Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comic Cuts

The news last week was bad and good. On the bad side of things: the almost certain collapse of The DFC. More comments from the various contributors have been trickling in: Jason Cobley is thankful that his series "Frontier" will be completed before the title folds (it ends in issue 41); Laura Howell is consoling herself by remembering the good things about the comic—"the wealth of amazing new comic material it launched into the world, the opportunities and alliances it offered to so many creators, and just the sheer bloody BALLS it took to do what it did. Truly a Dream Followed Courageously"; Gary Northfield hopes that "Perhaps collectively the determination will be there to find new avenues for our strips, but time will tell"; Dave Shelton is feeling weepy; Kate Brown is succinct; and Sarah McIntyre, regretting that some stories will be incomplete when the paper disappears, offers the intriguing notion that "there may be a way that those stories will finish online".

On the plus side, Borders announced that they were to launch a new dedicated children's graphic novel section in its stores (indeed, have already launched, as the launch date was Thursday). The books would be highlighted in a new promotional bay, with a multibuy offer of three for two, which is linked to an existing campaign for adult graphic novels.

J. P. Hunting, children's buyer at Borders UK, said, "Previously children's graphic novels got put into the children's section so titles got a bit lost. With a dedicated section, it will be easier for customers to find these titles." Graphic novel sales grew by 21% in 2008, says Mr. Hunting, and anticipates further rises: "These sales will increase with the addition of this section and the likes of Watchmen selling well."

Each store will carry around 70 titles. Some of the launch titles include Simpsons Comics: Strikes Back by Matt Groening (Titan), The Savage by David Almond (Walker), Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud by René Goscinny (Turnaround) and the Artemis Fowl Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer (Penguin).

Jane Harris, sales director at Walker Books, is quoted in The Bookseller as saying, "It's fantastic to see Borders backing the children's graphic novel genre so proactively and we are excited to be working with the team on this new initiative."

Cinebook's m.d., Olivier Cadic, who publish Iznogoud, Blake & Mortimer and Lucky Luke, said: "We are delighted that Borders are taking this opportunity to give this area of children's publishing the attention it rightly deserves."

I spent last week, and will be spending this week, cleaning up artwork for the upcoming Frank Bellamy World War One book. The series originally appeared in Look and Learn back in 1970 and each of the 26 episodes contains a fantastic double-page spread by Bellamy. The pages looked great when they originally appeared but when you scan them and start to look closely, you start to spot all the imperfections that the printing process has caused.

So I've been cleaning them up. Each spread takes about three hours to restore, sometimes longer, so I'm doing two episodes a day, three if I'm lucky (each episode also has a b/w page). We'll be using original artwork where we can but that might not be possible throughout. Still, I have to admit I'm pleased with the results. Hopefully you'll agree.

I'm planning to have the bulk of the work finished before the ABC Show on Sunday (15th March) where I shall be wandering around. Probably in a daze.

Went to see Watchmen on Saturday and thought it a qualified success. There was lots that I liked about it: the special effects were astonishing and the only one I didn't take to was a practical effect... what was up with Nixon's face? Was it modelled on a Spitting Image puppet? The acting was fine on the whole and I was fine with most of the choices of what was included and what was dropped—the main storyline of the graphic novel was pretty much intact and filled the 2 hours 43 minutes running time adequately. Some areas were hurried: for instance, Rorshach's admission about why he became a vigilante driven by disgust for the human race rather than just a guy in a mask beating up criminals came to quickly; we needed to see his effect on the psychiatrist (Malcolm Long) to see how a person could be changed by the events he described. And the bone-snapping fight between Nite Owl, Silk Spectre and the knotheads was so violent that later scenes that were supposed to be shockingly violent failed to shock.

So complex a story with so many complex characters should have been longer; the interstitial stories of other characters lost from the movie helped pace the main plot as well as adding layers of detail about the alternative world. (At the same time, the film wouldn't have been improved by the inclusion of the Black Freighter comic.) As a fan of the graphic novel, I'm not in the best position to say whether it worked as a movie—normally it's not a problem because movies rarely try to stick so closely to the source material—so I defer to others here. Two of the four people who sat around until gone midnight talking about the film hadn't read the book and they felt the movie worked well; I did my best to watch it objectively but kept thinking back to the book.

I think that, having seen it once, I'll be able to watch it again with a better eye to seeing whether it works as a film. And I'll definitely be seeing it again. Maybe wait for the extended cut as that may iron out some of my initial niggles about pace. There's a planned 3 hr 10 min DVD version plus an 'ultimate' version intercut with the Black Freighter of 3 hr 30 min (all these timings subject to change, of course).

I'll leave you with this quote from Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the possibilities of a sequel or a prequel.
The fans would kill us if we tried to go and do something else. If we tried to do a prequel that wasn't written by Alan Moore, we'd get crucified. We couldn't walk down the street. Unless Warner Bros. wants all of their actors to get killed, I think it's a bad idea.
(* Minutemen poster and Watchmen photo © Warner Bros.; Frank Bellamy World War One artwork © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)


  1. "Previously children's graphic novels got put into the children's section so titles got a bit lost. With a dedicated section, it will be easier for customers to find these titles."

    Good luck finding the section at the Borders in Charing X Road. I went on a mission this past Saturday (3-for-2 is always hard to pass up!) and had a look in the Children's section for evidence of such a section. No such luck. It was only when leaving that I realised that the "dedicated children's graphic novel section" in this store is three plastic shelves on the back of one of the supporting columns. In total they had about 10 books on there - mainly Cinebook.

    The Borders near Oxford Circus is a bit better - one unit of chest-high shelving (again mainly Cinebook, almost exclusively Lucky Luke).

    Early days...

  2. About the Nixon character's make-up in the WATCHMEN film, yeah, it *was* bizarre, wasn't it? Not a bit like Dave Gibbons' understated treatment of the man in the book.

    Also, I think "qualified success" sums it up well. I was kind of surprised that they got as much of the book as they did up there on the screen.

    Bruce T.



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