I'm sure every comic collector has this goal of wanting to someday to be able to purchase a particular comic, and there are so many individual stories behind each wish. Late last month, I was able to say that I was able to obtain a copy of a book that had long-desired and long-eluded me. One that I thought I would never hold again. Here's my Grail's backstory....
In 1990, soon after publishing the sixth issue of John Dixon's Air Hawk Magazine, I went through what turned out to be a rather bitter and lengthy marital separation. (Okay, I'm going to minimise the details here. That's a story I don't need to recount here.) I left behind in the family home many comics and books, and there was a time when such material things didn't seem to matter, when my own peace of mind was more important in getting my life back on track. Those of my readers who have been separated or divorced know how painful those times are....
When the dust settled, as it eventually does, there's the process of working out who gets what, seeking to divide property and possessions fairly, or at least with minimal anger and distress. It's often a bitter time, and emotions remain reasonably high. I learnt with some sadness that the original cover artwork to the First Issue of John Dixon's Air Hawk Magazine had been torn up in a fit of rage. (I'll sad "sadness" here, because that is how I view it today; I wasn't so accommodating about it back then.) My parents, who sought to arrange the return of most of my property, were never able to locate an item that had been posted to me just before our separation: a signed, limited edition of the book "Walt Disney's Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times" by Carl Barks.
There were many comics, books and magazines that went "missing" that I never recovered following the separation, but there were never any that caused me so much distress as the loss of that book. Soon after the eventual divorce my Father passed away, and subsequent visits to my Mother were filled with some personal anger towards her that she had not been able locate the book. As my Mother was a hoarder, I was convinced that the book remained somewhere in her home. My anger was, on reflection now, somewhat misplaced and irrational, but sadly it clouded our relationship for many years.
It was only when my present wife Carlene (to whom I have now been married to for nearly thirty years) was able to point out that, firstly, this anger was consuming me, and more importantly, that my Mother wasn't getting any younger. Because I listened to Carlene's advise, I was eventually able to move on. It didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. I learnt to let go of many things from my past and began to live with a lot less anger and bitterness, and I ended up having a wonderful relationship for many, many years with my Mother.
My Mother passed away only a few years back, and I am so pleased I was able to learn the healing power of such forgiveness. (I'd probably be able to do the same with my ex-wife too -- except she chooses not to talk to me...!) Even when the time came to working through all the belongings she had left behind, I wasn't too worried if the book was found or not....I sort of put it out to the universe that someone else was enjoying it. Surely, it was more important to grow from the lessons learnt than dwell on not finding a book, long gone.
In recent years, especially over the past five, I have been discovering new overseas comics and stories. Sure, I have a passion for the history of Australian comics and the artists and works behind them, but I am learning to see the medium on a global scale, rather than a parochial nationalistic sense. Some of that reflects my own world-view about many things these days, and some of it is due to my realisation that there are many Australians working in overseas comics beyond our borders. The internet is one thing that has made the world a smaller place, and I see how we are more interconnected than ever before.
So, my comic collection no longer is filled solely with the works of Dixon, Pitt, Wedd and the modern masters like Mutard, Paulos, Wilson, Chaloner and Foster. My current thinking questions things. Where does Campi fit? Local or international? I'm now willing to embrace the works of Pratt, Sterrett, Eisner, Barks, Canniff and so many more. As a result, my library is expanding.... with many thanks to some of the local collectors who are unloading a lot of their unwanted material my way.
One such person, not really a comic buff, is Angela G, whose brother sadly and more recently passed away. Clearly, he is a man after my own heart, with so many similar tastes in comics. He has such a big collection that Angela has had to sell his material a little at a time. And I am so grateful: some of his comic collection has become part of mine. You know where this is going, right? Yes! One of the books in his collection was "Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times" by Carl Barks.
One of the reason I am so enamoured with this volume is that it was coloured by Peter Ledger, an Australian comic book artist, who was then living in America. Yes, the same Peter Ledger that the Ledger Awards have been named after. How great an acheivement would that be: to colour the works of storyteller/artist Carl Barks?!
Speaking of the Ledger Awards, about the ONLY comic-related thing I have done this month (besides this posting) has been coordinating the judging of the Ledger of Honour Award. I can but won't tell you the sucessful recipients who will be acknowledged -- I have to let the organisers disclose them at a time of their choosing -- but I can say it was a close contest. In relation to other comic events, even Supanova has had to take a back seat. It was the first time in years, I have not gone to the Gold Coast leg. Why you ask? Well, mostly due to the COVID-19 preparations at work.
My boss went on an overseas holiday (to see her sick Mother, actually, so it wasn't really a holiday) and so I had to take the reins of the Nurse Unit Manager role. She's now returned and is in the two week period of self-isolating, so I have the role for another two weeks. Sure, Carlene likes the Monday to Friday aspect of the job, but I'm finding the 5 a.m. rises and very, very late finishes really tiring (and a little stressful), as we are all heading into the great unknown in relation to this contagious virus....
This weekend is the first weekend I have been able to peer into this book. Oh the joy of Carl Barks' drawing and storytelling. It's such a pity that today's young people cannot know these simple joys of Uncle Scrooge McDuck.
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