Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Soldier Legacy. And now, the End is Near.

After having an extremely low number of Soldier Legacy issues sell at Melbourne OCC, and looking over the numbers of Soldier Legacy 6 from the conventions this year (Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne Oz Comic-Con), it has re-affirmed my current thoughts that this issue will be the penultimate chapter of this comic book, with the series ending with issue 7.

The last chapter will likely go straight to trade paperback. I felt as though I put way too much of my enthusiasm, time and sweat into this latest issue which I found has been akin to putting them into bottles and floating them out to sea, never to see or hear about them again. For my emotional wellbeing, it’s a drain. Sure, comics are not as hard as digging a ditch, but then again, you don’t pour your heart and soul for months into creating a hole. The writing, drawing and assembling of this issue solo was very anti-climatic. I’m still finding most are going for the first few issues in trade paperback form, meaning I need to re-evaluate the point of continuing. The trades have been the constant best seller, by and far over the single issues. I ran out of TPBs early this year and since the dissolving of Black House Comics late last year (publisher of the series), I have been reluctant to chase a further reprinting of this volume until the 2nd volume is complete. I wish to thank everyone who has purchases the single issues and the Volume 1 trade in the past.

I originally began this series as an aim to experiment with the comics form, illustrating and writing methodology, for the aim of achieving my doctorate. I was awarded my Doctorate in Visual Arts recently, and though I will continue to work in comics (such as lecturing/tutoring, my current projects for other Australian publishers, freelance work, and pitching), it seems that perhaps my attempts for an action- adventure hero in the same vein as The Spirit, Indiana Jones, Sg.t Fury or The Phantom, with an Australian sensibility, have been a poor one. Or perhaps, the Australian as a hero is not as relevant or inline with the current sensibilities of a comic reading audience as I had hoped. Perhaps the idea of an Australian comic character in a mask seems hokey to most. Perhaps the relevance of the Anzac spirit only holds for most on two dates a year in April and November. Perhaps the current wars in the Middle East hit too close to home, or that the idea of being a proud Australian is tainted because of the elected officials seemingly running our country. Perhaps you can’t fight cultural cringe after all. Perhaps simply, my drawing style doesn’t resonate. Either way, I can’t figure it out, and it’s time to move on.

My final paragraph of my doctoral thesis touched on my personal thoughts:
“…What the future holds for The Soldier Legacy after this current story arc is over is uncertain. Whether continued interest in this Australian action hero continues to grow or stagnates is unknown (much like the nature of the medium in general), or whether it was even a blip on the Australian comic scene mindset is unknown, as fickle and fractured as I discovered on my journey... It is not the work I wish to ultimately define me; I wish to grow beyond it, and will probably feel more proud and satisfied with it when I have finally reached the conclusion of the last issue.
However, I am thankful for the opportunities that have arisen from researching and creating comics, and that I have been able to achieve what I set out to do from the onset of this research…”

I am pleased with what I was able to do with the character and comic series in a short few years: meet creators here and overseas, gain meetings, feedback and contacts and friends with the biggest comic publishers in the US such as DC and IDW, work in a professional capacity in a field I always wanted to do since I was a kid, have the character and books feature on TV via Youi insurance, attend many conventions nationally as a guest, draw a crossover which featured in a Sherlock Holmes comic which sold throughout Australian newsagents, and feature in past (and some upcoming) publications for other publishers, and gain knowledge and ability which ultimately lead me to becoming a Doctor in Visual Arts.  This is thanks to not only the friends and fellow creators who actively supported or assisted in the issues, and the handful of comic stores that stock Australian independent books, but for the folks who own a copy of the book, or who showed their appreciation for the series or concept at the conventions around the country.

I still have a few boxes of back issues (#1 – 5, the recent #6 and the Strange Tales one-shot) which I will endeavour to have with me at the conventions I will attend, and volume 2 is still going ahead, self-published or otherwise, but for now, my lecturing commitments, and current graphic novel will take precedence over something that now just seems like an exercise in indulgence, rather than something that people actually care about.

Perhaps one day down the track, when I’m not so caught up with other projects, I will change my mind. With the right story and demand, you never know. But for now, the current title of the story “And now the end is near” is spot on.

Anyway, as I ended my thesis with this, I will also end this thought stream with this. The words of one of my inspirations: Jack Kirby:

“Comics are a universal product. They have no boundaries. You can use them in a very serious manner or just for laughs. Comics can be used to educate, to entertain or to provoke deep thought. A well-read person will one day produce a classic epic in comics, one that everybody will remember. I wanted to do that, but I think that's going to be somebody else's job. I'm happy that I got the chance to accomplish what I did.”

The last six months in a nutshell aka Slack Blogger


Long time no-see. I realised a while ago that I had neglected this blog; simply a lack of spare time killed my updates. Last night I wrote something that I want to post, but felt it necessary (or perhaps OCD) to update what's been doing since my last quick blog post back in October (just for continuity, I guess).

In December, Matt Emery of Pikitia Press conducted his yearly survey of Australian and New Zealand Cartoonists, writers and comic scribblers, and I used that as a recapped of sorts for the neglect I gave this blog. I'll dot point the rest, with photos being able to be tracked down at the Soldier legacy FB page here for anyone who actually cares:

So, below is the recap, many thanks to Matt for the yearly inclusion. The original post (and the rest) can be found by following the link here:

2014 in Review: Paul Mason

December 20, 2014
What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2014?
Had to take a different road this year due to some bigger commitments but 2014 turned into a year of setting up 2015, but also plenty of teaching opportunities, which I’m pleased with.
Recently began working on a graphic novel project I was ecstatic to score this year. I really can’t say much at all, as it’s not my place to do so. But I figure since it’s on my drawing board, it would be poor form not to at least thank them (they know who they are)- It’s for a publisher/editor with a writer who I both admire greatly; in talent and output. I’d always wanted to work on this genre too, and I love the characters. Something for 2015.
Recently I was asked to contribute a section of the latest work on The Soldier Legacy into an anthology for an early next year release- again, I don’t think I can mention too much until closer to the publication, but I am honoured to have been asked, I admire the publisher’s drive and Australian comic history, a gent to talk to, so looking forward to that as well. It at least ties in with the continuation of finishing the last volume of The Soldier Legacy, which went on the backburner due to time this year.
A couple of things spinning involving good mate and writer Chris Sequeira- some single illustrations (such as for Jason Nahrung's story in the Cthulhu: Deep Down Under crowd-funded book), some sequential work to develop, but will hopefully all wrap up and spill out in 2015.
Pleased again to have been a guest of Oz Comic-Con across 4 cities (Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane); a fantastic crew of people from organisers, handlers, security, volunteers and guests, and Supanova pop Culture expo at my base of operation in Brisbane; also operating with some top folks in the mix. Also, I was lucky enough to have been a guest of the inaugural Sugar City Con in beautiful Mackay, Queensland (I'd never been before this trip, and everybody from Grant the organiser, to Luke, Peter and Georgia our drivers/support crew were incredible); Sugar City Con is one of the first pop culture events of its kind in Australia, I was very please to be a part of it, and I hope it continues to go well for them. Also one of my favourite events of the year was the Zine and Indie Comic Symposium (or 'ZICS') at The Edge, in South Brisbane. The vibe, like Sugar City, was amazing, and the organising committee, the creators and crowd that attended were fantastic and warm. Again the opportunity to scribble during it, and all the other conventions was a lot of fun, and I am thankful for the commission requests and book sales (many thanks too to 'the Sunday Mail' newspaper and ‘U Magazine’ for shining a spotlight on the event, comics and The Soldier Legacy too.)
My Doctoral thesis on developing an Australian Comic has been submitted as the finishing component of my DVA at QCA, and is currently being marked. Probably too much to expect hearing back about it before xmas, but a least something positive (hopefully) to begin the new year. That ended up being a 50,000 word document that was submitted mid this year, along with the comic books produced during the duration.
Though Black House Comics officially shut its doors this month, I was pleased to see that about half a dozen copies of the Black House Comic-published Soldier Legacy volume 1 were picked up by the Brisbane City Council Library system. 
Hosting the Monthly Comic Book Meet-Up on behalf of the  Brisbane Square Library with a great and enthusiastic group of people coming along to talk pop culture and share their enjoyment and knowledge. 
Recently, I was invited to conduct a comic drawing/mepxy marker demo at the Art Shed Brisbane on behalf of Mepxy Markers/Canson Australia, which seems to have lead to other Art store appearances in the short term. Pleased at the enthusiasm of all involved.
Taught workshops for kids and young teens in Comic Book making at the State Library of Queensland at the beginning of the year, with seminars locked in for January 2015, including a one-day intensive course for older primary school kids, and a day workshop at the Brisbane Square Library.
What are some of the comics you've enjoyed in 2014?
With the commitments, it has been difficult to pick up things to read, but while in Italy recently I managed to pick up some of their local comic books in the newsagents, including Dylan Dog, and Tex. I was draw to the black and white illustration and storytelling- I speak virtually no Italian (just enough to get by politely), but dig these books nevertheless. Locally, I enjoyed Gestalt’s The Deep: The Vanishing Island By Tom Taylor and James Brouwer, and ComicOZ’s Oi Oi Oi! #1 edited by Nat Karmichael. Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1 (illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez) was probably one of the best-illustrated comics I've grabbed in a while. Devil Dinosaur hardcover by Jack Kirby. And, random Will Eisner splash pages from The Spirit chased up during lecture presentation research. I very much enjoyed the Will Eisner biography A Dreamer’s life in Comics, The American Comic book Chronicles: The 1980’s, and currently reading and enjoying the frank and brutal Mike Tyson autobiography The Undisputed Truth
What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2014?
My non-comic stuff has been mixed bag of enjoyment and frustration, but that's life; Take the good with the bad.
I was the assistant coach for Sparring, and a competitor myself for Team Australia ITF Taekwon-do, to go to Tuscany, Italy for the Unified World Championships. The training sessions, the state and national tournaments and squad sessions were a lot of torturous fun (and enjoyed some of the fights I had, attempting to work on different things), despite the eventual disappointment at the level of competition at the Italian event for the Taekwon-do events. I've been told that the Gold Medal from the event should represent all the hard work and sacrifice it took to get there, rather than my disappointment with the lack of competition and ordinary fight at the event itself. I like to earn things, and this just didn’t feel like part of the plan. Mixed bag, but still enjoyed the challenges regardless. And the early morning runs through Autumn Marina De Pietrasanta, and the beach training sessions were pretty cool.
-This year the Queensland College of Art/Griffith Uni trialed their 'Sequential Art and Illustration' course for 2nd and 3rd year students, and I was able to take a month block while I was teaching the 1st year Animation and Games design students drawing for the semester. I had the opportunity to lecture on drawing and storytelling a lot more this year as part of the animation department at QCA, for which I and very thankful; virtually becoming my full time job with all the prep work. There are a great bunch of students that attend, and many are so full of talent and eagerness to learn. 
What are you looking forward to in 2015?
Finishing this current new book. New stuff being released with all the setup from this year. The end of 'The Soldier legacy' story arc that was initially planned for 2014, but the increased lecturing commitments, completing the DVA, the Australia team commitment and travel left no time to process much of it. More international or domestic competition; the problem always seems to stem from not enough people in my weight division, or real competition from the people in the weight division; my last hard fight and only loss in years was a close loss in 2013 in England. I'm hoping 2015 is more fighter-friendly, with less politics that seems to follow all this stuff around. The priority is wrapping up these projects- I hate having things unfinished or in limbo. More travel. Being content.

2015 in super brief (because who wants to read paragraphs of my BS):

> This week ended 5 years of slaving away on this:

...For this...

…For which I'm very pleased. The last couple of weeks that involved the extra research, editing and 10 pages on UK comics was interesting and stressful at the same time. Juggling the drawing and teaching commitments was more of the issue than anything else (the lack of sleep mainly), but got there in the end.

>We're nearly 10 months into hosting the Monthly Comic book Meetup group for the Brisbane Square Library. A great, laid back group of people who are great to have a laugh with every third Friday of the month.

> Was a guest of Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne OZ Comic-Con, visiting some lovely cities and meeting some fantastic local and international creators. Basically, the by-product of these trips is to catch up with good friends, talk a little shop, but mostly relax and have a working weekend away from work at home. I must say (with no bias) that Gestalt's releases this year have been stellar, and the folks working on the books are some of the nicest people I've met in this game. Looking forward to Brisbane and Sydney in September.

>Uni lecturing continues at The Queensland College of Art, and Comic Book Workshop teaching at The State Library of Queensland, Brisbane Square Library, Toowoomba City Library,  and The Grove Library in Perth. The future of comics in Australia lies in kids learning, drawing and being enthusiastic about comic books, and sticking with it.

>May 2nd: Free Comic Book day at Urban Fiction Comics in Nambour, Sunshine Coast QLD:

>Have scribbled some work for the following Publications so far:
ComicOZ's Oi Oi Oi #4
Ben Slabak's Trail #3
Project Orangutan's Charity Anthology book 'Tango with Orangos'- with a kickstarter here:

>Soldier Legacy #6- released April this year- still working towards the next TPB.

With other pitches, work and stuff in between, I'm hoping the year ends better than last year. So far, so good. Anyways, thanks for indulging while I try and remember all the little bits and pieces of the year so far. (Oh, not too many tournaments (2) so far- took time off for work, but maybe pick up the pieces of the fitness regime and hit it again for later in the year.)