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Saturday, 8 March 2008
Oor Wullie, who celebrates being "nine years auld" today was created by Dudley D Watkins who also illustrated The Broons, Korky Cat and Desperate Dan. Born in 1907, Dudley moved to Scotland in 1925 and started to work for publisher D.C. Thompson for a trial period of six months, and remained at this publisher until his death in 1969.
It was recently revealed that Wullie himself is based on Ron Low, the son of RD Low, former editor of the Sunday Post.
Staff at the DC Thomson headquarters in Dundee were struggling for inspiration for a new character when eight-year-old Ron, dressed in dungarees, strode into the office clutching a bucket of potatoes.
Watkins immediately set about sketching him sitting on the upturned bucket. The iconic image, drawn in 1935, defined the character who has remained unchanged ever since.
The early years clearly place Wullie and The Broons in Glasgow with a few mentions of Glasgow (or Glesca) appearing in the strips. Also, from May to October 1938, the characters made frequent visits to the Empire Exhibition which was held in Bellhouston Park, Glasgow.
Odd Facts about Wullie...
• In the early years Wullie had a wee brother but he mysteriously dissapeared never to appear again.
• In September 2005 the first Oor Wullie annual from 1940 sold at auction for £4,015. Only five copies are known to exist.
• A survey conducted in 2004 named Oor Wullie as Scotland's Top Icon beating William Wallace and Sir Sean Connery into second and third place.
• He may be 70 but he's still young enough to be on MySpace
This is virtual reality pioneer Randy Pausch, who is dying from cancer, reprising his inspirational "Last Lecture" on the Oprah Show (screened on 22 October, 2007). You can see the full-length version of this short Oprah Show reprise at www.cs.virginia.edu/robins/Randy.
Randy is also a human-computer interaction researcher, co-founder of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center (www.etc.cmu.edu), and creator of the Alice software project (www.alice.org).
It's a short, moving but celebratory and inspiring piece of media which I hope you don't mind me re-posting here, but I think we could all do with more Tiggers than Eyores (and you'll have to view the video to get that reference).
Randy says he remains "flattered and embarrassed" by all the recent attention for his Last Lecture. "I am told that, including abridged versions, over six million people have viewed the lecture online.
"The lecture really was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful. But rest assured; I'm hardly unique. Send your kids to Carnegie Mellon and the other professors here will teach them valuable life lessons long after I'm gone."
• You can support research into curing pancreatic cancer via the Lustgarten foundation, and/or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
• Randy's book about his "Last Lecture" is at www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Randy_
• High-resolution downloadable versions of Randy's videos can be found at www.cs.virginia.edu/robins/Randy
Update, 25 July 2008: Randy Pausch died today, aged 47. The Los Angeles Times (among many others) posted a tribute to him, noting his book, The Last Lecture, has sold over two million copies and is being published in 29 languages. Memorial donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, www.pancan.org, or to Carnegie-Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund, www.cmu.edu/giving/pausch.
Friday, 7 March 2008
Independent production company Shine, who also made Sky One's Hex, is to begin filming the new drama, telling the story of legendary heroes Arthur and Merlin, next week.
The series will be shot on location in Wales, with Wilson playing Gaius, the court physician who becomes mentor to the young Merlin, who will be played by Colin Morgan.
The series has been in development for some time. Back in 2006, The Guardian reported the BBC was hoping to add Merlin to its roster of Saturday night dramas, revealing that even then the project had had a long a tortuous development history, going through several different guises before the current Shine version.
BBC1's Peter Fincham (who is now at ITV) said then that the plan to revamp Merlin for Saturday evenings will not spell the end for Robin Hood or Doctor Who, as each production could be played out at different times of the year depending on schedules.
“We have only scratched the surface of family viewing," The Stage reported. "Our appetite is not exhausted. We could certainly accommodate a third drama.”
Richard Wilson is of course no stranger to fantasy drama, having recently appeared in Doctor Who and whose credits also include Gulliver's Travels, Brave New World and The Last Van Helsing.
Newcomer Bradley James will play the young Arthur, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Anthony Head as his father. Another newcomer, Angel Golby, will play Guinevere and Katie McGrath (whose credits include the new thriller, Red Mist) is the sorceress Morgana.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
There seems to have been a bit of a trend in classics adapting lately. Marvel got in on the act years ago, but really, all they were doing was putting out a comic. Publishers like Classical Comics have taken a tougher stance: when you read one of their adaptations, you are not just reading a comic, you're reading an educational tool.
I'm no Shakespeare expert, and haven't read or seen a play since I left school, but it strikes me he's a pretty good choice for a comic adaptation, as like film, and comics, plays are essentially visual. Granted, that visual might be nothing more exciting than two blokes sat by a tree waiting for someone to turn up, but not so Shakespeare - fighting, death, action are the order of the day as much as lofty chat.
Henry V, like other books in the planned Classical Comics range (Macbeth has just been release) is wearing its educational heart on its sleeve with three separate adaptations, original text, modern text and quick text.
As I understand it, we're therefore being offered an easy read, a general read and an almost as good as reading the original versions. I'm not sure this is actually a good idea, even though seems to come from pretty laudable reasons.
Taking the easy read (Quick Text) edition first, I wonder if the lazy reader who now has the option of just flicking through a comic rather than reading the synopsis will really enjoy the story so much they'll read the full text?
Why? This is rather like assuming Tom Cruise fans who enjoyed Vanilla Sky went out and rented Open Your Eyes. It's possible, but not likely, and most people will be happy with the initial fix.
My other concern with the Quick Text edition is that even with the best will in the world (no pun intended) no one is good enough to edit down a 50-word soliloquy into an eight word sentence and retain a sense of the language, or even produce plain interesting dialogue. There may be more to Shakespeare than flowery chat, but I suspect the chat's more meat than veg.
Much more successful is the Plain Text, modern text version. It's still a little brisker than the original but it doesn't jettison nuance in favour of giving the kids an MTV, or worse, DVD on fast forward, experience.
And then there's the Original Text. If you like Shakespeare, and comics, you'll like this. Quite simply, it works.
A good comic artist has to be able to be to dress characters in the right clothes, create the perfect stage, control the lighting and composition, and last, and maybe most importantly, create living breathing characters with a full range of facial expressions. Fortunately, Neill Cameron is able to do all this and keep things easy to follow.
One of the odder aspects of Henry V is the introduction by Chorus, who warns us of the limitations of seeing such an epic tale on a less than epic stage. Imagine something bigger than you're about to seem he urges, and you'll better appreciate the story. Except we do get to see all that. It's a comic. It takes a bit more work on the part of the artist, but you can see it!
In the end, Henry V is a good comic and a fine adaptation, but I can't help feeling three books is one to many. For my money, a compromise between quick and plain text would have be fine, minimising the weakness of both.
• For more about Classical Comics visit the official web site
• Buy the Original Text edition of Henry V from amazon.co.uk
• Buy the Plain Text editin of Henry V from amazon.co.uk
• Buy the Quick Text edition of Henry V from amazon.co.uk
"Even if you're not a fan of country & western music, you cannot deny that Smoky Dawson, who died Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 94 years of age, made an indelible contribution, not only to Australia's country and western music industry, but to Australian popular entertainment," feels Kevin. Read the full tribute...
Comics Down Under is devoted to the history of Australian comic books, from the 1930s and 1940s to the present day. Each installment looks at a different aspect of Australian comics' history, ranging from landmark characters and their creators, to profiles of publishing companies and interviews with current Australian comic writers and artists.
While apparently not updated as regularly as Steve Holland's British comics history blog Bear Alley, Comics Down Under has some fascinating articles on antipodean comics history and is well worth a browse, especially given the number of British comics characters and indeed, comics, published there.
As Richard Sheaf noted last month here, Issue 14 (cover seen left, artwork by Martin Baines) promises to be good as ever.
"Along with our regular stuff we have an article on how Dan Dare lives on after the original Eagle folded," says editor Rod Barzilay, "plus a new Ian Kennedy centre-spread with New Eagle's Dan Dare, and a stunning cover by Martin Baines from the
final episode of Murder on Mars.
"All pre-paid issues and shop orders have now been dispatched," he adds, "but my data base crashed in January and some information was lost.
"Some issues might have gone to old addresses, so if you have paid for one and it hasn't turned up - let me know."
• To order, visit the official web site for latest pricing details: spaceshipaway.org.uk/
Marvel says the application allows fans to peruse the entire Marvel Digital Universe Unlimited Collection the company launched last November and it will function as a hub for the entire Marvel Universe on Facebook.
While a number of other comic book publishers including US publishers Dark Horse and DC Comics (and ROK Comics, run by downthetubes editor John Freeman) have chosen to promote their titles on MySpace, Marvel decided to work with Facebook, which is currently less popular in the US.
Anyone who fills out the application will be eligible to look (for free) at some sample Marvel digital comics, browse all of the more than 3,000 Marvel Digital Universe Unlimited titles by series, creators, characters or by the most recent additions to the collection, announce their favourites by listing them on "My Must Reads," and find out what Marvel digital comics their friends are enjoying.
Marvel's Facebook home will also include character image galleries, videos, and information on Marvel Studios' upcoming movies like
Featured are The Comedian (left, played on screen by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) the character whose death starts events in both book and film); Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson); billionaire superhero Ozymandias (Matthew Goode); Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley); and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman).
Filming is now complete and director Zack Snyder says he is delighted with what's in the can now production has wrapped.
"A film adaptation of Watchmen has been in the works for almost 20 years," he says on his blog, thanking the cast and crew on the project, "and thanks to you, it is finally in the can. It has been such a pleasure to be surrounded by a team that is so dedicated and that has given 110% each and every day. I am extremely grateful for the level of attention to detail put forth by each department to capture all of the texture that makes Watchmen the incredibly unique property that it is.
"Although we still have a lot of work to do in post, the shoot has been an experience I will not soon forget!"
• Official Watchmen Film Blog
• Official Watchmen Film web site (US)
He had apparently sufffered health problems for the last few years.
Surely there cannot be many people in the western world who grew up or who was at University in the 1980s who did not in some way come into contact with Gary's fantasy roleplaying creation: I certainly did, whiling away many Sunday afternoons (and evenings) sitting around a table exploring and creating imaginary worlds populated with all manner of strange beast, from orcs, goblins and dwarves to gods and, of course, dragons (although you should never, in my opinion, over use dragons. When they turn up in a game it should alway be a momentous event).
Dungeons & Dragons had its origins in Chainmail, a miniatures wargame based on Elastolin figures which Gygax devised with Jeff Perren in 1971, as he recounts in this interview on UGO. Prior to this, Gygax's devotion to gaming had led him to organise a convention in his basement in 1967, attended by a hanful of people which today has grown into the GenCon event which now attracts tens of thousands of gamers each year.
"Dave Arneson [the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons]... started a Chainmail campaign where all the players each had one figure," Gary recounts, "and he brought that style of game down to Lake Geneva to show me. I said, 'Wow, that’s really cool'. So out of his inspiration, I created the D&D rules.
Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 by the Gygax-owned company Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. Its publication is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and, by extension, the entire role-playing game industry. It became an instant success, played by over 20 million people worldwide, and inspired many other rpgs, comics, countless video games, books and films.
"The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience," Gygax said in 2006. "There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character ... You get to sort of vicariously experience those things."
Gary Gygax also wrote many fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of novels.
Gary Gygax’s widow Gail said that her late husband’s father read fantasy books that sparked his son’s fascination with the subject from which he was to draw inspiration for his own creative career.
Today, Dungeons & Dragons is is currently published by Wizards of the Coast, a division of Hasbro. In a posting on the offcial D&D web site Wizards of the Coast describe Gary as one of the creators of an entirely new type of hobby that attracts millions of players worldwide to face-to-face and online roleplaing games.
"Gary was a grand storyteller renowned for his unique style, sprawling "Gygaxian" adventures, and the fantastic world of Greyhawk. He inspired generations of players, and authors, and he will be sorely missed by legions of fans."
Thanks for introducing the world to the chance rolls of D20s and the D6s, Gary. You will be much missed.
• UGO Interview with Gary Gygaz
• Gary Gygax' Gaming Legacy (Posting on gaming news site Kotaku)
• Tributes to Gary Gygax on Respectance.com
• Brad King and John Borland's excellent 2003 book Dungeons and Dreamers. The book explores gaming from those early days in Wisconsin up to today's massive online communities.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
A few highlights from the auction included a Dan Dare bust, only the third ever made by John Fowler and originally sculpted for Southport's celebration of Dan Dare back in 2000. This went for £120, although all prices also had a 15% buyers premium plus VAT where applicable, while a Dan Dare spaceship (boxed) went for £150, a presentation belt (Crafton) and tie (Theros) in original box went for £70.
Steve has a number of pictures of lots from the auction which are sure to be of interest to Dan Dare fans but as he says, it's sad to think that Bob's collection, which he spent a lifetime collecting, was sold in under 30 minutes...
In addition to the fun strip here Mister Hawk, which runs for three episodes he's made "free to view" on ROK Comics, also on view are strips such as the R-rated Mr Punch and Bristol Superhero.
Kev is currently writing and drawing comedy adventures starring The Bash St Kids, Dennis The Menace and others, in the weekly Beano comic and annuals. He's also the comedian who does The Sitcom Trials (you might have have seen him in London and Edinburgh and, hopefully, on TV), and is also a close associate of The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, "and I turn up at parties caricaturing people (my last solo show was Kev F Draws The Crowds, you can guess what the unique selling point was)", says Kev.
• Visit Kev's web site at: www.myspace.com/kevfdrawsthecrowds
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Inspired by Asian mythology and produced in Hong Kong by a team of experienced writers and artists, exactly half of whom are from the Western comic industry and half from the Eastern, the publishers describe the book - and downthetubes has seen an early version, which does look fab - as "truly revolutionary".
The first issue cover is drawn by world renowned artist Simon Bisley (2000AD, Heavy Metal, Batman, Wolverine) and you can order your special limited edition signed preview copy now from www.fluidfriction.com and be among the first to own a piece of history.
Devashard is an epic narrative, introducing a host of original characters seamlessly woven into the lives of those already in existence and it is a story of truth, honour, injustice, betrayal and revenge. Spanning a series of 25 full colour graphic novels, the series reveals the life of Karna,
a great warrior whose destiny brings with it many grave dangers. In the first book of the series, Karna’s serene existence is suddenly shattered by the appearance of a dark, terrible creature that is stalking him and his family.
• Download a preview copy (PDF format)
1 Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Sega's best-selling Olympics title has hit the five million milestone after just three months on sale.
2 Dr Kawashima's Brain Training
3 NEW ENTRY Lost: The Video Game
Play as a survivor of Oceanic Flight 815: Confront your dark past, seek your redemption, and ultimately find a way home.
4 Frontlines: Fuel Of War
5 Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
6 Lost Odyssey
7 More Brain Training From Dr Kawashima
8 Fifa Street
9 Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
10 NEW ENTRY The Sims 2: Freetime
It’s all about fun, personal development for your Sims in The Sims 2 FreeTime. Sims can follow their individual interests, whether it’s immersing themselves in books, becoming an award-winning foodie, flying a remote-controlled helicopter or playing the violin. Gifted mechanics can repair and then drive their newly-renovated sports cars. Sims can rake in oodles of Simoelons with skilfully crafted pottery or by writing a mesmerising novel.
Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, © 2008 ELSPA Ltd
UK publisher Titan Magazines continues to publish a tie-in Smallville magazine.
Now beginning its seventh season in the US, with early episodes screening on ITV2 and more recent stories on E4 in the UK, Smallville new interpretation of the enduring Superman mythology and its classic characters blends realism and adventure into an exciting action series.
Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) are now the sworn enemies that comic book aficionados have always known and loved and season seven features several guest stars from the Superman mythology, including Dean Cain (who played Superman in Lois & Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl), plus storylines about Superman's home Krypton and the El family, in a season in which Clark will discover more about his home planet, who his parents were, what his future holds and why he was sent to Earth.
Guests stars in the new season include Alaina Huffman as Black Canary (pictured above, image courtesy CW) and Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow), and Laura Vandervoort as Kara.
Also renewed are One Tree Hill and comedy Everybody Hates Chris, also screened in the UK.
DVD Releases from amazon.co.uk (Region 2)
• Smallville Season One
• Smallville Season Two
• Smallville Season Three
• Smallville Season Four
• Smallville Season Five
• Smallville Season Six
We're delighted to report that downthetubes is one of the comic web sites already nominated and the more nominations we get, the greater the chance we may make it to the final ballot. Thanks to everyone who nominated us and fingers crossed!
Established in 1976 by Mike Conroy, now editor of Comics International, the Eagles are the comics industry’s longest established awards. Acknowledged as the pre-eminent international prizes, they have been featured on the covers of leading US and UK titles across the last three decades with such diverse titles as X-Men, Swamp Thing, Preacher, 2000AD and MAD among those proud to display the Eagle Award emblem.
Aiming to offer a broader spectrum of the industry, voters will again be asked to select from the top five nominees in each of the 30 categories, as they were last year. Nominations, which are once again open to the comics reading public worldwide, close at midnight on Saturday, 22 March.
Voting is to begin on Tuesday 1 April with the winners announced at the Bristol International Comic Expo on Saturday, 10 May 2008. The award ceremony is one of the highlights of Britain's longest-running comics’ festival and will be held at Bristol's Ramada Plaza Hotel where the ceremony is to be hosted by British TV and sitcom personality Fraser Ayres (pictured), best known as a regular in TV shows such as The Smoking Room and Thieves like Us, but whose credits also include Urban Gothic and Casualty. Assisting him will be Eagle Awards regular Cassandra Conroy, daughter of awards founder, Mike Conroy.
The presentation is to be preceded by the traditional gala dinner. With demand for tickets always high, early booking is highly recommended. Reservations can be made through Martin 'Biff' Averre, who can also provide further details. He can be contacted via email at martin AT acecomics.co.uk or by telephone on 01206 364140 (011-44-1206 364140 from North America).
The Eagles have their very own message forum, where discussion is taking place on all aspects of the awards including suggestions for who and what might garner nominations next year.
Web Link: www.eagleawards.co.uk
Monday, 3 March 2008
Alastair’s first novel Revelation Space was published in 2000 and was short-listed for the BSFA and Arthur C. Clarke awards. His second novel Chasm City won the BSFA in 2002. Up until 2004 he was working as a scientist within the European Space Agency, and after living for 16 years in the Netherlands he has now returned to his native Wales.
House of Suns begins six million years ago, at the very dawn of the starfaring era, when Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones: the shatterlings. Sent out into the galaxy, these shatterlings have stood aloof as they document the rise and fall of countless human empires. But now something is trying to destroy them and they have to find out who or what it is before their ancient line is wiped out.
On the launch of the second Classical Comics project, Macbeth, downthetubes caught up with accomplished British comics artist Jon Haward to talk to him about his work on the project -- an adaptation which includes all the scenes featuring the witches and their controlling goddess, Hecate -- and his varied career... Read the Interview on downthetubes...
Sunday, 2 March 2008
• Thunderbird 1 (see right) features the scout ship for the International Rescue organisation over Tracy Island
• Thunderbird 2 is also seen flying over Tracy island with Thunderbird 1 in the distance
Both paintings measure 29 x 20cm and and are painted in goucahe on white card. Purchasers are pre-warned the artwork cannot be reproduced without permission of the artist and copyright holders. Successful bidders are not buying the copyright to the artwork - these are paintings for your wall and not to be used for commercial purposes.
Graham is best known for his Thunderbirds cross sections and illustrations for books, magazines and comics inlcuding the 1990s Fleetway Gerry Anderson comics such as Thunderbirds and his best selling Thunderbirds FAB Cross Sections book, published by Carlton Books.
• Visit Graham Bleathman's web page for more information about his work.
Wednesday 12th March
104 Norse Road,
Telephone: 01234 353701
(See bottom of post for map)
"Collective memory" websites devoted to Steve:
• Jellytown: community.livejournal.com/jellytown
• Steemol: www.flickr.com/groups/steemol
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• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials: firstname.lastname@example.org
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