Friday, October 22, 2021

Comic Cuts 22 October 2021

Although I prefer a week where I can get my head down and get my teeth into whatever project I'm working on, there's also something to be said for weeks where you can mix things up. I'm not talking about anything radically different, but just a slight shift of focus for a couple of days.

One little project was finally signed off. A couple of years ago I published a book by motorcycling legend John Chisnall — or Uncle John, as I call him. He had been working on a memoir with a friend of his, Tony Davis, and had looked around at various options for publishing the book. They also asked me for some advice.

When I saw some of the prices quoted, it was clear that almost all these publishers were for vanity projects, and for a quite hefty sum they were offering little more than an expensive design service — and a slow one at that, judging from the complaints I saw — and all the author received was a dozen copies of their book at the end of the process. They then received a small royalty on any further copies sold. There didn't seem to be any attempt at promotion, other than being listed on a website — fine if you know what you're looking for and where you might find it, but no use for casual browsing.

I argued that they might as well self-publish the book. It would still involve them doing all the publicity for it, but at least this way they would receive the publishers' profit rather than a meagre royalty payment (which I believe was about 10% of the cover price). Also, I blithely said, I could do the design and printing for less than half what the other firm was charging... I may even have said a third of the price, which is what it turned out to be.

Which is how Bear Alley Books came to publish And the Wheels Went Round for John and Tony. And while it hasn't been a best-seller, it has sold in the region of 150 copies, which means it has wiped its face, rather than plunging the authors into debt to the tune of about three and a half grand. 

As Tony now lives in France, he thought it a fun idea to do a French language edition. So, earlier this week, I finally green-lit a small print-run of Les Roues de la Fortune. Not the first foreign translation of one of our books — there was a French edition of Eagles Over the Western Front some years ago — but certainly the first I have published under the Bear Alley Books banner.

With copies of the book heading over to France, I was able to turn my attention to an article that someone asked me to write. For once I'm way ahead of deadline, although I'm giving it a couple of days distance so I can read it afresh before sending it in. The subject is Ranger, which is one of the papers that I have written about and indexed in the past. A fascinating story for a fairly short-lived title and, of course, it gave us one of the finest strips ever published in a British comic, 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire'.

The little utility room next to my office has a plastic roof, and on Wednesday morning it sounded like the sky had burst, the rain hammering against the plastic. It was clear that our morning walk down to the river wasn't going to happen, so I thought I'd tackle something that I need to do for the Action project and have been putting off while I was concentrating on other aspects of the comic. It took me the whole day, but I now have every single feature indexed, with lists of the various stunts performed by Action Man Steve MacManus (and the ones that were actually someone else!), the young sports stars that were interviewed (including one whose name wasn't anywhere in the interview... that one took a bit of tracking down), and, everyone's favourite, the 'Twit of the Week'.

I'm now back to work on the main feature, reading a couple of interviews with Mike Dorey, including a brief one I did way back in August 1992 around the time that Victor folded. I've always thought Dorey was a bit of an unsung hero of British comics, drawing anonymously for Thomsons for many years, including a long run on 'Cadman the Fighting Coward' that lasted something like 16 series over 17 years. I think I probably first saw his work on 'Death Wish' in Valiant in 1975-76 and 'Invasion' in 1977. Rebellion recently reprinted some stunning work he did on 'Victor Drago' in Tornado. I know he's better known for his war strips, but if it was up to me I'd have Mike draw a new Victor Drago, and give him back his real name: Sexton Blake. Just look at our column header to see how good it was.


  1. Hi Steve,
    Who is the Ranger article for?

  2. It's for Tony at Comicscene for their History of Comics series.



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