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!

We've Been Gone and Now We're Back

Apologies to regular readers of this blog. We haven't been prolific as much as we would have liked in our blog posts for several months but with good reason. I (Julie) have been working five jobs over a six months period – seven days a week, 16 hour days, 4 to 5 hours sleep a night. Too exhausting for words. Never again! But at least I'm cashed up to start working on the next set of BMP tasks for 2010. Jozef's been thrust into difficult work days as well – he's juggling Elf~Fin, teaching comics one day a week, and also doing freelance work. But things are starting to shift and change so there'll be more activity here, on FaceBook, Twitter, the Black Mermaid Boutique and on the Black Mermaid Productions website. We'll keep you posted. We've missed conversing with you.