Homecooked Comics Festival 2015

In keeping with my tradition of untimely comics reportage here's a few notes from the Melbourne Homecooked Comics festival on the weekend of 24th-26th April this year.

I greatly enjoyed the expanded Homecooked Comics Festival this year with special guests (Dylan Horrocks, Paul Peart-Smith, Madeline Rosca, and Thomas Campi) and additional talks, exhibitions and presentations beyond the one day fair aspect. I think it was a rainy day? But there was a solid attendance of public eager to engage with the local comics scene. Some personal highlights in lazy bullet point form,

  • Talking to Dylan Horrocks about a grand plan for a New Zealand Comics Archive.
  •  Comic of the show for me was Art is a Lie by Susan Butcher and Carol Wood, first title from Bruce Mutard's Fabliaux. Collecting comics originally featured in American magazine Artillery, there is no art or cartooning style these women cannot ape and recontextualise.
  • Hanging out with my little bro who was sharing table duties with me, nice to see a bunch of his first mini-comics fly off the table -  look at his art here, Endpaper Anxiety.
  • Bernard Caleo
  • Chatting Love and Rockets with Matt Kyme
  • Meeting Paul Peart-Smith and chatting about my particular favourite comics of his.

A big thank you to organisers Sarah and Clea for offering me a spot to do a presentation on the career and life of New Zealand/Australian cartoonist Noel Cook.

Below a few pictures of comics people at Homecooked 2015, there were many more that I did not get to take snaps of because I'm a terrible stupid pretend comics paparazzo with barely adequate point and snap skills.

Bobby N took a whole bunch of better photos on his blog.

Claire Wilson and Michael Fikaris

Andrew Fulton

Scott Reid

Paul Peart-Smith , Thomas Campi and Dylan Horrocks

Steve Sparke

Scarlette Baccini

Frank Candiloro and Matthew Nicholls

Christian Roux, Neville Howard, and Alana Bruyn

Ben Hutchings

Darren Close

Matt Kyme

Brendan Halyday

Bernard Caleo and Sarah Howell

Bruce Mutard and Carol Wood

Dean Rankine

Marigold Bartlett

Tim Molloy

David C Mahler

Dale Maccanti

Jase Harper


Dylan Horrocks and Colin Wilson

Clint Cure

Jim Bridges of the Australian Cartoon Museum

Tonight at Brunswick Arts Space: A Thousand Words

$5 entry donation (proceeds go to Brunswick Arts)

- 7 artists talk about projects

Bruce Mutard
Christopher Downes (Tassie)
Sarah Howell
David Blumenstein
Mirranda Burton
Joshua Santospirito (Tassie also)
Eri Kashima

MC'd by Bernard Caleo
Films by Tom O'Hern

FB Event Page.

2014 in Review: Bruce Mutard

What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2014?
It’s been a badly interrupted year. In fact, when I think about it, I drew zero comics pages for the entire year; that hasn’t happened since before I started making comics in 1989. The only things that came close to it was my ‘page’ for the Wally Wood 22 panels exhibition and a 3 panel Peter Pumpkinhead strip. And this from a bloke who supposedly makes his living as a comics creator. On the other hand, I did draw the bulk of my Masters exhibition work in the first half of the year. For those of you who don’t know, my thesis was on comics form, an area that has not undergone much academic scrutiny (unlike the content). My comic was created for a public encounter in space, not the intimacy of print, so it’s not likely there'll be a print version of it. And in any case, there were real objects in it, so how can I print them? The work was hardly seen thanks to it being an examination exhibition that was only up for 3 days and in an obscure part of Monash Caulfield campus. On the other hand, it got a H1, no amendments, which is the top mark, so I’m happy. I hope to do a PhD down the track. The other things I have been doing is tidying up the long delayed Alice In Nomansland, and a lot of writing and layouts for The Fight. In short, I’ve been working full time in comics all year (when not on other business), but with not much to show for it - or seen - yet.

What are some of the comics you've enjoyed in 2014?
I don’t think I read very much in the way of comics all year, so demanding was everything else. I really liked Rutu Modan’s The Property, but I can’t recall if I read it this year or last. I enjoyed Eddie Campbell’s The Lovely Horrible Stuff, which may have dissipated over its length, but he always manages to find a wry and unfamiliar take on the familiar. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis 2, was a great read even if it’s not a particularly good comic (take the pictures away and the words convey nearly everything anyway). Of the locals, Jase Harper’s Awkwood, was enjoyable.

I’ve been really savouring the canapés of the Mini-comics of The Month Club - lots of savoury talent out there including makers I didn’t know. Similar kudos to Nat Karmichael’s OiOiOi! (name notwithstanding), but it promises to showcase new talent as much as old. I hope it lasts. I’m sure there’s more, but right now my brain is fried from other shit, so apologies to those I should have mentioned. One thing comics that should get a mention is the growth in non-pop culture comics shows around the country, like Comic Con-versation, Sugar Con, Homecooked, ZICs, Comic Gong and various zine fairs. These are the future of comics shows in this country and there will no doubt be more in the future, including the one I’m directing, ACAF (postponed until late next year or early 2016).

What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2014?
I think I got to the cinema once - to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was pretty entertaining. I’ve watched plenty of films and box-sets on my Tv. I’ve been loving the nordic noir of  The Killing, The Bridge,  the gritty (though it peters out) True Detective, Masters of Sex, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, the always entertaining Game of Thrones (I wait for the box-sets), catching up with Breaking Bad after all these years. For films, there are too many to mention, but my staple viewing consists of old classics as put out by the best Dvd/BRD labels in the world: Criterion collection and Masters of Cinema (UK). If you ever want to know which are the best for any given year, head to Dvd Beaver, where they put out an annual top 100, and I pretty much get everything on it. I don’t know what this years list is yet, but it’s sure to have the Werner Herzog box set, the Alain Robbe-Grillet set, the Walerian Borocyzk set, the Jacques Demy set among them.

As for reading, well, I seem to do less of this every year, but I read the Economist weekly, since it is one of the best sources of global news one can get in a news environment addicted to fads, scandal, hype, spin, parochialism and of course, fewer and fewer cartoons and comics. Screw ‘em. I haven’t seen as many art exhibitions this year as I’d of liked. I tend to do more of that when traveling, and that I did little of outside of comics or family related motives. But I would draw attention to the fabulous Annette Messenger at the MCA, Sydney. She shows how stunningly temporal based installation can work making it mesmerising at times. I swear one of her works was as alive as any organic creature. I didn’t get to the theatre anywhere near as much as I wanted, either, but Frankenstein at the Malthouse was a provocative feminist reworking of the legendary story, and being a lover of musicals, I thought the amateur production of 42nd Street by the Clocktower Musical Theatre group would have done a professional outfit proud.

And I’m rapidly expanding my music collection as always - more than 13K tracks in my iTunes library. Loving CHVRCHES, Lady Antebellum, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins, Royal Blood, War on Drugs, Scarlette Baccini’s band Dear Plastic, The Audreys, She & Him, Arch Enemy, Devilskin, The Jezabels, Lady Gaga (and Tony Bennett) and the finger dexterity of Vladimir Horowitz. That doesn’t even scratch the surface.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?
I would love there to be far less distraction in 2015. That won’t be the case, but maybe less than 2014? I sincerely hope I can get a solid year of comics drawing in - hoping to draw/tone the first 100-150 pages of The Fight. If possible, get Alice In Nomansland published and publish the sublimely unseen work of Butcher and Wood’s Art Is A Lie. I may travel to see some UK shows like Thought Bubble, Lakes Festival, Comica and ICAF, but it depends. All I want to do is make comics again. And get out and see more art and life and the local comics scene more this year. One thing that is a must do is go to the NGA in Canberra and see the James Turrell retrospective. I cannot stress how amazing it is to immerse yourself in the environments of this master of light.

Bruce Mutard

Word Balloons: Oi Oi Oi! #1 and Dailies #4

Australasian Comic reviews by Philip Bentley

Oi Oi Oi ! #1 (ComicOz, 2014)

Dailies #4 (Silent Army, 2014)

When local comic production spluttered into life again in the 1980s after a lull of around 20 years, non-themed anthologies were the initial mode of choice. From Inkspots to Fox Comics and on to Ozcomics and Cyclone, anthologies were seen as a way to showcase the greatest number of creators in the shortest amount of space. However all of these publications struggled to reach their market which wasn’t that big to begin with. Newsagent distribution proved an expensive and wasteful procedure, while local comic shops (and their patrons) were fairly disinterested.

Since those times we have had the brief ‘golden summer’ of the 1990s, when local comics seemed to gain some sort of foothold only to lose it just as quickly. Later in the decade Deevee, a non-themed anthology, sustained itself for just under 20 issues, primarily through overseas sales, by anchoring itself with a creator with international clout (Eddie Campbell). Deevee, though, was the last of its kind. Since then the preference has been for themed anthologies or single story books. The received wisdom has been that anthologies, whether themed or not, do not sell that well despite them being popular with creators for providing an outlet.

So it is interesting that over the past few years a few significant non-themed anthologies have re-emerged. I welcome this as personally I feel this mode has a lot to offer. The two above come at it from different directions, so a comparison is revealing.

Dillon Naylor

Nat Karmichael’s Oi Oi Oi! seems a throwback to the 1980s with its emphasis on its Australian roots and newsstand distribution. In other ways it has gone beyond these times by proposing a quarterly schedule and paying contributors. But that some element of the 1980s is present may not be that surprising given Karmichael also made a contribution to anthologies in that decade by being involved with The Australian Comics Group (one issue, 1982). Later he published a magazine reprinting the newspaper strip Air Hawk (six issues, 1980's-1990), with a softcover collection in 2011 and a second volume in hardcover of Air Hawk in 2013. He followed it up this year with one of another newspaper strip, Monty Wedd's Ned Kelly.  

Since the cessation of Tango in 2009 local comic aficionados have lamented the absence of a substantial anthology to showcase the burgeoning talents this country has been producing. So Karmichael is to be congratulated at having a go at providing it. The results though are mixed. From a perspective of the work alone Karmichael has been wise enough to largely use established creators so there are no duds to be found. That said, to me, the book is largely lacking any inner cohesion. Now I admit this is a fairly abstract element and there are no rules about how you achieve it, but for me the best anthologies have any inner synergy where the works spark off one another to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. For me this element is absent here.

It’s true a number of the works do address some element of Australiana, but otherwise they have little in common visually or thematically. Cartooning flights of fancy from Rob Feldman and Glenn Le Lievre are juxtaposed with more dramatic works, such as a tale set in 1930s Tasmania by Tony Thorne (making a welcome return to the printed page after a gap of 20 odd years), and one of Steve Carter and Antoinette Ryder’s patented fantasy adventures (considerably toned down from their usual fare). These are leavened with an amusing slice of life tale by Dillon Naylor, a thought-provoking commentary on the medium by Bruce Mutard and the first nine pages of Joshua Santospirito’s renowned graphic novel Long Weekend in Alice Springs. All of these would be acceptable on their own but here just seem to be taking the work in too many directions at once.

Karmichael may have felt that bringing together as wide a collection of styles and stories as possible would help his cause. I’m not sure if this is the case. It depends what purchasing criteria his potential readers use. It’s true that some people use an ‘opt in’ approach where if they see a few works they like they will buy the book regardless of there being some that they don’t. But others use the opposite approach and won’t buy anything that contains a number of strips that don’t appeal.

But again I am not sure what market Karmichael is aiming for. The comic reading community in this country seem more diverse than ever and I’m not sure that many would purchase an Australian comic purely because it is an Australian comic. Judging from his cover, contents and editorial, though, Karmichael may have set his sights at a general readership above and beyond those who identify with being comic fans. This is a big ask given that while comics may no longer be a pariah medium in this country there is still a general indifference to the medium. I have observed some greater interest amongst the literati and Gen Y but I wouldn’t have thought these would have been ones to be particularly swayed by an emphasis on Australiana.


Tony Thorne

Certainly from the perspective of the general market I would have to query the inclusion of Mutard’s strip – probably too self-referential – Carter and Ryder’s – even toned down possibly too violent – and Santospirito’s which reads like what it is – the beginning of a much longer work.

But I do welcome the book’s existence and wish it a long life, even if I fear that like most of its ilk in this country its tenure will be brief.

Dailies #4

The Silent Army occupy what they call the experimental end of the comic scene in this country, in particular Melbourne. Having begun in the early 2000s, from roots in the 1990s, they have some history in the medium and over the years have published approaching 30 different works. Originally a loose collective these days the major organising appears to have fallen to Michael Fikaris, who has been responsible for this journal, four issues of which have been published since 2012.

Originally non-themed this issue takes as its theme Melbourne, although this is pretty loosely interpreted in many cases. Over the 64 pages a variety of artists, both new and established, ply their trade in approximately one page per contributor. Some provide illustrations rather than strips and there are other oddities like strips in untranslated Indonesian.

Michael Fikaris

This brevity does limit the amount of depth contributors can reach so perhaps it is not surprising that the most successful strips, for me, come from established creators such as Jase Harper, Andrew Weldon, Tim Molloy, Mandy Ord and David Blumenstein. Other worthwhile contributions come from a couple of older creators making welcome returns, at least to my eyes, Amber Carvan and Stratu.

Most of these works could be loosely termed ‘undergroundy’ or perhaps ‘indie’ is a better description as there isn’t much here that could be called taboo. How much is ‘experimental’ is debatable, but one man’s experiment is another’s confusion. In my eyes, though, experimentation can be as much to do with the story as with the art. Interestingly, in this regard, I would actually say that Oi Oi Oi ! contains works that are more experimental, or at least novel, in terms of story. Mutard’s exegesis on the comic form certainly fits the bill and how many other works have been set in 1930s Tasmania or prehistoric Australia?

But despite the ephemeral nature of much of this I still would say there is a greater amount of cohesion than is found in Oi Oi Oi! Most of these artists appear to be on the same page creatively and partaking of a similar mindset. Thus it is unfortunate that this is apparently the last Dailies for the foreseeable future as Michael Fikaris wishes to put his energies elsewhere.

Tim Molloy