Friday, September 24, 2010

Crash and Burn: What the heck is happening with British reprints?

Downright depressing news from lots of places, but what has spurred me into action is a new report from the otherwise always-a-pleasure-to-read Steve Holland at Bear Alley. Looks like we're coming up on a winter of discontent, and many hoped-for projects have been postponed, delayed or canceled outright.

Doctor Who: "The Crimson Hand": I've been watching this develop for several months now, and the news gets worse all the time. After twelve collected editions of the Doctor Who comic, a license dispute between the BBC and Panini has scuttled the third and final edition of Tenth Doctor episodes and left the whole line up in the air.

Panini collected all of the terrific Fourth and Fifth Doctor stories, all the weird Sixth Doctor ones and all the amazingly good Eighth Doctor ones. There weren't quite enough Ninth Doctor stories, but they did release a 100-page magazine with all those, and they released one in a proposed series of Seventh Doctor books, some of which at least were drawn well. (The late 80s and early 90s were a... troubled time for the comic.)

The Tenth Doctor's adventures were compiled in a pair of books called "The Bride of Sontar" and "The Widow's Curse." The storylines were meant to be wrapped up in "The Crimson Hand," but DWM's editor Tom Spilsbury confirmed on the Gallifrey Base Forum that the book never went to print. Spilsbury has, understandly, been tight-lipped about the rumors that have been spreading about why it was canceled and whether we might see it in the future, but there's a wide gap between "understandable" and "preferable" when you're a fan.

For my money, the strip has been weaker since the property returned to TV, but that's not to say it's at all bad, and that last Donna Noble comic, "Time of My Life," was so terrific that there wasn't a hat size to fit it. I don't buy Doctor Who Magazine, but the consensus among fans is that this last chunk of Tenth Doctor stories really was fun and special. I was really looking forward to Panini's collection of them.

Century 21: I reviewed the fourth volume of these reprints over at my Bookshelf blog last month, concluding that their production was going to keep me from preordering any more of them. An anonymous commenter suggested that Reynolds & Hearn was having some business trouble.

In a post earlier today, Steve (who, unlike me, enjoyed the reprints, which included wonderful artwork by the likes of Ron Embleton and Frank Bellamy) confirmed that Reynolds & Hearn has liquidated and resolved to close the company, leaving the proposed fifth volume up in the air. Whether another company which has acquired their publishing list does put "They Walk Among Us" back on the schedule has yet to be determined.

Titan Books: Charley's War, James Bond, Battle Picture Weekly, Action, Misty: But the real personal heartbreak comes from learning that internal business at Titan has left a whole pile of long-anticipated classic comics in limbo. There have been problems here for some time; Diamond did not ship the most recent volumes of Charley's War (from last year, vol. 6) and James Bond (from the spring, vol. 17) to my comic shop, and has no additional stock to meet my store's request, so I'm waiting for Titan to make an "offered again" opportunity for Bizarro Wuxtry to reorder them.

In the meantime, Titan has been soliciting one Battle collection after another, without actually producing any of them. Every few months, Previews will list another title and it will get ordered and everybody will wonder what the heck has happened to all the previous titles that they've offered. For those without long memories, these include:

Johnny Red Vol. 1: Falcon's First Flight
Darkie's Mob
The Best of Land Battle
Rat Pack Vol. 1
Major Eazy Vol. 1
The Best of Action Vol. 1
The Best of Misty Vol. 1

None of these have been formally canceled, although Holland does believe that the company's Roy of the Rovers line is dead. Darkie's Mob, by John Wagner and the late Mike Western, hasn't been officially kicked to 2011 yet, but nobody's optimistic enough to suggest that it will actually arrive before Christmas. And the seventh volume of Charley's War, which I believe deals with the infamous "monocled mutineer" Percy Toplis, is still scheduled for next month. Shame I can't read volume six first.

Oh yeah, and Fantagraphics pushed the first Pogo book back again, to December. That's not British, but it's intended as a Christmas gift, so I'm steamed about it.

Hopefully the next time I find some reason to update this blog, it'll be with good news...!