Sunday, October 07, 2007

ABC Show Book Signing

David Roach (left) and I, signing books at the ABC show today. I'll write more later once I've had a couple of cups of coffee.

I'm back -- caffeine levels have been restored to something approaching normal and there's quite a lot to cover.

After the usual Sunday transport fiasco of replacement bus services and not being able to get into Liverpool Street, I managed to get to the Royal National around 10.45 -- and hour and a quarter before the doors opened. Geoff and the rest of the Book Palace staff had made an excellent job of setting up our signing. David Roach (artist, author, artist-spotter extraordinaire) and I were both at the show to sign heaps of books including copies of our War Libraries index, and some solo projects: David's Aarrgghh! It's War and my own Unleash Hell and Death or Glory.

The backdrop of original Fleetway war libraries artwork (above) made for the perfect setting, although the sheer number of books (below) was a bit daunting. And that's just the War Libraries. We also made space for copies of all four of the Carlton Commando reprints since our little area had something of a war theme, although nobody took us up on our offer to forge George Low's signature.

With the doors open at twelve we went into action and spent the next two and a half hours chatting to anyone who cared to chat, signing books and generally having a whale of a time. Our table became something of a focus for people showing off artwork that they had brought along or had bought at the show: in the photo below you can see David with some pages by the incredible Jordi Penalva.

There were some very pleasant surprises, too. We've been trying to locate any original artwork we can for the Thriller, Cowboy and Super Detective libraries for inclusion in our next book -- and I was very pleased to meet up with Mick Harvey, John Lawrence and Chris Street who have helped out in the past and have all offered to help out again with the present volume. Over the years we've got to know most of the big collectors but every now and then -- today, to be precise -- something unexpected turns up. Like this Sep. E. Scott cover from Thriller which appeared out of the blue today.

What was even more of a surprise was that on the back of the artwork you could see Sep. E. Scott had been roughing out ideas for his next cover, The Children of the New Forest, as can be seen below.

Apart from the odd surprise (and I'll take that kind of surprise any day!), it was nice to see some old friends -- at least one (Roger Berry) busy finding goodies that will be included in the third volume of the libraries series -- and bump into folk who have been a tremendous help with advice and information over the years (Phil Rushton springs to mind). A lot of the research carried out into British comics is done by a small but dedicated band of people sharing information. You only have to look in the acknowledgments to the indexes to see that they haven't been solo projects. I take a lot of the plaudits because (a) I'm shameless and (b) pretty good at organising information, but without that flow of information from a dozen different collectors these indexes wouldn't exist. Today was one of those good karma days when I get to say thank you.

The signing wasn't the only thing going on that focused on British comics: Brian Clarke and his team took over another table and presented the second issue of Crikey!, currently the only fanzine that covers a wide range of British comics -- that's not to denigrate Eagle Times or Spaceship Away but it's nice to have something else out there that will cover The Broons, The Daleks, Terry Bave, Our Ernie, Lady Penelope and a host of etceteras. I've yet to read the whole thing but what I did read on the train on the way home was excellent. I was amongst the complainers that the first issue dedicated too much space to people reminiscing about the titles they'd read as kids -- which is fine as long as it's a part of the magazine, not the whole magazine. Well, issue two has achieved a far greater balance with ten different contributors this time round and more promised for the third issue (in January). Subscriptions to the magazine are available, £15.96 for 4 issues -- from Brian Clarke, 4 Hillsborough Drive, Unsworth, Bury BL9 8LE or you can subscribe via the website.

A couple of new projects were announced at the Show. First up, Peter Richardson, editor of the magazine Achtung! Commando -- you can guess which British comic that's dedicated to -- is working on a guide to the whole series, all 4,000+ issues, which will be published in the same format as our War Libraries book. Given Peter's dedication to Commando and wideranging interviews with many of the editors, artists and writers who have worked on the title, I'm sure it will live up to the book's subtitle: "The ultimate guide to Commando comics".

Last, but by no means least, we can announce that we're also working on The Complete Frank Bellamy Robin Hood. This is a Look and Learn/Book Palace project that has been in the works for a while now (it takes time to scan and clean up that many pages!). The book will reprint the whole of Bellamy's long run of 'Robin Hood and His Merry Men' and 'Robin Hood and Maid Marian' for 15 months in 1956-57 in the pages of Swift. Not, I may add, the abridged version that later appeared in Treasure in the 1960s. This is the complete run.

Both books will be out in 2008; when we have a more precise date I'll let you know. If we get a good tail wind, one or other of them might even be out in time for the next ABC Show and we can do this signing malarky all over again.


  1. I'm looking forward to the Robin Hood book. It'll definately be on my B'day/Christmas list.

    Would love to see a Phantom Patrol book too. The art was by the great Gerry Embleton. I've only seen the (muddy) reprints that appeared in either the 2000AD 0r Starlord annuals in the 80s. I've a feeling that it originally appeared in Swift?

    Wish someone would collect the Heros the Spartan strip. I know it'd be difficult because of it being a double-page (original Eagle dimensions and full-colour)strip.

    But one can dream-eh?

  2. Hi Steve

    Can I point "Crow" to the note on my website? His dreams have started to be fulfilled. I haven't yet seen a copy but hopefully "Crow" will be pleased

    Go to and click on the 'note' link at the side

    Your helpful friend

  3. Thanks Norman. Crow IS kinda pleased. But Crow feels that HAVING to sell one of his kidney's to afford it seems a little extreme. ;)

  4. Crow,

    Funny you should mention Phantom Patrol as I mentioned that very strip to a publisher recently.

    I've heard from various publishers over the years that they've avoided Heros because of the format -- the images cross the centre gutter which is not a problem in the centre pages of a magazine but you might lose image and text in a bound book. My answer has always been: use a cloth binding so you can spread the pages flat. But that observation usually falls on deaf ears.

    Various Bellamy projects have been mooted of late. The only one I know to be going ahead with absolute certainty is the Robin Hood book which is already in the works. But I'm hoping to be able to confirm another project (not from me or Look and Learn or Book Palace) some time soon.

    It's good to see Bellamy's work finally creeping back into the public eye. No disrespect to Frank Hampson or Don Lawrence or their followers (I count myself amongst them) but Bellamy's work has been woefully passed by when it comes to reprints and he's up there with Hampson, Lawrence, Ron Embleton and others whose artwork made British comics great. His Thunderbirds strips were amongst my favourite comics when I was growing up.

  5. I think that maybe that has been the problem in the past that it cost so much money for publishers to print in full colour that people like Bellamy have been 'forgotten'. I must admit that I prefer his colour work. I think that he was a wonderful craftsman (like many of his generation) but his ink work looks a little static. Whereas the colour stuff sweeps and moves and is quite dramatic. I guess the alternative would be to have a landscape book for Heros. I envisage something along the lines of the Dragon's Dream books of the 70s and 80's. Big format. Which in reality would create a HUGE book if kept to the original dimensions of the printed Eagle pages. Be nice though. A kind of wide-screen/Cinemascope effect.
    Although, another option would be to publish the strips as a glossy magazine. A part-work like Orbis used to publish with the opportunity to buy a binder to put them in. That would solve/reduce the gutter problem. Be a nice way of re-introducing these comics to the public at large (rather than expensive books)if it was on sale in the local newsagent. I would suspect that Wulf the Briton would go down quite well as a weekly/monthly too.



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