I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Launch Party of Brisbane's first ZICS (Zine and Indie Comic Symposium) on Friday August 31st, and unlucky that I had to work on the weekend that featured all of the Panels, Workshops and Retail displays. Held at The Edge, within the precinct of the State Library of Queensland, the event had to compete with some hard core football matches on the same weekend!
The Launch was attended by about 300 (mostly young) people and who were treated to an evening that had enough variety to hold the interest of anyone who may not have any interest in this medium. As it was, most of the attendees were devoted Fans (or seemed to be) of small press magazines, and let their enthusiasm be known with some of the activities at the Launch.
There was a "Scribble Slam" whereby two artists were given a topic to draw and had a limited time to come up with an illustration depicting that topic. The 'winner' was declared by 'vote' of public acclaim (yelling, clapping, wolf-whistles, you get the picture). I thought some of the work under such public scrutiny and time pressure was of a reasonably high standard. Not only were there two competing artists in the Scribble Slam, there were also competitions between teams of artists. A much harder feat, one would think, but one that brought out even better results. I have posted a couple of photos I took on the night. One of the team can be seen working on their artwork (based on the word "Mystery") that was judged not to have won, although I gave them my 'vote'.
The Golden Stapler Awards, "Australia's National Awards for Zine Excellence", were presented during the evening, and with the theme of the Launch, I felt it was a good idea to include it in the evening's activities. As an outsider (as I consider myself), I feel that one way of improving the presentation for next time could be by having some visuals in the background featuring an example of each nomination as they are announced. Somewhat similar to the Logies or Oscars, if you like. Not only would it be an introduction to the artists' works for dummies like me, but it makes the whole presentation look more polished and professional.
Another highlight (for me, at least) was the section entitled: "Show Us Your Zits!". This was the opportunity at various stages during the evening that allowed creators to come to the stage and talk about their Zines or Comics. Perhaps it is in the nature of their work (it is, after all, done in isolation) or maybe due to the stigma they feel about their craft (let's face it, the Brisbane Courier-Mail did not run a story on the Symposium), but I just found these talks too short. It came across as if everyone was embarrassed to get up on stage and shout to the world about their achievements, which (if it is so) is pretty sad. Comics have worn this stigma for years, and it is time to be proud of the medium. I particularly found the history and current state of New Zealand Zines interesting (presented by two Kiwis whose names - shame! - I can no longer remember): it seems there is an even larger undercurrent of activity in this area than I realised. Although I am familiar with Ashcan, I found Zac Smith-Cameron's talk - although short like the others - informative and entertaining.
In summary, I came to the event not knowing what to expect. I didn't discover any artist that immediately needed signing up to Comicoz (a la Rob Feldman). I left - before the Bedroom Philosopher warmed to his set - fairly confident that the event was worthwhile (despite some of my critical thoughts on some aspects of it) and worthy of support in the future. I look forward to next year's Symposium, and just hope I can get the whole weekend off duty, so I can catch some of the Workshops and Panels, and maybe even man a table to sell some good Aussie Comics...
An aside (or Postscript, if you will): Earlier this month, I posted a frustrated 'Grumble' about the ZICS organisation. While I do not take back my comments, I have sought to reach a compromise mutually agreeable with the ZICS Collective. I have also invited all ZICS Supporters an opportunity to a special pre-order of Comicoz' books and an invitation to attend the Ned Kelly Launch (at a date yet to be confirmed). Here's some of my comments to the ZICS Team:
" I'm just as much an Independent Publisher, and I know the difficulty in getting the word out there; so ZICS was important for the local (and national) scene, and I was (and am) happy to support it. All in all, given a bit of space from the event (and my initial disappointment in not getting my ticket to attend the BWF), when I look at it objectively we are both working towards the same goal.
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