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Friday, February 03, 2017

Comic Cuts - 3 February 2017

I had some bad news this week. My day job for the past couple of years has been editing a trade paper called Hotel Business. Sadly, the paper is no more. I found out on Wednesday. Since the referendum, the paper has struggled to get in the levels of advertising we need; Brexit has created terrible uncertainty in the market and companies have been concentrating their advertising online.

Unfortunately, this has coincided with the collapse of the pound against the Euro and the vast majority of magazines rely on Europe for their paper. Prices jumped 10% in January and Hotel, which might have survived one line of attack, could not sustain itself with this second front opening up. Sales had gone up (we were the only magazine in the sector to be ABC'd), but not enough to counter the rise in costs.

So Wednesday got off to a pretty poor start, unless you think of being laid off as a holiday that surprises you. And who doesn't like holidays!

This morning (I'm writing this Thursday night) was better as I picked up some writing work, which will guarantee me at least one more payday. I'm not up to speed on what the work requires, but I'll hopefully have more idea next week, when I will be an expert on "How Brexit has impacted UK franchising". Bloody Brexit. I can certainly tell you how it's impacted me...

Until Wednesday I was having quite an interesting week. On Friday I received a newsletter from an Italian friend which included a flyer for Lucca, the huge Italian comics festival that will be running in a couple of weeks. This year they are planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Italian series Storia del West. My Italian pal was most surprised when I mentioned that it wasn't the 50th anniversary this year... it was the 51st and the famous Italian series had first appeared over here in the UK.

Storia del West was created by Gino D'Antonio, who scripted the series as well as drawing some episodes, with Renzo Calegari and a small group of other Italian artists who would draw the bulk of the series, which originally ran to 73 episodes. Most collectors will tell you that the series first appeared in the Italian comic Collana Rodeo, beginning in June 1967. I was long aware that there was a connection between Storia del West and a British series entitled Valiant Story of the West, but it was only when I was researching the introduction for Worlds of Adventure that it struck me that the Valiant spin-off had appeared in April 1966, fourteen months before the series began in Italy.

I mentioned this to David Roach the other day while I was checking with him a couple of credits for the Valiant Story of the West books. David commented on Facebook "This is the equivalent of finding out that the X-men was in fact created by DC Thomson years before Marvel printed a copy." 

Hopefully the origins of Storia del West will be discovered while I'm researching my next book. Yes, I'm planning to use my surprise holiday to get another book together. That's the plan, anyway. Things may change. We're living in interesting times.

As I write this I'm listening to the absolutely fascinating story of Jimmy Cagney's years at Warner Bros. in the third and final part of "Bullets and Blood", a sprawling nine hour (!) podcast in the fantastic The Secret History of Hollywood series. I cannot recommend this highly enough. As a fan of all those old gangster movies it's fascinating to learn more about their background. Cagney always considered himself a dancer who did a bit of acting but his influence on Hollywood was immense. This episode (following on from two previous almost as vast episodes), takes the story through the war years, Cagney's Oscar win and... well, I'm still listening to it, so I'll find out. If you have any interest in Hollywood, Cagney or old movies, you really should try this. It's a spin-off from another show, Attaboy Clarence, which is a more light-hearted show, mixing reviews with old-time radio shows. 

I'm filled with admiration for the quality of "Bullets and Blood". The whole thing is put together by one person, Adam Roche, and I can tell you from my own experience of trying to put together even a 15-minute podcast that it's not easy. (I don't think I've ever mentioned this before... it was maybe a year ago, and it was meant to be a little serial about a long-forgotten writer, hopefully the first of a broader series on forgotten writers. Unfortunately the real world got in the way and I had to pause the project in order to pay the rent and the pause button has never come off. Maybe one day I'll pluck up enough courage to post the first episode.)

One bit of good news I can share: Barrie Tomlinson, whose recent book on his days editing Roy of the Rovers has been very well received (not least by me... you can read my review here), is to write a follow-up, to be called A Comic Book Hero: Working With Britain's Picture-Strip Legends, which will reveal more of Barrie's editorial history working on Tiger, Roy, Eagle, Scream, Speed, etc. plus writing for the Daily Mirror and editing his local village magazine! It will be out next September.

For our random scans this week I couldn't resist putting together a little collection of covers with the word 'West' in the title. As you can see, a lot of thought goes into these random scan galleries...!



Madlove said...

Sorry to hear about the job loss. Love your site. Best, Chris from NY

Lew Stringer said...

Hope things pick up soon, Steve!

Kid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kid said...

Bad news, but hopefully something will take its place. I WILL get around to buying your Countdown book, but every time I turn around, there's something else crying out for my money. Incidentally, what happened to the Steve MacManus interview?

Steve said...

Thanks for the kind words from everyone here and elsewhere. I'm sure it will all work out fine. The timing could have been a little better - today, one of the major power suppliers has announced a 15% increase and others are sure to follow; between that and food prices rising, everyone is going to have to tighten their belts even more. Losing my main source of income couldn't have come at a worse time... but I'll hopefully put this surprise unpaid holiday to good use.

Steve said...


Steve Mac was going to write an article (rather than be interviewed); he's on the case and mentioned it only the other day, albeit to say that he was aware that he hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Mark said...

Sympathies, Steve. I hope things get better for you soon.

John Freeman said...

Best of luck with your job quest, Steve.

crow said...

Also, if you enjoy old Hollywood, check out the 'You Must Remember This' podcast.

Steve said...

I've just had a look at the You Must Remember This website and I'm definitely going to try a few episodes.