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Reading back over this journal, I realsied that I have almost no functioning memory of the past. If I don't write it down, I forget it ever happened.

So: a quick wrap up of last week.

TUESDAY: Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegleman gavea talk at the Melbourne Town Hall about the history of comics, and his involvement with them. It was a fantastic talk, illustrated with a huge variety of slides. Hard to sum up, though - the brilliance lay in the details.

WEDNESDAY: Françoise Mouly
Art editor for The New Yorker, and Spiegelman's wife, Mouly talked about how she met Spiegelman, buying her first printing press in the 70s, starting Raw Comics, her work at The New Yorker, and her new line of comics for younger readers. Particularly interesting was the section on New Yorker covers that she rejected, including one from Robert Crumb about gay marriage.

THURSDAY: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
This documentary is now screening at Cinema Nova. To celebrate, they had a discussion panel afterwards that included Karen Pickering from Chrechez La Femme..

SATURDAY: The Handsome Family
Weird Southern Gothic folk-band. Lots of fun. Had a running joke about koalas, hence A.'s drawing.

SUNDAY: Splendid Chaps
I don't listen to podcasts, but I very much enjoy going to the live recordings of this Doctor Who one. This episoe was about David Tennant, and the theme of sex.

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I had sinus surgery yesterday. Now I'm at home, sitting very still to prevent my nose from bleeding.

I was expecting to wake up from surgery with a rhinoceros horn, and was deeply disapponted when I didn't. What's the point of private health cover if you can't get a rhinoceros horn out of it?


Earlier this week I read the graphic novel FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Faith Erin Hicks.

It's the story of teenager Maggie, who is starting high school after being homeschooled her whole life by her mother. But Maggie's mother has left under mysterious circumstances, and Maggie has to learn how to make friends outside her own family while carrying the guilty feeling that she was somehow responsible for her mother leaving.

And there's a ghost, too.

Maggie is an archetypal YA heroine - clever but shy, determined but uncertain - but she still feels real and rounded. One of the friends she makes at high school is a hyperactive punk girl named Lucy, who is a cross between Hopey from Love and Rockets and Delirium from The Sandman.

Needless to say I was smitten. There may have been fanart )

I really liked this comic book. It's a fast read, but it's got humour and some emotional depth to it. The artwork is clean and expressive. Hicks clearly has a lot of affection for her characters, but she's never saccharine. Friends With Boys isn't an epic comic. But it's warm and intimate and it stayed with me for days after I finished it.

You can read a preview of the first twenty pages for free at

(Edited to correct: my surgery was yesterday. I may not yet be completely with it.)
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"You should draw more comics," said A.

"About what?" I asked.

"Hot teenagers*," she said.


Hot Teenager Comics )

More Teenager Comics... )

Even More Hot Teenager Comics... )

Bonus comic: Hot baby panda )

* A's version of events: I didn't quite ask for hot Teens, I said 'do a comic' you: 'what about?' me: 'well Teens are always hot'

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Just back from seeing the documentary Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods at ACMI.

Morrison is a Scottish comic book writer. Along with Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, he was part of the British Invasion in the '90s, when DC Comics went to the UK to hire strange new talent to reinvent their old superheroes.

Morrison's most famous work is probably The Invisibles, a sprawling psychedelic epic about occult terrorists fighting an insurgency against the soul-crushing powers that rule this world. It's full of sex, it's full of drugs, and it's full of magic.

Magic is a big deal with Morrison. He's been a practicing magician since the age of 19. He talks about it a lot in the documentary, and he talks about it in a very pragmatic, down to earth way. He does it, he says, because it works. Try it. See if it works for you.

Inspired by The Invisibles, lot of my friends did. I dabbled a bit too. My experiments were not failures. Failure would be "nothing happened". My results were hideous anti-successes: I'd work a tiny little ritual, and afterwards I'd be plunged into suffocatingly bleak moods, I'd get sick, and my life would go to shit.

Coincidence? Probably. But needless to say, I stopped.

I never really believed in magic, anyway. I could justify it to myself as a sort of Applied Jungian Psychology, concrete poetry, motivational therapy for the weird. But in my core of cores, I'm a scientific rationalist. I tried it. It didn't work. Move on.

So it was strange to find myself in the cinema, listening to Morrison explain his approach to the occult, and thinking Maybe... He's charismatic, is Grant Morrison. Not in a showy, salesman fashion. He's just honest, and enthusiastic, and a bit self-deprecating.

The other theme running through the documentary was Morrison's ideas on superheroes. Morrison rose to fame while comics were going through their "dark and gritty" phase, where angst and violence were emphasised as being more realistic. But why would you want to drag superheroes down to the real world? Morrison would rather take the opposite approach: raising the real world up to the ideals of comics. He talked about a "shamanic experience" he had writing Superman, where he interviewed a fan dressed as the Man of Steel, who answered all of his questions completely in character.

That perhaps is the essence of Morrison's magic: merging fiction and reality, using each to create the other.

I came out of the cinema just as the sun was setting beside the Flinders St Station clock tower. The sun was vast, blinding. I couldn't look at it. I couldn't look away. The whole city was engulfed in fire.

I was feeling... weird. Upset. Fragile. Something about the documentary had touched a nerve inside me, and it was stinging. I'd been elated in the cinema. But outside, all my self-doubts as a writer hit me hard.

I caught the tram past my usual stop, and got off at Burnley Oval. I needed to be outside, to walk on the earth to ground myself again. Children were running over the freshly cut grass. At the far end of the park, a Citipower technician was working on an electricity pole. He was taking down the old and damaged power line, and installing one that was new.


Who knows.

If you're interested in comics, or creativity, or eccentric Scotsmen, Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods is well worth watching. Tonight's screening was the only scheduled cinema screening in Australia, organised by the crew of the NonCanonical comics podcast. You can buy the DVD at comic-book stores, though, or from Amazon.

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Today seems to have been Dorothy Parker day. References to her kept popping up.

Anyway, it prompted me to upload this old comic I did for an anthology called The Ink.

Resume Comic

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Sick. Maudlin. Reminiscing...

Jel ordered a bunch of comics from the Book Despository recently, and I'm slowly working my way through them.

The first one I read was Skim, words by Mariko Tamaki, art by Jillian Tamaki. It's a about high school goth Wiccan girl who develops a crush on her English teacher. Which sounds a bit on the nose, but the comic is actually nuanced and subtle and funny and very beautiful. There's a six page preview here.

Today I started reading Hope Larson's Mercury. It opens with a teenage girl practising her long distance running.

And my brain went: "High school witches? Long-distance running? Hey, that's December Whyte."

Who? you're asking.

December Whyte was the character Jel played in Witchcraft High, my Buffy-meets-Southern-Gothic roleplaying game from a few years ago.

Now, Game Masters aren't supposed to have favourite player characters, especially not their girlfriend's character. But I always had a huge soft spot for December.

She was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Her family were petty crooks and jailbirds. She wasn't the smartest kid in school, nor the prettiest. But she could run. Through the woods. Past the marshes. Running from her past. Running from her dead-end town, where everyone looked down on her because she was one of those no-good Whytes. Running into her future...

I was never really happy with Witchcraft High. We had a great set of characters, and an evocative setting. But I screwed it up. I didn't know what to do with it, so it degenerated into a "blah, blah, demons attack" mess of a storyline.

If I could go back and give myself some advice, it would be this: Plot is Character. Everything else should grow out from there.
  1. What do the characters want?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. What's stopping them?
  4. How far will they go to get it?

All the demons and witchcraft and spooky stuff are just window dressing on top of that.

One of the things I did like about that game was the soundtrack. I let each player chose a theme song for their character. Jel, with her impeccable taste, chose Palace Music's 'Horses (Lost Blues Version)'. It's a beautiful song, full of yearing and sadness and hope. Really, I think it's the thing that made me fall in love with the character of December Whyte.

I'd be riding horses if they let me
Sleep outside at night and not take fright
I would ride the reigns and never worry
I would disappear into the night

Everybody needs an angel
But here's that devil by my side
Deaths head ring upon his finger
Poor boy hanging on the light


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February 2019

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