Thursday, 17 December 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2015

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Another year another Christmas.
The two links are some memories of Redbubble - the art site- when it was more interactive and before it was destroyed by Facebook and fucking morons who shouldn't be allowed near computers or sharp objects.

Once upon a time I was a member of a flourishing group called FLASH FICTION. it was full of happy people sharing their stories that were never allowed more than 150 words.
 Occasionally the group set a challenge and more often than not attracted some great works and a lot of fun interaction.
I picked two of my all time favourites.
You'll need to scroll and click a bit but you'll find some great stories and comments.

THE BARBARA CARTLAND CHALLENGE

THE AUDIO CHALLENGE

As a foot note, this year the Museum of Words, a Spanish literary society held it's annual Flash Fiction (Micro Story) contest. After nearly nine months the winners were announced and most people who write Flash Fiction were quite disappointed. Mainly because they believe the discipline of the art is that a piece of Flash must be a self contained story with a beginning a middle and an end. All the winners of this years main prizes were vignettes at best. The works included in these links are the real deal.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

In search of The Falls

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In search of the elusive Basin/Ferndale/Griffiths waterfall.


The Falls taken circa. 1913 Fergus Chandeler.
While doing research into James and Emily Griffiths’ now long gone Ferndale property back in July 2015 , I read of the dammed creek above the falls on the estate that was used to irrigate the gardens and stables. It was a reticulation system that was taken low in the dam’s stone and concrete retaining wall and fed through a six inch steel pipe over considerable distance to just above the Ferndale house where it was broken into smaller piping and used throughout the property.
Now all that reference to the marvellous domestic water engineering may be interesting but my attention focused on the word falls. A place often referred to but I couldn’t find a great deal of current evidence of. There of course is the classic photo taken by Fergus Chandler over a hundred years ago of two men posing on the falls below the dam. I had read that back in the day James Griffith had many tracks leading to the falls had installed seating and even had a kettle to use for tea and coffee making for walkers. In the photo there can be seen a walkway above the falls for ease of crossing. Obviously it was a popular spot.


According to Rick Coxhill’s History of the Basin: “The falls were also accessible from the 1 in 20 road (Mountain Highway). In later years, they were a regular haunt for young lovers. In later years, most tracks have disappeared except for the one which follows the creek from The Ravine up to the Falls and beyond”

I made it my mission when I got the opportunity I needed to see these “falls” and that it was next place I wanted to visit. Once again referencing a map found on Mister Coxhill’s web page (www,coxhill.com) I had a fair idea how to get there, so come Melbourne Cup public holiday I grabbed the wife and said “we’re going trekking” and go see this local but elusive land mark for myself.

Following the creek up from Golden Grove where the council had just finished stabilizing works we come upon a reserve at the end of the road, this parkland quickly disintegrated into bush. Though there is no sign promoting the trail to the falls which have been collectively known as Griffith falls, Ferndale Falls and the Basin Falls over the years I was still quite confident that we was heading in the right direction.

After less than one hundred metres we found ourselves following the narrow trail into thick bush that hugged the creek. It was here that we literally bumped into two young lads no more than twelve or thirteen running the other way. I asked if we were on the right track to the falls and they replied they were just returning from there. Being local boys it was one of their favourite places and had been there countless times. I asked how far did we have to go, but in old man steps not young man’s running pace? They laughed and guessed about ten minutes but we were to be careful the yesterday’s rain had made sections slippery. The two of them disappeared as quickly as we came across them, they were happy polite boys who were skinny, wore shorts and had muddy runners, off to another adventure, as you would when you have this as a back yard.

Me November 2015
As we moved on the track had remained quite dry and the outside world sounds faded. Soon it was only creek, foliage and bird noise. After another five or so minutes we came to a section where the track crossed the creek via some fallen logs. It was here that the bush got thicker and the ferns more prominent. It was also here I noticed it looked like most people turned back because the track further up seemed less travelled. The forest from this point on becomes other worldly time worn and beautiful. Fallen trees covered in moss and fungai, ferns reaching up to the hidden sun and water of the creek passing under rotting logs and over rounded boulders. The occasional massive dead gum trunk that may or may not survived previous and ancient fires. I have a love for movies that create unreal or fantasy environments, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Avatar, the Wizard of Oz, King Kong to name a few and sometimes I’ll just fast forward to these scenes and forget the story lines. Walking this part of the track inspired these kind of feelings. And here we were not more than a few hundred metres from people’s lounge rooms.

When we came upon the falls it was sudden, we turned a corner in the track and saw the greyish rocks through the ferns, there was no roaring water fall this day.

Using the old photos I had for reference it was nice to see that the falls hadn’t changed that much, of course the bridge was gone and on this day maybe the water wasn’t running as fast even after the rain but I was satisfied it was a trip that worth the taking.

The falls are not “lost” or forgotten- as I had once read in a local reference, the two lads we met on the way were proof of that and there was also a small amount of graffiti on the rocks and the obligatory beer can, albeit the only piece of rubbish I saw. They still however retained their simple beauty as displayed in the photo. I tried to get into one of the classic poses like in the old Chandler photograph but slippery rocks and uncertain legs that long ago lost their elasticity put stop to that. I was however able to cross at the peak and got a photo taken up there. I was lucky enough when putting this article together to come across a pre 20th Century image by A.J Campbell from the
lovely fungai..
Victorian Museum collection which show the falls prior to cross over being built and possibly the dam. So now I had pictures from three different centuries. The walk back was just as enjoyable and a little less daunting now that we had reached our destination but just as we reached the reserve to walk out I noticed a frame and a length of galvanised water pipe leading up the hill on the far side of the creek. The frame I assume was a pump stand and since the pipe disappeared back into the forest I could only guess it was part of the old Ferndale property water system. So now I had more things to look into.

1890 photo by A J Campbell source Vic Museum.

The falls by whatever name you wish to call them is a lovely walk in a place not too far away that has a real appeal because of its history. Time constraints meant we couldn’t search up further, though I didn’t see much more a track. I would’ve liked to see evidence of the old dam wall and pipework if it still existed.

That will have to wait for another time because I will be back. 



originally published in the BBCN issue 241 Feb 2016

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

My small part in Pop Culture

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My small part in Pop Culture 

In October 2015 the last of the big three pop culture conventions rolled into town, the Australian Movie and Comic (AMC) Expo was being held over the weekend of the 17th-18th and I popped into the Melbourne Show Grounds to lend support to the publisher of a comic that was featuring two of my stories: Darren Koziol of Dark Oz publishing.

Darren Koziol’s mother Gillian says that anyone else with his initials would probably never utilize them or be scarred for life. She made this joke as we were going over the logos of Dark Oz’s DECAY comic the bi-annual horror anthology that has just reached its milestone 20th edition. Gillian was referring how Darren’s name and love of the horror genre has been used in a rather imaginative way in his publications branding. Decay of course comes from his initials why Dark Oz is made up from the first three letters of his name.

Darren began DECAY as a labour of love back in March 2010 writing stories, compiling other talent and editing in his own time. That he now has released twenty issues and become the longest running Australian horror anthology with over 150 creators contributing is a grand accomplishment considering he is still self-publishing. Along the way he has made friendships that has resulted in some of Australia’s top artists contributing as well as others as far flung as the UK, USA and Argentina.

Darren’s belief in his comic has taken him all over Australia attending the various pop culture conventions promoting and bringing his product to the market place. Based in South Australia Darren has since an early age been fascinated by horror, fantasy and science fiction, with a genuine affection for the earlier styles as opposed to the more modern high tech. effect laden movies of the last decades. This has been carried through with DECAY’s sister publication RETRO SCI-FI which comes out once a year, usually in tandem with one of the twice yearly DECAY comics.

While talking to Darren it is evident he is very proud of his achievements, more so with issue twenty because this comic he has designed and the lay out himself as well as contributed lettering (a new skill he taught himself) because of necessity due to the unavailability of others who he had relied on in the past. Another milestone was the republishing of the CUTHULU (stories based on the popular H.P Lovecraft monster) issue as an US comic standard size. The CUTHULU issue was one of the more popular comics with an original commanding a price tag of $150. Needless to say they were a popular item and good seller at the convention.

Darren’s enthusiasm is still high with each issue getting that little bit more notice and sleeker in quality, one of Darren’s stories was picked up by International SciFi/Fantasy magazine Heavy Metal last year, so the rewards can be measured.

 In these days of Kickstarter, short lived anthologies that run out of steam by the second issue and Aussie publishers that only release a four arc comic series one issue a year at a time it is great to have Darren and DECAY helping putting new creators and exciting stories out at a regular schedule and giving Aussie comics the shot in the arm it constantly needs.

For more information on the comic: www.darkoz.com.au

originally published in the BBCN issue 239 Nov 2015

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Three quick stories for All Hallows Eve.

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Three quick stories for All Hallows Eve.


Three Flash fiction stories that have been kicking around for years.
All released to enjoy Halloween.

 ALWAYS CHOOSE TREAT 

 Jason walked up the footpath with his usual swagger, his mates lagging a few steps behind.
He leaped up the stairs in one bound.
 "I'll show you how it's done" he boasted as he smacked loudly on door.
 "Go away" came a muffled voice behind the door.
 Jason kept banging until he heard footsteps pounding towards the door.
 It swung open revealing a skinny, tired looking old man
 "What?"
 "Trick or Treat?" asked Jason
The man stood- staring at Jason for a good twenty seconds.
Then said: "Trick"
"Tight arse" Jason mumbled and in one fast motion thrust out his hand which palmed an egg and slammed it into the man's forehead.
 "There" shouted Jason and turned to run.

 The man shot Jason in the back five times before he made it down the stairs.


 THE HALLOWEEN HOUSE 

 The four teenagers moved up the overgrown pathway leading up to the dilapidated house, flashes of light burst intermittently through the broken windows.
 Anticipation pumped through their veins.
“You know how the spirits effected Thelma last year” warned Fred
 “Yeah, made her do the Exorcist/Linda Blair pea soup thing – ughh disgusting ” answered Daphne. “Don’t worry we sure leaned our lesson” said Shaggy “Thelma’s designated driver this year and Scoobies only drinking beer”

 ALL SOULS DAY 

 Terry held his head in his hands as he sat on the steps leading up to the party.
Tears fell from his face onto his shoe less feet and instantly disappeared.
 It had been two years now and nobody seemed to remember him anymore.
 “I show them, they’ll miss me when I’m gone” he’d vainly cried.
The accident had proved that, his funeral was massive and all the girls cried.
 Some even kept photos, for a while.

 But now it was different story.
 Beside his still grieving parents he never heard his name mentioned amongst his old crowd.
 He was stuck, he hadn’t been offered Heaven , he hadn’t been offered Hell.
It was just him and his heavy head.
Terry stood up and put his head under his arm and walked back through the yard to Cemetery
He was wrong - popularity was fleeting.
 Death was eternal and lonely.


 All (c) 2015 Danny Nolan

Friday, 16 October 2015

DECAY ISSUE 20

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Two of my scripts/stories have appeared in the latest edition of Dark Oz's DECAY . Australia's longest running horror anthology. I was under the belief that only one was to appear with another to be published next year as well as a  story being run in DECAY's sister publication RETRO SCI-FI. So we'll see how that pans out.
Cover art for DECAY 20
Jason Paulos and Dave Dye Australian comic book legends also make an appearance in this colourful gore-fest not for the squeamish. Of course I can't be objective since I'm in it so this isn't a review just a call to go out and buy the thing and promote Aussie comics.















The Night Before Christmas is about two young aliens on "schoolies" who cause all kinds of mischief and ultimately stack their Dad's car ruining Christmas for everyone. Literally
Artwork is supplied by the talented Argentinian Carlos Angeli. With Letters done by Dark Oz editor Darren Koziol.














The second is a story I wrote for the OZ ZOMBIE universe and tells the story of a lone survivor looking for lodgings in the abandoned upper crust residences of apocalyptic Melbourne.
This one was drawn by someone I know nothing of or have any contact for, a local by the name of Mick Anderson.














DARK OZ DECAY and RETRO SCI-FI as well as selected back Issues are available here.
This is a composite of the content titles in this issue.








Saturday, 3 October 2015

YE OLD BLUES PROMOTIONAL POSTERS

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These Paramount Records print ads span from 1927-1932 and were originally printed in the Chicago Defender. Paramount Records began around 1910  in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players The  company curated and released a  legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
I just think they look spectacular.



originally ran in the Dangerous Minds blog
Go to this site for links and a more comprehensive history of these classic pieces of art

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

FERNDALE - In search of...

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FERNDALE
A century ago the Dandenongs above the Basin were the homes of several large country estates. They were residences of successful businessmen who had profited from a booming Melbourne of the late 19th Century. Two in particular have reached almost legendary status for their Swiss chalet design and sheer size of the buildings. Today barely a trace survives of these majestic residences that were victims of fire, flood, taxes and time.
One of these was Doongala situated high in the hills in what is now national forest the only physical  remains now being the front steps, an old well which is still visible but safely enclosed by a fence. There is bluestone embedded into the batters of the road leading up to the old property and several hundred metres below that the site of the old stables. The gardens terraces are still visible to those with a touch of imagination. It’s a lovely place for a picnic but to sit in the quiet of the bush and release this house had several owners and was rebuilt several times - the first time because of a flood another by fire- is quite fantastic. I wrote about Doongala in the April 2014 issue of the BBCN- because I had to get a personal feel of where these mighty houses were built and how hard it must have been to move materials up the steep tracks and see if an thing remained of the awe inspiring gardens the families had created amongst the bush.
To see Doongala now and know that it was self-sufficient in most things and had large servant’s quarters for house staff, gardeners, smiths, stable hands and drivers. It is hard to imagine it existed within this steep heavily wooded area and basically completely gone by the mid-1930s. So much activity and lives lived at a time down the road Boronia had less than 650 full time residences and that was with a railway station. Because few pictures survive and plans of the property rarer, it is worth the trek up the track to visit the site and check out the information board as it has some illustrations of the house in its former glory.
Ferndale looking up towards Ferndale Rd
The second of these Swiss chalet inspired houses Ferndale belonged to James and Emily Griffiths, James being one half of the famous Griffith Brothers and the Griffiths Tea Company. In 1880 He and his wife Emily constructed Ferndale a three storey Swiss-style home (about two kilometres as the crow flies from the Basin Triangle Park) it had 17 main rooms including 11 bedrooms, these were complemented by three bathrooms, three studies, numerous laundries, workrooms and maid’s quarters.
Like Doongala it also had cottages for the labourers and farmhands who tended the animals, orchards and gardens. It was these many
James and Emily Griffith
orchards, large livestock holdings and gardens that made Ferndale self-sufficient. Ferndale also used the mountain slopes to incorporate a water reticulation system by damming the creek above a natural waterfall and running large pipes to the property. Ferndale’s gardens were believed to be quite a spectacle with many special features including heavily ornamented entrance gates, which opened into a bluestone courtyard complete with fish pond and fountain. Lawns complimented garden beds adorned with many varied flower species with a special area that showcased chrysanthemums. Sadly not a lot of photographs or memories are recorded of Ferndale’s glory days but local historian Rick Coxhill in his wonderful History of The Basin papers managed to interview Frank Grumont who worked at the property and leave us with his memories of Ferndale in its heyday. His descriptions of Ferndale painted in white, gold and brown conjures up a striking contrast to the lawns and gardens and the natural bush background. Ferndale’s demise came shockingly quick with the tragic death of James and Emily Griffith in 1925 when their carriage (Though it was the mid-1920s and the Griffiths’ could easily afford one James Griffith disliked automobiles and travelled in a horse drawn carriage) was hit by a train whilst crossing the line on Mountain Highway in Bayswater. Griffiths left a will that bequeathed his assets to his wife Emily. However, Emily did not die until four days after the train collision and consequently two sets of death duties were payable on the estate. The estate passed to Griffiths’ next of kin who could not afford to pay the death duties, Thus the land and house had to be sold to pay duty on the large house and business.
When eventually it was sold and a large area of land surrounding the house was portioned off and part of the rest of the property was subdivided into over 100 blocks of land. Ferndale on these smaller surrounds became a popular guesthouse up to the Second World War shortly after it was used as a migrant hostel before falling into disrepair in the 1950s. Ferndale was eventually burnt to the ground during the infamous January 1962 fires that were deliberately lit near what is now Wicks Reserve and nearly took Olinda and Sassafras and resulted in lives lost and large property loss. The house was situated on the western face of the Dandenongs with the mountain as a background and commanded an excellent view overlooking the Dandenong valley and the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
The 100 sites and the Ferndale Estate proved a disaster and eventually land above the premises was bought by the Government and returned to the National Park. With a bit of research it was easy to find the original location of Ferndale and I felt the need to visit the site myself and see if anything remained.

1947 Map showing original entrance
So one very cold and blustery Sunday in July I headed up the Basin-Olinda road turning off at Old Coach Road and there it was Ferndale Road, there was a little spot to park the car in front of a Yarra Valley Water tank that a lot of hikers and bush walkers use and I wandered up what the big sign nailed to the lamppost said Road Closed. I short walk up the road cut into the side of the hill you are instantly aware which side of the road is National Park (up -East) and which is private property (West –down). I was aware that the road was gated about 400 metres down for Parks Victoria access and hoped I didn’t have to do any unnecessary climbing when a saw what I first thought was a wooden panel shoring up the embankment. To my surprise it was a rather ratty looking notice board with laminated notes and photos. I may have said the board looked ratty but the information that it contained was priceless snippets of the Ferndale property and history. I spent so much time looking over the board that when I looked up I hadn’t realised that where I stood was the view that Ferndale was famous for. Looking out between the trees was a gap that looked over the Basin and the Eastern suburbs all the way to the city skyline. Even on an overcast day like that day I visited it was stunning. Thanks to the photos on the board, I got a clearer impression of the wonderful work that had been done to build the gardens and lawns. I also managed to answer a question that I couldn’t seem to find anywhere else. That Ferndale’s entrance was off Old Coach Road despite claims the property was always referred to being on Ferndale Road. I knew this must have been wrong as Ferndale Road sits so much higher in photos and would have made access very difficult, especially after such a steep incline to reach it. The entrance was also confirmed later from information gleaned from a 1947 tourist map I found just prior to writing article and also from an interview with Frank Grumont where he mentioned Ferndale Road was put in after the subdivision. On the roadside board there is a picture that featured on the cover of the original Ferndale Estate brochure. It was a view bracketed by two massive conifers overlooking the house roof and chimney out towards what then 1920s Melbourne. I felt I was standing in the same position that photographer did almost 90 years previously.

The picture that gave me a clue to the location of Ferndale,


I paid a visit to the wonderfully helpful people at the Knox Historical Society the next week to ask if they had any knowledge who may have set up the board but as a group they were unaware it existed and talked of driving up and seeing it for themselves. While I was there I got a peak of some of the group’s archived photographs of Ferndale and some more glimpses of the beautiful well-maintained property it once was. If anyone does have information regarding who may have set up the board on site could you please contact this paper or the society? I strongly suggest it be added to the Knox Heritage Trail. We have many hidden treasures with such wonderful history in our backyard and learning about Ferndale’s was a fun challenge for me and I know there is much more to discover, one of the many benefits of living in the foothills of the Dandenongs. If you want to learn more about Ferndale and the Griffiths family the Knox Historical Society has a neat little exhibit at the museum situated at Ambleside where all the photographs mentioned here and more can be viewed.


The board on Ferndale Road





The board with a glimpse of the amazing view behind.


 References and Further Reading. 
Fire on the Hill, Flowers on the Valley 1992- Rick Coxhill The History of the Basin.- Rick Coxhill 2001-Ongoing www.coxhill.com 
BBCN July-September 2004 issues 139-141 Articles:Frank Grumont and the Fendale connection. Ferndale Memories 
Story of the Dandenongs- Helen Coulson FW Clarke 1958 
Prolific in God’s Gifts – Michael Jones Allen & Urwin 1983 
Knox Historical Society- Ambleside FTG. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~khsinc
Originally published in BBCN issue #237    September 2015

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Jack Spratt review

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JACK SPRAT E-Magazine FIRST ISSUE REVIEW
Jack Sprat Press
Edited by Emily White

The Fanzine becomes E-zine
That’s about it really with the use of modern technology the fanzine has come a long way from mimeographed sheets stapled together. Boomed with the easy access to he photocopiers and then the desktop printer. Now we seem to have moved onto to the next phase.
Handmade and designed ‘zines for your Kindle.
Jack Sprat calls for the dark and whimsical through Flash Fiction and short four page comics. Speculative fiction and shorts  in the vain of 2000AD - Tharg’s Future Shocks.
The first issue is a mix bag with some hits and a few misses. The rather tentative theme of this issue is music with each story and artwork being inspired by a song title. Obviously I don’t listen to the dark corners where these songs are played because I didn’t recognise any of the titles. But that is neither here nor there as the first story Bring Me To Life is lovely little spin on the Pinocchio fairy story. While A Tea Party gives us an amusing look at zombie good taste in more ways than one and looks at the Walking Dead from their perspective, one we can never really understand. The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden a quick dark humour ditty that reveals some people have no luck whatsoever.
Where the stories hit the comics miss. Choosing story over art only one of the three stories worked for me. Silent Falling the telling of how an Astronaut chooses to go out in glory and is the closet to a Tharg based story, whereas Started From The Bottom is a punchline looking for a story, the non-dialogue The Burning Bride just lost me.
All up Jack Sprat is finding its identity and for a first attempt it’s admirable. The concept works. This is the perfect package for a bus stop or waiting room pause.

Danny Nolan








Monday, 3 August 2015

Comics and how some times language of the period doesn't translate that well.

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Comics and how some times language / slang of the period doesn't translate that well.
As far as I know all these panels and covers are legitimate.
Sorry for lack of credits as these have been piling up from bits I've been saving as I found them from facebook posts from over the last few months.

 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Passion Pictures Beatles Rock Band cinematic.

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 From the people who brought you many of the GORILLAZ clips, this is the opening cinematic of the video game Rock Band featuring songs by the Beatles. Though on close inspection you could be forgiven for thinking Jamie Hewlett had a hand in this but sadly he is nowhere to seen in the official credits. Look for the dozens of the Beatle song Easter Eggs scattered all through the video. It'll take a while to find them all, if possible.

ADDITIONAL EXTRAS This the end cinematic from THE END from the Video Game
 HOW THE BEATLES ROCKBAND WAS MADE. HOW THE CINEMATIC WAS MADE.
 THE MAKING OF: PART ONE

PART TWO
 
PART THREE

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Jamie Hewlett's new Gorillaz pics

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Jamie Hewlett is busily drawing and releasing pictures of Gorillaz members on Instagram.
They're changed somewhat since  the bands last release six years ago.
Judging by their dress the members seem to be evolving and finding new styles as time passes. It's good to see Russell has be cured of his waterborne gigantism.
The drawing of Noodle is just exquisite.

Friday, 5 June 2015

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2015

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FREE COMIC BOOK DAY


 If you’re ever reading an article about comics that starts with: “If you thought comics were the domain of young children you may have a surprise coming”. Turn the page, the only surprise you’ll get is the author didn’t research his topic very well. Comics’ audience stopped being the sole property of children and teenagers decades ago; the popularity of comic books only has to be gauged by the amount of high grossing and very expensive movies that are based on comic characters. Three of them are in the Top Ten highest moneymakers in movie history. Comics are a serious business. They are a lynch pin in the multimillion dollar geek/popular culture scene that incorporates movies, television shows, cosplay (dressing up as your favourite character) model making, video and Role Playing games and collectables among many other activities and hobbies. Australia alone has nine conventions a year in most states to cater for the popular demand that followers of pop culture slavishly seek out. 

 It’s not to say that comics aren’t for children anymore, not by a long shot, It’s just that those kids in the 1970s 80s and 90s didn’t give up reading them and created a whole new audience. During the 1980s comics went through somewhat of a renaissance when many British writers moved to the United States and re-imagined old and tired characters. This British Invasion led to change in the industry that moved artists and writers working at page rates and actually owning characters they created. The whole comic industry is littered with tragic tales and some are only being reconciled some 50 years later – but that’s a whole different story. During this renaissance new terms entered the language. The graphic novel and sequential art to describe what was considered throw away cheap ephemeral comics. Many went on to become classics with Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic actually appearing in TIMES top 100 novels of the 20th Century. In 2001 a Californian Comic retailer Joe Field was writing columns for an industry magazine, and saw how successful feature films based on comic book franchises were providing the comic book industry with a positive cultural and financial turnaround. This idea was Free Comic Boy Day and was so effective that in its first six years; more than 2000 retailers in more than 30 countries gave away more than 12 million Free Comic Book Day special edition comic books. It is now an anticipated yearly event especially here in Australia.

 I myself have been an avid comic book reader since I was in Primary School and I have my father to thank for that who in his 40s still enjoyed Phantom and Batman comics. I was also lucky to live near Gordon and Gotch Magazine distributors in Burwood who would throw out any comics damaged or sent back from Newsagents. These free black and white reprints of US titles could be picked up in bulk from the on-site store. From there I never really stopped, I am still an avid collector today as well as a contributor to the local scene. Thanks to the Internet and computer based graphic programs there are now many Australian’s at the forefront of worldwide comic creating fame. Artists such as Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott who work on popular superhero titles for DC and Marvel comics and Tristian Jones who has worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghost Busters have huge followings. These artists can often be seen at the larger city stores on Free Comic Book Day doing free sketches and signings for fans in the spirit of the day. 
Free Comic Book Day has three main purposes:
 1) To introduce everyone to the joys of reading comics. 
 2) To call back former comic book readers.
 3) To thank current comic book buyers for their continued support. 
Publishers produce special edition comics geared to attracting new non-comic readers. There is a wide diversity of comics available, from traditional comics fare like Archie and Disney, super-heroes from Marvel and DC (Referred to as the Big Two and responsible for the most famous of characters and the majority of Superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman etc.) and Manga as well as work from independent publishers.
The unimposing Alternate Worlds entrance
The days haul of freebies
The crowd

 While the larger city stores have the big name artists in store to promote the day I like to pop into my local comic book store or LCB as they are known. Tucked away in the Industrial estate not far from Scorsby road in Bayswater is Alternate Worlds, though they don’t have a stable of local artists sitting around trestle tables and queues around the block that still embrace Free Comic Book Day with an enthusiasm that has the shop packed with people checking out what’s on offer. Peter Hughes the shops co-owner says he looks forward to and enjoys the day and judging by the crowds it is one of the major days on the calendar. Operating in one shape or another since 1977 and being based in its current location since 2011. Alternate Worlds releases and sells comic books the same day as those released in the United States, which is usually every 
Peter Hughes
Thursday so the amount of titles is constantly changing. One of things I like about Alternate Worlds is it position. The entrance is in the corner where two buildings meet. At first it seems it is a doorway to a passageway because the businesses either side seem to occupy all the other space. It’s only when you walk through the door that you realise it opens up – almost TARDIS like - to a larger space. An Aladdin’s cave of shelves filled full of books, toys and collectables. On the day it was crowded but I could still catch up with some likeminded people for a chat and to top it off I came out with a lot of free quality comics to read and put off doing the lawns for a few more hours. Free Comic Boy Day is a yearly event that falls on the first Saturday in May. 

You can find out more about Alternate Worlds on www.alternateworlds.com.au. 


References: Wilkipedia, Bleeding Cool
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of the BBCN 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Passing through history briefly- Early Australian Poets

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Passing through history briefly- Early Australian Poets
From left: A.J "Banjo" Paterson , Henry Lawson, C.J Dennis and Dorothea McKellar

We take communication for granted these days, with mass media and the speed of information thanks to modern technology. A little over a hundred years ago things were a lot more restrictive.
With  no television or film as an entertainment medium, the telephone , radio and recorded music being in their infancy (I must side track a little bit here to note, that despite these limitations Australia still managed to have a bona fide global singing superstar in Dame Nellie Melba) and not readily accessible, the great communicator of the day was the written word. Newspapers, magazines and periodicals were immensely popular and because of this it was also the time of some of our greatest writers and poets.
Writers such as CJ Dennis sold 65.000 copies of his classic The Songs OF The Sentimental Bloke in 1916. If you adjust that figure for today’s population it translates to sales that would outsell the latest releases by Mathew Reilly, Bryce Courtney and Di Morressey combined.
We can take a bit of local pride in this work because the majority of it was written at Kallista in Dandenong Ranges where he stayed with friends.
The bulk of the book was originally printed (12 of 14 Chapters) in The Bulletin several years earlier as a serial. Though he sold many books Dennis found he had to still supplement his income by writing for the now defunct Herald something he did for sixteen years, he is buried in Box Hill Cemetery where his grave is still visited regularly.
The Bulletin (in which CJ Dennis first found fame,) with several other weekly journals were responsible for much of the great artistic output in the late 19th Century that is still greatly admired today. When it opened its pages to contributions from the general public in 1886 it was inundated with writings and illustrations from now legendary names such as illustrators Norman and Lionel Lindsay, the great caricaturists Will Dyson and David Low, and writers Miles Franklin, Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson amongst others.
The Bulletin was popular because it gave it readers an Australian point of view,
Where as the newspapers of the time had a tendency to take their Editorial model from Home – as in England.
One of its originators is still causing controversy a hundred years later. JF Archibald who the greatest Australian portrait competition was bequeathed by and named after: The Archibald Prize.
The Bulletin went on to become Australia’s longest running magazine until it ceased publication in 2008 a victim of the “News Now” generation and the internet. An interesting footnote about the Bulletin that from its first edition right up to 1961 it always carried the banner “For the White Australian” something that would never be tolerated in this day and age.
The Bulletin took great delight in printing tales of the bush and of course the two greatest identities of this genre were Henry Lawson and Andrew Barton  “Banjo” Paterson.
Both were as different as chalk and cheese in the personal lives and how they wrote about their subject.
Banjo Paterson was born in Orange NSW where he enjoyed a bush boyhood and a structured family life.. When his family moved to Yass, on the main track between Melbourne and Sydney he experienced the long Bullock teams , the Cobb & Co. and the gold escorts. At picnic race meetings and polo matches he saw the skilled riders from the Murrumbidgee and the Snowy Mountains country who would put on exhibitions further feed his love of horses, horsemanship and adventure. Which he later wrote of in his bush ballads
Henry Lawson on the other hand came from a broken home and due to illness and an infection was deaf from the age of fourteen. Though his formal education suffered greatly growing up he strived to put himself through night school whilst working for his father.
Both writers took advantage of the Bulletins new editorial policy and contributed pieces that were well received. Both took different views of the bush. Though Lawson wrote some humorous pieces like The Loaded Dog, others like his classic poem Andy’s Gone a Droving and the brilliant short story the Drovers Wife tell of hardship and struggle and loss. The Drovers wife tells the story of a wife protects her children while they sleep from a dangerous snake that has slipped in the shack where they live. It goes on to recount moments in her life, how her husband has to spend months away droving to make ends meet because their once prosperous farm has been decimated by the drought. It tells of her resilience and toughness of spirit and that it was not only the men who were hard but the women and children as well. The story is considered to be one of the greatest short stories ever written.
Lawson’s work was a foil to Paterson’s work that romanticised the Bushmen, the drovers and their lifestyle. The classic Man from Snowy River is an epic poem that paints a picture of skill and daring and is so distinctly Australian it almost makes a Skippy sound when you read it. His poem Clancy of the Overflow is a beautifully metered poem that speaks of Clancy the drover (a recurring character in Paterson’s works) Paterson who lived in the city as a Solicitor tells how he longs to be back in the bush and envies Clancy’s free lifestyle and responsibility only to himself, his horse and the job he has to do at the moment.
Paterson went on to be a journalist, war correspondent and soldier during his latter years as well as being welcomed into high society, but never losing his love of adventure.
Lawson however, though hugely respected had troubles all his life with alcohol and depression, he forever had money problems and died a pauper. Despite his later years being non productive due to illness his star still shone brightly and for this recognition the NSW government gave him a State funeral and it was attended by thousands including the Premier and the Prime Minister.
Growing up during this period was a third generation Australian from a privileged background who was deeply influenced by these and other writers.
Though Dorothea MacKellar was well traveled and spoke several languages at an early age, in a bout of home sickness whilst in London at the tender age of nineteen she wrote the classic poem My Country. You know the one that has the lines: I love a sun burnt country. A land of sweeping plains.
Yeah, that one.
In a time when most still regarded England as home Dorothea was pining for what she was missing half a world away. I believe that is while it is still so well known because the sentiment expressed in it is so sincere. Like most of our pioneer poets and writers Dorothea is remembered by some form of tribute, in her case a very popular national poetry competition for schools.
Both Paterson and Lawson have appeared on our bank notes and stamps and like CJ Dennis have had their most famous writings made in films of plays.
With the popularity of Rap and its general acceptance as a style of expressive literature, there have been calls for it to replace Shakespeare in certain English literature classes due to its relevance to the youth of today. It might be more culturally significant to go back and explore some Australian classics with their well written timeless verse and prose and get a better understanding of how we developed as a nation and the spirit that drove us on to become the much envied country we are today.
This article barely scratches a thin layer of the surface of the achievements and tragedies of the great artists mentioned and has been very broad in its retelling of their lives, stories and histories due to lack of space and the large subject matter.
The turn of the last century was a golden age for Australian writing and illustration and so many have been passed over.
I just wanted to share what inspired and has interested me and I strongly advise all who read this to get on the internet or better still go to the library , grab a book and read about these amazing people and their wonderful body of work, much which is still a thrill to read in these days of a more modern language.

originally published in the Boronia and Basin Community News  April 2013 issue

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Doongalla

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 Doongalla

The past glories of the Dandenong Ranges.

A look at our early pioneers who became our first elite and their lives on the Western face and foothills of the Dandenongs.

Walking around the Basin these days, especially up around the Town Centre/Triangle Park area, you could entertain the thought that it was shielded by some kind of protective bubble. It has the sleepy quality of a small country town and is unique to most outer suburbs of Melbourne that it has an English village atmosphere rather than the adjoining suburb to busy centres like Bayswater and Boronia and I doubt people not familiar to the area must get a shock when they first arrive in the Basin via these roadways.
This became more prevalent after a recent trip to the Doongalla Picnic area, the site of the once grand Doongalla Estate.
Traveling up to where the once palatial 32 room mansion once stood it’s hard to believe such a building existed what appears now in the middle of a forest, nothing left but a set of front steps.
But delving back into the history books – in this case Rick Coxhill’scomprehensive History of the Basin – among other works, I soon discovered The Basin was littered with grand houses owned by quite well known and well-to-do families of means.
These included the Millers. Chandlers and Griffiths , who where big in Racing, Horticulture, Politics and Tea respectfully.
The Basin and the Western side of the mountain would have been a great escape from the crowd and the stink that was pre 20th Century Melbourne.
Doongalla itself was originally  called Invermay and was built on top of an earlier chalet built in 1891 but damaged by flood. . The owner and builder of Invermay Sir Mathew Davies was an MP and like most MP’s of his time a land developer. Who used their inside knowledge and influence to create large fortunes for themselves and change the face of Melbourne via projects like the now dismantled Outer Circle Railway line. Davies’ wealth would be short lived as he had to hand the bank over to creditors – in his case the Bank of New South Wales- after the collapse of Land Boom in the Mid 1890s which he was more than likely an active participant and reason for it occurring.
The only remaining section of Doongalla- the front stairs.

After being tendered by caretakers for a period, the property was purchased by a wealthy Toorak women by the name of  Miss Helen Simson who was related to the prominent Melbourne Business and racing identity L.K.S McKinnon on his wife‘s side. Miss Simson was to use the property for her country residence and then went crazy spending on upgrading facilities like electricity and irrigation and establishing vast gardens. The new Land Lady must have been a women of means and haste as she paid laborers far above the going rate of the day to achieve her goals. Miss Simson didn’t live very long to enjoy the fruits of her labour and died only four years after purchasing the property. She left the entire estate to her fifteen year old niece to be administered by her father the aforementioned McKinnon. From their it just continued to change owners and caretakers until it was destroyed by a bushfire in 1932.
Though Miss Simson is credited as renaming Invermay Doongalla I found conflicting stories regarding its meaning. At the site of the old building and in Parks Victoria literature Doongalla is said to mean “Place of piece” whilst historian Coxhill claims it comes from the earlier name of the  Parish that is now Essendon named  Doutta- Galla. This is also the name of Melbourne founder John Batman’s native servant Jika Jika wife’s name. Another source says that the name Doutta Galla (or Dutigalla) was the name of the tribe of aborigines on the original Batman treaty deed, signed on the banks of the Merri Creek, at Northcote. I did find it hard to finding references for Doongalla meaning “Place of Peace” Though these days as a meaning it is very apt.
Doongalla in its heyday was so imposing it could be seen from the current round about that now splits Mountain Highway and the Basin –Olinda road. It is quite surprising with amount of money in the hills around the turn of the century and the influence of racing identities such as the McKinnon Family and another local James Miller originator of  “Miller’s Racing Guide” who also established a stud farm and full size training track that foothills of the Dandenongs didn’t become a race horse industry Mecca much like Lloyd Williams has at Macedon Lodge.
Actually looking at the pictures of the grand homes that once were dotted all over this side of the Dandenongs like Millers Homestead and the Griffith Family’s Ferndale and the original Como House, to look at the mountain now and see all the land          re-established by native forest and then at the Basin shops you would be hard pressed to imagine such a time existed and it conjures up places like boom towns that once existed in rural Victoria. Perhaps even like one of those English countryside villages that have a ruined castle that hints at a greater time in the past. Hardly any trace of the grand houses exist today, those on the mountain taken by fire and those on the lower lands swallowed by development.
What I’m saying is the Basin these days shows no hint of the grandness and privilege that was once spread through the area.
We are very lucky to have such wonderful parks and reserves on our doorstop and not bundled up behind someone’s property boundary, Funny, when you think about al the properties that were established in the area, they all failed in some way. Maybe it was the way it’s meant to be. I say that I wonder what it would be like if things turned out different but I’m very happy the way things did turn out.

 Originally published in the Boronia and Basin Community News April 2014
Remains of retaining wall of original driveway entrance
The old property well.