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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Comic Clippings - 16 September

I've been working with David Roach on a new index for... well, for years but only seriously putting it together for publication since January or February. Neither of us have had much time to concentrate on it -- David is a busy artist and works for various publishers both here and in the USA and I've got a fulltime job with Look and Learn and a weekends and evenings job with DLC. However, with the Pandarve book and the latest Worlds of Don Lawrence newsletter heading off to the printers I've got the weekend off. Tomorrow is the comic/book fair at the Royal National so I've spent today pottering around the house, shopping, catching up on e-mail (still quite a bit to go) and typing up lists of cover artists.

The plan is to revamp a series of indexes I produced (usually co-produced) for Bryon Whitworth back in the 1990s covering a lot of different Fleetway Publications titles ranging from Thriller Picture Library to Buster. Thriller was the first title we produced, back in 1992, and a lot of new information has come to light in the intervening 14 years.

Some of them still turn up on eBay and seem to fetch pretty good money, although they've always been a bit of an embarrassment. Bryon used to produce them to order and some were pretty hefty volumes (one of them ran to 385 pages!); photocopying them one at a time meant they were also highly priced -- and having people pay upwards of £20 for a photocopied book always made me cringe. Mind you, I never saw a penny from any of these books -- and we did eleven of them over a five year period -- so I never thought of them as a rip-off.

Anyway, I was talking about these indexes with Geoff West of The Book Palace last year and mentioned how out of date these volumes were and, to cut a long story short, we're going to update them and reissue them, properly printed this time, over the next few years. We've received the go-ahead from IPC Media and DC Comics. Now all we've got to do is the work.

The schedule is pretty loose but we're hoping to have the first volume out next Spring. That volume will be The War Libraries, covering all the major Fleetway war libraries, namely Air Ace, Battle, Giant War, War at Sea and War plus a bunch of related summer/holiday specials. With the exception of a couple of specials and back-up strips, we have complete title lists for all the main titles: 545 issues of Air Ace, 1,706 issues of Battle, 76 issues of Giant War, 36 issues of War at Sea and 2103 issues of War. There's a vast amount of reprint information (I'd have to say we've identified about 95% of the reprints) but we're most proud of the creators info. as we must have about 90+% of the artists identified and, for the first time, we've a lot of information on who wrote what during the early years of the libraries based on recently discovered payment records.

The book will be heavily illustrated with plenty of examples of the best illustrators (both covers and internal art) and the whole thing will be wrapped up with a lengthy introduction about the history of the libraries.

I'm hoping the Geoff will have some sample pages to look at tomorrow so that we'll have some idea what we're aiming at.

David and I are already working on a follow up which will feature all the other Fleetway library titles from Action to Wild West and list obscure titles like the schoolgirl and romance libraries as well as better known titles like the Fleetway Super Library series and the Lion and Valiant spin-offs. And David Ashford and I are looking at the older library titles, Thriller, Super Detective and Cowboy to make up another volume. And then we get into Lion, Valiant and the rest... but that's looking too far ahead!

Time to get the coffee on... looks like I won't be sleeping until after the Olympics.

A mini news round up:
  • Comic Book Resources has an interview with Top Shelf's Chris Staros about the success of Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls. Which we've still to see over here in the UK. All is explained...

As I understand it, "Lost Girls" isn't being distributed in the United Kingdon yet due to concerns about the Peter Pan trademark, is that right?

Yes, we have received some official correspondence from the Great Ormonds Street hospital, which is the copyright holder of Peter Pan in the United Kingdom. We've had some dialogue with them and it's been very cordial and we're glad to have this discussion with them. It's not an adversarial thing at all. And since we're still having discussions with them, we've postponed the release of the book in England and Europe for the time being. Even though we don't feel that this book is a trademark or copyright infringement - it's more a literary allusion to a story - we have an enormous amount of respect for the Children's Hospital and the Peter Pan trademark, and we really don't want to get in a battle over that. We'd rather a Children's Hospital spend its money on kidney dialysis and other things for children, and we don't want them to spend their money fighting us and we don't want to spend our money fighting them. It looks like we're coming very close to a peaceful agreement here and we'll go from there. Unfortunately it's not quite finalized yet so I can't make an official announcement, but I think it's going well and we should have a resolution soon.

[Editor's Note: We contacted Top Shelf prior to the publication of this article to see if there was any additional news regarding European distribution. Discussions are ongoing and as soon as the matter is resolved the publisher will make a formal announcement, but it may result in the book being delayed until January 1st, 2008 for European and UK distribution. Top Shelf said if that ended up being the case, the publisher would likely release a special UK edition (1st printing) at that time.]


  1. That's great news about the indexes Steve; I'm especially excited to hear about the inclusion of girls' and women's titles like 'Schoolgirl's Picture Library' and 'True Life'.

    With Dave Roach helping maybe it'll even be possible to index some of the classic girls' weeklies as well? I hope so - personally I'd love to see comics like School Friend, Bunty, Judy, June, Diana, Princess, Tina, Poppet, etc. given the 'Holland' treatment! (not to mention more obscure stuff like Top Spot, Glamour and Roxy). Maybe somebody ought to add a couple of extra hours to the day so you could fit it all in? :-)

  2. Great news about the indexes Steve. I have a copy of the Fleetway but would be interested in seeing updated versions of the indices, especially in the more professional format you describe. I've noticed a few errors/omissions in the Fleetway volume (out of the thousands of entries) what's the best way to let you know what they are? Post here or send you an e-mail? You may of course be aware of these omissions I just thought I'd post here in an effort to make the next volume even more authoritative.

    Richard Sheaf

  3. Phil,

    The plan is to do some of the girls' titles that have never been indexed before. The pocket libraries listings are well in hand thanks to some very good luck we've had recently. David recently sent me a thick wedge of information -- an embarrassment of goodies! -- which will take me some weeks to type up. But, over a period of a couple of years, David has been building up a lot of info. on the weeklies as well. Not all of the lists are complete (some, frankly, are a bit thin on dates) but we're working on them and, at some point, we'll draw a line and say they're ready to go. I'm sure we can run updates here on on some dedicated web site if we do decide to go before every i is dotted and every t crossed.

    And, Richard, all additions and corrections are welcome, either here or direct to me. Same applies to anyone who spots a mistake in anything a write -- I'm only human and I make mistakes and, with the comic indexes especially, we're dealing with titles fifty plus years old in some cases where no official records exist. So we're feeling our way in the dark a lot of the time and the odd stumble is inevitable. All I can say is that we try to stumble as little as possible!