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Friday, 23 January 2009

Blam! Returns to Leicester

After a series of popular and well attended comics events last year (see report), Leicester Libraries have announced another Blam! event, this time with top comics expert Paul Gravett.

Titled "More Than Words Can Say: What are comic books doing in your local library?" the event takes place at 7.00pm on Tuesday 17th February at the Central Lending Library in Belvoir Street.

Join Paul, author of Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life and director of the Comica Festival in London, as he offers a guide to the pleasures of reading pictures with words.

The event is free - no need to book.

Leicester Libraries is introducing an exciting new stock of graphic novels appropriate for all ages this February.

More info about Blam! Events in Leicester Libraries

Picture: Theda from
Caricature by Daniel Clowes - Copyright the artist

Frights on the Frontier!

The latest issue of the subscription-only weekly British comic The DFC features Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman's Frontier on the cover, as heroes Mitch and Daisy find themselves cornered by werewolves in the weird Wild West.

"It's an absolute privilege to be involved in The DFC," says artist Andrew Wildman in a post on the downthetubes forum. "... It really is forging ahead in a country that offers little to younger readers other than licensed material.

"[There's] nothing wrong with licensed material, I have worked on much of it, but it is nice to think that comics can stand on their own two feet as a creative medium. We all remember those days when comics contained original material and it was ours. That sense of ownership as a reader is something that has been rekindled by The DFC and long may it continue..."

Also in the issue are Phillip Pullman and John Aggs' John Blake, in which an old scientist has an enlightening story to tell Blake; Super Animal Adventure Squad by the ever-brilliant James Turner; Wilbur Dawbarn's Bodkin and the Bear; mayhem involving a character called Countess Sheepula in John Gatehouse and Dave Windett's Lazarus Lemming; stories from the Stone Age in Ben Heggarty and Adam Brockbank's Mezolith; more fun from Pickle Rye in the talented Sarah Macintyre's Vern & Lettuce; Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog; Mirabilis, in which hero Jack gets an astrology lesson, and we meet a "crazy" wizard!; and Simone Lia's Sausage and Carrots.

View The DFC discussion on the downthetubes forum
Visit The DFC web site or the The DFC Previews Site
Visit the Frontier website

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Kevin O'Neill Confirms Bristol Expo Appearance

Legendary British artist Kevin O'Neill (whose work includes Nemesis the Warlock for 2000AD and Marshal Law) has confirmed that he will come to Bristol to sign the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, written by Alan Moore.

His appearance at the Expo is in partnership with publishers Top Shelf and Knockabout.

Century is a 240-page epic detailing the exploits of Miss Wilhelmina Murray and her extraordinary colleagues, spanning almost a hundred years. Divided into three 80-page chapters - each a self-contained narrative to avoid frustrating cliff-hanger delays between episodes - this monumental tale takes place in three distinct eras, building to an apocalyptic conclusion occurring in our own, current, twenty-first century.

Chapter one is set against the backdrop of London, 1910, twelve years after the failed Martian invasion and nine years since England put a man upon the moon. In the bowels of the British Museum, Carnacki the ghost-finder is plagued by visions of a shadowy occult order who are attempting to create something called a Moonchild, while on London's dockside the most notorious serial murderer of the previous century has returned to carry on his grisly trade.

Working for Mycroft Holmes' British Intelligence alongside a rejuvenated Allan Quartermain, the reformed thief Anthony Raffles and the eternal warrior Orlando, Miss Murray is drawn into a brutal opera acted out upon the waterfront by players that include the furiously angry Pirate Jenny and the charismatic butcher known as Mac the Knife.

"This is the first convention Kevin has been to for years," says organiser Mike Allwood. "This century in fact!"

• A Marshal Law Omnibus is scheduled to be published later this year by Top Shelf, described as a 512-page definitive collection of the groundbreaking series by Pat Mills and Kevin.

• More Bristol Comic Expo Information:

• Festival Web site: www.fantasyevents.org
Fallen Angel Media
For information on the small press event contact malATthefallenangel.co.uk for full details
Ramada Hotel, Bristol
Mercure Hotel, Bristol

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Stacking the odds for Indie Magazines Success

Here's an idea which some enterprising comics publisher, or comics distributor, might consider as a way to drum up interest in their full range of titles.

The financial crisis will make 2009 a year of high innovation for independent magazines, according to Stack, a new association of independent publishers, described as the world’s first independent magazine recommendation and subscription service.

In an interesting way of drumming up new readership for the magazines, using Stack's new service readers can sign up to a single annual subscription and every month a different independent magazine is sent direct to their door. They never know exactly what’s coming next, but they do know that it will offer a beautiful and intelligent view from outside the mainstream, and at just £3 per issue, it’s cheaper than buying the same magazines in the shops.

“When we were researching Stack, people told us that their personal tastes were creative, intelligent and independent,” says Steven Watson, the group's founder, “but when we asked whether they read magazines that reflected those values, nearly 60% said no. Stack aims to bridge that gap by making it easier than ever for people to get hold of fantastic magazines.”

Without the marketing budgets of the bigger publishing houses, independent magazines have always had to find creative and cost-effective ways of reaching readers, and Stack is just one innovation currently emerging from the UK’s cash-strapped independents.

Magazines featured on the service include titles such as Russia!, Worn, Bearded, Plan B, Bad Idea, B-East and Electric Sheep.


BAD IDEA presents... Printomortis – Episode 1 from BAD IDEA magazine on Vimeo.

In related news for indie magazines promotion, the features magazine Bad Idea (www.badidea.co.uk) has this week launched Printomortis, a fictional TV mini-series that follows life at an independent magazine in the dying days of print. (The first episode may ring bells with many indie comics publishers, I suspect...)

Made in association with Channel 4 filmmaker Bronwen Parker-Rhodes, the series will run online and takes a satirical look at the troubles currently faced by print magazines.

“In the current climate, publishing businesses who remain overly reliant on advertising revenues will find life difficult,” says Jack Roberts, a founding editor of Bad Idea. “We’ve had to diversify our business and also experiment to reach new audiences, whether that’s by creating a web TV mini-series, conceiving and running new event concepts for clients like the V&A and Channel 4, or setting up the world’s first fully integrated online submissions facility for aspiring contributors. Stack is a brilliant example of the kind of fresh, imaginative thinking that is necessary if independent magazines are to hurdle the financial challenges we all face.”

Meanwhile, movie magazine Little White Lies is demonstrating that a magazine can both profit from and remain independent of the industry it covers. Renowned as the UK’s most honest and unmerciful film title, LWLies’ design team also create award-winning movie posters and branding for individual film distributors. The synergy between magazine and industry is demonstrated perfectly in the posters currently advertising the LWLies ‘Che’ issue.

The posters, which feature the magazine cover and the release date of the movie, were paid for by Che’s distributors Optimum, in a mutually beneficial move designed to get people into cinemas to see Che, and to get people into WHSmith to buy the magazine.

“We never pick cover movies for commercial reasons, or are paid or influenced by film distributors for our choices. We just love them, and we want to shout about them,” says Danny Miller, publisher of LWLies.

“When we work with great film distributors like Optimum, they understand this and are keen to help us out.”

• Check out Stack and the titles offered at: www.stackmagazines.com

Elephantmen Back on Track


Image Comics reports that, after a number of hiccups in the scheduling of Active Images Elephantmen in 2008, the creation of former Marvel UK staffer and all round good egg Richard Starkings, the book is back on track for 2009.

"I'd really like to thank retailers, podcasters and online reviewers for continuing to give our book so much incredible support," says Richard as Elephantmen #15 hits the stands in the US, "We're very proud of the War Toys mini series we launched last year and so happy to see it at the very top of the 2008 Power Rankings on Newsarama and rubbing shoulders with more established books on CBR's Top 100 books of 2008.

"Nevertheless, we're anxious to repeat the 12 issues in twelve months track record we established in our first year, and I'm happy to report that we already have five of this year's issues in the can!"

"Elephantmen #15, which wraps up the World Collide storyline, is shipping a week later than we expected, but due to a printing error rather than the interim creative team of Ian Churchill and Boo Cook!"

And there's some great stuff in the pipeline, judging from the schedule on the Elephantmen web site. "Marian Churchland, who has already completed full colour art for issues #18 and #20 is currently working on #19," says Richard, "and Moritat, who is recovering from gall bladder surgery, is working on a special framing sequence for issue #17 before returning to the book for issues #22 and 23!"

• For latest on Elephantmen visit www.hipflask.com

Alternative Press Fair Shapes Up Nicely

With just two weeks to go, Jimi Gherkin, Comic creator and organiser of the The Alternative Press Fair 2009 in London on 1st February is shaping up nicely with a terrifi line up of creators scheduled to be part of the day's proceedings (see below).

"It’s only going to be as good as we can make it so… invite everyone you can!" Jimi urges via the event's Facebook group. "Get your friends down there even if they’re only slightly interested, it will be great to have people from outside the scene there and show them what the scene is all about; they might feel inspired to get into it themselves!"

Over 50 exhibitors will be part of the day, representing about 100 artists. "It’s going to be a really amazing day!" enthuses Jimi.

Creator Groups at the event include...

• Active Distribution (www.activedistribution.org)
• Brighton BA Illustration (www.illustratorselbow.com)
A a group of illustrators, currently studying at the University of Brighton who make drawings, books, prints, films, animations, sculptures, paintings, photographs, stuffed toys, jewellery, clothes, badges, stickers, and pretty much anything else they can think of.
• Hand Made and Bound (www.handmadeandbound.com)
An independent fair with affordable, handmade artists’ books, comics and zines.
• Last Hours (www.lasthours.org.uk)
Last Hours is a radical culture web zine and occasional publisher. It aims to explore and promote DIY ideas and ideals, with articles, interviews, comics, columns and reviews.
• Meat Mag
• Nude Mag (www.nudemagazine.co.uk)
Nude was launched in August 2003 by Suzy Prince and Ian Lowey; two people brought together by a shared interest in many of the strange and exotic things which exist at the margins of pop culture.
• Paper Tiger (www.dirtysquatters.com/papertiger)
Paper Tiger is a co-operative venture where all the artists get creative control of their work and get published in one of two ways.
• Wallflower Press (www.wallflowerpress.co.uk)
Independent specialist book publishing across the full spectrum of cinema and the moving image.

Individual Creators include...
• Gavin Burrows (lucidfrenzy.blogspot.com)
From his base in Brighton, England, Gavin Burrows has badgered the foolish and unwary with a plethora of comic strips, articles, polemics, drunken rants and nuisance phone calls for over twenty years now...
• Capes & Drapes (capesanddrapes.tripod.com)
Mini Comics and Doodles
• Chiu (www.myeyeisonfire.net)
Animator and comics creator
• Gethan Dick (www.gethan.org)
Creative educator
• Tanya Meditsky (www.milkkitten.com)
• Eleanor Jane Parsons (www.eleanorjane.co.uk)
Self publisher of Wretch and Pushing Twenty
• Sarah Ray (www.sarahray.co.uk)
Birmingham-based illustrator
• Karoline Rerrie (www.nursepussy.co.uk)
Yes, wwe still think people visit her site more by 'accident' than design.
• SINA (www.boycrazyboy.com)
Sina burst onto the underground queer punk scene at the age of 16 with the queer teen zine Concerned Muthers, going on to create comics such as the gay superhero saga Atomic Love and the intensely personal and highly acclaimed BoyCrazyBoy.
• Wes White (www.ecartilage.co.uk)
Publisher of Attack!!!! Magazine

Tube Surfing: 21 January 2009

Comics Bulletin have run the first review of Thunderbolts #128, writen by Andy Diggle and drawn by Roberto de la Torre, on sale today in the US, which sees Black Widow and Ant-Man engaged in covert ops aboard Air Force One. "Writer Andy Diggle uses dialogue quite well, with the entire cast sounding unique and true to their character. The art is excellent, both the consistent and sharp pencils and the mood setting colors," they say. The issue is already selling for $20 on eBay. Read the whole review, plus a six-page preview, at Comics Bulletin.

• IDW's Doctor Who: The Forgotten #6 is also on sale now in North America (technically, the only place they're on sale...), written by Tony Lee with art by Kelly Yates. It's Timelord vs. Timelord in this final issue as The Doctor takes on the Clockwork Droids and the Robots of Death! But, weakened and disorientated, can the Doctor really beat him this time? Or will he need a little help from each of his prior incarnations… and a variety of previous companions including Sarah Jane, Harry, Kamelion and Adric? Ben Templesmith provides a special cover for this concluding issue.

• (via Forbidden Planet International): Continuing the theme of Brits Abroad, over on his blog, artist JH Williams reveals what we’d all been suspecting: there will be an Absolute Promethea from DC Wildstorm in October 2009, as confirmed tonight by the DC solicits that have just been released. Promethea, for those who came in late, was of course written by Alan Moore.

Insomnia Publications has now posted its 2009 brochure on MyEbook.com. "It's an impressive line-up, and endorsements from industry figures like Alan Grant and Ben Templesmith speak volumes about the company's commitment to putting out high-quality books," says writer Cy Dethan.

• Talking of e-publications and variants, Warren Ellis kicked off a discussion about Print on Demand services on his Whitechapel site. Check out the debate here. Views on services such as Lulu, Ka-Blam.com, blurb.com and others feature.

• Rufus Dayglo
has posted a stunning cover rough for The Mythid, a project he's working on with done with Brett Ewins and Scott Brown, on his blog.

Tim Perkins Wizards Keep Troll bookmark• Tim Perkins has released the first of his Fantasy Bookmarks based on his Wizards Keep project, that only folks that have visited the Wizards Keep stand over the past couple of years at Comics Conventions here in the UK have seen, or you may have seen on his Blog. The Troll bookmark is on sale from his website, under the Fantasy Bookmarks section of his Shop.

• (via Jon Haward): John McShane started a new Scottish cartoonists site and forum over on Ning (scottishcartoonists.ning.com). Talking of Ning, the downthubes forum's membership has had a flurry of new members after Andrew Wildman very kindly went on a recruiting drive off his own bat, including The DFC's publisher David Fickling and son Will, comic creators Sarah Macintyre, Laura Howell, Stephen Baskerville, Izzie Tun and Richard Starkings. Why not sign up and join in the fun?

• Long-time readers of Bear Alley, the blog of British comics expert and writer Steve Holland will know he's a big fan of Roland Davies, whose "Come On, Steve!" strip has been mentioned there quite a few times over the years, so you can imagine how pleased he was to have stumbled across a previously unrecorded strip by Davies in the pages of Everybody's: "Sporty Shorty"— or "Sporting Shorty" as the title seemed to change each week. Read more...

• Happy Birthday for yesterday to former Doctor Who Tom Baker (although you never really escape that role), who is now 75. Star of television, time, space and everything, one of my favourite interviews I did while editor of Doctor Who Magazine was spending a couple of hours in his bonker presence. I shall also never forget that at a US Who convention, his minder was armed. That was scary...

• And finally, while not comics related, I note with some irony that having made the vast majority of its technical staff redundant, my former employers ROK Entertainment (the company behind ROK Comics, which it's good to see is still live) have launched the ROK Developer Challenge with an open invitation to developers around the world to submit their ideas with a view to partnering with ROK on the commercial deployment of the best and most innovative new applications received. It's one way to keep innovating, I suppose...

Bostin Heroes seek an Artist

A British webcomic team is urgently seeking a new artist as it looks to begin its second story.

"I've recently been writing a webcomic set in the West Midlands called Bostin Heroes," Shropshire-based writer and small-press creator Matthew Craig tells downthetubes. "We've enjoyed a little bit of coverage here and there - local TV, newspapers, the FPBlog, etc. - but we've found ourselves in need of an additional artist."

Bostin Heroes, the creation of Donato Esposito, is the story of four ordinary people defending the Black Country and beyond on the eve of the Second Industrial Revolution.

The Bostin Heroes team are looking for an artist with a clean, friendly style to work in conjunction with series creator Donato Esposito and writer Matthew Craig to create short (8-16 page) stories starring the Black Country champions. Stories will be serialsed online at a rate of one to two pages per week, then collected for print.

The assignment would suit someone looking for their first comics job, or wider exposure for their work. As the stories will largely be based in and around the Midlands, artists should have some familiarity with the region.

For further information, please contact Donato Esposito via the team's contact form and be sure to include links to online portfolios or other work.

Originally hailing from Telford, Bostin Heroes writer Matthew has been described as “a perfect example of the breadth and passion of today’s British small press scene” by Richard Bruton on Forbidden Planet International’s comics blog. His books range from the canine courage of Hondle to the zombie romance of Vitale, as well as the unconventional superhero stylings of TroubleBruin and Trixie Biker.

The artist on the first story, Jack Davies, has been drawing since the age of four and counts the X-Men among his influences. A graduate of Hi8us Midlands’ Strip Search programme, with an exhibition at Birmingham’s Mailbox under his belt, Jack is currently studying illustration and animation.

Bostin Heroes was created by Donato Esposito, an IT and Business Consultant living in Rubery who has trekked across Peru for the British Heart Foundation, climbed Mount Snowdon, and started the Bostin t-shirt company from his back room. He says he founded the Bostin Group to promote positivity and regional pride, and this is his first comic ever.

• For more about Matthew's Black Country champions, check out this YouTube Trailer... found here:



... And the adventure starts here: www.bostinheroes.com/?p=114

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Brit indie announces Thief-Taker General

British independent comics line Storm Comics (www.stormcomics.com), the brainchild of writer and artist Michael Crouch, was launched last May with a one-off sci-fi comic, Afterlife. Although interest has been good, judging by feedback from readers, sales have been slow.

Not one to be discouraged, Michael has now followed that first title with the first issue of second, two-issue comic: Thief-Taker General. "The mission is to produce good stories, well told," says Michael.

Thief-Taker General is based on true characters and events in early 18th century London, centering on self-proclaimed Thief-Taker General, Jonathan Wild. But the thief-taker was also a thief-maker and had himself quite a little empire running on both sides of what passed for law. Pitted against the greatest escapologist of his age, or possibly of any age, who will prevail?

Jonathan Wild and his double-standards of law-and-order were first introduced to indie press fans in a four-page tie-in strip, Stolen Goods, published in the pages of Temple APA #1, still available via the Temple's web forum (templeapa.ning.com)

Both Afterlife and Thief-Taker General #1
are written and drawn by Michael Crouch. Comprising 32 B&W pages comics with colour covers they retail at £2.25 each.

The second issue of Thief-Taker General is already underway and due for release in the first half of 2009.

• For more information and how to buy the comics visit www.stormcomics.com


Bloomsbury publishes Twilight Zone in the UK

Due for release from Bloomsbury next month are the first four graphic novels in a series adapting episodes of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The work of artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design and published by Walker & Co. in the US, the graphic novels aren't slavish adaptations of the transmitted original episodes of the cult 1950s show but are based on the original and unedited scripts in their entirety, written by Rod Serling.

A variety of artists from the SCAD sequential art department took on the challenge of creating this new dimension that will allow fans to make the journey from black and white videotape into the world of full-color images in a graphic novel.

"I suspect that my husband, Rod Serling, the 'father' of The Twilight Zone, would wholeheartedly approve of this 'new dimension' of his stories. The adaptations and fine graphic pictures have truly caught the feeling and climate of that wondrous world of imagination," said Serling's widow, Carol.

Emily Easton, publisher of Walker Books for Young Readers, is a lifelong fan and was thrilled to introduce the new series which has been picked up by Bloomsbury. "It's been particularly gratifying to see the maniacal gleam that comes into most people's eyes as I tell them we are launching this graphic novel series - the passion that still exists for this groundbreaking piece of television history is palpable."

SCAD sequential art professor Mark Kneece who co-ordinated the project hppe that, from some nearby fifth dimension, "Serling is smiling at the prospect of these books."

Walking Distance written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by Dove McHargue adapts what's considered by many to be one of Rod Serling's most personal stories from the show, as business man Martin Sloan takes the journey of a lifetime when his car breaks down within walking distance of his home town. He's shocked to find that he has somehow walked into his own past, but can he find a way to warn the boy he once was to seize the day and save his future happiness?

Given that the original script - and, indeed, the style of TV at the time - is very "talkie" with little major action scenes, Dove McHargue makes good use of different angles to liven the script. That said, some of the finishing on the pages is better than others: while some feature character's shadows. others do not, perhaps something that's the result of the large number of students involved in the colour separation process. Still, the storytelling reflects the haunting mystery of the original story and the interaction between Sloan and his father, confused by his appearance and claims, is well realized.

The After Hours (cover above) written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, with art by Rebekah Isaacs finds dissatisfied shopper Marsha White trying to return a purchase to the eighteenth floor of a department store, she is surprised to find out that no such floor exists. Feeling faint, she lies down in the store manager's office and wakes up, hours later, after the store has closed for the night. Wandering the dark and empty store, Marsha hears voices calling her to the eighteenth floor as her unusual shopping trip continues in a very unexpected way.

Isaacs turns in a terrific adaptation of the story, making good use of haunting, large panels to reflect the emptiness of the mystery floors in the story where Marsha begins to suspect all is not right with the store, but unable to grasp quite why. Her depictions of Marsha are particularly strong, and there's some good use of different angles to complement the uneasiness of this bemused -- and later, scared -- shopper. The only fault with the title is the disappointing lettering, which lacks any emphasis for the most part at key moments, and is in places ill-positioned. But this shouldn't detract from enjoying what's is a well-delivered tale.

The Monsters are Due on Maple Street written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by is set entirely in a suburban street quickly gripped by fear. A shadow passes overhead and a loud roar is heard, accompanied by a flash of light. Neighbours along Maple Street grow confused as they find that the telephones no longer work and there is no power. As the sun sets, they gather together in the street to discuss the matter. Only Tommy, a young boy, sees the situation for what it is - an alien invasion which disrupts his neighbourhood.

A clear attack on McCarthy's witch hunt of communists in 1950s America, the story is a savage indictment of the kind of mass hysteria stirred up by state and media that is as telling today as it was when the original story was first aired. Artist Rich Ellis delivers an adaptation that captures the original script's atmosphere perfectly, with wonderful use of light and shadow and expressive silent frames that do as much to move the story along as those with dialogue. The cunningly engineered disaster that befalls the small town residents is superbly told, and the descent from civillised behaviour to insanity beautifully realized.

The Odyssey of Flight 33 written by Mark Kneece, Rod Serling, art by Robert Grabe finds a plane leaving London bound for New York as scheduled. Not far into the journey, Flight 33 crosses through some sort of time warp that sends it back in time by 100 million years. As they fly over giant creatures which they recognise as dinosaurs on Manhattan Island, the pilots realise they must find a way back into the future...

Of these first four adaptations, Odyssey includes much not featured in the original TV episode, which included stop animation sequences that made it one of the most expensive ever made of the series. Updating the story and taking it into a more modern, 1970s setting proves effective, and despite the claustrophobic nature of the source material, Grabe conjures a believeable and enjoyable graphic version of the tale, with good use of reveals as the plane arrives in different time zones - particularly the distant past - and the sequences of the craft 'jumping' in time are well executed. Once again though, the lack of any variation to lettering is a disappointment.

As with some of the colouring on all four titles, this is something that lets down, if only a little, the finishing of all four books.

Overall, these adapatations are a fine and enjoyable treatment of The Twilight Zone, bringing a freshness to the stories, and the inclusion of unfilmed or cut scenes is an added bonus. If you're a Twilight Zone fan you'll find these an entertaining complement to the original stories, even though some of the selected stories aren't perhaps the best of the show's run.

It's also a shame the 'top and tail' text material is similar across all four books -- I personally I would have preferred a little more on the making of the original episode than that supplied -- but this doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for these new versions of some classic SF stories. It will be interesting to see how the series develops over time.

• The first four Twilight Zone graphic novels are published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 16th February
Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone: The Official 50th Anniversary Tribute
is released in April 2009 from Barricade Books
More Twilight Zone on amazon.co.uk

Upcoming The Twilight Zone titles from Bloomsbury
Deaths-Head Revisited written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by Chris Lie (June 2009)
The Midnight Sun written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by Anthony Spay (June 2009)
The Big Tall Wish written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by Chris Lie (September 2009)
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? written by Mark Kneece and Rod Serling, art by Rich Ellis

Savannah College of Art and Design

ZineFest Focuses on Comics

Zine Fest, which takes place this Saturday in London, will include a new exhibition of women zinester's comics, curated by Melanie Maddison, editor of the Leeds-based 'zine Colouring Outside the Lines, which features interviews with contemporary female artists and illuminates various corners of current female artistic and creative activity.

Zine Fest, which runs from 12-4.00pm at The Women's Library, 25 Old Castle Street, London, is a hands-on day celebrating women’s involvement in self-publishing, bringing together innovative publishers, artists, illustrators and crafters. The event shares easy techniques for making zines and visuals and advice on publishing projects from those in the know.

The event includes a creative workshop by zine producer Red Chidgey on how to get started on your own zine, stalls, the chance to meet zine distributors and hang out with the finest female zine producers.

Included in the exhibition is work by creators such as Jess Bradley (who has created a mini comic just for zinefest to take away on the day) Lizz Lunney, Kate Evans, Liz Greenfield, Laura Stimpson, Sarah McIntyre, Rachael House, Lee Kennedy, Jackie Batey, Emma Welch, Susie Rumsby and many more. For images of some of the work that will be on display and all the creators involved, check out this post on Melanie Maddison's blog or the links list below.

The event is free but booking is required: all are welcome.

More info about Zinefest on the Zinefest web page including a full programme of events (PDF format)
Zinefest on MySpace

Creators in the Exhibition
• Lizz Lunney (www.lizzlizz.com) is a fab cartoonist who has published several 'zines. Some very funny cat jokes were published on ROK Comics.
• Charlotte Percival
• Sarah Lippett (crayonlegs.com/author/sarah) The other half of the British illustration duo, Crayon Legs
• Rosie Brice (www.rosiebrice.com) Illsutrator
• Karrie Fransman (www.karriefransman.com ) Draws "Stranger than Fiction"
• Erica Akerlund (www.erica.fi) Finnish animator and artist working in Bath.
• Lady Lucy (ladylucy.livejournal.com) alter ego of Lucy Woollett
• Flo Brooks
• Carolyn Alexander (www.carolynalexander.co.uk) Illustrator "who lives up a mountain in France"
• Kate Dickinson
• Jenny Linn-Cole (jennylinncole.myartsonline.com ) - Contributor to The Girly Comic. Crearor of Ghurka Trifle by the Sea
• Kate Evans
• Liz Greenfield (www.stuffsucks.com). Creator of Stuff Sucks (2004-2007) and Fancy Circumstances.
• Leonie O'Moore (www.lomoore.com ) Leonie describes herself as a "comic artist, illustrator, designer, writer, shark wrangler, intrepid explorer, professional ninja and fighter pilot."
• Carol Swain London-based, began creating comics with her self-published Way Out Strips in 1988. Her first graphic novel, Invasion of the Mind Sappers, appeared at Fantagraphics in 1996, who also published Foodboy.
• Tanya Meditzky (www.milkkitten.com) Creator of Milk Kitten
• Francesca Cassavetti (www.fabtoons.blogspot.com) Cartoonist behind A Very Nasty Solitary Habit and The Most Natural Thing in the World. Read an interview with her by Matt Badham on the Bugpowder site
• Isy Morgenmuffel (www.morgenmuffel.co.uk ) Illustrator and Columnist for Last Hours magazine. Her Morgenmuffel magazine covers the direct action scene, going on holiday and making cakes!
• Sarah Ray (www.sarahray.co.uk)
• Jeremy Dennis (www.alleged.org.uk/jrd). Founding member of Caption and small press publisher who also runs comics workshops
• Sally-Anne Hickman (www.cheesecomics.com)
• Laura Stimpson (www.laura-stimpson.co.uk) Co-creator of Lazy Soosan with Lucy Davidson. The two illustrators based in London and together they publish The Alphabet Series zines.
• Karoline Rerrie () An illustrator who makes art like this:. She did the album covers for Matthew Herbert’s ‘Doctor Rockit’ project and created X-Rated Animal Hospital which can be found at nursepussy.co.uk, a site we think must get many accidental visitors...
- Ellen Lindner (www.littlewhitebird.com) Cartoonist, writer and illustrator. Little Rock Nine, drawn by Ellen and written by historian Marshall Poe, was published last year by Aladdin Paperbacks
• Sarah Lynch
• Sarah McIntyre (jabberworks.livejournal.com ) draws Vern and Lettuce for The DfC
• Lucy Sweet won a Face magazine award for her self-published girl-mag cum comic Chica in 2004.
• Siobhan Bowers Writer, director and animator. Her The Instructional Guide to Dating is described as "essential for every modern girl and hipster guy to navigate through the turbulent modern dating scene".
• Rachael House Rachael's work includes producing her own series of comics, Red Hanky Panky. Her work has appeared in titles such as Girlfrenzy, Anything That Moves, Gay News in Ireland and Bi Community News.
• Lee Kennedy (crazycrone.livejournal.com) Lee describes herself as "a longtime alternative cartoonist/writer, still struggling away in her council block garret having nervous breakdowns."
• Jess Bradley (www.jessbradley.com ) has drawn a 'zine especially for the event. Her zines include Guide Dog Detective and Undead Luchadores.
• Heather Middleton (honeypears.livejournal.com) Heather produces a zine called Honeypears, which is mainly cartoons and the odd essay about history of girls comics.
• Jackie Batey (www.dampflat.com) Publisher of titles such as Future Fantastic and Running a Secret Society No.20, all available via her web site. Read an interview with Jackie on the V&A Museum web site
• Iro Tsavala was born in Athens and lives and works in the UK, where she is attending a course in illustration at the Kent Institute of Art & Design.
• Siobhan Britton (wigglymittens.livejournal.com) Siobahn's work has appeared in zines such as Wrap Yr Troubles in Dreams.
• Mireille Fauchon (www.mireillefauchon.com) Illustrator for, among other things, The Idler Magazine. Very much inspired by personal and local history, her work often plays upon the commonly felt anxiety to preserve and protect the recent past. View her work exhibited at the Royal College of Art show last year.
• Emma Welch (www.arcaderscomic.blogspot.com) Creator of The Arcaders, a comic based in an 1980's videogame arcade.
• Susie Rumsby (interwebscrapbook.blogspot.com) Co-publisher of the 'zine Enthusiasm.
• Kate Anderson (www.kateanderson.co.uk)

Tube Surfing: 20 January 2009


• On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration as 44th president of the United States, surely only a warped mind like The Guardian's Steve Bell could come up with a cartoon like this, published in yesterday's paper. Well, it made me laugh out loud... Art © Steve Bell, More Cartoons by Steve here

downthetubes' Jeremy Briggs has been doing a little digging into the mysterious trailers for the upcoming activities of London Underground Comics. "I searched on the 176 that LUC are referencing," he informs us. "There's a gallery space called 176 very close to Camden Market, were LUC used to be, which is open at weekends and has a cafe. It looks like the sort of place that would go for a zine fair style event..." Could this be what LUC are planning?

Beano and Fortean Times cartoonist Hunt Emerson has been in touch to let us know about some updates to his web site (www.largecow.com), including five new Phil Stamp Covers and two new Beano Poems in the Gallery and information about New Products he has for sale including Ancient Mariner Mugs, t-shirts and tea towels and his classic t-shirt design for that great band The Beat. You're invited to take a look!

The DFC's Faz Choudhury, creator of Dead Pets for the comic (and one of the artists involved in the web comic jam Huzzah along with Paul Harrison-Davies and others), has posted some early samples of the strip on his blog. "Before being given the go ahead to start, I did a sample piece to give a general idea of how the strip might look," he explains. "The characters changed a little from this initial piece, Frazzle the cat, in particular." Dead Pets is also being serialized in The Guardian - read episode two and three.

• (via Warren Ellis): Ben Templesmith is drawing a new Doctor Who strip, scripted by Leah Moore and John Reppion. "It's a one-shot comic from IDW," says Ben, who has posted some sample pages on Flickr. "It would make a cool tv episode if it weren't a comic."

• There's a new podcast interview with 2000AD and DC Comics artist Steve Pugh online via ComicBookPage. "It's the first time I've been interviewed over the phone, and I seem to have developed a charming girlish giggle," he notes on his blog.

• Talking of interviews, Forbidden Planet International has just posted one with Super Sam creator Darryl Cunningham (it's more than a year since FPI posted the very first Super-Sam and John-of-the-Night on the FPI blog), while Adam Cadwell, the main man behind the Manchester Comix Collective, has been interviewed by Bugpowder.

• Time for Werewolves! Part 3 of Frontier is now appearing in issue 33 of The DFC, available by subscription. Just as things were getting weird they now get… scary as werewolves threaten our heroes, Mitch and Daisy in this new strip by Andrew Wildman and Jason Cobley. More info at www.weirdwildwest.com

• And finally... here at downthetubes we were very sad to hear about the death of artist Tony Hart (read obituaries from The Telegraph, Guardian and Indpendent), an artist who inspired thousands down the years to pick up a pen or pencil and start drawing thanks to his appearances on shows such as Vision On and Take Hart. Many comics creators have paid tribute to him over the past few days. "He had a gentleness and kindness that you just don't see any more on TV," noted Jon Haward, while Gary Erskine says "He made drawing and painting and sculpting fun and encouraged a whole generation to explore their potential. Even cutting up paper was a marvel to watch and what he did with simple coloured chalk shapes still surprises and warms me."
"I loved Morph, and the Professor, but for me, it was always about Tony," says Rufus Dayglo. "He truly inspired generations of artists..and I'm certainly one of them."
"Hart managed to get a generation of kids picking up materials and making things, which gets you halfway towards being an artist," commented artist Michael Landy in The Guardian. "Who could replace him? None of the artists I know. Not one of us can draw like he could."
Lew Stringer noting that in addition to his many TV credits Hart was himself a comics artist, drawing strips for TV Comic in the 1950s, including Sooty and Packi the Elephant.

You can send your own tributes to Tony's family via his official web site

Sleeze Brothers Owes Much to Archie Goodwin

Over on his Elephantmen blog, Active Images' Richard Starkings has posted a fascinating insight into the history of Marvel UK's early attempts to publish US-style comics, which led to publication of titles such as Dragon's Claws and the about-to-be-remastered The Sleeze Brothers.

The launch of the first titles, Dragon's Claws and Death's Head appear to owe as much to Marvel US management's determination to remain Number One in any market as much as the oft-crushed enthusiasm and energy of the creators involved in the titles who not only include Richard, Simon Furman, Geoff Senior, John Carnell and Andy Lanning -- to name but a few -- but also US Marvel staff such as the late, great Archie Goodwin.

Richard details the long, tortuous road to getting Dragon's Claws off the ground and the background to the launch of The Sleeze Brothers via marvel's Epic imprint, a feat that owes much to Goodwin's support.

"At this point in the 1980's, comic creators on both sides of the Atlantic were looking for better treatment and better deals," Richard recalls. [Fleetway's] Crisis was offering creators ownership of their creations and I felt that Marvel UK should be offering that kind of deal too." Meeting Archie during a trip to London in 1988 for the UK Comic Art Convention, Richard pointed out that Watchmen had recently been a critical and financial success. "As Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins had all worked for Marvel UK in the early 80's, I argued that, had we treated them better, we might have been in a position to publish a hit like Watchmen.

"Archie was impressed by The Sleeze Brothers and offered to go to bat with management on our behalf... Archie spoke with management, management approved The Sleeze Brothers as an EPIC title. It was as simple as that!"

Richard also notes that while the recent release of a Dragon's Claws collection suffers from being culled from page scans (downthetubes sources telll us that the original film used to create the book was consigned to a skip along with a lot of other materials when Marvel UK left its Arundel House headquarters in London for Tunbridge Wells in the early 1990s), the remastered Sleeze Brothers will benefit from being based on scans of the original art tracked down by artist and co-creator Andy Lanning.

But Richard says the very possibility of a new Sleeze Brothers collection still owes much to Archie Goodwin, even though he sadly passed away in 1998 after a ten year battle with cancer.

"He remains an inspiration to thousands of creators in the comic book industry to this day," Ricard aclknowledges. "Archie taught me more about creator rights by his example than anyone before or since. There would be no Elephantmen without The Sleeze Brothers and no Sleeze Brothers without Archie Goodwin."

Read Richard's full post, titled "Archie Comics" here

Monday, 19 January 2009

Marvel UK Book Author seekes final imagery

Author Rob Kirby, who has been working on a history of Marvel UK since, well, the company folded back in the 1990s if not earlier (all right, I'm probably exaggerating but that's how it feels!), is on the hunt for some last visuals to help illustrate the book as it gets closer, at last, to being published.

"I'm having some really good success right now with my latest posts onto the usual haunts, but thought I ought to throw it open as wide as I can now that this really is all that there's left to find," he says.

There are just a few related visuals that he hasn't yet been able to locate. "You may think some of them, well, possibly a bit strange as non-Marvel items, but they all serve a purpose to support background info."

Things he's looking for are:

Introduction:
TV Action & Countdown #82 (cover).

Chapter 1:
• Stan Lee's How to Write Comics/Secrets of Comics (The cover to the book. "I can't quite recall the name of it right now," says Rob. "It's just to illustrate Stan's early work, so it's not referenced in the text that I could check the title from").
• Fredric Wertham Seduction of the Innocent cover.
• Thorpe and Porter price stamps (isolated B&W images).
Comics to Hold You Spellbound #1 (UK Thorpe and Porter cover).
Stories to Hold You Spellbound #3 (USA Atlas cover).
Mystic (early Len Miller cover).
Frankie Stein (upright figure from an early Smash! in an uninterrupted panel not intersected by other panels).
Smash! (early Marvel cover).
Pow! & Wham! (cover from a merged issue).
Smash & Pow incorporating Terrific (cover).
Eagle - Tales of Asgard cover (No. 21, Vol. 19/25th May 1968, for which Rob needs a full size image).
The Daily Herald (1963 newspaper cover)

Chapter 3:
• A Skywald magazine cover.
• Ray Wergan photo (early MD of Marvel UK in the 1970s)
Evening News and Chronicle (mid-1960s newspaper cover, and a sports page that Ray Wergan wrote).

Chapter 5:
TV Times cover, or listing for Planet of the Apes TV series from 1975.
Look-In - Planet of the Apes cover from January 1975.

Chapter 8:
My Love #19 (cover).

Chapter 10:
Derinn Comicollector (cover).
SuperDC (cover, and scan of the letters page).
Shiver and Shake horror Special (mid-70s cover).
• MAD UK -- Dez Skinn era original UK artwork cover.
• Jim Galton - 1978 photo.
• Paul Neary - late 1970s photo.
• A Portman magazine cover - from whichever title featured Man-Thing will do nicely!

Chapter 11:
• An ND issue of the Uncanny X-Men from 1979 (cover).

Chapter 14:
MAD UK #161 (Doctor Who cover).
The Celestial Toyroom (up to 1983 fanzine cover, for an issue edited by Gary Russell).
Doctor Who signing at a 1984 Westminster Mart (photos).
The Harrison Ford Story (cover to Alan McKenzie authored book).

Chapter 15:
• Paul Neary - 1981/2 photo.

Chapter 19:
• A front and back box photo to any of the first Transformers toys from the initial range.

Chapter 20:
• A front and back box photo to any of the first Zoids toys from the initial range.
• A front and back box photo to any of the first Action Force toys from the initial range.
Alternate Realities - USA comic suppliers advert around 1986 (and if advertising the UK Transformers and Action Force comics, then all the better).
• Combat Colin - post Marvel special.

Chapter 21:
• UKCAC '86 - Convention photos from the Marvel Ethiopian raffle.
• "Fast Forward" dummy cover (a long shot, but maybe somebody has it still).
• 'Crisis ˆ early Fleetway cover.

Chapter 22:
• David Lloyd - early 1990s photo.
• Vincent Conran - 1991 photo.

Chapter 24:
• White Dwarf - front cover and splash page to the early 1990's issue featuring Mark Harrison's "Travellers" strip.

Please send details of imagery you can help with to Rob Kirby rob_ak_38ATyahoo.co.uk

Bristol Comics Expo News

Michael Allwood, organiser of the Bristol Comics Expo, has been in touch to update downthetubes on this year’s event, which takes place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May 2009.

The event, which features the usual line-up of top British mainstream and indie comics talent will also see the publication of a special, limited edition DR & Quinch A3 print by Alan Davis, only available at the Expo; the launch of Self Made Hero’s Sherlock Holmes – The Hound of the Baskervilles by Ian Edginton and Ian Culbard; and Full Circle Publications will unleash their Full Cirkle and Thicker Than Blood Absolute edition Hardcovers.

The Full Cirkle Oversized Hardcover features Simon Bisley's artwork, available for the first time in a large absolute edition format containing a mammoth 168 pages of art.

While scaled down on previous years – a reflection of the current economic climate – the good news is that Fallen Angel Media (thefallenangel.co.uk) have stepped up to the plate to host a special Small Press Expo on the Saturday only at Bristol’s Mercure Hotel. A dedicated web site for this event will be going live in the next few days at: www.spexpo.co.uk

“Mal Smith of Fallen Angel is hosting a sister event as part of the Expo weekend where the Spotlight is firmly on Small Press,” says Allwood.

“With the main Expo in this credit crunching year downsizing, the chances for the small press were limited but a guardian (Fallen) Angel has swooped to ensure that the UK’s small press will once again be the heartbeat of the show.”

The Guest List for the Comic Expo so far includes Gary Frank, Alan Davis, Dave Gibbons, David Hine, Mark Buckingham, Lee Garbett, Mike Carey, John M. Burns, Mike Collins, Andrew Wildman, Andie Tong, John Watson, Emma Vieceli, Ian Culbard, Ian Edginton, Phil Winslade, James A. Hodgkins, Charles Adlard, Duncan Fregado, Sean Phillips, Rob Williams, Neil Edwards, Paul Grist, Gary Spencer Millidge, Henry Flint, Graham Bleathman, Tim Pilcher, Mike Conroy, Joel Meadows, Tim Perkins and Shaky Kane.

• Tickets go on sale 6th February, payment by PayPal only. See website (www.fantasyevents.org) for details. Costs: Adult Day £7.00, Weekend £12.00. Child Day £3.00, Weekend £5.00 (11 - 18 years ). Under 11’s Free.
Every Adult pre-purchase ticket holder will receive free of charge, the Comic Expo edition of Full Circle Publication’s 20-page preview issue of Mike Ploog's Thicker than Blood and Simon Bisley's Full Circle 2 to celebrate the Expo Exclusive launch of both books Absolute Editions at the show!
For ticket purchased you will also receive a free sample copy of the critically acclaimed The DFC.
The Convention Book will have a specially commissioned 15 Year of Vertigo cover by Eisner Award Winner Mark Buckingham.

Web Links
• Festival Web site: www.fantasyevents.org
Fallen Angel Media
For information on the small press event contact malATthefallenangel.co.uk for full details
Ramada Hotel, Bristol
Mercure Hotel, Bristol

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sleeze Brothers Return!

The Sleeze Brothers are back! Those anarchic, lunatic and downright shady PIs, the creation of John Carnell and Andy Lanning back in the 1980s, are being given a brush up (and probably, a good spanking) just in time for their 20th anniversary.

The return of the Sleeze Brothers is the work Comicraft's publishing arm, Active Images, which recently remastered David Hine's Strange Embrace for Image Comics and is currently digitally remastering The Sleeze Brothers on the occasion of the book's 20th anniversary.

The Sleeze Brothers, published by Marvel UK in the late 1980's under Archie Goodwin's Epic imprint, was the first (and, sadly, the last) creator owned monthly comic book published by Marvel's British operation. (Some strips published in the title Strip were creator-owned, but despite the best efforts of Dan Abnett while editor at the publisher, planned monthly books featuring them were never realized in favour of projects such as The Knights of Pendragon).

Created by John Carnell and Andy Lanning before, during and after their successful work on the weekly UK comic The Real Ghostbusters for latterday Marvel UK editor (and present day Elephantmen creator, Richard Starkings). "The Sleeze Brothers dared to be funny and a little off the wall in an industry dominated by straight ahead action adventure titles," says Richard today.

Who are the Sleeze Brothers? Well, imagine the bastard offspring of the Blues Brothers and Blade Runner and you're probably halfway there. El Ape and Deadbeat Sleeze have been described as the "wisecracking, dirtiest P.I.s in the Big Apple". They certainly aren't the quickest thinkers in the world, nor the most moral, but they stumbled their way through seven adventures with help from their digitally operated secretary/receptionist, Doris.

Despite building quite a cult following in a pre-Internet age, Marvel UK shelved the series after the sixth issue and -- but for a one shot and short story, Some Like It Fresh, published by Marvel US's Epic imprint and an appearance in a Doctor Who strip -- The Sleeze Brothers seemed destined to be fondly remembered but largely forgotten until the rights reverted to Carnell and Lanning in the late 1990's.

Under the auspices of John Carnell and Andy Banks' Foof Productons, a series of short web cartoons are currently in development (the first directed and scripted by John) and so John and Richard decided the time was right to re-present, and re-master, the original series.

Digitally remastering involves Comicraft's Secret Weapon, John JG Roshell, deleting the lettering from the scans of the original artwork and performing a little digital art restoration so that Ace Colourist, Gregory Wright, can colour the complete art before Richard Starkings adds the digital lettering. (There have been some problems with doing this, as Richard himself relates on the Elephantmen blog...)

The Sleeze Brothers debut in an eight-page prologue in Elephanthmen #16 published by Image Comics this February and feature on a 'flip' cover of the issue (above).

In addition to the Sleeze Brothers animations, John, whose credits also include a graphic novel adaptation of Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and has for the past few years working on film scripts, has revealed Foof Productions also plan to launch another animated series, Animentals, for mobile phones. He's also working on a children's trilogy, The Dingbats, the story of a bunch of dysfunctional homeless bats fighting to save their village sanctuary from ruthless developers.

It's great news that the Brothers are on their way back. While the humour might be offbeat and not to everyone's taste, the characters still has a fan following to this day, and there was such a buzz about this project in the Marvel UK offices when the book was first launched and both John and Andy were -- and still are -- some of the most enthusiastic advocates of comics I can think of.

Those of you who head to your comic shops in February and can't find this new incarnation might need to look out instead for this stunning "A side" cover to Elephantmen #16, surely a reason to buy the comic for that alone...

Sleeze Brothers Check List
(1989-91, Epic/Marvel Comics)

• Issue 1: Nice And Sleezy
• Issue 2: Reel To Real
• Issue 3: The Big Leap
• Issue 4: Murder In Space
• Issue 5: Down In The Sewer
• Issue 6: The Maltese Egg
The Sleeze Brothers: Some Like It Fresh - one off issue for Epic
The Sleeze Brothers: Saturday Night Special - short story published in Dave Elliot's A1 anthology for Epic.
• The Sleeze Brothers also appeared in Follow That Tardis a strip published in Doctor Who Magazine #147 in April 1989
• The original six-issue series was also collected by Marvel UK in 1990 as The Sleeze Brothers Case Files.
An early version of The Sleeze Brothers animated show is on YouTube

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