LOOK AND LEARN
The big news (for me at least as it is something I've been actively involved in for the past few months) is the appearance of the Look and Learn website. Although we don't go 'live' until September, a lot of the site is already available, including a full-blown history of Look and Learn and related titles, a picture gallery which currently contains 10,494 images of some of the best artwork you will ever see (2,826 of them taken from original artwork) and a preview of The Best of Look and Learn which LLM hope to publish as a 48-issue series. A few months ago, we had some samples printed up, same size as the original Look and Learn (13½" x 10¼"), and the quality was superb. (Before anyone asks, I only have one copy and no spares.) You can register your interest in the series, without obligation, on the Best of... page.
Over the next few weeks LLM will be adding a lot more to the web site. I can only speak for the work I've been involved in but we have a lengthy listing of characters now owned by LLM through the purchase of various former-IPC Media nursery titles (Jack and Jill, Playhour, Swift, Robin, Teddy Bear and Harold Hare's Own Paper) and information on all these characters will be appearing on the web site. LLM is developing an art competition for kids and we will be adding a few more kid-friendly features, including a web-comic reprinting some of the old strips. The nursery papers included work by the likes of Ron Embleton, Jesus Blasco and John M. Burns; I'm hoping that, as various strips appear, you'll all become fans of some of the artists you may not have heard of, Philip Mendoza, Bert Felstead, Nadir Quinto and many others. We've been experimenting with a few other fun things, including a podcast, but I'll talk about those once we have some more concrete news.
The site has already had some excellent reviews. Apart from the comments that I've been receiving personally, there was a great review at Toonhound's news page, The Hound, and the site has gone down well with the folks at the Comics UK forum. It's always nice to get feedback, especially when it's positive feedback.
BOOKS ABOUT COMICS
There are a whole bunch of books about British comics due out over the next few months. Top of the heap must be Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury's Great British Comics: Celebrating a Century of Ripping Yarns and Wizard Wheezes which is due out from Aurum Press in October. More details at Paul's web site. I notice that the title greatbritishcomics.com has also been registered, although as of today the site is still under construction. Paul was interviewed recently (27 July) for the Forbidden Planet blog where he says:
the emphasis is again on storytelling, on actual interior pages and scenes. One problem with books on British comics in the past is their tendency to show almost nothing but front covers, especially “rare” Number Ones. Covers look bright and eye-catching, and of course we’ve included several, but the real power of the medium is in the narrative page itself. You’ll also find photographs here, of past masters, and mistresses, of British comics, as well as glimpses of readers and of other related social and cultural moments and items. All designed to show how comics have been a big part of British life.
Having been involved in a small way, identifying artists and chasing down copyright info mostly, I know for a fact that Paul and Peter have spread their net wide to include a lot of strips you wouldn't normally see examples of.
A book I've only recently heard of but which sounds as if it will be right up a lot of people's street is Sporting Supermen: The True Stories of Our Childhood Comic Heroes by Brendan Gallagher. The book was inspired by the response Gallagher, a sports columnist for the Daily Telegraph, received to an article he wrote for the paper, presumably this one written back in December 2004. There's more about the book at amazon.co.uk.
Carlton are following up the success of their Dirty Dozen and Best of Jackie books with a couple of new titles which are due shortly, including The Best of Jackie Annual, The Best of Girl and a second selection from Commando.
TRIGAN EMPIRE -- THE COLLECTION
The sixth Trigan Empire book, The Rallu Invasion, is due for release in week 34 according to Don Lawrence Collection publisher Rob van Bavel. That's about now if I've got my maths right. The text for the seventh volume, The Reign of Thara, is written and the book is due to go to the printers in early September. The next pair of 'Storm' books making up Storm--The Collection volume 6, is then due to go to the printers in early October.
BRITISH COMICS ARTISTS
Book and Magazine Collector #272 (September 2006) includes another essay in their series on British comics artists by Norman Wright and David Ashford, this one concentrating on the incredible career of Reg Parlett who was one of Fleetway's best 'funnies' artists for sixty years.
I stumbled across a picture of Jim Glen, who draws 'Dennis the Menace' for The Beano. Thomson do a lot to promote their most famous comic titles, including having a 'live' Dennis appear at the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee in July, alongside departing Beano editor Euan Kerr. Jim Glen was pictured in the Glasgow Evening Times on 11th August at another event at Tollcross Leisure Centre, Glasgow, a family fun day out where Thomsons had organised three cartoon workshops.
Jamie Smart, who drew 'Space Raoul' for the Funday Times comic supplement to the Sunday Times, and currently draws 'My Own Genie' in Dandy has a web site, jamievsworld. He's just opened up another site, bohda te, with strips and merchandise. He also keeps a live journal with some revealing stuff about the work he is doing for Cartoon Network and others, including an upcoming, self-published comic, Kochi.
Tim Perkins -- probably best known in the UK for his work on 'Dr Who' and 'Transformers' (Marvel UK) and various strips in 2000AD and in the USA for Dark Dominion (Defiant) -- has set up a web site which I believe went live in July. There is a brief interview with Tim discussing the site here.
(* This is all a bit random and not as comprehensive as I originally planned. And I had to upload it twice because I forgot the pictures. I'll aim to do better in the future but this is probably as good as it gets.)