Siobhan Heanue Updated Mon at 6:54am
Reading comic books is sometimes seen as a light-hearted pastime.
But Australian comic artists are tackling some heavy subjects in their work, including depression and war history.
Ryan K. Lindsay is a Canberra-based comic writer whose series, NegativeSpace, explores mental illness.
“It’s a book about aliens that eat emotions and a very evil multinational corporation,” Lindsay said.
“But it’s also a book about depression and suicide and it’s resonated with readers.
“The very opening page is about a writer who is suicidal and he sits down to write a suicide note and he gets writer’s block.”
Lindsay said a lot of readers contacted him to thank him for the work.
“It feels like I’m giving them something and I do like to write stories with an emotional core,” he said.
Writers and artists from around Australia were in Canberra over the weekend to show off their work at an inaugural National Comic Arts Festival, where all sorts of styles and topics were on display side by side.
Brisbane comic artist Paul Mason is behind an adventure series called Soldier Legacy.
It is part Anzac legend, part Indiana Jones, with a storyline that revolves around a World War II soldier.
“He’s a 9th Division Australian Imperial Force (AIF) soldier serving in New Guinea in the mid-40,” Mason said.
“It’s a little bit historical, a little bit adventure but at the same time I like to inject a little bit of the Aussie history in there.”
Mason said local stories could still appeal to global comic-reading audiences.
“I try to approach this with no cultural cringe and keep it as universal as possible, like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character for instance,” he said.
Librarian and comic enthusiast Amanda Baachi said local comic artists were certainly making a mark on the international scene.
Australian artist Mark Sexton worked as the storyboard artist and concept artist on the movie and comic series Mad Max: Fury Road.
Ms Baachi said the Australian scene was small, with successful artists often working for big US-based publishers like Marvel.
“It can get lost in glamour and celebrity but, ultimately, superhero roles are written by people like this,” she said pointing around the room at the National Comic Arts Festival.
Ms Baachi helped get this year’s inaugural festival off the ground and she said holding a national event allowed artists and writers to meet each other and compare notes.
By opening to the public, it also allowed creators to meet fans.
“Hopefully it will just rise the tide when it comes to comics in Australia and get them out to the rest of the world,” Ms Baachi said.