Way back when, in the thankfully dim recesses of my earlier life in the so-called corridors of power of one of the UK’s then biggest financial organisations, I was frequently called upon to prepare snappy paragraphs that outlined both the business’s commercial thrust and its moralistic stance . . . generally awkward bedfellows at best in that they need to placate and even please not only the City but also the punters. They were called ‘mission statements’ and they’re still around.
Here’s the BBC’s: “To enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.”
Not bad, I reckon. They have a vision, too: “To be the most creative organisation in the world.” That one sounds a bit like a cross between Wodehouse and Blue Peter: To be a jolly good egg all round, what!
And it doesn’t even end there: they also have values (there’s a few of these):
(1) “Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.”
(2) “Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.”
(3) “We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.”
(4) “Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation.” (We think the guy who wanted this one in is the same guy who came up with the vision.)
(5) “We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.”
(6) “We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.”
Now let’s get one thing straight: I have not singled out the BBC for snidey underhanded digs. I simply Googled ‘mission statements’ and the BBC’s was the first specific statement from an actual company after four general references to mission statements per se. The next one was Coca Cola . . . a triptych, no less:
(1) “To refresh the world.”
(2) “To inspire moments of optimism and happiness.”
(3) “To create value and make a difference.”
There’s a fairly cosmic and even New Age Religion feel to these, I feel. They sound like they need finger cymbals and tambourines playing in the background, with the all-pervading smell of patchouli oil holding court. Kind of like the stuff spouted by Galactus when he sent good ol’ Norrin Radd off to roam the space lanes on his surfboard.
But maybe the most famous mission statement for folks who immerse themselves in the worlds of fantasy, horror and science fiction is this one: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Yes, it’s the mission statement of the Starship Enterprise, which set off on its course in 1966--though the smart money has it that its genesis actually occurred some years earlier, in 1958, in a White House booklet entitled Introduction to Outer Space.
But the one that made it onto our TV screens wasn’t the first stab. That particular honor belongs thus: “This is the adventure of the United Space Ship Enterprise. Assigned a five year galaxy patrol, the bold crew of the giant starship explores the excitement of strange new worlds, uncharted civilizations, and exotic people.” Which morphed into this clunker: “A five year patrol of the galaxy. To seek out and contact all alien life. To explore. To travel the vast galaxy, where no man has gone before. A Star Trek.”
Yeah, right. Thank God they went with the one we know and love. But, of course, that’s only because we know and love it. Familiarity is the name of this particular game.
And so it came to pass, when my good friend and business partner on PS Artbooks, Paul Stephenson, suggested that—given the existence of PS itself these past 14 years and 250+ titles—we needed some kind of statement explaining the need for the new company, I was the hapless soul at whom the fingers of those assembled were quickly pointed. Alas, no excuses were acceptable—even I could see that—and so, even though I had just gone to the meeting for a coffee, I left with a new task: to set the records straight.
We could have tagged Tomorrow Revisited, our celebration of the wonderful illustrator Frank Hampson, creator of Dan Dare and much much more, into PS itself. After all, Colonel Dare’s milieu is Outer Space, huge tail-finned rockets (it’s my fervent belief that, like cars, all rockets should have huge tailfins) and green-skinned BeM’s. And, given the huge inventory of cadaver-filled horror stories, novellas and novels that PS has unleashed, we could have added the Harvey Horror volumes and everything else coming along behind them.
But we wanted to give special worth and significance to this wonderful material . . . wanted to give it its own space in much the same way we created Stanza Press for our poetry volumes. But how to put all of that into a single pithy sentence—that’s the big question. So how does this sound?
PS Artbooks aims to make available—either for the first time or as a reprint—volumes of artwork-based material, sometimes simply paintings or posters, sometimes the sequential work produced by the pioneers of the four-color comic, in collectible but affordable limited editions produced to the highest achievable standards.
In short, as Bertie Wooster might exclaim, “To jolly well produce damn fine books at exceedingly fair prices.” You have my permission to wag a finger at us if we fail to deliver.
Peter Crowther - July 2011
Peter Crowther is the recipient of numerous awards for his writing, his editing and, as publisher, for the hugely successful PS Publishing (now including the Stanza Press poetry subsidiary and PS Artbooks, a specialist imprint dedicated to the comics field). As well as being widely translated, his short stories have been adapted for TV on both sides of the Atlantic and collected in The Longest Single Note, Lonesome Roads, Songs of Leaving, Cold Comforts, The Spaces Between the Lines, The Land at the End of the Working Day and the upcoming Jewels In The Dust. He is the co-author (with James Lovegrove) of Escardy Gap and The Hand That Feeds, and author of the Forever Twilight SF/horror cycle and By Wizard Oak. He lives and works (and still reads a lot of comicbooks!) with his wife and business partner, Nicky on the Yorkshire coast of England.
Having gained a degree in Art and Design back in the sixties, Paul worked in numerous design and advertising agencies (nothing like Mad Men' - just hard work). When he ran out of people willing to employ him, he started his own business in 1977, and met up with Pete in 1980. The pair's love of comics, has kept them firm friends ever since. And now, of course, business partners. Along the way, Paul has picked up various design awards and accolades. He now lives peacefully in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where he is thoroughly enjoys this wonderful publishing adventure.
Roy Thomas has been a writer and editor in the comics field since 1965, primarily for Marvel and DC, where he remains especially identified with The Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, and the All-Star Squadron. Besides still writing the occasional comic book and editing the comics-history magazine Alter Ego, he works with writer Stan Lee on the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip, and with artist Tom Grindberg on a new online Tarzan strip for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. And he is thoroughly enjoying re-presenting, in conjunction with PS Artbooks, some of the finest previously uncollected classics of the Golden Age of Comics.
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