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Tasmania: Quest for Comics

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Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97

Wiped myself out organizing a conference at school and after that, for
a mental health break,I took a vacation in Tasmania. I'd sent a few
copies of this trip journal to comics pals and then realized that this
might be something the folks on this newsgroup would dig.
The sort of narrative conceit I had in mind was to distribute my
minicomics, and along the way dig up some Tasmanian comics. It's
relatively isolated....imagine if Oregon or Washington was an
island. Generally creative types -- musicians, writers, graphic
artists...tend to migrate to Melbourne or Sydney...the "big
Well, right off the bat lemme tell you it was pretty
grim. Took the ferry over and spent the first two nights in
Launceston, the first settlement in Australia. It's still pretty
small, charming architecture. There's one comic shop,
"Legends", and it's pretty scrawny...probably is geek central
for miles around, the only game in town. They don't take small
press stuff on consignment, but _do_ have a heap of overpriced
back issues. Losers.
The air feels clear, like I'm getting vitamin B-12 just by
breathing or something. I drop a postcard in the mail to Tom Priestley,
my only real local comic contact.

Tom does the Viz-esque (English Viz, not Manga Viz) Inspector
Crikey and Saint Porn. Perhaps appropriate in their English
influence...Tassie has a very European, old-world feel. Anyway, my
efforts to reach him are fruitless throughout the trip.
Next stop Hobart, the regional capital and the southernmost city
in Tasmania. Hobart isn't too far from Port Arthur, as the recent
sentencing of Martin Bryant reminds me, but I'm not too keen to go.
There's a Tasmanian Devil petting zoo (!) there, but not much else
besides the ruins. A friend of my Melbourne pal Amber

(Big Smoke $2.00 Australian or trade to
Amber Carvan
1 Freeman St.
North Fitzroy

Ben, shows me around. He's
one of several comics artists who I meet on the trip, who just can't
bring themselves to do a mini.

(Actually, he's just done one!
Tidal Regulator $2.00 Australian or trade to
Ben Ridder
400 Liverpool Street
Hobart, Tasmania

Hobart has a fairly decent comic shop,
"Ellison Hawker", with cheaply priced back issues. I'm stoked to
scam a back copy of (A Suivre), after all the talk on the list.
Can't find it in Melbourne, but it's there at the bottom of the world.
The staff are cool and open to mini-comics. I also find a copy of
"Dwelve",a fairly amateurish local comics anthology. It's over two years
old, so I won't print the address.

Ellison Hawker
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Shop
84 Liverpool St., Hobart 7000
Tasmania, Australia
Phone: (002) 31 0271
Fax: (002) 34 5481

I take a trip out to the West coast. Even in summer, Tasmania is
very cold at night, perhaps because there's no continental land mass
between it and the southern ocean. Along the way I spot heaps of
murals, I wish I'd taken more pictures. There's one in Launceston
that I'm killing myself for not taking a picture of, it's very
reminiscent of 1930s American WPA type murals. Tasmania isn't
slathered in advertising, entirely (yet), so local art has a little
space to breathe, perhaps.
Back in Hobart, I get a tour of the
underground scene there...literally. Seems that there's a stream
that runs through Hobart, and since European settlement, there have
been sewers and tunnels built and grafted on. We walk through,
checking out the graffiti and looking at some of the older
convict-built sections. Yep, Vaughn Bode style, it's everywhere!
Later that day, I head out to the offices of Idiom, a local `zine.
They're funded by a grant, and the Greens give them office space.
They're all over networking with people from the mainland, much less
from other countries. They give me a heap of cool stuff.

(03) 6234 2294
43 Barrack St.
Hobart 7000
Tasmania, Australia

Hung over on New Years' Day, I painstakingly walk over to Ben's
house and leave him a "Space Jam" figurine and two copies of "Skrull Kill
Krew" in gratitude for his hospitality. Then I head out to
Devonport, where I need to catch the ferry.
In Devonport, with one day left, I check out Tiagarra Aboriginal
center. There are some rock carvings and stuff, but nothing
remarkable...or so I think, at first.I buy a few knick-knacks in town for
belated Christmas presents (special on Tasmanian Devil poo in a baggie!),
and decide to make a stab at finding comics in the hours I have left.
I'm in luck: at a used book store I find .50 cent copies of old British
comics, mostly war comics, (as well as a copy of _Bunty: Picture Stories
for Girls_ (Becky and the Beachbike!) clearly another in the great
English tradition of mediocre comics for girls, like _Judy_ .) and the
proprietor directed me to a bonafide comics store in town.
Iceberg Comics. Geek central. Overpriced back issues, nudie
posters with tape over the nipples. Comics for BOYS! I get the address,
for future least the guy doesn't seem adverse to small press

Iceberg Comics
Shop 3 Churchers Arcade
Stewart Street Devonport
Tasmania 7310
(004) 24 3951

That's all I have time for. I head on board the overnight ferry and
leaf through my stuff, thinking that the comics haul has been pretty
poor. Then I clap eyes on_Wonderman_ , a 1967 English comic that in
the interior, is called "Radar". A story titled "KKK" is
staggeringly bad. Sample:
"You forget we're in the south now, Brenda. Here, I'm afraid, a
Negro's considered no worse than an animal." "That is true, white
master. Save poor Ikey...take me away from here." No art credits
whatsoever, company is Alex White and Co., Ltd., London., and it's got
pricing for the UK, South Africa, Australia and NZ.
Later, paging through leaflets from Tiagarra, I find an amazing
comic from earlier colonial times reprinted. It's a signboard that was
nailed to trees, to explain to Tasmanian Aboriginal people what
colonial policy was.
Panel one, tier one: Aboriginal and English settlers, in
English garb, arm in arm. Aboriginal man with white man.
White woman with black baby, black woman with white baby.
Tier two, panel one. Aborigine in tribal garb spears English
settler. Panel two: Aborigine is hung.
Tier three, panel one. Aborigine in tribal garb is shot by
English settler. Panel two: settler is hung. These signboards were
painted and distributed all around the colony. Fascinating, and a bit
creepy to see.
All in all, okay results for comics, but not at all what I
expected. A bust for Tasmanian creators (maybe next time, I know
they're out there) but some thought-provoking stuff nonetheless.

- J

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