TRACKING COMICS AND GRAFIKS IN BERLIN

This post visually documents a recent walking tour of Berlin’s Staadt Mittee area with local resident and linguist Mailef as my guide. The plan was to see graffiti and traces of an artists’ commune (kunsthaus) and to visit Renate comics shop and bibliothek which has been located there since the early 1990s, and look at some of the German kunst comicbuchs(art comics) in stock.

Finding the Tacheles building. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Finding the Kunsthaus Tacheles building in the Mitte district of Berlin. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Graffiti (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill).

Layered grafiks and graffiti “For Free” (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Looking at street grafiks. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Studying the street grafiks. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Mailef escorted me to the Kunsthaus (arthouse) Tacheles building on Oranienburger Strasse on a site that was previously part of East Berlin when the wall was up. The Tacheles (translation “let’s talk business”) building had, over a century, successively housed an elegant shopping arcade, Nazi offices then squatter artists. The building was damaged in World War 2 then repaired by the GDR, vacated in 1989 then occupied as an international artist squat in the 1990s. The artists were eventually displaced/evicted by representatives of the investors in 2012.

Graffiti (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Graffiti (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Graffiti (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Graffiti (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Recording some images. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Recording images. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Renate Comics Shop. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Renate Comics signboard. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Art comics (kunst comicbuchs) by the hundreds were available at Renate Comics, many of which were signed and marked as limited editions. These varied in size from A6 minicomics to the larger A3 format. Art postcards (kunst postkartes) have become an additional creative outlet for comics creators and there was a range of these in a rotating rack on the pavement outside the shop.

Postcard rack at Renate's.(Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Postcard rack at Renate Comics. (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

Maike Leffers and poster. (Photo-© 2014 Michael Hill)

“Is this the way how art dies?”Mailef and poster. (Photo-© 2014 Louise Graber)

Art minicomicbuch purchase from Renate- Pure Sultana by Franziska Schaum.

Art minicomicbuch purchase from the shop- Pure Sultana by Franziska Schaum.

 

BLOTTING PAPER The Comic: Production Report No.29

This post covers some glimpses of the works on display and visitors to the exhibition Blotting Paper: Works On Paper 18-29 September at GAUGE Gallery, Sydney that included the publication of the second issue of my artist book/comic Blotting Paper: The Recollected Graphical Impressions Of Doctor Comics, Chapter 2: A Blot On His Escutcheon.

Xander Black and friend -(Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Xander Black and Alison Van Hees -(Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Note Board. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Display Board. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Mayu and Chie. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Mayu and Chie. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Some of the prints. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Some of the prints. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Sana. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Sana. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Cartoons and copies of Blotting Paper #1 and #2. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Research based cartoons and copies of Blotting Paper #1 and #2. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Composer Nicole Kim. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Composer Nicole Kim. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Postcards in sosaku hanga style. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

Printed postcards in sosaku hanga style. (Photo © 2013 Michael Hill)

With Masashi Owada. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

With Masashi Owada. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Blotting Paper #1. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Blotting Paper #1 with woodblock. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Louise Graber and Imogen Yang. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Louise Graber and Imogen Yang. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Alexis and Craig Simmons aka Space March. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Alex Harris and Craig (Space March) Simmons. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Cartoons and toys. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Cartoons and toys. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Katie Pye as Adelaide Whye. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Katie Pye as Adelaide Whye and those boots…! (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

POP-UP TOY & COMIC sale sign outside gallery. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

POP-UP TOY & COMIC
sale sign outside gallery. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Chasing Vaughan Bodē comics-Michael Hill with Nic Beatson and Bodē tattoo. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Chasing Vaughan Bodē comics-Michael Hill with Nic Beatson and Bodē tattoo. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

The Bodē tattoo. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

The Bodē tattoo. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

With Sam Saidden. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

With Sam Saidden. (Photo-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Liz Pozega and friend. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

Liz Pozega and friend. (Photo-© 2013 Michael Hill)

For a visual diary record and time-line overview of this project, see all of the BLOTTING PAPER production reports.   Issue #1:  No.1   No.2   No.3   No.4   No.5   No.6   No.7   No.8   No.9   No.10   No.11   No.12   No.13

Issue #2:  No.14   No.15   No.16   No.17   No.18   No.19   No.20   No.21   No.22   No.23   No.24   No.25   No.26   No.27   No.28   No.29

Issue #3:  No.30   No.31

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

COFFEE TABLE eighth fix

Continuing with my plan to profile a comics coffee table art book every month or so and make a scene of it, this time round it’s a tip of the hat to Hergé and his creation Tintin. This post is new. There are links to the older ones at the end. I have assembled collected editions of the complete set of albums in the reduced size format, a copy of the Tintin magazine Le Journal Des Jeunes De 7 A 77 Ans, some scholarly works, items of clothing and accessories, a DVD set and a previously published, related bande dessinée franco-belge exhibition review.

Tintin stuff (Art direction and photography-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Tintin stuff (Art direction and photography-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Tintin magazine, No. 467, October 1957.

Tintin magazine, No. 467, October 1957.

The Benoît Peeters study of Tintin and Hergé.

The Benoît Peeters study of Tintin and Hergé.

The Michael Farr Tintin companion book

The Michael Farr Tintin companion book.

The Adventures of Tintin in albums, as the French call them, totalling 24 in all including the unfinished final one, were executed in the attractive ligne clair or clear line drawing style that was developed by Hergé and his colleague and collaborator Edgar Pierre Jacobs. I never read these as a child. I was given comic books by Carl Barks and Hank Ketcham then and didn’t get to Tintin till my late-adolescence and early adulthood and only briefly at that.  It wasn’t until the English translations had been published that they began to appear. They were the first comics I found in libraries. Librarians seemed to like acquiring them. I suspected the fact that they came in hardcovers and not the soft, pamphlet form of US comics made them seem more like books and right for library collections. And groups of boys tended to monopolise the borrowing of them to the extent that it was really difficult to find them on the shelves. Re-reading the Tintin comics now with their beautiful colour and the drawing, the adventures in unfamiliar geography, the abusive babble from Haddock and the amusement provided by the surprising amount of slapstick I am taken back to boyhood whilst my appreciation of bande dessinée and the Ninth Art is extended.

A volume of the collected works in the reduced size format.

A volume of the collected works in the reduced size format.

Another Tintin study book-this one by Harry Thompson (no relation).

Another Tintin study book-this one by Harry Thompson (no relation to the twins).

Comic Strip, Passion’s Trip exhibition, Sydney, Alliance Francais de Sydney November 18-December 20, 2002, review by Michael Hill, first published in International Journal of Comic Art, Vol.5 No.1 Spring/Summer 2003

The “Tintin” Qantas Flight 714 finally touched down in Sydney in November 2002. Originally carrying Tintin and his associates to a scientific symposium in Sydney in the Herge comic Flight 714 to Sydney (1968) his party left the plane in Jakarta and went off on a private jet and another adventure. Now, 34 years later, Tintin, in the shape of a cargo of beer, chocolates and comics, three of Belgium’s significant export commodities, as well as members of the Royal family and an exhibition of French language Belgian comics titled Comic Strip, Passion’s Trip has arrived.

For a country that exports considerable quantities of comics (65% of publication exports) and which refers to comics as the Ninth Art and so has a museum devoted to comics, it was no surprise that the exhibition was opened by members of the Belgian monarchy, Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, giving the exercise the Royal seal of approval. The exhibition formed part of an economic mission organised by the Wallonia-Brussels Sydney Trade Office. 300 different titles in French plus a further 70 in English were shipped to Sydney and put on sale in Dymocks, one of the city’s larger bookshops, creating a mini-venue for Euro comics to compete with the growing presence in the local retail market of Japanese manga and Hong Kong comics.

The exhibition was staged at Alliance Francais de Sydney, a combination gallery, café and French language teaching centre. It was a noisey location next to a city bus stop but this was a bonus for waiting passengers as they could admire the window display of merchandise and old comics and the staged acrobatics of a large model of the André Franquin character Marsupilami. The exhibition had undergone a serious design process by the curator Jean-Marie Derscheid and had a multi-strand focus: the exhibition of actual comic books, original art and rough process art, a display revealing the workings of the artist’s studio, a child’s bedroom decorated with comics merchandise and videos, and a gigantic mock-up comic book album, 82cm (heigth) x 56 cm (width), beautifully bound and designed, contextualising Belgium comics and featuring brief biographies and examples of the work of 20 significant artists: Didier Comes, André Franquin, Greg, Hergé, Hermann Huppen, Edgar Pierre Jacobs, Jijie, Lambil, Raymond Macherot, Morris, Peyo, Francois Schuiten, Jean-Claude Servais, Tibet, Maurice Tillieux, Tome and Janry, Will, and Yslaire. References were made to Spirou magazine and to two emergent schools of comics: the Brussels School and the Marcinelle School.

The bed in the child’s room had a Tintin doona cover and bed sheets, a Gaston Lagaffe reading lamp, a Marsupilami alarm clock, various posters and a cupboard containing Lucky Luke figurines. Surprisingly there was not a Smurf in sight. The room also had a small television and vcr with a collection of Belgian animated cartoon series. Amusingly, by the end of the opening night, the child’s room was littered with empty beer bottles from the large crowd viewing the exhibition, giving the installation a bizarre visual association between beer and comics in the nursery. The child’s room, the mock-up of the studio and the giant book brought to the exhibition features not available in the normal process of reading the comic books.

Another section of the exhibition consisted of individual displays of the work of particular artists. These included examples of original artwork and a copy of the comic album that was accessible for visitors to read (some appeared quite soiled near the end of the exhibition) and collaborative partnerships including Hermann, Geerts, Midam, Yslaire, Morris, Jacobs, Herge, Francois and Luc Schuiten, Francqu and Van Hamme, Dufaux and Marini, Lambil, Marc Bnoyninx, Tome and Janry, Constant and Vandamme

Upstairs in a small seminar room there was a mock-up called  ‘the artist’s studio.’ Large blow-up photographs on the walls showed the interiors of various comic book creators’ work spaces although these were not identified. A working drawing table had been set up with pencils and other equipment, again more of a generic than specific representation, and there was a video corner screening a documentary on one of the featured artists, Frank, at work on illustrations for the comic book about Australia which had been scheduled to be released for the exhibition. His watercolour sketches of Australian animals were impressive. In the current ‘making of’ climate being reinforced by DVDs of particular films, this part of the exhibition seemed timely.

Although there was no exhibition catalogue a special edition comic book The Source by Frank was specially commissioned and published for the exhibition. Set in Australia, even though the creator had never been there prior to the exhibition (Frank came to Sydney for the opening) his story was based in the desert and although his use of colour was accurate some of his content was neither sensitive nor politically correct. Based on an attempt to move what he insensitively refers to as Ayers Rock, a giant natural rock formation now known as Uluru having reverted to the control of the indigenous owners several years ago and consequently treated as a sacred place, Frank plays with Aboriginal art and icons, a practice which local artists respect as the cultural domain of the indigenous people. Conscious of the lack of local knowledge perhaps, and in tongue-in-cheek fashion, the exhibition points to “our delightfully cliched images of Australia: kangaroos, boomerangs, mythical Aborigines and smouldering red deserts.”

But this exhibition was about culture in any case: the culture of a country where comics have been elevated to the level of art, are treasured, and are collected by libraries and museums; and a culture where comic books are also treated as consumables, collected, handled, read, and integrated into everyday life as objects of desire.

The exhibition brochure with Illustration by Frank.

The exhibition brochure with illustration by Frank.

CupofCoffee-1RRead the coffee table entries:  COFFEE TABLE first fix(Day of the Dead/Halloween comics)    COFFEE TABLE fourth fix(Football comics)    COFFEE TABLE eighth fix(Hergé and Tintin)   COFFEE TABLE tenth fix(Shigeru Mizuki). There is also my review of an art exhibition by Nick Stathopoulos that features portraits of Tintin: DOMO ARIGATO MR.ROBOTO: Toy Porn 2 Review and my profile of Joann Sfar’s bande dessinée The Rabbi’s Cat.

 

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

COFFEE TABLE first fix

Please welcome my Coffee Table posts to this blog. This one debuts here but some others first appeared on my former blog Doctor Comictopus. The basic idea is to set up a coffee table scenario that includes a coffee table art book as an accoutrement to the cake and coffee and possibly relate the choice of materials to some current event. That would be a comics art coffee table book of course, usually large, hard covered and heavy although the one featured in this post is soft covered and light but does relate to a topical event. The plan is to pull one book out of my collection every month or so and make a scene. This post is new and fresh, a first timer here.

Painting by Louise Graber, skeleton doll from Mexico, wooden and metal sculpture by Richard Black, comic by Jis and Trno, and pumpkin postcard by Yayoi Kusama. (Photo by Michael Hill)

On the coffee table there is an actual Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) skeleton doll (it’s that time of the year with Halloween just a few days away) and a large format comic El Santos y El Peyote en La Atlántida by Mexican cartoonists Jis and Trno. I met these guys at ICAF some years ago where I also first met  Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Jis and Trno each did a drawing for me in their comic book that I bought. Their comic is really funny, strongly satirical and in Spanish. The doll has removed his legs and is relaxing on a wooden sculpture called Cloud by Australian artist Richard Black. There is also, appropriately, a Dancing Pumpkin postcard by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and a Grateful Dead poster from the Stanley Mouse studio for some concerts at the Avalon Ballroom. Setting these elements off in the background is a painted enlargement of a death scene page from Louise Graber‘s comic Black Light Angels. In the foreground, barely visible, just an edge I suppose, is the coffee table but the coffee and cake are out of frame. BTW the coffee was Italian and the cake Chilean. The table has orange ceramic tiles, suiting the thematic colour, and was made in Orange, NSW. Let me know what you think about all this.

Coffee Table arrangement-detail. (Photo by Michael Hill)

Yayoi Kusama's Dancing Pumpkin postcard.

Yayoi Kusama’s Dancing Pumpkin postcard.

Bones and roses in 1966 Grateful Dead poster Skeleton and Roses designed by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse.

Bones and roses in 1966 Grateful Dead poster Skeleton and Roses designed by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse.

Doctor Comictopus alias for Michael Hill Ph.D (a.k.a. Doctor Comics) designed by Michelle Park.

Doctor Comictopus alias for Michael Hill Ph.D (a.k.a. Doctor Comics) designed by Michelle Park.

CupofCoffee-1RRead all the coffee table entries imported from Doctor Comictopus:  COFFEE TABLE first fix(Day of the Dead/Halloween comics)   COFFEE TABLE fourth fix(Football comics)    COFFEE TABLE eighth fix(Hergé and Tintin)    COFFEE TABLE tenth fix(Shigeru Mizuki)

Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: TiNA ARENA

1999 event: Outsider meetings. (Photo by Louise Graber)

On Sunday 27th September 1998, I drove from Sydney to Newcastle to attend the two sessions devoted to the discussion of comics at the inaugural National Young Writers’ Festival. Accompanying me were three active members of the Sydney ‘small press’: Stuart Stratu, Anton Emdin and Ross Tesoriero. With there having been all too few formal attempts to discuss and promote ‘small press’ activity we were impressed with the novelty of the event, its inclusion in a writers’ festival and with the fact that it was actually taking place, if a little curious as to why the organisers had by-passed Sydney and only invited Melbourne and Canberra based creators. Nevertheless we were enthused enough to make the trip as it offered a rare opportunity to meet with colleagues from interstate, many of whom, although familiar with their work, we had never met.

1999 event: Tim Danko, Stuart Stratu, Q-Ray and Kieran Mangan. (Photo by Louise Graber)

1999 event: Michael Fikaris(Froth) reading minicomic. (Photo by Louise Graber).

1999 event: Carol Wood and Susan Butcher aka Pox Girls reading minicomics. (Photo by Louise Graber)

The organizational aspects improved considerably over the next few years and the festival developed, expanded and diversified. Originally called the National Young Writers’ Festival it became part of the umbrella event TiNA, the acronym for This is Not Art. This has become a multidisciplinary event in the week leading up to and across the October holiday weekend and has spread around Newcastle which has become the TiNa Arena. During the weekend the city becomes a catchment area for visiting youth from a range of artistic, literary, music and media fields from all over Australia. I attended five consecutive events from 1998 to  2002 by which time comics discussions had moved into the Town Hall. A high point for comics creators is the annual comic and zine fair held on the Sunday afternoon. This was a busy trading and swapping event first staged in the park across the road then subsequently moved into the Mission theatre with accompanying live music.

1999 event: Anton Emdin(If Pain Persists) with Lewis P. Morley and Marilyn Pride(Red World Komics). (Photo by Louise Graber)

1999 event: Tim Danko(Dead Xerox Press) and Stuart Stratu(Sick Puppy Comix). (Photo by Louise Graber)

On arrival in the city that afternoon in 1998 we easily found the centre of activities laid out in various sumptuously appointed rooms of the Newcastle Town Hall and Civic Centre. There were panels and presentations in the Banquet Room, the Function Rooms and some impressively attired Committee Rooms in the Council Chambers and also at the nearby Wintergarden Cafe. We were, however, unable to find the venue for the discussion of comics, so we asked for that information and were directed out of the main building, out the back and there it was, a modest room with plastic chairs, and an insufficient number of them at that, so a few attendees sat on the floor. No podium, no lectern, no microphone, no monitor, no vcr, no whiteboard, no jug of water, no media nor reporters were present. Furthermore, this was not a seminar but a workshop. Comics were not so much to be discussed as produced and if there was to be any discourse it would be on matters of production rather than on content, or so it seemed. Then I realised how appropriate all of this was in the then current scheme of things. It was the perfect venue at a writers’ festival for the discussion of comics because it indicated just how marginalised the form was. The established, pure literary forms such as the novel and poetry headed the hierarchy. Even emerging word based forms such as e-mail and writing textual content for the Internet and journalism had superior status and were located in the main hall. But comics and zines, not being part of the mainstream, were out the back and out of sight.

1999 event: Happy Pox Girl Susan Butcher. (Photo by Louise Graber)

1999 event: Q-Ray(The Comic Messiah) and Kieran Mangan(Urrgh). (Photo by Louise Graber)

Interested (Photo by Louise Graber)

Interested (Photo by Louise Graber)

Things changed over the subsequent years. We’ve had comics events at the Sydney Opera House with international guests but it was so different back then, so ‘underground’, so beneath the radar. Comics were even made during the event in a ramshackle upstairs, cut and paste graphics studio called Octapod where minicomics filled were produced. At the 1999 event I took the opportunity to do a series of interviews with many of the comics creators in attendance. This became research material for my thesis.

1999 event: Ross Tesoriero(Radiation Sickness). (Photo by Louise Graber)

Event organiser Kylie Purr with Glenn Smith.

Event organiser Kylie Purr with Glenn Smith.

This is the tenth 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.

1999 event: Michael Hill aka Doctor Comics. (Photo by Louise Graber)

1999 event: Michael Hill aka Doctor Comics. (Photo by Louise Graber)

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