Thursday, October 06, 2016

Vale - Alexander Stitt (1937-2016)

Alexander Stitt (OAM), the acclaimed Australian animator, graphic designer, and painter, died this week. He was best known for his television commercials, most notably the government-sponsored "Life.Be in it" health campaign, which he created in collaboration with advertising director/producer Philip Adams, and jingle writer, Peter Best. The advertisements, which starred the beer-bellied, Aussie couch potato known as Norm, were screened on Australian television from 1975-1990, and remain one of the most famous advertising campaigns of that era.

Stitt's career began in the mid-1950s, when he designed eye-catching record sleeves for the Australian subsidiary of the World Record Club (UK), which specialized in packaging classical and jazz records for mail-order customers. He became a sought-after graphic designer, who created memorable posters for many classic Australian films of the 1970s, including The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), and Careful, He Might Hear You (1983). Stitt also created a series of animated television commercials for the Christian Television Association, which were screened on Australian television networks, in compliance with government regulations stipulating that commercial broadcasters must include a percentage of religious content in their programming.

Sadly, one of his most ambitious works remains largely unseen by the Australian public. Stitt wrote, directed and designed the feature-length animated film, Grendel, Grendel, Grendel (1981), based on American author John Gardner's 1971 novel, Grendel, which was in turn inspired by the epic poem, Beowulf. However, the film - which included British actor Peter Ustinov in the title role - was not supported by a wide theatrical release, in Australia or abroad. The film was later re-released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment (Australia).

Stitt produced his visual memoir, Stitt Autobiographics, which was co-written and edited by his partner, Paddy Stitt, and published by Hardie Grant Books (Melbourne, Australia) in 2011. He staged a solo exhibition of computer-generated art, titled The Flower Show, held at the Port Jackson Press Print Room in Collingwood, Melbourne, in 2014. Stitt was subsequently appointed a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia (OAM) in June 2016.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Adam - The Magazine for (Real) Australian Men

My interest in the history of Australian comic books has led me to investigate other forms of popular Australian print media, such as "pulp-fiction" magazines and novelettes, paperback novels, and men's magazines. There was considerable cross-pollination between these three distinctive forms of Australian print culture, not least because some of Australia's largest publishing companies of the 1950s and 1960s were actively involved in all three areas.

Ken G. Murray, circa 1950s
Chief amongst them was K.G. Murray Publishing Company, which had enjoyed huge success with its ground-breaking Australian men's magazine, Man. Launched in 1936, Man was modelled after America's Esquire magazine, and became a surprising success, appearing as it did during the height of the Great Depression. The magazine was the brainchild of its entrepreneurial publisher, Kenneth G. Murray (pictured), and its editor, Frank Sydney Greenop, who joined the magazine in 1937. It was especially popular with Australian servicemen during World War Two, with circulation reportedly nearing 100,000 shortly after the war.

Adam, Vol.2, No.1, March 1947
Adam, billed as "The New Magazine for Men" ,was K.G. Murray's first new publication of the post-war era, making its debut in April 1946. The magazine initially focused on short stories, emphasising action and adventure, from Australian and overseas authors. These stories were illustrated by many of the artists who worked on Man magazine, and its spin-off publications, such as Man Junior (l937), and Pocket Man (1954). Adam also featured single-panel joke cartoons, again supplied by a combination of  local and overseas artists; Vernon Hayles drew a colour double-spread cartoon featuring a wry, modern-day interpretation of Adam and Eve, which became a regular feature during the magazine's first year of publication.

Adam, Vol.7, No.1, July 1949
The editorial span of Adam grew to include factual articles, initially focusing on Australian sports history and contemporary sports stars, but later included "real life" adventure stories, along with sensational "true crime" reports, many of which were penned by the prolific Australian pulp paperback author, James Holledge (1922-1998). By the early 1950s, the covers of Adam ran the subheading "Adventure - Sport - Humour", a combination which underpinned the magazine's focus for decades to come.

Adam is best-remembered for its exciting, action-packed cover illustrations, many of which were illustrated by the doyens of Australian comic book art, including Peter Chapman, Phil Belbin, and Hart Amos, to name but a few. The covers alternated between noir-style crime tableaux, men battling the elements, or fending off wild creatures in exotic locales, ranging from tropical jungles to the deep blue seas. 
Adam, Vol.10, No.1, March 1954
Dramatic images featuring rugged, handsome men, and beautiful women, often caught in violent struggles with one another, or evading certain death, were the mainstays of Adam's eye-catching covers.

The austere production values of the magazine's early years steadily gave way to glossy interior pages, and full-colour cartoons during the 1950s and early 1960s. Adam, along with K.G. Murray's other men's magazines, featured ever-more daring "girlie" pin-ups, as the bikini-clad starlets of the 1950s and 1960s gave way to semi-naked female models by the early 1970s, appearing in provocative shoots that wouldn't have looked out of place in Playboy magazine.

Adam, Vol.47, No.2, July 1969
For years, I'd assumed that Adam had ceased publication following Consolidated Press' acquisition of K.G. Murray Publications in the early 1970s, which led to the cancellation of Man magazine in 1974. However, the Pulp International website has reproduced covers and selected contents from issues of Adam published as late as 1978. Clearly the magazine's racy combination of "Fact - Fiction - Humour" held readers' attention, despite intense competition from television and cinema. This formula ensured that Adam outlasted its companion titles from the K.G. Murray Publishing Company, such as Man, Pocket Man, Cavalcade and Man Junior, all of which had by that time vanished from Australian newsstands. Adam was, if you'll forgive the pun, the last man standing in the Australian men's magazine category.

(Photograph of Kenneth G. Murray courtesy of Perisher Historical Society; Cover images of Adam magazine courtesy of Rare Book Collection, Monash University Library.)

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Who Controlled Australia's Comic Book Industry?

My previous blog post on Comics Down Under briefly mentioned an article by Rex Chiplin, appearing in the Tribune newspaper on 11 November 1953, which attacked the Transport Publishing Company (later Horwitz Publications) for peddling comics and novels which traded in "corpses, assault and battery with a larding of sex". Chiplin's article, titled 'I Spent a Week in a Literary Sewer', was a two-pronged attack against violent and pornographic American publications freely circulating in Australia newsstands and bookstalls, and the Australian businessmen who were "reaping the profits from this muck".

Rex Chiplin was, at this time, the Canberra correspondent for Tribune, published by the Communist Party of Australia (Central Committee). He was peripherally involved in the so-called 'Petrov Affair', the headline-grabbing defection of Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov, who requested political asylum for himself and his wife, Evdokia, in Australian in April 1954.

The rising tide of American popular culture, along with the political influence of Australia's media monopolies, troubled many Left-wing commentators in Australia throughout the 1950s. Chiplin's undeniably partisan report drew explicit links between these dual concerns, couched in the rhetoric of class warfare. Combing the records of the New South Wales Registrar-General's office, Chiplin declared:

"It came as no surprise to find among the directors of the publishing firms such occupations as solicitor, chartered accountant and company director; nor was it a surprise that [their] addresses ranged from Rose Bay to Killara, Pymble and other so-called exclusive suburbs".

Chiplin roundly condemned 'girlie' magazines, pulp-fiction novels and comic books alike as a flood of "pornography, sex, sadism, brutality and illiteracy". In its way, Chiplin's article also captured the cultural anxieties shared by many Australians about their children's exposure to this relatively shocking new wave of American comic magazines, which were reprinted under licence in Australia.

But Chiplin's article is also fascinating because it identifies the owners behind many of Australia's leading comic-book publishers, and reveals unexpected proprietary links between the industry's leading publishing firms.

"AMERICAN-AUSTRALASIAN MAGAZINE PTY. LTD. of 3-5 York Street, Sydney, is responsible for IT and PEEP magazine ... Directors of American-Australian Magazine are E.G. Horsham of Killara, R.A. Armour of Lindfield, and F.W. Catts of Wahroonga - all North Shore pukkah sahibs ...

Through Horsham and Catts there is a direct link with NEW CENTURY PRESS PTY. LTD., also of 3-5 York Street Sydney, which is almost entirely owned by the Catts family and Catts Estates. F.W. Catts, Horsham, and Rebecca Rachel Catts (Roseville) are directors. New Century publishes MANHUNT, by arrangement with Flying Eagle Publications, New York. Manhunt is all-American - in the worse sense."

According to the AusReprints website, New Century Press was previously known as The Co-operator Ltd. Changing its name to New Century Press in 1918, the company published a diverse range of general interest and humour magazines, and actively published comic books, both under its own banner and on behalf of other Australian companies, from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

"War Battles, Warfront and Navy Combat are three comics published by RED CIRCLE PRESS, controlled by Commercial Advertising Company, 149 Castlereagh Street. Commercial's directors are J.C. Bailey (Lane Cove), Julian Rose (Rose Bay), Louis Rose (Bondi), Edwin B. Scribner (Lindfield), and H.W. Shirley (Castlecrag).

As well as gore and sudden death, Commercial Advertising also has interests in sex - or "gorgeous gals", as another publication, Festival, puts it. Festival is published by Barmor Publications from Commercial Advertising's address. Directors of Barmor are C.H. Young, of 21 Belltrees, Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay, and H.W. Shirley."

Charles H. Young was also the director of Young's Merchandising Company, which published several Australian-drawn comics, such as Yarmak - Jungle King Comic (by Stanley Pitt & Reginald Pitt), Davy Crockett - Frontier Scout, The Panther and The Raven - the latter three titles being written and illustrated by Paul Wheelahan. Young's Merchandising ceased trading after the death of its director, Charles Young, in 1963.

Chiplin continues:

"October [1953] saw a new entrant in the pornography stakes - NIGHT AND DAY magazine. It's the property of Halho Corporation, New York, and published in Australia by the BLUE DIAMOND PUBLISHING COMPANY, 15 Park Street, Sydney ... Ronald Edward Kendall Forsyth, of 51a Bradleys Head, Mosman, is boss of Blue Diamond.

Forsyth, with L.J. Richardson, also runs FREW PUBLICATIONS from the same Park Street address. Frew runs a choice line of comics, including Battleground. The issue we have is devoted to the war in Korea - hate propaganda and lies of the worst type."

Frew Publications is, of course, best known for The Phantom comic magazine, which has been published continuously since September 1948, making it the world's longest-running Phantom comic-book series. Blue Diamond was, according to AusReprints, one of several business/trading names employed the company throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Frew Publications was acquired by former Sydney sports broadcaster and publisher, Jim Shepherd (1993-2013), in the late 1980s, and was later purchased by former Phantom artist, Glenn Ford, and Rene White, proprietor of The Phantom's Vault (an online retailer specialising in licensed Phantom merchandise) in 2016.

Chiplin continues:

"The H. JOHN EDWARDS PUBLISHING CO. of 14 Bond Street, Sydney, goes in for variety, but the net result is the same. Edwards publish Jumbo, Rangers and Wings comics, Action Comics, and Action Detective Magazine. Big boss is H.W.J.V. Edwards of Lane Cove, and co-directors are R.M. Somerville of Lane Cove, and H.S. Smith of Roseville.

Rangers peddles the lie that Soviet MIGs are fighting in Indo-China and that Soviet airmen and troops are also there. It is published on licence from Fiction House Inc., New York. Jumbo Comics features a female Tarzan whose chest measurement would preclude her from standing near enough to a tree to climb it. WINGS is the usual Korea hokum, all dressed up to glorify war.

Action Detective Stories is good wholesome literature for homicidal maniacs and similar unfortunates. Opening page is a drawing of a nude girl and an automatic pistol; the closing two pages feature an all-in fight between two nude girls."

The glorification of war, and the demonization of Soviet and Chinese Communist forces in Korean War-era comics flowing from the United States, were of equal concern to not just the Communist Party of Australia, but also to left-aligned trade union organisations in Australia throughout the 1950s (The Queensland Trade and Labor Council was especially vocal in its opposition to the sale of American comics in Australia at this time.)

As mentioned previously, Chiplin then turns his attention to the output of the Transport Publishing Company, before pointing out that Transport Publishing's various comics and pulp novels are printed by John Fairfax and Sons, proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald, and now controllers of Associated Newspapers - "which brings muck publication right into the upper brackets of [media] monopoly."

Chiplin continues:

"[Sydney Morning] Herald publications include CAVALIER magazine, one of the worst samples of pornography and degeneracy on the market. First issue of Cavalier features 'I Lived with 31 Men on an Island', 'Candid Camera Hunt Among Strip Teasers' are other "cultural" delights. Later issues have been on the same gutter level.

The Fairfax trail then leads to PRESIDENT PRESS, publisher of Battle Comics, another glorification of murder and violence. President Press is an Associated Newspapers affiliate. Associated Newspapers are publishers of The Sun, Woman, Pix, People, etc., recently acquired by the Herald."

But Chiplin saves his harshest rebuke for Consolidated Press (then owned by Sir Frank Packer), which he claimed was "way out in front in the pornography stakes", and was responsible for publishing "a host of crime, sex and violence comics", in addition to its Sydney newspapers (The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph), and its flagship magazine, The Australian Women's Weekly.

Chiplin continues:

"Directly and through affiliates, Consolidated Press ... [also publish] the Phantom and Star paper-covered novels. Phantoms and Stars are direct reprints, lurid covers and all, of American gutter novelettes which are churned out by the score in 'pulp factories'".

The provenance of the 1950s Australian editions of the Phantom Books series has been an enduring mystery to Australian pulp-fiction novel collectors for some years (I, for one, erroneously assumed for many years that Phantom Books, and the associated Phantom Suspense-Mystery Magazine, were actually issued by Frew Publications, publishers of The Phantom).

The AusReprints website indicates that the Phantom Books series was reprinted in Australia by The Original Novels Foundation, which operated from the same address as the Magazine Management group (149 Castlereagh Street, Sydney). While it is not clear whether Magazine Management either owned, or was somehow affiliated with, The Original Novels Foundation, the AusReprints website does note that the Phantom Classics paperback series (which commenced publication around 1956) was distributed by the Hyde Distributing Company, which was, in turn, owned by Consolidated Press.

On a related note, it appears that the Art Deco-era Grand United Building, situated at 147-153 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, housed several Australian comic-book publishers during the 1950s.

These linkages between publishers, printers and distributors, according to Chiplin, formed the basis of Australia's comic-book industry, and the allied pulp-fiction novel and "girlie" magazine market in the 1950s: "Directors and shareholders in the Herald, Associated Newspapers, and Consolidated Press are a cross-section of the wealthiest monopolists in Australia".

Chiplin concluded his "dreadful recital" with reference to American Crime Magazine, "published by CLEVELAND PUBLISHING COMPANY, whose directors are publisher J.P. Atkins, and solicitor V.T. Davis." He adds that  "'Such Tender Flesh' and 'Hit Me Hard, Baby' are two of the three stories in this lurid-covered magazine".

The Cleveland Publishing Company went onto publish the highly popular pulp-novel series, Larry Kent (I Hate Crime), based on the Australian radio serial of the same name, and became best known for its long-running series of Western pulp novelettes, which were published under various imprints throughout the 1950s and 1960s (Many of these featured cover illustrations by Stanley Pitt, while another former Australian comic-book artist, Paul Wheelahan, went onto write hundreds of Western novels for Cleveland from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s). The Cleveland Publishing Company continues to reissue its "classic" Western novels, and occasional new titles, which are distributed through newsagents throughout Australia - it is arguably one of the few "golden age" pulp-novel publishing companies dating from the 1950s which is still in business.

Bemoaning the reluctance Australian state governments to police the sale of American-style comic books, sleazy paperbacks and pornographic magazines, Chiplin makes the following impassioned plea:

"State governments could act to-morrow to stop the sale of this kind of muck - if they wanted to.

They will only "want to", if we, the people, the educators, the battling Australian artists and writers, the organised working class, the vast majority of worried men and women who want their children to grow into healthy adults in a peaceful world insist upon a ban."

Chiplin's wish did, of course, come true, as the growing public outcry against violent and salacious American-style comic books gathered force by the mid-1950s, prompting several Australian state governments to pass (or amend) legislation designed to prohibit the sale of "objectionable" literature (such as comic magazines) within their respective jurisdiction. This topic is briefly discussed in a previous Comics Down Under post, "Australian Comics - A 1960 Snapshot".

Chiplin was subsequently appointed Moscow correspondent for Tribune, and eventually left the Soviet Union in 1963 after a two-year posting. Upon returning to Australia, he resigned from the Communist Party of Australia in April 1963, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Tribune continued to be published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia until 1991.

(Image credits: Yarmak - Jungle King Comic courtesy of Grand Comics Database; American Crime Magazine and Manhunt courtesy of Galactic Central; all other images courtesy of AusReprints).

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Wartime Glimpse of Associated General Publications

Today I bought a second-hand copy of a book titled Australian Writers & Artists' Market, published by The Australasian School of Journalism & The Art Training Institute (80 Swanston Street, Melbourne). This book is a guide to local publishing outlets and markets for aspiring writers and illustrators, which spans book and magazine publishers, to broadcast radio networks and theatrical agents and producers. Although undated, I believe this book was published towards the end of World War Two (circa 1945-46), judging by the topical references to the war, and the wartime experiences attributed to some of the book's contributing essayists.

Books such as these, dating from the 1940s and 1950s, sometimes offer fascinating insights about the editorial and commercial workings of Australia's earliest comic-book publishers, and this particular book is no exception. Of particular interest (to me, at least) was the following entry for Associated General Publications Pty Ltd (Hunter House, 26 Hunter Street, Sydney), which would in time become one of the largest Australian publishers of comic magazines and "pulp" paperback fiction:

This firm, with which are associated Transport Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd. and Progress Publications Pty. Ltd., produces The Weekly Radio Record, Sporting Weekly, Hotel and Café News (a monthly trade magazine), The Co-operative Building Societies Gazette, and several year-books for professional use. The general book department concentrates on "western" stories, adventure, romance, and mystery novels. Another department handles agricultural, educational and scientific books. Children's books have been included in the production programme. Payment is made on a straight-out purchase basis or on royalty.

"We are anxious to encourage local talent and to provide good, clean, entertaining reading material within the financial reach of everybody," says Managing Director Mr. I. Herwitz [sic], B.Sc.(Econ.), F.S.S., Ped. Dip. (London Univ.). "All departments are under the direction of highly qualified men - Mr. E. Breen, B.A., B.Ec., Dip. P.A. (Sydney), being in charge of the newspapers and periodical sections, and Dr. W. Deutch of the publication of educational books. The selection of manuscripts of cultural value is therefore assured. The publications are distributed in conjunction with leading booksellers and wholesale houses, thus ensuring wide circulation covering Australia and overseas." (Australian Writers & Artists' Market, pg.145)

Associated General Publications was, at this time, still under the control of its founder, Israel Horwitz, and was making its earliest forays into "pulp fiction" novelettes, most of which would have been published under the company's Transport Publishing imprint. It was only when Israel's son, Stanley Horwitz, took over as Managing Director of the company after World War Two, that the company expanded into the booming comic book field, and subsequently rebranded the company as Horwitz Publications in the mid-1950s.

Despite Israel Horwitz's assurance that his company would only ever produce "good, clean, entertaining reading material", many of Horwitz Publications' comic books and paperback novels released during his son's tenure as Managing Director drew fierce criticism for their perceived emphasis on sex and violence (Rex Chiplin, writing in the left-wing Tribune newspaper on 11 November, 1953, condemned Transport Publishing's "pulp" magazines for their mixture of "corpses, assault and battery with a larding of sex"). Some of Horwitz Publications' best-selling authors, such as crime writer "Carter Brown" (the pseudonym for Alan Geoffrey Yates), saw their books  frequently banned from sale in Queensland, together with many of the company's romance comic books, during the mid-to-late 1950s. Even though the company ceased publishing comic magazines in 1965, Horwitz Publications remained one of Australia's largest paperback fiction publishers, increasingly focused on sado-erotic war novels and soft core pornographic fiction throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s (Book cover image courtesy of

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Public Talk: Nerd Nite #16 - 1 December 2015 (Melbourne)

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be speaking at Nerd Nite Melbourne #16, being held at Mr Wow's Emporium (97b Smith Street, Fitzroy) on Tuesday, 1 December 2015 (7pm - Entry fee: $5.00). Nerd Nite Melbourne is a lively seminar series, which brings thinkers and experts drawn from all walks of (academic) life, and plonks them in front of a crowd of inquisitive punters inside a dimly-lit pub. The speakers share their wisdom, and the audience gets to ask questions, and engage in raucous debate.

I've been invited to give a talk about a topic close to my heart: Comic books. And, more specifically: Superhero comic books. And, to refine that even further: Australian superhero comic books. Want to know more? Then read on....

Look! Up in the Sky! It's... Doctor Mensana? Uncovering the Secret History of Australian Superheros

Superheroes, it seems, are part of everyday Australian culture. We can thrill to their exploits at multiplex cinemas, buy t-shirts bearing their likeness at department stores, or dress-up our kids in pint-sized versions of their colourful costumes. They are, however, almost without exception American superheroes.
For a country which reveres elite athletes, and pays homage to the heroic deeds of ANZAC, Australia seems strangley bereft of its own superheroes. We laud Australians who can "beat the Yanks" at their own game in film, music and other forms of popular culture. So why are we content to let American superheroes fulfil our collective fantasies?
The truth is that Australian superheroes have taken to the skies since the early 1940s, but most Australians would struggle to name even one (And, no, The Phantom doesn’t count!) Dr. Kevin Patrick asks why Australian superheroes have been forced to hide in plain sight for decades, and what this says about ourselves, and our sense of national identity.

So, if you;'d like to come along and join the fun, here are those details again:

Event: Nerd Nite Melbourne #16
Venue: Mr. Wow's Emporium, 97b Smith Street, Fitzroy
Date: Tuesday, 1 December 2015:
Entry: $5.00 (7.00pm start time).

Hope you can make it!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Oliver Strange, Maurice Bramley and 'Sudden', Revisited

Few posts I've written for this blog attracted more widespread interest than when I wrote about the pulp novel cowboy hero, nicknamed 'Sudden', back in 2007. James Green was a Western gunfighter, nicknamed 'Sudden' because of his lightning-fast gun-draw reflex. He was created by the British author Oliver Strange, and - to the best of my knowledge - first appeared in Strange's 1930 novel, The Range Robbers. In the 1960s, Frederick Nolan, then working as an manuscript reader and editor at Corgi Books (UK), wrote several further 'Sudden' novels under the pen-name "Frederick H. Christian", commencing with Sudden Strikes Back (1966).
I'd previously speculated about whether the 'Sudden' novels were the inspiration for a comic-book series, also titled 'Sudden', written and drawn by Maurice Bramley (1898-1975), which appeared in The Fast Gun comic magazine published by Page Publications (Australia) in the early 1970s. And, thanks to some recent online trawling, I can safely say the answer is "Yes".

I was doing some research into The World's News (1901-1957), a weekly news and entertainment magazine which, by the early 1930s, had been acquired by Associated Newspapers (Sydney, Australia). To the best of my knowledge, Bramley - who'd emigrated to Australia from New Zealand - began working as an artist on The World's News by the early 1930s, illustrating covers and drawing countless interior illustrations for short stories and feature articles appearing in the magazine. Amazingly, the National Library of Australia's Trove website holds scanned reproductions for nearly the entire run of The World's News. Furthermore, a keyword search reveals that Bramley was illustrating episodes of the "Sudden" novels as they were serialised in The World's News from at least the late 1930s onwards, as the double-page spread seen below attests (Apologies in advance for the poor quality image, taken with my ageing smartphone's camera).

The 'Sudden' serials were apparently a popular feature with readers of The World's News, which frequently promoted each new 'Sudden' story with an illustrated front cover, often drawn by Bramley himself. Given his long association with Oliver Strange's quick-draw gunfighter, I think it's safe to say that Bramley used elements of the original 'Sudden' stories as the basis for his own cowboy comic book hero, Jim Sedden, also known to friend and foe alike as...'Sudden'! (Cover image of Sudden - Gold Seeker taken from Good Reads).

'Sudden Rides Again' - The World's News, 14 January, 1939

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fan Scholarship & Australian Comic Fanzines

The Australian Comic Collector,
Vol. 1, No.4, August 1977
My latest academic journal article has just been published in Media International Australia (No.155, May 2015), and is titled ‘(Fan) Scholars and Superheroes: The Role and Status of Comics Fandom Research in Australian Media History’ (pp.28-37). The abstract (summary) of this article is as follows:

Comicoz, No.1, March 1978
Comic books, eagerly consumed by Australian readers and reviled with equal intensity by their detractors, became embroiled in post-war era debates about youth culture, censorship and Australian national identity. Yet there are few references to this remarkable publishing phenomenon in most histories of Australian print media, or in studies of Australian popular culture. This article demonstrates how the history of comic books in Australia has largely been recorded by fans and collectors who have undertaken the process of discovery, documentation and research – a task that, in any other field of print culture inquiry, would have been the preserve of academics. While acknowledging some of the problematic aspects of fan literature, the article argues that future research into the evolution of the comic-book medium within Australia must recognise, and engage with, this largely untapped body of ‘fan scholarship’ if we are to enrich our understanding of this neglected Australian media industry.

Fan-authored scholarship has, and continues to make, an important contribution to the formal, academic study of comic books, particularly in Australia, where comics studies remains a nascent academic discipline. Therefore, I think it's appropriate to acknowledge the diversity of Australia's comic fanzine culture, by showing examples of some early Australian comic fanzines from the 1970s and 1980s.

It's interesting to see some of the earliest published works of Australian comic fans and aspiring artists, who would go on to make lasting contributions to Australian comics fandom. The Australian Comic Collector No.4 (1977) features a cover illustration of Marvel Comics' Thor drawn by Joseph Italiano, who started Images-Images, a mail-order comics subscription service, and later became the proprietor of the specialty comics shop, Alternate Worlds. Comicoz No.1 (March 1978) features a cover depicting two winged superheroes - The Angel (from Marvel Comics' Uncanny X-Men) and Hawkman (DC Comics) - drawn by Glenn Ford, who would go on to be a cover artist for the Australian edition of The Phantom comic magazine, and illustrated the third Australian-drawn Phantom story, "The Search for Byron", published in 1996.

The Fox Comic Collector Magazine,
No.2, September 1981
The Fox Comic Collector No.2 (1981) has a cover drawn by Mitchell Dobelsky, pitching Marvel Comics' Spider-Man against his arch nemesis, The Green Goblin. This fanzine was jointly edited by Mitchell and Lazarus Dobelsky, together with David Vodicka. This fanzine would later evolve into the Fox Comics, arguably Australia's leading "small press" comics anthology of the 1980s and early 1990s. David Vodicka would go on to launch the Rubber Records music label and is currently a partner in the Melbourne legal firm, Media Arts Lawyers.

The Australian Comic Reader, No.1, 1985
The Australian Comic Reader No.1 (1985) only lasted one issue, but unlike many Australian comic fanzines which came before it, this 'zine focused entirely on Australian comics and their creators, and featured a diverse range of reviews, articles and interviews dealing with the local comics scene. It was edited by Ian Eddy, who was a frequent contributor to Fox Comics, and produced a steady stream of self-published mini comix (under the "Open Gate Comics" imprint) throughout the 1980s.

These are but a few examples of the dozens of Australian comic fanzines produced and distributed by local comic enthusiasts since the 1960s, some of which were initially distributed via amateur press association networks, and subsequently became available  through specialty comic-book stores around Australia during the 1980s and 1990s. As the Internet grew more popular from the mid-1990s onwards, Australian comic fandom has migrated to the online sphere, and comic fanzines (unlike other forms of "zine" culture) have largely faded from view. Nevertheless, they are fascinating and important historical records of Australian comics culture (Images are taken from the author's collection).