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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Tube Surfing: Saturday 28th March 2009

• British comics creator Sean Michael Wilson, whose recent credits include writer for Classicial Comics upcoming Canterville Ghost (out in November) and Sweeney Todd (out next year) adaptations, has become, we believe, perhaps the first British creator to have a comic on Japanese mobile phones (comic strip on mobile is known as Keitai manga in Japan).
"A Japanese language version of my Lafcadio Hearns Japanese Ghost Stories book is now out in Japan, in two formats," Sean, who lives in Japan, told downthetubes. "As an e-book and an edition for mobile phones. Both formats are big business in Japan." More on this story on our dedicated Mobile Comics blog

Eddie Campbell has posted a snippet of an interview with Alan Moore from back in 2000 in which he talks about his take on what happened to Big Numbers, whose never-published third issue surfaced on e-bay in January, albeit only as photocopies (see news story). Alan seems to clearly have wanted to try again with the project with issue 1, but also recognizes the impracticalities of that. "I don't see any way that I can resurrect it as a comic strip," he told Blather.net. "I mean, what do I do? Do I actually sort of say "Yeah, we've got a great new artist, are we going to start from #1 again but this time, no, buy it, because this time we really will get to issue #12." I mean, I wouldn't buy that if I heard it from somebody who'd kind of failed twice to do what he said he was going to do." Eddie also thinks he's uncovered art from #4, featured in this post on his blog.

• Talking of Alan Moore, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has transcribed and kindly sent us a draft copy of his wide-ranging interview with the comic creator, scheduled to feature on the Forbidden Planet International blog soon. It's a doozy, with plenty on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen including plans for the next tale to centre on a group of superheroes, projects such as The Bumper Book of Magic, his novel, Jerusalem and confirms that a new Bojeffries Saga, which is being right now by Steve Parkhouse, is in the works and will be released as part of a collection of al the Bojeffries strips!

DFC contributor Sarah McIntyre has offered a bit of 'Vern and Lettuce' back story on her LiveJournal, and tells us an Oxford Literature Festival panel on Saturday 4 April about the project is still going ahead. It should a chance to ask questions of David Fickling and several creators (Robin and Lorenzo Etherington, Sarah and John Aggs) what happens next... All participating children will receive a free copy of The DFC. More info here

• (via Kasterberous): How do you know if you’re in a parallel world? This week’s issue of Doctor Who Adventures, out now, is a parallel worlds special. Discover what happened when a sinister fortune teller made Donna rewrite history in last year’s episode Turn Left. You can also find out about all the weird alternate realities in Doctor Who – and learn how to see if you have strayed into one by accident. The issue comes with a free set of badges and a model time watch as worn by companion Donna.

• With Accent UK's 2009 graphic anthology Western now available (buy a copy now), Lee Robson has decided to indulge in some some shameless self-promotion for the the strip A Fistful Of Steam Valves (by him and Bryan Coyle) which features in the very pages of that book and featured a couple of the story's steampunk designs on his blog.

• And finally... London-based publisher NoBrow has released its first book, Gods and Monsters, and is running an exhibition in May of some of the art. More info here. The diverse contributors were hand picked for their unique styles and all were invited to generate work based on the theme. Some are up and coming, others are plucked from unexpected places, but as you'll see if you follow some of the liks below, all are talented: Dave Taylor, Alex Spiro, Sam Arthur, Jordan Crane, Emiliano Ponzi, A. Richard Allen, Jens Harder, Reuben Rude, Benjamin Guedel, Eda Akaltun, Matthieu Bessudo, Caspar Williamson, Toby Leigh, Alex Bland, Ben Newman, Nick White, Stuart Kolakovic, Sarah King, Leah Hayes, Paul Blow, Bjorn Rune Lie, Brett Ryder , Carl Johanson and Blexbolex.

(Compiled with thanks to Matthew Badham, Sarah McIntyre and Pádraig Ó Méalóid)

Friday, 27 March 2009

Tube Surfing: 27 March 2009


• This weekend sees the opening of the touring Doctor Who exhibtion in Glasgow’s superb Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with costumes, props and more from the revived series going on show from this Saturday through to January 2010. Forbideen Planet International's blog reports the opening weekend is completely sold out in advance, a mark of just how popular the return of the show has been that it can command sold out audiences even when its off the air.

Adam Grose has posted new episodes of his strip The Dragonfly on the Clown Press web site. "Hopefully this should put me back on track with my own personal deadline," he says. Adam is still working away on his Supernatural tale, too although he confesses he slipped a bit on that deadline a little too. "Thankfully I have some holiday coming up soon to help!" Catch Dragonfly here: www.clownpress.com/5.html

• Paul Birch reports the Giant-Sized Band-Thing, the four-piece rock band featuring comic book creators, will be playing a corporate gig as part of anniversary celebrations for comic shop Infinity & Beyond in Telford, Shrewsbury on Saturday 28th April. The band features Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead, Green Lantern/Green Arrow) on drums, Paul H Birch (Dead Ahead, Gumby Comics) on bass, Liam Sharp (Gears of War, Testament) on lead vocals, with Phil Winslade (The Brave & The Bold, Daredevil) on lead guitar. More info here

• In addition to the UK Web and Mini Comix Thing this weekend, Bugpowder reports Mile End London is host to another one-day comics event. Schmurgen Con promises to be in "uncompromising style" Schmurgen is known for.

• Steve Holland has a great tribute to the late Jose Casanovas, whose artwork appeared in 2000AD, Starlord, Starblazer and elsewhere in the UK, who died on 14th March, only a day after the death of his countryman, José "Pepe" González. Although he only occasionally drew Judge Dredd, he became associated with another denizen of Mega-City One, Max Normal, whom he drew for various editions of the Judge Dredd Annual in the early 1980s. Much of his UK work here was one-off strips, mostly for 2000AD, but he also drew half a dozen longer stories for Starblazer, amongst them the Mikal Kayn adventure "Supercop" (1988). With his son (also called Jose Casanovas), he drew "Sam Slade Returns" in 1991 and was one of the regular Robo-Hunter artists until 1993.

Dave Gibbons was interviewed over on wharf.co.uk earlier this month, but we've only just found the link. "We tried to ask the questions that hadn't been asked in comics before," he told the site of the origins of Watchmen. "I think that at that time comics had become rather formulaic and there were certain things you'd just accept. If someone got powers they'd just become a superhero and go off and fight crime. We were asking 'If costumed heroes were real, why would they really do it?'."
David also maintains his commitment to the comics form today. ""There's something elemental about the comic book," he feels. "In many other storytelling media, it's quite difficult to get your vision across." Read the full interview

• Another interview that almost slipped by is one in The Times with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen artist Kevin O'Neill. He talks extensively about the upcoming volume, Century. "Alan and I were born in the same year - 1953," he reveals, expanding on the pair's love of detail in the title. "We both read the same comics as kids and we were both big fans of the Beano and the Dandy. They were full of detail and full of background in a way the modern versions are not. I also read Mad paperbacks... Mad had great guys working for them - Bill Elder, Wallace Wally Wood - who would layer in so many other points of humour into the background, so many things that you could go back and read and reread. There was so much to soak up. You would want to try it yourself. Those early influences did play a part. I gives me pleasure including those details."
GOSH London will be hosting a signing with Moore and O'Neill as soon as the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book Century: 1910 arrives. Problem is, they're not sure exactly when that will be so they can't settle on a date for the signing just yet. It will be late April/early May. Ish.

• And finally... It seems the new film, The Damned United, set in the 1970s features a classic comic, The Wizard in one scene - but some critics were unable to distinguish it from The Eagle. Here's a clue -- The Eagle wasn't being published at the time the film was set....

Scottish Uni Launches Comic Writing MA

Edinburgh Napier University has announced a new MA course in creative writing aimed at aspiring computer games and graphic novel writers.

The one-year postgraduate course, part of a range from the University's School of Creative Industries, has been created by former 2000AD editor and The Phantom writer David Bishop and former literary agent Sam Kelly and starts in September. It will include guest lectures from leading writers, including Ian Rankin, Mark Millar, Denise Mina, Alan Grant, James Moran and Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman. A Writer-in-Residence is also part of the course, yet to be announced.

Crime writing and science fiction will also be part of the syllabus, but not poetry.

"We're embracing the kinds of creative writing that get ignored or patronised by other courses," says David. "We've already had a fistful of applications and marketing has only just begun. There's been a steady stream of people coming to see us at the Craighouse campus in Edinburgh, eager to find out more.

"We're offering something different from the usual mix of literary fiction and poetry on other creative writing MA course - and it's proving popular."

School of Creative Industries web site

Howard Chaykin on Board for BICS

Legendary comics creator Howard Chaykin, creator of American Flagg, Time2, American Century and more is the latest overseas guest confirmed for this year's British International Comic Show taking place in Birmingham in October.

With a career spanning four decades, Chaykin's earliest work includes Ironwolf in the science fiction anthology title Weird Worlds for DC and Dominic Fortune, (inspired by his Scorpion character, originally drawn for Atlas Comics) for Marvel. Cody Starbuck, published in the anthology title Star Reach, was one of the first independent US titles of the 1970s.

He also worked on Heavy Metal and drew a graphic novel adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, and produced illustrations for works by Roger Zelazny.

American Flagg! first appeared in 1983, published by Chicago-based First Comics. He then updated and revamped The Shadow in a controversial but strong-selling four-issue mini-series for DC Comics in 1985. It was this book that arguably established him as a major creators in US comics, although his dedicated fans had been following his work for years.

These books were followed by titles such as graphic novel series Time2, described by Chaykin as one of his favourites among his own output, DC Comics character Blackhawk and his controversial but high-selling Black Kiss, a 12-issue series about sex-obsessed vampires in Hollywood published by Vortex Comics containing explicit depictions of sex and violence.

Chaykin's vast body of work also includes the three-issue prestige format mini-series Twilight, drawn by José Luis García-López, radically re-vampimg some 1950s DC Comics science fiction characters such as Tommy Tomorrow and Space Cabby; Cyberella, a cyberpunk dystopia written by Chaykin and drawn by Don Cameron; and an Elseworlds comic, Batman: Dark Allegiances which he wrote and drew in 1996. More recently, his work includes titles such as the three-issue mini-series Pulp Fantastic for Vertigo, pulp-adventure American Century with David Tischmann, set in post-war America, gangster vampire Bite Club and more. Currently artist on Punisher War Journal, he recently signed a deal to revive Supreme Power for Marvel.

Outside comics, his film and television work includes Executive Script Consultant for the CBS The Flash television series and the action-adventure series Viper. He was also part of the creative team on Mutant X.

Asked how he would like to be remembered, he once said, "I'm a cult figure. I never became a star, and I'm comfortable with that."

"We're thrilled that such a visionary and prolific creator will be joining us this year for our annual celebration of the medium," says BICS co-coordinator Shane Chebsey, adding that UK guests confirmed for the weekend event include Alan Davis, Charlie Adlard, Duncan Fegredo plus many many more.

• To find out more about BICS 2009 at Birmingham's ThinkTank over 3-4 October visit: www.thecomicsshow.co.uk where you can also book tickets for the show.

Bryan Talbot in Preston This Weekend

Top comics creator Bryan Talbot is paying a visit in Preston on Saturday night (28th March) at 8.00pm at The Continental pub.

"It’ll be a bit like one of the old SF group meetings," says Bryan, referring to Preston's popular SF community meetings of the past.

Bryan will be talking about his pioneering work in comics and graphic novels, focusing on his hit graphic novel One Bad Rat. The talk is part of The Continental’s regular series of lectures and talks on controversial, topical and fascinating subjects and Bryan will also be launching an exhibition of his work in the snug.

• Admission to the event is just £3. The Continental Pub is in South Meadow Lane, Preston. Telephone: 01772 499425. Web Site: www.newcontinental.net

• Find out more about Bryan at his website: www.bryan-talbot.com

Justice Bill Petition: Opposition Mounts

Concerns about Britain's Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 which came into effect in January 2009 and Section 49 of the Coroners and Justice Bill which is currently being reviewed in Parliament are growing among comics creators and fans, with over 360 signatories to an online petition voicing concern about the legislation.

As we previously reported, both of these Acts could impact on the creation of comic books and how they are sold, both have the potential to land innocent people in court, on the sex offender register or in jail. Campaigners are asking that the Prime Minister and the government as a whole 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 misinterpretation of the current laws.

These laws actually extend to any form of image making (paintings, sketches, doodles, etc) and not just the comics media, so everybody will be effected by it. The government wants to legislate that any drawing they deem "inappropriate" is tantamount to the same laws as a photography, thus preventing anyone from drawing certain things.

If ever there were "thought crime" laws, these are it, argue campaigners, who have now formed the Comic Book Alliance to raise awareness about the issue as well as promote British comics.

"It needs some sort of clarification of what would come under it," says comic creator and Clown Press publisher Adam Grose in an interview for politics.co.uk. "It needs plain English and not such an open interpretation. Once it becomes law it's suddenly up to the police – although obviously the CPS make a judgment on it. But unless you know where you're standing you've got be very careful.

"It really hit me when they mention books by Alan Moore like The Lost Girls or Watchmen. People have even talked about how [2000AD's] Judge Dredd might be affected. It's highly unlikely, but then it might affect what editors will accept."

"This is a very serious and dangerous act that is being pushed through Parliament," feels Tim Pilcher, author of Erotic Comics. "We need to educate the public about this.

"If we don't stop this now we will have thrown away a huge freedom of expression. This is the thin end of an enormous wedge. The consequences of which could ultimately be a government deciding what is "approved art" and what is banned, which sounds a lot like 1930s' Germany to me."

• Sign the petition: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Protect-Comics
• The Comic Book Alliance has been set up to promote this campaign as well as British Comics:
www.comicbookalliance.org.uk
You can write to your MP via WriteToThem.com

• What do you think? Discuss this issue on the downthetubes forum
• For a complete look at the new law, visit the official site

• For further comments see:
Coroners and Justice Bill: the most toxic law ever?
www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/19/evil_cartoon_badness
Mark Lawson commented on these proposals in The Guardian way back in May 2008
"Professor Sapient" outlines the issues in considerable detail here, also noting censorship elsewhere - more food for thought

DFC Strips Continue Online


Sadly, today, Friday 27 March 2009, sees the last issue of David Fickling's innovative weekly subscription-only comic - The DFC - at least in its current form.

Despite its demise -- unless Random House have found a buyer -- there is some good news. First, with The DFC ending at Issue 43, the editorial team are well aware some of the strips have been cut off in their prime, much to the dismay of loyal readers. Luckily the remaining episodes of Monkey Nuts, Bodkin & the Bear, Donny Digits and Spider Moon have been put online for all to read and enjoy. View them at The DFC website.

The DFC web site, confirming Issue 43 is, for now, the last issue, also suggests that award-winning author Philip Pullman's strip, John Blake, will return in some form. "The Mary Alice and her crew has vanished into the mist again for now, but we’re sure she’ll reappear somewhere soon, so keep your eyes peeled"

SciFi strip Spectrum Black by Robert Deas, which started in Issue 38, is appearing online at www.spectrumblack.com and Dave Morris and Leo Hartas have started a blog to complement online promotion for their beautiful-looking Mirabilis adventure (more info at www.mirabilis-yearofwonders.com).

There's more good news, too. The comic creators, writers and artists who were brought together by this exciting project have gathered together for a new venture - the Super Comics Adventure Squad!

"The DFC isn't dead," says Garen Ewing. "David Fickling and his inspiring team brought into this world something new and exciting, something that is just too good to disappear back into the ether. So until it finds its place again, the creators who found a home under the covers of The DFC (both published and nearly published) have come together under the guise of the Super Comics Adventure Squad.

"Despite the Economic Woe, it is still an exciting time for the medium of comics and this blog will act as a hub for some of the best in British graphic storytelling talent, a place where you can keep up with what they're doing, all in one place, and where they will post news, events, sketches and comics, with links back to their own websites where you can see and learn more."

The blog already features a small archive of posts to view, written over the past week as the team got ready to go live, including, for instance, some of the concepts that nearly became DFC strips (and may yet find an outlet somewhere else).

Despite this good news for keeping the DFC's talented creators in the spotlight, loyal readers will miss the title. "Molly and I are obviously really sad to see it go, since it’s introduced us to many, many great strips and many, many great writers and artists," says advocate and parent Richard Bruton. "It’s definitely succeded in making Molly a proper comics fan for which I thank it. Before the DFC she was, like many children I’d imagine, rather more interested in what piece of plastic crap was attached to the front of the comic or magazine, but the DFC changed that... it was a valiant attempt to do something different, something better." (Read his full tribute here)

• Check out this new incarnation of The DFC's spirit at: supercomicsadventuresquad.blogspot.com

• You can keep in touch with your favourite strip makers through their websites or by writing to them Care Of The DFC, 31 Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2NP. Here's some web site links: Neill Cameron (Mo-Bot High), Jim Medway (Crab Lane Crew), Dave Shelton (Good Dog, Bad Dog), Sarah McIntyre (Vern and Lettuce), Jamie Smart (Fish-Head Steve), The Etherington Brothers (Monkey Nuts), Jason Cobley (Frontier), John Welding (Will Scoggin's Skull), James Turner (Super Animal Adventure Squad), Wilbur Dawbarn (Bodkin and the Bear), Laura Howell (The Mighty M), Kate Brown (Spider Moon), Gary Northfield [Little Cutie] and Simone Lia [Sausage and Carrots]

• A group of readers are trying to raise funds to stage a 'subscriber' buy-out of the title and have launched a blog to chart the progress of the campaign at: savethedfc.blogspot.com

Richard Bruton pays tribute to The DFC here on the Forbidden Planet International blog

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Alan Moore's Unpublished Big Numbers #3 Discovered on eBay


Comics collector Pádraig Ó Méalóid and documenter of Alan Moore's prestigious career has turned up a remarkable find -- art for Big Numbers #3 -- on eBay.

Big Numbers is an unfinished comic book series by Moore and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, described by Moore as a potential magnum opus. Two issues, of a planned 12, were published in 1990 by Moore's short-lived imprint Mad Love. However, the detail involved in the series was so intense that Sienkiewicz had problems keeping up the workload, and withdrew from the project after two issues, replaced by his assistant, the teenage Al Columbia. After working on the artwork for the next two issues, Columbia also withdrew from the series for reasons that remain unclear. Big Numbers #3 and #4 were never published, and the series remains unfinished to this day.

In January 2009 Padraig bought Issues 1 and 2 and a "Rare Unpublished Xerox Alan Moore" on eBay for the princely sum of $49.99, the lot described as "a set of black-and-white Xeroxes of the unpublished third issue of Big Numbers, with art by Al Columbia, Sinkiewicz's assistant, who had been scheduled to take over the project... This is a MUST for Moore fans."

"I decided that it was at least worth investigating, and bought the item," says Padraig. "If the worst came to the worst, I thought, it would at least be an interesting thing to have, whatever it turned out to be."

To his surprize the lot did indeed prove to be art for the unpublished third issue, whose script has been part of the 4ColorHeroes archive for some time. He's now posted the work in full on his livejournal, together more background to the find.

"Everything I know leads me to believe that this is a copy of the unpublished third issue of Big Numbers, and I genuinely didn't believe it existed, and certainly never expected to actually see a copy, led alone own one," he says. "Even Alan Moore doesn't have a copy, to the very best of my knowledge, which in this case is considerable, as I decided to specifically ask his permission before I posted this here. He is happy for it to be made available to the world, so here it is."

Read Big Numbers #3 on Padraig's LiveJournal

The Trouble with Twitter...




(With thanks to Ron Callari) You can catch SuperNews!, which this sketch is part of, on the CurrentTV website at this link: http://current.com/topics/76254232/supernews/new/0.htm

Diggle Signs For Marvel

As rumoured a couple of weeks back, former 2000AD editor and top writer Andy Diggle has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics and will soon begin a run on Daredevil, and a Hawkeye mini series, Dark Reign: Hawkeye, starts next month.

Daredevil has been written most recently by Brian Michael Bendis and more recently, Ed Brubaker.

"Brian’s run ended with a fantastic cliffhanger," Andy noted in an interview on Marvel.com, "namely, Matt Murdock exposed and in prison - and Ed’s been gracious enough to leave me with an equally provocative starting-point for my run.

"Obviously, I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it’s a pretty challenging set-up that cuts to the core of what defines Matt Murdock, and Daredevil, as a character. It’s pretty crazy! It’s gonna get people talking, no question.

"...The challenge for me will be telling a story that’s distinctly Daredevil yet still feels fresh and new, without simply re-treading what’s gone before," he added. "Staying true to the character and the spirit of the series, while still being able to shake things up and subvert expectations. That’s always a fine line to navigate. But like I say, Ed’s leaving me with a hell of a cliffhanger, and exploring the ramifications of that new status-quo is going to take us to some very dark and interesting places." Read the full interview

Diggle, whose credits include Thunderbolts, Hellblazer, The Losers and Green Arrow: Year One as well as being a former editor of 2000AD, refused to be drawn on who will draw the book in an interview for Newsarama’s Matt Brady, although rumours are flying that it could be 2000AD artist Jock.

Diggle says Frank Miller's run on Daredevil is his favourite ear of the comic and "If I had to choose one story in particular it would have to be Elektra Lives Again. What an amazing book. Just beautiful, heartbreaking, and technically brilliant. I love the use of Catholic imagery there; the fact that Matt’s this haunted character, always running to try and catch something just out of his reach; and I love the fact that it’s so terse, so visually driven, with almost no exposition.

"I think the character’s physicality really lends itself to that kind of visual storytelling," he argues. "You don’t need pages of dialogue to show Matt’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders; you can see it. We get it."

Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1, out next month, written by Diggle and drawn by Tom Raney, poses the question: how can one move instantly jeopardize the entire Avengers legacy? Norman Osborn knows and has something planned – something big! He appoints a new team of public do-gooders to replace the original Avengers, bringing the psychotic Bullseye, known to the media as Hawkeye, into the game. What else is Norman scheming? And how long will it be until the public realizes that Hawkeye is actually a crazy assassin?

• Andy's official web site: www.andydiggle.com

(Please note, we know Jock also has an official web site but every time we visit, it freezes our browser, we think because of some javascript on the home page. We'd like to tell him, but we can't get to his contact page!)

Alex Maleev Strips


Strip!: Daredevil by Alex Maleev and Alex Irvine
Classic heroes month continues on Alex Fitch's radio show and podcast Strip!, which airs on London'd Resonance FM, with a look at the red-suited vigilante Daredevil - blind lawyer by day and superhero by night, soon to be written by former 2000AD editor Andy Diggle, who has just signed an exclusive contract with Marvel.

Trying to break the record for the largest number of people called Alex in any one episode of the show, Alex Fitch talks to the Bulgarian artist Alex Maleev who, with writer Brian Bendis brought the periodical back to the forefront of Marvel Comics’ line in an award winning four year run on the title in the mid 2000s.

Alex also talks to novelist Alex Irvine whose anachronistic reimagining of the comic - Daredevil Noir - starts next month and combines the Chandleresque storytelling of Frank Miller’s iconic run on the title with the look and feel of classic Film Noir, relocating the adventures of Matt Murdock to Hell’s Kitchen in the 1930s…

• Strip! airs at 5.00pm on 26 March, repeated 11.30pm 29March on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com with an extended podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

In Review: Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens
A
dapted by Jen Green
Art: John Stokes

Colourist: Jason Cardy


The tale of Pip, Miss Havisham, and the spiteful Estella, retold with fresh enthusiasm...

No, you haven't been transported to an alternate dimension where downthetubes reviews literary fiction and the entire team smokes clay pipes around a roaring fire and ruminates on the work of John Donne and Charles Dickens. This really is a review of Great Expectations -- the glorious, beautifully realized graphic novel brought to life by the Classical Comics team.

I have to confess that until now, my experience of Great Expectations has been confined to BBC Sunday serials and the 1946 David Lean film. I have read Dickens' Oliver Twist at school and some of his other works, such as Christmas Carol and The Signalman, but in terms of actually getting to grips with the original novels, I've been sadly lax.

I'm pleased to report, then, that John Stokes serves up an interpretation of that "original text", adapted in style by Jen Green, with confident aplomb, delivering page after page of beautiful, detailed and lovingly rendered art, perfectly complementing Dickens' story. Without wanting to detarct from the equally enjoyable work Mike Collins did on Classical Comics version of A Christmas Carol, It makes you wonder just why John seems to have been so absent from British comics for such a long time, such is the quality of what's on offer. His attention to detail, without losing sight of the need for strong storytelling is in evidence throughout, as you'll see from these sample pages.

The story, of course, is a complex mix of mistaken intent, unrequited love and unexpected twists as protagonist Pip discovers almost all those who have shaped his life have some unknown connection or shady past. Again, the art breathes life into the entire cast without resorting to stereotype: Stokes' version of the convict, Magwitch, is as believable as the twisted, heart-broken Miss Havisham.

Throughout, this adaptation delivers a powerful re-telling of Dickens novel, with gorgeous art that aids the storytelling and helps make sense of the many characters and their relationships. I was also delighted to find this version went with Dickens later, alternate ending to the story, which for me sat much better with the story and is not as downbeat as the original.

If you need any further convincing that I enjoyed this edition, I sat down to read the Original Text version and genuinely couldn't put the thing down until I'd read it. For a nineteenth century novel to grab my attention so is no mean feat and its testament to the hard work the Classical Comics team put into the book. They've succeeded in creating a superb re-telling of a classic piece of fiction and, more importantly, given it a whole new dimension through its stunning art that will surely appeal to a wide range of readers.

Outstanding.

• Classical Comics: www.classicalcomics.com

Jackie: New Collection

(With thanks to Jeremy Briggs): News of Egmont's Comic Specials prompts us to mention this new collection of material from Jackie magazine, which was published by D C Thomson & Co Ltd.

Launched in 1964 at the height of Beatlemania, the title remained a girl’s best friend until 1993 and this Special Collector’s Edition celebrates the denim-clad decade of the 1970s, when Jackie, famous for its romantic photo stories, sold over one million copies in a week.

Jackie of course brought girls endless features on David Cassidy's favourite colour during that period, and the much-cited agony column, 'The Cathy and Claire Page'. Models who appeared in the photo strips included Garbage band member Shirley Manson (who is now a Terminator on The Sarah Connor Chronicles), BBC news reader Fiona Bruce, who was paid just £3 an hour for her work, and actress Leslie Ash.

Contributors included author Jacquleine Wilson and it was edited at one time by TV critic Nina Msykow, although its first editor was an ex-RAF Engine Fitter, Gordon Small.

The title is essentially a Jackie version of last year's Beano special (which was effectively a preview for the History of Beano book).

Comics Theme Park Opens in Kuwait

A new theme park based on comic book series The 99, which has featured work by British artists John Royle and John McCrea, has opened at the Slayel Al-Jahra Resort in Jahra, Kuwait.

Based on the Teshkeel Comics’ comic of the same name, is a joint venture between Teshkeel Media Group and the United Entertainment and Tourism Company and features rides based on characters from the series, including Jabbar’s Chariot Riders (a train-ride), an aeroplane ride named after flying character Rafie and a swinging Viking ship called Journey of the Noor Stones.

The 99 are the world's first superhero team based on Islamic culture and history, featuring 99 characters from 99 different countries, each character's powers reflecting one of the traditional 99 attributes of Allah in Islam. Examining the lives of individual characters from many different cultures and backgrounds, these characters find themselves transformed from ordinary human beings into super-powered heroes.

“Seeing our characters transformed from 2D drawings into a real-world setting is not only a dream come true for me," Dr Naif Al-Mutawa, founder of the Teshkeel Group, told the Kuwait Times, "but also an indicator of the tremendous growth potential for the 99 brand.”

The two companies plan to open a new park each year for the next six years. Teshkeel Comics partnered with Marvel to publish popular comic book titles in the Arabic language for the Middle East back in 2006 (see news story).

You can download a free copy of The 99: Origins comic, with art by John McCrea from The 99 web site

Phantom Fleet Appears

Officially on sale this week is Dan Dare: Phantom Fleet from Titan Books, the latest in the company's high quality collections of the classic Eagle comic character.

First published in 1958 and written by Frank Hampson and Allan Stranks with art from Hampson, Desmond Walduck and Keith Watson, the story opens with radio and TV transmissions disrupted throughout the Solar System. Spaceships - including one carrying Sir Hubert - disappear, Dan and company set out to discover what's going on.

They find a fleet of huge alien craft containing peaceful aquatic creatures called Cosmobes who are fleeing from another aquatic race, the warlike Pescods. But the Pescods have a deadly weapon, the 'Crimson Death' -- and they're heading for Earth! Will Dan and his crew be able to once again save the day?

The story marks the debut of Keith Watson on the Dan Dare strip, who joined Frank Hampsons's studio as an assistant artist in 1958. Eagle Times notes that after Hampson left in 1959, and Frank Bellamy took over as lead artist on Dan Dare, Keith continued along with the remainder of Hampson’s team but, dissatisfied at the way of working, he too left in 1960 - to draw Captain Condor in Lion. Two years later, he returned to Eagle as the sole artist on Dan Dare, and continued until early 1967 when the comic began reprinting old Dan Dare strips. Sadly, after being diagnosed with cancer, he died in 1994.

Phantom Fleet is the only Dan Dare title planned for early 2009 release from Titan, but the company continues to publish several British comics collections including Modesty Blaise: The Ladykillers, Tank Girl Remastered, Torchwood: Rift War (all due 24 April) and The Best of Wallace & Gromit (29 May).

Buy Dan Dare: Phantom Fleet from amazon.co.uk
Buy Dan Dare: Phantom Fleet from amazon.com
• Titan Books: www.titanbooks.co.uk

Striptacular New Comic at The Thing...

We plugged the UK Web and Minicomix Thing 2009 in Mile End, London this weekend earlier this week, but one comic to look out for there will be Francesca Cassavetti's Striptacular, a 36-page comic featuring nine brand spanking new strips, including her entry for last year's Observer competition.

Francesca whose creations include Fabian Carr, Bloke in a Dressing Gown and New Man, has been supplying cartoons and illustrations to a variety of clients, including Harper Collins, Emap and the BBC for a number of years, all the while creating her own comic strips and stories.

Francesca will be sharing her table with Tempo Lush illustrator Richy K Chandler and the lovely Sally Ann Hickman.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Grand Adventures from Wallace & Gromit


Model citizens Wallace & Gromit have appeared on screen and in comics, and now they're back once again in a game: this time in Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, a new game series debuting today at www.telltalegames.com.

"Fright of the Bumblebees," the first of four digitally-distributed games starring the popular Plasticine duo, is available now and subsequent installments will be delivered in May, June, and July.

Wallace and Gromit's most recent TV outing, Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death, out now on DVD, aired with record-setting viewership this past Christmas in the UK.

Alternating between the roles of both Wallace and Gromit throughout the game, players will banter with a charismatic cast of characters, tinker with Wallace's creative contraptions, and enjoy four all-new stories set in the colorful Wallace & Gromit universe. In today's debut episode, "Fright of the Bumblebees," Wallace attempts to save his bumbling honey business through the growth of supersized flowers. When these giant flowers lead to an unintended consequence, giant bees, Gromit must step in to save the town from the angry swarm.

"The partnership with Telltale was a natural one," says Sean Clarke, Head of Aardman Rights. "Their talent for crafting engaging adventures with humour and charm fits well with the Wallace & Gromit style, and the four games of Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures make excellent new additions to the series."

To celebrate the series premiere, Telltale is offering the full series on PC for the limited-time special price of $29.95 (around £21), a 15% savings on the regular price of $34.95 (about £24). During the launch week, customers who purchase Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures will also get an amazing 50% discount on all other items in Telltale's store, including the acclaimed Sam & Max games, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, and related merchandise. These special offers expire 29 March 2009.

• To buy Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures or download the free demo, visit http://www.telltalegames.com/wallaceandgromit

Egmont Revives Summer Special Tradition

(Updated 30 March) Back in the good old days of British comics, eager readers of titles such as Valiant, Battle, Buster, Roy of the Rovers and others didn't just enjoy their weekly publication; sales and distribution models of one off magazines were very different, enabling publication of Special issues - usually in the Summer and Winter - along with hardback Annuals, which were sold in both newsagents and bookshops.

Sadly, while many comics still have an Annual tie-in, the cost of publishing and promoting one-off Specials as comic sales declined became prohibitive, and the release of these 'holiday treats' became a thing of the past -- until now.

Egmont UK and WH Smith have teamed up to publish four "Classic Collections" -- special titles featuring archive material from Roy of the Rovers, Battle, girls comic Misty and Buster, bringing adventures from these classic comics back to the newsstand.

Compiled by former 2000AD editor Steve McManus, the Specials are bound to bring back many fond memories for today’s grown-ups who can relive the time when they waited eagerly for each new issue of these comics to go on sale.

Egmont acquired the Fleetway stable of comics, which included Roy of the Rovers, Battle, Misty and Buster in 1991 and have recently been making more of the massive archive of characters, reviving Werewilf for the upcoming TOXIC comic supplement (see news story) and working with publishers such as Titan Books to publish collections from their huge archive.

“We're delighted to be bringing this fantastic portfolio of comics back to the newsstand for the fans to enjoy and indulge in their nostalgic reading," says Tim Jones of Egmont UK. "These new launches are a great example of the huge portfolio of evergreen character comics, books and magazines Egmont publish, and we are thrilled to keep delivering content for their fans.”

• Roy Race, aka Roy of the Rovers, star player of Melchester Rovers and idol to millions, first appeared in 1954. His trademark “Racey’s Rocket” and knack for scoring match–winning goals made him a superstar long before today’s pampered Premiership stars. His footballing career lasted for many years, eventually ending in tragedy when a helicopter accident let to the amputation of his foot. Roy eventually graduated to his own comic which also featured such memorable stories as Billy’s Boots (reprinted in Striker), Hot Shot Hamish (which has recently been appearing in Scotland's The Sunday Mail) and Goalkeeper. More at the official web site: www.royoftherovers.com
The Roy of the Rovers Special is scheduled for release on 1st April.

Battle began life in 1975 and ran for 13 years. Filled with action-packed, thrilling stories mainly set during the Second World War, Battle fired the imaginations of countless boys, many of whom had a surviving relative from the war. From the exploits of the unconventional soldier Major Eazy to the realistic portrayal of World War 1 life in Charley’s War (currently being republished by Titan Books), Battle was the first of a new wave of British Comics that featured rugged realism from cover to cover and helped pave the way for 2000AD and Crisis.
The Battle Special is currently scheduled for release on 24th June

Buster ran for an astonishing 40 years between 1960 and 2000. It remains one of the most successful British anthology comics, combining comedy and adventures strip in one title, mainly for boys.
The Buster Special is currently scheduled for release on 16th September.

Misty, the barinchild of writer-editor Pat Mills and others, was a girl’s horror comic that ran from 1978 until 1984. Full of moody and sophisticated stories such as Moonchild and The Sentinels, it still has a dedicated following and is fondly remembered by fans. Official website: www.mistycomic.co.uk
The Misty Special is currently scheduled for release on 9th December

• Priced at £3.99 each, the 52 page Classic Collections featuring all the best-loved characters and stories, will only be available from WHSmith. Note that later publication dates may change.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Comix Web Thing This Week

A quick reminder that the UK Comix Web Thing takes place this coming Saturday (28th March ) at the Great Hall, Queen Mary University, Mile End, London.

The event, which has been running since 2004, includes panel discussions, a drawing room, reading area and a huge number of stalls and other great stuff.

Creators at the event are as follows: John Allison, Kate Beaton, Patrick Brown, H. Davies (Bunny), Malcy Duff, Rene Engstrom (Anders Loves Maria), Paul Fryer, Ali Graham (AfterStrife), Liz Greenfield, Kelly Hernandez, John Maybury (Space Babe 113) , Sarah McIntyre, Aaron 'Smurf' Murphy, Ben Palmer, Caroline Parkinson, Roger Langridge, Luke Paton, Alastair Maceachern, Paul Rainey, Philippa Rice, Sancho, Nicola Stuart, Justine Tyme, Matthew Allen Smith, James Turner (Beaver and Steve), Genma Visage plus the Comics Creators Guild and publishers Banal Pig Publications (Steve Tillotson and Gareth Brookes), The Bedsit Journal, Bogus Baby, C2D4, Capes & Drapes, Captain Brave, Cardboard Press, Chamonkee, Crazy Pants, Cute But Sad Comics, Cruel Gossip, Dark, Darken, Decadence, Doctor Simpo vs Hexjibber, Dreamtripper, Edd Egg, Eddsworld, Ellerbisms, The Everyday, Fabtoons, Factor Fiction, Fallen Angel Media, Fetishman, Flying Monkey Comics, Flying Mooglet Prod, Rob Jackson Comics, Jump Leads, Hello Aunt Alicia, Hey Monkey Riot, Hope For The Future, Hueco Mundo, Inanimate Objectives, Itch, Last Hours, Little Gamers, Little Terrors!, Loon, Mallard Small Press, Massacre For Boys, Matter, Modern Monstrosity,Mindpuss, Matter, Naoru, Neptune Factory, Ninja Bunny, Not Regret Studios, Octopus Pie, Odd-Fish, People I Know, Poot Comics, Prick, Reckless Youth, REET!, Semiotic Cohesion, Soaring Pengiun, Slothboy3000, Steve & Bob, Toiletpaper Life, Tomorrows Joe, Tozo, Two Sides Wide, Unedible, Waiting For Sushi, Weather Wookie, What I Drew, Whores of Mensa, Wildways, WillyMJ, Words And Pictures, Video Nasties, Zip Gun Comics and Ztoical

• More info: www.ukwebcomixthing.co.uk

Smuggling Vacation Sequel Live

Day of the Deal, Jason Wilson's follow up to his enjoyable but controversial drug smugling adventure Smuggling Vacation, is now being serialised online. The story will be published in print in October.

Between now and print day, the entire new book will be offered to read for free as it's produced week by week, with the latest finished pages going up each Sunday night.

The new story, set over 24 hours, features much of the original cast as they become involved in the largest drugs deal Alleyton has ever seen. Authored and illustrated by Jason Wilson, he is again assisted by his father, convicted drug dealer Tony Spencer, as Crime Consultant.

Jason will also be telling the tale of the book's production by including a 'Making of' section on the home page from this Sunday which will document the making of the book, which he hopes will prove encouragement to many future writers and artists who aspire to self publish.

On publication, Smuggling Vacation courted some controversy from some MPs who argued it was a guide to smuggling drugs -- even tho0ugh the main characters proved hopelessly inept when they unexpectedly found a trove of illegal drugs on a Spanish beach. Jason also said being raised by one of the Midland’s most notorious criminals was a traumatic experience, and told the Sunday Mercury he did not want his book to make the criminals look like heroes.


• Check out Day of the Deal at www.smugglingvacation.co.uk

Read our review of Smuggling Vacation

Smuggling Vacation is available from Smallzone and www.smugglingvacation.co.uk or order it through any bookshop (ISBN:9780955917004) priced £6.99.

Tube Surfing: 23 March 2009

• Artist Rob Davis recently posted an interesting article about his work for Roy of the Rovers Monthly when it relaunched in late 1993. Davis had previously worked on the short-lived comic Glory Glory for Tundra UK with Stuart Green, who then became editor of the new Rovers title. "Stuart's plan was to bring the same sensibilities to Roy of the Rovers. His ideas were brilliant but ruthless," Rob reveals. "The original title had been cancelled in March 1993 and the story of Roy Race ended with Roy crashing his private helicopter, readers were left not knowing if he was alive or dead.
"In September of the same year our Monthly comic started up and Roy awoke from a coma to find that his comic strip world had gone and reality had moved in. The first shock was discovering that he had lost his famous left foot, amputated after the crash..." Although this version was disregarded by later revamps of the strip, it's an interesting look at this controversial re-toolong of the famous character.

• In 1992 writer Ian Carney and artist Dave Taylor teamed up to do some Mr Murray strips, purely for fun. Ian is now a writer for children's cartoons and shows such as Shaun the Sheep, but back then both were both struggling artisans trying to find their way in life. "Our love of comic books turned into this here strip," says Dave, who has now posted some samples of the strip on his blog. "The last page was written by myself and features Randy the Skeleton, a wonderful creation of Aidan Potts, another fellow Brit cartoonist who's work was always an inspiration."

• Diamond's Scoop site notes that it's been 80 years since Tarzan first apeared in comics. Let's not forget that includes appearances in later issues of TV21, capitalizing on the TV version of the character starring Ron Ely, who has also played Superman and Doc Savage.

• Joe Kubert's Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey, collecting all six issues of the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the character - a story begun over fifty years ago is now on sale in comic shops. In addition to the six issues, the hardcover book includes all six covers - including the correct version of cover number five - as well as rare, previously unpublished sketches and thumbnails. by the artist.

• Ian Sharman's fantastic-looking Young Gods project, available via myebook.com, is now Alpha Gods -- we suspect some copyright shenanigans. The comic centres on the eponymous Gods in battle with an ancient evil, Malak. Written by Ian Sharman with art by Ezequiel Pineda and coloured by Mauro Barbosa, this is an action packed series from Orang Utan Comics that will eventually be released as a print edition.

• James Moran, writer of series such as Torchwood, Primeval, Doctor Who and horror comedy Severance has published a really useful FAQ on writing, which includes the obvious advice that if you wnat to be a writer "Start writing. Keep writing." It seems many people just don't get this. "If you want to be a writer, you have to write, a lot, and read a lot, and rewrite a lot," he continues. You write and write and write, and you might not be any good for a long time, maybe several years, until you get a bit better, then you keep going, then eventually you'll get good at it."

• Since his creation by Mike Mignola, Hellboy has been adored by comic book fans across the world. Guillermo Del Toro brought him to the big screen and now author Mark Morris, author of several Doctor Who books, and winner of the 2007 British Fantasy Award, talks about his new Hellboy novel at the upcoming Leeds Young People Film Festival. This masterclass is followed by the screening of the animated film The Sword of Storms, which is free to anyone attending the masterclass. To book tickets please call City Centre Box Office on 0113 224 3801. More info online here

Compiled with thanks to Matthew Badham

TOXIC Comic Supplement Cover: Sneek Peek!

The TOXIC Comic Supplement we trailed back in February, featuring work from a host of great creators, will go on sale in the UK news stand title on sale 1 April: here's the cover, courtesy of Egmont, who have also sent us advance copies.

The supplement will feature comic characters old and new in a move to, hopefully, bring more strip material to the bestselling British news stand title.

Eight of the strips are completely brand new and original, with Jamie Smart's Count von Poo making us laugh out loud here, closely followed by Lew Stringer's The Clump. (You can't go wrong with farting monsters). We're also pleased to report that resurrected WereWilf, who has been given a modern day makeover, is also great fun, especially for the inspired inclusion of Ernie Helsing - milkman descendant, we're geuessing, of the famous vampire hunter!

In a nod to TV talent shows such as Dancing on Ice, readers will be able to vote for their favourites via a web address that features on the back of the supplement that readers will need to go to in order to vote for their favourite strip. The winner will potentially get a full-time slot in the magazine.

The web page isn’t live yet, but it will be when the issue goes on sale on 1 April. The supplement will come with issue 137 of TOXIC, on sale 1 April for three weeks.

Click here to see the full line up of strips

Sunday, 22 March 2009

More Moore: Book and Magazine Collector 306

Just as the hullabaloo over the Watchmen movie was dying down and you thought that you could take a breather from it, the latest issue of Book and Magazine Collector jumps back on the band wagon. Well almost.

To tie-in with the release of the movie B&MC issue 306, which is cover dated April 2009, has a twelve page career retrospective on Watchman writer Alan Moore. Mike Gent's article covers Moore's life and work and includes an additional six page bibliography and price guide.

Book and Magazine Collector is available from WH Smith and Easons or directly from the publishers via their website.

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