Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Borderline Press Blog #7 - 566 x 2 - 132 ÷ Space & Time = WOW!!!

566 Frames is out. Dennis Wojda's wonderful story of his family through the years is now available and it's been a frantic week since it arrived.

I don't do things by halves. My planning (or lack of it) meant that Dennis's book was arriving just as I was putting the finishing touches to Zombre's InDesign document and sending it off to Stevenage for job #2.

Honestly, you would think that only bringing these two books out so far in 2013 would have been something of a stroll in the park, but no, I had to ensure that it happened at the same time, putting extra pressure on the team behind the zombie anthology. It did, however, make for some really exciting news releases - the kind that made us a proper publisher and not just someone saying we were going to be.

I met up with Will Vigar on an industrial estate on the south side of Northampton last Monday. he was on his way back from The Lakes Convention in Kendal, I was trying to stay awake after about 2 hours sleep the night before - up till 3am doing Zombre tweaks and then struggling to sleep at all because of the pallet of books scheduled to arrive at 10am. By the time I met Will, I had copies of 566 Frames in my possession and while the paper is slightly different from the Polish edition, just holding it had a calming effect.

Linus may have had his security blanket, but if the paying customers of Costa Coffee had paid any attention to Will and I hugging this handy sized blue graphic novel they probably would have thought we were a bit weird...

Obviously there's a Polish connection with 566 Frames, but the strange thing is Dennis was born in Stockholm, Sweden and if you read the book you will discover that and many other things. Now I mention this because a few months ago when we were discussing publishing the book, one of my 'associates' (not Will because I know he'll panic thinking you'll be thinking it was him) said, "Do you really want to be labelled the bloke who publishes Polish books?" I should quantify this by telling you that we were looking at another potential Polish graphic novel to publish at the time.

The Sweden connection with Dennis's book is obvious; the fact that we've just signed up The Hunger House, a Swedish haunted house story and I'm in discussion with Knut Larsson over his wonderful The City of Crocodiles suggests to me that perhaps I'm likely to get labelled 'that bloke who publishes Scandinavian stuff...' I wouldn't mind any label as long as it symbolises quality comics stories.

Some wag suggested Ben Dickson and Gavin Mitchell's Santa Claus versus the Nazis with its Lapland setting also fits into the Scandinavian theme, but, you know, that's stretching things a bit thin.

Things you should be looking at - this: http://youtu.be/Us0azjg3V1M

Obviously Dennis and I go back a few years, him having helped on Borderline and finding me lots of European talent to shine a light on. He's done that with our Swedish books and if you like them, it's his fault and if you like them (when they come out, obviously) and you've not been tempted by 566 Frames then shame on you; someone who has such good taste in comics is obviously a talented guy.

Dennis also makes me laugh (and English is only his 3rd or 4th language). A few weeks ago he sent me a genuinely lovely email that made me smile - "You need to employ some people to do all the jobs you forget," was essentially the gist of it. I like to think of Borderline Press being this fantastic publishing house, but the reality is it does operate out of my house and we do have a limited budget, which is really geared towards bringing out as many high quality books as we can; installing some faith and desire in punters and shops, who will buy the books, paying us and our creators and allowing us to produce more fantastic books. It's a simple idea, lets hope it's an effective one.

The irony is that I procrastinate. Instead of dealing with some things as and when they happen as the diagram of 'Getting Things Done' above my head tells me to do everyday, I put them off until there's so many that the only way to deal is to sit somewhere nice and quiet and work it out between us. My emails are a perfect example - there's about 566 to get through. So I'm going to stop this frivolity and go and do something more useful, instead...

Friday, 18 October 2013

Borderline Press Blog #6 - The Making of Zombre

The last few weeks have been tough on Team Borderline Press.

It's the first time Will Vigar's ever done anything like this and it's been 10 years for me and technology has rather overtaken my memory of it. Some people might question the sanity of this exercise; I mean the world has obviously moved on and left us old dinosaurs (combined age 100) with their Letraset, sticky tape and scissors. Yet, despite the teething troubles and near catastrophes, we do appear to be zeroing in on the 2nd completed Borderline Press book.

I forgot how stressful doing this kind of thing is and while he had many of his own moments, Will had to put up with me in a way that is difficult at best - through the medium of SMS. We gave up Skyping, it was probably for the best and the safety of the laptops.

I just refuse to even discuss this insult to my genius...
Will sent me this and never has a present been so apt as it was when it turned up today. It made me laugh and when you are doing something that you want to be brilliant, then you need moments that remind you to laugh.

To be fair, we've had moments where being a drama queen was probably an allowable reaction, especially when some of our contributors clearly forgot how rulers work. It is amazing that you can give people the exact measurements in millimetres, no less, and things turn up either too wide or not long enough. They did all manage 600dpi though, so it wasn't a numbers thing.

It was funny how it all came together so fast. One minute I was bemoaning about having to do it and it seemed like the next moment we were sending out 'test screen' versions. The reality is it's taken 16 days to this point and on Monday, but probably Tuesday it will get sent to Berforts' for proofing. It's turned itself around in doubt quick time and on the whole I think it's a stonking good package with so much diversity.

Everyone has seen the covers at some point, but how about like this?

That's probably the finished front and back covers (unless someone spots a massive mistake). Funky, huh? The general feedback on Tom Box's covers are that they will stand out on any comic shop rack and people will be drawn to that haunting image. I can't disagree, it's why I wanted them to be the book's front and back covers.

There are some real treats in store for you in Zombre. I have my own personal favourites and there are a couple of stories that just don't do it for me, but do it for others and as I've said all along if this was solely about what I like then I dread to think what I'd be eating in a few months... It is tough to get the right blend with an anthology and I'd like to think we've given it as good as it can get!

What about building the interior? Well, dropping 21 strips into a template isn't that difficult even if Adobe InDesign is just Pagemaker with bells and whistles and a completely arse about face way of doing things. I spend more time looking for things than I do actually working; 'Hmm, where have they hidden master pages?', 'I wonder where the short cut to embolden text is?', 'The re-designer of this application should be castrated with a very blunt spoon'...

The thing is, I started to get the hang of it and once I got the hang of it muscle memory came in and I started remembering stuff and most of the old shortcuts still work, some of them though go somewhere else entirely. That said, Zombre is just about close to being finished and both Will and I still can't quite believe that we've done it and I know that it's going to be at least a month before any of you see it and this could be construed as teasing.

I don't think that's teasing. This is teasing:
Tomas Kucerovsky and Tomáš Prokůpek
This is from an old friend of mine, Tomáš Prokůpek, from the Czech Republic, submitted for the next Borderline Press Anthology, Beasts. Apart from the utter sumptuousness of the art, you might notice something else about it.

It's going to be in colour!

If you could see the rest of this strip and I will tell you more about it next time, you would realise why Beasts has to be in colour. That might not be the only thing different about it, but enough for now.

The Hunger House gets closer. The contracts have been signed and the translation is under way; I hope to get this turned around very quickly; it's a book that many of you will love and, with a bit of luck, it's the kind of thing that might scare the life out of you - I could suggest it would make a perfect gift for a teenager or lover of a good spooky tale!

My main job over the next couple of days is to make some contact with a number of creators; some have offered us work, others have shown an interest in letting us work with them - there isn't anything that isn't of a seriously high quality and I have to shake myself because I just can't believe how some of this stuff has never been seen... Until now.

There's a graphic novel with no words that I described to Martin Shipp as 'Beryl Cook on acid' (Shipp is working with a renowned UK writer and a Hungarian artist on something for us next year); there was something that took my breath away with some peculiar looking creatures in it and ... but, I'd just be teasing you all again.

Friday the 19th might possibly end up being an unexpected day off!

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Borderline Press Blog #5

There is nothing more edifying than watching something great come together, and I know I'm bound to say that because I'm not likely to come on here and say, "Hey kids, the new Zombre book is a piece of shit and your £12.95 is going to be well wasted," am I? But the thing is, some of you said it couldn't be done. Several of you probably would have put money on it and to be fair, it still hasn't even been finished, let alone sent to the printer, so it might still go tits up.

But... You know... That ain't going to happen.

Zombre has been pretty stressful at times. Will Vigar spent days attempting to locate a hitman for me until he realised I was paying for the thing. I panicked over the 'finished' pages because the artists all showed zero acumen in the ruler department and some people suggested that we were going about it all the wrong way...

"Based on my experiences of Borderline version 2.0 so far, I have to confess I'm disappointed. And that makes me a little sad." Who said this is unimportant, what it conveys is all manner of things you could get annoyed about. The person who spoke these words had his story rejected because the artwork was poor and not to the standard that either I nor Will expected for Zombre. Also, his 'experience' to my knowledge was being told the specifics (deadline, specification, size limit) about the zombie book and being the only person to have a problem with it and seeing an advance copy of 566 Frames, which I have to presume he doesn't like because he never commented on it after page 110.

I get the impression that we're not doing the kind of books this person likes and he believes that because we're running our anthologies department like a proper publisher would that we'll end up with inferior quality products. Well, you know who has to pay for this thing? I have to look at a project and decide whether I want to spend a large amount of money on it and whether it will make me any money in the long run; I'm not going to treat that flippantly, am I? 

I appreciate sour grapes is going to play a big part in this (and the coming months); no one likes rejection, especially if they put a lot of work into something, but unlike small vanity publishers, I'm not just going to publish something because I have it in front of me and hope that the reader doesn't think, like me, that what he or she is looking at is a piece of shit.

Dez Skinn used to have this anal retentiveness in that if someone did something - some work - he'd try very hard to use it somewhere because it seemed a shame to waste it. He didn't like throwing anything away and often things that had been rejected got recycled somewhere else. I taught myself a long time ago that throwing things away is cathartic and that rejecting or criticising something is a positive and not a negative thing - if something simply isn't good enough, go away and do it until it is better.

This was pretty much the case this week with my oldest friend Colin. We did our first comic strip together 38 years ago and it got appraised (and praised) by one Neil Tennant, then at Marvel UK. He's been on hard times, Colin, not Tennant, and I thought the chance to draw a zombie strip would be beneficial for him and hey, if it sells out everyone will make some money. Colin threw himself at the opportunity, but as the weeks passed I said to my wife that I really didn't think he was looking as confident any more. On deadline day he phoned me and said what I'd pretty much guessed; but I also hadn't paginated for it; I was just happy to give him a chance; he should never have decided to write it as well as draw it.

The thing was, hooking up with him last night, he was quite clear, he bit off more than he could chew and despite most of it being finished, he could not bring himself to offer it because he simply felt it wasn't good enough. "It's shit, Phil, and I wasn't going to have to suffer you rejecting it, so I rejected it myself." 

Christ on a bike, that must have taken some balls?

Before we move on; I've seen this term bandied about a few times - Borderline 2.0 - and I can see people are dubbing it that, but it isn't really that at all. It has the same ethos as the magazine but this is a publishing company specialising in graphic novels. It is also called Borderline Press - that's both its trading and registered name; not Borderline, but Borderline Press. This isn't a relaunch or a re-branding; if anything it's the same brand doing something different.


Most of today has been spent filling envelopes with PR for 566 Frames and Zombre and that means sending everything to all the comic shops all over the United Kingdom. Obviously I'd like comic shops to stock our books, but the world of commerce changes daily and I expect that a lot of our business will, hopefully, be done through the web page because the more sales I get through that the better the profit for my creators.

The PR stuff has cost a lot of money and I have still to post 150 letters (that I believe are, ahem, borderline overweight, which means that the £84 postage charge is likely to be substantially more. Postage is the bastard that cripples everyone and if we have to suffer a privatisation, let's hope we get some proper competition and competitive and cheap prices!


We are in the process of finalising the rights to publish the UK edition of Loka Kanarp and Carl-Michael Edenborg's Hungerhuset (Hunger House) which is quite sublimely awesome and I think will rival 566 Frames as a breakout book for 2014.

I am also in advance stages of discussions with a French publisher to adapt one of their more successful graphic novels; a wonderful autobiographical tale about all kinds of things you'll look at think 'OMG, why would I want to read a book about that?' But it is a truly unique story, produced in a unmistakeable way and that's why I wanted it, because it just exudes quality.

I'm also talking to several creators and Will Vigar will edit a collection of some of the best short comics from Europe...

For those familiar with it, the BBC's Countryfile has a photo competition every year and around August you see John Craven, Chris Packham and Jo Brand oohing and aahing over some fantastic photographs; well the team and I have been experiencing something similar with some of the wonders of the East sent to us by Dennis Wojda, who is living up to his roving associate editor label! He is our European A&R man and a lot of the projects you'll see coming out in the next few years will be his fault! :-) 


I paid for 566 Frames last week and I expect a huge pallet of books to arrive around the 20th. By that time Zombre will be at the printer and I will have forked out another chunk of dosh before seeing any coming in - the coming three months are going to be interesting times.

Will is at The Lakes International Festival in Kendal later this month; he's essentially going to schmooze Mal Earl, but if you're there and see him go and say hi. We'll both be at Thought Bubble in November, hopefully selling some of our wares - but more about that as and when.

Have I mentioned the web pages should be live by the weekend and there should following on behind the facility to pre-order both 566 Frames (£15.95) or Zombre (£12.95) and ensure your copy within 48 hours of release!

Have a good week!