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Saturday, 4 August 2007

Miracle Workers Are Born In Linlithgow

Was Scotty a Black Bitch? Linlithgow Heritage Trust are certainly convinced that he was, or rather will be in about 215 years time.

I would hasten to add that because of the dog on the town’s coat of arms, people of both sexes born in the historic town of Linlithgow, some 20 miles from Edinburgh and the birthplace of Mary Queen Of Scots, are known locally (and proudly) as Black Bitches.

D C Fontana, scriptwriter on the original series of Star Trek, put Scotty’s birthplace into her Star Trek novel Vulcan’s Glory and that was good enough for The Linlithgow Story museum who, with the help of the Doohan family, have opened a special memorial exhibition to Lt Commander Montgomery Scott's alter-ego, actor James Doohan.

The museum in Annet House on the town’s High Street is a typical small town historical museum, with displays, models and photos of the history of the surrounding area, its people and how they worked and lived. However one room is now given over to their future citizen and the Canadian actor who portrayed him.

With family photographs of the actor, and Star Trek action figures, magazines and books featuring the character, the exhibition tells the story of the Doohan’s life and of the fictional character he portrayed. The well designed display also includes a Tribble, a lovely large illuminated model of the original movie version of the USS Enterprise, and the presentation plaque for James Doohan’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Along with small posters dotted around the town, there are promotional banners in the market square proclaiming the exhibition‘s tag line of “Miracle Workers Are Born In Linlithgow”, and even the local Cancer Research UK shop has even given over one of its windows to a display of Star Trek books and videos.

Now open and due to run to 31 October 2007, when the museum closes for the winter, it will reopen again in April 2008. Doohan’s widow Wende and son Chris are expected to visit in September.

In the meantime please remember that if you wish to visit the museum, according to the exhibition leaflet, "Linlithgow is a 'Beam-free' zone" and that "Transporters may not be used". Buses, trains and private cars are acceptable alternatives.

Friday, 3 August 2007

It’s Just Not The Same As When I Were A Lad…

ChampionSo the new look Dandy Xtreme is in the shops and from the outside it now looks rather like all the rest of those biweekly comic magazines aimed at kids in mid to late primary school. As much as we may mourn the passing of the more traditional weekly format, D C Thomson publishes the title to make a profit and they obviously consider that the Dandy should go with the flow of this modern biweekly format of pictures, features, comic strips and "free" gifts.

We perhaps look down on these sort of modern comic magazines because we see them as being less than those we read as children - less stories, more colour pictures filling up the pages, and the titles somehow prostituting themselves with the lure of at least one gift every single issue. My young nephew gets Doctor Who Adventures and I do make a point of looking at it when I get the chance and, like so many other old Doctor Who Weekly readers, I don't think much of it. But then it isn’t aimed at me, it is aimed at him and he likes it.

What to us is the traditional British weekly comic full of picture strips with speech balloons really only gained its dominance after the Second World War and in particular in the early Fifties. Before that what we would think of as the weekly British adventure comics were the story papers. They had pages upon pages of text stories with a couple of spot illustrations per story, and maybe a couple of pages of comic strip to break up the monotony of the solid text. Even the more visual humour titles had text stories in them.

I wonder if back in 1950 there were long standing readers of Amalgamated Press' The Champion or D C Thomson's The Hotspur story papers who looked at the new titles appearing on the newsagent's racks and despaired about this new picture strip format? After all a copy of The Champion with all its text would take quite some time to read through. The copy of a picture strip comic that may be physically larger and be on sale for the same price would just not take as long to read. Time-wise, they provided less entertainment for the same money.

Could it be that the older readers of The Champion, which in 1950 had been in existence for 28 years with characters like footballer Danny Roberts or pilot Rockfist Rogan, looked at the first copy of The Eagle which cost the same amount, three old pence, and wondered why anyone would be taken in by the gloss and colour and some bloke with dodgy eyebrows called Dan Dare?

Penguin Books competition for teens

Cynopsis reports Penguin has inked a partnership with Piczo, the UK-based teen targeted social networking website, for MyPenguin, a contest that launches this week on the site. Penguin asked some top bands to select their favorite classic book, which of course are Penguin books, and teens are asked to design their own cover art for the books that they can then upload to www.piczomypenguin.piczo.com.

The bands will be the judges. As for what bands chose what classic novels, here are a few: Ryan Adams selected Dracula; Razorlight's pick is Great Gatsby; Beck's is Le Grand Meaulnes; and Dragonette chose Alice in Wonderland.

Mattel issues toys recall

WorldScreen.com reports Mattel has announced a recall of 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys made in China featuring Sesame Street and Nickelodeon characters over concerns about lead paint, in a move that is expected to cost the toy giant $30 million.

Mattel says it has launched a fast-track recall in cooperation with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulatory agencies worldwide. Mattel is also working with retailers worldwide to identify affected products, have them removed from retail shelves and intercept incoming shipments and stop them from being sold.

This is yet another concern raised about goods from China, after concerns over fish, toothpaste and animal feed. The deaths of patients in Panama earlier this year was blamed on improperly labelled Chinese chemicals that were mixed into cough syrup.

Reuters reports the US is working on deals with China to bolster safety controls on Chinese-made foods and medical products, as international consumer alarm continued to pummel Beijing, who have criticised foreign media for "hyping" the problems of a small minority of goods or companies.

"When problems occur, we never shirk, have always sought truth from the facts and responsibly deal with them," Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said in a statement on the Chinese Ministry of Commerce Web site (english.mofcom.gov.cn).

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

I'm being interviewed!

I've been interviewd for an upcoming 'Nightgig' podcast about the comics to mobile project I help run at Rok Comics. The interview covers the company's $10,000 Humour Comic competition which runs until end August 2007 -- and the opportunities ROK Comics offers publishers and individual creators alike to create and sell strips for mobile phones.

The Gigcast is an independent popular Podcast for fans of webcomics, by fans of webcomics which this week celebrated its 100th episode.

Publishers already signed aboard ROK Comics include the Britain's Daily Express and Daily Mirror, Egmont, Look and Learn, Markosia and more with "Garfield", "Doonesbury", "Too Much Coffee Man", "Robin Hood" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" already available on site, soon to be followed by the likes of "Andy Capp", "Garth", "Jeff Hawke" and other classic strips.
ROK Comics also features "Half Moon Investigations", a mobile version of a comic strip drawn by British artist John Royle based on the book by Eoin ("Artemis Fowl") Colfer, in association with Puffin Books.

Creators publishing via ROK Comics include the critically acclaimed Chris Reynolds ("Moon Queen"), Michael Colbert and J.K. Woodward ("Crazy Mary"), Toshrio de Smeyter ("Scoff"), Steve Tillotson ("Banal Pig"), Dave Hailwood ("Ups and Downs"), Dave Berner ("Hunted", "Shades"), Josh Alves ("Tastes Like Chicken"), startrek.com's David Reddick, Dave Windett ("Wacky World of Animals") and Vince Aviles ("El Profe").

Creators and publishers can earn a 50 per cent share of revenue earned by ROK Comics on strip sales. The company has relations via its parent, ROK Entertainment, with over 30 telecoms worldwide including operators in China, Pakistan, India, South America and elsewhere.

ROK Comics launched its 'Hot Talent' competition with a grand prize of $10,000 in July. Simply create or upload a humorous comic strip on www.rokcomics.com and be in with the chance to win .

Full details are at www.rokcomics.com/competition.php .

Richard Elson Interviewed

Fansite and webcomic Sonic the Comic Online has published an in-depth interview with artist 2000AD artist Richard Elson, covering the seven years he spent wowing a generation on the 1990s Sega tie-in title Sonic the Comic.

The interview includes some of his concept sketches, delves into his working habits, and the creative process behind Sonic the Comic's stories, and who he prefers out of Sonic and Mario.

Asked for advice for would be artists, Elson comments: "It's boring, but it's true. The very best advice that I can give you is practice, practice, practice. I've said it so many times, but it is true: drawing is not a spectator sport.

"The only way that you can get better is by doing it. Assimilate as many positive influences as you can, but, most of all, keep your eyes and ears open. Life is the best lesson and the more you can absorb from the reality around you, the richer your work will be."

Monday, 30 July 2007

San Diego: More UK Creator and UK News

The 38th annual Comic-Con took this place this weekend in San Diego, California and many British creators were on hand to talk about their new projects to some 120,000 visitors. Here's a few more items from what sounds a frenetic event that's perhaps become too big too handle for many attendees...

(As ever, British creators -- please feel free to let me have your news - always happy to plug projects whenever I can, time permitting!)

Comics News

Elephantmen #10: Unicorn by Richard Starkings & Moritat, covers by Ladrönn with flip cover color by Snakebite, went on sale just before the con, another issue of the indie title published on schedule. Underneath a veneer of success and celebrity, Obadiah Horn believes himself to be more animal than man. Forced to hide this side of himself from his human consort, Sahara, he is nevertheless aware that she is the only one that understands the war that rages inside him and can perhaps save him from himself. But in all wars, there must be casualties. Click here for a gorgeous preview
Also on sale from Active Images is Strange Embrace #2 by Dave Hine

Grant Morrison and JG Jones have been announced as the creative team for DC's Final Crisis.

• Jamie Delano
is returning to Hellblazer, perhaps these days better known as John Constantine, created by Alan Moore during the latter's run on Swamp Thing. Jamie will be writing the character once again, in the Vertigo original graphic novel, Hellblazer: Pandemonium.
"As I understand it, the project arose out of Vertigo's desire to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Hellblazer #1 back in the Spring of 1988 with a number of special projects," Delano told Comic Book Resources. "Casey Seijas at Vertigo called to ask if I'd be prepared to collaborate in this event and, in a moment of weakness, I agreed."
Warren Ellis is writing Astonishing X-Men after Joss Whedon and John Cassaday wrap up their run. The title to be relaunched as Astonishing X-Men: Second Stage.

• As reported earlier, Gary Russell is to write a new Doctor Who comic for IDW

Chris Weston is working with J. Michael Straczynski on The Twelve for Marvel

Film News

Variety and others reported that director Guy Ritchie will be adapting his own Virgin Comic book Gamekeeper as a feature film, with Joel Silver producing.

300 director Zack Snyder revealed the poster and cast for his highly anticipated Watchmen movie based on the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The film is scheduled to be released in 2009

- Jackie Earle Haley is Walter Kovacs/ Rorschach, an uncompromising, psychopathic vigilante investigating the death of The Comedian (played by Jeffrey (Grey's Anatomy) Dean Morgan)
- Patrick Wilson is Dan Dreiberg/ Nite Owl, a technical wiz who relies heavily on gadgetry and know-how.
- Billy Crudup is the mysterious blue-skinned Dr. Manhattan
- Matthew (Match Point) Goode is to play Adrian Veidt/ Ozymandias, the former costumed crime fighter turned entrepreneur
- Malin (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) Akerman is to be Laurie Juspeczyk/ Silk Spectre.

TV
futoncritic reports that Lucy (How I Met Your Mother) Hale has been tapped as Becca Sommers, the younger sister to former ~EastEnders star Michelle Ryan's character, a role originally played by Mae Whitman. The character has also been retooled - she'll no longer be hearing impaired and has been given a prowess for computer hacking.

Odds and Ends...
Futurama #32 features a scene with Daleks. Knowing Dalek creator Terry Nation's agents they'll be chasing money as soon as they find out.
• Check out www.miracleman.info for information on an upcoming documentary that reveals the truth about Miracleman/Marvelman for the first time in twenty five years, featuring interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman (who was snogged by Jonathan Ross at the Eisners!), Gary Leach and many more.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Yet more Doctor Who, and the return of Nightraven...

Two items from US comics site Newsarama with a UK favour. First, news that US publisher IDW is launching a new Doctor Who title written by former Doctor Who Magazine editor and now Torchwood production team member Gary Russell, with art by Nick Roche.

IDW also publish various other licensed comics including Star Trek - an original series "Year Four" series has just launched.

While Newsarama reporter Steve Fritz's 'research' into the history of Doctor Who strip is woeful -- citing only US publication of Doctor Who -- the interview is a good one. (The author is taken to task for his failings on the Newsarama forum).

The TwelveSecondly, Nightraven, who first debuted in Hulk Weekly back in the late 1970s, looks set to make a return, this time as one of the 'Twelve', a news series by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. Chris Weston is the artist on this project and will be delivering more info on his side of the project over on Newsarama next week. He's also talked about the project over on Comic Book Resources.

Update, 9/1/08: The IDW Doctor Who comics will only be available in the US for licensing reasons.

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