Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Friday, December 02, 2011

Comic Cuts - 2 December 2011

This has been a bit of a no news week as far as work on the next Bear Alley Books book is concerned. Between gardening and scanning the World of Wonder illustrations intended for this week's blog, there wasn't any time left over last weekend. This week has been pretty jam packed and any spare time I had was taken up with trying to catch up with e-mails — the number of unread e-mails was starting to get out of hand — and keeping up with what was happening at the Leveson Inquiry, which I must admit I'm finding fascinating.

The Guardian noted on Wednesday that evidence of illegal activities uncovered by Operation Motorman was that "every newspaper apart from The Dandy and The Beano was named in documents." My advice to you all is that you support Beano and Dandy with your hard-earned cash rather than the gutter press, especially now that both papers can now be downloaded as e-editions via the new Beano and Dandy App.

Talking as someone who doesn't even own a mobile phone, I'll be guided by others about the quality of e-editions of the comics, but if you want to try them out, The Beano preview and The Dandy preview are the places to start. The Courier recently carried quotes promoting the launch from Mike Stirling and Craig Graham, editors-in-chief of the Beano and Dandy respectively. The two titles join Commando, which has been available on the iPhone for some months and I'm told that when you sign up there are five free issues of the Beano and two of the Dandy. I've found one review so far which gives them 4 1/2 stars.

I wouldn't call myself a Luddite, although I'm very slow at taking up new technologies. As I said above, I don't have a mobile phone. But, as a freelancer, I work from home with a telephone right next to me, so I don't necessarily need one. I'm sat in front of a computer, so I don't need the latest tablet or whatever that will grant me access to the internet... I've already got it.

Promotion nowadays usually consists of someone sending you a link in an e-mail. I usually don't mind taking a look because you can discover some interesting titles that you wouldn't otherwise stumble across. I'm not asking to be deluged (see comment above relating to how far I am behind with e-mails already) as there are other sites that deal with small press comics far better than I could ever hope to (FPI Blog, Bugpowder, Down the Tubes for starters). My point is that it's nice to get an actual comic through the post.

So I was very pleased that Issue Zero of The Phoenix, subtitled 'The Weekly Story Comic', landed on my doormat this week. This is the new title from the people who were behind The DFC and is in very much the same tradition. My misgivings about The DFC were that the subscription model doesn't work as, after the initial launch promotion, there's little chance that people will stumble across your comic and become the next generation of subscribers unless you promote, promote, promote. And that's expensive.

This is only my (hopefully educated) opinion, but that money is either not spent (in which case subscriptions will go down) or should be spent on pushing your comic onto the newsstand. That comes with its own set of problems — distribution costs, higher print bills (because you're overprinting), etc. — but has the advantage of visibility, potentially adding to your sales over time. The Phoenix is in the unique position in that it is backed by David Fickling Books, which opens up the possibility of my long-time hobby horse, the instant reprinting of strips into albums. As soon as a strip ends, get it between covers. The books will mean that anyone coming in late to a story can catch up and will also feed readers to the comics.

Now, I don't have figures to back this up, but it is a system that has worked incredibly well in Europe for decades. In a sense, Rebellion have taken on board the same idea with their 2000AD graphic novels range and I must presume it has been pretty successful given that they've published what must be around 150 collections in the past decade, allowing the weekly 2000AD to survive on sales figures of around 25,000.

But I'm getting away from the point. What I like about The Phoenix is that it is a mix of adventure and humour. It reminds me of the comics of my youth, the balance being roughly that of early Buster, for anyone who remembers that far back. There's a lot of playfulness in this issue zero, some teasers of things to come when the title launches on 7 January next year and some strips that look very promising: 'The Pirates of Pangaea' (Pirates of the Caribbean meets The Lost World) and 'The Apprentice' (complete in this issue, think 'Sorcerer's Apprentice') both show promise and you can't go wrong with a strip from Jamie Smart ('Bunny vs. Monkey'). I do hope that the monthly finds an audience when it comes out.

There's more information about the comic and upcoming strips at the Phoenix website, where you can also get hold of a copy of the issue zero.

I've still yet to see the new Strip Magazine, but it looks like we're living in interesting times.

Random scans... well, I'm going to cheat a bit here. In the rush to put up obituaries last weekend I didn't have much time for sorting out illustrations. This was especially true of the Anne McCaffrey, where I have around a dozen of her books but only had two of them actually scanned. What I'm going to do is repost the original piece below (it's only short) and add a few more book covers that I've been able to clean up over the past few days.

Rather than leave this area of the column pictureless, I'm posting the cover of David Langdon's Adventures of Puff and Wuff collection. My thanks to Richard Sheaf for sending over a scan.

Next week: as we're now in December and coming up for Christmas, what could be more appropriate than a Charles Dickens novel? With luck and a good tail wind, we'll have the opening episodes of Great Expectations beginning on Monday, drawn by Bill Lacey, who drew Eagles Over the Western Front.

(* Our column header is a page of 'The Crusader' from the upcoming Pages from History book and is © Look and Learn Ltd.; Beano © D. C. Thomson Ltd.; The Phoenix and related art © David Fickling Comics Ltd.)

No comments: