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Monday, February 09, 2009

Comic Cuts

Talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other...

The post this week brought all sorts of goodies. The three new books I expected to see in January are now definitely out and I have copies to hand. An article I wrote for the Italian fanzine Fumetto has also appeared and the small contributions I made to a volume called British Crime Writing—I did one entry, I think—earned me a copy of the book. Or books, as it's in two volumes. And a cheque that should have been paid last November finally turned up in February.

On the other hand, we've got problems with one of the books that I'm working on and my DVD recorder has just given up the ghost, something it has been threatening to do since before Christmas. I can still record and play back on the hard drive but the bloody thing won't record to disc any more; it's going to be cheaper to buy a new one than try and get the old one repaired. Between it and the water bill that landed on the doormat, that's the cheque wiped out. What ought to be a memorable week has been punctured by annoyances, these few being minor compared to some which I won't bore you with.

Let's accentuate the positive instead. Despite the cold and being tired, work has actually been going very well. Everything needed for The Art of Mike Hubbard (volume 1) is done. A second book is almost done: I've a dozen or so pages that need cleaning up but that should be it. And I've done a couple of days on a third book that should look staggeringly good once it comes together.

This week also saw the arrival of a slew of Trigan Empire stuff. A while back I wrote a brief article for an Italian fanzine called Fumetto, which I've mentioned here before. Issue 68 (December 2008) has a great Trigan cover, the artwork originally used on one of the Dutch reprint albums and later reused on one of the volumes of the DLC's Trigan Empire collection.

Following hot on its heels came the final two volumes of the self-same Trigan Empire collection, the culmination of five years work to reprint every page of Don Lawrence's work on the series. The idea was first mooted by Rob van Bavel in 2003 and I must admit that I jumped at the chance to work on the books (as well as a series of translations of another Don Lawrence strip, Storm). Because Rob wanted to reprint wherever possible from original artwork, it was decided to start the series with volumes where he had the most original art boards, which has meant the releases have been a little random. We started with what should be volume 8 way back in 2004, then published volumes 11, 10, 9, 4, 7, 3, 2, 6, 5 over the next few years. Finally, Rob has just released volumes 1 and 12, which complete the series. Over 1,000 pages in all—and there's barely a page that I didn't type because I typed up every single balloon and caption so that the lettering could all be re-set.


Even spread over five years that's a serious word count. To which you can add 73,000 words of introductory material discussing each story, articles on various aspects of the Empire and, for the latest volumes, a background history of the series and an essay on the creators, Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence. You can see why I'm so attached to these volumes. Rob and the folks at Studio D&I made a fantastic job of putting the books together; in terms of British comics' reprints, I think they're the best-looking volumes that have ever appeared.

Two other people deserve a mention in relation to these books. Firstly, Meerten Welleman was a co-editor on the books and had the horrible job of trying to make sense of all my introductory writings and translate them into Dutch since each volumes had a Dutch language edition published alongside the English language version. Some things obvious to British collectors had to be explained to Dutch collectors, so it could never be a straight translation. The process works in reverse with the introductions to the Storm books DLC also publishes where I get to rewrite Meerten's epic "The Search For Storm" essays whilst trying to bear in mind that not everyone is going to know that Sjors en Simmie was the name of a weekly Dutch comic.

And another hat tip must go to Mike O'Doherty who has been proof-reader on the series, catching cock-ups, coming up with some thought-provoking notions (which I immediately stole and worked into the introductions) and, without whom, I would never have heard of the Oxford comma.

The other bit of good news is that I finally got hold of copies of Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History from Ilex. It has a stunning cover by Vincent Di Fate (as you can see from the pic in the top right corner) and is chock-full of fantastic illustrations. I thoroughly recommend it (well, I would, wouldn't I?). I'll try to write a little something on the background to the book this week (hopefully tomorrow) but go buy it anyway. I hear it got a great review in SFX.


Mike W said...

I agree, Steve, that the Trigan set of 12 volumes, are a fine looking set. They have been awarded a 5* rating in a review on Amazon but as it is a limited edition I would imagine that there will not be many reviews. However, there are likely to be a few readers of this, and any other reviews, as potential purchasers ascertain whether to pay a fairly significant amount of money to buy these magnificent looking books. Many congratulations on your huge input into an excellently researched and most attractively produced set of books.I'm going to have to increase my house contents insurance!

Steve said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Nice to hear from a satisfied subscriber. A lot of work by a lot of people went into the books. Trigan Empire was a childhood favourite of everyone involved -- me and Mike in the UK, Rob, Meerten and others in Holland -- and none of us wanted to put out anything that disrespected our fond memories of the strip.

Mike said...

Hey Steve, thanks for the shout....have to say it was a real pleasure and I'm going to miss those Trigan essays and dossiers...I'd forgotten about the Oxford comma though....