Friday, March 16, 2012

Comic Cuts - 16 March 2012

When people talk about the best laid plans of mice and men, they rarely think about what the mice were planning. I imagine it was to wander around a bit, find some food and to avoid predators. Thinking back to last weekend, I think my carefully thought out notions of how I was going to spend the weekend must have been somehow mixed up with some rodent's plans.

So, rather than spend Saturday catching up on a bit of scanning for the Gwyn Evans book, I actually spent more time wandering around town doing the weekly shopping. The plan for Sunday was to make sure the scanning was finished, sort out the strip for the blog, juggle some files around that needed to be sent off during the week.

Things had started to go wrong on Friday when an unexpected visitor turned up in the morning; then the Raymond Buxton piece (posted Sunday) took far longer to compile than I expected; I could have caught up on Sunday morning but we decided to take advantage of the nice weather to attack our overgrown garden. Then the Guardian asked for a piece, pronto, on Moebius. That was delivered 1 o'clock Monday afternoon and went live a couple of hours later on the website — a turnaround of less than 24 hours. Not bad.

I finally catch up on Friday's work on Tuesday and do the file juggling on Wednesday while writing up a couple of pieces for the Illustration Art Gallery blog and somewhere along the line I managed to get some pics cleaned up for today's random scans. I've caught up maybe a half-day of the day and a half I somehow lost.

I have plans for this weekend. I'll let you know if they worked out next week... if you don't hear anything, the predators got me.

On an entirely other matter...

I was delighted to hear recently from Jennie Paterson who mentioned that a short piece on Hank Janson was appearing in the magazine Slightly Foxed. Well, I have the article in front of me and I rather enjoyed Colin Dunne's memories of reading Hank as a schoolboy in the 1950s. The idea of rolling up coverless copies and tucking them behind the radiator may strike readers nowadays as a little farfetched, but I remember my Dad telling me that he, too, was a secret Hank Janson reader and that any copies that passed around the classrooms had the covers removed; getting caught with a smutty book was a caning offence.

I didn't read any of Hank's books until the early 1980s and the covers, good though they were, had little impact on someone who grew up with page 3 and paperbacks which regularly had nudes on the covers. I can appreciate their qualities and the superb artistry of Reg Heade but thirty years had certainly dulled, if not wholly crushed, any idea that they might be 'obscene'.

But that got me thinking about a statement I made in The Trials of Hank Janson, which Colin mentions: "Without Janson, we might still be reading expurgated versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Fanny Hill might be consigned to history." I doubt if that's true. Hank's legacy was the introduction a "literary merit" defence &mash; achieved by dint of trying to establish what was also available at the time (1954) and the judge giving a more than strong hint that those books that were being used as comparisons should also be prosecuted. Suddenly, respected publishers were in the dock and action was taken to prevent this kind of thing happening again. Hence the successful defence of Lady Chatterley.

In principal the statement is correct, but I'm sure that, somewhere along the line, had Hank not existed to spur the introduction of the Obscene Publications Act, some other book or author would have come along that would have had a similar effect. It may have taken a few years but I'm sure it would have happened eventually.

Further information about Slightly Foxed, including back issues and subscription prices, can be found at their website.

Tuesday (20 March) sees the release of a set of comics-related stamps from the Royal Mail in celebration of the Dandy's 75th anniversary; a little early, but what the heck... it's nice to see British comics being celebrated in any way possible. The Royal Mail will be releasing a presentation pack, first day covers, pin badges and a puzzle, too. More information from their website.

Random scannery: Kind of celebrating the release of John Carter (of Mars)... written by Edgar Rice Burroughs... who wrote Tarzan... who inspired a number of Tarzan copycats... here are a quartet of Ron Turner's Tarzanesque covers from the early 1950s.

In a desperate attempt to catch up on Bear Alley Books work, I'm running 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea over the weekend. Actually, this was planned last week as it means the strip ends quite neatly on Thursday. Someone was asking recently whether I intended putting out the strip in book form and the answer is... I'm not sure. I certainly have plans to put some of the strips that we've run here on Bear Alley between covers. and hopefully I'll have some news along those lines soon.

(* Our column header relates to the Raymond Buxton piece from last weekend... I didn't get the chance to scan this one at the time.)

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