Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: COMIC-FEST

Prior to the emergence of one of the larger comics and entertainment media conventions in Australia Supanova Pop Culture Expo the same management team, led by Daniel Zachariou, staged an event called Comic-Fest. This had a largely comics oriented focus compared with the subsequent broader span of Supanova in which comics represents just one of several entertainment media that included films, Television series, toys, trading cards, computer games and the internet. There were two stagings in 2001, at Fox Studios in February then followed in September by Comi-Fest 2 at the Sydney Centrepont Convention Centre.

Trevor Bovis in space, the Greener Pastures program cover.

Trevor Bovis in space, the Greener Pastures program cover, design by Tim McEwen.

Saturday seminar details with my involvement  in the superheroes panel.

Saturday seminar details with my involvement in the superheroes panel.

The Comic-Fest panel line-up, L to R, Dillon Naylor, Daniel Gloag, Amber Carvan and Ben Hutchings.

The Comic-Fest panel line-up, L to R, Dillon Naylor, Daniel Gloag, Amber Carvan and Ben Hutchings.

For the September event with approval from the event director Daniel Zachariou I put together a panel discussion on Australian alternative comics by local creators Dillon Naylor, Daniel Gloag, Amber Carvan and Ben Hutchings who each talked about their own comics and answered questions I fired at them from the floor. A general discussion of the Australian comics scene followed.

Another shot of the panel, L to R, Gloag, Carvan and Hutchings.

Another shot of the panel, L to R, Gloag, Carvan and Hutchings.

Aside from the panel discussion the big attraction for the local small press was the opportunity afforded them to set up shop and trade their work on the commercial floor along with the imported comics. There was also the opportunity to meet fellow local creators and exchange comics, contact details and curry recipes.

On the trading floor, Louise Graber and Alex Major.

On the trading floor, Louise Graber and Alex Major.

Also trading, Komala Singh.

Also trading, Komala Singh.

Also trading, Daniel McKeown with Alex Major.

Also trading, Daniel McKeown with Alex Major.

Along with the commercial trading there was the social attraction of meeting and chatting with fellow comics creators.

Lewis Morley and Louise Graber.

Lewis Morley and Louise Graber.

Two funny blokes and cartoonists, Ross Tesoriero and Ben Hutchings.

Two funny blokes and even funnier cartoonists, Ross Tesoriero and Ben Hutchings.

Ross Tesoriero and Louise Graber.

Ross Tesoriero and Louise Graber.

This is the fourteenth 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: DOWN UNDER GROUND

Underground comics are the subject of this post, Australian underground or alternative comics as they are better known. Firstly, an exhibition that Glenn Smith curated called The Ink Runs Deep Down, Down Underground at the Orange Regional Gallery in New South Wales in 2005, and then a conference organised by Donald Ault called Underground(s) at the University of Florida in 2003. I was involved with both, writing an essay “Art From The Inkubator”, for the exhibition catalogue in Orange and opening the exhibition, and presenting a paper “Down Under Ground: Emotional and Oppositional Outpourings from Sydney’s Subculture in the Comics of Glenn Smith” at the Florida conference.

The Ink Runs Deep...exhibition catalogue. (Design by Glenn Smith)

The Ink Runs Deep...exhibition catalogue. (Design by Glenn Smith)

The successive waves of Australian alternative comics produced since the 1980s feature a raw and spontaneous graphic style, an irreverent attitude and D.I.Y. Punk influenced approach to production, different from mainstream approaches to comics production in that they could be pluralistic, wide-ranging, antagonistic and mocking, containing taboo themes. The exhibition in Orange celebrated the creative expression behind these comics, that much maligned art form usually consigned to the pop culture trash bin, but there elevated to the gallery wall.

Back cover of the exhibition catalogue. (Design by Glenn Smith)

Back cover of the exhibition catalogue. (Design by Glenn Smith)

Creators featured in the exhibition are listed on the back cover of the exhibition catalogue, above. They exhibited applications of comic art in animation, painting, posters, book covers, and skate boards and a range of mediums from pen and ink to digital imaging. The day after the opening I went to the Orange farmers’ market and had the sweetest apples and tastiest bacon and egg-roll ever!

Display of Anton Emdin comics in the exhibition.

Display of Cruel World minicomics by Anton Emdin.

Display of Black Light Angels minicomics by Louise Graber in the exhibition.

Display of Black Light Angels minicomics by Louise Graber.

Commenting on the emergence of the underground comix in Australia in his book Panel By Panel, John Ryan pointed to the social context of the 1970’s as a period in which a sense of national pride developed and led to a consequent interest in locally made comics. That first wave of Australian alternative comics was seemingly motivated by the North American Underground Comix movement. Like the Abstract Expressionist art movement of the 1950s, which Australia seemed to have mysteriously imported, rather than organically grown, these comics initially appeared derivative but later developed an Australian style.

Louise Graber with a painting of a panel from her comic Black Light Angels in the exhibition.

Louise Graber with a painting of a panel from her comic Black Light Angels in the exhibition.

These comics can be seen as an echo of the Underground comix of the late 1960s that began in San Francisco, different in style and content to the mainstream North American super-hero themed comics, they opened up the way for autobiographical and artform genres. At the Florida conference it was exciting to hear from some of the creative figures from the original Underground as well as to describe Glenno’s work, and argue that it had some resonance with what they had done.

Front cover of Underground(s) conference program. (Design by William S. Kartalopoulos)

Front cover of Underground(s) conference program. (Design by William S. Kartalopoulos)

Back cover of Underground(s) conference program. (Design by William S. Kartalopoulos)

Back cover of Underground(s) conference program. (Design by William S. Kartalopoulos)

Underground(s) poster (detail).

Underground(s) poster (detail).

This is the twelth 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: MIND ROT

Trawling through material from my back pages for content that will form part of my semi-autobiographical comic (Blotting Paper: The Recollected Graphical Impressions Of Doctor Comics) I came across this poster for an event that I conceived and organised at the University of Technology, Sydney back in 1998. I was a lecturer in Visual Communication in the Design Faculty at the time and endeavouring to incorporate comics based projects into the curriculum. Comics is a perfect medium in which to practice techniques of visual communication reliant as it is on the combination of words and images. First year undergraduate students undertaking Word and Image projects were generally enthusiatic about comics based applications. To increase the students’ understanding of the professional practice of making comics I decided to involve some practitioners.

Poster for the event designed by Neil Heymann.

With additional funding from the student group Stop Motion Sickness I invited Mandy Ord up from Canberra, Dillon Naylor from Melbourne and Glenn Smith from Sydney to show their work to visual communication design students and discuss how they went about making it. Mindful of the possibility of regional differences from the research I was doing into the Australian small press scene at the time it seemed interesting to have a speaker from three different cities. Each comics creator made a 45-60 minute presentation of their work followed by a Q&A session. Naylor profiled his comic about share-household shenanigans Pop Culture & 2 Minute Noodles, Ord her intensely inky, autobiographical tales of life in Canberra, Wilnot, and Smith his painstakingly linear drawn, slice-of-life The Sydney Morning Hell. Each guest also led a practical, sequential graphic workshop with a small group of students. Gerard Ashworth, also from Sydney, who attended the seminar helped out. The event was a small but significant moment in Australian comics history, especially in terms of the study of the medium within the ‘academy’.

The title? Attempted irony, perhaps? I think I was put in a defensive position by some of my colleagues about claiming comics as a valid medium of visual communication back in those days, thirteen years ago. Photography was the then popular medium followed by graphic design and illustration whilst comics, animation and video were off to one side. The poster was a good piece of visual communication by the then student Neil Heymann, now a New York based advertising designer. Teaching comics as practice was the hurdle then. A steeper jump followed with the notion of comics being considered as a medium of scholarly study and research.

This is the fourth 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