The winner of the Comicoz Best Australian Original Comic of 2022 is ....
No, no, no! Hang on there! For those that come in late (to borrow a time-honoured saying), this totally arbitrary annual award has been chosen by myself for the sole purpose of stimulating discussion within the community of people who are passionate about Australian comics. And one of the stipulations I make is that I cannot choose a comic I have published (or, in this case, co-published) within the past twelve months. So, Dillon Naylor's Batrisha the Vampire Girl: Ze Collected Comics, Volume 1 is off the table. So too, Batrisha and the Creepy Caretaker and Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons. The selected winner is bestowed no financial reward, there is no scientific basis to the selection, and the winning creative did/cannot bribe me to select their creation. I must tell you too, that I have no way of knowing every comic published within Australia during the past 12 months, so the selection is totally subjective. Also I must admit that I don't believe that I have been to any comic conventions in 2022 (much as I would have liked to have, mostly on account of my professional work life in 2022, which has remained plagued by the effects of COVID-19). (There's a lot to be said for being retired, or working Monday to Friday! Perhaps soon!) Most of my selections are those I have discovered via social media posts (mostly Facebook), crowd-funded sites, newsagent stands, or word of mouth. In reviewing my list, I remain somewhat embarrassed that there are so few (well, no) female creatives within the list. Some books I discovered too late (that is, they were published before 2022 even if I did not read them until this year), so for example I have not included Safdar Ahmed's quite brilliant Still Alive in my list. (I hope he will not be offended. His book was in everyone else's lists. And I have reviewed the book for an upcoming issue of Inkspot.)
The reason I publicly make my selections on 5th January, is because it is the birth date of Australian comic book creative Monty Wedd. It's a nice way of remembering a wonderfully warm human being (whom I first met in 1988). He was born on this day in 1921 ... 102 years ago. Sadly, during 2022, his wife Dorothy passed away. Dorothy and Monty's son Justin kindly supplied some photographs of the couple in earlier years for the Australian Cartoonists Association's Stanley Awards held recently. They didn't use all the photos, but this seems an opportune moment to share just one of them (right).
Last year, on this date for the first time, I put in place the Comicoz-Wedd Mentored Australian Graphic Storytelling Project allowing Australian comic creatives to share with me, along with fellow-judges Dr Bruce Mutard and Dean Rankine, a yet-to-be published 100-page comic project that creatives would allow my publishing imprint Comicoz to publish. I had planned to announce the recipient at the Comic Arts Awards of Australia, but instead chose to delay that announcement until today. So, drum-roll please! Runner-up in the project was Ken Best. Ken wrote, drew and coloured a fast-paced action comic tale that I hope he someday puts to print. Sadly, though, there can only be one winner. And so (bigger drum-roll please) the winner is ...
Todd, Molly and the Penguins from Outer Space (a tentative title) written and drawn by Peter Player. Peter has just supplied a colour draft of the front cover for us all to see ... and you're seeing it here first. I'll talk a little more about the work in the months ahead.
In the meantime, I want to thank all the people who registered an interest in the project. To all those who entered. And to the judges, Dean and Bruce; and to Julie Ditrich who offered her whole-hearted support of the project.
In the meantime, what of the comics for 2022? (I mean, that's why you are reading this blog, right?) Just to recap, here are all the past winners of the Comicoz Best Australian Original Comic Award over the past eleven years:
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 web 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); Frew Publications (publisher)
2020: COVID-19 Diary (web cartoon-'article') by Jason Chatfield
2021: The Riddle of the Grey Malkin, by Glenn Lumsden (writer), Jason Paulos (artist), Glenn Ford (editor); Frew Publications (publisher), running in Issues #1899-1903 and #1905-1907.
There were more reprinting of older comics in 2022 than ever before, and some that I have included on my list. Perhaps I am showing some bias here, but I enjoyed seeing John Dixon's work in print again. This offering from Frew Publications was one of my favorites: Giant-Size Phantom, Number 23, featuring mostly past works from John Dixon, with a fabulous cover by Glenn Lumsden. At 100 black and white pages for $10.50 this issue was exceptional value. Copies might still be available at your local newsagent, but if not you might be able to score copies from the publisher. Here's the link if you click here.
Throughout 2022, there were many issues of their main publication The Phantom that struck my eye, and many featuring so many Australian creatives that I was almost tempted to take out a subscription! I want to make a special mention of issue #1930. Check it out if you can! Matt Kyme produced an absolutely stunning cover.
There were a couple of other comics that contained reprinted material that I'd like to mention that caught my eye in 2022. Both were written and illustrated by David Hodson and both published by David Bird's Paper Tableaux imprint. Anyhowtown (Book One) is planned to be the first of three volumes. In David's (three-part) Introduction, he relates that the story first appeared in Fistfull of Comics, an Adelaide anthology (that I was familiar with) as well as a later graphic novel released in 2012 (which I was not aware of). This 90-page plus graphic storytelling narrative is printed as a softcover in black and white, evoking personal memories from my past (having lived in Adelaide in the late 1970s). Other people may find other emotions stirred on reading it. "His town was no longer like any other. The streets were deserted. Weirdness in the supermarkets was not pretty. Now there were strange, roaming mobs. How could all this be real? Something had happened to 'normal'." That's the blurb on the back cover. In the Introduction, publisher David Bird suggests the book is "a surrealist fantasy", reporting that Australian comic historian Dr Kevin Patrick describes it as "a meditation on childhood nostalgia, overlaid with a creeping sense of dread...". As for the author? He feels "it's a bit of a satire". While some would find the artwork rudimentary, I feel it works well within the storytelling, and whatever you do, I suggest you don't ignore it. Pick up a copy. This is local Australian graphic storytelling at its finest. I highly recommend it.
The other volume, Still Truly Confused: Excerpts from a Perplexing Life, is much more autobiographical in tone, and for the average reader much more accessible than Anyhowtown. These strips first appeared in another anthology, Melbourne's Fox Comics (in the 1980s between issues #14 to #27) under the title True Confusions. A volume with the same name was co-published by Fox and Fantagraphic Books in 1991, and this volume is said to carry the extra twenty pages of all-new work that was slated to appear in the second issue (that failed to see print). The wait has been worth it! These mostly single-page stories are simply drawn, but give a broader sense of David Hodson's overall personality. His ability to laugh at his life, and be able to share those moments in a manner that most can relate to, are both charming aspects of this 60-page softcover book. Which do I like more? I couldn't split them! Both are the best reprinted comics of 2022, and both are available by contacting publisher David Bird by emailing him at email@example.com Better tell him that you're over 18 years of age, too, as Anyhowtown "is not intended for persons under 18 years of age" so the cover says.
In 1988, I visited former Frew publisher Jim Shepherd in his Sydney office. He regaled me with tales of his early experiences with publishing, and his future plans for The Phantom (including having some Australians having their works published!) At the time, he had decided to branch further afield and had just published a comic reprinting some earlier Mandrake the Magician tales. He spoke too, of one day hoping to include boxing, one of his many passions, into a comic. So, I can only imagine how rapt he would have been to see his comic business incorporating both of his passions within his comic... and in colour! Until the Final Bell, written and drawn by Dr Paul Mason, was my favourite Phantom adventure in 2020. The lead story was a reprint of an earlier newspaper strip adventure of the character written by Lee Falk and drawn by Wilson McCoy, The Masked Marvel.
Crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter have been an increasing means of getting a wider audience for Australian comic creatives in 2022. "Big" Tim Stiles from Canberra has learnt how to market his creation Gorilla My Dreams through this medium over the past few years. His fun book from 2022, Gorilla My Dreams Team-Up was a well-written, extremely well-illustrated volume that left me with a few questions (and no answers) in making my annual selections. Do I include works that are written by local comic creatives, yet illustrated by overseas artists? Do I include works that are published by overseas publishers, yet carry some Australian creatives? (Tom Taylor's great current run on DC's Nightwing comes to mind. Darren Koziol's increasing reliance on overseas artists for continuing his full-colour and highly-recommended Retro Sci-Fi Tales series is another.)
*If I have not included you, and you are one of the Australian artists featured within the book, please forgive me! There were just too many names to mention! Tim McEwen, Samuel McEwen, Stelios Papadakis, Joan Ross, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah ... see? I could go on....
Of course, it's not always possible to catch up with all crowd-funded campaigns. Sometimes budgetary considerations come into play, sometimes I'm simply too busy at work to be searching, sometimes poor marketing, or marketing in areas I don't see come into play. (I've spent less time on social media this year than in previous years (although I fear Mrs Karmichael might disagree). Hard Struck, a graphic novel by Codey Anderson, is one such publication. Cody discloses having worked in the Australian Army as a soldier before turning to civilian life as a full-time illustrator. This book seeks to "consolidate [Codey's] passion for veterans [sic] mental health ... to produce something that can really help people". As a mental health professional, I often encounter soldiers who come to our service suffering PTSD, anger-management issues, anxiety, depression and other ailments. Codey has managed to share his inside knowledge of the army to produce a the most powerful of all stories that I am recommending this year. Although he maintains the work is one of fiction, I feel that there are some close home truths to this tale. The book's hardcover binding is impeccable. Here's a link to purchase your own copy.
The following softcover anthology was a Kickstarter campaign that ran from Newcastle, New South Wales, that I am pleased succeeded. (Although I initially thought the campaign was on shaky grounds, for reasons I need not go into here.) Producing the End of the World is a 72-page full-colour softcover anthology, with all stories "curated and edited by Anthony Pollock". Gary Proudley is listed as the Assistant Editor. There are various stories inside that mainly cover science fiction, dystopian and apocalyptic themes. There seems to be some confusion in attending to the published website, so I've asked Anthony to please clarify. (It appears a webstore is coming...)
The colours are bright and colourful, and the stories are a lot of fun. My only criticism of the book is that the spine's gutters are too close together, so if you want to open the book to read it, you risk creasing the cover (and it then no longer looks like a brand-new book). Yeah, I know, first world problem.) Fortunately for me, I obtained a PDF copy of the book, so that is not likely to happen, but it's a production flaw that a lot of people seem to overlook when publishing. (Heck, I was almost guilty of the very same thing when producing the Emile Mercier book...)
In order to further engage the younger set (and clearly that is where Darren seems to be aiming this comic), he's included a sticker and a black and white colouring book with a great number of illustrations by many Australian creatives. There's nothing like giving something for free as a little bonus extra to ensure younger readers become enamoured with your character! Younger readers become older readers... Want to find a copy for someone you care about? Or want to explore the series? Darren has supplied this link (click here)!
Toby and the Magic Pencil is another comic book aimed for the younger reader, and is so much fun that it's no wonder it's Reverie Publication's best-selling title. Written by publisher Gary Dellar and illustrated by Ben Sullivan (although I notice the copyright is owned by Gary), this comic is just filled with so much class and joy. I've suggested to Gary that he market it to a wider (overseas) audience and I'm really hoping he takes up the suggestion. Not unlike Darren's comic, the comic I have selected as one of my picks for the year gives the reader a bonus - in this case, some 3-D glasses! I'm assuming (correctly?) that the 3-D special effects were by Frantz Kantor; I couldn't see a credit. The comic is American comic book size, 26 pages of story (making it eminently suitable for the foreign market), and in full colour. Copies of this issue (and all previous issues) are available from the Reverie webpage by clicking here. (There are other Australian comics there too: why not check them all out while you are there?!)
I probably harp on about this yearly, but I'll do it again. Anyone interested in Australian comics and cartoons can't do much better than to consider becoming an Associate Member of the Australian Cartoonists Association. For your $66 Membership, you receive four copies of their journal (Inkspot) each year, and the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of this country's best comic book illustrators (and other cartooning professionals) at their annual conference and Stanley Awards night.
I no longer edit Inkspot but I still try to contribute a story here or there. Steve Panozzo is the current editor and is doing a mighty fine job. The current issue (seen left) is filled with so many articles of interest.
For starters. There's a wonderful history of the Australian comic book artist John Richard Flanagan written by comic book historian Daniel Best. Who is John Flanagan? Never heard of him? That's why this magazine is just so essential to anyone interested in the local comic medium! Other articles within: a profile on Brisbane-based cartoonist Rev. Ian Jones, an article on Damian Castellini's graphic novel Pip! (which, I confess, I have not yet read), an article on Emile Mercier by famed Australian cartoonist/author Vane Lindesay, a moving tribute to the late Max Foley, some tips on animation by animator Peter Viska, a professional who runs a Melbourne-based studio, and so much more. The current issue is chock-block with 40 pages of information!
The downside? The magazine is not available in stores: you can only get a copy by becoming an Associate Member (or Full Member, if you're a professional cartoonist). Feel free to message me if you need more details. Disclaimer note: I am no longer on the Committee, so no-one has paid me to say these words!
Another publication not available more widely, is Tale Town ("Tales from the Hermit Kingdom"!) This sixteen-page newspaper was, I understand, released at Perth's Comic Arts Festival that, unfortunately, I was unable to attend. (Dr Bruce Mutard kindly sent me a copy, so I shall publicly thank him here for his continued generosity.) This was a joy to read. Comics abound in the whole sixteen pages from Australian creatives like the aforesaid Dr Bruce Mutard, Stuart Medley, Campbell Whyte, and (once again) too many more to mention!
But I will mention some of my favourite pieces (besides the aforesaid creatives): March 13 by Elizabeth Marruffo, a wonderful piece by Sarah Winifred Searle about the Pandemic, This Life That I Choose, and Soolagna Majumdar's busy but engaging piece, Live Laugh Love. This comic newspaper was one of the highlights of my comic-reading year, showing - once again - what creative talents there are around the country that so many of us are simply not aware of. Oh! For a national comic publication that could share some of this talent more widely (if it could only be financially viable)...
And, so, now we come to the Award. Which piece was THE highlight of my comic-reading experience? Thank you, dear Reader, for coming and I trust, reading this far. Drum-roll, please. The Comicoz Best Australian Original Comic for 2022 is ....
Flock, Chapter #1 written and illustrated by (Doctor) Paul Mason.
Created, written and illustrated by Paul Mason, Edited by Amanda Bacchi, Lettered and designed by Wolfgang Bylsma; published by Gestalt Publishing Pty Ltd. Buy your copy by clicking here.
As with other properties, this large 48-page, full-colour comic was first made available via Kickstarter. There is nothing like getting something like a bonus extra. And what a bonus! Dr Paul offered a 36-page "Process Zine" sharing rough pages, concept art, ...the works. Thirty-six pages! What a joy to see the way the project came to life from conception to completion! Thirty-six pages! I was blown away when the package arrived.
So, what's the story about? "Part action/adventure, part war story, part comedy, part pigeon ...? Add a smdgen of science-fiction and a dash of history and one thing's for certain: This is a story you'll not soon forget! Join The Flock now!" Well, so the back cover blurb says. But they always wax lyrical, don't they?
Look, in my opinion, (Doctor) Paul Mason's comic art, for too long, has been seriously underrated in this country. He brings a dynamic feel to his characters, he can visually convey a story (even without words): he work as an artist is as a storyteller. And usually telling other people's stories. Here he gets to tell his story. It's the best Australian comic book story I've read all year. No. Cancel that. This is the best comic book I've read all year. The Flock is hereby awarded the Comicoz Best Australian Original Comic for 2022. Do yourself a favour (as someone once said!) and check it out for yourself. Tell me if you've read better. As always, dissent and discussion most welcome....
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