The tree is up and decorated, there's tinsel around all the light fittings and dangly things that brush the top of your head every time you walk through the living room. It's Christmas time in the Alley!
I've had a busy week on the run-up to Christmas, having decided to try and get Bear Alley Books back on track while everyone else is worrying about wrapping gifts and getting cards in the post. I had all my presents and cards sorted out a couple of weeks ago — which is shockingly organized for me as I usually leave everything to the last minute. See last week's column for a typical example. Mind you, at the tail end of last week the Guardian phoned at 9 o'clock Thursday night and asked for a piece on Joe Simon which was needed before noon the next day, so I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm a complete slowcoach. The piece was posted on the Guardian website around 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon.
As I write, artwork for 82 pages of the book has been cleaned up and there are 11 pages of original art still to go. The introduction is written in rough and those pages have been laid out, albeit in rough. There will also be a gallery of historical illustrations, but I've no idea how many pages that will run to until I start laying the pages out. Some are vignettes whilst others were designed to stretch across two pages of a magazine and I don't want to shrink them down too far. After all, one of the reasons for doing the book is to make the most of this unique opportunity to work from original artwork.
a couple of weeks ago and I can now provide an update. The latest total sales figures for Beano Annual 2012 is 108,325, for Moshi Monsters Official Annual 2012 99,955 and for Peppa Pig: Peppa and George's Annual 2012 74,145.
There was an interesting comment in a recent article in the Daily Mail (13 December) by Craig Brown which notes:
Girls have a greater number of annuals to choose from, but with a more limited range. Most feature Cheryl Cole in some shape or form.I can't argue with that, although I would argue that many of the same things have appeared in annuals since the 1960s. The difference is that annuals used to be a lot bigger and the pin-ups and fashion features were part of a broader range of contents. I'd go as far to say that they were the filler between the strips and stories. Unfortunately, the strips and the stories were the most expensive part of the books compared to an agency photo of a pop star or a hints and tips column written by a sub-editor. I can't even begin to guess how much it cost to put together those early Eagle Annuals or how that compares to the budget of a modern annual but I imagine the difference is huge. Yes, the sales are less these days but isn't it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? You save money by putting less in because the circulation is falling, but the circulation falls all the more because the final product doesn't really satisfy the readership, so the sales fall and the publisher cuts costs, etc., etc. A vicious circle.
__She is on the cover of the Mizz Official Annual, which includes The Crush Clinic ('Your top 8 lad worries — sorted!'), the Pop Princesses Annual ('all you need to know about becoming a Pop Princess!') and, of course, the Cheryl Annual 2012, which offers Cheryl facts, Cheryl's favourite recipes, Cheryl's top tips to being a princess of pop, a free Cheryl calendar and instructions on how to 'throw your own Cheryl slumber party with Cheryl makeovers and manicures!'
__Nowadays, Cheryl Cole (any relation, I wonder, to Old King Cole?) is obviously a vital part of any child's Christmas. One of the few annuals not to mention her is the It's A Girls' World A To Z Annual 2012, but its AZ of contents is packed full of substitutes, from A for 'accessories, autographs, Adele, animals' and B for 'beauty tips, Beyonce, boys' all the way through to Z for Zac Efron...
__The more cynical adults behind today’s Christmas annuals seem equally determined to imprison children in a shallow fantasy of beauty tips, accessories, ‘hot lads’ and Cheryl Cole. Curiosity, charity, aspiration and adventure are all missing. The world they offer seems infinitely smaller, and infinitely more dismal.
Today's random scans are a trio of Johnny Dekker crime yarns and a Scion gangster with comic connections, the first three being written by Mick Anglo and the latter painted by Philip Mendoza under the pen-name Ferrari. Not as Christmassy as I'd originally planned but I really haven't had much time between work and shopping.