Friday, October 10, 2008

Comic Cuts

October is turning into something of a mad month with half a dozen different projects all vying for attention. A bit stressful but in the long term that's good because what I write now pays for Christmas.

The one negative to all this is that I'm not really putting in the time to promote the books that are coming out now. The response to the latest bunch of books out from Carlton has been tremendous. Both Rick Random, Space Detective and High Noon seem to have hit the mark and I've had some great feedback. They're not the kind of books that get reviewed all over the place but certainly the Rick Random volume has generated a couple: Lew Stringer, on his Blimey! blog, had only two citicisms: that the strips weren't dated and that some pages haven't reproduced very well, although "I must emphasize that overall the reproduction is very good and better than some of the repro work in the War Picture Library collection last year."

Rick has also had a single 4-star review on Amazon from someone who says it's "a must have for the science fiction comic collector!"

The High Noon volume is a harder sell. In the same way that "most people" know that SF and fantasy will only sell to geeks, "most people" know that the Western is dead. Far from it. Borders, Waterstones and other large bookshops may not have a section dedicated to the genre but you'll still find a good selection in any British library and online magazines like Black Horse Extra dedicated to news of the market. Selling the book to the customer isn't the problem. Selling it to the market a little trickier. But I hear it's in Borders so Carlton seem to have cracked that one.

Today I received the gorgeous slip-cased set of Karl the Viking. Rob van Bavel has done his usual bang-up job putting these together. They're the most handsome of all the British reprints that have been coming out these past few years, admittedly expensive but the price reflects the quality of the books. I posted the foreword to the four-book set a few days ago which sums up my feelings about the strip, one of Don Lawrence's finest moments, along with covers for all four volumes. I think of this as the kind of thing you might ask for as a 'big' Christmas present. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

So... what have I been up to? Well, deadlines have been coming thick and fast. There are two Trigan Empire books due before the end of the year for which I've drafted one set of introductions and a long (5,000 word) essay about the creative team—Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence—behind the story. I'm about half-way through the second set of introductions for the other volume.

Then there are two volumes for next year for Carlton. The first is a third War Picture Library collection to be called Up 'n' at 'em, I think; that's should be amongst Prion's spring releases. And second (at last!) is a collection of Air Ace Picture Library stories which I'm really pleased about. One of my favourite libraries. If the selection I've made is given the OK, it will show off the talents of a range of artists, amongst them Ian Kennedy, Joe Colquhoun and Mike Western. That one's due next autumn.

I've only just finished writing up the selections for these so it's early days yet. I'll post more news as and when I hear anything.

The other deadline rapidly approaching is for a dummy for a book, the kind of thing that's used to sell the book to a publisher. I can't say anything on this one... it's only the first glint of an idea for a book as yet and I don't want to jinx it.

I'm thinking of taking it easier in November, maybe getting some sleep. The only thing I have lined up so far is another talk at the ComICA event that Paul Gravett runs at the ICA. David Roach and I will be on a panel together again, hopefully joined this year by David Leach to talk about the various books that have been appearing in the run-up to Christmas. There's also a second part to the talk where John & Patricia Aggs, Gary Northfield and Sarah McIntyre will be taking a look at new British comic The DFC and other new publications.

That's on Sunday the 23rd November. We're on at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I'll be sticking around for the rest of the evening's talks, which include "a romp through modern X-rated comics" hosted by Tim Pilcher and a reappraisal of Jack Kirby. So if you want to go to those two, it's only an extra three quid and come and see us. Well worth the price just to watch us struggling to get PowerPoint working on a laptop.

The ICA event has a lot more on offer. I'll post full details shortly.

I'll close on what must be the most feeble attempt to stir up a controversy. The Sunday
last weekend ran a piece on how a "New Christmas annual starring the politically incorrect hero causes outrage". The annual in question is the The Hot-Shot Hamish Annual 2009, just released by Black & White. One of the funniest strips ever, the Hebridean shepherd-turned-footballer "has been accused of scoring an own goal by peddling an insulting and outdated image of Highlanders" and that the annual "has been criticised by politicians for portraying him as a dimwitted bumpkin."

There follows a handful of quotes from the usual suspects: a rent-a-quote MP, a football club manager who says "This type of character has never existed on the islands" and another who says "Some of the guys who have played for us over the years have been sheep farmers and looked a bit like Hamish".

All I can suggest is that you buy the book and decide for yourself whether it's politically incorrect; you are at least guaranteed a good laugh.

(* Covers from Air Ace Picture Library © IPC Media; Hot-Shot Hamish © Egmont.)


  1. Enjoyed the blog today - especially your Trigan Empire news. When the last two volumes appear - at the same time? - they will complete a magnificent set of 12 books - who could have imagined such an enterprise when the first strip appeared in Ranger (a shilling?) in the mid 60's?
    I was also interested to read about the Hamish the Hot Shot annual - the strip never did anything for me - I was far more interested in other strips such as The Safest Hands in Football in which the goalie had once caused a fatal accident or was that his father or possibly the strip had another name? Another strip that would certainly make a good book/annual was the Valiant one called Legge's Eleven where a team was created and the players as they were signed appeared at the top of the first page of the strip. Another was the Wild Brothers who played many different sports - any chance/rumour of these ever appearing again?

  2. Mike,

    It's hard to believe that the Trigan volumes are almost done. I think Rob phoned me up in what must have been late summer of 2003 asking if I fancied getting involved. The first book came out in August 2004 and, four years later, we're working on volumes 11 and 12. I'm looking forward to seeing them as a set on my shelves as much as anyone!

    As for Hot-Shot, I became a fan in the days when he was teamed up with Mighty Mouse so the opportunity to read these early stories is something I don't want to miss.

    The football strip I'd like to see back in print would be "Raven on the Wing" but that's probably never going to happen because he was a gypsy and the PC brigade wouldn't approve. "The Wild Wonders" would also make a great set of books.

  3. I put out the word on Black Horse Express and know from feedback that there are some sales there - even one from Norway.
    Gary Dobbs did a blog on The Tainted Archive.
    And I'll be doing one on mine 'Broken Trails' in the near future.
    One thing I would say is that when I was a kid I disliked the Davy Crockett comics - as an older person I thoroughly enjoyed the stories.
    Good to hear that there's going to be an Air Ace Collection - I still have a few of those.



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