Me new comic, #takedown, will be in shops in Melbourne late May/June. There’ll be a related event at Readings Carlton June 9, 6:30pm. You can order it online now, and my publisher, Pikitia Press would love it if you did!
Ladies and gentlemen:
After 3 years and 100+ pages, my comic strip “Showman? The Bret Braddock Adventures” is coming to a (horrible) end. You are invited to witness this end.
Attendees at BRET BRADDOCK’S FINAL MEETING (July 14, from 6:15pm) will become part of a half-arsed theatrical spectacular which will BAMBOOZLE and BEMUSE. Those who experienced BRET BRADDOCK’S AWKWARD WORKPLACE FUNCTION at 2010’s Melbourne Fringe Festival will have some idea of what to expect.
I will not lie: you will be encouraged to buy the few remaining copies of Showman? books 1 & 2.
But you will also be transported to an incredible world of fantasy, in which it JUST MIGHT BE POSSIBLE to tell your stupid boss what a f&c%wit he is!
There will be recriminations!
There will be a PowerPoint presentation.
There will be Arnott’s Classic Assortment.
Bret Braddock’s Final Meeting
(aka: the launch of “Showman?” book 2)
will take place at
Squishface Comics Studio
309 Victoria St, Brunswick
on Saturday, July 14 at 6:15pm.
Party to follow.
How to get there:
TRAIN: Upfield line to Brunswick Station. TRAM No. 19, stop 23. BUS: 508/805.
MEET THE CARAVAN
Do you know what the Caravan of Comics is? It is (or was) a three week cartoonist tour of the north-eastern bit of the USA, with a swing through Toronto. It said, “Hello, Americas! We do comics, and we kick bottom.” And it was a fantastic trip to be on.
I’m David, and I was aboard the Caravan (which, actually, was two big cars and a little one). My wife Sarah and I are both cartoonists. We went to New York on our honeymoon in 2011 and got half a table at a nice indie comics show called MoCCA Fest.
We saw an arseload of Scandinavian dudes there, all lined up in a great spot. Their tables looked fantastic; they’d brought their country’s best comics with them. I asked how they managed to pay for their trip. They hadn’t: their governments had footed the bill.
“There’s enough great comics work at home,” we thought, “that we could do a trip like this. Get a big group together.”
One thing we learned from that first MoCCA Fest experience was that everyone whose books were on the table would need to be there in person. People want to meet the creator. It wouldn’t work if Sarah and I went back with twenty different books we didn’t make.
Pat Grant is laid back, but he’s a fucking powerhouse, and he makes excellent tacos. So when Sarah talked to him about this, stuff started happening.
We reached out to people. Friends whose work we thought would do well overseas. They reached out to others. At one stage, there were 14 people committed to doing the Caravan.
They all had to be willing to pay their own way. There was no guarantee (and perhaps, only a small chance) that we would get outside funding for the trip. We’re cartoonists, not rainmakers.
A hell of a lot of work went into preparing for the tour. Everyone did their share, but I don’t think people would mind if I pointed out Sarah and Andrew Fulton as major arsekickers, whipping the rest of us into fighting shape and doling out tasks.
Sarah and Jen Breach wrote arts grant applications. Andrew and Matt Taylor cooked up the website, and Doug Holgate did the beautiful Caravan illustration, which hopefully will end up on a teatowel very soon. The rest of us organised transport and accommodation.
I nominated myself “documentor” and started shoving a camera and microphone in peoples’ faces at inopportune moments. I did manage to put together the Caravan’s intro video, though.
Money was a concern. Everyone needed to get time off work to take the trip, and flying ANYWHERE from Australia sets you back a fair bit.
Our grant applications were ultimately denied. Our submission to Australia Council of the Arts was lodged by the good people at MoCCA, who kindly got behind us when they learned about the scope of the trip.
The other festival we hoped to exhibit at, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, were extraordinarily welcoming. Since they’re a curated festival, I worried that they would agree to allowing the higher-profile Caravaners with “weightier” books an exhibitor space, but leave the rest of us (read: “me”) in the cold.
Happily, they not only allowed us all space at TCAF, they actually waived the cost of our tables. This, and their incredible attentiveness, speed and proficiency as an organisation, made them fucking heroes. Sarah, an events organiser by trade, totally got a “festival crush” on them:
“Look, there’s an up-to-date listing of changes to the festival programme!!!”
Pat had received some funding from his university for the trip, and generously used it to pay for a chunk of our transport – a big-arse “rapper van” seating six or seven people, plus luggage, drinks, bling, etc.
Andrew launched our “CROWDFUNDY THING”, a campaign on IndieGoGo to raise $4000, a number representing the cost of travel and accommodation for one Caravaner, although in reality the money (which we got, thanks to friends and comics fans!) was spread around, easing the financial burden a bit for everyone.
My favourite element of the campaign was the Postcard Club, members of which would receive postcards drawn on by Caravaners in New York, Toronto, Chicago and other locations.
The initial plan, based on the 2011 festival schedule, was to do MoCCA Fest, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and Stumptown, each on subsequent weekends in April/May. The spanner dropped into the works when MoCCA Fest and Stumptown announced their shows would take place on the same weekend in 2012.
This meant the Caravan trip would now centre around MoCCA Fest and TCAF; initially disappointing (we wanted to cram lots in!), but now there would be less plane travel required, the trip being concentrated in north-eastern USA. Sarah and I hunted for cool comic shops and other events we might be able to organise along the route that was forming.
Pat cooked up events at Chicago’s Quimbys and at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I heard about a kids cartoon festival called Kids Read Comics! in Ann Arbor –- right between Toronto and Chicago. Sarah contacted them and they organised a comics jam. Comic Book Jones welcomed an in-store event with us. Over time, a schedule built up!
Sarah pointed out that we wouldn’t be able to do the CCS event (in Vermont) AND set up for TCAF (in Toronto) the following day. So after New York we would have to split into two teams. “Team T” would leisurely make its way through upstate New York, visit Niagara Falls and get the tables at TCAF ready, and “Team V” would go to CCS, then sprint to Toronto as fast as the rapper van could go.
In part 2:
What it is to be a cartoonist
Cartoonists don’t travel through physical space, only through time.
Even when the cartoonist looks, to an observer, to be travelling; on a plane, say, or a train – they are bent over their Spirax #534 pad, scratching away at a sketch of a fellow passenger. Desperately trying to cram in another good strong line or eye-dot before the vehicle’s next violent lurch.
To the cartoonist, the trip is instantaneous, the time eaten by their drawing. It’s over and done with almost before they get on board.
The sketchbook is the history of the world, and the pen is a time machine.
Cartoonists have to be careful not to leap too far into the future. They can miss their stop.
For this reason, the time machine is best operated by a cartoonist with a honed sense of what is important. Usually, it’s the comic they’re drawing, but sometimes, like last weekend, it’s what’s going on around them.
I attended the annual conference of the Australian Cartoonists Association, an organisation which was once called the Australian Black & White Artists Club, and which has been around for a little under 90 years.
Now that we live in a world where artists can afford to self-publish cartoons in colour — and do — they accept members who don’t make a living drawing newspaper editorial cartoons, although much of the membership have had occasion to draw a picture of Kevin Rudd with a knife in his back.
Other members do daily or weekly comic strips, the sort you might find in newspapers or magazines (including the cheaply printed ones with boobs in them. Skin mags are keeping more cartoonists employed than you can imagine).
I draw a weekly online strip. For free. Which makes me somewhat of an oddity among these professionals. I set my own deadlines. And I had a new strip to write and draw before the weekend was over, so I got cracking even as the conference’s first event got underway.
Anton Emdin presented an inking demonstration. He’s a fellow self-publisher whose comic books, when I discovered them eight or so years ago, stuck out as especially well drawn compared to other local fare. Funny, too.
Now he’s become something of a “golden child” of Australian cartooning, winning awards left and right and turning out extraordinarily accomplished illustrations for hire. I’m both pleased and galled to say that, like many talented people I’ve met, he’s a very nice guy.
But when he showed us a drawing he’d done just for kicks, in front of the telly, I remembered again what set his work apart years ago. He brings plenty to his commissioned pieces, but the stuff he does in his own time is what I want to see more of.
I don’t remember anything that was said at the children’s illustration panel. All I remember is Leigh Hobbs’ work. Somehow, some publishers are letting him be truly funny in front of kids, which, for someone with even a bit of experience in children’s entertainment, is surprising.
Reg Mombassa played with Mental As Anything, then created the most iconic art in the Mambo clothing brand, then designed a lot of stuff for the opening of Sydney Olympics (the best bits of which, apparently, were left out because of strong winds). Then he stood in front of us and told us all about it.
I saw him close up later on. He is a charming, funny man and he looks like he might be made of wax.
In a talk about a cartoonist named John Dixon, we learned that among his ancestors were Jeremiah Dixon, who, with Charles Mason, surveyed the Mason-Dixon Line separating the southern and north-eastern United States. This had little to do with John Dixon’s adventure strip, but was interesting nonetheless.
At the Australian Comics panel, Tim McEwen presented the work of local comic book creators. I think people in the room were wondering, “You mean they staple these books together themselves? Why? Do they sell them door-to-door?…”
The conference’s special guest was Ron Cobb. A jaw-droppingly profound editorial cartoonist in the ‘60s and ‘70s, his expert rendering and extraordinary imagination dropped him into a career designing little things like “the spaceships in Alien” and “the time machine in Back to the Future” and “the stuff Conan the Barbarian wears”.
At one point, the U.S. government enlisted his futurist design brain in coming up with ideas for inventions that could save soldiers’ lives. With any luck, they used a few.
I was drawing while he spoke. I’m pretty sure he said that the “Hammerhead” character he designed for the Star Wars cantina scene is from a race considered the best joke-tellers in the galaxy. I love when background characters are way too thought out.
I spent the conference massively unbalanced; a very strong dizziness gripped me for the whole two days. It simulated drunkenness and probably made me more sociable than I would otherwise have been.
I chatted with several new cartoonist friends, including David Follett, Mark McHugh and Luke Watson (whose dad makes cheese). And I caught up with a few others I already knew, such as Matt Bisset-Johnson and the mysterious Troy Mingramm, an elusive sprite whose brand of unexpurgated slice-of-druggy-life stories have been missing from my life for a while.
Missed the AGM on the second morning. This was deliberate and unavoidable. I had to go to the pharmacy and ask for “anti-dizziness medication”. I don’t think it exists. Pharmacist offered me motion sickness pills, helpfully adding that they would do nothing. Didn’t buy jellybeans, either.
Eric Lobbecke demonstrated how an editorial cartoonist works. Drew nice Abbott.
I powered into the Bret Braddock cartoon I needed to finish. Time slipped away. Roger Fletcher passed back original art from his strip Torkan. Realised the man handing them to me was comedian Peter Berner, apparently a cartoonist for many years. Maybe the inverse of The Age’s Andrew Weldon, who did comedy first then switched to cartoons.
Met Gary Clark; his strip Swamp has been going for thirty years. It’s great looking! How have I missed it? May not be published in Melbourne papers.
The conference catering was very nice.
Graphic’s Jordan Verzar read out e-mails from Robert Crumb explaining why he decided to cancel his visit to Australia this year. Short version: “I and my family are frightened of Hetty Johnston, and there may not be enough cool old 78s for me to buy and really, I can’t be bothered”.
Glen Le Lievre spoke about submitting to the New Yorker. I will never submit to the New Yorker.
Jules Faber gave me an ACA T-shirt because I asked for one.
Hung out with David Follett and Jozef Szekeres before the big Stanleys awards night. Jozef’s portfolio is an astounding thing to look at. You rarely see Disney art and huge cocks in such close proximity.
The conference culminates with THE STANLEYS, Australia’s cartooning awards night. It was slick. Reg Mombassa played slide guitar. For almost the first time during the conference, women appeared (not to discount the attendance of Alex Hallatt). There were tuxes with gold sneakers, and berets. I put my time machine away, for the most part.
Ron Cobb was at my table. I wasn’t able to have a conversation with him because it would have just been DeLorean questions punctuated by awkward silence. So instead we went with uninterrupted awkward silence, my sole contribution to his enjoyment of the weekend being to pass him a plate of grilled prawns he would not have had access to otherwise.
A nice young fella named Connor was there, representing the night’s charity, Westmead Children’s Hospital. Troy slipped him some of his NSFW-style comics, exhorting the youngster not to tell his mum. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re a 14-year-old suffering from crippling arthritis, among other things, you’re allowed to read naughty stories about Troy being picked up by a middle-aged woman on a cruise ship.
I bid on an original Tandberg in the silent auction, but lost to Mark Knight, who was gracious in his triumph. I think I was amusing to him in a hotel hallway, but I have no idea how.
I touched Anton’s Gold Stanley, then wore a bunny hat. Then it was 3am and the after party got busted up by hotel security. I toddled off to my room.
It was a fun night.
The drinks machine in the departure lounge was spitting out free bottles to anyone who pressed a button. A little girl pressed buttons just for the fun of it and a Coke fell out. I got a mineral water, and justified the theft in my head.
I finished my comic on the plane home.
David Blumenstein is a cartoonist and animator who not only got a room upgrade at the hotel, but also got reseated in the emergency exit rows on both plane rides. Leg room!
What’s transmedia storytelling? It’s what we used to call “multiplatform”, or “cross media”.
Essentially, I think it just means “stories told across more than one platform”. Like a TV show that does little online videos that fill in a bit of backstory. Or those nifty games I’ve talked about before that were staged online and in “real life” as part of the marketing for movies like The Game and Donnie Darko.
Anyway, I went to the “conference day” of a thing called Transmedia Victoria today along with a lot of other arts type people, and listened to some pretty good speakers, some of whom had beards. As I sometimes do at things like this, I took some semi-pictorial notes:
It’s probably best if I don’t try to clarify anything in there, but I’ll just point out that the speakers didn’t necessarily say the things I’ve attributed to them (unless I used “inverted commas”). And the drawings are all pretty bad (but I like my renditions of Steve Peters and Stephanie Salter). I noted bits of info I found interesting, or that I wanted to translate into simpler language for myself.
Speakers were all worth hearing, and ranged from interesting to fun to, actually, quite inspiring. Thanks to Christy, Sue and the other organisers! Back for the workshops day tomorrow.
About a month ago, we held an event called Bret Braddock’s Awkward Workplace Function as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
In case you don’t know, I do a (mostly) weekly comic strip over at Docklands Entertainment about Bret Braddock, a fictional entrepreneur who wishes to make quality children’s TV programming, and has absolutely no idea how. Check it out if you haven’t already. I just put Episode 35 online.
I expected to have finished the first 40 episodes by October, so I organised a launch party for the printed collection I was going to do.
Unfortunately I’d had to miss a number of weeks, so the collection didn’t happen. That made the Awkward Work Function awkward for yet another reason!
So the party went ahead without a book to launch, but WITH awkwardness, nametags and cake (also doughnuts, thanks to Greg Gerrand)!
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, from a legal standpoint), there’s no photos or video of the event. But there are a few images I can show you…
Our first speaker at the event was Gary Whiteman, Commissioner of Drama & Reality Drama & Reality Comedy & Reality Variety Light Entertainment at the Eight Network (portrayed by a moustachioed Bernard Caleo).
To reveal his big announcement would spoil the upcoming plot of the comic, but the man has bought some exciting things to show on Eight next year.
The next speaker was a gentleman named Daniel Cranberry (played by Adam Wajnberg) whose company, Cranimation, is very well thought of in the animation scene.
Cranimation is perhaps best known for their amazing new animation software.
Daniel himself is the creator of an exciting new animation method.
Again, his reasons for being there are best left to future Bret Braddock episodes to explain.
The final speaker was Reshelle Williams (portrayed with stunning “realism” by Susanne Daoud), a new addition to Docklands Entertainment’s management team. She distributed a number of special “prizes” to the gathered, nametagged, throng.
Sadly, Bret himself could not be there, although Reshelle relayed a rather fruity message he sent. It was about cake, and the question of who had bought the cake for the party, and had lots of swears in it.
Thanks to all who came, and maybe one day there will in fact be a collected edition of the comics, and a launch for same.