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  • In Memoriam: Jim Petrie - We’re sorry to report the passing of artist Jim Petrie, an artist perhaps best known for his work on The Beano‘s “Minnie the Minx”, a strip he took over […]
    11 hours ago

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Happy Birthday Beano: The Dandy's Better!

One last word from the Happy Birthday Beano exhibition in the Lamb Gallery in Dundee.

One of the first things you see on entering the exhibition gallery from the stairway is a comments book for the exhibition and it has been well used in the two weeks since the exhibition's opening.

As would be expected there are many positive comments in the book about the exhibition and about The Beano in general. The most striking is this one simply stating "THE BEANO IS THE BEST".

I wonder if former Dandy editors Morris Heggie and Dave Torrie got a chance to look at the comments book when they were at the birthday event on Wednesday because if they had turned the page I'm sure they would have smiled at seeing this -

Ron Smith in Book and Magazine Collector

The long running series of articles on Great British Comics Artists by David Ashford and Norman Wright in Book and Magazine Collector has reached part 28. This time the subject is Ron Smith and it is the first time that the series has covered a living artist.

Book And Magazine Collector issue 298 has an 18 page article and price guide on the artist who may be best known for Judge Dredd. However Ron Smith started out with Amalgamated Press in 1950 before quickly moving to Dundee where his work covered DC Thomson's boy's story papers, girls comics, humour titles and annuals. Added to that are new Eagle, Mask, several Marvel UK titles, newspaper strips and even the Green Cross Code Man and it shows just how varied his career was.

Issue 298 is available for £3.50 from WH Smiths and Easons, or from the B&MC website.

Friday, 1 August 2008

In Review: Happy Birthday Beano Event At Dundee University

GASP! Would you believe it? The Beano is 70!

Taking place on 30 July 2008, which was The Beano's 70th birthday date, this event had been billed as the official opening of the Happy Birthday Beano exhibition in the University's Lamb Gallery. Since the free exhibition had already been open to the public for several weeks, the evening was more of a celebration of all things Beano.

In the lecture theatre used for the 2006 Biff! Bam!! Crikey!!! comics conference, after an introduction by the Dean of the School Of Humanities, there were four talks. The university's Museum Services Curator Matthew Jarron began with his Pre-History Of The Beano talk from the 2006 conference which took the history of illustration in Dundee publications from the pioneering illustrations of the Tay Bridge tragedy in 1879 via the first issue of The Adventure story paper in 1921, to the introduction of The Dandy and The Beano in 1937 and 1938.

Next up was the university's Dr Chris Murray, the event organiser, resplendent in his pink Hawaiian shirt and red tie. As a professional lecturer he took the audience smoothly through the early establishing years of The Beano, the difficulties of wartime, with its effect on the stories and the publishing schedule, and then on into the heydays of the 1950s with massive sales figures and the introduction of Dennis The Menace.

The event then moved from The Beano's history to its modern day with current artist Laura Howell telling the audience of getting her break into the title in 2006 via inking Hunt Emerson's Ratz, a strip that she still writes today. She then developed Johnny Bean for the comic, a strip that she described as “ASBOs in Trumpton”. Since then she has drawn Les Pretend, Minnie The Minx and she concluded by showing the inks for the Billy The Cat strip that she had produced for the 70th anniversary issue and comparing its comedic tone and Manga styling with a page of the original adventure styled Billy The Cat from the 1960s.

The lecture theatre events concluded with Gary Northfield, the writer/artist of Derek The Sheep, discussing his small press comics and the fateful meeting with then Beano editor Euan Kerr which got Derek into the comic while allowing Gary to retain the rights to the character. He told the audience of Norbert Le Mouton, the French publication of the character and showed a preview copy the Bloomsbury hardback which reprints the first thirteen Derek stories from The Beano and which will be available in September 2008.

After a short adjournment for drinks, the evening continued upstairs in the mezzanine level Lamb Gallery where the Happy Birthday Beano exhibition was located. At this point Chris Murray introduced Morris Heggie, DC Thomson's archivist and former editor of The Dandy, who began a gallery talk walking around the exhibition discussing the original art which was framed on the walls.

It was when he began to ask questions to certain people there that the realisation dawned that there were long time DCT artists amongst the crowd, some of whom then passed comments on their own work from up to fifty years beforehand.
With help from current Beano editor Alan Digby and artist David Sutherland (Bash Street Kids), Morris worked his way round the gallery from a 1934 strip of Big Chief Whoopee The Crafty Cree from The Skipper to the initial sketch for the 70th anniversary Beano cover, featuring Wallace and Gromit as well as Dennis and Gnasher, in an informative and relaxed manner to a rapt audience who showed their appreciation at the end. In addition to those already mentioned Dave Torrie, former editor of both The Dandy and The Beezer, was in the crowd as well as artists Jim Glen (Lord Snooty), Jim Petrie (Minnie The Minx), Willie Richie (Barney Bulldog) and John Dallas (Beryl The Peril).

For me the lasting image of the evening was not of the artwork hanging on the walls but rather of watching David Sutherland and Gary Northfield standing beside each other after the talks sketching for young fans, one drawing Plug from The Bash Street Kids and the other drawing Derek The Sheep. It summed up both the heritage and the future of Britain’s best known comic.

• The Happy Birthday Beano exhibition continues in the Lamb Gallery of the University of Dundee until 20 September 2008 and entrance is free. Opening times are on the University website.
Dennis The Menace and Billy The Cat (c) DC Thomson and Co Ltd

The BeONEo Show!

Giles Brandreth and Kev F Sutherland on The One ShowThanks to iplayer, there's still time to catch an appearance by Beano writer and artist Kev F. Sutherland on the BBC's The One Show, which featured an item on the 70th birthday of the comic on Wednesday.

With a mix of archive footage and interviews, Giles Brandreth charted the history of the comic and its companion paper, The Dandy, and spoke with Kev during one of his many comics masterclasses that he gives all over the country in schools. Later in the episode the very first issue of The Beano - one of about twelve know still to exist -- was shown, with Giles offering a few of the (now politically incorrect) jokes from its pages.

The children in the item had a clear idea of what would sell comics - violence and goo, mainly! - but there was still huge enthusiasm for comics, and a positive take on the medium's future from both kids, Giles and Kev.

BBC Archive footage of boy reading The BeanoWatch The One Show (item is about ten minutes in)
Kev's art in the feature is part of our Beano Birthday Section
Visit Kev's web site

Space Raoul Heads Stateside

(via Blimey! It's A Blog About Comics): Jamie Smart's Space Raoul strip, which has featured in The Dandy, appears in its own comic this October in a new comic from US publisher Slave Labor Graphics.

Part adventurer, part explorer, part Space Captain, Raoul, created by Jamie (also creator of Bear and who draws Desperate Dan for The Dandy), has previously appeared in The Funday Times (the Sunday Times comics section) and The Dandy. Like Gary Northfield's Derek the Sheep for The Beano, Jamie owns the rights to his character, which will now feature in his own 64 page book from SLG, who also published his Bear comics.

Priced at $8.95 the book will be available in the UK on import from specialist comic book stores (not newsagents). You have to order in advance, or you could simply but it from the SLG web site on publication

Visit Jamie Samrt's Official Web Site
Find out more about Space Raoul
View SLG titles by Jamie Smart

Digital Publisher Relaunches

US publisher Platinum Studios has announced the global relaunch of the ad-funded e-book distribution service WOWIO (www.WOWIO.com), which was recently acquired by the company that also runs the web comics portal DrunkDuck.com.

WOWIO was founded with the vision of giving readers access to an immense library of ebook titles free of charge, with creators getting 50 cents per unique download. Earnings were generated through ads embedded in each book with the books themselves provided as PDF files with a number of built-in copy protections. (T Campbell, one of the people originally involved in WOWIO, peeked under the hood in his blog last year and explained a bit about the nuts and bolts of the site).

When WOWIO went offline in June, promising to return soon, Heidi Macdonald, over at The Beat was among a number of US comics journalists who offered the first inkling that the company was being sold, and several creators posted comments, revealing they had done quite well with the service. Probably the biggest winner was Superosity creator and Chris Crosby, co-runner of the Keenspot web comics portal, revealing he had earned some $93,624.50 from 186,736 WOWIO downloads since last August, while Bill Williams, of Lone Star Press, estimated his company through WOWIO has earned about $15,000.

With Platinums acquisition of WOWIO, the service has added several new features for consumers, including free browser based viewing capability enabling viewing on both computers and mobile devices. The new features also provide the ability to browse offerings without registering and a revamped and simplified registration process allowing consumers to store, share and gift downloadable ebooks, and an unrestricted ability to download as many ebooks as desired.

Platinum say the new set of features for publishers include the ability to reach a worldwide audience via the browser-based viewer, the ability to download to a global audience and access to multiple streams of revenue from display advertising, sponsored widgets, directed e-commerce opportunities and personalized gifts.

Prior to the acquisition and relaunch, WOWIO had over two million downloads in just over a year, and Platinum expects that the new features and capabilities will expand that reach.

Existing partners include Rosetta Books, a pioneer in electronic reading, Arcturus Publishing, the UK-based publisher of the best-selling 3D Thriller series, Soft Skull Press, an independent book publisher and British comics publisher Markosia, which also supports seveela other digitial comic initiatives such as myebook.com and ROK Comics.

Platinum say the improved services and a new accessibility to an international audience positions WOWIO to become a leading global destination for ebook distribution -- although some concerns have been raised about the new contracts for the service, as reported by Johanna Draper Carlson on Comics Worth Reading.

As a publisher with our own content on WOWIO, we saw the potential of the WOWIO business model to bring unique and lasting value to all of their publishing partners in both the comic and traditional book publishing sectors," says Platinum Studios President and COO, Brian Altounian, who spearheaded the acquisition. "The acquisition and subsequent global expansion of WOWIO was a logical next step in our goal to expand our digital distribution capability.

"As WOWIO takes its model to a global audience, we are most excited by the reception that we are receiving from publishers, corporate sponsors, and ultimately our readers, all of whom acknowledge that with our next generation business model, WOWIO is able to bring valuable ebooks to a much broader audience,"said Dr. David Palumbo, WOWIO's CEO.

"We are excited about this next phase in our partnership with WOWIO as they increase access to our content through their global distribution," said Arthur Klebanoff, CEO of Rosetta Books. "In the time that we have been involved with WOWIO, they have brought us several innovative ideas, and this truly collaborative effort has helped to expand our digital strategy."

• The newly relaunched WOWIO is at www.wowio.com.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Keeping up with The Wizard!

May 2008 was an important month for British comics artist Tim Perkins and his company, Wizards Keep. Making an appearance at their first major British comics convention, this year's Bristol International Comics Expo, their stand caused quite a stir.

Lots of new products were launched at the event, including the Worlds End Ashcan promoting Tim's upcoming graphic novel series and a figurines range, among others items - including a Mouse Mat!

Sporting a cover pencilled and coloured by Tim and inked by legendary US inker Joe Rubinstein, the Ashcan was released as an early promotion for the first of the Worlds End series of graphic novels, Volume One: The Riders on the Storm, due for release in 2009.

Featured in the Ashcan's pages is a full colour, digitally painted, prologue and other artwork which will not see print in the graphic novel, including artwork by John Ridgway and US artist Frank Zigarrelli. Also featured are character concept sketches, lots of background information and a "how the pages are created" section.

The Ashcan costs £1.50 when bought direct from Wizards Keep from either the website or at conventions and comes with an official, numbered, £2.50 money back security voucher, which can be redeemed against the cost of the graphic novel next year.

In addition to being on sale direct from the Wizards Keep website at www.wizards-keep.com the Ashcan is also on sale at The Who shop in Blackpool and The Batcave in Blackburn, Botany Bay, Lancashire, as well as several on-line and terrestrial retailers from around the globe, soon to be announced.

Tim told downthetubes reaction to the Ashcan has been incredibly positive and it is getting some rave reviews, which hopefully bodes well for the release of the graphic novel next year.

"At the stand we had women approach us, ask about the stand, pick up the Ashcan and then buy it," Tim says of the his Expo experience, "so we found ourselves selling to kids, both boys and girls and also to adults, both men and women, something you generally don't expect.

"When I began working up the initial concept I had created back in the 1980s, back in 2003/4 I looked at making sure all the bases were covered as far as potential licensing, etc." he says of the Worlds End project. "I made sure I could attract girls and boys to the books, but it seems to have worked like a dream, because I always hoped it would have universal appeal, but women, in the main don't tend to read comic books and Worlds End seems to be able to attract them, which is
great.

"I can't believe how popular the book is becoming," he adds enthusiastically, "although I always hoped it would be. Reaction from folks within the industry is great, too, and I can't thank the guys enough for their support."

Tim is working on the graphic novel now, almost exclusively to anything else except the Hot Wheels comic, which he produces monthly for Toontastic Publishing.

Complementing the launch of the Ashcan is the release of the first three figurines in the Worlds End range: Gweldar the Elder, Young Ralf and Master Chl'Atheeir. Several other Figurines are in presently in development and should be ready for retailing very soon.

"Wizards Keep is going through a very exciting time, as folks begin to take notice of our products," says Tim. " We're being bombarded with folks asking if we want to publish their stuff too. "

"We have already spoken tentatively to several well known high profile creators who have shown a lot of interest in us publishing their books under the Wizards Keep imprint," he adds, "which is incredible."

Keep a look out for more news about Wizards Keep soon.

View artwork from Worlds End



Harrods Art Appeal

In his latest regular Lying in the Gutters column on Comic Book Resources Rich Johnston reports that the world famous London department store Harrods is running a comics exhibition in September, showcasing the best in British created comics artwork.

"They've asked me to curate the exhibition, so I thought I'd use my contacts," Rich writes. "If you own original artwork for books such as Ultimates, The Authority, Judge Dredd, The Filth, anything with strong and prominent British teams, let me know.

"Harrods have massive insurance policies that cover things like the world's biggest diamonds, so they'll be in good hands. And you'll receive thanks and a mention in printed materials and on those little cards that appear next to the displays. Not to mention bragging rights."

Rich will be donating some of his own pages from his own collection, including Frank Quitely/Alan Grant "Batman," Millar/Morrison/Yeowell "Skrull Kill Krew," Eddie Campbell's "From Hell," Steve Pugh "Hellblazer," Al Davison "Minotaur's Tale" and Dave McKinnon/Terry Wiley "Sleaze Castle."

• Artists, collectors and art dealers contact Rich via this link!

New Online Kids Comic Launches

A Birmingham-based company has launched Taymai Comic+, a new online comic which its makers hope will enable which enable the owners of new and existing characters to build fan bases by using the internet.

Described as the first ever internet publication promoting established and new characters and merchandise to tweens, TAYMAI stands for "Tell All Your Mates About It" and specialises in the online marketing of character-based intellectual properties.

Comic+, a free, online, page-turning comic targeting kids aged 8 to 14 years which includes pages devoted to characters such as Roobarb & Custard, an animation gallery and more.

Featuring a mix of old and new media, including 2D hand drawn comic strips, video and online casual gaming, the team behind Taymai Comic+ are aiming to ensure there's something to appeal to every kid within its pages.

In addition to established characters, such as Roobarb & Custard, Taymai Comic+ includes many new characters, such as The Screamers.

“We're all very excited about the launch of Taymai Comic+," says Steve Manley. "Having tested the first edition with school children, the results confirmed what we have always believed, that kids are very open to finding their entertainment online.”

The owner of every character featured in Taymai Comic+ can offer merchandise through an online print-on-demand store, without any stock risk at all. Steve Manley told downthetubes they have been testing this aspect of the service for several months and it has been working very well.

The Comic, whose services are being marketed to a wide range of companies, enables character owners and licensing agents to benefit by both building the public popularity of their characters and selling merchandise direct to consumers. They earn revenue, whilst gaining recognition and sales data, to prove to TV companies and retailers that the character deserves support. Retailers can use Taymai Comic+ to advertise their in-store character merchandise to tweens while licensees can use the digital title for merchandise offers, including competitions and ecommerce, to their target consumers.

• Taymai Comic+ is available online at www.taymai.com/comic - and there's also a promotional video on YouTube that features its very catchy theme tune!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Online Comic Creator Tools

I posted this list of Online Comic Creator Tools on the ROK Comics Creator Forum some time ago, but I think it may well be of interest to folks here...

I've been having a dig around on the Internet and had a look at a lot of the other creator tools out there. I was wondering if anyone had tried any of these and if so, what they thought of them? (This list also features on the main downthtubes site).

Please note: this list does not include links to web comic "portal" sites like ComicSpace or Web Comics Nation (although ROK Comics could also be considered one of those).

Comic Creator Tools
Comics creator tools comprise software and online tools for the purpose of creating cartoons or comic strips, either for print or online or mobile phone publication.
Several companies have developed creator tools, while some online companies and TV channels use them as "value added" services to enhance their web sites. Many online services employ Flash to but some use Scalable Vector Graphics.

Desktop Comic Creator Software

Comic Book Creator
Link:
www.mycomicbookcreator.com
Windows Software
Comic Book Creator 2.0 is a toolkit for self-publishing, whether you're making photo comics or classic comics from your scanned artwork or video game screenshots. The company has created various editions themed to TokyoPop, Marvel and other characters.
"Comic Book Creator has become the software of choice for Social Network and user generated content creation and personal media syndication, according to Planetwide Media, publisher and developer of this creative software. Comic Book Creator is a media creation tool that allows you to easily create your own stories utilizing digital photos, music, sound effects, videos and animation. Your creations can printed in book form or published at your own blog or at www.HyperComics.com. The retail version is available for $49.99 US.
Video gamers are encouraged to create a professional-looking, high-quality comic book to immortalize an important battle scene or dramatic encounter within their game play. Comic Book Creator lets gamers add in text bubbles to their digital screenshots, as well as classic comic book features like powerful action-word graphics that emphasize their game play.
To create a comic, you need to select from one of the 500 unique layout and design templates, drop in your captured digital images and insert text bubbles, icons, captions and clipart to bring to life whatever story you can imagine. Comic Book Creator will work with any JPEG, BMP, or GIF digital image and will allow users to share their masterpiece with friends.
Various 'skins' have been created in partnership with gaming companies and publishers such as Marvel.

Comic Life
Link: plasq.com/comiclife

An award-winning bit of Mac software that lets you create astounding comics, beautiful picture albums, how-tos... and more. The easy-to-use interface integrates seamlessly with your photo collection or iSight. Drag in your pictures, captions, Lettering text ('ka-blam!') and speech balloons and your work is done!

Doozla
Link: http://plasq.com/

Doozla is the easy-to-use drawing application for children - it is what your kids have always wanted. It's the creation of plasq, who also make Comic Life.

Online Comic Creators

Most of these are flash-based, like ROK Comics

The Beano
UK publisher DC Thomson's flagship humour weekly provides the tools to create comics based on Beano characters. This is a nicely designed comic creator -- probably one of the best from the comics that provide one -- although lettering is a bit fiddly - you choose whole words to add to balloons rather than add your own lettering. Everthing including lettering, is treated as an object, which means you can rotate, scale all items etc. Like many online creators from commercial companies, there's no option to save - just print out your comic.

Blue Peter
A comic maker from the BBC. The Blue Peter engine is accompanied by a talk through from presenter Gethin, and you have to create the strip from the ground up, designing characters (if you want) then you can create a simple three frame strip which prints out on A4. There's no option to save it and the interface uses the same format as the Beano's, clicking and dragging key words to the stage. The stage is a bit small but it's quite a nice design and works quite well.

Boy's Life
This utilises the same style of moving and deleting objects as the Kabam! site (see below) - you click the command (eg Move) first, then the object or character you want to alter. There's no facility to save just print, but this service on the US Boy Scout site does let you click and view the three frame strip as one frame, so you can see how it's shaping up and how each panel looks compared with the others.

Doctor Who
The official BBC Doctor Who web site offers a moderated comic maker enabling users to create comic strips based on Doctor Who using monsters and characters from the TV drama. It's over complicated and the flash is very slow to load, and moderation takes at least three days. Not very impressed.

Captain Underpants
Found on the Scholastic Canada web site. It's a very simple comic maker providing fixed phrases and a limited number of characters, props etc to choose from, and not clever enough to realize you've missed out a frame when you create a story.

Comic Sketch
This SVG-based comic creator enables to you create freehand comics and turn them into a strip. The creators are working on a new comic strip editor (beta at ) for Comics Sketch (that will also be the next core of their calligraphic widget InputDraw). The builders say the main goal of the new version is to empower artists to be able to create real professional comics on the site and allow them to reuse parts/characters/objects of their comics in new ones. It will be SVG standard at its core, aiming for a subset of SVG that is close to the one supported by Firefox or Safari.. or even better and less buggier. This new version is being developed using ActionScript and Flex.

Comiqs.com
A new website that allows people to create comic strips based on their own photos. The Flex based editor allows users to easily add captions and text to photos that they upload. It is also possible to link it to your Flickr account. There's also a community based around these comic strips - with lists of top rated and top viewed comic strips that have been created.
You can dive straight in and create a comic based on the photos already uploaded or add your own, without having to sign up. The interface is still in beta and is not instinctive and a bit fiddly, in my view, but there's some interesting implementation of "Web 2.0" themes.

Disney's Comic Creator
You need to be a member Disney's Club Blast to use this tool.

Garfield Comic Creator
Surprisngly, this is also hidden away on the National Heart and Lung Institute web site (well, I say hidden, but it's actually got a better search position than the official Garfield web site location!). It's exactly the same engine as the Scouts and the Kabam! Disease control comic maker - print only with no option to save.

Gnomz
Multi-lingual comic tool requiring sign up before you can create comics based on pixel art designs. The service appears to have some 85.000 members and has been running since at least 2005.

ITV's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
Flash-based comics creator using celebrity images and scenery from the ITV reality show. The design is similar to the service offered by ROK Comics, who built the tools in 2007 for the show's sixth series as part of a number of mobile promotions. You can either view the completed strip in full or have it delivered to your mobile. There is a charge for mobile delivery.

Kabam! Comic Creator
Part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a bit limited but one nice touch is limiting the number of words per balloon, so it can't get too big - also, lettering is automatically centred within the balloon. This avoids the problem of over large balloons some comic creators have where the text is embedded into the balloon object, like ROK Comics.

Kerpoof

An animation and comic creator inspired, it seems, by the imagery of Escher. It's Flash based and the menus are completely visual which was a little confusing. If you register you can save your designs and do other things with them.
The makes say that with Kerpoof you can make artwork (even if you aren't good at drawing!), make an animated movie, earn Koins which you will soon be able to spend in The Kerpoof Store (not sure how this works yet), make a printed card, t-shirt, or mug and comment on other creator's work

Make Beliefs Comic
Simple web site utilising comic characters and props to create three panel strips. The creation of Bill Zimmerman with art by Tom Bloom.

Myths and Legends Story Creator
Resource for schools utilising imagery based on British myths and legends.

Patent PlaceVery slick Flash site based on Patent's Place the everyday story of Biotech folk.

Read • Write • Think
ReadWriteThink is a partnership between the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the Verizon Foundation.
The Comic Creator is designed to be used in a variety of contexts (prewriting, pre- and postreading activities, response to literature, and so on). The organizers focus on the key elements of comic strips by allowing students to choose backgrounds, characters, and props, as well as to compose related dialogue. This tool can be used by students from kindergarten through high school, for purposes ranging from learning to write dialogue to an in-depth study of a formerly neglected genre. Once you have finished your comic you can print it out.


ROK Comics
(I'm guessing you've heard of this one!) This service lets users upload their own comic frames and photographs to make comic strips and provides speech ballons special effects and a number of characters and 'props' with which to create comic strips. Professionally-published strips earn revenue share but users can also publish strips for free and have access to embed code which can be inserted in web sites and some blog services. Sign up is required before you create a comic and the professional service is moderated.

Strip Creator
Stripcreator is a website that allows users to create and save their own comic strips. It officially went in January 2001. The site is donor supported: donors get to use more features than casual visitors. Registration is required. Comics can be read on the site or in the site's Read My Damn Comics forum (http://www.stripcreator.com/forums/listthreads.php?forum=14), where the regulars are most receptive to people who are polite and funny.
Stripcreator works best in Internet Explorer 6. It also works in Firefox, though there are some glitches. "I've heard that it works in Opera and Safari as well," says creator Brad, "which would just be luck."

Strip Generator
Hailing from Slovenia, this surely set the benchmark for Flash-based comic creator tools and is now on a 1.3 model. The creators of Strip Generator created a simple to use flash based application utilising online charcaters, props and balloons. The service has gone through several upgrades, and has been used in some very successful projects, like for BAR TV reality show and for using it for political online cartoon creation for a US newspaper.
Stripgenerator is free of charge project created to embrace the internet blogging and strip creation culture, helping the people with no drawing abilities to express their opinions via strips.

Telltale: Sam and Max Comic Creator
Now you can give everyone's favourite canine shamus and hyperkinetic rabbity-thing the power of speech from the comfort of your own home or office. It's easy! Just drag the panels you want into the empty strip. Then type funny things in the speech bubbles. (If you leave a bubble empty, it will disappear when you submit your comic.) Site claims copyright on all strips created.

ToonDo
ToonDoo offers more robust features with a twist of social networking sites similar to myspace or friendster. It offers a huge range of cartoon stock graphics and emotion icons for you to add with your photos or you can just use the characters to make up your own. You can get yor comics reviewed by other members, embed the cartoons on your website, and even add the toons to your favourite bookmarks sites.
ToonDoo offers nearly 400 characters, props and backgrounds and the ability to create one, two or three-panel comic strips. You can also customize characters, props and speech bubbles and upload pictures and photographs, then share, mail, recommend and bookmark your comic strips.
The editor interface does not have the ability to tune digital photos and apply filters. Registration is required to use the comic creator which is Flash based.

Toonlet
Another relatively new service. Rather than focus on photos like comiqs for example, toonlet puts the focus on character creation, and features a powerful avatar tool so you can make characters that look authentically hand-drawn. Tour at: http://www.toonlet.com/tour. They're looking for creators to contribute "art packs" based on downloadable templates.

TOXIC
UK publisher TOXIC has a "Monster Maker" that is part of its online comics suite for members of the TOXIC club. While not strictly a comic tool the elements are certainly comics-inspired.

Respect The Authority!

Forbidden Planet London has just announced a one of a kind event by Ian Edginton, Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett and Simon Coleby, who will be signing comics from US publisher WildStorm's World’s End mini series, including The Authority No 1 (drawn by Simon) at the comics superstore on Saturday 30th August 2008 between 1-2.00pm.

Following the cataclysmic conclusion to Number of the Beast mini series comes the dawn of a whole new age: Wildstorm World’s End! The heroes failed to save the planet from destruction and now struggle to survive in a brutal, post-apocalyptic environment... but with humanity largely dead and the Earth broken, what does the term "hero" even mean?

You can follow the gripping survival story in four on-going titles: Wildcats (whose creative team includes Trevor Hairsine), Authority (Written by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning with art by Coleby and Hairsine), Stormwatch PHD (written by Ian Edginton) and GEN13, all featuring a serialized back-up story further expanding on this bleak new world illustrated by some of the top names in the industry!

Ian Edginton is one of the foremost talents in British comics today, having made his name in the United States before returning home to work on 2000AD and other titles. Edginton has penned Wolverine, Batman and Judge Dredd, as well as being the author of The Red Seas, Leviathan and the Eisner-award-nominated Scarlet Traces.

Dan Abnett is probably one of Britain's most prolific comics writers as well as being the author of several novels. Not including his early work at Marvel UK and recent work for both Marvel and DC Comics, he’s also been one of 2000AD’s top writers, responsible for one of the longest running strips of the last decade, Sinister Dexter. He also writes for Black Library and Big Finish.

The hugely talented and enthusiastic Andy Lanning is in high demand as a writer and inker. He has most notably worked for Marvel and DC, often working with with Dan Abnett on titles such as Nova and the high-profile Legion of Super-Heroes.

Simon Coleby is a comic book artist who has worked mainly for 2000AD and Marvel but who has also designed real world amusement parks - just another string to his bow. He is also known for his work on the one-shot Wildstorm title Midnighter: Armageddon.

• The signing takes places at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 30th August 2008 between 1-2pm
More about World's End plus wallpapers, icons and more on the Wildstorm web site

Monday, 28 July 2008

Rare Eagle Dummy Online

In Spring 2008, Cirencester-based Dominic Book Auctions offered ten volumes (1950-60) of Eagle and Girl of unknown provenance, which were bought by London’s Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street.

Unknown to the Museum (or the auctioneer) the lot also contained a copy of the second Eagle dummy, prepared by the art team to show Hulton Press the Eagle idea wasn’t just a ‘one-off’. In July 2008, the museum provided The Lost Characters of Frank Hampson web site with scans of the dummy and as previously reported, the latest issue of Eagle Times carries full print feature on this rarity.

Now, thanks to lifelong Eagle fan David Britton and with the permission of, the Cartoon Museum. the pages have been presented online via www.2000ad.nu/spacefleet/dummy2, the cover featuriung a very different version of the now famous Eagle logo but the pages displaying all the hallmarks of the then ground-breaking comic.

• The Dan Dare and Rob Conway and The Great Adventurer pages are also reproduced on The Lost Characters of Frank Hampson site.

View the dummy pages



Mama, We're All Connected Now...

Good news for online comic creators comes via research from KenRadio.com (registration required) that nearly a quarter of the world's population – roughly 1.4 billion people – will use the Internet on a regular basis in 2008.

This number is expected to surpass 1.9 billion unique users, or 30% of the world's population, in 2012,, which means that the Internet will have added its second billion users over a span of about eight years, a testament to both its universal appeal and its availability.

By the end of 2008, the research suggests, the Internet will be more deeply integrated into the fabric of many users' personal and professional lives, enabling them to work, play, and socialize anytime from anywhere. These trends will accelerate as the number of mobile users continues to soar and the Internet becomes truly ubiquitous.

The PC is still currently the dominant means of gaining access to the Internet,, but only in certain countires. In many third world countries people access the web via their mobiles and the number of mobile devices accessing the Internet is now expected to surpass the number of online PCs by 2012.

So waht are all these millions of surfers doing online? Once on the Internet, it's expected users will continue to spend time on Web 1.0 activities like searching, shopping, and sending email. But Web 2.0 activities, such as watching user-generated videos (Youtube, MetaCafe), streaming media / VOD (Hulu, ABC.com), posting blogs (Blogger, Typepad), and participating in social networks such as Facebook and Myspace are quickly capturing the attention and time online of more and more Internet users.

The latter will create new opportunities and challenges for online businesses and advertisers. But it's all good news for webcomic and mobile comic creators!

Comics Art at Oxford's Jam Factory

The Caption Comics Collective will be running an exhibition at the Oxford Jam Factory with a launch party this Thursday (31st July) from around 6:30pm and another the evening before the Caption alternative comics convention on 8th August.

In attendance this Thursday will be 2000AD's Matt Brooker, Andrew Luke, Jeremy Dennis, Dierdre Ruane, Sally Anne-Hickman, and hopefully Mr. Terry Wiley, along with other stars of the Oxford comics and music scene.

The month's showing will also include exclusive mini-exhibits and workshops to be announced.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Gears of War

Former Marvel UK artist and these days a publisher in his own right of a range of high quality indie titles from Mam Tor Publishing , (along with partner, Christine), Liam Sharp is busy working on a new six-part story for the new Gears of War comic from Wildstorm, based in the universe of the top-selling game.

The first issue based on Gears of War 2, the sequel to the computer game, debuts in October, one month before the game's launch.

"I'm very excited.," says Liam of the story, which has been scripted by Gears of War 2 video game scriptwriter and comic book writer Joshua Ortega. "I'm doing the lead six issue story."

The opening six-issue arc of this new ongoing series bridges the end of the first Gears of War game and the start of the second one, following the brutal adventures of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad in the battle against the Locust.

For Liam, the appeal of drawing the book was nothing to do with it being a tie-in to a game, but "everything else", he told US comics site Newsarama in a recent interview - the characters, environments, monsters...

"It felt really familiar," he explains. "The deeper I got into looking at everything, not having the game at the time and just going on the visuals, the more I felt I could be well-suited to it. The imagery felt sort of like The Death Dealer with guns - something epic that would require a lot of detail, energy and I guess my kind of grittiness - and that really appealed to me."

The winner of over 30 Game of the Year awards, Gears of War for Xbox 360 and PC features amazing tactical action and multiplayer excitement. The plot thrusts gamers into a deep and harrowing story of humankind’s epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet.

Gears of War 2
, which continues the story of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad in an epic saga of survival, loss and retribution, is the sequel to the blockbuster game that sold over 4.5 million copies and redefined the third-person tactical action game genre. The game is being developed exclusively for Xbox 360 and will launch this November.


" The game is awesome," says Liam" so I'm trying to give it the same grit and density of detail."

• Taking of Liam and MamTor, a quick plug for the recently released The Enemy's Son - Erth Chronicles Book I. This is the first book in the Erth Chronicles series by James Johnson., a unique vision in SF & Fantasy that unveils an epic universe that stretches from the printed page to a world-wide online community. You can download a preview of 'The Enemy's Son here (Acrobat Reader required).

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