This posting is over a week later than when I normally summarise the year just past. (That in itself encapsulates my year: I have been so frantically busy creatively, most times I have not had the time to update this blog as often as I wished I could have.) My apologies. From a personal perspective, even the time seems to have slipped by somehow, with little opportunity to reflect on where I have been and where I’d like to think 2019 is headed. Part of the reason has been holidays taken later in the year (something I tend to avoid altogether!), visiting loved ones in Yass, Canberra, Bendigo, Cairns and Gympie (in that order) … even before my end-of-year birthday! And no sooner had birthday celebrations taken place, then our home was filled with family members unexpectedly visiting us!
From a comic book perspective, I seem to have purchased more comics than I have done in recent memory. I have tended to buy fewer Marvel and DC titles, mainly because, for the main, I have found the stories somewhat formulised. The common denominator appears to be the striving for as many sales as possible, with innumerable variant covers artificially boosting sales on select titles, and a fan base that is prepared to accept this nonsense. As a result, my purchases have been more along the lines of independent releases and in the form of graphic novels. Many of the purchases have been less from retail outlets and more from on-line social media opportunities.
Australian comic buys have been opportunistic but no less thrilling. By far the biggest excitement was the acquiring of most of the original artwork to Iron Outlaw, an Australian comic series that ran in the early 1970s. Such was the state of my busy-ness throughout the year, I don’t think I even had the chance of sharing the find on this Comicoz blog! How did I obtain it? Someone in Melbourne alerted me to the fact that the works were sitting in an Opportunity Shop, and would I be interested in it …??!
Most of my spare time has been working on my publishing and editing, with little time or opportunity to attend the many fairs or comic conventions as I would have liked. However, with new books out (or soon due out), 2019 should be a year of travelling this country to sell these Comicoz wares. I hope I can catch up with YOU somewhere along the traps!
This is a close look at just one of the pages in the IRON OUTLAW series of artwork found during the year. I was also able to locate and contact the series' writer Graeme "The Fysh" Rutherford, although artist Gregory MacAlpine has proven more elusive. Someone told me he is fishing somewhere in Wales....
I have been more open on Facebook (if not here) describing my future plans and goals for a retail comic outlet somewhere in Australia. I envision a place where comic fans can obtain their regular fix of commercial (American) comics, but where they can also discover the locally made products that continue to be published. But a comic outlet should be so much more than that -- there should be an opportunity for original comic artwork to be sold and/or displayed (much like an art gallery), there should be a studio for cartoonists/artists to be granted residencies for (say) six months at a time, and there should be a private comics library that covers all the treasures of the medium for these artists (and members of the public, perhaps for a fee) to study and read. (I'm talking works like Sterrett, Barks, Caniff, Eisner, as well as more European creators like Pratt or even Australian greats like Dixon and Wedd. Of course, the more recent and commercial works of Ditko, Miller, Lee and Kirby should be available too.) Whether the enterprise seeks to raise a profit (to increase the library's holdings or to be bequeathed to an organisation like, as an example, the Australian Cartoonists' Association on my death), is something that I still haven't fully thought out. The idea did come a little closer to realisation, however, as I investigated a property in Bendigo, Victoria to explore its merits (a photo of which I cannot seem to find to share with you). The price was too high for the renovations required of it, but the city was right...
On the Australian Cartoonists' Association front, I have again edited four issues of the collective's journal, Inkspot, working with designer Cam Winks for the Summer 2017/18 issue (number 80), and with Steve Panozzo from Autumn 2018. For the second year in a row, I have ensured that four issues have been published, and over the pre-Christmas break I began working on the post-Stanley Award edition (number #84), which is presently at the printer. About the same time, I unsuccessfully ran for the Presidency of the Association, lost the Deputy Presidency position, and only just scraped in (through the generosity of spirit of Lindsay Foyle) to re-join the Committee. I ran, although I did not campaign hard, because there were aspects of the ACA that were troubling me. Naturally, it was disappointing to lose, but I accept the members' decision. My major disappointment (that I have expressed elsewhere) is the Committee's determination to 'save money' by limiting the distribution of Inkspot to Members Only. I am of the strong belief that the journal is a reflection of the organisation and should be more widely distributed (to Libraries, to the National Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour and the now-closing Australian Cartoon Museum in Melbourne). the only way I can ensure that happens is by encouraging all cartoon and comic book fans to become Associate Members (and professionals to become Full Members), and perhaps by securing a sponsorship deal...
Also in between the holiday break, as Lead Judge I also oversaw the judging of the Ledger of Honour Award. This is such an honour, and now the second (or is it third?) year I have been given this responsibility. Given my passion for Australian comics, I suppose I have a closer link to the Ledgers, so I am thrilled to be a part of these fledgling Awards (now only in their fifth year). As Lead Judge, I am bound by oath not to reveal the winners … just yet … so keep your ears posted to the ground. Click here for the link:http://ledgerawards.org/ Two books I published last year (Bold Ben Hall, An Authentic Biography Narrated and Illustrated by Monty Wedd and Truth, Justice and the American Dream: The Men Behind Superman by Thomas Campi and Julian Voloj) are in the final long list of nominees for the Ledger Awards, with a Short List of Nominees to be announced sometime soon.... The ceremony itself will be held on the Friday of the Anzac Day long weekend, at a Sydney venue.
Exciting projects for the future: working in collaboration with the Reverend Michael Mercier and the National Cartoon Gallery (the Bunker) to produce a book of Michael's dad, Emile Mercier's cartoons. The groundwork for this was laid in the past two years, when I assisted in the negotiations between Michael and the Bunker. Another project I began consulting on -- a non-comic one, believe it or not! -- is a book on the 40th anniversary of the Ipswich branch of Zonta. These are some of the ups for the year ahead. And the downs from last year?
I've harped on it before, so there is no need to say much more than the collapse of my books' distributor, Dennis Jones and Associates, was the biggest disappointment of 2018. My sales now rely on people learning about the books and this web-site/blog.... I had a commercial agreement with a Perth-based company called Bee Modern to upgrade this website, with specifications of what I was after, and for reasons I must still explore, nothing came of it, except for being somewhat poorer in cash...
Fortunately, the local Australian comic scene isn't as bleak. I'll talk about that in my next post, as well as some of the comic highlights that I discovered in 2018. And the Comicoz 'Award' for Best Australian Original Comic Book? Well, maybe I might announce that then too...
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