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Thursday, 15 March 2007

Racing Rockets!


Anyone interested in getting costumes based on comics characters might be interested in this interview with designer Ruby Rocket, who has developed a deserved web-wide reputation for her creations based on the likes of Marvel's Black Cat etc.

Ruby has, not surprisingly, got some pretty stonking web traffic for her ComicSpace and MySpace sites but seems totally unphased by all the attention, even from mainstream magazines such as Maxim. (She's also got her own web site, rocketsagogo.com, but it's not live yet).

Speaking as someone who last dressed up in a costume back in the 1970s (Darth Vader, if you must know) - well, apart from appearing in a strange green costume from Blake's 7 during a convention auction while I was editing Doctor Who Magazine - I have to say the energy some genre fans put into this kind of stuff is pretty admirable, even if it is of course the one thing the news media always latches on to in an effort to keep us all firmly in the "nutter' category when reporting on science fiction, comics etc.

Strange then, that the same reporters who simply must have a Klingon for their next piece on Star Trek don't see football fans in scarves and England cricket team's "Barmy Army" in the same light but just harmless fun. C'est la vie....

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

This week's great Internet find...

Loose Cannons by Dan Abnett and Mark HarrisonI just found this on the Internet thing: a 'lost' Marvel UK Warheads strip, Loose Cannons, by Dan (Sinister Dexter) Abnett and Mark (Durham Red) Harrison

Edited by Jacqui Papp, the project - guest starring Death's Head II and Dark Angel - wasn't one I was involved in, despite being editor of the main Warheads book back in 1993 -- I'm pretty sure work had started on it before I left MUK, but I had enough to do on other titles.

Although almost completed -- Mark has restored all the pages he painted, lettered some that hadn't been lettered, including some final roughs on #4 -- Loose Cannons was never published because of the MUK Implosion and subsequent buyout by Panini which brought its US format titles for the US market to an end in 1993, after I left the company.

I had thought for years that the strip was probably the most prominent victim of what I'm told was a mass dumping of artwork when MUK/Panini moved to Tunbridge Wells so I'm really pleased to see Mark has recreated it.

Story-wise, its all out action from start to finish and Dan really goes to town on the villainous aspect of the amoral Mys-TECH board members featured: the sinsister cabal that backed the Warheads exploration of the universe(s) through technomagically-created wormholes to who knows where and who knows when. (before you ask, Warheads, developed by Paul Neary, predates the Stargate movie - he in turn was inspired by Frederick Pohl's Gateway saga).

Mark Harrison's work is simply terrific - he did several covers for Overkill, the weekly MUK title I edited which had a limited origination budget for new strips in addition to the simultaneous printing of the material being generated for the US format books such as Death's Head II, Warheads and others.

Included on site are a slew of designs for the book and the whole package leaves me feeling someone, somewhere, should be thinking about putting this out as a collection. Fab stuff.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Rebellion Buying Spree

Hot on the heels of their purchase of comics-to-ipod publisher Clickwheel comes news that 2000AD owner Rebellion Studios has acquired Ignition's Banbury development studio, formerly known as Awesome Developments and perhaps best known for developing the PSP puzzle game Archer Maclean's Mercury, as well as its more recent sequel for the PlayStation 2, Mercury Meltdown Remix.

Clickwheel and Ignition aren't their only purchases. Gamasutra reports that Rebellion also bought former Empire Interactive internal development studio Strangelite as well as former Tomb Raider developer Core Design.

Despite having access to 2000AD's characters the spin-off games, such as Rogue Trooper -- have only had limited success, but the acquisition takes Rebellion's staff levels to 280 full time members.

Thrud #5 - The Beer Necessities

Thrud #5 by Carl CritchlowWriter-artist-genius Carl Critchlow has just sent me a copy of Thrud the Barbarian #5: The Bear Necessities, the continuing four-colour adventures of the very stupid fantasy warrior he first created for fanzines which went on to become one of the only reasons for buing the fantasy ropleplaying magazine White Dwarf in the 1980s.

I'm pleased to report that the usual craziness is in abundance, from Heath Robinson flying machines to bizarre creatures for Thrud to (usually) kill. The artwork is a labour of love -- detailed, gorgeous and worthy of any major European bande dessines publisher, never mind being printed independently in Southport by a UK-based artist, paid for out of his own pocket, in a country where such producing such publications commercially are an uphill struggle in terms of cost, getting the right look to the printing, and distribution.

'The Beer Necessities' finds Thrud on a quest for ancient gold, parodying the Spanish quest for untold riches in Central and South America. Once again, the clever people in the tale get their (deserved) comeuppance and Thrud is at his very stupid best and outstandingly dangerous. (Eexcept when he suddenly turns clever after imbibing a weird jungle juice concoction, and then he becomes even more dangerous than ever!). I particularly liked the battle with snakes and dinosaurs, the name of the ancient god - buy the book and find out what it is for yourself - and the terrific manimal antagonist.

This is simply a funny romp, with a fun script, beautifully illustrated and coloured. Carl isn't pretending Thrud the Barbarian is something intellectually brilliant. This is no Love and Rockets or Watchmen and has no pretensions of being so. Thrud the Barbarian is simply fun comics at their very best, and it's to the author's credit that he continues to self publish to such a continuing, award-winning standard. Recommended!

Check the title out for yourselves at www.thrudthebarbarian.com

Monday, 12 March 2007

Modern Tales adopts CBR

The Modern Tales suite of websites, which publishes the work of webcomics creators such as the brilliant Roger "Fred the Clown" Langridge has just announced it's to offer select longform comics in the downloadable CBR format.

This is a pretty major indie acceptance of CBR, quickly picked up by blogs such as talkaboutcomics and others.

Here's the press release from Modern Tales honcho Joey Manley in full. (If you're on a Mac, my preferred CBR reader is Comic Book Lover, not mentioned below):

Modern Tales family of websites (Modern Tales, GirlAMatic, serializer and Graphic Smash) is the first major webcomics network to embrace the downloadable CBR format for full-length, high-resolution digital comic books.

Not familiar with the format? CBR format has rapidly become the preferred means of digital comics delivery for people who mostly like to read comic books or graphic novels when they read comics in print (as opposed to newspaper strip fans, who are very well-served by traditional webcomic technology). Unlike traditional webcomic strips, Comic Book Reader files are complete issues of “comic books” or even full-length “graphic novels” in digital form, released all at once, downloaded onto the fan’s hard drive and consumed at his/her leisure, with crisp graphics and immediate page-loading.

Like MP3 files, CBR’s first gained prominence in the file-sharing world. Apparently there are a lot of comic book fans out there who enjoy scanning their collections (or even the comics they just bought this week) and sharing them with their friends. I don’t necessarily approve of this activity, but I have a lot of respect for the way that P2P and filesharing systems often stand at the forefront of innovation when it comes to media formats and user-friendly ways of doing things.

At Modern Tales, we’ve always attempted to bridge the gap between webcomics and indie print comics. We’ve spent a lot of our emphasis and energy trying to popularize the “longform” webcomic (that is, comics that are more like comic books or graphic novels than like newspaper strips). We’ve done a pretty good job, but that’s not an easy thing to do. Quick, humorous, non-continuity strips just work better on the web, for a lot of reasons. They always will. And there are plenty of great ones (we have some on our own site!), but — well, you know, there’s always more that comics can be. And we’d all like to see comics be everything they can be, right?

CBR format is, far and away, the very best way I’ve discovered to read “longform” comics in digital form. I’m not the only one who thinks so—recently the CBR format has been embraced up by several “real” comic book publishers, like Slave Labor Graphics (see EyeMelt.com), for example. It’s just a completely different experience from browsing comics on the web. Every line is crisp and clear; every page loads immediately; you can take your hand off the mouse, put one finger on the “page down” key, and lean back, read, and relax.

Seriously, try it out. Note: EyeMelt and others are selling their CBR files. Ours are free. So you really have no excuse not to give it a whirl.

First you’ll need some Comic Book Reader software, such as CDisplay (for Windows), FFView (for Macintosh), Qcomicbook (Linux/KDE) or cbrpager (Linux/Gnome).

Once you’ve downloaded one of the software packages linked above, here are the launch CBR’s from the Modern Tales family:

From Modern Tales proper:

Headsmen (Rogues of Clwyd Rhan one-shot) by Reinder Djikhuis
http://www.moderntales.com/cbr/4/rogues_1.cbz

Fred the Clown Vol. 2 #1 by Roger Langridge
http://www.moderntales.com/cbr/8/hotelfred_1.cbz

Ballad of Little Monster by Herve Largeaud
http://www.moderntales.com/cbr/7/littlemonster_1.cbz

Wahoo Morris (Free Comic Book Day issue) by Craig Taillefer
http://www.moderntales.com/cbr/5/wahoomorris_1.cbz

From GirlAMatic:

Galaxion # 1 by Tara Tallen
http://www.girlamatic.com/cbr/93/galaxion_1.cbz

From serializer:

Make Love the Fetus-X Way by Eric Millikin
http://www.serializer.net/cbr/4/fetusx_1.cbz

From Graphic Smash:

Charity Begins in Hell (Reckless Life) by Tim Demeter
http://www.graphicsmash.com/cbr/5/recklesslife_1.cbz



Personally, CBR is okay as far it goes -- and in terms of viewing comics on screen I agree, it's pretty good. But the format needs to be more searchable (a Table of Contents option would be a great add on), for starters, and while this may defeat the object of online comics, you can't print straight from the CBR -- not using Comic Book Lover, anyway.

There are folk working on add-ons to the format, I gather.

And, obviously, there's no DRM which doesn't worry many -- and the pros and cons of DRM have been discussed ad infinitum and by people far more up on the whole thing than me.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Sean Blair reveals Commando secrets

Commando #3536, written by Sean BlairCommando Picture Library writer Sean Blair has just provided downthetubes with a terrific piece on his experiences writing Commando.

Special thanks to Sean for taking time out to write the piece, which includes some useful tips on writing Commando.

Also recently posted is an online, updated version of an interview which was conducted by Ian Wheeler with Commando and Doctor Who Magazine artist John Ridgway, first published in Eagle Flies Again #8 in 2003.

This new version includes a listing of all John's Commando work compiled by Jeremy Briggs.

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