and Rendell. who make it all seem so effortless. and compared to which some ofthe younger writers' stories seem a bit jerky and contrived. But there are gems among them: Jeanette Winterson‘s (anti) Christmas story; Dyan Sheldon‘s nighttnare tale of a dead mother returning to inspect her daughter‘s life: Kate Pullinger‘s everyday story ofsexual harrassment (and revenge).

But it is the work of a previously unpublished writer which stands ottt. sparkling with wild imagination and rich language Ann Ziety"s mix of poems and prose pieces which together form ‘Tbe (‘ollected ExperienccsofSuzi Dishcloth'. It‘s to be hoped that ‘Storia 2' will contain more of Suzi‘s adventures. but in the meantime the first volume is worth buying for this alone. (Elizabeth Burns)


Voices From Twentieth Century Africa: Griots and Towncriers Selected by Chinweizu (Faber £6.95) The title of this anthology is in some respects tnisleading. since it is not wholly a collection of 20th century African writing. but also contains ancient poems. tales. and songs which have long been ignored by A frica‘s literary and educational establishment. (‘hinweizu’s argument is that the African literature that the west has been exposed to is not in fact ‘truc' African literature but is what he calls ‘euro-assimilationist'. It is the product of the languages and educational systems left by the colonial powers. and which encourage Africans to downgrade their own cultural traditions in favour of foreign antecedents and forms.

Chinweizu argues that the dominant cultural form in Africa is the oral tradition of ‘(iriots and Towncriers‘ a (iriot being a story-teller who hands down communal memory from generation to generation. His purpose is to highlight the role played by this oral tradition within African culture and to ‘make a small contribution toward harvesting Africa’s literary classics.‘

The anthology therefore contains no works by Ngugi or Netos. authors one might expect to find in an anthology of African literature. but it is an extremely interesting collection which reveals the wealth and depth ofwriting in Africa which we in the west have long failed to recognise. (Derek W. Logic)

Prize Update

Following the Saltire Society‘s example. the McVitie's Scottish Writer of the Year £5000 award went to Edwin Mickleburgh for his book Beyond the Frozen Sea and Bernard MacLaverty for his collection of short stories The Great Profundo. McVitie's splashed out with another £5000. to avoid a halving of the prize value.

I The Complete Jack the Ripper Donald Rumbelow (Penguin 'l'rue (‘rime £4.99): Crippen: The Mild Murderer'l'om (‘ullen (Penguin True (‘rime £3.99); The Riddle of Birdhurst Richard Whittington-Egan (Penguin True (‘rime £3.99): Who Killed Hanratty Paul Foot (Penguin True (‘rime £4.99) (iory re-talcs.

I Letters Between Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray Selected and edited by (‘herry A. llankin (Virago £12.95) Side-effects of the pain of separation: tender. touching. instructive.

I House of Cards Edited by Simon Hoggart (Eltn Tree Books £7.95) A select committee of political sketches by fifteen observers from the Rogues' (iallery. The ayes have it. though Hansard's better value.

I The Bedside Guardian 37 Edited by Hugh Hebert ((‘ollins £10.95) Slip between the sheets with Stephen Fry. Adam Sweeting. Polly 'l‘oynbee. William Trevor et a/ for a literal-free orgy.

I Generation of Swine l lunter S. Thompson (Picador £4.95) llunt has the howitzer out again but the targets are barely worth a projectile vomit. True. it‘s hard to beat about Bush but at least his old adversary. Richard Milhous Nixon. is still around and (ionzo can't let a sleeping cur lie.

wea...6 DEATH’ 5 HEAD

Alastair Mabbot presents the first edition ofa new column chronicling the rise and rise ofcomics.

This month sees the launch of Death '3 Head. a new addition to the British Marvel Comics stable. and one aimed at strengthening the position and identity of the UK end of the vast American-based Marvel operation.

The adventures of the mechanical bounty hunter— or ‘freelance peacekeeping agent‘. as the android

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prefers to be known are chronicled by writer Simon Furman and artist Bryan Hitch who. mindered by editor Richard Starkings. signed copies of the first issue at the AKA comic shop in Virginia Street. Glasgow. Overrun by fans eager for Furman and Hitch‘s signatures. employees confessed to being taken aback by the interest. "This is the sort of turnout you‘d get for 212()()()Al) signing session.‘ said one. ‘We hadn‘t expected this at all.’

While Furman and Hitch nursed their cramped wrists Starkings. group editor of the company‘s boys‘ adventure line. explained Death's Head‘s role in Marvel U K’s response to changing times. ln the last decade British Marvel has moved on from reprinting old American stories in black and white. crudely Anglicising spelling and continuity with Tipp-Ex and leaking technical pens. to the stage where they are primarily concerned with full-colour toy and TV tie-in titles. Transformers and The Real Ghost/tasters being their biggest sellers.

Now comes Death‘s I lead. who began life as a villain in Transformers. and by way of a backup Dr Who strip was transported to the hero title Dragon '3' (latex. All along the way his creators were convinced that he was ‘too good to waste‘.

‘1 le can make you laugh. he‘s the sort ofcharacter you can laugh at. and he still looks like a mean son of a bitch.‘ says Starkings. ‘That is partly the appeal ofludgc Dredd. who‘s also very popular.‘ Indeed. though he does belong to Marvel‘s competitor lPC‘.

The growth in specialist. or direct sale. comic shops over the last few years is a real phenomenon. It is this market. which can support a title which will never see the shelves of John Menzies. let alone a corner newsagents. at which Death 's Head is experimentally aimed. Being juvenile titles. Marvel UK’s biggest sellers have never been given tnuch space in the shelves of these shops.

‘On the strength of what we‘ve been doing with Transformers and The Real Ghost/tasters we decided that in order to secure our place in the comics market we had to explore the avenue of the direct sales market. ()ur next launch is a title called The Sleaze Brothers. which is not aimed at the same market as Death '3' Head and Dragon '5 Claws. It's aimed at something more approximating the 2000/1 D/ Viz readership. it‘s got a cult appeal to it. We‘re launching that both on the news-stands and in direct sale shops. but it will be a limited series ofsix issues. which is a very successful form in direct sale shops. but an experiment on the news-stands.‘

The success of 2000A I). particularly among adult readers. showed that British comic creators can work outside the stifling restrictions of a ‘children”s medium and still make a success. Besides

those making a living on British comics like 2000A 1) some have graduated to the US market. In the Marvel camp stories for Transformers had to be originated in Britain to fill the gap between the monthly US issues. and were generally felt to be of higher quality than the imported reprints. Moreover. Alan Moore. the man acknowledged as the Western World's major comics writer. lives in Northampton. America recognises the wealth of talent in this country. so what now is the relation between Marvel U K and L’S‘.’

‘To a degree we are autonomous. for example. we got the licence to do The Real (ihoxtlmsters but Marvel US didn't. Marvel US advised us not to pick it up. but at the moment it‘s our best-selling weekly. We are trusted to know our market. Bttt what Tom deFalco (American cditor-in-chief) and I want to do is to make it look like one company. That's why Death '5 Head looks very much like an American US title.

‘We’re very anxious for creators to perceive us as one company because for quite some time Marvel UK has been a nursery for people who go on to work for 2000A I) and D(‘ comics. Alan Davis. who’s a name well known in British comics fandom. is now working on the biggest-selling Marvel US book. l:'.t'ett/1’l)ttr. but he's one ofonly a handful.‘ (Alastair Mabbott)


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by Louise Armand Illustrated throughout in colour 1 £14.95 Hardback

Available from all good bookshops

RICHARD DREW PUBLISHING Ltd 6 Clairmont Gardens Glasgow G3 YLW

The List 9 22 December 1988 77