We caught up with comic book artist Jon Sommariva (Marvel Action: Avengers, Star Wars Adventures, Batman/TMNT Adventures) this week to talk about Aussies4comics, a comic book artist collective working to help Australian comic stores doing it tough during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aussies4comics are holding daily auctions to sell art from your favourite artists to donate to these stores.
Here’s the lowdown from Sommariva himself!
Give us a run-down of what Aussies4comics is all about and where it came from…
Aussies4comics is a collective of Australia’s professional comic book artists and includes almost everybody currently working in comics. We have banded together for a common cause – to raise funds in support of our local Australian comic shops. We have a close relationship with many store owners across Australia, and we felt the need to show them some support during this difficult pandemic time.
The initial group includes David Yardin, Nicola Scott, Mark Raats, Colin Wilson, Dean Rankine, Martin Abel, Jeffrey Cruz, David Dunstan, Lily McDonnell, Wayne Nichols, Mike Krome, Stewart McKenny, Al Barrionuevo and myself with extra support from our friend Tom Taylor.
We have also had some amazing international friends donate, with contributions from Humberto Ramos, Freddie Williams II and Roby Amor. We’re honoured that they would join us in this.
The idea came from watching Jim Lee and the charity work he is currently doing to raise funds for comic book shops across the United States, using the hashtag #creators4comics. I then saw a group of Canadian artists band together and use the hashtag #canucks4comics on social media, to raise funds for their local stores.
I felt we had to do something for our local shops in Australia – we couldn’t just leave our people out in the cold. I saw my local comic shop posting videos online, keeping his customers up to date on the situation and making moves to adapt to the changing world situation. I felt for them, as I knew it was going to be difficult. The thought of my friends from the comic shop going through a really rough time just made me want to do something about it. At first, I thought it would just be a couple of auctions and a small amount for the shops we are all customers at, but quickly we realised there were many more stores we could help across Australia, and so here we are trying to raise a significant amount that could actually make a difference.
My first phone call was to my old friend David Yardin who jumped on board immediately, and from there, just about everyone we asked to join our cause enthusiastically said yes right away. It turns out that most people were feeling the same way I was and wanting to help in some way. We have since had many others donate art and join in by running their own auctions and donating to our pot.
How has the response been to the auctions and movement so far?
The response has been huge! There is a real sense of community, and the support for our stores is very strong. It’s also been a lot of fun to have something to look forward to each day as we list new auctions and try to make this whole thing very interactive.
What makes Australian comic shops so special?
They are rather rare and so specialised, yet people will always seek them out. Comic shops, in general, are a special place for anyone who loves geek and pop culture. They are a place where you can meet like-minded people locally, week in and week out. A place to talk about and celebrate the things you love whether it be the latest comic series you’ve discovered or the latest superhero blockbuster film. It is a place for creative people to meet other creatives and hone their crafts. We love comic shops and it is a joy to have them as a part of your weekly routine.
Do you have a favourite comic shop that will be supported by the auction? If so, tell us a little more about them and what they mean to you…
I am lucky in that I travel regularly to most major cities around Australia every year attending various shows. No matter where you go, finding the comic store is always on the list. I have the closest relationship with the two stores from my city which are Impact Comics and Dees Comics in Canberra, but I always enjoy popping into All-Star in Melbourne and Comics Etc in Brissy where I used to be a customer before becoming a professional comic artist. These shops have all been very supportive of us actually, and helping get the word out there on the auctions.
Tell us about the ‘Young Buck Battle’ within Aussies4comics…
This was something fun I cooked up to help promote some of the artists who are up and coming from our local scene that also wanted to donate art. I had Jamie Johnson, Daniel Picciotto, Lauren Marshall and Camillo di Pietrantonio all reach out once we launched, asking if they could donate art to our cause.
I thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase their work and get their supporters to really rally behind them. I proposed the idea of an auction battle to each of them, and each accepted immediately (with a lot of fire in their bellies I might add!) and were keen to have a bit of fun with this. In the end they raised $1,910 as a group effort, which was a really fantastic result, and great contribution to our pot.
How else can comic fans help the industry right now?
First of all, if you are in a position to do so, clear out your standing order/pull box! I’m sure the shops would appreciate that. From there, just buy some comics from your local and catch up on your reading! There is a wealth of back catalogue stuff out there, and now is a great time to read since we are mostly staying indoors. Most of the shops are doing mail order and keeping in business by selling what they can online. I have had several retailers say that buying gift vouchers to be cashed in later from them is also a great way to show some support during this time.
What can we expect from Aussies4comics moving forward?
We don’t really have plans beyond this. We are all freelance artists, and I have personally put my actual work aside while I work on this, so I think we like to keep it fairly rag-tag and unofficial. We are very focused right now on the fundraising effort, but there has been an amazing feeling of comradery and friendship that has developed between us, so I could imagine future collaborations of some sort down the line. Hopefully, it will be under happier circumstances.
Anything else you’d like to add?
So far we have raised over $20,000 and we hope to raise a little more in this final week. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the contributing artists – I wish them all great success and hopefully, we have been able to gain some new followers for everyone along the way. We appreciate everyone who has been bidding on the art! Thank you. Also, everyone who has been cheering us on and helping by liking, commenting and especially sharing our work all over social media. The support has been fantastic and I hope it will continue as we wrap things up.
Some other art previews for pieces that will be up for auction this week, or are currently on the chopping block:
You can find the auction page here.