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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Ian Rankin's Comics Debut

Dark Entries by Ian RankinInternational bestselling crime writer and recipient of an OBE for his services to literature, acclaimed Scottish author Ian Rankin makes his comics debut with the tense and twisting tale inspired by reality TV, Dark Entries - on sale from Titan Books in the UK from 2nd October.

Finding the perfect protagonist for his dark and gritty style, Rankin takes on comics’ grim antihero of the hugely popular Hellblazer series, occult detective John Constantine.

Constantine has seen his share of strange things in his career, but nothing could prepare him for the horrors of... reality television! Haunted Mansion is currently the hottest show on TV, but when the macabre house actually starts attacking the contestants, Constantine is hired to be the ultimate mole. Locked inside with a cast of wannabe-celebrities, his every move being monitored by a deadly figure from his past, Constantine must figure out who (or what) is pulling the strings before he gets cancelled – permanently.

Illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, whose work Publishers Weekly calls "as stylized and chiaroscuro-laden as a vintage noir movie," Rankin takes a classic "locked room" scenario and gives it a bloody nose and a cigarette, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

Moon Landing: T Minus 2 Days - The Spacecraft

Forty years ago today, Apollo 11 and its crew were at the half way stage in their journey from Earth orbit to lunar orbit in their Command Service Module, Columbia. The CSM consisted of two sections, the manned conical Command Module at the front and the unmanned Service Module which housed the engine and the equipment required for the voyage. The Command Module was attached to the Lunar module at its pointed end.



This illustration comes from the weekly Countdown comic which, as its title might suggest, was heavily influenced by the space race and advertised itself as “The Space Age Comic!”

Published in Countdown issue 31 dated 18 September 1971, the illustration originally comes from Kenneth Gatland's book Manned Spacecraft, one of a set of four books published by Blandford Press beginning in 1967 under the series title of The Pocket Encyclopedia Of Spaceflight In Colour.

Yesterday - Mission Overview
Tomorrow – What Could Go Wrong

• Coinciding with Jeremy's countdown to the 40th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing, downthetubes is publishing "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by space exploration.
Contributions are very welcome: if you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Nick Abadzis: Apollo Remembered

abadzis_apollo.jpg


Here's a fab image from Nick Abadzis he's sent us for our Moon Landing Comics Celebration album.

Nick should need no introduction here: his comics and contributions to British comics are legendary, with strips featured in The Times and elsewhere.

"I did this portrait of the Apollo 11 crew for a strip that ran in a DK book," he says, "but then later tweaked it just for my own satisfaction."

Nick is of course no stranger to using space travel as a story theme. His superb graphic novel, Laika, a wonderful story inspired by the first dog in space, was released in 2007, and is highly recommended...

He's also written two Torchwood strips for Titan's official magazine, coming out next month and the month after, drawn by the excellent Paul Grist.

"Everything else I'm doing is long-term stuff," he reveals, "the follow-up to Laika for First Second, etc..." Whatever he's doing it will be worth the wait and we're delighted he found time to join in with our Moon Landing comics project.

• View Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by space exploration.
Contributions are still very welcome: latest additions include an illustration by Chris Wood, who runs the British Horror Films website, and a humour strip by Paul Eldridge.

If you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit. Thanks!

Every Wednesday (Or Thursday If You Are British)

Much has been made by British reviewers of DC's new tabloid size Wednesday Comics. This is a modern take on the American style of comic based pullouts from the Sunday newspapers which ran multiple stories in colour in the same publication and were therefore very different from the small single story monthly titles that dominate the US comic market.



British readers (of a certain age) don't see it for the American newspaper comics sections that it emulates, instead they look at it and with a shout of "Topper!" or "Beezer!" begin to wax nostalgically about lying on the floor reading these large format British anthology comics in their youth. Whilst readers didn't really need to lie on the floor to read a small digest such as Commando, the size of the big British humour comics virtually demanded it.


Of course some British newspapers had similar concepts. The Sunday Times had the separate Funday Times section throughout the Nineties while the Sunday Post still retains The Broons and Oor Wullie strips in a similar way although the comics section of that paper is no longer the separate pull out that it once was.


As with the large format British titles, Wednesday Comics is an anthology and it is good to see that the American obsession with superheroes doesn't extend to every single page. Indeed Britain's own Dave Gibbons is flying the Union flag in some small way in it by writing the story of Jack Kirby's post-apocalyptic character Komandi.

Dave Gibbons to launch Watchmen 3D Graffiti Art Instillation

dvd_watchmen.jpgTo celebrate the UK DVD & Blu-ray release of Watchmen, London’s Southbank will stage an art exhibition with a difference on Tuesday 28th July with the comic's artist Dave Gibbons and acclaimed graffiti artist Chu.

Chu will showcase his artistic talents, as he and Dave Gibbons work alongside each other giving fans a one-off Watchmen experience to remember.

London’s Southbank will be transformed into the Watchmen world as Chu unveils his Watchmen masterpiece, and brings to life a selection of cult scenes and characters from the film in his own unique 3D comic book style.

With a running commentary from Dave Gibbons as Chu re-creates key scenes from the film in 3D comic book style, this one-off event will be an amazing launch for the DVD and Blu-ray release.

• The event takes place at the Skate Park, below London’s Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX between 2.00pm and 5.00pm on Tuesday 28th July 2009

Watchmen is available to buy on DVD & Blu-ray with Digital Copy on 27th July 2009 from Paramount Home Entertainment

Buy the Watchmen - 2 Disc Limited Edition DVD from amazon.co.uk

Buy the Blu-Ray Watchmen (2 Disc + Digital Copy - Exclusive to the UK) Limited Edition from amazon.co.uk

Moon Landing: T Minus 3 Days - Mission Overview

Forty years ago today, Apollo 11 and its crew were on the first day of their journey from Earth orbit to lunar orbit. As much as science fiction stories suggest that space travel is fast, in reality the distances involved are so enormous that it does take time - it would take three days to cross the quarter of a million miles to the Moon.



This gives us time to look at the mission in more detail. This illustration is the centrespread of Rockets and Spacecraft Book 1, one of a number of small but heavily illustrated children's books that Collins published in the 1960s under their Orbit Books imprint. While undated, the book was produced early in the Apollo program, indicated by it referring to the lander as the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). This was changed by NASA in May 1966 to the shorter Lunar Module (LM) although its pronunciation remained as "lem".

Yesterday - Launch
Tomorrow – The Spacecraft

• Coinciding with Jeremy's countdown to the 40th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing, downthetubes is publishing "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by space exploration.
Contributions are very welcome: if you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

New Century 21 Cover Exposed

Century 21: Escape from AquatrazPublishers Reynolds & Hearn have just given us a 'first look' at the cover of their third collection of comics from 1960s comic TV Century 21.

Titled Escape from Aquatraz, it features the submarine Stingray, as realized by the late, great Ron Embleton.

This volume will hopefully emulate the success of the company's first two volumes, which feature a range of superb strips from the classic British comics TV Century 21 and Lady Penelope.

UFO Technical ManualAlso just released by R&H is the UFO Technical Manual, which, if you buy it from their web site, comes with a free Skydiver poster.

In the early 1980s, Earth was engaged in a deadly war against hostile extra-terrestrial aliens from a dying world. Unbeknown to the general population, our only line of defence in that war was a secret paramilitary organisation with a manned lunar outpost and headquarters hidden beneath a British film studio. This organisation maintained a fleet of advanced vehicles and spacecraft in order to combat the alien menace - a secret army of sophisticated hardware on constant patrol on land, in the sky, under the sea and far out in the depths of space.

Now, 30 years on, details of that secret war are finally emerging with the publication of the previously top secret documents of SHADO - the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation. Within these pages, spectacular computer-generated illustrations and plan views of the many SHADO vehicles reveal the organisation's incredible machinery and weaponry, together with verified accounts of the role played by that hardware in the defence of the Earth.

• S.I.D. - Space Intruder Detector advance warning satellite maintaining scan for UFOs
• Skydiver - nuclear-powered submarine on patrol beneath the world's oceans
• Sky One - supersonic strike aircraft ready for action in Earth's atmosphere
• Mobiles - amphibious ground vehicles with overwhelming firepower
• Space Interceptors - first line defence spacecraft based on the Moon

Gerry Anderson's UFO Technical Manual celebrates the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking live-action adventure series UFO, which originally captured the imaginations of television viewers in the early 1970s and has gone on to become one of British TV's best-loved and most highly-regarded science fiction programmes.

Buy Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 1 from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Andserson Volume 2 from amazon.co.uk

Buy Gerry Anderson's UFO: The Technical Manual from amazon.co.uk - But don't forget, the Skydiver poster is only offered via the Reynolds & Hearn web site

Panel Borders Goes SciFi Mad!

comic_drwho_whisperinggallery.jpgWe don't often cover every podcast or radio show Alex Fitch and his team are about to broadcast, but he's got plenty lined up we think downthetubes fans will want to check out, so hold on to your hats...


• This week's Strip! show is titled Doctor Who comics now... in which Alex Fitch talks to the creators of a couple of recent innovative Doctor Who comics about bringing a new angle to the popular franchise. Leah Moore and John Reppion wrote the recent one off comic The Whispering Gallery for IDW, which saw the Doctor and Martha exploring a terrifying museum on an alien planet.

Alex also talks to Richard Morris, creator of the popular and unauthorised web comic, The Ten Doctors - an epic serialised graphic novel which celebrates almost every aspect you can think of from 46 years of the Time Lord's adventures.
 
Strip! Doctor Who comics now airs at 5.00pm on Thursday 16the July, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 19th July on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com / podcast soon after transmission at www.panelborders.wordpress.com
 
Alex is also celebrating the Moon Landing anniversary with I'm ready for my close-up: Fly me to the Moon, featuring interviews with astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore and Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson.
 
Sir Patrick Moore was one of many who covered the events of the Apollo 11 mission live on TV and discusses the events of that day with Alex as well as the highlights of his six decades presenting The Sky at Night.

Fireball XL5


Alex also talks to Gerry Anderson about how the space race and technological innovations of the 1960s inspired such shows as Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds.

Network DVD recently released a special collector's edition of the entire Fireball XL5 series, which is well worth tracking down, since in addition to all the show's episodes - including a specially colourized episode - it features a new, exclusive documentary, Drawn in Supermarionation chronicling the comic strip adaptations of the early AP Films series and features contributions from director of merchandising Keith Shackleton and artists Bill Mevin, Mike Noble and Colin Page (See full news story).
 
The interview with Sir Patrick is available to download now from www.sci-fi-london.com/audio and the interview with Gerry Anderson will be broadcast on Thursday 16th July at 10.30pm Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com
 
Online from 19th July (also at www.sci-fi-london.com/audio) is Reality Check: Torchwood in Print. In a panel discussion recorded live at a meeting of the British Fantasy Society, late 1980s Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel talks to a quartet of Torchwood novelists - Mark Morris, Sarah Pinborough, Guy Adams and Joe Lidster - about bringing the show to the printed page and expanding the adventures of Captain Jack, Ianto and Gwen to the length of a hardback novel.

Finally, if your interest in science fiction and fantasy goes wider than stories inspired by TV shows, then check out Panel Borders: Small press Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Continuing the podcaster's Sci-Fi comics month on the show, this features a couple of interviews recorded at comic book conventions with small press creators who are working in the SF and Fantasy genres.

In an interview recorded at this year's Bristol Comics Expo, Dickon Harris talks to comic book creator and musician Dave Lander who contributes to the anthology comic Decadence which in the last couple of instalments has been heavily SF themed. Dave also produced a CD soundtrack to go with recent issues and there are extracts in the podcast.

Also, Alex Fitch talks to Rob Jackson about his fantasy comics, Random Journeys and Bog Wizards, which combine unreliable narrators, humour and magical landscapes, in an interview recorded at a pub in the East End after the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing.
 
Originally broadcast on 9th July check it out vial this link. (And don't forget Alex has also interviewed the brilliant Paul Rainey as part of this thread - check that out here)

• For a full list of all Panel Borders comics podcasts to date, visit: www.tinyurl.com/panelborders
 
• Follow Panel Borders on twitter: http://twitter.com/panelborders and facebook: http://tinyurl.com/facebookborders

Tube Surfing: Cursitor Doom, Nitro!, More Moon Stuff and Comics in Limbo...

book_cursitordoom.jpgBear Alley Books has just published the first inked and colour 'rough' for their upcoming Cursitor Doom collection. "I've put this together from a low-res scan e-mailed by artist John Ridgway, so this isn't the final version," says publisher Steve Holland, "But I probably won't change much. I was going to try and do something clever with the original logo but it's not something I ever particularly liked and I do like the elegant simplicity of the type."
You can now pre-order both Phantom Patrol (which features a cover by Chris Weston) and Cursitor Doom, due for relase in August, from the Bear Alley Books web site.

UK publisher Future is to re-launch its UK boys 5-13 targeted Official Jetix Magazine as Nitro! in September. The first issue will feature kid-related news, toys, comic strips and features, covering characters from TV, movies and games. It's expected to have a 45,000 copy launch run and will offer at least four 'covermounted' gifts per foil-bagged issue.

• More Moon stuff: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has created a website that allows visitors to relive the flight of Apollo 11 and the Moon landing. Called We Choose the Moon, you can follow the mission from pre-launch to blast-off to the actual Moon landing on Monday.

• BleedingCool has a another feature on Comics We Just Can't Wait For – But Have To, including Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran’s Stealth Tribes – a sci-fi cloudsourcing cyberpunk original graphic novel Collen is still apparently drawing it for Vertigo - but has been for five years; and Warchild by Alan Moore, a series script bought by Rob Liefeld, he hasn’t progressed publication because he says he hasn’t found an artists who is up to the script.

• The Forbidden Planet International blog reports that comics creator Simon Gurr, who collaborated with Eugene Byrne on the special (and well received) Darwin graphic biography for the great scientist’s 200th anniversary earlier this year, has been chosen for a high profile public artwork celebrating famous Bristolians.
Bristol Festival of Ideas and Bristol Cultural Development Partnership recently announced that Simon Gurr, Bristol artist and illustrator, has been chosen to create a new permanent artwork on the theme of Some Who Have Made Bristol Famous, following a citywide call for ideas and submission of proposals. The commission, worth £10,000, is funded by donations from two Bristol patrons. Read the full FPI piece here

• Good news for Futurama fans. Not only is it be returning to our small screens, but more toys are on the way. io9 reports KidRobot is coming out with this cute line of Futurama dolls, due for release next month.

• Gaming news site Kaoktu reports that 2000AD owners Rebellion have been picking through the remains of games company Vivendi’s old portfolio of intellectual property, discarded amidst the company’s merger with Activision, and have found a number of bargains. Among the unwanted, unloved IPs now obtained are Ground Control, Evil Genius, Empire Earth, Lords of the Realm and Lords of Magic. They just can't seem to stop buying stuff, can they? But surely they must now have enough cool properties to launch a game title-based comic as well as 2000AD?



The Doctor Lands on the Moon for the BBC

Oli Smith's Blue Moon Fan ArtLondon Underground Comics organiser Oli Smith has penned a new Doctor Who short story for the BBC Doctor Who web site to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of man first stepping foot on the Moon.

Blue Moon, which begins today on the official site, is a completely new adventure that puts the Doctor slap bang in the middle of the first Apollo Moon landing. It's set during the tumultuous days of 16th, 17th and 20th July, 1969 and the next three parts will run on those dates, with the first part published today, Wednesday, 15th July.

There's everything you could want from a story set during such a crucial moment in Earth's history - mysterious aliens, sinister US agents, a threat to the future of mankind and, err, BBC Radio 4's The Archers.

"I’ve tried to make this story as ‘real time’ as possible," says Oli of the story on on his web site. "The events in the story correspond to the day that each part is put up. I’m really proud of it." In fact, he enjoyed it so much he's done a bit of fan art for the story (above) which he hopes will whet your appetite.

"I didn't want the Doctor to take anything away from the achievements of the Apollo mission," he says of the story on the BBC site, "but rather to prevent outside influences, both extra terrestrial and closer to home, from manipulating events for their own ends."

This is Oli's second short story for Doctor Who, his first being “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for the Doctor Who Storybook 2010 (Annual), out on 1st August, illustrated by the brilliant Martin Geraghty.

"Surprisingly," says Oli, "both stories are pretty hard sci fi (well, for Doctor Who anyway) but both have been a complete blast to write so long may my adventuring with the Doctor continue."

Alongside Blue Moon the BBC is also a publishing material looking at representations of the Moon in Doctor Who. There's a new Lunar Gallery showing some striking imagery from several moon-related stories.

Some of those adventures are briefly revisited in a series of Video Clips and they also present The Dark Side of the Moon, a precise history of how the silvery satellite has been depicted in Doctor Who.

Moon Landing: T Minus 4 Days - Launch

Forty years ago today, Apollo 11 and its crew of three blasted of from Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral. The Saturn V moon rocket remains the largest booster rocket yet flown. While the little known Russian N-1 moon rocket exploded on each of its four launches, the Saturn V flew successfully on each of its 13 launches, from its first test launch with the unmanned Apollo 4 capsule in 1967 to its final curtain call in 1973 putting NASA's Skylab space station into Earth orbit.


This illustration is a very familiar one to plastic modelers - Airfix's 1/144th scale Apollo Saturn kit. Regular Airfix artist Roy Cross portrays the immense power of the rocket's first stage as it climbs away from the pad with NASA's 525 foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building, in which it was built, dwindling into the distance. There are many more Airfix box illustrations in the Roy Cross’ own book, The Vintage Years Of Airfix Box Art.

Back in 1969, the first and second stages of the Saturn V separated as scheduled and the third stage placed the Apollo Command Service Module (CSM), with the astronauts on board, and the Lunar Module (LM) into a lunar transfer orbit. The crew detached the CSM from the rest and turned it through 180 degrees to dock with the LM before pulling the LM clear of the Saturn V's third stage. They then lit the CSM's engine and began their three day voyage to the Moon.


Yesterday - Predicting The Date
Tomorrow - Mission Overview

• Coinciding with Jeremy's countdown to the 40th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing, downthetubes is publishing "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by space exploration.
Contributions are very welcome: if you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Tripwire Goes to San Diego

magazine_tripwire_annual200.jpgFab Brit genre magazine Tripwire continues its yearly San Diego Comic-Con tradition by premiering its third Tripwire Annual at the world's best-known genre media convention.

A stunning Jeff Carlisle full colour original Nick Fury cover sets the tone for the annual, which includes exclusive interviews with Stan Lee, Joe Kubert, Bill Morrison of Bongo Comics, painter Phil Hale, storyboard artist Trevor Goring and many more.

There are also features on Tintin, the 70th anniversaries of both Marvel Comics and Batman, the 30th anniversary of Alien, the new Wednesday Comics from DC which debuted earlier this month, Solomon Kane from Dark Horse and a dozen others.

Company profiles include Euro-comics publisher Cinebook, art book impresario Flesk Publications and Book Palace. And of course there are over 20 pages of original strips from Roger Langridge, Kev Mullins, Declan Shalvey, Josh Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain and others.

In all, it is by far the biggest and best issue Tripwire has published to date.

If you;'re going to the event, inside Comic-Con's Exhibitor Hall Tripwire will be in the Small Press area at table S07 and the 2009 Annual will be available at a special show price.

"We'll also have the 2008 Annual with the Doctor Who cover ready for David Tennant to sign (wherever he's set up)," says publisher and Editor-in-Chief Joel Meadows, "and copies of the 2009 Superhero Special with its Kick-Ass cover in case you want to scare up a John Romita Jr signature.

"Plus of course we'll have some Stripwire artists on hand: Roman Muradov and Kody Chamberlain will be at the table sketching and signing their work in the mag. There's even going to be free swag!"

Additionally, Tripwire has a panel at the Con, on Thursday 23rd July at 10.30 am in Room 3. It will feature Joel, US Editor Andy Grossberg and some special guests including UK columnist Rich Johnston from BleedingCool.com. Panel topics will range from comics industry gossip to features from the magazine including comics, movies, TV, culture and more - and there will be pastries for the first lucky dozen attendees.

This may be the last US appearance for Tripwire in 2009. As we previously reported, the magazine is not carried by Diamond this time around, so retailers are invited to drop by the table and acquire issues for their Colonial stores.

Up to the minute details about guests and swag can be found on the Tripwire Twitter feed

Moon Landing Comics Celebration: Andrew Cheverton

Moon by Andrew Cheverton


This is Andrew Cheverton's contribution to the downthetubes "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by the Apollo expedition and space exploration which is being published on the downthetubes forum.

It sums up perfectly how I felt about the Moon Landing back in 1969 (yes, I know I'm showing my age!), so I have no hesitation in giving it wider exposure this morning.

Andrew creates small press comics under the Angry Candy name, ranging in genre from westerns to science fiction to horror and all those odd little spaces in between. Check out his work at angrycandy.co.uk

More contributions to our Moon Landing celebrations are very welcome: if you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit.

Moon Landing: T Minus 5 Days - Predicting The Date

40 years ago today, the three astronauts making up the crew of Apollo 11, Command Module Pilot Mike Collins, Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Mission Commander Neil Armstrong were preparing for their launch on a Saturn V rocket from Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral in Florida. They were going where only nine men had been before, lunar orbit. However, they were scheduled to go one step further than all the previous Apollo crews - they were going to land.

During the next week and a half downthetubes will be taking you through the entire Apollo 11 mission as it was presented to children in comics, magazines, storybooks and through toys, from launch on 16th July to splashdown on the 24th July.

Today, as a taster, we present two predictions for the actual landing date. One from the Daily Express' Jeff Hawke strip and an eerily accurate prediction from Dennis The Menace in The Beano.

Jeff Hawke: Time Out of MindJeff Hawke © Express Newspapers plc

The Jeff Hawke panels come from the 1959 story Time Out Of Mind, set on the moon, and both written and illustrated by Sydney Jordan a year and a half before the Soviet Union put Yuri Gagarin into orbit. This story was reprinted in the Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos album Lunar 10, in which Jordan reveals, “my stab at the date for the first real landing was informed by the growing body of data coming out of the American and Russian programmes that would eventually put Man into space.”

Dennis The MenaceDennis the Menace © DC Thomson

The Dennis The Menace panel would appear to come from an early appearance in The Beano, before Dennis got his familiar red and black striped jumper and is remarkably accurate in its date. However, as if to prove that it is not just American superheroes that can be ret-conned, in 2000 for publicity purposes DC Thomson produced a one page strip that told the story of how Dennis got his now familiar jumper and included this "prediction". The full Dennis story can be read on page 289 of Morris Heggie's excellent book The History Of The Beano.


Tomorrow - Launch

• Coinciding with Jeremy's countdown to the 40th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing, downthetubes is publishing "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary: A Comics Celebration" - a gallery of illustrations and comic art inspired by space exploration.
Contributions are very welcome: if you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to johnfreeman6-moonlandinganniversaryart@yahoo.co.uk. Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size and include a brief bio and web link so we can give you deserved credit.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Comics International Specials Go On Sale

magazine_ci_stspecial09.jpgTwo Comics International Specials are now on sale in comic shops -- but the regular magazine is still in limbo, the next announced as not due until August.

The Star Trek Special celebrates the recent released JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movie reboot, looking back over four decades of the comicbook adventures of the Starship Enterprise. Charting the course of Star Trek comics from the very first 1967 issue from Gold Key all the way to IDW’s latest titles and taking in alternate realities, multiverse crossovers and more, this latest CI one-shot takes you on a warp speed tour through some of the strangest new worlds and civilisations you’ll never see on TV.

Heavily illustrated and showcasing unpublished artwork and more, it features interviews with key Star Trek creators, including British contributors to the Trek mythos - Dan Abnett, Mike Collins and Ian Edginton - as well as creators such as writers Mike W Barr and Diane Duane along with artists Gordon Purcell, David Messina and Scott Tipton. Star Trek fans who aren't even that interested in comics may be persuaded to pick up the £4.99 Special by the inclusion of interviews with Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in the original Star Trek series and Voyager‘s Doctor, Robert Picardo.

The Magazine is well designed - although perhaps with even more pages, the creator interviews could have been given more space and additional visuals - but this is a mere nitpick. It also includes a feature on the British Star Trek material created for the 1960s title Joe 90: Top Secret and later issues of TV21, material that many US Star Trek fans are unaware of. Definitely one for Trek fans to check out.

magazine_ci_horrorspecial09.jpgAlso out now is Comics International Horror Special, going behind the scenes on some of the goriest and scariest titles in recent months. Designed more like the 'regular' Comics International title, it includes interviews with Tim Bradstreet, Alan Grant and other writers and artists responsible for such fear-drenched comics as Stephen King’s The Stand, Age of Desire, Savage, The Dead, Golly and Zombie Cop.

Also featured are Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch (sadly, in what looks like a print error that also seems to have affected the alignment of pages, the interview with Si Spurrier is unexpectedly truncated, simply cut at the bottom of the page, mid-sentence, never to be returned to) Superman and Batman vs Vampires and Werewolves.

The 52-page issue costs just £2.50 ($4.99) and is again on sale in many comic shops.

While it's great to see these Specials on sale -- particularly the Star Trek title, which is an impressive piece of work in terms of interview material and breadth alone -- along with these Specials comes the perhaps grim news that the next regular issue of Comics International (#208) is now currently not set to appear until early August. The continued delay is not helping the magazine: even loyal readers who've been in touch with downthetubes are in despair over its missing-in-action status.

"I'm a bit miffed at CI's attitude to be honest to its customers," said one on the downthetubes forum. "I think it's really poor - and having 're-discovered' [Diamond trade catalogue] Previews, it has all I need really and can be counted on month after month to be on the shelves

"If Comics International gets back on track properly I may go back to it, or if #208 is a good relevant up to date issue I may pick it up."

While we're aware that there have been many behind the scenes problems that have sadly combined, through no fault of those directly involved in the magazine's production, to sabotage attempts to re-establish a monthly frequency, the future of Comics International still seems far from secure. Let's hope the naysayers fears are, however, unfounded...

• More about Comics International at: www.comics-international.co.uk

Mike Battle, Back in Action!

Sgt. Mike Battle #13The latest issue of Graham Pearce's brilliant self-published comic, Sgt Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero! has just been released - and it's another brilliant adventure. Anyone who can't wait for GI Joe to hit the cinema later this year should simply shell out and buy a copy of this terrific homage to all things action-adventure.

The latest issue (#13) is unlike any other, with Sgt. Mike Battle, Agent of Stars and Stripes have a fight in a sauna, see suave British Secret Agent Roger Knightly resigning from Crown and Sceptre and the lovely Shapely Charms getting fitted for her wedding dress!

Confused? Then that's your own fault for not picking up previous issues of Sgt Mike, what indie writer/artist Graham Pearce likes to call “the best kept secret in comics” -- and rightly so. Don't worry though, you'll soon get the hang of things. This issue is set, once again, in 1965 -- but sees a dramatic change as Sgt Mike Battle takes a step back and the focus turns to Roger Knightly who is starting to panic about his impending wedding to Shapely Charms.

“For various reasons Roger is starting to worry about the wedding” explains Pearce. “He is convinced that with all the English and American VIPs in attendance, the Soviets are going to attack the church and wipe them all out. Some people think that Roger is being paranoid, other’s think he doesn’t want to get married and is using it as an excuse to call it off.”

comics_sgtmikebattle13intp1.jpgWith some stunning looking art (click the image left or here to view sample of the opening page of the issue!), the issue definitely looks like one to look out for at upcoming British comics events - or simply buy it from the Sgt. Mike Battle official web site.

Pearce explains why the story is told from Roger Knightly’s perspective. “At the end of issue #12 we discovered something about Roger that shocked everyone. At some point in the past he started working with the Soviet Union and that decision has come back to haunt him. In issue #13 I needed to make it clear that he isn’t as bad as the revelation suggests, to show that maybe he isn’t as brave as we previously thought but also that he is actually torn between his secret agenda and his true feeling for Shapely Charms. The only way to effectively show his inner turmoil was to tell the story from his point of view.”

Originally the romance between Roger Knightly and Shapely Charms was meant to conclude in #13 but Pearce chose to extend it into #14.

“The story kept growing and I simply didn’t have enough space for everything. I couldn’t fit everything it all into a single issue so rather than cram it all into 24 pages I decided to spread it over 2 issues. The event of #13 now focus on the build up to the wedding and #14 is the wedding itself (and the inevitable overblown fight scene that may or may not ensue).

Graham Pearce is always subverting genre clichés in Sgt Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero! and remains tight-lipped about the exact events of #14.

Of issue #13, Comics Bulletin says “Sgt. Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero has definitely had a change of tone and focus with the introduction of Roger Knightly, but it remains a compelling and often very funny title, easily one of the best comics being put out by the self-publishing movement and utterly deserving of a far wider audience.”

Sgt Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero! #ISSUE 13, 36 PAGES, Colour cover, b/w interiors, £1.50, available now from www.sgtmikebattle.co.uk or by PayPal to grahampearce8@netscape.net

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