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Friday, 15 February 2008

Jeff Hawke Competition Winners

Jeff Hawke: OverlordThe winners of our Jeff Hawke: Overlord, competition (courtesy of Titan Books) were William Birtles, Colin Campbell, Antonio Fraga, Elizabeth Smith and Steve Tanner.

Congratulations to the winners and better luck next time to the losers, even those who didn't correctly state Jeff Hawke was a member of the Royal Air Force.

Jeff Hawke: Overlord (to be released 22 February 2008, £16.99) is the first volume in a new series of collector's library editions from Titan, bringing together four timeless Hawke tales from the pages of the Daily Express: Overlord, Survival, Wondrous Lamp and Counsel for the Defence.

More about Jeff Hawke: Overlord on the Titan Books web site

Vote for Journeyman!

(with thanks to the Save Journeyman blog): SciFi.com is conducting a poll on their SciFi Wire page asking which show you want to see returned to the air now that the WGA strike is over.

Head over now and vote for Journeyman. This is a great opportunity to show support for the cruelly cancelled show, since NBC and SciFi are owned by the same parent company.

The last episode screened on Sky in the UK yesterday with the announcer promising a new season as the credits rolled. Does he know something none of us do?

Postscript, August 2008 (with thanks to Ian Cullen): Journeyman was not saved as we all now know, but in August 2008 AintItCool News published an interview with the series creator Kevin Falls about what would have happened on the show if it had continued: read the interview here

More Carol Day Online, Appeal for Art

The Carol Day website devoted to the long-running Daily Mail newspaper strip has just been updated with some great new material, including two complete stories, including the last one completed by series creator David Wright.

Also on offer is new original art for sale, additions to the cast section and a near-complete story guide listing the episode numbers corresponding to each story.

"We've had a nice response to this wonderful strip so far," says webmaster Roger Clark who runs Roger Clark Art, "and we really appreciate all the encouragment and words of support we've gotten."

Carol Day ran for over 10 years from 1956 to 1967 in The Daily Mail, garnered a fanatical following, appeared in 22 countries, and then quietly disappeared as if it had never existed. The web site utilizes strips from scrapbooks of the strip.

"We are still missing a bunch of strips," Roger told downthetubes. "These are 1-99, 639-1048, and 2529-2948. If any downthetubes readers have Carol Day tearsheets they would be willing to sell, trade, rent or lend we'll work out any arrangement they would like."

It's believed a couple of the missing scrapbooks were possibly sold on ebay a few years ago. "We would love to be able to track those down and scan them," says Roger.

"Our biggest barrier right now for print publication is lack of quality source material," he admits. "We have a publisher who would like to do it, but the material in the scrapbooks just isn't good enough to print from. If by some miracle any of your readers have runs of high quality Carol Day material, again we would love to hear from them."

• If you can help, contact Roger via info AT carol-day.com

Go Weightless!

How cool is this - the chance to experience zero gravity in the only way possible without going to space.

Commercial, weightless flights will be offered this weekend at Moffett Field, California, under the terms of an agreement between NASA and the Zero Gravity Corporation, the company behind the mission last year which enabled Professor Stephen Hawking to experience weightlessness last year out of the Kennedy Space Center.

Although corporation officials said the first flight scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday 16 February) is already sold out, additional flights will be scheduled later this year.

A Reimbursable Space Act Agreement between NASA's Ames and Zero-G allows the corporation to park its aircraft on the airfield while flight operations are being conducted and during scheduled flights. The agreement also calls for NASA and Zero-G to develop research collaborations, starting in the autumn.

During its flight operations at NASA's Ames, the company will use a modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft, G-Force One, and fly from the Moffett Field runway. Passengers aboard the aircraft will experience brief periods of the same weightlessness that astronauts encounter while orbiting the Earth, as well as the same gravity conditions they would experience on the moon and on Mars.

While new to NASA's Ames, this is not the first time that these weightless flights have taken place at a NASA center. In 2006, Zero-G reached an agreement with NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida., to use the space shuttle runway for similar weightless flights for the public. Zero-G began operating weightless flights for the public at Kennedy in 2006, flying up to seven flights per week, up to a maximum of 280 flights a year.

As part of the agreement, the corporation, which was recently awarded a contract from NASA to conduct research and astronaut training, will reimburse NASA for the use of the runway and support costs.

Both NASA and Zero-G say scheduling of flights at Moffett Field will not interfere with NASA missions, other resident federal agencies, or with airfield operations or other activities, and will only take place in daylight hours and, hopefully to allay long-running concerns from local resident groups in Mountain View about aircraft noise, say the Boeing used is one of the quietest developed.

• For more information about ZERO-G visit: www.GoZeroG.com

Thursday, 14 February 2008

12 Hour Shift Released

Three years in the making, London-based cartoonist Sean Azzopardi's Twelve Hour Shift is now on sale, offering an incisive take on the sharp contrast between the creative job you want and the bill-paying job you can get.

Running to over 140 pages, it's the story of Steve Jones, an artist who struggles through a series of tedious, menial jobs for sustenance, leaving his creative time squeezed into evenings and weekends. It's a tale drawn from life but with plenty of the surreal thrown in for good measure (as you'll see from the samples on his blog).

"If you've ever felt torn between a creative pursuit and putting bread on the table, you will quickly find a connection with the frustrated artist," feels Richard Krauss in his review of the book for web site Midnight Fiction, "and it will draw you into this illustrated docudrama.

"... The artwork and page layouts are engaging, beautiful, at times satirical, and consistently inventive. Azzopardi is a captivating storyteller. He successfully combines the words and pictures into a heart-felt drama I couldn't put down."

Twelve Hour Shift costs £6.95 + £2.00 postage. Click below for Paypal details. For other payment methods contact Sean Azzopardi.

Kickback, the mobile version

David Lloyd has produced a special mobile comics-styled preview of his highly praised crime thriller Kickback, available to read on your mobile via wap.rokcomics.com.

The trailer comprises a special four-part preview for the book, first published in France by Editions Carabas and more recently in English by Dark Horse Comics.

"I enjoyed creating Kickback more than anything else I've produced in years," says creator David Lloyd of the book, an artist perhaps best known for V for Vendetta but whose credits include James Bond, War Stories, Captain America, Doctor Who, Sandman and many other titles.

"I always wanted to do a crime story that had the quality and style of some of the crime movies I admire," explains David, "where no-one says more than they need to in order to move the story along, and you care more about the people involved in it than the action sequences."

• The specially created four-part Kickback trailer is free to read on mobile and online, but if you want to take full advantage of the ROK Comics WAP site, subscribe to the service (www.rokcomics.com/subscribe) and access hundreds of comics at one low cost monthly rate.

When you subscribe a unique URL is sent to your mobile phone. Follow the link to ROK Comics, bookmark the page, and your access to all ROK Comics published strips is activated.

• For more information about Kickback visit www.lforlloyd.com
Buy the print edition from amazon.co.uk

Joe Abercrombie Signing, London

Lancaster-born fantasy author Joe Abercrombie will be signing his new book, Last Argument of Kings, at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on Thursday 20th March 6-7pm

Abercrombie is a freelance film editor, who after several knock-backs from literary agents, was eventually signed by Gollancz in 2005. Last Argument of Kings is the final instalment of his epic fantasy First Law trilogy of books. You can read an extract on his web site. The first book, The Blade Itself, has now been published in eight countries and
was described as "Delightfully twisted and evil" in a review in the Guardian by John Courtnay Grimwood.

His work has been described as the kind of thing Quentin Tarrantino might make if he made sword and sorcery films, and Lisa Tuttle acknowledged the gritty edge to his world in her review in The Times for The Blade Itself. '[He has] an awareness of violence that is very contemporary... there is much to reward the reader."

Alan Moore endorses UK small press

When Alan Moore made an incredibly rare appearance in at London’s Gosh comic store recently, he not only promoted his own new work but gave ringing endorsement to the UK small press efforts in general -- and, in particular, London Underground Comics.

The Forbidden Planet International blog, which carries an interview with Oli Smith from LUC, explains this isn’t some new initiative by London Transport to entertain frustrated commuters packed into the Tube like sardines by having stand-ups tell them jokes during rush hour. It's an attempt by Oli Smith and a group of like-minded British small press comics creators to promote their work, making full use of a stand in Camden market at the weekends where you can find Indy comics and their creators in person rather than relying on trying to find them via the web or at the occasional convention, get recommendations and chat to other comics folks.

It's no surprise to hear that Alan Moore has again supported the work of the small press in developing new talent -- he's been doing that for years, even subscribing to the fanzine I edited back in the 1980s that led to me getting a job at Marvel UK. But it's great to see that Alan's words not only help LUC directly, but also endorse FPI and other comic stores' support for the small press where they can. FPI's Joe Gordon is eternally modest, but I'm pretty sure his work talking up many of the small press out there is helping them forward, so kudos to him for that.

Oli talks at length about the LUC in the interview, one of those busy indie creators who has been working on his own web site and press (IdleChild) and titles like Hazy Thursday and I Dream of Real Life for over two years.

"[The Camden stall] sells comics to people who are looking for something new and most of whom don’t realise non-spandex comics exist," he explains, an initiative harking back to the days when Paul Gravett and Pete Stanbury ran their fabulous Fast Fiction stall at the famous Westminster Marts. "With a regular turnover of different punters, a fantastic social atmosphere and with sale figures that mean, not only does it require no investment, but it also turns comics from an expensive hobby for people with spare cash kicking around to, at the bare minimum, a past-time that pays for itself.

"Why spend £80 on a table at a convention selling to the saturated market of people who came last year, when you can spend £2 on rent and sell ten to twenty copies each week as well as getting to spend time with fellow comics-creators."

Perhaps it's an idea that will take hold and be tried in other major cities where there is enough footfall and interest in comics to enable the stallholders to turn a profit. Meanwhile, small press publishers should use Alan Moore and FPI's support of independent creators to try and get their local shop to stock their titles...

Read the full interview with Oli Smith on the FPI Blog
Find out more about London Underground Comics

Star Trek pushed back to 2009

Paramount has shuffled the release schedule for several films, including the new Star Trek film, which is good news and bad news for fans.

Bad because the film has been delayed, which will dismay fans eagerly awaiting this Star Trek "reboot" (many do not consider tie-in fiction, be it books or comics to be new Star Trek. Their loss: there are some great books out right now, including the Klingon novel Burning House and the U.S.S. Excelsior book, Forged in Fire).

Good, because it's an indication that the studio thinks this new film is strong enough to command good box office at a time when it will be up against other franchises and what are known as "tentpole" films studios hope will ensure strong box office.

Originally intended for Christmas Day release, the film is now set US launch on 8 May, 2009.

"Star Trek is moving to summer because its has so much box office potential," Paramount spokesman Michael Vollman said. "It does not need any script tweaks. They're two-thirds of the way through shooting, and we would have delivered a great movie at Christmas."

In a separate development, Paramount has also said it will delay the HD DVD release of Star Trek: The Original Series, Season Two to this summer.

Whatever happened to... Jerry Paris?

An early stalwart of Marvel UK was Jerry Paris, a regular artist on books such as Action Force and others (including this cover to the Spider-Man comic, published in 1984). Many MUK fans often ask us here at downthetubes what happened to him, as he seemed to have dropped out of regular comics work.

Thanks to Dave Hine, we've tracked him down and here's a link to his blog, which includes some cracking art including a powerful Hulk versus Fantastic Four image. He's still delivering the goods, working as a storyboard artist, book cover designer and more.

"The areas I specialise in are Character Design, Concepts, Comic Book Art, Hand Lettering, Book Design and Storyboards," says Jerry. "I still draw on actual paper!!!-- and often use real ink and paint before the work finally becomes digital."

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Olympics Puzzle

Apparently, Steven Spielberg has decided not to participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing... what event was he entering? Shark wrestling?

Oh, as artistic adviser. He's citing the lack of progress in ending the genocide in Darfur, which he feels the Chinese government could do more to end given its influence in the region.

Really Heavy Greatcoat cartoonThe way Variety presented the first line of that news story is almost as confusing as going to the post office yesterday and asking to send something first class and being told the Post Office also offered a (three times as expensive) guaranteed next day delivery...

Excuse me? isn't that what the first class is supposed to be?

I feel a Victor Meldrew day coming on.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Orcs unleashed on New Line, will no one watch the Watchmen?

Variety reports the Tolkien Trust (a British charity that manages the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien) and publisher HarperCollins brought a $150 million lawsuit against New Line Cinema on Monday, claiming the trust has not received any of its gross profit participation payments for the three films based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The suit was filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Meanwhile, more legal action unfurled as 20th Century Fox announced it was suing Warner Bros. over the rights to produce and distribute a film based on the DC Comics property Watchmen.

ICV2 reports
Zack Snyder is currently shooting the Watchmen film for Warners in Vancouver with a March 6th 2009 release date planned, but Fox's suit seeks an injunction to stop production until the rights dispute is cleared up.

In Memoriam: Steve Gerber

In Memoriam: Steve Gerberdowntheubes is sorry to report the death of ground-breaking American comic writer Steve Gerber, whose unique vision often confounded the mainstream publishers he worked for.

The creator and co-creator of several characters including Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown died Sunday in a Las Vegas hospital. In a glowing obituary by Tom Surgeon, Comic Reporter says the cause of death is believed to be pneumonia, although he had been suffering from a long-term illness, pulmonary fibrosis. He was 60 years old.

Hundreds of tributes to Steve are being posted on his blog, which is now being maintained, for now, by fellow writer and friend Mark Evanier.

Steve was posting to his blog until the beginning of February, reporting on his battle with illness. He had been working on Doctor Fate for DC Comics, a series appearing in Countdown to Mystery.

"He was a sharp, brilliant human being with a keen understanding of people," Mark Evanier writes of Steve in his own web blog tribute to the writer. "In much that he wrote, he chose to depart from reality or (more often) to warp it in those extreme ways that make us understand it better. But he always did so from his underlying premise as a smart, decent guy. I like almost everyone I've ever met in the comic book industry but I really liked Steve."

Gerber was powerful force in the battle for creator rights, battling Marvel for rights on Howard the Duck but critical of his own fellow creators for failing to square up to the companies that demanded ownership of everything they created when working for them.

"I think the writers and artists have largely brought this on themselves," he told Comics Journal's Gary Groth in 1978. "They don't want to know about the business end of comics. They prefer to remain ignorant. They've allowed the publishers to convince them that they're a bunch of no-talent bums surviving on the goodwill of the companies. Very few people in this industry really believe that their work has any artistic merit, or that it's sale-able elsewhere."

Best known as the creator of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber established a reputation for working at the cutting edge of comics. In a career spanning more than thirty years, he put words in the mouths of virtually every major character in the comic book world — from Superman to Scooby Doo — and his work has appeared under the imprint of almost every major publisher in the field. He also wrote extensively in animation and television, and even has a computer book to his credit.

His official website lists Steve's other comics creations, including Hard Time (DC Comics) Nevada (Vertigo Press); Void Indigo (Epic Comics); Sludge (Malibu Comics); Destroyer Duck (Eclipse Comics and Image Comics, published as a way to help Gerber raise funds for a lawsuit against Marvel); Stewart the Rat (Eclipse Comics); A. Bizarro (DC Comics); as well as Foolkiller , Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils, and Omega the Unknown (co-created with Mary Skrenes), all published by Marvel Comics.

His runs on Marvel’s Man-Thing and Defenders titles and his Phantom Zone miniseries for DC are considered comic book classics.

Steve also wrote, edited, and supervised the production of Marvel’s celebrated KISS comic book, based on the goth-glam rock band. In the animation world, he served as chief story editor on G.I. Joe (Sunbow Productions) and Dungeons & Dragons (Marvel Productions), won an Emmy for his work as staff writer on The Batman/Superman Adventures (WB Animation). and co-created and story edited the animated cult favourite Thundarr the Barbarian for Ruby-Spears Productions.

In collaboration with Beth Slick, Gerber co-authored BBSs for Dummies (IDG Press), a lighthearted manual on computer telecommunications, and Contagion, a second season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with Beth Woods).

"Steve Gerber's role as one of the best and emblematic writers of his generation can't be understated," feels Tom Surgeon. "He was a crucial figure in comics history. Like some of the all-time great cartoonists of years past, Gerber carved a place for self-expression and meaning out of a type of comic that had no right to hold within itself so many things and moments that were that quirky and offbeat and delicately realized -- except that Gerber made it work."

"I feel the need to tell you is just what a great guy he was," says Mark Evanier. "He was, in every sense of the word, a friend."

Details of memorial services have not been announced at this time but DC Comics Paul Levitz has suggested that those wishing to mark his passing may consider donating to The Hero Initiative, a charity group that helps ailing comic book creators, which had been doing a lot for Steve recently. "It would be a nice thought to remember him with a donation in his name," suggests Mark Evanier.

Goodbye, Steve, and thank you for all your wonderful stories. You will be very much missed.

Links

Read Mark Evanier's Tribute to Steve Gerber
Read Stephen Grant's tribute to Steve Gerber on Comic Book Resources
Read Tom Spurgeon's obituary on Comics Reporter
Steve Gerber's web blog (maintained by Mark Evanier)
Steve Gerber's Official website: www.stevegerber.com

Paul Cornell in the Writer's Room

Doctor Who (and now Primeval) writer Paul Cornell - who among other things is pitching a new series to the networks accoridng to his blog - has just been interviewed for the BBC Writer's Room site and by Forbidden Planet International blog master Joe Gordon.

Paul's Primeval episode screens this coming Saturday, with a Colombian Mammoth on the rampage down a motorway. Not the easiest of things to hush up, then.

In his BBC interview, Paul offers a valuable piece of advice for would-be writers: seek out harsh criticism, because it's the only way to hone your art.

"It is your job as a writer to seek out harsh criticism of your work and change because of it," he feels.

"Your mum won't give you harsh criticism of your work. It's her job not to. You've got to find people who will genuinely give you harsh, tough, scathing critique of your work. And then you've got to change because of it. I see people coming up to editors and saying to them 'So what did you think of my piece?' and the editor will tell them. And the would-be writer starts to argue, starts to say "Oh no, you see what I was trying to do there was..." He's fending off the criticism because he doesn't want to listen. Doesn't want to change.

"And at that point, the editor might as well turn around and walk away, cos he's not listening, this would-be writer. What he's got to do is stand there making notes, taking it all in and accepting it."

He also offers cures for writer's block and many other useful hints for better writing.

• You can read more about what Paul's up to on his own blog, House of Awkwardness.

Monday, 11 February 2008

New Squaxx on the Block

Over on Comics Village, Shane Chebsey has an interview with the new editors of 2000AD fanzine editor Zarjaz, Dave Evans and Richmond Clements of Futurequake Publishing. The pair take over after a successful run as editor from Colin J Dinnie of Underfire Comics (also interviewed), who is moving on in an effort to devote more time to his writing, as well as have more family hours in his day.

Dinnie talks about regular Zarjaz contributor Nick Dyer's move to the real 2000AD, and other contributors who have gone on to work on Rebellion's flagship title, including Al Ewing - a clear example of how working on a comiucs fanzine can open the door to professional work.

The new editors reveal they aren't planning any changes to what is already a winning formula, although they are looking to increase the page count and frequency. For more information visit a new blog: thequaequamblog.blogspot.com.

Brightonomicon at Forbidden Planet London

Robert Rankin, Jason Isaacs, David Warner and Rupert Degas are among several top creators who will be signing the audio book version of Robert’s The Brightonomicon at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, this week, on Wednesday 13th February 5pm-6.30pm.

The Brightonomicon is a 13x30 minutes full cast audio comedy. An adaptation of Robert’s 2004 novel telling the tale of two incredible people, Hugo, who saves Rizla from drowning and persuades him to become his assistant and partner in solving 12 mysteries that are baffling and surreal.

Robert Rankin is one of the country’s most renowned humorous fantasy writers who has written 29 novels, He's described as "an unrepentant Luddite" who writes his bestselling novels by hand in exercise books.

Andy Serkis is probably best known for being Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. He was also King Kong in the recent re-make and will soon be seen in the new film The Cottage, released 14 March in the UK.

• Jason Isaacs is a well-known TV and film actor whose credits include playing
Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, BBC1’s The State Within, US TV Show Brotherhood, and the films Peter Pan and Event Horizon.

• David Warner is an accomplished stage and screen actor. He has appeared in The Omen, Tron, Time Bandits, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Titanic and Tim Burton’s Planet of The Apes.

• Sarah Douglas is fondly remembered as playing the villainess Ursa in Superman The Movie and Superman II. She was also Queen Taramis in Conan The Destroyer and appeared in Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1.

• Rupert Degas is an actor who has lent his voice to animated films, TV shows, radio productions and also audio books. In The Brightonomicon he plays Rizla.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Judge Dredd: Reality Sets In

Judge DreddJudge Dredd writer Alan Grant says he now finds it hard to write the comic because real life has strayed too close to his science fiction dystopia.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald he told the paper that while doing research for his recent talk, Writing Tomorrow Yesterday: How Fiction Became Reality (which formed part of the part of this year's Edinburgh Lecture series), Grant skimmed through Judge Dredd stories from the early 1980s. He says he was amazed at how much has come true, with the obesity epidemic, overcrowding and smoking bans all appeared in the strips.

"I do actually get depressed," said Grant. "Part of that is because when we did them originally we had such a laugh. [Co-author] John Wagner and I used to laugh ourselves stupid. The artists would send us the artwork and when we saw the world's first two-ton man - Two Ton Tony Tubbs - we were in hysterics.

"It's sad now that so many Scottish children are going to be obese. It's not funny anymore. I find it hard to write Judge Dredd now, I really do."

Taking inspiration from tabloid newspapers about youth gangs, unemployment, overcrowding and neighbour rage for his stories, Grant explained to the paper he and Wagner exaggerated them all and placed into the future but that he found it "pretty horrific when you realise that what you've written, admittedly an extrapolation of a trend, has got stronger and stronger," said Grant.
Grant also appeared on BBC's Newsnight Scotland, voicing his concerns that Britain was fast becoming a fascist state with free speech fast on its way to becoming banned.

In related news, Alan may be pleased to hear that almost three-quarters of people surveyed in Scotland have come out against CCTV cameras which record conversations, according to research by the Information Commissioner's Office.

Read the Sunday Herald interview in full here

New Thunderbirds Novels

FTL Publications have announced that they have been licenced by Granada Ventures to produced two novels a year based on the original TV version of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Thunderbirds. Due to the terms of the licence these books will technically only be available in Canada and the USA.


The first of these is entitled Countdown To Action! and is due to be published in June 2008. An author has yet to be announced but the cover art is by long time Anderson artist Steve Kyte.
  • More details are available at the FTL Blog.

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