Australia’s Milk Shadow Books announced this morning that they have a new book in production, diving into the archives of Dillon Naylor’s Da ‘n’ Dill comics. Here’s what the official press says.
Prior to the 1990s, a visit to a Show, Fete or Fair might result in a showbag and that would result in cheap novelties, weird- tasting chocolate, sherbet bombs and a comic book. That comic would usually be a Phantom or a Batman (with a newsagent price sticker still on the cover) but then something strange happened in 1991.
Comics appeared in the bags that didn’t look like anything anyone had seen before. They were roughly put together, on even rougher paper and full of spelling mistakes. They looked like they were for kids but somehow sinister. Instead of funny animals and super heroics, there were stories about crazy bullies in animal masks digging up public parks, sewing people together or burying each other alive at the beach. These comics were called ‘Da ‘n’ Dill’ and kid’s loved them (and hid them under the bed when they were finished.)
Now, for the first time, the complete run of seven issues of Dillon Naylor’s cult classic ‘Da ‘n’ Dill’ showbag comics have been rescanned from original art and collected into a handsome book, along with unpublished pages, model sheets, sketches and extensive notes.
Naylor’s characters also appeared in the Sydney Sun-Herald from 2001-2008. The Melbourne-based artist is also behind Batrisha the Vampire Girl, which was a feature in the K-Zone kids magazine for several years, along with Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairies for Total Girl. Some of Naylor’s other artwork, including a poster for the 1999 Beastie Boys tour of Australia, can be found on his blog.
From the mid-1980s, Australian comic creators began to move increasingly towards a self-publishing model, but with a difference. Often the kinds of comics once considered underground were given mainstream distribution. Da ‘n’ Dill was certainly a more recent example of something a little more subversive finding its way into the hand of the mainstream for a long time.
This collection represents a huge step forward in bringing pieces of Australian comic strip history to new readers. If Australia’s growing comic book industry is analogous to the European market, then these are part of a shared comics history that would have informed many a young reader whether they were aware of it or not. Perhaps some of the major works coming out today from publishers like Gestalt, Milk Shadow, Allen & Unwin, other local distributors and writers/artists working internationally grew up reading these very strips.