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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Comic Cuts

I'm juggling various projects this week: The Mike Western Story is now well under way and I'm now sitting here with a yard-high pile of Valiants to read through. As you can imagine, it's a bit of a distraction. It's a far from complete run, even from the time when I was an avid reader; I seem to be missing a huge chunk of issues from 1971/72 and I've got a horrible feeling that it was around this period that my Mum decided that there were too many comics piling up and got rid of all my TV 21s and any others that were laying around. But many survived and still have the little 'Holland' written in the corner by our local newsagent. I must have squirreled most of the earlier issues away somewhere safe because most of 1969 and 1970 have survived. While I've got them out of the attic I'll see if I can scan up a few pages to share with you. Above is the cover to the very first issue (bought many years later, I hasten to add; I only just beat Valiant into the world).

Also underway is the next Frank Bellamy book for the Book Palace which will contain the complete runs of 'King Arthur and His Knights' and 'Swiss Family Robinson'. The scanning is all done but it will be a while before anything else happens as we're still waiting the arrival of the first book, copies of which should be available in a few week's time. We will have a limited number of copies available at the ABC Show on March 16th if you just can't wait, but the bulk of the copies will probably be arriving a week or two later.

I've also got to get started on the translation of the next Storm book. Maybe tomorrow.

In the Post:

Justin Marriott's The Paperback Fanatic has reached issue 6 and he's produced another fantastic issue, this one a Peter Haining special. Leading off the issue is a long interview with Peter conducted in 2006 followed by a summary of his horror anthologies by Mike Ashley both offering a lot of insight into Peter's work and how he managed to write and compile his 260 or so books. I don't think the publishing conditions exist any more for such a prolific output so it can truly be said that you're unlikely to see the likes of Peter again. Nice guy, too.

Of the shorter pieces I thoroughly enjoyed Justin's interview with Phil Harbottle (my co-author on Vultures of the Void) and Andy Boot's thorough examination of Bill Baker's Press Editorial Syndicate. Phil's fascinating story of editing Vision of Tomorrow is a real "what might have been" tale if only problems with distribution could have been overcome; the latter article is the kind of well-researched piece that Paperback Fanatic is starting to earn a reputation for.

The magazine is illustrated with dozens of book covers, mostly from the 1970s boom days of paperbacks.

Justin now has a website for the magazine where you can see a few sample pages. Or why not just dive straight in and order a copy via the online shop. £5 including p&p in the UK is a bargain.

Also landing on the welcome mat recently was Spaceship Away, Rod Barzilay's evocation of the original Dan Dare. Although it originally home to a single strip, a brand new Dan Dare yarn drawn by Keith Watson, the magazine has expanded greatly over the last couple of years and now contains the ongoing DD series 'Green Nemesis', nowadays only partly drawn—due to pressure of other work—by Don Harley but with Tim Booth ably filling in, 'Hal Starr' by Syd Jordan, 'Rocket Pilot' by Keith Page (a Dare prequel), 'The Gates of Eden' (another Dare strip by Tim Booth) and a reprint of 'Journey Into Space'.

Other features include various humour strips (by Ray Aspden, Eric Mackenzie and Andy Boyce), a Dan Dare text serial by Denis Steeper, articles and a beautiful pin-up illustration by Ian Kennedy. Printed on glossy paper that really makes colours pop out, it's a fabulous collection and Rod is promising more original strips for the future. The magazine is getting some distribution through comics shops but to guarantee your copy, go to the Spaceship Away website and subscribe. I can't give it any higher recommendation than to say that I've just subbed for another six issues (which means I get a seventh for free).

Dime Novel Round-Up is a rather more academic magazine dedicated to American popular literature of the 19th and early 20th century. I'm always amazed at the breadth of material editor J. Randolph Cox manages to attract to his little mag—and, indeed, the diversity of his own reading as this issue includes his memories of reading the Freddy the Pig books by Walter Brooks. This issue's two main features are 'Samuel Goodrich and the Branding of American Children's Books' by Pat Pflieger and 'Just Desserts: Crime and Punishment in Philip S. Warne's Dime Novel Mysteries' by Marlena E. Bremseth, both of whom have University backgrounds. That's not to say that they're unreadable (a serious fault in many academic papers), but they are focussed sharply on their subject and if, like me, you know little about the authors under discussion, you might not get the best out of them. I'm still a learner when it comes to dime novels (many of which were published for boys' here in the UK, hence my interest) and this is the place to learn.

DNRU is published six times a year and available by sub. in the US for $20/year and $35/two years. Single issues, $4. Enquiries for subs. elsewhere to the editor J. Randolph Cox, Dime Novel Round-Up, P. O. Box 226, Dundas MN 55019.

A few bits of news from hither and yon...

* Lew Stringer has put up a fun video of Alex Collier drawing a page from Viz shot with a time lapse camera. I'd hate to do one myself as there would be almost no movement apart from the coffee regularly draining from my cup then mysteriously refilling.

* The rise in Dan Dare sales for Virgin I reported a few days ago may partly caused by a glitch in the way the numbers were recorded. According to a couple of sources—see, for instance, Marc-Oliver Frisch's comments here—the figures for a number of titles took an unexpected jump, suspected to involve reorder figures from February being included in the January chart. We shall just have to see if Diamond reissue the January chart and, if not, what happens next month.


  1. Hi Steve

    I bought the earlier version of The Mike Western Story (the second printing, I think) and since I've read (and enjoyed) it at least twice, you can mark me as a definite purchaser of the expanded version.

    David Simpson

  2. Steve,
    Thanks for the news that Frank Bellamy's not forgotten.

    I re-read some of those Swiss Family Robinson strips the other week and they are obviously earliest Bellamy - he must have felt constricted by the format with libretto under the panels. Nevertheless they are lovely to see and most people will never collect the full run of Swifts!
    WELL DONE to you (and I presume, Jeff)

  3. I'd love to take full credit, Norman, but really that belongs to Geoff as it was his idea (although one that I supported enthusiastically). We're hoping that the Robin Hood book will make a bit of a splash outside the usual comic fan base as well as amongst fans who have heard of the strip but never had a chance to see it in all its glory.

    All being well, the King Arthur (and Swiss Family Robinson) will follow this year. The strips are both scanned and are now being cleaned up, although we've yet to even think about scheduling the book, especially while the Robin Hood is still on the high seas and hasn't even reached the UK yet. We will have some copies available at the ABC show that are coming in by air but the official release date is March 31st. Just announced, so you heard it here first!

  4. Hi Steve

    Will the Swiss Family Robinson/King Arthur book include Bellamy's other, quite short, Swift serials, ie Paul English and The Fleet Family?

    David Simpson

  5. Still to be decided, David, as it depends on costs. It's a sad fact that, even with such a major talent as Frank Bellamy, we're not talking "mass market" when it comes to putting these books out. It's a juggling act to figure out how many are likely to sell, how much the print run will cost and—what most people usually forget—how much you can afford to have tied up in stock as not every copy will fly off the shelves.

    If they don't appear in the King Arthur book, I have an alternative plan up my sleeve. One way or another we'll see them back in print.