Sunday, January 30, 2011

Supanova Invitation: 'Tides of Hope' Flood Relief Fund-Raising

Dear Creator, Friend and Guest of Supanova,

Australia has experienced some of its worst flooding in 100 years. People have died, entire towns and suburbs wiped off the map. Brisbane was particularly badly hit. Recovery is estimated at billions of dollars.

You know all this as we’ve all been living and breathing it together.

In an effort to help in our unique community way, Supanova is inviting you to contribute towards a 32-page benefit comic book that we are 100% financing in relation to printing and distributing it so every cent of the retail price can go to the relief effort. It will go on sale at the Supanova 2011 Expos, in Brisbane and Melbourne, which begin April 1st onwards alongside an on-line auction of the original art.

If you would like to help us by donating a 1-page script, or draw a 1-page story from a script (or in some cases do both), we would love to have you on board.

The brainchild of the project is Chris Sequeira ( and he is editing it alongside co-conspirator and Supanova Art Director, Tim McEwen (, with Supanova’s Event Director, i.e. me, making final editorial and publishing decisions.

The parameters are:

  • All work must be a completely obligation free donation; no remuneration is possible.
  • If we sell out, multiple editions will be reprinted (and possibly made available at later Supanova cons in Sydney and Perth this year) so, please, if you participate, all rights are donated in perpetuity.
  • Please don’t use characters you don’t own unless you are able to provide official permissions in conjunction with the deadlines provided.
  • All funds raised to go to the PREMIER’S DISASTER RELIEF APPEAL.


  • Acceptance: Need your acceptance by Saturday 5th February.
  • 1-page scripts only, theme is “Surviving Flood”.
  • All-ages, material please.
  • Script in by: Thursday 10th February.
  • A signed, printed copy of the script to go in a set of all signed scripts for an on-line auction would be a welcome bonus but is not mandatory.


  • Acceptance: Need your acceptance by Saturday 5th February.
  • You will be given a script by Tuesday 15th February, OR you can opt to contribute an existing original piece or pin-up.
  • Complete lettered art to be emailed by Monday 8th March.
  • YES! You may colour it if you wish or have a friend do the colouring and donate their colouring as part of the event. Just make sure to give us details of any additional person involved so we can credit them.
  • Indicate early if you'll need us to letter it.
  • Original art to be mailed to Supanova shortly thereafter and sold at on-line auction.

Obviously deadlines are strict due to very skinny timeframes therefore we ask that…

a) You reply “yes/no” very quickly as no answer will automatically be considered as “no”

b) If it’s a “yes” you commit to the above deadlines

c) If circumstances change and you don’t feel you can; tell us ASAP so we can go to our reserve list for a replacement.

Thanks for your time and please be aware that we KNOW how busy people are in general. So if you think you can’t find the time there’s zero judgement on our part as your contribution to this medium alone is something that we’re already grateful for; especially people such as myself whose stick figures are gender challenged and whose scripts end up looking like… well like this… a proposal.

Chris, Tim and I look forward to hearing from all of you.


Daniel Zachariou

Event Director Supanova Expo

Supanova Pop Culture Industries

Phone: +61 2 8006 0569

Mobile: +61 412 026 797
Fax: +61 2 8582 8985

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australian Graphic Novelist and Illustrator Nominated for an Oscar

The wonderful Shaun Tan, Australian illustrator and graphic novelist, has been nominated for An Oscar for Best Short Film (Animated). The nominated film is called The Lost Thing and is based on his picture book of the same name. We introduced the film in a previous post. All we can say to Shaun is a big hearty CONGRATULATIONS! We'll be watching on the night and cheering from our lounges. The Oscars screen on Sunday 27 February 2011 (US time).

To read what the major papers and Australian media had to say go to: SBS, OnePerth, The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. In the meantime, here's another look at the trailer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Aussie Comics Creator Wanted

Queensland Health is looking for a comics creator to develop a 24 page comic to raise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners' awareness of the benefits of being smoke free.

Production of this comic would ideally involve:
* Creative facilitation preferably by indigenous facilitators of two x 6 hour workshops with Indigenous prisoners in custody in regional Queensland to develop content
* Creation of storyline
* A draft written of the comic script for approval
* Art and text
* 24 page comic with character and environment editorial
* Cover and back page
* A1 sized poster to promote issues surrounding smoking as well as promote the comic
* Development of colour 24 page comic and poster to print stage (printing will be provided by Qld Health approved printers).

Approval by Queensland Health delegates to be sought at each stage of production.

Please provide a quote and timeframe based on the above brief.

Kate Gibson
Smoking Initiative Project Manager
Offender Health Services
Queensland Health
c/- PMB 11
CQMC Qld 4702
Phone: (07) 49126259

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

WOWIO ... Not So Wow!

We recently received a rant from fellow Australian comiker Matt Elder, who's had problems buying e-comics from the WOWIO website.

Just to put you in the picture, WOWIO promotes itself as:
... a unique eBook marketplace that stands apart from the crowd by offering significant advantages to readers, authors, publishers and advertisers.
Furthermore, they –

... know authors and artists work hard to create their books, and we believe they deserve fair compensation. That’s why on WOWIO, they get to set their own prices, and keep 100% of those prices (less the credit card processing fee). That’s right. Authors and publishers keep 100% of the revenues of all retail sales.

In theory, this sounds good unless, of course, customers can't get hold of a product because they live outside the US.

Matt wrote us the following about his experience of shopping online at WOWIO:

I went to WOWIO site a couple of weeks ago to buy some books and had a horrible experience.

Just some background info. I was trying to support a guy by the name of Kurt Belcher – I inked one of his stories for the Something Wicked Anthology 4/5 years ago. So I was just going to the various sites with some of his books. I went to:

and managed to download it no worries... and for 99cents, I'm more than happy to pay for it.

I then went to WOWIO to get his Winter War, as well as a couple of comic titles created by others:

I joined up, added books to the shopping cart, filled in credit card details and hit the "submit" button ... and then had that dreaded moment when you don't know if your credit card transaction has been processed or the browser has screwed up / crashed or what.

(Attached is the screenshot when I went to try to buy one of the books.)

So I tried a whole bunch of different browers, a Mac and a PC, and various Operating systems (in case there was some computer issue on my end) but all kept doing the same thing, just hanging.

I contacted Kurt saying I couldn't buy his books to support him. He came back pretty quickly saying he and his publisher had had problems with WOWIO and anyone outside of the US trying to download books would have problems. He gave me another alternative to get the books for free (but I still wanted to give him some $$$ – when someone does it for a hobby and only wants 99cents for the book, who can say no).

I also contacted WOWIO and informed them in great detail about the problem so they could fix it (obviously not many other people are going to spent 1.5 hours trying to buy a book / comic let alone give enough information to the e-retailer so they can troubleshoot the problem on their end. I mentioned I was in Australia and so was wondering if there was a content / isp filtering issue.

They took four days to get back to me with a short message:

"I had our technical team look into it - they are suggesting to try a different credit card here. We are not seeing any notices on our end. We hope this helps, Thanks"

The credit card I've used I've had for almost 10 years and been using it for internet transactions for all of that time. I've only ever had one problem with it on the internet – way back when and it turned out to be a computer glitch. It's a major credit card through a major bank so there is a 0.5% chance that was the problem.

So, not only can you not give money to WOWIO, when you explain the issue to them in great detail, they don't understand it (even their other customers have experienced the same problem) when they do decide to get back to you. I'm just really surprised because there are some Image comic books (Darkness, Witchblade etc) on the site so it isn't some small time operator.

For me, WOWIO is now a damaged brand and I would be extremely hesistant to use them again. Apart from an exercise in how not to make money, how not to handle customers, [it] might be worthwhile letting Australian comics creators know as they may not realise they are missing out on international sales.

I must add that I've purchased several other comic books online in PDF format from other retailers and actually enjoy the process and the work – paying like $1-2 a book and getting them instantly.

End of ramble.

From our POV, there doesn't appear to be anything majorly sinister going on with WOWIO except that their customer service may need some attention. However, Matt's experience does highlight a need to be vigilant about where you place your e-books and e-comics. Comics creators work tremendously hard to bring out their titles, and if customers are not able to buy them because of flawed technology, then those lines of passive income begins to dry up for the creator.

Our advice ... before becoming a publisher on WOWIO or other similar sites, become a customer first. If you find it problematic to buy and download a e-comic or two from the site (and you might want to try different browsers and computers in the process) then think seriously about whether the site can be properly trusted to service your digital backlist.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Graphics Narratives" University Subject on Offer

The University of Melbourne is now offering a new subject – "Graphics Narratives" – to students enrolled in creative writing, editing and publishing courses. Students will study comics and cultural theory, contemporary criticism of comics with a focus on 20th century writers such as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Marjane Satrapi, Charles Burns, Bruce Mutard and Shaun Tan, and discuss the history and innovation of the comics writing practice. Guest tutors will present intensive workshops on drawing and storyboarding, For more information go to the University of Melbourne website or join the FaceBook page.

Mermaid Treasures 17

Received this lovely framed mermaid print for Christmas. I'm not skilled enough to identify the medium – my guess is either pastels, watercolour or both. There is a signature on the bottom RH corner starting with a "T" but I can't read it so I can't tell you who the artist is. The back of the frame has a stamp from the framers but no more identifying information. Anyway, she's quite lovely and the colour pallette is perfect for my mermaid room, which is attached to my office and is where I house my mermaid collectibles. It's a bedroom so it also comes in mighty handy when I want an afternoon snooze ...

Mermaid Books 4 - Magical Mermaids and Dolphins Oracle Cards

Okay, this is not strictly a book, but a 44-oracle card set and a guidebook inside a lovely box. The prolific Doreen Virtue is the creator of the set, and I (Julie) have pretty much every card set she has every released. (Others in the series include: Archangel Oracle Cards, Magical Unicorns Oracle Cards, Healing with the Fairies Oracle Cards and many more). The reason I'm connected to this one is pretty obvious ... There are two genuine "Black Mermaids" in the pack (as in African American inspired mermaids –the "Have Faith" and "Dream Big" cards), and there are 25 artists whose art appears on the card set. The guidebook also provides ordering information if you're interested in getting prints of the pieces. I think my favourite two cards are "Self-Forgiveness" which features a mermaid sitting on a rock in a cave (love her sensuousness, long hair and the gleam and colour of her tail), as well as the "Synchronicity" card with features two leaping dolphins above a set of crystals emanating rainbow light. Let us know which ones are your favourites ...

Friday, January 14, 2011

NEW "Contemplating Cupid" Valentine Black Mermaid™ Products

We've just added a whole bunch of new products to our Black Mermaid™ Boutique so you can get any (or indeed all of them if you so wish!) in our new Valentine design. Choose a gift of love for your sweetheart – maybe a new iPhone or iPad case, a snuggly stadium blanket for two or anything else that takes your fancy from a wide range of giftware and collectibles. Don't forget Valentine's Day is only one month away!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Black Mermaid™ Tattoos 1

Jamile from Brazil sent us this pic the other day accompanied with a message to say that since she was a little girl, she's always dreamed of being a mermaid and that she is still fascinated with these creatures. She decided to get a Black Mermaid™ one with our permission, and has sourced the image from our current website (we're in the processing of building a new one) on the Character Gallery page.

For future reference, please note our Tattoo Policy, which is published on the FAQ page of our website.

Do you design mermaid tattoos for people?

Time constraints do not allow Jozef to design any specific tattoos for interested people. Tattoo design is also not part of our core business. However, we do get occasional requests from readers, seeking permission to use some of the published BMP characters as tattoos. In principle, we do give permission in those circumstances, provided that the person contacts us by email. If you have such a request, you can email us on: However, the tattooist must give original art and copyright credit to the artist – Jozef Szekeres and/or Black Mermaid Productions™ – on any digital (online/electronic) or print promotional publication where a photo of the finished tattoo appears. We do not licence any of our Black Mermaid™, Elf~Fin™ or any other artwork and images generated by Black Mermaid Productions™ to any tattoo artists or companies.

Please note that we've changed our position slightly on the use of our Black Mermaid™ images and provided that you obtain our permission on a case by case basis, in general we do give permission to our individual readers and fans of the artwork.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Leggo Mermaid

Spotted this Lego mermaid at Sydney Aquarium the other day. She also served as a stool for children to sit on or drape themselves over. Photo courtesy of Cat Kouns Born.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Hollywood Tale; or, This is What Integrity Gets You

Reproduced with the kind permission of James A. Owen (comics creator and novelist – author of Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series)

Originally published on his FaceBook page on Saturday 8 January 2011.

I've gotten lots of supportive comments about my recent adventures with Hollywood, along with a few incredulous ones from people who are utterly shocked that the sort of bait-and-switch I described actually happens. The thing is, not only DOES it happen, but that IS the norm for most players in Hollywood. That is simply a reality. That's why it is so, so important to hang on to the ones in the business whom you find who are truly honest, and deal with integrity.

And, I stress, the only real power you have in doing a Hollywood deal is the power to say no. So don't say yes until you're certain that you want the deal in front of you.

I once was friends with someone who knew a very powerful director-producer team in Hollywood, who offered to pass along my comics for consideration. These were no bottom-feeders, but cream of the Hollywood elite. I happily agreed, and we sent them a package. I got back a sixteen page agreement letter which said that just for looking at my comics, the director and producer would be attached to the property, FOREVER. Whether or not they picked it up, they would have a permanent stake in it. If someone ELSE picked it up, they'd be paid first. And on, and on, and on. And I called them and said there was no WAY my entertainment attorney would agree to let me sign that - and they responded with "Oh - you have representation? Well, just tear that up - you don't have to sign it."

Like I said - careful is the word.

But, as bad as my recent experience was, it was FAR from the worst experience I've had with Hollywood - and I didn't even find out how large a bullet I'd dodged until after the fact.

When I was trying to sell SOMETHING over there, or to publishers (before HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS happened), I often stayed with a friend and his roommates there in LA. One day, he introduced me to a young President of Production for a small studio called Limelight Films. We hit it off really well, and he took me to their offices on Sunset Boulevard to meet the rest of the team.

All of the staff was thirtysomething, and all had some kind of film experience or credits. The President had been a screenwriter; the VP was an actor, and so on. The Chairman, Bruno, was older and had been in film distribution in Europe. But it was the backers that were really intriguing: the main investor in Limelight was a European photographer named Ale, whose family owned a Swiss Investment Bank. And almost as importantly, he was engaged to the other principal - Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter, who gave the studio its name, after he grandfather's first film.

Swiss banking royalty plus Hollywood Royalty plus a young, hungry production team was a good combination.

Bruno and his team were so taken with me that they actually came to Arizona to visit the Coppervale Studio, and for a little while, Limelight Studio's offices on Sunset became my second home in LA. They loved EVERYTHING I had worked on: the different books, and comics, and all the ambitious things that I wanted to do at Coppervale. And one day, they made me an offer:

They wanted to invest in me, and buy half of EVERYTHING I owned. The Studio, and all the intellectual properties. And they intended to make my projects their base working slate not only for Limelight, but for use in their upcoming European Stock Offering, in which they expected to raise more than a hundred million dollars to fund expansion.

I was, as you can guess, more than thrilled.

I talked to Ale, who was excited, and to Miss Chaplin, who was very nice, if a step removed from all the stuff her fiance and Bruno were doing. And the whole team at Limelight was excited, because adding all my properties (Starchild, Mythworld, Dragons, and others) suddenly gave them more to work with than just running distribution on a bunch of Eastern European films.

So we started in on the negotiations - during which, I was pretty broke, and at risk of losing my actual Studio. So, on my next trip, I asked Bruno if there wasn't some way, pending the deal we were discussing, for Ale to arrange a mortgage on my Studio. He said sure, and called Ale, who debated it with him in French for forty minutes - and then declined. They didn't want to put ANY money into anything until the stock offering.

I said I was worried about defaulting - and he advised me to do just that, saying that after the stock offering we'd just build something bigger down the street. I said that wouldn't work for me - that I lived in a small community where I was trusted, and I couldn't just walk away without repercussions. And he said that people do that all the time - it's just good business if you can screw someone over.

This opened a window of clarity for me - so I got them to admit that yes, if I did the deal, it would be for stock only, in the company going public. Until then, no money. Which did not sit well with me, OR with my attorney. To give up half of everything with no guarantee did not make sense. So I held out.

And the more time I spent there, the more holes I saw in their plan. They had basically taken over all of their European distribution partners in the same way they proposed taking over Coppervale - half ownership, in exchange for participating in the stock offering. But in two years, they hadn't moved that forward. Bruno explained that it was because the investment bank required intellectual properties, which I could provide. So I was the key to making it all work.

And I almost agreed - until the visit where I overheard Bruno arguing with their electric company about why they were late on a light bill. And he explained it wasn't THEIR bill, but the debt left by the previous tenant, which they'd agreed to pay in six installments. I asked why a Swiss Investment Bank couldn't just write a check, and he said Ale doesn't like to put money into businesses - he expected them to fund themselves.

That was enough. In a long, six-hour meeting, I told Bruno that I didn't think they were really legit, and I wanted to walk away.

He pleaded with me by phone and email, and had Ale and Miss Chaplin call me - and I finally wrote him an email that said VERY clearly, "I will not be doing business with you, or Ale, or Limelight Studios in ANY way, now, or in the future. Period."

And that was that. And I went on my way, and got busy doing other things.

Then, a couple of years later, I was driving with my friend down Sunset and asked how our buddies at Limelight were doing - and he nearly wrecked the car. "I can't believe no one told you!" He said, incredulous. And then HE told me what happened after I left.

Because they were building the WHOLE IPO structure around ME and my properties, when I left, the ENTIRE PRODUCTION STAFF followed. They got some funding from a fashion mogul and set up their own studio elsewhere, and completely severed themselves from Limelight.

Then, later that year, both Bruno and Ale were arrested as the endgame of a two year long Federal Investigation. They were using Limelight's European Distribution network for illegal hijinks, and were charged with money laundering, drug smuggling, and gun running. Ale was sentenced to twenty years in Federal Prison, and Bruno to fifteen. And obviously, Miss Chaplin broke off her engagement, and that was the end of Limelight.

After my head stopped spinning over what I'd almost gotten into, I asked how I'd managed not to get pulled into it, and he told me the FBI had in fact recorded my calls, and tracked my emails - and it was my conclusions about Limelight's legitimacy and my refusal to work with them that put me in the clear.

So I suppose my best advice to those reading this to learn about Hollywood dealings is this: take your time. If someone wants you to do something in a hurry - as with that offer I got in December - it may be because they're worried what you'll find if you take the time to look more closely. Just remember - no one controls anything you do until you say yes. And there is NOTHING wrong with saying no until you're absolutely sure.

If I didn't believe that, then the story above might have had a VERY different ending.

Find out more about James on Wikipedia and at Coppervale International.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adventures in Sydney Aquarium Wonderland Part 2

Here are some pretty grazing dugong (and fish) pics to arouse your interest ... and don't forget to join the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund. STILL TO COME: I'll post the Lego mermaid pic once Cat downloads it from her camera.

Adventures in Sydney Aquarium Wonderland Part I

I'm entertaining my friend Cat from the USA who I've known for over 15 years but only met in person less than a week ago. She used to work as a Marketing Manager for Warp Graphics who published WaveDancers back in the mid 90s. Jozef, Bruce (ex-BMP partner and co-writer) and I hit it off with her then and we've kept in touch through triumph and tragedy and become FaceBook buddies. She's only got nine days here and yesterday we devoted an afternoon to the Sydney Aquarium.

I hadn't been for a long time so I was surprised at how deceptive it was in size. The entry looks quite small but actually hides a labyrinth of rooms, alcoves, passageways, tunnels and both miniature and giant tanks. It actually took us four hours to make our way through from top to bottom and the only thing we missed through either a wrong turn or a miss was the glass bottom boat. Next time ...

However, we found the aquarium to be magical. There was smaller tanks for marine exhibits such as the moray eels which hid in a bundle of pipes and larger tanks for an abundance of tropical fish like the Barrier Reef exhibit that also held wonderful coral and anemone life. Some of my favourites included the moon jellyfish, upside down jellyfish (which looked like giant snowflakes if you looked at them from the top), the gropers and giant cods, the glorious weedy sea dragon and elegant seahorses, the wise and all knowing octopus who I could have stayed and watched for ages (as well as its relative the cuttlefish), the wobbegong sharks in the giant shark tank, and, of course, the wonderful dugongs, which we covered in a previous post. (Still can't believe it took me two years to get here!)

The entryway to the dugong tank was a ramp that led you through a lovely mermaid meets dugong mural (see attached images) and then into a large tank which you could view from the top and also from the bottom. Dugongs feed on sea grasses from the ocean floor which are difficult to harvest and also disturb the environment. The nearest equivalent and yummiest plant life is the tried and true cos (romaine) lettuce. The leaves are threaded into square plates with grids in them and then lowered to the bottom. The dugongs swim down to feed, as well as multiple fish.

The dugongs were a delight – one male (Pig) and one female (Wuru). Their tails and fins were indeed mermaid-like and their gentle faces looked as though they were smiling. There was a lovely peaceful energy about them. Check out the pics in Part 2 of this post.

The whole experience made me want to get back into the water and start snorkelling and diving again (though I'd have to go back and do another scuba course from scratch because I've forgotten pretty much everything).

Here's more info about the Sydney Aquarium, and if you want to adopt an ocean creature then choose from the dugong, saltwater crocodile, marine turtle, clownfish (as in Finding Nemo), grey nurse shark, little / fairy penguin, the wonderful platypus, and white's seahorse.

Blessed are Australian waters indeed!