Wednesday 11 July 2012

All This and Heros too...

At the risk of repeating myself, I am posting a blog which I put up this morning over at  the Book Palace Blog concerning our forthcoming Heros the Spartan project. As many of you know, aside from my day job, I have been working on helping launch Illustrators Quarterly. As a brief aside, we now have the most amazing team of contributors who are all pooling their considerable talents to make this publication worthy of it's subject matter. But there is no getting around the fact that editing a publication such as Illustrators is a really full on job, so what I have attempted to do, with the aid of the team, is get issue 2 pretty well resolved way ahead of final copy date. I will be talking a bit more about Illustrators and the people behind it in the not too distant future. But on to Heros, which has also been occupying a lot of my time for the last few months. So ...

Let me fill you in on a few of the details, so you can get a handle on what is happening. Firstly and most importantly the format; the book is going to be the same size as our Wulf the Briton epic, so it's Gi-Normous, so that you can fully appreciate the artwork as Frank Bellamy intended it to be seen. Interestingly, Bellamy was such a perfectionist that he often worked on his strips the same size as they were reproduced, and never more than a quarter up, so he knew exactly how each pen line and brush stroke would reproduce. In addition and such was his professionalism, he reduced the number of bottles of colour Pelikan ink he worked with to ... 3, plus black. The reason being that Eric Bemrose who printed the Eagle would often have to retouch art which had colours that were proving unco-operative in repro and such work resulted in the publisher having a re-touching surcharge added to their bill. Bellamy's work NEVER incurred one of these charges.

So the good news is that, as with Wulf, you are getting the optimum best job we can deliver in terms of the pages being as Bellamy intended. There is one compromise we have had to make and that is that the book will not be presenting each double page spread on a single page. We fully explored the feasibility of such an approach, but we were left with two alternatives, one being a greatly reduced size for each Heros spread, the other being a book that would have to be bound along it's longer edge and would cost a fortune.

So in the end sanity prevailed, we went back and looked at the double page spread in our companion volume Wulf The Briton (there is one from Christmas 1959) and looked at the all important gutter. The wonderful thing about Prolong is the quality of their binding, the books are bound in signatures of four sheets and open out flat with no problem whatsoever, so in the end we decided that the answer to our problem was right under our noses. In addition the book will be much easier to handle and more of a reading experience. Plus it will greatly help in keeping the cost of this book down. So all in all we decided it was by far the best route to take.

Anyway and because I know you are keen to see something more substantive here are some before and after restorations plus...

The cover. Hope you like it.


  1. Hi Tony, Great to hear from you and as ever really good to have your feedback and input. Anyway it sounds as if I might need to take another photo of the Wulf spread in question, just to show the people that haven't got the Wulf book, but are considering the Heros volume what we are talking about here.

    And yes we did consider various format alternatives for collectors with limitless means, including the bound along the longer edge version, but the costs were simply prohibitive, especially as we are by definition talking low print run in combination with a printing and binding job which the majority of printers simply don't have the machinery to accommodate. Our printer was prepared to undertake the work but would have had to outsource at least some of the job and the quotes were horrendous. IDW's magnificent Wally Wood production would I guess have required similar plant but IDW produce a hell of a lot of stuff a year and could (again I am surmising) negotiate a hefty discount on the back of the workload they are able to offer their printer.

    It's also worth mentioning that the only way to produce a book like Heros in landscape format at the size it was originally published, is to bind it along it's longer edge. Going for the shorter edge, means that the pages will be way too heavy for the binding to hold. The laws of physics kick in and your pages sooner or later will fall away from the covers. The largest we could go was I recall 90%, which meant reducing all the pages by 10%, which with Bellamy's fabulous and oft times closely woven inking would have created a lot of infill, particularly on dark areas of art, which in Heros world is fairly de-rigueur.

    The second option we considered was to produce two "regular" editions, but one boxed in loose leaf format, very much like Heinz Pollischansky's Prinz Eizenherz collections from 1977. This we thought would give collectors the choice of both formats and the 'diehards' could arm themselves with both.

    Alas - again the costs were spiraling upwards, not to mention all the work reformatting and designing the boxed set pages. So we definitely did consider several options, but the one we have arrived at is the one that I am most happy with. I love books as a reading experience and working on a project such as this one within a set of constraints which keep the book as a book I find enormously rewarding.

    The book itself (without giving too much away at the moment) will nevertheless have a much more cinematic feel in terms of it's design and layout and this wide angle feel will inform all of the book, so that we achieve a consistency of vision in presenting readers with this amazing epic.

    So while Heros very much continues in the tradition of our Wulf extravaganza, it will have it's own distinctive feel which will contrast with as well as compliment Wulf.

    We'll continue to keep you posted as the work progresses.

  2. Dear Peter

    So excited that you have made a start on the Heros book. I cannot wait to see this book and agree with the format. Wulf was a brilliant book! Do you have any plans to reprint the strips by the other artists? While not as inventive as Bellamy are still worth reprinting.

    Best Wishes
    Martin Baines

  3. Hi Martin,

    Good question, and again something that we did consider. The problem with reprinting the Luis Bermejo Heros, is that it would push the page count up to the point where, again, it would impact on the book's production costs to a significant degree, plus while there are one or two people who actually prefer Bermejo's Heros, a lot, myself included, think it is way out of kilter with the feel of Bellamy's version.

    In my opinion, Bermejo's Heros not only isn't in the same league as Bellamy's version, but it's not even Bermejo at his best and Bermejo at his best is really excellent.

    That being said we are exploring the possibility of running a few pages of Bermejo Heros all scanned from original art, so the idea isn't entirely being discounted.

  4. Dear Peter,
    Excellent post. Thank you for posting an update on Heros, it is so exciting to see the project come together...I have been waiting for this collection for a long time and it is fantastic to see that it will be a great book because of the care that it is being shown.
    You mentioned a possibility of a few pages scanned from originals. You were talking about Bermejo pages, but I wonder....will there be any Bellamy original scans?

  5. This looks utterly jaw-dropping, Peter, and I can think of a couple of my friends who would enjoy getting it as birthday presents - if I can bear to part with it myself! Do you have any release date in mind, or is it too early to say?

  6. A comment by John Freeman on BookPalaceBook's FaceBook page saying he would also love to see Bermejo's Heros, set me wondering whether this is a place where crowd-sourcing might help raise funds to sponsor you Dave to do another fine job.

  7. Hey Peter, do you remember that after the announcement that Byrne, Gibbons and Simonson were contributing to the book, I suggested adding Alan Davis, and you said:

    “we are in communication with Alan at the moment.”

    I was wondering whatever came of it, but just yesterday Mr. Davis has commented at length on the subject in his own message board. He explains why he's not interested in providing the kind of contribution done by Byrne and co., but he offers thoughtful suggestions and, most importantly, he claims to be in possession of “unique archive material” that he’s willing to pass on with the permission of Bellamy’s son:

    Alan Davis said:

    “IF the real reason for ‘extras’ is to include a historical context or insight, Frank’s son David Bellamy should be the first choice. There are many ‘experts’ who have devoted themselves to cataloguing or summarising the artists career but for my money Paul Holder, who was a good friend and aide to Nancy for many years’ and Alan Woolcombe, who also befriended Nancy and chronicled some of the anecdotes she shared, have much of real value to offer.

    I have possession of some unique archive material which I rescued from Nancy’s bin almost thirty years ago. I took the photos and pieces of sketches because the alternative was to let them be destroyed. BUT, I never regarded them as mine and always secured Nancy’s permission before using them in any way. When Nancy died I sent her son, David, a note asking if he’d like me to return the pieces and I wouldn’t presume to pass them on without David’s express permission.