If you ask my wife, she'll tell you that this comic strip, The Potts by the late Jim Russell, totally reflects our home. Or, more specifically, the room that I keep my music and comic collection in. There has been a degree of embarrassment (both for her and I) about the state of disarray of my room, and a source of arguing over the years. I've always felt that I'd "one day get around to tidying it up". Last November, I think it was, I said on my Facebook page that I would make a concerted effort to work on the space "in the next twelve months". So, without the responsibilities of working on a new book or on Inkspot and with the spectre of COVID-19 hanging over us all, I have really given it a crack over the past two months. And this week the task was completed! So, without too much ado... have a look at my 'new' room:
Okay, so some of the shelves have yet to sorted into themes: Australian comics, Comic history, graphic novels -- you get the idea -- but that is something I plan to work on .... another day! The fact the room is tidy, that I can walk around it, and that I know where everything is, is the real plus. I must say that I have discovered I have doubles (and, in some instances, triples) of some items, means that I shall probably have a really big sale on... one day in the future. (Stay tuned for that one!) In the meantime, I am really enjoying working in my room. Can you hear? "It's only taken twenty-five years of nagging," mutters Mrs. Karmichael in the background....!
Before I go away, I just want to acknowledge and praise new Inkspot Editor Steve Panozzo, who has done a really bang-up job on the latest issue of the Australian Cartoonists Association's journal. This is the first issue for a long time where I have had absolutely no input into an issue, and I also want to say that I really feel it is the best one yet. The magazine is ONLY available to members of the Association, and this one contains an article on the fascinating history of Stan Cross and Jim Russell's comic strip The Potts (also known as You and Me in its early days). Of course, there is a lot more inside too. If you are a cartoon fan, I really urge you become an Associate Member of the ACA. Four issues of this magazine each year. Who could ask for more? Here's a link to the Membership page. Or, if you'd rather, get in touch with me, and I'll send you an Application Form.
It's pretty rare for me to post two days in a row these days, but I am all fired up today! (Maybe after yesterday's post, this is the kick-start I needed??)
Today I received an urgent SMS from The World's Number One Ginger Meggs Fan, James Wakeling, to let me know that Sydney's Sun-Herald has dropped the long-running newspaper comic strip, Ginger Meggs. The current cartoonist who works on the strip, Jason Chatfield, confirmed this news to me today. I am outraged! This historical Australian feature is only a year shy of celebrating its one hundredth birthday.
While I do not decry Bushy Tales, written and drawn by Queenslander Ian Jones taking its place, I do feel that the newspaper editor/s could have selected and dropped an overseas comic strip instead. I'm nothing, if I'm not parochial! If you are as incensed as I am, please drop an angry email demanding the newspaper reinstate Ginger Meggs ...as soon as possible. Especially as it's so close to its century.
Here's the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Do it now and do it for Ginger.
Someone on Facebook made a comment to me about Oi Oi Oi! recently. It got me thinking. I have many comic projects that I would like to work on. And during COVID-19 I have been doing absolutely none. Sure, I have been 'tidying' up my room (and have catalogued almost 6000 comics), but my enthusiasm for publishing of late has been sorely lacking. Personally, I'm a little jaded with the Committee of the Australian Cartoonists' Association: I've made (what I believe to be) perfectly sensible suggestions for advancing the collective, but I feel I am working with group members who don't share my enthusiasm, which in turn dampens my joy. Sure, I have given up the Editorship of the Inkspot magazine; something I don't really regret. I'd been churning out a magazine quarterly for quite some years in a row (whether that magazine or Oi Oi Oi!) and needed the break. I've come to feel that perhaps I work best alone, without having to answer to a Committee. Or perhaps it's just me at this moment.
I was given a lovely package of Peter Foster's work just before Christmas last year (from Peter), and I have not had the decency to ring him to thank him. I've been meaning to call Fysh Rutherford, one of the co-creators of the Iron Outlaw comic (pictured) for months. I've wanted to tell him of the find of most of the original artwork of his comic, published in the Nation Review and Sunday Observer about fifty years ago. And yet I haven't. There are projects I ordinarily would be working on (I won't list them here) or at the very least would be starting. But I am feeling flat and down in the dumps with it all. So I thought in the meantime, while I wait for my mojo to return, I'd share some of the original pages to Iron Outlaw for you to enjoy.
Anyway, without boring you, I just wanted to say that someone's comments on Facebook have got me thinking. In a good way. What about, I may tell you in the next posting....
A Big shout-out to all Mothers out there! It's Mothers' Day in Australia, and perhaps one of the strangest ones we're most likely to encounter in our lifetime. Some states in Australia (wrongly, in my opinion) have decided to relax some of the restrictions that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (I suppose History will judge, as there is no exact science or precedent in how we move from here.)
One of my wife's "bones of contention" in the Karmichael household has been my "music-come-media room" (our converted garage) and the state of it. Carlene finds and refers to it as my "junk room", mainly to the state of its disarray (untidiness to some); and I must admit to some embarrassment at times when visitors come and view it, especially when its state is used to mock... Anyway, last November, I think it was, I made a comment on Facebook that I was going to make a concerted effort to tidy the room up within a year.
Although work in the Hospital has been busier than ever, the social distancing and isolation has been good for us. I've left the Editing role of Inkspot (the Australian Cartoonists' Association's journal) to caricaturist Steve Panozzo, who's doing a pretty good job. My Ledger of Honour team sorted out this year's recipients reasonably early. And, even though I had some publishing plans that I was hoping to move on, the Australian Dollar and the pandemic has left me somewhat less enthused. So, essentially, I am left with no comic-related projects to work on (apart from my monthly commitment as a Committee Member of the ACA, and working on ideas for the upcoming ACA Centenary in 2024). Home life has involved gardening, reading more comics and graphic novels than I usually do ...and working on getting my room tidy…!
I have to say that Carlene has been reasonably patient in allowing me to work on the project, and that I have come to realise I have far too many comics than I perhaps need. To date, I have catalogued 3,257 comics (and counting), and so a future culling might be likely. Graphic novels and my Australian collection have not been counted just yet. I spend one full day a week here (and some time before work shifts), and I am reasonably happy with both the solitude and the progress I am making. For those interested in knowing, there is a phone application that I am using to catalogue the collection and you can see it by clicking here. I obtain my supplies (bags and backing boards) from BrisVegas Comics (link here) -- feel free to tell owner Mark you learnt of his store through this posting, and I am sure he'll do you a great deal.
One of the joys of meeting and making friendships with cartoonists, has been learning that they have an unparalleled generosity of spirit. I want to make special mention today of American cartoonist Jeff Keane, who visited Australia for the first time almost eighteen months ago now. Last Christmas he sent a 2020 Family Circus Calendar and I thought today was an ideal opportunity to share his Mothers' Day cartoon for May with you here, dear reader .... Although we are all socially isolating, I trust you are finding things to do to keep yourself occupied that (maybe) you have been promising yourself that you will 'get around to doing when you have a spare moment'. Here's the time to seize that moment ...!
Late last month, I was asked to write an article for a new upcoming (online) comic-related magazine. I managed to whip this up one morning before work. I liked it so much, I shared it with Steve Panozzo, for inclusion in the next issue of the Australian Cartoonists' Association's journal, Inkspot. And, I thought, why not include it here too? To be honest, I have been really busy at work lately. The Government's stimulus package has really increased the purchasing ability of many to increase their use of methamphetamines. So busy, I have not had any time to do any comic-related work. Although, I did share a comic idea with friend Rob Feldman that I hope he has time to follow-up on. In my spare time I have been tidying up my comics in my "media room" (and even selling some on line). Anyway, here's the article....
Anyone who has been sneaking a peek at the internet lately, will see that the current Coronavirus is bringing creative people to the fore: there are many funny videos and cartoons to be found online, as people adapt to and make comment about our new way of living.
I went into Brisbane city on Friday afternoon after work to see if the local comic bookstore was still open. I was surprised to find it was, and even more startled to discover I was the only customer seeking to pick up my current favourite title (presently Daredevil). “It’s good to know that comic-retailing remains an essential service,” I quipped. The proprietor informed me that it wouldn’t be for too much longer, when he shared the most recent comic news – perhaps known to everyone but myself! – that Diamond had stopped distributing comics due to the COVID-19 virus.
Diamond, for far too many years now, have had the monopoly in distributing comics around the world. That they had made the decision not to do so left me stunned. No comics? What is the world coming to? Of course, in my work environment, we’ve been preparing for when it really impacts on our health-care system and there have been some early effects of the pandemic. (I work in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital.) And although I have been hearing the news of job losses in coffee shops and other retailer establishments, it wasn’t until I couldn’t get my comic fix that I really appreciated the impact this virus was having on the world economy!
The last time American comics stopped reaching Australian shores was back in the 1940s. In 1939, due to our increasing involvement in the Second World War, the Australian Government began enforcing the Import Licensing regulations. This controlled the amount of US dollars (then purchased from England) that could be spent on published comics and syndicated proofs of American comics. This led to a total ban by July 1940. Then, as now, creative people adapted to the current situation, and so was born the Golden Age of Australian comics.
Unlike the Americans, who had introduced the ‘production line’ of comic creating (that has continued to this day), the local comic creators did not have that luxury. Most of the comic artists in Australia handled the complete production of the creative process, apart from the publishing. In his some of his writings of the era, Australian comic historian John Ryan identified those he thought were that era’s “top comic book illustrators”: Monty Wedd, John Dixon, Hart Amos, Stanley Pitt, Vernon Hayles, Moira Bertram and Phil Belbin.
As Australian artists rose to the fore in the 1940s, I feel that now is as good a time as ever, to look at the silver lining behind COVID-19 and see if there are ways of adapting to the current situation and finding opportunities to again begin publishing great Australian comics.
Frew Publications, as the only publishing house still appearing on the newsstands today, is probably in the best position to do so, given that newsagents have not – yet? – been shut down. Frew is one of the publishers that first established itself in the 1940s when businessmen Ron Forsyth, Lawford ‘Jim’ Richardson, Jack Elsen and Peter Wilson formed the company. (The company’s name came from using the first letter in each partner’s surname.) While the company has been primarily been preoccupied with reprinting old Phantom stories, in recent years its owners (Rene White and Glenn Ford since 2016) have been utilizing many local artists and cartoonists for both cover artwork and internal stories, and have engendered much goodwill in the local comic scene.
A recent development in the comic medium has been the development of the online comic. While the comics available for purchase at my local comic shop were not as current as those found on Comixology, I’m not convinced that the major publishers, Marvel and DC, have really been interested in developing the online market. Perhaps that will now change; it’s too early to tell. My feeling is that the profit margins are not as substantial as the physical copies, which carry (for example) multiple cover alternatives that have appealed to the collector in preference to the longer-term benefit of seeking a newer and increasing readership. This, and the myriad of interconnected storylines, along with the practice of publishing multiple titles of a popular character, have for too long propped up the American industry. Perhaps the Coronavirus might bring along a market correction, longer term.
There have been few Australian creatives publishing online, but with physical outlets likely to close up shop (either due to the economic downturn or by Government legislation), and the populous becoming more socially isolated and needing new reading material, the opportunities are there for the taking. My favourite online comic is by a couple of Sunshine Coast creatives, Teloka Berry and Pricilla Wu. A Week in Warrigilla has been running for two years now, as engaging as ever, with over a thousand subscribers.
Here’s a link: https://tapas.io/episode/1008842 – do yourself a favour and check it out!
Comic one-shots and series are also able to be found via the various crowd-funding platforms available these days. Given the reluctance of most Australian comic stores to support the local creatives, many local self-publishers have been increasingly exploring this avenue. I feel that this will be another realm of the future post-COVID-19 comic medium. Dark Oz, run by South Australian publisher Darren Koziol for the past ten years, has been increasingly marketing his comic books by crowdfunding, allowing his comics to reach a greater world market. Here’s the link to his site: http://www.darkoz.com.au/index.html
The post-COVID-19 world is going to bring about the biggest social change we will have ever known, and it is difficult to predict what that world will look like. It’s my belief that the comic medium will be a part of that change, with creative storytellers finding new ways of sharing to those who want to read and listen. There are ways for local Australian creatives to become part of that change, and I have identified some of those opportunities available even today. Comic books and graphic storytelling will not die – they will simply evolve into this newer form and the history of this medium that we love shall continue.
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.
I needed to find out more about this, in order that I could more fully share the details with you. I was informed in early January by my good friend Rob Feldman that he had been invited by Jakub Mazerant to partake in a comic exhibition at the Australian Embassy in Berlin, Germany. I was also told that I couldn't release Rob's video clip -- until now! (Each contributor was given "a ten to fifteen second greeting-introduction video", so Rob initially only showed me his fifteen seconds.) To be honest, I may show some bias here, but I think Rob's vide contribution was the very best!
It seems the Exhibition's official opening is next Wednesday (6 p.m. German time), then runs from 6 February until 17 April (2020). The video reports that the event is presented by a group called "Illustrate Your Life" and gives a web address. Here's a link. The website says that IllustrateYourLife (no spaces between the words) is a "collaborative creative agency, based in Sydney", and aims to "develop projects engaging international artists and audience". Rob send me a copy of the group's first published volume, Pieces, coordinated by Jakub. Although international in flavour, there were few Australian artists in the first volume, something that plans to be corrected in the second volume. I won't dwell on this publishing project now (however much it seems worthy to talk about) because it is not yet complete. Rob tells me that he has been invited to take part in the second book, and from the website, it seems there are many Aussies planned to be contributors. Ah, let's name-drop some of them now: Bruce Mutard, Leslie Vamos, TIm McEwen, Stuart Campbell.....
Anyway, before I digress completely, let me tell you about the exhibition. The idea is to promote twenty-four Australian comic book artists, both male and female, and "to show the diversity and multiculturalism of the national identity". Without having seen the exhibition (nor any likelihood in being able to afford to get to Germany before it closes), I must say - knowing most of these artists' works or styles - that these artists are the very finest proponents of the craft in the country. As I am unable to attend, I really hope someone can report on it! The address of the Australian Embassy is at Wallstrasse 76-79 in Berlin, Germany.
Article written by freelance writer Jane Evans
You can’t be a comic and graphic novel fan without coming across the incredible genre of Manga. The word is derived from two origins - man, which means “impromptu and whimsical,” and ga, which translates as “moving pictures.” The earliest examples of Manga actually date as far back as the 12th Century, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that this style hit the mainstream, popularised by the comic strips in newspapers. The style really took off in the 1980s, and Manga became a popular for both children and adults. It can be humorous, fantastical, serious and creative - there are no limitations; it is defined only by the stylised drawing. In Australia, there are some great ways to get into Manga and read comics that can set your imagination on fire.
Head To A Comicon
One of the biggest comic events in Australia is of course Oz Comicon. Whether you are an artist or a reader, there is something for all the family, and there is an incredibly inclusive atmosphere. Comicon is also a great place to get a few stylish garments for your wardrobe that really speak to your style aesthetic. Check the labels on your purchases so you know what fabric they're made from before you wash them, and remember to iron them on the reverse so the prints don't crack - it can be difficult to get replacement for Manga T shirts you buy at a convention. There are three locations for the Comicon - Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, each of which have a Manga library where you can explore Shoju and Shonen. The volunteers that work there are also a great source of information - make sure you ask for their recommendations.
Join A Meetup
Participating in a regular meetup group is a great way to not only learn about Manga, but also to meet some new friends. There are 13 groups that get together regularly to discuss Manga and Anime. Cool Japan Culture in Sydney hosts weekly events, and they even have a Manga drawing class planned for 2020. Melbourne Anime Club is the largest Manga and Anime community in the area. They meet up monthly and welcome anyone with an interest in the genre. Perth Comickers is another inclusive group with a passion for Manga, particularly when it comes to being creative.
Check Out The Online Stores
There is a big market for Manga in Australia, so there are some great online stores that are dedicated to the genre. Madman Entertainment have a vast collection of back editions, as well as all the latest releases for you to choose from. If you are a Manga newbie, then you can’t go wrong with simply picking something that interests you and starting with Volume 1. Kinokuniya Australia is another good webshop for all things Manga. The prices are reasonable, and they have a members club if you are buying comics and graphic novels regularly.
Manga is a wonderful medium for storytelling, and the emotive style means that the characters are full of life. There are some great ways of getting into the genre in Australia, and you can even become part of a new, friendly and inclusive community.
Just an update from me (Nat). (It's my webpage, after all!) I have read some new information recently, that I should add to this post....
Based on an increasing interest in the anime market outside Japan, the Kadokawa Corporation, a Japanese entertainment company, has decided to establish an online store where people living outside Japan can buy premium products that are difficult to purchase overseas, like comics, light novels, "special limited-edition" woodblock prints, games and more. When EJ ANiME Store (Entertainment Japan) opens, it will target 17 countries, including Australia, the UK, the US, France, Spain, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Here's a early link to the store.
For those who came in late, the 5th January is the birthday of one of Australia's greatest comic book writer-artists, Monty Wedd. While Monty is no longer with us -- he would have been ninety-nine years 'old' today! -- it still seems a good way to remember him and his contribution to our local comic industry. I do this, each year on this date, by announcing a purely personal subjective "award" for what I consider the best Australian original comic book to have appeared in the preceding twelve months. There is no monetary reward for being named, and people are welcome to disagree. The selection is mine alone, and I do not accept bribes. My only qualification in making my selection, is that I do not consider any books or comics I may have published in the selection period. I have noticed that some publishers have made mention of the Award on their works that have been reprinted, and this is flattering. Because I do make a considered and serious selection. I have now been doing this annually for the past eight years (this is the ninth time I have made the 'award').
Previous winners (to save you having to trawl through my blog!):
2011: Insanity Streak - Striving for Quantity by Tony Lopes
2012: Kinds of Blue (anthology) Karen Beilharz (Editor, Contributor)
2013: The Long Weekend in Alice Springs by Josh Santospirito
2014: The Anzac Legend by Dave Dye
2015: Struggle by Darren Close
2016: These Memories Won't Last (interactive comic) by Stuart (Sutu) Campbell
2017: Post Traumatic (anthology) by Bruce Mutard
2018: A Week in Warrigilla (web comic) by Teloka Berry and Pricilla (Pi) Wu
I cannot pretend I have read every Australian comic-book or comic work published within the past twelve months. Some I only hear about, some I learn about when I announce I am making the annual selection (on my Facebook postings). For example, I saw Sorab Del Rio's Bazza the Bogan Barbarian at Brisbane's Supanova last November, and thought it looked colourful enough to pick up a copy -- only to be told the format I was seeking had sold out. Similarly, Dave Dye's artwork on Eureka (written by Hugh Dolan) is known to me, but I have not seen a copy to purchase yet. I have been living blissfully unaware of both Gregory Mackay's The Adventures of Anders and Pat Grant's The Grot #3 until Campbell Whyte and Owen Heitmann respectively pointed out the error of my ways. I have since ordered both books, although (sad to relate) neither are going to arrive in time to allow me to consider the merits of them for this year's award.
And so, here we go....
Best reprint of older material goes to "The Passions of Pussy Willow" published by Dark Mirror Publishing and Press. This Kickstarter-based project was set up by Garth Htimz with the sole purpose of sharing this comic book serial created by Kim Taverner in Sydney way back in 1972. It ran for over ten years and was intentionally designed for the international market. "Over the course of the strip's life, it evolved from being a simple, yet sexy, take on a traditional newspaper adventure strip, to at it's best, being a fabulously designed, well written and exquisitely rendered, graphic storytelling experience."
The material has been licenced from the series' original creator, and limited edtion copies are signed by Kim. The scans and subsequent printing quality are high, and the product is on great paper stock. It is hoped that there will be more issues planned in the series. This story, "Baron Priapus" originates from 1978, and the book carries a detailed history and chronology of the series. From a comics-history viewpoint, I really hope the book is popular enough to allow for the publication of future volumes. Reflecting the Australian comics of the era, the art is black and white and spans about 60 pages. Copies are still available from the publisher ($30 plus $13 postage and handling within Australia), with full details on their Facebook page. Please NOTE: this product contains adult themes. "Kam's pioneering work during the 1970s' produced these playful, risque adventure fantasies, in what was at the time, a first foray by an Australian comic strip creator, into what might be considered today, as adult, fringe or alternate comics."
I'm going to make a special mention this year about Darren Koziol. Darren (and his imprint DARK OZ) has been plugging away making comics for over ten years now. He doesn't win many (rather, any) awards and he won't be winning one from me this year, either. But he still plugs away, finding new markets to promote his work, getting his comic message out there. He has now abandoned his Decay comic book series, and is now concentrating on his Retro Sci-Fi Tales instead. They are, after all, more commercially appealing. The thing is... he keeps on plugging away. His latest venture was available as a Kickstarter late last year, and while it may be reprinting some of his older material, it came with some rather nifty Christmas cards. Have a look at his web-site (here) and, if you care to, show him some support by buying some of his comics. I rather liked this one, with the brilliant Michal Dutkiewicz cover -- Q: When does Michal ever do a second-rate work? A: Never! -- with some lovely coloured stories inside by Dave Dye, Ben Sullivan and more. 44 pages, full colour, $10 (plus postage).
Another comic I have not given plaudits to in the past, but that I shall do today, is Rose. Written and illustrated by Cameron Davis, Rose is a young girl who likes to eat. A lot. But she never puts on weight. Or, as Cameron says: "an all-ages comic about the world's hungriest redhead and the power of friendship". There are no deep and meaningfuls in this comic, whose artwork is similar in style to the Archie comics from the US. Cameron published his eleventh comic in this series in 2019 ("Rose and Dahlia"), which in itself is a cause to celebrate. The story is short (the comic is in full colour, $7 plus postage for 28 pages) and is an ideal entry for a somewhat younger reader. There are too few comics aimed at this demographic in this country, and this one really is fun. I've passed copies on to my sister Rose (or was it my daughter Rosie?!), knowing that they will in turn pass it on. And isn't that the way comics used to be? There's a wonderful website where you can order the latest issues, or a collection of the earlier issues (and a whole lot more too). Check it out here.
A few years ago now, on this Blog, I was critical of the long-time Sydney publisher Frew. They were the only Australian publisher (*ahem* apart from someone else who was publishing Oi Oi Oi! at the time) with Australian comics on the newsstands. I was critical of their decision to 'count-down' and reprint the earlier issues of The Phantom, as I felt it was a publishing opportunity lost. I'm now going to eat my words. Since Rene White and Glenn Ford have taken on the publishing role, I have actually bought a Phantom comic. If you had told me, when I made my comments, that I would one day have purchased a Phantom, I would have scoffed derisively at you! These days, there are covers illustrated by Australian artists (here's an example by Shane Foley) and internal stories written by local creatives are also being published. I am really enjoying Phantom by Gaslight, with episode ten recently being written by Glenn Lumsden and illustrated by Jason Paulos. Jason's work, at times, seems a little rushed but his page designs are good and the story moves at a good pace. It would have been nice to have the story run in successive issues, and one day I'll make a purchase if the whole story is released as a stand-alone graphic novel, but I don't want to sound too critical. Seeing Aussie artists like Glenn Lumsden, Paul Mason and Jeremy Macpherson in the only remaining local newsstand comic, sets my comic-heart a-beating! Here's a link to their official website.
Speaking of Paul as we were, now Dr Paul Mason, one of the highlights of my Australian comic-reading in 2019, was a project he illustrated for Gestalt Publishing. The Eldritch Kid: Bone War, telling the story of "monster hunters and guns-for-hire in a weird wild West, where every myth, monster and magic are real", is a rumbling, rollicking read! Written by Christian Read, coloured by Justin Randall and lettered by Wolfgang Bylsma, this is one of my top picks for the year. For me, it's Mason's artwork that bounds off the page: his sequential storytelling is superb, fully complimenting Read's script. Some might find the work "too cartoony", but for me it was the perfect feel for the characters. The book is in full glorious colour, runs for 108 pages and there is a soft cover available for $24.95 (and postage). (I must have obtained my copy from the Kickstarter earlier in the year: my copy is a hardcover. I looks really nice.) Copies can be ordered from the Gelstalt website (here's the link); and, while you are there, I do suggest you check out the other books available on the home page. I noticed, when visiting the website to write this piece, that they have a 'Relocation Sale' going on. I'm not sure exactly where they are going to, but why not take advantage of this comic-book generosity?
And now, we come to the final two. I was tossing around, right until the last minute, who I ought to bestow this year's 'Award' to. (I was even contemplating giving it to the Eldritch Kid, at one point.) Anyway, it was close. I decided to name "A Week in Warrigilla" as runner-up.
I believe I promised to write more details when I learnt a little more about the Sunshine Coast, Queensland-based creators, Teloka Berry and Pricilla 'Pi' Wu. But, as seems is my wont, I didn't get around to it. Still, further recognition was given to them when they were announced as the Silver Ledger recipients in 2019. In the past year, the series has continued the high quality artwork and storytelling. There is no way of telling who writes, who illustrates -- the end result is a seamless whole. I have not been able to read each episode as they have been uploaded throughout the year, but it hardly matters. For anyone who has never read the series, there is no problem. The web-experience allows new readers to read from the beginning, 'older' readers to catch up when they can. Over one thousand people subscribe to the series, and it has been viewed over one hundred thousand times! The dialogue fully informs the characterisation, the romance and the horror as they travel through the Australian landscapes. The beautiful artwork continues to impress. This is just stunning work. Here's a link to where you can start, if you want to see what I am talking and raving about. Soon you will be too!
DRUMROLL! DRUMROLL! DRUMROLL!!!
The recipient of the Comicoz Award for this year, the Best Australian Original Comic Book that I read in 2019 was...
Issue #1850 of Frew's The Phantom.
I understand it is so rare an opportunity to be able to write or draw The Phantom, as the character is so closely guarded by its copyright owner, King Features, Inc (a division of Hearst Holdings). Years ago, Frew's Jim Shepherd, the then-publisher, told me the difficulties he had in getting his story (the first written by an Australian) published.
So to be able to both write and draw the character is an extra-special opportunity. Melbourne-based, and prolific comic publisher, Matt Kyme (The Demon, That Bulletproof Kid, The Wrath of the Cursed) can now add that string to his impressive bow. Assisted by Roger Stitson (Editor) and Graeme Jackson ("Digital Special Effects"), this is a comic that can be read on so many different layers. First and foremost, it's a comic. A great and easy 28-page read. But the artwork harkens back to an earlier era: almost as if it were written and drawn in the mid-1930s, when the character first appeared. The style of the artwork is totally different to Ray Moore's work, but the use of space and the arrangement of the panels gives the impression of a series of daily comic strips all cobbled together to present a singular story ... just as Frew once published them in their heyday.
That Frew has extended this 'feeling' to include the same paper texture, the similarities to the covers of the 1960s (and earlier) editions, lends itsself to a totally complete package. The yellow strip at the top of the cover (see above) was a device Frew used for many years, giving this new magazine an incredible nostalgic feel, despite the original story/art. (To prevent any casual readers becoming too confused, the strip clearly screams out "New Story!") The whole design continues throughout the book -- even the inside cover, with a similar introduction "for those who came in late" seems to be taken from a comic from the past.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I congratulate Matt, Roger, Graeme, and even Rene and Glenn: I have not enjoyed the nostalgic feel of a new comic as much as I did this one, for many, many years. I am pleased to announce The Phantom, Issue #1850 as being Comicoz' Best Australian Original Comic Book for 2019.
When I get the opportunity to visit Sydney, I always find I am filling myself with comic-related things to do, and not enough time to do everything. When attending the Ledgers Award in recent years, I have caught up with Richard Rae, an early 1980s Australian comic publisher and entrepreneur, and visited the Mitchell Library to view the original artworks of Emile Mercier (and other artists and cartoonists' works) that they hold.
In 2019, I went visiting and met up with Graeme Belbin and Bodine Amerikah. Graeme is the son of the famous Australian artist (and comic book illustrator, during the local Golden Age), Phil Belbin. I met Phil (1925-1993) before publishing my sixth issue of John Dixon's Air Hawk Magazine in the late 1980s, so it was a wonderful opportunity to talk to Graeme about his Dad's work and view some of his original artwork.
Original cartoon artwork for MAN Magazine, from the 1960s. Many of the cartoons found their way on the cover, although this was an internal page. When we were looking through Graeme's originals, we found an American cartoon with similar themes nearby. Indicating, if you will, that the original IDEA for the cartoon may not have been Phil's.
I've been in touch with Bodine Amerikah (born 1961) sporadically over the years on Facebook, so it was lovely to catch up with him after too long a time. Bo was the writer-artist of the Australian-distributed three-issue comic series (also from the late eighties-early nineties) Niteside and the Rock, as well as the madcap writer for Jason Paulos' Hairbutt the Hippo, when it appeared in Australian Mad Magazine. These days, Bo says his eyesight is fading, but he's in a great headspace, and I was honoured to be shown some of his (best and, to date, unpublished) original comic book work.
I have touched on my major dilemma these days: my age. I am acutely aware, perhaps more-so this year of my own mortality. More than ever, I realise that the books I want to publish on Australian comics are going to be limited, unless I can find a way to continually publish them without placing financial strain on my own personal finances. (I find most book sales are sporadic at best, so I have learnt to not be dependent on sales to funnel the funds into further publishing ventures. Perhaps that speaks of my deficiencies in marketing?) In recent years, I have utilised various crowd-funding sites -- Pozible and Kickstarter, the two I have used -- to at least cover the printing costs of all new publications. And, while this is an increasingly popular mode for comic creators to fund their comics projects, I am concerned that it is becoming saturated with too many similar projects. Crowd-funding sites also demand a lot of time expended on the promotion and 'selling' of the product. I have noted quite a few comic creators these days using the portal Patreon, and I began preparing my own Comicoz Patreon site over a year ago, but have taken it no further. (Why, I cannot really say. Obtaining a book distributor this year has certainly eased a lot of my stress in worrying that I was not getting my books into bookstores.)
My main worry these days, is that I have so many books I want to publish that I may simply run out of time! I have named some of the titles that I'd like to work on over the past few years, with some are in further stages of development than others. Here are some: a book on the one-hundred year history of Ginger Meggs' creators written by Lindsay Foyle, another Air Hawk (or -- more accurately -- a John Dixon) volume, and Gerald Carr's Brigette. (I understand Matt Emery has now abandoned plans to work on this, giving me the chance to start on it.) Volumes on Peter Player's Picture Magazine work and a collection of the complete Iron Outlaw are both limited without a secondary copyright holder agreeing to allow them to go ahead An Emile Mercier volume in conjunction with the National Cartoon Gallery (at Coffs Habour) is most likely in 2020. I've discussed with some people about an expanded work like From 'Sunbeams' detailing the internal pages of Australia's comic history, but this will be hampered by copyright clearances, so this will be many years away. Who else would I like to publish? Alex Gurney, Phil Belbin, the list goes on. What about Syd Nicholls? Syd Miller? Did you know the famous Australian author Alan Marshall once wrote a comic strip: why shouldn't that see print?
And what about new artists and cartoonists? Bruce Mutard has new work I believe deserves to see print. And Thomas Campi. When I left Adelaide, I had an idea (based on a manic mood on my part?) that it would be great to be able to publish one hundred Australian comic artists' works in one hundred stand-alone issues of a comic series. I thought about telling my mate Rob Feldman about it one day, and then got cold feet -- how could I honestly fund such a project? I am still waiting on Michal Dutkiewicz to finish updating his Verity Aloha stories.... Anyway, without further ago, there is a book I am going to soon start working on. Want a clue or four? Here you go....
This Blog written 4 January. More to come!