Monday 12 September 2011

Here's an item that came about during my year of not blogging. Nat Karmichael works as a mental health nurse in a town not far from Brisbane. He has five daughters, like Tevye the milkman. And once every twenty years, or something like that, he gets an unshakeable urge to publish stories from the old Australian newspaper strip, Air Hawk. The title, written and drawn by John Dixon, ran from 1959 to 1986 in Australian newspapers both daily and Sunday. I used to see it every week in the USA paper The Menomonee Falls Gazette circa 1973-76, ( I have been meaning to write about the MFG here soon). Nat published a few selected episodes from the series back around 1989/90 if memory serves, in comic book form. I have one salted away somewhere. And so the urge once again awoke and it shuffled from the back of his head to the front, and now we have a new published selection of the strip. He commissioned me to paint the cover for it, which I found awfully difficult. Back in the day the covers on the comic book reprints were always action-oriented, like this number 1 from the series way back in the early '60s.

We thought it was necessary for this new cover to say AUSTRALIA in a significant way, and so I felt I was wrestling with a lot of information, trying to make it look comfortable in a limited space.

This is a local news item from July 8, including the photo of Nat:

COMICS are set to make a comeback later this year upon the release of the complete 1970s Air Hawk adventure series.
``It is regarded by many as one of the best-drawn flying strips ever,'' Nat Karmichael said.
The Peninsula-based editor and publisher has been corresponding with author, Mr Dixon in America for many years but will only be meeting him for the first time during this book launch.
``I'm very excited to meet him, he doesn't know yet that I've dedicated this book to him as a celebration of his life.''

The book includes stories about Mr Dixon from friends and family members, as well as a short history of Australian comics.

``A lot of Americans are oblivious to the outback side of Australia and the fact there is an organisation dedicated to looking out for the people who live there,'' he said. ``I'm also hoping people will look at comics in a different light. Air Hawk represents a little part of Australia and it is something we should be proud of.''

Mr Dixon, 82, worked on Air hawk for 27 years before moving to California where he eventually got married and had three children.

I tended to feel that Air Hawk was one of those strips, like Johnny Hazard by Frank Robbins, in which the action moved too fast for the set-up to acquire any depth. It was drawn in that slick style of the '60s that liked to throw the ink around in a rough but controlled way.

The above is from a 1964 Sunday. Below is earlier, from 1960, showing that Dixon arrived at the more vigorous style on the job.

Nat has published the book under the imprint ComicOz, which has a complete site including more on the subject of Air hawk as well as a shot the cover of the next volume by Michael Dutkiewicz, who captures the spirit of the strip with greater ease than I did, and a sketch of the third by Gary Chalenor. Buy, order, etc. at the link.

ps. I have never been there, and I got it from a photo, but I am assured that the desert really is that glorious deep red-orange.



Blogger Michael Avolio said...

Panel two in that first strip - there's that "crossing the streams" word balloon tail thing again. Nice inkwork, though, and your cover's beautiful and romantic.

Michael Avolio

16 September 2011 at 16:34:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

You know, I was going to draw attention to that buty I forgot until you mentioned it right now. For anybody wondering what we're talking about, my original post on 'crossing the streams' is here:

16 September 2011 at 18:19:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Michael Avolio said...

I've thought of the rule as "don't cross the streams" ever since I read your post. Did you ever finish writing about your own personal "rules" here, by the way? You know the ones I mean - feet on every page, etc.

Michael Avolio

17 September 2011 at 14:37:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

no, but I found my original notes since then. MIght get back to it.

17 September 2011 at 14:57:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Michael Avolio said...

Great! I hope you do.

17 September 2011 at 23:50:00 GMT-5  

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