Bonkers New Books For Autumn


October, the time when all the weird books come out (including mine – more on that tomorrow). Last night the legendary Scala Cinema in King’s Cross rolled back the decades for the launch of my pal Jane Giles’s awesome Scala book, the definitive volume on this epoch-defining club/cinema/crazy space, covering everything from its punk years to its Stanley Kubrick lawsuit…

The book weighs 5.5 kilos and is impossible to read unless you have good upper body strength, but wow, everything’s here, the faces, the films, the music, the fashions, the art and the programming. Having not entered the building since the cinema shut (it’s now a music venue) I was pleased to see that its interior hasn’t changed one iota, although it no longer smells like a Turkish brothel.

The party was attended by almost everyone I ever worked with or befriended there. A rather cruel trick involved showing interviews with many of them onscreen, filmed back in the Scala’s glory days, so the attendees could see how badly they’d aged.

Another mad book, only very slightly smaller and also successfully crowdfunded by fans, is ‘The Power Pack of Ken Reid’. Reid was arguably the most influential British comics artist, by which I mean ‘comics’ as in the British weeklies for kids that were delivered alongside the family newspapers, comics like ‘The Beano’ or ‘Wham!’.

Reid greatest creation, ‘Jonah’, the sailor who sinks every ship he touches, was a sort of spin-off from a radio show called ‘The Navy Lark’, in which an awful lot of ships sank. Sadly, Jonah isn’t represented in either of these volumes (the original strips appeared between 1958 and 1963) presumably because publisher DC Thompson won’t release them. Luckily these two huge volumes from Reid later years still have lots of wonderful, deranged artwork from many other strips, including ‘Queen of the Seas’, a virtual clone of ‘Jonah’. Reid’s drawing of cackling, gibbering lunatics being blown to smithereens are a delight.

I’m now waiting for a long cold winter weekend when I can get stuck into these giants – my one problem is where to store them in the meantime.

8 comments on “Bonkers New Books For Autumn”

  1. Roger says:

    5 kilos (11lb.)! How many and what size pages?
    Wasn’t it Taschen that did a whopping big limited edition a few years ago with a free lectern? Or you could always pay a visit to a church in a pair of very baggy trousers and snaffle a spare lectern.

  2. admin says:

    Oddly enough I own a lecture. I sed to run a literary evening, but I lent it to a friend and he never returned it!

  3. Roger says:

    Your friend ran off with a literary evening? Rather an odd thing to do.

    Finished Nobody Ordered Wolves, which I rather enjoyed, but I think – as well as the Korda portrait – a lot of the other characters are portraits. As I said, if you want it, give me your address and I’ll post it. A battered pb., but perfectly readable.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    Ken Reid is wonderful, I’ve had my eye on the 2 volumes, I’d love them to do a Leo Baxendale set.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Jasper the Grasper, the tales of a Victorian miser. By the way there is a collection of Faceache that came out last year.


  5. Wayne Mook says:

    Meant to say Ken Reid’s Creepy Creations from Rebellion is due out in November from Rebellion.


  6. Ian Luck says:

    I loved ‘Jasper The Grasper’. The artwork on that was astonishing, every frame packed with detail. Every mention of Queen Victoria would have (“Gawd bless ‘er!”) after it. And it was dark and grim, too, none of today’s ‘happy happy joy joy joy’ bollocks. And the facial expressions were sometimes terrifying, too. But this was the heyday of British comics, where genuinely alarming content was the norm. We had some really, and I mean really, fucked up shit to read in comics as kids, with beautifully drawn scenes of violence and terror. There was Adam Eterno, who was unkillable as long as he wore an enchanted crystal. Oh, and he travelled through time, too. There was The Claw, a reformed criminal with a steel hand who became invisible if electrocuted. (Do you see the problem there?) Turville’s Touchstone, about a bloke and his immortal alchemist ancestor, who cast spells, in which nasty things happened. A bit like the TV show ‘Catweazle’ in fact, to the point that both used incantations and spells from ‘real’ spell books, which is more than slightly alarming whatever you believe. There was Cursitor Doom, who was like something out of a more serious Dennis Wheatley novel, and who looked disturbingly like Aleister Crowley. There was ‘The Spider’ a supercriminal turned hero, with tech to make James Bond weep. The House of Dolman, in which a puppet maker creates a load of automata to fight crime. Each had their own skill. It was as creepy as hell, especially as Dolman spoke to the little robots, and replied to himself in different voices. There was Janus Stark, a Victorian escapologist, who was basically a proto X-Men mutant, being able to sqeeze through any gap, due to his rubbery body. Very creepy indeed, and deliciously dark, showing the horrid reality of crime in Victorian London. Yes, really. But for me, the icing on a very unpleasant dark cake, was the long running strip about Victorian cat-burglar, multiple murderer, and cop killer, Charlie Peace. Just let that sink in for a moment. Imagine if a kid’s comic today had a strip called ‘The Wests’. Knockabout fun with a builder and his subterrainean family, every week! There’d be lynchings. But no, we had Charlie Peace, who had somehow got better after being hanged, to have more adventures. What were they thinking?

  7. Wayne Mook says:

    Grimly Fiendish was splendid too, but your right Ian, Peace takes the cake.

    Not sure why I typed Rebellion twice.

    To be honest some of the later comics are just as bad.

    In the 80’s my little sister had The Supernaturals, a featured story The Doll was very much in the Child’s Play area, I remember a surreal episode that had a cellar full of maggots.

    Scream and a supernatural comic Misty aimed a girls. The Thirteenth Floor (the Veldt by Ray Bradbury meets Dick Maars’ The Lift. An AI controls a building and creates a floor 13 with whatever it likes in it to deal with anyone who upsets the tenants of it’s tower block.) from Scream carried on in the new Eagle until the late 80’s.

    There are plenty of horrors around but 2000AD still has some interesting characters to say the least.


  8. Ian Luck says:

    Wayne – Your mention of ‘Faceache’ reminded me of the ‘sound effect’ that appeared when he changed his face – ‘SCRUNGE!’

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