Thursday, March 31, 2011
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the ongoing efforts amongst Australian fans to untangle the history of Gredown Pty Ltd, an obscure (albeit prolific) comic book publisher that flourished in Australia from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. In a previous entry, I speculated that Gredown was established by Chris Murray, the son of Australian magazine entrepreneur, K.G. Murray, after the Murray family's publishing business had been acquired by Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) in 1974.
Recently skimming over my copy of Loathsome Ghosts, one of the company's numerous horror comics from the late 1970s, I noticed the following text on the inside front cover: 'Produced by Gredown Pty. Limited, 249 Pitt Street, Sydney for Boraig Pty. Ltd.' However, this was not the first time I'd come across reference to Boraig Pty. Ltd.
In her book, The House of Packer (1999), Bridget Griffen-Foley wrote that, 'in June 1972 ACP purchased 75 per cent of the Murray family's interest in Publishers Holdings Ltd for $2.30 a share' (p.296), and that 'the acquisition of shares in the Murray family company, Boriag Pty Ltd [note different spelling- KP], entitled ACP to a 23.7 per cent interest in Publishers Holdings' (p.297). After the rival UK publisher, Thomson Publications, withdrew a competing offer for Publishers Holdings at $3.00 per share, 'ACP acquired more than 55 per cent of the issued capital in Publishers Holdings' (p.297), thereby making ACP 'the largest magazine publisher in the southern hemisphere' (p.297).
While its unclear whether Boraig [Boriag] Pty Ltd continued to operate as a separate entity after ACP acquired its majority stake in Publishers Holdings, or if ACP's shareholdings in the company effectively made it a subsidiary of ACP, the Murray family's connection with Boraig Pty Ltd is made explicitly clear in Griffen-Foley's book. What remains unknown to us - for now, at least - is the exact business relationship between Gredown Pty Ltd and Boraig Pty Ltd, and what the commercial rationale was behind the Murray family's decision to retain its presence in the Australian comics' market, and why it embarked on the publishing programme that it did. (Image courtesy of Ausreprints.com)
Has it really been over three months since I last posted anything on this blog? Judging by the date of my previous entry, yes it has! To those of you who do occasionally check in to see what I've had to say, or share, about Australian comic books and their creators, I realise these last few months have been very lean pickings indeed. And for that, I apologise.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I've returned to tertiary study, and am currently undertaking a PhD at the Centre for the Book, Monash University (To find out more about my PhD topic, the accompanying picture will give you a clue - or you can visit my 'academic' website for details.) And, looking at my earlier comments about full-time 'student life', I realise that, while the precise excuses I previously gave for not attending to this blog have changed, the demands of writing a PhD thesis (100,000 words in length, in case you're wondering) have begun to make themselves well & truly felt.
Not that I'm complaining, because it has, by and large, been a very stimulating undertaking thus far. I'm currently close to completing the 10,000-word written submission accompanying my confirmation of candidature hearing, which is scheduled to take place in the next few months (This is basically a panel review board, which decides whether the PhD candidate can graduate from their 'L'-plates to their 'P'-plates, and proceed with their research project.)
Working on this document - which has occupied most of my waking hours since July 2010 - has been exasperating at times, but it's also forced me to hammer my initial, barely-etched ideas into concrete form, and to think hard about the parameters of my research topic, and how I want to approach it. This process has made me engage with theoretical frameworks - some new, others barely remembered from my undergraduate days back in the early '90s - that will (hopefully) allow me to re-examine comics from a critically informed perspective.
If nothing else, writing this thesis has only heightened how my own personal interest in comic books has changed over time. I find myself less interested in specific characters, series or individual creators, than I am in the shifting cultural status of comic books as a popular medium. Underscoring this focus has been my desire to excavate the cultural history of Australian comics in particular, and restore its place in broader considerations of Australian print culture.
Fulfilling as it is, this work has been close to all-consuming, and I've often found myself unable to drag myself away to attend comic conventions, participate in comic book launches, post blog updates, or even visit comic shops on an infrequent basis (Mind you, my eBay account has been taking a beating, as I track down obscure source materials for my thesis, which are not readily available at local comics' retailers.) I know this sounds ironic, maybe even a little pathetic, given that my thesis is about comics...so, again, I apologise to all those whose invites to comic-related soirees have gone largely unanswered by me.
Do I foresee these circumstances changing? Not in the near future, I'm afraid. I'll be spending the next few months preparing for my confirmation hearing, as well researching and writing a conference paper that I'll be presenting at a comics/graphic novels conference being held at Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2011 (You can download the conference brochure here.)
That's not to say I'm giving up on this blog - far from it. But I have to be realistic about my expanding study workload, and whether I'll have any spare 'bandwidth' to write at length about comics for fun! (God, that does sound gloomy, doesn't it?) If and when I can, though, I will try and post the occasional entry, however brief or incoherent it might seem.