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Light's List of Literary Magazines 2004

Every budding writer seeking publication needs a small 'toolkit' of items to help them reach that goal. Setting aside the question of talent, a dictionary is a must, as is a market guide that provides comprehensive information on where to send those masterpieces when they are completed. One of the most informative directories of small press titles is Light's List. Published annually, Light's List contains 72 pages of detailed information on publications based all over the world - it doesn't critique the zines it includes, and no recommendations are made, so if you want to check that your material will fit in with a zines' criteria you are advised to buy a copy of the target zine. Light's List 2004 is the nineteenth edition and contains listings for 1450 small press titles from around the world. It's arguably the most cost effective investment a writer can make in support of their writing.


Price: £3.00

Contact: John Light, Photon Presss, The Light House, 37 The Meadows, Berwick Upon Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 1NY. United Kingdom.



Roadworks - Pure Fiction 1 (#12 Summer 2001 - ISSN: 1463-2322)

Fiction anthology zines come in all sizes and shapes, many with barely acceptable quality selections of work by hungry for print wannabees. Roadworks (full title Roadworks - Tales From The Hard Road) looks different, especially so with this special fiction only issue, the contributors to be found within its 118 pages are some of the small press's most talented 'old lags' and the hottest of hot new wannabees.

Roadworks is a digest sized paperback format anthology, featuring the work of Cliff Burns, Andrew Hook, Helen Anderton, Eoin Henderson, Neil Williamson, Allen Ashley, Peter Tenant, Joel Lane, and many more. The range of fiction seems to cover all the usual suspects: slipstream, horror, science fiction, experimental and the unclassifiable [aka: the unreadable]. Though thankfully the latter is minimal in this book. I found most of the fiction acceptable if unmemorable, nothing really reached out and grabbed me, demanding post-reading analysis - but I'm the first to admit that that could be down to me, another reader might well find many of these stories exceptional. All I will say is that Roadworks is an extremely well produced and handsome looking magazine well worth trying if enjoy a wide range of fiction genres.


Price: (UK/USA/Europe/ RoW): £5.00/$8.00/£6.00 /£6.50 Subscription (two issues): £9.50/$15.00 /£11.50/£12.50. Cheques/ POs etc., payable to T. Denyer.

Contact: Trevor Denyer, 7 Mountview, Church Lane West, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3LN, U.K.



All Weekend With The Lights On - Mark Wisniewski
(Leaping Dog Press, $14.95, ISBN 1-58775-002-3)

This is a collection of short tales and vignettes about a variety of ordinary people - I don't use the term ordinary in a derogatory way, these people are your everyday Joes just trying to get by. No heroes, evil supercrims or whatever. However most of them live in that shadowy zone where a nudge to their psyche could push them either way. There are the two polish-American brothers in Three-Quarters Stitched, both bakers with woman problems; In Pocket, a slacker becomes a gambler and loser; Unknown Rook describes a tragedy at a baseball game; In 3x5 Steve a jilted lover gets conned with a junk car radio; two rock guitarists chew the fat about old times in Undiscovered; Pushing Ahead is a vignette on sex and being a student. And so it goes on.

All the characters in these fourteen stories are pretty much losers to some degree. Some are more noble than others, some straddle the fine line between law-abiding and crime. Most of them seem to be drifting aimlessly through life, like the majority of us, thankful for small victories against the grand ennui of our existence. Mark Wisniewski has an eye for characterisation and dialogue that make these tales live for the moment, and perhaps last a little longer in the memory.


Contact: Leaping Dog Press, PO Box 222605, Chantilly, VA 20153-2605, USA.



The 3rd Alternative #29 [ISSN 1352 3783]

It has been many years since I last saw an issue of TTA - back then it was an A5 booklet just beginning to stretch itself out of the confines of the usual science fiction small press zine. Now it is a fully illustrated A4 magazine with colour cover and quite visually stunning graphic design spread across the pages. TTA is now a 'proper' magazine or journal with a wide range of articles, reviews and fiction. There are interviews with writers M.John Harrison and Steve Aylett, a profile of writer Jeff Lint, and a thought-provoking article by Christopher Fowler on 'The Cinematic Experience' and another on the movies of the Brothers Quay. Fiction is provided by Andrew Humphrey, Barry Fischler, Leslie What, Tim Lees, Tony Richards, Charlie Williams, Jay Lake and SD Tullis.

I don't think there is much to touch Open The Box by Andrew Humphrey, a depressingly real sounding tale of a young womans' suicide and it's effect on a stranger. Barry Fisher's Song For Edna is a rather expressionistic portrait of a jazz saxophonist with a strange vision. Most bizarre tale is That Jellyfish Man Keeps A-Rollin by Leslie What, a very outre sci-fi story of human genetic manipulation where the elderly seem to have the right to be mutated into whatever shape they want to be. A more traditional alien appears in Tim Lees' The Life To Come, though it's effect on a human couple isn't too much of a surprise. Anyway, these are the stories that stayed in the mind after reading TTA #29. Editor Andy Cox has worked hard to make TTA as distinctive as possible, and it's worked in spades.


1 issue = £4.00, $7.00, 6 issues = £21.00, $33.00, 12 issues = £42.00, $66.00

Contact: TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs, CB6 2LB.



The Whirligig #5 (Spring 2002)

Subtitled "Pulp with a pulse", Whirligig exudes the principles of small press publishing as fun - whack it in and whack it out... So what we have is 88 pages of fiction, poetry, comment and artwork, and having gone along that route myself in the past I can appreciate how much hard work goes into the publishing. For some reason there is an "Explicit Content" warning sticker on the cover, but I'm not sure why, none of the fiction seems to be contentious to me, and the only strong language is in the editorial column which expands on the theme of "Why The Fuck Should I Waste My Time Reading A Story, Motherfucker?" - editor Frank J Marcopolos posits the view that fiction should be at the very least entertaining, any other intellectual baggage is a bonus. And as a fellow editor that is a view I agree with, no matter how colourfully Frank puts it.

Onto the fiction: Nick Mamatas' The Birth of Western Civilisation is a rather neat black comedy utilising the Greek Gods such as Zeus and Hera and the philosopher Socrates, and suggesting that the Gods do not live up to their own press. Next up is Stick And Move by Emerson Dameron, a quirky portrait of a mugging. Jennifer Callahan's Perpetual Motion is a rather sad tale of familial breakdown on an emotional level. Thankfully, Jeffrey Somers' The Amazing Martin Landawer is another humorous piece, about a nonentity who finds his life insidiously shadowed by one of life's winners... all the way to the grave. Well, these are the tales that remain in my mind, but the rest of the zine is also very readable and if you like your fiction entertaining then The Whirligig might be for you.


Cost: $3.00 per issue.

Contact: The Whirligig, 4809 Avenue N #117, Brooklyn, NY 11234, USA.


Argo Press


Price: $6.95 [#1], $5.95 [#2], $7.95 [#3], $7.95 [#4], $7.95 [#5], $7.95 [#6], $7.95 [#7]

Contact: Michael Ambrose, Argo Press, PO Box, 4201, Austin, Texas, TX 78765-4201, USA.


Charlton Spotlight #7

Charlton Spotlight #7Back when I was a kid in the 60's here in the UK American comics were distinctly frowned on by parents and they certainly were not considered to be an art form like they are today. So I don't think I was ever exposed to any of the Charlton Comics family of titles back then - or even now. At that time most American comics were imported as ballast on freighter and sold for pennies via the local Woolworths - now sadly gone. However, I have been a reader of Michael Ambrose's Charlton Spotlight since issue #1, and it has been an impressive project chronicling the history of the company, its writers and artists and, of course, its product over the decades. Charlton Spotlight #7 focusses on two main topics in this issue: An interview with George Wildman and Hy Eisner, editor and cartoonists mainly associated with the Popeye comics, and reminiscences about former Charlton editor/artist and later DC Comics editor and executive, Dick Giordano. Along with the Charlton Comics Checklist and a letter page there is a prolific selection of cartoon examples spread across the 40 pages. Subscribers and direct buyers also receive a mini comic book, #2 of Charlton Spotlight Classic Reprint Comics, taken from Space Adventures, it is the complete strip called The Devil Masters Of Algol, and is a lot of fun. It is also a classic example of the work of Dick Giordano and potentially a collectors item. Obviously the Spotlight is for the fans of Charlton's comics, but the Spotlight also acts as a folk history on an art form that was, and is, uniquely American. It may be a niche part of American culture but it was an art form that inspired thousands of children and teenagers and many of them have held onto their affection for this publisher into middle age and later. There are very few British comics of that time that have a similar attachment to the reader - perhaps the Eagle, Dandy and Beano, and later on 2000 AD come to mind. One has to applaud Mike Ambrose and his team of contributors for their devotion to what was considered disposable junk at the time. The amount of information in each issue of the Charlton Spotlight is amazing and it is building into a valuable resource. If your blood flows with comics ink then this magazine is a must buy. Highly recommended.


Charlton Spotlight #6

Charlton Spotlight #6After a lengthy hiatus here is the latest Charlton Spotlight, hot off the presses and a special issue too! Whereas all the previous issues have focused on articles, interviews and art galleries drawn on the comics published by Charlton Comics, and the people who created them, Spotlight #6 contains two complete and unpublished comics strips that should have the Charlton fans wetting themselves with pleasure. The two comics are E-Man: Future Tense by Nick Cuti and Joe Staton, and Michael Mauser, P.I.: Fish Story, by the same team of writer and artist. Never having read any Charlton Comics or these comics in particular I can't compare them against their earlier work, but I found both stories entertaining, well drawn and worthy of inclusion after all these years. Editor Mike Ambrose has also drawn on his portfolios and files to compile a gallery of photographs, letters, drawing samples by various Charlton staff to give a flavour of what the Charlton experience was like. The rest of the magazine contains the editorial and letters pages plus Part Five of the Charlton Comic Checklist, dealing with the years 1967-1971. And to put the garnish on this very tasty dish, the front cover sports a full colour drawing of E-Man and his partner Nova by Joe Staton, and the back cover is an unpublished horror colour cover illustration by Pat Boyette, with its source drawn from the mind of Robert E. Howard. As always, the Spotlight is an impressively put together job of design and content - speaking as an ex-fanzine editor/publisher myself, I can appreciate how much blood sweat and tears went into this issue. And that was literal this time as Mike completed work on the mag while recovering from a serious automobile accident. That is sheer bloody-minded determination for you!


Charlton Spotlight #5

There's a near immutable law in small press circles that the more you publish the better you get. It doesn't really work out for every zine or semi pro-zine, of course [and I speak from first hand experience on this] but in the case of Charlton Spotlight it is certainly the truth. With every issue of this tribute to pulp comics publisher Charlton Comics Group the production values and the content have improved in a linear scale of measurement - and the debut issue [see above] was damn good to start with. Editor/publisher Mike Ambrose certainly puts his all into every issue, even if it is now only annually published - simply because this labour of love takes so long to put together!

And so another year and another issue, this time focused on comics writer Joe Gill, who single handedly seemed to have written a large percentage of Charlton's comics, plus the output for other comics publishers as well. From the stories told here it seems incredible that Mr Gill could knock out the story for a comic in hours if not minutes when required - indeed, he seems to have even written the entire contents of many comics and magazines single-handedly, which seems incredible in this day and age. And his peers interviewed here certainly seem to hold him in some awe - something Mr Gill himself most certainly didn't. Wrapped around the main article are remembrances of the writer by his colleagues and peers, giving an insight into what it was like to provide material for the insatiable world of comics back in the 50s and 60s. Also included are articles on Captain Atom, The Ultimate Evil, artists Jim Aparo and Steve Ditko and a reprint of Ditko's "The Great Martian Drought", and enough other goodies to fill 84 large pages.

I never really caught the comics bug as a kid, but then here in the UK American comics were so different from the home grown monochromed variety, their brash colours and covers and superheroes were frowned on by parents who preferred we read about the exploits of sportsmen and WWII heroes trashing the Krauts and Nips. So my exposure to them was extremely limited and still is today. So something like the Spotlight is a dip into a world unknown to me, in particular, but not to the true fan who will soak up every word and image on these pages and relive again their passion for comics. If you still read and collect Charlton's comics and magazines then you will want this issue of the Spotlight - for the history, and for the memories.


Charlton Spotlight #4 (Argo Press, $7.95)

Comics and nostalgia are two subjects absolutely made for each other, and with the post WWII babyboomers now well and truly mature they are looking back at the 'good old days' with an eye that is both detailed and affectionate. Here in the UK Charlton Comics were never a major player, their comics usually coming over as ballast on freighters and sold cheaply in Woolworth's for a penny or two. But in America, their homeplace, Charlton fought the good fight on the newstand against Marvel, DC and many other comics publishers. It has to be said that Charlton's comics were mostly pulp titles that didn't compete with the Supermans and Batmans of the superhero world. The flair and imagination may have been lacking but the sense of fun and the telling of a good yarn was there. And this feeling permeates throughout every page of Charlton Spotlight.

A labour of love edited and published by Michael Ambrose, CS is an impressive journal that is essential for any collector and reader of the Charlton comics lines. The latest 80 page issue is themed around the work and life of artist/writer Pete 'PAM' Morisi, one of the stalwart contributors to Charlton's comics. This consists of memoirs, interviews and commentary from Morisi's colleagues, and a generous selection of artwork from a variety of comics he worked on. Along with this the issue also contains the usual letters pages, comics checklist and other Charlton related goodies.

Now, I have to admit that having never read a Charlton comic in my life, or having even heard of the publisher before Mike started sending me his mag, I am not the prime audience this mag is aimed at. But, one can appreciate the sheer hard work and commitment and good journalism crammed between these 80 odd pages. And I'm pleased to say that having started the project simply for a few like-minded friends and collectors, Mike's hard work has been rewarded with substantial orders from bookshops and newstands. What started out as a high concept fanzine is now a semi pro zine with a deservedly high reputation. If you have any interest in comics and their history you really need to order the Charlton Spotlight!


Charlton Spotlight #3

It has been quite some time since the last issue of this magazine dedicated to the comics publisher Charlton, but this bumper issue, a fat 76 pages thick and with a colour cover was well worth the wait. Having done my own share of small press editing and publishing I know full well how much blood, sweat and tears [and valuable personal time] goes into producing something of this high calibre. Add to the fact that editor/publisher/Jack o' all trades Michael Ambrose also became a grandfather during this issue's gestation period and you wonder how on earth it all came together!

So, we have the third issue of Charlton Spotlight, an issue rich in nostalgia for comics fans. This issue is predominantly a tribute to Charlton veteran writer/artist Tom Sutton, who recently passed away. There are interviews, reminiscences, and anecdotes from his peers and fans, plus many examples of this talented man's work. Tom Sutton was obviously a man held in high regard by comics aficionados and his professional peers alike, so there is much here for Charlton followers to enjoy, including a gallery of his cover artwork and an index to his work.

The remainder of the magazine includes interviews and articles about other Charlton alumni including Jose Delbo, Henry Scarpelli, PAM, Jack Keller and Grass Green. The latest instalment of the Charlton Comics Checklist and the usual roundup of editorial, letters and reviews complete the package.

In terms of production values, the Spotlight continues to excel, the marbled paper cover is in colour, the paper stock used is whiter than white and thick, so the repro's of covers and comic panels stand out from the text and everything is clearly legible. If one were looking for an example of the small press to act as a showcase then this is it.


Charlton Spotlight #2

It doesn't seem like that long since the debut issue was published, but here is issue #2 with another compendium of information and personal memories from fans and professionals alike. As before we have a very nifty 44 page, letter-sized zine with glossy paper covers and the zine is profusely illustrated throughout with covers and panel artwork from a huge variety of Charlton comics.

Charlton Spotlight #2The contents this issue continue the good work of the first issue: Remembering Pat Boyette Part 2, Wild Bill Speaks Out: A Conversation With Bill Black, It's A Long Way To Derby, Charlton Classic Reprint: Give Back My Body, Origin Of A Superhero: Mr Jigsaw & Charlton Comics, The Division Street Ramble, and Charlton Comics Checklist Year By Year, Part 1: 1944-1954.

I'm not sure if Charlton ever made much inroads into the UK market - I certainly don't ever recall seeing any comics with their logo back in my youth. But I don't think we British kids back in the 50s and 60s were really clued in to American comics - it wasn't until the late 60s and the 70s that US comics became something more than cheap paper and garish pictures and began to be considered as an artform and cultural reference point. We have a lot of catching up to do...

The various interviews, articles and remembrances plus the letters and e-mails on the letters pages build up a fascinating portrait of a comics publisher that might not have matched DC or Marvel for flash superheroes but produced countless comics of all types that are still held in high respect by the now grown-up kids who read them decades ago. The Charlton Spotlight is a labour of love, both for Mike Ambrose who created, edited and published it, and for the fans reading it.


Charlton Spotlight #1

When I was a kid my parents frowned on American comics and I rarely managed to get my hands on such disapproved treasures outside of the school playground. Of course, things are different now and I dip in and out of American comics whenever I feel like it. But this is only scratching the surface, the merest tip of the iceberg, and one needs guides to point you towards the worthy and away from the ... well, the utter crap that was also published. So a comics journal such as the Charlton Spotlight is a damn useful tool.

Debut issue of the Charlton ChronicleTo be specific, the Charlton Spotlight was created by fans to chronicle the wonders of the Charlton Comics Group, one of DC and Marvel Comics' many competitors in what was a very cut-throat industry. Edited and Published by Argos Press' Michael Ambrose, this debut issue is a very professional looking piece of work, US letter size with 52 pages and stuffed full of comic artwork, memories and information - printing/paper quality is superb, by the way. #1 is a tribute to a much underrated comics writer and artist, Pat Boyette, who sadly passed on recently. Along with his comic skills Pat Boyette had also been a radio and tv presenter, an adman, and a movie director and scriptwriter during his extremely varied life. From the tributes by other comics people he was very highly regarded, and I can see from the many examples included that he was a superb artist with a way of creating a distinctive atmosphere to any frame he had penned. The remaining pages of this debut issue contain a Charlton Comics checklist, which the editor admits is incomplete and both he and the checklist contributor are actively seeking further information to make this section of future issues more authoritive.

For the occasional comics reader like myself the Charlton Spotlight is an interesting insight into the world of comics - however, for the comics aficionado this will be a fascinating introduction to a comics imprint long out of print, and a guide to what is collectible - if you can find them. Let's home that Charlton Spotlight has a long and fruitful life.




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