Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Comic Clippings - 17 April

It's beginning to look like the rumoured death of Massimo Belardinelli is more than a rumour. Journalista quotes a letter from Lambiek Comiclopedia editor Bas Schuddeboom saying that he heard the news from an Italian cartoonist. "We received the news in an e-mail from comic artist [name withheld*], who had worked with him on several projects. I don't know if [name witheld] read about the news on the internet, but I presume that he heard it more directly."

* Dirk Deppey explains that he was unable to check with Schuddeboom to OK revealing the source of the information before going to 'print'.
  • Steve Flanagan has produced a superbly illustrated review of Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland. I'm still only halfway through the book but it is utterly captivating. Dense, yes, but never confusing; unfocused in places, certainly, but never less than fascinating. The artwork is a series of photo and comic strip collages with occasional breaks for a number of smaller stories within the story drawn in a variety of styles. I'm expecting to find the kitchen sink in the latter half of the book.
  • Long-time 2000AD fan and former editor of Class of '79, W. R. Logan, has a blog, La Placa Rifa.

In the Post

The Spring 2007 issue of Eagle Times (curiously misnumbered vol.20 no.2) is out with articles about Keith Watson's Dan Dare and a continuation of the 'Frank Hampson Locations' feature from earlier issues. There seems to be a large amount of non-Eagle material this issue (Pop music of the Fifties, Geoffrey Bond's 'The Magic of Sanders', part 3 of a feature on Dick Barton) which I know some Eagle Society members won't be happy with. Personally I don't mind one or two -- it helps put the Eagle in context -- but I have noticed the increase. With some writers siphoned off to pastures Awaaaaay! I suspect Eagle Times may be struggling to find new ways to cover the same ground.

The March 2007 issue of Fumetto has also arrived. Makes me weep to think that there is nothing of this quality published in the UK. This is published in Italy by ANAFI (Associazione Nazionale Amici del Fumetto e dell'Illustrazioni) and it's big: 9 ½" x 11 ¼" with over 50 b/w pages of densely packed text. My Italian is lousy but I've picked up enough over the years to make some sort of sense of the articles, usually those where I recognise the names of the artists and know something of their work. This issue includes features on various incarnations of 'Buffalo Bill' strips in Italy, 'Ben Casey' (the US newspaper strip), Gino D'Antonio, Hugo Pratt and a special insert on Antonio Canale. The coverage is mostly material from the 1950s and 1960s which is my particular area of interest. Although Eagle Times, Spaceship Away, Jeff Hawke's Cosmos and Redeye all have worthy qualities, there's still nothing out there to cure my craving for articles and interviews with the folks who created the comics I grew up with. Would there be an audience for such a magazine? I'm not convinced there is. Yeah, I'm talking sacrilege, I know but I'm talking from experience. There are a number of people who are hugely enthusiastic but I've been involved with most of the comics' fanzines that concentrate on British comics that have come out in the last 20 years and none of them had a sustainable circulation and most had the same five or six writers doing all the work.

Sometimes I wonder if the way to go is big and expensive. Most fanzines are targeted and kept as cheap as possible to keep it within the reach of their small audience. Eagle Times, for example, publishes four issues a year for £22. Redeye can put out a 100+ page squarebound magazine for £4 an issue. So why not a magazine -- a book, really -- of 200+ pages for £10-12 twice a year. Tons of space for the widest possible coverage, for some really in-depth pieces, lots of illustrations.

Hey, I'm allowed to daydream.


  1. Steve

    I'll buy into your daydream...and you might even persuade me to be that 7th or 8th writer :-)
    I have always wondered why we don't have that sort of fanzine. Is there really NO market for one? YOU, of all successful publishers, should know!

    Norman, a humble scribbler!

  2. Most of the things I've been involved in -- most of the things that have worked anyway -- have had the backing of a proper publisher; that's a whole team of support staff from advertising to promotion to distribution. Most fanzines don't have anything like that level of staffing -- I've been head cook and bottle washer on one or two self-published mags and while my enthusiasm was usually pretty high while I was writing it soon started to evaporate once I got past designing and into the nitty gritty of lugging pages down to the copy shop, folding, stapling and writing out addresses on envelopes.

    As for the market... well, that can only be guessed at. The hardcore of regular Internet users is under thirty, so there's a market for 2000AD, Battle Picture Weekly, Warlord and a few other adventure papers; Beano and Dandy will always have their fans; (New) Eagle and Commando have a fan base.

    The number of fans on the internet, and the amount of information you can therefore find about older comics, decreases exponentially with each decade you go back; there's virtually nothing about pre-WW2 comics, a little about fifties comics (mostly concentrated on Eagle sites or the Comics UK sites), odds and ends about sixties comics (primarily in the blogsphere) and some good sites dedicated to single comics in the seventies (Battle, Action, 2000AD).

    Any magazine only covering pre-1970s comics would have to market itself outside the Internet (although the Internet is a good starting point as we've found with Look and Learn. However, I can't really equate what we've done with Look and Learn to a fanzine about the history of comics as they're chalk and cheese.)

    Outside the Internet there is a market but it's finding that market that's the problem. Advertising and promotion are the usual course but, sadly, that requires money. How big that market is and how much loose cash they have to spend on magazines is a question for another day.



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