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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

a Jewish comics anthology book launch in Australia - today

Balaclava Junction - a collection of short Australian biographical stories in comics format edited by Ted Janet - is launching at Embiggen Books (197-203 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3000) at 2:30 AM EST (6:30 PM in Melbourne).

The books will be available for online purchase via

There are links to interviews, promos and articles about the book at

Below are a set of remarks I (Steven M. Bergson, the blog moderator) wrote about it, which will be excerpted for one of the back cover blurbs.
Having spent most of my life in Toronto (Canada), I consider myself fortunate to live in a multi-lingual, multicultural mosaic made up of people from countries all over the world. Among the immigrants who have made Toronto their home are Australians. During the annual Caravan Festival that was held annually, the TRANZAC Club (Toronto Australia New Zealand Club) hosted the Australian pavilion, one of the ones I was lucky enough to visit. Nonetheless, Australia is one of those nations which I never really learned much about, an exotic locale which would probably always seem far-off and mysterious.
Being a typical popular culture junkie, my sense of what Australians might be like went a bit beyond what I experienced at Caravan . I absorbed the lyrics of the hit Men at Work song “Land Down Under”, winced at the Fosters beer commercials, enjoyed the movies which were filmed in Australia &/or featured Australian actors (Don’s Party, Mad Max, A Cry in the Dark, Crocodile Dundee, Quigley Down Under), as well as the sci-fi TV series which utilized Australian-born talent (Doctor Who, Farscape, and Stargate SG-1). Through my twin boys, I learned about the Australian children’s entertainment phenomenon known as The Wiggles.
However, none of these representations of Australians were specifically Jewish. I only knew of a single (fictional) film about a Jewish Australian, which I had managed to see during the Toronto Jewish Film Festival - Hey Hey It’s Esther Blumberger. Despite being a reader and collector of Jewish-content comics and graphic novels from around the world, I had only ever read 2 Jewish-themed comic stories written by an Australian. Both stories were scripted by Jason Franks. “One More Bullet” was a dark Holocaust-era story about a death camp prisoner who is forced into committing horrible acts by a Nazi. “Love Raed” was a dark story about a hopeful Arab university student who tragically becomes bitter and decides to become a suicide bomber. My unscientific conclusion about Australian comics writers is that they are moody people who write dark stories.
Then I became in touch with Ted Janet. Specifically, he got in touch with me. I was thrilled to learn about his Balaclava Junction anthology and felt honored that he chose to share it with me. As near as I can tell, the stories won’t contain any of the usual stereotypical signifiers that Canadians and Americans tend to associate with Australia. No scenes in the Outback wilderness. No kangaroos, koalas, or dingos. No vegemite sandwiches. The stories can remind you in subtle ways that they take place in unfamiliar territory with references to such places as St. Kilda, Balaclava, and Caulfield. However, as you read through the stories, these places start to take on a familiar look and feel, as if you’ve been living there for ages.
As for the Jewish content of the stories, it shouldn’t be surprising that Jews in Australia deal with some of the same issues which are common to Jews in other countries : atheism vs. religiosity, assimilation vs. cohesiveness, Jewish identity (aka “Who or what is a Jew?”), how can we help our fellow Jews, how should we deal with interfaith relationships. The collection includes biographies, history, and even adaptations from songs by a Jewish Australian (which may be found on YouTube). As is typical with comic stories, the art is an integral part of the narratives, sometimes just summing up in images the hodge-podge of Jewish ideas that can become overwhelming.
I’ve never been to Australia and I don’t think I’ll be taking a trip there in the near future. However, thanks to Ted Janet and his team of talented artists, I feel as if I’ve visited the Jewish part of his country, made some friends, and look forward to meeting them again sometime.

Steven M. Bergson, Editor
The Jewish Comix Anthology

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