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Monday, May 19, 2008

Comic Cuts

I'm still plugging away at the science fiction art book so I've not had much time for anything else. The first 10 pages are with the publisher; I've completed the text for the next 12 pages and blocked out the next 8 pages which are also 90% written. So I'm on schedule to have the whole thing finished by mid-June, which is the deadline. Although each essay is relatively short, there's a lot of detail and I'm spending a lot of time trying to condense everything down so that it's both comprehensive and concise. At least here I can ramble for a bit...

The latest issue of Crikey! popped through the door yesterday. I'm growing increasingly fond of the magazine which, I'll admit, I had some reservations about at first. Now I know what to expect I find the magazine is doing a pretty good job at what it sets out to do—possibly the most half-assed compliment I've ever written. What I'm trying to say is that Crikey! isn't aimed at me. 50% or more of the readership are picking up the magazine for its brief hits of nostalgia and to have a few strips that they might have missed during their childhood pointed out to them. It's inevitable that the magazine is going to be something of a disappointment to the fans who know their comics' history in detail already. But step back for a minute and imagine that you're being reintroduced to comics that you've not seen for twenty years and you get a better view of what Crikey! is trying to achieve.

The issues to date have seen a vast improvement in quality—Ray Moore has been brought on board as chief fact-checker and that means the annoying errors of the early issues are now a thing of the past. The articles are well illustrated and, for the most part, well written. Crikey! has found its niche and is mining it very well. What's now needed is a second title that can fill in the details that Crikey! leaves out.

The magazine must be doing reasonably well as it now has a companion, Super-Spies and Secret Agents, which covers what it says on the tin. Lots of TV coverage, a bit of movies and a bit of comics. First issue covers The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., James Bond, The Champions, Stingray, Mr. Ed and Special Agent 21. The highlight is a previously unpublished interview with Dennis Spooner, the man behind many of the series that SS&SA loves to bits. Hopefully the coverage will broaden in issues to come. The magazine needs to find its voice even more quickly than Crikey! because there are better and more comprehensive websites dedicated to the same TV shows SS&SA covers and the shows (unlike the comics covered by Crikey!) have been written about endlessly for the past forty years.

News from around the net...

* Compal have their latest auction catalogue up. The high bids will, no doubt, be reserved for early D C Thomson annuals and comics, including a number of early issues of Beano, and the first editions of The Beano Book (estimate £1,500-2,000) and The Broons (est. £3,000-3,500). There are also examples of Dudley D. Watkins' original artwork for Oor Wullie, Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty, an Eagle cover featuring Dan Dare by Desmond Walduck, pages by Paddy Brennan, Charlie Pease, Alfred Bestell, Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Tom Patterson, Ron Turner, Geoff Campion and Don Lawrence (the cover to The Look and Learn Book of The Trigan Empire, 1973).

* I'm running a little late with news, and I imagine everyone has already seen 'em, but, if not, Forbidden Planet International have a nicely illustrated list of winners from this year's 2007 Eagle Awards. At Down the Tubes, John Freeman has posted David Hailwood's report on the Bristol Expo and a round-up of other sites which have covered the weekend.

* Jeremy Briggs has posted details of the Dundee Literary Festival's Comics Day (22 June) at Down the Tubes.

* The illustrator of former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell's debut children's book, Ugenia Lavender (Macmillan Children's Books, ISBN 978-0230701403, May 2008), is none other than Rian Hughes, designer, photographer, Dan Dare artist and font fanatic. It's the first of a six-books series, to be followed by Ugenia Lavender and the Terrible Tiger (June), Ugenia Lavender and the Burning Pants (July), Ugenia Lavender Home Alone (August), Ugenia Lavender and the Temple of Gloom (September) and Ugenia Lavender the One and Only (October). I'll post the rest of the covers at the bottom of this column.

Rian has also contributed to Really Good Logos Explained edited by Nancy Heinonen (Rockport Publishers, ISBN 978-1592534272, 1 May 2008) in which a select few—Rian, Margo Chase, Alex White and Ron Miriello—critique a selection of logos and explain what makes them work and what makes some fall short of the mark.

* Brian Heater presents part 2 of his interview with David Lloyd. If you missed part 1, you'll want to go here first. (link via Journalista)

* Alex Fitch has posted an extended version of Grant Rogers' interview with Pat Mills at his Reality Check and Panel Borders blog. You can listen live or download (mp3 or itunes). Other recent posts include 'Remember Jack Kirby Part 1' and 'Remembering Jack Kirby Part 2', with interviews with Barry Forshaw and Mark Evanier, and 'Tripwire and Studio Space', with Duncan Nott and Alex Fitch talking to Joel Meadows. Evanier's book, Kirby: King of Comics was reviewed recently by Michael Faber (The Guardian, 3 May 2008).

Talking of Joel Meadows... he's also interviewed by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter (11 May).

* Alan Moore is appearing at Orbital Comics (148 Charing Cross Road) next Saturday, 24 May, to promote the release of a 2-disc DVD release of The Mindscape of Alan Moore. The 78-minute documentary "leads the audience through Moore's world with the writer himself as guide, beginning with his childhood background, following the evolution of his career as he transformed the comics medium, to his immersion in a magical worldview where science, spirituality and society are part of the same universe." There are a shedload of extras, including interviews with Dave Gibbons, Kev O'Neill, David Lloyd and Melinda Gebbie.

* Philip Pullman's new strip is put to the ultimate test—a 10-year-old critic—in the Independent on Sunday's piece on the new DFC subscription-only comic, bizarrely entitled "Pullman supports first new children's comic in 25 years" (18 May). Pullman was a keen reader of comics as a boy, saying recently "I was brought up on comics like the Eagle, Wizard and Beano, though not so much Dandy".

* From the 'Where Are They Now' files... Former Marvel UK editor Tim Quinn is part of the line-up for the Calderdale Festival for Young People run by the July Project, sponsored by the Halifax. According to a report in the Halifax and Calderdale Evening Courier (9 May), Quinn, now running a management company, will be appearing in sessions at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, where he'll be teaching children how to tell stories in pictures.

* There is to be a second St. Trinian's movie following the success of the recent remake starring Rupert Everett. The latest addition to the franchise, St Trinian's: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, will be written by Piers Ashworth and Nick Martin and directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson. (via BBC News)

* Look and Learn have posted some brief animations based on illustrations for the character Teddy Bear, drawn by William Francis Phillips in the 1960s. There are three available (via YouTube): as well as the one below you can also see Teddy in the bath and blowing soap bubbles.

* Here are the rest of the Ugenia Lavender book covers by Rian Hughes...

(* Ugenia Lavender presumably © Geri Halliwell/Rian Hughes/Macmillan. Teddy Bear animation © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)


  1. I too got my copy of Crikey! in the post over the weekend - possibly it's more 'for me' than it is for you. I enjoyed it and liked all the nostalgia bits, though I agree that the more serious researched bits are important and I'd like to see even more of them.

  2. D'oh - what I also meant to comment on was the DFC. Having subscribed eagerly folloiwng mentions by Garen Ewing and Neill Cameron, I was talking about this at the London Mart this weekend. Guy L was cynical not so much about the title but about the lack of marketing he feels it's received. What do you think? Certainly I mentioned it to a work colleague this morning, said colleague having 2 children including one who already likes comics, and he'd never heard of it, so maybe there's some truth in that?

  3. I have to agree that the DFC needs to market the comic beyond the readership of The Guardian and make better use of its website. It's a bit disappointing to arrive at the site and the only indication of the contents of the mag are three images intended for downloading as wallpaper.

    Subscription-only is a risky way to publish (and I'm speaking from experience) and I think a lot of parents will balk at the idea of spending £50 on an untried and un-their-kid-tested comic. Admittedly you have to sell the comic to parents (as they're the ones with the credit card) but if there's no buzz from the intended audience I'm not sure if parents will even know about it.

    Wearing my marketing hat for a moment, I'd be figuring out a way to get the word out on Bebo rather than worrying about interviews in The Times, arranging for the first issue to be overprinted by quite a few thousand copies (giveaways) and getting some samples of the strips up on the website. And if you're going to promote the comic off the back of Philip Pullman, get the strip out to the world. It's not like you need to publish the strip itself: this is comics -- if it were me, the internet would be awash with character sketches and samples of pencilled pages.

    And try to get some information out to comics news sites. Frankly, the only people discussing The DCF so far are comics fans: it is being talked about at Comic Marts; it is not being talked about by mums in Mothercare. If you can get some positive discussion of the comic anyone doing a Google search for it is more likely to risk spending their money. At the moment you'll find stuff about the Distinguished Flying Cross medal, The DFC (a rap group), the DFC Aardvarks (another band) and information about "Delayed Function Call" (something to do with computers) amongst the first eight or nine search results. That's not a very good sign.