Thursday, April 03, 2008

Comic Cuts

I didn't have a chance to post anything last night as I was answering questions for an interview that has just appeared on Michael Eriksson's Where Eagle's Dare website, dedicated to the war pocket libraries he read when he was growing up. The interview covers quite a lot: the War Libraries book I did with David Roach, the Carlton reprints, how the comics indexes came about, Frank Bellamy's Robin Hood, the Don Lawrence Collection books, The Trials of Hank Janson and where the name 'Bear Alley' comes from. If you need to read the ramblings of a man with too much coffee in his system, just follow that interview link.

I've mentioned two projects that I haven't gotten around to mentioning here. The final two "to be announced" Carlton books that will be appearing this autumn will be Rick RandomSpace Detective and High Noon. The latter is a collection of Western strips from Cowboy Picture Library and I think it's one you'll like even if Westerns are not your cup of tea.

When it came to choosing the contents, I made a conscious decision to concentrate on three artists that I thought were amongst the best contributors to the series. One was Jesus Blasco, who... you know I'm a fan of Blasco? He drew 'The Steel Claw' which was my favourite strip growing up but he also drew these fantastic Western strips, usually featuring Kit Carson. The second artist is Gerry Embleton, younger brother of Ron and a fantastic artist in his own right and if all you've seen of his work is his brief stint on Dan Dare back in 1982 when the (New) Eagle launched, I think you're going to be blown away by his black & white artwork. I wanted to pick a third artist with a contrasting style and plumped for Alberto Breccia who only worked for the UK briefly but brilliantly. With a bit of juggling, I was able to include stories featuring the four main characters who appeared in Cowboy—Kit Carson, Davy Crockett, Kansas Kid and Buck Jones—and have 15 of the 17 stories in the collection by these three artists.

If I get the chance to do a second volume, I'm planning to do the same and my first choice of artist will be Arturo Del Castillo. The only reason he didn't make the cut this time round was because his main character was not one of the 'big four' that I wanted to feature in this first volume. Keep your fingers crossed that it sells well enough for a second volume.

And then there's Rick RandomSpace Detective. I'm so pleased that Carlton chose to do this one and the one thing I brought to it as editor was to make sure that all twelve stories are by Ron Turner. So that'll be over 750 pages of Ron Turner at his best. Oh, yes, and four of the stories are written by Harry Harrison—and that does not include 'Rick Random and the S.O.S. From Space' which appeared in the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special back in 1978 which was erroneously credited to Harrison (it was actually written by Bob Kesten). I've not included the latter as it's perhaps the most readily available of all the Rick Random yarns thanks to bit torrent and various scanning groups but if you've seen it and like Ron Turner's artwork, this will be the collection for you. The good news is that there's another material left for a second volume.

You'll have to wait until October to see these volumes in the shops. That gives me six months to clear some space on my shelves for this year's crop of books. I think I'm going to need a bigger house.

News from elsewhere...

* A long and fascinating interview with editor Bill Graham conducted by Bear Alley regular Jeremy Briggs has appeared on Down The Tubes. Bill's career began at D. C. Thomson in 1963 as a sub-editor on The Hornet and he went on to edit The Wizard, Warlord, Crunch, Buddy, Spike, Champ, Football Picture Story Monthly, Star Romance and Starblazer amongst others. Bill was my editor when I took a punt at writing comics and successfully shepherded two Starblazer's into print for which I'll be eternally grateful. (If you want to read that little saga, click here).

(* Our column header is a Ron Turner image coloured by John Ridgway. Although I'm a huge fan of Turner's black & white work, some enterprising publisher really needs to get a license to do a colour version. Second pic: a panel from an issue of Lone Rider Picture Library in 1962, drawn by Alberto Breccia. Artwork © IPC Media.)


  1. Hi Steve

    Of all the possible characters that could be reprinted from the Fleetway libraries, Rick Random comes top of my list, so good news on the Rick Random collection. Hopefully it will sell well enough to reprint all of the Random stories, hopefully eventually including the three Bill Lacey stories, perhaps reprinted together with Lacey's two Rod Collins sf stories.

    It'd also be lovely to see other Super Detective Library characters such as Blackshirt and Lesley Shane reprinted -- I'd assumed that a combination of obscurity and copyright problems would prevent that from happening but then, a year or two ago, I would never gave imagined that Valentine Picture Story Library wouold be reprinted, so I guess that anything's possible

    David Simpson

  2. David,

    I must admit I was very pleased when I heard about the possibility that Carlton were doing a collection of Rick Random and even more pleased when they asked me to put it together. It opens up many possibilities if it does well.

    It seems a bit presumptive to talk about a second volume already but, if it happens, it would certainly include the Bill Lacey yarns as well as the remainder of the Turner stories.

    And I should add that, thanks to top-Turner fan John Lawrence, we've some background on the Rick Random character in the introduction to the Thriller Libraries volume which I'm hoping will be out around the same time (or just before) the Random and Cowboy Comics collections.

  3. Bah, i've already got my dad putting up new shelves for all my antique books off Ebay, and i havent even collected all the big Commando volumes yet! I wonder if there could be reprints of other Super Detective Library stories in future, under a "classic crime" banner... if only because there was a Sexton Blake one.

    Also a Battler Britton collection might be good... DC did an insulting "emotional" revival of it a few years back, reckoning they where "bringing back a classic character for a new generation" when they where really "cashing in on somebody elses idea because they have no imagination"

  4. Michael

    DC brought back Battler Britton because the character was a big childhood favourite of writer Garth Ennis; when he found that DC had the rights to BB, he used his popularity as a writer to convince them to let him write a BB mini-series.

    DC weren't "...cashing in on..." anything, they were keeping one of their star writers happy, hoping that he'd feel good enough after this to write something more commercial for them

    David Simpson

  5. Will these books be distributed through Previews, like the Robin Hood book, or not?

    Please suggest this to the publisher. It would be the easier way to get ahold of them for a lot of potential buyers outside the UK, like me.

  6. hubruqei,

    I'm not sure if they will be distributed by Diamond in the USA, although I've a feeling they can already be obtained through Diamond in the UK as our local comic shop stocked the books.

  7. Regarding the recent WildStorm Battler Britton, I thought Garth made a pretty good job of it -- definitely a homage to the original stories down to the sometimes ridiculous flying stunts Battler managed to pull off with his plane without chopping people to shreds. Of the three WildStorm titles that reused old British characters, it was far and away my favourite.

  8. For someone like me, from Spain, the only way to get these books (maybe not the only way, but certainly the easiest and the only one I will bother with anyway) is throught the Previews catalog (distribution from the US to the rest of the world), and I was asking because in the latest Previews, not only your Robin Hood book is listed, but also this:

    PAGE 405
    APR08 4363 MOTHER TELLS YOU HOW TP (C: 0-1-2) SRP: $14.95

    from the archives of Girl magazine
    “Women’s work” has never been so much fun! Girl magazine, launched in the UK in 1951, and its popular strip “Mother Tells You How” provided inspiration and guidance for millions of teenage girls during the ’50s. Now a whole new generation can learn such traditional tasks as how to properly make a bed or bathe a baby, but also read whimsical and charming tips on how to make a Burmese skirt, use old cheese, prepare baked Alaska, pack for a weekend holiday, and camp in comfort! Now all modern women can be primed and poised for domestic success! (7/0-8109-9542-5) (C: 0-1-2)
    SC, 5x7, 128pgs, FC SRP: $14.95

    If I'm not mistaken, this was published by Prion/Carlton or whateveritsname, and as far as I know it's the first time one of these books appears in Previews, so I have hopes the rest of the lot will appear soon (especially the one with Blasco and Breccia goodness aplenty), but I suppose you can't really do anything about it.



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