Daily Archives: 1 January 2008

If Terry Pratchett had a Warhammer…

Looking for information regarding the likelihood of United States Cavalry ever being published (or written for that matter), I came across this extensive article written by Stephen Baxter about the history of GW Books/The Black Library via the Official Kim Newman Website. The article in question appears to be slightly out of date, for example it only refers to the republishing of Newman/Yeovil’s Demon Download cycle as a possibility, not a fact, and it doesn’t refer to the Black Library’s expanding out to licensed work such as their 2000AD line at all.

Nonetheless, the article contains lots of little gems. As a spotty youth at the time that many of the events discussed in the article were going on, it is comforting to have confirmed that the transparent and short term greed of Games Workshop at the time was just as disliked by the “talent” as it was by the fans. Bryan Ansell in particular appears to have been a colourful character. A hate figure of my generation, yet it was only when he left the company that GW became the wholly commercialised monster it is now.

It also offers us a tantalising glimpse of GW Books that may have been, with Terry Pratchett ghost writing the finest hackwork money can buy: “I feel a bit like King Herod being invited to write the newsletter for the Bethlehem Playground Association.”

Oh, and it got me peeking at John Blanche’s website. I was obsessed by Blanche when I was doing my Art GCSE and looking back at his work now I can at least still appreciate his mad genius.

Meg Review: 266

Megazine 266Quote of the month: “I’d recommend to anybody working on their relationship that they should try embarking on a sixteen-year elaborate pornography together. I think they’ll find it works wonders.” Alan Moore

Cover: Cliff Robinson draws Dredd, Armitage and new character Tempest. Workmanlike and always a crowd pleaser, it is nonetheless nothing we haven’t seen before.

Strips: Judge Dredd, Armitage, Tempest, Bob the Galactic Bum (reprint)

Features: Interrogation (interview with Alan Grant), Dredd Files (summary of Dredd strips from days of yore), New Comics (Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s The Lost Girls), New Movies, Dreddlines (letters)

I’ve been reviewing 2000AD every week here for a while now, so why not the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine? Well, the short answer to that is that I often don’t read all of it. The Megazine has always been less consistent than 2000AD and some of the strips contained within it have been very weak indeed. I remember reading an interview with Alan Grant in the 90s when he confidently predicted that 2000AD would merge into the Megazine before the decade was out; so much for that theory.

Why has it always been the weaker of the two titles? Partly it is because it has always had a very confused identity. Various editors have sought to rebrand it as either the JUDGE DREDD Megazine or the Judge Dredd MEGAZINE. The former implies a comic focussed on Judge Dredd and his world, which has meant that most of the strips over the past 18 years have been about a Judge in another country or setting (A Samurai Judge! A grumpy Inspector Morse-type Judge! A Wally Squad Judge [lots of Wally Squad Judges in fact]!) or a direct spin-off from the Dredd strip itself (Anderson, Hershey, DeMarco, Mean Machine, Chopper… you name it).

The latter implies something more generic. For a period in the early noughties this meant a series of strips that were related to Dredd in the sense that they were noirish, focussed on crime and/or filled with black humour. This lead to strips ranging from The Bendatti Vendetta
through to Xtnct (by Doctor Who/Human Nature scribe Paul Cornell).

More recently though, this has implied taking a more magazine-ish approach to the comic, leading up to the current vogue to make the publication its own fanzine. This has had mixed success. Some of the articles have been stronger than others and occasionally they have dominated to the extent that it resembles a magazine about British comics, complete with free fannish content, with a monthly Dredd strip included as an afterthought.

The other big problem it has faced is its monthly format. While in the US, monthly, single-strip comics continue to thrive (if thrive is the right word for it), in the UK we have tended to opt for weekly anthology titles (a gross simplification if ever there was one since 2000AD, Beano and *ahem* Dandy Xtreme are the only ones left!). Once again, the Megazine has flitted between the two extremes. Monthly comics are tough to follow, especially the wilder ones such as Pat Mills and John Hicklenton’s recent Blood of Satanus III (which was sadly not worth the wait when I finally got around to reading it in one go last month) and while most successful 2000AD strips tend to be between 10 and 15 parts long, such length is an impossible task for a monthly strip.

Sadly, going fortnightly didn’t seem to help the comic either, as it was in the mid-nineties. While that enabled it to develop a stable of ongoing strips and helped develop a number of careers including Robbie Morrison, Frank Quitely and Gordon Rennie, much of its content was at best rushed and a worst downright rubbish. The then-fad for sub-Bisley painted artwork didn’t exactly help either.

Nonetheless, it certainly has its moments and has launched the careers of several top flight artists and writers. The fact that it has survived at all is pretty remarkable given that for a good year in the late nineties it only had 16 pages of original material in it every month.

As of this issue, the Megazine has had a relaunch and yet another reboot (although a less extreme one than some of its predecessors). Gone are the indy backup strips (an opportunity for upcoming artists to show their wares; a bunch of free material for the magazine); back is the cheap US reprint material.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here commenceth the review:

Spoilers… Continue reading Meg Review: 266

IP Wars: Episode Two

Thanks to all concerned for all the positive comments I’ve had regarding my post last week on intellectual property. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the response despite the article’s glaring flaws.

One of the things I meant to write about, which Jock reminds us of (via Mises Blog) was the whole Radiohead/In Rainbows phenomenon. Amazon currently rates this album, released this week, at 2 in its music sales chart, and 1 in rock and indie. Not bad for something being given away for free a few weeks ago (speaking personally, I really didn’t think much of the album being a pre-Kid A kind of guy, but each to their own).

It does make me wonder however if the future of physical music purchasing lies in the 70s. Back in the days of vinyl, bands would often turn their LPs into wonderful must-haves, with large, glorious artwork, books and sleevenotes. The scrappy booklet that can be found inside most CDs doesn’t compare. Already all major releases (including Radiohead’s) have a limited edition; at what point will these become standard issue?

Doctor Vee also highlights another omission: the argument in 2007 about whether or not to extend the copyright of recordings, lead by the rather deep pocketed Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard. He points to a paper by Rufus Pollock arguing that the optimal length of copyright from an economic viewpoint should be around 15 years. I haven’t read the full paper yet but it looks interesting.

Anyway, it made a nice change from the endless strings of memes and goodwill messages that dominate the blogosphere at this time of year.