic Book for 2013. Until then, dear Reader, I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And keep reading comics, especially the local variety....
The winners of the Comicoz Christmas Competition were:
Louie Joyce and Dave Dye!
Congratulations to both winners! Your prizes are in the mail!
While I was down south cherishing time with our new grandson, Brisbane's Supernova was taking place. Was I worried I was missing out? Well, no; for on the same day in Melbourne - in the Fitzroy Beer Garden to be precise - two comic-related books were being launched. And by catching the train down to Melbourne for the day, I jolly well made sure I had the chance to join in the celebrations!
And Celebrate is the word. Both of these books are worth celebrating! The covers of the books are reproduced above. Before the event becomes a distant memory in my mind, I thought I should record the event here for posterity. (The Launch took place a month ago, on November 10th, and my mind being as it is, anything longer than a week ago is starting to become a distant memory!) Both books are Historical pieces for differing reasons, and both need discussing, so let's talk about them left to right in the order reproduced above.
Small Sales & True is a printed record of the second Caravan of Comics expedition that took place earlier this year when five Australian comic creators (and one film director) under took a two week road tour of North America. I understand a DVD was made of the journey, and sadly this was not available at the launch. However, it was not necessary, as all five creators (Mirranda Burton, Scarlette Baccini, Marijka Gooding, Gregory Mackay and Bruce Mutard) all were present at the Launch and gave a verbal account of the tour to the masterful questioning of MC, Mr Bernard Caleo. Most of the details shared that afternoon were not included in Small Sales & True. Still, you did not need to have attended (or even have been on the tour) to enjoy the contents of the book.
The paperback book (size 15 cms x 21 cms, 64 black and white pages on good quality paper stock) gives a personal account of each participant's viewpoint of the tour and it is an entertaining read. In the story Comic Comic, Mirranda Burton gives a sense of her personal dislocation ("I feel so small"), before realising her motivation in joining the tour. It is only a short piece (five pages long), but it left me with a strong impression and a need to explore opportunities to seek out more of her comic works. Gregory Mackay's contribution was even smaller (four pages), and wasn't really a narrative piece, but did reflect his title (Travel Notes). He has a nice clean style which left me wishing he could have contributed more to the project.
I enjoyed both stories by Maijka Gooding and Scarlette Baccini. Although Maijka's style appears more polished, I got a better sense of the adventure with Scarlette's tale. Is it because Bruce Mutard is more prolific than the others artists that he gets a whopping 18 pages in the book? Whatever the reason, it was a whole lot of fun and gave a sense of what must have taken place during the two weeks. It was interesting that Bruce made a similar comment to Mirranda earlier in the book. I still don't know if this was because of both artists' individual insecurities or for other reasons, but it did give a sense of some of the emotions experienced during the Caravan of Comics tour.
There are two artists within the book, Elaine Will and Eleri Harris, who only contribute five pages in the book - both about the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I suspect that they were there independent of the Caravan crew, but were invited to contribute to share their experiences. I am just so glad they did. Although their styles were worlds apart (no pun intended), these five pages were my pick of the book. The passion for their craft and the sense of what must have been a whirlwind of mayhem during the Festival is clearly demonstrated. Well done!
I am unsure where you may be able to obtain a copy of Small Sales & True (or even how much it costs). Details of the Tour can be found on the web here, but I'd suggest you write to the team to find out. The address in the books says:
PO Box 270, BLAIRGOWRIE, 3942, Victoria or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a book worth searching out, and I highly recommend it.
I also highly recommend My Life In Comics, subtitled A personal history of comics in Australia 1960 - 1990. This book is really a collection of personal comic recollections that originally ran in the Australian comic Fanzine Word Balloons. But it is a whole lot more than that.
The text has been fully revised from its original form and the book is a wonderful historical piece on the local comic medium. In fact, I will go as far as to say that I feel it is the most important local comic-related historical work since John Ryan's seminal Panel by Panel. Yes, I rate it that highly. Even higher than the Annette Shiell-edited Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900 - 1990 that appeared in 1998.
Melbourne comic Icon Philip Bentley has been in the local scene in one form or another since 1980. From one of the founders of Melbourne's (Australia's?) first comic book specialty shop in the 1980s, Minotaur Books, to co-publisher of two local influential comic book publications, Inkspots (from the early 1980s) and Fox Comics (1984 - 1992), Philip Bentley has been there! This books gives a background to these times, and the difficulties faced (and most times overcome) by Philip, in helping establish the modern Australian comics scene. Because Philip was so instrumental in moulding this scene, and the book is written by him, it is my belief that in years to come this book will be a seminal reference tool for all local comic historians.
I should be open here and declare that I have no financial interest in My Life in Comics, and I have not been paid to say this. I shall also be transparent and say that I have known and done business with Philip (in purchasing some of his wares, and in having some of my publications retail in his outlet when he owned it). I am still on friendly terms with Philip and value his opinions (he was given a free copy of John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor in 2011), but none of this has influenced my opinion in making the above statements.
The book is trade paperback in size (17 cms x 24 cms) and comes with 125 pages, many of which contain illustrations pertaining to the story/history. There are two versions of the book available: one with coloured pictures, one with black and white illustrations. The book was launched with Small Sales & True, with Philip fielding questions from MC Barnard Caleo on the occasion. My Life in Comics is available for $25 a copy (plus $5 for postage within Australia) and all the details are available from Philip's publishing arm, Second Shore (which you can access by clicking here). Minotaur Books and All Star Comics in Melbourne also retail copies, and I would urge other comic specialty stores in other states to consider carrying copies of the book.
Comicoz' Christmas Competition:
When I was at the Launch of these books, I purchased two copies of each book. If you have read this far, you are now in with a chance to win a copy of one of the above-mentioned books, Small Sales & True and My Life in Comics, courtesy of Comicoz and absolutely free! It is only two weeks to Christmas, so why not enter and try to score a special Christmas gift for yourself?! All you have to do, is email me (care of the Contact link above or via the Comment section after this Blog) and include the word "Historical" in the email or message, and you are in the running. Only one "entry" per person. The FIFTH email/message I receive will win a copy of Small Sales & True and the EIGHTH, a copy of My Life in Comics. Both books have been autographed, making this a wonderful opportunity to score yourself (or a comics-loving loved one!) an unexpected Ch
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