Someone jokingly asked me, a few months back, what I’d do if I were running a comics publishing company. They meant Marvel or DC. But that’s not me.
This is me:
That is 5.25 inches on one side and about 7.7 inches on the long side. It contains 96 pages within its perfect-bound card covers, and in this book 94 pages of them are comics.
And it’s black and white.
This is the old Paradox Mystery format, which, to my mind, did everything right. Except that each book was a three-part serial, released monthly. And bookstores, the natural audience for these works, do not accommodate monthly serials. Even Stephen King couldn’t make it work. Each one should have been a 96-page standalone work.
It is otherwise very nearly perfect as a format. All Andy Helfer had to do was to push back against everyone who wanted serial works, and say, no, these are going to be self-contained books for reading in a single sitting, like Georges Simenon’s MAIGRET books.
But it was not to be. Though I should note that this line produced A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, which became the film directed by David Cronenberg.
The Paradox books had a roughly unified trade dress, but it needed something just a little more flexible and a little more eyecatching. It needed Romek Marber, frankly. I’ve talked many times before about the Marber Grid, the template created in 1961 for Penguin Books.
I can daydream about setting Rian Hughes to generate his own Hughes Grid, right? And Rian styling them all with his own typefaces?
I could happily have spent much of my life just writing three of these a year. 90-page black and white stories in a comfortable format that makes you want to curl up with them for an hour or two. I could have had a rack of them like Ingmar Bergman movies by now.
The Paradox Mystery books are, of course, from the mid-Nineties. Before manga exploded in the bookstore market. What were outliers back then are possibly right in the zone today. Nobody’s listened to me about this over the last twenty years and nobody will listen to me about it now. And quite rightly, because I’m entirely mad.
I would only publish three kinds of graphic novels. Fiction, Documentary and Theory. I would go bankrupt in about eight minutes. I would love every second.
(Also. yes, I have had that copy of HUNTER’S HEART to hand since 1995. It’s a lost future.)