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The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Five

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Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Five: Wearne's Final Years

Wearne’s divorce was taking its toll.  The courts had seized his taxation records and banking details and was busily trying to unravel it all.  Wearne had built such a complex web that it’s possible that even he didn’t know his true worth, not that his true worth was as impressive as he wanted to believe.  The court worked out that he owned two houses, one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and both were heavily mortgaged.  He had recently sold a third property but had yet to disclose what he was set to earn from the sale. In addition to the house sale, Wearne was now stating that his Australian Trade Union Press was insolvent, possibly due to his ASIO surveillance, which had been reported to the relevant ministers of Parliament and then to members of the ALP who would then pass the information onto the unions.  Wearne’s accounts vanished and people couldn’t get rid of him fast …

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Four

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Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Four: Wearne hits a money maker and meets the Scientologists

It was in Melbourne in the early 1950s that Wearne became attached to the Australian Labor Party, working as a Publicity Officer.  Nobody could ever clarify exactly what Wearne did for the ALP, or why he was drawing a salary, and Wearne himself, when asked, was evasive.  What is known is that Wearne had found the perfect get rich quick scheme, with minimal effort and almost no outlay.  As the money came flooding in he set up house in Toorak, bought a Jaguar and a striking white MG and dressed himself in expensive clothing.  The way Wearne made money is still a confusing web, even today.

Wearne set up a company called the Australian Trade Union Press.  The ATUP drew up and accepted contracts from unions all over the country and produced the official union newspaper for three state branches of the ALP; The New Age in Queensland, The Western Sun f…

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Three

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Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Three: Wearne Grows Up

By mid-1945 Wearne was busy trying to get himself out of the R.A.A.F.  The war had finished and he wanted to pick up his career where it left off.  He had managed to obtain leave for the legal action against Hoffmann in 1944 and now he wished to be released so he could finish the third instalment in the Space Legion series.  Sensing that the R.A.A.F might refuse his request, Wearne approached the Federal Member for Boothby to contact the Minister for Air, Arthur Drakeford, to plead his case.  The book, T.N. Sheehy wrote, would earn Wearne the rich sum of £300.  If Wearne couldn’t be given leave, then surely he could be released from duty earlier than expected? The reply was as expected; Wearne would have to go through the proper channels, the same as anyone else.  Another tack was tried when Horace Wearne fell ill.  Again bypassing the regular channels, Wearne contacted Sheehy who …

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Two

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Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.  You can read Part One here.

Part Two: Phillip Wearne: The Comic Book Years

Phillip Wearne was a precocious child to the point of hyperactivity.  He attended the Glenelg Public School, graduating in 1938 and moving to what was then called Intermediate, now called High School.  It was while studying at Adelaide Technical High that Wearne’s artistic talents were spotted.  In the late 1930s and through the early 1940s school inspectors would visit classes and enquire about students.  Those who showed a particular aptitude or talent were often told to further their talents in any number of specialist schools around Adelaide.  Wearne was tapped on the shoulder and sent to the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts after completing his leaving Certificate in 1940.

The South Australian School of Arts and Crafts was established in 1861 and is the oldest public art school in Australia.  The principal at the time …

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part One

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Comic book pioneer Phillip Wearne is largely forgotten these days in the Australian comic book circles.  He drew a handful of comic books and it’s the circumstances around those books that are fascinating.  Even more fascinating though is his life, where he came from and what ultimately happened.  Wearne was a pioneer in the comic book field.  He was savvy enough to create a book from scratch, write and draw it alone and arranged to co-publish it, all at the age of 17. By the time he was 20 years old he had fought his publisher for ownership of his work, and won. He controlled his work, he could publish it as he saw fit, eventually shopping it around for the best deal possible. He should have been hailed as a visionary, yet he was labelled a plagiarist and a hack by virtually all Australian comic book historians, who all but ignored what he was able to do.

In the end his comic book career spanned a few years, one concept and four issues. His main downfall was his inability to genera…

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