Changing Seasons, Changing Themes

Just as the leaves turn from green to umber, the skies turn from blue to grey, and the sale of Butter-Menthols go from steady to astronomical, so have Inkers and Thinkers changed one theme for another.

We had a brilliant success with this year’s theme, The Evolution of Comics. We were conscious of the fact that even though comics studies conferences are a relatively new phenomenon in Australia, internationally, they’ve been a staple in academia for years. We wanted to be new, different, relevant.

After writing so many notes our pens were devoid of ink and drinking so much gin we almost bankrupted the juniper berry trade, we decided that we would look at how comics were evolving. The key aspects of this theme were how comics were changing through technology; how creators adjusted to this change through their working techniques; how collaborations and fandoms were appearing online through media convergence; and of course that big one – what’s next for comics? Like any art form, it’s never content to just stay static.

As you can probably tell by the podcasts being uploaded regularly to the site, we had some stellar papers submitted and accepted by the symposium. Whether it’s Russian fans desperate for some manga goodness, motion comics paving the way for the future, fictional landscapes coming to life, avatars of the self, comics capturing the invisible worlds within war, a French meta-fiction thriller, or a scrappy little studio dear to the hearts of Melburnians, we had Australia’s best minds approaching the theme at all angles. (And to think, we still haven’t uploaded all of the podcasts!)

In my own conference paper, Social Networks and Sequential Artists, I was interested in the ways in which creators utilise social media as a site of media convergence. How creators interacted with each other to form a scene culture, and how they marketed their products as well as their selves to the consumer.

I recently chatted with the lovely Scarlette Baccini, best known for Zombolette and Jesus Reloadeth’d, on the subject of digital technologies and the creative process.

‘When I started self-publishing, I set up an online store so I could reach friends and readers who don’t visit the local conventions, and because I wasn’t exactly sure how to arrange distribution with local stores,’ Baccini said about her own experience. ‘I wanted to make it as easy as possible for my little audience to access my books, and selling online is so convenient it just seemed crazy not to give people that option.’

Unfortunately my paper won’t be uploaded as a podcast, as I want to keep it private for copyright reasons. I should tell you, dear reader, that I have a lisp, and speak in a fashion that is halfway between a yelp and a stammer, so perhaps it’s best that you don’t listen to a podcast of mine. So, instead the next podcast uploaded will be Enrique Del Rey Cabero’s delightful paper on Spanish comics culture. In the meantime, you should go buy one of Scarlette’s books:

And lo, after the dust had settled on this year’s conference, we three organisers sat down and decided, since we’ve explored evolution, which path do we head down now? This simple question – which path to take? – sparked the theme for next year’s conference.

Whenever you’re at a crossroads, you have one way… and then you have the alternative. The road less travelled, the obscured path, the crooked alleys that lead you to places you never knew existed.

Next year’s theme is The Alternative – alternative voices, alternative forms, alternative uses. A Call for Papers will be released later this year. Keep an eye on the site for it!

A. Maynard

An Interview with Inkers and Thinkers Poster Artist Ben Juers

In our first year, Inkers and Thinkers was a sold out event.  It was absolutely momentous, and a large part of that success should be credited to Ben Juers, who designed our poster:

Poster design by Ben Juers

Posted in bars, cafes, art hubs and bookstores all over Adelaide, Juers’ piece was an eye-catcher. Cult comic characters from Australia and beyond were crammed into every corner, and a fun game was betting people they couldn’t identify every ‘toon. (Many came close, but none claimed the metaphorical cigar).

In this quick Q & A, the affable Mr Juers discusses his working process and artistic influences:

InT:  How did you come up with the idea for the poster?

B: The idea for the poster was to satirise the ‘future’ theme of the conference. I offered the organisers two designs to choose from. The one that didn’t make the cut had a comic book cover layout with imagery lifted from 50s and 60s space stuff like The Jetsons and Jetta. It was goofier and would’ve been more in my ‘style,’ though copying other people’s stuff for the final design was interesting. It makes you pay attention to other cartoonists’ quirks that you might otherwise pass over. As a kid, I learnt to draw by copying from a “He-Man: Masters of the Universe” colouring book.


InT:  How long did the poster take to complete?

B: The poster took about a month to complete, partly because of other freelance obligations at the time. The pencilling was the longest part of the process – it involved lot of rearranging and dismantling using tracing paper. It took a while to get it to a point where it wasn’t too crowded. The inking took about a day, a bit longer for the colouring and text captions. I didn’t really think about the colours until later, which is pretty unprofessional.


InT: How would you describe your art?

B: A couple of people have called my work ‘old-timey.’ That makes sense – most of my favourite cartoonists are from the first half of the twentieth century. Nostalgia’s kind of overdone in comics right now, so I’m trying not to let the old-timey look become a schtick. Ultimately, my goal is to be the Preston Sturges of comics, alcoholism included.


More of Ben’s great work can be found at – we highly recommend you check it out!


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