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Friday, 25 January 2008

Frak Those Toasters!

I don't know much about Jo Storm's Frak You! other than it is an unauthorised guide to the modern Battlestar Galactica TV series and so cannot use copyright photographs from the production. That said, I love the lateral thinking and audacity of their cover.

Those of you who do not watch the series are probably now wondering why on earth there is photograph of a chrome pop-up toaster on the front of a Battlestar book.

Go watch the series and find out!

Fat Man Previewed

(Warning: this post contains links to what may be perceived by some as 'adult' content): Thomas Cochrane and Alan Tanner's's The Fat Man graphic novel project has a brand new web site which features a massive 50 page preview of the forthcoming book, due for release in November. Check it out at www.the-fat-man.co.uk

The Fat Man, which is also being previewed via comics to mobile service ROK Comics, centres on a British MI5 undercover agent approached by himself with proof of the existence of a notorious World War 2 Nazi secret weapon: a time machine, discounted many years previously as German propaganda.

The Fat Man is Scottish writer Thomas Cochrane's first graphic novel. He says he is inspired by such diverse sources as Tin Tin, The Avengers (the TV show) and a fascination with the concept of time travel.

Artist Alan Tanner is a veteran illustrator and designer, who has worked on covers for Time Out and the infamous Oz magazine and what he describes as "various other hippy publications"). He has also created many illustrations for the Radio Times, and worked for CBS and Island on record covers. You can see how the Fat Man "Art Process" has developed over on Flickr.

25 per cent of the profits from this fabulous book will be going to a mental health charity and Thomas told downtheubes he is only 900 orders away from breaking even. "Not bad, considering there has been almost no publicity and it doesn't come out for another eight months!"

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Thunderbirds 2005

Jeremy Briggs' earlier post about the Blackpool Illuminations Thunderbird 3 auction reminds me of a web find I made before Christmas, but forgot to post here. Do'h!

Back in 2005, plans were afoot to revive Thunderbirds - again as a puppet show. David Freedman, a multi-skilled director with comedy experience in both live action and animation, was one of the people involved, as its Executive Producer and recalls the project "was one of the greatest and most heart wrenching moments in my career.

"I nearly cried when I landed the gig. It is truly a boy's dream come true.'

Freedman, now Senior Manager of Development, Global Original Programming at the UK Disney Channel, was determined to make the new show with puppets, and has posted several images from the test work done on the proposed series on his blog, including the design for Thunderbird 2 by David Warren, who worked on the Lost in Space and Sky Captain films (above).

"I felt passionately about doing it again with puppets," he argues on his blog. "Why? Well, there was, and still is something magic about working with puppets. My logic is that even a sock puppet is magic, but a CG sock puppet is one step removed from being well... er, Kermit.

"Could you imagine a CG Kermit The Frog on Telly? It would simply feel odd. Besides, you can't replace the thrill of seeing real things blow up! A CG explosion is good. But a real bang is worth its buck.

"Don't get me wrong," Freedman, whose credits include Legend of the Dragon and the animated show King Arthur's Disasters, continues. "CGI works a treat in the Cinema, for the same reason that Stand Up Comedy works in a club and not on TV. If you're not distracted and the room's dark, one man with a microphone or indeed, a bunch of pixels can transport you to another place... but on telly, the smallest distraction and whamo, you're out making a cup of tea. Sorry."

This new Thunderbirds series was to have coincided with the release of the live action film, but Freedman says the merger between Granada and Carlton (in which Carlton was sort of swallowed whole) "put the kibosh on the whole thing".

• You can view the trailer that was put together here (Quicktime).

For Sale: Thunderbird 3

How would you like to own your very own large Thunderbird 3? Here is one that would even put the Iconic Replicas 18 inch tall model to shame.

Blackpool Illuminations have had a movie version Thunderbird 3 rocket on Blackpool seafront for some years and are in the process of selling it off along with a lot of other old illuminations. The auction will take place on 30 January and TB3 is expected to fetch in the region of £10,000. The details of the auction are here on the Visit Blackpool web site and the auction catalgue is here (PDF).

Potential bidders thinking that Thunderbird 3 might make a nice addition to their collection should be aware that the rocket is 15.5m tall, has a diameter of 7m, and weighs 8 tonnes and so they may have a problem trying to display it between their Dinky toys of Thunderbirds 2 and 4.

101 Uses for a Mac: A Cat Toy

... this has got to be one of the daftest uses for a computer, period. Especially when three quarters of the way in, the cat almost bites through the power cord.

I'd love to know how the owner planned to explain that to their insurers...

But hey, the cat's cute.

Charlotte Corday joins ROK Comics

A new adventure strip, Charlotte Corday of the Surete, drawn by top British comics artist
Keith Page, is now being published on comics to mobile service ROK Comics.

Keith's current work includes Ramsey's Raiders for DC Thomson's Commando and other stories, and a "prequel" of the original Dan Dare for Rod Barzilay's magazine Spaceship Away.

Keith reveals he decided ROK Comics is a good way to present Charlotte Corday in a newspaper strip-style way, at a time when many print newspapers worldwide seem to have abandoned daily, ongoing adventure strips, much to the dismay of millions of fans of the genre.

Written by screenwriter Stephen Walsh,
Charlotte Corday of the Surete: London Calling is set in London in the early 1950's will also be a full length graphic novel, with a few surprises.

"I had the original idea for the character some time ago," Keith explains. "The outline concept was the adventures of a French detective of some sort getting involved in all sorts of arcane exploits in 1950's London which could best be described as "
Brighton Rock meets Quatermass and the Pit".

"This evolved further in defining the motivations of the main character Charlotte Corday and the inclusion of a human-sized "Muffin the Mule" entity, (which had its origins in a strip I did for IPC's
Revolver many years ago.)

"All this might sound strange but I can't reveal anymore without spoiling the plot!

"I drew a number of pages of my initial storyline, together with a lot of characters sketches and then set the whole thing aside for a while," he continues. "At this point I got in touch with script and screenwriter Stephen Walsh who was writing for Commando. Stephen took the original theme and came up with a brilliant graphic-novel length script incorporating a host of new characters.

"We decided to approach some French publishers, so the whole thing was translated into French by my wife. In this version, Charlotte is one of a team of French agents on a mission to London. The thinking was to leave scope for a series of linked books with a different agent's story featured in each.

"To cut a long story short, it proved too difficult to interest French publishers and Charlotte remained on the shelf for a while. Eventually, however, I decided Stephen's script was just too good to abandon , and I had a large amount of period reference material, location photos, so I drew the whole 50 page story.

"It features a variety of themes including the North London Vampire Squad (a little-known division of the Met) and what could have been the inspiration for John Steed of
The Avengers. [Comedian] Tony Hancock and his landlady also put in guest appearances!"

Find out more about Keith Page and his work on his blog

Commando Creators credited at last

As expected, DC Thomson's Commando range now feature credits for their creators, part of a sweeping range of ongoing changes to the books which continue to sell well in UK newsagents and via subscription.

DC Thomson long held back from any credits in their books for the obvious reason that they wanted to protect their carefully-honed creators from being pinched by rival companies: but with most comic creators now online in some way or another and very few British comic publishers left, and certainly none publishing war stories, it hardly makes sense to maintain anonymity. Indeed, knowing who is working on these books may create more interest in them, which can only be good for sales. DC Thomson didn't get where it si today by not learning to adapt - even if it adapts rather slowly.

The company has also, of course, long since abandoned keeping the creators who work on its humour titles like the Beano anonymous.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Europe's Last Newspaper Adventure Strip Cancelled

Nicky Saxx(via David Lloyd's lforlloyd web site): For those of us sad at the loss of the once-plentiful adventure strips that used to appear in our newspapers - especially original ones not tied in to some licenced product - there was more saddening news to bear earlier this month, picked up by artist David Lloyd, but which I've only just read.

Nicky Saxx - possibly the only originated adventure strip still existing in a European newspaper - was cancelled earlier this month. "Its last three panels halted an adventure, leaving the strip's heroine lost somewhere at the bottom of the ocean," David related.

The Nicky Saxx strip has been running for some years now as a daily in Holland's largest-selling newspaper, De Telegraaf. Nicky and her friend, Elsa Steiner, are globe-trotting adventurers with a taste for danger, hiring themselves out as troubleshooters and investigators of the paranormal via their organisation, Room 666, which is located in a disused lighthouse on the East Coast of America. Aided by computer expert and technical wizard, Ben Folds, the duo specialise in helping all those people the conventional law-enforcement bodies cannot assist.

"The artist of Saxx, Minck Oosterveer, is a friend of mine," David comments. "Without him telling me about the death of this gloriously sexy adventurer he'd created many years ago with his writer colleague, Willem Ritstier, I'd never have known anything about it. News like it rarely reaches any comics trade periodicals or sites, whose only interest in newspaper strips now relates to honouring the past glories of such figures as Milton Caniff or Noel Sickles.

"Go to the graveyard, folks. See them spinning there!"

saxxXXI-72english.JPG

• More on Nicky and on Minck at his website: www.minckoosterveer.com

Breaking into comics event this Saturday

Just a quick reminder that downthetubes and ROK Comics Managing Editor John Freeman is one of the guests at a Breaking Into Comics event in Leicester this Saturday, along with 2000AD editor Matt Smith and indie publisher Jay Eales.

"Breaking in to Comics and Graphic Novels" runs from 2 – 4.00pm at the Central Lending Library, Leicester. Whether you are a fan who has always dreamed of making your own comics but don’t know where to start, or a talented writer / artist on the brink of turning professional, this event will help you understand what it takes to break in to the comics industry.

Organisers say this is proving one of their most popular events ever, with plenty of pre-sales and lending numbers for graphic novels at the library way up on their usual numbers.

The event is part of Blam! a season of graphic novel and manga events organised by Leicester Libraries (www.leicester.gov.uk/libraries)

Elton John's Dan Dare recording unearthed

(via the Eagle Times blog): Way back in October 1975, Elton John recorded Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future), written by Bernie Taupin, for the Rock of the Westies album, a song lamenting that he won't be joining Dan on his rocket, but also revealing that he secretly prefers The Mekon to Dan.

27 years after the song's release, it featured as the theme song for the Dan Dare Corporation's Dan Dare Pilot of the Future CGI cartoon series, which was shown in the UK on Channel 5, and is now (partly) available on DVD.

The song is of course just one of many pop culture references to Dan Dare, many detailed on this web site.

Here, via YouTube, is a rare live (audio) recording of the song performed by Elton at the Rainbow Theatre, London on 13 May, 1977.



• While scouring the web for more information on the song, I came across Colonel Dan Dare's MySpace page. Weirdness!

Reg Bunn Profiled

Top British comics blog Bear Alley has just profiled the early work of Spider artist Reg Bunn, detailing what looks to be his first ever published work, Buck Jones, Outlaw!, which actually appeared in Australia initially, In issue 6 of Buck Jones.

"Before long, Reg was drawing Buck's adventures for Comet" Steve Holland reveals, "and quickly established himself in that paper, adding Robin Hood to his weekly output and, for Sun, Clip McCord, which led onto work for Thriller Comics and other picture libraries. Eventually, Reg found himself with regular work in Lion and Tiger in the early 1960s and kept up a regular supply of weekly strips for these and other titles until his death in 1971."

Read this and much more about British comics creators on Bear Alley. It's a gem.

Moore, Gebbie Sigining at Gosh London


Writer and Shaman Alan Moore and artist Melinda Gebbie will be making a rare signing appearance at Gosh! in London on Saturday 2nd February from 2-5pm to sign copies of their book Lost Girls, so mark your calendars now. People will be allowed to have two items signed, one of which must be Lost Girls.

Lost Girls, presented as three hard covers encapsulated in a gold embossed slipcase, will be on sale in-store at £49.95. If you can’t make it on the day Gosh say they expect to have some remaining stock of signed copies immediately after the signing, or you can contact them in advance on 020 7636 1011, or email info@goshlondon.com to reserve a copy!

Alan Moore has been writing comics since the late 1970s, and his works, ranging from Victorian melodrama to super-heroic deconstruction, have served as consistent benchmarks of the medium. Such stories as From Hell, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta have become recognised touchstones in comics history.

Melinda Gebbie came to prominence in the world of underground comics as a contributor to seminal women’s anthology Wimmin’s Comix, bringing with her a fresh, vibrant flair from her years as a fine artist. She later worked on such classic animated films as Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows, and co-created the Cobweb feature in Tomorrow Stories with Moore. The two were married in May 2007.

"Lost Girls represents a partnership in every sense of the word, a collaborative labour of love that has spanned the history of its creators’ relationship," enthuses the Gosh web site. "Begun with the remit of producing a literary work of pornography the book stands as an honest, unflinching exploration of love, sex and sexuality. Touching on the themes of the importance of fantasy, the loss of innocence, and the self-destructive timeline of the early 20th Century, its early chapters saw publication in the Taboo anthology, after which, the story was lost to readers for seventeen years. Resurfacing now as a fully-formed graphic novel and already in its third US printing, Lost Girls stands as a classic; a testament to the story-telling prowess of its creators."

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Brendan McCarthy's New Blog

(with thanks to Matthew Badham) Top comics artist, designer and illustrator Brendan McCarthy has a new blog, The Strangeness of Brendan McCarthy.

The new blog includes storyboard artwork Brendan completed for Tim Burton’s new Sweeney Todd movie, which opens in the UK next weekend and upcoming covers Brendan has drawn for 2000AD and Dan Dare #3, the latter on sale 23rd January.

Edinburgh Book Festival Comics Talk Now Online

(with thanks to Joe Gordon) Last August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival held its first ever events discussing graphic novels, with a major, hour-long discussion – entitled “Graphic Novels - Literature of Pulp Fiction” – held between three Scottish authors: British comics legend Alan Grant, bestselling crime novelist-turned comics scribe Denise Mina and the incredibly popular crime writer, lifelong comics fan (and soon to be comics writer) Ian Rankin, with Gregor Urquhart chairing. The discussion ranged from early influences, how the authors first got into comics writing, how different people perceive the genre and how that perception is changing.
Now, the EIBF have very kindly supplied the Forbidden Planet International blog with a recording of the event to share with you. You can listen to it via this news story

Crash Competition


The Times Online are giving readers the chance to design the cover for a limited edition version of JG Ballard's novel Crash - a brilliant chance for you to get a piece of your art published and on book shelves.

Artists need to focus on the cover for the limited edition issue which will be released in September 2008.

The dimensions for this cover are: 197mm x 129mm, it must include the Perennial logo, Ballard’s name and the book title. The rest is up to you!

The closing date for the competition is 30th April 2008, JG Ballard will then pick the winner from 5 chosen by Harper Collins design team.

There are three ways to enter the competition...

• Upload your entry to Flickr - If you enter via Flickr then you must send you Flickr profile link and contact details to books@timesonline.co.uk.

• Email your entry to books@timesonline.co.uk

• Or post to; J.G. Ballard design competition,
Times Online,
Times House,
1 Pennington Street,
London,
E98 1TT

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• Got a British Comics News Story? E-mail downthetubes!

• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials: editor@downthetubes.net

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