Author Tim Pilcher has announced a Kickstarter campaign to publish Comic Book Babylon: A Cautionary Tale of Sex, Drugs & Comics, probing a bizarre period when, to outsiders, British creators looked set to take over American comics.
Tim Pilcher’s shocking, revealing and completely unofficial memoir of DC Comics’ legendary London office, will, he hopes, celebrate the Vertigo imprint’s 20th anniversary, lifting the lid on an intriguing part of British comics history.
“For a few glorious years only, before cost-cutting set in, there was Vertigo’s ‘British Office’ – the comics equivalent of the Loaded HQ in the 1990s,” recalls Grant Morrison, author of Supergods, All Star Superman, Batman Inc. and The Invisibles. “Vodka, mushrooms, Es, sex, money, travel and the pure unleashed creativity of young people having a good time together.”
Comic Book Babylon is the candid, uncensored and utterly unofficial of story of DC Comic’s infamous Vertigo UK office, written by one who was the heart of the drug-fuelled, creative whirlwind. It’s the odyssey of how comic fan Tim, in pursuit of his dream job, became the first British member of the DC editorial staff, and learning the harsh realities of publishing life.
Along the way he meets comics professionals and celebrities including Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Jamie Hewlett, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Philip Bond, Paul Gambaccini, Glyn Dillon, Jonathan Ross, The Spice Girls, Blur, Adam Ant, and many, many more. Revealing the crazy, halcyon days of the British comics publishing in the mid-Nineties, it blows the lid off the debauchery and excess that was part and parcel of the industry.
When you reach such dizzy heights, there’s only one place to go.
“It was an incredibly exciting time to be in comics,” Tim recalls of his time in the offices of “British Vertigo”. “We felt we could achieve anything at the Vertigo office, and things got a little crazy. This is the book I’ve been threatening to write for the past 20 years! I suspect the first people wanting to pick this up will be all the comics professionals, to see what I said about them. There should be some very worried writers, artists and editors out there!”
Revealing the reason for writing this latest book – as well as many articles for a huge range of magazines, he’s written books like Erotic Comics: A Graphic History and The Essential Guide to World Comics (with Brad Brooks) – Tim says he wanted to let the world know that the comics industry is not all geeky and nerdy as some might think.
“In fact it’s every bit as hedonistic as the music business,” he declares. “If Paul Gravett is ‘The Man at the Crossroads’, then I’m ‘The Man at the Centre of a 15-Car Pile-Up’!”.
Tim’s first job in the industry was at Comic Showcase, starting as a shop assistant but eventually becoming its manager. After four and a half years of that he worked as an assistant editor for Art Young at the Vertigo UK office on titles like Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison & Phillip Bond, Enigma by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo, The Extremist by Peter Milligan & Ted McKeever, The Mystery Play by Grant Morrison & Jon J Muth and Rogan Gosh by Peter Milligan & Brendan McCarthy. He was a founder member of the Les Cartoonistes Dangereux collective, along with Brad Brooks, Roger Langridge, Charlie Adlard, Paul Peart, Faz Choudhury, Jonathan Edwards, and Dylan Horrocks.
“Then I moved to Penguin Children’s Books, Dorling Kindersley, and then as associate editor on Comics International for a few years with Dez Skinn,” he told Comics Bureau in 2011. More recently he’s been an editor at Ilex Press, where he has commissioned a whole range of pop culture and comic-related books such as War Comics: A Graphic History by Mike Conroy, the Eisner-nominated and Harvey Award-winning Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga by Helen McCarthy and the brilliant Alan Moore: Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge. He also commissioned me to edit SciFi Art Now, a collection of science fiction art, published in 2010.
He’s also one of the founding members of the Comic Book Alliance, (www.comicbookalliance.co.uk), a not-for-profit organisation and “The Voice of the British Comics Industry” promoting books, graphic novels, webcomics and sequential art in its many forms.
“Comics were undoubtedly in my blood from day one,” Tim says of his love of comics.”I had ‘four colour funnies’ running through my veins before I’d even heard the expression. Cut me and I bled cyan, magenta, yellow and black. I inhaled the musty smell of old comics, as if they were perfume. I sweated Indian ink and I came in process white. It was my destiny to work in comics.”
There are three versions of Comic Book Babylon planned: an eBook (with additional images), paperback, and 200 limited edition hardbacks, with covers created by design genius and comic book artist Rian Hughes.
“Rian’s out done himself,” said an impressed Pilcher, “The punky/acid house colours perfectly reflect the rave mood of the times in the book.” Hughes has also designed a limited edition print and three “Sex, Drugs and Comic Books” badges as incentives.
• Comic Book Babylon: A Cautionary Tale of Sex, Drugs & Comics launches Kickstarter on Thursday 4 April, 2013. See a preview of it here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/2016810024/1303051881?token=bb3f146a
• Website: sexdrugsandcomicbooks.blogspot.com
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.