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28 January 2021

Birding, Lizards, Australia Day, Comic Book Horror, and the Promise of 2021

Here are some pix of Welcome Swallows in action at the pond in Dunmore on the south coast of New South Wales which were not included in my last blurb. Notice the way they flit around this pair of Black Swans. Notice also the white stripe the Black Swans have across their beaks. Seeing these little birds in flight is a wondrous experience anyone can have in the Illawarra.

Also, when I was at the pond in Dunmore, I noticed a young Black Swan still white, not having as yet come into his black adult feathers. He was being guarded by an adult Black Swan. Nearby there was a Black Swan nest.

Right now, on the south coast of New South Wales, there are plenty of lizards about. I have seen lots of Water Dragons in Corrimal and Towradgi. In Corrimal, near the sports oval, I came upon Water Dragons putting their wall climbing abilities to the test. Last year, I was able to get a picture of one of these dragons climbing a tree at Towradgi Creek.

These pix, taken in Corrimal, will give you an idea of the size of some of these Water Dragons. Keep in mind they are harmless and have character. They are one reason to keep our waterways free from rubbish, another reason being the Dragonflies that are out and about this time of year. Who wants to look at other people’s rubbish anyway? Not me. But watching Water Dragons and Dragonflies is something I can enjoy.

How we celebrate Australia Day is up to the individual Australian. Some people will opt for the beach if it’s a sunny day. Others will venture forth for some excitement to a place where they have never been before or have rarely visited. On Australia Day in 2017 I went to Kiama for a look see and did some photography while I was there. I found the old post office, which was built in 1878, of interest in terms of architectural design. It isn’t far from the water.

On the Australia Day in 2017, at Kiama, I noticed a tree that had been savaged by a recent storm. I took a photo of how it had been blasted away by heavy weather. The photo also shows the coastline after a wild gale. There are times when venturing forth from Kiama in a small boat can be hazardous and not recommended.

On the way back to where I was living on that particular Australia Day in 2017, I stopped off at Dicey Riley’s in Wollongong to celebrate Australia’s connections to Ireland.

On this particular Australia Day long weekend, I went swimming at Towradgi Beach. There was a commotion. Hundreds of gulls were taking fright. I looked above them and saw a large white bird hovering. It was obviously a bird of prey of some sort. My problem was I didn’t have my glasses on for a positive identification and, being in the water; I didn’t have my camera with me. SIGH! It was definitely the one that got away. The gulls ended up on a roof and they were not budging from that spot well after the bird of prey had gone.

On the Saturday of the Australia Day long weekend, Little Missy, the female Black Bird, returned to my backyard. Though Black Birds have their origins in the UK, I still appreciated her appearance. It is always good to see bird life close by.

It is always good to see Galahs about. There seems to me to be nothing more Australian. I caught sight of two of them grooming one another in the Corrimal area. This was late afternoon on a hot day. Galahs are a common species found throughout the south coast of New South Wales and have been part of the Australian way of life for a very long time.

A trip up to Mount Keira on the Australia Day long weekend did not result in many birds seen. I was there in the early afternoon and the day was extraordinarily hot. There were a few fantails flitting about. There were also some quite colorful butterflies, the designs on their wings extraordinary!

A Haunt of Fears by Martin Barker (1984) is a nice, neat breakdown of the campaign in the late 1940s going into the 1950s by British organizations against American comic book art coming into the country and into the hands of children uncensored. The Communist Party was out to stir up trouble which is what they did. Their biggest beef was against the propaganda in American war comics.

There were, however, people with more legitimate concerns when it came to horror. The notion that a child could get away with murder by playing the young and innocent card was, for example, abhorrent. There was also the question of whether drugs of any kind should be mentioned in what was thought of by those pushing for censorship as children’s literature.

The reality was a lot of American soldiers coming back from the Second World War had been reading the comics and were continuing to do so as they entered civilian life. They were not children and wanted the comics to be more sophisticated than they had been in the past. EC Comics was one company that catered for them.

Out of all this came censorship of comic book materials in the UK and also in Australia. The Phantom, for example, was censored and also comic books created in Australia. The Scorpion, a bestselling Australian comic book, was censored to death.

I have put in my order for Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent. It appears it has only recently come back into print. As described by one critic, it is a much flawed view of comic books from the 1930s to when the book was first printed in the 1950s. I read it about twenty years ago but have always wanted my own copy.

Wertham was chiefly responsible for the uproar in the USA against comic books which included communal comic book burnings. Shades of the Third Reich! Years ago, I saw film footage of one of these comic book burnings. The flaws in Seduction of the Innocent I am looking forward to reexamining. Do any of his arguments against comic books actually hold up? I would say no but we will see if twenty years have changed my attitudes.

Out of Wertham’s actions and those of others, the comic book industry in the USA went in for self censorship. This meant that comic books were expected to carry the Comics Code Authority stamp if they were to be sold in newsstands across the USA and elsewhere.

By the 1ate 1960s, however, there were renegade publishers distributing their comics through record bars and other teenage outlets and thus circumventing the need for a Comic Code Authority stamp. One of the comic titles that came out of this defiance was Last Gasp which led the way, at that time, in the battle against the nuclear armaments race. The notion of stockpiling weapons too dangerous to the planet to ever be used was considered, by the artist and writers of Last Gasp, to be insane.

It was rare in the 1960s and 1970s for the big publishers such as Marvel and DC to be in any way defiant of the Comics Code Authority. An Iron Man issue had the villain as the Pain Master. Thanks to the Code, this was changed to the Doll Master. This was the only time this particular villain ever turned up in a Marvel comic, perhaps having to change his name put a bad taste in the mouths of the artists and writers.

There was a story in Amazing Spiderman that went through despite Comics Code Authority disapproval. It was about heavy drugs in universities and how damaging they were to students. It was a call to arms against this insidious trade in the destruction of human life and Marvel refused to water it down by taking mention of these drugs out of the story. Thus it is now a rather expensive comic book issue since, not having received wide distribution in the USA, it has become a rarity. Nowadays, of course, it has been reprinted and the reprints have had wider distribution.

By the 1970s the Comics Code Authority eased up and allowed Werewolves and Vampires to reenter the comic books that carried their stamp. By about the mid-1980s the Comics Code Authority was finished and the stamp simply disappeared.

As for 2021, we all have high hopes it will be a better year. The vaccine for the corona virus should be available to all in Australia and New Zealand by mid-year. It will take even longer for the USA and the UK because of the larger population base. It is to start being rolled out by March which is great but full distribution will definitely take time.

The Viking Festival in New Zealand is still on in early February but, unfortunately, travel from Australia to New Zealand is still dicey at best thanks to the corona virus. Please note that New Zealand hasn’t been that hard hit by this virus and I don’t blame New Zealanders for keeping it that way.

Dragon Queen will definitely be out soon and that really is something to look forward to.