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Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag…

For most people living in the United Kingdom in the 1970s it was something that happened somewhere else, somewhere across the water, but growing up in Belfast in those now increasingly far off days there was no getting away from the reality of The Troubles. Since Belfast is a port with hills to the north and south, the bomb explosions in the city centre would echo around the whole city. Everyone knew when something large had gone off with its associated destruction and possible deaths.

The attempts at stopping those bombs affected day to day life. The task of city centre shopping, so mundane in London, Cardiff or Edinburgh, in Belfast involved walking through permanent check points with body searchs on each street entrance to the central shopping area, coupled with additional bag searches on entering every big store. Boots, BHS, Marks and Spencer, all the familiar high street names searched each bag you carried as you entered their stores. That was normality for us. What wasn't normal was white police cars with flashing lights on the roof and policemen with tall helmets. That was the stuff of television since our police travelled around in armoured grey landrovers and had carbine rifles and flak-jackets.

Then there was the Army, on the streets, every day. They had similarly armoured landrovers, only theirs were painted dark green, and they carried SLR rifles and Sterling sub-machine guns which made the police carbines look a little pathetic in comparison. In addition to their landrovers, they also drove heavier armoured vehicles around the city streets. The six wheeled Saracen, designed to fight through the fields and rivers of West German against a Soviet onslaught, and the similar looking but four wheeled Humber 1 Ton Armoured, universally known as The Pig. In the skies, Lynx helicopters with cameras and searchlights and Beaver spotter planes were more common than airliners or private light aircraft.

With these as everyday sights, why read comics about the fantasy of Superman or Spiderman when you could read Warlord, Battle or Commando and learn from their factual features something about the equipment that you saw day in day out? Today these old features tend to get ignored but they made Battle and Warlord much more interesting to me than Valiant or Hotspur. As for the few American comics that made it the whole way over the ocean to the local news stands, well they may as well have come from Krypton with their odd dotty colours and irrelevant and incessant adverts.

I have read complaints that the British war comics never covered the modern reality of warfare or that a title like Commando still does not feature the modern Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts, complaints that forget that these are titles that were, and in Commando's case still are, produced for children. Children who may have parents or close relatives fighting in those war zones. The weekly war comics did not cover the then contemporary Troubles in Northern Ireland in the same way that Commando does not cover the current conflicts today. No editor is going to produce a war story for children that may show how members of the child's own family could die on a contemporary battlefield. Showing such things happen in the historical context of the Great War, World War 2 or Korea divorces the story from a modern reality and as the once present conflicts fade into the past they do get covered. Commando has set stories during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s as well as the Gulf War of the early 1990s. Battle told a fictional tale of the Falklands War some five years after that conflict itself had ended.

Back in Belfast in those childish days the politics and sectarianism of the adults mainly passed us by. The rumble of the Saracens passing the school playground was impressive, the speed of the Lynx helicopters flying over the back gardens was breath-taking, while the soldiers patrolling with their sub-machine guns past the local newsagents as you bought your comics were slightly scary. That said, the impression was that if they weren't there then the echoes of those explosions would have happened more often and that was something that you didn't want to happen.

763 members of the British armed services died during The Troubles in Northern Ireland - Army, Navy and Air Force. They continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The least you could do to remember their sacrifice is to buy a poppy this Remembrance Day.

Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

Earl Haig Poppy Scotland Appeal

Battle Modern Master Plan from Battle Picture Weekly © Egmont UK Ltd
Army Today from Warlord © DC Thomson and Co Ltd

Friday, 31 October 2008

Spectacular Spidey Sneek Peek


Here's a peek at a page of the originated new Spider-Man strip in the upcoming Panini comic Spectacular Spider-Man #180, on sale in a couple of months, guest starring Spiderwoman and Kraven the Hunter. The strip is written by Ferg Handley with pencils by John Royle and inks by David Roach. "I love drawing the ladies!" says John.

Direct link to details of the latest issue of Spectacular Spider-Man on the Panini UK site
Panini Comics UK
John Royle's web site

Comic Artist's Work on Show in Liverpool

Brownsea Island, Poole HarbourGround-breaking comic creator Chris Reynolds, creator of strips such as Moon Queen and Mauretania Comics, has been in touch to tell us that one of his paintings, of Brownsea Island (in Poole Harbour) has been chosen to be part of the Stuckists' Antidote to the Ghastly Turner Prize at the ViewTwo Gallery, Liverpool, from 6 - 29 November 2008. The exhibition is part of the Independent strand of the Liverpool Biennial Festival of Contemporary Visual Art.

The infamous phenomenon that is The Stuckists - an international art movement for contemporary figurative painting with ideas, described as "anti the pretensions of conceptual art or Anti-anti-art" - returns to Liverpool for the first time since their major show at the Walker Art Gallery for the 2004 Biennial, which proved hugely popular and very successful.

The Stuckist art group was founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, who has
since left, with 13 artists to promote “figurative painting with ideas” and oppose conceptual art.
There are now over 160 sister groups in 40 countries. The name comes from an insult by Tracey
Emin to Childish that he was “stuck”.

The Stuckists have gained considerable media attention for their demonstrations against the
Turner Prize, and also instigated a media scandal about the Tate’s purchase of its own trustees’
work. This led to a Charity Commission ruling that the Tate had been acting illegally for 50
years.

• Brownsea Island, the current location for BBC Autumnwatch with Bill Oddie and Kate Humble. is just one of many paintings by leading British Stuckists that form the exhibition and large (A1) prints of this painting are available in a limited edition of 100 from the Guildhall Gallery, Poole, UK, price £39, Tel: (01202) 673 715.

More about the painting and Chris Reynolds via www.metropoppyfield.com

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Fone Freaks Debuts on ROK Comics

Comics writer Thomas Behe and British comics artist Chris Walker have just launched a new comic strip, Fone Freaks, via ROK Comics, just in time for Hallowe'en.

Fone Freaks follows the adventures of Sally Snedley, a wireless scientist who seeks revenge on the nasty corporate criminals who stole her cell phone invention back in the 1970's.

Sally seeks justice by targeting the Fat Cat's cell phone customers by creating a haunted network that enables ghosts to zoom out and make people to do dumb things on their phone.

Canadian writer Thomas is probably best known to comics fans as the writer of the graphic Contraband, drawn by Phill Elliott, which was released by Slave Labor Graphics earlier this year. He's spent several years experience developing compelling mobile content for global entertainment companies including BBC, SkySports, Playboy, MTV and O2.

Illustrator Chris has been creating comics for five years and hopes his new strip will appeal to sequential art fans of all ages. "Each Freak represents a silly, embarrassing or annoying social cell phone habit we all do - or see others doing - at some point in time.

"It's mildly self-deprecating at heart although we hope younger children will enjoy the characters - even if they don't fully understand some of the sometimes twisted underlying message. Most kids seem to have a cell phone now and (the ones I know anyway) really love being on them as much as possible."

Fone Freaks can be viewed online at www.rokcomics.com and on ROK's WAP subscription service.

• For more information about ROK Comics go to www.rokcomics.com. For more information about the Fone Freaks strip, please go to www.fonefreakscomic.com.

Andy Warhol at The Hayward



“Before I was shot I always suspected I was watching TV instead of living life. Right when I was being shot, and ever since, I knew that I was watching television.’
Andy Warhol, 1968

It's argued that no artist living in the second half of the 20th century made a deeper impression on popular culture than Andy Warhol. I was once lucky enough to find myself in Chicago at the same time as a major exhibition of Warhol's work back in the 1990s, and I'd argue any chance to see his art is one worth taking.

40 years on from Warhol’s first major exhibition in Europe, and his infamous shooting by Valerie Solanas, The Hayward Gallery on London's South Bank is presenting a major exhibition that brings a fresh perspective to his work, Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms, which runs until 18 January 2009.

Comics and pop art have a long and storied relationship and, along with other interests, Warhol was of course no stranger to the comics form: he made his first comic strip painting, Dick Tracy in 1960 and his version of the Batman logo is perhaps a well known pop culture piece. He took his early material from comic strips and advertisements which he found in tabloids like The National Inquirer and The Daily News. It's argued by some that he relegated himself to soup cans as a subject back in 1962 to avoid competing with the more finished style of comics by Roy Lichtenstein.

The exhibition has been constructed to immerse visitors in Warhol’s way of thinking and working through a multi-media installation which has transformed the gallery. Paintings and prints of famous icons including Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans are being displayed alongside video, TV programmes, films, Polaroid photos, delicate drawings, album covers and wallpaper patterns. This vivid presentation is intended to reflect Warhol’s egalitarian maxim, ‘all is pretty’; with all media presented on the same level.

Warhol was fascinated with film and television and the exhibition explores the relationship between the moving image and the still image in his work. It brings together films, screen tests, videos, and TV programmes, which combined with extraordinary archive material, seminal paintings and installations, illuminates his creative process, sheds new light on his work and explores his genius for discerning the way pop culture penetrates our lives.

Curated by independent curator, Eva Meyer-Hermann, and housed in an extraordinary setting by the Berlin designers, chezweitz & roseapple, the exhibition is organised by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and The Andy Warhol Museum, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Stephanie Rosenthal, Chief Curator at The Hayward, has collaborated on this presentation of the exhibition.

Andy Warhol Hayward Gallery Micro Site
Click here to book tickets
You can browse and purchase Andy Warhol prints online here

(The cartoon presented here by Malcolm Kirk has absolutely no connection with the exhibtion but we think it's great fun and I'd like to think Warhol would appreciate the subversion...)

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Young Gods Joins the Digital Revolution

British indie publisher Orang Utan Comics Studio have made their move into the realm of digital publishing with the launch of their highly anticipated sci-fi action/adventure series Young Gods for free online.

The Young Gods series, which sees a team of teenage “Extra Humans” employed by a government agency to police the Extra Human community, will be available to read in a purely digital format via the ground breaking online publishing platform myebook.

Orang Utan Comics Studio were the first organisaton to sign up to myebook’s publishing partnership plan when it went live earlier this week.

“I think we recognized the huge potential of myebook about 30 seconds after first being shown it,” said Orang Utan Comics Studio’s Managing Editor and Young Gods’ creator, Ian Sharman. “It’s an ideal solution for small studios like ourselves who want to get our work in front of as many people as possible but don’t have the capital to finance large print runs.”

Ian Sharman has been working on Young Gods since he was a teenager, gaining the initial inspiration while listening to the Little Angels album of the same name. However, the road from original idea to the comic book page has been a long one, and finding the right creative team to bring his ideas to life proved very challenging.

“I think we went through seven artists, including at one point myself, before we found Ezequiel Pineda," Ian reveals. "His unique style was exactly what I was looking for, allowing the focus to shift from the overblown superheroics to the diverse characters that make up the team.”

Ian feels the addition of Mauro Barbosa as colourist proved that lightning can strike twice, as his dynamic colours proved to be the perfect complement to Ezequiel’s art. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate,” Ian continued, “finding not only one, but two extremely talented artists with the same passion for this comic that I have.”

Myebook - Young Gods Prologue - click here to open my ebook Orang Utan Comics Studio plan to make the first part of the Young Gods graphic novel available via myebook in the middle of November, but until then you can get a taste of what’s in store by reading a six page preview, available on myebook now. Click the graphic left to read.

For people who prefer to read their comics on the move, rather than sat at a computer, Orang Utan Comics Studio are also exploring other areas of the digital revolution in comics, making Young Gods available to download to your mobile phone via ROK Comics (first episode above).

Ina and his team say the success of Young Gods will almost entirely depend on fan support, on word of mouth and the book spreading across the internet in a viral fashion, and they're hoping fans will 'embed' ROK Comics and myebook players and the YouTube promo (see below) for the various versions of Young Gods on their own web sites to speed the cause!

• To find out more about Young Gods, read character bios and creator profiles, visit www.younggodscomic.co.uk
• For more information on Orang Utan Comics Studio visit them online at www.orangutancomics.co.uk

Fat Man Web Comic Goes Live

The first two chapters of the Fat Man web comic by Thomas Cochrane and Alan Tanner are now live and online at www.the-fat-man.co.uk. A new chapter being available every month.

The story centres on the mysterious 'Tegel Project', responsible for the death of millions, which threatens the very core of civilisation. Betrayed by MI5, the Fat Man finds himself caught between the blazing guns of would-be assassins and the blood-red lips of silent movie star Louise Brooks.

Unable to trust anyone and faced with a series of unpalatable choices, he careers madly along the arch of time on the seemingly impossible mission of keeping himself and his lover alive...

Originally planned as a graphic novel, Scottish artist and writer Thomas, who says the Fat Man is inspired by a fascination with the whole concept of time travel, TV shows such as The Avengers and comics such as Tin Tin, has been busy promoting the Fat Man for many months. His hard work promoting his first graphic novel is fully justified: complementing his script is some stunning pop-style art by veteran illustrator and designer Alan Tanner, who has in the past worked on covers for Time Out and the infamous Oz Magazine (and various other "hippy" publications) as well as providing many illustrations for the Radio Times and worked for CBS and Island on record covers. (Several images from the comic are available on the Fat Man web site as wallpapers for your PC).

The Fat Man is a charity project with sponsorship and free to view online. "The more eyes on the web site, the more the charity can raise," Thomas explains.

• For more information visit the web site at www.the-fat-man.co.uk, or, if you're on Facebook, join The Fat Man group there

Girly Comic Collected

The first collection of stories culled from the pages of British indie press title The Girly Comic, has just been published, featuring the talents of British comic industry professionals such as John Stokes, Mike Collins and Simon Fraser, veteran indy creators such as Lee “Inner City Pagan” Kennedy, Terry “Sleaze Castle” Wiley and Jeremy Dennis, alongside exciting new talents from the British Small Press scene and beyond.

The Girly Comic features self-contained comic strips across all genres with female protagonists, from the autobiographical tales of Lee Kennedy to the Two Fat Ladies meets Ghostbusters of Oddcases by Alistair Pulling and Bevis Musson; from Terry Wiley's Surreal School Stories to Martin Millar's Good Fairies of New York with Simon Fraser.

The title, published by Factor Fiction (who are also publishers of webcomic Violent!) has already earned high praise with the Comic Creators Guild describing it as “An absolute gem of a publication” and Savantmag describing the comic as “One of the undisputed stars of the small press”.

“Make them rich, and hopefully they'll keep on doing what they do for a long, long time!” says Mike Carey in his introduction.

• The 280-page The Girly Comic Book 1, which will be officially launched at the Thought Bubble conventiion in Leeds on 15th November, is available in hardback priced 15 from Factor Fiction. For more information, visit our website: www.factorfictionpress.co.uk.

• Girly webcomics at: www.factorfictionpress.co.uk/webcomic
• Violent! webcomics at: www.factorfictionpress.co.uk/violentwebcomic

'Body Snatcher' Comics from Insomnia!

Burke and Hare Upcoming UK publisher Insomnia Publications have announced another new project based onthe infamous exploits of nineteenth century murderers Burke and Hare.

Between 1827-1828 in two Irishmen, William Burke and William Hare, murdered 16 people and disposed of their bodies to the eminent dissectionist Dr Robert Knox at 10 Surgeon's Square, Edinburgh. History often mistakenly references the murderous duo's grave robbing or 'body snatching' activities - when, in truth, the pair never set foot in a graveyard with the intention of stealing a corpse.

Writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering delve into the murky, misquoted history of Scotland's most notorious serial killers with a research-based graphic novel that unwravels a ghoulish story of medicine, murder and money.

"Burke and Hare could have stepped, in full lurid glory, from the pages of a penny dreadful," says Insomnia's Creative Director Nic Wilkinson. "The tale of the resurrectionists is classic gothic horror in the tradition of Sweeney Todd, Varney the Vampire or Spring Heeled Jack. It also happens to be true.

"Martin and Will are getting back into mainstream comics in earnest, following a 10-year absence, and we are delighted to have them back with us."

Martin Conaghan's first published writing work appeared in Aceville Publications' Comic World in 1992, in the form of interviews and reviews with writers and artists such as Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. This was followed by a one-off Tharg's Terror Tale in the 1995 2000AD Yearbook and several short stories for the American publisher Caliber Press, including an issue of their popular Raven Chronicles title. In 1997, he produced a weekly internet column for The Big Issue in Scotland, in addition to writing feature articles for The Herald and other Scottish broadsheet newspapers. He now works for the BBC.

Will Pickering worked on the strip 'Dr Ballard' for the Glasgow-based indie comic Frankly and continues to work on his self-published superhero series Something Fast. He also illustrated Martin's issue of Raven Chronicles for Caliber (entitled 'The Compensators') and has worked in music journalism and magazine editing, and was a candidate for the rectorship of Glasgow University in 1999 (beaten by former EastEnder Ross Kemp). He also produced a strip for the final issue of the popular independent comic Northern Lightz.

"The research that has already gone into this piece is phenemonal," Nic told downthetubes.

Insomnia's other new project, still shrouded in secrecy, should be announced soon.

Tube Surfing: 28 October 2008

• Voting is now open for the 2008 podcast awards (www.podcastawards.com) and comics podcast Geek Syndicate has been nominated in the best entertainment category, which is great nes -- the team there have done a brilliant job of promoting British comics this year. If you've been following and enjoying their work, you can vote once every 24 hours and voting closes on 6th November 2008.
The team were at the MCM expo in London on Saturday and will be reporting on several of the panels including the press Q & A sessions for Heroes, Primeval, Demons, Merlin and Battlestar Galactica. "Once I've sorted out the quality a little more I'll be sticking them up on our website for people to listen to," the Syndicate's Barry Nugent tells downthetubes.

• Part works publisher GE Fabbri are fireld testing a new magazine devoted to Indiana Jones in the North East of the UK, which features comic strip by John Royle which looks superb. More news as we get it.

2000AD artist Dave Taylor has posted a sneek peek of his Christmas Judge Dredd story for the weekly comic, written by John Wagner. Like many other comics artists, his blog is a useful stoop if you're interested in seeing how he works on a strip from blue line to finished images.

• (with thanks to Forbidden Planet International): Simon Mayo’s Radio 5 show included a feature on Graphic Novels earlier today, with guests Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons and Paul Gravett discussing what a graphic novel is, the relationship to Hollywood and more. Here's the BBC's listen again link, which will be live for seven days.

• With Hallowe'en on its way, regular Forbidden Planet International contributor and top cartoonist Rod McKie and the FPI team have published The Ballad of Jack Palance, a little spooky tale of tall tales , movie stars, ghosts, an ancient churchyard and, this being set in Edinburgh, a good pub. For those who have never visited the city, Greyfriar’s Bobby is an old pub only a few minutes walk from the Forbidden Planet store in Edinburgh’s Old Town, named for the famously loyal dog who stayed by the grave of his master until his own death, eventually being adopted by the city so he wouldn’t be treated as a stray under law.
Rod’s put it into a good resolution PDF which you can grab from the FPI site and read free online or download it and print it off to read; there's also a Comic Book Reader version (as a mini comic) so if you use the CBR viewer or GonVisor you can use those to download it here. (Downloadable files are by and © Rod McKie).

Monday, 27 October 2008

Tube Surfing: 27 October 2008

• Comics artist Neil Edwards sent us a sneak peek from an upcoming Iron Man strip for Panin's new Marvel Heroes. Here's a panel from the strip, which see Iron Man battling more than one costumed hero.

• Hot on the heels of our foray into British girls comics with our feature by Jenny McDade on wriitng for Tammy, Artist Sean Phillips has just posted some pages for his The Secret of Penny Farthing he drew for Bunty, aged just 16. Here's the first post, and the second... The first part was inked by Ken Houghton who pencilled and inked the first episode, then Sean took over pencils for the rest of the story.

• Theres' a new episode of the brilliant FreakAngels online from Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, with Warren suggesting this might be a good starting point for those of you who haven't read it before. (I went and read it and am not so sure, but maybe he's hinting at things to come...)

• Determined that more people should subscribe to The DFC, Neill Cameron has posted the first episode of his gorgeous school strip Mo-Bot High, on his blog.

• The first part of a new interview with Starship Troopers writer Cy Dethan has just been posted on SciFi Pulse. Well worth a read if you're an aspiring wirtyer or artist as Cy offers some useful comment on breaking into the business.

• (via Lew Stringer): Another popular British comics artist is no longer with us. Ken Hunter, whose strips adorned many issues of The Topper and The Beezer died on October 20th aged 91. Our sympathies to his family and friends.

• Steve Holland has profiled Valiant anti-hero One-Eyed Jack, brought to life by John Cooper, over on Bear Alley.

• Artist Tim Perkins has posted some designs for his strip for Hot Wheels comic on his blog. The comic is published by Oldham-based Lucky Bag and the strips written by former Marvel UK and IPC editor Ian Rimmer.

• (via BugPowder): Phill Elliott, who really should have become far more famous, is posting his Tales From Gimbley online, starting with his earliest work and continuing one a day until up to the most recent. The Tales From Gimbley strips were printed around the world, but most of them appeared in Phill's own self-published titles which had very limited print-runs so many of the strips you'll find on this site have been lost in transit.
" This could almost be considered one of the founding documents of the UK small-press movement of the 1980s, I suspect," comments Eddie Campbell on his blog, who also offer a rare insight into the original small press boom back then. "The thing about the original small press comics scene is that there was a seeking to make comics into a kind of café thing. The exciting challenge was to make the medium interact with the regular passing parade.
"Objects were creatively undefined, and poetry music and mail-art were in the mix. Getting an exhibition in a coffee house or a Mayfair gallery, or a review or interview in the music press or in an arts context, or selling stuff at the Saturday open air market or at CND rallies were a few of our opportunities to connect, as I recall."

Ellerbisms from Marc Ellerby is now online on its own dedicated site at www.ellerbisms.com and well worth a visit. Marc’s promising regularly updated strips Monday and Thursday and has moved all his previous Ellerbisms previously found on his Live Journal to this new site.

• US comics site Newsarama currently has a long, ongoing 10-part interview with Grant Morrison his recently finished and quite brilliant All Star Superman. Here's Part One

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