New festival celebrates the craft of comics

At Play People of Adelaide

City-based comics creators Georgina Chadderton and Owen Heitmann are the driving forces behind Adelaide’s inaugural Papercuts Comics Festival* (12 to 16 September, across various city spaces) – a celebration of comics and graphic novels** that welcomes both the converted and the curious into the fascinating world of their craft.

Georgina chadderton and owen heitmann image 2
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

Papercuts Comics Festival Co-Directors Georgina Chadderton and Owen Heitmann at Greenlight Comics in the city.

Like many people, Gina and Owen grew up on a solid diet of comic books but, far from ‘growing out of it', their passion and appreciation for this literary medium only strengthened with age – moving beyond consumption, into creation. Both have published works internationally and have new projects on the go that demonstrate the breadth of subject matter covered in the contemporary comics world: Gina’s working on a graphic novel memoir exploring growing up with a brother with severe autism, while Owen’s finalising a coming of age story about three kids who start a dating agency in their high school and how it all goes horribly wrong.

According to these two, the timing for Papercuts in Adelaide couldn’t be better. The local comics creative scene is apparently running hot – with a vibrant and growing community of practising professionals, emerging creators and keen amateurs, experiencing one of its most productive phases and keen to find new audiences and industry connections. The Papercuts program will feature an exhibition of original comic artwork, artist talks, readings and a Market Day at the North Adelaide Community Centre. Plus – entry is free to all events (bookings are essential for some events - so please check the program).

We caught up with Gina and Owen for a chat at one of their favourite city haunts – Greenlight Comics (also a festival venue and one of Gina’s workplaces) – and were reminded that comics are just another way of telling a story and, whatever your age or interest, there are many fascinating stories waiting to be read.

Gina: “I’m a big believer that there are a lot of people who would enjoy reading comics, they just need to find the right one. There is this weird thing in our society that the moment you add pictures to something it takes away a seriousness or sense of importance. But to me, that’s what can make comics so powerful, they get people’s guards to drop and hit them with a hard, emotional punch. I’ve cried reading comics far more times than I have reading prose novels.

“There are amazing kids’ comics and graphic novels coming out at the moment and you should never feel bad reading stories written for kids (because good stories are good stories no matter the age they’re aimed at), but there are also many other types and genres of comics available to read these days. More getting translated, more getting written, more getting illustrated. You just have to find something that gives you a spark.”

Owen: “I’ve been drawing comics since primary school, and I just never really stopped! I’ve done comics in a range of genres, but my focus is on comedy aimed at a young adult audience. When it comes to the process of making a comic, my biggest passion is for the inking stage.”

Gina: “I’d always written stories with pictures and, when I was about 12, I started doing more comic-specific storytelling (panels and speech bubbles, looking more like a comic). But I didn’t really start completely falling in love with comics and the way you could use them to tell stories until just after uni. I was studying classical music performance with the aim to be a music teacher but at the end of the degree I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I started writing more and more stories until I decided to turn my passion into a job.”

Owen: “It’s tough to narrow it down to just one, but there’s a 1989 issue of Uncle Scrooge Adventures (“His Majesty, McDuck”, written and drawn by Don Rosa) that I have just about worn out with repeated re-readings.”

Gina: “Oh my, I hate picking one, because I have hundreds of self-published mini-comics from all over the world, as well as ones bought from bookshops and comic book stores. My most loved comic is Smile by Raina Telgemeier. I’ve not only read it several times, but I take it to all the workshops I run in schools and recommend it to adults and kids alike when I’m at Greenlight Comics. The spine of my copy is cracked and some of the pages are just hanging on by a thread.”

Owen: “The creative scene in Adelaide is currently very strong when it comes to comics. From my perspective, it seems to go through ebbs and flows – it felt very strong in the mid-2000s, then seemed to go through a lull, but right now I know of more people actively creating and publishing their work locally than any time I can remember.”

Gina: “What I think is inspiring about the Adelaide comics scene is how supportive it is. We have lovely regular attendees to our monthly sketch group Comics with Friends and Strangers (at the Box Factory Community Centre) who take time to help support up-and-coming artists and welcome anyone who wants to give comics making a go. I think this sense of community and sharing of knowledge is integral to sustaining a safe environment for everyone who wants to make comics.”

Owen: “I’m particularly excited about Talking Pictures: an evening of author readings where 12 comic creators and creative teams will read short works on the theme of Travel. I’m excited because it’s an unusual way to experience comics (the opportunity to hear a creator read their work is rare), and because we’ve been fortunate to assemble a roster of talented artists and gifted storytellers (many of whom will be reading work specially commissioned for the event).”

Gina: “I always love a Market Day: getting to see what other artists are making and meeting other people who work the same craft as you. But I think I’m most excited about the Artists in Conversation event with Dean Rankine, Mandy Ord and Greg Holfeld. All these artists have been working in comics and other related fields for years and are absolutely lovely. I think it’s going to be really interesting to hear them chat about their careers, as well as details of their art practice and what they do when they’re not making comics.”

Owen:Ruby Trumble’s art is amazing – at least twice as good as some creators twice her age (me included) – and her comics are sweet and funny with emotional depth.”

Gina: “Ahh! I don’t know if I can only name one; there are a couple at the moment I think people should have their eye out for, both of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know recently through Comics with Friends and Strangers.

Adam Gillespie has recently started writing and publishing comics and I’ve really been enjoying his sense of humour and storytelling: everything from dry comedic biographies to mysterious sci-fi stories to short funny comics about being a movie theatre projectionist. The second local creator I love is Mitch Hearn. His character design and world building is top notch and you can’t help but get sucked into his worlds. My only complaint is he needs to publish more comics! (You hear me, Mitch?!)”

Herbert by Ruby Trumble

Herbert - by Ruby Trumble

Begurk p2 by Adam Gillespie

The Unauthorised Biography of 'Begurk' Bergutsson - by Adam Gillespie

**Unsure of the difference between a comic and a graphic novel? Owen gives his explanation. “My rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t have a spine, it’s a comic book; if it has a spine, it’s a graphic novel (unless it was previously serialised in comic books, in which case it’s a trade paperback) – but there are exceptions to this generalisation!”

*The City of Adelaide supported the Papercuts Comics Festival through a Community Programs & Events Grant one of several funding opportunities available through City of Adelaide's Arts and Cultural Grants Program to help enterprising locals realise their creative ideas.

If you’re planning or working on an event, performance or exhibition that will contribute to the city as a creative, welcoming and dynamic place for people to live, work and play - you might be eligible for funding assistance through a Quick Response Grant – for which applications are open all year round.

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is Adelaide Living's main driving force. She is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.