Monday, 15 August 2011

My Monthly Curse (Part ½) - The Book That Was Too Controversial for Rich Johnston

My Monthly Curse is essentially an autobiography crossed with an opinion piece (with a chunk of biographical history thrown in); it was written partly as an act of catharsis and partly because, at the time (2005), I felt I had enough clout left in me to make a statement that would be appreciated by, at least, the professionals community. It also seemed like the logical thing for me to do, especially as I'd had some colourful adventures and experiences - in the eyes of many of my confidants I had a story to tell, it was controversial enough to open a few eyes and even if no one wanted to read it, it probably needed chronicling.

When Rich Johnston (someone you will encounter in detail towards the end of the book) approached me and asked if his website Bleeding Cool could simulcast my serialisation, I was happy to oblige. I sort of half promised Rich the chance for the scoop many years ago, when the book was in its planning stage. When he decided to stop running it, my initial reaction was nonplussed, but as the weekend wore on, I let it get under my skin. Fortunately I'm nearly 50, not in my twenties, when I would have knee jerked with considerable force - I don't quite know how, but I'm sure I would have got the literary equivalent of napalm out and obliterated bridges.

By Monday morning, I was full of a mixture of anger - the comic book industry has one last insult to throw me - and righteous justification - the words I have written are true and I'd happily stand up in a court of law and argue them out with whoever disbelieves them. If someone thinks I'm lying, they have as much responsibility to prove that what I say didn't happen as I have to prove it did and in as many cases as I could, I made sure that I named people present who can, if necessary corroborate my tales or lie to spite me depending on how much personal contempt they feel for any me or any target I choose.

Then my mate Mark said something that lightened my mood a little, '‎"The book that was too controversial for Rich Johnston." Sounds like good publicity to me!' The thing is, I was quite happy to just serialise it, put it in the public domain, on a blog, without much or any fanfare - I've said this publicly a few times - so good publicity isn't really the objective. My Monthly Curse will continue to be serialised on this blog as if Bleeding Cool never existed; if it gets 1000 hits a month, which it appears to be averaging, then I'm happy.

During a drink at a local pub, my former accountant and best friend Roger suggested that I 'publish' the book electronically, for Kindle on Amazon. The details of this were detailed in the italicised opening to the last instalment. This was purely a 'why not?' moment; after all, you don't write 170,000 words, edit it loads and serialise it if that is all you intend to do with it. We live in a world where electronic media is the norm, not the exception - like it was when I launched Borderline, which, ironically, could be ten times the size it used to be and no one would batter an eyelid at downloading it. If it's there, use it; you have nothing to lose. I intend to look into i-books and e-books and whatever other way of publishing I can use; not because I think I can make a fortune from it, but because it's there.

Someone has already suggested that this is a plan to persuade people to buy the book by stopping it at its most viewed source, especially at a time when the story has changed from the life of a struggling retailer to that of an aspiring comics industry worker. Already someone on the Bleeding Cool forums has bandied the word 'libel' around and this is really the only reason why Rich has dropped it. He's scared he'll be sued because he is co-publishing it. "The book that was too controversial for Rich Johnston," really does sound like the best kind of publicity when you think about it. Coincidence and nothing else, but I am the first the think that the timing couldn't have been better.

This isn't an excuse to plug the book (but the link is at the top right of the page), just a little bit of extra background for anyone who is coming here instead of Rich's site. It is also my way of reiterating the opening paragraph of this; it is an autobiography - my take on my 35 years involved in comics. If some of it is controversial, then it's a story worth telling. As I said to Rich in correspondence leading to this, 'What did he expect me to write - "When I left retailing, I worked in comics journalism for 11 years then started my own magazine up. The end"?

The next couple of months are a rollercoaster of a journey; lots of lows and a few very good highs. If you're new to the blog, then please feel free to leave your responses; but be aware that as a lot of my friends and family are present, I will not run your comments. Yes, it's censorship, but it's my domain and I'm all too aware that some (uninformed or ignorant) people just love to have a pop. I hope you stay with it.

Phill Hall - August 15, 2011


  1. Hi Phill,

    Just a quick note to say I was an avid reader on Bleeding Cool and was disappointed that they decided to stop serialising My Monthly Curse but I'm delighted that I can still get my fix here. Its a great read, congratulations. I look forward to it popping up in my RSS feed. I'll buy the book as well out of support but I have to say I think it works great as a serial and that's how I'll continue to enjoy it.

    Best wishes

    Jamie B

  2. Sorry it got under your skin, Phil. I don't own Bleeding Cool, it is my employer, so I have wider responsibilities. Sorry.

  3. I don't think I was blaming you Rich; it was a little tiresome if not pretty much expected. From the complete lack of lawsuits I've received since August you can probably turn to your keepers and say, "See? I told you it would be okay." Just keep giving it the occasional plug on the site and I won't sell your children to white slave traders...

  4. Oh and it's good to see you're up to date with things ;p