Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Earlier this year, I was contacted by Kerry Stewart, a producer for Encounter, a religious affairs programme broadcast on ABC Radio National, who was researching a forthcoming episode discussing the phenomenon of religious comic book publishing, in Australia and abroad. I was approached on the basis of an interview I'd conducted with Graham Wade, an Australian artist who'd illustrated the religious comic book series, Jungle Doctor, which was published on the OzComics website in 2007.
While admitting to Kerry that I was by no means an expert on the broader topic of religious comics, I did suggest some possible interview candidates for the show, which was eventually broadcast on 9 May 2010, and can be downloaded here. However, not long after my initial discussion with Kerry, I went online to do some further research on the topic, only to discover that Graham Wade had died in August 2009 (The Sydney Anglicans and the Christians Today Australia websites both posted obituaries for Wade on 26 August 2009). At the time, I'd planned to post a notice about Graham's death on my blog, but for whatever reason, it never eventuated.
However, given that Christmas is approaching, I thought it fitting to pay a belated tribute to Graham Wade, and note the passing of one of Australia's most widely-read, but least recognised, comic book artists (A fate shared by many of Graham's peers, I daresay). I was pleased to have had the chance to interview Graham (if only via email), as it opened my eyes to a largely undocumented aspect of Australia's comic book publishing history.
Clearly, my interview struck a chord with more than a few people - after it was published, I was approached by one of Graham's former art studio employees, who asked me for Graham's email address, in the hopes of contacting him again, decades after he'd worked for him! And my article was extensively quoted in an intriguing philatelic story appearing on the Australian Postal History website, too.
And, so, on that note, I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (Photo of Graham Wade [ca.2008], courtesy of Australia's Outback Patrol)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Earlier this year, I was briefly employed as a research consultant on AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource, an online database devoted to all aspects of Australian literature. I was working in conjunction with Dr. Toni Johnson-Woods (Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland), whose principal research interest for the last five years or so has been the history of Australian 'pulp fiction' literature (ca.1939-1959).
My chief tasks were to identify as many Australian pulp cover artists as I could (based on the cover images uploaded to the AustLit website) and to compile brief biographies for nearly two dozen of the most prolific Australian 'pulp artists' from this period. Given the frequent overlap between the publishing history of Australian comic magazines and Australian pulp fiction novels - with many key publishers (and illustrators) engaged in producing both comics and pulps - I felt the task ahead of me was 'do-able', but not without difficulty.
I was especially keen to see if I could discover any further information about the prolific, yet elusive, commercial artist/cartoonist, Maurice Bramley, who must have produced thousands of cover designs for Australian pulps and comic magazines throughout the 1940s-1960s. While this blog has highlighted particular aspects of Bramley's published work - such as his role in producing The Phantom Commando, his last published work on The Fast Gun and his long association with Horwitz Publications - precious little was known about the man himself. Until now, that is.
Maurice William Bramley was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on 11 September 1898. He appears to have migrated to Australia in the mid-1920s, settling in Sydney, New South Wales. Bramley married Adele ('Dell') Cox-Taylor on 19 August 1925, and apparently used her as the model for many of the women featured in his vivid pulp novel cover illustrations. Bramley came to prominence as a commercial artist/illustrator during the 1930s, working principally for The World's News, before commencing his long association with the Transport Publishing Company (later Horwitz Publications) during the mid-1940s.
Bramley relocated to Tuross Head, on the New South Wales coast, in the 1950s and frequently used the likenesses of several local residents to depict various characters appearing in his comic book stories. Bramley appears to have retired from the commercial art field by the early-to-mid 1960s, although examples of his comic book westerns remained in print (principally used as 'showbag fillers') until the early 1970s. Bramley moved to the Australian Capital Territory (apparently for medical reasons), where he later died on 15 June 1975.
The caricature of Maurice Bramley accompanying this blog entry was drawn by Kerwin Maegraith, and was taken from a full-page illustration, 'Some Sydney Artists', published in the Sydney Mail on 11 August 1937. For those interested in learning more about Maurice Bramley's life and art, both Daniel McKeown's article, 'Maurice Bramley & Horwitz Comics', along with the Tuross Head information page, 'Maurice Bramley - Illustrator', are highly recommended sources.'I would also urge readers to visit the AustLit database, which now features hundreds of vintage Australian pulp fiction cover images, along with biographies of key pulp artists. Check with your nearest university campus library, state reference library or community/public library branch, and see if they offer patrons free public access to AustLit (AustLit is currently only available to institutional subscribers).