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Saturday, 29 July 2017

On Creating Golden Age UK Reprints, The Criticisms and More!

This site has had over 25,000 views since it began in 2011 and let's face it that is a decent figure for a blog looking at British Golden Age Comics. There is not that much interest in the UK in this period unless you are dealing with Beano, Dandy or something like The Eagle.

The original Golden Age comic experts were, of course, the late Denis Gifford and the still very much alive Alan Clark. Their work has been cribbed by so many of the new 'experts' who feel safe knowing only old farts like me are going to know and who cares about old farts?

I mention this as I noticed quite a bit of what I have published -things I found out after a lot of research and were not known about- have been used as "personal finds" by these new experts.  But you expect it because these people have egoes and want to be seen as the experts.

I also found that Golden Age scans I placed on my Yahoo! groups for members were used on other sites and the uploader listed "original scan source unknown".  Really?  Even the 'hidden' marks I put in panels are there because these people tend to remove my British Comics Book Archive notice from the bottom of pages.
I get a laugh occasionally. On several occasions I have had people on UK comic groups (that I tend never to go on any more) or even privately email me to ask if I gave them credit for "their" scan used in one of my Golden Age reprint books -because I mentioned that particular strip or material was included.  They get quite annoyed.

Let me make it clear: people like Denis Ray in the United States initially helped with some scans of UK GA strips they had. Now those people are credited.  They have real names. There are very sound legal reasons why a name such as "Biggy56" (made up as an example) cannot be credited as a source. I offered to send a copy of the book -NO!!!! No way were giving their real names let alone addresses out....this is comic fan stuff not dark criminal or espionage activity.  I doubt MI5 are waiting to send in Slicksure when they identify you.  So that material was never included.  Also, these people never purchased a copy of my book in question so are going by the title of what I have used.

I am 60 years old now and have been reading comics since I was around 5 years old. British, German, American, Chinese, Hong Kong, Russian...I have a lot of comics.  If you ever saw the photos of Room Oblivion on Comic Bits Online you would know that -the photos in this link are from 2015 and things have expanded since then!!

The thing is I have spent money...please do not ask me how much as it really hurts! But I have spent a "fair bit" on building up a small collection of British Golden and early Silver Ages comics.  The photo below is of my collection of Swan annuals...I think there are a couple Bonzo annuals there as well.
I am an idiot. I clean up and edit, sometimes re-letter or repair at 800x so it isn't noticeable and it can take a couple weeks hard work to get something like the single Collection volumes ready for uploading.  I know these Golden Age books are not going to make me money so why do I do it?

Well, the late Brian "Bib" Edwards (who was drawing and creating Steam Punk before the term was even coined) told me that the Ultimate Collection brought back memories and showed real fun comics.  I'm glad he got and read the book.

There are people out there interested in comic book history or who love comics and want to see what they were like back in the 1940s and 1950s. If a couple people get some escapism from the books then good enough.

I said I was an idiot...right?
You do have complaints from people who have not, again, purchased a copy of a reprint book. They see a low res scan used when promoting a book.  These are people that do not edit 60-70 year old comics!

Somewhere on this blog is an article about editing Golden Age comics and what it entails...

Colour printing was often poor quality because the Second World War restricted ink and paper usage so while US comics remained full colour with a lot of pages we Brits grinned and beard it. Look at Cast Iron Chris above.  A nightmare. Scan and get the artwork to look good in black and white then have to get the colour text to be readable.  Three pages of one strip took me two weeks of off and on working to get it to look good and be read!

"The text aint great on Back From The Dead" yelped someone who saw the non-published pages. Artists wrote and drew and lettered their own stories.  That was the British method.  Some had a good text hand...some didn't.

William McCail could have good text or rushed.  The fact that the paper and print quality was often shabby did not help.  The Back From The Dead was worked on for weeks. I then found another original copy (then stolen!) and found that all the problems were in every copy. A couple of fellow old farts who had owned copies confirmed this.  So trhe Black Tower version is better than the original!
I also had three people tell me that they would not by the Golden Age books if they were a mixture of humour and action.  "I'm only interested in super heroes" declared one...who I doubt would have bought a copy anyway!

Then there was the question of "non PC" material.  Let's get the record straight here. These Golden Age books are designed to reprint long lost comics of the 1940s. Artists drew how they drew and I am not going to censor history -like the morons who insisted that the famous photograph of Isambard Kingdom Brunel smoking a cigar in the 1800s be photoshopped...and it was. No longer a cigar present on many copies you see.

I almost fell into this trap.  Black people were drawn in a cartoon style.  Now, British comic strips were not known by that term back then. They were called "comic sets" because the art was cut onto wood blocks put together to make a set.  Shaded areas often consisted of very clear, precise lines for the ink to follow.  You had a solid black area then no problem. Large eyes and big white lips were used because they had to show up in the solid black. You will see in more serious art styles of the time that Black or even characters from India have their skin colour indicated by fine lines.  There were also some "black" characters in British comics who were smarter and out-witted the "white" characters.

But then I realised that the PC/"this is racist" faction were being very deceptive.  They were using "smoke and mirrors" to prove their argument.  I looked at the strips and then realized something. They were making us focus on the "black" characters and how they were portrayed which got the liberal knee-jerk reaction they wanted.  However, what about the squinty, bulging eyed, big nose and often downright ridiculous looking "white" characters. I realised that if you took the PC point of view then the portrayal of "whites" was also racist.  But hang on...the animals and even the backgrounds were ridiculously distorted from realistic.  Cartoony.

This argument, however, never satisfies the extreme PC mob.  But people have to realise that you cannot literally censor history because you do not like something in it.  I explained all this to one critic who, again, had never purchased one of my books and was assuming I reprinted these specific strips (I had not).  Apparently that just proved I was excusing my racist leanings -which made him look a bigger fool as he knew nothing of my family!
Above - a lovely strip but a nightmare from hell to make publishable in black and white. And that is where I get further criticism over.  "Why aren't you reprinting in colour?" Well, it works this way: if the Ultimate Collection is 405 pages and black and white throughout it costs me "£x" to print and you can buy it for £25.00. Now, if I add just one colour page then every b&w page is counted as full colour -it's how it works. Mad, I know but I'm stuck with that.  So it costs me over twice the amount a b&w book does and your price as a buyer? £50.00.  Believe me I wish I could print colour!

Trouble is that no one takes into account that I need to find and buy the  old books/comics. I need to select the strips to re-publish and do all the work of cleaning up, repairing tears or masking out sellotape and foxing. All the work I mention in that Editing post link.  That is money, time and a lot of effort and I have been told that the Ultimate Collection should properly priced at £45.00 -to me that is insane. I'd sooner take a loss at £25.00!   But the 68 pp single Black Tower Gold volumes are £8.00 a copy and rather than delete them from the online store I left them so people could see if they wanted to invest in a big collection.
Black Tower British Gold Collection 1Black Tower British Gold Collection 2Black Tower British Gold Collection 3UK GOLD COLLECTION 4Black Tower Gold 5:Back From The Deadblack tower gold 6

But the books are not just there to reprint.  Volume 1 also includes the Defining the Ages of British Comic Books, though that has been up-dated since.  There are articles and information I have found on some of the old comic creators because not all signed their work.  Embarrassment at "drawing comics", job on the side while working for other larger, low page rate publishers  -the reasons vary but it means so many creators are 'lost' to us.

Since I tried to start the BCBA -British Comic Book Archive- in the 1990s I met constant negativity from some UK comic 'fans' who only consider the Thomson or Amalgamated Press comics as worthwhile and Swan and the other small publishers as "nothing special". I do laugh when I point out this attitude and there is the almost high pitched voice denying any such thing was said -but I keep all my emails and conversations!

A few people have jumped in the help but the BCBA is basically what I have and by that I mean in my collection or scanned.  Comics do not get respect in the UK.  However, I plod on and have managed to identify creators and make many finds not listed by even the legendary Mr Gifford. I also help a lot of collectors identify their books, strips and much more.  And I don't get paid for that either.

The work continues but with books not selling the idea of another volume of Golden Age reprints I cannot even think about.  Yet I have a lot of material left.

I do not yet possess a copy of any issue of Triumph featuring Superman! But let's not get off topic. What about all the material I still have?

I decided that what I needed to do was mix GA along with Public Domain Silver Age strips and contemporary ones -make a mix for everyone!  So was born Black Tower Super Heroes. First issue has not sold and Nos.2-8 have not yet been published, though they are complete and print ready. And all are 80 pagers.

Being a small publisher is not easy, especially when your books are not selling!  But I'm hoping one day someone somewhere might find them and appreciate all the work!

Until then it's hoping that the books are discovered before the store gets shut down -which is a possibility since if books do not sell why bother maintaining an online store?

There you have it, a very long few words covering quite a bit.  Any questions -you know where the comments section is.  Keep enjoying comics!

Yahoo groups with LOTS of covers and more

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