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: 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

Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: SAVAGE PENCILS

Savage Pencils was an exhibition of contemporary Australian comics cover art that I curated at Silicon Pulp Animation Gallery, Sydney in 2001. It featured original art by Paul Abstruse, Ray Ahn, Gerard Ashworth, Anita Bacic, Xander Black, Neale Blanden, Anna Brown, Bronson Boyd, Susan Butcher, Bernard Caleo, Dakanavar, Tim Danko, Anton Emdin, Michael Fikaris, Edo Fuijkschot, Louise Graber, Ben Hutchings, Scott Johnson, Gregory Mackay, Alex Major, Kieran Mangan, Daniel McKeown, Chris Mikul, Alice Mrongovius, John Murphy, Dillon Naylor, Linzee R. Nold, Mandy Ord, Jason Paulos, Q-Ray, Kirrily Schell, Jan Scherpenhuizen, Shags, Bernie Slater, Glenn Smith, Cipta Tanamas, Dean Tarjavaara, Matt Taylor, Ross Tesoriero, Tolley, Ryan Vella, Kevin Whitfield, Colin Wilson and  Carol Wood.

The invitation by Glenn Smith.

The exhibition catalogue contained the essays: “The Broken Pencils of Southeast Asia” by International Journal of Comic Art editor John A. Lent, “Why the Australian Small Press Make Eskimo Comics” by Tim Danko, and my “Sick Puppies With Pencils”.

Neale Blanden illo-also used as the exhibition catalogue cover.

As a fun idea for the catalogue I asked the artists to draw a ‘savage pencil’. Here is a selection. All art is the copyright of the respective creators.

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

Butcher and Wood aka the Pox Girls.

Louise Graber

Louise Graber

Ross Tesoriero

Alice Mrongovius

Linzee R. Nold

Shags

Chris Mikul

Chris Mikul

Matt Taylor

Ben Hutchings

Tolley

Bernard Caleo

Bernard Caleo

Ryan Vella

Kirrily Schell

The notion of collecting comic art was fairly new in Australia at the time. This exhibition offered 50 works ranging from the mainstream to the the avant-garde, from 44 artists representing every State of Australia except the Northern Territory. Some of the cover art was displayed on the gallery’s website.

Exhibition installation view. (Photo by Louise Graber)

The exhibition catalogue with cut-up Neale Blanden illo on the cover.

The exhibition catalogue with cut-up Neale Blanden illo on the cover.

The title for the exhibition was taken from the alias of Edwin Pouncey, an English comics creator of the early 1980s whose ‘punk’ style of graphics proved inspirational to alternative cartoonists. This show celebrated drawing, a precious commodity in an age of appropriation and scanning, and the creative expression that drawing is given in comics. Here the drawing was both art and pop culture trash and very affordible.

This is the eighth 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: INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS-COMICS

Thirteen years ago to the day the 14th International Exhibition of Drawings opened at the Museum of Modern Art in Rijeka, Croatia, 17th December 1998-20th March 1999, and was devoted to comics. Invited to contribute to the selection of the show based on the research I was doing at the time following a referral from Professor Joan Kerr(ANU), I selected and sent 13 works by 14 creators and wrote an essay The Australian Underground that was published in the exhibition catalogue in Croatian and English: In its own small way the underground comics community not only contributes to the visual cultural life of Australia but also to an understanding of it. It adds to the ongoing critique of Australian culture and provides a healthy and relatively unregulated creative outlet. From its position on the margins its critical viewpoint is expressed with great humour. ‘Taking the piss out of things’ would seem an appropriate and very Australian way of describing it. (extract)

Cover of the exhibition catalogue. (Design by Mirko Ilić, drawing by Davor Vrankić)

The Comic Messiah by Q-Ray (Clint Cure), 1998, ink on paper.

Other artists in this exhibition included Max Andersson, Enki Bilal, Guido Crepax, Will Eisner, Jason(John Arne Sæterøy), Henry “Hank” Ketcham, Brant Parker, Hugo Pratt, Quino, Bryan Talbot, Mort Walker and Song Qing Zhu (Gao Diao). It was wonderful that the work of emerging Australian creators was displayed alongside these established international creators.

Black Light Angels by Louise Graber, 1998, ink on paper.

Blackie’s last day by Tony Single, 1994, pencil, felt pen, ink on paper.

Upward + Onward by Damien Woods, technical pen and felt pen on photocopy paper.

Lightning Strike by Mandy Ord, 1998, ink on paper.

Radiation Sickness by Ross Tesoriero, 1997, ink on paper.

Ah-choo by Neale Blanden, 1997, combined technique on paper.

Jean and Rolly by Timothy John Danko, 1995, collage on paper.

Kurt Hurt’s Reasons to Draw Comix by Stuart Stratu, 1997, ink and whiteout on paper.

Francis Bear by Gregory Mackay, 1998, ink on paper.

Stranger Danger by Ryan Vella, 1997, ink on paper.

Bernard Caleo and Tolley-The False Impressionists, 1997-combined technique on paper.

The False Impressionists by Bernard Caleo and Tolley, 1997, combined technique on paper.

The Killer Foetus by Ben Hutchings, 1997, combined technique on paper.

The Killer Foetus by Ben Hutchings, 1997, combined technique on paper.

This is the fifth 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: SICK PUPPY COMIX

Neale Blanden T-shirt design.

This blog was triggered by a T-shirt I happened to be wearing when I bumped into Stuart Stratu, the creator of Sick Puppy Comix, at the MCA Zine Fair. It’s about fifteen years old and still wearable and I love Neale Blanden’s design. Sick Puppy Comix was an anthology of short pieces by Australian and overseas creators that was edited and self-published by Stratu who was motivated to commence small press publishing after visiting a comics convention. Stuart Stratu: It was going to OZCON, one of the comics conventions and seeing the small press booth- that’s when I got the idea to make my own mini-comics. I had never done any comics or cartoons myself, just little drawings and things. So what I did was ran ad for contributors in the personals column of Drum Media. So all the people in the first issue, none of them had published their own comics at all. So that was basically how Sick Puppy No.1 came to be. That was April 96. Number two came out four months later. It was very primitive. A total of 13 issues have been published in a plurality of graphic styles from a range of alternative comics contributors whose content is both provocative and oppositional.

One common feature of the alternative comics scene was the practice of creators contributing to each other’s publications. Sick Puppy Comix utilised this practice which gave the comic a variety of graphic styles. By contrast there was a commonality of content with much of the material dealing with aspects of sex and/or violence, the X in the title denoting adult oriented and explicit content including scatalogical material. Whilst emphasising humour, it adopted an avant-garde attitude and encouraged its contributors to test both their own and their readers’ personal boundaries of taste and creativity. The print and presentation quality of the publication improved with each issue and this seemed to inspire creators to produce quality work e.g. Gerard Ashworth, Neale Blanden, Tim Danko, Anton Emdin, Michael Fikaris, Louise Graber, Maccad, Kieran Mangan, Chris Mikul, Mandy Ord, Pox Girls(Susan Butcher and Carol Wood), David Puckeridge, Q-Ray, SCAR(Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr), Glenn Smith, Ross Tesoriero and Ryan Vella as well as Stratu himself.

This post is from the series Archives of Australian Comics History research for my PhD at Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy, by virtue of the thesis A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion I donated the comics collection to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics. Posts in this series:  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