Monday, December 28, 2015

A reflective 2015 Recap Rambling

Well, another year is drawing to a close. Not sure why exactly I felt the necessity to write down what what I managed to knock over this year; perhaps it's a positive exercise to stop and reflect before pressing through to the new year, pat myself on the back, rather than simply continue to mentally beat myself up while I draw another page (the usual process). Actually, I caught myself laughing in amazement this year at John Romita and John Buscema on an old Jack Kirby tribute panel from many years back (via the magic of youtube) who stated how hard they found drawing, and the agony of getting out what they envision on the page, which is exactly the sort of torture that passes through my head while trying to figure out the image, panel to panel (a far cry from Kirby and Barry Windsor-Smith for instance, who state they are simply tracing the idea they already 'see" on the page). Anyway, perhaps it's just me forgetting that a blog can sometimes just be a somewhat self-indulgent, self congratulatory BS exercise for prosperity; if I don't stop to acknowledge a win, why bother be in the game in the first place.

Anyways, before I get into a long-winded time waste of an exercise, I just want to touch on (for my own sanity) what I knocked over, and the people I wish to thank, anything I dug about 2015 before plugging on. In no particular order, just whatever pops into my head:

  • OCC: The Full OZ Comic-Con tour (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney) as a comic book guest of the show, travelling with my lovely and supportive partner Amanda (who is the Stage 3 host and manager for OCC- very proud of her- her panels were always entertaining and I was thankful to share the stage with talented writers and illustrators)- I want to thank Carissa and Rand for their invitation, support and thoughtfulness, and the crew that looked after us; too many to name, but everyone from front of house, to drivers, guest co-ordinators, Cordie and Kate, the security boys, the volunteers, everyone! Thank you. Humbling to be treated the way we are as guests for the days before and during the show. Being able to speak in conversation with comic book, TV and Film people is a surreal and rewarding experience. Catching up with good friends Christian, Andrew, Nicola, Wolf, Skye, Justin, Jon, Doug, Tristan, Tom, Gary, Dean, Chris, Emily, Katie, Stewart, Wendy, Jason, Darren, Ryan and more that I've surely, and apologetically slipped my mind as I type this late at night, making new ones like Hai, Sasha, Mark S, Mark N, Freddie, Kiki and many more. And, I am thankful for the friendships and current and future collaborations that have come from hanging out with some of the best Australia has to offer in the creative fields.
  • Dr. Paul: Completed my 55,000 word DVA thesis on Australian comics, writer and artist methodologies and comparisons between the US, UK and Australian comic scenes, and documenting the process of development for The Soldier Legacy comic book series. This blog in fact, documents the very beginning of that process, starting from my honours in 2009, and arriving at this point where on the back of this comic book work, I graduated mid-way through 2015 as a Doctor of Visual Arts. (Eternal thanks to Andi, my mentor, supervisor and rock throughout the entire process, along with primary supervisor Paul, and the others thanked in the main document that supported me throughout the duration of the work (such as Evie the QCA editor, colleagues Peter, Kay, Louise, Darren F, Darren P, Marianna, Briony, John etc.). On the grand scheme of things, it most likely means nothing to nobody; it is the Australian-way after all. But, at the very least, it allows me the opportunity to continue pursuing my academic goals of being able to teach while continue as a practicing illustrator, and discuss and analyse methods for an medium virtually invisible in this country, and try to prove its merits, one kid/teen/adult at a time. The document I finished sweating on this year for this has probably only been read by a handful of people. Hoping to rectify this in 2016 by way of academic journal, or perhaps if I can beat it into a book topic…? Find the right publisher??? As for the Soldier Legacy, the final chapter of the saga will be completed next year. This is one of the other goals. As an aside, I am very appreciative of the acknowledgement of this by Oz Comic-Con, with panel cards and media throughout the show stating the title in Brisbane and Sydney shows. I was very touched for the acknowledgement!
  • Comic Book wise: Soldier Legacy issue 6 was completed and released in April this year. I tried a sepia tone to make it feel like part of the era, which I'm still not 100% happy about. But, the full colour version has started, and will be released as part of the volume 3 trade paperback. the Original volume 1s sold out, and I originally planned on calling it a day with those. But I have found that newcomers are still coming across the book for the first time, be it via conventions, word of mouth, etc.etc. Either way, a new cover was completed, some updated interiors, and a re-release occurred for this book. Also at the last minute, the 1st edition of Volume 2 trade paperback was packaged together, and released, with quotes on the cover from good friend and fantastic illustrator Nicola Scott (currently producing 'Black Magick' with acclaimed writer Greg Rucka for Image Comics), good mate John Higgins (currently illustrating 'Jacked' for DC Vertigo) and great writers Christian Read and Andrew Constant of Gestalt Publishing. I could not have achieved any of these books this year without the support, assistance and high quality print work of Baden Kirgan of Jeffries Printing services. I always highly recommend his company's print work (even Gestalt produce their work through Jeffries), and can't say enough how thankful I am for his assistance and generosity. I have to thank Amanda again for the suggestion for a Volume 3- I was stressing how to fit all the work I needed to achieve to wrap up the storyline convincingly, and it seems the answer was right in front of me. 2016, I hope I can do the ending justice. pages have slowly begun.

    • As well as the two trades and the single issue, other Comic stuff for the year:
      • ComicOZ's 'Oi Oi Oi #4' featured a 10 page black & white preview for Soldier Legacy #6 (Cheers Nat!)
      • A 5 page colour contribution I, along with a group of other Australian cartoonists, was invited to contribute to- ComicOZ's 'AUSTRALIA'  raising money for Beyond Blue. This was admittedly hard to do- with close ties to depression, and the recent lost of a beloved family pet (and drawing companion), I wrote and drew this quick little Soldier tie-in as a tribute. Difficult process to say the least, but despite the flaws I always hate in my own work, I was happy with the result given the short deadline I had to deal with, due to the other work tying me down. That will be available as a hardcover book very soon.

      • Cloud9 Comix 'Trail' #3 double page spread- pencils and ink (Cheers Ben!)

      • The prose anthology 'Cthulhu: Deep Down Under' - 1 page illustration for Jason Nahrung's short story.
      • I'm hoping by the end of this week to have finished about half of the pencils and inks for a graphic novel collaboration with writer Christian Read on a book for Gestalt Publishing. I have had a great deal of respect and admiration for Wolfgang, and Skye and the other creators onboard with the Australian-based publisher, and the drive and attitude behind the work they produce. To be part of the fold is an honour, just like the height of Black House Comics work with Baden, Chris, Jan, Jason, Chewie etc. Gary Edward's wise words, and pleasant encouragement, along with Christian's enthusiasm and faith in the project and what I'm putting on the page (it's a struggle! but I hope the end result makes him happy) along with Nicola and Andrew's support, and Wolf's meticulous and valuable feedback on the pages, has helped immensely. It's more pages than I've been able to achieve in recent years- maybe because I'm not colouring them, or working on the thesis, or perhaps no world championship in the mid year? Who knows. It wasn't smooth sailings by any stretch of the imagination- family sicknesses, death of pets, and a full teaching load writing classes and marking has taken many days, and hours away from sleep. But again, though progress on this has been slower than anticipated, I'm hoping something sees the light of day in the new year, if not the completion of chapter 3 and 4 for wrap things up.
      • A few other bits and pieces which might have legs in 2016. Pitches and decision-making doesn't happen instantly in the creative work it seems. Even Disney projects were shelved for years before being dusted off and re-worked. Positive waves always.
  • The university commitment this year were very rewarding, and things seem to still be looking up for next year, with meetings next week to help assist in new course profiles based on the few years of teaching visual story, drawing etc. Having a hand at teaching 1st, 2nd and 3rd years, and seeing 3rd year projects come to fruiting, was very rewarding. I was extremely touched to received appreciation for advice and feedback from these talented and awesome individuals, and I wish them the very best. It's a satisfying job, and so much fun to discuss storytelling with the students. Those that see the value of hard work, constant learning, obtaining feedback and working with it to achieve great, creative work, will really go places. Thank you to Peter, Andi, Louise, Darren F, Darren P, Marianna, Leila, Briony, the tech guys James and Adam, Herman, Kirilee and the rest of the Film school.
  • There was a bit of workshop seminar teaching this year- mostly at the front of the year, but still lots of fun. The beginning of the year was a number of comic book workshops for the state library of Queensland for their Story Lab program, including a full day event (Thanks Danny!). The feedback was great, although after 3-4 consecutive years of running comic book-themed workshops, they aren't running any for 2016. Hope that's not a small omen of the perspective of comic books in this country. Workshops ran in Brisbane Square Library (Thanks Emma!), Toowoomba regional Library (at 'The Grid'- Thanks Angela), and also while in Perth at The Grove Library (Thanks Debra!). Toowoomba has already pencilled in a few seminars for next year, including one for adults, so I'm thankful for that opportunity once again. Great kids and parents at all the events in 2015, so looking forward to what 2016 will bring.
  • For the last 15 months, I have been hosting a monthly Comic Book Meetup group, along with my partner Amanda Bacchi (the brain child of the project) on behalf of Brisbane Square Library. We began with 6 people, and it has been consistently in the 30s for over a year, with regulars becoming good friends, and semi-regulars visiting when they can, on the 3rd Friday of every month. It's been a great deal of fun and a rewarding experience for Amanda and I, and after the success of the last meet up before Xmas (Secret Santa was awesome!), I am hoping the Library continue to see the value in this free event for Brisbane pop culture fans that do come along, and we get to celebrate 2 years later in 2016. Our 1 year anniversary in September coincided with Oz Comic -Con in the city, and good buddy Dean Rankine came along to discuss his Simpsons, Futurama and Itty Bitty Bunnies work. Nat Karmichael of ComicOZ is another local who has attended a number of meetings to discuss his work, as well as some other local creators (Kara Jay, Darren Koziol etc.)- but mostly, it's about having a laugh, watching big screen trailers, quizzes, games and comic book prizes. A fun gig and nice way to end the working week.

  • Free Comic book day sketching (and Halloween Comic fest) at Urban Fiction Comics in Nambour- thank you to the kind folks that came out, and for Drew and Alye  for being kind hosts, and working hard for your local customers.Cheers!
  • Supanova Brisbane, as always, cheers to Daniel for having me be a part of the show, Tim, Royd for being a good mate and taking care of the comic guests, the volunteers, Quinny, Bruce and the crew, the opportunity to hang with good friends (Dean Rankine is a gentleman; both Amanda and I are thankful for being able to catch up whenever you're in town), Tom, Mark, James and meeting new mate Greg, catching up with the lovely Fil and Helen, Martin and Jamie, Chatting briefly to neighbours Bob Layton, and Dave Gibbons was very rewarding too. Despite some hiccups, a great weekend.
  • Umm, drawing some blanks now. A couple of Golds in some national tournaments throughout the year, and a bronze for a tournament I had 4 months of comic drawing as preparation, so I was surprised to have survived; not many tournaments entered, and not sure what the future will bring Taekwon-do wise. I did enjoy the Grand Master Park seminar, despite the difficult personal period that it fell in. Will I travel again for fighting? Overseas? Is it worth it? Is there the opportunity? Dunno. I'm suppose to possible grade to 4th degree early next year, but again have heard nothing (the perils of being out of the loop). So I'll just keep training for nothing in particular, other than my own sanity :P Hopefully 2016 will be kinder in this department. A new gym during the latter part of the year has helped a little, but still not getting the time I want to be able to enjoy being there. And an injury sustained in August isn't going away quick enough, while older injuries remind me they're still around. I think I just need a goal. The KO and movement potential was still there, but I don't feel like anyone really cares one way or another. So why should I? A little like comics in this country, but there are still those here and abroad that do matter, and do pay for my scribble, so it's more than enough to keep firing on with it all.

    • Anyways:
  • 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and 'Creed'. Two great film releases this year that were thoroughly enjoyed- simple, classic stories told well. Best TV show; 'Daredevil'. Finally, they got the tone of my favourite incarnations of the character and his world right. The action sequences and shot choices; fantastic. The guy gets tired in combat. Excellent. Frank Castle in 2016? My inner nerd finally gets its childhood wish. I predict I'll be as excited as I was when I was sitting there during 'Creed'. A renewed love and respect for 'Lawrence of Arabia'.
  • Caesar Campbell's Autobiographies were enjoyable, if not crazy for the "true to life" brutality. I read both cover to cover in about a week when I got to the mid-semester break. Currently devouring Jack Kinney's anecdotes about Walt Disney and life working for the animation juggernaut; from the early 30s to the late 50s/60s. Ennis and Parlov's hardcover 'Fury Max' series was my pick for series this year. Very much enjoyed Millar and Murphy's 4 issue 'Chrononauts' miniseries, the always entertaining Eric Powell's 'Goon', and Gestalt's releases 'Unmasked', 'Caddy full of Blood', 'Fly', 'Broken Line', 'Changing Ways' (you're a champion, Justin), 'MIDAS' etc. No missteps (and no bias). And again, lovely Amanda's xmas presents of Miller and Janson's complete 'Daredevil' run is just great.  
  • Enjoyed the audio books for Mike McColl-Jones, a longtime writer for Australian live TV Comedy. I wrote a post on some of the words that he said that resonated with me, and the state of Australian audiences and their sentiments towards Australian talent, but I think it was more therapeutic for me to write it, rather than release it. Though listening to an Andrew Denton interview with George Miller today, there's a few more words I could add to strengthen it. I'll leave it in draft for now.
  • Trawling youtube for every Muhammad Ali interview and fight I've missed over the years, to watch while I work. Plus, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jack Johnson, and other Boxing greats. 
  • We lost Chuckie, but gained 'Cheese'; adopted from the Bird Vet. She is a lovely little puff- brings out my soft side, it seems. Her friend Cookie wasn't with us for too long either, but she isn't forgotten. A helpful edition to the lonely drawing board.

Ok, I think that's the main things. As always, I want to thank Amanda and my Family (both mine and hers) for the love and support through the tough year. It hasn't been smooth for any of us, especially in the health of those closest to me. But, we're all alive, have food in the kitchen and a roof over our heads- better off than most, and that's something to be thankful for. Looking forward to seeing my family healthy by this time next year, happy as can be, and further runs on the board for 2016; keep chasing that light at the end of the tunnel.