Monday, 2 May 2022

Writing Ric McClune. The journey forward.

 

Writing Ric McClune. The journey forward.

Buy Ric McClube here

When it comes to writing comics, my preference has always leant towards science fiction and a touch of horror, sometimes a combination of both. Never a big fan of capes, my reading pleasures tended to be more the same as what I liked to write. My comic script experience evolved from flash fiction. Short stories that would have no more than 150 words that contained a start, middle and end. Sometimes referred to as paragraphs with a punchline. But for me, a great jumping off point for adapting stories for four to five page scripts the type preferred by 2000AD magazine for their Future Shock stories, another big influence on me as a younger chap. To me it was like having a synopsis for your script already written. I have written 24 page one-shots, using the same method but fleshing out the story with more action and subplots. If you are new to comics I highly recommend this method to enhance and develop your writing style. As I have pretty much established, I was getting quite comfortable with this style and genres and it had worked well for me, not only as a niche to find publications to contribute but also to gain experience working with different artists and editors. Saying all this, I was a bit amiss when Reverie publisher Gary Dellar approached me about writing a 24 page one-shot for a character he had created named Ric McClune, who, it declared was the second fastest gun in the West.

That’s right, a bloody Western. Were they even a thing anymore?

Thinking it was time I moved out of my comfort zone, I decided to give it a whirl. What could happen? Rejection. I’m a comic book writer, if that bothers you, you’re in the wrong game. So, first things first,

I asked some probing questions: what was the cannon? “We’re going to develop that as it goes along.” Was the reply.

 Ok, I surmised, he has a dog, rides a horse, wears a pork pie hat and for some reason is the second fastest gun in the West. Vague seemed to be the rule rather than the exception here. I was being given carte blanche on the future of this character,

 I was helping create cannon.

Lucky for me one edition had recently been published, written by Haydn Spurrell and drawn exquisitely by Ben Sullivan, I was able to garner more insight into the character. It seemed our Ric was not averse to the odd bit of justifiable murder, had friends in high and low places, oh yeah, he had a soft spot for kids.

I had a starting point.

Western were once hugely popular in Australian comic history, back in the late 1940s through to the 1960s Western style comics sold consistently in numbers we can only dream of these days. We are talking sales of tens of thousands a month.

Then it struck me. I had recently researched and wrote an article on one of the most popular writers/ artists of that time who specialised in Western genre comics and who went on to be Australia’s true comic book villain.

His name. Len Lawson, A name that fell into infamy when at the absolute height of his fame and career he sexually assaulted a group of girls whilst taking them on a photo shoot and was given the death penalty as a result. This was later downgraded when capital punishment was outlawed in Australia. He was released in 1961  after serving seven years. In hindsight probably not a good idea as he then went onto greater notoriety when soon after his release he murdered a young lady he had invited into his flat and then murdered another teenage girl during a bungled hostage situation in a school. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, only to strike again whilst in prison a decade later by kidnapping a group of girls who were at Paramatta prison to give a concert for inmates and holding a dancer hostage whilst pressing a knife to her throat. He was overpowered by prison officials and inmates. Lawson died in 2003 the longest serving inmate in New South Wales history.

The point of this is that I had made a link that made me feel a bit more comfortable in my storytelling. A hidden horror within the telling of the tale. What had possessed this man who created countless Western comics. Maybe if he channeled that craziness into his stories we would have seen a whole new genre of Western years ahead of its time.

So latent horror it would be, but not supernatural, something more feasible. So, I deduced that in the 1880s to some, science was indistinguishable from magic or witchcraft. And since the dawn of modern science basically fell within this era, I had some ideas bustling in my hedgerow.

I was going to give Mister Ric McClune an adventure with a difference and hopefully one that could introduce characters later on. We were technically world building here.

Researching the period was a fascinating study of human achievement. So much so that the Commissioner of the US patent office in 1899. Charles H. Duell  declared that "everything that can be invented has been invented." Though, woefully short sighted. Mr. Duell did get bombarded with patents during this era that involved most of the sciences (chemistry, biology and physics) electricity, and innovations in engineering and architecture.

I believe he was just exhausted.

So, to the hicks riding around the mid-western deserts and plains avoiding Indians, disease and skulduggery, what we take for granted would seem a bit unbelievable to them.

Without giving too much away, my story The Badlands uses this idea as the main story plot but concentrates on Ric McClune’s attitude towards children and those not as well equipped to protect themselves as he can. In as much, if McClune does develop into a killing machine of unprecedented proportions, I can at least cement this overriding sense of protection that had begun in issue one of Roc McClune.

Reviving a neglected genre was an exciting proposition and one that had many challenges. I look forward to seeing how the many writers portray Ric McClune in their own style whilst adding a new piece to the cannon that we hope will one day be the legendary Ric McClune. Second fastest gun in the West.

Friday, 1 April 2022

BOOK STORES


 Originally published July 2020 BBCN

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

A visit from one of the original locals

A visit from one of the original locals


 

Since moving to Boronia I’ve noticed there is a surprisingly lot of wildlife hanging around this place. In the last few years, we have encountered an Eagle, numerous birds including owls, Butcherbirds, Rosellas, countess  Galahs, White Sulfur crested and the occasional black-crested Cockatoo, bats or Flying Foxes, rabbits, the unwanted fox and neighbours dog and been said goodnight to and rudely awaken by Kookaburras on a regular basis. Oh and let’s never forget a billion Possums, or does it just feel like it.


But recently I was pleasantly surprised by another visitor to the backyard that I never expected to see.

Whilst up ignoring every Health and Safety rule that is heavily enforced at my work by standing on a ladder and cleaning my gutters I heard a loud rustling behind me, I thought it was a neighbour raking leaves when I realized it was more behind me than on the other side of the fence I turned and saw a black and white mass moving through the garden.

An Echidna was merrily walking through my garden fossicking for food. I have no idea where he came from because I had been outside for some time in various parts of the yard and all of a sudden this little creature was in the middle of my garden as if he’d fallen from the sky.

Who knows,  these fellows are as unique as aliens being the only other marsupial besides the Platypus to lay eggs. Mind you if I found a Platypus in the garden I’d be writing this article for The Age.

My new mate didn’t seem to mind when I excitedly yelled for the family to come and have a look at what I’d found and as we all gathered a good distance behind our new friend not to startle him and just enjoy the way he ambled out the garden and lawn sussing out the territory. It got a bit tense when he entered the rabbit run but they seemed to have an understanding, they stared at each other and the Echidna - who by this stage I had christened FLUFFY - took off. through some long foliage under the fence and into the neighbours not to be seen again.

Knowing that animals like Echidnas are still poking around gives me a sense of well being that we still haven’t gone totally concrete encased despite all the units popping up all around the streets, and hope he comes back for another visit.


Originally published in the BBCN Issue 200 May 2012

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

The past in its many variations.

 

The past in its many variations.

Having lived in the outer eastern suburbs now for over 35 years and in Boronia itself for the last 15, I have grown to appreciate the history of the area, though it may be disappearing at an exponential rate due to progress there is still lots to discover in the area and its surrounds.


Little things like the Progress Hall or a hidden piece of ballast where the trolley ran along the boundary of the Ferntree Gully Quarry, to the ruins of Doongalla and Ferndale weir above the Basin to more latter-day examples and architecture like the Boronia Post Office and the Telecom exchange building just opposite in Hasting Avenue. I find myself finding new discoveries all the time, mainly due to posts and recollected memories of people who contribute to the “Boronia – the good old days” Facebook page. They have a passion and a respect for where they live and it can be contagious. I’ve written a lot about my adopted suburb, and it was only recently that I realised why, and why I don’t have the same passion for the place where I grew up and spent over twenty years living in - Jordanville.


Though Boronia is twice the distance from the city as Jordanville (15 km compared to 30km) Boronia has been around a lot longer, even if it was as a  little brother to the Basin and Bayswater until the train station was built. The estates in Jordanville was built along with Ashwood in the   1940s / early 50s to accommodate the post-war population boom. Before then, the area was open fields dotted with farmhouses and a motorbike track, that at one time soon after the war attracted 10,000 people one weekend for a charity event.

The Jordanville/Ashwood estate was established by the Victorian Housing Commission and was bordered by Warrigal Road in the west, Huntingdale Road in the east, High Street Road to the north and Waverly Road to the south with the Glen Waverly train line running down the middle separating Jordanville from Ashwood. An area of approximately 20 hectares. Families were moved in before roads were constructed and sewerage was connected, making hepatitis a major problem in the estate’s formative years. The area consisted of five State schools; one boy’s technical school, one high school and three primary schools, though only one was inside the estate’s borders, the others were all on the opposite side of the boundary roads. One Catholic school was also on the estate directly opposite the primary school. Included within the estate boundaries were four recreational parks/playing fields which were originally areas where the commission houses were shipped from the nearby Housing Commission factory in adjoining Holmesglen and partially constructed before they were put onto the site blocks. When construction was complete, they were transformed into playing surfaces. It also had four shopping strips. Usually consisting of a Milk Bar and a mixed grocery store to service the residents. Major shopping trips meant bus trips to Oakleigh and Ashburton or later to the new modern Chadstone shopping centre which opened in 1961. The nearest pubs were located in Oakleigh or Carnegie several miles away. Also built on its Western edge was a migrant hostel that due to its role to supply temporary housing it was built a lot faster using ex-army Nissen huts.

Over the next twenty years as the estate settled, roads were completed, services installed and during that time over 1600 trees that were planted to brighten the barren landscape matured. Jordanville developed into a strong community. The roads lined with oak trees with all the neat lawns and gardens and lots of children playing outside, as cars were few and far between. The majority of the occupants were renters but still very house proud. Things started to change near the early to mid-seventies as the children grew up and the availability of jobs and cheap cars flourished. Gangs became a thing for a while, the migrant hostel was abandoned and pulled down and the huge beer barn the Mathew Flinders was constructed to the delight of every male who had to travel miles for a beer in the past. Suddenly the gardens were not as neat as before, cars started appearing on nature strips. The kookaburras no longer laughed near the train station, they had moved further up the line, most probably to Boronia.

 Come the late 1980s. the concrete houses that made up the majority of dwellings (that were always meant to be temporary) were approaching their use by date and after a wet winter and a hot dry summer, many had cracks appear that could be seen through from the street to the backyard. With the ageing population, it was decided during the Kennet years that the area didn’t need as many schools. This resulted in every school, bar the Catholic school being sold off, demolished, and sold to developers. With the schools also went the Junior football club, once, one of the biggest and successful in the State, at the same time older houses were being demolished to make way for one or more modern and smaller units as each house was built on a fifth of an acre site. As time progressed into the 21st century old was replaced with new or was replaced with something different. The only other large church in the area, the United Church was sold after attendances dropped it was demolished and replaced with a childcare centre. Even the pub saw a drop in clientele when it became a hostile place and was temporarily closed to be rebuilt. When the Housing Commission factory in Holmesglen – a source of work for the early residence-was converted to a TAFE in the early 1990s, the area saw a rebirth and with nearby Chadstone shopping centre continuously expanding and the proximity of the then Mulgrave freeway, this meant a need to modernise the area to suit. Those lucky enough to buy their old rental properties were sitting on a gold mine in property value. This created another boom of older residence moving out and new more modern buyers capitalizing on the large block sizes. By the turn of the century, the oldest remaining building that was not a Housing Commission home was the old Catholic church which had been replaced in the 90s with a new one and was now used as a community hall. In roughly 50 years Jordanville had sprung from nothing and nothing was its landmark. It was always in a constant flux of change. Even the once majestic oak trees that had grown so large over the years were pruned down to obscene parodies of themselves when the Optus telephone lines were introduced and had to sit one metre below the standard lines.

I know this grossly simplifies the history of the area, but after I left, I never felt the urge to return even though members of my family still live there. It always felt like the place rejected physical memories.

Boronia didn’t just spring into being. It took years for it to become established, sure the train station helped speed things up, but it was a slow burn. Things had time to settle, it grew while the Basin’s glory days were starting to disappear in the rear-view mirror. Because of this, the locals had more time to appreciate what they had before it was stripped  away for something new. Not always but there is still good signs and remnants of the past to feel that someone cares. I mentioned earlier how in Jordanville all the schools were closed and demolished, what also happened was that all the records disappeared with them and only those scraps of memorabilia like class photos, magazines and reports held by individuals are all lost. Of course, that happened all through the metropolitan area and Boronia and surrounding suburbs weren’t exempt, however, here we have the Knox historical society where they have made a concerted effort to collect as many of the class photos and magazines from closed schools as possible for future generations to see. I attempted to find some records of anything from Jordanville Tech after it closed and all I encountered was a brick wall of “No one knows” from various departments and Ministries.

I know a lot of people who have lived here longer than me will disagree and say nothing has been good since the railway crossing went underground, but to use an example of a recent bit of history, when Boronia High school in Mount View Road closed and was eventually demolished, its shadow is still visible. It’s like a present-day archaeology site, there’s still time to walk around and picture what once was and maybe even find something in the long grass whilst walking the dog. Back in the old days, half an estate was built as soon as the last wall fell. To me it’s not what’s gone it’s what’s left and that is what can pique people’s interest and start to search and find out more of what came before. It’s all around us. The empty fields that were the old Daniel Robinson clay pits, the greenway between that paddock that separated it from the old Abattoir, the old pylons next to the tracks heading into boronia station that held the overhead lines before the station was set lower. Even things like the crossover in the middle of the road opposite the Boronia bowl that was used by the old CFA trucks when the base was situated there. There is evidence everywhere, which is why I think more about history here than where I grew up because there is nothing back there, no old traces, no evidence, everything was ripped up and replaced leaving nothing to the imagination. The only constant is change. I must point out that during all this change up until recently because there now are a lot more property owners, no one cared. No one petitioned the loss or sale of anything. It just happened. A lot of this pertains to the fact that the majority of residences were renters, so they always felt they had no choice, in my opinion. Compare this with recent times here in Boronia and Knox in general and the outcry to any new building or developments when they are announced, people are quick or keen to voice their concerns. That’s proof a community still cares.

I love looking at old photos of the Basin, Boronia and Ferntree Gully and then visiting those places to see how much it has changed or evidence of things that remain. It’s even more fun up the mountain because things up there tend to change a bit slower. In the decade and a half I’ve lived here I have discovered and documented dozens of places that I never even knew existed before and to share that gives me great satisfaction

As populations increase in the outer east and our home suburbs, I believe it’s important to stay in touch with the past to appreciate how we got here. I’m not advocating a no change or development policy but to keep us in touch with our memories and not like where I grew up that has stripped it clean, at least for me.

 

Saturday, 1 January 2022

LOCAL HISTORY INDEX

 LOCAL HISTORY INDEX

A list of the local stories about Boronia, the Basin, Mt Dandenong and surrounding areas that I have written over the years. 
The bulk of these posts have appeared in the Boronia and the Bain Community News but the ones published here are unedited and usually have more content and pictures.
I try and be as impartial as I possibly can when writing local history, which I think is important because opinion will only distort the story.
Most are a story of discovery as I wander around this area searching for things that are no more or have slipped into obscurity. Others are just stories reliving the marvellous places that exist in our backyard. 
ENJOY.





Alternate Worlds 
Local Comic creator Day April 2021 
The Original City Loop 

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

A CHRISTMAS GIFT -A FREE COMIC LINK 2021

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year approaching.

Here is a free comic for surviving 2021.
No emails needed, no mailing lists to join.
Just click & download.
All stories by me and art by a list of the most talented illustrators in the business.



Thursday, 11 November 2021

Ric McClune KICKSTARTER.

 Ric McClune KICKSTARTER.

Over the past year during CoVid, myself and a team of talented folk have been building up to this under the guidance of Reverie Publisher Gary Dellar.

Ric McClune as a loveletter to Reverie publisher/creator/writer Gary Dellar's late father.

Ric McClune is a Western style character based comic featuring enigmatic Ric in the main role.

Now all has come to fruition as Ric McClune "The Second Fastest Gun In The West" has started its KICKSTARTER campaign for release in March 2022.

CLICK FOR LINK
It's already begun strong by becoming fully funded within 3 1/2 hours of the campains release.

Unlike most comic Kickstarter campaigns where you pledge your money, wait a few months get a single issue and then hope in vain there may be a second issue to complement the "to be continued" first issue. Ric McClune is 5 full colour "single shot"  story issues, each building on the character that is Ric McClune and with all issues complete, there is no waiting for funds to complete the the process/ pay the artists / whatever the usual pit falls are in this kind of fund raiser.

The list of writers and artists is a who's who of local new talent include Ben Sullivan, Dave Dye , Jeff Edis (colours) , Rob Lislr, Darren Close (letteres) James Broadhurst, Haydn Spurrell, Clovis Batebola, Don Ticchio with Erwin J. Arroza doing all covers. And of course me, writing the sciece/horror/Western that is The Badlands for Issue 3.

Reverie. Revitalizing the Western genre. GET ON BOARD.