Heartbreak Hotel

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Number One: Teen Angels in Anguish. Cover by Barry Kamen.

Among the recent uploads at the Internet Archive is a complete run of Heartbreak Hotel, a British magazine six issues of which were published in 1988. (More or less…I think the first issue may have appeared at the end of 1987.) Heartbreak Hotel differed from other bi-monthly publications by being predominantly a comics magazine, but it also differed from other comics magazines by a) having the contents of each issue themed to follow a different musical genre, b) running articles by and interviews with people who had little or no connection to the comics world, and c) being a lot more openly sympathetic towards gay men and lesbians than any other magazine aimed at a general readership. The latter stance was a political one in 1988. This was the year when the Thatcher government, growing hubristic after a third election win, passed a Local Government Act whose notorious Section 28 prevented authorities from “promoting homosexuality”. The clause was designed to prevent Labour-run councils from funding gay and lesbian support groups, as well as to stop teachers from mentioning homosexuality in sex education lessons. The editors of Heartbreak Hotel, Don Melia and Lionel Gracey-Whitman, were a gay couple, so the magazine stood against the repressive atmosphere of the time without being too polemical or too serious. The polemic was more overt in affiliated publications Strip AIDS, a benefit comic for the London Lighthouse (a residential and daycare centre for people with AIDS), and AARGH (or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), a collection of comics taking a stand against Section 28 which was the first publication from Alan Moore’s Mad Love imprint.

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The other notable feature of Heartbreak Hotel was the attention it gave to new artists, to women artists, or to people who weren’t drawing generic action/adventure strips. The first two issues appeared while I was working on the last pages of my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu so I sent the magazine some sample pages and was subsequently invited to meet the editors at the launch of the next issue in London. I spent a somewhat nervous weekend in the capital; this was my first introduction to the wider comics world, and my introversion in those days was a lot more pronounced among strangers than it is today. I met Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie for the first time (separately—they weren’t a couple at that time), and was amused when Don made a point of telling me that he and Lionel were gay, something he evidently felt he had to declare even though it had been (for me, at least) quite obvious from the editorial stance of Heartbreak Hotel, as well as the camp graphics scattered throughout the magazine’s pages, and the fact that the publisher was co-named “Willyprods”.

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Dave Gibbons spills the beans in issue one.

The format of the magazine was established in the first issue: five or six strips based on songs that suited that issue’s theme, together with interviews or features, some of which also matched the theme. “Spill It!!” was a regular feature in which a different artist had a page to create an autobiographical piece in strip form, and there was also a column about comics and related matters by artist/writer Trina Robbins. I’d initially hoped to draw something for the psychedelic issue but by the time I posted my photocopies that number was already being prepared for print. I did turn up in the fourth issue, however, in a short news piece which announced the publication of the Caemaen Books edition of my Haunter of the Dark strip.

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Also from issue one, Alan Moore recounts his trip to the USA.

A more important outcome from my journey to London was Lionel’s offer to run The Call of Cthulhu in BLAAM, a spin-off comic that Willyprods/Small Time Ink was planning. Heartbreak Hotel had been inundated with work by talented newcomers so rather than make them wait for a slot in the parent magazine the editors decided to launch another title to provide an additional outlet for new creators. Lionel had been very impressed with my Lovecraft story, and also assisted with its conclusion when he suggested that I add an extra page to help the pacing near the end, something I did, and which I’ve been grateful for ever since. The first issue of BLAAM, printed on tabloid-size newsprint sheets, came bundled with issue five of Heartbreak Hotel. The idea was that BLAAM would continue separately as a free publication thanks to a combination of low production costs, advertising, and Don Melia’s contacts at Titan Distribution. This was all very exciting, especially when two more issues of BLAAM appeared soon after. My strip was slated to run in number four or five but Willyprods/Small Time Ink didn’t publish anything more after December 1988. I was disappointed by this but not for long. A year later I’d started working on the Savoy comics, and Steve Bissette offered to publish the Cthulhu strip in Lovecraft Lives, a book he was planning for Kevin Eastman’s new enterprise, Tundra Publishing. That one didn’t work out either—the stars weren’t right for a variety of reasons—but all this attention, and the enthusiasm shown by everyone involved with Heartbreak Hotel, made the comics world seem like a good place to be. For a while, anyway.

Continue reading “Heartbreak Hotel”

Duggie Fields, 1975

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RIP Duggie Fields, seen here in 1975 courtesy of Derek Jarman’s Super-8 camera. The occasion was an exhibition at the Kinsman-Morrison Gallery of Fields’ paintings, many of which are seen throughout the film, although the low light and poor quality of Super-8 stock doesn’t do them any favours. Fields and Jarman were both constituents of the mid-70s London art crowd known as “Them” so it’s no surprise to see other Them faces at the gallery, notably Andrew Logan interviewing all the attendees (the film is silent, unfortunately), and an insistently bare-breasted Nell Campbell, aka Little Nell, either just before or just after her appearance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This wasn’t the first or last time that Fields and Campbell had appeared before Jarman’s roaming lens, they’re both in an earlier Super-8 short, Ulla’s Fete, and in also Jubilee, while Fields may be found reclining in a toga during the opening scene of Sebastiane. For a better look at Fields’ paintings, plus some comment from the man himself, there’s this recent visit to his Earl’s Court studio.

Weekend links 505

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An imaginary book cover by Toby Melville-Brown.

• At the Internet Archive (for a change): Directory 1979, a collection of John Cooper Clarke’s poetry designed by Barney Bubbles; 25 issues of Wrapped in Plastic, the magazine devoted to all things David Lynch; and Cinefantastique, 1970–2002, the magazine about special effects in cinema whose making-of articles were often the first such analyses published anywhere. No contents list for the latter, unfortunately, but the covers shown here give an idea of the main features.

• “Physicist Andreas Schinner recounted a rumor that the Voynich manuscript can be ‘pure poison’ for a scholarly career, because when studying the manuscript there’s ‘always an easy option to make a ridiculous mistake.'” Jillian Foley on the strange quest to decipher the Voynich manuscript.

• At the BFI: Stephen Puddicombe examines six mysterious paintings on film, and Anna Bogutskaya selects ten examples of Lovecraftian cinema. Regarding the latter, I deplore the omission of Huan Vu’s Die Farbe (2011).

• In The Driver’s Seat: Neil Fox on the demented fun of Nicolas Winding Refn’s streaming site for cinematic obscurities, ByNWR.

• “Feed your head”: Akim Reinhardt on the progress of a White Rabbit from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s novel to Grace Slick’s song.

• Mixes of the week: Marshland: The Andrew Weatherall Mix, and Music’s Not For Everyone, hours of Weatherall mixes at NTS.

Borderland, an album of music by Fordell Research Unit based on The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.

• At Dangerous Minds: Thirteen-year-old Mariangela and her adventurous pop album, produced by Vangelis, 1975.

• Heavy Metal, Year One: Kory Grow on the inside story of Black Sabbath’s groundbreaking debut.

• “Theire Soe Admirable Herbe”: How the English Found Cannabis by Benjamin Breen.

Derek Jarman and friends in Dungeness: unseen pictures.

Closing periods at Flickr.

Heavy Rock (1976) by Sound Dimension | Heavy Denim (1994) by Stereolab | Heavy Soul (2002) by The Black Keys

Weekend links 503

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Rabbit Man with Skull Lady (1998) by Allan Kausch.

• “They were the first generation that said, ‘Fuck it, we’re not going to be intimidated.’ They weren’t going to make specifically pro-gay statements, but they were the first generation to really live that out. If you look at the Alternative Miss World, it’s a kind of gender-fuck, it’s almost like the English version of the Cockettes.” Jon Savage speaking in a piece by Alex Petridis about “Them” (Kevin Whitney, Luciana Martinez de la Rosa, Duggie Fields, Derek Jarman, Zandra Rhodes, Andrew Logan et al). Related: Andrew Logan in Andrew’s Adventures in Loganland.

• Sex, Satanism, Manson, Murder, and LSD: Kenneth Anger tells his tale. “Anger rarely if ever veers from the script as he is a man who has carefully controlled his myth and reputation for decades,” says Paul Gallagher.

• “Don’t even think about operating heavy machinery while listening to this mix.” The latest Dave Maier collection of recent ambient drift, drone-works and beatless atmospherics.

It is by no means easy to track or trace relationships between women, past or present. Women’s relationships with other women are often disguised: by well-documented marriages to men, by a cultural refusal to see what is in full view or even to believe such relationships exist. In a world built by and for men and their pursuits, a woman who loves women does not register—and is not registered, i.e., written down. Reasons for this layer one upon the other: A lesbian purposely hides her identity and remains closeted. A lesbian refuses to call herself a lesbian, disidentifying from the term and its associations for reasons personal or political. A woman does not know she is a lesbian—because she does not ever have a relationship with another woman, or because she is not aware that the relationships she engages in could be called lesbian. I didn’t call myself one for several years. Or, as in Carson’s case, her own self-understanding and identification are difficult to determine because of the efforts of those who outlived her and pushed her into the closet.

Jenn Shapland on the closeting of Carson McCullers

• At The Paris Review: The Collages of Max Ernst. Related: Kolaj: A directory of collage books.

Adam Scovell on the deathly hinterlands of Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face.

• When Dorothy Parker got fired from Vanity Fair, by Jonathan Goldman.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: The Proto-Psychedelic Art of CG Jung’s Red Book.

• The abstract, single-stroke paintings of Daigoro Yonekura.

Adam Gopnik on the seriousness of George Steiner.

Caligula MMXX

The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker (1987) by Prince | Lotus Collage (1979) by Laraaji | Death Collage (1992) by Snakefinger & The Residents

Weekend links 501

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Cover art by Michael Ashman, 1979.

• RIP Terry Jones, not only a writer, actor and director but also a presenter of the BBC’s short-lived Paperbacks series in 1981, a programme that included Angela Carter among its guests. Related: The Box (1981), a short film directed by Micky Dolenz, based on a play by Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

• “[David] Lynch in a suit and tie that echoes the formal dress of Twin Peaks’ FBI Agent Cooper, presses a small capuchin monkey, called Jack Cruz, to confess to the murder of Max.” What Did Jack Do?

• The week in Ghost Box: Flying Lotus and Julian House collaborate on a promo for the Moog Subsequent 25 synthesizer, while at Grave Goods Jim Jupp answers questions from beyond.

Bruce Sterling: “This is an essay about lists of moral principles for the creators of Artificial Intelligence. I collect these lists, and I have to confess that I find them funny.”

• A campaign to protect and maintain Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage.

• Winners of the Wiki Loves Monuments 2019 photo competition.

• Mix of the week: Sehnsucht by The Ephemeral Man.

• Susan Schulten on Emma Willard’s Maps of Time.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Roland Topor’s Brains.

• At Strange Flowers: 20 books for 2020.

Beat Box (1984) by Art Of Noise | Glory Box (1994) by Portishead | Black Box (1995) by Scorn