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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Commando - Wall Of Death

The Commando website is continuing their on-line adaptation of Commando issue 221 Wall of Death. This was first published on 26 July 1966 and was then priced at one shilling. The electronic version is free and is currently up to Part Five. The story, which had a working title of Danger Their Companion, was written by Redbridge and illustrated by Cortez.

Part One of Wall Of Death begins here and each part links to the next one.

The site also now has twelve Commando covers available to download as wallpapers including this excellent World War One Albatros D biplane by Jose Maria Jorge which was used as the cover for issue 3538, Rogue Ace, in 2002. The wallpapers are available here.

D C Thomson continue to publish eight issues of Commando a month, four on the second Wednesday of the month and four on the last Wednesday. Four of the titles are reprints and four are brand new and all now feature credits for the writer, interior and cover artists and, if a reprint, when the original version was published. Each issue costs £1.25 and they should be stocked by WH Smith, Easons, McColls and Spar.

Edinburgh Is Reading Jekyll And Hyde

Previously mentioned here on Down The Tubes, the 2008 One Book - One Edinburgh citywide reading campaign is now in full swing. After the success of Kidnapped in 2007, this year's book is Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The original novel was re-released in a new version with an introduction by author Ian Rankin, Book Group reading notes by Prof Ian Campbell and including sketch illustrations by Cam Kennedy. These sketch illustrations were from the graphic novel version of the title adapted from Stevenson's original by Alan Grant, illustrated by Cam Kennedy, and coloured and lettered by Jamie Grant.

10,000 copies of the text novel were given away free throughout the city as well as the novel and graphic novel being heavily promoted in the cities bookshops. Various talks and workshops took place throughout the city with Grant and Kennedy attending signings for the graphic novel version, many of which are illustrated here.

The City Of Literature website has many activities associated with the release of the book and these include Creating A Comic. The two sections in this allow you to see if you could adapt Stevenson's original prose better than Alan Grant in Turning A Book Into A Graphic Novel, while From Inks To A Full Colour Comic lets you see if you could do the colouring and lettering better than Jamie Grant. It is worth remembering that Jamie Grant had four different versions of the text - English, modern English, Scots and Gaelic - to fit into those text boxes and speech balloons.

The campaign has been well covered in the media, with the Metro having their own PDF version of the book free to download with full text and colour illustrations by Cam Kennedy.

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is available from Amazon as a text novel and as four different graphic novels in English, modern English, Lowland Scots and Scots Gaelic. Down The Tubes suggests that if you are not sure which version of the graphic to choose to try the English version rather than the modern English version.

Friday, 29 February 2008

TV21 Dalek Art Up For Sale

Among the many British comics-related lots on offer in the current Comic Book Auction, which ends next week, is a real gem for Doctor Who and artist Ron Turner fans alike -- a page of artwork from The Daleks, which ran in 1960s comic TV Century 21.

Not just any page, either - the page up for auction is from Issue 50, Ron Turner's first Daleks artwork for the comic, in which those other 1960s metal meanies, the Mechanoids, attack the Daleks.

This page has of course been reprinted several times, and the board indicates the changes made for its appearance in either The Amazing World of Doctor Who, published in 1976, or an even later Marvel UK Doctor Who Weekly appearance in 1980.

Comic Book Auctions believe the art will probably sell for between £1,500 and £2000.

Another item sure to catch the eye of collectors is Frank Bellamy's superb signed front cover of The Daily Mirror Book Of Garth published in 1975.

Other British comic lots in the auction include a number of early Beanos and a near complete Dan Dare Spaceship Builder Construction Set, as well as Frankie Stein art published in Wham issue 157 (shark-surfing..?), and much more, including key pages starring The Galloping Glory Boys, Young Drake, Rupert the Bear, Leo Baxendale's Clever Dick from an issue of Buster, Kelly's Eye, The Steel Claw, Robot Archie and The Spider.

• Bids will be accepted until Tuesday 4 March at 8 PM UK time. To go directly to the main page for the catalogue of the London-based auction house, click here

Let's Do the Timewarp...

Now it can be told... Attendees at the UK indie comic press event Caption 2007: Dreams & Nightmares were given a prophetic dream of the theme for Caption 2008. And the dream came true. Caption 2008 is Caption Timewarp.

It will be taking place again at the East Oxford Community Centre on 9th - 10th August, in the year that celebrates Deadline's 20th anniversary, Escape's 25th anniversary, Luther Arkwright's 30th anniversary and The Beano's 80th...

Caption are now accepting illustrations and comic strips on the Timewarp theme for inclusion in the convention programme, exhibition, and auction. Contact Jay Eales for more info at: jay.eales AT googlemail.com.

• More info: http://caption.org/2008/

Women in Comics

(with thanks to Matthew Badham): With the opening of the Live Lines Exhibtion in Richmond, Bridgeen Gillespie has an article in the PDF-delivered Verbal Magazine this week, revealing why comics aren’t just for boys anymore - if they ever were, given the sales of girls comics in the pat - and gives her guide to what’s best, by and for girls, in print and on the web.

Live Lines showcases original artwork and comics by the cream of the UK underground and independent scene, presenting this dynamic, accessible, yet marginalised medium to a wider public. This exhibition also features work by young people as part of our Manga Lives project.

Sadly, details of the exhibition are incorrect at the end of the item in the Magazine: here's the correct information:

Live Line Comics Open 1 March - 12 April Free admission

Riverside Gallery
Old Town Hall, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond
Telephone: 020 8831 6000
Email: artsinfo@richmond.gov.uk

Make Mine Marvel UK

(with thanks to Rob Kirby): If you're a fan of Marvel UK, have you ever felt frustrated about the lack of respect given to the company over the years?

Perhaps that's because MUK - in all its many forms - has rarely been written about whenever the rich history of the comics medium, and Marvel's part in it, has been discussed over the years.

Well, that's all about to change in a big way, with the release - at long last - of what is hoped will become a one-stop work of reference with regards to any and everything Marvel UK related.

Although still not yet scheduled, author Rob Kirby reports via the Marvel UK Facebook Group (Facebook membership required) that work has now been completed on all the text and index elements, along with scrupulous picture research and clean-ups, for the forthcoming Quality Communications book: Marvel: From Cents to Pence – The Definitive Guide to Marvel's British Comics 1951-2007 (to give it its full title).

Set to clock in around 400 pages, this mammoth undertaking has taken its author Rob Kirby almost two decades to assemble, and as an ongoing work of reference will continue to grow even after the book's publication.

Released by former Marvel UK Editorial Director Dez Skinn as A Quality Guide - the first outing for his long-running company's new book imprint - the first half of Marvel: From Cents to Pence will contain a copiously illustrated 26 chapter history of Marvel's activities in the UK, and is chock full of surprising revelations, candid admissions, rib-tickling anecdotes, and unexpected connections to the American side of Marvel's many publishing activities (thanks, in no small part, to much exclusive commentary by many of the editors, writers and artists to have worked on the UK comics on both sides of the big pond over the years).

That leaves the latter half of the book to dedicated to indices that, character by character, dissect in painstaking detail almost every story ever printed by Marvel in Britain since 1972.

But apart from the main indices that you would expect - multiple listings for every American reprint, with separate multiple listings for all the exclusive UK-created material (and those series created for dual UK and USA consumption) - the remaining guides contain chronological breakdowns detailing the formats and contents to all the comics, Annuals and Specials, and all their free gifts, as well as a full creator 'Printography' for all the work that first saw print over here. Extra features are presently to set to include at least one colour section of photos, free gifts, and covers, poster and dummy artwork, along with a specially designed fold-out Family Tree, showing the year-by-year relationship between all the newsstand comics released since 1972, with issue runs and mergers also indicated to add historical perspective.

Currently planned to be, initially, available as a deluxe hardback edition, this is one huge blast from the past that Marvel UK fans won't want to miss out on!

"So, when can we buy this monster tome", you cry? Good question. The fact is, that until design work begins in the next few months, you'll just have to remain patient for a little while longer until we can better update you on when Marvel: From Cents to Pence will finally explode on to the bookshelves. But Dez and the gang say all the stops are being pulled right out to make this one reference book that won't disappoint!

• If you were ever a freelancer or staff member at Marvel UK, it's still not too late to add your own insights to Marvel: From Cents to Pence, either! If you'd like to help out in anyway, please feel free to contact Rob, either through Facebook, or direct on rob_ak_38 AT yahoo.co.uk.

¿Hay vida en Marte?

Or, is there Life on Mars? BBC Worldwide inked its first scripted format sale ever in Spain in a new agreement for Life on Mars, with television and media company Antena 3.

The Spanish version will be produced as an eight-episode run with BBC Worldwide's global format folks exec producing the show with the original creator, Kudos, also chiming in. It will air in primetime in 2009.

Here come the Robots...

British independent publisher Accent Press are about to launch Robots, another beast of a book in the tradition of their previous anthology, Zombies, released last year. At 204 pages it features many new, emerging and established talents including Paul Harrison Davies, Mark Buckingham, Andy Bloor and others.

"It promises to be even stronger in quality than Zombies which did really well for us," says co-editor Colin Mathieson. "So well that Diamond are re-listing it to keep up with re-orders!

"This anthology is the one I always hoped we'd get around to," he explains. "Anyone that knows me knows that robots are my favourite science fiction concept!

"It’s all part of our profile building both in the UK and abroad," he told downthetubes, "and giving deserved exposure to the many undiscovered talents that we’ve come across on our travels.

Robots, edited by Dave West and Colin Mathieson, with cover art by Andy Bloor, will ship in May and have its UK launch at the Bristol Comics Festival, followed by its European launch in Copenhagen at the komiks.dk festival where Accent will be making their third appearance

The complete creator line up in the book is as follows (links in blue below will take you to a sample page of the strip on the Accent the site):

Divinity - Existence and Toast - Art and Story by Benjamin Dickson - (7 pages) - See Sample Page.

ROBOT - Art by Andy Bloor - Story by Kieron Gillen - (5 pages) - See Sample Page.

The Creator - Art by Leonie O'Moore - Story by Tony Hitchman - (4 pages) - See Sample Page.

Tiger, Tiger - Art by Garry Brown - Story by Owen Johnson - (5 pages) - See Sample Page.

Enbies - Art by Iain Laurie - Story by Jon Ayre - (6 pages) - See Sample Page.

Karakuri - Art and Story by Crispian Woolford - Script by Ian Dowson - (5 pages) - See Sample Page.

Job Satisfaction - Art by Nolan Worthington - Story by Jon Ayre - (6 pages) - See Sample Page.

Survival of the Fittest - Art by Manoel Magalhães - Story by Phil Rigby - (7 pages) - See Sample Page.

Teruo - Art by Marleen Lowe - Story by Paul Bowles - (10 pages) - See Sample Page.

AutoLolita - Art by Jenika Ioffreda - Story by Andrew Cheverton - (4 pages) - See Sample Page.

The Cabinet of Doctor Diablo - Art by Andy Bloor - Story by Leah Moore and John Reppion -
(6 pages) - See Sample Page.

Sacrifice - Art and Story by Dave West - (6 pages) - See Sample Page.

Little Red Robot in the Hood - Art and Story by James Gray - (3 pages) - See Sample Page.

Coalescence - Art and Story by Bridgeen Gillespie - (4 pages) - See Sample Page.

Robot Interviews - Art and Story by David Baillie - (8 pages) - See Sample Page.

Homemade Hero - Art and Story by Gary Crutchley - (6 pages)

Crime and Punishment in Switchertronia - Art by Stu Chapman - Story by Mark Clapham -
(5 pages) - See Sample Page.

MY Robot - Art and Story by Paul Harrison-Davies - (6 pages) - See Sample Page, or view the ROK Comic version for mobile!

Working Parts - Art and Story by Daniel Douglas Noble - (5 pages)

Sunny Morning - Art by Pablo Lizalde -
Story by Valentin Lerena - (4 pages)

New Romantics - Art by Dan Denholt - Story by Michael Lindal Andersen - (5 pages)

Robot Heart Art and Story by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey - (3 pages)

Loose Ends - Art by Bryan Coyle - Story by Lee Robson - (4 pages)

Inhuman - Art by Roland Bird - Story by Darren Ellis - (7 pages)

Made Men - Art by Charley Spencer - Story by Jay Eales - (8 pages)

Robot Amnesty Art and Story by Richy K. Chandler - (4 pages)

And Man Begat - Art by Stu.Art - Story by Chris Lynch - (8 pages)

Ned Ludd's Museum - Art by Shaun Mooney - Story by Jim Thompson - (5 pages)

What is Life? - Art by Kevin Mullins - Story by Kieren Brown - (9 pages)

Kingdom - Art by Indio - Story by Dave West - (7 pages)

Friends for Life - Art and Story by Matt Boyce - (2 pages)

Null'n'Void - Art and Story by Colin Mathieson - (6 pages)

ROBOT GALLERY

Robot Pin-up 1 - Art by Garry Brown

Robot Pin-up 2 - Art by Indio

Robot Pin-up 3 - Art by James Gray

Robot Pin-up 4 - Art by Matt Timson

Robot Pin-up 5 - Tim Keable

Robot Pin-up 6 - Art by Lonny Chant

Robot Pin-up 7 - Art by Mo Ali

Robot Pin-up 8 - Art by Alec Brunson

Robot Pin-up 9 - Art by Andy Bloor

Robot Pin-up 10 - Art by Mark Buckingham

Robot Pin-up 11 Art by Alfie Gallagher

• Robot Advert of the films of Paul Whittington

Back Cover Art - Frazer Irving

Zombies - Review by David Hailwood

With the rapidly-approaching arrival of Accent Press Robots anthology (see news story), David Hailwood kindly provides downthetubes with a review of last year's collection, Zombies...

As a good friend of mine once said ‘Zombies are in many ways like skinheads. Quite comical when they’re on their own, but get them in packs and you’re in for a pasting!’

Well, the anthology from Accent UK certainly packs in enough zombies to give anyone a good pasting. The cunningly titled Zombies anthology weighs in at a hefty 168 pages, costs a mere £6.00 and contains the work of 50 creators from the small and large press comic scene.

With so many strips crammed inside (and indeed so many zombies) it would be natural to expect quite a few stinkers; fortunately these are few and far between.

What’s perhaps most impressive about this anthology is the sheer variety of stories on offer. Every creator seems to have tackled the zombie theme in a new and inventive way. There’s Zulu zombies, Big Brother zombies, Stuffed Rabbit zombies, Dole zombies, Boy Band zombies, Nightclub zombies, Carnival zombies and, of course, zombies from Cornwall.
There’s also a decent mix of comedy and tragedy. In ‘House Of The Dead’ Beano cartoonist Laura Howell does something I never would have dreamed possible – she actually manages to make Reality TV look interesting, providing a wealth of characters that it’s an absolute pleasure to see get eaten.

In contrast, Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor provide a dark and gripping tale about one mans gradual loss of humanity as he attempts to survive a life among zombies, eventually resorting to cannibalism.

Other strips worthy of mention are ‘The Zombie Interviews’ by David Baillie, which contain possibly the worlds greatest collection of zombie fart gags, ‘Sacrifice’ by Kieran Brown, Nolan Worthington and Shaun Mooney, which has a very clean and dynamic art style, and the hilarious ‘An Alphabet of Zombies’ by Steve and Daniel Bissette (any strip that contains a zombie wearing his own backside as a hat is fine by me).

Fans of zombie movies will also enjoy the intertextual layers of many of the strips, with just about every famous zombie movie being referenced in some way inside (my favourites being the Umbrella contraceptives machine in Chris Doherty’s ‘Nightclub of the Living Dead’ and two Rome holiday ad posters put side by side to cunningly spell ‘Romero’ in Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable’s ‘The Scent Of Coriander’).

People who aren’t fans of zombie movies will enjoy the … uh … shiny paper. In fact, yes, let’s talk about that shiny paper for a moment. This certainly isn’t just your bog standard small press affair put together on a photocopier at work whilst the boss’ back is turned. This is a professionally produced tome of a comic, wrapped in a blood-red card cover brilliantly illustrated by Steve Bissette and Shane Oakley (the only thing that could’ve possibly made it better is if it was bound in the flesh of the living, but you can’t have everything).

If the cover doesn’t attract you and the contents don’t attract you, chances are you’re dead already. In which case there’s little left to do except send Ash from Evil Dead round with a chainsaw to lop off your head. So, you see, there’s really no excuse to not go out and buy this Zombies anthology now, is there?

Go on… Join usssssss!

• If you can’t find the Zombies anthology in your local comic shop, you can order it online from either www.accentukcomics.com or www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk. Zombies is also available to order at comic shops through Diamond order code MAR083380 and (re)listed in March 2008’s Previews catalogue.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Subscribe to a ... T-Shirt?

Here's a weird one, but so wacky it's worthy of mention. Subscriptions, it seems, are no longer limited to comics and magazines - you can now subscribe to a t-shirt. And over 2500 people already have.

T-post is described by the creators as "a wearable magazine". Instead of a subscription to a magazine in your mailbox, you receive T-shirts. As a subscriber, you receive a new t-shirt based on a current news item every six weeks - a story that, if it hasn't made the news, should have, in the view of the people behind t-post. Select designers provide their interpretation of a specific news story and that design is combined with the actual news which is printed on the inside of the shirt.

T-Post design by Matt Furie"What's fascinating about T-post is the interaction it creates," says Peter Lundgren, Editor-in-Chief at T-Post. "Nobody asks you about the article you just read in the bathroom.

"But if you’'re wearing an issue of T-post, people tend to ask what it'’s about. The next thing you know, you’re talking about the ethical treatment of robots or some bank robbers in Brazil who got away with 45 million bucks, you'’re forming your own opinion, getting someone else to think about the topic, and it just keeps going from there.

"Because the news is printed inside the shirt, the subscriber is left with an opportunity to interpret and communicate the meaning behind the shirt," he adds. "It really becomes the subscriber’s interpretation of the story, which is even more interesting to hear about, I think."

The latest design, pictured here is titled "De-evolution?", designed by Matt Furie, a San Francisco based illustrator who says he spends all day in his room drawing and watching YouTube. At night he parties, dances, strips down to his boxers and pours milk all over his body in front of strangers (well, he only did that once).

He likes to draw monsters and animals, likes fur and fangs and feathers, scales and fantasy.

But he especially likes fur, so it's not surprising to see that his vision of the future human race (split in two, as predicted by evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry) includes a fair amount of just that. Fur.

• A subscription to T-post costs 26 Euros per T-shirt, and can be delivered anywhere in the world. All shipping costs are included in that price. More information from their web site: www.t-post.se

China Now! Comics Exhibition

China Now, the UK’s largest ever festival of Chinese culture, has announced the first ever major exhibition in Britain to explore Manhua - the powerful narrative art form of comics and graphic novels in China - and will include the work of British manhua creators such as Yishan Li (sample, right).

Like Japanese manga, the events organisers feel Manhua is poised to become the next global cross-media phenomenon, spinning off into films, television, animation, games, toys and more.

The exhibition will take place between 7 March – 11 April at the London College of Communication. The exhibition explores 19th Century Picture Story Traditions, the Modern Manhua Masters, Hong Kong’s New Wave movement and China’s Next Generation of artists.

With over 200 pieces of artwork and printed matter, this free exhibition presents for the first time ever in this country, the quality, diversity and individuality of recent and current Chinese comics from the last twenty-five years.

The main focus of the exhibition is the next generation of artists who are revolutionising comics today. Works from key artists including Nie Chongrui, Zhang Xiaoyu, Qian Yu and Benjamin Le Soir from China, as well as Chihoi Lee, (creator of the two-volume story Hijacking), Hok Tak Teung and Lily Lau from Hong Kong will all be on display.

British-based Chinese comics creators Yishan Li, Mr Clement and TH (Tim) Yu, who are included in the exhibition, will create special "live" artworks in the gallery for the public. Master classes, a reading area and hands-on demonstrations will be conducted alongside a one-day academic seminar on Tuesday March 25th with 12 specially invited artists, publishers and experts.

Paul Gravett curates a free exhibition that will reveal the heart and soul of 21st century China through the art and stories in contemporary Chinese comic books. More details on his as ever brilliant web site.

China Now is a six-month nationwide festival of over 800 Chinese events including exhibitions, performances and activities spanning Chinese film, cuisine, comics, art, literature, music, design, science, technology, business, education and sport across the UK. Visit www.chinanow.org.uk/events for more details.

China Comics Now
Admission: Free
London College of Communication, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6SB
Open: Monday to Friday 10.00-19.30, Saturday 10.00-18.00. Closed Sunday & Easter (March 21-24)

House of Usher Sale

Brilliant comics artist Shane Oakley is currently selling; three pages from The Fall of the House of Usher at £55 each, which includes p&p and a signed print.

More details and imagery on his blog, where you can also find details of his new "Zombie" t-shirts now for sale. Go on, spread a bit of Oakley across your chest...

Shane, interviewed for downthetubes last year on the Albion project, says he plans to draw more comic strips this year. "I did a lot of drawing in 2007, but not near enuff drawings in little boxes that tell a story. So far it's looking good - I've secured a coupla tasty comic strip gigs, and there's promise of more to come."

Steve Whitaker: Online Memorial Site Launched

Steve WhitakerA livejournal gommunity and a flickr group devoted to the late, already-much missed artist and colourist Steve Whitaker, who died last week (see related story), have now been launched.

"If you were a pal or admirer of Steve and his work, please bookmark the site and consider contributing some memories to jellytown," says Steve's friend and fellow artist Martin Hand who has set up the memorial, "and spread the word: all friends of ol' Steve are welcome.

"If I've set it up right, then it should be totally accessible to non livejournal people."

Martin welcomes anything devoted to or remembering Steve from users: anecdotes, drawings by Steve, drawings of Steve, photos, fanzine articles, strips etc. "Anything Steve Whitaker-related, basically.

"I was gonna say that jellytown should be a 'one stop shop' for all your steve witko needs but we are not alone - mighty Matt Brooker is setting up a flickr community devoted to Steve and obviously the jellytown massive hopes to have very close links with this group when it's live."

"Collective memory" websites devoted to Steve:
• Jellytown: community.livejournal.com/jellytown
• Steemol: www.flickr.com/groups/steemol

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Doctor Who Experiment

Purely for research purposes of course, given that ROK Comics, which I edit, has a comic creator too, I had a go at using the BBC's Doctor Who Comic Maker. Have to say I wasn't 100 per cent impressed: the flash-based online application doesn't load properly on my computer in two different browsers and the actual creation interface is fiddly and isn't exactly intuitive to use. (We've learnt some lessons from our own version which will be implemented in an update coming soon, but personally, I think it's much better than this).

The service is moderated, so there's no instant gratification when you create a comic, either - which I'm sure will frustrate younger users who wouldn't dream of having the Doctor using naughty words or asking a Dalek to do entertaining things with his suckers. Based on my own experience on ROK Comics, I appreciate the sheer volume of users slows this necessary aspect down, but still, my one page effort has taken three working days to approve. I've screen grabbed and assembled it below as despite the format of the comic, it seems you can't actually print it out, which is a bit of a blow, too. Click on the image to view a more legible version.

Verdict: The Doctor Who Comic Maker needs work (as does the script for this comic, but too late now). Older Doctor Who fans will of course instantly note the final frame reference.

DFC - Ask The Editor

Robot Girl, from DFC Comic - launching May 2008I'm interviewing the editor of new, originated, British comic DFC for downthetubes.net to tie in with the launch of the title, so if you have any questions you'd like to ask, fire them my way asap.

Needless to say, this is a major event in British comics publishing I'm told the comic is be available on subscription worldwide. For more information, read the news story posted last week on the dtb news blog .

Although per agreement with DFC the article won't be published online until nearer the comic's launch (to tie in with the launch) I'll be doing the interview next week.

Thanks in advance: questioner's names or handles will be included in the final piece.

John Freeman
British Comics Resources: www.downthetubes.net
British Comics News Blog: downthetubescomics.blogspot.com
Publish your comics on mobile: www.rokcomics.com

Monday, 25 February 2008

Phoo Action gets series order

Almost passing me by, just a quick note that BBC3 has ordered a full run of tongue-in-cheek kung-fu drama PPhoo Action.

Series creator Jamie (Tank Girl) Hewlett is working on six sixty minute episodes (which will hopefully be a lot better than the pilot!), which will be filmed in Glasgow by BBC Scotland, based on the comic strip Get The Freebies which appeared in The Face magazine.

Phoo Action follows the exploits of Terry Phoo (played by Eddie Shin), a Buddhist kung-fu law enforcement sweetheart and Whitey Action (Jaime Winstone), an enigmatic young anarchist turned super-cop.

Broadcast reports that BBC3 controller Danny Cohen's swift decision was prompted by the need to secure cast members Winstone and Shin before they signed up to other projects, but there's no word yet on whether Rocky star Carl Weathers, a casting coup in his role as Winstone's father, Police Chief Benjamin Benson, would return.

"We commissioned Phoo Action because it was original and bold," a BBC3 spokeswoman said. "We needed to exploit artist options before we ran out of time." The pilot secured 231,000 on airing as part of a revamped BBC3 line up, a 1.1% audience share.

Phoo Action was one of six one-hour pilots that have or will air on BBC3 in coming weeks. Any of them -- including the quite enjoyable Being Human, about a house sharing ampire, werewolf and a ghost - could still get a commission for a full series.

Get The Freebies has yet to be collected in English, although there is a Spanish edition, and comics commentator Rich Johnston did run some samples of the strip in one of his Lying in the Gutters columns over on Comic Book Resources.

The Flash Gordon story retold

Comics International editor Mike Conroy is one of many contributors to a Flash Gordon documentary being screened on the the UK Sci-Fi Channel tonight (Monday 25 February) at 8.00pm.

Scheduled to air ahead of the series pilot, the programme provides insight from a variety of comedians (Colin Hoult, Emma Kennedy), actors (Brian Blessed, Paul Duncan and Paul Darrow), journalists (Kim Newman, Karen Krizanovich) and comic book aficionados (Paul Gambaccini and Mike), who all talk about the evolution of Flash through the ages.

Further screenings of the documentary are planned.

Since his first appearance in the 1930s and right up until the present day, Flash Gordon has enraptured successive generations of fans through numerous adaptations including films, radio, television and animated series. This hour-long documentary covers Flash Gordon's history in comics and on screen and is a promo for the new TV series which airs from Monday 3 March in the UK - but you can view the first episode online via the scifiuk web site.

Eric Johnson (Smallville) stars as Flash, alongside Gina Holden (Final Destination 3) as Dale Arden in a rip-roaring adventure across Earth and Mongo alike.

Flash Gordon first sprung into life courtesy of award-winning comic strip artist Alex Raymond in 1934 and was created as a response to the Buck Rogers strip - with Flash as a professional polo player of all things. The strip ran until 2003 but continues to be reprinted.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Aye Write!

The third Aye Write! Book Festival takes place in Glasgow's Mitchell Library from 7 to 15 March 2008.

Included this year in the programme are talks by Scottish science fiction authors Iain M Banks and Ken MacLeod who will be appearing together to discuss their latest books, and by television producer, director and writer Gerry Anderson who will be illustrating his talk with clips from many of his television series including Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and Space 1999. Both of these talks will take place on Sunday 9 March.

More details of the talks and details of how to book tickets can be found on the Aye Write! festival website.

In Memoriam: Steve Whitaker



Above: Steve Whitaker. Picture courtesy of Matt Brooker and used with permission

(Last updated 2/3/08): British artist and colourist Steve Whitaker is, I am deeply sorry to report, no longer with us.

Steve died on Thursday after becoming unwell on the way to his doctor's. The loss has left family, friends and the comics fans who knew him - and who could forget him? - reeling this weekend.

I'd known Steve, whose professional credits included colour work for Marvel UK and the DC Comics edition of V for Vendetta and author of Encyclopedia of Cartoon Techniques for over 20 years, although not as well as some of the regular readers of this web site.

"Steve was not only one of the finest colourists Britain has ever produced, but a great artist, a scholar of the comics medium, and a great teacher, too, who I worked with at The London Cartoon Centre in its various incarnations," recalls friend and colleague David Lloyd. "He was a terrific guy - generous to a fault, full of enthusiasm about this medium of ours, and great company over a Guinness or three. He'll be sorely missed by all who knew him."

"He did some great colouring for me and Mark Farmer on the Ladybird Books [we worked on]," artist Mike Collins reflects, "and I always thought he was a talent that never fully got to express himself. Some of the drawings he did for himself were classy, European style, which really wasn't in favour during the whole Image boom."

"Steve was a terrific artist and a good guy, kind, helpful, generous, all that," writes Neil Gaiman. "He would have been the colourist on Sandman but he never turned in the sample pages he was given to colour, because they weren't quite perfect yet, and by the time he was nearly satisfied with them someone else already had the job. I learned a lot from that.

"I learned a lot about comics, about the history of comics, about strip cartoons, from Steve. I wish he'd been willing to draw more, to let it go, to feel more comfortable making mistakes in public. Mostly I wish he'd done more comics."

Most recently, Steve was experimenting with vector art (see below), and continued his lifelong work at explaining and discussing the process of comics creation, particularly colouring, to various comics groups and friends via the web.

Vector art by Steve whitakerI will remember him as a bear of a man, always full of enthusiasm, even in the midst of some crisis or other, and always fervent in promoting and educating others on the comics art. A regular attendee of recent comics events such as Caption, in the 1980s and 1990s he was was one of the driving forces behind many small press initiatives such as the London Cartoon Centre and the British Amateur Press Association, and an inspiration to so many comic creators and friends.

In his own biography for his livejournal page, he reveals he grew up in early 1960s Swanley, Kent and London, and attended secondary school in the late 1960s in Northampton. After doing a foundation in Bedford he achieved a BA Hons Degree in Painting at Chelsea 1975-78.

He did a lot of odd jobs including gardening, working in a toot shop, specialist decoration, and collaborated on a couple of art magazines in the 1980s (Cipher and Atlas). He worked as a colourist for Marvel UK, Oberon BV (Holland), DC Comics, Fleetway, Tundra, Valiant/Acclaim, winning awards for colour work on V For Vendetta for DC Comics and The New Adventures of Adolph Hitler for Crisis. He was a committee member and Vice Chair at the Society of Strip Illustrators in the 1980s and early 1990s.

A man whose comics knowledge was second to none, he wrote several comics obituaries for The Guardian and Independent. As a contributor to Fantasy Advertiser, his friend and editor Martin Skidmore recalls an occasion when he and Steve interviewed Will Eisner together. "His graphic novel The Dreamer had just come out, a tale of his early life with all the names changed. Steve was checking a couple of identities with him, and Eisner's jaw literally dropped. 'How can you even have heard of that man?' [he declared]. 'How can you know that? I thought I was the only person in the world who would know that was.'

"I have never met anyone who knew more about comics than Steve, no one to compare to him at identifying artists."

As mentioned above, Steve taught at the London Cartoon Centre as well as East Ham College, Central School of Art in the 90s and Noughties, writing the Encyclopedia of Cartoon Techniques in 1993.

"For me personally, he was the nearest thing I ever had to a mentor and he was a great friend," recalls Nick Abadzis, responding to Tom Spurgeon's tribute on The Comics Reporter. "He once said to me of another, mutual friend, "It's a stupid world and it hurts him." In some ways, this was applicable to Steve himself, too -- he was a very warm and generous man with a keen mind that was interested in absolutely everything.

"He was also possessed of a disarmingly ropey and charming wit. He taught several generations of comic artists and cartoonists and although there's not a great deal of his work that saw print, he was the kind of artist many of us aspire to be."

Like Nick, Steve's friend Andrew Littlefield notes he always made it clear that sharing - knowledge, time - was more than half the pleasure and always the whole point. He loved people who could match his own passion and thirst for knowledge, and he was almost as good a student as he was a teacher.

He once came to Lancaster to run a comics workshop for Lancaster Royal Grammar School for the Lancaster Literature Festival, while I was its director, back in the 1990s: I recall the incredulous look on the faces of some of the school kids as he came through the door - who was theis giant and scary man and how could he be a teacher of anything? - but within minutes his enthusiasm for his art consumed them. David Novell, the teacher who had organised the event with me, told me it had got kids interested in creative writing who would never normally have entertained the notion, and that in itself is a testament to Steve's talents as a creator, and a man.

"Anyone who was around the London comics scene in the 1880's and early 1990's will remember Steve; at 6ft 4in he was hard to miss in his trademark long dark overcoat," writes Matt Brooker (aka D'Israeli, who kindly supplies the photograph of Steve illustrating this post). "He was a world-class colourist who will probably be remembered professionally for his work on the DC Comics edition of V for Vendetta, but he was far more than that; a brilliant draughtsman, painter, teacher and historian of comics, raconteur and ace punster. He was also my best mate."

"In person, he was self-deprecating and dismissive of himself and his abilities," says writer Jenni Scott in her tribute to Steve, "but turning the subject onto the things he knew so much about - obscure or weird mainstream comics, eclectic music from tropicalia and jazz to no wave and Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band - and he was warm, open, a great teacher, a great communicator. He introduced me to Os Mutantes, Astor Piazzolla, and drawing with a firm line. His workshops for CAPTION were inspiring."

"He was incredibly knowledgeable about comics and artists and the techniques of how to put comics together, knowledge," Steve Holland concurs in his post about Steve on Bear Alley, "which he shared with hundreds of students as a teacher at the various incarnations of the LCC, at East Ham College and many workshops at conventions and festivals."
Steve Whitaker was an extraordinary talent who will be so missed. There should be more people like him in this world and sadly now there is one less.

John Freeman

"Collective memory" websites devoted to Steve:
• Jellytown: community.livejournal.com/jellytown
• Steemol: www.flickr.com/groups/steemol

Steve's Art Online
• Right: Steve's self portrait, from his flickr site, which he wryly described as "
the blind cartoonist".
As of February 2008,
examples of Steve's recent art could be found on his livejournal page and flickr album.
The Saga of the Man Elf gallery includes three covers are by Steve - the first three on the page.
Charlton Action HeroesSketches of the Charlton Action Heroes drawn by Steve for a UKCAC comic convention booklet in the early 1980s. Courtesy Mikel Norwitz.
The Last Party on Earth by Jean Marc L'Officier, illustrated by Steve
Spellbinders #6 Cover: Nemesis the Warlock

Tributes
Nick Abadzis
Lee-Brimmicombe Wood
Matt Brooker
(Several comic creators have added their thoughts in comments on Matt's blog)
Richard Bruton
Eddie Campbell
Theo Clarke
Ross Cowin
Jeremy Dennis
Dirk Deppey (scrolling required)
Warren Ellis
Jen D
Steve Green
Martin Hand (warning: comments on this tributecontain images of comic fan parties that may offend the overly sensitive...)
Steve Holland
Terry Hooper
Alan Jeffrey
Rich Johnston (Part of his regular column)
Tony Keen
Guy Lawley
Andrew Littlefield
Heidi Macdonald
Tim Perkins
Paul Schroeder
Jenni Scott
Martin Skidmore
Tom Spurgeon
(See also Nick Abadzis' letter to Tom Spurgeon regarding Steve)

Imagery
Darryl Cunningham
has dedicated this episode of his comic, Super Sam, to Steve
Tammy D has posted photographs of Steve and Paul Schroeder
Motoko Brimmicombe-Wood (a photo of Steve)

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