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Saturday, 28 June 2008

It's A Girl!

Congratulations from all here at downthetubes go to Richard and Alice Sheaf on the safe arrival of their baby daughter. As for her name, well there were plenty to choose from: Bunty, Debbie, Jackie, Jinty, Judy, June, Nikki, Sally, Tina, but instead they chose Zoe Laura.

New dad Richard, one of the dtb team, tells us, “it's a baby girl, so I’m off to collect Girl comics now which will complement my collection of original Eagle comics well. I imagine I'll become lead reporter on nursery comics, pre-school comics etc. in approximately 2-3 years time.”

In the meantime no one tell him what happened at the end of tonight’s episode of Doctor Who

Latest Spaceship Away Now Available

The fifteenth issue of 'Classic' Dan Dare magazine Spaceship Away is now on sale direct from the official website or from specialist shops.

Behind the Tim Booth cover are the regular Dare strips of Green Nemesis with art by Don Harley and Tim Booth, Booth's own Gates Of Eden and Ray Aspen's Dan Dare based humour strips Mekki and Our Bertie. Keith Page's Dare prequel Rocket Pilot and the 1950s reprint strip Journey Into Space continue whilst Sydney Jordan's Hal Starr draws to a conclusion. A new strip begins in the CGI shape of Iain McClumpha's Space Girls which, based on a single preview image in the previous issue, has divided opinion in the letters column as to whether it should be included in the title or not. The highlight of the issue however is a warts and all reminiscence by original Hampson studio artist Greta Tomlinson for her time working on Dan Dare combined with a painted cutaway by Graham Bleathman of the Bakehouse studio that she worked in in 1950.

There is also a sneak preview of Mike Nicoll's highly detailed CG art for downthetube's own John Freeman's space strip, Ex Astris, which begins in the next issue. Also starting next time is Ron Turner's Nick Hazard strip newly coloured by John Ridgway.

Spaceship Away issue 15 costs £6.99 for its 44 glossy colour pages. More details are available on the website along with details of the new Spaceship Away binder.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Beano 70th Anniversary Exhibition

After their successful Comics Day as part of the Dundee Literary Festival, Dundee University will be hosting Happy Birthday Beano which is described as the official 70th anniversary exhibition for the comic. In association with the Beano's publishers, DC Thomson, the exhibition will feature original artwork and memorabilia never before seen in public, including characters from Lord Snooty and Little Plum to the Bash Street Kids and Dennis the Menace.

The exhibition will take place in the Lamb Gallery which is located in the University's Tower Building on Dundee's Nethergate. It runs from 18 July to 20 September 2008 and is open from 9:30am to 8:30 pm Monday to Friday and 9:30am to Noon on Saturdays. Admission is free.

There are more details at the university website.

Tube Surfing: 27 June 2008

Archaeologist and TV presenter Neil Oliver's latest book, Amazing Tales For Making Men Out Of Boys, tells historical tales for courage and sacrifice from Sparta, through the Second World War to Apollo 13. The book contains reprinted illustrations from Look and Learn magazine from such artists as James McConnell and Wilf Hardy.

Fresh from Dundee's Literary Festival, Bryan Talbot and Paul Gravett will continue to spread the good word about graphic novels by taking part in the Ip-Art Festival. They will be Getting Graphic With Novels in the Ipswich Town Hall Galleries on 1 July 2008 at 6:30pm and Hannah Berry, writer/artist of Britten and Brulightly will be joining them. More details are on the Ip-Art website.

Comics Britannia, BBC4's 2007 three part documentary on British comics will receive its first UK terrestrial broadcast beginning on Saturday 19 July 2008 on BBC2.

(With thanks to Bryan Talbot and Paul Gravett)

21st Century Dare Merchandising

With the new Virgin version of Dan Dare drawing to a close with issue 7 of the limited series, Virgin have jumped onto the merchandise bandwagon with an item about as far removed from the metal toys and bagatelles of 1950's Dare merchandising that it is possible to get.

They have released an iPod Classic skin featuring Bryan Talbot's cover artwork for issue 1 of the limited series. For our readers who still prefer sliding a C-90 into their Walkman, an iPod skin is an illustrated cover for the portable digital music player. This particular one retails at $15 from the Virgin Comics Store, although they are currently free if you order one of the Dan Dare hardback books that reprints the first three issues of the series.

If you like the illustration but would prefer it in a more traditional format then a limited edition lithograph of the same cover is also available. The lithograph is 24 x 18 inches and retails at $49.99.

Visit the Virgin Comics Store for more details of their Dan Dare collectibles.

Adventures in Pictures: From Sparky to Starblazer and Beyond

DC Thomson staffer Bill McGoughlinOver on the downthetubes main site, Jeremy Briggs talks to DC Thomson writer and editor Bill McLoughlin, whose career has covered text based story papers, as well as the comic strip humour, adventure and digest titles and who, at a time when more old DCT material is available in book form than for many years, now works for their Syndication Department.

Bill talks candidly about working for DCT, reveals the identity of "Sir" from Sparky - one of those great mysteries of Britain's humour comics - and revels in the idea that someone will one day collect Starblazer in the same way Carlton has made a success of the Scottish publishers Commando books.

Read the interview on the main downthetubes site

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Tube Surfing: 26 June 2008

• Writer Mark Millar has just been interviewed for Scotland's Evening Times, just back from the opening of Wanted in Hollywood (Check out this viral site inspired by the movie...).
"To see it polished and finished up on the big screen was mad," says Mark of the film, which stars James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. "You were looking sideways and looking at the actors from the film which was kind of weird."
The article notes Millar, like one of the superheroes he writes seems to live a curious double life. In one guise, he's the doting father taking his 10-year-old daughter Emily to the flicks or walking the family's spaniel. The next he's chatting comic books with Jonathan Ross, enjoying nights out with Simon Pegg and Ben Affleck or being invited to dinner parties at the home of Mr Claudia Schiffer, film director Matthew Vaughn. Read the Interview

The Phantom writer and former 2000AD editor David Bishop will be in Cheltenham next Tuesday (1 July 2008), one of the guest speakers at the Screenwriters' Festival there, talking about the similarities and differences between creating comics and screenwriting. Afterwards local comic shop Proud Lion is hosting a signing from 2.00pm. "It's part of an outreach programme by the festival organisers," says David, "though a mid-week signing is unusual for any comic shop, unless you've got a big name guest like Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman."

• Over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland reports the Don Lawrence Collection's boxed set of Karl the Viking is approaching the finishing line. "The project dates back quite a few years," Steve explains. "I think Rob [van Bavel] - publisher and king-pin of DLC -first discussed it back in 2006... but it took a long time to bring the scans of the original artwork up to scratch and Rob had the idea of reproducing the original lettering as it had appeared in Lion when the strip ran in the 1960s. Not the easiest task as all the balloons that were missing from the artwork had to be painstakingly scanned, cleaned up and reinserted into the artwork."
Karl the Viking, many stories drawn by Don Lawrence, originally ran in Lion in 1960-64 and six stories were reprinted in Smash! as 'Erik the Viking' in 1969-71. This will be the first time in over forty years that the whole series has been made available.

• The leats issue of Fortean Times Magazine (#238) features an extract from John Reppion's forthcoming book 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool. The article is all about the elusive Spring-heeled Jack and his reported appearances in Everton.

The magazine costs £3.99 and is available in all good newsagents.

Bugpowder has just plugged Last Bus, a new self published ongoing comic book from Irish creator Patrick Lynch. The first issue contains three separate stories: “Last Bus”, “What Became Apparent...” and “These Things I Know” engaging such diverse themes as public transport, street violence, absent friends and dream logic. Read more about it here

The Guardian reports on Doctor Who fans work recreating lost stories from the 1960s in today's Technology section. This will not come as news to most Who fans but it's good to see the not-for-profit work of the WHO3D group in the spotlight -- let's just hope they don't suffer the same problems as the lady who came up with Adipose knitting patterns...

The Ten Doctors

(with thanks to Paul Eldridge for the link): Talk about your labours of love: in March last year Doctor Who fan Richard Morris began his epic fan story The Ten Doctors, now at one hundred pages and counting -- a complex but beautifully drawn cartoon-styled Doctor Who story, with snappy dialogue and a skilled script that sees every Doctor encountering the other, along with a host of companions to boot.

"The Ten Doctors is a geeky little thing I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time," says Richard, aka "Captain Shipsinker", who hails from Nova Scotia and describes himself as "a director, gamer, and medievalist".

Since its initial publication on Richard's blog, The Ten Doctors has gathered a well deserved, dedicated following. Richard's pencil art -- he does not appear to work in inks on some of his strips, although inked and coloured versions of some pages of The Ten Doctors have been provided by eclecticmuse, aka Stephanie Jackson -- are well drafted, displaying considerable comic storytelling skills, especially considering the number of characters involved.

The story opens with the tenth (and current) Doctor visiting The Eye of Orion (last seen in The Five Doctors) to reflect after the events of The Runaway Bride.

He meets up with his previous incarnations, and an epic adventure, packed with uneasy alliances, acerbic exchanges between Rose and Ace, and all the kind of nastiness you'd expect from Cybermen, Daleks... and the Master.

Richard's studied his Who chronology carefully and skilfully plots a tale spanning many of the show's favourite eras. Well worth checking out - if you haven't already.

Once you've enjoyed The Ten Doctors, I also recommend checking out some of his other strips: 24fps, a delightful jab in the eye at the world of animators, animation and the general public who doesn't understand them; Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic - which recently reached its 700th episode -- and The House of Paulus, a strip set in Roman times (no Gauls in sight!).


Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Comic Creator first for ICA

Paul Gravett has been in touch to tell us about a pretty special event, Between The Panels 3, which will take place on 2 August 2008 at the ICA in London.

ComICA will be hosting the first ever in-depth discussion between two quintessentially British pioneers of graphic novels: Raymond Briggs, author of titles such as Fungus the Bogeyman, When The Wind Blows and Ethel & Ernest, and Bryan Talbot, author of Luther Arkwright and Alice in Sunderland, covering over three decades of their comics creativity and marking new editions of Gentleman Jim and The Tale of One Bad Rat.

The event -- not yet bookable but will be soon - will be chaired by Rachel Cooke of The Observer and will be followed by book signings. More at: www.ica.org.uk

Between The Panels 3: Raymond Briggs and Bryan Talbot
Where: Nash Room, ICA, Mall, London

When: August 2, 2008, between 3.30pm and 4.30pm
Not bookable yet but will be soon.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

In Review: Dundee Literary Festival Comics Day

Like its 2007 predecessor, Biff! Bam!! Crikey!!!, the 2008 Comics Day of the Dundee Literary Festival was held at Dundee University and was again organised by Dr Christopher Murray of the university's English Department. While the previous year was a rather academically minded two day 'presentation of papers' on comics and their associated themes, this year was a much more accessible Sunday afternoon of talks by comics creators in a lecture theatre in the university's descriptively, if unimaginatively, named New Teaching Block.

That said, after an introduction by Chris Murray, the day kicked off with writer and university lecturer Roger Sabin handing out about 20 copies of a Superman comic to the 100 or so attendees and instructed the audience to read them so he could lead a discussion about it. The ensuing discussion rather showed which attendees were currently students, and so were used to such things, while the rest of the audience probably wondered why the relevant points raised couldn't have been put over more simply in a Power Point presentation.

Next up was Jim Glen who dug out a black marker pen from his bag, chose a fresh sheet of paper from the flip chart at one side of the room and began to draw - and the audience realised very quickly that they were in for something a little special. As he drew first Dennis the Menace, then Desperate Dan and finally Lord Snooty, he regaled us with light-hearted stories of his more than forty year career drawing, and sometimes writing, for DC Thomson's humour titles including Dandy and Beano. The warm applause at the end did rather suggest that the audience could have listened to him for much longer than his time slot allowed.

The first batch of talks concluded with an overview of manga titles by artist Ilya, otherwise known as Ed Hillyer, who is editor of the now almost annual Mammoth Book of Best New Manga. His presentation was an introduction to the various styles of manga and how it differs from the more familiar British style of black and white adventure comics. The number of people looking at the manga titles on the bookstall during the ensuing coffee break appeared to show the effectiveness of his talk.

The next section kicked off with the smooth presentation style of the Metaphrog duo, Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, who discussed the creation of their beautifully produced small press Louis graphic novels. This was followed by Paul Gravett's talk on how comics had covered crime over the years and which tied in with the release of his Mammoth Book of Crime Comics. Paul's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and easy presentation style opened a window into a section of comics that tends to have been neglected in the past.
A second coffee break followed with a chance to talk to the various presenters and to get books autographed before returning to the theatre for the key note speaker, artist and writer Bryan Talbot. Bryan talked about the creation of his graphic novel Alice In Sunderland with his enthusiasm for the subject of Sunderland, the surrounding area and its connections with the Alice books shining through. The day concluded with a line up of the presenters being asked various questions and telling the audience of their favourite comics and what they were reading at the moment.

Tying the day into the Literary Festival seemed to have increased the audience turnout compared to 2007, despite the event no longer being free, and certainly the mix of people in the audience was much greater. After the uneven talks of last year, the overall presentation quality was increased this year by having presenters who were used to talking to an audience. Even the book stall in the reception area, which this year was run by Borders, had appropriate titles for sale. Unlike last year when FPI brought an irrelevant selection of US superhero reprint books, this year the audience could listen to a talk and then walk out and buy what had just been discussed, whether it was by Paul Gravett, Ilya, DC Thomson or Metaphrog. They even had American copies of the Art of Bryan Talbot and Bryan's two Luther Arkwright books for sale and appeared to be doing a good trade on them.

Dr Murray and his organising team can be justifiably proud of the day and hopefully will be able to continue in the same vein next year. To quote one of the audience members at the end of the proceedings, "that didn't seem like six hours, it just flew by".

Redick Slices into SliceofSciFi

There’s a new podcast interview at SliceofSciFi.com with ROK Comics creator David Reddick, also the cartoonist behind LegendofBill.com, along with Roddenberry Productions COO Trevor Roth, talking about his webcomics Gene’s Journal and Rod & Barry for Roddenberry.com

Caption Guests Announced

The 17th annual Caption comics convention taking place in Oxford in August has just confirmed a few more guests for the Timewarp, with representatives from classic magazines Escape and Deadline as well as a veritable golden horde of creators involved with brand new weekly subscription-only kids comic The DFC.

On board are Nick Abadzis, Rian Hughes, Ilya, Paul Gravett, Garen Ewing, Kate Brown, Sarah McIntyre and Neill Cameron. (All guests appear subject to work commitments).

More information about Caption past and present can be found at www.caption.org.

The Caption team are also still after contributions of illustrations, comic strips and articles for the Caption Souvenir Programme, on the theme of Timewarp, which will need to reach editor Selina Lock by the middle of July at the latest. Contact details on the Caption web site

Eleventh Hour In Shops Now

Eleventh Hour Volume 1, the anthology title created by Orang Utan Comics Studio and published by AAM/Markosia hits retail stores worldwide this week. Featuring twelve stories by the creative minds at Orang Utan Comics Studio with art by artists from four continents, the title includes something for everyone; sci-fi, horror, superheroes, fantasy, manga and beyond.

Nominated for a prestigious Eagle Award this year, the Eleventh Hour series has received plaudits from across the comics industry. “As my British friends might say, Eleventh Hour is ‘bloody brilliant.’" says Dwight L. MacPherson (The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allen Poo). "Superheroes, science-fiction, horror – this extraordinary anthology has something for everyone. Do not miss it!” –

"Eleventh Hour is a thought provoking collection of UK talent," argues David Bircham (Brodie's Law - Pulp Theatre), "showing without question that the rise of outspoken comic creators within the UK is producing outstanding quality."

Eleventh Hour Vol 1 is available from comic shops everywhere, but some comics fans may have trouble finding it.

“We’ve been hearing from a lot of people that their local comic shop has told them that they can’t or won’t order Eleventh Hour for them," says Orang Utan Comics Studio Managing Editor, Ian Shaman. "We’ve had a great response and received a lot of support from some retailers, but it seems a shame that many retailers, particularly in the UK, aren’t getting behind the UK comics industry and promoting it to their customers. That said, we want to make sure that people know they can buy Eleventh Hour direct from the publisher, AAM/Markosia and can also order it online from Amazon.”

Orang Utan Comics Studio also attend many conventions across the UK, where you can pick up all of their titles, including Eleventh Hour Vol 1, the Eleventh Hour Collector’s Edition and Baby Boomers #1 (which are both also now available to order from the OUCS online store: http://orangutancomics.co.uk/store.html).

Don’t miss the Orang Utan crew at the London Film and Comic Con (19th-20th July, Earls Court) and the Birmingham International Comics Show (4th-5th October, Thinktank).

• For more information on Orang Utan Comics visit them online at www.orangutancomics.co.uk

Blank Slate Are Mint!

New British publisher Blank Slate (www.blankslatebooks.co.uk), the brainchild of Forbidden Planet International founders James Hamilton and Kenny Penman, kindly sent us review copies of the first two graphic collections in their range.

The new company has an ambitious publishing program, with half a dozen more titles to be announced very soon. For the latest news, check their official blog.

Trains are... Mint by Oliver East (ISBN 9781906653002) has received high praise from several quarters in recent months. It's a diary of walks tracing the train tracks between Manchester and Blackpool in the northwest of England, the comic dispensing with word balloons in favour of text and speech written in longhand superimposed upon the images.

"Oliver East has produced one of the most unique works to come out of the UK small press scene," says Kenny Penman, "and one that I believe has a chance of crossing over to a much wider audience.

"The story is told in deceptively simple watercolours that many will see as childlike (somewhat like the work of a young John Porcellino) although in fact they convey not only the narrative but also the spontaneity of sketches - which seems highly appropriate to a diary."

The graphical diary does not present the glowing picture of, say, Bill Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island or BBC TV's Coast documenntaries. "It also serves as eyewitness to what modern Britain is like behind the tourist posters," feels Kenny, "showing the everyday lives of small towns and people, and the often deep drabness at their centre, it reminds me in feel of the films of Shane Meadows."

On the Road becomes On the Track as Oliver tramps, traipses, strolls and slogs from station to station, says Paul Gravett of the book, organiser of the ICA Comics Festival and author of numerous books including Great British Comics. "It's a unique use of comics, almost a time capsule of the unrecorded, everyday provinces.”

Personally, Trains Are Mint is a good read but I felt slightly bemused by the lack of trains in the book (one!) which makes for a strange chpice of title (but perhaps that was the point?). That said, for all the warts and all approach to documenting the walks, which include several train stations I'd rather not ever see again (Preston many look grand, but it's never appealed to me having been stuck on it once too often), there's a undefinable joy to the storytelling and a strong sense of observation that I think will develop over time.

We can Still be Friends by Mawil (ISBN 9781906653019) has a much more definable quality, centring on a young man's tried and failed approach to win the heart of various girls.

You sit next to her in Sunday School, meet her at Summer camp, spend the first year away from home with her as a flatmate. You're intoxicated, excited, obsessional - you're in love. Then come the dreaded words "we can still be friends"...

In four very funny, bittersweet episodes Mawil explores that crushing moment we've all experienced when our hopes and dreams are dashed, our stomachs turned inside out and we want the ground to swallow us up.

Widely held to be Germany's favourite Graphic Novel/Comics creator Mawil's works have won numerous awards over the last six years and have been translated into French, Spanish and Polish. This is his first book to be published in the UK in English and marks a terrific debut for one of Europe's best cartoonists.

For me, this was the more enjoyable release of Blank Slate's first two books, evoking memories of the non-Spirit stories by Will Eisner and others. The art is accomplished, the storytelling detailed but beautifully relaized and there's a genuine feeling of identification with the principal character as he careers from one almost entirely disastrous encounter with the opposte encounter to the next, much to the amusement of his drinking buddies as he recounts the experiences.

These two Blank Slate titles offer two very different graphic storytelling styles and are a good start for the fledgling company. I'm looking forward to seeing what else they have up their collective sleeves.

Visit the Blank Slate web site
• The Blank Slate titles are available from several good graphic novel stockists including Forbidden Planet International, Gosh, Nostalgia and Comics, Page 45 and Smallzone

Monday, 23 June 2008

Dare, Mekon T-Shirts On Sale Online

In our recent review of the Dan Dare and The Birth Of Hi-Tech Britain exhibition at London's Science Museum, Jeremy Briggs mentioned the Dan Dare/Mekon t-shirts and how they weren’t in the online store.

Peer Lawther, E-Marketing Executive at the Museum, has kindly been in touch to say this problem has now been rectified.

The Dan Dare and Mekon shirts come in 100% cotton and are available in black or white in children and adult sizes.

Buy the Dan Dare shirt from the Science Museum Store

Buy the Mekon shirt from the Store

Japan's Mobile Comic Frenzy

Mobile comics seem to be growing in popularity worldwide, bouyed by better screen resolutions and the growing number of comic creators experimenting with the form. Further growth in the market might come from the increasing sales success for mobile comics (ketai) in Japan, a country which has already successfully exported manga print comics worldwide.

Reuters reported today that the Japanese love of mobile comics - which is already huge - could grow further with the arrival of Apple's iphone next month. Analysts claim the device's touch-screen will make it easier and more appealing to read comics on handsets.

With the number of mobile phone subscribers close to 108 million, or 85 percent of Japan's population, carriers there are already finding e-mail, music downloads and web surfing hugely popular, and are looking for new opportunities to make money in a highly competitive market - and that includes comics.

Mobile Comics led the size of the Japanese mobile publication market to double in the last business year to 22 billion yen ($204 million), according to Internet and media research firm Impress R&D, almost three times bigger than the e-publication market for PCs.

"Until now, users had been extensively using mobile phones for email," Shinko Securities analyst Tomohiko Okugawa told Reuters. "Now that's shifting to games and comics ... This is the area that's going to be very interesting."

"The importance of content has been growing," agreed Toshitake Amamiya, general manager of telecom KDDI's content and media division. "It's crucial to pursue what we can do in this market where each adult always carries around a mobile phone and uses it as a life tool."

But mobile comics on mobile aren’t just proving popular in Japan. Putting on my hat as Managing Editor of comics-on-mobile service ROK Comics, we've found that translations of strips first published on ROK Comics for China have proven very popular in recent months.

While selling comics on mobile to traditional comics readers is, surprisingly, a hard sell - it's hard to beat the beauty and versatility of the printed comic page either online or on mobile - we are finding that mobile comics are a new, wider audience. Comics fans who have always read newspaper cartoons but never set foot in a comic shop may prove the key to making mobile comics a success.

Webcomics creators argue a hardcore fan set of a couple of thousand readers is enough to turn a profit online (largely through sales of strip-related merchandise such as collections, t-shirts etc.) so the potential revenues are strong. What we’re finding is that mobile comics are popular even in countries where there is no traditional print-based or web comic industry, and mobile reaches far more people than even web comic creators reach via PC delivery.

ROK Comics provides both a platform for licensed comic content including Andy Capp, Roy of the Rovers and Garth, and the tools for independent comic creators to upload their own comics, promoting their characters on mobile using a comic creator tool which also enable web blog and web site publication. The sale of downloads and WAP page views are credited to creators' accounts, with profits on sales shared equally between ROK and the creator.

Delivering comics on mobile in the West is achievable - we’ve been doing that for over a year - but creators and publishers do need to take on board the creative challenges imposed by small screen delivery and be aware it's still early days for the form outside countries like Japan where mobile comics have been around for quite some time.

More about creating comics for mobile on the ROK Comics web site


Lloyd in Highgate

Kickback and V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd is giving a talk at the Highgate Library in London at 7.15pm on Wednesday, 25th June. Admission is fre but to book a place call 020 8489 8772

David will be talking about his latest work Kickback, and the experience of being a graphic novelist.

Highgate Library is at 1 Shepherd Hill, London N6 5QJ

Admission is free and refreshments will be available.

Read More Calvin and Hobbes, Government Urges

(with thanks to Matthew Badham for the initial lead): The British government says young boys should be encouraged to read Calvin and Hobbes and comic-book annuals such as the Dandy and Beano to get them into the reading habit young and help them to keep up with girls' at school.

That's the message from government adviser Chris Brown, reported in several newspapers including The Times, a retired head teacher and author of Primary Boys into Books, a new reading report commissioned by the Government that's part of a £5 million government scheme to get more boys reading sooner and trying new books.

Jeff Smith's Bone: The Great Cow Race, Kazu Kibuishi's Flight, Michael Carroll's Sakkara (New Heroes), David Petersen's Mouse Guard title Fall 1152 and Art Spiegelman's It Was A Dark and Silly Night are just some of the comic or comic related titles in the extensive reading list, along with Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes collection, Scientific Progress Goes Boink.

The report, part of the "Riveting Reads" series published under the auspices of the School Library Association, includes many comic-style or graphic books in a list of the Top 200 new works he has drawn up for 5 to 11-year-old boys, along with novels about espionage, ghosts and aliens -- but not ‘The Famous Five’, ‘Just William’ or even the ever-popular Roald Dahl books.

Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Mirrormask and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish are among the selected novels, as

Brown argues such books had great appeal for many boys and could be of enormous educational benefit because they stimulated visual responses to the pictures as well as intellectual responses to the words, he said. He regretted that schools and parents dismissed them too often as not being "proper books".

Statistics show that boys are ten percentage points behind girls in English at Key Stage 2. Ministers hope that better reading habits among boys will help close the gender gap. A recent evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR), a programme of intensive literacy support for children who are struggling, shows that it is possible to close the reading gap between young boys and girls.

• The booklist is available exclusively online on the SLA website as a searchable database and also as a downloadable PDF version.
• More on Boys into Books can be found at:
http://www.sla.org.uk/boys-into-books-overview.php
• Government research on early reading can be found at: http://www.aft.org/pubsreports/american_educator/spring2003/catastrophe.html

Tube Surfing: 23 June 2008

• Comics writer Jason Cobley is a guest on the BBC Radio 4 show The Learning Curve at 8.30pm tonight, Monday 23rd June, discussing using Classical Comics' Shakespeare books in the classroom with the legendary Libby Purves. "I'm not sure whether to be excited, terrified, or just cool as a cucumber," says Jason, author of Bulldog Empire and one of Britain's best known indie comic publishers.

• Waterstones is celebrating 25 years of Terry Partchett's Discworld in many ways, one of which is an interview with the celebrated author by Neil Gaiman. Terry talks candidly about his career, how he is now an honorary Brownie (for writing a proper girl in a book, The Wee Free Men. "I've got a woggle and everything..."), his battle with early onset Alzheimer's, and his approach to writing. "planning. 'Planning, planning, planning," he reveals. "It's more like those guys in the desert who pick up a handful of loam, or sand, and taste it, and they know whether there's any oil nearby.
"It's the same thing with writing: you can tell where the legs are in an idea but don't know where the idea comes from. I think it's some kind of alchemical thing, made up of lots of other things. Your apprehension of the world around you. Your knowledge that you are one of the few people that use the word "apprehension" in that last sentence in exactly the right way. Which doesn't mean to be fearful about something. I hope you noticed this."

• If you're wondering just how important the online comics group you've just joined is, digital communications expert Pete Ashton is on a mssion to convince people that digital forms of communication are as important as what we might call traditional ones. "That communities and relationships that are formed online are as important as those formed in the real world," he argues. "In fact I’d go further and say terms like 'real world' are redundant as the online environment is just as capable of creating results of lasting real value as face to face interactions are, especially when the two work together."
Pete is one of Birmingham’s experts on the social internet and the city’s first professional blogger. Since setting up and running the Created in Birmingham weblog (”Linking up Birmingham’s artistic and creative communities”) in January 2007 he has been in great demand from businesses and organisations who feel they need to use the internet more effectively but don’t really understand how.

Compiled with the much thanks to Matthew Badham

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