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Friday, 6 March 2009

Saturday Morning Watchmen!

Saturday Morning WatchmenIf Alan Moore is annoyed about the new Watchmen film, just wait until he sees this -- although, actually, this hilarious Saturday Morning Watchmen, the creation of British animator Harry Partridge, is the kind of parody he might just like...

Since it was first published on top Flash portal NewGrounds the film has been watched by over 143,00 people. "It was created for as a piece of work to be sold off to a certain company but I wanted to keep the rights to it, and I have done," Harry says, who admits to being "chilled" that over 100,00 people have heard him singing his 'Watchmen theme tune'. "Sometimes you gotta go with your gut.

"This combines two huge passions of mine, one being the comic genius that is Alan Moore and the other being kids programming from the late 1980s which I would say is my biggest animation inspiration.

"Believe it or not, one of the first ever things I ever animated/programmed was a crappy side scrolling Rorschach game where you go around beating up street punks. It was not only a f****** awful game but totally and unironically misinterpreted the source material. I would like to think I've grown somewhat since then but here I am, five years later, doing exactly the same thing! Perhaps just a bit more knowingly..."

You'll find more of Harry's work here

Some 500,000 unique visitors visit the Newgrounds site.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Watchmen Reviews Round Up

In the absence of getting to the film myself yet -- is it really worth putting up with modern cinema goers habits like texting on their mobiles, talking through the film and having the bladder control of fleas to bother? -- here's some clips from a selection of reviews so far for Watchmen, which is released tomorrow in the UK...

UK Reviews...

Empire
"Okay, it isn’t the graphic novel, but Zack Snyder clearly gives a toss, creating a smart, stylish, decent adaptation, if low on accessibility for the non-convert..." (4 Stars)

The Scotsman
"The strengths of the film are the strengths of Alan Moore: ingenious, psychologically resonant stories full of breathtaking images and set pieces. Watchmen isn't an empty husk like The Spirit or a cinderblock piece of myth-making like Dark Knight. The character flaws extend to erectile dysfunction for one superhero; when it turns out that he just needs to beat someone up beforehand, Watchmen shows him conquering his problem to the tune of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'..."

US Reviews

Associated Press: Watchmen Almost Too Faithful to the Book
"
At almost three hours, Watchmen tries to cram in nearly everything writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons originally depicted, but then the ending feels rushed. (And it's slightly different. That's all we'll say.)"

Boston Herald: What A Long, Strange Trip
"A superhero “Doctor Strangelove,” softly murmuring the line, “Hello darkness, my old friend,” into our ears, the long-awaited, deservedly R-rated Watchmen arrives, and the hills are alive with the sound of fanboy geekgasms. But at 2-hours-plus, it’s a long, noirish, misanthropic slog through the dank pop-culture dungeons of creator Alan Moore’s mind..."

The Edmonton Sun
"Although the performances range from thoughtful (Wilson) to misguided (Matthew Goode as Ozymandias), the standout here is Jackie earle Haley as the fascistic, uncompromising Rorschach, a seedy avenger whose obsessions would give Bruce Wayne the willies..."

Gizmodo: Is Ozymandias Steve Jobs?
"The movie may not be the comic book, but I loved Watchmen. Great eye candy, awesome soundtrack, and it's packed with pop culture references—and some of those made me think that Ozymandias is Steve Jobs..." (Great montage to support this theory...)

Houston Chronicle: Watch out — superhero flick is over the top
"... The tale of outcast vigilantes in a rotting alternate America was never “unfilmable.” The question isn’t whether Watchmen could be turned into a movie. The question is, should it? And judging from Zack Snyder’s garish, uneven and excessively cruel interpretation, I’d say no..."

The Los Angeles Times
"Alan Moore was right. There isn't a movie in his landmark graphic novel "Watchmen" -- at least not a really good one. What we get instead is something acceptable but pedestrian, an adaptation that is more a prisoner of its story than the master of it."

The New Yorker
"The bad news about Watchmen is that it grinds and squelches on for two and a half hours, like a major operation. The good news is that you don’t have to stay past the opening credit sequence -- easily the highlight of the film..."

PopCandy
"Watchmen isn't a feel-good superhero story, and Zack Snyder's version is definitely not for kids. It's bloody, bullet-riddled and raw... I think the best thing to come out of the renewed Watchmen hysteria is that it may introduce/reintroduce thousands of people to comics. And, for that, I'm willing to sacrifice a squid."

Rolling Stone
"Even if you don't see Snyder's version, which has its problems, it won't kill you to peek at the comic book that Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof called "the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced. As for you Watchmen junkies, enough with tearing down the movie before you even see it... [Alan] Moore recalled his four years of toil on the 12-issue DC Comics series as "slam-dancing with a bunch of rhinos." That description also fits watching the movie, which stumbles and sometimes falls on its top-heavy ambitions. But there are also flashes of visual brilliance and performances, especially from Haley and Crudup, that drill deep into the novel's haunted soul..."

The Seattle Post Intelligencer
"Fans of the critically acclaimed and enduringly popular 1986 graphic novel Watchmen should be pleased with the eye-filling, slavishly faithful, long-time-coming film version that opens today and threatens to become the first true movie event of 2009. In many ways, it's right on the money... On the other hand, in paring down the novel's complex structure and dense tapestry, so much of the characters' backstories and the setup of its alternate universe have been lost that it's hard to imagine how anyone completely unfamiliar with the book could possibly make much sense of what's going on. (B+)

The Seattle Times: Watchmen" has the power to stupefy
Watchmen, the latest adaptation of a superhero fantasy, is literal, tiring — and much less fun than Dave Gibbons' graphic novel. Review by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

The Toronto Star
"It's not family entertainment, but this comic adaptation will satisfy fanboys and newcomers... If there's a guiding philosophy for this motley sextet of vigilantes, philosophers, thrill seekers and latex fetishists, it's that they're in it mainly for themselves." (3 and a half stars out of 4)

More Watchmen Coverage...

The Indpendent: Watchmen returns: The 20-year struggle to bring a cult classic to the big screen

Alan Moore on Writing, League and Watchmen

In a new interview for Salon.com that, like other news media features such as this one in The Independent, notes Alan Moore's absence from the credits of the Watchmen movie despite being the comic's co-creator, the Northampton-based writer talks extensively about his numerous projects and approach to his work, addressing, among other things, the infamous length of his scripts.

Moore of course wants nothing to do with the Watchmen film, and is quoted as saying "I will also be spitting venom all over it for months to come", according to a report this week in The Indpendent. "I met Terry Gilliam and he asked me, 'How would you make a film of Watchmen?'. And I said, 'Don't.' I think he came to agree with me that it was a film better unmade."

Revealing the manuscript for his long-awaited novel Jerusalem now runs to some 750,000 words, Moore, currently working on comics such The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen says the length of his scripts seems to be "getting worse" - the actual manuscript for the third volume was something like 250 pages for each 72-page chapter.

He was as taught by people like Steve Moore and other British comic writers that if you fully visualize the scene for the artists, then that would be sufficient to inspire the artist to do a picture that they otherwise might have not intended.

"Even though the readers will never get to read those pages of description that I cram into my stories," he says, "I'd like to think that they will still get the benefit of them because the artist will have translated those pages of often vague and rambling instructions into a concise picture.

"I found that it pays to pay attention to all of the little details," he adds. "In the latest League [of Extraordinary Gentlemen] I've gone through the trouble of rewriting a number of Bertolt Brecht's songs for "The Threepenny Opera." I didn't think it was fair game to take Brecht's songs and reproduce them, because if I'm getting paid to write this thing, I should be writing all of it, so instead I reworked all of the lyrics of the songs throughout the narrative, which is a lot of trouble, but it's also quite a lot of fun and adds to the finished product."

Talking about the original Watchmen comic, Moore says he never thought at first that it might prove so influential. "We thought we were just doing an interesting twist upon the superhero story," he says, "and it was only around about issue three when we suddenly realized that the way that we were telling the story was becoming very interesting and multi-layered with a lot of new things that we had never done before. At that point perhaps we did start to have high hopes for what the book might achieve -- maybe naively we thought, "Once everybody has seen Watchmen, this will open the door for other people to free their imaginations up and do equally progressive works that will take the medium into countless other directions.

"But that isn't the way the culture tends to work..."

Read the salon.com interview, which also covers Lost Girls and Killing Joke, in full here

Captain Britain Podcast News


It's the start of 'classic heroes' month on Strip!, the fab radio show and podcast presented by Alex Fitch. This week, Alex is talking to two of the creators of stories featuring Britain's very own superhero - Captain Britain.

First in front of the microphone is Alan Davis, the artist and writer of the strip who first drew the square-jawed hero in the 1980s for Marvel UK, and. together with help from writers Dave Thorpe, Alan Moore and Jamie Delano, rescued the character from oblivion with esoteric storylines, a great supporting cast and a terrific new costume.

Alex also talks to author Paul Cornell about his recent revamp of the character in the new Marvel Comic Captain Britain and MI13 which sees the Captain get a 21st Century make-over while encountering such nefarious characters as Count Dracula and Gordon Brown!

Later, Alex talks to Paul about dramatising Iain M Banks' novella The State of the Art for the afternoon play which is broadcast later today on Radio 4 (Thursday 5th March), which featuresa cast including such luminaries as Anthony Sher and Patterson Joseph. (More info here on the Radio 4 web site: the play is part of Radio 4's excellent SF season which includes an adpatation of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama and John Christopher's Death of Grass).

Strip!: Captain Britain by Alan Davis and Paul Cornell airs at 5.00pm on Thursday 5th March, repeated 11.30pm on 8th March on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) and streamed at www.resonancefm.com. An extended podcast after transmission can be found at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

Micro Clear Spot: State of the Art Adaptation airs at 7.30pm on Saturday 6th March on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) and streamed at www.resonancefm.com. An extended podcast is online now at www.sci-fi-london.com/audio

Tune in for Channel Evil!

Channel EvilRenegade Arts Entertainment have released more information about Channel Evil, a stunning black and white title from the fevered imaginations of Alan Grant and Shane Oakley, which launches in April.

Co-published with Belfast-based Berserker Comics, publishers of The Dead, the fourt part limited series is decribed as "Alan Grant's imagination unleashed without any corporate compromise."

The story follows Jez Manson, a local TV chat show host ready to exploit everyone in a bid to make the big time. After watching a successful medium channel a benign spirit, Jez invites her on his show, ready to ridicule her for cheep laughs an a few headlines. But Jez is persuaded to try channelling himself. Full of scorn Jez agrees, planning to fake it, but it turns out that Jez is a natural and finds himself channeling Baal, an ancient source of evil.

Trying to laugh the whole thing off, Jez is unaware that he has opened a door for Baal to exploit and return chaos and destruction to the world. Jez finds his dreams full of twisted nightmares that share too many details with the next days news reports.

But the channelling show has made the national news and Jez could be on to the big time. Persuaded to channel him again on live TV, Jez knows deep down he's on the edge of the abyss but the lure of fame and fortune is too strong. What will he unleash this time?

"The idea originally came to me while I was reading a book by a guy who had formed a 'channeling' group to contact the spirits of the dead," says Alan of the story. "I did some research and found that, although it's ignored by the mainstream media, channelling has a huge audience all over the world.

"I wondered what would happen if, instead of channelling one of the boring spirits who advocate peace and love, somebody managed to channel the spirit of some long-forgotten scion of evil.

"I used to own a flotation tan: it was soundproof, and totally dark. Once, when I was in the tank, I was thinking about a Batman story I was working on, which featured a villain known as Cornelius Stirk. Stirk suffered from severe mental illness, which he 'treated' by cutting the still-beating hearts out of his victims and then consuming them. The thought suddenly flashed through my mind: 'This is what I do for a living...and it's evil!'

Immediately, and to my terror, a disembodied voice said clearly: 'You think that is evil? I can show you what evil really is!' Chills ran up and down my spine. I broke out in a cold sweat. I was out of that tank faster than a ferret up a drainpipe!

"When I'd calmed down and thought about it, I realised that - whatever the reality of what had happened - it was a brilliant base on which to build a story. I hope it frightens readers as much as it terrified me."

Blackpool seafront as it appears in Channel Evil, art by Shane OakleyShane Oakley was always in Alan's mind when writing the story, and his unique style is perfectly suited to the beautiful and terrifying people and events Alan has created.

"Alan has written a dream script for me, and truthfully I'm drawing the best art of my life," says Shane of the project. "I'm pouring my heart and soul into this story and it shows... although working on a story this steeped in horror might well send me over the edge and down into the depths of dark madness."

Shane recently reported he was on the final leg of inking up Channel Evil #1, "and also on my last legs; eternally laid up, tired, undernourished, muttering in tongues, screaming at blank sheets of paper, drooling, hallucinating, giving it up, not giving it up, loving drawing, hating drawing. Am I coming? Am I going? Not sure. But I've put every ounce of what I've got into this book, and I'm hoping it will show." Judge for yourself on his blog, where he's posted several character designs and panels, including this spooky shot of Blackpool sea front.

Channel Evil #1 will be on sale in all dark and scary comic shops across the UK and elsewhere in April.

Renegade Arts Entertainment is the creation of Alexander Finbow, Alan Grant and actor Doug 'Pinhead' Bradley, and was formed in December 2007 to create comic books, horror movies and audio books, animation, and sci fi and fantasy projects.

Currently based in the UK, Renegade has just opened a subsidiary studio in the Canadian Rockies to work more closely with North American talent and to oversee a large feature length animated movie.

The classic horror strand Doug Bradley's Spine Chillers features award winning dramatised movies of works by HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, and the audio books are currently available to download from audible.com and will be launched in stores and on Amazon in April.

Alan Grant has been interviewed about Channel Evil on Horror Comic Book News

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Comic Book Alliance Petitions Government

A petition to the British Government to clarify new legal powers which may impinge on comics creation and fandom has just been launched, urging the Prime Minister to ensure that the future of the medium of Comic Art in the UK is not endangered by The Coroners and Justice Bill or The Criminal and Immigration Act 2008.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 came into effect in January 2009, and Section 49 of the Coroners and Justice Bill is currently being reviewed. Critics say both of these Acts could impact on the creation of comic books and how they are sold, and both have the potential to land innocent people in court, on the sex offender register or in jail.

From 26th January 2009 it became illegal for anyone in England and Wales to possess an "extreme" image, even if the activity itself is legal. While the Act has rightly been brought in to address obscene and degrading imagery prevalent on parts of the Web, critics fear that as with other regulation, its interpretation is open to the same kind of abuses that have been fought in the US by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. (This 1996 comic illustrates how the other parts of the Criminal and Justice Act law has been interpreted by the police and used against football fans, way before the new revisions came in).

Among others raising concerns, Amnesty International, Liberty, leading adacademics and human rights lobby group Justice form a long list of people and organisations concerned about the reached of the proposed "extreme image" laws, particularly because of the vagueness of what constitutes an "extreme image".

During the period the law was being drawn up, Parliament's joint Human Rights committee were very unimpressed by the Ministry of Justice's definitions in this Criminal Justice bill.

"Individuals seeking to regulate their conduct in accordance with the criminal law cannot be certain that they will not be committing a criminal offence by having certain images in their possession," the Committee argued. "We look forward to the Government bringing forward an amendment to make the scope of the new offence more precise."

The Government did not do so.

Alex Dymock, of pro-porn pressure group Backlash, says the law will do more harm than good. “It's infantilising women and sets men up as rapists and this does nothing for gender relations," she argued during an interview for the Reading Evening Post.

“Some fairly innocent images are going to be liable for prosecution with this law and I don’t believe it will save any lives."

In response to wide-ranging concerns, the newly-formed Comic Book Alliance is challenging the Prime Minister and the government as a whole to respect the concerns of artists, writers, publishers, readers and retailers all over the UK and include a specific clarification in the law that ensures that no innocent comic creators or owners of comics can ever be prosecuted unfairly by a mis-interpretation of the current laws.

By comics, the Alliance mean all forms of the medium, including newspaper strips, web comics, Graphic Novels and serial comic books either imported or UK produced.

Naturally, the issue of indecent images is highly charged and many creators who've been prepared to discuss the issue remain uncertain that the Act will indeed result in problems for the industry.

But there are wider issues. James Graham, Campaigns and Communications Manager of Unlock Democracy (www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk) is also concerned by a worrying culture that is developing within the police. He cites the use of another law, Form 696, Section 27 Orders and the decision to confiscate the War on Terror Boardgame and the recent example of an artist being arrested for taking photos in Elephant and Castle for being an "unacceptable security risk."

"There is a pattern forming, as Henry Porter has been chronicling in the Observer over the last few years," he argues in a post on the downtheubes forum. "A few years ago, this sort of police harassment was limited to unloveable political demonstrators, youths and suspected terrorists who just happened to have brown skin. They have been notably beginning to cast their net more widely recently.

"Put it this way; you may be satisfied that there is nothing in your collection produced "solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal" but would your local police necessarily agree with you? How would you like your home or local comic shop raided as a test case? How will the Daily Mail react? And subsequently, what sort of chilling effect would three or four such raids have on publishers and retailers? My concern is that these new laws are a green light for the authorities to try it on."

• View the Petition at: petitions.number10.gov.uk/Protect-Comics
Comic Book Alliance web site

The Bills in Full

The Coroners and Justice Bill
The Criminal and Immigration Act 2008

Organizations
Backlash

Press

Reading Evening Post: Law Won't Save Lives
The Register: Evil Cartoon Badness
www.comicshopvoice.co.uk/

Tube Surfing: 4 March 2009

• This is the 1500th Post to the downthetubes blog! Some sort of milestone. downthetubes itself has been going in varied forms since 1999. Special thanks to all our contributors, old and new!

• Erik Salholm has just posted a short interview with Kane and Jack Staff creator Paul Grist in which the creator talks more about his new comic, Eternal Warrior, which is now online. “Each story needs a different approach," he sasy of the styling to the new strip. "I think my ‘style’ is distinctive, without being the same regardless of the story. I'm trying to work my way through different story genres - humour, crime, superhero and now fantasy (for want of a better word) - eventually I'll find something I'm good at!”

• Tony Lee's MILF Magnet hit stores in America today. "It's out from Moonstone, and people who have read it think it's quite funny," he says, "But then they're not allowed out much, and when they're in their rooms they scream a lot. It's a story that Moonstone offered to me a couple of years ago with the line 'You might want to write this under a fake name' and has one of my favourite lines of dialogue ever in it..." Tony was interviewed last year by The Pulse about the project here.

• Belated birthday wishes to Ronald Searle, veteran British cartoonist and comics guy, who was 89 yesterday...

• Manga expert and former Titan Magazines co-worker Jonathan Clements reveals he is now avalable in podcast form, courtesy of the people from the Right Stuf, who interview him on their latest Anime Today show about anime, manga, and the difficulties of getting Chinese waiters to sing Help Me Rhonda.

• (with thanks to Eddie Campbell): Just found Larry Latham's fab web site Lovecraft is Missing, which not only features his eponymous, gorgeous comic that he both writes and draws, and has been running since last August but a host of other visual goodies, too. The colouring on the pages is by Eric Lee (who has his own web strip here) and Tony Johnson.

Hope Falls Trade in the Pipeline

Hope Falls, the five-part miniseries that AAM/Markosia released in 2007/2008 is, hopefully, to be released as a trade paperback, depending on trade orders through comic shops.

The title is an enigma. In many ways, it's known as the 'little train that could', beating all expectations and finishing 2008 as one of the few monthly creator owned books not from Image, Dark Horse or IDW that actually made it to the end of its run, gathering critical acclaim from fans, reviewers and even fellow professionals in the process.

Telling the story of Helen Gane, a small-town waitress who, twenty years after she is murdered and buried in a shallow grave returns to the town, seemingly alive and having not aged a day, Hope Falls weaves a tale of supernatural vengeance and of religious conspiracy.

Helen's reason for returning is simple - she's here to claim back a debt of vengeance on the three men who in their various ways allowed her to die that cold evening two decades ago - and the one man, McClusky, who performed the deed.

And some debts can only be paid in blood.

As the bodycount rises, you discover that not only is Helen a free-falling Angel, plummeting towards Hell, but that another Angel, Michael has arrived in the town of Hope Falls with an intent of stopping her bloodthirsty revenge - for there is a secret tied into her murder that runs back all the way to Jesus Christ, and Heaven won't allow her killer to die just yet.

As Helen learns the true reasons for her murder, Michael learns of an Angelic conspiracy in Heaven and McClusky calls in a Voodoo priest to save his soul. And Hope Falls as a town will never be the same again as every secret hidden for twenty years come together in an explosive conclusion. Will Helen be able to kill all of her personal demons - including a man beloved of God? And what happens when she tries? Will the killing change her - or stop her?

Created by writer Tony Lee (Doctor Who, Spider Man, The Prince Of Baghdad, 2000AD, Midnight Kiss) and artist Dan Boultwood (Dopple Ganger Chronicles, Phonogram: The Singles Club, The Prince Of Baghdad, The Gloom) and with stunning painted covers by Szymon Kudranski (Scatterbrain, Zombie Cop, 30 Days Of Night), Hope Falls is a tale that has been described as The Crow meets Twin Peaks, and writer Tony Lee has on many occasions named it as "The best book I have ever written."

For over a year now, fans of the book have asked Markosia when Hope Falls would be released as a trade, but due to the ever changing economy, the release date has always been tentative. Until now.

"This is a great year for Tony Lee," Harry Markos, publisher of AAM/Markosia explained. "With his announcement as the ongoing writer of Doctor Who for IDW and his upcoming Graphic Novel with us - Harker, Tony is going to exceed all expectations. And with Dan finally gaining credit with his Phonogram work and his stellar art in G.P Taylor's The Doppleganger Chronicles, we decided that no matter what, we had to find a way to release this book."

But the release has not been easy, as Diamond Distribution has altered the way that comics, especially from smaller publishers are submitted.

"We have to sell about 400 copies through Diamond to show that this is a book they want to work with," Harry explained. "Now this might not sound much, but with many people buying the book through places like Amazon, and with retailers only buying smaller publisher titles on demand, there's a very serious possibility that we might only sell below Diamond's cut off point, and we might find that for all this work, the book gets cancelled. So we need as many sales as possible, to ensure that this classic story gets out there.'

And Markosia are eager for all retailers and readers to see a taste of what they could be missing if they let Hope Falls pass them by.

"We're sending a free copy of one of the comics issues to every UK comic shop this month," Harry explained. 'Unfortunately we can't do this through Diamond US as well, but what we can do is provide a taster of the series - anyone who goes to our MyEBook site will find, online the entire first issue for free. No strings attached."

"If you're a fan of this series, we ask you to order this book from your local store - the code is MAR094036: HOPE FALLS TP - and tell your friends, your local store about it. Ask them to order an extra copy for the shelf. We even have a Facebook group created by Tony and Dan - go and join, and show your support."

One creator who has shown his support is Australian comics artist superstar Ben Templesmith who, after reading the comic while in London in 2008 agreed to write the introduction for the collected trade.

:Ben sent me an email saying 'Man, that was awesome.'" Tony Lee explained. "And he also said that Dan's artwork was stunning. And it is. Dan was nominated for an Eagle Award in 2008 because of this work, although confusions in the committee dropped him off - but he deserved to win for the work he's done here. It truly is big leagues."

"With an industry dominated by 'Big two event books', Hope Falls is a story that deserves to be read by more than just the people who managed to find the comic," finished Harry Markos. "And it will only get out there if the retailers know about it. So tell your retailers. Pass this to your comic news sites. Post this on your blogs, on your message forums. Let's make sure that somehow, Hope Falls gets the attention and acclaim that it deserves."

Hope Falls: The Collected Edition (with introduction by Ben Templesmith) will be available in May 2009. It is in the current Previews under AAM/Markosia.
• For more information on Tony Lee visit www.tonylee.co.uk
• For more information on Dan Boultwood visit www.shedmanor.co.uk
• For more information on Szymon Kudranski visit www.szymonkudranski.com

DFC Up For Sale

Sad news for British Comics: David Fickling's wonderful weekly subscription comic experiment, The DFC, is up for sale, following a decision by The Random House Group to cease publication.

If no buyer is found, the title will close on 27th March, ending with Issue 43.

Launched as a weekly, subscription-only comic in May last year, David Fickling and his team have every right to be proud of the comic they created with the help of a host of brilliant comic creators ranging from 'big names' such as award-wining author Phillip Pullman and Garen Ewing to lesser-known but quickly-recognized talents such as James Turner and Sarah McIntyre.

"It's been a hard couple days for everyone involved," comments Sarah on her LiveJournal, which has resulted in a huge number of responses from fellow creators and DFC readers saddened by the news. "E-mails have been flying and phones have been ringing," she reveals, "mostly contributors expressing how sad they are about it, but also saying what a wonderful thing The DFC has been, how we made some amazing comics, some great friends, and that we will always be proud of it.

"I'm not looking forward to the inevitable flock of British naysayers, those guys who sit around on internet blog sites and say 'I told you so'," she added. "Yes, David Fickling took a huge risk with this comic. But he also started up a lot of careers in comics that are going to go far and got us really excited with his enthusiasm and dedication. And I respect him so, so much for that, and want to say that I am proud of him and fond of him and I hope the rest of the comics community will be supportive to all the people who put so much of themselves into this project."

Philippa Dickinson, Managing Director of Random House Children's Books said: “We are very proud of The DFC and the reaction it received from families, schools and especially the children who have enjoyed reading it. It is an innovative concept which we have been very happy to back. There can be no successes without taking risks, after all.

"Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, we have decided that The DFC is not commercially viable within our organisation.

“David Fickling, the staff at The DFC, and all the comic’s contributors have worked tirelessly to produce what is an amazing weekly publication and we would be delighted if a buyer could be found who would like to take The DFC on as a going concern.”

Restoring the Form

Back in September last year, publisher David Fickling, in part enthused with a desire to restore British Comics to a time when they did not almost entirely depend on the latest hot license, told downthetubes he had high hopes for the project, which utilised the networking and marketing opportunities afforded by the Internet previously unavailable to comics publishers.

"By using the Internet, you can market and reach everybody, more or less, and to enable your potential audience to receive the product directly and spread word of mouth about it in a very natural and experience-based way," he said. "It's a good way to reach people.

"This doesn't mean I'm not interested in selling it The DFC in shops: far from it," he added. "I'd love to sell it in shops and it will, eventually, it's just the order in the way things have to be done to make this work. It's a more practical way of starting the comic off, in way that's sustainable.

"The DFC is also a primer for something bigger in many ways, which for me is the restoration of the form," he enthused. "It's not about being clever and being Internet only as a gimmick. It's a river down which we can flow."

Creators Praise The DFC

I'm sad but not completely surprised," says Dead Pets creator Faz Choudhury, whose comic for the title was running in The Guardian but had yet to appear in the comic itself. "It's always a big risk trying something new and different, and starting up a new children's comic in the UK is not an easy path especially if you avoid the shiny plastic toy with free comic TV tie-in mentality that is all pervasive in children's comics these days.

"I'm sad that the Dead Pets won't get to appear in the comic itself, I was looking forward to being in there along with all my fellow DFC buddies. On the positive side, I was lucky enough to get to write and draw my own twenty-four page comic strip, have it published in The Guardian and get paid for it! I'm very lucky to have had that opportunity."

"It's a real shame that it's ended so soon," says James Turner, creator of the title's Super Animal Adventure Squad which has been running in The Guardian recently, "but it's been an absolutely fantastic experience and I'm really proud of what everyone at The DFC has achieved."

"It's a very sad day," agrees Frontier artist Andrew Wildman. "Sad times but David Fickling and the team should be acknowledged for creating the most significant children's comics publication since who knows when. In spite of its relatively short run (although 43 issues of anything is amazing these days) it will be held up as an example of what is possible. Its existence and passing has created a space for amazing new possibilities.

"David stood up and demonstrated what can be achieved and I think that that is how it will be remembered," he added. "All those amazing characters are now 'real' in the world rather than just 'good ideas'. Thats the difference between those that wish for something and those that have the courage to see it through."

Paul Harrison-Davies is disappointed he may have to seek a new home for his new strip, AstroDog, which was being lined up to appear in The DFC. "It was a wonderful comic," says Paul. "Getting in from work on a Friday and seeing it on my table gave me a nice comfortable feeling that I'm really going to miss."

"A real shame, since it's the most positive comic creation to come out of the UK in the last twenty years," feels comic creator David Hailwood, one of several creators who'd been pitching to the title. "I'd hoped Random House's clever internet sales strategy would protect them from the recession, but unfortunately not. At least they've brought forth a wealth of talented creators to the public eye; let's hope they find a way to stay there!"

Indeed so: let's hope we haven't seen the last of Frontier, Mirabilis, Super Adventure Animal Squad, Mo-Bot High or any of the other wonderful comic strips The DFC has featured so far.

Crab Lane Crew by Jim MedwayCrab Lane Crew creator Jim Medway would concur with that. "Maybe at some point in the future there will be collections of some of the featured strips, and possibly even a new comic in another shape or form, but as it stands now this abrupt cancellation cuts off many serialised stories, some of them only a few episodes in, so I feel for those creators particularly," he notes on his blog.

"Crab Lane Crew will be just three episodes into a planned 12 forming Season 2 - I've drawn half of these, and am sure I'll complete the set, but not at the moment."

"While really depressed that this brave venture hasn't been able to gather the momentum and subscriptions it deserved, I'm proud to have been amongst all the other creators, and feel grateful to the editorial team for the opportunity and their honorable treatment of those slaving away on the drawing boards and computers," he also says. "My own competence has come on leaps and bounds thanks to their encouragement, enthusiasm and deadlines."

Subscription Issues

While no-one doubts the quality of The DFC's content and creative team however, the title was not without some logistical problems. Longtime British comics fan and DFC subscriber Lew Stringer, reports he had several problems getting his copies of the subscription-only title, which he has not mentioned online until now because he wanted nothing but the best for the title but ultimately meant he cancelled his sub. "The first 25 issues were impressively bang on time, every Friday morning," he notes. "After that, things started to go wrong, with renewals not starting with the issues they should have, copies missing, and subscription confirmation emails not arriving. Other subscribers I've spoken to experienced similar problems, which makes me wonder just how widespread this problem was and how many subscribers it cost them.

"I would have been happy to support The DFC every issue, but when too many glitches started hitting the subs, and the momentum of the serials was lost, I decided enough was enough.

"The final straw was the 'four issue' promo over Christmas that only delivered three issues, to me at any rate. I gave up on the comic after that.

"The quality of The DFC's material was very high, and it was great to see such a diverse range of strips in one comic," he, like others, acknowledges. "Although at times I felt the material was a bit too diverse. For example, having a joyfully innocent strip such as Vern and Lettuce and a dark, creepy strip such as Mezolith in the same comic made The DFC a tad schizophrenic." (Read Lew's full analysis - comparing the title with past comics such as 1980's Oink! - here)

• We hope to have more on this as the story develops - stay tuned. Several of The DFC's creative team, including publisher David Fickling, are members of the downthetubes forum -- why not join up if you haven't already, or stop by and wish them well?
Read the September 2008 downthetubes interview with David Fickling
Visit The DFC web site

BBC’s Culture Show Celebrates 30 Years Of Viz

It almost sounds like a headline that the staff of Viz made it up for their comic but BBC2’s Culture Show travelled to Gateshead for the Tuesday 3 March programme. While there, as well as taking in Yoko Ono’s exhibition at the Baltic, presenter Lauren Laverne nipped across the river to Newcastle Upon Tyne to talk to Viz co-creator Chris Donald and visited the title’s offices to talk to artists Simon Thorp and Graham Dury.

For those who missed it the programme is available on BBCi player for 7 days and can be downloaded and retained for 30 days. The Viz item is first in the running order and lasts about 10 minutes.

The Culture Show on BBCi Player is here.

The Viz website is here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

176 Festival Secrets Revealed!



Those comic-creating, no-holds-barred devils at London Underground Comics are back for 2009 with an epic event at London's fantastic 176 Art Gallery in Chalk Farm on Saturday 27th June, from 12 Midday until 7.00pm.

Playing host to over 40 creators from around the country with live music, a cinema screen showcasing animation reels and visual DJing, this 176 comics event -- its location cleverly exposed by our very own Jeremy Briggs back in January, despite LUC's careful teasing as to its exact nature -- promises to be a great day out for the whole family.

There will be free entry for the public and there are 20 (very large) exhibitor tables available which the LUC team are hiring out at £10 for half a table or £6 for a quarter meaning space for between 40 and 80 creators. These amounts are subject to a discount if creators help publicise the event. "We want small pressers from all walks of life and areas of the country," urges organiser Oli Smith. "We want webcomics, autobiography, political, funny, fantasy... you name it, we want it!

Gosh! Comics shop in London have kindly offered to sponsor the festival and exhibitor space is already a quarter full after two days since the official announcement of the event.

• For more information on how to book tables and to keep up to date on the event, visit: http://londonundergroundcomics.com

Project Space 176 is on Prince of Wales Road, London, NW5 3PT. Not only is this place a grand converted church but it’s also two minutes walk from three pubs and a Wetherspoons... surely a perfect venue for the vast majority of comics creators!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Tube Surfing: 2 March 2009

• The Century 21 hardbacks -- TV Century 21 and Lady Penelope comic collections lovingly put together by British publisher Reynolds & Hearn (see news story) featuring art by the likes of Frank Bellamy, Mike Noble and others -- are now available for pre-order from their website (www.rhbooks.com).

Stickleback artist D'Israeli (aka Matt Brooker), currently working on a new project, Lowlife: Creation, has been discovering an old dog can learn new tricks thanks to an old book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way - funnily enough, a book I regularly recommend to aspiring artists, not talents like Mr D!

• Artist Andrew Wildman tells us there's an exhibition of art from his Frontier comic, which is running in The DFC at present. The exhibition is being held at Jaffe&Neale Bookshop in Chipping Norton and will run until 24th April. On 28th March Andrew and writer Jason Cobley will be at the shop answering questions and signing copies of The DFC.

• No comic strip in this mag, but a quick plug for the latest issue of the really bizarre title The Chap, which features a fab feature on steampunk and a chap's guide to Doctor Who, "maddest of all scientists". Plus, Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore tackles The Chap questionnaire. If you think you might be a Chap, send them a photograph and they'll assess your Chappist credentials and may feature it in the mag. There are some comic creators who definitely qualify...

Caption 2009 will be happening on Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th August at the East Oxford Community Centre in erm, Oxford. Mark your diaries now!

• Congratulations to former 2000AD editor and flat mate David Bishop (no, we never had Tharg round for tea), who has just penned his 40th issue of The Phantom, and completed the first draft of a talking book project for Big Finish. He says he can't reveal any more details about the latter job yet, "but it proved to be more fun than I'd expected."

• Rufus Dayglo has moved house and finished a Tank Girl cover for Judge Dredd: The Megazine. How organised is that?

2000AD artist Cliff Robinson is featuring the pencils and final inks of a 2007 Judge Dredd story he did with Mike Collins on his blog. "Mike and I had talked about working on a strip together for years and it was good to eventually team up with him on this Dredd story," he reveals. "I had an absolute blast working over Mike's blue line printed pencils ( I also had photo-copies of the 'normal' pencils for reference). We've also just recently finished collaborating on another Dredd strip which was just as much fun."

Matt Badham points us to Guardian cartoonist Tom Gauld’s work is now up to browse at your leisure on Flickr. Ace!

Warren Ellis reports that Angel of Death, a tv series for the net written and created by Ed Brubaker, starts today over on the Crackle web site. A new seven-minute episode every weekday for the next two weeks.

• Do you live in the North East and make comics? If so, comic artist, illustrator, shark wrangler, intrepid explorer, professional ninja and fighter pilot Leonie is keen to make contact with small press or self publishers. Contact her via her blog and spread the word. (Some of the description for her may not be true, but you'll have to visit her main web site to find out which at: www.lomoore.com.

• And finally... there's a review of Rian Hughes Yesterday's Tomorrows collection from Knockabout on Hipster Dad, praising the Dare strip but noting The Science Service script by one John Freeman "left me a little cold, as though it was waiting for a good deal more meat and background before letting readers embrace it..." Hey! I wrote that over 20 years ago. I think I'm a littel better now!

Tales of the Buddha: A Wasted Gem (Among Others!)

• Classical Comics and Panini artist Jon Haward has a new blog, Haward Art House, where he's posting many a splendid piece of art from his burgeoning and impressive portfolio, including this cartoon featuring his Tales of the Buddha character that features in Alan Grant's very funny, over-18s only Wasted comic, which is about to re-launch.

The team sent downthetubes a copy recently, and Jon and Alan's strip is just one of the highlights as the would-be religious icon tries to find the right religion to hang his hat on.

Wasted Issue 1 comes wrapped in a cover courtesy Frank Quitely: the comic is the brainchild of Jamie Grant (propietor of Hope Street Studios and digi-inker/colourist on All Star Superman) and award-winning writer Alan Grant.

The varied comic strips and artists involved in Wasted include:

"TALES of the BUDDHA"
Drawn by the aformentioned Jon Haward, a long-time Spider-Man artist.

"WACCY BACCY RACES"
Juan McGarcia used to paint Judge Dredd under the pseudonym Xuasus. He is now a top animator, having worked on some of the decade's biggest animated movies.

"WAR on DRUG$"
Gibson Quarter is a young Canadian artist fast making a name for himself. This is inked by Jim Devlin and coloured by Derek Dow.

"SPLIFFY the STONER CHICK"
John Short is one of the UK's best-known and most successful independent comics creators. His Vietnam war comic is a classic of the genre.

"The FUN GUYS - They Crash Parties"
Alan Burrows has drawn Dan Dare, Judge Dredd and many others and the Fun Guys have crashed several other comics and always proved a hit.

"REX the SNIFFER DOG"
By Steve Samson, once the regular Judge Anderson artist and who painted many a stunning Overkill cover for Marvel UK, now working in computer games. Hoodies is by his friend Charles Gillespie, also a one-time Anderson artist, now Creative Director for a computer games company.

"HELL's BELLES"
Largely the brainchild of Dave Alexander, creator of The MacBams, Scotland's answer to the Furry Freak Brothers. Hell's Belles is inked by Colin Barr. Jim Devlin (The Dopranos) inked the War on Drug$ strip and also works as a colourist for DC Comics.

"The DIRTY DOG"
Drawn by Simon Bisley, one of the UK's very top artists - as if folk here needed telling. He painted the first, sell-out Judge Dredd/Batman crossover, and the first ground-breaking LOBO mini-series. Simon now works mainly for Hollywood as a concept artist, but is currently working on a new zombie comic with Alan.

"LUSI SULFURA"
Alan Kerr, alias 'Deadboy' is fast making a name for himself in Glasgow's incredibly hot art scene.

“BLACK CAPE”
Written by Fraser Campbell and drawn by Iain Laurie is Watchmen meets The Boys from the Blackstuff. Beautifully coloured by Derek Dow.

"FAST as F***"
Dave Taylor is a long-time collaborator with Alan Grant on Judge Anderson and Batman: Shadow of the Bat.

It's a great comic if you're a fan of the Furry Freak Brothers, and there's a gloriopus patrick Troughton-inspired Doctor Who parody that has to be seen to be believed!

• More about wasted at: www.wastedcomic.com

Space Age Exhibition on Tour


You know how these things happen when you're surfing the 'net. While researching some imagery for a comic strip I'm working on with Ross Dearsley, completely by fortuitous accident I came across information about a touring exhibition organised by the V&A Museum of Childhood named Space Age: Exploration, Design and Popular Culture.

Currently at Truro's Royal Cornwall Museum until 19th April (this museum being what I was actually looking for at the time), this major exhibition explores people’s fascination with space, and how that fascination has influenced popular culture, from literature and comics to film, design and merchandising, including toys.

To help exhibition visitors explore the relationship between reality and fantasy a range of real space objects are displayed together with classic space-inspired designs and childhood objects,hoping to show the reality of how space exploration has developed and how space fantasy and science fiction worlds have been created in people’s imaginations.

The development of the exhibition was assisted by a "Scientist-in-Residence" originally funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (now the Science and Technology Facilities Council). The exhibition also features online learning resources and some venues offer space-related teaching sessions, along with a series of family events (e.g. planetarium shows, popular science talks, rocket making workshops, etc) supported by the Institute of Physics.

Tour Dates

Royal Cornwall Museu, Truro
Until 19 April 2009
City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth
9 May - 26 July 2009
Bradford One Gallery, Bradford
15 August - 1 November 2009
Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton
21 November 2009 - 7 February 2010
South Shields Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne
27 February - 16 May 2010
New Walk Museum, Leicester
6 June - 29 August 2010

Read more about the Space Age on the V&A web site

Crikey! scores with new Creator Interviews

The ninth issue of British comics magazine Crikey! is on sale now in all good comic shops and via its web site (www.crikeyuk.co.uk), featuring interviews with Enrique Romero on his Axa and Modesty Blaise newspaper strips, V for Vendetta and Kickback artist David Lloyd (who recently announced he had contributed to a new French anthology of war stories, Words Of Stars, see his official news page for more information) and a feature by 2000AD co-creator Pat Mills focusing on grils comics creators such as writers Gerry Finley-Day, Jenny McDade, and Misty and Tammy artist John Armstrong.

While there are some gltches in the production of the 52 page black and white 'zine and some 'padding' features that would have been better left on the Internet (such as Derek Wilson's Memory Lane), as cartoonist and British comics expert Lew Stringer notes on his ever-excellent blog, it's a step up from past issues in that the articles feature commentary 'from the source' when it comes to the history of British comics, rather relying on second hand material which Crikey! has been panned for in the past.

"Overall, Crikey! is improving," argues Lew, "but it sometimes depends too much on hazy memories as a substitute for facts." (Read Lew's review of the issue here)

Crikey! costs £3.99 in shops and by PayPal online. A UK subscription to Crikey! costs £15.96 for four issues, Overseas Surface mail (anywhere) subscription £22, Airmail (Europe): £23.33, Airmail (United States of America/Canada/Australia)£28.00. See www.crikeyuk.co.uk/sub.html for details of current and back issues.

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