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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Comic Cuts - 24 April 2015

Following last week's announcement that I was going to have to take a step back from Bear Alley and take on work elsewhere I was overwhelmed by the comments of well-wishers. It's so nice to hear that the research I do, and even these weekly, chatty ramblings, has an audience. We may have only the tiniest corner of the internet, but we attract some really nice people.

The new job is on a trade paper and is only part-time but it gives me a basic salary on which I should be able to survive without drawing on my savings. I'll then have a couple of days a week to do freelance work to top up my income and put some jam on the bread I'm earning from the trade mag. I will be working in-house a few days each week, although I'm starting working from home. Until I get my bearings—this being a whole new area for me—I'll have to treat it as a full-time job. Oh, and my first issue needs to be with the designers by May 8th, so I have two weeks to hustle together 20,000 or so words.


(No, not easy! We will see how confident I'm feeling next week when it's no longer April!)

My other confident prediction is that my "book in a week" project will be published around the same time. This is the most self-indulgent book I've done to date. Yes, even more self-indulgent than putting together a hardback collection of my own essays (Mean Streetmaps) or a book about an almost unknown author (Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet). I have every belief that this book will sell two dozen copies at best.

For this reason, I'm planning to offer a huge discount to anyone ordering the book ahead of publication. That way you can share my madness without it costing you the earth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... THE COMPLETE CAPTAIN FUTURE.

Rather than try to explain my reasons for wanting to revive this obscure 1950s character here, I'll quote from the introduction:
My fascination with the science fiction of the Fifties began in around 1978, inspired by a school project that I was planning to do about sf magazines. Key to this project was Mike Ashley’s History of the Science Fiction Magazine and trips made to the Science Fiction Foundation, then a smallish room at Northeast London Polytechnic in Dagenham where I spent two very long days cribbing notes from Walter Gillings’ ‘The Impatient Dreamers’ and reading copies of Tales of Wonder, Fantasy and the early New Worlds—the first pulp magazines I had ever seen.
    In this shelf-packed Wonderland, I also found copies of Futuristic Science Stories, Worlds of Fantasy, Tales of Tomorrow and Wonders of the Spaceways, four tawdry, paperback-sized compilations which laughingly called themselves science fiction magazines. They had been damningly described in Ashley’s third volume as part of an unwelcome phenomena  that sprang up in the early Fifties: cheaply printed, low quality SF written by authors with no background in the field...
    It was during my trip to Dagenham that I first caught sight of these lurid magazines and their gaudy companions, novels by Vargo Statten, Volsted Gridban, Vektis Brack, Bengo Mistral and a dozen other guttural-sounding science fictional pseudonyms. I had heard that the Vargo Statten novels were not so bad and, being a member of the British Science Fiction Association, I was able to borrow titles from the Foundation’s library.
    Despite the warning of librarian Malcolm Edwards that “They’ll rot your brain,” I rather enjoyed the lively, no-nonsense pulp action of Vargo Statten and began reading others of that ilk, only to find that most of these cheap publishers had no quality threshold at all. But I was drawn to them by their vibrant, colourful covers, and amongst the stand-out talent was Norman Light, second only to Ron Turner when it came to depicting thrilling space battles or alien invasions.
    Light’s action-packed artwork became the focus of my first published article, which drew parallels between the paperback publishers and the ‘pirate’ comic strip publishers of the era. Norman Light was a key figure in the piece because he was not only an artist but also a publisher.
    Thirty-three years later I’m still a fan of Light’s artistry. Not for its quality—there were better artist/writers on a technical level and Light’s figurework tended to be what Denis Gifford described as “asymmetric”—but for its enthusiasm, vivacity and the artist’s obvious passion for good old pulp-style action.
    Here, then, are the complete adventures of Captain Future and the Space Patrol crewmen known as the Buccaneers of Space, one of Light’s finest creations. I hope you enjoy their outlandish adventures as much as I did when I first discovered them.
This one is for fans who read Vultures of the Void or The Mushroom Jungle or any of my essays on the pirate publishers of the 1950s. There's still a couple of weeks before the book can be published—I'm still waiting for a proof to arrive—and I'll hopefully have time to explain the attraction further. All I'll say for now is that if you like your pulp full of colliding galaxies, soaring spaceships and bestial BEMs, I can promise you a thrill-filled collection.

While I was waiting for work to turn up, I had a chance to knock out some scans for this week's random scans presentation. Here are four yarns by Jack Kelso for the Popular Fiction series Popular Detective Stories, published around 1946. I've no idea who the cover artists might be, but I like their simple directness. The look of apprehension on the face of the woman on the cover of The Murder of Colonel Neville tells you all you need to know about how she feels.

Bear Alley will continue to be a little patchy while I get my feet under the desk of this new job, but I'll try to post something as often as possible. I do have something that needs reviewing, which I'll do for the weekend.


  1. I for one am really looking forward to this. Very keen to have my mind rotted.

  2. Oh wow! I'll definitely put an order for this in the coming days. Very excited. Now, how about a book reprinting Ron Turner's Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics?