Friday, December 09, 2022

Comic Cuts — 9 December 2022

The big tidy-up continues, although with only 100 magazines shredded there hasn't been much room created. I did, however, sort out most of my old educational magazines — Look and Learn, Treasure, Speed & Power, Bible Story, World of Wonder, etc. — so they now take up a little less space. I don't have complete runs of many titles, but between the above I must have 1,300 issues and that's more than enough to fill eight boxes and all the space under the stairs.

I'm also sorting out some comics, so I have a handful of spares that I will offer through eBay or Facebook. Nothing too special, although some Rangers and a nice little run of the 1990s Thunderbirds will hopefully find a new home.

I also started a slightly frustrating little project to supply someone with a bibliography of my own books. Unlike some authors, I don't have a "vanity shelf" with all my works on display. They're dotted around the house, often still wherever they landed when we moved in a decade ago, or wherever there was a space on a shelf. So I have been hunting around looking for some of the old pamphlets that I wrote and contributed to. I've found most, but there are still a few that are proving elusive.

Some are little more than a set of photocopied sheets, stapled together — I did a dozen or so bibliographies of old paperback companies for Dragonby Press starting in 1984 with the epic 14 page Scion and Dragon Books 1949-1956 published in September 1984. Not a book, but a separate publication. I'm not sure where you draw the lines between a book, a chapbook or a pamphlet. The general consensus is that a chapbook is 20-40 pages, which makes most of my early indexes full-length books.

I have written about these before, but I thought it might be worth offering up this bit of indexing history again about how the first of these indexes came about...

Out of the blue in late 1987 I received a letter from a guy called Gary Armitage. Gary was a fellow member of the ACE and was also interested in lists. He enclosed one with his letter. I think it was a list of stories that had appeared in Lion and various annuals and holiday specials featuring The Spider. I wrote back and included a list of stories featuring The Steel Claw.
    From those two little acorns grew the indexing project that has kept me busy on and off for the last twenty years. Gary sent me a listing of all the characters that had appeared in Lion as a follow-up. Not to be outdone, I gritted my teeth and spent the next few weeks indexing Valiant. Gary put together most of the information for an index to the Power comics published by Odhams. I think I then tried an index to TV Century 21 and its various spin-off titles (I'm not 100% sure, but listings of the latter titles appeared in Comic Cuts in 1988).
    Gary was eventually forced to drop out, the real world and real work getting in the way of a fine hobby, and I was also by then working full-time at R.H.P. But Hoffman's (as it was still known as rather than the fuller Ransom, Hoffman & Pollard) was only around the corner and I was only doing the occasional bit of overtime, leaving lots of free time to contact other fans of British comics and badger them into providing information for other lists.
    David Ashford threw in his lot with this mad scheme, as did John Barber, Chris Street, Colin Rudge and my collecting pal John Allen-Clark. The first fruits of all this activity were various lists for Comic Cuts in 1990. During this period I also had my one and only fling at writing comic strips for Starblazer and was made redundant. In September 1989 I started working for Southwark-based City Sports which put a crimp in my writing career but still left me with evenings free... and by now I had a computer. In October 1990 I was made redundant (again!).   
    In December I produced The Mike Western Story and sent a copy to Bryon Whitworth who was the editor and publisher of The Illustrated Comics Journal, a fanzine about British comics that I was just starting to contribute to. I mentioned the various indexes that the collective group of fans were working on and Bryon expressed an interest in publishing them. We received a nod of approval from Fleetway to use illustrations and set to work on the first book.
    Around March of 1991 we had a proof copy for the first volume of Thriller Picture Library: An Illustrated Guide which, looking back on it now, is a bit of an embarrassment. Although we included every single cover, they were black and white and poorly shrunk down photocopies which didn't come out very well at all. I'm rather more pleased with the introduction (written by David Ashford) which I laid out myself. Ali Cottee, who was one of my flat-mates, did the cover illustration based on a James McConnell cover and we hand-lettered the cover and title page. At the time, Ali was working for the company who did model work for Thomas and Friends TV series (famously narrated by Ringo Starr); she was a damn fine painter and sculptor, too. The photocopying doesn't do the original (long lost, I'm afraid) any justice. She also did the second cover (based on a McConnell Robin Hood) and I did the third, which was based on a blown-up cover image from one of the John Steel stories.
    Later, Bryon bought himself a colour photocopier and put out new copies of the Thriller index with a colour dustjacket (hand-coloured by Bryon himself).
The colour dustjacket is our column header.

Once I have it finished I'll post the bibliography and do my own cover gallery early next month. My first ever article appeared in January 1983, so I'm having a fit of nostalgia inspired by all the old articles and booklets that I have been rediscovering during the great tidying-up of recent weeks. I really can't believe that first piece appeared forty years ago.

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