Wednesday, 2 November 2011

My Monthly Curse (Part Thirty-Six)

Comics International was an inspired idea – Dez saw Britain longest serving comics magazine – Speakeasy – disappear up its own arse and realised there was a market for a good old fashioned comics news magazine, so using the basic format devised by Richard Burton, when he was producing Comics Media News, Comics International was born. Dez's timing was impeccable.

And that sort of brings us back round to where we kicked this part off. I managed to last at CI a little longer than Sarah, although, as far as I know, she still had shares in the company until the magazine was sold. Dez, through creative accountancy, made it seem that QCL was basically worth bugger all so that he could avoid giving her a huge payoff, yet, allegedly, managed with the same kind of creative accountancy to make CI seem like a good buy when he sold it to Cosmic Publishing. By the time I left, Sarah’s involvement in the magazine was non-existent and the two of them rarely spoke, even on the phone, I do like to think she got something from it in the end.

I hated having a part to play in her demise, because the truth was she was always on my side. She defended me more often than not, she shared her drugs with me and she protected me from the worst of Dez at times. I lost touch with her and I can understand why. She, like Bruce Paley can probably only see me as the monkey who did the organ grinder’s work.

Comics Lesson 18:

What is a trade paperback? It’s another one of those ‘I-don’t-quite-make-grammatical-sense’ expressions that have become loved in comics – like very good and non-distributed. By definition a ‘trade’ ‘paperback’ is a paperback that is made available to the traders only. The comics definition, or the US definition, because that’s where most of the problems start and end, means ‘collection of comics bound in one volume’, so really they should be called Reprint Collection or Collected Stories, but the expression trade paperback has stuck, for better or worse; besides it sounds better than reprint collection, don’t you think? No, neither do I.

A trade hardback is essentially the same thing, but they are scarcer in quantity. A trade hardback is normally released after a trade paperback has been a success! Why? Don’t ask me; we’re talking about a fucked up system run by people who basically are living on the law of diminishing returns and while there are people out there that will buy everything the publishers will continue to perpetuate this practice. Everything, as my mum used to say, ‘is arse upwards’.

What are Graphic Novels? In the British and American sense a Graphic Novel is something that has been commissioned for that format, or has never appeared in any format before it appears in a large prestige format. Graphic novels are not very popular in the US because they tend to be more expensive. Graphic novels are all the rage everywhere else. Some US publishers will produce reprint collections in a grand format and call them Graphic Novels. These companies have signs posted onto the toilets in their buildings which read, “If you can read this you’re facing the wrong way!”

What are Prestige Format comics? A prestige format is a high-coated glossy paper with card or very heavy stock covers with top colour separations and professional finishing. They are mainly originated material, not a reprint and are normally about half the price of a trade paperback – the page content varies from 32 to 64-pages.

The publishers’ favourites of all of these are trade paperbacks, mainly because of the costs involved – reprint royalty deals are few and far between when a creator is on a work for hire contract and all of the source material is already to hand – in many cases the plates are still in existence. Trade paperbacks cost them a fraction in real terms to a single issue of a comicbook.

You’re maybe beginning to see a pattern forming about comicbooks – everything is related and inter-related. You cannot hold a linear conversation about hardly any aspect of comics without having to touch on another aspect of the industry that is linked. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – if you discuss an element of the comics industry you cannot really just talk about one aspect, because other aspects all have parts to play in each other’s success or failure. The industry is inextricably linked together, for better or worse; it is incestuous...

The Internet just exacerbated the problem to a certain degree. The industry had really become smaller than the sum of all of its parts. Dez was a celebrity despite having an oeuvre that was more publishing than creative and despite this he saw the advent of new people in comics journalism as a bad thing. But as much as he despised the new kids on the block, he realised that it was swim or die, so he chose to swim with people he had no time for. It, of course, had its benefits, because there were never enough fawning sycophants for him. He began to build himself the persona of grandfather of UK comics - writing himself into areas of history where he had no right.

I was told once, in 2003, at a Caption Convention [Caption is a small press convention held normally in Oxford which is for small press and not mainstream creators and fans] that during my tenure as News Editor at Comics International, it had been me who stopped Dez from running too much UK small press news, because 'I didn't feel it reached an audience and marginalised an entire page of the magazine'. It was I that instigated the small press news in 1998; I fought tooth and nail for its inclusion and at the time I was having that resurgence of superficial power. Dez will tell you anything to avoid awkward confrontational situations where he's not the main attraction and the small press thing typified this - he didn't like them, but he didn't want them to think he didn't; so he'd break one of his own rules - the one about me being useless and having offered no real contribution to he progress of the magazine - to soften the conversation and make him seem less powerful. I like the way I was attributed with having a say in the magazine when it benefited him.

But, enough of that. The man who is seemingly immune to the affects of karma will get what he deserves, one day.

Next time: the adventure continues, but in new worlds...


  1. It's interesting to discover this stuff about the small press content, as it was through CI that I discovered small press comics. I wouldn't have known about The O Men or Jack Staff or Rol's stuff otherwise.

  2. I knew nothing of Dez when I started reading your blog, and by now even *I* want to beat the living piss out of him.

  3. Well... you see... I've actually toned him down, for obvious reasons. However, as people who have read the entire thing can attest, there is an element that has been there and continues throughout that suggests that I actually miss him - as a friend. In the work I've done for the last 10 years, I've met women who actively seek abusive relationships and I sometimes wonder if I suffered a form of Stockholm Syndrome during the 90s - a very similar thing on hindsight.
    Chip, if you met him there would be part of you shouting at you that he isn't anything like the monster he's portrayed as, and he isn't - you couldn't wish to meet a more charming man at times - it's not until you get under the surface of the veneer that you start to see the cracks and blackness. My Monthly Curse, as I say, is an allegory to a period. One week in every four I had my curse. It is also, also with hindsight, a good allegory to drug addiction; because as much as I knew I was walking into office hell every four weeks, I couldn't miss it for fear of not being part of it. :)