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Friday, 8 August 2008

Fungus versus Arkwright!

Just a quick reminder that this Saturday (9th August) will see the the first ever, truly historical encounter, between Bryan Talbot and Raymond Briggs, two giants of the British graphic novel.

The ComICA event starts at 2.30 at London's ICA and is timed to launch the new Cape Graphic Classics editions of Gentleman Jim and One Bad Rat. They'll be signing after.

• Some tickets are still available here

ROK Comics Launches New Competitions

ROK Comics has just announced the launch of not one but two great competitions – open to everyone using the ROK Comics comics-to-mobile service, so pass it on!

Both offer the chance to win a top of the range Nokia 9500 phone, worth nearly £500 ($1000 US).

The 2008 ROK Comics Humour Competition: This year's Humour Competition through to 1st September 2008 after last year’s proved such a success, won by Steve English (see right) after final judging by Alan Digby, editor of The Beano.

Any humour comic created on the ROK Comics platform – Pro or Freefall and assigned as “Fun” - qualifies for entry. The winner and runners up will be published on a special page on the ROK Comics site, just as we did last year (www.rokcomics.com/winners2007.php).
• For full details of this competition, go to www.rokcomics.com/humour_competition2008.php

ROK Comics is also partnering with the Birmingham International Comic Show (www.thecomicsshow.co.uk) for its ROK and a Hard Place Competition. The winner of this competition will also get free entry to the event (travel and accommodation costs not included).

While it’s yet to reach the giddy heights of the incredible San Diego Comic Convention, the organisers fully expect over 4000 fans to plough through the doors for 4-5 October and they have a terrific line up of creators to see, including the legendary Michael Golden, Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo, Thor artist Olivier Coipel, V For Vendetta co-creator David Lloyd and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons and many more.

The ‘ROK and a Hard Place’ competition challenges comics creators to come up with a comic featuring a life changing moment. It could be your life changing moment or someone fictional... Even an animal or robot! What you come up with is up to you.

The theme was the idea of Shane Chebsey, one of the co-runners of BICS and a long-time supporter of Britain’s huge indie comics press. We think this challenge will appeal to many creators worldwide, and we're looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

"We at BICS love the way that Rok Comics is so accessible to both creators and readers,” says Shane, “and feel that working together we can help to bring the wonderful medium of comics to a wider readership. Mobile phones are now the most widely used method of communication in the world, so it seems the perfect way to present new comics to more people than ever before".

• For full details of this competition, go to www.rokcomics.com/bics_competition2008.php
• For terms and conditions of both competitions go to www.rokcomics.com/competitionTerms.php

James Bond Theme Spoof

Fun parody from one Joe Cornish, who would like to offer this song to the makers of the new James Bond movie 'The Quantum of Solace', entirely free, for use over the opening credits of their forthcoming movie.



-- with thanks to Frank Garcia for the link.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Doctor Who Part Work in the Offing

(with thanks to Jeremy Bentham and Tony Clark): Alerted by a posting on the web site of Blackpool's Who shop, it seems plans are afoot to release a Doctor Who DVD Files Magazine.

Part works publishers GE Fabbri, publishers of the Doctor Who magazine Battles in Time and magazine-video titles such as Ronnie Barker, Charmed and Stargate SG-1 are behind the plans, but told downthetubes the project was at a very early stage.

"This magazine is still in a development stage and we are not able to confirm where and when this magazine will be tested in the UK," a spokesperson told us.

If the project goes ahead it will join Battles in Time, Doctor Who Adventures and Doctor Who Magazine on British news atands, as well as Titan's Torchwood Magazine. Talk about your Time Lord takeover...

Doctor Who's Brief Encounter!

Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor Who in the 1980s, is visiting Carnforth, Lancashire for a special bank holiday event.

Colin will meet and greet fans of the series at Carnforth Station's Doctor Who-themed shop 'The Tardis' on Monday, 25th August. The station is of course famous for being the location for filming of many scenes in the classic film Brief Encounter in 1945 and its engine sheds house the steam train used in the Harry Potter films (which is rarely on view to the public).

'A Brief Encounter with Doctor Who' is being held to coincide with the release of the DVD The Trial of a Time Lord, the Sixth Doctor's final TV story.

Colin Baker first appeared in the Peter Davison Doctor Who Story Arc of Infinity as Commander Maxil before going on to become the Sixth Doctor, his time in the role marred by the BBC's much-criticised treatment of the show and the actor.

He has since gone on to reprise his role as the Sixth Doctor in audio adventures for Big Finish, and also wrote a comic strip, The Age of Chaos, featuring his character.

Baker has been writing a regular column for his local newspaper, the Bucks Free Press since 1995.

The Carnforth event, which includes a Question and Answer session with Colin Baker and many other Doctor Who-themed activities, runs from 10.30am until around 3.00pm.

Ticket prices cost adults £8, children under 16 £4 (advance) and adults £10, children under 16 £5 (on the day). Under fives go free, children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

The ticket price includes access to special area events and signings and who knows? You might even get to see a Dalek!

• For more details please call The Tardis(!) at Carnforth Railway Station on 01524 736655. The Tardis is at Unit 1 Carnforth Station, Warton Road - Carnforth, Lancashire LA5 9TR

Marvel Revenues Double

US comics publisher Marvel Entertainment has reported a huge growth in its operating results for its second quarter and six months ended 30th June 2008, with licensing and film revenues helping to swell its coffers - but comic sales have declined after a strong start to the year.

Its earnings estimate for the rest of 2008 proved a disappointment and despite a 60 per cent rise in profits, shares in the company dropped in price, although still better than this time last year, an indication perhaps of just how difficult things are in the publishing world at present, and, indeed, the wider economy.

Net sales across all its operations for the second quarter of 2008 are reported as $156.9 million, with a net income of $46.7 million (nearly £24 million), compared to net sales of $101.5 million and net income of $29.1 million (£14.8 million) in the first quarter.

Income from licensing deals and and initial contributions from film production, with foreign pre-sales of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk helping spur the year-over-year improvement, much to the delight of Marvel executives. These latest figures do not include box-office receipts for the two films, totaling at over $800 million to date worlwide.

"Revenue from Marvel's film production segment commenced in the second quarter with the release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk," commented Morton Handel, who has been has been the Chairman of Marvel's Board of Directors of Marvel since October 1998 and seen the company go through difficult times. Although analysts have expressed disappointment at the figures, Hanel remains biullish.

"We're very pleased with the success of these films, which have generated $817 million in global box office receipts," he said, " $571 million [£396 million] from Iron Man and $246 million [£126 million] from The Incredible Hulk -- with Iron Man still to open in Japan.

"Because of the timing of our distributors' revenue reporting, our Q2 results did not reflect any revenue from the films' box office performance. We did, however, record initial revenues in Q2 from the foreign pre-sales of both movies. In addition, the high level of media and consumer interest in these two films helped to drive strong results in our domestic and international licensing divisions in the period."

Forbes. com reports that Marvel expects its film production arm to add sales in a range of $65 million to $80 million in 2008 while licensing is expected to contribute $260 million to $270 million, and publishing is expected to bring in $130 million to $135 million.

"With growing international sales to complement our already strong domestic licensing program and a focus on generating higher value from online and interactive activities, we believe Marvel is well positioned as we develop our pipeline of future self-produced feature films," Handel feels.

Upcoming feature film projects include Iron Man 2, Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Despite the success of the company's licensing and film arms, comic sales apear to have fallen, but Marvel puts the decline down to strong sales in the first quarter, such as limited edition comic book series The Dark Tower and The Death of Captain America, which have skewed results.

Marvel still commands a strong position in the monthly Top 300 comic sales lists of comics sold via Diamond Distributors, pulished by icv2.com, with even mid-range titles, such as Captain Britain& MI13, written by British author Paul Cornell selling some 37,900 copies, far higher than Virgin's Dan Dare title which sold just over 6,400 copies in May.
But outside the comics retail industry last month, only two titles in the Top 20 Graphic Novels sold in US bookstores were published by Marvel, with manga publishers Viz and TokyoPop taking the lion's share of the top spots.

View Top 300 Comics and Graphic Novel Sales Figures
Visit the Marvel web site

Eleventh Hour Vol 1 hits WOWIO!

Eleventh Hour Volume 1, the latest installment in the Eagle Award Nominated anthology series produced by Orang Utan Comics Studio and published by AAM/Markosia has joined the digital revolution in comics this week.

The full 80-page trade paperback is now available in four parts on the popular online comic download site, Wowio (www.wowio.com). Not only can you now read every page of this groundbreaking anthology for free, but each part also includes exclusive bonus material drawn from the extremely rare and hard to find first two issues of Eleventh Hour, released by Orang Utan Comics Studio back in 2007.

“Many people have told us that they’d love to read the book,” commented Orang Utan Comics managing editor, Ian Sharman, “but they’ve had trouble finding a copy as their local comic shops have refused to order it for them as, apparently, anthology comics don’t sell. Now that we’re on Wowio we can reach a much wider audience, with readers from across the globe being able to download the book or read it online.”

Comic fans from anywhere in the world can use Wowio’s new “Read Online” feature to read through the entire book online for free, and readers based in the USA can currently download it for free (those outside the USA can download each part for just $0.99).

Follow these links to find Eleventh Hour Vol 1 on Wowio:

www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=5182

www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=5183

www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=5184

www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=5185

Orang Utan Comics Studio are currently hard at work on Eleventh Hour Vol 2, with exciting new writers joining the team, including Cy Dethan (Starship Troopers) and Dwight L. MacPherson (Surreal Adventures of Edgr Allan Poo), and the hugely talented Azim Akberali (Ray Harryhausen Presents Return to Mysterious Island) and Diego Simone (Starship Troopers) among the returning artists.

Visit the Orang Utan Comics Studio web site

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Moggy in the TARDIS

Liking a) Doctor Who and b) cats is obligatory for all downthetubes contributors - and anyone disliking either of these two things is asked to leave pretty quickly, I can tell you.

The team was therefore thrilled to see this advert for a flea treatment product from a company called Novartis. We liked it and we don't care what anyone else thinks.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Computer Adventure!

With Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park in the news as guest editor of the 70th Birthday Beano, Telltale, Inc., the leader in interactive episodic entertainment, have just released a cinematic teaser trailer and new details about the Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures computer game.

The upcoming game series joins Telltale's all-star lineup, which includes the award-winning Sam & Max series and Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, debuting soon on WiiWare and PC.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures will combine the rich and imaginative storytelling the quirky inventor and his faithful canine sidekick are known for with the critically-acclaimed writing, fun gameplay, and unique TV-style format Telltale has pioneered. Assuming the roles of both Wallace and Gromit, players will spend each episode exploring a vivid world, assembling intricate contraptions, and getting the duo out of the sticky situations they frequently find themselves in.

"Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures extends our vision for delivering new kinds of entertainment to everyone who enjoys a good story," says Telltale's CEO and co-founder Dan Connors. "Wallace & Gromit has a long history of entertaining people of all ages, and the world Aardman has created is rich with humor and storytelling possibilities.

"Our team has been enjoying the process of adapting this series for new audiences, and we look forward to reintroducing it to long-time fans in the episodic format that Telltale has been innovating."

"Wallace and Gromit are much-loved characters with cross generational appeal who will work perfectly in this kind of game-playing environment," feels Sean Clarke, Head of Marketing & Licensing at Aardman. "Telltale is a leading producer of interactive gaming and we are delighted to partner with them on this exciting new project."

Telltale's new series is one of several upcoming Wallace & Gromit releases. Later this year, the characters will return to TV with an all-new and original Aardman short entitled A Matter of Loaf and Death. DVD compilations of the duo's best shorts to date are also coming soon from Aardman.

• The new trailer, artwork, and additional information about the series can be found at www.telltalegames.com/wallaceandgromit

Narnia by Night

British film fans, families and kids are getting a unique opportunity to relive the magic of The Chronicles of Narnia movies at close quarters at a one-off, Narnia-themed Wow Night on Thursday, 14th August 2008.

‘The Wonderful World of Weta Wow Night ‘ at the Royal Armouries in Leeds is based around its big, free summer exhibition, ‘Arms and Armour from the Movies: The Wonderful World of WETA’.

The red carpet will be rolled out at 6.00pm with a private tour for fans given by an expert guide and including the magic wand wielded by the White Witch to turn people to stone, Peter’s beautifully crafted sword used to slay the head of the White Witch’s secret police, Maugrim and dozens of other props and weapons from the film.

Families can prepare for battle by joining Peter and Edmund in the fight against the White Witch with ‘have-a-go’ sword fighting. Sharpshooters can test their aim at ‘have-a–go’ archery, learning how to shoot a bow and arrow like Susan in the Armouries own shooting gallery.

Children who dress up as their favourite film character can take advantage of the Armouries expert face-painters to complete their look and are in with a chance of winning a fantastic mystery prize. At just £10 per person, the evening includes a host of Narnia-related fun before finishing at 10.00pm after a private viewing of the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the Armouries' own cinema.

• More info from www.royalarmouries.org


Exclusive Hand Made Transformers Figures Up-For-Grabs!


Transformers -- a robot toy range that has spawned several successful comics across the globe down the years and will see the launch of a new UK comic title from Titan in October -- has a massive collector fan base, and owners Hasbro have decided to do something special to celebrate this by offering a once in a life-time opportunity to win some awesome hand made figures of characters from the new Transformers: Animated series.

These amazingly rare figures will be displayed in unique collector cases and will only be available to win through a prize draw on HasbroToyShop.co.uk, and is the first time ever that Transformers figures have been displayed in this way.

The figures up for grabs will be Megtron Deluxe, Leader Bulkhead and Roll Out Command Optimus Prime.

Transformers: Animated, screening on Nicktoons in the UK, is a high-octane, animated action-adventure series based on the beloved 1980s ‘robots in disguise’ of toy and cartoon fame. The Autobots continue their battle against the Decepticons on Earth and this time they have human friends to help them in the search for the AllSpark, such as their energetic 8-year-old guide, Sari Sumdac.

The competition launches on Monday 25 August 2008 and will run until Sunday 14 September 2008. No purchase is necessary and the competition is open to residents in the UK, aged 18 years or over. If you want a slice of Transformers history make sure you log on!

Titan launches its Transformers Animated Comic, complete with wrist blaster free gift, on 23 October, complementing its existing Transformers Comic. The title will include new comic adventures, puzzles, features and more heavy-metal action than you can shake a photon-enhanced Laser Blaster at!

• Visit the HasbroToyShop.co.uk
Visit the Titan Magazines Transformers Comic Animated Page

Unico Launches Collections Title

After a two-year gestation period, indie British publisher Unico Comics is soon to publish a special annual collecting a number of strips from some of the best amateur comics talent in the UK.

Unico Collections was started in 2007 by the artists and writers involved with Unico Comic’s core projects such as their first book, Dragon Groove. With Collections, the North-East based company have put together an amateur ranked only comic book, open to any artist from across the UK who felt they were up to the challenge to draw their own comic but had not yet been published in any other small press comics. 15 scripts were written by members of the Unico writing staff and submitted to all the artists to pick their favourite to work on.

The finished Collections annual, which runs to over 100 pages and includes colour material, will have ten small comics ranging from four to 14 pages in length and covering a huge range of original independent stories and characters.

Stories include Say Goodbye to Hollywood (picture above) by Phil Cuthbertson with art by Steven Howard, the team behind Unico's first ongoing title, Dragon Groove.

"Apart from entertaining its readers, the other point of this annual is to give all the people involved who are wanting to break out into the comic world a chance to show their talent through this annual," explains Michael Burness, who co-runs Unico, "and present them with that rare first step on to the small press network."

Unico Comics was founded in July 2005 and aims to bring amateur comic book creators out of their bedrooms and into the big scary world of the small press comic business. "We provide an environment for amateur creators, artists and writers to join like minded people and produce some original British work," says Burness, "that will be taken from the basic ideas to a full printed comic available to buy."

The small press publisher's first three comics were released in 2008. The first was Dragon Groove, aimed at the younger market, with the more mature Unico Collections and The legend known as… scheduled to follow in the second half of 2008.

"With each year Unico Comics grows in size," says Burness, "and with our 2008 releases we hope to have a healthy and productive year in 2009."

The Collections line up is as follows:

Killer Born
Script by David Wallace
Artwork by Adam Whitfield

Fallen Hero
Script by Michael Burness
Artwork by Johnnie Iley (see right)

Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Script by Phil Cuthbertson
Artwork by Steven Howard

The Son
Script by David Wallace
Artwork by Mark Nevins

Crash
Script by Michael Burness
Artwork by David Byrne

War God
Script by David Wallace
Artwork by Adam Whitfield

Snowfall
Script by Phil Cuthbertson
Artwork by Mark Bell

Reapers
Script by Michael Burness
Artwork by Brian Gorman (see right)

Confessions of the Trade
Script by David Wallace
Artwork by Steven Howard

Amy’s Story
Script by Michael Burness
Artwork by Cleo Delcour-Min

Unico Collections will be available through Smallzone and other outlets. For more information on the title and Unico Comics visit www.unicocomics.co.uk

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

New Anti Doping Comic from UNESCO

Just launched on the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences website is a new weekly comic by Mychailo Kazybrid which aims to promote the battle against doping in sport.

Published by UNESCO in partnership with EDGE G3 Ltd., The Case of the Spoilsports, published in English, Spanish and French, stars Rattus Holmes and his assistant Dr. Felis Watson and dramatizes UNESCO's anti-doping role and explores the importance of the International Convention against Doping in Sport, adopted by UNESCO's member states in 2005.

The characters come from the pen of Sheffield artist, Mychailo Kazybrid who has been involved in the cartoon and comic book industry for over 30 years, with work covering a variety of licensed characters from Shaun the Sheep, Wallace & Gromit, The Tick to Duckula, Dangermouse and the Bash St. Kids, to name but a few. He also publishes his own strip, Do-Do Man, on the comics-to-mobile service ROK Comics.

"When Ed Chatelier of EDGE G3 Ltd, provided the script, he wanted something different, and the idea was to take a new approach to something that was already well known." Mychailo explains. "So we came up with the pets of the famous having an encounter with pets of the infamous, with my partner, Sarah Sier naming the characters. When the rat and cat belonging to Holmes and Watson have to take on the evil bird of Moriarty, anything could happen!"

With the colour work produced by fellow artist Richard Thomas the story is in five chapters, published weekly.

Inspired by the famous detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it will trace how twin athletes react differently to the pressures of competitive sport. One gives in immediately to the pressure put on him by his trainer and teammates, while the other athlete suffers as a result of the use of performance enhancing drugs by his competitors. From one sports event to the next, the plot will lead us to the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Having also produced Rattus Holmes and the Case of the World Water Crisis, artwork is already being put together for the character's third adventure.

View the strip on the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences website

Comics International Returns to Action!


After a prolonged absence from comic shops, Comics International is finally about to return to the stands -- and is offering its readers the opportunity to win a ClanDestine original specially drawn for the competition by British writer/artist Alan Davis, the creator of the Marvel series.

The art (pictured above) can be won in the much-delayed issue #206 of Europe’s comics trade paper, which goes on sale week ending 8th August. Featuring four alternate covers (see below) and priced at the usual £2.99/$4.99, the special 116-page issue includes an interview with Alan about his plans for his superpowered family as well as a host of regular of regular features and numerous other exclusives, among them:

• Famed Cerebus cartoonist Dave Sim talks about glamourpuss – in which he takes a unique look at the fashion industry – and Judenhass, which shines a disturbing spotlight on the Holocaust

Strangers in Paradise writer/art Terry Moore reveals all about his new self-published series, Echo.

• Crime novelist Duane Swierczynski discusses Cable and his Lone Wolf and Cub-style reboot of Marvel’s time-travellin’ mutant bad-ass.

• Writers Dan Jurgens and Ron Marz discuss DC’s multiverse; specifically the restoration of the Tangent Universe in Tangent: Superman’s Reign.

• Writer Joe Casey speaks about the challenge of resurrecting Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, his own Image graphic novel, Nixon’s Pals, and writing The Last Defenders for Marvel. In addition, artist Chris Burnham talks about how Nixon’s Pals was developed.

• Original Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano talks comics and in particular Narcopolis, the Avatar four-parter he describes as being “in the territory of adult horror/fantasy”.

• From Four Feather Falls to Stingray... Comics International's ongoing in-depth examination of TV SF in British comics continues with the second of six installments focusing on strips based on shows from Gerry Anderson, the man who made SuperMarionation a household word.

It's good to see the magazine finally back on the stands and let's hope the title is finally over its production difficulties and back on a regulat schedule at last.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Crossovers That Never Happened: The Two Doctors

... The Two Doctors in question being Doctor Who and Doctor Strange.

It was TV Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel who proposed a Doctor Who/ Doctor Strange crossover and submitted a plot to me around 1991/92, about the same time as he was writing Evening's Empire, a six-part story for Doctor Who Magazine that ran into more than a few deadline problems.

As the then editor of Doctor Who Magazine, I either commissioned Lee Sullivan to do the piece of promo art below, or he did it for fun. Lee's like that.

Marvel US Editor-in-Chief Tom de Falco, a Doctor Who fan himself and who, in the early 1990s, regularly visited Marvel UK to discuss its direction, ran workshops on comics creation and more, liked the idea of a crossover. Howver, he felt that at the time, with the reduced interest in Doctor Who that was the result of the BBC's 'hiatus' for the show that effectively ended the Seventh Doctor's period on TV, there was no advantage in proceeding with a crossover which would, in his view, benefited Doctor Who more than it would Doctor Strange.

Although the story never happened, I believe Andrew used some of the ideas in his novels.

For the benefit of posterity, here then is a Two Doctor image you may never have expected to see...

Let's Do the Timewarp Again...

CAPTION, if you aren't aware, is a long-running comics festival dedicated to the British independent and small comics press -- and also the longest running comics festival in Britain by many years.

A week before the 2008 'Timewarp' themed event, Andrew Luke ran some questions about the event around CAPTION regulars from early days to recent times, which you can read on the main downthetubes site.

As previously reported,
CAPTION 2008 also has an affiliated art exhibition over August at The Jam Factory near Oxford railway station, and the event itself takes place this weekend at the East Oxford Community Centre on Cowley Road. 2000AD comics creator D'Israeli has just posted some pictures from the launch event here.

Caption 2008: Timewarp runs on 9 - 10 August 2008 at the East Oxford Community Centre, Oxford.

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