Friday, September 7, 2012

Back on RRR, and Writers Fest 2012 wrap

I was back on 'Smart Arts' on 3RRR FM with Richard Watts this Thursday morning just gone, and I spoke about a few comic books which were part of the 'Skinny Arse Comics Launch', itself part of the Melbourne Writers Festival 2012.

'The Trials of Francis Bear', above, by Gregory Mackay, continues to follow the hapless, sometimes hopeless, inebriate and unemployed stuffed bear. Unlike the previous simply eponymous collection, this new book has more of a narrative arc running through the whole book. Similarly however to the previous book, it is hilarious and beautifully cartooned.

'All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off A Bridge! by J Marc Schmidt is also very funny and also cleanly and confidently drawn, but it is more varied in its offerings - it is a generous compendium of short stories that J. Marc originally posted to the web. Many of them are experimental, with some of them having an almost improvised sense about them.  Here we are watching someone experiment with the medium, stretching it and toying with it - there's great work in this book.

Both of the above have been published by James Andre's excellent Milk Shadow Books - go there and buy multiple copies of both!

Another Melbourne publisher is Matt Emery who publishes under the name of Pikita Press, and he launched 

at Skinny Arse: Peter Foster had his adaptation of the 1874 Australian convict classic published in black and white in 1986 by Greenhouse Press, and it's taken 26 years and a lot of work by Peter on the computer to get it out in colour.


Also at the Festival I was honoured to be on a panel in the Schools Program, 'Drawn to Stories' with local cartoonist Oslo Davis

And London illustrator/cartoonist/pictorial theorist Joanna Walsh, aka Badaude, whose book 'London Walks' is a remarkable walking guide to many different areas of London.

Joanna, Oslo and I talked about drawing as a way of discovering, as a way of thinking, as a way of writing. Then I threw a whole lot of stalks of silver beet (which Joanna called 'chard') at the audience, which went down surprisingly well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Licence to Kamishibai!

It's one of those things that I never knew I wanted, indeed needed, but when it was issued to me tonight

something clicked - it is just the thing that I have been waiting for.

I was out west at Dinjerra Primary School in Braybrook, where Lachlann Carter of Pigeons literary literacy projects has been working with kids from prep to Grade 2 over the past school term. About a month ago I went over and did a couple of kamishibai sessions, including a performance and a workshop, and it must have got them really fired up, because when I got there tonight, there were dozens of black-painted cardboard butai (kamishibai stages), with exquisite pictures within them. Tonight we were celebrating the premiere of films of the children performing their stories. There was a red carpet.  There was popcorn.  It was really very exciting.  Very very exciting And very beautiful.


Boy I'm glad that I (along with 60 Dinjerrah students) now have that licence.  It makes me breathe easier about performing the 'Snail climbs Fuji' story at last week's Graphic Novels! Melbourne! fundraiser.

The above picture, taken by Pigeons' Jenna Williams - shows the title of the kamishibai which in toto reads (in English)

Slowly slowly climb
Mount Fuji

Sounds great in Japanese though.  It's a haiku by the great poet Issa, a.k.a 'Cup of Tea'

So there was that one, and a couple of weeks before that, I was up at the Woodend library as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival and the cartoonist and artist Trace Balla took those shots of me performing there:

This is from my kamishibai, 'A Box of Stories', set in Tokyo in 1931.  It's a kamishibai about kamishibai. Is that going a bit far?  Perhaps.

But blimey.  I'm glad I have that licence, now.  Really glad. Thank you, Dinjerra and Pigeons!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's Japanese for MONGREL?

Above, our Tokyo correspondent, English teacher, and dem fine cartoonist J M Schmidt peruses MONGREL 4 at the station. His comics novels* Egg Story (currently being translated into Esperanto!), Eating Steve and The Sixsmiths (this last with writer Jason Franks) are all great books, and recommended for your reading eyes.

Seeing a MONGREL being read in this, the emblematic illustration of the ubiquity of manga culture in Japan ( 'In Japan, people read comics On The Trains! Really!') is highly delightful to me.

See? No-one's staring at the comics-reading gaijin like he's out of his mind or anything.  I have written an introduction to JM's collection of hilarious shorter comics stories, 'All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off a Bridge', which will be published by Milk Shadow Books later this year.

Sugoi.  Domo arigato gozaimasu, Schmidt JM!

*a new and entirely satisfactory way of referring to 'graphic novels', invented (I think) by my friend Anne Radvansky last night

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Nun's Priest's Kamishibai

So, a month ago, on May 6 2012, as part of the Williamstown Literary Festival, a group calling ourselves the 'Canterbury Tales Book Club Project' put on an afternoon of performance, song, dance and talk about Geoffrey Chaucer's great bunch of stories written in Middle English at the end of the 1300s.  Above, pre-show, Jackie Kerin (the owner of the kamishibike) and I work out how it's all going to get set up for me to do my bit after the interval. Jackie performed a hilarious 'Pardoner's Tale' in the first half. Jackie also took all of the photos in this blog post - except, of course, this one!

Above, Catherine Ryan, in a wimple of her own design, gives us the 'Canterbury 101' talk.

Author Claire Saxby, our Middle English MC.

Simon Leverton on guitar was the musical director (a lot of bawdiness going down in them thar lyrics it must be said) and behind him?  Yes, absolutely.  Morris dancers.  They got bells that jingle jangle.

This was the first time I'd ever done the kamishibai box + simultaneous projection, and apparently it worked pretty well.  I must say I'd like to see it myself, to be sure.   For my part I had adapted 'The Nun's Priest's Tale', which I studied way back in the Middle Ages of 1984, taught by my beloved HSC English Literature teacher, Marisa Spiller.

Above, my first image of the tale, depicting the 'narwe cottage' in which lives the widow who owns the rooster

called ('cleped') Chaunticleer.  'He was a real cock', as I say in my translation. And of course if there's chickens then there's gotta be a

fox.  Let me hasten to add, it all works out okay, but there's some tense moments along the way, ohhh yes.


It's good to have another story in my kamishibai repertoire, and I'm thinking that I will deliver the 'G' rated version of the tale this Saturday 9 June up at Woodend library where I am giving a kamishibai storytelling session as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival.

After me came Daniel O'Connell, with a filthy, funny version of the Miller's Tale.  Brilliant.

Highlights of the afternoon for me were certainly the other performances, and also seeing Robin Grove, a remarkable English Literature lecturer (more like 'inspirer') from my university days, and meeting Ted Smith, the builder of the beautiful kamishibai box that I borrow off Jackie whenever I need to tell 'paper theatre' stories.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Canines love MONGREL

Simon Barnard's dog, Tuco, was one year old yesterday and given his new-found maturity, ponders the intertextual referencing going on in the latest MONGREL.

IS Jane a prosolar mechanic?  Well IS she?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The February number of MONGREL was adorned with a potplant going up from 3 to 2D.

The March cover, featuring a truncated container.

Local subscribers should be receiving their MONGREL 3s today or so, and international subscribers next week. Many grateful thanks to Susan Bamford Caleo for helping out with the last two mailouts.

It is tremendously satisfying making these comics pamphlets, and it's been great working at them in various places - at home in Northcote and Phillip Island, at Pat Grant's in Austinmer (near Wollongong) and researching number 3's locations in Adelaide while I was there in March performing the show Faraday's Candle. I also did a little bit of work on number three up at Chugnut a couple of weeks ago. What all this means is that for me, each of those pages has a certain association with people and spaces

I am currently working on number 4.  The last five pages are pencilled, and with the arrival of a bunch of reference photographs of the mean streets of Soho (thank you Luke Caleo), the pencilling of the first three pages can begin. Every number thus far has become print-ready via the magic hands of Justin Caleo, to whom also thanks.

Below, an earth-bound Port Adelaide tug that didn't make it into the comic, but I include it here as a gift for the dedicatee in number three:

Friday, February 10, 2012


Yes, MONGREL 1, the first number of a twelve issue series of comics pamphlets that I mean to write, draw and publish this year, is now out in the public domain. It's in some shops (to date: Minotaur, All Star Comics and Sticky, all in the city), but mostly? It's in the mail.

The whole idea with MONGREL is that it be mainly a subscription-based comics reading experience - I'd really prefer you to get it in the mail.  To that end, and to begin with, I have tried a crowd funding model with the pozible mob, which is here and which is active until 23 February 2012.  I'm trying with this to raise a base amount of money which I need to cover print and postage costs for all 12 issues.  If you're reading this after the 23rd of February and are keen to subscribe, go to the MONGREL page of the Cardigan Comics website, which incidentally does have some information about the stories in the book, too.

So, monthly huh?  Yes, monthly*.  That's the other idea. And yes, it does mean that work has more than begun on number 2, and I thought I'd leave you with the roughs for the first page, though I have pencilled and lettered (but not inked) that page in the interim.  I'm putting this up as a sort of confession - I'd envisioned it as a fairly sparse page text-wise, but when I got to really work on it, ahh, those words, they just took OFF -- people who have collaborated with me before (Tolley, John Murphy, I'm looking at you) know Bernard the Prolix only too well...

You may not be able to read this, but it's even titled 'Cath's opening monologue'.

So, then, MONGREL: it's verbal, it's theatrical, it's comical.

And I better get back to the old drawing board.  See you soon.

And hey - subscribe!


*Kevin Patrick, the knower of things Australian and historical and comicsy, thinks it may be the first Australian monthly comic in 40 years! Let me know if you know different...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The last Comic Spot radio show! The first Homecooked Comics Festival!

No no no, say it ain't so!

But it is so - The Comic Spot, the fortnightly Australian comics hour on radio station 3CR, is coming to an end!  John Retallick: the mover, the shaker, the anchor, the rock, the organiser and motive force behind the show, is moving to Hobart (lucky Hobart!). As John says on the blog, The Comic Spot may well take on another form in the future, but this is the end of Volume One.

BUT in an amazing coincidence, the last show will be the first one we record in front of an audience! Yes, this Saturday, 28 January 2012 is The Homecooked Comics Festival to be held at (of course) Batman Park in Northcote, at the corner of Separations Street and Saint Georges Road.

The festival, presented by the City of Darebin, features a great line-up of events from 3 - 7pm, and the final Comic Spot 3CR show with your hosts John, Jo and Bernard will be recorded there and go to air next Thursday 2 February at 5pm on 3CR, 855 on your AM dial. The shows get podcast as well, so go to the blog to find an interview with the Australian comics creator of your dreams.

And come along to the Homecooked Comics Festival this Saturday and help us celebrate the great years of the Comic Spot radio show, to meet comics makers, hear comics music, see kamishibai, and make your own comics: it's going to be a grand day!

Homecooked Comic Festival Program
Main Stage
3pm: Welcome by Darebin City Council’s Mayor, Cr Steven Tsitas.

3.10–4pm: The ComicSpot Podcast.
4.10–4.50pm: Comic/Musical Mashup.
5-5.30pm: Live music by Squid Squad.
5.30–6pm: The Allen & Unwin Quiz Show.
6.30-7pm: Live music by Animaux.

4,5,6.30pm: Fight Choreography Workshops.
3-5pm: Kamishibai (Japanese paper drama).
4.30pm: Express Media Workshop.
5.30pm: Sticky Institute Talk.
6pm: The greatest comic book parade!

All day entertainment- Newspaper in a day, tattooing, face painting, giant panel painting.