One of the great pleasures and absolute honours of being involved in the cartoon medium took place just a week ago, when Michael McFarlane, from the National Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour invited me to part-take in the judging of the 2019 Rotary Cartoon Awards. On a beautiful sunny morning -- after night duty! -- I arrived at the ABC Studios in South Brisbane. Joining me in the 'task': ABC Radio Announcer Steve Austin and Associate Professor of Modern European History at the University of New England, Richard Scully. What a great morning!
Small snippets of our conversations were broadcast on the radio later that afternoon (and are enclosed on this posting). Sadly, I was far too tired by that stage and totally missed the final transmission. (I still had a further three nights to go at that time!) As for whom we selected as our Winners? ... Well, you'll really have to head off to Coffs Harbour to find out! Why not attend the Award Ceremony being held at the Gallery on 7th September? Here's a link to buy tickets to see the Exhibition (which is running from the 7th September to 28th October 2019). (Sadly, I stupidly messsed up my roster requests at work, and will now be working on the Award Ceremony's night....)
Just before tomorrow's article appears in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, I thought I would just show you, dear reader, how Novella Distribution, is promoting my Comicoz books (see below). Great work, Rowena, Georgina and Team! Of course, readers of this blog know how to obtain copies: simply hit the "Store! Order Here!" tab above to be transported to all the titles, including Graeme Cliffe's latest From 'Sunbeams' to Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Australian Comic (1924 to 1965).
Yesterday, I completed an interview with Frances Whiting, a journalist from Brisbane's Courier-Mail. As part of the exercise, I was asked to name my five favourite Australian comic or comic-strip artists/cartoonists. An impossible task! I told Frances it was like naming my favourite child...and then, after we finished our conversation, I told her I would probably want to change my mind and add someone to the list (and then have to take someone off the list). Still, not being one to shirk my responsibilities, here are the five I shared....
1. John Dixon
2. Syd Miller
3. Gary Clark
4. Monty Wedd
5. Eric Jolliffee
There's no guarantee that the list would appear in the article, she told me, but we'll see when her story appears in the newspaper...next Saturday!
I can't say I really knew Australian cartoonist Paul Harris. I mean, I don't know if he had children or was married, or liked Aussie Rules football, because, well, I never met the guy. But, you know through his comics and cartoons, he was a descent bloke. From his stories, you knew he was a deep thinker and had a sense of humour.
I have learnt today that he recently passed away. Fellow cartoonist Ian C Thomas posted the news on Facebook. A great shame. In 1985, He sent me a comic story* for the next issue of Oi Oi Oi! Whenever that was going to be. He illustrated a story written by Ian for my Australia! book. I thought today I would share how he thought of himself back in the day. Rest easy, Paul. I'm going to think of you fondly today, even if I didn't know you as well as I would have liked to have....
*I'm not sure if I should share that comic story here, even if Paul did send it to me to publish. Perhaps just one page?
Comics are an American medium, no question. Do you know how good it feels to be selling an Australian book about Australian comics to the Americans? Here's ten percent of our print run, ready and packaged to be sent overseas! From my garage to the world.....!
Now to work on sending copies to the people who are really looking forward to reading the book: those who pre-ordered and those who supported the Kickstarter campaign....
Sad to say, the Stretch Goal of $6000.00 for the Kickstarter project for Graeme Cliffe's book From 'Sunbeams' to Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Australian Comic Book (1924 to 1965) wasn't met. I can't really complain though, as the target goal of $3000.00 was met. I'd like to thank all sixty-one people who made pledges, and to all the people who pre-ordered the book from this website, for their enthusiasm for this project. I am really proud to be publishing this volume for its historical importance.
Given this is my very first attempt at selling an Australian book* about Australian comics to the Americans who pioneered the medium, I am really chuffed to say that Diamond Comic Distributors have also ordered 110 copies. Anyway, being chuffed won't do it! I have a lot of work cut out for me, getting the books out to everyone and given the attached terms and conditions Diamond are asking in getting copies of the book to their warehouse in a safe and speedy manner. So, if you don't see many (or any) postings here (or on Facebook), you now know the reason why!
I'm honestly a little overwhelmed by all of this. The bottom line is that Graeme's book is NOT going to be making any money in getting these books overseas. It might end up costing much more money than I am ever going to make from the print run! So why sell it overseas in the first place? I really believe that there is a need to be able to share his research with as many people who have a passion for the comic medium as possible. This book needs to be in libraries, in schools, in as many hands as possible!
Although I fear the financial loss in the project, I am grateful for the people behind the scenes who have helped and who are helping in getting the book out to the world. Besides those who have purchased and supported the Kickstarter campaign, I need to thank Graeme Cliffe for entrusting me to publish the book, and to his friend and Australian comic historian Neville C Bain (who designed the cover and who is working on the Limited Edition copies of the book for the Kickstarter campaign). My long-time collaborator Ryan McDonald-Smith, who has spent countless hours -- at times without pay -- working on the internal design and prepared the book for the printer, King Wang, who did his usual marvellous job. I'm grateful that Rowena and Georgina and the whole team at my new distributor, Novella Distribution, share my enthusiasm and will be working towards those aims of getting copies of the book in schools and libraries. I need to thank my Customs Agent Ian Hosking for his timely advice and assistance in getting the book to Australia and now back to America! And, even though she won't be reading these words, someone I need to thank over and above everyone else: Carlene, my wife who allows me to work on all these comic projects, even though she is jealous of the time I spend on them all.
The Kickstarter campaign had the duel purpose of publicising the book and raising funds to cover some of the costs associated with the project. In promoting the campaign, we used part of a movie clip from the 1960s. I have always said I would share that on my website, and today seems to be the appropriate time to do so. It is of significant historical value. It was shot in Sydney by cameraman (and comic book illustrator in his own right) Keith Chatto. It featured Jan and John Ryan, as well as their children Fiona and Sean, and Jan kindly gave permission for me to use the material. This is the first time the vision has been seen publicly and in full. We were not able, during the course of the Kickstarter campaign, to identify all the artists in the clip, so if anyone can help in this matter, we'd appreciate the information. The artists we did identify were Jim Russell, John Dixon and R. B. (Bob) Clarke. We were able to rule out Phil Belbin, and I suspect it could be Stanley Pitt (given there is some of his artwork featured), but I am not 100% sure...
Graeme's book was designed to be almost the same size as John Ryan's book Panel By Panel. When Graeme and I were at the early discussion and visualisation phase of the project, we both agreed that rather than supersede John's book, we wanted it to compliment it. It was deliberately designed to be about the same size, with similar fonts, and a similarly-designed index. We wanted people (who may have a copy of John's book) to be able to place both volumes side by side in their library.
I have a lot of work cut out for me now, so this will be possibly my last word on Graeme's book for a while. I have packages to prepare, books to ship out. Let me know (when it arrives) your thoughts on the book. Happy, as ever, to take constructive criticism which I am more than happy to pass on to Graeme. He's hoping the edition sells out, so he can oversee a Second Edition. Could it be he found some errors in the text? Surely not....
*Some people with long memories will remember I once sold one of my "Air Hawk" comics to the Americans in 1990. ("Air Hawk Super Special #1" also known as "John Dixon's Air Hawk Magazine" Issue 5.) The venture wasn't an total success. Some of the product ended up 'lost' and the Distributors didn't pay. Copies of the magazine were, until most recently, still available from Lone Star Comics in Texas for the cover price of $2.00!