Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve (2016)

This is a review of the Rebellion reprint of two stories from Misty: “Moonchild” and “The Four Faces of Eve”. Many thanks to Rebellion for supplying this review copy.

The announcement last year that Rebellion were to reprint two classic stories from Misty was met with great excitement. How does the reality match to our heightened expectations? What might we like to see Rebellion do more of in any future reprints of IPC material, and what might we want them to avoid if possible?

Rebellion Publishing 2016

The two stories themselves are likely to be familiar to many readers of this blog and I won’t cover the content of the stories at all in this review. (Other reviews, such as this one on FA Comiczine, cover this territory.) “Moonchild” is a definite classic and would spring to most people’s minds when thinking of key stories from Misty. It also has the name recognition factor of Pat Mills; John Armstrong is probably less well known to those who are not already fans of UK girls comics, but is also familiar from Tammy‘s “Bella at the Bar”. “The Four Faces of Eve” isn’t one of the stories I would necessarily immediately think of when coming up with classics from Misty, but Malcolm Shaw can certainly make a tale speed along and the Brian Delaney art is stylish and beautiful. I don’t think any knowledgeable reader of UK girls comics would have a problem with these two stories having been chosen to represent Misty in the first modern reprint edition, though depending on individual preferences we might have made slightly different choices.

The book itself felt a bit thin when I took it from the (large) packaging, but that was slightly illusory: it’s a good size book, and the fact it combines two stories of a decent length means that you feel that it gives you enough to get your teeth into. However at 114 pages it still feels like a relatively quick read; fellow Rebellion title “Monster”, reprinted from Scream & the Eagle, clocks in at 192 pages so I think there is room to push the boat out and include more pages next time. The print and production qualities are high (much higher than the original newsprint of course), though there are some aesthetic choices that will succeed with some readers and maybe not with all. Specifically, the cover features beautiful Shirley Bellwood art, but the pink (on Misty’s skin and dress) has come out with the half-tone screen dots very visible: surely done on purpose as this is not anything constrained by current production processes. The title logo has also been re-designed, using a rather wiggly and wavy font: I don’t know why anyone would use anything other than the classic logo, unless the rights to that logo had not been acquired at the time? It’s not a bad choice in itself – I like the little crescent moon that tops the letter ‘i’ in the title – but it feels like a bit of an unnecessary change.

There’s a good amount of extra material inside. Pat Mills has written a foreword about the historical context of girls comics publishing of the time, and how the title Misty was originally created; generous credit given to fellow creator Malcolm Shaw in particular and many readers of this blog will be glad to see Mavis Miller get a namecheck too. At the back of the book, Dr Julia Round has written a lovely tribute to Shirley Bellwood, and there are brief biographies of all four creators (Brian Delaney’s is particularly brief but I suspect there may be limited biographical information available about him). Finally, there are one or two craft items included – how to make a witch’s hat, and how to make a tree-devil mask. I think these are a great touch: I suspect they were added for kitsch value but they bring something extra of their own to the reprint. More of this sort of thing in any reprint please!

Of course the key component to any such reprint is the treatment of the comic pages themselves. The printing is nice and crisp and you wouldn’t particularly guess it had been scanned from a published edition. Will Morgan makes the observation (in his review on FA) that John Armstrong’s art suffers because it includes so many thin lines, which are lost in the production: that’s true, but I think most readers wouldn’t notice, as they will be dragged along by the story. The faces and the other details in the story remain compelling – there are large standout images throughout, that arrest the reader’s attention regardless of individual fine detail elements that are lost.

I am also sure that hardly anyone would notice the fact that the Moonchild pages have been edited to fit a larger page size*: an extra two centimetres of art was drawn on the bottom of each page, to make it longer! It sounds absurd and obvious but in fact I have read exactly this edition (which was the version printed in the 1983 Misty Annual) more than once and have only noticed it now, when looking quite carefully. (This is just like what happened in the 1979 Jinty Annual, in the story “Trudy On Trial”.) Having said that, in some places this editing is pretty clumsily done: another time it would be far preferable to follow the model used in “The Four Faces of Eve”, where you can see the original logo from each weekly episode, and the original art dimensions are respected. (In the case of “Eve”, in particular, the story title logo and accompanying art is really beautifully done and is different in almost every episode, so it would be a real loss to miss this out.)

[*Edited to add: I should clarify here that Rebellion themselves haven’t edited the art to fit a larger page size, but they have chosen a source to scan from where this had been done, that is, when the story was reprinted in the 1983 Misty Annual.]

I know this review is a little odd in focusing so strongly on the editorial and publishing choices made when creating this reprint, rather than on the stories themselves. As you will understand, I am keen to understand what any future reprints from other girls comics could look like! Of course, the quality of the stories themselves is not anything I have any concerns about, but lacklustre publishing decisions can damn the best content. This first reprint from Rebellion isn’t perfect but it hits the right high notes. New readers will find plenty to love, while those who already know the content will be very happy to see a professional, competently-executed edition produced by people who perhaps are still figuring out some of the details of what will work best, but who are very much moving in a welcome direction. Here’s hoping it is the success it deserves to be!

Misty: Featuring Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve. Rebellion Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781781084526

34 thoughts on “Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve (2016)

  1. Reprinting just two stories seems a bit thin, yes. Couldn’t they have put in a third or some of the complete stories?

    Actually, I quite like the new logo.

    1. I’d thought that reprinting two stories together sounded like quite a good decision, as giving enough content without making it too big, but once I saw the real thing I reconsidered. I think they should make the books longer next time, assuming the finances work out for that.

      I’m glad you like the new logo. I still find it a bit baffling as a choice! I do think it’s too wibbly and curvy – not sharp enough…

      1. If you look in the fanart section at the panel gallery you will see my rendition of a Misty cover and logo.

  2. If Rebellion reprints “Winner Loses All!”, I don’t know how they are going to do the scans. Some of the pages of that story are in colour while others are black and white.

    1. I was pleased with the book, I did notice some of Moonchild art being faded in places but certainly didn’t take much away from it. It was thinner than expected but I have had other tpbs (like marvel) of similar size and the content certainly didn’t feel scant. It may have been nice to have included a short story too but Moonchild and Four Faces of Eve are certainly good reads themselves.

      Winner Loses All is a longer serial so I wonder if they were to reprint it, would they chose a shorter serial to go with it, if the aim is to have this as standard size.

    2. I think they will need to reprint some stories in colour at some point. There are a number of duotone stories eg black and red, and then as you say various of the Misty stories included colour pages. I would think it would need to be explained in the foreword that this is how it was originally published, ie the readers are seeing it in as original a way as possible.

    3. In the Netherlands, ‘Winner loses all!’ was published in Anita in 1983. All the pages were in black and white, also the pages that were in colour in Misty. So they probably used (a copy of) the original artwork at the time. If ‘Winner loses all’ should get a reprint, the black and white pages from the Dutch reprint could be used, replacing the Dutch text balloons with the originals from Misty.

  3. I find it appalling that Rebellion had to fall back on scans to get this published. Why couldn’t the current owners help provide material? Surely the Misty special a few years back didn’t need to use scans.

    1. I bet the previous owners didn’t have any art. I bet the previous owners before them didn’t leave any art! Of course it’s appalling but as it stands that’s how it is, from all accounts.

  4. It’s my understanding very little of the original art survives and for reasons of cost, I would imagine on a practical level that it was far easier to utilise a reprint of the strip rather than source original copies of the comic, of varying quality. For comparison, Moose Harris scans a lot of the material used by Titan for their collections. He’s collected several British comics for years, replacing some issues with better quality additions, the print run and where in the print run the comic was printed all having a impact on the quality of the strips in them. This is the same with reprinting Roy of the Rovers, where again the collection is based on years of gathering the best possible quality comic. A commercial publisher simply does not have time to devote resources to gathering the best of these archive materials. There will inevitably be cost considerations that we, as fans, may not be aware of. We were very lucky with Charley’s War, which I worked on, at Titan, in that so much art had been returned to Joe Colquhoun at Pat Mills insistence, which has been used in more recent editions. Even when original art is available, it might be that the insurance costs alone make utilising it prohibitive for the publisher. That was certainly the case for one project I worked on, sadly.

    1. Thanks John, this is all useful background. Rebellion will now have access to the IPC archives but from the sound of it that will basically consist of bound copies of the printed issues, and for sure wouldn’t be expected to include any artwork. Sometimes scanning is a destructive process too, depending on the fragility of the material and the type of scanning involved – and if so then it might not be practical for Rebellion to use their only archive copy of something. They might have to either use a less high-quality kind of scanning process, or source copies from elsewhere, or skip a story entirely if it is not feasible to reproduce it.

      1. I was very lucky to find several people dedicated to these classic comics, prepared to scan them for collections. Very grateful for their support

  5. I own quite a few pieces of original art from the 1960s where some panels have been extended by an in-house ‘bodger’ in order to fit new page dimensions when the stories were subsequently reprinted in the 1970s. However, as odd as this looks I can’t help feeling it’s infinitely preferable to the modern technique of ‘stretching’ pages with a computer – to me that sticks out a mile and is always terribly distracting. Whatever happens I hope Rebellion don’t go down that road; personally I’d much rather see a bit of dead space in the margins than have the art ‘doctored’ in either of these ways.

    1. Rebellion didn’t stretch the art for Four Faces of Eve, so in the same book they have ended up with two stories with slightly different artwork formats. I think they are not going to aim to doctor art themselves in any case, though they might choose to use work that has already been doctored if that’s the best that’s available otherwise.

  6. Rather than increase the number of pages an alternative format might be to go down the Asterix/Tintin route with single story albums of 40-70 pages in card covers (or even hardback). Of course this would mean paying to have the art newly coloured, and you would effectively be paying more for less content, but the advantage is that they could then be sold in bookshops in their graphic novel sections. Personally I’d love to see a serial such as Moonchild collected in a deluxe, stand-alone volume with the names of writer and artist prominently displayed on the cover like a ‘proper’ novel.

    1. Comics are comics. I’m sure if this is in any shops it would already be in the graphic novels section.

      1. I agree that collections such as this are sold alongside graphic novels in bookshops that do sell this sort of thing. The sort of prestige edition that Philip proposes could potentially be sold to secondary schools for their libraries, or in city libraries in their teen sections – but I’m not sure that’d be a viable / big enough market to make the extra costs worthwhile.

  7. It’s almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that this volume and Monster were try-outs for the flood of IPC reprints we all hope will now ensue. The use of the Misty Annual was a pain in terms of giving a cut version, however slightly, of Moonchild; I’d hypothesise The Best of Misty Monthly was the source material for The Four Faces of Eve. Still I’ll definitely get Misty when the price comes down. I slightly disagree about Eve being representative of Misty’s greatest stories; to me it’s way up there as I well recall from my first reading of it in the above “Best of” in 1986. It’s a shame another story wasn’t added to pad out the volume I agree; possibly Rebellion didn’t want to take a chance this time – and I counted the pages in Monster too!

    1. Can you expand on the comment about this being a cut version of Moonchild? I couldn’t see any abridgement though clearly the art had been reformatted throughout.

      1. Perhaps cut was the wrong word; bear in mind I haven’t bought it yet and have nothing to compare it with. You’ve used the word abridgement which to my mind’s bad enough: getting rid of extraneous logos, recaps and ‘next week’ boxes or in this case circles. In this last instance incidentally Rebellion have removed several, but to be fair not all, ‘next prog’s from a number of 2000AD releases. I’d sooner they’d gone back to the original weekly issues of Misty rather than using the annual for convenience, even if this wouldn’t have been as ‘clean’. Here’s hoping for better things next time.

        1. I wouldn’t call it abridgement to take out logos, recaps and the like – I’m not quite clear if you would use the word to mean that? Anyway, we’re in agreement that it would be best in many ways if the weekly comic could be scanned another time.

            1. I’d draw a definite distinction between something where it hasn’t been presented exactly as it originally was – amendments to art, redone lettering, removal of elements such as the ‘Next prog’ info – and a story having been actually changed. An abridgement changes the story, perhaps only slightly, but that would be my line in the sand. I realise people will each draw their lines differently of course!

  8. At the moment I’ve yet to see a copy of the new Misty comic but I was under the impression that it would be similar in format to a Summer Special – something that shops such as WH Smiths would normally stock alongside their weekly comics rather than in the Graphic Novel section. Is it actually more substantial than I was expecting?

    1. It’s got a spine and a stiff paper cover rather than being stapled in the way a summer special would be. The page count is 114 pages I think, so not as substantial as the Monster book (194 pages I think I said), but certainly puts it in the realm of something to be stocked on shelves.

  9. That sounds encouraging (though I think the recent Dandy and Beano Specials had spines and stiff covers too). I’d just be happier if I saw it on display anywhere since I’ve drawn a complete blank with all the local outlets so far. I’m afraid it’s never going to sell at all if nobody ever sees it!

    1. It’s true, I’m not sure what the sales and marketing plans are for this. It’s also not great timing that Rebellion’s website says they are moving warehouses in September and some physical products may be temporarily unavailable…

      It’s shown as In Stock on Amazon; on the Waterstones website it says it ‘can be ordered from our supplier’ and it doesn’t seem to be something that individual stores will be stocking. So yes, that does put a crimp in it…

      1. I’m a bit disappointed Amazon are selling it at the RRP; Forbidden Planet are taking £3 IF you buy it in the store. Don’t want to pay too much for reasons I have already muttered about.

  10. At first, I didn’t plan to buy this reprint. I have the original comics, so why bother buying something I already have? Then someone pointed out to me my name was with the thank you’s. So, now I had to get a copy, of course. When it turned out my name was misprinted, I decided not to buy a new one, but a cheap second hand (how is that possible after one month?).
    I received the second hand copy, and I must say I do like the reprint. The new logo, the paper it’s printed on, and the black is really black, and not dark grey like in the comics. But I guess they were that way already in the reprints they used for this edition.
    I wonder what a next publication would look like, when they scan pages from the original comics. Will they make an effort and turn the dark grey into black, or will they go the easy way and just leave it as it is? We’ll see.
    Now I first would like to see a nice, long story reprinted, like ‘Fran of the floods’ from Jinty, or one of those long Phil Townsend stories.

    1. I saw your name was on the thank you list 🙂 Did you help out with scans?? I think you should get a free copy actually but I’m not sure they are doing much of that. 😦 And also boo for the misspelling! Glad you got a cheap copy – maybe an unwanted review copy I guess?

      I think the repro on this edition is indeed nicely done, but as you say we need to see how the next one comes out. I think they will make an effort to make it nice and black and crisp, but let’s see.

      1. No, I didn’t help out with scans. They asked me from which to which issue the two stories ran, if they had reprints and if so, in which publication they were reprinted, names of writers, artists. So not much, I just supplied some general information I think almost everybody who visits this blog could have provided.
        And yes, if you’re listed with the thank you’s, you usually get a free copy. At least, so far I always received free copies of cd’s I helped with. But maybe with books it’s different.
        The misspelling is really sloppy. Also Briony’s name is misspelled. At least they got Pat Mills right. 😉

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