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Monday, 17 January 2011
MAGICAL MEMORIES OF A TIME LONG PAST...
IPC Magazines former HQ - King's Reach Tower
One of the things that surprised me when I began my professional comics career way back in 1985 was how much the comicbook business seemed like "just a job" to some of those working in the industry. Having grown up on the 1960s MARVEL BULLPEN and copycat ODHAMS GARRETT image, I expected everyone to be really enthusiastic about what they were doing, but I found that - with a few exceptions - most people on the office side of things didn't seem to be ecstatic about what they did for a living.
Bob Paynter - or is it The Shadow?
To non-comic fans, they were "in publishing" - almost as if they were embarrassed by their profession. As for me, it was as if I'd died and gone to Heaven, and I was bursting with enthusiasm and exuberance with regard to my involvement in the field. BOB PAYNTER (above), group editor of the IPC humour division, was one of the few exceptions I met who found my enthusiasm refreshing (instead of embarrassing), and he did his best to channel as much work in my direction as he could. (Incidentally, in the photo above, Bob was posing - I didn't snap him unawares as he was putting on his jacket.)
Special mention must be given to 2000 A.D. editor STEVE MacMANUS (above), who gave me my start in the biz, and also to later depute-editor ALAN McKENZIE - who gave me as much work as I could handle, but I was puzzled as to why not everyone regarded their jobs with the same unadulterated joy that I did. Doing it too long perhaps? Never wanted to do it in the first place? Not allowed to do comics the way they would've wished? Who knows, but I look back on my time in the last dying embers of a once thriving industry with great fondness.
Art assistant Kevin Brighton and pal Derek Pierson in IPC's canteen
Dying embers? I'm afraid so. You see, about a year and a half or so after starting my freelance career, IPC sold their YOUTH GROUP - the department responsible for producing their comics - to the infamous ROBERT MAXWELL, in conjunction with a Dutch company*, later known as EGMONT. (The only periodical not included in the sale was long-running football mag, SHOOT.)
It's more than likely that the discussions which led to this purchase had commenced a good while before I began my career, but it's strange now to think that the once mighty IPC comics-publishing empire was winding down just as I was revving up. Looking back, it doesn't seem fair. Once IPC jettisoned the Youth Group its fate was sealed - the number of published comics soon began to dwindle, as title after title faded into oblivion.
King's Reach Tower at night
However, having said that, I had a 15 year career as a comics contributor, visiting London once - sometimes twice - a week for about the first two years or so. Getting to see various bound volumes (and artwork) of ODHAMS PRESS and FLEETWAY comics from years ago, lying around the offices of KING'S REACH TOWER, gave me a strange sense of connection to those earlier times. As did meeting editors and production staff who had worked on comics I had read as a boy. Ah, what marvellous moments, such magical memories.
It's an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world, and one for which I'm extremely grateful.
*Regarding Egmont, the story I heard at the time was that Maxwell bought 50% of the Youth Group, in conjunction with GUTENBERGHUS (later renamed Egmont), who bought the other 50%. When Maxwell died, Gutenberghus acquired full ownership of the former IPC comics group. Can anyone confirm this, or was I misinformed on this aspect?
Click here for more info on Steve MacManus.