Rebellion’s Ben Smith on the forthcoming new Misty collection

The recent news that Rebellion will be reprinting a volume of material from Misty has caused a lot of excitement. It’s not only fans of Misty that are excited about this news; as fans of the excellent, thrilling, and often subversive stories from girls’ comics of the time we are glad to know that fresh eyes are being cast over these publications. And as keenly interested readers, we are prone to asking ourselves how those stories would fare in today’s publishing market, if done properly (unlike the nostalgia-focused recent outings that a small selection of content has had). This republication promises a lot of interest therefore, in many ways!

I caught up with Ben Smith, Head of books and comic books for Rebellion Publishing, who kindly answered the below questions.

Can you tell us a little more about how you chose the two stories you did? ‘Moonchild’ and ‘The Four Faces of Eve’ are known to be favourites of Pat’s, of course, but coming to them as both a fresh pair of eyes and as an experienced publisher, what qualities would you highlight in particular?

In selecting the stories for this collection these two are the obvious big hitters; my understanding is that at the time the Four Faces of Eve and Moonchild would regularly to top the readers’ polls. Kids were encouraged to fill out a small form in the back of the comic and post it back to the publisher so that the editorial team know what was going down well with the readers.

This material was created for a very different publishing market and in different times. Do you see there being any/many adjustments needed, either in production terms (do today’s readers demand colour rather than black and white?), or in elements of the story itself?

As with all our collections of archive material, we aim to produce as stunning a book as possible. This year we have gone back to the same era as Misty with the Dan Dare strips from 2000 AD, producing the definitive volume of that material on high quality paper and after painstaking reprographics work on each individual page to ensure the arts looks at good as possible. We’re applying the same techniques here. Although this will be a paperback release, the quality of the book and the design work that goes into it will be set to our highest standards. Simply put, there’s no point putting something second rate into today’s busy marketplace. We won’t be introducing anything new, like colour or altered lettering, as we have found that presenting the work as it was originally conceived always delivers the strongest result and is what is expected by today’s readers.

The intriguing words ‘The first volume of Misty material’ are used in the press release. What results would you say could lead to this establishing itself as a publishing line – critical success, sales success, perhaps even current creators who are inspired to produce similar material?

We won’t know until this volume is out, but the response to the announcement has been great and if the book does perform well I’m sure we’ll be looking further into the archives. As for inspiring new creators, that’s down to the material itself, but I already know from chatting to Jonathan Ross at the San Diego Comic Con that Jane Goldman, one of the most successful screenwriters in the UK currently and Ross’s wife, that Misty was a big influence on her.

The first two stories chosen are ones where we know both writer and artist, which is not the case in many of the stories printed at the time in girls’ titles, whereas 2000AD has credited creators from the start. For any future stories chosen, would it be important to you as publishers to identify all the creators? Would certain editorial selections be discouraged if that information is not forthcoming?

We would certainly want to credit the creators, but sad to say it’s not always possible. 2000 AD’s editorial team led the way in the 1970s in getting creator credits into the comic but that was just nine months after 2000 AD launched, and even now we sometimes cannot find out who authored some of the very early material, simply because no records were kept and if there is no memory of it among the other creators we speak to then that information is, sadly, gone. If the stories are strong enough, not knowing the creator would certainly never prevent us from including the material, no.

Would you see any possible horizon stretching out ahead where you would look at the content in other titles beyond Misty, or would you consider the historic and thematic linkage of that title with 2000AD as a key reason to stick to Misty in particular?

I am happy to say there will be another announcement shortly about another non-2000 AD collection, so keep a look out for that. Naturally when we look at material and consider if we can publish successfully, existing links with 2000 AD makes that task easier.

Many thanks again to Ben Smith for this email interview.

11 thoughts on “Rebellion’s Ben Smith on the forthcoming new Misty collection

  1. This is exciting news. I’m looking forward to having quality reprints of stories and having got some of Rebellions 2000AD collections they all have been well put together collections!

    1. Exciting indeed! I don’t have any recent 2000AD reprints, only old ones, so I am happy to hear that the Rebellion ones are good quality in their production values. I wanted to know about what sort of decisions they would be likely to make to ‘update’ the material and overall I am pretty happy to know that they will keep it fairly ‘as was’. It sounds like they have got experience that says that this approach works, which is good to know. I wonder whether younger readers would also approve of that approach or not? I might try it out on my kid sometime if she’s not too scared…

  2. Let’s start by saying that I’m happy for the people who have been waiting for Misty reprints for years. But, as I have the original comics, I see no reason for me to buy it.
    About the content: ‘Moonchild’ seems to be an obvious choice, since it’s supposed to be a favourite of readers. But I don’t understand why ‘The four faces of Eve’ was chosen. Even at just 40 pages it seems long, and rather boring instead of scary. From the first or second episode you can easily guess what’s the matter with the girl. Perhaps a different artist would have made a slight difference. Even though I do think Brian Delaney was a very good artist, and he was a regular artist for almost the entire run of Misty, I think his art is not scary, just beautiful.
    If I had to choose an artist for his ability to draw ‘scary’, I would have to choose between artists like Mario Capaldi, Jésus Redondo and Eduardo Feito.

    1. I don’t have a run of Misty though I do have one or two Annuals, and I will be looking out for the new collection for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. I might rather like to re-read The Four Faces of Eve, to see what my opinion is on the story…

      One of the things I ideally wanted to get from the interview was a sense of whether the publishers had sat down and read through the old comics to choose a good reprint story. I’m not sure from the above that they did – I’m sure they have read those two stories and approved them, but I’d like to know whether (with their publishers’ eyes) they genuinely thought those were the best two stories to republish. But I was asked to keep the interview relatively brief, and Ben Smith didn’t suggest that I could send lots of follow-up questions or anything.

      1. That doesn’t sound very friendly, does it? Well, at least he gave an interview, but one would have thought they would realise any information on this blog could attract potential buyers,
        I guess these stories were suggested by Pat Mills. Even though Pat knows a lot, and he wrote some very interesting entries about Misty on his blog, he can not always be considered the best judge concerning stories. Somewhere he wrote or talked about ‘The captives of Madame Karma’ from Sandie, saying something like that it’s a strong story full of nasty things happening. I’ve read the story a short while ago, and it’s rather lame, with several very loose ends.

        1. I have no complaints about the interview: I didn’t ask him for followup details either, and any further info is more in the realm of the ‘nice to have’ than anything else. It was great to have it done so quickly and smoothly; I only asked him for an interview yesterday in fact. Also, this is hardly a big name blog, nor is it a dedicated Misty blog; I don’t think anyone owes me long replies, though it’s always lovely when I get them! 🙂

          I suspect you’re right about Pat suggesting the stories, with publisher approval I’m sure. He has his favourites for certain, and I think that does influence him.

  3. “The Sentinels” is a strong one to reprint from Misty. The only serial I know of to feature a world where Hitler won World War 2. And it had dark stuff: a dog being eaten by rats, Gestapo torture, self sacrifice, informants and betrayal to Nazis, and a bittersweet ending. And it’s another Misty story where artist and writer are known, and isn’t too long at 12 episodes. And there is of course “Winner Loses All!”, with the Devil himself as the villain and wanting his usual thing from the protagonist.

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