A special issue of one of Britain’s best-known, most influential comic fanzines of the 1970s, is in the works. Following up on the publication Comics Unlimited: My life as a Comic Collector and Dealer, Alan Austin’s posthumous book about comics and his story collection about bookselling, the preparation of a final issue of Comics Unlimited, is underway, again with the permission of Alan’s literary estate.
As with his books, this is a non-profit project, in Alan’s memory.
The late Alan Austin (The Guv’nor) was one of the most respected figures in British comic book fandom, who did much to inspire and enthuse many others in the field. Two books he wrote, Comics Unlimited: My life as a Comic Collector and Dealer, and The Adventures of Bernie Burrows, Bookseller, a series of short stories based on his life as a book dealer, were independently published, by Fantasy Unlimited Books in 2021.
Alan was the first full-time comics dealer in the UK, and published many fanzines about American comic books throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, including Fantasy Unlimited (later Comics Unlimited, which, at its height, had a regular print run of 2000 copies), the first Comic Book Price Guide for Great Britain, the Golden Age fanzine and the DC and Marvel Comics Indexes.
Comics Unlimited No. 54, written and compiled by Nigel Brown, promoted by Ian Baker, will be the final issue of the fanzine Alan started in 1975, which will include a celebration of Alan’s immense contribution to UK fandom in the 1970s and early 1980s.
“We’re looking to identify individuals who were past contributors to Fantasy Unlimited/Comics Unlimited back in the 1970s,” Ian told downthetubes, “and who would be willing to submit memories, anecdotes, etc.”
It will give an opportunity for any previous contributors to Fantasy Unlimited and/or Comics Unlimited to be back in the fanzine one last time, with personal memories and anecdotes about Alan, and letters to ‘Mail Unlimited’.
• For contributor guidelines, please send an inquiry to Nigel Brown at email@example.com | Any contributions need to be received by 31st January 2024
Books by Alan Austin
Published with the permission of Deborah Hyde and the Estate of Alan Austin, Comics Unlimited: My life as a Comic Collector and Dealer details Alan’s life in comics, and his experiences as a comic collector and dealer from the early days of comic book fandom, beginning in the 1960s.
“It’s a comfort that he left a body of work, including this book about comics, for us to again hear his voice through his words,” says Nigel, “and we can all enjoy another conversation with Alan, if one-sided, about our mutual enthusiasm: the American comic book.”
The book is text-only, so you may want to complement your reading with a visit to the Classic UK Comic Zines Archive site, where you can find a collection of read-only British fanzines from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Alan later became a respected book and dealer. He never wrote a non-fiction book about this second career, but he did write a series of short stories based on his life as a book dealer: The Adventures of Bernie Burrows, Bookseller, the stories of a reader, collector, and seller of books.
His world is populated by people struggling through the calamities of life, as is Bernie himself. But Bernie doggedly pursues his vocation despite growing competition from other bookdealers and websites, and an increasingly difficult public.
Join Bernie as he risks a late night opening of his bookshop in the hope of “the big sale”, encounters the phantom book-leaver, faces a life-or-death locked room mystery he has to solve, sets off on an expedition across the streets of Chicago in search of dust-jacketed treasure, and many more adventures.
Alan wrote a these stories to chronicle the disappearing world of the second-hand bookshops and bookdealers, written with an honesty and perception that only an insider could relate.
Both books have been independently published as both ebook and physical editions through Amazon, and are available worldwide.
• Read Nigel Brown’s article on Alan Austin and the background to publishing these books on Super Stuff in the Bronze Age – musings on comic collecting and Super Stuff in Portsmouth & Southsea in the fun 1970s
(Cover scans by David Hathaway-Price)
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.