(Updated on learning of Natasha’s passing in 2012): Tim Pilcher’s reminiscences of his experiences at Vertigo UK, recounted in the recently-released, Kickstarter-funded Comic Book Babylon (current stockists below), reminded me of another aspect of 1980s comic publishing – Speakeasy, a title that rose, crashed and burned which, to an outsider at the time, seemed a terrible shame.
Speakeasy, at its height, was a wonderful pot-pourri of comics news and interviews edited by the late Natasha Curson, but after it was bought by John Brown Publishing the title seemed, after a while, to go off the boil. At John Brown it was designed by Rian Hughes, designed by the team at Titan Books and included Grant Morrison among its many columnists.
The transition from a more ‘fanzine’ magazine to pro magazine was “interesting”, to say the least judging from Natasha’s account of life at ACME and John Brown which I recently came across.
Natasha, a woman with a transgender history (she transitioned in 2009, was editor of Speakeasy (which, in its final days, was edited by Stuart Green) but has previously worked for Titan in its early days, at the comic co-operative Acme Press and wrote for the comics paper The Buzz. She worked at the University of East Anglia, but died in 2012 (see obituary added in the comments below, published by the University).
Natasha’s articles on Speakeasy make for interesting reading, noting the title’s inability to “break out” from beyond comics, the perils of staff in-fighting and offer a snapshot of the British comics industry of the time…
• Acme – take two Earthquake pills and exit over the cliff…
On the company and major life changes
• Adventures in Comics with ACME Press
On the development of Soeakeasy and ACME’s ambitious comic projects
• The Accidental Editor
The rise of VIZ and the first hint of a new comics news magazine for the UK – Speakeasy
• My Year of Speakeasy Hell Part 1
On getting the job of editing Speakeasy, John Brown and Vic Lime
• My Year of Speakeasy Hell Part 2
On getting Speakeasy up and running, meeting Stuart Green, working with Rian Hughes
• My Year of Speakeasy Hell Part 3
Comics International rears its head as a rival, free title…
• My Year of Speakeasy Hell Part 4
On Dez Skinn, designing Speakeasy and growing staff tensions…
• My Year of Speakeasy Hell Part 5
Staff feuds and leaving for the Radio Times
• Natasha Curson – a trans history by Natasha Elena Curson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
• Comic Book Babylon by Tim Pilcher is currently on sale from OK Comics, Leeds, Orbital Comics, Gosh! and The Cartoon Museum in London; and Dave’s Comics in Brighton. If you contact Tim via the book’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ComicBookBabylonKickstarter – he’ll tell you how you can order a copy direct from him