It’s difficult in these modern times to recall a simpler, less-complicated time for people that live in Australia’s most populated city, Sydney. The running rampant COVID-19 virus seems to have stripped the humourous heart out of Sydneysiders, and indeed the country. People, everywhere, are increasingly anxious and fearful for the unknown of our future.
Perhaps it’s time to look back at a gentler time, when there was a different sense of community, and there was humour in the everyday. Cartoonist Emile Mercier was able to find such joy and shared it daily with his cartoons in the Sydney newspaper The Sun from 1949 to 1968. There were no politics in his drawings, rather he highlighted the everyday places and people that are the soul of a city – the drunks, the privileged, the housewives, and the alleys, the buildings, the sporting events, and more. He also captured an inner-city Sydney now long gone, with the terraced-houses, backyards, with the cafes and pubs.
Mercier was well-qualified to comment on the humour he saw in the city. He came as an outsider, from New Caledonia where he was born in 1901. His father threatened to cut him out of the family fortune if his abandoned his heritage. Emile remained determined; he wanted to carve out his own future when he arrived in 1919.
As he did. Mercier worked in a variety of occupations including a spruiker at the Royal Easter Show, a deck hand, an office boy, and many others, before he was encouraged to become a full-time freelance cartoonist. His cartoons and comic books reflected his love of people, and what he saw as the strangeness of the Australian way of life.
ir streets, their homes, and always with a humour that steered far from politics. After twenty years as the newspaper’s daily cartoonist, Mercier retired in 1968. He passed away in 1981, leaving behind a collection of his works and a cartooning legacy that continues to be recalled by many devotees to the craft.
For many years after Emile’s death, his son Michael had pondered on what to do with thousands of his father’s original artworks. A couple of years ago, he decided on donating them to the National Cartoon Gallery, in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. The Gallery holds the largest collection of original cartoons in the southern hemisphere and seems a fit and proper place for housing them.
However, given Emile Mercier was the chronicler of the everyday Sydneysider, it seemed a travesty to just to store them and have them forgotten. In these grim times, the world – and, especially, Sydney – is again in need of his humour to lift the spirits of people.
Member of the Australian Cartoonists Association and comic book publisher Nat Karmichael was entrusted to work on bringing a collection of Emile’s cartoons to greater prominence. Enlisting the support of a small group of cartoonists, academics, and some everyday Australians, Nat and his team selected many cartoons for publication.
The result is a book, soon to be released, called Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons is in the end stages of production. Queensland-based Karmichael has launched a short crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for the project. “With all the anxiety and distress in the world today, there’s an even greater need to be able to laugh at ourselves to lift our spirits and hope for a brighter future” Karmichael said.
That’s exactly what Emile Mercier hoped for when he left his home in New Caledonia, arriving as an immigrant to Sydney just over one hundred years ago, and it’s his humourous slant on life that is again going to be shared with Sydney, and the world.
Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons
ISBN (softcover): 9780994362339
Includes a short biography by Lindsay Foyle, former editor of The Bulletin, and an Introduction by Emile’s son, Michael Mercier. The book contains some never-before-seen personal family photos of Emile.
Get your copies early! The link to the Kickstarter campaign can be found here: http://kck.st/3kS78hx
After the campaign, limited copies can be obtained from the National Cartoon Gallery or at all good bookstores. Books will be distributed nationally by Novella Distribution.
For media enquiries contact Nat Karmichael at firstname.lastname@example.org