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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 […]
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Friday, 12 December 2008

Starscape Comic Turns Magazine

For the past seven or so years, Chris Smillie's Starscape has been a comic then a webcomic, inspired by the idea of the evolution of traditional British comics, such as 2000AD, Mighty World of Marvel, Eagle and the Victor, taking up the title 'Valiant for the 21st Century'.

Now, Chris has announced Starscape comic has evolved into Starscape comic magazine.

Now, along with all-new comic strips from emerging and established creators from 2000AD, Marvel, DC Thomson etc., plus classic tales from the golden age to modern classics, Starscape also presents Comicscape and Moviescape, offering news feeds, reviews of current and past comics, graphic novels, tv series and films, plus downloads of classic movies, serials, cartoons and fanfilms.

Chris wants all fans of the title to get involved in the revamp, perhaps by sharing your views on the latest graphic novel, a favourite fantasy book or a sci-fi drama from many years ago. If you have the desire to interview comic creators (contacts preferred but not required) or are looking for somewhere to publish your comic, or a story to draw, then head over to StarscapeComic.co.uk or pitch your ideas to Chris via editorATstarscapecomic.co.uk.

Please note, there's no indication in Chris' PR for the relaunch that there is any renumeration for contributions -- check with him for more information.

Dragons, Duels and Deadly Danger in The DFC!

Mirabilis: Year of Wonders is a new ongoing series that starts in Issue 30 of Random House's comic subsscription-only weekly comic The DFC on 19th December.

Written by Dave Morris and illustrated by Leo Hartas, the series tells of a lost year forgotten by history "sometime between Victorian and Edwardian times" when a green comet appears in the sky. As the comet grows brighter, the barriers between reality and fantasy begin to break down, unleashing a tide of mystery, wonder and supernatural excitement. Intrepid hero and former grocer's delivery boy Jack Ember is sent by the eccentric boffins of the Royal Mythological Society to investigate strange happenings all over the world.

Despite the constant incursions of folklore, myth, horror, fantasy and outright whimsy, Jack soon finds there is nothing in the world more perplexing than girls - in particular Estelle Meadowvane, the beautiful young amateur astronomer who discovered the green comet.

The series unfolds in five-page episodes which will later be collected in graphic novel format as the four seasons of the Mirabilis year. The whole story,written by Morris and illustrated by Hartas is planned to run to an epic 56 episodes.

The pair dreamed up the entire Mirabilis concept between them one evening as a love letter to the brilliance of human imagination and storytelling, and in particular to their creative heroes Lord Dunsany, Steve Ditko and Neil Gaiman. They spent ten years looking for the right form to tell the story, and a publisher who could really appreciate the head-on collision of witches, robots, undersea kingdoms, airships, ghosts, aliens, pterodactyls, homicidal saints and man-eating plants. Luckily, along came just the man they needed: UK publishing visionary David Fickling, who seized on Mirabilis with gusto and immediately saw that it would make a perfect ongoing series in his weekly comic The DFC.

Leo and Dave have worked together on many other projects - notably on the classic role-playing game Dragon Warriors, coincidentally reissued this month. They thrash out the overall storyline together, then Dave writes the scripts for each episode and gives them to Leo along with his own "thumbnail layouts" to show what he's got in mind. Leo then quickly works up a rough pencil version of the episode, they discuss any changes of camera angle or text that might then be needed with series producer Tom Fickling, and Leo then goes straight to finished art.

A final touch of magic is applied in Athens by internationally renowned colorist Nikos Koutsis. For the final page layout and word balloons they use Serif PagePlus, with fonts from Blambot. The covers are being painted by Martin McKenna.

• For more stunning art and information about the series visit www.mirabilis-yearofwonders.com

• The DFC
is published every week by Random House and for the time being is available only by subscription - see www.thedfc.co.uk

Spider-Man Sneek Peek

Courtesy of artist John Royle, here's a sneek peek to the cover of Panini UK's upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man Issue 180, on sale in February. The issue sees Spidey up against Kraven the Hunter, side by side with Spider-Woman.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dan Dare Returns Again!

US Comics news site Newsarama has reported that Dynamite Entertainment, who also publish titles such as Battlestar Galactia, has picked up the rights to publish new Dan Dare comics based on Garth Ennis' interpretation of the character, first published by the now defunct Virgin Comics.

When Virgin dissolved earlier this year, Dynamite announced that it would collect their Dan Dare series, which will be released in February. In addition to the story itself the hardcover edition will include several extras including pencils, sketches and design work as additional material. (More details here)

Now Dynamite has confirmed they have landed the rights to publish future Dan Dare comics projects, beating out at least one other publisher interested in developing a new Dare title, in addition to the new "classic" Dan Dare adventures being published in Spaceship Away magazine.

"I am delighted to be working with Nicky [Barrucci, Dynamite President] and his team, on the collection of one of my favorite series in years," writer Garth Ennis said, "and very happy indeed that Dan Dare has found a great home in Dynamite.”

Barrucci told Newsarama's Matt Brady that Ennis championed Dynamite to Colin Frewin at the Dan Dare Corporation which owns the rights to all material publised in Eagle and New Eagle.

Frewin himself is clearly delighted by the deal describing Dynamite Entertainment as exactly what Dan Dare needs for global distribution.

There's no news as yet as to whether Gary Erskine, who drew the Virgin Dan Dare series, will draw the second series.

At least one other publisher had been negotiating a license for a new Dan Dare comic which would have been more of a "Year One" style title but following the Dynamite announcemnet have told downthetubes they have now witdrawn from discussions.


Cartoon Days of Christmas!


Cartoonist and friend Rich Diesslin came up with this Cartoon 12 Days of Christmas. Enjoy. You can check out more of his work at the-cartoonist.com

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tube Surfing: Gerry Anderson

British publisher Reynolds and Hearn are to release two books reprinting strips from TV Century 21 comic and other titles first published by City Editions in the 1960s such as Joe 90.

Scheduled for release early next year and titled Century 21 - Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson, they're being complied by regular Anderson author Chris Bentley, who has written the The Complete Book of Thunderbirds and the The Complete Book of Gerry Anderson's UFO as well as the The Complete Gerry Anderson, now in its fourth edition.

“This is a subject close to our hearts, and we’ve been working on it for quite a few months,” publisher Marcus Hearn told downthetubes, who kindly supplied us with this exclusive provisional cover, left. “We can’t really describe these books as TV21 compilations because they will also contain material from other publications, such as some of Frank Langford’s work from Lady Penelope and some of Martin Asbury’s strips from Joe 90.

"We've got a team of four designers nearing the end of some pretty intensive restoration, and I think the results are stunning. Gerry Anderson has been working with us since day one, and has written the introduction to Volume One.”

The two 160 page softcover books are currently scheduled for publication on 31 March 2009.

Back in September we told you about the second of FTL Publication's Thunderbirds novels. With the first novel Countdown To Action! released earlier this year, the second novel Action Alert! is now available.

Both novels were written by Joan Marie Verba and are officially only available in the United States and Canada under the terms of the license FTL have with Carlton, the Thunderbirds copyright holder. This hasn't stopped copies arriving in the UK via Amazon.com and from UK based Gerry Anderson dealers. The first chapters of both books are available to read on-line, with Countdown To Action! here and Action Alert! here.

And finally to the man himself. Gerry Anderson will be 80 on his next birthday but still has no plans to retire. He has maintained an office at Pinewood Studios for the last number of years which is where he was interviewed for the Dick Spanner PI DVD extra.

While there has been many rumours over the last year that he has been talking to ITV about a new series nothing has yet been confirmed. That said, Pinewood Studios management have told Gerry that they don't have space for the foreseeable future to house a production of the scale he expects, so he is downsizing his office there whilst he waits a production green light and then looks for alternative studio space.

Now, Fanderson, the Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society, have announced an auction of the contents of Gerry's current office to be conducted by Comet Miniatures. The auction will take place in Battersea Arts Centre in London on Saturday 7 February 2009 and there are more details on the Fanderson website.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

In Memoriam: Oliver Postgate

"Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were two overgrown boys called Oliver and Peter.
And Peter lived on a farm.
It was a rather unusual farm because it didn't grow any crops and there were no sheep or cows, but it was the home of Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers and of course Bagpuss.
And there they made the most beautiful, the most brilliant, funny old Small Films in the whole wide world or so we like to think..."
(reproduced from the opening page of the Smallfilms official web site)

I was very sorry to hear that Oliver Postgate, co-creator of wonderful childrens animated shows such as The Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogle's Wood, died earlier this week aged 83.

Postgate's partner, Naomi Linnell, confirmed he died at a nursing home near his home in Broadstairs in Kent on Monday.

BBC News reports how Postgate created some of the best-loved children's TV, often in collaboration with the artist and puppeteer Peter Firmin. In a poll earlier this year, Bagpuss, a saggy pink cloth cat, was voted the best TV animal of all-time.

Ivor the Engine, about a little Welsh steam engine who wanted to sing in a choir, was Postgate and Firmin's first creation followed by Noggin the Nog, Pogle's Wood and many more. Bagpuss and The Clangers - rights to which were recently bought by media company Coolbai - remain popular to this day for many fans old and young.

"Oliver Postgate should be remembered as one of the great children's storytellers of the 20th century," commented Ben Davies on the New Statesman web site. Postgate wrote for the magazine's site between November 2006 and February 2008. "Generations were transported by his imagination - and thanks to creations like Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine - were inspired to use their own." (You can read all Oliver's contributions to newstatesman.com by clicking here)

For all his delight at creating many wonderful and characters for television and the young at heart, Postgate became increasingly disillusioned by modern times.

"We now live in a world which no longer needs people," he wrote in his autobiography, Seeing Things, published in 2001, "a world in which many people have no meaningful part to play in their own lives and have gradually become passengers, inert consumers, nurtured and given identity by supermarkets, spin-doctors, and the bright, brittle media."

He gave much of his money to charity and was a conscientious objector during World War 2, and was very concerned about the environment in later years.

Postgate himself was never one not to play a meaningful part, and brought much joy to many in all that he created.

More Tributes
BBC Obituary: Oliver Postgate
In pictures: Oliver Postgate's career
The Daily Mail: From Bagpuss to the Clangers, he enchanted youngsters... So why did Oliver Postgate fall out of love with TV and his children?
The Daily Mail, 9th December 2008
The Guardian: Oliver Postgate: a very traditional subversive
The New Statesman: Thank You, Oliver Postgate
Socialist Unity Tribute
"
What he understood brilliantly is that children are self-aware of the transient nature of their own childhood..."
The Stage: And when Oliver goes to sleep, children’s television goes to sleep…
Telegraph Obituary
The Times Obituary
Oliver Postgate memorial on lastingtribute.co.uk
Pay tribute to Postgate yourselves

Oliver Himself...
• Oliver Postgate's official web site(?): www.oliverpostgate.co.uk
Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate in his own words
The Guardian, 9 December 2008: Oliver Postgate talks about his creations, including how the voice of Bagpuss character Professor Yaffle was based on philosopher Bertrand Russell
You can read all Oliver's contributions to newstatesman.com by clicking here

Related News Items and Web Sites
Bagpuss poised to make comeback
(BBC News, 24 October 2008) The original Bagpuss is on display at the Canterbury Museum.
The Dragon Friendly Society
This Society exclusively publishes books and videos of the children's television programmes made by Smallfilms.
Official Small Films Web Site

New art team tackles villains for BVC's Shades

Briitsh onlince comics publisher Broken Voice Comics has just published Chapters 9 and 10 of its flagship title Shades on its website (www.brokenvoice.co.uk).

Written by David A J Berner, the new chapters of the comic continue BVC's timely examination of the characteristics and traits that have come to define the British national character and are the first to be illustrated by the new art team of E.C. Nickel and Muamal Khairi.

“The fact that its story is set in the UK means that Shades is able to re-examine the super hero genre in a way that US comics usually don't,” suggests Berner. “The conventions and norms of the genre are so well-established in the US mainstream that they often seem to be taken for granted or self-consciously spoofed.”

The first half of Shades (Chapters 1 - 8) was illustrated by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj and is available to read in its entirety online. It tells the story of retired tailor Stanley Miller as he attempts to reunite a group of faded British heroes - a group which includes a prehistoric shaman, a World War 2 fighter pilot and the First Century warrior queen Boudicca!

Covering some five centuries of British history, these opening chapters pitch this motley group against an evil mystic, a giant experimental super-bomber and a demonic serpent.

In the second half of the story (Chapters 9 - 16), the stakes are due to be raised even further, as our heroes are forced to confront a threefold threat to the nation.

The new art team for this part of the story comprises Brazilian artist E.C. Nickel (pencils and inks) and Indonesian colourist Muamal Khairi. The challenge for them was to retain something of the distinctive style set by Chattoraj while bringing something of their own to the title.

“Nickel and Qoiri are already doing a fantastic job,” says Berner. “Anyone familiar with their work will know they each have a distinctive style of their own but that they both share Harsho's love of detail and character.”

As for the future plot, Berner explains that readers can expect the action levels to increase significantly from here on in. “Shades was always designed to be a single-story graphic novel,” he says. “And so Chapters 9 - 16 will essentially be building towards the climax of that story.

“Without giving too much away, I can reveal that we'll be seeing a lot more of the bad guys in the new chapters. We'll be getting to understand just how they became the people they are and, as their evil plans unfold, you can be sure the action will start ratcheting up through the gears!”

Broken Voice Comics was founded in February 2006 by David Berner, formerly the Senior Editor of webcomic studio Midnite Comics which ceased operations at the end of 2005.

Since its official launch in March 2006, BVC has been the new home of Berner's own comic projects, notably his online graphic novel Shades and his two four-part fantasy mini-series, The Spires and Hunted. In addition, the site also hosts a small number of Guest Titles which initially comprised three titles previously featured at Midnite Comics (Rob Jones's Perfect Storm and two titles by E.C. Nickel, Immortality and The Long Vigil). More recently, the site has added Lee Munday's The Lumbering Dead to its line-up, as well as Thy Will Be Done, another title by E.C. Nickel, created in collaboration with Alexandre Lobao.

Established fan favourite G.A.A.K. by Darryl Hughes and Monique McNaughton is the most recent addition to the line-up.

Shades is updated every Monday on the BVC web site. It is also serialised at the Graphic Smash (www.graphicsmash.com) and Drunk Duck (www.drunkduck.com) websites.

Stormtrooper on a Spacehopper

... probably one the dreaded Copyright Police will be jumping on, but what the heck: more madcap pop culture designs can be found on RedBubble. They include a Star Wars Eco-Saber and a Starbucks parody. These guys obviously like to live dangerously...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Planet of the Apes - Down the Tube!

Commuters on the London Underground were amazed last Tuesday when characters from the Planet of the Apes films joined them on the Tube!

The apes were in town to celebrate the re-release of the classic film, now 40 years old, on Blu-ray DVD.

We don't want to annoy the copyright holders of the photos so check them out on the Daily Mail or The Sun's own web sites.

• Buy Planet Of The Apes Blu-Ray Collection from amazon.co.uk

There's a chance to win the Blu-Ray set on the i-Gizmo web site. Entries need to be in by 16 December 2008

Contact downthetubes

• Got a British Comics News Story? E-mail downthetubes!

• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials: editor@downthetubes.net

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