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Friday, March 04, 2011

Comic Cuts - 4 March 2011

Lots to talk about this week so I'll get straight into it. I've had a week of highs and lows, the low being yet another cold. I don't know what it is—age? diet? lifestyle? environment?—but this is the second cold I've had in a matter of months. Monday and Tuesday I was like the world's most disgusting waterfall. Wednesday and Thursday was more akin to living with cotton plugs up my nose and a massive ball of wool lodged behind my eyes—not painful but too big for comfort.

Thankfully, I was able to switch from the computer to paper and have been racing through this manuscript that I'm reading on behalf of the British Library. Good stuff... and sadly not something I can talk about. But I'm three hundred-and-something pages into a 450 page MS and should have the whole thing wrapped early next week.

At which point I'll be starting work on the next index project. The Hurricane/Champion is very, very close to completion. I'm waiting on a proof which should be here within days, depending on how quickly the postman can deliver.

In fact, it's two proofs, as I've got two books on the go. The second is the long-time-coming Mean Streetmaps collection which has been sitting on my list of upcoming books since 2009. It was always intended as a Bear Alley Books project, something I was going to slip in amongst the comics' reprints. Then that plan imploded and I've had the book sitting around waiting to be finished ever since. Mean Streetmaps is a collection of essays, most of them originally written for Crime Time magazine. As I was rarely given an editorial brief, I ended up writing on a range of subjects that interested me on the broad theme of crime in books and movies. So there are pieces about the origins of Black Mask and hardboiled fiction, essays on Mickey Spillane, W. R. Burnett, Len Deighton, James M. Cain and some of the British gangster writers of the 1950s: Griff, Ben Sarto, Dail Ambler and Pete Costello. Then there's the films of Joe Eszterhas, David Fincher and Edward D. Wood (Hollywood's worst ever filmmaker), the story of Sexton Blake's most infamous enemy, Zenith, and my take on George Orwell's famous rant about "Raffles and Miss Blandish".

I'm doing this as a very low print run hardback, so it'll be pricey. But I hope a few of you will give it a try. 240 pages, hardback in dustjacket. You can see the dustjacket cover at the top of this column. The price and ordering information will be sorted out within the next week or so. You'll know about five minutes after I've figured it all out.

Book Palace Books
The latest news on the Book Palace's new books is that we had a pair of each book air freighted to the UK (at huge expense) and they look fantastic. I'll post photos shortly. The rest of the print run is now on the high seas... or, rather, the South China Sea. Our vessel is the OOCL Hamburg, which arrived in Hong Kong around the 19th of February. On Tuesday morning (2 March), she left Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, and is now heading east.

OOCL Hamburg is a Hong Kong container ship belonging to the Orient Overseas Container Line and we'll be tracking its progress here at Bear Alley and over on the Book Palace Books blog. Here's the latest posted position... heading west away from Taiwan.

Beano on TV
Watch out for The One Show tonight (Friday) at 7 o'clock when John Sergeant will be visiting the offices of The Beano to kickstart the celebrations for Denis the Menace's 60th anniversary and for Comic Relief.

Phoenix rises out of the ashes of The DFC
David Fickling, the publisher of David Fickling Books and one-time publisher of the subscription-only fortnightly The DFC, has announced that he is to publish a new comic. At a party in Beaumont Street, Oxford, last Tuesday, it was revealed that Fickling will be launching Phoenix, with many of the DFC team also returning, including editor Ben Sharpe. Some of those involved include Phillip Pullman, Tony Lee, Dan Boultwood, Paul Duffield, Emma Vicelli and others. Will Fickling is also another member of the editorial team to make the jump from one title to the other.

The new title is being published by Fickling himself and is not affiliated to David Fickling Books or its parent company, Random House. According to Ben Sharpe's twitter feed, the magazine will have a website shortly and will be looking for kid-friendly submissions. What format Phoenix will appear in or how it will be distributed are still unknown (to me... presumably the publisher has some idea). However, a couple of posts from people at the party are revealing. From Dave Morris' Mirabilis blog...
Phoenix will be weekly from January 2012 and is surely going to have a lot in common with the DFC of old, given the familiar faces toasting the glad tidings with glasses of champagne from the Jeroboam that David has been saving on his mantelpiece for just this occasion. Among the assembled terawattage of talent, Leo and I spoke to Garen Ewing, John Aggs, Ben Haggarty, Will Dawbarn, Neill Cameron, Jim Medway, Robert Deas and Philip Pullman...

Most important of all, the funding for Phoenix is secure for three years, giving this new incarnation of the comic time to grow, develop and become self-sustaining.
 And this from Andrew Wildman's blog...
First significant thing is that the comic is going to be produced from a different office which is good. Makes it well and truly its own thing and severs ties with RandomHouse. Second big thing is the name. The Phoenix (actually not sure if there is going to be a ‘The’ on it). Rest assured this name will get a mixed reaction. People don’t hold back with their opinions but for me, it works. Its kind of obvious and conveniently it does sound like a comic name and one that is neither more or less appropriate to girls or boys. The third big thing is the business model. Not for me to mention what that is or how it works as I am sure there will be more announcements soon but TheDFC took a lot of flak from its industry colleagues for how it set itself up as a sub only model. that was never David Fickling’s intention. He had a long term plan that would have the comic on newstands but RandomHouse pulled the plug too soon and never allowed David to follow it through. the result of an economic downturn I guess. What is great about this is that now that The Phoenix is going to be published independently David can confidently fulfill on his intentions. He has a well formed three year plan and more commitment than most people I know. This bird will fly.
From this can we presume the magazine will be a newsstand weekly?

If that's true, we appear to be in the throes of a revival in adventure comics here in the UK, with CLiNT already on the newsstands, Strip Magazine from PrintMedia in the offing (their first graphic novel, Iron Moon, is due next month and Mirabilis is due later this year) and Phoenix should debut in around 10 months.

Update: 6 March: The Phoenix, as it would appear to be called, has a dedicated website. No details other than an "early 2012" date for hatching and a link to a mailing list.

Next week... I'm handing over the blog for a couple of days to Jeremy Briggs as he has sent over a trio of features relating to the Blue Peter Annual. Meantime, I'll be dreaming up something to write about next week that hopefully doesn't involve me having the sniffles.

Today's random scans are two more from the intriguing Jeff Cook. I posted three of his covers almost exactly a month ago and I'm still none the wiser about his career. Thanks to Morgan Wallace for the scans, which I've tried to clean up the best I can.

See you next week.

(* map © MarineTraffic.com; the photo of the Hamburg is from this flickr photostream; Mean Streetmaps © Stephen Holland)