Saturday, 23 October 2010

DO YOU REMEMBER THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL?


Can you name them all?

The accompanying illustration is a scan of a very poor quality colour
photocopy taken about fourteen or more years ago when I was preparing a
cover for THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL. The copier (in a local
garage, of all places) didn't have the right paper and was so badly in need of
toner that the resulting copy was unusable. However, it's the only one
I have to hand, so it will have to suffice for the moment.

The Illustrated Comic Journal was a fanzine created by ALAN
CADWALLANDER back in the early '80s (I think) and then taken over
by BRYON WHITWORTH some time later. At first it was a black and
white A5 publication, but when I became involved as assistant editor in the
early '90s or thereabouts, it became A4 with colour covers. Bryon picked the
articles and I proof-read and corrected them - 'though he always managed
to overlook some of my corrections and add a few new mistakes once the
edited version was returned to him. Such were the drawbacks of the
pre-computer "cut and paste" method he employed.

The late DENIS GIFFORD, celebrated comics historian and
collector (and compiler of the A.C.E. section of the mag), was much
taken with the new logo I designed, drew, coloured and lettered, as it
featured his STEADFAST McSTAUNCH character from WHIZZER &
CHIPS, saying at the time "What a find in Gordon Robson" (to be sung to
the tune of "WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS" - only kidding)
- despite me having been a professional comics contributor for quite
a few years by that time.

Denis didn't seem to remember that he had suggested I become a
letterer back in the '70s, after I had submitted a one page comic strip
to his short-lived (four issues) ALLY SLOPER magazine. Denis wrote to
me to say that he couldn't print it because the inking technique I had used
wouldn't reproduce too well, but adding that I could easily make a living
as a letterer in his opinion. He even supplied me with some names at
IPC (Jack Le Grand - and another, which I forget) and D.C.
THOMSON (W. Stirton) to contact.

Black and white photocopy of the original artwork

Anyway, I'm quite proud of the logo - everything on it was produced
by my own fair hand, with the exception of the words "Illustrated" and
"Incorporating", which were done with Letraset. Bryon eventually passed
the mag on to other hands and one further issue was produced - then
it unfortunately faded into comics limbo. Shame really.

5 comments:

Kid said...

Steve Holland emailed me with the following reminiscences:

Hi Kid,

Not sure I can recall how I first got in touch with Bryon but it was probably during my year of starvation. I'd been given the push from a job as an office manager in London and decided that I was fed up with being made redundant through no fault of my own and that I'd strike out on my own as a freelance writer. Hence the starvation as I sold almost nothing; instead, I spent most of my time transferring information from paper files onto the computer I bought in 1989. "That's a 30 megabyte hard-drive," said the guy selling it. "It'll take you a lifetime to fill it."

On the run-up to Christmas 1990 I had plans to do a little A5 fanzine series, the first of which was The Mike Western Story. It sold out (I think I did 50 copies) and I started working on the next couple of issues. The second was to be a mixture of articles, the third a look at the works of Geoff Campion. I think I must have gotten caught up in writing the Comic Book Price Guide and trying to write for Starblazer, because I didn't finish issue 2. I'm sure it was around this time that Denis Gifford's A.C.E. Newsletter came to an end, so there was a little convergence of events.

I suspect I sent Bryon a copy of the Mike Western booklet in the hope of getting a few sales and mentioned to him that I had been compiling some indexes to various comics, which he said he would be interested in publishing. So in the early months of 1991 I hustled together Thriller Picture Library: An Illustrated Guide, and Bryon published volume 1 in April of that year. I was also writing for a bunch of other fanzines, had a couple of pieces published in Book & Magazine Collector and Midweek and put together a souvenir booklet for the first Paperback & Pulp Bookfair, so it was a busy year, if unprofitable.

My first contribution to Bryon's Illustrated Comic Journal was in issue 22 with an article on Graham Coton entitled "Specialist in Speed". If you have that issue you'll notice that it is in a completely different style to the other articles because it was one of the pieces I had completed for my own mag. (Same goes for the piece on The Steel Claw that appeared in issue 24 and the Blasco piece in 25.)

Once I started contributing, I didn't really stop. In December '91 I got a full-time job with a publisher editing a magazine and spent a lot of time writing about modern comics, so writing about old British comics and artists for Bryon was a bit of fun and I did as many pieces as I could still squeeze in.

I'm still very proud of the lengthy piece I wrote about Fred Holmes in issue 27, for which I travelled over to Elmstead Market to interview him. He was old and quite frail and probably a little shellshocked as I arrived with a friend who had a camera so we could take a photo and a dictaphone so I would record his words. When I started pulling out old comics with his work in, I think he realised I was seriously interested in what he had to say and that resulted in an excellent interview.

Not sure what else I can add... I always got on well with Bryon and was very sorry when he decided to call it a day and retire. There were some good articles in the magazine and some less-than-good, too. Sometimes it felt like the Moore/Ashford/Holland magazine and I would have liked to see more articles from other people. (Not that Moore/Ashford/Holland wasn't a great team!)

Kid said...

Continuing Steve Holland's informative email:

Bryon was enthusiastic and a nice guy, but he wasn't a designer by any stretch of the imagination. Even when the magazine went colour it still looked like a thrown-together fanzine, which had a certain charm but which looked a bit tawdry, especially when the text started appearing in various colours. If you're going to charge for something, you have a duty to at least make it look professional and put some thought into the content and design. I think Bryon was just grateful that anyone contributed and some of the pieces could have done with a stronger editorial hand at the tiller.

There haven't been many fanzines dedicated to British comics and Bryon at least kept his going for thirty-something issues after he took it over. Probably second only to Eagle Times in longevity (excluding A.C.E., which was a different kettle of fish entirely).

And here's me still working on the indexes and the Thriller Index soon to appear again, much revamped and in full colour. Some things never change.

Regards,

Steve.

Kid said...

Thanks for taking the time to email me with your interesting memories, Steve. Everyone should check out Steve's BEAR ALLEY site - click the link in my blog list.

I always found it a great frustration that the ICJ was never as good as it could have been. I put together about 3 or 4 covers, and I always made sure that the illustration had a border which was in line with the border of the logo, but beyond that there wasn't much I could do.

Bryon laid out the interior content and was responsible for choosing the articles and illos, but each issue always left a little something to be desired. Although I scrupulously proofread and corrected all mistakes, Bryon either ignored them or added new ones at the retyping stage. I remember once correcting the word "heyday", only to see it restored to the incorrect "hayday" when the mag was printed. And similar examples were legion.

However, Bryon really was/is a nice guy, even if he's not the sharpest editor out of the box. He moved to France for a few years, but is now once more safely ensconced in England somewhere. Let's wish him a long and happy retirement.

bryon said...

Hello Gordon, I don't know if you received my last comment, but you can contact me at user218763@aol.com It will be nice to hear from you again. Yours Bryon Whitworth.

Kid said...

Hi Bryon, your above message is the first I've received from you - I'd have printed any previous ones. Great to hear from you. I'll send you an email soon.