On June 11th, I joined in with many other Brisbane Indie Comic Makers for the first Comicstreet. I thought the potential for the event was excellent: it was in the city's busiest public thoroughfare, the Queen Street Mall, and was held on a Saturday afternoon when people who wandered past were not at work, and able to take their time with their families and look ...and purchase.
The location of the event allowed the general public the opportunity to see what an amazing undercurrent of comic activity is taking place in our community, and it allowed the creators the opportunity to connect with the members of the public who had long forgotten our entertainment medium. "I have not read a comic since I was a kid" and "I didn't know so many comics were still being made" were common comments among the curious and intrigued members of the public. So, from that point of view alone, I consider this event to be the most successful that I have been involved in ...in all of 2016. It really lived up to its potential.
From a personal viewpoint, it was a bonus having Carlene join me behind the table. She engaged and chatted with the punters and the curious, and even gave me some time out to allow me to have a look at some of the other stalls, meet with creators, and see their works.
It is events like this, that I am (even if ever so briefly) able to talk to creators about their craft, their aspirations within the medium, and even the reasons or motivation behind their work or their processes. It is all fascinating (well, it is to me)!
I found Phoebe's artwork to be what drew and draws me in: it is beautifully coloured, and she has a good feel for writing comics in allowing the artwork to tell a sequential story. Although the story could be set anywhere, and there is no indication that it is set in Brisbane, there are enough visual clues that locals will know that that is so. It is always my belief that a comics' artwork and storylines that place works within a specific space and time continuum (even unintentionally), and it is the artwork here that supports my premise although it is not essential to the enjoyment of this short 22 page piece. If I am to be critical about this comic, it is that I found Phoebe's lettering awful. She has a good knowledge of where to place a balloon within the panels and she can write with an economy of words needed in a comic, but the execution of the script (the actual lettering) really spoilt my enjoyment of the end product.
For someone who has never published a comic before, it was a really good solid effort and a personal purchasing highlight. I do hope Phoebe continues to publish her webcomics in this more permanent form, for people like me who don't always have the time to plough through Tumblr to find gems like this...
Which gave me an opportunity to scan a few of the pages before happily purchasing my own copy. Regular comic book size, this black and white book is a massive 84 pages in length (see the colour cover above at left). Peter has a background in animation, and his artwork showcases a wonderful fluid style that he has no doubt honed over the years in this occupation. He credits his comic idea as being as simple as a couple of sketches: images of 'a rotund rockabilly guy' and 'a bodybuilder in a lab coat' and then imagining the adventures if they should meet.
The result is a visual and hilarious romp that doesn't take itself too seriously, and races at a manic pace all throughout the book. The artwork is lovingly rendered: there are what I understand are black halftones throughout the art, which gives the work a nice retro look. But the story is set in the present day, with President Obama making an appearance, with humourous effect.
The ten-page "Case File" after the story proper didn't really work for me; but that was balanced by a short story near the end of the book, "The Rockabilly Plump Kids!", that I enjoyed. Having a Pin Up Gallery at the end of the book, even though they consisted of artists I was/am not familiar with, was a masterstroke: it gives the sense that there is a community of readers that are both familiar with the characters and are willing to showcase their interpretations of the characters. I can only hope that the readership increases to the point where Peter Yong produces a second volume. At the end of his lead story he urges readers to "tune in next time for more Rockabilly Plump Corp action", and I, for one, am already eagerly awaiting that day. Highly recommended.
Biographical comics, especially those done well, are not often seen in the Australian comics community. "The Big Simp", from Fox Comics in the 1980s is one that comes to mind. (I'm not sure if I should include Eddie Campbell's work here, given he has now returned to England, although much of his autobiographical stuff was done while he was living in Australia.) Dillon Naylor has been sharing some life experiences in recent issues of Oi Oi Oi! and, from recent Facebook postings, Bruce Mutard has been thinking of sharing his thoughts of his past schooldays...
Brisbane artist, Dan Gilmore, who had shared a couple of collaborative projects with Sally Browne under the LUV Comics banner, had a few of his own projects on offer at Comicstreet. Shell, An Autobiography of Relinquished Romances is one I purchased from him that puts many of the others mentioned above in the shade. Most of those have used humour to carry the story and describe events in a reasonably light vein.
Dan's story details the inner turmoil and dynamics of his thinking when he met his very first girlfriend, Lisa, in 2000. Without seeking to spoil your enjoyment of the comic, the book traverses Dan's growth from that time to 2004, 2008 and 2015, with different colour palettes representing the ensuing years. Dan's artwork is what has attracted me to his work in the past, but in this book it is the story that carries the reader. His use of word balloons, especially in conversations, are well-placed and composed with an overall feel for the illustrations within his page design.
The comic, labelled for 'Mature Readers' due to its 'strong language and adult themes', is self-contained and concludes within about thirty pages. However, the book left this reader lingering longer on the pages' thoughts, with a desire to see more work of this nature by this creator. This is an intense and deeply personal work, and Dan Gilmore should be commended for his mature use of the autobiographical comic medium.