Pop culture in Australia: Boom or Bust?

The pop culture industry in Australia has thrived off the sales of comic books and the rise of fandoms. Though the industry is continuing to boom, it is undeniable that it is still finding its feet. Chris Daniel talks to comic creator Nathanael Hopkins-Smith about his experiences in the industry, whilst venturing into the world of Supanova Pop Culture Convention.

Initially, the comic book industry in Australia was seemingly limited to the compressed pages of The Newcastle Herald where both the characters nor the storyline make any sense. Compared to American consumer habits, the Australian market was suffering, but that was all about to change. In the 1990s, the rise of pop culture hit Australia hard, and has since grown into the industry we see today.

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Supanova Pop Culture Convention. Photo by Chris Daniel

The rise in the ’90s gave birth to a new generation of creators, artists and fandoms. When pen met paper for some of these individuals, they exploded onto an international scale. Nathanael Hopkins-Smith, an independent filmmaker turned comic book creator has been inducted to the pop culture scene in Australia through his work on numerous projects. ‘The Vagabond’ and ‘Wrestlers in Space’ are renowned series acknowledged at a number of conventions including Oz Comic Con and Supanova. Though these creations may seem simple from an outsider’s perspective, the artistic process becomes far more complex when you dig deeper. In an interview with Nathanael, he provided insight into his experiences, successes and failures through his time as an indie comic creator.

How did you get into the industry?

“I started my first comic about five years ago with a friend and it just took off from there. It originally started as a short film I made in high school, and I really wanted to take the character further. After going to film school I realised the amount of effort and extra people that needed to be involved in order to make it work, so I decided to establish the character further through comic book form.”

Through your time as a creator, what have you had to learn the hard way?

“Well I’m still learning, but the hardest part was finding an artist. After doing the first book, both of us realised how much effort was required, and that the process was a lot more intense than previously thought. After we finished the first book, we knew how to approach the second.”

 

“I’m sure artists have people coming up to them everyday, bombarding them with different ideas. It isn’t until you can show them your work and that you are genuinely passionate about what you do, that they will work with you.”

 

Were there any major obstacles for you whilst creating these comics?

“Not really, nothing drastic anyway. The only major obstacle for the industry would be that there aren’t too many stores in Australia that are willing to stock local content, because they may not sell. Since there is so much competition, it is undetermined. Promotion is also important, I mean if you don’t tell anyone about your product, then it obviously won’t sell.”

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about pop culture?

“Anything can be classified as pop culture, but it’s all about supporting something that you like. Conventions like this give fans an opportunity to meet the creators, and vice versa. It’s not everyday that you are given that opportunity to get feedback or advice through something like this.”

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The Vagabond, an ongoing series interpreted through the mind of Nathanael Hopkins-Smith.

For creators alike, the industry is harsh, yet provides a stable and optimistic platform. Nathanael’s work is available in print formation, and can be purchased here.

The Australian market for pop culture is not restricted to comic books, but instead opens up a forum for gamers, cosplayers and a diverse range of fandoms. The University of Newcastle even has devoted clubs and societies including The Anime Club, The Quidditch Club and The Medieval Society, all of which can be found here.

Feature Image: Comic design by Andrew White.