Friday, March 03, 2023

Comic Cuts — 3 March 2023

I often forget that March is the birth month of Bear Alley Books' first release, the Hurricane and Champion index, which was released on 21 March 2011. To celebrate this 12th anniversary, I'm going to try and get a new book out by the end of the month. It's a reprint of an old penny dreadful that first appeared in 1875-76, almost 150 years ago, but it a fast-moving and incredibly readable action story about spies, set in part around the action of the Crimean War.

I'll publish all the details shortly.

This project has been hanging around far longer... 15 years, to be exact. Back in March 2008 I put together a number of books that were designed to test the quality of print on demand printers, of which there were three or four at the time. The books were never intended for public sale. Normally there was only one copy made, but as I was paying for each one I thought I'd make myself a few different books so that I could at least benefit from the cost and have a few fun collections on my shelves. I tried out various A4-sized comic reprints in hardback and softback in black & white and even one in colour, some with spines, some slimmer ones stapled like pamphlets.

The results gave me the confidence to try my hand at printing a couple of comic reprints. Well, that didn't turn out so well at the time and I ran into a few problems which proved impossible to resolve immediately. To cover the cost of all that printing, I took on some work on a book, 500 Essential Cult Books, for which I wrote short reviews of everything from Dune and The Illuminatus Trilogy to Chariots of the Gods and A Brief History of Time. I think I ended up writing about a quarter of the book to help it hit a deadline.

At the same time, we were being kicked out of the house that we had lived in for 17 years. That's when we found our current home, much better than the last, and I spent months packing, moving and unpacking. It pushed back the launch of Bear Alley Books to March 2011 when I released the first index and a very limited hardcover collection of essays, Mean Streetmaps. I was also working on The Thriller Libraries index for Book Palace and Bear Alley's first comic strip collection, Eagles Over the Western Front, which I put out in three parts at first because I had to spread the costs.

I was kept busy over the next few years: Bear Alley Books doesn't make enough for me to live on, so I have to do other work to allow me to write and publish books that I want to write and publish rather than worry about hitting the best-sellers charts. It has meant a couple of projects stalling as I run out of money to research and write, but I usually get back to them once things are a bit more stable. I'm in an earning phase at the moment, which isn't filling the coffers as I would like it to, thanks to high energy costs, high food inflation and our rent going up. It might be another year before I can concentrate fully on a big project.

In the meantime, I have the opportunity to look at this old penny dreadful reprint which, thanks to Mel, has now been proofed. I'll try to work on it over the next couple of weekends and we'll see where we are. I think this must be book number 41 or thereabouts, so I must be doing something right!

(* Illustrations for today's column are a few random scans I have picked up from Facebook in the last few days. I have never seen the Dixon of Dock Green before. Those early Mayflowers seem to be particularly scarce.)

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