And Celebrate is the word. Both of these books are worth celebrating! The covers of the books are reproduced above. Before the event becomes a distant memory in my mind, I thought I should record the event here for posterity. (The Launch took place a month ago, on November 10th, and my mind being as it is, anything longer than a week ago is starting to become a distant memory!) Both books are Historical pieces for differing reasons, and both need discussing, so let's talk about them left to right in the order reproduced above.
Small Sales & True is a printed record of the second Caravan of Comics expedition that took place earlier this year when five Australian comic creators (and one film director) under took a two week road tour of North America. I understand a DVD was made of the journey, and sadly this was not available at the launch. However, it was not necessary, as all five creators (Mirranda Burton, Scarlette Baccini, Marijka Gooding, Gregory Mackay and Bruce Mutard) all were present at the Launch and gave a verbal account of the tour to the masterful questioning of MC, Mr Bernard Caleo. Most of the details shared that afternoon were not included in Small Sales & True. Still, you did not need to have attended (or even have been on the tour) to enjoy the contents of the book.
The paperback book (size 15 cms x 21 cms, 64 black and white pages on good quality paper stock) gives a personal account of each participant's viewpoint of the tour and it is an entertaining read. In the story Comic Comic, Mirranda Burton gives a sense of her personal dislocation ("I feel so small"), before realising her motivation in joining the tour. It is only a short piece (five pages long), but it left me with a strong impression and a need to explore opportunities to seek out more of her comic works. Gregory Mackay's contribution was even smaller (four pages), and wasn't really a narrative piece, but did reflect his title (Travel Notes). He has a nice clean style which left me wishing he could have contributed more to the project.
I enjoyed both stories by Maijka Gooding and Scarlette Baccini. Although Maijka's style appears more polished, I got a better sense of the adventure with Scarlette's tale. Is it because Bruce Mutard is more prolific than the others artists that he gets a whopping 18 pages in the book? Whatever the reason, it was a whole lot of fun and gave a sense of what must have taken place during the two weeks. It was interesting that Bruce made a similar comment to Mirranda earlier in the book. I still don't know if this was because of both artists' individual insecurities or for other reasons, but it did give a sense of some of the emotions experienced during the Caravan of Comics tour.
There are two artists within the book, Elaine Will and Eleri Harris, who only contribute five pages in the book - both about the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I suspect that they were there independent of the Caravan crew, but were invited to contribute to share their experiences. I am just so glad they did. Although their styles were worlds apart (no pun intended), these five pages were my pick of the book. The passion for their craft and the sense of what must have been a whirlwind of mayhem during the Festival is clearly demonstrated. Well done!
I am unsure where you may be able to obtain a copy of Small Sales & True (or even how much it costs). Details of the Tour can be found on the web here, but I'd suggest you write to the team to find out. The address in the books says:
PO Box 270, BLAIRGOWRIE, 3942, Victoria or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a book worth searching out, and I highly recommend it.
The text has been fully revised from its original form and the book is a wonderful historical piece on the local comic medium. In fact, I will go as far as to say that I feel it is the most important local comic-related historical work since John Ryan's seminal Panel by Panel. Yes, I rate it that highly. Even higher than the Annette Shiell-edited Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900 - 1990 that appeared in 1998.
Melbourne comic Icon Philip Bentley has been in the local scene in one form or another since 1980. From one of the founders of Melbourne's (Australia's?) first comic book specialty shop in the 1980s, Minotaur Books, to co-publisher of two local influential comic book publications, Inkspots (from the early 1980s) and Fox Comics (1984 - 1992), Philip Bentley has been there! This books gives a background to these times, and the difficulties faced (and most times overcome) by Philip, in helping establish the modern Australian comics scene. Because Philip was so instrumental in moulding this scene, and the book is written by him, it is my belief that in years to come this book will be a seminal reference tool for all local comic historians.
I should be open here and declare that I have no financial interest in My Life in Comics, and I have not been paid to say this. I shall also be transparent and say that I have known and done business with Philip (in purchasing some of his wares, and in having some of my publications retail in his outlet when he owned it). I am still on friendly terms with Philip and value his opinions (he was given a free copy of John Dixon, Air Hawk and the Flying Doctor in 2011), but none of this has influenced my opinion in making the above statements.
The book is trade paperback in size (17 cms x 24 cms) and comes with 125 pages, many of which contain illustrations pertaining to the story/history. There are two versions of the book available: one with coloured pictures, one with black and white illustrations. The book was launched with Small Sales & True, with Philip fielding questions from MC Barnard Caleo on the occasion. My Life in Comics is available for $25 a copy (plus $5 for postage within Australia) and all the details are available from Philip's publishing arm, Second Shore (which you can access by clicking here). Minotaur Books and All Star Comics in Melbourne also retail copies, and I would urge other comic specialty stores in other states to consider carrying copies of the book.
Comicoz' Christmas Competition:
When I was at the Launch of these books, I purchased two copies of each book. If you have read this far, you are now in with a chance to win a copy of one of the above-mentioned books, Small Sales & True and My Life in Comics, courtesy of Comicoz and absolutely free! It is only two weeks to Christmas, so why not enter and try to score a special Christmas gift for yourself?! All you have to do, is email me (care of the Contact link above or via the Comment section after this Blog) and include the word "Historical" in the email or message, and you are in the running. Only one "entry" per person. The FIFTH email/message I receive will win a copy of Small Sales & True and the EIGHTH, a copy of My Life in Comics. Both books have been autographed, making this a wonderful opportunity to score yourself (or a comics-loving loved one!) an unexpected Ch