Well I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Ours turned out to be fairly quiet and hugely relaxing and I even got some of the dreaded tidying up I'd promised I'd do done. Usually that just means shifting one dusty pile of stuff to another location... this time I had virtually the whole contents of one room out in the hallway to see what was buried in the corners. I managed to shuffle some long-lost items into more accessible places, some of which will be showing up here on Bear Alley in the coming months, no doubt.
Apparently one and a half million people skipped work because of the snow. No such luck here as I work from home and unless a snowdrift cuts off the bedroom, I'm forced to keep working while others enjoy a day off. On the up side, I don't have to struggle on icy pavements. On the down side, I put my back out shoveling snow off the drive, so even sitting in front of the computer is quite painful at the moment.
The five articles I mentioned doing last month are finished. Since then I've been doing some scanning and I'm currently working on a couple of strips called "Wells Fargo" and "Pony Express" which will be turning up in a nice book from those nice folk at Book Palace some time this year. They are beautifully drawn (mostly line & wash) strips by Don Lawrence, originally drawn for Swift and only ever partly reprinted as far as I'm aware, so this should be something of a collector's item. I'll hopefully then finish off a couple of Bear Alley projects before getting down to the next Book Palace book.
The collapse of Borders just before Christmas has had a knock-on effect for British comics' fans as it has dealt a blow to Crikey!, one of the few British fanzines around. Borders had become a big part of Crikey!'s distribution (70%) and the collapse has not only set back any plans for expansion in the near future, but also means that they will lose a huge chunk of revenue from issue 12. Issue 13 will see a bit of retrenching as the magazine goes back to black & white... but it's not all doom and gloom as there has been at least one offer of financing future issues made and Crikey! will certainly continue.
Talking of magazines, Tuesday's Guardian had an article announcing plans by Future Publishing for a new "coffee table" magazine called Comic Heroes, to be published as a 132-page, £7.99 quarterly. The magazine will concentrate on the latest superhero movies, videogames "and the comic books themselves"... comic books coming a poor third, it seems as the rest of the press release only talks about upcoming films. Thankfully there's still enough good stuff going on in the world of comics to prevent them turning wholly into the ephemeral stuff that surrounds movies, along with the novelisation and the cardboard container your burger comes in.
Day2Day Trading have recently announced they are working on two Dan Dare action figures for release hopefully in March or April. The 12" figures are based on designs by Chris Weston, some of which you can see at the head of this column. The company won an award for their 2009 Buck Rogers' figures.
A somewhat belated congratulations to Bill Graham on his retirement from D. C. Thomson. Bill was one of my editors (along with sub-editor Bill McLoughlin) when I had a brief stab at being a comic strip writer for Starblazer. You couldn't find nicer people to work for. Bill has been a huge help over the years whenever I've had enquiries relating to comics published by Thomsons, the most recent only a couple of weeks ago. All the best, Bill. Keep in touch.
Over on the FPI blog, Joe reports that Cam Kennedy is also thinking of retiring. A professional artist since 1962 and active in comics since 1968, Kennedy is now in his late sixties. Here in the UK he's probably best known for his work in Battle, 2000AD and his recent collaborations with Alan Grant on Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in the USA probably Star Wars: Dark Empire. I've always had a soft spot for "Fighting Mann". And The Light and Darkness War. And many, many others.
I'll end today's column with a random scan. Since I've been trying to cover sales of annuals over the past few weeks, I thought this might bring back some memories of days gone by. It's an ad for the Amalgamated Press annuals for 1958 from Everybody's, 2 November 1957. "Easy to pack—Easy to post—Certain to please". Those were the days...
(* My thanks to Norman Boyd for the above scan.)