Here is the first new comic to hit the news-stands in 2013!
Well, I suppose technically, the first was 'The Phantom' and I don't mean to be disrespectful, Jim, but I suppose we - I? - tend to take The Phantom for granted at times. So, maybe I had better be a little more accurate: here is the first all new, all original, all Australian comic to hit the news-stands in 2013!
I found my copy within the Aeroplane magazines, but am pleased I saw it! There are so few Aussie comics on the news-stands that this is a cause for celebration. I am not clear when the issue came out (the Copyright is listed as 2012). Hugh's Editorial on Page 1 speaks of 'The Battle of Australia' being the third title in the series (this being the second) and that the third comic 'will be released in February 2013'. I had meant to review the First Issue, with the creative team giving me permission to use images from that Edition for that purpose some months ago, but our moving home got in the way of my being able to do so. So, better late than never...
Issue 1 (with the cover reproduced at left), Gallipoli: The Landing was based on a non-fiction book written by 'Squadron Leader Hugh Dolan' and has used 'original source documents: army orders, battalion diaries, soldiers’ letters and personal diaries'. Artist Mal Gardiner, we are told, was a member of the Australian Defence Force, and apparently used original photographs from 1915 to ensure the machinery detailed were accurate. The comic is magazine size, with a colour cover and 100+ black and white pages inside. The comic retails for $9.95 and copies can still be obtained on line (Click here for details).
The Second Issue is similar to Issue 1 insofar as it presents Australian history in comic book format. (The Second, as you can see from the illustration above, is called 'Kokoda: That Bloody Track'.) Writer Hugh Dolan describes both books as being 'factual comics': and in the more recent edition he has taken great
lengths to report 'conversations, actions and events witnessed by soldiers' and this extends to including the English,
Japanese, Pidgin and Motu languages of the participants. This does give some authenticity to the scripts. However, I'm not entirely sure whether Hugh single-handedly wrote the script for the second comic (Kokoda); the cover gives credit to both Hugh Dolan and David Howell. However, Kokoda's credit page states that David is that battle's expert. (Perhaps it was co-written by both gents? The Copyright is listed as belonging to Hugh, adding to my confusion.)
The artwork in Kokoda is by an unknown (to me) artist, Tea Seroya (according to the cover). I know nothing else about the artist, because nothing else in this volume tells me any more about him/her. The Second Issue has far better paper stock and in wrapped around a sturdy cover: it is almost a paperback rather than 'comic' which may have been the reason I discovered it by accident away from the comic-section of the newsagents. Kokoda is about the same size as Gallipoli, retails for the same amount ($9.95) and - let's give it a big cheer - it is printed in full colour throughout. (When was the last Aussie comic seen in full colour on the newsstands?? Sherlock Holmes by Black House, from memory.) On the down-side, it runs for only 47 pages and is ... "to be continued".
So overall, what did I think? To be honest (as I must), one thing I look for in a comic - even an historic one - is the gelling of script and artwork. In this case, in both Issue One and Two, it just did not happen. The artwork in particular looked stiff, although I thought Mal Gardiner's (from Issue One) was reasonably detailed to keep me interested. I know from my own experience, that it is difficult to sell a comic from the news-stands, and it is an awful job having to work out a reasonable price that the average comic book reader is willing to pay (given that the newsagent and distributor both take a 25% cut). One has to calculate profit margins (if any) and be willing to lose a lot of money unless you can market the product well. Even marketing these in schools may be a 'hard sell' given the overall disappointing quality of the comics. I thought the cover price, taking into account the artwork and script not working particularly well together, made both editions overpriced.
However, the idea (history being made into comics) is a good one. (I'm not likely to say otherwise with Ned Kelly in the wings, am I?!) I did buy the issue, I thought the print job on the Second Issue was a great leap forward, and I do wish the creative team well for their next venture. I do commend them for getting another comic on the stands; I only wish the end result could have been more pleasing to read.
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