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Friday, 9 May 2008

Red Cross Charity Comic Launched


Available now from lulu.com is a downloadable book, Floods, created to raise funds for the Red Cross. Initiated by Adam R. Grose, publisher of Clown Press, and with the help of John Freeman, a wide selection of writers and artists have come together to create this book.

Creators include Ben Womack, Simon Spurrier, Simon Mackie, David Hailwood, Tom Millsom, Nick Miller and others, and features a special drabble -- a 100 word story -- by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell.

It was Adam who came up with the project last year after parts of Britain were hit by disastrous bad weather. Since then, of course, many places across the globe have suffered devastation from floods and other terrible weather, including Bangladesh, southern Africa and, only this month, Burma.

Adam was moved to try and inspire the comics community to create a collection of one page strips and raise funds for flood relief.

"The UK experienced some of the most horrendous weather, with a month's worth of rain falling in 24 hours," Adam explains. "During this time, many of our fellow citizens experienced flooding, unknown to many of us.

"I decided to put together a comic to help raise awareness of our changing world, the environment and the increasing floods and disasters, that seem ever increasing since the turn of the millennium.

"The book will help raise money for the Red Cross and victims of the floods. Hopefully, this will be available the world over and help to bring more awareness to our world community."

Some of the strips have also been adapted for the ROK Comics mobile format, as a means of promoting the project, with profits from sales going to the Floods cause. (John Freeman has kindly agreed to do the adaptation work for any creators who would like to see their "Floods" strip in this format. (Contact him if you'd like to do a mobile "Floods" strip, but basically you need to come up with a ten frame strip, each frame 480 x 480 pixel in size, 18 point lettering with a "floods" theme or link).

Adam hopes to add to the existing book with more strips so if you would like to contribute a strip to an expanded edition of the book -- which may eventually see real world publication -- get in touch with him via the Clown Press web site.

• The ROK "Floods" comics can be viewed at www.rokcomics.com/floods.php
Buy the Floods book from lulu.com

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Comic Art Now Goes On Sale

On sale now in a good book shop near you -- or, very possibly, on stalls at this weekend's Comic Expo in Bristol -- is the much anticipated Comic Art Now from industry veteran Dez Skinn, a 200-page "comic art directory" for HarperCollins Design (US) and ILEX (UK), plus various European publishers.

"With well over 100 artists work on show (US, UK, Brazil, Sweden, Manila, Tokyo, Singapore, Bulgaria...), plus full contact details, it gives our industry something it's long needed, "Dez explains, "An equivalent to The Creative Handbook, The Art Directory, etc and gives creators a general audience exposure and puts their names/email addresses in the hands of account execs and the like who invariably steal their styles because they don't know how to find them.

"Uniquely," he adds, "Unlike the existing directories which charge for inclusion, this book's selection for inclusion is based on the quality of the art rather than the artist's bank balance!"

Early feedback on the book has been very positive. "Nice production, and a good variety of styles," feels top cartoonist and contributor to the tome Lew Stringer, "most of which dwarf my humble effort but it's an honour to be included alongside such talents."

"Thank you for including me in the Comic Art Now book," comments Roberta Gregory. "It's gorgeous and an honor to be in it with such illustrious company, while Rian Hughes has praised the great selection of material and Chris Reynolds describing the title as "fantastic". All in all, great feedback for what looks to be a very useful directory of comic creators.

"What I'm most pleased about, as you may guess," says Dez, "is achieving a Comic Art Directory as a working item, rather than simply another coffee table book."

Buy Comic Art Now from amazon.co.uk (ILEX Edition)
Buy Comic Art Now from amazon.com (Harper Collins edition)

• You may also like
Fantasy Art Now featuring the work of artists such as Clint Langley, Greg Staples, Glenn Fabry, James Rayman, Linda Bergkvist, Liam Sharp, Jason Chan, Aly Fell, Aaron Sng and Robert Chang.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Dan Dare Exhibition Reviews

Several newspapers and web sites have reported on the new Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi Tech Britain exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

The Guardian has posted a gallery of images from the strip and images of the exhibition, including a great shot of Frank Hampson's glorious murals, painted back in 1977, while Jonathan Glancey offers a fascinating commentary on Hampson's work on Dan Dare in an article titled "Sufferin' satellites! We've built the future!"

"Hampson's drawings, together with the contemporary hi-tech ethos they evoked, affected both domestic life and scientific endeavour in 1950s Britain," he opines. "Yet it was architecture - not the main concern of the Science Museum show - that was actually most influenced by the Dan Dare dream of a futuristic Britain." It turns out that arhitects such as Norman Foster are among Dan Dare's many fans. ""I loved the coloured, cross-sectional, technical drawings that appeared in the middle of the Eagle after Dan Dare," Foster says of reading the strip, and he still does, as is Laurie Chetwood, one of Britain's leading architects, whose most recent proposal is a $300m space-age sanctuary for world leaders in the Nevada desert.

"Although Dan Dare parked his spaceship for the last time nearly 40 years ago, the pilot of the future's adventures continue to be played out in the architectural fabric of Britain and beyond," Glancey argues. "Hampson died in 1985, yet his vision of a genuinely decent, exciting and even noble future - set in thrilling vistas made possible by science and daring design - remains an inspiration even in our own knowing, clever age."

• Toby Clements also admires high-tech relics at a show inspired by a comic-strip hero in the Telegraph, in an article titled "Dan Dare: Where Dan dares, boffins follow".

• Ben Hoyle focuses more on the science side of the period in his article for the Times, rather dully titled "Dan Dare exhibition latest to revisit lost era of the Fifties". in it Chris Rapley, the director of the Science Museum, says that the show “revealed a surprising lost world of British technology and manufacturing when most things we bought had a national identity and the television in the corner was a Murphy [from Welwyn Garden City] rather than a Sony.” Hoyle also plugs another 1950s-styled exhibition running right now at the Imperial War Museum - For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond. More than 12,000 visitors have seen it since it opened two weeks ago, which author David Kynaston, writer of last year's bestselling Austerity Britain, a 692-page social history of the years 1945-1951 puts down to a resurgence of interest in the 1950s that is principally down to demographics.

“There is always a desire in popular culture to go back a generation or two," he told Hoyle. "A lot of people approaching retirement age now are interested in exploring the context in which they grew up and finding out about the world when their parents were young adults.”

New Scientist reports Andrew Nahum, head of the team that put together Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-Tech Britain, as explaining that Dan Dare embodied the spirit of the time, referring to the 1950s, but the magazine's article (subscription required) focuses more on the work of real world hero and visionary engineer Theo Williamson. "Williamson had been honing his electronics skills since childhood," the magazine explains. "As a boy in the 1930s he designed circuits and built receivers, transmitters and increasingly sophisticated amplifiers. In 1946, with Williamson now a fully fledged engineer, the magazine Wireless World published details of his latest amp. Far superior to anything that had gone before, it was an instant hit. Tens of thousands of people made the amp by following the instructions in the magazine. One US company manufactured and sold 100,000 of them. Williamson had unwittingly started the post-war craze for home-built hi-fi, a phase that lasted well into the 1960s, when manufactured equipment of similar quality became widely affordable.

• The Eagle Times blog also carries a full report on the exhibition, including links to some videos. "I can assure you that it's well worth a visit," advises Will Grenham. "That applies not only to fans of the original Eagle and their contemporaries, but to anyone who wants to know more about the development of technology in Britain between 1945 and 1970, and the impact on home life of design and innovation in those "Eagle Times".

• MSN.com have put up some thumbnail images from the exhibition, while in Design Week, exhibtion Nahum explains how Dan Dare has been used as a "tempter" to lead people to discover designs including nuclear weapons, coal-cutters and gadgets at the Museum.

• Finally, the Evening Standard points out that although the show symbolises an age when Britain dared to be different, it is not all positive. The show also chronicles the crash of Comet 1, the world's first jet airliner, as well as a lost world of British goods which, by 1968, were losing out to overseas competition.

Dan Dare and the Birth of High-Tech Britain runs until Sunday 25 October 2009 at The Science Museum, London. Bookings and Enquiries: 0870 870 4868.

New Moon Queen Adventure on ROK Comics



Everyone loves superhero the Moon Queen - but she's blissfully unaware of it! Her best friend is the Bee - the only one who doesn't seem to want something from her. MQ's real name is Agnes Bale, she can fly and has super powers but she is far from invulnerable.

In Jelston's Lesson, the latest Moon Queen adventure to appear on comics on mobiule service ROK Comics, jealous Blink Bonny makes her life a misery!

Creator Chris Reynolds, who has been publishing Moon Queen on ROK Comics for a while now, created the classic graphic novel Mauretania first published by Penguin Books. His most famous character is Monitor, the strange, helmeted, spaceman aged between about eight and thirty, who had many strange and nostalgic adventures. Now Chris' latest character is the Moon Queen. She's sensitive like Monitor, but her adventures take place in a more colourful, sunny, upland world!

Click here for a list of Moon Queen's adventures on ROK Comics (R rated)

• You can view them all the Moon Queen on your mobile by subscribing to ROK Comics' WAP service.

Simply choose a strip you like on the main ROK Comics site, then follow the download to mobile links and choose the subscribe option (or just subscribe right out the door). When you receive a WAP push message to your phone, connect to the site using that link using your mobile, bookmark it, and you'll be subscribed to ROK Comics Mobile for the next month.

This link is exclusive to your phone, so don't lose it!

ROK buys Jalipo Media

ROK Entertainment Group Inc., the global mobile entertainment group and owners of ROK Comics (which is run by downthetubes' John Freeman), has announced that it has acquired 100 per cent of the issued and to be issued share capital of Jalipo Ltd for total consideration of 600,000 ordinary shares.

Jalipo Media Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Jalipo Ltd and the only operating function therein, is a UK Registered IPTV company which offers live streaming of TV content over the internet. Jalipo is the first online marketplace for TV and video, allowing content owners to use the internet to offer their channels, video-on-demand and live events direct to viewers around the world.

TV Channels currently featured on the service include BBC World, Sky News, Al Jazeera, and shows such as the anime Paradise Dolls, Cosmo Warrior, Saiyuki, Izumo and many animated short films.

“This acquisition is of great strategic importance to ROK,” commented Laurence Alexander, CEO of ROK, “as it furthers our presence in the mobile TV market. There are significant synergies between Jalipo’s product offering and our own, which we look forward to incorporating within and, as a result, enhancing, ROK’s delivery portfolio.”

ROK Corp Web Site

Remembering Heroes

There was a time not that long ago when British boy's comics celebrated the heroism of British and Commonwealth servicemen. As London celebrates the current British forces with the City Salute, Jeremy Briggs takes a look back at how British comics once celebrated them.

Read our feature on John Cruickshank VC on the main downthetubes website

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

In Review: The Wolfmen

Review by David Hailwood

Another fine offering from Accent UK, publishers of Robots, The Wolfmen successfully merges the crime and horror genre.

This time, we get a stand alone comic written by Dave West and drawn by Andy Bloor set in South East London, in the 1960s. It's the tale of Jack Grey's chance at making something of himself, of becoming one of the most notorious gangs of the time .... of becoming one of The Wolfmen.

The script by Dave West is incredibly well paced, and keeps the story moving along at break-neck speed; there’s never a point where I felt bogged down in unnecessary detail. Andy Bloor’s dark and gritty film noir art style complements the material perfectly – he even manages to make a splash page of a goldfish look exciting, which is quite a trick to pull off.

The only negative comments I’d level at the artwork is that some of the characters look alike, making it difficult at times to work out who’s who. Also, the character proportions (especially on one of the henchmen) are occasionally a little off. Minor details in a real page-turner of a comic.

The Wolfmen is a 60 page black and white comic, priced at £3.00 and available from Accent UK. A second instalment, Fall of the Wolfmen, will be on its way soon.

Return of the Cat

British comics artist 'Israeli reports via his blog that local stray Lucky the Half Face Cat has resurfaced post winter near his London home.

"He's survived another winter," says 'Israeli, whose recent strips include various strips for 2000AD and contributions to the Who Killed Robin blog involving seven British comic creators telling an ongoing web story.

"Alhough he's looking tattier than ever, and seems to be having a little difficulty with his back legs, he meowed at me and came over to be stroked when I spotted him on the way back from the shops yesterday."

Bless him. (The cat. not 'Israeli). He’s apparently vanished and resurfaced for three years on the trot, looking considerably worse for wear each time but still thriving despite his feline-styled homage to Batman’s Two Face looks.

What is it with stray Toms that they manage to all but disappear in the winter months then make a surprise re-appearance? Do they hibernate?

• Anyone who prefers birds to cats should check out New Zealand artist David Fletcher's "Crumb" blog, dedicated to his blackbird character who features on the comics to mobile service ROK Comics.

Photo © 'Israeli and I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing it.

Eisner Awards Voting Opens

The online voting facility for this year's Eisner Awards are now open and you can vote online for your favourites from the nominees, which are listed in full on the Will Eisner Awards web site.

British creators nominated include Nick Abadzis for his book, Laika (nominated for Best Publication for Teens and Best Reality-Based Work); Garth Ennis for The Boys, drawn by Darick Robertson (Best Continuing Series) and Bryan Talbot for Alice in Sunderland (Best Painter or Multimedia Artist - interior art).

Laika by Nick Abadzis

If you think you aren't eligible, remember that anyone connected with the worldwide comics industry can vote. The final deadline is 13th June.

Support the home team(s)!

• Vote at: www.eisnervote.com You'll need to register, but this only takes a moment, as does voting.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Studio Space Signings

Marking the launch of Image Comics’ exciting Studio Space book, the publishers have lined up four signings/ events throughout the UK starting in May.

Written by the creators of Tripwire magazine - Joel Meadows and Gary Marshall - Studio Space (available from amazon.co.uk from the end of May) looks at the way that the world’s best comic book artists work, visiting their studios and getting into their mindset. Each chapter also looks at the creators’ big break and whether their working methods have changed over the years.

The book features an impressive line-up that includes Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Joe Kubert, Tim Bradstreet, Duncan Fegredo, Walter Simonson, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Tim Sale and many more.

Kicking off at the Bristol International Expo on the weekend of May 9th-10th at the Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, paperback copies of Studio Space will be available there before anywhere else in the world and people will get the chance to get them signed by a selection of artists in the book, including Dave Gibbons, Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips and Walter Simonson, who will all be at the show plus the authors of the book, Joel Meadows and Gary Marshall, who will also be on hand throughout the show. Additionally, there will be a Studio Space panel at Bristol on the Saturday afternoon with the book’s authors and some of its artists.

But it doesn’t end there: on Saturday 7th June, Forbidden Planet London will be holding a signing in the afternoon to celebrate the book’s official release with a superstar line-up of artists: Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo. Copies of the paperback and the hardcover will be available at the signing.

Next up is a special Waterstones event taking place at the prestigious store on Oxford Street opposite Selfridges on Saturday 14th June, with Bryan (Alice in Sunderland) Talbot and Preacher co-creator Steve Dillon discussing their work and the book and then signing.

Finally, for the fans in the North, Saturday 28th June at Forbidden Planet Manchester will see Dave Taylor and Steve Dillon signing for fans.

• Studio Space is 320 pages, black and white and colour, paperback £19.99 and hardcover £32.99 and is published on May 30th 2008 by Image Comics. Buy it from amazon.co.uk

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Road Death Comics...

Rumble strips were invented to alert us to hazards. In fog or snow, or even worse, on the verge of sleep, when you...just.... can’t... keep... your... eyes..op-drrrrrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrrrrr! The noise, the jolt, the vibration of those grooves wakes and prevents drivers from going off the edge of the road. Sometimes we all need a wake-up call.

Over 1.2 million people are killed in road traffic accidents around the world each year. By 2020, road traffic accidents could outstrip stroke and HIV as one of the main causes of preventable deaths.

Now, a new graphic novel, Rumble Strip, by British comics artist Woodrow Phoenix (author of Plastic Culture: How Japanese Toys Conquered the World), recently described as one of comics' finest stylists (and a dapper dresser to boot), offers a powerful and darkly humorous graphic polemic investigating our increasingly dangerous relationship with cars.

It’s extremely timely. Publishers Myriad Editions, who will publish the book on 12th June note that the United Nations recently warned that road safety is a ‘public health crisis’ on the scale of Aids, malaria and TB.

Rumble Strip uses the key tools of traditional comic strips but dispenses with the most obvious element: the hero.

"For a graphic work that doesn't show a single human being, this is an extraordinarily human book<" says comics expert Paul Gravett. "Its ideas and questions about how the car impacts on your life will echo in your mind long after you've finished reading it, whether you're a driver, or a pedestrian, or both."

The book offers a trenchant analysis of the problems of road users everywhere and the challenges faced by all of us, whether we drive cars, ride motorbikes, pedal bicycles, take public transport or just walk, we all have to use roads.

"Rumble Strip is not a graphic novel. It isn’t fiction," Myriad outline. "It isn’t a coming-of-age tale. It doesn’t follow the adventures of a likeable-but-f****d-up protagonist. Rumble Strip is fact. Part journalism, part polemic, part memoir. All real. It is a strikingly uncompromising look at death that affects every one of us.

"Rumble Strip uses the key tools of comic strips but dispenses with the most obvious and traditionally necessary part: the hero. Instead, the reader becomes the subject. The pages appear to be empty. But through the captions, the reader is invited to inhabit the pages, to take up the central position of protagonist and experience the book in an active way. It’s a technique that eliminates distance. It may sound odd, but you will be surprised at how easily and fluently you are drawn in."

Aiming the book at "people who traditionally don’t look at comics" (Guardian critics?), Myriad say they've found it extremely easy to read. It will be interesting to see if it therefore gets a plug on Top Gear...

Woodrow also works in the fields of editorial illustration, graphic design, font design and children's books. His work is graphic and playful but is unusual for its high degree of formal experimentation. His graphic story End of the Line first appeared to much praise in The Brighton Book, a mixed media anthology in association with The Brighton Festival.

Buy Rumble Strip from amazon.co.uk

Never Been Exhibtion Online

(with thanks to Matthew Badham): Never Been, the giant comic strip that exhibited on the walls of Projekts MCR skateboard park in Manchester earlier this year is now online at www.stuartkolakovic.co.uk/neverbeen.htm

The exhibition , both real and virtual, is the work of artist Stuart Kolakovic, an exhibition of one real long strip, that ended up being almost 10 meters long. The imagery - just one 'panel' of which is published here -- is quite stunning.

• Click here to read an interview with Stuart at Manchester's BBC Web site.

Temple of Comics!

On the weekend of Free Comics Day, downthetubes is pleased to report Issue #0 of The Temple Comic APA’s Digital Showcase is now available to download as a free PDF at templeapa.ning.com, featuring a motley collection of strips from some great indie talent.

Showcasing the work of 15 members (mostly from around the UK), this 70-page anthology highlights the diverse nature of the Amateur Press Association, containing humour, horror, slice-of-life, superhero, sci-fi and more (including content of a mature nature).

Creators include Dave Evans, Paul Harrison-Davies, Paul Elridge, Toshiro de Smeyter and others and it's a fab free read!

The Temple is the UK’s longest running comic APA, having run for 12 years and 55 issues before going digital. The aim of the Temple is to learn, improve, collaborate and support each other’s comic projects. Everyone from the rawest amateur to the most seasoned professional is welcome to join.

• For more information check out templeapa.ning.com, or contact John Kirkham at sr-republic AT ntlworld.com

DFC Teaser Online

Some pages from the new weekly subscription-only British The DFC comic are now available to view on line at: www.thedfc.co.uk/teaser_issue.html

DFC's content includines a strip by author Philip Pullman, The Adventures of John Blake, illustrated by John Aggs, one of the contributors to RapidFire, plus Charlie Jefferson and the Tomb of Nazaleod by Garen Ewing, creator of the highly acclaimed Rainbow Orchid; Mobot High by Neill Cameron, creator of Thumpculture; The Boss by Patrice Aggs; and Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton (pictured right) and Monkey Nuts by The Etherington Brothers, creators of Malcolm Magic – both featured in the Saturday Guardian.

Early Bird subscriptions are now also available, offering four free issues and the next 22 with 25% off -- and as an additional bonus for subscribing, you get 50% off Random House children’s books. Click here for more information on the official DFC web site. Special discounted subscriptions are also being offered for schools.

The first issue of The DFC -- already being heavily promoted, if a little erroneously, -- will be delivered to homes across the world on the 30th May, packed with adventure, excitement, robots and talking sausages...

Robin Hood Joins Accent UK

Accent UK are very pleased to announce that by special arrangement with Geoff West of The Book Palace, they’ll have a supply of the newly released Frank Bellamy’s Robin Hood the Complete Adventures book at both the International Comic Expo in Bristol on 10th --11th of May 2008 and the Komiks.DK festival in Copenhagen on 31st May 00 1st June 2008.

Copies will be available to view and purchase from Accent UK’s tables or order through the Book Palace website as normal.

“We’re delighted that this gives everyone attending the events the chance to see for themselves this excellent book," said Accent UK’s Colin Mathieson said which brings back into print Frank Bellamy’s legendary early comic strips which have proven elusive for over 50 years and now have a chance of reaching a new audience”.

The book reprints Bellamy’s classic strip from the old British title Swift with a special introduction and end notes from noted comics historian, Steve Holland. The flexicover 144 page book costs £14.99. It is also available from amazon.co.uk

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