The second presentation in the second block, on Graphic Representations, is from creator, academic and documentary producer Bernard Caleo titled The Land is Alive. On the day Bernard’s presentation was a crowd favourite, bringing an infectious energy and passion for comic books and comic book studies to the symposium. Throughout the day Bernard also sketched the presenters and aspects of their talks and these sketches can be viewed here.
In the graphic novels ‘Blue’ by Pat Grant (Giramondo, 2012) and ‘The Long Weekend in Alice Springs’ by Josh Santospirito (San Kessto Publications 2013), the Australian settings in which the narratives are set (the former coastal, the latter desert) are vital spatial determinants of meaning. They give more than a backdrop to the stories. The stories are embedded in landscape. Each of these author artists has developed a visual/verbal/design language specific to their graphic novel, able to be differentiated from the rest of their body of work. This graphic-novel-specific language is developed to sculpt a local fictional landscape. The quality of line, degree of cartooning (versus more figurative drawing) , layout of pages, colour versus black-and white, progression of panels and choice of wordless sequences and other aspects all advance a vision of country as inescapable and determinative of character and event.
In this paper I will present an analysis of the structure and design of individual pages and page sequences by Grant and Santospirito and argue that the form of comics gives their audience a reading experience of landscape significantly different to novel, film or music.
I will also consider the influence of repeated readings of these works upon my own comics practice in the construction of landscape in my comics pamphlet series ‘MONGREL’ (2012 – ongoing, Cardigan Comics), and the Melbourne 1888 based narrative ‘The Devil Collects’ currently being developed with historian Alex McDermott as part of a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship.
Bernard’s Honours thesis was called ‘Tintin in the Territory of Narratology’(University of Melbourne English Department , 1994). He was the editor and publisher of the romance comics anthology ‘Tango’ (Cardigan Comics) from 1997 – 2009. In collaboration with documentary film maker Daniel Hayward he made the feature documentary ‘Graphic Novels! Melbourne!’ (Aisle 5 Pictures/ Cardigan Comics, 2012) which they have presented locally and overseas in 2013. In 2014 he is a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria, working on a historical comic with Alex McDermott, and will be an Arts Victoria funded ‘Artist in Schools’ at Fitzroy High School, running a comics studio for a group from years 8, 9 and 10 in term 3.