By Dez Skinn
Published by Quality
Dez Skinn is a writer, editor and publisher of comics and comic related material, and magazines, with over 50 years standing in a strange business. During his illustrious career, that continues today, he ran Marvel UK, gave us Doctor Who Weekly (still published today, as Doctor Who Magazine), and created and published titles such Warrior magazine, House of Hammer, and more.
Those of you curious about his work and career will no doubt have already discovered his fascinating official website, where he has regularly regaled us with stories of his publishing past. Now, he has started to put those stories down in print, and Sez Dez Book One has just been released.
Encompassing his early life as a failed chemist but successful fanzine publisher, local newspaper staffer, and comics editor at IPC, literally blagging his way into the job, this is a fascinating account of a now much changed British publishing industry. Dez reveals how he broke into the business, publishing fanzines by night and working at IPC by day, and shares many entertaining stories that the latter entailed.
Obviously, if you have found Dez Skinn‘s official website then you will be familiar with some of the stories included, but it’s great to see his account of the early part of his incredible career in print, particularly his work for the humour comic, Buster, complemented by a huge amount of images, including rare fanzine covers, tantalising plans for new titles that never happened, including the original Captain Britain, drawn by Eric Bradbury, and photographs of IPC insiders that offer an insight into how things were in those hallowed offices.
Well, I say hallowed, because that’s probably how some comic fans regard those comic publishers, but for those working at IPC perhaps they were just a little bit more mundane… Dez’s story of the scary tea lady, and the desperately sad treatment of original comic art, rather take the shine off any idealisation of a once major comics publisher. To say nothing of how you might shudder on learning of its rigid structure, which stifled any real innovation in its comics, a criticism levelled at IPC by many others, including John Sanders and Pat Mills.
Offering an enjoyable read of the very different publishing world of the 1970s, Sez Dez Book One not only gives us Skinn’s personal account of his early career, some warts and all, but a snapshot of how things used to be, back when individual weekly comics used to sell over 250,000 copies a week, and would be cancelled or merged if they fell below 200,000. Sales figures that enabled a comic to have four dedicated full time staff working on them, too, a far cry from today.
Along the way, you’ll also find out more about comics legends such as Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Frank Bellamy, Steve Parkhouse and others, and how they worked, and Dez offers some useful advice for those of you still wanting to work in publishing, too.
If you’re curious to learn how Dez broke into comics publishing, and find out how artists such as David Gibbons did too, then you may well want to pick up this autobiography, and if you’re curious about British comics publishing history then you will definitely want this for your shelf. A few minor photo pixelation glitches aside, this is well presented, hugely enjoyable and insightful read, and four more volumes are planned.
• Says Dez Book One is available now direct from Dez himself, for £17.50 including UK postage, PayPal to Dezskinn1@yahoo.co.uk