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Friday, October 17, 2014

Comic Cuts - 17 October 2014

Reprinted for the first time: a classic story of one man's fight against
government oppression in the gladiatorial arenas of the near future.
"With reality TV overload and the rise of the risque and the brutality of today’s society, this story ... is more relevant today than it was in 1979." - Colin Noble, Down the Tubes

A rather more cheery week where I've been able to make some progress on the next Bear Alley Books' book. The copyright owner has agreed to discuss two more books and if the terms are agreeable, I should be able to announce the title of the first shortly. Arena is selling, but very slowly. Maybe it's because we're on the run-up to Christmas, but I have to admit that I've always found the comic strip books I've published are slow-sellers. Maybe once I've a few books in print things will pick up.

I've finally started sorting out some of the photographs I've had sitting around on my hard drive for months. I had the idea of putting together some photos of local pubs, as they're the kind of businesses that exist for many years; I'm still working on it, but for now here's a photograph of the grocer's shop run by S. Wood. "S" stood for Stacey, and he ran this grocery store on the High Street at the corner of Philip Road. The top photograph is taken from the Wivenhoe Heritage blog, which states that the man seen in the doorway is Wood's assistant, George Green.

Stacey was born in Ware, Hertfordshire in around 1866, the son of Sampson and Susannah Wood. The family moved to Layer Marney, Colchester, where Sampson ran a large farm of 440 acres employing five men and four boys. He must have been well-to-do as he employed a governess to look after his growing family and four additional servants. By 1881, Sampson had moved to Kelvedon and was now working as a commercial traveller. By 1891, Stacey Wood was living in Wivenhoe, an assistant at a grocer's store run by George Stebbing. By 1901, he was running his own grocery. He had married Nelly Glance Pittuck in 1894 and had a daughter, Evelyn Ivy Wood, born in 1898. Seven years later, a second daughter, Ella Pittuck Wood, was born.

The two girls can be seen in the car in the photograph below. Ella, with bows in her hair, sadly died at the age of only nine. Evelyn, married at the age of 30, died two years later in 1931.

Stacey and Nelly lived at La Marney, The Avenue, Wivenhoe, in retirement. Nelly died on 28 March 1947, aged 78. Her husband followed on 7 December 1951, aged 85.

The grocers was taken over by Len Barton and his family, although what became of them I've no idea. I do know that Len Barton was a special constable and was involved in helping people during the 1953 floods. The shop was already closed when we moved to Wivenhoe four years ago; the photo below was taken on 14 September 2014.

The paragraphs above show that there's some truth in the adage "Every picture tells a story." But sometimes you have to wonder what the story is. For instance, I mentioned last week that we were having some telegraph poles replaced in the area. Well, the work was carried out over the weekend and the early part of this week.

I've probably never thought about telegraph poles for one second of my adult life. I probably walked into a few of them when I was a kid, but I was never traumatized by it; telegraph poles are just part of the street furniture we take for granted. With lorries, vans and cherry pickers littering the streets I was walking around, I began to take notice of them for the first time and one in particular caught my eye.

In the High Street I spotted a pole which had something attached to it which, on closer examination, turned out to be a bunch of flowers. They were taped to the pole well out of reach of any normal person. What on earth the story is behind these flowers I've no idea but it just goes to show that, if you keep your eyes open while you're out walking, you can stumble across some intriguing things.

Curious, eh?

The latest volume of Space Ace has arrived and I'm happy to learn from editor/publisher John Lawrence that he's planning to produce a new issue every six months as long as sales justify and John Ridgway can keep up the pace. John makes a fantastic job of colouring these old Ron Turner strips, retaining the spirit of Ron's colour work without being a slave to it. The quality of modern printing means that colour that would once have been muddy on the newsprint of old comics reproduce crisply and... well, colourfully, on bright, white paper.

The stories are a quartet of tales from the pages of Lone Star and Lone Star Annual from the period 1958-59. They lack the sophistication of modern science fiction, but given their age and the audience they were aimed at, Ron Turner's writing was pretty good. Lack of space meant that Turner had no time for elaborate set-ups: he jumped right in and each yarn had to motor along at high speed. The opening story, for instance, is a model of condensed story-telling, the opening page introducing an alien race and a situation, the second page expanding on the problem and introducing a potentially cataclysmic threat. By page three, Space Ace and Sergeant Bill Crag are on the ground and captured; a page later they've escaped and are back in space, faced with an overwhelming force of enemy spaceships and only two pages to clear up the problem that now threatens their home planet.

These pacy little tales are all drawn exquisitely by Turner and hopefully John will be able to keep to his planned schedule as it will be a huge pleasure to see more of these old yarns back in print. For now, you can pick up volume 3 for £8.95 (UK), £13.00 (Europe) or £14.00 (international)—all prices include postage & packing—via PayPal at spaceace.54 AT

For this week's paperback covers I've picked out four fairly random scans of Ace Books. This was the old Harborough Press, run by Raymond and Lilian Locker and edited by Frank Rudman. To my mind it was the most eclectic paperback line of its era (1957-62), with a lot of translations and many books by now-forgotten authors... and then you'll stumble across a classic like Absolute Beginners or To Sir With Love or a single month's output that included books by Tennessee Williams, Edgar Mittelholzer, Billie Holiday and Truman Capote.

I don't know who the cover artists were for the following covers. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Spaniard or two involved.

We'll have a George R. R. Martin cover gallery some time over the weekend. There are a couple of posts that I want to do but it may take a few days to get them together... so just in case things get a little patchy, rest assured that I'm working on something.

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