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Friday, May 27, 2011

Comic Cuts - 27 May 2011

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This is going to be a shorter column than usual, not because of the "Thursday Night Curse" which kept hitting me earlier in the month but simply down to a lack of time. Normally I've had a chance to jot down some notes during the week, but haven't had much of an opportunity this week. My carefully planned schedule was thrown out somewhat by an enquiry from The Guardian regarding an obituary which came through at 10:30 Tuesday morning. It took a couple of hours of digging around to make sure I had enough material to do the job and the piece was commissioned around 12:30. At which point I had to go down to the post office, had lunch, watched a film and then dozed off because I hadn't have much sleep the night before.

Got up around 4:30 pm, hustled my notes together and worked through the evening, finally finishing the piece a thousand words later at 1:45 in the morning. Many people believe that I'm a fast writer but they couldn't be more wrong... I have to put in the hours, same as everyone else. I just don't go to bed early and the Guardian pay me enough to make sure I don't miss a deadline.

What a life, eh, readers? But at least there'll be jam on my bread this month.

I'd planned Tuesday as a Bear Alley Books day, reading and writing up a fantastic old comic strip for the next book I'm planning. I had two projects in my cross-hairs, one an index, one not; I thought the index was going to be the first project out of the gate but it will involve tracking down a lot of illustrations that I don't have; so, during the pause I cracked on with project two, even though I knew I didn't have all the research material together. I could at least get things rolling, I thought.

And roll they have. In fact, I've reached a tipping point where it makes no sense to stop writing. So the next book from Bear Alley Books is almost certain to be the much expanded edition of The Mike Western Story. It almost stalled because, as I said, there was a massive hole in my collection... but, thanks to my mate John Allen-Clark, the hole is now filled and I'm chugging along at a nice pace, surrounded by piles of Battle Action and Eagle comics as I type.

It's no secret that Mike was one of my favourite artists when I was growing up reading Valiant. I did a little booklet about him back in 1990 which contained a lengthy autobiographical piece by Mike that I cobbled together from our correspondence and a running commentary from myself about his work. This new version will be much expanded; sadly, Mike is no longer around but I'll run the autobiography complete and intact as it was a piece Mike approved of; I'm now in the process of doing a ground-up rewrite of my own commentary and digging out illustrations, including some images from Mike's scrapbooks and pieces that will, I hope, come as a nice surprise to even long time fans.

This is going to take me some while to piece together - I've got to make a living in the meantime and paying work must come first - but I'll keep you up-to-date with the book's progress.

I mentioned last week that Disney, now owners of Marvel, had put out an edict that from now on, none of their licensees were allowed to originate material in their own countries. This has had an instant effect on two titles put out here by Pannini UK, bringing Marvel Heroes to an end after 35 issues. The last issue dated 19 May-15 June (it being a four-weekly rather than a monthly) carries the news that it will be relaunching next month as Marvel Super Heroes, continuing the numbering but with a new line-up of characters.

Question is, will it retain the audience who have grown used to strips designed specifically for the British market, usually running for between 7 and 11 pages? Will the reprints be run as full 22 page stories or will they be chopped up in a way they were never intended to be? We will just have to wait and see.

Spectacular Spider-Man will also be losing any UK originated content. Three years ago, the title won the Eagle Award for Favourite British Colour Comicbook, and the strips therein were reprinted around the world from Germany to Brazil.  The latest issue appeared on 5 May and announced "This issue's comic strip has so much action, we've had to add two extra pages to squeeze it all in!" ... or, as I now suspect they meant, "We've had this storyline cancelled by Disney and we were given two pages to wrap the whole thing up." (I don't have the issue and I may be doing both Disney and Panini a disservice; perhaps someone will let me know the truth.)

Also in the past week we've heard that Wasted is coming to an end as a print magazine as of issue 8, a combination of print and delivery costs and falling sales being responsible for its demise. Wasted may not have been everybody's cup of tea with its adult/drug-related content but it was certainly more than just a underground comic.

Back issues are still available directly from Bad Press.

This isn't the end of Wasted. According to Alan Grant (as reported over on John Freeman's Down the Tubes), the paper will, in future, switch to digital publication and will be available via DriveThru, who already carry digital editions of 2000AD and titles published by AAM/Markosia Press.

And it isn't all bad news on the comics' front: we still have Phoenix to look forward to, the new title from the David Fickling stable. Their blog went live on Monday and an on-line flyer (above) was posted on the website. The blog promises that "we think you'll have lots of fun visiting [the website] as the weeks go by and we can start giving glimpses of some of the story marvels the Phoenix has in store."

Today's random scans...

My mate John dropped off a huge pile of comics the other day (as mentioned above) and had also picked up an old Dennis Wheatley book for me. This is a fourth printing Arrow edition from 1961 with a cover by Sax. I also had a bit of luck in town on Saturday, picking up an old Pan edition of Morning at Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. The cover is by Sidney Sheldon and I was prompted to post this by a recent comment that came through from a Sheldon admirer Rob Matthews following the appearance of some of his work in my Peter Cheyney cover gallery. Well, here's another one for you, Rob.

The final scan is an addition for the Comics Novelisations & Tie-Ins gallery. I've had a couple of other additions for past galleries that need to be put in place but I've not had the time... hopefully I'll have them all in place by next week.

Talking of next week... our current Paul Temple serial will be building up to a climax and I'll be back on Friday. You know, this isn't nearly as short a column as I was expecting.

1 comment:

Rob Matthews said...

Thanks for that image, Steve, it's a beauty. I know nothing about Mazo de la Roche (Historical Romance by the looks of it), but she sure was lucky with the cover art at Pan. Sheldon's covers to 'Renny's Daughter,' 'Whiteoak Brothers,' 'Whiteoak Harvest' and 'Whiteoak Heritage' are exquisite. Sam Peffer did his usual wonders on 'Wakefield's Course'and 'Whiteoak Harvest' and some that I can't identify are even better - 'Jalna' and 'Young Renny' for starters.