I've just completed a review of the Emile Mercier Exhibition-Book Launch at the National Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour for the Australian Cartoonists Association's next issue of their Inkspot journal. There are also some pretty pictures that I sent with the words.
In the early evening of Friday 27th July, a casually dressed man of slight build, was wandering alone in the National Cartoon Gallery. His warm brown eyes were examining the many framed Emile Mercier cartoons on the wall and was clearly a little emotional.
Michael Mercier, son of the famed cartoonist, was reflecting on some of the times he was able to recall his late father drawing some of the cartoons on display. “I can remember him clear as anything, sitting at the table at home illustrating this one”, he told me as I approached, pointing to an original. “And nearby, a small glass of whiskey!”
Michael and his wife Donna had flown up from Melbourne to attend the opening of the Exhibition of these cartoons (and on display at the NCG until 3rd October). Michael was so overwhelmed with memories of life with his father, Emile Mercier (1901-1981). He shared with all who were willing to listen of his many recollections of his dad’s work and the type of person he was, from the time he took to draw an individual cartoon (about three hours) to the antics of a passionate North Sydney rugby league fan!
A few years ago, Michael donated almost two thousand of his father’s cartoon originals to the National Cartoon Gallery, with the hope that they would be shared with the Australian public. Although there was not enough room for them all to be displayed in this exhibition, the selection at least gave an idea of the breadth of Emile Mercier’s cartooning skills. From 1949 to 1968 when he worked for the Sydney newspaper The Sun, Mercier was able to depict a way of life that no other cartoonist has since: from the inner-city Sydney wives sharing life over a fence, to the Australian preoccupation with sport, and so much more. His New Caledonian heritage clearly gave him that unique perspective.
Choosing the cartoons for a book to commemorate this exhibition was no easy task. ACA members Gary Clark, Ian Jones, Phil Judd, and Dr Richard Scully (and others) were able to pick and comment on a selection, and these cartoons were all displayed on the night. The book Emile Mercier: A Selection of Cartoons was published by Nat Karmichael’s Comicoz imprint (www.comicoz.com) with the express purpose of raising funds for the National Cartoon Gallery. The book was launched on the opening night of the exhibition.
Lindsay Foyle, who also wrote an introduction to the book, formally opened the exhibition, and launched the book. Nat Karmichael and Margaret Cameron gave speeches, both acknowledging Michael Mercier’s generosity and Emile Mercier’s wonderful talents. As the evening wore on, Michael’s earlier emotions were overtaken by an immense sense of family pride. And rightly so.
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 was 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