Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Trains are...Mint in Comics Journal 294

I suppose there is nothing unusual about getting one of your books reviewed, probably even less if that review is in a magazine about comics. All that aside Bill Randall reviewed Trains in the current Comics Journal and all I can say is - total thrill. It's a great review and it's a little ambition fulfilled for someone who has every issue of the Journal going back to 37 in boxes or still on my shelves at home. I hope it makes more people buy Oliver's book and you should all buy TCJ. Ok it can be pissy and a little nasty at times (although I kinda think that has been fading away of late), but no-one does better interviews, witness an excellent one by Matthias Wivel with Jason in the latest issue, and simply no magazine has supported and boostered comics for so long and as extensively as the Journal.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Spleenal - The Cover

Nigel's book is all here in the office now - we may go to the printers a little earlier than we first thought. This isn't the final cover but it's close. Can't wait, can you?? Text needs lining up and fiddling etc but it gives you an idea of what to look out for early next year. Price here is provisional - with the Euro appreciating against the £ it may change a little - and this is for the hardcover version of which we will only print 300 and probably sell them directly through this site - at least at first. Paperback will be under a tenner.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Mawil's Counter Display

The 2nd Mawil book goes off to the printer this week, his funny stories of a chaos making electrician bunny. It's quite a small book - in terms of physical size rather than page count and it could very easily get lost on most shelves. It's also the kind of book we think people will pick up, after flipping through a few cartoons, as a great little read or a present for friends. So Mawil was very keen to do a point of sale counter display to hold the book - here it is.

It holds 10 copies so you aren't going to see this everywhere but we hope it will make it to counter points in many of the better comic shops around the world. We love the detail on the bottom of the box - something of course no-one will see - a little extra for the store owner and all you readers. That Mawil, sure has an eye for detail.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

As the world looks into the Abyss....

All around seems doom and gloom. We are about to be plunged back to the Stone Age as a result of the unrestricted greed and downright fraud of the world's bankers - a great many of them at least. For once I can stand as a contrarian however and say that whilst the world burnt - it's been a great 3 weeks for Blank Slate.

Firstly the books began to sell, maybe all the good reviews they received finally started to generate customer requests. The order that went through Diamond for the US comics trade was quite a bit larger than I had imagined it would be, with Mawil's We can Still be Friends book selling a third more than Trains are...Mint. Pretty much the exact opposite of how the books have sold in the UK. I guess Trains has a hefty US price tag - due partly to at the time it was priced the £ was sitting at 2.05 - so that probably held it back a bit - and Oli is a complete unknown to most folk and the book is pretty 'british' to boot. Still I was really quite pleased at the numbers for both books.

Then Oli got nominated for an Ignatz award. That was a complete surprise to both of us and actually one of my best moments in comics even after some 22 years in the biz. He was nominated in the 'Promising new talent' category. I sent the books for consideration so long ago that I had pretty much forgotten about it when the nominees appeared on the comics blogs - what a delight. Now I know awards in comics can be ten a penny with nearly every convention of any size seeming to think they can produce one which carries some kudos. Mostly outside of the big SDCC award and Angouleme's I pretty much tend to ignore them. Things like the Eagles in the UK are so 'rigged' that they become pretty meaningless as a bellweather for what might or might not be good. The Ignatz seems like a different beast though - it's something you would want to win. If you look through the nominee list it's littered with many of comics most inventive and left field talents. Given that we think of ourselves as being something that would aspire to be a UK Fanta, Top Shelf or D&Q (long, long way away of course) it's a great list to be part of. The thing that tops it off is that it is a jury nominated prize - for me the only type of award that really has a chance of sidestepping the problems with mass votes - and what a jury it was this year. Gabrielle Bell, Farel Dalrymple, Eleanor Davis, John Hankiewicz and Andy Hartzell. A pretty stellar bunch of talent - so to be noticed by them was a terrific feeling. My heartfelt thanks goes to you all. We won't win of course - neither Oli or I can be there - and it's an award that is voted for by the attendees so those working the floor will, and probably should win. Still, just to be noticed and all.....

Then I got to feel like I was a 'real' publisher when a box of recent Top Shelf books arrived through the mail from the lovely Brett Warnock. We sent him copies of the books to have a look at partly as I knew he was a big Mawil fan. That he sent us some of his books and generously gave a load of his time to Isobel our editor at SDCC - giving pointers and tips on how we might sell more books - goes to prove that comics is still one of the friendliest of businesses. A little thrill - I'll try to review the books soon.

Finally today Waterstones - the UK's largest book shop chain - put in an order for Trains are... Mint (we are working on them taking the Mawil also). Not quite sure why, it came a little out of the blue but now Oli's book will be in bookshops up and down the land. Of course they may all come back unsold but for the moment it feels like a little but significant triumph.

A big thank you to anyone, anywhere, who asked a book or comics store to order in our books. In the end, word of mouth for a small outfit like us, who can't throw money at marketing but hope to produce good work, means that we could have a future which will see some great new cartoonists find an audience.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


So, here's the thing, what do you do when someone sends you a comic which is both beautifully drawn and very funny but at the same time about as lacking in political correctness as you can get. That's Spleenal, Nigel Auchterlounie's fantastic, totally misanthropic comics creation. At first I wondered about it, too many years of reading the Guardian obviously oversensitising me to some of Spleenal's more endearing moments - like the constant use of bitch when referring to womenfolk, general obsession with sex or rampant obnoxiousness. More I thought about it though I realised how much I enjoyed the cartooning and manic energy of it all. Then Isobel, our translator and editor, read it and laughed her socks off. Right, deal done then, we'll publish that. So in February the first Spleenal book will roll into stores - just in time to be a Valentine's Day present like no other. It's going to be quite a big book - I'd guess around 140 pages - and will feature two previous stories that Nigel has shown in episodic form on his blog plus a 40 to 50 page, all new, story which sub divides into Young Spleenal, Teenage Spleenal and Student Spleenal and acts as a sort of commentary and link for the other stories. In which you see baby Spleenal, very Old Spleenal and more. A whole lot of Spleenal. It's going to be colour and I'm currently trying to convince Nigel to expand this cover rough so it will turn into an all bells and whistles wraparound.

Nigel has been around the UK comics scene for a good few years now and I reckon that Spleenal sees him finding his true voice. He already has an established fan base for his work via his blog and we hope this first book will find many more readers and this will be just the first of many Spleenal books to come. Every company needs a cartoonist who pushes the boundaries a bit, a Johnny Ryan or an Ivan Brunetti for instance. We think Nigel is that man for BSB. Look for more info on Spleenal nearer to release or via Nigel's blog.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Translating Slaapkoppen

Randall C's mesmerising Slaapkoppen - which will be called Sleepyheads - is making it's way through the translation stage. I thought you might like to see the low-tech and probably completely wrong way I go about this. First we have the translation, which has been done by Wim Lockfeer of Ephemerist fame. Wim luckily also writes for the Forbidden Planet blog regularly - so we know him and he knows us - which is handy as it allows an interaction between us that I don't think we would necessarily get with an unknown translator. He works on translations for a living so he was always the man for the job.

Once I have Wim's words I need to be able to read them with a visual context as I find it almost impossible to get a true feel for how the words and pictures work together unless they are being read as a real comic. Given that we aren't doing the actual lettering on the book - because author Randall C. is doing it himself - we don't have digital files where we can make continual running changes, I've had to make my own 'comic' version in true Blue Peter fashion. It entails many bottles of Tipex and a copy of the original language book. I've gone through the book removing all the non english text and handwriting the translated text in its place. Now I've got something close to what the finished book would be like if there were no more changes to the text, which I then scan to see if some of the wording should perhaps have a different way of saying things, perhaps a more casual english. Once I've stopped fiddling with it with Wim then Randall will have the final say on how the words are presented. It's all actually quite fun, except when you get up still holding a Tipex bottle you've forgotten to put the lid back on and splash it all over yourself, and having the book reveal itself as you write the words into blank bubbles is a fascinating thing. No doubt at some point someone will give me a clip round the ear and show me the proper way to do something like this but, for now, back to the whiteout.

By the way, the book is wonderful, it has a lovely, lazy, dreamlike feel which draws you into the majesty of the art. I'm sure a good number of english speakers are going to adore this when we publish it, well, I hope so.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Sparky O'Hare - Teaser

The translation of the next Mawil book is well underway and we are putting the finish to getting 30 or so of the strips ready to run, three a week, on the Forbidden Planet blog probably starting in 3 weeks time. The more I've read the book, now in English rather than my dodgy German, the more I have been enjoying it. It just seems so full of a kind of non-cynical, enthusiasm that you would have to be a scrooge not to enjoy. Of course to top it off Mawil is a brilliant natural cartoonist and the energy of his line really adds to the gags. I really hope that people will adore this strip and tell all their pals when it goes online, it deserves to introduce him to a wide and mixed market. Just as a little teaser here is the back cover, which acts as an introduction to Sparky and his lineage - when your new electrician comes with ancestry like that - you know it is going to be a bumpy ride. Enjoy, more strips on the FPI blog VERY soon. Then go out and buy the book to see over 50 more strips when it's out in September - you won't regret it.