Written by Iurgi Urrutia
Let’s start with a little flashback first.
April 15 2016: at All Star Comics store in Melbourne, a small but important event took place: The Ledger Awards for Excellence in Australian Comics. Bernard Caleo was there; the man, the legend.
He introduced all the winners, made everyone laugh and ensured all the nominees shared a moment of glory. He also spoke passionately about the art of comics and particularly, what it’s like being a comic book artist in Australia.
We have great writers and artists. People who are working at Marvel and DC, people who are publishing outstanding independent graphic novels… but our market is so small in comparison to Japan, France, the UK, the US. Making comics in Australia is a labour of love. The comics reading culture in Australia needs to grow, it’s growing and All Star Comics in Melbourne are doing a great job in promoting local artists. But we also have had a great champion for a long time…
Bernard’s infectious passion for local comics, artists and stories, which has lasted decades now, earned him the Platinum Ledger. For once, Bernard was speechless, completely and utterly lost for words and clearly moved by the recognition his peers were demonstrating.
May 6 2016: at Clunes Booktown, a small workshop about zines and comics is about to start. It looks like it will start raining any moment. Hundreds and hundreds of people fill the streets checking out and buying books. Five people take refuge under the tent as Bernard welcomes everyone warmly, making everyone feel important.
Just before he starts he shouts out to the street: “A workshop about comics is just about to start! Come in everyone!” Within a couple of minutes almost all the seats are taken.
For the next forty five minutes, Bernard takes the audience on a journey that begins with his origin story. He was just an ordinary boy when he went to Northcote Library and encountered Tintin and his friends. A whole new world opened, one filled with adventure that he has never abandoned, has only grown and to which he has contributed himself as a writer and artist.
After the talk, Bernard laid out a few comic books on a table and asked everyone to take one home.
But his generosity didn’t stop there. After forty five minutes talking he wasn’t in a rush to go, he wanted to hear from his audience.
I thanked him for the talk, I thanked him for the free comic which I said I’d donate to Frankston Library and he instantly engaged in conversation asking about the library and our collection.
To top it all off, he offered a DVD donation for the library, a documentary entitled Graphic Novels! Melbourne which he directed with Daniel Hayward.
So what’s there to say… Bernard is a true champion of comics in general and Australian comics in particular. He, well and truly, deserves his Platinum Ledger, and we at Frankston Library are thankful for his generosity in donating the two items below:
Graphic Novels! Melbourne a film by Daniel Hayward and Bernard Caleo. A documentary that uncovers an energetic, diverse and productive comics culture on the streets of Melbourne. It investigates the life and work of four graphic novelists in particular: Pat Grant, Nicki Greenberg, Mandy Ord and Bruce Mutard. There are also interviews with four international comic book luminaries: Scott McCloud, Shaun Tan, Dylan Horrocks and Paul Gravett, all of whom lend their perspective to the development of comics culture in Melbourne. Graphic Novels! Melbourne! is the definitive introduction to the Melbourne comics explosion! Spydus link: here
The Tango Collection: Over 50 Comic Creators from Australia and New Zealand edited by Bernard Caleo. A feast for the senses and a celebration of love in all its guises, this collection contains the work of around 100 of Australia’s best and brightest comic creators. A perfect introduction for anyone curious about this versatile storytelling medium. Spydus link: here
If you’d like to see the full list of Ledger Award winners you can find them here