Monday, 25 August 2014

Borderline Press Blog #24 - The Original Social Media?

My business partner is not keen on me talking to you. He wants Borderline Press to have this uber-professional image and to make people think we're some kind of secretive multi-national publishing conglomerate...

The reason I say this is because this is comics and comics has no secrets.

We can transmit whatever image we want, most people involved in comics know it's me, with a couple of helpers and someone paying for it. This would have become a reality even if I had tried to keep it as secret as the government selling poor children into white slavery...

The reason is comics has always been the First Social Media.

Ordinary people have embraced social networking like its the new sliced bread, but once upon a time, we had letters and a post office service worth its salt and nowhere was more prolific (and made the Royal Mail more money) than comics fans and their propensity for writing letters. Fanzines were a snapshot of what a comic book social media site probably should be now.

There was spam; there were flame wars; there was disagreements that almost boiled into fights - proper fights where two people would seek each other out at the few comics events across the country at that time; to have a confrontation. I remember one, between two people no longer even remembered in comics, that boiled over into an actual fist fight outside UKCAC in 1992. Comics fandom was better than it is today because there was a degree of thought put into what you were doing. Hell, if you were going to waste 5p on a First Class letter, you were going to write a bleedin' novel!

Plus, comics have a huge reputation for being loose tongued. If the Attenborough family were slightly concerned about how the death of Dickie leaked onto Twitter, it's a good job the Attenboroughs weren't into comics because there were/are very few secrets. Comics fandom's base was assembled on the premise of 'what happened and what happens next?'

Try convincing Terry Wiley that Borderline Press is some kind of publishing conglomerate. We've royally arse-slapped his year. Verity Fair was supposed to have been released in May, for Bristol. It got loaded onto a boat last week, I'm not sure the boat has yet sailed and the irony is the money we were hoping to save by using a smaller, more bespoke, Chinese printer, has been lost by delay after delay after delay - all to do with, quite simply, an inability for the UK and China to talk to each other with computer files.

We opted for the current printer because they were over a grand cheaper than the guys who did Crocodiles and Hunger House - and that saving has been lost by being unable to launch Terry's book or push Spoko #1. These books/comics will be back from the printer in September, so the official launches for these new books will be with Santa Claus v the Nazis and Seth & Ghost - because I'm using a different, modern, printer for these books - at The Lakes, Leamington Spa and hopefully a big party type thing at Thought Bubble in November in Leeds.

The summer has been a disaster in many ways. So much inactivity; so many bits of real life getting in the way. Illness, death, incompetence and obfuscation - the summer had it all and as a result we, kind of, suffered for it... I say 'kind of' because if the summer comic conventions were anything to go by it might be time for reining back on these things - or handing them over to people who understand conventions, first and foremost, and have a working knowledge of comics fandom - because, seriously, comics people should not be allowed to organise comics events, ever.

We haven't really suffered. Yes, the delays on the two 'current' books is bloody annoying; but that is out of my hands in many ways. Losing my commercial manager after four months was a pain, but the 'experiment' was always that. Taking an engineer out of his comfort zone and putting him in an environment that he didn't fully understand and struggled to fathom was always going to be a tough ask and I hope he thrives back in an arena he's good at - honest.

But, he did lay the groundwork for the distribution deal with Fanfare that I am currently wading through paperwork for, so every cloud and all that. It leaves me with some dilemmas - mainly about staffing stalls at conventions - and taking back the jobs I gratefully gave to him.

So, the reason I tell you this is because anyone who knows Terry Wiley will know that Verity Fair is taking longer to come into existence than an actual baby (and it will be something like 9 months once the book arrives on my doorstep). So, given that comics is always rife with speculation and Chinese Whispers tend to get so distorted, I thought I'd allay any fears or anticipation: the only thing that has slowed Borderline Press down this summer has been LIFE!

I did have a scare though. I was going to keep it quiet, but, you know, there's this gossip thing (that I know a lot about) and while I didn't appear at the Birmingham convention a few weeks ago and the official reason was I had a chest infection - the actual reason was ... I had a chest infection. It did look a bit scary a few days before, because I got rushed to A&E with a suspected heart attack, but that's the second time a chest infection has manifested itself into a heart scare and when you're in your 50s ...

I said to my 'partner' when we started this that he needed to understand that physically I'm pretty much this fantastically fit looking exterior and inside I'm like a pot noodle that's been dropped out of a plane. Years of smoking have f*cked my lungs and I have all these bones that just keep going wrong - important ones too, like the back and the legs - things you need in good shape to keep the rest of you happy.

So, I gear up for new releases, an autumn convention schedule and a new distribution deal that will take about 6 months to start paying me some dividends - but, you know, despite all the problems, the future is looking a bit brighter.

There is a small black cloud though... Jo Karpowicz has informed me that her life has gotten in the way of her schedule and Robotz won't be out until 2015. If that's the case, our 2015 schedule, so far, has six titles, five of which are predominantly by women. I got accused once of being sexist... I suppose I must be.

I hope you all enjoyed your summer. Let's hope that the rest of 2014 is bloody brilliant!