Tag Archives: Rebellion Publishing

Further reprints from Rebellion: “Bella” and two Jinty stories

You will perhaps have already seen the latest exciting information on the internet: Rebellion Publishing is bringing out two volumes of girls comics reprints from Tammy and from Jinty respectively.

bella

Bella at the Bar” is billed, appropriately, as “A modern day Cinderella story”. At 96 pages it is the right length to include the first two “Bella” stories but the blurb is fairly general and gives little away to the aficionado as to exactly what the contents are. It seems unlikely that it includes Bella’s later struggles to reach the Moscow Olympics or travels to mysterious Arab countries where she tutors princesses – or at least not yet, as this is billed as Book One. May there be many more!

Rebellion have chosen a strong pair of stories from Jinty to launch what is again billed as Volume One of (hopefully) a series: “The Human Zoo” and “Land of No Tears”. No cover is shown on the initial announcement on the Simon & Schuster website, but there are plenty of great images that could be used, of course. As with the Misty volumes, they have made sure to link the two stories in some clear way – this time rather than choosing the same author, they have gone for the same artist. Guy Peeters is an under-recognized girls’ comics artist and I am glad to see him get more attention.

Jinty cover 19 August 1978

Where possible, I am keen to link to the original publisher’s site. I see that the Bella book is listed as being one of the “Treasury of British Comics” line, but it is not yet mentioned on the specific website for that imprint. I found it on the Simon & Schuster website: I think that Rebellion have a distribution deal with them, which is presumably why it is listed there. I’m not quite sure why the Jinty volume is listed as being one of Rebellion’s Graphic Novels (a list that on searching seems to include “Charley’s War” and “Marney the Fox”, but also some less all-ages titles such as “Bleach”). It would be nice to see all the announced titles listed clearly on the Treasury of British Comics site, which is a good dedicated shopfront that is easy to navigate and use.

Finally, a word of warning to other sites announcing these two new titles  and future ones in the series – be careful to attribute the creators and the stories correctly. “Bella” is correctly credited as being by Jenny McDade as writer and John Armstrong as artist, but in future Bella stories it will be harder to be sure of the writer. During Tammy’s era of printing credits, Primrose Cumming is known to have been the writer of the time – hopefully the publishers will check with erstwhile editor Wilf Prigmore in case there was any other writer in between those two times, but certainly Jenny McDade did not write all the Bella stories over the ten years that it ran.

“The Human Zoo and Land of No Tears” is billed as being by Pat Mills as writer and Guy Peeters as artist. The sharp-eyed reader of this blog will spot straight away that “The Human Zoo” is known not to have been written by Mills – although the writer is not definitively established it is thought likely to have been one of Malcolm Shaw’s. That uncertainty presumably makes it harder for the publishers to be clear about the authorship: in the circumstances they can’t just say straight out that it is by Malcolm Shaw I suppose. However, that lack of clarity will muddy the waters for others and I fear it will lead to a perpetuation of the unexamined notion that Pat Mills wrote the vast majority of girls comics – something which he does not himself claim, but which others not infrequently do on his behalf.

Advertisements

Esther Y Su Mundo, vols 1 & 15

I have recently been to Madrid and saw two relevant comics items when I was out there. One was a free item, sponsored by Telefonica, about Paralympic swimmer Teresa Perales. (Digital version available via this link.) It’s a very interesting and well-done comic overall, although as an anthology there are abrupt transitions in style from the serious to the humorous to the positively silly. The overall tone is pretty serious in that it recounts Perales’ achievements and tribulations as a Paralympic athlete, but it also has plenty of time for humorous and revelatory asides on on the difficulties as a wheelchair user of making one’s way through a world designed for able-bodied people.

The first story in the comic was by Purita Campos, the very popular artist on Patty’s World. This caught my attention and got me to look twice at the free comic in the first place, but it also meant that I had Campos and her popular creation in mind when I went into a bookshop a day or two later, at which point I asked if there was a collected edition of the Spanish edition of Patty’s World – “Esther Y Su Mundo”. Indeed there was – a handsome reissue of at least 15 volumes of the story, advertised as “One of the great classics of Spanish comics in a new re-coloured edition”. I bought volumes 1 and 15, so as to be able to get a sense of how the comic has developed over the years since its first pages were published in 1971. I am not sure what year of original publication Vol 15 relates to, ie how long a time-span is represented in my two selected volumes; certainly a number of years, but I suspect not the full original publication span of 1971 – 1988.

esther-y-su-mundo-vol-1 esther-y-su-mundo-vol-15

They are solid, substantial-feeling editions: 96 pages long, which is slightly less than the 114 pages of the Rebellion Misty reprint (and substantially less than the 192 page whopper reprint of Monster), but the hardback binding, handsome red cloth covering of the spine, and the full colour cover and insides, make for a very enticing package. The price is pretty comparable to the UK reprints I mention above – around £15 – £16, with fluctuations depending on the exchange rate with the Euro. The end papers are a greyscale montage of images from the various years covered in the volumes, and showcase Purita Campos’ beautiful art very nicely.

“Patty’s World” is not something I knew anything at all about until quite recently, and I hadn’t ever read any of it either in the original version or in translation. The first volume starts with Patty Lucas (or Esther Lucas as I will now think of her, having only read the Spanish version!) just turning thirteen. Lots happens to her in the pages of the comic – the pace is quite different from the 14 – 18 episodes of what I think of as a typical girls comic story. This story doesn’t build up and up to a dramatic finale – in this first volume, Esther fights with her family and her best friend and then makes up again, gets into trouble when someone thinks she is shoplifting, worries about her mother getting remarried, pines after a boy from her school, and has a mutual hate society going on with nasty Doreen. It’s all down to earth and (more or less) realistic, apart from the frenetic pace that it all goes at.

It’s not the sort of story that I normally go for very much; and for me the first volume was more of a curiosity item than something that hooked me. However, Volume 15 felt like it would do more for me – it develop story arcs a little more slowly and gives them more time to breathe. I think the stories are also actually better, too: the first arc in the book is genuinely amusing (Esther and her friend Rita swop lives for a day and it gets very silly). It also clearly has more of an edge, though this is really an extension of what we saw right at the beginning. One of the things going on in Esther’s life at thirteen is that her father died some years previously and her mother is considering remarrying, with all the adjustment that this brings. And in Volume 15 Rita’s mother is shown to have died in a previous volume, and her father has since remarried – the stepmother role is shown in a positive light even though tempers can flare. It’s all very human and warm. I think the focus on boy-chasing would put me off if I was embarking on a prolonged read, but overall I can certainly see how readers could end up living in this world and greatly enjoying the characters and the stories.

Of course for many people the draw will also be the art. Purita Campos is great at fluid, expressive characters of all ages, but her protagonists as they move from being girls to young women are her particular focus of course – and she imbues everyone with their own distinctive looks and ways of being, from flirty Rita and annoying Doreen to girl-next-door Esther. The girls are sassy and sexy without crossing a line, the boys are rather cute, and it’s all fun.

Will we ever see a UK reprint edition? The title that it originally appeared in, Princess Tina, started to be published before the 1971 cutoff date that places it outside of Rebellion’s ownership, but the story and the character was published after 1 January 1971. The fact that the Spanish edition has gone through numerous reprintings and new editions clearly indicates that those rights must be clearly established by someone, even if the UK rights have historically been somewhat tangled. The Spanish readership seem to have an ongoing love for this character: the back cover blurb acclaims the comic as a ‘great classic of Spanish comics’ which has been loved by ‘three generations of readers both male and female’. The UK doesn’t have anything like as strong a memory or feeling about this story, though there will certainly be many with fond memories of it in this country. But if this story and this character – which after all is actually set in the UK, with right-hand drive cars, British bobbies, and double-decker buses! – is so popular in Spain with a general audience, it has perhaps the strongest chance to break into that teen market than any of the other Rebellion content acquisition. That is, so long as this is even part of that purchase…

Esther Y Su Mundo volume 1 and volume 15. 96 pp, 17.95 EUR (around the £15 – £16 mark at current exchange rates). Story by Phillip Douglas, art by Purita Campos

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

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights, pt II

Around this time last week, I met up with Ben Smith from Rebellion, to discuss the acquisition of the IPC copyrights and to pitch some possible ideas. This is not an interview (I didn’t take detailed notes), but it is a way of recording some particularly exciting elements of what’s looking plausible or likely.

First of all, Ben and the company as a whole are as keen to make great use of this new material as you could wish them to be. This is a significant investment for them, so it needs to be approached in a way that means it makes good long-term sense. There’s a lot of obvious value to be got from this treasure trove. A line of well-chosen reprints is a no brainer when you consider that the company has already proved the worth of that model (their reprint of Monster from Scream & The Eagle is one of their very best sellers).

Monster has name recognition factor (Alan Moore and John Wagner), but how do you sell the stories that don’t have quite such attention-grabbing names? And will it only be the ‘usual suspects’ that sit fairly comfortably alongside 2000AD – stories from horror comics or hard-hitting war tales? One of the things I was particularly happy to hear was that they really are looking in detail across the range of boys, girls, and humour comic stories. Ben was enthusiastic about all sorts of girls comics, from sports stories (yes, “Bella at the Bar” is a strong contender) to stories of everyday life (he name checked Pam of Pond Hill), and of course the science fiction / fantasy / creepy stories that were such a big part of Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. (We talked less about humour comics as it’s not my main focus, but they won’t be ignored in the line-up.) At the same time he was realistic in acknowledging that there will also need to be energy spent in making new markets; the nostalgia market is a great start but it needs to be grown to incorporate a new readership. Parents whose kids are outgrowing the Phoenix, or teens who are excited by the Olympics? Rebellion will be casting the net more widely than just the nostalgia market, wherever it ends up landing.

It’s not just reprints, though. We didn’t talk about relaunching titles or creating new material using the old characters – if these possibilities come into view I suspect it will be some way along the line, once the new playing field has been staked out and surveyed better. But merchandising, oh yeah. Again it needs to be done right, to make it work long-term, but can you imagine the bull leap from “A Leap Through Time” on a t shirt, or the cover of “Concrete Surfer” on a bag? Maybe you won’t have to just imagine it, soon.

bull-leap

Of course as a fan historian and interested blogger, I also wanted to ask other questions about the acquisition. Ben was quick to reassure that fan sites such as this one were very much fine by him (so long as people don’t ‘take the piss’ by which I assume he means reprinting whole issues or stories, or of course selling material commercially). They help to keep the buzz going, and are an important information resource. (Certainly any artist and writer credits that the reprints publish is more likely to come from bloggers and historians than from any official records, I fear.) So there is no problem with this site continuing to feature scanned art, sample episodes, posts about stories, and analysis (even if this includes spoiler details of story endings). You needn’t worry about changes to the content of this site, therefore (though I will now be amending the copyright information to credit Rebellion correctly).

I also asked about what sort of archives were included in the deal. Ben’s focus as the head of publishing is different from mine as a comics historian – he is thinking about the fact he will need to build around 80 metres of shelving to hold the bound file copies of the comics, and is looking forward to seeing if any of the new haul includes anything that could speed up the reproduction process (for instance, any usable film from the original printing – though he doesn’t hold out much hope). I am wondering if there might be any further material included in those archives – I don’t realistically expect there to be letters and editorial files, but you never know. Might there be a file copy of the issue of Tammy which never got distributed – the one which includes the last episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”? We know that there were 30 copies printed of the last pre-censorship Action, and maybe a similar situation could be the case here. I will be very keen to make a trip to the new archive location, once the dust has settled!

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights

The British comics internet was buzzing yesterday with news that Rebellion, who publish 2000AD, have bought the whole IPC list of comics from Egmont (covering all comics and characters first published after 1970 – the earlier material is owned by another company). The most detailed report is the Down The Tubes one, but it has also been announced on the BBC, Bleeding Cool, and even on Wired, so there are lots of excited people!

The quotes from Rebellion’s Ben Smith make it clear that both reprints and new stories are now possibilities – though of course with such a wide range of material having been bought, there’s no telling what will be the company’s main focus – or initial focus. The list that has been bought includes boys comics such as Roy of the Rovers, Action, and Battle, but also humour comics (which aren’t a big part of the announcement but have been part of the excited internet discussion, with calls to look at Oink and at the Ken Reid material in particular). And of course on this site our particular thoughts are on what it could mean for the girls comics – which were even specifically mentioned by Rebellion owner Jason Kingsley, very hearteningly.

If you had a say in the matter, what would you want to happen with the girls comics material in this haul? Clearly, reprinting specific stories would be an option – after all, Rebellion are already bringing out a reprint of “Moonchild” and “Four Faces of Eve” from Misty (published on 8 September). What stories would you choose to bring back as reprints, across the IPC list of girls titles? I think you’d have to make sure they weren’t chosen just for nostalgia reasons – they’d have to be really great stories that stand the test of time and don’t look dated, even though clearly there is a ‘bringing back classic comics’ element to this sort of publication. What would be your top five picks, and why?

What about other uses of the material? Merchandising, using some of the lovely design and images? Dare we think about re-worked stories, or characters extended in their life span? Would Bella, or Fran and her zany fixing, still work with new artists? Translations into other markets and languages? I would love to hear your ideas. Who knows, maybe they can happen!

[Edited to add: Down the Tubes have published a useful summary of the titles and characters that are now owned by Rebellion.]

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.