|For those of you who follow me on social media, the fact that I attended San Diego International Comic Con this year as part of a panel discussing the independent comics boom in Australia, will come as no surprise. Bleeding Cool was kind enough to run a feature on it in the lead up to the panel, written by the ever resourceful Andrez Burgen and can be read here. It’s now been a couple of weeks since the excitement and energy of the world’s largest pop culture convention has passed, I’ve now returned home and had the chance to step back and think about the whole incredible experience.
To compare the event to anything here in Australia might be a little misleading as even the attendance figures at San Diego outstrip the combined total attendance across all cities for either Oz Comic Con or Supanova. Purchasing tickets as a regular attendee for San Diego is almost impossible and this year they sold out worldwide in just two hours. The event provides such a boost to the local economy that the city is able to provide, from early morning until midnight, free public transport for anyone travelling to and from the event with buses picking up eager attendees from their hotel doors. Outside the actual convention and throughout the city, in bars, galleries and hotels there are a great number of side events that take advantage of and enhance the convention atmosphere. The city is essentially transformed for these four and half days as the focus switches to celebrating comics, television and movie culture.
Access to the professional industry is the real difference with Australian conventions. In Australia, what there is of the comic industry is essentially a happenstance collective of impassioned creatives come self-publishers who work hard to produce books, self-market, individually contacting national stores and generating interest for their product in a small and clogged market of like-minded creators until they inevitably run out money and can’t afford to do it anymore. The literally one or two ‘next level’ publishers, are either so swamped for content and/or don’t make enough on the books they already produce that competition is stiff, nigh impossible and limited to those who, in the right place at the right time have built personal relationships with the right people.
San Diego International Comic Convention is by contrast a trade show, less for retailers and more for comic book publishers, television and movie industry professionals. There’s no doubt that its proximity to LA and Hollywood money is a large part of the convention’s success. A walk down Artist Alley is a generational who’s who of artists from the latest up and coming to seasoned veterans. In addition, there were sections dedicated to illustrators, independent publishers and small press – and not one stall peddling cheap plastic jewellery or fan art among them. The small press section was probably the most familiar in terms of content if not size. The independent press section was an interesting distinction between mainstream and small press with publishers like Magnetic Press producing some truly stellar books with top tier production values.
Of great interest to me was the opportunity for portfolio reviews, to receive constructive feedback from Agents, publishers and creative professionals. It’s something that is unavailable in Australia as we don’t have an industry standard. In order for the Australian comic scene to progress from a ramshackle collection of hobbyists to a professional industry, the first step will have to be open discussion and constructive critique. At some point, a bar needs to be set and a standard promoted and aspired to. This isn’t about tearing down people’s work, it’s about guiding creativity to the next level. I’d like to think that one day I won’t have to fly half way around the world to receive clear objective feedback. Perhaps, should this day ever arrive, we will then be able to turn our eyes away from America for a moment, however brief.
San Diego International Comic Com is a big effort and commitment to get to, particularly from Australia. At the end of the four and half days was it worth it? Did I make the most of it? I certainly pushed myself to do as much as possible, to meet people, to take advantage of whatever access to industry I could get. Even after four and bit days, I still didn’t see everything, even forcing myself to be as focused as possible there were times I found myself walking around with the zombie glaze of overstimulation. That said, I did get to meet people and forge ties that can be built upon. Now that the show is over, the work doesn’t stop and in many ways it’s just starting. There are a number of new opportunities now, possibilities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The challenge now is simply to make the most of them.
|My fellow speakers on the Friday night panel, ‘Off the Beaten Track: The Australian Indie Comics Explosion’ from left to right, Clint Harris (Camera man), Alana Marshall (Presenter), Darren Koziol (Dark Oz), Me (Falling Star), Neville Howard (Melbourne Comics, Sugar and Space), W. Chewie Chan (The Exoneration of Doctor Fu Manchu), Christopher Sequeira (The Exoneration of Doctor Fu Manchu).|
|The first thing I see from behind the microphone (left) and horseplay (right).|
|San Diego the day before (above)… and the city transformed (below).|
|An Artist Alley to die for, both in content and patronage.|
|Just some original artwork for sale…|
|Some of Darren Koziol’s Dark Oz publications, Neville Howard and Louie Joyce’s Sugar and Space, and an indie publication success story…|
|Offerings from the Small Press section – Rachel Dukes’ Frankie Comics and Josh Shalek’s Falling Rock National Park.|
|Jeremy Bastian’s exquisitely illustrated Cursed Pirate Girl and Sketch Book.|
|Ted Washington’s book, More, of beautiful portraits and poetry, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Nameless, Eric Shanower’s seven-plus volume epic retelling of the battle of Troy, Age of Bronze.|
|I had to go all the way to America to buy French comics from the master – Moebius.|
|An age old adage may warn against this, but I was chuffed – blurbling at Mike Mignola… He was gracious.|
|My contribution to an initiative of Tom Racine’s from Tell Tale Radio – Drink & Doodle sketches for auction.|
| Tags: Alana Marshall, Andez Burgen, Bleeding Cool, Christopher Sequeira, Comics, Conventions, Cristian Roux, Dark Oz, exhibition, expo, Falling Star, Fu Manchu, Melbourne Comics, Neville Howard, San Diego, Sauce, Sugar and Space, W. Chewie Chan | More: Comics, Conventions, San Diego, Sauce of Inspiration
It’s uncanny how these things always seem to come together all at once. May is going to be a mammoth month of awesome comic festivities!
First cab off the rank in May is the fantastic Homecooked Comics Festival at the Northcote Town Hall (30 April – 1 May 2016), which has grown from strength to strength over the last few years as a truly unique celebration of comics, graphic novels and their creators. Homecooked is a two day event with a number of creative workshops held on Saturday 30 April, tickets for which can be bought here and a Market Day on Sunday 1 May of which I’m fortunate enough to be a part. Homecooked is also running a Pozible campaign to raise funds for the event and you can make your pledge here.
Poster artwork by Vikky Ong
Floorplan of the exhibitors on Market Day, Sunday, 1 May at Northcote Town Hall from Midday.
Come and visit me at table 18!
The following weekend on Free Comic Book Day, sees the exciting launch of the fourth issue of Melbourne Comics. I’m very happy to announce that my artwork graces the cover of issue four and features the enigmatic Mimi, from my series Falling Star. It’s a proud send off as it marks the final instalment of Falling Star to appear in Melbourne Comics. The issue is jam packed with awesome content and will also contain Killeroo by Darren Close and Adam Rose, Sugar and Space by Louie Joyce, Nic J. Shaw and Neville Howard, Mini Tom by Thomas Tung, Wrestlers in Space by Dean Rankine and Nathanael Hopkins-Smith, and a centre spread by S.C.A.R – Steve Carter & Antoinette Rydyr. The issue will be launching from 2pm on 7 May at Bartronica.
Cover artwork by me, yours truly, featuring the central protagonist of Falling Star, Mimi.
The third weekend in May sees me attending Comic Gong in Wollongong. There are a number of events on Saturday 14 May, the details of which can be found here. The day goes from 10am to 4pm. I will be exhibiting and can be found, along with a number of other creators and artists, in the Wollongong Town Hall in the Music Lounge. It will be the first time that I’ve attended this event but by all accounts it’s a great day so I’ll be looking forward to meeting many new people and new fans!
3D poster artwork by Marcelo Baez
Floorplan of the exhibitors in the Wollongong Town Hall, Saturday, 14 May from 10am to 4pm.
Come and visit me in the Music Lounge.
The inaugural Australian Comic Arts Festival – ACAF was on last weekend in Canberra, and I was lucky enough to be able to participate. I say, ‘lucky’ because what it turned out to be was far better than my expectations. The festival went outside the usual demarcation of similar events by providing a stimulating forum to engage with the medium of comics as well as their creators.
The first day offered a range of workshops and presentations by professionals providing insights and advice across the full spectrum of creating comics. I attended as many as I could and only wish I’d been able to attend more!
The second day, Sunday, was market day and allowed myself and many other independent comic creators from around Australia the chance to showcase our books to the public. People that came to the market day were incredibly receptive and enthusiastic about the work the discovered.
All in all, it was an incredibly positive experience and raises high hopes for the festival next year, which I have no doubt will only be bigger and better. ACAF 2017 will be held 18-19 February 2017.
Check out the ABC’s coverage of the event here.
Poster artwork by Marijka Gooding
My table on Market Day.
I had some new work showing (see bottom left corner), a six page sci-fi story.
As well as having my books for sale, I also had posters which sold pretty well, too.
This was my take-home loot for the festival, which included:
Sixsmiths by Jason Franks (volume two being launched at ACAF on Saturday night),
Rebels, illustrated by Tristan Jones,
Nat Carmichael’s Oi Oi Oi,
Mishmash by Louie Joyce
and Darkest Night and Cobber by Hayden Fryer.
| Tags: ACAF, Canberra, Comics, Conventions, Cristian Roux, exhibition, expo, Falling Star | More: Comics, Conventions, Sauce of Inspiration
This Saturday, 26 September, sees the launch of a three books at All Star Comics that I’ve had the excellent opportunity to contribute to. The books are all the initiative of Melbourne Comics, and includes the third issue of their Melbourne Comics Quarterly, an anthology comic with a focus on putting the spotlight on local creators. This is the also the third issue I’ve been happy to provide content for, as I’ve been consecutively serialising the first issue of Falling Star. The issue also includes stories from creators Scott Reid with Lil’ Prick, Darren Close with Killeroo, Steve Boyd with POKI the Rabbit and Dean Rankine with Itty Bitty Bunnies.
The two additional books being launched are for the Melbourne Comics‘ initiative, Project Orangutan, raising money for The Orangutan Project. I was honoured to be approached to contribute to the books by Melbourne Comics and provided pin-up artwork that I’m proud to say was then selected as the cover to the 64 page deluxe edition of Tango with Orangos. This book is one of two that features an incredible array of artworks and comics by over 50 Australian artists who all donated their talent for the cause of orangutan conservation. To get your hands on copies of these books, come along to the launch this weekend at All Star Comics.
Cover artworks for Tango with Orangos by Cristian Roux (left) and Simon Wright (right)
Melbourne Comics Quarterly #3 cover artwork by Dean Rankine
| Tags: All Star Comics, Book Launch, Comics, Cristian Roux, Falling Star, Melbourne Comics, Melbourne Comics Quarterly | More: Book Launch, Comics, Falling Star
What can I say? This was a big one, which probably accounts for why it’s a little later than I originally anticipated. I think my initial estimates were possibly May, which seems somewhat laughably optimistic in hindsight. Nevertheless, Falling Star #4 is now complete and the files sent to the printer, amidst mixed feelings of relief and perhaps even that certain amount of anxiety that always accompanies any kind of finalising action to a creative project.
By far my most ambitious comic to date and dare I say, finally managing to scrape against what my aspirations for the series have been from the start – the desire to tell allegorical stories. I’ve always felt that genre fiction is at its best when it has something beyond being simply an action romp. I think that super hero stories particularly lend themselves to metaphor as it sometimes seems to me that these kind of stories have been used for the entirety of human civilisation for exactly this purpose. In my cheekier moments I’d probably suggest that these kind of stories have helped define our moral outlook and millions have happily given up their lives in their endorsement. Not that I’m expecting anyone to make the Ultimate Sacrifice after reading this issue, I’d be happy with them simply encouraging others to buy a few copies.
The fourth issue of Falling Star is entitled Cara’s Story and is the first in what is envisioned as a trilogy in the Monsters story arc. The story focuses on Cara, a character who has previously appeared in issues one and two and her efforts to get by in a society riddled with anxiety and suspicion over the growing Alter crisis. What does she have to fear and what is behind her obsession with insects? Agents exercise newly granted powers to respond to the crisis while these same powers are debated on national television. And, what is the connection with the continuing disappearances of people?
Falling Star #4 will be launching into the world as part of the Sweet Comics Launch at All Star Comics on Saturday, 29 August alongside, Tales to Admonish, That Bullet Proof Kid, Mini Tom and Hard Boiled.
Banner artwork by Thomas Tung