Monday, April 28, 2008

The Blank Slate of Kenny Penman...

Over at Matthew Badham's Overspill blog there is an interview with Kenny Penman all about his new venture; Blank Slate Books.

Kenny, as some may know, is one of the men at the top of Forbidden Planet International.
He's also a very nice bloke, incredibly passionate about comics and full of near religious zeal when it comes to getting some things out in front of an audience.
It was Kenny who started the idea of having an FPI blog & it was Kenny who asked me if I'd fancy doing some reviewing on it like I used to in Nostalgia & Comics.
Indeed, if we'd have known how much Kenny, Jim and many others at FPI loved the idea of comics and comic shops back when they took over Nostalgia & Comics I doubt we'd have been so worried about it.
So I have to say that I like the man. He's also a great emailer - never bothering to hold back on a subject if he's particularly fired up about it.

But Blank Slate books is something else entirely. It's an incredibly brave decision to start up in these troubled times. But I'm really hopeful for them. From Matthew's interview:
Who are Blank Slate?

Blank Slate is basically myself and my original business partner James Hamilton. We've owned Sci Fi Bookshop in Edinburgh since around 1986 (it started in 1975) and later tied up with Mike Lake and Nick Landau to open Forbidden Planet stores in a joint project. Those are now the Forbidden Planet International stores around the country as well as in Dublin.

What made you decide that there was a need for Blank Slate?

In truth, I'm not sure there is. I think the small press has shown it is capable of getting a lot of good material to consumers on its own - look at the likes of Dave Sim, Sam Hiti, Eleanor Davis in the US - Bob Byrne, David Hitchcock, Simone Lia and many more in the UK. They are all producing excellent comics and producing their own books through self-publishing. I think if you want to do it and can find the financial wherewithal to print it, you can produce great work without a publisher.

I guess Blank Slate is here for those who don't want to go down that route and for some foreign comics unlikely to be translated otherwise. Ultimately though it is really because both James and myself have been comics fans since we were about five, have spent a lot of our adult life around comics, are still big comics readers and fancied having a go at publishing stuff we liked which we hoped others would as well.

What is Blank Slate's objective?

You know, I don't think we really have one as such - except to try and get our books to the widest possible market. We hope to put out as many comics as the company can afford from the revenues each release brings in (the start-up capital has come from our own individual pockets), to print some interesting material, to try and nurture some home grown UK talent into finding a readership.
Of course, talking about this could have been a minefield. Like being asked what you think of your mom's cooking. Not wanting to offend someone and trying to walk a very difficult tightrope.
Except that's not the case here. Blank Slate's first two books are looking very good indeed.
"We Can Still Be Friends" by Mawil is new to me but looks lovely. But the clincher for how good Blank Slate can be is their first release: Train Are .... Mint by Oliver East. I've already blogged about this so you have an idea of how excited I am by this one. It's a sublime book and I'm looking forward to having the beautiful Hardback collection of the first three issues on my bookcase very, very much.

So I think Blank Slate is a great idea. The first two releases look fantastic.
Trains Are ... Mint deserves to be a breakthrough book lauded by the sort of people who loved Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes.
But whatever you think of the material, it's never a bad thing to have someone come along wanting to publish the sorts of comics that we rarely see over here. But having talked to Kenny about this, it's not just a vanity press thing. There are plans in place for a continuing stream of unseen material, some old, some new, some foreign, some British and there's even promises of a few surprises along the line as well. A good thing for the comics industry.

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