In 2017 and 2018, after Carlene and I lost two significant players in our lives (my Mother and her Sister respectively), we approached 2019 with what turned out to be misplaced optimism. This year, my sister's first husband passed away with an awful suddenness. (From a medical diagnosis on Boxing Day 2018, and dying less than a month later, it seemed to set the tone of the year.) My sister Flo (four years younger than I) and Carlene's Auntie both passed away most unexpectedly. Three deaths in one year.
These events, and with the current destruction of bushfires still ravaging the Australian landscape, make an 'announcement' of what I consider the "Best Australian Original Comic Book" for 2019 seems somewhat trivial and unimportant, and have continued to remind me more than ever of my own mortality. As a result, this year I have spent more time than usual reading comics that I have generally put off reading, to ensure that I continue to make the most of my time remaining. So, books that ordinarily would not be on my 'Reading List' have made it there. As two examples: the Lee-Ditko Amazing Spider-Man run, and Will Eisner's early The Spirit Archives (with help from Dr Kevin Patrick in the USA, who has kindly attempted to source volumes I am missing to ensure I can complete this 'task'). It's also been a motivating factor in seeking to have the room (actually, garage) I store my books, comics and music made a little tidier, although I'm sure Carlene would say she cannot see any progress being made there!
I've been to less 'bigger' comic-related shows this year. My time at Melbourne's Supanova, for example, was more to introduce my Granddaughter Charlotte into the event's joys, rather than with any set purpose to sell more books. And it was pleasing to see her picking up some comics along the way. The shows that I have enjoyed over the year were smaller affairs.... Comicstreet in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall, the Hidden Laneway Festival (again in Brisbane), Bendi-Con (in Bendigo, Victoria) and Adelaide's Papercuts Festival. If Melbourne's Indi-Con hadn't been held on my birthday, I may have even considered attending that too.
One thing that sticks in my mind as I attend out-of-state events, is that I know I won't be able to do it once I retire from work. The income I receive from book sales never seems to outweigh the costs of not only getting to events, but also supporting the local creators by purchasing comics that I find of personal interest, or the works that seem to have something to say. I am sure it is the same for the many creatives who travel the country seeking to get their comic in as many of the reading public's hands as possible. Apart from Adelaide, there seemed to be less Australian comics being published last year, and a general tiredness within the local industry. Or is that simply my own personal malaise that clouds my objective view of the medium and its local creative efforts over the year?
Of course, there were bright spots. There always are. My cup is always half-full (or fuller!), never half-empty. The Ledger Awards is always a highlight. Somehow the simplicity of the event, the way the evening flows in a relaxed and congenial atmosphere, is something I enjoy, even (dare I say it?) more than the Stanley and Rotary Awards. Or could it be that the audience is comic-centric, and that I feel these are 'my people'? That I have a role in the event (as Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour categories) also ensures I may carry a bias. I'm talking generally here, not specifically the 2019 Award night, held again in Sydney.
As has been recorded elsewhere, a couple of my publications were short-listed for awards in 2019 (always a great honour), and I was overwhelmingly proud and happy (it's difficult to describe the exact emotion at the time) that one of my books, Julian Voloj and Thomas Campi's The Men Behind Superman, was the recipient of this year's Gold Ledger Award. It was also pleasing that my beloved Australian Cartoonists' Association was one of the sponsors of the event, and that there were many members of the Committee in attendance in the audience (Jules Faber, Cathy Wilcox, Ian McCall and Steve Panozzo).
The biggest personal publishing highlight, without question, was finally getting to see Graeme Cliffe's manuscript turned into a physical book. Can From 'Sunbeams' to Sunset -- let's use the shortened version here! -- be the final book that I publish? For a long period of time after publishing the book, I felt that I could never produce a book so important in the history of Australian comics, and I was a little lost. To be frank, I'm still feeling that way at the present time, although I have had some ideas of where I could go from here. (I might leave that for another Blog, another time....)
This blog entry written 1 and 2 January. More to come!
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