Monday, 3 September 2018

THE POWER PACK OF KEN REID - NOW IT CAN BE TOLD (UPDATED)...


An early cover rough from before Ken's son became
involved.  At this stage, I was unaware which intro
 was for which vol, hence NP's name instead of SH's  

Received my 'free' slipcase edition of The POWER PACK Of KEN REID a while back, but I've sat on my thoughts about it until now.  Having actually contributed my services (unpaid) to the production of this two volume set, my 'free' copy perhaps doesn't fit that category, but let's not get bogged down in pedantic detail at this stage.  (That'll come later.)  So, how do I rate this collection of Ken Reid's entire output for WHAM!, SMASH!, and POW! (three of the five POWER COMICS), published by ODHAMS PRESS back in the '60s?

Overall it's quite impressive as reprint collections go, but, as is always the case in these matters, the devil is in the detail.  Does it qualify as the 'ultimate' collection of these particular strips?  Well, to be honest - no.  The reason why is because some of the QUEEN Of The SEAS and DARE-A-DAY DAVY strips were originally printed in colour, whereas this collection renders them in black and white.  Forget the rationalisation of the publisher for doing this (to present them more like the way Ken drew them) because it's nonsense.  It was done for reasons of expense and ex-pediency, because it would've been too costly and taken too much time and trouble to tidy up scans of the colour pages in their original form for reproduction.

I don't know about you, but I prefer to re-experience stories from my childhood in the same way as I first encountered them;  that way, the memories and associations are 'truer' and more accurate.  Readers who never saw the original colour stories won't miss them of course, and will appreciate the art for what it is, but to those who remember their first presentation, their recollections are compromised to a degree. There's also the matter that when colour stories are presented in monotone, some line-work is lost under a muddy mess.  There are instances in the book where some captions are virtually unreadable because the murky fog that was once a colour obscures them.

An even earlier cover rough with my
 version of the already completed art

Another thing that bothers me about the books is that much of the grey wash that graced the FRANKIE STEIN and JASPER The GRASPER strips is practically 'washed out' due to the contrast being upped in an attempt to clean them up a tad, with only the merest hint of it remaining.  (There are a few exceptions where the wash is more evident, thank goodness.)  Then there are instances where type-set 'next issue' captions have been removed in some strips, but not in others.  Whatever happened to consistency?  Again, I want to see the stories as they were originally presented, not messed around with at the whim of the publisher.

Nope, I'm not finished yet.  Half-page adverts have been replaced with grey line illustrations, but the ones which bleed off the page are too overwhelming in my estimation.  There are a few where there's a margin left around them and they're confined to within the original dimensions of the replaced ad, and they're much more effective and less distracting.  In the previous paragraph I mentioned consistency, and while some of you may think I'm being too pernickety, I find it annoying that the space between the line 'The Power Pack Of Ken Reid' (at the bottom of each page) and the page number is often inconsistent from one page to the next.  In my view, this sort of thing marks the difference between a professional and an amateur publication, and despite all that is good about the two volumes, they still have one foot squarely set in the amateur camp.

So what did I do on the books, and why didn't I get a mention?  I hand-lettered the cover logo (Ken Reid's name in the jaggy blurb, deliberately reminiscent of the Wham! logo - my idea - without being an exact copy), hand-lettered the stylised 'signature' of Ken on the slipcase, proposed the name 'The Power Pack Of Ken Reid' (and produced the spine, utilising the comic logos from an ad in my own ish of FANTASTIC #1, and providing the Power Comics emblem), wrote the copy for the back of the books and slipcase, proofread, edited, amended and added to the introductions (though with NIGEL PARKINSON's, all that was required was highlighting some words in bold), and suggested the chosen fonts (and sizes) of the characters' names on the covers, which were at first a bit underwhelming in appearance, due to the publisher's readiness to accept whatever his designer came up with.  'Twas I who recommended that Nigel should be contacted and invited to provide an intro, and persuaded the publisher to ask Ken's son ANTONY to do likewise, thereby facilitating permission for use of the Reid archive.

A quick 'cut & paste' to illustrate what I wanted
for the placement of the characters' names and
'Introductions' text.  Both publisher and designer
seemed incapable of comprehending what I was
on about, and couldn't see the difference 'twixt
this and what became the published version 

I'm still not happy with the cover to volume one as, despite my earnest entreaties for symmetrical spacing on either side of the 'Vol. 1:  Frankie Stein and Jasper The Grasper' lines, it's still out of balance.  (As is the 'With Introductions by' text.)  I would've preferred to have hand-lettered Frankie's and Jasper's titles, but time was against me and it now takes me days to do things that once would've taken me only an hour or two.  (A combination of failing eyesight, ailing health, diminished stamina, and being long out of practice, alas.  That's why I'd never be able to pursue it as a career nowadays.)  Add to that having to look after an elderly and infirm relative, and it's a miracle I was able to do anything at all.

It got to the point where I became so disappointed and frustrated with the publisher's unwillingness (or inabilty) to aspire to the same standard I did, that I requested that he remove my name from the 'credits' and I stopped promoting it.  Although, given his failure to correct a mistake on the back cover of volume one (which I informed him of in plenty of time), I suspect my name was never in that 'thank you' list to begin with.  After all, if he couldn't be bothered to change 'strips' to 'scripts' (as I had originally written, the distinction being important), then I doubt he'd have gone to the bother of removing my name as that would've required action on his part.  As would replacing my first Ken Reid 'signature' with an improved version I supplied, and which I was assured would be implemented.  It wasn't (at least not in my copy - perhaps it was a 'tryout'), leading me to conclude that he simply told me whatever he thought necessary in order to fob me off, all the while content to take the easier route.  So why claim credit now you might be wondering?  Well, my annoyance has subsided somewhat and, overall, I'm quite pleased with my contributions so there's no reason to continue concealing my involvement.

There are other deficiencies, but the publisher at least deserves a pat on the back for initiating the project (though the ultimate pat should go to Ken Reid himself) - but the books could (and should) have been even better than they are.  Below are a few examples of what I'm talking about.  Minor things perhaps, but it's this kind of attention to detail that separates the men from the boys.  However, don't let my observations deter you from buying these two volumes;  despite these shortcomings, the plusses outweigh the minuses.  (Though it's a shame there are any minuses at all.)

The last panel originally had a caption, as you can see below...

As it was within the panel it should have been considered
part of the artwork and left where it was.  Why remove it?

Same again - though this time it's been done rather clumsily as
part of the letter 'M' still remains.  Now that's what I call sloppy

The caption draws the instalment neatly to a close and should've been
left where it is.  A trivial complaint?  Perhaps, but they all add up

This page has missing border lines on the sides of the
first panels on the first and second tiers, as well as on
the last panel in the bottom tier.  There's no excuse for
this kind of sloppiness

The dividing line between the bottom tier and the deleted indicia has
been removed, but part of it is still evident on the left-hand side.  On
other pages, the line remains.  Whatever happened to consistency?

2 comments:

Philip Crawley said...

It's both a blessing and a curse to be attuned to all things design related - fonts, symmetry, colours, ratios and how all of these relate in layouts - especially when dealing with people in a position to make final decisions in regard to these things that are quite clueless in that area! Such is the lot of the designer. I feel your pain. I work as a graphic designer and while a largely rewarding job there are instances when the scenario that you mentioned here, or something very similar, plays out. At times like these I am quite happy that my name does not appear on the job! It is a pity when projects such as this one show such potential but fail to realize it fully once ink hits paper. Faults aside I'd love one or both of these volumes but financial commitments at present preclude their acquisition, Such is life - all about timing and money - having the money at the time!

Kid said...

I'm sure my assessment will be viewed as being too negative in some circles, PC, especially as other blogs are gushing over the books. The printing, paper, and binding ARE first class, but the many (admittedly) minor flaws all add up and prevent me from bestowing unstinting praise on the result. I have to be honest to myself and my readers, and if that means drawing attention to where certain areas could have been better (and, considering that I did so in plenty of time to have them 'refined', SHOULD have been better), then so be it. I'm not here to make profits for other people, or help garner acceptance for them amongst the mainstream world of the comics community at the expense of my own principles. Had the publisher followed my recommendations in full (and used improved material supplied to him), the books would have been beyond reproach, but as things are, they're not above criticism. I hope you manage to get the books at some stage, because, even with the faults I've outlined, they're maybe the closest we're ever going to get to owning all of Ken's Odhams work - short of being able to afford complete collections of Wham!, Smash!, and Pow!. (Hopefully, one day, someone will republish the contents in new editions - and this time include the colour and the deleted captions.)

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