Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: COMICS WORKSHOPS

The Bio-Hazard comics workshop poster. (Poster design by Xander Black)

Back in the 1990s a small number of design students enrolled at Sydney’s University of Technology were fortunate to attend two comics workshops taught by local creators Jason Paulos, Bodine Amerikah, Stuart Hale, Ant Larcombe, Sam Young and Xander Black. The events were organised by the students. Working in the Visual Communication Design program at the time, the course from which one of the creators, Ant Larcombe, was a graduate, I was happy to act as go-between and coordinator of this student initiative. The first workshop was Basick Inkstinct in 1996. This was followed up and developed the following year with the same tutors under the title Bio-Hazard. Both workshops enabled students to have contact with industry practitioners, creators and publishers of titles such as Hairbutt the Hippo, Cyberswine and Zero Assassin. This type of contact can make a valuable contribution to student training. It permitted students to see comics production as a valid form of visual communication within the graphic design field, a course that the majority of those who attended were enrolled.

The Basick Inkstinct comics workshop flyer. (Flyer design by Neil Heymann)

Both workshops were informally structured with the creators sitting at tables with the students demonstrating their skills on paper and engaging in studio banter with each other as they drew. Stuart Hale and Xander Black gave brief talks about comics making and the relative merits of local creators before the comics artists went through a practical session of scripting, thumbnails, page layout, rough and refined pencils, lettering and inking. The visiting creators were very generous with their time and the students appreciated this. These workshops preceded a more formal and official event that I subsequently organised, namely the Mind Rot Australian Comics Seminar & Workshop that I have blogged about previously in this series. That more formal workshop and accompanying symposium represented a further step in the process of formally recognising comics design within the academic curriculum as I was eventually able to offer comics based projects in the subjects Word and Image and Graphic Visualisation in that course and in the Master of Animation course that followed some years later.

This is the eleventh in a series of posts called Archives of Australian Comics History that document moments in the recent history of Australian comics, particularly alternative comics and the Australian Small Press. I started researching this subject in the late 1990s and it eventually led to my PhD thesis: Ph.D. Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy, A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion of the research I donated the materials and comics I had collected to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics.

Posts in Archives of Australian Comics History:   Comic-Fest   Comics  in Record Shops   Comics Workshops   Down Under Ground   Getting SMASH(ed)!   Imaginary Worlds Symposium    International Exhibition of Drawings   OZCON   Mind Rot   Savage Pencils   Sick Puppy Comix   TiNA Arena   MCA Zine Fair   2002 Sequential Art Studies Conference   2nd Sequential Art Studies Conference

Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: OZCON

In terms of the larger comics conventions in Australia prior to current events Supanova,  Animania,  SMASH!,  Armageddon and the earlier Comic-Fest there was OZCON and even before that there was one event called ComicCon back in 1979. OZCON was the big annual comics convention at the time I began researching Australian alternative comics in the late 1990s. The promotion of and garnering of publicity for the more mainstream(read imported) comics seemed to be the raison d’être for the event although there was some presence by independent creators and their publications despite the cost of their participation. There was also some discussion of comics apart from the sales. I recall one entertaining discussion between Eddie Campbell and Dave Sim about the distribution of independent comics. It also provided a sense of community for local creators to meet each other, discuss their self-published comics and to compare their work to the imported product.

Spidey swinging from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Poster design by Ant Larcombe)

The poster shows that OZCON and Australian comics creators and fans at the time (1995) had the spectre of the US super-hero genre hanging over them. In any case it was a wonderful poster designed by local comics creator Ant Larcombe. Furthermore the cover had an inset of the avatar and character Flash Domingo by another Australian creator, Gary Chaloner.

Ticket to an earlier staging of the OZcon event.

Ticket to an earlier staging of the OZcon event.

Comic Con T-shirt design. (artist unknown)

Reflecting on OZCON made me think of those big US comics conventions. Here is a scan of the T-shirt I bought at the largest convention in the USA San Diego Comic Con. It was from an earlier staging of that event, had been discounted as a remainder and caught my eye. The in-your-face aggression, confidence, swagger and speech balloon seemed to say what that convention was about. The blue paint stains are a subsequent addition from my wearing it whilst printmaking. I think there were fewer than 50,000 attendees back in 2000 but over the past decade this convention has grown to around three times that number but remains considerably less than the 500,000 that go to Comiket in Tokyo, twice a year-that’s a million of them! Anyway I had a great time there. In addition to presenting a paper on “Australian Gothic comics” at the conference (shout out to my colleagues Randy Duncan and Peter Coogan) I got to meet Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, Gahan Wilson, James Kochalka, Roman Dirge, Jhonen Vasquez, Los Bros Hernandez, Rumiko Takahashi and Jim Woodring.

This is the sixth in a series of posts called Archives of Australian Comics History that document moments in the recent history of Australian comics, particularly alternative comics and the Australian Small Press. I started researching this subject in the late 1990s and it eventually led to my PhD thesis: Ph.D. Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy,  A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion of the research I donated the materials and comics I had collected to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics.

The ComicCon pass with dinosaurs designed by Gahan Wilson

Posts in Archives of Australian Comics History:   Comic-Fest   Comics  in Record Shops   Comics Workshops   Down Under Ground   Getting SMASH(ed)!   Imaginary Worlds Symposium    International Exhibition of Drawings   OZCON   Mind Rot   Savage Pencils   Sick Puppy Comix   TiNA Arena   MCA Zine Fair   2002 Sequential Art Studies Conference   2nd Sequential Art Studies Conference