The Best Australian Yarn: New comic prize in short story competition

Alison Wakeham
The West Australian
4 Min Read
Sean E Avery and Aśka are two of the driving forces behind the new Best Australian Yarn Comics Prize.
Sean E Avery and Aśka are two of the driving forces behind the new Best Australian Yarn Comics Prize. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Batman may live his life absorbed with darkness but the industry he helps drive is well and truly enjoying its time in the sun.

Sales of comics have been rising steadily over the past decade but took off faster than a speeding bullet when people stayed in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the growth has been fuelled by the rise of digital comics, which has allowed creators to publish independently, and the runaway success of manga series such as Demon Slayer.

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But the rise of comic book adaptations in film, such as from the DC and Marvel universes, has brought the characters and stories of superheroes such as Aquaman, The Fantastic Four and the Justice League to a broader audience.

It’s a happy confluence of events that has delighted local visual storytellers Aśka and Sean E Avery, who will help guide The Best Australian Yarn’s new Comic Story Prize.

The third season of the popular competition has now officially launched and entrants have until Monday August 12 to submit their work.

The winner of the Comic Story Prize will take home $3000 while the winners of the two Comic Story Youth Prizes — one for those aged 12-14 and the other for those aged 15-18 — will be awarded $1500 each.

Aśka is a graphic novelist who is on the organising committee of the Perth Comic Arts Festival, which has come on board as an official supporting partner of The Best Australian Yarn.

Sean E Avery and Aśka.
Sean E Avery and Aśka. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

She said news of the prizes was exciting because it helped legitimise comics as another medium of literacy and of self-expression.

“There’s not enough opportunities for comic makers so this provides a lot of people with an opportunity to be part of the general arts community of Australia,” she said. “They get to show off their skills.”

Aśka also hopes the competition will change people’s perceptions of what comics are.

“I think it’s very easy for a lot of the general public to think either of action superheroes — like the whole Marvel Universe — or that they are pulp fiction or that they are just a stepping stone with literacy for young people.

“But there is so much more to them. They can be heavier, multi-layered. They can make us think and reflect.”

Comics have a history of satire and raising issues of political and social relevance that can be traced back beyond William Hogarth’s landmark A Rake’s Progress in the 1730s.

As printing techniques developed in the 19th century, magazines and newspapers became popular and used illustrations to comment on the issues of the day. The satirical British magazine Punch was launched in 1841.

Comic strips began to expand their horizons, weaving in mysteries and adventures, and were soon collated and reprinted as comic books. By the 1930s, publishers were printing original material in the new format.

Avery is a primary school teacher and designer who is best known as the creator of the bestselling children’s picture books All Monkeys Love Bananas and Frank’s Red Hat.

He will help judge the Comic Story prizes and said the decision to include the category in The Best Australian Yarn was a “really progressive move”.

“Everyone is growing up in a visual world now,” he said. “Comics are another format in which to tell stories and they are very inclusive.”

He said part of their appeal to children was that they often came in series. They could find one they liked and consume them all, building up their reading confidence and their reading stamina.

For those planning to enter the competition, he recommends starting small and developing a character you love.

“Begin with a three or four-panel comic like you see in papers and drive it through your characters,” he said.

“Whatever your character, whether it’s a talking piece of pizza or a dog with two legs, as long as you like it, the writing will be easier and it will be creative and fun to do.

“Any kind of conflict, if you have that odd couple dynamic, that also works.”

Aśka said a good comic created a good experience.

“It’s not about the various elements or being an amazing artist. The person who reads it must be in the front seat,” she said.

“You can play with time and you can play with space. With a good comic I can hear sounds, I can feel the wind in my hair.”

To enter and for the terms and conditions, go to bestaustralianyarn.com.au

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