A mainstay of early UK comics fandom, Dez was also one of the first fans to turn pro, initially working for IPC on humour titles like Buster. Dez
then became editor of the British edition of Mad Magazine; founded movie magazines – one covering Hammer Films and the other SF and fantasy more broadly; opened a comics store in south London: and by the early eighties is publishing Warrior, as a result raising Alan Moore’s profile considerably.
By 1989 Warrior is long-gone and relatively little has been heard for Dez for a while. In due course I am told that at some stage during early negotiations between Acme Press and JBP over Speakeasy, one of my former Acme colleagues has an indiscreet discussion with Dez.
Never anything less than canny, Dez spots a possible gap in the market which could be filled by a news-heavy, low budget publication. Thus it is that we find ourselves facing unexpected competition in a pretty narrow field. As we are a news magazine, I choose to report the arrival of Comics International quite extensively. On the one hand, I am indirectly promoting the competition, but on the other hand it is one of the bigger news stories of the month.
Dez has a chequered (but substantial) comics career, and those who have worked with him have differing opinions. I never worked with him closely so I will refrain from venturing an opinion on some long-standing controversies – you can find them discussed elsewhere on the Web if you wish. The arrival of Comics International presents us with a challenge, but in the short term JBP decides to continue with its plans for Speakeasy more or less unaltered.
Sales of the new version are very encouraging, and the feedback from Titan Distributors is positive, although we know we are weeks away from the arrival of our new competitor. After the relatively easy ride of the first issue Rian Hughes visits JBP and takes me through his design bit by bit, as I will be putting the next issue together myself, using PageMaker on my trusty Mac.
Can I just say, I am not a designer, and I am not a typographer. As a result, some of the finer nuances of Rian’s design are somewhat lost on me. And I have a lot of material to put together. The first issue I fully produce myself has 80 pages, 46 editorial and the remainder advertising. In addition to writing the editorial and news pages and putting together the Shipping Guide, I have to edit and proofread the pages, art edit them (select all the images we will use, and scan them), and lay out every single page. Some editorial content arrives very close to press date. Each month Ronnie, through no fault of his own, keeps me on tenterhooks as to how many editorial pages are acutally needed. Looking back, I am amazed at how much work I actually did every month to get this beast out. Obviously I wanted to justify John’s confidence in me, but if I’d stopped to think I would realize that I was simply being asked to do too much. In the end the workload and other matters takes its toll on me. Stuart, on the other hand, seems jolly relaxed.
Rian Hughes is, I think, somewhat dismayed that I do not stick rigidly to his design. I haven’t deviated from it intentionally – I’ve got as close as time, and deadlines allow. The following month he pops in to talk me through where I went wrong.
Nice though Rian is, I am mortified and keenly feel the sense of my own graphical limitations. Looking back now at that first issue however, I am surprised at how decent it actually looks, under the circumstances. The single most disappointing element of is is the cover, some artwork by Steve Yeowell (who is quite a quirky artist) which sadly looks as though it has been coloured with felt-tip pen – a bit of a let-down after our strong debut cover image.
As anyone who works on any regular publication will tell you, as soon as you send one issue to publication you immediately start thinking about the next one. The stress begins to tell on me, as does the developing nature of the relationship between myself and my Deputy Editor …