Saturday, December 15, 2018

Comic Cuts - 15 December 2018

Week two of my enforced employment is almost over and I'm actually enjoying the experience. Every day has presented me with some new challenge and while the subject matter might not be what I would normally choose to write (no comics companies covered so far!), the one thing it isn't is repetitive. Since last week's column I've covered companies offering express shipping and delivery, domestic and residential cleaning, flooring and pet-sitting.

Typically I would aim to write a thousand words  a day, but these pieces are averaging around 1,400—much of it, admittedly, supplied by the companies, but all of it has to be checked and there's quite a lot of new material to research, mostly relating the value of the business.

You never know what you might stumble upon, like the guy who set up a coffee chain after a career in acting in Canada which saw him appear in The X-Files, MacGyver and The Twilight Zone. Nowadays he is the head of operations in the UK. I've yet to find anyone with any comic or book connections that I can exploit for Bear Alley.

Some good news that I've not had a chance to mention before is the arrival of a copy of my Don Lawrence: A Scrapbook of Art and Illustration. This is a project I've had completed for some while, but circumstances conspired to delay the book, in no small part the pound crashing in the wake of the decision to leave the EU.

Because the book was full colour, it was necessary to print it abroad and ship it into the UK. The fall of the pound against the dollar meant that the print costs—paid in dollars—suddenly cost a lot more. The pound dropped from $1.48 to $1.29 in early July 2016, and again collapsed in October to $1.21. The exchange rate improved in early 2018, peaking in mid-April, since when it has dropped away once again. Today's rate is $1.26, which means that printing costs 15% more than it did two and a half years ago.

Hence the delay in printing until earlier this year.

Just to rub in the delay, I didn't realise the book was out! I didn't receive a copy until this week... I've had a few people asking after it and I've been saying that it was due soon. Well, it's definitely out now. The final version of the book is a little shorter than I'd planned, with some illustrations from the pages of Speed & Power not included in the printed book, but there had to be some trade-off between page count and an acceptable price.

I've also received copies of my latest Forgotten Authors book, the fourth, which completes the first series. When I decided to do this series, the idea was to update a bunch of old Bear Alley posts to bring them up to scratch—I've been running BA for twelve years now and when I was writing those early pieces, I didn't have access to some of the tools that Ancestry and Find My Past have made available... and I want to get the best out of what are two pretty hefty subscriptions (about £250 a year between the two).

The aim was to produce a book entitled Fifty Forgotten Authors. By the time I'd written up fifteen of them, I'd figured out that fifty was going to be too much for one book. I think my original estimate was that the fifty would run to 180,000 words. As it turned out, I think the total was 280,000 words, spread over four books. No wonder it took me a year to write... plus a couple of months, proof-reading, spell-checking, re-writing and designing. Still, four books in sixteen months isn't bad.

My TV viewing has been all but wiped out by working away from home. Where I used to watch shows at lunchtime and—as I didn't have to worry about what time I got up—as a way to relax just before going to bed, I'm now just watching a few things in the evening. It took until Thursday to catch up with the latest episode of Doctor Who, where we would normally have watched it Saturday or Sunday. We did see a couple of films over the weekend, including the excellent Mission Impossible: Fallout—why can't they make more thrillers like this?—and the OK but nothing special Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom—why do they have to make the plots so utterly predictable in films like this? You can't cover up poor writing with awe-inspiring special effects any more... we've seen too many dinosaurs to be impressed.

I've just started watching Mrs. Wilson, which got off to a fascinating start. I'm especially interested in this three-parter because it's based on the life of Alexander Wilson, who was one of the subjects in my first Forgotten Authors volumes, an author who may well have been a spy, as he claimed, but whose secret life hid multiple marriages and court cases. I'm a big fan of Ruth Wilson, who is playing Alison Wilson, her own grandmother, in the show—I thought she would make an excellent Doctor Who had Jodie Whittaker not won the role.

Sam Wilson (Ruth's brother) reveals a little more here.

More next week...

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