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Saturday, 13 September 2008

To Infinity and... er, Japan!

Comics artist Simon Mackie and 1980s indie comics editor Russell WillisRussell Willis produced and published a number on important underground cartoon magazines in the 1980s including Infinity, which included interviews with creators such as Alan Moore, Posy Simmonds and David Lloyd and later issues of The Alternative Headmaster's Bulletin. He moved to Tokyo in the early 1990's where he now runs a web based publishing company in Tokyo.

UK underground cartoonist, Simon Mackie, who also lived in Tokyo in the early to mid 1990's, recently met up with Russell in Tokyo where they talked about Russell's involvement with the UK comics underground two and a half decades ago... Read the interview on the main downthetubes site

Friday, 12 September 2008

Comics International Goes Ape!

Comics International #207In the latest issue of Europe’s comics industry trade paper, which goes on sale week beginning 29 September, writer Karl Kesel, artist Ramon Bachs and editor Steve Wacker talk exclusively to Comics International about making monkeys out of superheroes in Marvel Ape while a special Apes in Comics feature provides the lowdown on four colour primates.

Featuring four alternate covers and priced at the usual £2.99/$4.99, the 100-page Issue 207 also contains Selling Captain America to the World, in which a host of top creators offer their views on how those outside America might react to the in-development movie that features Marvel’s patriotic superhero in action during World War II.

Also included alongside a comprehensive news section are a host of regular features and columns as well as numerous other exclusives, among them:

• The writer/artist team of Joshua Ortega and Liam Sharp discussing Gears of War, DC/WildStorm’s tie-in with Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released sequel to its top-selling computer game.
• Vertigo’s new Unknown Soldier faces tribal genocide and other horrors in 21st century Uganda: Joshua Dysart and artist Alberto Ponticelli reveal the hard work and passion that went into melding comicbook fiction with real life tragedy.
• As reported by downthetubes, Jason Wilson’s Smuggling Vacation has caused a stir in the British media. The cartoonist discusses the genesis of his controversial debut graphic novel
• Writer Peter Milligan plumbs The Depths as he offers his thoughts on Namor and reveals the outlines his Sub-Mariner six-parter for Marvel.
El Diablo is being revived and writer Jai Nitz reveals his intentions for the new version of DC’s 1960s hero. Artist Phil Hester talks about the project from his point of view while also discussing Golly, the series he is writing for Image.
Thunderbirds are Go! CI’s unique in-depth examination of TV SF in British comics continues with the third in a six-part series devoted to strip spin offs from Gerry Anderson shows. This time the focus is the the ever popular rescue drama series that made SuperMarionation a household word.

• For more about Comics International visit www.comics-international.co.uk

ROK Comics Now Free

Marking a major change in its distribution model almost all the comics on the comics-to-mobile service ROK Comics (www.rokcomics.com) are now Free To View on the web.

After experimenting with various sales techniques since its launch last year, ROK Comics has scrapped the two frame only restriction on all Pro Comics in favour of full promotion for the comics and to better push visitors to subscribing to its WAP comic service, with revenues (shared with pro creators) to be generated by ad sales as well as page view revenues from partner services and other sources.

"The move has been greeted with approval from our top creators who, like us, see this as a great way to promote their characters and strips," says ROK Comics Managing Editor John Freeman, "complementing their other distribution methods."

Now you can ‘embed’ any ROK Comic on most web sites (including many blog services and MySpace), just as you would with an embed for video services like YouTube, Newsjack or QIK.

Hand in hand with the mainly behind the scenes changes noted above, the ROK Comics design team have transformed the main WAP site (wap.rokcomics.com). For pricing details in your country go to www.rokcomics.com/subscribe.php.

In the UK, for a free trial of the service on your mobile, text COMIC to 83736. For a full subscription text COMIC SUB to 83736. The UK subscription price is just £3 a month.
Don't forget to bookmark the site when you follow the link you are sent.

ROK has also announced its recent humour competition will be judged by TOXIC comic editor Matt Yeo and reminds all creators its ROK and A Hard Place competition, being in run partnership with the Birmingham International Comic Show, is still running until later this month. More details about the competition here.

Fighting back against the Internet...

Never let it be said that the French lag behind when it comes to technological advances. The Times reports today that instead of turning wholeheartedly to the internet as a way of saving the dwindling popularity of newspapers in Paris, French papers are attempt to halt sales decline with teams of old-fashioned noisy street vendors.

Les vendeurs de journaux a la criée — literally, shouting newspaper salesmen such as the one in this painting by Ilya Repin, painted in 1873 and found here — were a group of 19th-century figures who all but disappeared in the 20th century as dailies opted for newsagents and postal delivery.

The Times reports 20 began operating again this month on a trial basis at eleven stations in Paris, working on commission only, where they yell at passers-by in an attempt to vaunt the merits of Le Figaro, Le Monde and Libération.

“It's a bit of a paradox that in the day of the internet, newspapers are using such ancient methods,” 47-year-old vendor Louis told the paper. It isn't yet turning the tide of people now reading their newspapers online rather than in print, butt he Union of the National Daily Press is confident that the vendors can tap into the 4.5 million passengers who use the Métro every day, and bring about an increase in revenue.

“I have to admit that it's not exactly going brilliantly for now," Louis says, who has to sell some 100 newspapers a day to make it worth the effort. "The French are very distrustful by nature and they don't like people invading their privacy."

Perhaps DC Thomson should try selling The Dandy the same way?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

New Chernobyl-inspired Game goes on sale

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, a nifty looking First Person Shooter inspired by the 2007 Shadow of Chernobyl release, should now be on sale in your local games shops from Koch Media -- and we liked the imagery so much we decided to make an affectionate parody comic out of it over using ROK Comics, embedded here.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a survival FPS game for PC based on a 'what-if' scenario of the second Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. The game is created as a warning to mankind against mindless play with technologies.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
is the official prequel to the renowned S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game created by the Ukraine-based GSC Game World studio, released in 2007. The game is set in 2011 and brings forth the events to have preceded the third campaign of Strelok to the Zone centre.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
introduces an alternative look onto the events of the original game and offers the player to try himself out as a mercenary s.t.a.l.k.e.r. in search of his own path in the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

• Official game site: www.stalker-game.com

• More information about the game is available on the official S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/stalkerofficial

Crunch Time for TinTin Fans

Fans of Tin Tin, be warned: if you run a a fan site devoted to the Belgian cartoon hero, you could end up receiving a cease and desist letter, similar to the kind of litigious heavy handedness meted out by Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox against Star Trek, The Simpsons and The X-Files lovers in the past.

As we reported at the end of August, the protectors of Herge's estate Moulinsart recently seems to have decided that, with all their copyrights and trademarks, their investments still aren’t protected well enough and so sent a cease and desist letter to French laungauge site Objectif Tintin, arguably the best informed and most enjoyable source of Tintin-related information on the web.

Forbidden Planet International contributor Wim Lockefeer reports that Moulinsart (who own the rights to Hergé’s legacy) took offence to OT using Tintin characters in their header images and even dared to mentioned events not authorised by Tin' Tin's official keepers. (For more information, you can read the letter, in French, here and re-read Didier Pasamonik’s take on this all at Actua BD).

Refusing to be bullied by Moulinsart, Wim reports that the fans behind OT have decided to close the site down as of 15 September 2008 rather than cede editorial control Wim warns that other sites, such as Cult Of Tintin, might be next in line for Moulinsart's strong arm tactics which are sure to shock and infuriate fans of the world's most popular Belgian comics character.

The heavy handed actions of the US companies who rightfully sought to protect their properties but did it in such a way as to alienate and damage their fanbase (in some cases, irretreivably), would, you would have thought, be an object lesson in how not to engage with your audience. Sadly, it is a lesson Moulinsart (and, indeed, some British comics companies and copyright owners) have yet to learn.

Kick Ass Top 2009 Movie

Never mind Watchmen or Wolverine: 2000AD and Marvel Comics writer Mark Millar is convinced that the upoming movie Kick Ass, based on his Marvel comic series, which was drawn by John Romita Jr and is due for a hardcover colection release in November, is going to be the top comic book movie of 2009.

"I hereby declare Kick-Ass as the greatest movie of 2009," he announced after a set visit via his web site's message board. "And if you think that I would so that as co-creator and a producer on the movie you're absolutely, one hundred percent correct. But as the months roll by and the trailers start to dribble online and you see what I just saw this weekend your heart will be beating that little bit faster too."

The upcoming movie based on the comic stars Nicholas
Cage in the role of retired cop "Big Daddy", determined to take down a druglord while Chloe Moretz will play "Hit-Girl" -- the obscenity-spewing, sword-wielding daughter of Cage’s character.

"I lucked out with Wanted and Timur and James and Angelina," he continues. "But nothing -- I mean nothing -- can prepare you for Nic and Chloe as Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. As I said to Nic after the first scene was shot on Saturday morning, this is a movie about comic-book guys made by comic-book guys. We are absolutely in our comfort zone here and doing something really special. Cage's eyes just gleamed. He said it's the most excited he's been by a role in a long time.
"

Earlier this month, Nicolas Cage told MTV News that Matthew Vaughn’s big-screen adaptation of Kick-Ass, the controversial comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., will have a “different style” than its print counterpart when it comes to the series’ much-discussed violence.

In Review: The Prison

Reviewed by David Hailwood

Recently made available to buy at Lulu.com is Adam Grose’ The Prison.

As the description on the back of the collection states, ‘The Prison is an array of stories, prose, poetry and soapbox ramblings based on Adam Grose’ observations.’

In laymen’s terms, this means no zombies, explosions, gunfire, wisecracking monkeys, psychotic cyborgs or ninjas. Just stories which seek to inform the readers as well as entertain.

Adam achieves this by tackling subjects that are most prominent in his mind; the greenhouse effect, war, a failing education system...wherever mankind’s put a foot wrong, Adam steps in to raise questions and attempt to provide answers (in fact, a more fitting title for the collection might’ve been ‘Some More Of Mankind’s Greatest Mistakes’, had Oolon Colluphid not thought of it first).

Although there’s the occasional touch of humour, the stories are mostly approached in a straight-faced, no nonsense sort of way. Generation X,Y,Z is a strip that works well in this manner, presenting various facts and figures to the readers by using internet resources to full effect. ‘The Witch’ – a tale about a lady who makes herbal remedies to heal backache and gets burnt as a witch – proves effective at highlighting mankind’s ignorance through more conventional story telling means.

It’s a pity that the balance between information and entertainment is stacked so heavily in favour of the former, as it can be quite heavy going at times. The subject material occasionally comes across as being a little too preachy; I’d have much rather been left to draw my own conclusions than have the author’s opinions pushed on me so often.

One thing that’s certain is Adam’s very passionate about the topics he covers in The Prison. Whether they’ll mean quite so much to the casual reader is another matter. Still, for those who aren’t interested in saving the planet at least there’s some rather lovely artwork to look at. Adam uses a range of materials from pencil to brush and ink, which perfectly captures the tone of the tales. His graphite pin-ups stand out from the rest of the comic, and exhibit a mature and confident style.

For those readers who seek to be informed, this is probably the one for you. If it’s entertainment you’re after I’d recommend Adam’s earlier works ‘Cosmogenesis’ (also a heavy read, but at least it’s got a gun-totting monkey in it).

View a prieview of The Prison on Google Books
Buy The Prison from lulu.com
Visit the Clown Press web site

Other Clown Press Titles
Cosmogenesis: The Chronicles of Quongo (e-book: or order the paperback direct from Clown Press)
Read our review of Cosmogenesis

No Heroics Creator Interviewed

Top comics podcast service Geek Syndicate has just published its interview with Drew Pearce, the creator/writer of the upcoming ITV2 superhero comedy No Heroics, the first ever original sitcom for the channel.

The six-part series is brand new for 2008 and sees a group of British off-duty superheroes living their day to day life, which for supposed saviours of the world is actually rather normal – as they just can’t be bothered. Instead this group of b-listers would rather get drunk in their local superheroes-only pub, The Fortress, and commiserate at their lack of superiority.

This is a podcast first as Drew has not done any such interviews until now.

The Geek Syndicate team have also posted Drew's answers to questions posed by email, responding to many questions not asked the podcast interview.

"Put simply, [No Heroics] is a show about a bunch of mates who just happen to be off-duty superheroes, hanging out in a capes-only bar in Soho," Drew says of the new show. "It’s about loads of other stuff as well, though: friendship, being rubbish with girls, bullies, and the fact that everybody wants to be famous nowadays. Plus there’s some jokes about balls."

And will it appeal to comics as well as comedy fans? "I’m probably the wrong person to make that call, because I’ve been working on the show for about three and a half years, so I’m pretty close to it right now," says Drew, who also reveals that comics such as Grant Morrison's Zenith, which appeared in 2000AD, helped shape the show. "Having said that, it’s purposefully written to work on a non-parody level – as long as you understand the basics of a superhero universe, you can move past that pretty quickly, I think, and enjoy the comedy of a bunch of mates bickering and jostling for success.

"Having said that, there’s an entire second tier of visual imagery in the show, which we called geek detail, that’s there for me and you and the other millions of people who do actually care about the last 50 years of superhero culture."

Here's a trailer for the show, via YouTube: be warned, it includes swearing.



Click here for the Geek Syndicate Drew Pearce Interview
Click here for details of more interviews on Geek Syndicate
• The first episode of
No Heroics screens on ITV2 on 18 September at 10.30pm. Click here for the official web page. (Read more about the new show in this earlier post)
No Heroics Fan Site

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tube Surfing: 10 September 2008

• Catching up with comics news after a (very wet) short break, Bryan Talbot's re-released The Tale of One Bad Rat has just had a rightfully glowing review in The Times, describing it as "an incontrovertible and blazing masterpiece." There's also high praise for the new edition of Raymond Briggs' Gentleman Jim and Debbie Drechsler's Daddy's Girl.

• To celebrate 40 years of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, the most popular underground comics in the world,
Gilbert Shelton will be signing copies of the new 624 page Freak Brothers Omnibus at Gosh, 39 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NZ this Saturday September 13th from 2pm. For more information call Gosh on 0207 636 1011.

The Forbidden Planet International blog reports on the launch of a new anthology I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now but I’m off saving the world which will be getting its big release in Ireland this coming weekend, with contributors including Sarah McIntyre, Bridgeen Gillespie, Lee Thacker and many more.

The release party for the anthology will take place on Saturday 13th of September at 9pm, Skeahan’s pub, Liberty Sq, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. The book will be available to purchase from several locations in Ireland and via the website from the 20th September. It will also be sold at the Birmingham International Comics Show in October and in November at the Thought Bubble comics show in Leeds. (Check the anthology website in the coming weeks for a full list of sale locations).

The book contains over 90 pages of art - 30 artists contributing to 25 stories. Each artist was given the phrase “I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now but I’m off saving the world” to interpret however they wished. The result is a mixture of stories that range from the serious to the silly, the factual to the abstract but all sharing a common thread.

The book is dedicated to Conor Lyons who past away in September 2007 while working for the United Nations in Sri Lanka and all money raised from the sale of the book will be donated to GOAL in his memory.

• During a dig around looking for information on the newspaper strips he's been running recently, ove on Bear Alley Steve Holland recently came across a couple of examples of a science fiction strip, Captain Universe, that appeared in the Daily Herald back in 1952. "Judging by the numbering (it ran in issues Monday through Saturday), it began on 28 January 1952. I've no idea how long it ran for," he says. The artist was Terry Maloney who, sadly, died earlier this year. The anonymous author was Herbert James Campbell, who was at that time editing the science fiction magazine Authentic Science Fiction.

• Over on Comics Village Andrew Luke has posted up an unabridged version of his ‘State of the Union’ talk at the recent Caption small press event, discussing ways in which our small press creators can get out there and sell comics cheaply but directly, holding up the London Underground Comics model as one way of doing this.

• Artist Eddie Campbell reports that illustrator Pete Mullins has started a blog. "He's using it to showcase his work both old and new and make passing comments as he goes along," Eddie notes on his own blog. "It was great to see some of the stuff he's been up to of late. Long time readers here will recall that Pete and I worked closely together for a few years in the 1990s. You can see his work in Bacchus volumes 7-10 and From Hell. You'll probably have trouble separating his from mine back then, as we often do ourselves, and as Lambiek does, surprising given that he does work as flash as these character designs for an animated series where the characters are all constructed from old socks and stuff."

• And finally... it looks like both Rentaghost and Worzel Gummidge will follow Doctor Who to TV revival after the rights holders new owners announced plans for a comeback. Come on, will no-one pick up Sapphire and Steel or UFO?


Masters Of Fun And Thrills

Here on downthetubes we regularly promote the articles by Norman Wright and David Ashford which appear in the monthly magazine Book and Magazine Collector. The longest running of the various series that the duo write for the magazine is The Great British Comic Artists. In this series, which has just reached its 30th artist, they give a biography of their subject and include a listing of the comics, magazines and books that they have worked on. Thirty copies of Book and Magazine Collector take up a lot of room so a collected version was always going to be a desirable item and Norman has just produced a book reprinting fourteen of the articles entitled Masters Of Fun & Thrills.

The 216 page softcover book covers a wide variety of British artists from the humour art of Dudley Watkins to the futuristic art of Ron Turner, from the colour work of Sep Scott to the action work of Ron Embleton. The articles has been reworked for inclusion in the book and all include black and white imagery of the particular artist's work, a list of their work and most have a photograph of the artist themselves. In addition to the colour images on the front and back covers there is an eight page colour section with art taken from the a multitude of publications and some directly from the original artwork. In addition to those artists mentioned above there chapters on Geoff Campion, Roland Davies, Derek C Eyles, David Law, Hugh McNeill, John Millar Watt, Patrick Nicolle, Eric Parker, Reg Perrott and Ken Reid.

There is a remarkable range of drawing talent included in the book and the illustrations include the first appearance of Desperate Dan by Dudley Watkins, the first Dennis The Menace by David Law and the first Roger The Dodger by Ken Reid. Add to those Battler Britton, Buffalo Bill, Jet Ace Logan, Rick Random, Steve the cart horse, Robin Hood and Dick Turpin, so while you may not recognise all the artist's names much of their work, or at least their characters, will be familiar. Since the book is Volume 1 there will be at least one more title to come.

To get so much information on these men into one book really makes it an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of British comics.

Masters Of Fun & Thrills: The British Comic Artists Volume 1 is available direct from Norman Wright, 18 Lighthouse Road, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2JJ. The cost of the book is £18.50 plus £2 P&P in the UK and cheques should be made payable to Norman Wright. Postage for Europe is £2.50 and the rest of the world is £5.00.

Norman and David will be doing a signing session at the ABC Show in London on Sunday 21 September to promote the book when it will be available at the special price of £16. Norman has extended this offer to the readers of downthetubes. If you order the book before the end of November 2008 the price will be £16 plus the appropriate P&P.

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