As Australians today wake up to learn that Queen Elizabeth II has passed away, there will be many filled with grief and sadness. Many more will be feeling an increasing anxiousness about the future. She has, after all, been a part of the lives of most of us – the Australian Head of State since 1952. Whether you agree or disagree with the notion that a foreigner ought to be in that role is a question for another day.
“Always look on the bright side of death – just before you draw your terminal breath!” is a well-known couplet from a Monty Python film. And while it’s not a time to be flippant, one of the proven means of reducing stress, increasing our energy levels, and promoting a sense of well-being is by laughing. Australians have had a long history of being able to laugh at themselves.
One of “the funniest cartoons in the world” was how the 1933 Stan Cross cartoon “For Gorsake, Stop Laughing – This is Serious” was once described. The era was known for the early construction of city skyscrapers and rising unemployment, and these buildings were seen as a sign of optimism for the future. The cartoon features one of the workers losing his grip, saved only from certain death by grabbing the pants of one of his mates.
And with the death and destruction of World War II all around them, Bluey and Curley were two comic strip diggers who shared laughs with Australians during their darkest days of the War. It’s a humorous heritage that has spanned decades, sustaining us over the trials and tribulations of the past. Simply, comic strips have been around since the turn of last century, and we have been a happier nation for their presence.
From Ginger Meggs, now running in newspapers for over one hundred years, to more recent features like Swamp and Insanity Strip, comic strips have done more than entertain us. Over the years, they have released endorphins, a natural chemical in the body promoting a sense of well-being in Australians. These daily features are well-loved, and for so many years and for so many people, are the bedrock of the reading experience of a newspaper.
So, who would decide to remove them? Some unsmiling bean counter from the Murdoch Press, apparently. From the 11th September, a decision has been made to remove all daily comic strips from all Murdoch newspapers. It’s unclear why. Economics, perhaps. Just as staff artists, photographers, and journalists have been cut over the years, someone has decided that the daily comic strip feature must go. It’s a short-sighted decision, to my thinking.
When life is difficult, or when we’re in a disagreement with someone, having an ability to laugh or having a sense of humour can help. Isn’t that how we got through COVID? Without laughter, we are lesser people. Cancelling the daily comic strip in Australia is a serious decision. It indicates to the world we have stopped laughing.
Today’s headlines are filled with grief and sadness. We can’t bring back Queen Elizabeth II. Someone somewhere can choose to ensure the daily comic strip continues in the daily newspapers. We need laughter to bring some light to an already grim world.
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