A history of Comics in Canberra - Part one by Dean Tarjavaara

Folks, we have a special treat here. In 2000 Dean Tarjavaara started writing a history of comics in Canberra for an exhibition in Sydney. Anna Brown, publisher of “Northbourne and Glory Bound” recently sent me these documents which I have reproduced here via OCR from hand typed pages.

A history of comics in Canberra - Part One by Dean Tarjavaara

There have always been a surprising number of closet comic geeks in Canberra. When I was a kid the big comics were Commando, Battle and War from the UK, and the fan-boy collector fodder of Marvel and DC from the US (Marvel was always cooler because they had Frank Miller). Besides these there were the Harvey Comics like Caspar and Richie Rich, which were strictly for the girls, and MAD magazine, which boasted a selection of some of the finest comic talents around, like Harvey Kurtzman. It was through a friend's older punk cousins that I first saw The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, produced by the Rip-Off Press, as well as the work of various freaks like Robert Crumb in Zap Comics, and the seeds were sown for the future.

By the time I started at the Canberra School of Art in 1989, publications such as Love & Rockets, Zippy Comics and RAW had finally filtered through to Australia and helped redefine comics as a legitimate high-art form (if not at the parochial back-water of the Canberra School of Art)

Great artists such as Art Spiegelman, Mariscal and Josh and Alan Friedman expanded the boundaries of the comic as a visual and text art form. Mariscal extended his quirky vision to design and architecture and went on to design Kobi the dog, the 1992 Barcelona games mascot, and is one of the most famous and respected creative talents in Spain.

The first wave of independent alternative adult comics in Canberra emerged thanks to a crew of doodlers in the Graphic Investigation workshop at the Canberra School of Art, consisting of Mark Amott, Neville O'Neill, Carl Looper, David Rowe and Stephen Harrison.

They initiated Kunzwerk in 1989, which I contributed to from the second issue onwards. David Rowe and Stephen Harrison filtered down the graphics pipeline to work at the Canberra Times and on to bigger pastures from there, Rowe eventually scoring work with the New Yorker.

Bruce Taylor teamed up with Neville O'Neill and myself to put out the last couple issues, with Kunzwerk V featuring a limited edition colour cover. Among the key contributors to Kunzwerk were Mark Amott, Neville O'Neill, Stephen Harrison, David Rowe, Carl Looper, Becky Green, Lez Peterson, Guy Pascoe, Bruce Taylor and myself. Other contributors included Bob Janowski, Wolf, Kirrily Schell, Heike Hahner, David Hodges, Paul Majewski, Bryce Manning, Tim Barrass and Dee Dee.

Bruce and I broke from the Art School and from Graphic Investigation in late 1992 to put together Bump and Snore, a title inspired by a joke from the US sitcom Married with Children -specifically Peg Bundy's lament at Al on their anniversary night: "...Oh Al!... Not the same old bump and snore!...".

We scammed the copying however we could, and flogged copies off at pubs and in record shops and earned enough to keep us in lager on a rough night. 1993 was a big year for B&S, issue two was as sharp as a tack.

Issue three featured the landmark Beerorama, part comic, part social experiment in the true and defining Bump and Snore spirit; accosting friends and strangers and getting them to draw comics over the course of a true shit-faced evening for one and fucking all at the pub. It was accompanied by a green, minimalist, thunderbird four issue created by Bruce, Jason Wade and Ted Nugent.

The formula for number three was replicated with number four, and was marked by Ted Nugent's creation of the new mark for Bump and Snore - The 100% Satan Global conspiracy logo featuring the no-smoking fish symbol.

It was during this time that the 'Seattle' inspired Hate by Peter Bagge, the arrogantly cynical Eightball by Daniel Clowes and the uniquely brilliant Dirty Plotte by Julie Douchet appeared in Australia, to advance the comic and fanzine as the voice of the alternative (grunge) scene. Fruity Murmurs emerged to fill the need for a female voice in the testosterone laden world of comics, initiated by the kick-arse talents of Mandy Ord and Kirrily Schell in late 1993.

Bruce, Kirrily and myself presented seminars and workshops at Community centres, High schools and Tafe over 1994. At the start of 1995, Bump and Snore and Fruity Murmurs recoagulated under the banner of Sticky Comics with an ANU Student Union 'Clubs and Society's grant' . Bump and Snore # 6 & # 7 snuck out at the start of 1995, followed by a colour covered edition of each title, Fruity Murmurs # 2 and Bump and Snore # 8. These were distributed through such funky shops as Landspeed, Impact, Au Go-Go, Red Eye Records, Waterfront and Half-a-Cow: covering Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra as well as stores in Newcastle, Brisbane, Wollongong, San Francisco and where ever agents couriered or planted them.

Sticky Comics samplers, newsletters and events were a feature of 1995. By 1996, the editorial teams of both titles had drifted off to different cities and both Bump and Snore and Fruity Murmurs folded without much fuss. Mandy Ord started a solo zine titled Wilnot and Kirrily Schell started Wide Arsed Mole.

Among the key contributors to Bump & Snore were Jason Wade, Ed Radclyffe, Ted Nugent, Brigette Lafferty, Neville O'Neill, Mandy Ord, Matt Taylor, Robert Hodgson, Bruce Taylor and myself. Among the other contributors were Monica Syrette, Han Hoyne, Lauren, Stephen Harrison, Guy Pascoe, Mikel Simic, Carolyn Roach, Billy Coddington, Ross Cornsew, Werner Enke, Paul McVey, Carl Schroedl, Gail Barratt, Mark Eaton, Michael Oakes, Rory, Shaun Stephens, Bjarni Wark and Karyn Fearnside.

Meanwhile, a new wave of comic artists emerged to fill the breach of those departing from Canberra, with titles like You Stink & I Don't and Oink. But for their story read Part Two...

A history of comics in Canberra by: Dean Tarjavaara May 2000