Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Xmas One and All!

BMP is signing off for the year and we want to wish all our blog and Elf~Fin readers (as well as Black Mermaid followers!) a very Merry Xmas and a wonderful New Year celebration. Looking forward to talking to you once again in 2012!
Jozef and Julie

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mermaid Treasures 20

Somebody gave me this lovely smiley little mermaid bookmark a few years ago. I don't use her as such – I actually have her sitting in and peering out of the pen holder on my desk in my office. What a cutie ...

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Recommended Not-So-Christmasy Politically Incorrect Graphic Novel Christmas Present – The Sixsmiths

The Sixsmiths Volume 1Black Mermaid has been very very bad this year ... in the reading department that is. One of the things both Jozef and I like to do is buy new Aussie comic books and graphic novels offerings every time we hit the Supanova circuit. Alas, I got far behind in my reading this year. The result is a thigh-high pile of books by my bedside that I desperately wanted to read but couldn't through lack of time and fatigue. During those nights where I would actually start reading, I would often fall asleep mid-sentence or page only to wake up with a start when the book slipped from my hand and clattered onto the floor.

Now that the major workload is over, I picked up Jason Franks' and J Marc Schmidt's The Sixsmiths published by SLG Publishing (USA), which I had bought back in February / March of this year.

All I can say is I'm glad I did. What a great find.

Now the purpose of this blog is not to review books or comics, and indeed we're not in the business of reviews. However, occasionally we like to share a positive reading experience with our readers so that you may be inclined to try them out...

And I certainly had a positive reading experience with this Aussie graphic novel.

The Sixsmiths is the story about a loving family that goes through many of the same life challenges that we do – unemployment, first day at a new job and a new school, lost dogs in the park, church on Sunday ... it sounds mundane but it's not. The important detail I haven't mentioned yet, is that this is a family that worships at the altar of the Dark Lord. No, not Voldemort... but Lucifer. This is, in fact, a story about a family of Satanists.

Strange as it may sound because I am personally adverse to having anything to do with dark supernatural forces, this is actually a charming story that gently unfolds with a natural rhythm through sixteen digestible and some emotionally charged chapters. If I had to summarise it in a sentence I would say it's like " The Simpsons meeting the Osbournes!"

I started off with trepidation and there were some moments of rising tension where I felt afraid to turn the page – unsure of what I would discover but also aware that I could potentially be projecting my own prejudices on the story. I certainly did not want to be greeted by some unpalatable or traumatising idea or image. In the end I placed my trust in the intention and skill of the comics creators, as well as the black comedy genre. And indeed I was correct. The pay-offs were exceptionally funny – the Virgin Sacrifice (amongst others) for one thing. 

Indeed, I laughed in many places at Franks' gentle rollicking humour – his perceptive observations on life and humanity, as well as his intelligent play on words and ideas. For example, the joke in the first names of the children (Cain and Lillith – Biblically significant to both ends of the religious spectrum), as well as the family name where the devil's number ("6") meets the common name ("Smith") that could also be read as the "sicksmiths", made me chuckle.

But is this a sick family? No. It is a family that could worship at any altar.  Being Satanists is not the point. Being human is the point.

They are loving and affectionate with a robust sexuality who are also fierce about protecting their children and exposing them to the rights sorts of influences – I love the chapter about the way Mum deals with a missionary message about the corruption of children who play evil video games.

And what is is a Satanistic family to do when one of their children wants to become a Budhist nun?

Schmidt's art is a delight. The artwork is naive but there there is a great deal of sophistication in its visual humour. The tuckshop lady arms on the teacher, the fat vicar's expressive eyebrows, the satanic iconography (seek the pentacles and you will find!)

There are a few dangling plotlines at the end but it's my understanding that they will be answered in the sequel.

This is a great book and the creators should be proud of themselves. I believe it is one of the breakthrough graphic novels coming from a new age of Australian comics.

Thematically it may not be the ideal Christmas fare for obvious religious reasons, but we ask you just to have a little faith... 

Check out The Sixsmiths website for more info and a taste-test of the web comic strip.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mermaid Treasures 19

Christmas is nearly upon us and I thought I might show you a little stuffed mermaid soft toy I received as a gift a few years ago. She's not terrible sophisticated, but there's something charming about her. She hangs from the door knob in my mermaid room.

The Impact of Graphic Novels in the US Education System

We were recently sent a great online article from the USA – "15 Awesome Examples of Graphic Novels in Education". The writers have "compiled a list of some of the best, coolest and most successful ways graphic novels are playing a role in education". We certainly understand the value of using comics as teaching tools – Julie's mother emigrated at the age of 12 from post war Europe in the late 1940s. In Australia, she taught herself English by reading comic books.

The only thing we have to pull the writers up on – and this is a very common mistake – is that "comics" is a medium and not a genre. Check with Scott McCloud who is mentioned in the article. He drums that into his readers in his Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art book. He also recently talked on the subject at GRAPHIC at the Sydney Opera House. Colleen Doran also spoke about it at the Comics Masterclass, which was held in Sydney a few weeks ago.

Just so you know – there are many "comics" works published in all kinds of genres including superhero, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, crime and many many more.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"The Art of Jozef Szekeres" Exhibition Report

I'd never publicly exhibited my original artworks before. I had been in several group exhibitions over the years that showed copies or prints of my artworks, but never the originals. A solo art exhibition was due.

As a prize winner of the Out Loud art exhibition, I won a week of exhibition space in the window gallery at The Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst. But still I was not yet ready to exhibit. I had to find the right time.

I met Charles Heyen mid 2010. He had come to Australia from the USA to do a post graduate course in Sydney as a curator. He had been following my work for several years and met with me one week after he arrived. At that first meeting we discussed the possibility of us working together to put on a showing of my artwork.

My partner Todd Barry urged me to pick a time for the exhibition in order to make it real. I started looking at possible time slots, but I wanted it to mean something special to me.

I knew that our good friend Colleen Doran was visiting this year as the guest speaker at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics MasterClass and I thought she would be the perfect person to launch it. After asking Colleen if she would be so kind as to be the guest speaker and open my art exhibition, and her heartfelt confirmation, I finally had a date. The day after the MasterClass – Monday 21 November 2011. I then had three months to put the exhibition together.

Charles and I looked over the collection of my original artworks that had been sitting in drawers for storage... some for 15-20 years. He was surprised to see so many originals to choose from. With his help to shape the look of the exhibition, we made our selections.

Stephen Frizza also supported me by helping me decide which digital artworks would best support the originals in the exhibition, then created the amazing collection of digital prints from my artworks on archive quality photo paper.

Three weeks before the show opened, The Tap Gallery informed me with some alarm that the window gallery space had been double-booked. We then relocated the exhibition into the middle gallery space, and the new larger dimensions allowed the numbers of artworks to be put on display to grow.

The Elizabet Bizelle and sister Kotalin Bizelle dolls I had created also had their place set for the exhibition.

Todd helped me by purchasing the frames for the art exhibition. All from IKEA. The many colours available helped group the original and print artworks into period themes.

The day of the opening, Todd's parents – Ken and Rhonda Barry– helped Charles, Todd and myself put up the artworks onto the walls.

It, of course, took longer to accomplish then planned. In total, 40 of my works were displayed at The Tap Gallery.

My sister Elizabeth arrived with food, while I ducked home to shower and get presentable for the opening that evening.

Elizabeth had offered to organise the food for the opening night. With her three friends – Christine, Barbara, and Vicky – the food she created and prepared was amazing. I wanted to grab a mouthful as I had hardly eaten all day, but I was aware that I would be constantly in conversation with my guests who attended the exhibition. Last thing I wanted was salmon breath, or food stuck in my teeth. Rhonda also created lovely slices and rum balls to the delight of the guests.

Todd had purchased white wine to share with the guests, and Ken and Rhonda looked after the wine glasses.

Julie set up the Black Mermaid Shop table where our Elf-Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed Preview comic and Mermist Seas prints were available for sale.

When Todd, Charles, Colleen and I arrived back to the exhibition at 6pm, I was surprised to see about 20 people already there and milling about looking at my artworks. 

Then came a greater swell of people arriving through to about 7:15pm. The room became so crowded, it was almost shoulder to shoulder in the exhibition space. People spilled into the adjoining exhibition spaces to make room. It was so full of people coming to see my artwork and wanting to talk with me about the works, it was overwhelming for me. My knees started to feel weak and shake.

Finally, it was time for the speeches. Charles introduced himself as the curator of the event, and spoke of his experience of my artwork, how it had reached out to him all the way to America, and how when he came to Sydney to study, one of his first few tasks was to meet me. He explained how the artworks were shown right to the edge without matting, to further showcase the art.

Colleen Doran [pictured right with me and Charles] did a wonderful speech about how "... out of shit, good things grow". This was in reference to how we met – when we experienced a common publisher that gave us both grief. She mentioned that the colours of my work speak to her in a unique fashion, and that my work has significance in her home country of USA.

I did a quick speech to thank everyone that had helped to create this event, and to all who came to experience my first solo exhibition opening night. I dedicated this first solo art exhibition to my father, who passed away earlier this year. He had always supported my art, and it was his dream to see me exhibit. I didn't get to realise that while he was alive, but I felt his loving spirit in the room with me on opening night. (I am thankful that the last time I saw him awake he got to see the Elf-Fin comic book preview... it made him so very happy.)  I thanked my mum who had always been there with love, supporting me in my artistic journey and through all things beyond that. I thanked my wonderful partner Todd Barry who has been there beside me all the way with great love and without judgement in all things. I thanked Julie Ditrich and Bruce Love, whose partnerships in comics influenced so many of the artworks I had on the walls. I thanked Charles Heyen for his expertise in curating this event. I thanked Colleen Doran for her continued friendship and artistic and professional support in my career. I thanked my sister Elizabeth for constant love and support and with the help with the food, and I thanked my brother-in-law Michael Moor for helping me financially so many years ago with the loan to help me realise the dream of creating my own doll line. I thanked Ken and Rhonda Barry for being there with love and support. There were many more wonderful people to thank, but my mind was too overwhelmed to continue.

Several original artworks sold – one original WaveDancers piece actually sold prior to the event opening to an American collector. Many prints were also sold during the course of the exhibition. Thank you to those people that believed in my work and purchased my art. I'm extremely grateful of the support and interest in my work. As an artist, I earn money from the artwork I create so I can survive. These sales will help me get into the new year and allow me to create new work.

The Tap Gallery announced they wanted to extend the exhibition by an extra week at their expense. 

"One week is not enough time to showcase the extraordinary talents and polish of this internationally significant artists' work. Jozef needs to have a two week show" - Leslie Dimmick

Over the entire two week showing, I was present for all but one day, which was covered by Charles.

Several nights after the opening night, I apparently was talking in my sleep. I ended up waking myself up by my own words, "Thank you for coming to my exhibition". It was obviously a dream made a reality and then returned to my dream life.

I loved the experience, I had never seen so many of my own originals on display all at once myself... and all framed. It was surreal and wonderful.

I do intend to exhibit again, it was too good an experience to do it only once in a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone that was involved, some of those of whom I have mentioned in this retelling of the events. I hope to see you all at my next art exhibition.

Jozef Szekeres

Monday, December 12, 2011

Comics Masterclass Report

Well it took Black Mermaid Productions (BMP) and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) over a year to organise the Comics Masterclass, which was held in Sydney on the 19 and 20 November 2011, and we're pleased to say it was an enormous success.

To recount the story...

BMP directors – Jozef Szekeres and Julie Ditrich – are the founders and current portfolio holders of the ASA Comics / Graphic Novels Portfolio, a special interest group that looks after the professional interests of literary creators working in the comics medium. The portfolio was started in mid 2007 and has since gone from strength to strength. We've introduced page rates, the Supanova Professional Development Seminar series, the Comics Biz marketing ezine, which is sent out to portfolio members, and lots of other initiatives. In September last year we applied to the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) Cultural Fund to help fund a weekend Comics Masterclass, featuring an overseas expert. We were thrilled to receive funding for one year which would go towards paying the speaker's fee. US comics creator Colleen Doran was our first choice for speaker and we were lucky to secure her in January of this year.

Then came all the project management. We had domain names and web hosting to secure, copywriting, web design and branding, the promo process, monthly ezines and all the minutiae in between. Of all the things on our project management checklist, the least of our worries was Colleen's presentation. We knew she'd deliver a powerful, somewhat controversial and content-rich session, which is exactly what came to pass despite one hiccup (and a painful one at that!) on the second day (more on that later).

The Comics Masterclass ended up with 100 participant from NSW, Vic, Qld, ACT, and SA, plus one US visitor and one working in China.

The event was held at the Aerial UTS Function Centre on Broadway in Sydney, which had great wooden doors, lots of natural light, and balconies with splendid views of the cityscape and Anzac Bridge. Participants had a choice of theatre style seating, tables or lounges along the back and side walls. Everyone who attended received a showbag and a raffle ticket for a number of draw prizes, which included three book packs donated by Books Kinokuniya, 50 free 32 page comic books printed to order by Jeffries Printing / Black House Comics, event passes and an artists' circle table at SMASH!, and weekend passes and an artists' alley table at any Supanova in 2012!  BMP had also donated a Colleen Doran A Distant Soil book pack which had been given out earlier in the year to one lucky early-bird who had booked into the event by the end of July.

ASA Executive Director, Angelo Loukakis [pictured in the photo on the left with Colleen Doran and Julie and Jozef from BMP. All photo credits except where otherwise stated: Ali Hand], made the opening speech followed by Jozef and Julie who did the house-keeping. 

Then Colleen did her "thang"... Over the next two days, she talked about how the comics visual language was developed before film and indeed had a broader range of expression. She challenged the notion of the infinite canvas when we have finite resources. She talked about the fancy gadgets being the distributor but the art being you.

She said that writing comics cannot be separated from drawing comics. She gave advice about working with publishers such as asking editors what their preferred writing / script style is. She distinguished the differences and explained the mechanics of full script, plot with dialogue, Marvel style, Shitagaki, adaptations and the emotional wave. She talked about the mystery of the redundant vase, as well as pacing and the wonders of lettering. She preached on the matter of "how thou shalt make a floor plan and keep it holy!" She spoke about how costumes are visual cues to the readers to identify each character when artists can't keep them on model, and how one builds worlds from the culture out. She recommended creating perennials – the evergreens – to build your backlist and keep those royalties flowing. She discussed the differences between mainstream and independent publishing (as well as their contracts!), and which one is best to keep the pesky stalkers at bay. She strongly advised everyone to be less forthcoming about sharing personal information with fans and publishers on blogs. She listed all the things you want in your contract. She talked about predators and editors. She recommended a US art convention where you and your project will be seen by talent scouts, which beats San Diego hands down (this secret information is reserved for Comics Masterclass participants only ... don't you wish you'd gone now?) and she showed us a Hollywood pitch document. We're only just skimming the surface here.

During both days, the UTS Aerial Function Centre spread out two fabulous morning teas for the participants, which included chocolate coated strawberries, brownies, assorted pastries and cakes, Swiss berliner doughnuts, spicy sausage rolls and cheese and tomato croissants. Despite the fact we over-catered, the food vanished in an instant so it was the quick or the dead around the bar area. 

We also arranged for several klosh-covered Aussie Tasting Plates to be brought up to Colleen through the day. She declared that she loved Vegemite! She also liked the lammington and the Tim-Tam. Alas, she never made it to the meat pie and sauce or the passionfruit and cream covered pavlova we had planned on the second day due to the aforementioned hiccup! (Yes, we're about to tell you what it was.)

On the Saturday evening, we announced the "win a private one-hour portfolio / project review with Colleen Doran" shortlist – Paul Mason, Jason Franks, Samuel McNair, Thomas Bonin, Jemima Trappel and the team consisting of Anthony Castle and Chad Ashby. Colleen then did a signing on the Books Kinokuniya table. We opened the bar for an hour and some people held back and "Moved Like Jagger" to the music we had playing.

Colleen then went back to her hotel to work on her and writer Derek McCulloch's upcoming graphic novel Gone to Amerikay, which will be published by DC / Vertigo in early 2012. Professional that she was, she had arrived the Sunday before and except for a quick trip to the city to attend the monthly Sauna Club Sydney Comics Creators Meet Up in the Camperdown Bowling Club, as well as a brief tech run at the venue on the Thursday afternoon before the masterclass, she had pretty much stayed in her room to work 12 to 15 hour days on her pages.

Jozef and Julie joined a group of other comics creators in Chinatown for the evening where we scoffed down lemon chicken and a multitude of other delicious dishes before grabbing a good night's sleep (we're speaking for ourselves not the other creators!).

The next morning, two minute prior to start time, we were wondering where our illustrious speaker was and Julie was frantically calling Colleen's hotel. A few moments later, she staggered in looking pale and clammy and clutching her abdomen. Food poisoning. Butter chicken. She'd been on the loo for most of the night.

Trooper that she was, she pretty much crawled on stage and started her presentation. Jozef ran off to the chemist to get some over the counter medication, and one of the audience members also donated some non-prescription anti-nausea medication to Colleen. 

We were given a few practical exercises to do in the Shitagaki method while Colleen dashed off to the bathroom. She somehow managed to make it back and pressed on despite her discomfort.

When the tasting plate came out just prior to lunch, we said it would be highly insensitive of us if we made her eat it so we asked the audience what they thought it was ... the plate was warm. They guessed it was the meat pie. When we asked if anybody wanted it, hands shot up all over the room. The fastest superhero hand in the corner scored it.

We sat on the balcony during lunch while Colleen lay on the warm concrete floor which eased the spasms in her back. A rainbow lorikeet flew in and she was entranced. But the day was warm, and heat and food poisoning are not friendly companions and her condition worsened. To say she was very crook was an understatement.

We asked Tim McEwen to do a break-out session on trends in the Australian comics market – a PP presentation he had done just the week before at the Australian Cartoonists' Association Conference – and he happily agreed and did a fabulous job.

In the interim, some of our lovely audience members began looking after Colleen– bringing her ice packs, supplying her with electrolyte drinks, putting cushions behind her back, and even checking her vitals (one of the participants was a nurse). One function room staff member brought in a milk crate lined with a garbage bag [see photo of Colleen who still managed to retain her sense of humour! Photo credit: Julie Ditrich on her iPhone] and again, Colleen recovered enough to take to the stage again. She ended up covering all the promised content including the Hollywood segment, except for the "Chalk and Talk" live drawing session, which would have demanded she be on her feet for an hour while her stomach was still churning.

Colleen then announced the winner of the portfolio review – Tom Bonin – who was thrilled! He ended up meeting Colleen the next day and she treated him to a sushi lunch while giving him feedback on his work. 

She finished the Sunday with another signing, and then went back to her hotel to recover and get a good night's sleep.

On the Monday night she launched Jozef's first solo art exhibition at the Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst (see upcoming blogpost) and on the following Saturday night she visited the Makeup Effects Group studio for a couple of hours.

Except for those two short trips, Colleen saw nothing of Sydney for the next ten days except for ten minutes at Circular Quay on the afternoon she set sail on a cruise liner to New Zealand. For those ten days she sat in her room, drawing her little heart out. A lesson from the ultimate professional to those who want to be just that in the comics world – deadlines before pleasure.

Her emails to us have said: "Must come back and worship Sydney."

Late but Great ACA Nominations News

BMP Director Jozef Szekeres was nominated for two Australian Cartoonists' Association (ACA) Stanley Awards last month – Best Illustrator 2011 and Best Comic Book Artist 2011. The final winners were Anton Emdin and David Follett respectively, both wonderful artists and friends. Jozef is both thankful and honoured to have been nominated by his artistic and creative peers at the ACA. For a full list of nominees and winners, just go to the ACA website.

Elf~Fin Leaks and Peeks 21

The first issue of Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed is happening (it will be 48 pages in all and Jozef is currently working on finishing the second half that extends beyond the limited edition PREVIEW). This will give readers an insight into Jozef's creation process. We'e posting three pages in all ... two here and one on our FaceBook page.

We're back...

... from a brief hiatus.

Jozef had his first solo art exhibition a few weeks ago, and the weekend Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics Masterclass featuring Colleen Doran, which took us a year to organise, finally happened in mid November as well (blog posts coming up on both events). 

We became somewhat mentally zombified from burn-out after that, but a few gym sessions, some decent sleep, and some general time-out restored our energy so please check out our latest updates including MORE ELF~FIN artwork.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Aussie Comikers Become Judges on Beauty and the Geek

Black House Comics publisher, Baden Kirgan, Aussie comics artist extraordinaire Nicola Scott and Kings Comics stalwart Jim Papagrigoriou switch hats from comikers to television judges on Beauty and the Geek (Australia), which screens tonight on Channel 7. Apparently they were asked to judge a challenge where the Beauties take on a superhero persona with prerequisite superpower while the Geeks make them a costume to suit. It all ends in a spectacular catwalk parade. Wonder who wins. Well, we'll find out soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE: Internationally Renowned Comics Artist and Graphic Novelist to Launch Jozef Szekeres Sydney Art Exhibition

Celebrated US comics creator and graphic novelist Colleen Doran will launch “The Art of Jozef Szekeres: Career and New Works” exhibition at the Tap Gallery in Sydney in November. 

Doran, who will be in town to present the inaugural weekend Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics Masterclass, has illustrated the likes of Spider-Man, Wonder WomanStar Wars, Lord of the Rings, Sandman, and who has worked for DC, Marvel, Disney, Lucas Films and many other major studios, is best known for her graphic novels series A Distant Soil which is on the “101 Best Graphic Novels of All Time” list. Doran was delighted to be asked to launch Szekeres’ first solo art exhibition, “Jozef Szekeres is an artist of exceptional ability, able to dance the boundaries of comics, fine art, illustration and animation. Pop, and charming, welcoming and sexy, dazzling colors and enticing, glamorous figure work. Exceptional attention to detail, inviting and lively. I love Jozef Szekeres, and the only thing wrong with him is that more people don't know who he is. Yet.”

Szekeres, who grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and now lives in the city, is a Director of Black Mermaid Productions (BMP), a comics team recently turned comics publisher, working in the niche market of mermaid comics. His comic book works have accumulated sales of over 270,000 that have sold all over the world. Szekeres is renowned for his mermaid artwork, which has permeated not only his comics works but also his commercial illustration. Szekeres originally worked as a Walt Disney senior animator but developed into an all round Renaissance man when he turned to painting, sculpting and doll-making. 

Indeed, he launched a series of 16” fashion dolls in the Elizabet Bizelle line, while also working as a gaming artist, mascot design consultant for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and conceptual artist on films such as Dark City and Cut. He now works as both a digital and a traditional artist, and his illustrative work has appeared in Blue magazine, the Bruno Gmunder’s Stripped Uncensored anthology, as well as event posters for the Sydney Mardi Gras. He currently teaches animation and graphic novels at the JMC Academy in Sydney and is working on a new comic book series Elf~Fin which will be released in 2012.

The exhibition, which is curated by Charles Heyen, will showcase his original comics and illustrative artworks that have seen print but have never before been exhibited in public or indeed been released for sale. “So many people in Australia and abroad have asked me to sell my artwork in the past, but like my father – ever the collector – I held onto my original art,” says Szekeres, “Now, after 20 years of art creation and my father’s passing earlier this year, I feel it’s time to release my art. I’ve enjoyed these pieces in my private collection for long enough. I’d like them to be shared and enjoyed by others. I see this as the beginning my career as an exhibiting artist.

The exhibition will run for one week only from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 November 2011 from 12 to 6pm at the Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010. The opening night and artist reception with special guest Colleen Doran is on Monday 21 November 2011 from 6 to 9pm.

For more information on Jozef Szekeres’s artwork go to: www.elf-fin.deviantart.com

For information about the Tap Gallery go to: www.tapgallery.org.au

For further information email Jozef Szekeres on: jozef@blackmermaid.com

Call for Papers: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics - Boys' Love Manga

This just came across our desks and the deadline for papers has expired by a few days, but don't let that stop you if you want to submit an academic paper to the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics – a peer reviewed journal covering all aspects of the graphic novel, comic strip and comic book, with the emphasis on comics in their cultural, institutional and creative contexts. Its scope is international, covering not only English language comics but also worldwide comic culture. The journal reflects interdisciplinary research in comics and aims to establish a dialogue between academics, historians, theoreticians and practitioners of comics.  It therefore examines the production and consumption of comics within the contexts of culture: art, cinema, television and new media technologies. 

The journal includes all forms of 'sequential imagery' including precursors of the comic but the main emphasis is on twentieth and twenty-first century examples, reflecting the increasing interest in the modern forms of the comic, its production and cultural consumption.

The journal is now looking for essays of between 5000 and 7000 words for the special issue: Boys' Love Manga. Abstracts of 250 to 300 words are now being sought. Deadline: 14 October 2011.

CLICK HERE for submission guidelines.

CLICK HERE to learn about the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics and to order previous issues.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mermaids & Mythology Elf~Fin Interview

We were thrilled that the UK-based Mermaids & Mythology magazine chose to feature Elf~Fin in a double page spread. It included several panels of Jozef's comic book artwork, a big Black Mermaid Productions logo which we're so proud of, and an interview about the comic book project. 

Here's a little taste-test of the interview:

Do you intend to tackle environmental issues in the story-lines? Or is it all very light hearted?

Our world of Elf~Threaal is a fantasy world and so it is different to the earth world we all live on. However, we explore human dilemma through mermaid stories. In the past we've examined identity theft, domestic violence and kidnapping of children. In Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed we explore soul mate love, affairs, corruption of children, and aging. These themes emerge organically .... the characters expose them to us.  In all likelihood, we will deal with environmental themes in the future. However, we prefer to show our characters living in harmony with the environment and having respect for elemental forces because our experience has been that young readers can model and be inspired by fiction to live authentic lives where they honour rather than destroy. Sometimes the simplest panels of artwork can have a powerful effect on the human psyche and we have letters from some of our readers who have said their lives have been touched and changed by seeing some of our comics story panel art.

The magazine is chock full of specialness (we sound like Buffy here!) with a profile on Hannah Mermaid and the famous Mertailor tail-maker Eric Durame, a story on Carolyn Turgeon's novel Mermaid, sumptuous artwork by David Delamare, and much much more. To order your subscription, just log onto the Mermaid Magazine website.

Plagiarism Too Close to Home

Came across an interesting story in The Sun Herald today – "Artist accused of stealing beauty" – which also appeared in The Canberra Times. It talks about a Melbourne pop artist Dennis Ropar who has "... been criticised for overstepping the line with one image from his Mexico series of portraits."

Apparently, "Ropar's Mexico #9 bears a remarkable resemble to Spring Muertos, a photograph of a make-up artist, Lisa Naeyaert, taken by the American photographer Gayla Partridge in November 2008."

A switched on friend of Ms Partridge alerted her after spotting the work online in what we believe is a blatant breach of copyright. We don't think people would be too hardpressed to see the similarities. The image is essentially the same except that the derivative work has a new background, and the placement of the model is different – she's not positioned from the waist up but rather from the chest up. There also appears to be some diffusion of the colour but these adjustments don't take away from the fact that the image is recognisable from the source material. It looks as if it has just been copied and pasted into the new artwork.

Which brings us to the issue of derivative works. The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics Biz ezine (Volume 1, #5 May 2009) examined this subject in their Legal FAQ column. Here is the piece in question:

What are Derivative Works?
Creators understand the term “derivative work” to include a literary, musical or artistic work such as a translation, dramatisation, adaptation, film version, art reproduction, abridgement, condensation or any other work that is based on one or more pre-existing works but has been modified or transformed.
Two issues arise for creators of derivative works. First, you need to get permission from the owner of copyright in the original work before making a derivative version, if the original work is still in copyright. That is because the derivative is likely to be an adaptation or reproduction of the original work and therefore an infringement of copyright if permission is not obtained. Secondly, there is the question of whether the derivative work is itself protected by copyright.
To attract copyright protection, the derivative work must contain a sufficient degree of originality to constitute it as a new work of authorship in its own right. The central “idea” in the derivative work may be based on other source material, but the “expression” and execution of that idea must be markedly different through the mechanisms of characterisation, text, symbols, illustrations and sometimes even the medium. For example, West Side Story the stage and screen musical is a derivative work from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The film Clueless is a derivative work of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. Andy Warhol’s pop art piece Campbell’s Soup Cans is a two-dimensional derivative work (comprising 32 canvases) based on the three dimensional branded grocery item – the Campbell’s soup can.
There is little case law on derivative works. However, Creative Commons (CC) Licences ... which are used predominantly in the online community, include a permission known as “NoDerivs”. These licences do not include permission to make derivative works, and doing so might be an infringement of copyright.
In our opinion, this puts this case into perspective.
BTW, despite arguing for the case of plagiarism, we completely disagree with the Associate Professor from the Sydney College of the Arts who has decreed that "the original is so cheesey I'm astounded anyone would want to plagiarise it...". We LOVE LOVE LOVE the original photo!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Magabala Books Releases First Indigenous Graphic Novel

Australian independent Indigenous publishing house Magabala Books recently released its first Indigenous graphic novel – The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon – the first book in the "Ubby's Underdogs" trilogy. The story is a product of artist / writer Brenton E McKenna's imagination, who lives in Broome in the far north of Western Australia. The story was greatly influenced by Brenton’s childhood in Broome and his Aboriginal and Malay heritage.

The story is about Ubby, a young ruffian who lives in a dusty pearling town in Western Australia who leads a rag-tag gang known as the Underdogs. When Ubby meets Sai Fong, a Chinese girl just off the boat from Shanghai, she is thrown into a mysterious world of ancient legends and never before exposed secrets. The main character, Ubby, was inspired by his grandmother, a strong Aboriginal woman who knew how to look after herself.

Brenton graphic novel was recently nominated for the 2011 Deadly Awards Outstanding Achievement in Literature.
For more information check out the Ubby's Underdogs website.

To order just go to the Magabala Books catalogue and key "Ubby's Underdogs" into the Search button.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mermaid Treasures 18

This cute little mermaid bookmark was a gift from a distant Austrian relative. She is, of course, safely ensconced in my mermaid room which is attached to my office.

"I Heart Tintin" Comics Art Exhibition

This year's Melbourne Fringe Festival comics art exhibition (curated by Jo Waite) and produced by Bernard Caleo) features works by Ive Sorocuk, Mandy Ord, Sarah Howell, Kirrily Schell, Anthony Woodward, Andrew Fulton, Bernard Caleo and Jo Waite.
Dates: Tuesday 4 to Friday 28 October 2011
Location: 'The Castle Window on the Sydney Road-facing outer wall of The Edinburgh Castle Pub, 681 Sydney Road (cnr. Sydney Road and Albion Street). Brunswick Vic 3056
Fringe Festival website here.

Artwork by Jo Waite.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Belief in Other Worlds

This little exchange from PhotoBucket is cute and funny. It brings a moment of "is it possible?" before you comprehend that to try this spell would mean a certain death sentence. It can look silly, but some people would take this response seriously, and... even try it. Why would they? Because they BELIEVE.

Belief in the imagined better life is something that we as a human race have entertained since we could think for ourselves... and within a community. The Egyptian life-after-death preparations seemed to be a life-long pursuit, no matter your social station. Our Modern world is full of religious afterlife options, a time that is presented as better then the now of living.

Are the imagined "other worlds" in literature, movies, comics, myth and legend much different than those presented in any religion?

The lyrics by Jay Brannan from his song "Goddamned" presents the mythology of religion quite beautifully.
Zeus was afraid of his girlfriend
So he swallowed her in bed
Then he bore forth Athena
When they cracked open his head
Her brother tried to rape her
Athena got away
And when his seed hit the ground
The grass gave birth that day
Now we all freely admit
This story’s clearly bullshit
No one would lay down their life
Or start a war for it
So throw your stones and pray
You’ll be rewarded someday
I hope it all goes your way
But something tells me
No one’s coming to save you
Save yourselves
From turning earth into hell.

Cause virgins don’t have babies
And water isn’t wine
And there’s a holy spirit maybe
But she would never rent a room with walls built by mankind
Mary and Mohammed
Are screaming through the clouds
For you to lay your goddamned arms down
Rip your bigot roots up from the earth and salt the goddamned ground.
In Elf~Fin, Julie and I are exploring a new world, another reality. In the creation of it, it does sometimes seem to take control and write itself, but that is an illusion. These moments are just those times that we are so in tune with our work and each other, that the obvious, and sometimes not so obvious possibilities, present themselves easily for development. Our world is not real, but we want it to feel real for you in the experiencing of it.

We want to take you away from reality, so you can swim with our characters and experience our Elf~Fin world. However, there is nothing more real than the ground beneath your feet.