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Friday, 16 January 2009

Grant Talks Church of Hell

It seems to have been a day for demons and devilry, because just as we plug Cy Dethan's Falk project (see news story), Alan Grant pops up, talking about his new comic Church of Hell, which is on sale this month from Beserker Comics.

"If you want to atone for your sins, you go to an ordinary church and confess to a minister or priest. But if you want to embrace your sins, then the Church of Hell is for you," Alan explains. "Through the medium of the Priest of Hell, it is possible for sinners to do a deal with Satan... although, as Satan is also the Prince of Lies, things might not work out quite how the sinner expected them to."

Drawn by Wayne Nichols with cover art by Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry, Church of Hell is the latest title from the company that has already published The Dead Comic by Bisley, Grant and Fabry. Promising "Some of the best horror artwork I've ever seen!" Alan says the Priest of Hell will feature in every story arc, "but each arc (normally four issues) will feature a different set of human beings and their unique circumstances.

"The original idea was crafted by Andy Ryan and Adam Brown, while I gave the story its unusual 'spin', Alan reveals. "It wasn't influenced by any other literature or media, because Church of Hell is completely unique; I've never come across anything which is even remotely like it.

"The first story arc concerns Dominic Raggar," he reveals, "whose evil starts off with a simple lie to his girlfriend, Cindy. But the lie is merely Dom's first step on the road to ruin - it quickly develops into illicit sex and the taking of Class A drugs, and ends in murder. Dom learns from the Priest that there are two directions he can move in - towards atonement of his sins, or towards consolidation of his evil.

"Story-wise, Church of Hell is like nothing else which currently exists - or indeed has ever existed - in the world of horror stories," Alan claims. "We show how the simplest of sins - in the first story, a lie - can quickly multiply until even the nicest character can become evil.

"We'll also be exploring some of the "forgotten" gods and goddesses of different cultures - the demons, the goddess of catastrophe, the god of multiple murder, and many others."

Church of Hell can be ordered via Diamond Previews or direct from Beserker Comics, also publishers of Maura and Channel Evil.
Official web site: www.churchofhellcomic.com

Good News on Comic Sales?

While this report primarily concerns US comics, news that the US comic book industry, boosted by the success of films such as The Dark Knight has helped maintain growth for graphic novel sales is welcome with 2009 looking otherwise gloomy.

Hub Entertainment reports that total comics sales remained "strong" and the graphic novel category grew by five per cent in 2008 according to Steve Geppi, CEO of Diamond Comics Distributors, which services more than comic book stores in the US and the UK.

"We remain optimistic about the comic-book industry heading into 2009," he says.

Sales figures show Marvel Comics' Secret Invasion #1 was the best-selling comic book of 2008. The eight-issue miniseries about the takeover of superheroes by shape-shifting Skrulls took the first six spots. Only Uncanny X-Men #500" and DC Comics' Final Crisis #1 (No. 9) also cracked the Top 10. Diamond did not release actual sales figures, but best-selling comic books (priced at $2.99 or $3.99) normally sell more than 100,000 copies.

DC Comics dominated top sales of graphic novels taking seven of the top 10 positions, with a reprint Watchmen the top seller. The number of reprint titles in this chart is of note, reinforcing the longevity of graphic novel titles on the bookshelves, in direct contrast to many other book genres which tend to depend on early sales for their success.

Diamond notes Marvel and DC continue to dominate the US comics industry: Marvel took in 41 percent of retail sales, DC 29 per cent and Dark Horse 6.5 per cent.

Top Ten US Comics 2008

1. Secret Invasion #1 (Marvel)
2. Secret Invasion #2 (Marvel)
3. Secret Invasion #3 (Marvel)
4. Secret Invasion #4 (Marvel)
5. Secret Invasion #5 (Marvel)
6. Secret Invasion #6 (Marvel)
7. Uncanny X-Men #500 (Marvel)
8. Secret Invasion #7 (Marvel)
9. Final Crisis #1 (DC)
10. Secret Invasion No. 8 (Marvel)

Top Ten Graphic Novels 2008

1. Watchmen (DC)
2. Batman: The Killing Joke (DC)
3. Joker (DC)
4. Y: The Last Man Vol. 10 (DC)
5. Walking Dead Vol. 8 (Image)
6. Batman: Dark Knight Returns (DC)
7. Fables: The Good Prince (DC)
8. Wanted (Image)
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future for You (Dark Horse)
10. Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 (DC)

Source: Diamond Comics Distributors

Tube Surfing: 16 January 2009

• The Cybermen have taken over and 'upgraded' Doctor Who Adventures. Issue 98, out now in newsagents, features an extra-tall cover, a free set of Cyberman figures and the second part of a double-sided poster. There's plenty more Cyber-stuff inside, along with the usual comic strip.

Frazer Irving is interviewed by the Barking and Dagenham Record this week, the interviewer, Navtej Johal, noting 37-year-old "Frazer is something of an enigma - he is renowned for being a comic artist who works with elements of horror and, in his own words 'the dark and diabolical', yet throughout our interview he remains candid and is constantly breaking into a beaming smile.' The artist is conscious of how quickly life as a freelance artist can change. "I have made so many epiphanies," he says. "You know that saying 'you don't know what you got 'til it's gone'? Well, I always thought that applied to objects or people, but it can also be applied to artistic ability. The fuel for my art, my motivation, was taken away last year when I was going through a rough time. So now I put a lot more into my work."

2000AD have posted a teaser of the D'Israeli's Lowlife series this week. "This one stars my (and Dr. F's) favourite, Dirty Frank," the creator reveals on his blog. "A bit daunting to be following in the footsteps of Henry Flint and Simon Coleby, but it's huge fun, and I've been trying to work with Rob Williams for a couple of years now.
"As of writing, I'm finishing episode 5 of 8, and it's madder than a snake's armpit with a bag of hammers, I can tell you. I don't think I've ever laughed out loud so many times reading a set of scripts."

• Talking of D'Israeli, and we are, the collected Torchwood: Rift War is now on pre-order from Amazon.co.uk. Due for release in April, the Titan collection comprises the whole of the Rift War story arc that ran in Torchwood Magazine, the work of Paul Grist, Ian Edginton, D'Israeli, Brian Williamson and Simon Furman.

• The London Underground Comics website has a new look, and a mysterious teaser, above. LUC had its last stall ever in Camden Market in December and seems set for a change of direction in 2009 while still doing its best to promote comics. We're looking forward to developments.

• David Bishop has just posted a short but useful post offering advice on writing story treatments. "Treatments are something that vex a lot of writers," he notes. "They resent spending time on treatments, let alone polishing a treatment until it shine. Audiences never see treatments, the logic seems to be, so why bother making them exciting or fun? But treatments are seen by those with the power to advance your work - editors, script executives, producers and literary agents." Read the post

Al Ewing is among the guests at Hi-Ex 2 convention in Inverness next month "...where, presumably among other duties, I'll apparently be doing a panel on How To Break Into Comics with Frank Quitely and Graham Neil Reid." For details of more guests and the charity auction, see our earlier story

Anthony Johnson's Wasteland #23, Hounds of Love, is now on sale. Johnson urges his fans not to forget to pre-order issue #25, a special double-length, full colour anniversary issue. Anine-page preview of the issue can be found on Comic Book Resources.

• Writing team Leah Moore and John Reppion have been technomaging and fiddling with spells that means the domain name www.moorereppion.com is now showing a placeholder. "We have switched from Godaddy to One.com for our domain name hosting, and from Geocities for our web storage," Leah explains. "We discovered we were paying tons to Godaddy and Geocities for all the different bits and bobs of the website, and it was cheaper and simpler to have it all in one place.
"We should have a proper placeholder up soon, and then we can get the new website underway. In the mean time, the forum is still the same, and this blog will be the same so we can let you know whats going on as it happens." So all you really need to know is, they're doing there technomagic and the Reppion-Moore mayhem will continue...

Watching the Watchmensch

Lying in the Gutters' Rich Johnston's parody of -- well, you can guess from the cover -- is to be be published by Brain Scan Studios, an alternative media company based out of Boston in the US that publishes a variety of blogs and creator-owned comics.

In Watchmensch, after one of them is murdered, a team of lawyers who have had dealings with the comics industry must band together again against a conspiracy. But who is trying to kill Nite Nurse, Spottyman, Silk, 1700 Broadway Manhattan and Ozzyosbourne? And what is the cloned creature about to be dropped on New York City?

"It’s a little parody comic by myself and Simon Rohrmuller," explains Rich of the nine-panel-grid parody of comics, the comics industry, the movies they spawn and the creators that get trampled on. The story by the writer, not just of one of comics most well-connected gosspip columns but also of titles such as The Flying Friar and Civil Wardrobe, reveals the story stretches back to the signing of the contract for Superman in the 1930s.

"As with any small press comic, the likelihood of your local retailer stocking the book for you to pick it up off the shelf is slimmer than with, say X-Men,' Johnston notes in his latest LTG column. "So if you would like a copy, please tell your retailer this week, while they are preparing orders for March."

• Comprising 24 pages B+W with full color covers, to order Watchmensch from your local comic shop see Diamond Previews Order #: JAN094081ISBN: 9780615234182

Watchmensch will be available in comic shops everywhere in March 2009. Visit the Brain Scan Studios website for more information. For sample pages, a list of stockists and other info, visit the book's official web site: www.watchmensch.com

Fox, Warner Cut Watchmen Deal

WatchmenWarner Bros. and Fox have settled their very public battle over upcoming movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, which means its planned 6 March release will now proceed.

Variety reports a deal following a legal dispute over copyright. has been hammered out that that gives WB some face-saving points, but which gives Fox the equivalent of a movie star’s gross participation.

In a joint statement, Warner and Fox stated "Warner Bros. and Fox, like all Watchmen fans, look forward with great anticipation to this film's 6 March release in theatres."

Variety says sources told them Bros. gets the right to open its superhero pic on 6 March as planned, and Fox's logo will not be on the film.

Fox, on the other hand, will emerge with an upfront cash payment that sources pegged between $5 million and $10 million, covering reimbursement of $1.4 million the studio invested in development fees, and also millions of dollars in legal fees incurred during the case.

While the deal is a victory for Warner and for fans of the original comic eagerly looking forward to seeing how it will be brought to the big screen, Variety notes Watchmen marks the second big legal affairs snafu for WB in recent memory. "It wasn’t that long ago that WB had to pay $17.5 million to settle claims so that the studio could release Dukes of Hazzard; the Watchmen settlement is likely to cost WB much more money than that," the paper suggests.

Watchmen's director Zack Snyder turned another graphic novel, Frank Miller's 300, into a blockbuster in 2007 and Warner must be fervently hoping he repeats and even improves on that film's box office success.

It's likely the company will be hoping to recoup some of the film's costs from merchandising sales. Last year, we reported how Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' ground-breaking Watchmen raced towards the top of the Amazon.co.uk book chart as sales rose by over 3000% and excitement built around 2009 film release.

downthetubes sources indicate that many in Hollywood, producers and directors among them, are beginning to tire of comic adaptations and a box office failure could spell big trouble for the some 200 plus comic book-inspired films at various stages of development at present.

Official Watchmen Movie site

• Titan Books Watching the Watchmen book was released last year (see our review), a beautifully packaged, well-designed celebration of the Watchmen that not only deserves high sales in itself but may also serve as inducement for fans to revisit the original work and see its pages and storytelling in a whole new light. Recommended.

A book detailing the making of the film, Watchmen: The Film Companion, is released next month, along with Watchmen: Art of the Film, both published by Titan.

Buy Watching the Watchmen from Forbidden Planet
• Buy Watching the Watchmen from amazon.com
• Buy Watching the Watchmen from amazon.co.uk

Dealing with the Devil

Comic book writer Cy Dethan reports that work is well underway on his latest project, The Case Files of Harlan Falk, the story of a man who, literally, makes deals with devils.

Whether you’re involved in a territorial dispute with an invading parallel dimension, or simply looking to renegotiate terms with your local Tooth Fairy, Harlan Falk is ready to represent you. No win, no fee.

Artists Scott James and Jason Millet are hard at work on covers for the first four issues, which will be published by Markosia.

Dethan and others are also contributors to Insomnia Publications new Layer Zero anthology. "From what I've seen so far it looks like a very interesting mix of stories," says Dethan.

"The theme for this one is "choices" and it features the work of Scott James, Richard McAuliffe, Martin Conaghan, Christopher Barker and many others. My own contribution is a cheerful little suicide tale called "Waste", with art from the very impressive Ben MacLeod, a veteran of 2000AD."

Keith Page Interview Planned - Your Questions Wanted

We will soon be interviewing British Comics artist Keith Page for a feature on downthetubes and would welcome questions about his career and work from fans.

Please send any questions to us by 31st January 2009 johnfreeman6-downthetubes@yahoo.co.uk - do not post them here.

For those not completely familiar with this accomplished artist, whose current projects include strips for Commando, Spaceship Away and his own strip, Charlotte Corday, still available on ROK Comics and now being added to Clickwheel, Keith offers this 'potted history' of his career to date... You can also check out his own blog at: keithpageukcomicsartist.blogspot.com

"I'd always wanted to draw comics," Keith tells us, "and started taking drawings up to Farringdon Street to what later became IPC. Eventually I was put on to Pat Kelleher of the Temple Art Agency, then in Chancery Lane, and I started to get a few Annual stories of various types.

"I worked as an artist in my spare time for a number of years, doing a completely different day job. I gradually built up quite a wide variety of work including tv adaptations for TV Comic and Mighty Max for Marvel UK. Together with some newspaper and book illustration work, I also drew for now-forgotten IPC titles such as Supernaturals, Mask and Wildcat.

"I became a full time comics artist when the late Alan Fennell asked me to work on both the IPC Thunderbirds comic and the long-running Sunday Times feature which later included Stingray.

"When this work ended, Pat found out that George Low was looking for a new Commando artist. I was sent a script and fortunately they've kept coming ever since.

"Favourite artists include [Dan Dare creator] Frank Hampson, who I met a few times, Joe Colquhoun (Charley's War), Geoff Campion and 1940's US newspaper strip artist Milton Caniff. Also nowadays French artists Gibrat and Tardi.

"The work I've had the most fun drawing is my Charlotte Corday series, particularly the story written by Stephen Walsh which includes the 1950's London V-Cars, or Vampire Squad."

• Please send any questions to us by 31st January 2009 johnfreeman6-downthetubes@yahoo.co.uk - do not post them here.

To read past interviews with Comic Creators on downthetubes, check this link page on the main downthetubes site

Thursday, 15 January 2009

One Month To Hi-Ex

With one month to go to the Hi-Ex comics convention in Inverness details of what will be happening over the course of the weekend are being released.

One of the most popular events last year was the charity auction with over £600 being raised for Children 1st, the Scottish equivalent of the NSPCC. Items already received by the convention for auction this year include role playing game books, comics signed by Leah Moore and John Reppion and original artwork by Charlie Adlard, Simon Coleby and Graeme Neil Reid.

The piece that Graeme Neil Reid has donated features the Bash Street Kids and was used here on downthetubes as part of our Beano 70th anniversary feature.

Anyone wishing to bid on any of these items but who cannot make it to Inverness can get in touch with Hi-Ex organisers Rich Clements and Vicky Stonebridge via the Hi-Ex website who will let them know how to bid remotely.

The details of the items in the Hi-Ex charity auction are available here.

Wilson Talks Dredd

Artist Colin Wilson looks set for a busy year, with a new, still secret, Star Wars project in the works, along with his new Judge Dredd strip, his first Dredd work for nearly ten years.

We previously reported on writer Al Ewing's enthusiasm at writing Magic Bullets for the new Judge Dredd Magazine, on sale now in all good newsagents. "I must say I've had a ball drawing Old Stoney Face after all this time," Colin Wilson says of the 20-page story (a further 30-page story will follow later in the year).

Colin's also pleased by Rebellion's release of Judge Dredd: The Colin Wilson Collection which features 50 plus pages of Dredd stories he drew for both 2000AD and The Megazine in the late 1990's.

"A funny though just occurred to me..," the New Zealand-born artist, whose credits also include Lt. Blueberry, Thunderhawk and Battler Britton (see dtb interview), muses on his blog. "if I get the chance to draw something for 2000AD next year, I will have had work published there for each of the last four decades. Scary..."

Temple APA Issue 2 Online

A team of indie British creators, banded together for some time now as the Temple APA, has just released a second issue of comics with the same name, available free in both low and hi-res PDF format.

The collection, which has a bit of a belated theme, is intended as a digital showcase of British comic writers and artists both amateur and professional and also UK small press comics.

Featured in this 38-page issue is the work of creators such as Tony Suleri, who provides the stunning cover, design work and more; Dave Hailwood, offering a new humour strip, Bunk Mates, set in a nuclear bunker; Adam Grose, showing off his new mystery adventure strip, Dragonfly, which has just launched as a web strip Paul Eldridge with Rubbernorc, including some new 3D interpretations of his most popular character; Jim Stewart; Malcolm Kirk, whose offerings include Clumsy Violent Idiot, a homage to Shiner from Whizzer and Chips; and Simon Mackie, whose Credit Crunch Christmas strip is a tale already raved about here.

Also included is a quick British Small Press Directory, useful for those of you trying to track down some of the higher profile indie titles at comics events or online.

Feedback on the work is always welcomed. Post any comments or feedback on the Temple APA forum here

PDF Links
Download Temple APA Issue Two -- [ hi-res (29.1mb) ] -- [ lo-res (7.4mb) ]
Download Temple APA Issue One -- [ hi-res (29.1mb) ] -- [ lo-res (11.3mb) ] Download Temple APA Issue Zero -- [ hi-res (40.0mb) ] -- [ lo-res (11.6mb) ]

In Review: Thomas Wogan is Dead

Back in 2004 British indie creator Dave Hughes, who hails from Barrow but in now based in Lancaster, self-published his first comic story, The Immeasurable Adventures of Gorky Park (see news story). Reaction was positive but sales were not what Dave expected, despite throwing himself full tilt into promoting the book, sending out more than 30 copies to various British comic shops (few of which even acknowledged receipt) and a distinct lack of response to an ad in Comics International.

Disappointed perhaps at not setting the small press world afire with his work -- which I described then as "akin to Rugrats on acid" -- it's perhaps no surprise that there's been such a huge gap between his first story and his new one, Thomas Wogan is Dead.

Despite the wait, it's good to see Dave back in the saddle, delivering the quirky but thought-provoking tale of Thomas Wogan, who finds himself in a strange waiting room with nothing but a ticket and his spectacles to protect his modesty. It’s not clear what’s happened, but perhaps the other characters in the waiting room -- a cuckoo, a sea urchin, a natterjack toad, a bat, a fish and an egg -- can shed some light on the matter…

Thomas Wogan is not really the sort of character you'd expect anything odd to happen to, but this strange waiting room proves to be like something out of The Twilight Zone, with the various talking creatures revealing their life stories before demanding to know Wogan's, which isn't exactly anything that exciting, even when he describes the best day of his life, when he skived off work and went to Morecambe. Wogan's humdrum existence working at Perriman Plastics, cooking processed snacks, television and admiring Delia Smith with a near pathological, e-stalker intensity (he spends some of his spare time 'updating' her Wikipedia with all manner of strange additions, for example) hardly seems to be the stuff of legend.

And yet, when Wogan finds himself naked in a strange waiting room with a group of different species, all of them with numbered tickets, who try and piece together between them exactly what’s happened to them, it's clear something extraordinary has happened to them... but what? What's the signficance of the LCD counter on the wall? As the creatures tell their tales, they soon realize they have one thing in common; they all end in death.

Running to some 72 pages this is a fun piece of work, with all the styling and quirky weirdness of Gorky Park, with some well realized sequences, particularly the Tale of the Cuckoo and Wogan's own story. His human characters are indescribably grotesque yet appealing, from Wogan himself to the overweight, make-up-laden pool player Sharon, who he meets in Morecambe. The story itself is also genuinely thought-provoking and well-told, although I would say Dave would do well to look to improving his lettering for any further work, perhaps even considering an e-font next time (the text is clear and better presented than some professionally published works I've read recently from some of Britain's book publishers pushing their graphic novels, but still needs work).

Wrapped in a cover with colours by Ant Mercer, the background an image of Morecambe only this week gone forever, bulldozed out of existence, Thomas Wogan is Dead is an unusual but enjoyable work now available from Smallzone, direct from Dave himself (priced £2.50 -- email stonechatproductionsATyahoo.co.uk for how to order) and, soon hopefully, the Travelling Man comic shops, as well as via First Age, Lancaster.

"I got the idea for this about four years ago and have been working on it on and off ever since," Dave told us. "My main hope is that the book’s mostly funny but also that I’ve managed to pull off the odd, dare I say it, poignant scene.

"I’m a bit of a bird and general nature nerd, so a lot of those things inspired me. I’ve put a fair bit of myself into the book but would like to say I’m not in love with Delia Smith!

"The Immeasurable Adventures of Gorky Park had a great, if localised reaction," he continues. "Some people seemed to love it to bits and wanted a sequel, which I just didn’t have in me (maybe some time). On the sales front, it bombed, but I choose to see it as a successful artistic endeavour. Well, better to dwell on that than the £800 costs!"

What's next from Dave? Are we really going to have to wait another four years for his next story? It would be a darn shame.

"As usual, there are several very messy notebooks crammed with discarded ideas behind it," he reveals. "I only end up using about five per cent of the stuff I scribble down!

"It would be nice to get into the discipline of doing this kind of work more regularly."

Here's hoping. The counter is ticking...

Read Rob Jackson's review of Thomas Wogan is Dead

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The (Comic) Art of War

Last year, Matthew Badham interviewed Christian Dunn, ex-editor of Warhammer Monthly, for an article about the comic published in the Judge Dredd Megazine.

Although he used several quotes from Christian in the finished article, there was still a lot of material from his interview left unused. It seemed a shame to waste his answers and so, with Christian’s consent, we've finally (with apologies to both Matthew and Christian for the delay) posted those unused answers here on downthetubes.

Read the interview on the main downthetubes site
Discuss this interview on the downthetubes forum

In Memoriam: Patrick McGoohan

downthetubes is sorry to report the passing of legendary American actor, writer and director Patrick McGoohan, star of the 1960s secret agent series' Danger Man, playing John Drake, and. later, The Prisoner, starring as the rebellious Number Six -- a role he never escaped.

"Words alone cannot sum up the man, his career, and the impact he had on so many people's lives," The Prisoner fan group The UnMutual comments on their web site. "Everyone involved with The Unmutual Website is in shock, and extend their sincerest sympathies to Patrick's friends and family."

80 year-old McGoohan, who was raised in Britain, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said earlier today.

McGoohan's film and TV credits are numerous, including Braveheart, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, Ice Station Zebra and a rather ironic portrayal of the Warden in the Clint Eastwood film Escape From Alcatraz, episodes of Columbo and more.

The Guardian, among others, notes that in his youth, and later, he was also an accomplished theatre actor.

The Daily Telegraph notes his role as John Drake in the hugely-popualar Danger Man, who worked for the British Secret Service and spoke in clipped tones. "His (then-novel) gadgets included tie pins equipped with cameras, cherries containing microphones and electric shavers that doubled as tape recorders. McGoohan, who made 54 episodes of the show, was eventually earning £2,000 a week, making him Britain's highest paid actor. His stock was so high that he was offered the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar (The Saint). He turned both down." The series was adapted into comics in the 1960s in both the UK and the US.

He never, however, quite freed himself from the role that followed his time on Danger Man, as Number Six in The Prisoner, playing a mysterious, resigned former secret agent who is always trying to escape from the Village, an apparently congenial community which is in fact a virtual prison for people who know too much. The show is a cult classic, currently being re-made by AMC.

Like Danger Man, the show- once described by The Los Angeles Times as "an espionage tale as crafted by Kafka" -- has also had its comics incarnations: Jack Kirby drew an unpublished 17 page adaptation re-telling part of the first episode, Arrival, for a planned Marvel Comic, and Gil Kane pencilled a Prisoner debut issue Marvel also commissioned and never published.

DC Comics published The Shattered Visage, a four issue sequel to the show by Mark Askwith and Dean Motter, in the 1980s.

In a 1977 interview, McGoohan revealed he originally planned to make just seven episodes of the show. "Seven, as a serial as opposed to a series," he told writer and TV host Warner Troyer. "I thought the concept of the thing would sustain for only seven, but then Lew Grade wanted to make his sale to CBS, I believe (who first ran it in the States) and he said he couldn't make a deal unless he had more, and he wanted 26, and I couldn't conceive of 26 stories, because it would be spreading it very thin, but we did manage, over a week-end, with my writers, to cook up ten more outlines, and eventually we did 17, but it should be seven."

You have to wonder which seven episode comprise his original vision. McGoohnan rarely talked about the show or what exactly it was all about, its various stories the subject of much debate ever since it was first broadcast.

In later life he seemed to resign himself to his connection withthe series, reprinsing his role in an episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer concocts a news story to make his website more popular, and he wakes up in a prison disguised as a holiday resort. Dubbed Number Five, he befriends Number Six and escapes with his boat.

News
Reuters: TV star Patrick McGoohan dead at 80


Tributes
• The UnMutual site is to set up a
special page for fans and admirers to leave their tributes, click here to email yours.
The Guardian: Be Seeing You
Steve Ross argues the rest of McGhoon's career may never have matched The Prisoner, but in that one iconic show he opened television up to new possibilties, describing the show as the "Citizen Kane of British TV – a programme that changed the landscape, and quite possibly destroyed its creator."
Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times
"...The Prisoner was a television show of ideas -- the inalienable if inconvenient right to self in a world that demands your cooperation, if not capitulation -- which also distinguished it from pretty much every other television show I had ever seen."
Wired
"Rest in peace, Patrick McGoohan," writes Scott Thill. "Your mark on the 20th century simply cannot be ignored. Your influence on the 21st century has yet to be fully measured, but when it is, one thing is sure: You will be more missed than the day you left us all." (Tribute includes video links to McGoohan interviews)

Obituaries
The Guardian
The Independent
The Daily Telegraph
The Washington Post
"
Robert J. Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, said of The Prisoner that it 'was an early taste of really complex, literate, thematically dense programming' at a time when most Americans were used to talking horses, genies as hapless homemakers and courtroom shows where Perry Mason wins every case."

Interviews
An interview with Patrick McGoohan talking about Danger Man and The Prisoner

Other Links
AMC, makes of the new show, are streaming all 17 episodes of the original The Prisoner (US only) In the UK the series is airing again nationwide on ITV4
IMDB Biography
Six of One Prisoner Appreciation Society


Commando Webbing: 14 January 2009

Putting the lie to the idea that Commando only covers World War II and only has one-off stories issue 4163, currently on sale, tells of Jimmy Ramsey resurrecting his Special Raiding Force to go into battle in Korea in Raiders Recalled.

Ferg Handley returns the Raiders to combat behind an Ian Kennedy cover and with Keith Page on internal art duties. This is the 14th Ramsey's Raiders story in Commando, all written by Ferg Handley who will be appearing at the Hi-Ex comics convention next month in Inverness when another Raiders story will be in the shops, issue 4171 Raiders On The Rampage.

The full list of Ramsey's Raiders stories in Commando are:
3854 - Ramsey’s Raiders
3861 - The Raiders Return
3854 - Ramsey’s Island Raiders
3874 - Raiders’ Revenge
3877 - Raiders From The Sky
3885 - D-Day Raiders
3898 - Raiders On The Rampage
3902 - Renegade Raiders
3906 - Raiders To The Rescue!
3949 - Raiders In The Reich
3960 - Ramsey’s Rebel Army
3963 - Raiders’ Round-Up!
3970 - The Final Raid
4163 - Raiders Recalled

Also on the Commando front, literally, the latest batch of front covers are available to view on the Commandomag website. This time issue 25 to 48 have been added to the Commando Cover Gallery - well almost 25 to 48. The Commando office are missing the front covers to issues 25, 33 and 45 and are requesting help from any of their troops who may have the issues and could scan the covers to get in touch via the website's e-mail link. In the meantime they have put title pages of the three issues into the Gallery to act as place markers.

The Commandomag website is here.

Ferg Handley is interviewed about his Commando stories here.

The details of the Ramsey's Raiders issues begin here.

The Commando Cover Galleries begin here.

EU Comics Competition

A competition offering the chance to win some 6000 euros launched by the European Commission last year, designed to promote European citizenship, is still up and running.

All young arts students are invited to take part by drawing a one-page cartoon illustrating the concept of citizenship in the European Union. Art and graphics students aged 16 or over who live in an EU Member State or have EU Member State nationality are invited to create a one-page comic strip, with no text, to illustrate the concept of citizenship in the European Union.

The aim of this competition, which runs until Friday 27 February 2009, is to enable all these young people to describe their own experience of living as citizens in the European Union.

In the words of Mr Jacques Barrot who has the incredibly long and unwieldy job title of Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner responsible for justice, freedom and security, “The concept of a citizen in the European Union, not just a citizen of the European Union, will enable us to involve actively in this project people who live in the European Union without necessarily being EU citizens, on the basis of a very broad definition of the citizenship concept.

"If you think about the idea of citizenship in Europe, you actually get to the very heart of your existence within the EU”, he added. “That’s why, in the context of this competition, I am suggesting to all art and graphics students of 16 or over that they create a comic strip that brings to life the concept of citizenship in the European Union.”

The competition is addressed mainly to art and graphics students of 16 or over who live in one of the 27 EU Member States but anyone else aged 16 or over who lives in the European Union and is interested in this subject can also enter.

An initial selection will be made at national level - in each country, three prizewinners will be invited to a prize-giving ceremony on 3 April 2009.

Then, at European level, the 27 national prizewinners will be invited to Brussels from 9 to 11 May 2009, and three European prizewinners will be selected from among them. In a prize-giving ceremony hosted by Vice-President Jacques Barrot, the winners will receive €6 000 (first prize), €4 000 (second prize) and €2 000 (third prize).

The best comic strips will be posted on the websites of the Commission representations in the Member States and on the Europa website. They may also be used for future European campaigns on citizenship.

• More information is available at www.eurocartoon.eu, where the competition website can be found. To receive competition updates and further news, send an email to uk@eurocartoon.eu

DFC Previews Site Launched

The DFC Issue 32The DFC starts 2009 with a bang, with all-new Mirabilis, Frontier (see news story, below), Lazarus Lemming, and Mezolith, plus all of your other favourites!

The susbscription-only comic continues to expand its online presence with a brand new DFC Previews Site!

If you're not a DFC subscriber yet, and want to know more about the comic, or if you want to show your friends all the good stuff they're missing head over to www.thedfcpreviews.co.uk

Click on any of the strips and you can read a sample episode on screen.

In the pipeline over the coming months are several new stories, including Donny Digits, the Fixingest boy in the universe, the return of Bekka and the floating isle in The Spider Moon and a galaxy in peril in Spectrum Black!

Mirabailis• More info and subscription details on The DFC web site: www.thedfc.co.uk
Mirabilis Official Site
Frontier Official Site

New Take on the Wild West in Frontier

Frontier, the new comic strip by Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman is now up and running in weekly subscription-only comic The DFC.

The second instalment sees heroes Mitch and Daisy dealing with the Weird and Wonderful... well, check out the picture, it doesn't get any more weird than that.

Frontier tells the tales and adventures of Mitch Seeker and Daisy Adams and is "Based on the recently discovered diaries of Daisy Adams from 1866.

"It's weird, it's wild and it all happened out west," explain the creators, who have also launched a supporting web site for the strip (www.weirdwildwest.com) with information about the strip, gallery and creator profiles.

Extracts from Daisy's diaries are also being published in blog form, the creators warning that "It is with some nervousness that we present these diaries for publications.

"Discovered in a hoard of old documents and personal items in an old shack out on the plains of North America, we have been able to study at length the journals and diaries of many early settlers of the United States. We have been able to verify the truth of most of them, such as The Diary of Willam H. Ashley, March 25 - June 27, 1825 and others that are available to view at: www.over-land.com/diaries.html"

Click here to read an online version of Frontier Part One
• Official Frontier web site: www.weirdwildwest.com
Facebook Fan Page

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"Sober Dog" Comes To An End


Top comics creator Nick Abadzis' strip The Trial of the Sober Dog, which started its run back in June last year (see news story), finished its run in the British daily newspaper The Times yesterday. If you missed it, the entire story is now free to read online on his blog.

Times readers have lapped up Nick's strip and more comics are in the offing thanks to its success. "The reaction has been really positive," Nick told downthetubes, "The biggest fan being Mr Editor-of-The Times himself, James Harding. Basically, he's happy because his readers are and my immediate editor (of T2) told me that she thinks they've turned the readers of The Times onto comics which is cool. That's nearly a million people!

"Looks like they're going to do more - [New York Times contributor] Rutu Modan [author of the critically acclaimed Exit Wounds] will be next." (View Rutu's online protfolio here on TheArtWorks)

As for whether Nick will appear in The Times again, he tells us he's busy with several projects at present, including organising an expanded, rejigged collection of Tale of a Sober Dog and finishing his next tale, Skin Trouble, for First Second before doing anything else. "I'm keeping a lot plates spinning right now!" he notes.

Trial of a Sober Dog centres on the person everyone knows or knew: the person at school who was thought most likely to succeed. A chance encounter at a private view sees friends Marco and Petra encounter their old school rival Joe Chase again after many years. It seems he has indeed lived up to his potential… but things aren’t always what they seem. No matter how it seems to observers, nobody can have it all…

Told through observations, anecdotes, flashbacks and musings by different narrators, each episode shows a different aspect of Chase and multiple reasons why he might still be nicknamed The Sober Dog…

John Barrowman collaborates on new Torchwood strip

Titan Magazines has confirmed that Doctor Who and Torchwood actor John "Captain Jack" Barrowman will be co-writing an episode of an upcoming Torchwood Magazine comic strip.

Issue 14 of the Magazine, on sale 19 February in the UK, will feature an original Torchwood comic strip, written by John and his sister and regular collaborator, Carole E. Barrowman.

The story, called Captain Jack and the Selkie, sees Captain Jack facing a deadly threat on a remote Scottish island, where people are disappearing one by one... To his horror, Jack starts to suspect he may know who – or perhaps more specifically what – is responsible...

Selkie is the Orkney dialect word for "seal" and with so many seals in the waters around this and other Scottish islands, it's not hard to see how the legends surrounding the selkie-folk - the seal people - sprang into life. (More about Selkie Folk myth here)

Artwork for the comic strip is provided by Tommy Lee Edwards, the acclaimed artist behind several stunning comic projects including Marvel’s current smash hit 1985, the acclaimed Bullet Points, DC’s The Question and several more, and Birmingham-born artist Trevor Goring, whose work includes Dead Like Me and Star Trek and who has worked as a storyboard artist on films such as Independence Day, Fantastic Four and Twilight.

“I’m so excited to be working on this story," says strip editor Martin Eden, speaking on the Torchwood Facebook page. "John and Carole are an absolute pleasure to work with. And Tommy Lee Edwards is one of my favourite artists.

"I’ve seen the thumbnails that Tommy and Trevor have worked on – and, believe me, the readers are in for a treat!”

• Torchwood Magazine Issue #14 will be on sale in the UK and Ireland on 19th February, and in the US and Canada on 17th March. Facebook members can read on more on the Torchwood Magazine Facebook Page
TorchWood Magazine UK Official Site TorchWood Magazine US Official Site

Ex Astris Continues in Spaceship Away


Mike Nicoll and I have just completed work on the second episode of Secrets of Ceres, the Ex Astris prequel strip running in science fiction comic magazine Spaceship Away, which goes to the printers soon.

There were some last minute hiccups thanks to a glaring proofing error over one of the character's names -- Sarah Blake, our hardwired space investigator suddenly started to be called by a different name, a subconscious link between her and the Ex Astris main strip that was almost revealed by accident! Special thanks to Des Shaw and Rod Barzilay for not only spotting it at the last minute but also giving us chance to put things right.

Hope you enjoy the low resolution preview of the episode's first page, above.

The next issue of Spaceship Away includes an article by acclaimed SF author Stephen Baxter and features a new centre-spread painted by Mike Noble, perhaps best known for his work on TV Century 21 and is his first SF artwork for a while. There's also another painting by top illustrator Graham Bleathman and the magazine will also be looking at the connection between Dan Dare artists and Gerry Anderson's world. More info on the issue, on sale soon, from the Spaceship Away web site!

In other EA news, Episode 7 of the mobile/ipod-tailored version of the main strip is now also on Clickwheel, as we port the strips that have previously appeared on ROK Comics to Rebellion's digital platform.

• For more info on Ex Astris visit www.exastris.co.uk or read our dedicated Ex Astris blog

Ask Alan!

Joe Gordon from Forbidden Planet International has been in touch to let us know that as a follow up to their cracking big interview with Alan Moore, conducted by Pádraig Ó Méalóid (Part One here, Part Two here), the pair have been talking about a follow-up interview ahead of the first part of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, which is coming out this spring from Knockabout and Top Shelf.

Well the good news is that it's going to happen -- and the better news is that Alan has agreed to taking some questions sent in by readers as well as discussing Century.

“In March, before the publication of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910, I’ll be doing another interview with Alan Moore, once again to appear on the FPI Blog," Padraig announces. "As well as talking to him about Century 1910 and other forthcoming work, he has agreed to a suggestion I made, which is that I should ask for questions from the general public.

"So, if you’ve any questions you’ve been burning to ask Alan, either comment here, where I’ll see them, or send them to me directly at pomealoid[at]yahoo[dot]com.

I should point out that, while I’ll do my best to ask Alan as many questions as I can from what I receive, I do reserve the absolute right to not ask something if I so choose.”

• More details on how to submit questions are on the FPI blog here

What's Chores? No Heroics on ITV1 tonight...


The second episode of the ITV2 superhero comedy No Heroics, produced by Tiger Aspect, will be getting its first airing on ITV 1 at 11.35pm.

The six-part series features 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.

In The Fantastic Chore, Sarah and Jenny reunite as crime-fighting duo Ladytrouble to appear at a convention, Alex goes on a drugs bust and Don makes a new friend at the Fortress.

Visit the official No Heroics web site

Monday, 12 January 2009

New Garth on MyEBook

The first new adventure of longtime Daily Mirror hero Garth, which has already been published on the British newspaper's web site, have now been collected and are available in an online format from British e-publisher myebook.com.

As noted in an interview with artist Huw-J on the main downthetubes web site, Garth returned after a long retirement in August 2008 - albeit only on the Mirror's web site.

The return of Garth, a newspaper strip adventure hero first created in 1943 by Stephen Dowling for what was then The Daily Mirror, is the work of Hayena Studios, and in particular, the determined efforts of artist Huw-J.

The new Garth project revamps the often time and space travelling hero for a modern audience in several different formats. The first strip, now on myebook, The Gold of Ragnarock, finds Garth summoned to the Arctic for a mission of dangerous exploration.

Speaking to downthetubes last year, Huw-J describes the story as "more of an online graphic novel, possibly the first of its kind in an official way as it's full page colour toned, and will run for 65 pages.

"It was originally conceived as a strip," he revealed, "but the guys at the Mirror's syndication department looked at it and really liked the way it read but felt it lacked something 'extra' for the re-launch, so it was decided to vamp it up and ramp it up to the format you see online at the moment."

Reaction to the new interpretation of Garth has been mixed - no surprise considering the original featured the work of artists such as Frank Bellamy and Martin Asbury, and some scripts by Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell.

Some longtime fans have openly stated their preference for the original, while younger readers have welcome Huw-J's distinctive take on the square-jawed hero.

"We have tried hard to create something for old and new readers alike," notes Huw-J in response to comments about the strip posted on myebook, "but we know we cannot please everyone."

Also available on myebook is The Art of Garth, offering some behind the scenes designs and an insight into the remaking of the character.

Read the downthetubes interview with Garth's new keeper, Huw-J

Planetary Stories with a British flavour...

(via writer Erwin K. Roberts): The coming of the new year also brings new issues of the quarterly sister web magazines Planetary Stories and Pulp Spirit, described by their editor as an online homage to the S-F pulp magazines of the 1930s through the 1950s. Some stories in the latest issues have a British element, hence this news story.

The Planetary Stories masthead proclaims "Galaxies Smashed, Worlds Saved, Time Travelled." The lead story in the 13th issue is "Acroscaphe" by Lou Antonelli and Edward Morris. Here, at the height of the Cold War, is a potential First Contact tale. The Royal Navy discovers a strange sphere floating in the mid-Atlantic. A NATO wide team is assembled to investigate.

While Planetary Stories covers the science-fiction and fantasy areas of adventure fiction, Pulp Spirit ranges across many other genres. Issue #4 features two westerns, a Spicy Armadillo story, plus Erwin K. Roberts' latest contribution.

In "How The Name Came" by Erwin, a Yankee pilot lands (literally) in the middle of a British special operations mission on some of those 'very special islands' in the WW2 Pacific Theatre of Operations. Strange and Terrible Things follow.

• Planetary Stories #13: www.planetarystories.com/PS13.htm
• Pulp Spirit #4: www.planetarystories.com/PulpSpirit4.htm

Weetabix to launch new Shaun the Sheep Promo

Shaun the Sheep creators Aardman have teamed up with Weetabix to launch a special promotion on over 20 million packs of Weetabix, Minis, Bitesize and Ready Brek in the UK.

Yes - that's right. 20 million boxes of Shaun covered cereal.


The main offer will give consumers the chance to collect two sets of exclusive Shaun the Sheep books (only available through the promotion). There will also be an on-pack competition, inviting voracious Weetabix eaters to put down their spoons and design Shaun a woolly scarf instead.


The best designs will win a framed still of Shaun wearing the scarf.

The deal follows hot on the heels of Aardman's recent promotion deals for Wallace & Gromit with Kingsmill and Pyrex in promotion deals which tied in with the broadcast of A Matter of Loaf and Death at Christmas.

"Shaun the Sheep is hugely popular with children and their families so it was natural that we worked with the family favourite Weetabix to create this promotion," said Sean Clarke, head of Aardman Rights.

A new series of 40 seven minute episodes begin shooting in early 2009 for CBBC and Aardman has already secured a number of pre-sales for the second season of the show with broadcasters in Australia, France, Denmark and elsewhere.


Of course, here at downthetubes, we'd really like to see Egmont, who are now Aardman's Shaun the Sheep publishing partner, consider extending their releases to include not just books and bring us a new comic, especially after the demise of Titan's title last year. However, given how difficult creating a comic with no speaking characters in the source material is, perhaps that's unlikely.

Commando Webbing: 12 January 2009

Over Christmas the boffins on the Commando Mag site launched a sneek attack under the radar and added a fourth complete on-line Commando story before they had even finished the third.

Last Laugh is a World War II story of the crew of a crashed Lancaster bomber as they try to evade capture by the Germans in occupied Norway. Written by Monty Montague, it was originally published as issue 491 in August 1970 and was then reprinted as issue 1427 in July 1980. Its tongue-in-cheek cover is by Ian Kennedy while the internal artwork is by Cam Kennedy.

This is the first time that the Commando website has put an issue on-line with internal art by an artist well known beyond the confines of the title with Cam Kennedy having produced work as diverse as Fighting Mann for Battle, The V.C.'s for 2000AD, Punisher for Marvel, Star Wars for Dark Horse and the more recent Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde graphic novels.

The site continues to add computer wallpapers based on Commando cover art to their range of images with more than 60 covers now available in this format.

Finally the Commando team are working on producing a binder or slipcase for collectors to keep the digest sized title in. We will bring you more details on these when we get them.

The on-line Commando, Last Laugh, begins here.

Paul Cornell Signing in London

Captain Britain and Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell will be signing copies of the Captain Britain and MI13 - Secret Invasion graphic novel, the first collection of the Marvel Comics series, at Forbidden Planet later this week (Thursday 15th January).

Join Paul at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Thursday 15th January from 6 – 7.00pm.

In this collection, the Skrull Invasion of Secret Invasion isn't restricted to the US - when the Skrulls hit Blighty, only Captain Britain and MI:13 stand in their way!

With the fate of Britain hanging in the balance, can the heroes find out what the Skrulls are after before it's too late? Featuring Prime Minister Gordon Brown in action!

• By the way, in a weird twist on the world it seems Captain Britain, like President Obama and other major world figures, is now officially on Twitter, posting daily: twitter.com/Captain_Britain. If you've been holding out from being part of this social communication revolution, what better reason to leap aboard? (Hmm, nope, still not convinced...)

More info on the Forbidden Planet web site
Buy Captain Britain and MI13 - Secret Invasion from Forbidden Planet

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