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Saturday, 22 March 2008

It's a Science Fiction World...

Science Fiction Studies 100.jpg-- or at least, that's the view of a leading American professor, talking about a new article he's written for Indiana's Martinsville Reporter-Times.

"Science fiction is no longer kids' stuff, but serious literature," acclaimed Jules Verne expert Arthur B. Evans, Laurel H. Turk, who is also Professor of Modern Languages at DePauw University, tells the paper. "It's partly because we are living science fiction on a regular basis."

Dr. Evans is featured in an article headlined "No longer considered pulp fiction" with reporter Ronald Hawkins describing Evans as a good example of the increased respectability that science fiction has gained over the years.

"Evans is a French professor at DePauw, but he also teaches a science fiction course at the university, one of many institutions of higher learning that offer such courses. Evans also is the managing editor of Science Fiction Studies, a scholarly journal that began at Indiana State in the 1970s and moved to DePauw in 1991 after time in Canada." The respected journal which publishes critical articles and book reviews only, recently reached its 100th issue.

Evans discusses how science fiction has changed since the days when stories focused on the possibilities of space travel. "Today, there are all kinds of interesting themes," he says. "There's a lot about nano-technology, biological futures, viruses."

The professor also discusses the difference between science fiction and fantasy. "It's fantasy if it's got magic and no perceivable laws of science in operation," the professor tells the paper. "If it's about the supernatural, it's not science fiction. An example of the differences in literature would be that the Harry Potter books are fantasy, whereas Jules Verne's ' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea would be science fiction."

• Read the complete text at the newspaper's Web site.

The Other Side of Harry

Friend, bodyguard, martial arts master, stunt man and actor John Carrigan, a regular cast member of recent fan produced Star Trek movies and more, has been in contact with downthetubes to tell us about The Other Side of Harry, a new e-book he's written for mental health publisher Chipmunka.

While it's not a project we would normally cover here, we're more happy to support John's work and hope it's a success for him. Be warned: you may find some of the content of this post as John describes his upbringing disturbing.

"I think my book will help many people overcome the demons of their past as I have had to do," John tells us. "It has just been published as an e book with the paperback version is out in the summer. Most of the proceeds for the book go to charity, so it is a worthy cause.

"The Other Side of Harry is about the dark illness of schizophrenia which continues to tear people apart even today," reveals John, "and about the legacy of demons it leaves behind for the families to deal with, demons which take years to conquer… if they ever truly can be conquered.

"But this book is also about love, sacrifice and hope, which against all odds were the only things which brought my family through hell to the brightness of today and the hope of tomorrow."

The book centres on the story of Margaret and Henry Carrigan (Maggie and Harry), John's mother and father who were childhood sweethearts and married to have a lovely daughter Susan then son John. "When I was two weeks old and was lying on the sofa by the fire my father, who was also by the fire with my mother, turned to the woman he loved and… began smashing her head in with a poker.

"After that desperate fight for life all our lives were changed for ever."

Schizophrenia had possessed John's father turning him from a wonderful man into, the other side of Harry. "Thus began our life of hospitals, police sieges, straight jackets and need," says John. "Almost abandoned by the rest of our relations, my mum began her sole fight to support us all and never once did she abandon her Harry or give up hope. She worked night and day and was the rock in all our lives.

"After suffering violence and domination from my father, my sister left home at 16 to live with my aunt and try for a normal life. Thus I was left with my mum to witness and take on the full force of schizophrenia, as time and time again my father went through the many stages of madness, and then back again to the man we loved and hated at the same time. From keeping me as an over protected virtual prisoner, to making us sit in darkness for hours with his ever present rantings ringing in our ears, to seeing him kneeling in the middle of the main road praying in the rain with a laughing crowd around him.

"This was all part of the life I had growing up with my fathers insanity, and it was topped off by the constant fear that 'Harry' would erupt in violence toward my mother and I would be unable to do anything to stop him. With all of this going on around me the demons of doubt, loneliness and fear would have torn me apart if not for the hero in my life, my mum."

Not all John's memories of his father are soured by this terrifying illness. "My father was a lovely well mannered man and a talented pianist," says John. "His true self without his illness was a gentle intelligent being who would dress in a suit and tie and always look immaculate whenever he could, and that was the man we loved. But not by choice we were torn, and forced to hate his alter ego which could be the most cruel of beings, the being I called the other side of Harry.

"Between being tormented at home with my fathers illness I was also beaten up and bullied at school, and the only things I found in my life to give me comfort were my mother and the TV programme, Star Trek which would turn out to have such an influence in my future life. After one day being beaten up outside my own front door by a group of thugs even my father knew he needed to do something to help his introverted son who was so unprepared for the outside world, so he enrolled me in a martial arts school, and it began.

"I took a journey of self discovery and after years of dedication and struggle turned myself from a timid boy into a black belt martial artist and teacher with my own martial arts school, and a bodyguard to the rich and famous. I went on to become a stunt man and actor working on TV and films, and finally having a guest starring role on a new incarnation of, of all things Star Trek, acting with my childhood heroes.

"In spite of or because of, I have ended up achieving things most people with a normal up bringing can only dream of."

"My book goes from the old Londoners hop picking days in Kent which was a big part of my family's life, to the lights of Hollywood," John reveals. "From the demons and disasters which haunt anyone with my kind of back ground, to triumph and hope for the future.

"This book is a story of struggle and love, of pain and loss, and finally hope," he feels. "With a message for anyone who lives through their darkest days -- that they can make it. The thing which makes a star bright is the darkness which surrounds it, thus sometimes it is only our dark past which can propel us to a bright future, if only we do not give in to the darkness first."

You can buy The Other Side of Harry as an e-book from mental health publisher Chipmunka

Modesty's Yellowstone Booty

The dark underworld of espionage and crime is lit up once more by the fatal charms of the gorgeous Modesty Blaise — high priestess of pulp crime and goddess of cult thrillers.

Titan Books collects three more classic, hard-to-find stories in Modesty Blaise: Yellowstone Booty, on sale from 23 May 2008:

In Idaho George, Modesty is forced to escape from kidnappers when she is taken hostage along with a con artist, while in Yellowstone Booty she must thwart would-be thieves from stealing a stash of treasure from its rightful Native American owners; and in The Golden Frog, the fighting femme must journey to Cambodia, to rescue the master who trained her from the clutches of an evil regime.

Originally published in the Evening Standard in the 1960s, Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise provides crime thriller storylines with sass, wit and a touch of glamour, that has wooed celebrity fans such as Quentin Tarantino.

Pre-order Yellowstone Booty from amazon.co.uk

Stranded gets TV pilot

Mike Carey (X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Voodoo Child) and creator of Virgin Comics series The Stranded will be developing the story into a television series for SCI FI Channel.

“One of the purposes of our SCI FI partnership is to create television and film writing opportunities for the best talents in the comic industry. Having Mike write the television pilot for The Stranded, a comic book he created, is exactly what we had hoped for,” commented Virgin CEO Sharad Devarajan.

Mike Carey’s stunning work has earned him fans worldwide. With The Stranded, Mike challenges ordinary people to face the extraordinary – their lives are lies. Every memory is false. Startling events cause them to confront the truth, that they are, in fact, “stranded” on Earth after a horrific genocide in another galaxy.

“From day one,” Carey says, “working on The Stranded has felt like being at a nexus point of creativity. Virgin and SCI FI created the perfect platform, and then supported the book and the creative team through all the stages of development. This feels like something we all own, and we all love. I can't wait to take it forward into its next incarnation.”

"It’s all very cool," he says on his blog. "I love the core premise of The Stranded, and the cast we’ve built up. I really want to carry on telling their story, in as many different formats as I can - including semaphor where appropriate."

The Stranded Issue # 1 was released in January 2008 and #3 goes on sale at comic shops and via available at www.virgincomicsstore.com is on sale from 26th March 26th, 2008. The first volume of collected stories will be released in July.

Oli's Comics Reviews for Cross Hatch

(Updated after short break 27/3/08, with apologies to Oli Smith and Oliver East): Trains Are Mint creator Oliver East is letting UK small press publishers know someone at alternative comics blog The Daily Cross Hatch "has taken leave of their senses" and asked him to write a column on the comics scene in the UK and Europe.

If you want to send Oli comics to review here (UK and European comics only, please) e-mail Oli for his postal address at: east@rollingstockpress.co.uk

The Daily Cross Hatch was created with the intention of spotlighting the absurd amount of talent currently toiling away in the world of alternative comics, and bringing into focus some of those artists attempting to break into this largely thankless field.

Their goal is to provide information in the form of news stories, interviews, reviews, and features, in order to keep fans a bit more connected into the goings on of this sometimes enigmatic field.

"We’re also attempting to keep things relatively ‘underground.’" say the editors. "We love tights and taglines as much as the next blog staff, but let’s face it, if that’s what you’re really looking for, there are more than a few places around to appease your needs."

A Demon Regrets...

Take some fallen angels, a bit of fire and brimstone, a disgruntled immortal, a plan to out-deceive the Great Deceiver himself; throw in a slew of Michael Golden covers; and you've got the upcoming, highly anticipated mini-series Demon's Regret nailed on a spike.

Germinating in the brain of writer Mitch Brown for over two years, the plot of Demon's Regret, published by Digital Webbing, tags along with the one third of the fallen angels who decide to follow Lucifer in rebellion and war with Archangel Michael. But what happens to those angels that choose the path of evil rather than good? No pathway to salvation, no way of turning back once the die is cast?!

And, what happens if one of those fallen angels -- demons -- regrets his decision?

The story focuses on one such angel, Asmodeus, who, although he can never give up his demon status, chooses to assist with the commission of lesser evil to stop greater wrongs as an expression of his anger toward Lucifer. He has done so throughout history....as the reader will soon discover!

But what transpires if/when the boss discovers the ruse?

With shrewd dialogue and story structure from Brown, the interior art is provided by talented creator Wilfredo Torres, who made his first foray into comics on Terminus Media's series of Evolution books.

Cover duties go to comics mastermind and upcoming Birmingham International Comic Show guest Michael Golden, who, with recent work on Iron Man, Exiles and more seems a perfect choice to bring some devilish dealings to the Demon's Regret frontage.

Published by Digital Webbing, Demon's Regret is described as "a unique anti-hero tale that fits in nicely with Digital Webbing's themed books such as Bloodrayne and Bleeders, while also reminding us of some other anti-heroes in the comics lexicon who too sometimes use evil to combat evil... Unlike the guy with the skull on his chest and the AK47, however, Asmodeus has no choice."

Demon's Regret can be ordered from the Digital Webbing section of the Diamond catalogue, or directly from their website at: www.digitalwebbing.com

Comix Thing in London today

Just a quick reminder that today (22 March) sees the 5th UK web comix Thing, a gathering of the British and overseas small press en masse to present their wares and promote new work, at the Great Hall, Queen Mary University, Mile End, London.

Over 100 exhibitors from around the world will be in attendance, presenting some of the most exciting stories ever told. The event now stands as the premier event for creators and suppliers of mini comics, web comics, distributors and publishers.

You can learn more here: ukwebcomixthing.co.uk

VIOLENT! Gets Virtual - and Girly Goes Global

ViolentThis Saturday (22nd March 2008) sees the official launch of British indie press publisher Factor Fiction's The Girly Comic and Violent! titles as webcomics (factorfictionpress.co.uk).

To celebrate the launch, a brand new full colour comic strip Sisters of the Head will start on The Girly Comic site on Saturday. It has been written by Doctor Who novelist Daniel O'Mahony and illustrated by small press supremo Terry “Sleaze Castle” Wiley.

Factor Fiction will also be visiting The London Underground Comics Camden Market Stall, and The UK Web & Mini Comix Thing to promote the new site.

Both webcomics will debut new strips, threaded alongside our ongoing project to put the entire Factor Fiction strip archive online.

"Going online will enable us to continue our mission to bring new and established comic creators to a wider audience," explain publishers Jay Eales and Selina Lock.

The Girly Comic"For those who have never picked up a copy of Violent!, you'll be able to read serials such as The Flatworm, Spare Parts, MageWorks and Knuckles from the beginning. Plus, we're featuring a brand new four panel strip series: The Silent Service by Jay Eales and Paul McCaffrey."

UK Small press and Girly Comic fans will be aware that all sixteen print issues of The Girly Comic include work by autobiographical comic goddess Lee Kennedy, and Jay and Selina are very proud to be compiling an online archive of her work as part of The Girly Comic website.

"We're also excited to announce that over the coming months we'll be making all the Oddcases strips by Alistair Pulling & Bevis Musson available on The Girly Comic site. This will not only be the stories published in the comics, but also the early uncollected Oddcases strips, and hopefully some new ones."

Fans of print comics shouldn't worry - Factor Fiction has no plans to go completely digital. As part of the publishers overall plan they'll be producing book collections, including The Girly Comic Book, an as-yet unnamed Lee Kennedy Collection and compilations of the new strips featured on the sites. In the meantime, you can still buy copies of issues 1-16 of The Girly Comic and 1-13 of Violent! from the online store.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Alan Moore Interviewed for Inside Out

Alan Moore has been interviewed for BBC East's The Inside Out show, to be broadcast on tonight (Friday 21 March). The interview can also be viewed on the Inside Out website.

Alan talks candidly about his work, revealing he was expelled from school for drug dealing and talks about his first ever comics work, Maxwell the Magic Cat, as an "antidote to Garfield."

He's also forthright about his views on seeing his work adapted for film, saying he believes most modern films are not only artistic failures but "probably detrimental to modern culture".

His next two major projects are his second novel, Jerusalem, and the third and probably final book of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

Jerusalem is his Northampton novel and as he walks through his home town in the programme, he displays a vast knowledge of its history and its role in the history of Britain.

• Sky viewers outside the BBC East of England region will be able to watch Inside Out on the BBC1 East of England channel which will be in the 970 - 980 block of channels.

Happy Birthday, Number Six!

Number Six turned 80 yesterday, so belated birthday wishes to Patrick The Prisoner McGoohan. Perhaps it was no coincidence there was a documentary about The Prisoner on Radio 4, 'Britan in a Box' and you can hear it on the Radio 4 website for the next week.

Book Now for BICS

Retailers and publishers are being urged to get tables booked for the Birmingham International Comic Show, which doesn't take place until October - but spaces are booking fast.

The event takes place on 4th and 5th October 2008 and is now the largest UK comics event of the year, with over 170 exhibitor spaces, an impressive guest list of creators including US comics legend Michael Golden.

"BICS 2008 is an essential event for any retailer, publisher or reader of comics and manga or related media," feels co-organiser Shane Chebsey. "We only have a few tables left now, so anyone who'd like to exhibit who hasn't already booked will need to do so as soon as possible."

• For details on how you will be able to exhibit or visit go to www.thecomicsshow.co.uk. You can also download information about Sponsorship Opportunities.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

A Criminal Collaboration!

An ex-career criminal and cartoonist have come together to launch a true crime cartoon website (www.smuggling
vacation.co.uk) which introduces two unique drug smuggling anti-heroes the like of which may never have been seen before.

The site serialises the story of a young couple who discover a stash of cannabis on a Spanish beach and try to smuggle it into Britain.

The tale is the result of scores of letters sent back and forth over an 18 month period between British cartoonist Jason Wilson and a convicted but reformed smuggler, 'Smith' (now revealed as Tony Spencer), who has just completed four years of a six year sentence for smuggling hashish in Spain.

"After a two-year period we finally completed the 75 page adventure that took the dealers, growers, black marketeers and smugglers we both knew and made them the stars and cast in the tale of two Brits abroad who come across the opportunity of a lifetime," says Jason.

"The result is a unique book, mixing fact and fiction like no other book could. Many of the characters have been based on real life criminals although the names have been changed to protect the guilty."

Aimed at the 15-35 age group, male and female, Jason warns it's definitely not a story for the "conservatively minded and the humourles," and tells downthetubes the story is already attracting a growing audience from the British, French and Dutch webcomic and cannabis communities who tune in each week to see how far the amateur smugglers have got in their quest to smuggle the tonne of cannabis back to the UK.

Jason has stepped up promotion of the site with the imminent publication of the print edition of the comic. Jason is currently looking for simple but effective means to distribute, sell and promote the print version to UK comic buyers.

• For the latest news, visit the web site and read Jason's blog on developments, which include plans for a second book.

Cartoonist Jim Medway interviewed

downtheubes contributor Matthew Badham has just interviewed cartoonist Jim Medway, a self-published cartoonist whose comics might best be described as anthropomorphic, all-ages fun.

He has recently been invited to pitch ideas to the
new anthology comic from Random House, The DFC.

Jim is also a much in demand educator who teaches cartooning to children and adults in both formal and informal educational settings. In this interview, he talks about his influences, balancing teaching with making comics, and why less is sometimes more when it comes to cartooning.

Read the first part of the interview on the Overspill blog

Torchwood from Titan - Williamson's New Strip

The latest issue of Torchwood from Titan Magazines went on sale in the UK today, featuring a new comic strip, Jetsam, written and drawn by Brian Williamson, whose numerous credits include newspaper illustration for DC Comics, The Sunday Times and work for Marvel UK back in the 1990s - I worked with him on the four issue mini, Shadow Riders, which was eventually drawn by Ross Dearsley but Brian worked up many design ideas for the comic at the time.

The strip is published in colour in the magazine, which also includes interviews with interviews with Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Richard Briers and lead writer Chris Chibnall, but featured here are two pages of Brian's black and white art for the story. (Click the images for larger sized versions)

"Originally, I was going to colour these pages," Brian told downthetubes, "hence the shading on the faces, but due to some deadline misunderstanding somewhere along the line, there wasn’t time.

"Coincidently," add Brian. "I’m still in the Whoniverse as I’m painting a Fifth Doctor picture picture for an audio book revue in Doctor Who Magazine Issue 394 [on sale in April]. Still no Daleks though!"

Tin Man to premiere in May in UK

The UK Sci Fi Channel has announcded the top-rated mini series Tin Man, inspired by The Wizard of Oz and screened on SciFi Channel US last year, will air in May.

As we reported last month and last year, the fantasy adventure, produced by RHI Entertainment, earned the miniseries "most watched miniseries in Sci Fi history" status with 6.3 million viewers over the three nights in the US.

Starring Eric Johnson of Smallville fame in the title role, the series has already aired on the SCI FI channel in Poland, and Tin Man will premiere on Sundays at 8.00pm from 11th May in the UK.

Actor Brian Wilde dies

Brian Wilde, best known for his roles of Foggy in some 100 episodes of BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine and Barrowclough in Porridge, but whose credits included several cult TV appearances, has died aged 80.

Brian last appeared in Last of the Summer Wine in 1997. "Since then, he has been invited to return many times, but says he feels he has 'done it now' and doesn't want to go back," the show's producer Alan JW Bell once said. "I am sure that one day he will make an appearance - we still have his costume standing by." Sadly, this was never to happen.

Cult TV appearances for Brian included Ace of Wands (as a magician in the episode Peacock Pie, pictured above), Out of the Unknown (The Uninvited), Doomwatch (in the untransmitted third season episode Sex and Violence), Catweazle (as the vicar, Potts, in The Telling Bone), The Avengers (The Fear Merchants), and The Ghosts of Motley Hall. He also appeared in the Hammer film To the Devil a Daughter.

Links
Daily Telegraph Obituary

Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge



The deadline for the next Star Wars Fan Movie is approaching. If you don't have it circled on your calendar already, the due date is 27th May 2008.

Get creative, get some friends together, get your cameras rolling or get your animation started, and submit your fan movie to AtomFilms by 27 May for a chance to be in the running for awards at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July.

Your movie may even get seen and chosen by George Lucas, and win the coveted George Lucas Selects award. Winners may also get their Star Wars Fan Movies shown on Spike TV. More details at starwars.atomfilms.com.

Stumped for inspiration? Check out these classics from previous submissions.

Comedy is always a crowd-pleaser, as Chad Vader proved last year as the big winner. It's also an election election year in the US, and therefore the perfect season for political ads. Or, since it's also the year of Star Wars Celebration Japan, and you can let Japanese art be your muse.

Then again, how about something musical? Like this Barber Shop quartet take on the classic Ewok song?

Check out more Star Wars fan movies here and make sure to enter this year's challenge by 27 May. You can even use Star Wars Galaxies as the ultimate Star Wars movie-making kit, and turn in a machinima-style original.

Manga at Manchester's URBIS

(via Matthew Badham): Manchester's Urbis Centre is playing host to a new manga exhibition exploring its manifestation in everyday life in the 21st century, which runs until 27 September.

How Manga Took Over the World explores Manga’s influence in shaping contemporary culture, with something for everyone, from children to adults; offers a whistle stop introduction to Manga for novices - and apparently has plenty to keep hard core fans immersed.

Visitors will discover Cute Manga, Action Manga, Manga in Art, Fashion and Design, Manga as communication and Erotic Manga – for over 18s only!

For kids, showcases the colourful, magical films from Studio Ghibli, plus toys and characters, including a selection of figures and soft toys by TADO. The Action Manga section shows the darker side of the genre, including cyberpunk and violent action films which often appeal to older teens. Clips of the seminal film Akira with its use of fast bikes and heroes with superpowers are presented alongside a section which explores Manga’s influence on gaming.

You can also see how Manga has influenced contemporary artists and permeated the high street, from graphic design, advertisements, fashion, music and make-up - epsecially relevant perhaps this month with the release of Britney Spears' pseudo anime/manga video (see below).

We hope to have a full review of the exhibiton from Matthew Badham next week.

Wolfman: Sneak Peek

Courtesy of Universal Pictures, here's an advance look at their new Wolfman, from their upcoming The Wolfman film, currently scheduled for May 2009 release in the UK.

The make-up is the work of six-time Oscar-winning special effects artist Rick Baker, who has turned actor Benicio Del Toro into the deadly title character.

Inspired by the classic Universal Pictures film that launched a legacy of horror, the action-horror reclaims the myth of a man whose curse transforms him into something less than human to its iconic, cinematic origin.

Photo: Frank Ockenfels / Universal Pictures. Copyright: © 2008 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Freak Angels Live

While we're on the subject of digital comics (see Elfquest story below), just a reminder that Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield's new digital project via Avatar Press, FreakAngels is now live.

FreakAngels is a free, weekly, ongoing comic, which Warren himself describes as an open-ended, longform story told in the equivalent of five pages a week.

"I never got to do weekly comics, unlike many of my British peers," he explains, "so this is fun for me.

"I wanted to take a crack at something open-ended in the webcomics mode, and I’ve also been wanting to play with steampunk styling. And also, as has been my wont of late, I wanted to do something British.

"So welcome to Whitechapel, some years from now, just barely above ground in a flooded England. (I pored over speculative floodmaps to see what’d stay above water if the Thames burst its barriers.) Whitechapel is, among other things, home to a clan of unrelated young
people with purple hair and purple eyes: the Freakangels of the title.

"And the Freakangels have a secret: something bad is their fault."

• Drop by the Whitechapel Forum to discuss the week's installment. Initially conceived as a place to discuss the upcoming webcomic FreakAngels by Ellis and artist Paul Duffield, Whitechapel has since grown into Ellis’ new home on the net.

My website, warrenellis.com, is where I work and speak,” says Ellis. “But Whitechapel is now where I live. If the place looks a bit weird, especially in comparison to my previous online communities, it’s because I wanted this one to reflect my interests, rather than just force you to buy stuff or attempt to take over your mind. Frankly, mind control is easy. It’s having to look at all that weird crap in your head that’s hard.”

Elves take Over the Internet

(via BoingBoing): Every issue of Elfquest -- perhaps the oldest independent US comic -- is to be made available free online, part of an initiative by Wendy and Richard Pini, owners of Elfquest publishing company Warp Graphics, to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

It's hoped that by the end of the year, every issue ever will be available online for free.

Elfquest, which has a huge fan following, was one of the first independently published comics in the world and one of the most successful. First published in 1978, this tale of wolf-riding elves from outer space - a brief synopsis which does the 30-year-old title no real justice - is currently enjoying something of a renaissance, with renewed hope of a big screen film based on the epic fantasy tale.

DC Comics acquired worldwide publishing, media, and merchandising rights to Wendy and Richard Pini's epic-adventure fantasy comic book series Elfquest back in 2003 but ended their relationship last year. Last November, Dark Horse released a series of limited edition busts based on the three primary characters from the saga.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Captain Kronos Reunion

Next weekend sees a special reunion of the team involved in the Hammer Films feature Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter in London (29 March 2008). There are still a few tickets left, and anyone interested should contact organiser Don Fearney immediately. All money is due in by March 20th!

Made in 1974, the cast and crew of Hammer classic are reunited for this special one day event, which will take place at the Cine Lumiere in Queensberry Place, London SW7, on 29 March, from 10am til 6pm-ish.

The event will include cinema screenings of Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, Vampire Circus, and the final cut of Don Fearney's documentary on Hammer Vampires.

Captain Kronos himself, Horst Jansen, is guest of honour, making a rare UK appearance.

Other confirmed guests include writer/director Brian Clemens, and actors Caroline Munro, John Cater, Lois Daine, Paul Greenwood, William Hobbs, and Stafford Gordon.

• Tickets for the event cost £30. Details for purhcase will be announced shortly through unofficialhammerfilms.com. To reserve your ticket, send a cheque for £30, made payable to event organiser "Donald Fearney" and send to: Don Fearney, 25 High Hill Ferry, Bakers Hill, London, E5 9HG

Links
Captain Kronos review on British Horror Films UK

Our Own Space Odyssey

With the sad passing of Arthur C Clarke much has been said of the future that he envisaged with television news showing his fictional spaceships dancing to the strains of the Blue Danube from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Yet we do live in a future of space travel and exploration, be it the communications satellites in the 22,240 mile high geostationary orbit that Clarke accurately predicted in 1945 or the ten year old International Space Station in its rather lower orbit of around 250 miles.

Today there are ten humans in orbit in the ISS, its own crew of three and the shuttle Endeavour’s crew of seven. Waiting in orbit for Endeavour to depart is ATV-1 Jules Verne, Europe’s first unmanned space truck launched on an Ariane 5-ES. It will dock with the station when Endeavour is safely away, and let us not forget the station’s own ship, Soyuz TMA-11, which took its core crew up there in the first place.

In the inner solar system Messenger continues its journey to Mercury where it is due to arrive in 2011, while the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, continue to drive around the surface of the red planet as they have been doing for the last four years. In the outer solar system the Cassini probe continues its flypasts of Saturn and its numerous moons. A week ago it flew to within 30 miles of the surface of the moon Enceladus.

Beyond our solar system the Pioneer 10 probe is heading for Aldebaran and, assuming a Klingon Bird of Prey doesn’t use it for target practice as seen in Star Trek V, it should be there in about 2 million years. Meanwhile of the other interstellar probes, Pioneer 11 is heading for the constellation of Aguilla, Voyager 1 is heading in the direction of the constellation of Ophiuchus, and Voyager 2 towards Canis Major. Both Voyager craft continue to transmit data.

Orion-Ares ShuttleRather closer to Earth, as the Shuttle programme winds down, we will have to put the name Apollo-Saturn out of our heads and start to think about the next generation of manned spacecraft and launchers, Orion-Ares.

Alternatively there will be the opportunity to make short hops high into the upper atmosphere in Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, as advertised on the back pages of Virgin's Dan Dare comic, or maybe even EADS-Astrium's space plane.

We do live in a future of space travel and exploration, we just tend to forget about it.

In Memoriam: Sir Arthur C. Clarke

It seems to be a really bad few weeks for the science fiction and comics medium, with yet another reminder that my generation is in "mortality country" (as Alan Moore describes it). Today comes the news of the passing of writer Arthur C Clarke, perhaps best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey but whose credits encompass much more than that, who has died aged 90.

Clarke, who was born in Minehead, Devon in 1917 and was a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force during World War Two, said he wanted to be remembered as a writer "who entertained readers and hopefully stretched their imaginations as well" when he celebrated his 90th birthday in December, died at home in Sri Lanka, where he had lived for 20 years. Indeed he will.

As his official biography on the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation rightly states, his achievements, unique among his peers, bridge the arts and sciences. His works and his authorship have ranged from scientific discovery to science fiction, from technical application to entertainment, and have made a global impact on the lives of present and future generations.

Along with Ray Bradbury, E.E. Doc Smith, John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson, he was one of just many SF authors I read avidly as I grew up but his work was among the stories that I think most memorable. A Fall of Moondust, (also made into a radio serial, recently released on CD), Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama are the most memorable, to me, of his some 30 novels (he wrote over 100 books in total, fiction and non). My father and I were among the many bemused but enthralled by the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey when it was re-released in the early 1970s, a story which takes readers from the dawn of man to the rebirth of an astronaut as a star child in the future (yes, that's what it was about...).

"He was a great visionary, a brilliant science fiction writer and a great forecaster," British astronomer Patrick Moore told The Guardian. "He foresaw communications satellites, a nationwide network of computers, interplanetary travel; he said there would be a man on the moon by 1970, while I said 1980 - and he was right."

"I think he was probably the first science fiction writer to break out of the science fiction ghetto," Terry Pratchett told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. "He became a national treasure."

Tribtutes and Obituaries
Scientists and authors pay tribute (Guardian, 19 March 2008)

BBC Obituary
Sadly, the BBC has seen fit to repeat allegations of abuse made against Mr Clarke in its obituary, which were proven totally false. The Sunday Mirror, which made them, was forced to apologize for their baseless reports. Quite why the BBC repeats them now, when the organisation has itself published a report on the wrongful nature of the allegations back in 1998, is a mystery.
The Guardian by Anthony Tucker
The Chicago Tribune
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Wired Magazine

Links
The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation

NNDB Entry
Wikipedia Entry

Guardian Arthur C. Clarke Author Page
• Buy
Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography by Neil McAleer

Clarke's Three Laws
  1. "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
  2. "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
  3. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Saint Returns - Again!

Gentleman criminal and adventurer The Saint is to make a comeback as a two-hour TV film, reportedly starring James Purefoy (pictured), that could lead to the production of a new show.

Media reports picked up by saint.org indicate Sir Roger Moore, who played the suave international thief Simon Templar in the 1960s British series, has teamed up with US producers Barry (Homicide: Life on the Street) Levinson and Tom (Homicide: Life on the Street, St. Elsewhere) Fontana, writer Jorge (Witchblade, Millennium) Zamacona, feature producer Bill Macdonald and Geoffrey Moore, his son.

Levinson is reported to be directing the pilot, which will be produced independently by the Macdonald, Moore and Zamacona's Templar Entertainment Group, who acquired the TV rights to Charteris' novels in 2004. The pilot will then be sold to US networks.

Filming on the one-off movie is set to begin next month (April 2008), with sets in Budapest, Hungary and Puerto Rico.

James Purefoy, who played Mark Antony in HBO's Rome, is to play Templar, with casting under way for the other key parts in the pilot: Inspector Claud Eustace Teal, the Interpol agent in charge of tracking Templar; Templar's romantic interest/assistant, Patricia Holm; and his enemy-turned-partner in crime, Baldwin Aleppo.

The Saint was originally the literary creation of Leslie Charteris, who wrote some 100 Saint stories, including 50 novels, in his lifetime and was never adverse to the many updatings of his character during his lifetime.

The most memorable media version of the character is undoubtedly Roger Moore's portrayal in the 1960s made for ITV, but The Saint was also the star of several films between 1938 and 1953 (and, most recently, in the disappointing 1997 film starring Val Kilmer), on radio and in comics such as Britain's TV Tornado in the 1960s (right) and in a newspaper strip syndicated wordlwide by the New York Herald Tribune between 1948 and 1961, written by Charteris himself and later collected and reprinted as comic books. The Saint even had his own series of bubblegum cards...

Ian Ogilvy played the Saint in the late 1970s and Simon Dutton took over the Saint's famous halo in the late 1980s for six two-hour films.

Related Links
The Saint.org
Jame Purefoy web site
• Buy
The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television of Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood of Modern Crime, Simon Templar, 1928-1992

Monday, 17 March 2008

UFO and Battle of Britain Dinky Toys on eBay

A few Dinky toys for sale from me on eBay at present, with just one day to run, some of which may be of interest to readers here:

Dinky UFO Interceptor
Dinky Toys 351 - UFO interceptor from Gerry Anderson's UFO series. For some reason, Dinky inexplicably decided not to go with the colours of the TV series when this model was released in the 1970s and gave this model a green paint job. Condition is as evident in photographs - some bending to the landing struts but otherwise intact and includes missile. No box. Fans generally recommend re-painting to match the show's colours!

Dinky Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV)
Dinky Toys 104 - The Dinky Spectrum Persuit Vehicle. cost 22/11 in May 1969. This vehicle is probably only of interest to those seeking parts: there is no missile and there is a fault with the missile launcher 'hatch' which could probably be fixed by someone with experience. Decals also missing but Captain Scarlet figure and treads on back of vehicle are intact.

Dinky 719 Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk II
Dinky Toys 719 - Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk II, with battery powered propellor (requires D23(?) battery which may no longer be made and untested) and flip down undercarriage (intact). The model was first released in 1969 and production continued until 1976, as one of several Dinky aircraft diecast models. Unboxed. Please note there's damage to the 'aerial' to rear of cockpit.
The real Spitfire Mk II, employed in World War Two, were first delivered to 611 Squadron in August 1940, replacing the Mk I with a more powerful Merlin 12 engine and improved performance.

Dinky 721 Junkers JU87B Stuka
Dinky Toys721 - Junkers JU87B Stuka. This model comes complete with detachable cap bomb, triggered by release mechanism on side. Paint work is in good condition. The underside wing decals are loose but I have them and will send with the model. This model was first released in 1969 as one of several Dinky aircraft diecast models.
The real Junkers Ju 87, or Stuka as it became universally known, (from Sturzkampfflugzeug or German: dive bomber) was a German combat aircraft operational from 1937 and throughout World War II. Some were fitted with an infamous Jericho-Trompete (Jericho Trumpet) wailing siren — though the siren was only fitted to a few aircraft because of the extra drag induced on the rather slow aircraft.

Dinky 710 Beechcraft Bonanza S35
Dinky Toys 710 - 710 Beechcraft Bonanza S35. Released in the 1960s in a red and white finish, this model is showing its age, with some paint damage but propeller is intact and removable engine 'hood' is present.
The real plane on which it was based was first flown in 1947 and is still being produced by Hawker Beechcraft so this model may appeal to an owner (17.000 have been built to date).

Art Reviw - 30 stars of tomorrow

Glossy art magazine the Art Review showcases 30 stars of Tomorrow in its March 2008 edition and, although he's not featured on the actual list it self, 2000AD artist Ian Gibson makes a play for some of Charles Saatchi's spare cash by illustrating the cover of the magazine.

• Keep up to date on all things Art Review related here...
http://www.artreview.com/

In Memoriam: Walt Howarth

Cartoonist Lew Stringer reports that Walt Howarth, the prolific artist of many British annual covers of the 1960s and 1970s has died, aged 80.

This is Lancashire reports Walt, whose credits include work on Doctor Who, The Lone Ranger, Dempsey and Makepeace and Bonaza annuals and illustrations for Bolton Wanderers programs in the 1950s, died in his sleep on Thursday morning at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

His wife of 58 years, Renee, said: "He died peacefully, which is the main thing. He kept his sense of humour, right up until the end."

Mr Howarth, a great-grandfather who celebrated his 80th birthday last November, was also a former landlord of the House Without a Name pub in Bradshaw, near Bolton, who began work as an illustrator aged just 16 after attending Tonge Fold School and Bolton Art College.

"Like many artists of his generation, his work was often uncredited, but his work would be familiar to many children due to his prolific and varied output," says Lew. "His career spanned 60 years but he was best known for the many covers he illustrated for the tv theme annuals published by World Distributors such as the early Doctor Who annuals.

"In a pre-DVD age, Walt Howarth had to produce likenesses and representative artwork often based on minimal photo reference."

His work is still in high demand - he painted many spoof Lone Ranger 'covers' before his illness prevented him from working - and special edition packs of Doctor Who cards feature his autograph.

He also created covers for many other popular character items, including scrapbooks and puzzles, and provided concept art for titles such as this 1960s Monsters in Filmland scrapbook which was never put into production, left, which sold for nearly $500 on auction site Hakes in 2006.

"I was very proud to be associated with Walt for the last 10 years or so," commented Steve Penny, owner of Pure Nostalgia which sells Walt's art.

"I have been selling British annuals since 1985," Steve recalls in comments posted on Lew's blog but which Mr Penny has given us permission to reprint here, "and "I have a good many fond recollections of Walt."

"My first words to him were 'Hello, Mr Howarth. You don't know me but you have kept me in business for the last 15 years'!

"Walt didn't only illustrate children's annuals," Steve points out. "He also painted World Distributor comic covers in the 1950's (John Wayne, Cisco Kid, Billy the Kid and many others) and he painted many of the jigsaw puzzles from that era (Coronation Street, Wells Fargo, Bonanza, Doctor Who etc. Every time I met up with him he would come up with a new 'gem', telling me 'I painted that'.

"Walter had a happy disposition and he will be sadly missed by all his friends in the the business."

"He had a wonderful life and loved his job," his wife told local press on announcing his death. "He became down when he could no longer draw.

"Through his drawings his memory will live on."

Walt was a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan and his family plan to scatter his ashes at the club's ground. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Derian House children's hospice.

Biography on Gateway
Lew Stringer's tribute
Steve Holland's Tribute on Bear Alley
This is Lancashire news item
Walt Howarth Limited Edition Prints

Keep Me In Caramacs!

Sparked by a quick debate on a Yahoo comics group comes news that the British small press might be failing in its legal obligations by not sending copies of their magazines - however short the print run - to the British Library.

Publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a legal obligation to send one copy of each of their publications to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication.

Paul Scott, editor of UK fanzines Solar Wind and Omnivistascope, reports he recently received a letter from the Agent for Legal Deposit Libraries in London demanding five copies of each issue of his comics "for various institutions", as well as a copy for the British Library.

In addition to the British Library, there is a legal requirement to send copies to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the University Library, Cambridge, National Library of Scotland, Library of Trinity College, Dublin and the National Library of Wales.

While the Legal Deposit office offers no compensation the National Library of Scotland has, apparently, contacted Paul separately and has offered some payment for past issues.

The request has Paul steamed up on the Omnivistascope blog.

"The Cambridge and Oxford libraries should go on and get on with some real work instead of bothering me because they want the status of having all this crap in their basement," he feels. "Birmingham University, the redbrick I went to certainly doesn't care - they just want to know how much I'm earning so they can sell me a credit card.

"The National Libraries of Wales and Scotland I can understand [but] Trinity College in Ireland is completely beyond me - that's a completely different country!

"Under the Legal deposit law of the UK the British Library should receive two copies of all publication published in the UK. Who knows why. Perhaps its for posterity, perhaps it's just in case the government wants to know what you're up to?

"If they are kept for the rare moment when someone wants to read the comic while I'm alive, then they should help to keep me in sugar free Red Bull and Caramacs and buy one," he fumes.

Still, Paul wonders just what will happen if he doesn't comply. "Perhaps they'll send uniformed officers to comic conventions to seize these comics that have print runs in double figures," he suggests. "I feel a Space Lord story coming on..."

The Legal Deposit Office make it clear on its advice page that, within the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, a 'publisher' is to be understood as anyone who issues or distributes publications to the public. Items published in the United Kingdom and in Ireland are liable for deposit, as are items originally published elsewhere but distributed in the United Kingdom and in Ireland.

The requirement for deposit remains, irrespective of the place of publication or printing, the nature and size of the imprint, or the extent of its distribution.

It also claims there are several advantages to pubishers, no matter how small, to fulfilling the requirrments.
  • Publications deposited with the British Library are made available to users in its various Reading Rooms, are preserved for the benefit of future generations, and become part of the national heritage.
  • Publications are recorded in the online catalogue, and will remain an essential research tool for generations to come.
  • Most of the books and new serial titles are listed in the British National Bibliography (BNB), which is used by librarians and the book trade for stock selection, is available in printed, CD-ROM and MARC Exchange formats, and has a world-wide distribution.
It would certainly be interesting to hear if fanzine editors now plan to comply with the law and innudate the Deposit Office with their publications. You have to wonder what they'll make of Solar Wind, FutureQuake, Zarjaz and Tozzer, to name but a few!

"These libraries would have to build a new wing if they took all of the small press publications produced in the UK in comics alone," Paul Scott suggests.

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