Wollongong City Library astonished the fans on Saturday, 14 May 2022, as the team behind the event delivered another Comic Gong to a once again hungry crowd.
Fans of the now long running annual event rejoiced as Comic Gong returning after a brief two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 lockdowns with a successful relaunch. Like many other events, the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns led to the cancelation of the 2020 show and the 2021 show progressing under a very limited capacity. However, this year’s show was spread over five locations throughout central Wollongong – Wollongong Library, Wollongong Town Hall, the Art Gallery, the Arts Precinct, and the Crown Street Mall.
This year welcomed some new venders along with some of the long running venders and artists that have been with the convention since its conception. Beside the venders and artists other fan favourite features return such as the Batmobile and more importantly the cosplay competition, where everyone can dress up and express their love for the characters that shape pop culture. Along with other activities such as pinball, Lego robots, face painting and stunt performers performing the moves and stunts we have come to love from our superheroes in the comics and on the screen.
Comic Gong is an annual pop culture festival that celebrates a love of comics, graphic novels, gaming, and cosplay. Comic Gong is a free and inclusive and all-ages event. Free event geared towards families. The event debuted back in 2013 at Corrimal District Library and Community Centre. In 2014 it moved and expanded to Wollongong’s city Library, gallery, and Town Hall. This move was to accommodate its success and need for extra space. This Illawarra based event is like Super Nova or Oz Comic-Con and it is estimated that this celebration of pop-culture attracts over 10,000 people each year, according to the Wollongong city council’s website.
“He was a father. Not just my father, but a father to all that would get to know him.” Josh Adams- Neal’s son.
Days have passed since the announcement of Neal Adams death; he was one of the most influential and driving forces to have worked in the comic medium. Fans and creators around the world have taken to multiple social media platforms and as a community mourned the loss of this legend. Sharing stories of meeting or working with him along with pieces of his work from a long and fruitful career in illustration.
A variety of news outlets covered Adams passing, covering both his passing, his work and legacy in comics. Some of these include The Hollywood Reporter
Who Was Neal Adams?
Neal Adams was an American comic book artist and commercial artist who co-founded Continuity Associates, a New York based graphic design studio. Adams in 1998 was inducted into the Eisner Award’ Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998 and the following year was also included in The Harvey Award’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.
Adams is known predominately in comics for his work on Batman and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, not to mention the co-creation of some of Batman’s most recognisable villains Ra’s al Ghul, Talia and Man-Bat. Along with these characters he too also co-created one of DC Comics first black superheroes, the Green Lantern John Stewart. With prolific writer Dennis O’Neil the pair reintroduced Batman, stripping the caped crusader of the Adam West television series campy nature and placed Batman back to a mature and gritty setting, focusing on his detective roots. The pair also used to time on Green Lantern/Green Arrow to produce one of comics most influential stories published, “Snowbirds Don’t Fly“, a story that focus on Green Arrow’s young sidekick Speedy and his addiction to drugs, shattering the illusion that heroes in comics do not falter. Other notable works include Uncanny X-Men, The Avengers, Deadman and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.
How this fan favourites passing has been reported in media:
On April the 29th The Hollywood Reporter published their article titled Neal Adams, Comic Book Artist Who Revitalized Batman and Fought for Creators’ Rights, Dies at 80 written by Borys Kit. Kit relays a lot of common knowledge about the late artists career but also chooses to focus a lot of his article on the early life and career of Adams.
Going over Adams attendance at the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan and his goal to become a comic artist. The writer also expands on Adams early career, even though being rejected by DC Comics for years, he for Archie Comics developing gag cartoons as well as a daily Ben Casey comic strip. Aside from comics, Adams worked in commercial advertising, some of which featured much loved cmi characters.
This article also touches on Adams work to secure better working conditions for artist whether it be the return of their artwork or royalties and recognition for their contributions to the vast amount of work published. A fact possibly not really known unless you were more than a passing fan.
The way Kit has selected his content and laid it out in a way acts as an explainer. Author adds a lot of information so a casual fan of the artist or for a time learning about Adams gets a better insight into what the artist has done over his lengthy career and why so many have shared their experiences in one way or another to morn his passing.
On the 6th of May The Guardian published Michael Carlson’s obituary entitled Neal Adams obituary: Artist who reinvented the look of classic characters for Marvel and DC Comics and fought for the rights of illustrators similarly Carlson follows Kit’s article structure in choosing to talk about Adam early career and work to help creator’s rights. Carlson does an overview of Adams career covering his time on Batman and Green Lantern/ Green arrow and his co-creator credits of Ra’s al Ghul. Just like Kit for The Hollywood Reporter, covers some of his early career but slightly more in-depth, again more information to help a casual fan or non-comic reader to better understand Adams impact on the medium.
However, Carlson goes further into Adams work battling for artists creator rights, emphasising the 1987 court case that led to publishers being ordered to return original artwork to the artist and also his work to secure recognition, royalties and a pension for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Why social media was the best place to report and mourn the passing of Neal Adams.
It is evident that Adams was a fan favourite and driving force in comics. From his work in comics, charity, graphic design, and battles fought for creator’s rights. But it goes beyond that, linking back to Adams’ son’s quote; fans, friends and family published to social media alongside these articles, adding to the journalists work and showing through stories of working or meeting him who Adams really was and why his passing was a blow to fans and why he will be so greatly missed. The tweets from fans and friends is what really help journalism in this case, both pushing the article higher in the algorithm to be seen but more importantly adds so much more to the limited word counts some journalists must work with, covering aspects of the persons life that the writer could not fit in.Neal Adams was 80 years old when he passed away and will be missed. Rest in peace sir.
DOES THE PHRASE ‘INDIE’ HINDER THE CREATOR IN THE LONG RUN?
“There is something magical inherent in the form of comics, in the experience of ‘reading’ a story in both words and images, combining the right and left sides of the brain, for an experience that amounts to more than the sum of its parts”. This was a passage written by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning, and as a reader, collector and foremost an indie creator, I could not agree more. However, overtime as an ‘indie comic’ creator myself I have begun to worder, if not only for myself but for all who choose to self-publish instead of perusing a career within the ‘mainstream’, does labelling myself a ‘indie’ creator hinder progression in the long run.
Indie in the context of comics could be defined as a comic whose creators-maintained ownership and control over their material, and one who does not answer to a boss or shareholders who are looking closely at the sale figures.
Small History of Indie Comics:
Roger Sabin in his book Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels highlights that even though comics as we know them are a product of the 19th century there are examples of sequential storytelling that predates the ‘comic book’, for example cave art from 40,000 years old, the Trajan Column in Rome (AD 113) and the Bayeux Tapestry from Normandy (c 1100).
From satirical, propaganda, newspaper strips and what we know now as a comic book, Indie comics are no new thing. People have been self-publishing and selling their books since the silver age and early bronze age (late 60’s and 70’s) of comics. Some of the most recognisable comics started as an indie book, for example Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning, who wrote the guide to the ‘Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK’exhibition held by The British Library wrote in regard to comics “like all mass media, comics not only reflect the ideologies of their times, they can also help to produce and promote ideologies, whether supporting the status quo or rejecting it. Reading between the lines, and between the panels, can become essential to understanding how different readers relate and respond to different comics”.
The main idea behind the indie movement was not only to break away from status quo of DC Comics and Marvel, but also to maintain the ability to tell new stories with new characters while retaining ownership of the work they created and not the publisher. It is possible to remain “independent” and work in mainstream if you can work for the right publisher for example Image Comics. Image was a company founded by creators for creators and intervenes on a minimal level during the creative progress, allows ownership of the intellectual property to remain with the creators and only really helps with distribution. Companies like Image are now more and more sought after, yes, the creator’s book might be published by a company, but to publish through someone like Image that does not step into the creative process and little to no control the final product, for that creator it is more about the distribution this company can offer. Something most indie books suffers from.
Does the title of ‘indie’ hinder the creator in the long run?
‘Indie’, meaning independent used as a title is now all but used as a marketing ploy in some cases like “Australian made” or “mum and pop store”. Eventually in some cases the word will lose the ability to garner any response and will possibly begin to work against the creator and the book.
When the #indiecomics is searched on twitter the predominate search result is stream of posts promoting the current projects on Kickstarter- a crowdfunding platform, so has the term ‘indie’ just become a buzz word that’s thrown around in the pursuit of sales or does it still hold meaning in an ever-growing market?
Based on three question survey, over eighty creators, comic store owners and collectors were tagged. With a reasonable number of replies I was able to gain some quantifiable data on the topic. One of the main questions asked, do you think branding your comic as ‘indie’ hinders or helps the book? Was answered by Peter Wilson, the Creator of Foes. Mr Wilson stated“Indie is a style that people seek out. It’s also a way of telling people you’re an auteur with a more niche style”. Mr Wilson elaborated “It may never attract as many sales as Batman but with the indie crowd that doesn’t matter”. Shaun Keenan who publishes a range of books under COMICS2MOVIES uses both indie and mainstream labels to his advantage. “For me I use both. When talking to a mainstream customer I talk about C2M as a publisher and the comics/graphic novels we offer” Mr Keenan continued to explain, “to people who know nothing about comics I talk about the story and don’t mention if it’s mainstream or indie and to those people who I know are indie fans I leverage that talking about the success our indie books have had. For me it’s all about knowing your market and how to sell not pigeonholing your work into one or the other”.
Upon further enquiry into the handling of indie titles, a second question was asked, do you think stores that carry books by ‘indie’ creators should mix them in and treat the book as a mainstream book? Mal Briggs, owner of Impact Comics in Canberra believes it comes down to where to draw the line and why just break out Aussie Indies? All Indies that don’t have regular distribution compared to others that do? “We’ve had those from all over the world. Stories are stories”. Mr Briggs elaborated on his stores sorting of indie stories “When racking trades and comics, we have small Aussie and indie sections, but it is always a problem, because we break out the kids stuff into the kids section, and the horror stuff into the horror section, and so many Aussies are working on big publishers… Racking Indies separately is carrying to a limited market”.
Mr Briggs posed an interesting way of looking at books, why label yourself and be grouped in a category that limits you, when being placed in the genre you create for will be helped by the more known titles of that genre. I personally would rather refer to myself and other creators as a comic creator or a publisher. I personally think ‘indie’ works against comic creators as suddenly your books value is lessened by the inclusion of the word indie, but ultimately is both up to the creator and time to tell if the phrase ‘indie’ will hinder them for the long run.
Sabin, R., 2005 . Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels. 5th ed. New York: Phaidon.
Gravett, P. and Harris Dunning, J., 2014. Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK. 1st ed. London: The British Library.
This was a illustration from 2017 which included a blend of traditional marker work and Photoshop for the Australian band Addicted To This for their first EP ‘No Salvation’. This was a fun project, go heck them out.
This was a special edition of the series that was live streamed on Wednesday the 1st December 2021 using my phone, -so excuse how shaking and blurred out i look (or be greatful haha)- that focused on my comic series, Bronwyn so if your keen to know some more of my background and the origin of the series give it a watch.
Peter Wilson, the creator of Foes sits down with me as i ask the hard questions, like how did you know comics was the right path to follow for a career. If you would like to follow Peter’s work visit https://instagram.com/bypeterwilson/
As a creator myself I have asked a few times in my publishing journey if I was on the right path, and always I have come to the answer, yes. In my next article I will be interviewing a few of my fellow creators to ask the age old question, why do we do it.
Over the course of the past 10 years, the comic industry has hit the consciousness of the mainstream viewer more now than ever. Out of this has come a boom in Australian independent creators seeking to forge their way in the comics industry acting either in the role of content creator or as publisher. Under the name Whatzacdrew Comics I was one of these creatives and there is a lot I wish I had of know when I first started a few years ago.
The benefits of indie published books include being able to create a wider range of storytelling and artwork. It allows the creative team to release the story that they wanted and not be hindered by or feel the pressure of an 80-year legacy, like the major mainstream publishers seem to be suffering from. While this history can sometimes be a difficult to live up to, it also becomes a major asset, as a writer or artist your work is instantly recognisable as sellable because of the character’s popularity in the genre. This does not really happen in indie books unless you have come from a mainstream career, or you have been publishing the indie title for years.
Edmund Kearsley, creator, and publisher of the series Radical believes the hardest thing about being a publisher today is the same as it’s always been. Mr Kearsley continued “It’s finding an audience. It’s finding people who want to buy the types of comic books you make. Even in the social media age the signal to noise ratio is so high, it’s hard to let people know that you’re out there making books.
The best piece of advice I ever received was from fellow Australian artist Nicola Scott, a mainstream artist who left a full-time exclusive contract with DC Comics to peruse creator owned title Black Magick for Image Comics. Nicola and I were at similar ages when we began a journey to break into comics, and what she said while going over my portfolio was that this is a long and hard job, you really must want it. This is advice I now give to people who ask me about creating comics, there is so much extra work to do because of a bias and stigma that indie books are not as good as mainstream comics. Another thing I tell people is that this is a slow burn, don’t expect sales or recognition off the first book and gradually all your work will build to a property that someone recognises.
TIPS FOR CREATING
Along with telling people about the importance of wanting to do this as a career I also say write to the market, meaning look at what is popular and write stories about that theme with your twists. This will give you some help in getting your book get noticed. Also, Superhero stories are not the only stories to tell, so think beyond the superhero genre because in many cases it can hinder the creative process. Mr Kearsley also stated, “My advice to new creators would be to make YOUR comic book.” He elaborated “Don’t try to imitate corporate books. Do it all yourself. Do everything. Do the writing, art, letters, and colours all by yourself. At least once.” This is how I work on my books and knowing how to do everything will benefit you in the long run. Another important thing to remember is to habitually create, always be working even if it is sketching layouts, research, it all counts. Maintaining a schedule will help you with this, treat it as if it were a job.
PRINTING AND FUNDING THE BOOKS
Money is often a make or break in the independent scene, but in the last few years platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have really taken off and offered to help creators raise the funds required to print their book. You could also use social media to do pre-orders or sell your final book. To help get use to printing books start with smaller mini comics or zines, these can be lower in costs to produce and will help you learn the printing side of publication. However, when you send your book to a printer ask around for recommendations first as there are a lot of horror stories about printers out there, so the more you know the easier it will be to find a good one. And secondly always get a proof copy, no matter the size of the print run, this will save time, catching errors and money down the line.
Distribution is one of the major concerns with being an independent publisher, as is there is no established distributor. Gary Dellar of Reverie Publications, an Australian publishing house agreed that this is one of the major problems with comics presently. Mr Dellar said “There is none. No national distributor exists for Australian comics. (Use to be Gordon and Gotch in my early days of making comics) Yes there are groups of websites plus the old one or two comic shops that you can place your comics up for sale, but this isn’t enough to sustain ongoing comics.” Mr Dellar continued, “for me it was the ongoing promotional exercise of doing tables that attracted readers from outside the creative groups. It’s a lot of hard work but it gets the sort after readership you need, and it showed everyone we existed and produced excellent comics under the Reverie brand.”
Another way to help your distribution network is to make new contacts through cross promotion, that is, allowing other creators to put an advert for their book and vice-versa in the hope that you can use that creators fanbase to expand the readership of your book. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but advertising is becoming very important, even if it just gives your book a few seconds of recognition with another publisher or reader.
Other areas you can investigate as a publisher to help your distribution network is, once again social media, in today’s market a key requirement is to have some form of social media. Something like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are very useful, you can build a following and promote your work and its free. As an independent creator, money is always ongoing issue and when there is something available that can benefit you that is free, take it.
Online stores that specifically sell indie books, either in digital format or physical form. Australia has a few online stores that have really taken off, first there is ownaindi and then the more recent addition of ComX Shop, a side project of ComX Studio. These are useful tools as they will be able to reach an audience who are specifically looking for indie books.
So, to summarise, while creating remember to maintain quality, and try to release something frequently, but not to fast your quality will drop. Quality of your book is key as an independent creator. Start with what you have; the resources, skills, price range, materials etc just publish. Just because someone else has a different program or materials does not impact you if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. Finally, and this is the most important thing of all, tell your story. Share your vision on your own terms, the ideas you have don’t exist outside of your head, your idea needs to be out there to exist.
Australian comics finds a new home as web developer turns publisher.
From web developer to comic promoter, to comic book publisher Shane Syddall is aiming to become Australia’s largest independent publisher and promoter. With one question in mind, why are we not supporting Aussie talent.
Shane Syddall has been a long-time comic reader of mainstream comics for as long as he could remember but fell off as publishers began to both rehash and reboot their comic lines in the 80s. In 2019 Syddall stepped back into the world of comics when he discovered the Australian indie scene. When asked why he came back to comics he said, “to be honest I missed them”. Mr Syddall elaborated “comics have always given me such great joy, but finances were my main issue, plus my OCD need to have full collections which is a VERY expensive need”. Mr Syddall believes it was indie comics that helped overcome the original issues that were key factors in why he parted from comics years earlier, “Indie Comics have shorter runs and no arcs that ran over years, that made me realise I could bi-pass my OCD need and still read comics.”
But why are creators shifting from pursuing a mainstream career with the bigger publishers, e.g., DC Comics, Marvel or Dark Horse and taking a chance on themselves? Over the last decade even mainstream creatures are making the transition away from these major publishers and seeking out creator own agreements or delving into publishing their own material with the aid of Kickstarter and other fund-raising platforms. This shift has been made easier because of how the world has become connected through the internet and social media, making finding an audience and distribution a lot easier than say twenty years ago. Once creators relied on distribution companies like Diamond and the marketing of the publisher to get their work out there, but the internet has helped the creator to become fully in charge of their career in many ways.
After his reconnection with comics Mr Syddall started his website, https://comx.net.au/ that would act as a directory to link comic collectors and the casual reader to a database of all Australian stores to help finding these stores easier. “During the process of listing these stores I discovered the Australian Indie Comic scene. I felt quite stupid at first that I hadn’t considered there were Australian Comics. Not sure why I remember the date, but on Boxing Day 2019 I started building the part of the site that would house the directory of Australian Talent.” Mr Syddall continued “I figured if this was news to me, how many other comic fans didn’t know about Indie Comics in Australia?”. It was this thought that pushed the websites focus on making people aware this scene existence in Australia
Looking to continue the push of Australian creators in the comic scene, and with the encouragement of others, Mr Syddall ventured into the role of publisher. In July of 2021 Mr Syddall launched the first ComX Studio publication titled Presents, followed by Presents: Noir.
Both Presents and Presents: Noir are anthologies, the first in full colour and the later in black and white. Each book features four stories from four different Australian creators, some stories are one offs while others are ongoing instalments. These publications were released in August followed by Presents: Noir in September and was available initially through a pre-order on Kickstarter and now on the publisher’s website https://comx.shop/ .
ComX Studio holds similar values to Image Comics in many ways, the main similarity being, the creators come first. As a publisher ComX Studio only acts as publisher and distributer and retains no ownership of the material printed. The creators are free to move on and take their material with them if or when they choose to depart company. This arrangement, also held by Image Comics is a way to counteract another reason for the departure of creators from pursuing mainstream careers. This reason would be the warning tales from older creators who previously worked in mainstream comics expressing how they have been used and receive no compensation, especially with the use of the material they created that led to the boom of the comic-based media.
In many cases past deals have granted both the studios and the publishers a loophole in not paying them royalties for their work, one recent example of this is Warner Bros using the work created by Alex Ross for costume designs and promotional material. One case would be in Wonder Woman 1984 which borrowed heavily on a costume design created for Wonder Woman in the DC Comics Book Kingdom Come which was the base design and influence for the golden armour shown throughout the film. The Promotional material also recreated his paintings of the DC Comics characters to promote 2017s Justice League without crediting Ross as the original source for the concept.
With these first publications now out and available to the public, Mr Syddall is oncourse to release the publishing house’s follow up issues continuing focusing on the Australian talent. Many of the original contributors are returning to the next editions with a few new additions to the talent roster leading to a November release for the next instalments of both Presents and Presents: Noir.
This momentum in releasing content to the public has allowed Mr Syddall time to reflect on the time and effort that goes into this side of the industry, Mr Syddall explained “there is more to printing than meets the eye, and Kickstarter are WAY more work they look. Help is invaluable when doing both”. Mr Syddall continued “maybe it’s because of recent events and its front of mind, but I would have to say the social politics of the scene is something difficult to navigate too. But I any industry is like that, I guess I just hoped for more from a community based around something I loved. Second would be organising a group of people with different goals to share just one.
Due December 2021, this issue showcases the adventures of the giraffe detective, Vivian Jones as he investigates crimes with supernatural overtones after an encounter that left him scarred as a child.
This book, both written and illustrated by myself also will feature a sketchbook showing how the series came to be; full of sequential layouts, concept sketches and various pin-ups. AND last but not least features two amazing guest artist who contributed some amazing work for variants. The first is from Duncan Pranevicius, ( https://www.instagram.com/xpranevicius/ ) creator of Bin Kitty, printed through ComX Studio, https://comx.shop/product/comx-presentsnoir-001b and the second Ryan Vella, ( https://www.instagram.com/ryan_vella_comics/ ) the creator of Turbo Supermax, also published through ComXStudio.
To order the book, send a message to myself on Facebook www.facebook.com/whatzacdrewcomics