Sunday 29 August 2010

Wulf the Briton - Print Ready!!!

I recall blithely telling Geoff West - head honcho and creative Svengali at Book Palace Books that I reckoned I could get all the material necessary for the Wulf the Briton book ready by the end of July.

This was at the start of June and I was being overly optimistic, but knowing how easy it is for publishing projects to bog down in the sands of inertia, I thought if I gave myself this deadline then with my reputation and credibility on the line, I might just be able to pull it off.


But then again without that impetus I wouldn't be in the happy position of having just posted off all the InDesign (loveliest desktop publishing software ever as the Quark team have learned to their cost) generated PDFs to the good people at Book Palace Books. I can now refocus my creativity on Cloud 109, which is nearly two thirds complete and about to be translated into French as France for us is an absolute must and in many ways more vital than the UK.

Anyway to get back to Wulf, the book is looking incredible and as I said in a previous posting, I have learned so much along the way, including the story of a "nearly was" reprint of the whole Wulf saga by a Dutch publisher (I'm assuming Oberon) in the early 1980's. But barring a reprint in Marvel UK's Forces in Combat comic in 1980, this book will be the first time that Wulf has been reprinted in it's entirety in it's original format. I'm qualifying my use of terminology as there was an ongoing reprint of Wulf under the title of "Rock L'Invincible" in a French weekly comic with the memorable title of "L'Interpide Hurrah". I kid thee not. What was even weirder was that Ron Embleton's magnificent painted artwork was converted into a monotone grayscale and then a crude variation on the four color process familiar to U.S. comics readers was used to add cyan, magenta and yellow to the pages.


Anyway here's some sample spreads from the book, some of which I know are familiar, but if I show you ones you've seen, you can see that I've streamlined the layouts and more importantly I'm not giving away too much.

Here are some more statistics:

The book is going to be printed same size as the original comic, so we're talking approx 36cm tall by 26 cm wide page size.

Two editions:

The regular clocking in at 352 pages, which is a lovely looking thing in red cover with all of Ron Embleton's Wulf strips carefully scanned from optimum copies of the original comics covering his entire output on the strip from May 1957 to September 1960.

All the Wulf 8 page strips from each of the four Express Weekly/TV Express Annuals.

Commentaries on each story.

A foreword by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons who it transpires was a big fan of Ron Embleton and continues to be fascinated by his work.

A reminiscence by Alan Vince who was fortunate enough to know Ron Embleton as a friend as well as being a fan and among other memories recalls a visit to Express Weekly's art department the week that the famous attack on Cartamandua's fortress artwork was delivered.

An introduction and afterword by yours truly although much of the work involved was due to extensive help and research from Andrew Skilleter, who as an artist as well as friend of Ron's was able to provide an extra degree of insight into his remarkable working methods, Alan Vince who again came through with a lot of information and David Slinn another artist with working knowledge of Express Weekly in the late 1950's to early 1960's - when it comes to writing intros it doesn't get much better than this.

Add in copious amounts of help from comic historians and enthusiasts such as David Ashford, Norman Wright and David Roach who provided me with scans and contacts and you have a much firmer foundation to write about this amazing strip with a degree of crediblity.

In addition to the essays we have samples of original artwork all of which are real stonkers with some vitally important pieces which were not on the collector's circuit coming to us via the assistance of Robert Avery at Express Newspapers, who kindly granted permission for this project to go ahead.

There is also going to be a limited edition of 126 copies of the book signed and numbered which will come in red leather binding with embossed titles and a slipcase.

This book will feature an additional 24 pages devoted to 13 samples of original Wulf artwork - the majority of which have remained unseen by collectors and enthusiasts, which have all been carefully scanned rather than photographed to ensure that the tiniest detail of Ron Embleton's artistry on these pages shines through. The majority of the thirteen artworks occupies a double page spread with a detail on the left side of the spread reproduced at the same size as the original artwork and on the right hand side the complete page. The effect is really stunning and even though this book is going to be expensive it's still going to be less of a stress to the plastic than attempting to buy one, let alone a baker's dozen of these artworks.

I'll keep you informed of the progress of this baby as we get to publication date but here in the interim are those scans.


  1. Well done, Peter - this looks stupendously good!

  2. Looks Great and an essential purchase, as will Cloud 109 be any chance of a sneak peak at my cameo as me and my better half are quite curious!

  3. There's a bit of a story to the cameos James as your and your missus are on the same page, same panel in fact as Dave and Roz Morris.

    Tim Perkins is appearing on another page!

    As soon as page 44 is completed I'll send off copies to both you and Dave and Roz just to make sure everyone is happy before sharing you lovely people with the rest of the world.

    What's the reason page 44 of Cloud 109 is still in suspended animation you may well be asking?

    'Wulf the Briton' came the reply - so glad we're there now as I get the rest of my life back.

    Wulf has been a lot of fun though.

  4. Hello, I don't forget you: i scan the french cover and send you perhaps monday,
    goood bye,

  5. Fantastic news. Can't wait for this!

  6. Ah but which edition Dave?

    Which edition???
    Both would be best regular for a reading copy and limited to place in the hall of holy relics.

  7. ...Or maybe two of each Dave - just to be on the safe side! ;-)

    An awesome achievement Peter, and one which only goes to prove your farsightedness in beginning the painstaking task of digitally restoring the artwork for this blog in the first place.

    I'd like to believe that if Ron were still with us he'd appreciate all the effort that went into it, and the fact that his Magnum Opus will soon be back in print for future generations to enjoy - even if the 'work for hire' conditions under which he and so many of his contemporaries laboured meant that he wouldn't benefit financially to any significant extent. Clearly this is, first and foremost, a real labour of love! Hopefully it will also go some way towards persuading other artists, such as his brother Gerry, that they can only gain from this sort of exposure in the long run.

    (Now all we need is a volume featuring the complete 'Wrath of the Gods'...! )

  8. By complete "Wrath of the Gods" Phil, I presume that you are referring to John Burns as well as Ron?

    Loads of work entailed on that one.

  9. Two copies? Four copies?! Peter, Phil - are you trying to ruin me? :)

    Anyway, I have to save a little bit of cash for the day the complete Wrath of the Gods is collected between covers - I'd use up a whole bunch of genie wishes to see that come out.

  10. I'm a huge fan of Burns' work on the strip, but given the major change in format that coincided with his debut I guess it'd be more sensible to start with a high quality volume that just collected Ron Embleton's episodes (preferably with large, 'landscape-style' pages). Of course, it would also be nice to see Frank Bellamy's 'Heros the Spartan' given a similar treatment...

  11. I agree with both you guys on the need for these books. I'd also add on "Fraser of Africa", which was Bellamy's favorite strip out of all the work he produced. There was a Hawk Books edition, but a really lovely edition scanned as opposed to photostatted and with reproductions from the original artwork would be just mouthwatering.

    Hmmmmmm... building up quite a pile of books here, but there's definitely no shortage of potential projects.

  12. I must admit that I quite liked the Hawk edition of 'Fraser', but given the incredible subtlety of Bellamy's colours it'd be really nice to see a high-quality reproduction with full 'Richardsonization'. The same goes for the Churchill and Montgomery strips that Hawk collected in their 'High Command' book.

    Even though, like Dave, I might not be able to buy them all myself I do think it's a good idea to release collections like these with the best reproduction possible (by contrast I was quite disappointed with the recent edition of Frank Hampson's Bible stories). The nice thing about this approach is that, as with Russ Cochran's slipcased EC reprints, it then becomes possible to use the artwork for cheaper, mass-market versions (after a suitable period of course).

    Eventually it might even be feasible to issue a whole series of internationally distributed albums featuring the 'Best of British Comic Art' in a Tintin/Asterix-style format.

  13. ...Come to think of it, 'High Command' was published by Dragon's Dream rather than Hawk Books (though there was also an earlier edition of 'The Happy Warrior' produced by Hulton Press themselves in 1958).

  14. I was looking through my "High Command" book the other day and the artwork is absolutely stupendous, but has definitely suffered in the repro department as well as being reduced in scale.

    Hampson's "Road of Courage" is a real lost opportunity as regards the recent Titan book. Apparently the publisher had the option of accessing all of Hampson's originals for repro of this strip, but didn't want to pay the insurance and stuck with scanning from the comics instead.

    And I still haven't quite come to terms with Titan's repro of "Charley's War" either. Insane really as they had reproduced the artwork from Joe Colquhoun's originals for the first editions they produced in the '80's and they were lovely. I can only assume they lost the negs and as the artwork was by then destroyed they opted for scanning of the printed stories as they appeared in Battle Picture Weekly, with no budget allocation for any restoration work whatsoever.

    In both instances the words "lost" and "opportunity" spring to mind.

  15. The strange thing is that, for all its faults, I seem to recall the earlier Dragon's Dream edition of 'Road of Courage' actually *was* shot from original artwork.

    And I couldn't agree more about Titan's 'Charley's War' btw Peter.

  16. You're right Phil, it was which makes the latest edition seem utterly redundant.

    Apart from the fact that the Dragon's Dream edition is now out of print.

    Plus - sigh - the Titan James Bond editions again are not as good as the first two as they're taken from newsprint scans.

    And all the James Bond artwork still exists and is all conveniently in the one location which Titan must know about.