BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Comic Cuts - 28 June 2013

I took a short break from Boys' World last weekend to help put together a book for a publisher over in Holland whom I've been associated with for a couple of decades. The Don Lawrence Collection have put together some gorgeous books since 1989 when Don Lawrence: The Collection volume 1 appeared as a beautiful black, leather-effect hardback, to which I contributed a little piece introducing the character Karl the Viking. In 2008, almost twenty years later, the DLC published Karl in a 4-book box set in a slipcase. Between 2004 and 2010 I also worked on two 12-volume series reprinting The Trigan Empire and translating Storm, most of it into English for the first time.

There were one or two other books along the way, including a couple entitled Don Lawrence—The Legacy. These were sketchbooks containing some of Don's sketches and roughs, from pencil scribbles to colour roughs to thumbnails for stories that were never fully told. It was aimed at the Don Lawrence completist but there was some fascinating material, such as 13 pages of the original outline for Storm's ninth adventure, which Don both wrote and drew.

Although the published story was very different, it's interesting to see that one scene that survived all the drafts was to have Storm fighting Ember. In the early draft it was due to her drinking from a lake of red water; in the finished book, a poisoned dart causes her blood-lust. The end result was the same: a close encounter between Storm and Ember.

The latest book includes some close encounters between the two of a rather more adult nature. The new book deals with some of Don's erotica and includes works he produced as a way of relaxing and getting away from the anodyne strips he produced for children. Many of them – The Hermit and the Virgin, Naughty Nursery Tales – remained unfinished and unseen by even Don's closest fans, so the book offers a rare insight into the mind of one of Britain's most talented artists.

Due to its subject matter, the third volume has been given the title Boundaries, because Don often liked to push them and even cross them. Unfortunately, many of the images aren't suitable for Bear Alley but I will try to sort something out by way of a preview elsewhere.

The next Bear Alley Books book, a history of Boys' World, is heading in the right direction but this week it was at a snail's pace. Regular readers of Bear Alley have had to suffer me fulminating over the various attempts we've made to have the house insulated. After two attempts at the tail end of last year—both thwarted by last-minute cuts in funding—we so nearly made it last week, only to fall at the last hurdle. The workmen arrived to do the job but couldn't get their van down the driveway.

Attempt number four took place this Monday with a different, smaller van that also almost didn't make it. A few branches had to be removed where they were overhanging the drive and the trees took the opportunity to dump half their needles. I always thought trees either lost their leaves in autumn. Ours seem to be like dogs, shedding their coats during the summer.

Apart from that everything went like clockwork—I was completely wound-up by the end of it. I spent a few hours of Tuesday dealing with the mess and most of Wednesday distracted by the aches and pains caused by too much sweeping and shoveling on Tuesday. The joys of getting old!

That said, my attempts to get myself a little fitter I'm sure are helping. My back has always played merry havoc with my life, but I've noticed that the walking (I'm still doing roughly 2 1/2 miles a day) is strengthening the muscles around the base of my spine; carrying heavy shopping bags didn't seem such a problem last Saturday. I still need to up my game if I'm to lose any significant amount of weight but I feel I'm at least facing in the right direction, even if I haven't taken that first vital step!

Incidentally, I failed to photograph the final giraffe on Saturday because it was raining and I spotted our bus at the stop as I was heading to Firstsite take a snap. Hopefully I'll get to it next week.

But, to get back to Boys' World briefly, I'm now 5,000 words into the introduction with a further 18,000 or so words of notes. I'm thoroughly enjoying the research, which is taking me down some odd alleyways—as it always does—and providing me with far too many distractions. As if I need them.

My random scans this week are recent  purchases. Look how varied these are. Maybe I'm feeling a bit jaded after looking at quite a few recent crime covers with silhouetted figures against a wooded background or a road stretching out into the distance. It disrespects the author to wrap up what could be a year's worth of writing with a cookie-cutter cover.

'Three Men in a Boat' takes a break over the weekend while I cover a couple of people who have come to light while I've been doing my Boys' World research. The strip will be back next week.

Answer to 'What Would YOU Do?': The best thing our photographer can do is to ease himself gently down so that he lies full stretch along the main rope. By doing this, he distributes his weight evenly over a large area, rather than concentrating it on a small section. Inching slowly forward by this method, he might be able to reach the bank before the bridge collapses. If the worst happens, his chances of swinging to safety on the ropes will be greater.

(* Boys World © IPC Media.)

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