BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
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Friday, March 20, 2020

Comic Cuts - 20 March 2019

While the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, I've hunkered down at home and had my nose to the grindstone working on the latest books from Bear Alley.

The two indexes were finished and proofed as best as possible visually by the tail end of last week and I spent the weekend working on the omnibus volume of Eagle Over the Western Front, which contains everything from the three volumes published back in 2011. Sales have slowed to almost zero these past two years, so I'm hoping that a single volume will give the series a boost – it's a fantastic strip written by Mike Butterworth and drawn by Bill Lacey that's well worth a look if you've not picked up a copy.

I took Sunday off to write a little essay. Not the little essay that I was planning to write – I'm easily distracted – but a nice break none-the-less. I haven't written any 'Forgotten Authors' essays for six or seven months, and that previous one was written after a break of probably ten months.

I then spent a couple of days finishing off the text of  the four Gwyn Evans books that I'm planning to reprint. We have a cover artist, so what I'm calling phase two is also coming together. I'm wondering whether to update the Gwyn Evans book (The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet) as I've discovered half-a-dozen more stories. That said, it seems an awful lot of work when I know there will be almost no reward.

Over the last few days I've been slowly putting together a brochure that I will be able to send out to people who order books. I thought of this as a little job I could knock off in no time at all... wrong! I find myself writing a few dozen little bits of text, digging around for images I haven't seen for up to a decade, and generally spending a lot longer on each page than I anticipated. That said, I think it will look a lot better than what I was originally planning. And being a PDF brochure means I can have a little colour in it for a change.

While I was looking for an image for the Hurricane & Champion index, I stumbled across an image labelled "cover" that wasn't the cover that eventually ended up on the book. I'd decided on a particular image that I was going to use and started roughing out a version of the cover (hence giving it that file name), when I had a conversation with fellow-collector Phil Rushton. Phil told me he had some original artwork from one of the covers and would that be any use to me?

Yes. Yes it would. And his 'Crusaders' artwork, beautifully painted by Alessandro Biffignandi, was used on the cover of the first edition. For the second edition, however, I've decided to go back to my original version, which uses a piece of artwork by Jordi Penalva – and, as can be seen from our column header, it makes for a fantastic cover.

I've ordered physical proof copies of the three phase one books now that the files have been uploaded to the printer, and can now get on with a couple of other things, namely the proofing of the phase two books and writing the little essay that I was supposed to write last weekend. I'll have more news on all this next week.

For those of you interested, you'll see from the above that I'm keeping busy, which keeps me isolated in my office. Mel will be working from home from Monday, so that reduces any chances of bringing in the coronavirus almost to zero. We will have to pop out to the Co-op for bread and milk, but I'm thinking of moving my usual "big shop" day from Saturday to a week day to avoid any crowds. Not that there have been crowds on Colchester high street for months. I went in on Wednesday a week or two back and the town was deserted (photo below).

I'm also beginning to wonder if it will be worth going into town anyway... my usual Saturday route takes in all the charity shops and a couple of places that sell second hand DVDs. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they're all closing down for the duration, which means I'd be going in just to shop at Sainbury's. There's a Tesco superstore closer and we have the Co-op just around the corner, so it might make more sense to put Colchester off-limits for a while. It's not like I'm running out of books to read or DVDs to watch...

Wivenhoe is suffering from the same panic buying and closures as everywhere. The first thing to disappear was soap, tissues and toilet paper. We haven't had any new supplies for a week. They're now talking about possibly shutting down the little bakery at the Co-op. As I love my fresh rolls, this is potentially the first casualty that affects me. If they run out of cheese or sausages, I'm not sure I'll want to go on.

There are simple precautions you can all take, the easiest of which is: keep your distance from people, don't go anywhere unnecessary, and wash your hands with soap in hot water regularly. Other than that, keep walking your pets, make sure you're getting some exercise and phone your elderly relatives – you might know what's going on, but they may be Daily Mail readers and under the impression that by not eating bats or Chinese food they're safe.

More news next week. Stay safe, everyone, and we'll all get through this.

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