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A Guide to Dollar Bill

The Creator: ‘Monty’ Wedd

Montague ‘Monty’ Thomas Archibald Wedd (1921-2012), was a well-known illustrator, animator, author and historian. A pioneering figure in post-war comics, he was renowned for his historical accuracy and period detail. One of his most widely recognisable works was the character “Dollar Bill”, created for the Decimal Currency Board to teach the Australian public about their new currency in 1965-66.

Born in Glebe in 1921, Wedd worked as a designer and illustrator for a furniture manufacturer after leaving school. He was designing furniture and advertisements for Grace Bros before he enlisted in the army in 1941. He subsequently transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force, attaining the rank of Leading Aircraftman (34 Squadron).

After the war Wedd completed an arts course at East Sydney Technical College under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Whilst studying he wrote and drew his first comic, a French Foreign Legion comic-book serial Sword and Sabre which he sold to Syd Nicholl's Middy Malone Magazine. In 1949 Wedd married Dorothy Jewell.

Throughout the 1940s and 50s Wedd was a popular and prolific comic book illustrator and commercial artist. He created the Captain Justice comics as well as the popular comic book The Scorpion which is viewed as one of the best drawn comics of the era. Wedd also drew and painted covers for Australian pulp magazines.

In the mid-1960s Wedd began working in cartoon animation as a production designer for Artransa Park Studios working on projects such as Rocket Robin Hood (1966). He also worked as a layout artist for Eric Parker Studios and was involved in Australia's first animated film Marco Polo versus the Red Dragon (1972).

Wedd's interest in history and his skills as an illustrator combined in a series of historical comic strips in the 1970s and 80s. For the bicentenary of Britain's claim over Australia in 1970 Wedd created a comic-strip version of Captain Cook's journal for The Daily Mirror. He then produced a historically accurate comic-strip biography of Ned Kelly which lasted 146 weeks and was followed by a bushranger sequel, Bold Ben Hall in 1977. His last comic-strip project, The Birth of a Nation, was devised to coordinate with Australia's bicentennial in 1988.

Wedd's passion for history led him to start the Monarch Historical Museum in Dee Why in 1960 to house his extensive collection of historic Australian artefacts. The museum was relocated to Williamstown in 1988. Wedd also drew a series of military trading cards for the Golden Fleece fuel company, later turning the project into the highly regarded reference book, Australian Military Uniforms 1800-1892 (1982) which he both illustrated and wrote.

In recognition of his work as a historian, writer and artist Wedd was made an officer of the Order of Australia in 1993. He also received the Stanley Award for ‘Adventure/Illustrated Strip Artist’ in 1987 and 1989, and the Stanley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. He was posthumously inducted into the Australian Cartoonist's Association's Hall of Fame in 2014.

Wedd died in Fingal Bay, New South Wales on 4 May 2012 aged 91.

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