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Friday, February 21, 2020

Comic Cuts - 21 February 2020

Things are ramping up on the Rocket index front. I'm now in the design phase of the book, which will take a little while because it's not something I'm trained in and I've put out so few books these past three or four years that I've forgotten most of the short-cuts.

I was never trained in design, but learned through osmosis. Back in the days of Comic World, we worked closely with our designers, and in my case that was Graham Baldock, who was an incredibly experienced designer who worked from a studio in London, but lived in Colchester. I believe the work he did for Aceville was something of a sideline at first, but then grew to the point where he gave up his London studio and worked from home before finding office space in town as the work expanded into a family business, his son and daughter-in-law both working alongside him.

I've sung Graham's praises before. The one thing I cannot begin to mimic is how fast he worked. Admittedly he was handed the text and images (often already scanned), so he knew exactly what he had to work with, and most of the articles were two to four pages. I'm facing an open-ended book and have to source, scan, clean up, resize and caption all my own images, of which there are a vast number (Rocket may have only been 16 pages and run for 32 issues, but that's still over 500 pages with usually more than one image to choose from).

The big decision to make is the basic layout. I'm sticking with the layout that I used for Countdown, which is a wide text column, plus a second, smaller column for captions. That means image sizes can vary between the width of the caption column, the main text column, a widescreen pic over both columns, two pictures split between the same width, and full bleed images that will stretch across the whole page from edge to gutter. I'm also using a couple of images across whole spreads and occasionally dropping in an image behind the text so that there's some variety in the pages.

I have an idea what I'm doing for the front cover, but I still have a bit of work to do on the cover image (in the long-time tradition of Bear Alley Books, it will be based on a cover from one of the issues) and at the moment I don't have a back cover. Hopefully I'll have something to reveal by next week.In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the episode of 'Captain Falcon' at the head of this column.

Spring has sprung around the streets of Wivenhoe. I've seen signs of it for the last two weeks, but the trees are in blossom and the daffs are waving proudly in the stormy breeze. Apart from some intense rain, Storm Dennis didn't create any problems (no fallen trees, no more broken fence panels). In fact, I've managed to get out in the garden most days to chop up the branches we cut out of the tangle that purports to be a hedge in the front garden. It's not – it's simply the mess that results in decades of nobody looking after the garden (and I'm talking about the decades before we arrived).

It's unfortunate that the local council no longer allows eight bags of garden waste to be put out over the winter months. The cuttings have filled twelve bags (four that were emptied last week, and those same four bags plus another four that are falling apart), but we won't be able to get rid of the last of them for a month (We cut the hedge on Saturday, 8th... the last of the bags will be picked up on 10th March). That's a month where everything is starting to bloom and grow; by the time we get back to finishing the job, it'll be twice the job it would have been in mid-February.

I've nothing from the TV to review this week, being mid-season on a couple of shows, so let's take a look at a couple of podcasts. Being a grumpy old man nowadays, I'm finding that a lot of shows I have been listening to for years have steadily grown longer, so finding the time to listen to them properly is becoming trickier. Some fine shows that originally ran for maybe 45 minutes now run for 75 minutes and very few interview shows now run for less than an hour.

There are a couple of short, funny shows that I like to listen to that have appeared recently: Alice Fraser is a fabulous Aussie comedian who has appeared on The Bugle for some while now; she also does an interview podcast under the title Tea with Alice which tackles some tough subjects. Her conversations with Tiff Stevenson about safety and consent should be required listening, and if that's not your thing, there's also interviews with Neil Gaiman, Al Murray, Ed Byrne, Richard Herring and others.

I mention Alice because she has a new, short, wonderfully bizarre podcast called The Last Post, containing news from a slightly off-kilter version of our world. In the episodes I'm listening to at the moment, a race of Picts have been discovered living under London. Will there be a solution to the Pict crisis, or is the only solution available half a glass of water? You'll have to listen to find out.

The Onion, the satirical website, now has its own short 'n' sweet satirical look at the news podcast, The Topical, which has covered such controversial headlines as "FBI Warns Against American Dream Scam", "Tyson Foods Orders Trump to Cease and Desist" and "Australian Officials Touting Bushfire as Huge Success". Not for those with a sensitive disposition.

A fun 30 minute show is Richard Osman's The Birthday Game, which has a surprisingly simple premise. Three guests have to guess the age of someone whose birthday it is on the week of broadcast. It sounds unpromising, but it's actually a lot of fun. There are 16 episodes to date, the last broadcast in December. Hopefully there will be another batch along soon.

The other half-hour podcast is Inside the Comedian, which has been around for some while now. David Reed interviews comedians about their process. It's improvised and off the wall as the respondents spin outrageous claims for themselves and their talents. There are 36 episodes to date, so I'm sure you can find one to dip into to see if you like it.

That should keep you busy.

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