Friday, 4 April 2008

my thoughts have turned to an old pal I first met exactly twenty years ago. I'm having trouble verifying details on this and I'm sure somebody will help as apparently he has no online presence (except for a reproduction at Tabula Rasa, David Carroll's Australian comic book covers gallery). I gather that he was found at the foot of a cliff six or seven years back, presumed suicide.
I first saw the work of Nigel Gurney on this striking cover in 1988. Tusk Comics was his own self-published book. The first issue appeared the previous year and was titled 'Hap Hazzard,' and this was the second. Brigid Bolt was a character that made her first appearance in the first issue and in between landed a weekly spot in local Sydney newspaper the Sun-Herald.

Brigid Bolt was an original and memorable cartoon character and I like the way Gurney and his scripting collaborator figured out the cadences of the sunday comic format and married that to their own subversive purposes.
sept. 6 1987

The above appeared in the book, while the next were loose xeroxes Nigel sent me. jan 10 and 17 1988

Nigel was a few years younger than me, which I always presumed because he seemed to think I was further along the road to recognition than he was. In 1988 I was appearing in a number of places but not making a lot of money out of it. I used one of his stories in The Dead Muse, a book I edited that was published by Fantagraphics in 1990.
I'm looking at a dozen or so letters from Nigel over the course of two years, thinking how fine it was when we all wrote to each other, properly thought out two page handwritten letters.
(9 june ) "Hope things pick up for you- can understand that feeling of 'the doors closing on another phase'. Brisbane is a tough place to entertain such thoughts. I always get depressed there... maybe it's because it's where I spent my early years."
(26 july) "Got your letter and 'Honk' (long defunct Fantagraphics humour mag whose last couple of issues were edited by Joe Sacco) in the box on my return- many thanks. 'The Wonders of Science' was certainly a gallant effort of lunacy, way beyond what we were allowed to do in the Sun-Herald. I found out the other day that our last story caused a storm of editorial controversy and nearly wasn't published because a) it showed a hand being chopped off, and b) it was about two lesbians. it's probably a good thing we quit."
Nigel was a granson of famous Australian cartoonist Alex Gurney of Bluey and Curley fame (Lambiek site biog):
(8 nov) "I'm going to photocopy a batch of Bluey and Curley strips for you, so you can see what Alex Gurney was doing. Rereading them I think they hold up incredibly well and I still get a real laugh out of quite a few of them."

Brigid Bolt made some later appearances I think in a gay interest magazine, but mostly I think Nigel experienced only frustration trying to get somehwere with his art. I have two photos in my files. One is a smiling portrait and the other is a tiny photo-booth mug-shot which nevertheless captures something of the desperation of the young artist perpetually thwarted.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

A glass is raised in this part of the world for Nigel Gurney and Brigid Bolt. Cheers. Steve

6 April 2008 at 11:55:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Ah. Here's to artistic frustration.

6 April 2008 at 16:49:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's great to see Nigel remembered: he would have been 50 this month, if memory serves... Eddie, pls contact me via this g00gle account and I'll fill in the story for you (i knew N. for some 20 years, up until that day.) he's been greatly missed by many.

7 April 2008 at 06:26:00 GMT-5  
Blogger robot archie said...


I can fill in a lot of details as well. He sent me a note a few weeks before he died. It is a picture of me working and a bunch of faeries storming my room. It was alarming at the time as I knew it was a suicide note. He did also leave a suicide note. I have a copy of it somewhere.

I had a student one year whose best friends had returned from overseas that day. They were staying near the gap. They are the only people known to have seen his death. They had jsut blown a joint and were walking along the cliffs. They saw a pile of things placed very tidily on the rocks then noticed Nigel 4-5 feet from the cliff edge, he looked at them smiled and ran at the edge arms out stretched, calm.

I always meant to write you as he talked to me about you a lot and I figured that he would have wanted you to have the details filled in.

You can contact me through remove the underscores and replace the at.

I have a really nice photo of Nigel from when we lived in Rozelle in his shed working on the crusades comic (which he sadly never finished, I don't know what became of the work he did on it either).


10 July 2009 at 07:09:00 GMT-5  

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