Saturday 10 December 2016

Battle! And the Carlos Ezquerra/James Coburn Connection

A pile of Battle Picture Weekly comics arrived in the Little Shop this week, and while that particular comic was not a part of my childhood, one of the artists I noticed supplying multiple covers certainly was. Carlos Ezquerra drew the definitive Strontium Dog and arguably the definitive Judge Dredd for 2000AD and his (mostly pre-Tharg) work for Battle really stood out as I leafed through the pile readying it for its eBay listing (which has now SOLD). 

Not all the covers pictured below are by Ezquerra, but most of the best ones are. Look out for Major Eazy, drawn by Carlos to sort-of-resemble the none-more-cool Hollywood star James Coburn, who had starred in Pekinpah's Cross of Iron that year. Ezquerra obviously enjoyed drawing Coburnesque characters: he later used the same look (with shorter hair) for his adaptations of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat in 2000AD.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Shelley, the Queen Mary, and Agnes Pinder Davis

In the late 1920s, John Lane at the Bodley Head published 'The Helicon Series' of small poetry books, with new illustrations. They're pretty scarce these days, none less so than the edition of Shelley's Keats elegy, Adonais. The striking, Beardsleyesque illustrations are by Agnes Pinder Davis. She's a forgotten name now: light googling really only turns up this blog entry, which reveals the fabulous fact that she designed the carpet for the main lounge of the Queen Mary – but only after Duncan Grant's initial design was deemed too avant garde!

These quick snaps of her illustrations for Adonais don't do them justice. They work beautifully, and along with the slightly textured paper, rough cut page edges and simple boards design, make for a very special little volume.

Sunday 20 November 2016

A Philip K Dick Rarity

This will take a little explaining, but the bottom line is that, if you're a Philip K. Dick or Blade Runner completist, I'm betting you've never seen one of these before, and you may well never see one again.

In the UK, so-called 'part works' are popular on the newstands, and via subscription. They are a series of magazines which each come with something - often a piece of a huge model, which builds up week by week (for example the Titanic, or the Millenium Falcon, or 007's Aston Martin), and often a book, building up into a library of a certain author or genre.

Part works are very expensive to launch, so publishers usually do a 'regional test' of a new part work idea: they print up a few copies if the first 2 or 3 issues and put them on sale in just one region of the UK for a few months. If the sales are good, they will start again on a national basis, with attendant TV advertising, the works.

What you have here is the magazine from issue 3 of a 1997 part work from Fabbri called 'Science Fiction Classics'. It originally came with a copy of Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' - an edition which turns up for sale very occasionally, and commands high prices. I don't have the book (though I have had one in the past), but I do have the even scarcer/more ephemeral magazine. It's particularly hard to come by because, as far as I can ascertain, the 'Science Fiction Classics' part work never went beyond the regional test phase. Sales obviously weren't good enough, so the few copies of issue 3 that were printed for the region in question were all that ever made it to the shelves. The promised issue 4 (featuring Ender's Game) never appeared at all.

This copy is not mint, but its 24 pages are full of interesting articles (as you'd expect with John Clute as a contributor) and especially commissioned art and visuals, including a striking double-page piece by Lee Gibbons, a section of which was used as the cover for the accompanying book.

One of the rarer entries in the PKD bibliography, soon to make its way to eBay...