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Friday, July 02, 2021

Comic Cuts — 2 July 2021

After the problems with the internet that dominated the last Comic Cuts column, we've had a relatively quiet and frustration-free week. We had a call from one of the engineers at BT Openreach, who was investigating further the poor connections that Wivenhoe has with the outside world as far as the world wide web is concerned, but unfortunately he concluded that the problem wasn't with the exchange box above ground, but with a pair of boxes underground.

One, he said, would be easy to get to, as there was a nearby manhole. The other would involve getting Council permission to dig up the road, which would be more problematic. Adding (perhaps) to the problem, is that there are signs popping up around the main road that runs past the exchange warning of resurfacing works that are to be carried out next week. What's the betting that the road will be resurfaced and then they'll have to dig it up. Sounds about usual for our idiot council.

I have been working solidly on writing up the history of a wartime publisher, which has taken a little longer than I'd hoped, but which has been a lot of fun to research. The publisher is Gerald Swan, who straddles my two main interests of comics and paperbacks. Because of this, I sidelined myself writing up in detail some of his history that is more involved with the latter than the former. However, it was a useful diversion, because it helped me see how his business career began and how the business switched from wholesaling to publishing.

Thanks to a couple of Swan collectors, I'm also in possession of a good selection of Swan's output, so, although I've written about Swan in the past, I'm expanding everything tenfold so that descriptions of artists' work aren't just lists. Back in January and February I was looking at some of the artists, and that research was always intended to be used in the piece that I'm now writing. I'll hopefully also have a few bonus things to offer once I've got the basics down. Swan published hundreds of comics and albums, and they're as scarce as hen's teeth these days, so hopefully there will be a few interesting revelations, even for long-time collectors.

We were out on Saturday following the Wivenhoe Art Trail, which is an open day of local artists involving some 26 locations. It's a very arty crowd down here, everything from painting and sculpting to making jewellery and other crafts. We didn't get as far around as we had hoped, but we must have seen the work of over 20 artists. Some good, some indifferent (although I'm sure they have their fans). We chatted to one guy about his comic influences — he was wearing a Judge Dredd t-shirt, but preferred the likes of R. Crumb — and found a table of very steampunky lamps converted out of bottles.

Everyone was still very well behaved as far as sanitising hands and social distancing, but it was not a good day for photography — a lot of the displays were outside in bright sunshine, which meant that my little camera struggled with reflections everywhere. Hopefully the handful of examples below will give you a flavour of what was on offer.

The image at the head of this column is by Colin McAllister (the Crumb fan mentioned above). My photo of his ultra-detailed Indian ink cartoons didn't do justice to the pictures, so I've nabbed this image from his website, where you can zoom into the picture to see the incredible amount of detail he's put in. The picture celebrates the 70-year history of the NHS, starting in the years before (charitable hospitals, asylums) and end with what almost certainly lies ahead (a crisis in the provision of care, private interests taking over).

The other pics. We spotted another water vole on Monday, this one out on the middle of the pavement, and we're guessing it was quite young and unworldly, as Mel was able to get within a foot of it to take the photo and it was still nibbling at a leaf, not a care nor fear in the world.

This year's vegetable patch consists of two tomato plants, a cucumber and a corgette. Hopefully we will do better than last year, which was a particularly bad year for us, our worst in the past decade. The mix of rain and of sun has certainly helped the tomatoes along and we're starting to see flowers on all four. It has also meant a running battle with weeds growing in the cracks in the patio, which often seem to do better than the plants we want to grow. That's life, I guess.

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