A long time ago the Frontline Gamer asked me if there were any famous Australian comics. It stumped me a little. I’m sure that there are, but I couldn’t think of any that are famous enough for it to be well-known that they’re Australian. Or for their Aussie-ness to be palpable, in the same way that Marvel and DC are classic Americana, or 2000AD and writers like Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are quintessentially British. Tank Girl was set in Australia but it was a British book.
I thought about this some more and I have trouble coming up with any Australian fantasy or sci-fi, comic book or not, that fits these criteria. Well, I can think of one: the film Mad Max. It’s influential, it’s a classic, it’s unique, and it’s as Aussie as a post-apocalyptic Holden with spikes on it.
I’m no voracious reader of fantasy. Most of it bores me, especially if it’s “book one of the whatever cycle” but I do like it on the rare occasions it’s original. A quick check on Goodreads reveals that yes, there are a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books written by Aussies, but I have never heard of any of them except for Sophie Masson because she came from my town, and Obernewtyn, which is for kids. In fact, a lot of them seem to be for Young Adults but then again all successful books are these days. Most, if not all of them, are drawing on European fantasy, as evidenced by the cover art featuring green rolling hills, sorceresses on white horses, stone castles, you know the drill.
I can’t just observe something like this without wondering why. I suspect that the great Australian fantasy novel is yet to be written because our writers are afraid of being authentic: it’s a recurring issue in the history of Australian art and literature. We are afraid to venture far from Britain in our imaginations. And inauthentic art divorced from its true context lacks power. Imagine Judge Dredd, V for Vendetta or even Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 game without Thatcher. You can’t.
Or maybe it’s just because we are a young nation with only 26 million people and it just hasn’t happened yet?
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts,