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Monday, May 09, 2011

Comic Cuts - 9 May 2011

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We're back to normal hear at Bear Alley after the panic of Thursday night/Friday morning. As mentioned in Friday's emergency post, the computer went bonkers (a technical term) and stopped working. For a while it wouldn't reboot and, when it finally did, was stuck on the Windows opening screen for ages. At that point I just left it alone for a couple of hours and let it sort itself out, came back to it around one o'clock in the morning, by which time the password menu had appeared and everything seemed to be working OK.

I'm pretty sure the problem was the raid system that keeps two hard-drives in sync., the second drive being a mirror of the first. I bought this system because I once had a hard-drive stop dead. When we took the hard-drive out it had a scorch mark on it, much to the amazement of a friend who was trying to figure out what had gone wrong.

Later, in early 2009, I had two external hard-drives stop working within a week of each other which really was a disaster as I'd spent a couple of months making digital copies of all my old vinyl albums and had sold off all the vinyl. We managed to recover one drive (the one with the music) but the other was lost for good, which has made me a bit paranoid about backing up everything onto at least two different hard-drives on a semi-regular basis. But there are minor changes and new work (plus notes for future work) being written all the time and I hadn't done a full back-up since March... so I spent most of Friday and the weekend copying updated files and folders between a number of different external hard-drives in such a way that there are now two up-to-date copies of everything.


All this computer frustration was on top of my frustration with the latest offering from Bear Alley Books. I'd hoped to be able to say that the long wait was over and that Eagles Over the Western Front Volume 1 was out but, unfortunately, and as I feared, bank holidays and royal weddings have caused delays with the printing. I'm told that I should have printed copies this week. All I can do at the moment is offer my apologies. It's beyond my control and I'll get copies of the books to you the moment they arrive. (Update: Copies should start shipping out Wednesday or Thursday.) Thankfully, the next book is all ready to go as soon as I get this one out the way so I shouldn't have the same problem... although there's another bank holiday coming up at the end of the month. I'll make sure I take that into consideration this time.

I'm pleased to say that the strip isn't just attracting attention here in the UK: I've had orders from America, Australia, Hungary, Portugal and Turkey, reflecting the popularity of British comics around the world. I should be used to it by now, but I'm still surprised to get e-mails from people in Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and even South America who have fond memories of some of the same strips I grew up with.

I was also pleased to hear from people who remembered Comic World. Those old covers brought back some happy memories. A few crazy ones, too, but mostly happy. Frankly, I'm amazed that we managed to get the magazine out on time every month. (If you haven't seen the covers, click here.)

Looking through the covers reminds me of some of the many problems we had getting the right cover image. The majority were not drawn with Comic World in mind, so we were re-purposing an already existing picture and having to fit our logo and cover lines around a picture drawn with a completely different layout in mind. I was always a fan of using a single, strong image. Once we found that, we then had to slap cover lines all over it to try and draw people into the magazine. The concentration of cover lines in boxes down the left-hand side was because of the way magazines were (and often still are) stacked in newsagents, overlapping the magazine to their left and often covering up that carefully chosen cover image.

I see that we experimented with a couple of vignette pictures on the cover of issue two (I was probably talked into it) but I managed to get back to what I wanted with the next few covers. Issue six caused a bit of a stir in the office as it featured naked breasts (a first for Aceville!), although they bought my reasoning that they belonged to an alien and were therefore inoffensive. And they wouldn't be seen anyway, because the next magazine along would be covering them up.

Issue eight was my favourite of the early covers: an original Bryan Talbot Batman cover! We had to get DC's approval to do this as it's their character and they would only let certain approved artists produce Batman artwork. Thankfully that wasn't a problem with Bryan as he had been drawing a strip for Legends of the Dark Knight. I did, however, have to get written approval to have the cover made into a t-shirt to wear at that year's UKCAC. Only two were made (one for me, one for Bryan). I think I still have mine somewhere, although whether it still fits 18 years later is another matter.

I'll talk about some of the other covers at a later date but, just for fun, here are my favourite five:

Issue 8: as mentioned above, this was our first original cover and Bryan did a fantastic job.
Issue 15: a wraparound cover. Probably not a first on British newsstands but definitely unusual. We had to crop this heavily to remove the large-breasted woman that dominated the right side of the original; and we had to talk Atomeka into paying for the back cover.
Issue 17: the first of only a couple of covers I did the layout for—notice the lack of boxes behind the cover lines. I also laid out some of the features inside as our designer was on holiday.
Issue 22: another cover I was hauled over the coals for.
Issue 39: exploding heads!

Anyone else want to name their favourites?

At the moment I'm not sure what else will be appearing on Bear Alley for the rest of the week as I've not had much time to plan anything. It's likely that a couple of new episodes of 'The Man Who Searched for Fear' will be appearing. Apt in a week that ends on Friday the 13th.

Today's random scans... I was looking for something with a "Friday the 13th" vibe and found a couple of images relating to The Hell-Fire Club, which isn't anything to do with horror but I did have an odd variant edition that I've not shown you. First, though, a Four Square edition of Daniel Manix's book of that name from 1961. The artwork is anonymous but might be by Edward Mortelmans. The second pic. is Donald McCormick's book of the same title, published by Pedigree Books in 1960. The variation was a later printing of the same book which seems to have been produced especially for West Wycombe Caves and Cafe Ltd. in 1964.

The connection? Well, there was a club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood which was never actually called the Hellfire Club—it was actually the Order of the Friars of St Francis of Wycombe. The first meeting was held on Walpurgis Night in 1752 and the members were reputed to be involved in pagan and sexual rituals as well as a lot of drinking and revelry. Dashwood supposedly had caves excavated in in Chiltern Hills at West Wycombe in which he and his gentlemen friends met, known variously as West Wycombe Caves or the Hell-Fire Caves. They're still a popular attraction, as is the Cafe.

Comic Cuts will be back on Friday as usual.


Mike W said...

The Hell Fire Club features briefly in The Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken and more extensively in at least one book by Dennis Wheatley.

Anonymous said...

Choosing my favourite issue of Comic World is simple: issue 24.

Mind, that's because my obituary therein of is still the only time I've been paid to write something, so thanks for that Steve.

If anybody doesn't recognise the name, Gaylord DuBois who wrote the Dell/Gold Key Tarzan comic books, along with several tons of other stuff. I've been lapping up Dark Horse's hardcover reprints of his and Jesse Marsh's Tarzans.

David Simpson

Anonymous said...

Re: "My obituary"

Sorry to hear of Mr Simpson's passing. Such a nice guy :-)