Friday, 23 August 2019


Copyright REBELLION.  Yup, it's over-saturated, but it's original

When it comes to reprinting strips from days of yore, I'm a great believer in doing so as faithfully as possible to their original presentations - or, at least, in the 'spirit' thereof.  Last year, a two volume set of KEN REID strips from the '60s was issued with most of the colour strips converted to grey-scale, on the grounds that, according to the publisher, it reproduced the artist's line work to greater effect.

Now, it's always possible that he genuinely believes this, but I suspect that other, more pressing factors in his decision were, firstly, the work and expense that would've been required to clean up the colour strips to a high enough standard (removing age spots, yellowing of the paper, etc.), and, secondly, the delay this would've caused in rushing the books out.

Recently, on his blog (quite a good one actually), he showed an example of the difference between a black and white panel and the same one in colour, saying that the colour had obscured the detail.  And so it had, but it wasn't exactly a typical example in my view, and the b&w version was taken from a later printing sourced from the original art, not the converted grey-scale version he'd printed in one of his books.  That's the original '60s printing above, the later '70s printing below.  There's no question that the detail in the b&w example is clearer.

If only the books had all been published from original art, as this was 

However, now take a look (below) at how it was presented in one of his volumes.  Is it any better?  Not really I'd say.  That's often what happens when you transform some colour strips into monochrome ones - you merely exchange one murky mess for another.  At least with the colour version, the original appearance of the published strip is maintained, and the mood of the period in which it was first published is preserved.  And I think that's worth doing, especially as many potential purchasers are likely to be those who originally read them back in their childhood.

Thankfully, REBELLION (who now own the copyright to these strips, but didn't at the time the books were published) have found a way to present old colour pages (from the actual published comics too) in a way that captures how readers first experienced them - while enhancing them at the same time.  (See their CREEPY CREATIONS volume to see what I mean.)  I suppose that's the difference between professional publishers and amateur part-time ones.  One has the money and the means to do them properly, the other doesn't.  Nor, it would seem, the desire either.

So what do you think?  Do you prefer to see old colour strips in the way they were first presented (with a bit of work done on them to maximise their presentation), or converted into grey-scale as a way of cutting costs to the publisher and getting them out on sale as quickly as possible?

Does this really have clearer detail than the colour one?  Nah!

I have the issue from which the above panel comes, but it's in a bound volume which I can't open wide enough to scan the complete page without damaging the book, otherwise I'd reproduce the whole strip to give you a better idea of what it looks like. However, I do have a few loose copies of other issues which I can scan, so here are a couple of pages to illustrate that, generally, the colour didn't 'ruin' the art as has been alleged - not in my view anyway.  To my eyes, the pages are far more appealing than dull grey-scale any day of the week.  And can you imagine how good they'd look once those with the required technology to enhance them got to work?  It can be done.


Paul Mcscotty said...

I really liked these books and as you say the guy that published them is not a professional publisherso for me he did a pretty good job at a time when no one was publishing these strips. The original colour strips I hsve of these are in some cases really bad. Certainly agree some pages are not at their best but I'm pretty happy with my copies.

Kid said...

I'd certainly agree that as far as the printing and binding go, they are superbly produced books, PM (and the Ken Reid logo, etc., is pretty good too), but I think that some of the grey-scale is just as murky (and in some cases more so) as some of the worst instances of colouring. So to tout it as an improvement is a little inaccurate in my view, when the reasons for converting the colour pages to grey-scale was every bit as much down to the time, money and labour that would've been involved in cleaning up the colour pages for printing.

Yes, the books were good, but they could've and should've been better as far as image reproduction goes in some instances.

Hackney Steve said...

Well, I happily spent 50 quid on these without ever having read the originals (apart from the few reprints that appeared in '70's Cor! and Shiver & Shake annuals) as there's no chance of collecting the original runs for that price. You buy these things at the time assuming there'll never be another chance to get them...I bought all the Titan Charley's War volumes which seemed definitive with the Pat Mills commentary and then a few years later they're re-released by Rebellion with all the colour pages intact as originally intended - but I'm buggered if I'll shell out again for 'em. As for the Ken Reid books, I assumed (not knowing any better) that the colour pages were reproduced faithfully as the Frankie Stein annual pages are reproduced in colour. They seemed as 'official' as we're likely to get as Ken's son was involved?

Kid said...

Ken's son was only involved due to the fact that I suggested to the publisher that he invited him to become involved, HS - he really wasn't too keen to ask, despite him knowing Ken's son. However, I pointed out the benefits of having him on board with the project, as it would give it the family seal of approval. I also suggested that he ask Nigel Parkinson to write an introduction, as The Beano's top artist would be a good name to have on the cover.

If they were reissued by Rebellion with the complete colour pages, I'd buy them again just to have them as they should be. When I say 'again', I didn't actually buy them the first time - I got them as a 'thank you' for suggesting the name of the set, doing the cover and boxed set logos, writing the notes on the back of the books, and various other things. I was told I'd get a mention, then asked that I not be, as I was unhappy with the shortcuts that were being taken, and the fact that the publisher was telling me he'd correct certain things when he had no intention of doing so.

However, it seems likely that he was never going to credit me anyway, as by the time I asked not to be, going by the fact that it was too late to correct an error on one of the back covers (the publishers fault, not mine), it would also have been too late to remove my name from the list of credits. Ergo, it was never in them.

You live and learn, eh?

Kid said...

Meant to say, the reason the Frankie Stein pages were reproduced in colour was because, firstly, they were done better, and secondly, there was no real 'cleaning up' required as they were from annuals printed on better paper.

Hackney Steve said...

Naturally, I had no idea you were involved in the production of these books behind the scenes Kid, let alone to that extent. You may have mentioned it in your earlier posts but I'm fairly new to your blog. The man in the street (or in a pub in a street in my case) could only go by the reviews and I never read any criticism at all prior to buying them. I'm still only part-way through the Frankie Stein volume, so I haven't seen the Queen of the Seas repro quality yet.

I don't have the books with me, but I've got to ask - what's the error on the back cover?

Kid said...

I'm not surprised you didn't see any criticism, HS, because most people don't have the original comics to compare to, and I imagine that they were just so pleased to finally get their hands on the complete collection of probably Ken's best ever work from the '60s, that their gratitude overwhelmed them. However, look at the top panel in this post and then compare it with the third one. Do you really think it's any clearer? I don't, but at least the colour strips were more vibrant and made more of an impact, and had they been reprinted in colour (after being 'cleaned up'), it would have preserved the 'spirit' of their original appearance and conjured up the mood of the period better.

The error is on the back of the Frankie volume, where it says '...who wrote some of the strips himself...' I'd originally written scripts, and although you might think it's a slight thing, it was to avoid repetition of the word strip and strips in such close proximity, and also to better convey that it was specifically the Frankie stories which were being referred to. By rendering it as strips, I felt it suggested in the rest of the sentence ('...and ofter embellished those of others...') that Ken embellished other people's comic strips. See the distinction?

Anyway, there are aspects of the book that are brilliant, but the imperfections annoy me, especially as there was no need for them.

Kid said...

Incidentally, most of the Queen of the Seas strips (approximately 32 pages in all at a quick glance) were first published in b&w, there were only around 25 later ones in colour. The b&w ones were two page strips, the colour ones were single pages. Some of the pages in grey-scale do actually look okay, but those are the ones that also looked okay in colour When the colour occasionally overwhelmed a panel, the grey-scale conversion isn't really an improvement.

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