Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mermaid Books 5 - Mermaid

I have a problem – SO many books and SO little time to read them. At the moment I have about 50 comic books and graphic novels, about the same number of fiction and non-fiction books, and about seven years of Vanity Fair magazines stacked in thigh-high piles beside my bed. I yearn for the time I had during my primary and high school days where I would consume up to three books a day at breakfast, on the bus, hidden behind textbooks during class, during lunchtimes in the library and beyond. Now I have about 15 minutes each night before I go to sleep. So it took a few months for me to read the highly anticipated Mermaid by US author Carolyn Turgeon, which was released in April 2011. Having said that, once I got started, I couldn't stop.

Mermaid is a retelling of the famous Hans Christian Andersen tragic fairy tale – The Little Mermaid – but with a difference. It is told from two points of view— the mermaid Lenia and landlubber Margreth, who are both princesses in their respective realms. Lenia is cold-skinned, born from eggs and has a heart full of love and longing but no soul. Margreth is human, as we know humans to be. She is also intelligent and politically astute in a world where women are traditionally passive. They are both rule-breakers and risk-takers, driven by love, for it is indeed love that inspires their courage and alters the course of their lives. Their bond but also their potential undoing is their love for the prince of a rival kingdom, whom Lenia saves from drowning but who Margreth connects to on land in a case of mistaken identity.

Mermaid is a beautifully told story – delicate, sensuous and occasionally horrific when we find out the torturous lengths Lenia goes through to win her human love when she sacrifices her tongue and her tail. The storm shipwreck scene is particularly evocative, as we feel what it would be like to drown in terror and in pain in a turbulent and seemingly bottomless dark ocean where human corpses become set decorations for the mermaid kingdom. What I also liked was the portrayal of the sad and wise sea-witch who reluctantly helps Lenia. If there were ever to be a sequel, I would hope Carolyn Turgeon would explore her origins and her back story.

This is a moving story, exquisitely told, and highly recommended.

BMP on ACA Stanleys Conference Comics Panel

BMP Directors, Jozef Szekeres and Julie Ditrich, as well as fabulous Aussie comics creators Tim McEwen and Dave Follett, will be speaking at the Australian Cartoonists' Association (ACA) 27th Annual Stanley Awards on a panel session titled "Comics and the Australian Creator" on Friday 11 November 2011 at 2pm. Conference details and information on the Stanley Awards can be found on the ACA website.

Win a Portfolio / Project Review at the Comics Masterclass with Colleen Doran!

Participants in the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics Masterclass to be held on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November 2011 have a rare opportunity to win a private one-hour portfolio or project review with elite US comics industry professional and masterclass presenter Colleen Doran.

This opportunity is based on merit rather than luck. You must be booked into the event to be able to apply.

There will be two rounds in the process. The submissions are due by the end of October and will be assessed during the first week of November by a three-person panel consisting of ASA Comics / Graphic Novels Portfolio Holders Jozef Szekeres and Julie Ditrich, as well as Comics Masterclass Advisor / Consultant Tim McEwen who will shortlist the six best submissions.

Colleen Doran will decide the winner from the shortlist. The winner’s name will be announced at the event on Sunday afternoon. The review will take place after the Sunday session so if you are applying, please allow time in your schedule (especially if you’re an out-of-towner and have flights to catch) should you be the lucky winner. Also make sure you bring your complete portfolio or the expanded project proposal with you on the Sunday.

Submission Guidelines

(1) If you are presenting a portfolio then:

– Artists should include up to six pieces of published or unpublished comics artwork indicative of current ability and in any genre. This can include covers, concept sketches and the like but must contain interior sequential artwork of one scene (approximately two to four pages) within a larger work or short story.

– Writers should include up to six pages of published or unpublished wordless or lettered sequential art indicative of current ability and in any genre. It should include one scene (approximately two to four pages) within a larger work or short story.

Furthermore, both writers and artists should include a cover page which contains the following information: name, address, phone / fax, email and website details and a short bio that includes publishing credits.

(2) If you are presenting a project then:

– Artists should include a sequential art scene of three to six penciled pages (no lettering required) from an unpublished work. It should reflect your current ability, and reflect the direction of the feedback being sought (ie. what you would like most help with).

– Writers should include a comics script of a three to six page scene from an unpublished work. It should reflect your current ability, and reflect the direction of the feedback being sought (ie. what you would like most help with).

Furthermore, both writers and artists should include a cover page which contains the following information: name, address, phone / fax, email and website details and a short bio that includes publishing credits.

This should be accompanied by a one to two page project summary, which includes a synopsis, project description (page count, comics format, art style, genre, target market, production notes such as your vision on the packaging, as well as what you would specifically like to discuss with Colleen about the project and need most help with).

Teams of up to three people (eg. writer, artist and inker) may also apply for a project review, provided they are all registered for the masterclass and comply with the above submission criteria. If the team project is successful then the team will participate in the review session with Colleen.

Assessment Criteria

The submissions will be assessed on:
– Publishing potential
– Sequential art storytelling ability.

Where to Send Submissions

You can either:

(1) Email your submission to Laurine Croasdale:

(2) Mail your submission to:
Australian Society of Authors
Suite C1.06 22-36 Mountain St Ultimo NSW 2007

5pm on Monday 31 October 2011

Further Information

Please direct queries to:

Julie Ditrich on (02) 9606 4728 or julie@blackmermaid.com
Laurine Croasdale on (02) 9211 1004 or


We haven't sent any of the Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed Previews away for review simply because we believe it's too early. As mentioned previously on our website, the Preview is the first Act and the first half of the first issue of the first series. Page 24 which is the last page in the issue isn't even a conventional cliff-hanger, as we are actually just entering Act 2 of the story. Therefore, to critique it at this point would be like the Masterchef judges critiquing one element of a dish rather than the complete plated dish – sort of like reviewing the jelly (jello) in an unassembled trifle or the mornay sauce but not the lobster in a lobster mornay.

Having said that, we were delighted that Jules Faber, Deputy President of the Australian Cartoonists' Association (ACA) took interest in the opening of our story and published a review in the latest edition of the Inkspot magazine (No. 65, Autumn 2011). Here's a taste:
Beautifully weighing the charming earlier scenes of the cheerful Mers with the encroaching darkness at book's end, the story brings to life a rich and complex universe with an entire culture just waiting to be explored... and is described beautifully in Szekeres' dynamic and broadly colourful palette.

This is truly exquisite comic book artwork of an underwater world in which viewers won't have trouble seeing Szekeres' Disney history, with extraordinary character movement and expression exploding richly from every page...

It's a major flaw in comics when the artwork doesn't suit the story or vice versa, but here the two are in perfect harmony, Ditrich's writing bring us gently into the world (thought not spoon-feeding us) and Szekeres making sure we stay there when we arrive.
Jules gave us four and a half stars, and we are very appreciative and humbled at his faith in us.

We can't wait to bring you the last 24 pages in the full edition of the first issue. Bring on 2012!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adventures at Mer-Con & the World Mermaid Awards - Part II

Kathy and I got up early and caught a cab to the convention at 7am to set up for an 8am opening. It was pretty deserted except for some other vendors who had the same idea as we did. We grabbed a table, staked out our space, and quickly unpacked. Once people started ambling in, it turned into a full on meet-and-greet. We were delighted to say hello to many of our previous readers, as well as to connect with new readers and FaceBook friends. Hail to the mermaids in the crowd – Mermaid Malena (middle of second picture), Marla, Shelley, Cate, Sora, Anita and co. We saw them in their human incarnation and later on poolside in their mermaid incarnation.

People embraced Elf~Fin and we loved that (and them!). The story is only at its beginning but some enthusiastic fans read it from cover to cover and then returned immediately to deconstruct it with me and make early proclamations about who their favourite characters were. We also brought some Black Mermaid™ (Las Vegas) stock with us ... The mugs sold out and we sold a little of everything else. I was really happy that the cushions did well because that's my favourite product. Many people enquired about t-shirts but we didn't have the resources to bring in mirrors, and multiple sizes in multiple colours in multiple styles. We directed – and indeed are still directing people – to the Black Mermaid Boutique for clothing. Unfortunately, we had ordered stock for a two-day convention and it was reduced to one-day event, so we had to send our surplus products back home the next day which cost a veritable fortune and had Kathy sitting on top of the boxes and me taping madly to squash them into US Postal Service regulation sizes.

The afternoon brought the Mermaid Pageant. I could only see glimpses from my vantage point but was delighted to hear that Aussie little mermaid – 4-year old Isabella Chidiac from Shimmerbaby Mermaids (that's her mum Renae on the right in the second picture) – won the children's category. This was followed by an author panel session then the Hannah Pool Party where Hannah Mermaid and MeduSirena performed before a huge crowd. There were mermaids galore. Kathy took the plunge but I stayed on shore and chatted away. We didn't stay for the World Mermaid Awards because we had an offer to be delivered to the Mirage doorstop with all our multiple boxes and luggage – an offer too good to refuse. We got in around 10.30 and then I spent the next hour repacking everything into three boxes. Then we just crashed.

The next day we took a taxi to a post office which was near the airport (thank goodness it was open on a Saturday!). We wanted to get all our chores out of the way so we could have a bit of fun during our last couple of days. We had our first real meal at lunch time when we split an enormous mouth-high New York Reuben Sandwich with requisite pickle from the Carnegie Deli. Carolyn Turgeon, Matthea and Merman Chris picked us up and headed to the Star Trek Convention which was on at the Rio. My Australian friend, Trekkie and comics artist extraordinaire Marcelo Baez and his wife Rachael had told me about it before I left and lamented the fact they wouldn't be able to see it so I said I would step in and check it out. We didn't have much time and we got there just as the convention doors burst open and all the delegates streamed out. Didn't see any actors but did get talk to some great Trekkies who were exceptionally friendly and quite centred and sane.

We then hit the Mer-Con VIP Pool Party which was held at Sita Lange (the organiser's) place. Great house and particularly great pool with bridges, waterfalls, a small spa – a perfect location for photo ops. I sat on the side of the pool, dangled my feet in the water and pretty much talked to most of the guests during the next few hours and watched the many beautiful mermaids cavort through the water (that's Diana Godin in the pic below), testing their tails and posing for photos. For the mermaid neophytes amongst you ... tails and hair are everything! We left after about four hours and by the time we got back it was too late to have dinner again.

The next morning we headed to the Parisian for breakfast. Our stomachs had shrunk so much during the last five days from a lack of food that despite the delicious fare we were nearly sick. We must add that the Parisian restrooms are gorgeous – ceramic flower decorated basins and toilets. We took photos. We then talked to a British tourist who said the toilets were equally as gorgeous in the men's room and he had taken pics as well.

We missed meeting up with Renae Chidiac and her girls and went shopping in Caesar's Palace, the New York, the Adidas shop and Sephora at Planet Hollywood. I always buy makeup and running shoes when I'm in the USA. I also stop by Bath and Body Works, this time to stock up on Coconut and Lime Body Butter. Returned to the Mirage and then headed over to Treasure Island to see Cirque du Soleil Mystere. The show was delightful – magical, homo-erotic in parts, innocent and sophisticated at the same time. We were in the front row middle and Kathy got a small walk-on audience participation part which she relished. We paid for our hotel, negotiated and late checkout and then returned to our room. I spent the next three hours watching Reba reruns (as well as half of The Da Vinci Code) while packing and repacking and turfing things I no longer needed to squeeze everything into my suitcase and carry-on luggage so they wouldn't break the scales at the airport. Finally got a few hours sleep.

On our last day we hopped on a bus and headed downtown to visit the shop where Pawn Stars is filmed. Coincidentally it was screening for the first time in Australia that week. Kathy had lugged in a photo album of old WWII fighter pilot photos to see if they could be valued but the guy doing the assessment said the shop didn't handle that kind of memorabilia. The bouncer at the door was downright scary.

We returned to the Mirage, grabbed lunch at the buffet and Kathy departed for Wisconsin again. I want to thank her here for her fabulous support ... she was a great pillar of strength to me during our entire Mer-Con adventure.

I waited around for a couple of hours then headed to the airport. After passing through security I stopped at a small kiosk to buy an OJ then watched a woman in a black track suit walk up beside me. I asked her whether she had enjoyed the Star Trek convention. She said she had, and told me she was on her way to Australia to attend another in Melbourne followed by one in Sydney. We chatted for a few minutes and then I headed towards my gate. She ended up at the same gate but in one row behind where I was sitting. At an opportune moment and so that I wouldn't draw too much attention to her and breach her privacy, I approached her again and told her it would be my honour if she would accept a copy of Elf~Fin. She smiled and held her hand out. I gave her the copy, thanked her and moved away. It turned out I had accidentally sat down at the wrong gate ... lucky I checked my ticket otherwise I could have missed my flight.

By the way, the woman was Kate Mulgrew who played Captain Janeway on Voyager.

I promptly texted Marcelo and Rachael in Australia who just said "Awesome!".

It turned out that Rachael got to meet Kate too at the Sydney event a week later.