Friday 31 October 2008


(Callum Campbell last night, though you're probably still having it))


there's a small tear-off calendar in front of me called 'Wild words from Wild women.' The wife of my bosom was given it last December but didn't feel wild enough to keep it on her desk at work, so it's been in front of my computer since then. You may have noticed that all my quotes of late have come from this. Today's quote however has been ripped untimely from its place and I cannot quite remember how it went. There are tiny origami birds and turtles lying all around my table. I open a few, they're from the calendar but they all date back to when I was traveling in July. I should clear it all up soon I suppose. Anyway, today's quote was something to the effect that Hallowe'en is the only day of the year that girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. Who said it I cannot recall. An attempted search only got me this article from last year's Huffington Post:
Dispatch from the Heart of Slutty Halloween-- Kathleen Nye Flynn--

"The sight of so many young girls looking like sex toys disturbed me. There were gaggles of slutty pirates, slutty nurses, slutty milkmaids, slutty Snow Whites, slutty schoolgirls, slutty referees. A few girls skipped costumes altogether and went straight to lacy lingerie and sheer teddies. Some shorts rose so high that fleshy rear-ends peaked out below. Some skirts fell so low on the hips that they had stopped serving their purpose as clothing.
Weren't they aware that they were standing around cold and naked just for the sake of appealing to some particularly dull looking men? After all, these are ostensibly smart co-eds. Too smart, I thought, to trick-or-treat for compliments and catcalls.
I wanted to know what was going on in their heads. So I put on my jacket, scarf and hat (it was cold outside, after all)...
update: wee callum just came home and you'll be glad to know I thumped the bejesus out of him (of course I didn't... anyway he's bigger than me, and he works out.) The calendar slip is a very finely folded turtle on the living room coffee table. It was spake by Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. It's evening here and now Cal is putting on his Joker make-up. Looks good. I'll see if we can get a photie.


Thursday 30 October 2008

the final of four podcasts for Alex Fitch's panel borders series should be up for downloading. I'm pleased that I've managed to avoid all my sound bites in this one. I even start to get worked up about stuff. The wife of my bosom is away for a few days, but if she were here she'd say the following, and the only way to present it is as a Honeybee cartoon:

I tried to find the origin of the expression and this is the only sense I could come up with (scroll halfway down if you're in a hurry).

At the bottom of that page, a quote worth stealing: "mixing two metaphors, that gets up my goat." (speaker not recorded)


Callum just told me that instead of '"That's totally gay!" the kids are now saying "This is Sparta!"

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paul Auster talks (Guardian 29 Oct)
The novelist explains his rage at what the Bush presidency has done to the world - and the world we should be living in

One of America's more prolific novelists - his latest, Man in the Dark, is his 12th, and he's no slouch as a poet, non-fiction author, screenwriter and editor - but Paul Auster is not feeling very inspired today. "I'm completely emptied out," he says, "no thoughts in my head. No ideas. I am back to zero."
Zero apparently equals being "just your average everyday neurotic", but he's not showing much of a complex about the creative blank, sitting happily smoking a chain of cigarillos in Faber's London offices. (He clearly isn't unduly anxious about breaking the anti-smoking laws, either.)
If there is something getting Auster's goat, it's American politics...
(link thanks to Michael Evans)


Wednesday 29 October 2008

i've been so lost in my own head for a few days that i seem to have missed all the world's important news.
Word in this morning's tv news: that really was fecal matter in the ice cream. We'll have to wait for the DNA tests to find out whether it was 'bullshit, monkeyshit or the well known human variety', to quote Henry Miller.
My pal White alerted me to that one. he tells me they went to the trouble of freezing the poo before burying it in the ice cream 'It was a proper job' he says.

"So for a "scandal" of such alleged magnitude, it's been a slow burn. The Radio 2 broadcast in which Brand and Wossy insulted that popular old trouper, Andrew Sachs
– since playing Manuel in Fawlty Towers the 78-year-old actor has basked in beatified status – went out on October 18. It took a week to go viral, a Jurassic unit of time by modern media standards - when any mega-scandal less dramatic than murdering a baby on Blue Peter ("here's one I chopped up earlier") has usually come and gone in 48 hours. Yet here it is, on all our front pages today. Even Piers Morgan, a journalist synonymous with moronic behaviour for many of us, has joined the pompous chorus of outrage in the Daily Mail, widely echoed elsewhere..."

And in the land of the loonies, where if a kid is given a comic book with willies in it there will be a public outrage, an eight year old kid gets to a have go in a shooting range with an uzi and accidentally kills himself:
"Why is an 8-year old child allowed into a gun show in the first place? Why is a little boy encouraged and allowed to test-shoot an Uzi sub-machine gun, or any gun for that matter? Shouldn't there be an age requirement to get into a place that is full of loaded guns? Though I don't presume to question the right of qualified adults to own a gun..."

On more pleasant matters: while perusing Paul Gravett's site: "Ability to draw is not a requirement at Arvon, and, as graphic novelist Ben Katchor has found teaching at Parsons in New York, it may even be a hindrance. Katchor finds that his "writing students have the hand of a child coupled with the mind of an adult. With no facile conventions to fall back on, everything they draw must be invented. Many art students are trapped by their drawing habits and have to overcome an entire psychopathology of commercial art techniques and style to find their autographic voice."

I've just noticed wee hayley campbell's been writing the blog for Gosh's comic store in London for the last month: "A big thank you to everyone who came along to the Jill Thompson signing on Saturday! A lovely time was had by all and Jill signed for well over the two hours, providing amazing and beautiful sketches for all in attendance while they told her all about sherbet lemons, Yorkshire pudding, and the Lewes bonfire night. Or maybe that was just me."

thought for the day: "Do you want to trace your family tree? Run for office."- Patricia H. Vance.


Monday 27 October 2008

after writing about the British small press comics scene of the early '80s in my previous post, a few thoughts have been lingering in my noodle. Firstly the Wikipedia page titled 'British small press comics' is full of problems (duh!), for one: "A "small press comic" is essentially a zine predominantly comprised of comic strips. The origin of the term is uncertain but probably emerged in the late 1970s and serves to distinguish them from zines about comics." (bold mine). Origin uncertain? I have on more than one occasion written that I told the Fast Fiction guys to stop calling all that stuff 'fanzines' if they wanted to make headway outside of comic book circles. I then suggested 'small press' as I had been to the Cambridge poetry festival in 1981 and found myself interested in the 'small press' tables with the photocopied books of poetry, more interested in the idea of it than the things themselves. I thought, when I later saw it, that it It looked just like wee Paul Gravett and his Fast Fiction table. My suggestion was taken up and survives.

Further down the Wiki page it says: "A number of people and creators have been associated with the small press comics scene over the years. Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell and Dave Gibbons were regular attendees at the Westminster Comic Mart in London originally organised by Paul Gravett in 1981." Apparently these events are too lost in the past to be accurately reconstructed. Paul never organised the marts. They were a bi-monthly mini-convention, lasting one Saturday's daytime trading hours, at which he quietly and inconspicuously just happened to hire one of the many tables. The rest of the mart was about the usual comic book and collectibles baloney and it regularly attracted large crowds. I hated that part then and I still hate it. The people named are just three of those who happened to have mentioned a transaction or two that took place there. Those marts attracted anybody and everybody who was interested in comics and the gathering together of writers and artists in the pub next door encouraged a tight-knit community and made a fertile ground for the cultivation of ideas and styles. If you asked me who was there, it would take the rest of the day to draw up a list.

A thing about the small press scene that is not usually mentioned is that there was something of a split around 1987. A few of us, I, Phil Elliott and Glenn Dakin mainly, didn't like the way Escape magazine was going. We felt that Escape was trying to be too slick and cosmopolitan and had lost sight of its founding goals. We didn't appear in any of the issues after #11 (it ran to #19 and while it was always smartly designed, it looked particularly flash at the end) and had already set up a separate operation within Martin Lock's Harrier Comics, who had otherwise been running since May '84 doing an old fashioned sci-fi type of US-format comic book in black and white. There, in assorted combinations of ourselves and others, we turned out 37 comic books under the rubric 'Harrier New Wave,' with our own separate banner on the covers, though we had been cuckoos in Mr Lock's nest for a few months before we thus declared our 'difference.' However, our own efforts were in the main no closer to anybody's founding goals either, since we were compromising a great deal to attract the attention of the American market. The last couple of issues of !GAG! (edited by Phil Elliott) did succeed to some extent in keeping that spirit alive, and a couple of the later issues of Australia's Fox were in the running too, with me, Elliott, Dakin and New Zealander Dylan Horrocks showing new work (Dylan talks about those years in an interview at Comics Reporter- word-search to the section beginning 'The English Small Press'). Fox serialized my material that was later collected as Little Italy. They even managed to front me a little bit of money for it, and asked me to not tell anybody. I guess it's all right after twenty years.

Our Harrier operation ground to a halt at the beginning of '89 and Escape, attached now to UK distributor Titan making inroads into publishing, made it to the autumn (fall). They also had planned a number of American-format comic books, which may have gotten as far as mock-up stage. Fox attached themselves to US publisher Fantagraphics and made it all the way through the following year, 1990. I believe Fast Fiction the table, trading in dozens of new photocopied comic productions as well as screen prints, postcards and other novelties, every two months, and the comic, presenting the cream of the artists that were around, also every two months, in a booklet format of twenty or more pages, may have dribbled into 1990 too, but I wasn't watching.

Some piccies from my files. This was my back cover of !GAG! #5, but think about it for a minute:

I drew it in black for one of Ed Hillyer's failed productions. I think Ed found it in his files late in the day and Phil Elliott coloured it. Here are a few covers of books that had been planned but never appeared:

With some additional details the above drawing appeared in that jokey annual event, the Amazing Heroes swimsuit special. Nothing ever went to waste. You can see that version here

Lucifer did appear two years later in 1990 from Trident, a UK publisher following on the heels of Harrier during the boom for black and white US-format comic-books. It was a three issue mini-series but without the cover above (note how the photocopy has been roughly folded for cramming into an envelope). Everybody was happy with Paul Grist's drawing on it, but he drew a lovely new one with a big close-up. There was also a book collecting the three at the end of that year, which is very hard to find as the publisher ran into money problems and Canadian printer Preney held the book to ransom. The publisher folded and the printer tried to sell the stock themselves, by representing themselves as the publisher, through Diamond Distributors, but this plan ran aground when I faxed them an irate letter after seeing the solicitation in the Previews catalogue. Dave Sim (Preney was the printer he used, and later me too) later told me I was an idiot and I could have worked something out with them, which is what I would tell some hotheaded artist if they came to me with the same story. I can no longer remember how I obtained my one copy; Paul once told me he'd never ever seen one.

The above drawing fails to capture all the charm of the photo on which it was based. It had earlier appeared as a cover on an issue of Speakeasy but I relished the thought of a colour version. The Speakeasy guys, Acme Press, were another regular in the London small press scene. Speakeasy was a news and interviews mag and didn't show much in the way of new cartoons at first except when Phil Elliott and I gave them our strip samples that we had failed to sell to regular magazines, but Acme were the ones who published my big Alec book in 1990 in collaboration with US publisher Eclipse just after Escape (who had already published three of the four parts) faded out and just before Eclipse went bust too. Acme pulled a few other neat tricks out of the hat in the late '80s, like publishing all of Alan Moore's Maxwell the Magic Cat newspaper strips in four neat volumes ('86-'87), and getting the rights to adapt a James Bond film in time for the movie's appearance ('89). Richard Ashford wasn't allowed to take away a copy of the shooting script but was left in a locked room with it for an afternoon and adapted it on the spot in longhand. There's no Wiki entry for Acme so I'm not sure when they went kaput, but it was perhaps around '95, as I see their imprint that late, as co-publisher on the extended series of James Bond books put out with US publisher Dark Horse. Hey, surviving in this business is a real art.

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