The 1970s are regarded as a fallow period in the history of Australian comics, which had been decimated by the advent of television broadcasting in 1956 and the readmittance of imported American comics in 1960. It was in this challenging environment that Gerald Carr (1944 –) emerged as one of the few Australian comic artists prepared to test the creative boundaries of the medium.
Carr’s first breakthrough came with Brigette, a comic strip about a young Australian woman coming of age in a time of changing social mores and sexual attitudes. Brigette first appeared in the teen magazine Go Set in 1968 and was later sold to the Sunday Independent (Perth) and Sunday Mail (Brisbane) in 1969. However, the strip’s topical storylines offended some readers, which led both newspapers to drop the series within a few months.
His next creation, Fabula, was a science-fiction comic strip for Broadside magazine in 1969. Carr’s curvaceous heroine perhaps owed something to Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella (1962), but Fabula’s exploits were a thinly-veiled satire of contemporary Australian politics.
Carr illustrated several episodes of Devil Doone, a James Bond-styled action comic serialized in Man Junior, an Australian men’s magazine. However, as local publishers continued giving preference to using cheaply-syndicated foreign comics over Australian-drawn content, Carr had little choice but to self-publish his first comic magazine, Wart’s Epic (1970). This action-adventure anthology gave full rein to the experimental illustrative style and unconventional page compositions which characterized Carr’s work throughout the 1970s.
Vampire (1975-1979) would prove to be Carr’s most enduring, and most controversial comic. This new horror comic was intended for adult readers and introduced one of Carr’s most memorable creations, Fire Fang, a Chinese vampire exiled to the Australian goldfields in the 1800s. Vampire, however, was banned from sale in Queensland in 1979, as part of that conservative state government’s crackdown on (mainly foreign) horror comics printed under license by Australian publishers.
Carr continued to experiment with other comic-book genres and formats. Brainmaster and Vixen, an enigmatic superhero duo first seen in Wart’s Epic, appeared in a new, self-titled comic book in 1977. Undeterred by the threat of censorship, Carr published an all-new Fire Fang comic in 1982, which was followed by Shock Raider (1984), a full-color science-fiction comic that was undoubtedly influenced by the Australian film, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981).
After a decade-long hiatus, Carr re-entered the comics field by reintroducing his veteran superhero in her self-titled Vixen magazine (1995-1996), followed by The Dirty Digger (1996), a gritty wartime adventure. He won a costly legal dispute with another Australian publisher concerning the ‘Vixen’ trademark, which curtailed his publishing activities since the late 1990s.
— Kevin Patrick
See also: Brainmaster and Vixen.
- Pinder, Phil, ed. Down Underground Comix. Ringwood, VIC: Penguin Books Australia, 1983. Print.
- Ryan, John. Panel by Panel: A History of Australian Comics. Stanmore, NSW: Cassell Australia, 1979. Print.
- Woolley, Pat, ed. The Wild & Woolley Comix Book: Australian Underground Comix. Glebe, NSW: Wild & Woolley, 1997. Print.