Thursday, June 30, 2011

What It Is? youtube episode #3 - Comics and Australian History

And here's the youtube episode of Monday night's 'What It Is?' - again, shot and chopped by film maker Daniel Hayward in double-quick time. Thanks, Dan!

And you can hear some of the song, 'The Curious Man', the Blandowski calypso recorded by The Death Adder in Berlin, which we missed on the night because of technical hitches.

'A Comic Book History of Australia' is what we called the show on the Readings website, but okay, yes, it was a bit specificker that that.  It was more about Victorian history.  Well, Melbourne history.  Okay, Melbourne history circa the 1850s.

And, when I got home and was chatting to Susan about it, she pointed out that the evening wasn't SO much about comics, either.  A bit, but not a lot.  It's probably more accurately about various forms of  'paper theatre'. Kamishibai.  Puppetry. 2-D sets. Masks.

Okay, so what about calling it 'An Evening of Paper Theatre in 1850s Melbourne'?

Call it what you will.

It is what it is.

Please do scroll down to the next post for still images and ruminations on the night.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'What It Is?' #3 - What a Thing It Was!

So, last night Monday 27 June 2011, at Readings bookshop in Carlton, we delivered the third show in the category-busting series that IS, 'What It Is?'

In this case, the 'we' was me and

Alex McDermott, whose latest book

got published recently. So we launched it, there and then, with the three 'Huzzahs' normally reserved for the launch of a comic book (if you'd been there, you'd know why I consider Alex's weighty yet extremely toothsome tome to be an honorary comic book) and then we got into the show, kicking off with a kamishibai about the Australian career of the 19th century natural historian Wilhelm von Blandowski (yes, THAT Wilhelm von Blandowski - the one who I took on a Victorian roadtrip last year - read all about that here)

The kamishibai WAS to have been 'narrated' by a song called 'The Curious Man', by calypso artist 'The Death Adder', of Berlin, but various technological barriers meant that the recording could not be played, so I ended up speaking the story.  The song however is magnificent, a sprawling calypso epic of high romance and utter desolation, and I will find a way of posting it.

Wilhelm at the Port of Adelaide in 1849.

He loves it here.

But 7 years later, 200 miles up the Darling River, he has an experience of the sublime.  And from that point, his career in Australia starts to unravel.  Our argument was, he SEES something out there...



We then went onto the story of Redmond Barry, a big statue of whom stands outside of the State Library of Victoria:

Our proposition was, you can't really understand Redmond (or Melbourne) without the vital piece of information that he was actually a

centaur.  And, as a centaur, it is unsurprising that he spends quite a bit of time on his 1839 voyage over from Ireland

amidships, as it were, with one Mrs Scott, which Mr Scott, and eventually the entirety of the rest of the passengers, finds quite off-putting (thank you to the puppetteering hands of Stephen Mushin (Barry the centaur and Mrs Scott and ocean) and Colleen Burke (boat and ocean).  When they get to Sydney?  He's really frozen out of the social scene there.

Anyway he eventually makes it to Melbourne and makes it in Melbourne and, in the end, makes Melbourne (State Library, Melbourne University, Art Gallery).  Well, you know:

he's a centaur.


Our coda to the night was an imagined 1859 meeting

between Blandowski (me) and Barry (Alex), in which Barry identifies what it is that has followed Wilhelm back from the interior, and indeed what it is which will tail him all the way back to Silesia.  All the way back to his death.

And you too can see it, here.

THE NEXT 'What It Is?' (and final in this series): songster Marin Martini and I will puzzle over, sing about, and draw about, the mysterious and ancient connection between comics and songs.  Monday 25 July. 8pm. Readings Carlton. See you there!

THANK YOU: to Jackie Kerin again for the loan of her kamishibai box, and for all the photos dotting this post.  Soon I will post the youtube episode of last night's 'What it Is?', which, as with the other two, was shot and is presently being edited by the skilful Dan Hayward.

Monday, June 20, 2011

May 'What It Is?' - comics from Bordeaux to Broome

Well what a month May was! I did one show for the Clean Energy Council about renewable energy, did another show about the humble candle as the great scientist Michael Faraday at St Paul's Cathedral, spoke about Australian graphic novels to the Graphic Narratives class at Melbourne University and then about comic book editing to the Society of Editors (Victoria). I also managed to turn 43 somewhere in there.

And at the end of the month was 'What It Is? no. 2, The Town that Comics Built'.  Above is the youtube episode, shot and edited by Dan Hayward - great work Dan!  And below is a DC10 flying the very tall Mike Shuttleworth into France.

There was a kamishibai titled 'Sous les paves, la planche' - 'Under the paving stones, the comics'.

It starred

Jean-Paul Sartre and

Simone de Beauvoir, who

argued and

made up.

We travelled with Mike to Angouleme, the great comics festival held every January in the freezing cold south-west of France.

Then we came back to the hot north-west of Australia, and I spoke with Brenton McKenna, the author of 'Ubbys Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon'

a way-cool graphic novels for kids, first of a trilogy, from Magabala Books. It was great to meet Brenton, who we also interviewed on The Comic Spot, where you can listen to that interview. Brenton even drew a picture of Ubby for us!

It was another great fun 'What It Is?' - the which question remains pertinent, as I am still not quite sure what indeed 'What It Is?' is, but I'm going to press on with another couple, at least.

Next 'What It Is?' will be a historical fairy tale for adults with the remarkable Alex McDermott, poet/historian, centaur laureate, and bike rider extraordinaire.  Monday June 27 at 8pm at Readings Carlton: details (and a drawing) on the Readings website. We will also launch Alex's latest book, 'Australian History for Dummies'.  Come along!

And massive thanks to storyteller Jackie Kerin for all the photos in this post, for the lend (again!) of her beautiful kamishibai box, and for writing about the May 'What It Is?' so beautifully here.