Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A VERY VERY VERY Belated Xmas Wish!

We apologise for being absent for so long. We both went underground during the last six weeks or so – I (Julie) have been in hospital for spinal surgery and have been recovering for the last three weeks, and Jozef has had so many art deadlines and computer meltdowns where he's had to rebuild his entire hard-drive (thank goodness for his Time Machine back up system!) that's it's just been a terrible month. Medically speaking, this has not been a good year for either of us because Jozef had a bout with whooping cough at the beginning of the year which reined him in and exhausted him for several months – it was a terrible hearing him wrack in a breath. At least it's over with and we will welcome our default position of being in excellent health in 2011 when the energy will once again be fresh and renewed.

The image you see beside you is the Xmas Black Mermaid™ (Snow Angel) design that we released not long ago. She's delicate and fragile and really quite beautiful .. as always, Jozef's done a superlative job. We also have lots of lovely things in store for next year (as well as a lot of work that we need to keep plugging away at) so there'll be announcements soon. Because of the medical issues we've lost about two to three months of momentum but we are making up for lost time and appreciate all your patience and support. Here's raising a New Year's Eve glass of champagne, juice, water or whatever your pleasure ... see you in a few days with lots of new pretty bright pieces of art and comics fare!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Animated Christmas Card for $500!!!

Talented Aussie comic artist and animator David Blumenstein is offering a special deal for anybody who wants to do something original and creative at Christmas – his company Nakedfella Productions will create a one-minuted personalised animated Christmas greeting card for just $500! Send it to family, friends and clients and set up the entire silly season with a big belly laugh. This is a limited offer which ends 25 December 2010 (We're presuming Australian EST). The only thing is you won't be able to with your greeting card is put it on your mantlepiece with all your other regular ones. However, this gives you the perfect excuse to buy a plasma TV or a new iPad to keep playing it around the clock when Christmas celebrations begin at your home or office. For more information, go to the Nakefella website.

To Publish or NOT to Publish Fan Art ... that is the question!

Speaking of Colleen .... pop onto her A Distant Soil blog and find out more about the pitfalls of publishing fan art and read her post "And now a word about that fan art... this is why we can't have nice things". We personally love fan art but we've always had friendly, respectful and lovely readers who thank goodness haven't exhibited any form of delusion, narcissism or misapprehension such as what Colleen has encountered. After reading this article, we're putting out to the universe that this kind of relationship and communication continues. A good disclaimer clause for the new kids on the block won't go astray either!

The Copyright Adventures of Colleen and Congress

The illustrious Colleen Doran has made a mark on Washington and her stance on the need to bring in hardline anti-piracy laws. In her usual concise articulate way she has presented a compelling picture of what happens to a creator when their work is digitised without permission by online pirates. Indeed, as you will read, copyright infringement of this calibre is not a victimless crime.
I spent the last two years working on a graphic novel called Gone to Amerikay, written by Derek McCulloch for DC Comics/Vertigo. It will have taken me 3,000 hours to draw it and months of research. Others have contributed long hours, hard work and creativity to this process. But due to shrinking financing caused by falling sales in the division, these people are no longer employed.
The minute this book is available, someone will take one copy and within 24 hours, that book will be available for free to anyone around the world who wants to read it. 3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole, with the frightening possibility that without a solid return on this investment, there will be no more major investments in future work.
We read the piece when it first published online and when it had around eight comments; today it's up to 115! WOW! Here's the full article "The 'real' victims of online piracy". To use a Molly Meldrum catch phrase, "do yourself a favour" and go and read it!

Announcing New Aussie Event – Australian Comic Art Festival

There's a new event on the horizon in 2011 – the Australia Comic Arts Festival to be held in Brisbane on Saturday 4 June 2011. This inaugural event will focus on webcomics, print comic strips, political cartoons, manga, comic books, graphic novels, and motion comics.

According to the ACAF website, this will be an:
"... ongoing event that is there to support and teach those interested in comics ... and will allow current creators to network and exhibit, as well as to inspire people who have an interest in creating to get involved and learn some skills... The primary driver of the event is to promote the diversity of comics as a legitimate artistic and literary medium."
Planned activities include a a large exhibition area featuring publishers, comic authors and artists, gallery show, tutorials / workshops, presentations and guest speakers. EXHIBITION TABLES ARE FREE! If you would like to be an exhibitor or want to present a session, then register NOW! Registration deadline is 30 November 2010. CLICK here for details.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mermaid Smurfette

I had a mermaid Smurfette when I was a kid. I remember purchasing her with great excitement from a BP petrol station – the only place in Australia at the time that was selling Smurfs. She had a display place of pride in my bedroom and I loved looking and engaging with her and having her with me.

Unfortunately, one day when I wasn't home, my mother allowed some visiting children to play in my bedroom. After their departure when I returned. I found my room in an awful mess – artwork I had been working on was vandalised with texta scribbles all over it, and several small items were missing... including my mermaid Smurfette. I was quite distraught.

After that I banned ALL children from visiting my bedroom without my presence.

So for about 20 years after that I searched for a replacement mermaid Smurfette. Then Ali, a friend of a friend who had heard my tale of loss and woe, mentioned she had one at home and that she would give the figurine to me as a gift. I was so happy and excited that I promptly returned home and drew in coloured pencil and from memory the original mermaid Smurfette which I had owned and loved, which I presented to Ali as a gift in exchange for the actual toy.

In the process I thankfully got a b/w photocopy of the image. Unfortunately no scan of the original colour pencilled art exists because I didn't have a scanner in 2000.

Ten years later, I stumbled upon the photocopy in my files while looking for another artwork, and decided it was time to finally scan and colour it. So here she is ... drawn in 2000, and now coloured in 2010.

For the past 10 years, I've had the actual mermaid Smurfette toy sitting in pride of place on my computer desk. She's lovely and she's adored.

I call mine Merfette... ;-)

Smurfette.Mermaid Artwork©JozefSzekeres2010

Monday, November 8, 2010


A big fat hearty congrats and a big fat hearty hug go to our friends Nick Nicolaou and Paul Katte of the Makeup Effects Group in Sydney, whose SFX makeup on the recent horror film Needle has won not just one but TWO international awards! The first award was for "Best Make-up" from Screamfest LA, one of America's biggest horror film festivals. The second was the "Best Special Effects" award at the British Horror Film Festival. Not quite sure what to make of the movie poster – it looks great but gruesome!

Abstract Comics: Reinventing the Form

We were contacted the other day by an Australian comics creator called Tim Gaze who has written a fascinating article on an emerging stream of comics culture – abstract comics. He identifies three methods that underpin the reinvention of the comics form (some of which appeared as early as the 60s):

(1) the frames are asymmetrical, partly dismantled or completely absent;
(2) content may come in the form of abstract non-representational shapes which might be arranged within panel borders or illegible writing may be placed in speech balloons, and
(3) comics conventions (no not the ComicCon or Supanova kind!) such as speech or thought balloons which may be used within a different artform such as visual art or poetry.

(This brings to mind that an old uni friend recently told me through FaceBook that his PhD was a combination of poetry and comics ... he's sending me a copy so it will be interesting to see if it fits Tim's definition of abstract comics.

This is a pic plucked from the article which illustrates abstract comics using irregular or no frames.

To read the full article and see more go to: "A Quick Introduction to Abstract Comics". For a look at Tim's abstract comics artwork check out his Pseudocomics.

The Mimic Octopus

We support various environmental groups and receive regular email newsletters from them about what's happening on the planet. A recent story "The Amazing Mimic Octopus" on Care2Causes recently made us sit up and pay attention because the accompanying video was simply fascinating. The octopi featured in the video are shape-shifters – they mimic everything from poisonous banded sea snakes to lion fish to a "furry turkey", which to us looks more like one of Australia's most venomous creatures – the stonefish. Apparently there are 15 species of mimic octopus. Glad to know that Aussie biologists are at the forefront of this discovery ... coming from a land of glorious beaches most of us appreciate and respect the ocean world and its wondrous magical inhabitants.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Uncanny "Political" Lookalikes

And the Totally Looks Like pièce de résistance ... Australia's new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. That's ma'am to you.

Uncanny "Animation" Lookalikes

Here are some more – this time from animated films and real life people, objects and forces of nature ...

Uncanny "Comics" Lookalikes

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Totally Looks Like website and I receive daily emails with some of these wonderful pics. These are some of my favourites from comics properties over the last few months ....

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Peg Maltby

Couldn't resist ... this piece is from the short story "The Gown of Cobweb Lace" from Peg Maltby's Peg's Fairy Book. Yes, we know it's fairy rather than mermaid artwork but it's too delightful for words and we thought you wouldn't mind us getting off theme once in a while.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mermaid Artists 2 – Peg Maltby

... well to be honest, Peg Maltby is strictly speaking, more of a fairy artist than a mermaid artist but she did create this wonderful baby mermaid and water fairies piece for her short story "Fun Under the Sea" in her gorgeous book Peg's Fairy Book, which was published in Australia in 1946. I have a copy and I used to look at these pictures over and over again when I was a little girl. I showed Jozef the other day and he was captivated by them, especially this lovely illustration. What I didn't know was that this book sold over 100,000 copies in its time. It was reprinted again in the mid 1970s but it's difficult to get copies of either version now (although it is showing up by some resellers on Amazon, which will cost you a pretty penny).

You can read all about Peg and see more of her work on the Australian Fairy Artists Society website. You can also take a look at the first edition cover at the State Library of Victoria's Your Treasures site.

CAL Cultural Fund Proposed Increase for Australian Cultural Activities

The Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) is a not-for-profit, membership-based Australian copyright management company whose role is to bridge between creators and users of copyright material. CAL represents authors, journalists, visual artists, photographers and newspaper, magazine and book publishers as their non-exclusive agent to license the copying of their works to the general community. CAL has distributed over $650 million since 1989 and has over 16,000 members.

Part of CAL's charter is to run the Cultural Fund, which up to 2010 allocated 1% of its earnings to support a wide range of projects that aim to encourage and provide practical assistance to CAL's members and the Australian cultural community. There is now a proposal on the table to increase this funding to 1.5% per annum.

We strongly recommend that Australian comics creators (writers and artists) become members of CAL to protect their respective IP interests, but also to register their votes at the upcoming CAL AGM in November in favour of increasing the Cultural Fund Allocation to 1.5% per annum. This can be done in person or by proxy. Both of us are members and will be attending in support of the initiative so if any Australian comics creators are current members or are intending to become members during the next three to four weeks and can't make the AGM then one option before you is to nominate either of us – Julie Ditrich or Jozef Szekeres – as your proxies.

CLICK HERE if you want to access the CAL online membership application, and hope to see you at the AGM!

Graphic Novels on Aussie TV!

Journalist and publisher, Jennifer Byrne, host of the "First Tuesday Book Club" on ABC TV (Australia) is talking comics! Her program "Jennifer Byrne Presents: Graphic Novels" has been scheduled for Tuesday 9th November 2010, at 10:05pm on ABC1. It will be repeated the following Sunday 14th November at 6:30pm on ABC2. The episode will feature Bruce Mutard, Eddie Campbell, Sophie Cunningham and Nikki Greenberg.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First Sydney Sketchmeet

Sydney artist, P J Magalhaes has organised the first "official" Sydney Sketchmeet, which is happening TODAY!!!

The idea is to get out of the house, mix with other artists, get to know each other and at the same time sketch. Artists all need some fresh air from time to time. Come, say hi to everyone, introduce yourself, and start chatting and sketching away. Feel free to start a conversation. Better yet, ask to see people's sketchbooks and share yours.

There are plenty of cafés around and other interesting places to explore. There are also lots of people to draw and always plenty of interesting characters.

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday 2 October 2010
Time: 10am to 4pm
Location: Hyde Park Sydney CBD at the Archibald Fountain (see picture above)
What to Bring: A sketchbook and something to doodle with
Goal: To sketch!!!

For further information ring PJ on 0404 353 589. You can also check out his blog here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sketch-o-Rama with Shaun Tan and Chewie Chan

Aussie Comics artists/illustrators extraordinaire Shaun Tan and W Chew Chan are having a 'sketch-off' this weekend. Join them in an afternoon of fun drawing games as they celebrate the release of Shaun's new book The Bird King and Other Sketches. The event is free. Here are the details:

Date: Saturday 25 September 2010
Time: 2.00 to 4.00pm
Venue: Books Kinokuniya, Level 2, The Galleries, 500 George St, Sydney NSW Australia
Cost: Free

For more info and to register your attendance, pop onto the event FaceBook page.

And for those of you who can't make it cause you live overseas, then pick up our personal favourites.

Women Read Comics Too!

Love this cute website we recently discovered called Women Read Comics in Public. It delivers exactly what it promises – a collection of pics from around the world of women of all cultures and ages reading comic books or graphic novels in coffee shops, park benches, gardens and libraries and the like. We need some Aussies on there too! How about it ...

Aussie Comics Articles

Australian academics are writing more and more about Australian comics history and trends and we're discovering more and more portals of great information and some serious discourse about the subject, which in our view is a good thing. Nay, a GREAT thing!

Check out the online article "The Invisible Medium: Comics Studies in Australia" by Kevin Patrick, in Refractory: Journal of Entertainment Media. which is published by the Cinema Studies Program, School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. This is interesting in itself because we've been fielding lots of calls from screenwriters and directors who are applying for film grants that cross media platforms and who are wanting to create content for cinema, digital comics and graphic novels. It appears as though the Australian film industry is switching onto the versatility and storytelling potential of the comics medium. But hey, that's another story ....

In his article, Kevin Patrick tells us that:

The near simultaneous appearance of [recently released] works, all of which received positive reviews, suggested that Australia’s mainstream book publishers were ‘catching up’ with international trends.

Such concentrated media coverage created the false impression that the Australian graphic novel was an entirely new phenomenon, thereby ignoring earlier Australian examples of the graphic novel and bypassing any mention of Australia’s post-war comic book industry, the scale and diversity of which easily eclipsed the modest output of present-day graphic novel publishing activity.

Yet just as Australian publishers, readers and journalists have lagged behind their overseas counterparts in their critical reappraisal of comics and graphic novels, it would appear that Australian academe has been equally tardy in giving this medium serious consideration... Comics, it seems, remain an invisible medium.

But no longer. I was recently invited to attend a private function at the Pop Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand(POPCAANZ), which had added comics to a heavily laden seminar program. The academics in the room were warm, enthusiastic and completely open to the idea of comics in a way we've never experienced before. You rock, John Cockley!

We must also make special mention of Clare Snowball who has spent years researching her PhD on comics for teenagers. You can check out her website here.

The only point of contention in the Patrick article for us is about who actually popularised the term "graphic novel". Patrick credits Titan Books (UK) publicist Igor Goldkind, as the key person in 1985 but we've heard, read and seen documentary evidence that suggests that Will Eisner began using the term prodigiously during the 1970s. Indeed Wikipedia tells us:

In 1976, the term "graphic novel" appeared in print to describe three separate works. Bloodstar by Richard Corben (adapted from a story by Robert E. Howard) used the term to define itself on its dust jacket and introduction. George Metzger's Beyond Time and Again, serialized in underground comics from 1967–72, was subtitled "A Graphic Novel" on the inside title page when collected as a 48-page, black-and-white, hardcover book published by Kyle & Wheary.

The term "graphic novel" began to grow in popularity months after it appeared on the cover of the trade paperback edition (though not the hardcover edition) of Will Eisner's A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories (October 1978). This collection of short stories was a mature, complex work focusing on the lives of ordinary people in the real world, and the term "graphic novel" was intended to distinguish it from traditional comic books, with which it shared a storytelling medium.
Anyway, it's a small point (although it could be controversial between US and English shores).

In the meantime, we applaud the scholarly examination of comics in Australia and are learning a lot about our art form in the process. Goodonya!

Ghostly Black Mermaid™ Out Now!

Yes, that's right – our Black Mermaid™ turns white mermaid, albeit temporarily in our new 2010 Halloween "Starlight Ghost" design. BMP Director and internationally known artist Jozef Szekeres is the designer. She's available on t-shirts, water bottles, mugs, cards and the like at the Black Mermaid Boutique. Check out the throw pillows, which are our personal favourites. Wethinks she's a star in her own right!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stanley Awards – New Comic Book Artist Award Announced

The Australian Cartoonists' Association (ACA) has recently launched a new "Comic Book Artist Award" category within their annual Stanley Awards, and we're pleased to say we were on the consulting team to define the scope of the award.

The submission criteria for this award is:
An artist whose published body of work consists primarily of sequential art drawn with the intention of conveying information and/or telling a story to the reader in the form of comic books (periodicals/"floppies"), graphic novels, adventure cartoon strips with serial content and zines (containing sequential art content).
The ACA Year Book is limited to half a page for award submissions, however, comic book artists will have a full page to showcase their work.

The Award winners will be announced at the 26th Stanley Awards to be held in Melbourne on 6 November 2010.

CLICK HERE for the 2010 Stanley Awards Categories and Submission Guidelines. Please note that you need to be a member of the ACA to submit your work.

Please also note that the deadline for entries has been extended to Saturday 28 August 2010.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MUST READ ARTICLES: Publishing Company Exposé, How Not to Get Hired and iPad Comics Revolution

Check out two stories on superhero protector of comics creators Colleen Doran's blog. The first is iUniverse iMock, which is an exposé on iUniverse which promotes itself as a:
... publishing and author marketing services provider, is the leading book marketing, editorial services, and supported self-publishing company.
Also check out How to Hire an Artist by a Client Who Should be Avoided At All Costs if you're an artist looking for work in the comics or gaming industries. For Aussie artists who don't know what to charge for their work or indeed how to value their work, go read the Australian Society of Authors Minimum Comics Pages Rates.

Finally, read about how iPad is revolutionising digital comics and increasing consumers' acceptance of this platform and mode of delivery:
Industry observers say the iPad's size, portability and color screen make it a good fit for reading comics ...

"The iPad is much better suited for comics, and on that platform comics are expanding very rapidly," said Milton Griepp, president and publisher of the trend-watching magazine, ICv2, which reported sales of between $500,000 and $1 million in digital comic sales on moble apps in 2009.
Here's the article: iPad Books Appeal of Digital Comics. Good news we would think!

Lost Things and Kidnapped Owls

A couple of other good things came out of the GRAPIC weekend – we were introduced to two new animated film properties. Here's the wonderful Shaun Tan vision of his The Lost Thing. The trailer is first and then the actual 10 minute animated film, followed by Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga Hoole, which features the wonderful voice talents of Hugo Weaving and Sam Neil amongst other Aussies. Zack Snyder is the director. Even the Harry Potter owls didn't get centre stage like this.

(Hmmm... maybe someone can also tell us why these embedded videos are no longer fitting into the Blogger template. You might be better off looking at them directly on YouTube.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GRAPHIC Fantastic!

A few years ago I interviewed US comics artist and writer extraordinaire Colleen Doran of A Distant Soil fame (amongst 100s of other credits including Orbiter, Sandman, and Book of Lost Souls) about her beginnings in comics. She recalled an experience of attending the US Book Expo during the late 80s as a particularly humiliating one. She and other comics professionals were given an "unenthusiastic reception" and were treated like the "scum of the earth" by many of the attendees from the mainstream literary community. In fact the Marvel Comics booth was so deserted as to make it resemble a veritable "ghost town". Doran noted that at that time in American comics history "to announce that you worked in comics was a sign of mental retardation". The Book Expo experience haunted Doran so much that she didn't attend another one for 15 years by which time opinion had changed because comics and graphic novels were trickling into the mainstream book market and publishers were beginning to comprehend that comics were accessible across all genres and markets through the graphic novel format and were also commercially viable.

This was especially noticeable in 2003 when Doran, Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline), Jeff Smith (Bone) and Art Spiegelman (of the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus) were invited to attend the American Library Association's Conference. The reception was overwhelming and there were standing room only talks in a huge ballroom venue, as well as long lines of enthusiastic librarians who waited patiently for over an hour to get their books signed. The feedback about graphic novels was gratifying − librarians, who were the real movers and shakers driving this phenomenon – identified graphic novels as the most widely circulated books in their respective libraries. Moreover, reluctant readers were being converted, children were returning to school and public libraries, and the most telltale sign of their popularity was that graphic novels were the "most stolen books in the library system".

Now ... how does this relate to the local scene and to GRAPHIC – last weekend's Sydney Opera House event focusing on comics, graphic novels and animation? Well, there have been echoes of Doran's experience in the Australian comics scene. When we started in comics in the 1990s we noticed a great divide – readers of comics and graphic novels attended conventions such as OzCon and Supanova in droves. Their warm feedback was rewarding not only to us but to other local creators who were passionate about publishing their works, yet were doing so in virtual obscurity in the "real" world. To admit you worked in comics to "normal" people was tantamount to putting a target on your back. We all swapped tales of woe about the reception we received not only from people who went to 9 to 5 jobs but also others in the arts community – these reactions ranged from "coldness" to "silent treatment" to "raised eyebrows", "smirks", and at times "scorn" and "derision" amongst endless repeats of the phrase "get a real job!"

Last weekend, all that changed ...

There was a buzz about GRAPHIC well before it was held. This was evident through social media but also through conversations we had with our other comics colleagues. Are you going? What events are you attending? Damn ... I missed out on tickets to X, Y or Z .... We booked our tickets relatively early and covered as many events as we could but even we were out of luck with two of them because they were sold out! Now that's rare.

So here's a little summary of what went on for those people who couldn't make it:

Saturday morning began with the "Storyboarding" panel which was held in The Studio. Audience members sat in intimate groups at small tables in a darkened room that had the feel of a jazz club without the music ... I liked it. 150 to 200 people in the room. Panellists Chewie Chan, Mark Sexton, Chris Georgiou and James Hackett, gave us insight into how storyboarding influences the look and feel of a film and where characters and objects are placed in space. Ultimately the panel determined that storyboarding was not so much about art but about the ideas that needed to be communicated filmically.

Didn't manage to obtain tickets to the "Making Comics" workshop until the very last minute (thank you Jemma and Craig from the Sydney Opera House! We're very grateful). It turns out that Jozef was able to go but I couldn't for the most part because it had been brought forward by an hour and clashed with the "Storyboarding" session. However, I came in at the tail end with artist and Supanova organiser Tim McEwen to the Utzon Room, which seemed suspended over the waters of Sydney Harbour like a barge. Again, there must have been somewhere between 150 to 200 people in the room arranged on long tables – heads down hard at work on their respective creative projects. A comics pro was assigned to each table – I spotted Bernard Caleo, Matt Huynh – amongst others with credentials we haven't met before. Jozef caught up with Jules Faber the President of the Australian Cartoonists' Association who made an exciting announcement about the new ACA Stanley Award for Comics Book Art (to be covered in another blog post). There were two interesting observations I made about the workshop: (1) I saw fresh new faces from across the spectrum (women, men, girls, boys, professionals and amateurs); and (2) seasoned pros were mixed in with newbies listening and learning and soaking up the information as if they were hearing it for the first time. Here ... everyone was humble and everyone was equal.

Next was the "Publishing Your Work" seminar with Gary Groth (Fantagraphics publisher and editor of Comics Journal), Erica Wagner (Allen and Unwin graphic novels publisher), comics artist/writer Eddie Campbell (From Hell), and Jeremy Wortsman (Director of the artist's agency The Jacky Winter Group). The various speakers talked about the realities of the submission process to both mainstream book publishers and dedicated graphic novels press, as well as what it was like to self-publish. One overriding theme that emerged was the "adapt or die" business philosophy when it came to embracing digital technology such as the iPad as a platform for comics works. However, the consensus was that there was nothing more sacred than a beautifully realised and designed print book in a slip cover. Oh ... and keep an eye out for Nicki Greenberg's upcoming graphic novel adaptation of Hamlet published by Allen and Unwin under Erica Wagner's watch, which meets that criteria completely (albeit without the slipcase).

The Neil Gaiman reading in the Concert Hall that night was magic. Picture this ... Neil dressed in his signature black reading from a manuscript behind a lectern. Nearby, a chamber orchestra – FourPlay – playing the underscore that matched the shifts in mood within the story. Behind him, a giant screen that projected 35 original pieces by Eddie Campbell that illustrated plot points in the story, "The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains" which is set in Scotland about 200 years ago. I had to look up what a "reiver" was – the profession of one of the major characters. Here 'tis (thank you Wikipedia): "The collective name for the predatory clans of the border region between England and Scotland". This "long" short story (or novelette as Gaiman calls it) took a marathon 74 minutes to read. My mind cleaved in two: on one hand I was walking through the freezing Scottish moors and mountains and shivering alongside the characters, and the other part of me reverted to a childhood I never known. I imagined that I lived a 100 years ago and was sitting near a hearth with a warm blazing fire at the feet of a storyteller who was sitting in a brown leather lounge chair. Amazing! ... Oh and by the way, there were 2000 people in the audience!

There were 75 entries in the inaugural Graphic Animation Competition. Canadian Dave Barton Thomas took out the top prize with his entry The Seven Year Twitch.

I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend the private after-party and to carouse (as best I can for somebody who doesn't drink) with some of my colleagues. I also got to speak to Neil Gaiman for five minutes and to shake his hand, congratulate him for his reading and let him know which books and stories of his are my favourites (The Graveyard Book and "Snow, Glass, Apples" if anyone's interested). I'm still flabbergasted and amazed that it all happened ...

Sunday morning I attended the Gary Groth Fantagraphics session which was a fascinating look at the history of American comics through his eyes from the mid 1960s to the present. He survived several spurious law suits, came close to bankruptcy on several occasions and got out of it with quick thinking by forming Eros Comix; and has worked with luminaries such as Charles Schultz, Robert Crumb and the Hernandez Brothers. This was a story of grit, determination, absolute focus from the age of 15 and a pinch of what Australians would term – larrikinism. I was lucky to get a few minutes to talk to him prior to the start of the next session and will be sending him information on the ASA Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio in the next few days.

The wonderfully talented, zen-like and articulate Shaun Tan was also there as a major guest. I wished the scheduling was such that I could have attended The Arrival session with music but it clashed with the Neil Gaiman one. I talked to a few other people who attended and they agreed unanimously that it too had been a wonderful experience. I was also lucky to have been given a ticket (thank you Cefn) to the "Evolution of the Idea" session with Shaun Tan, Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell and with moderator Bernard Caleo. The panelists talked about process and entry points into creative works, and Eddie Campbell talked about a new term he had heard while visiting England recently, that being, "authorial" whereby the illustrator takes control of his or her projects. As usual, the discussion was lively and stimulating.

It's our understanding that GRAPHIC will become an annual event, and it's no secret why. Attendances were extraordinary and the content was terrific. Congratulations to the organisers and also a profound thank you.

The Australian comics community is characterised by small hubs of creativity mostly in the capital cities. Many comics creators have worked solidly and silently on their projects for many years with little recognition. It's been our experience that despite being a trifle jaded and a little cynical, that this community also possesses great warmth and a generosity of spirit towards each other.

What the GRAPHIC event at the Sydney Opera House accomplished was to give the comics artform and all its players in Australia the credibility, legitimacy and acceptance in the cultural landscape we've been searching for for a very long time. It also brought to mind the book and movie title "Waiting to Exhale" ... We do believe that right now there is a collective sigh of relief and thank you from within the Australian comics creators' ranks ... that it's finally okay okay to emerge from the shadows.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ledger Awards Returning Soon!

The Australian-based Ledger Awards were created in 2005 to acknowledge excellence and achievement in Australian comic arts and publishing. They were the brainchild of Gary Chaloner, a professional Tasmanian based comics writer/artist. Up to now the Ledger Awards has been a fully independent and non-profit initiative with no affiliations or links with organisations, businesses or other institutions. The Ledgers became too large for any one person to organise and lapsed during the last three years. However, a new Ledger Awards Organising Committee was recently formed and held its inaugural meeting in Sydney on Friday 18 June 2010. The committee consists of Gary Chaloner (comics artist), Tim McEwen (comics artist), Wolfgang Bylsma (Gestalt Publishing publisher), John Retallick (host/presenter of The Comics Spot radio show), Cefn Ridout (comics editor, writer and reviewer), and Jozef Szekeres (Black Mermaid Productions director and comics artist) and Julie Ditrich (Black Mermaid Productions director and comics writer). We’re hoping to get the Ledgers rolling again in 2011.

"Writing Graphic Novels" Workshop

Are you fascinated by the interplay between words and images? Whether you want to write comic books, illustrated texts or just play with the possibilities of combining text and images, this "Writing Graphic Novels" workshop will help you de-mystify a few things about "comics" and "graphic novels" and will also connect with people who are interested in the medium but think they can't get involved because they only feel capable of doing one task –either writing or illustrating.

This introductory course will cover elements of narrative specific to the form, relationships with artists and collaborative industry styles, as well as everything you need to know to start out in graphic novels. You will also be provided with resources including an introductory glossary and explanation of the industry as well as examples of how to structure writing for the form and a reading list for your further research and development. You will also learn about the production and distribution processes and the ways they differ from mainstream novels.

Presenter: Chewie Chan is an experienced storyboard and comic book artist who has worked on comic books such as Iron Man and for the films Happy Feetand Superman Returns.

Date: Sunday 15 August 2010

Time: 10am to 4pm

Venue: New South Wales (NSW) Writers' Centre, Rozelle, Sydney Australia

For more information and bookings go to the NSW Writers' Centre website.

Black Mermaid Productions highly recommends this workshop!