Friday, 27 November 2009
Young Spirou and his older friend Fantasio are journalists who work for Spirou magazine (this may sound strange but let's remember that Beano characters read the Beano). Having just arrived back from Bangkok, their fellow journalist Cellophine catches them in the airport with a telegram from Spirou's scientist friend, the Count of Champignac, which says that they must come to Australia. There they make their way to a mining settlement in the Outback where miners are desperately digging for opals near an Aboriginal holy ground only to discover from the miners that the Count died in a mining accident. Spirou refuses to accept the story and they dig up the Count's coffin which leads them to discover that not all the miners can be trusted and, due to what is going on near their sacred land, that the Aborigines trust no one.
While it is the first Cinebook publication of Spirou and Fantasio, Aventure en Australie was the 34th Spirou album, originally published in 1985, and was written by Philippe Vandevelde (Tome) and illustrated by Jean-Richard Geurts (Janry) - their pseudonyms chosen as a play on Hanna Barbera's Tom and Jerry cartoon characters. Despite the above description of the story, which has all the trappings of a Tintin book, the story and art style are more like Asterix. Janry's art is both fun and at times remarkably detailed with the sequence in the airport at the beginning particularly warranting closer inspection with much going on in the background. Tome's story is humourous with fantastical elements in it mainly to do with the Aboriginal wise man Kaloo-Long who can levitate whilst asleep, hence the unusual cover illustration of him hovering whilst attached to a rock.
It all adds up to something that can be a quick fun read for children or something a little more amusing for adults. It is just a pity that we will have to wait a year for the next one.
• There are more details of the book on the Cinebook website and the next Spirou and Fantasio book from Cinebook will be Spirou and Fantasio in New York which is scheduled for October 2010.
• There are more details of the original book on the official Spirou website (in French).
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
It also seems like the flu gods had it in for convention reviewers. downthetubes Matt Badham, after all the good work he had put into promoting not just Thought Bubble but all the other comics conventions this year, was rewarded with a severe dose of the lurgy and couldn't make it. For that matter neither could Forbidden Planet International’s Richard Bruton as he had been similarly afflicted. With the A team incapacitated, welcome to Plan B.
The Dangerous Book For Boys and Scotch Corner artist Graeme Neil Reid had enticed me away from DC Thomson-land and the old comics of Bear Alley into the world of Manga cosplay and American superhero comics to help him out on his table selling artwork, books and sketches, so rather than a full review of Thought Bubble think of this as edited highlights of my few escapes from a sales table.
Clarence Dock has been completely redeveloped over the last number of years becoming a marina surrounded by a multitude of modern flats. Indeed Saviles Hall, for all its size inside, is one of the smallest buildings in the whole complex.
Set-up was simple and swift as we were early, as was Hunt Emerson and a few others at the far end of the artists’ row. That said putting numbers on the sales tables themselves would probably have helped the army of red shirted volunteers find their targets quicker as we soon lost count of the number of them going past muttering “…40, 41, 42, 43…” under their breath as they took yet another artist to their unidentified table.
It was the calm before the storm. The doors opened at 10am and half an hour later the hall was busy and it stayed that way for the majority of the day. Indeed even during the talks in the curtained area at the opposite corner from us, the hall remained busy and the queues for the big name guests turned the far end of the hall into a sea of bodies. Reports from those returning from the distant land of Far End suggested the queues were often an hour long and yet, despite the wait, everyone seemed extremely happy with what they came away with.
Of course part of the fun for those behind the tables is discovering who your neighbours are and we were lucky to be joined by 2000AD artist Leigh Gallagher on one side and Rainbow Orchid’s Garen Ewing on the other.
With copies of his Defoe 1666 graphic novel to sell, Leigh spent the day sketching for fans while being fuelled by Krispie Kreme doughnuts and coffee. On the other side, Garen politely had a cup of tea before beginning to sketch in, and autograph, copies of his bande dessinee style Rainbow Orchid graphic novel.
But there was more going on than just Thought Bubble with the academic comics conference Possibilities And Perspectives being held in the nearby Alea Casino which proudly boasted on its exterior of its 2 gambling floors, 2 restaurants and 5 bars. This began at lunchtime by which time Leeds was being drenched by rain.
The conference had been organised by Ian Hague of the University of Chichester and ran all afternoon beginning with two keynote speeches, “The Use Of Style And Storytelling Techniques In The Tale Of One Bad Rat” by writer and artist Bryan Talbot and the London University Of The Arts Roger Sabin with “Mavericks and Zinesters: Comics Scholarship in the UK before Comics Scholarship”. In this context ‘Mavericks and Zinesters’ were defined as journalists, collectors, fans and academics writing in a non-academic context, in other words virtually everything that has ever been written about comics throughout the years. This then opened up to a debate as to whether academics should disassociate themselves with comics fandom in general and even, remarkably, from comics professionals as well. While no conclusion to this discussion was reached, considering at that point that there were probably a couple of thousand people at the convention with only a couple of dozen at the conference, the academics probably need us rather more than we need them.
Back in Saviles Hall I took the chance to dive into the sea of people at the far end to catch Dan Dare artist and Scotch Cornerer Gary Erskine doing his best impression of Michael Jackson while trying to keep up with the requests for sketches. One of these days a downthetubes convention review will include a photo of Gary’s face and not just the top of his head – but not today.
Moving over into small press territory, Dave Evans (or BOLT-01 if you prefer) was on the Futurequake Press showing off the latest editions of 2000AD zine Zarjaz and Strontium Dog zine Dogbreath which has reached an impressive 21 issues throughout its various incarnations. More details of Futurequake’s titles can be found on their website.
Next came Graham Pearce and his tongue-in-check take on the Action Force/GI Joe style of comics with Sgt Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero. The Mike Battle title has now reached issue 14 and more details can be found on Graham’s website.
Further up the same row were Steve Tanner and his wife Suzanne of Time Bomb Comics. Steve’s remarkable jackets are almost as bright as Suzanne’s smile and they were showing off their latest titles including the graphic novel The Furies. They also had previews on display of various 2010 titles including artist Keith Page’s London Calling. The artist for Timebomb’s The Sisterhood title, Dan Barritt, was also there selling posters of his work on the title which Steve describes as “space nuns with guns” but could more intriguingly be described as “The Beano does Durham Red”. More details of all Timebomb titles are on their website.
Also over the far side of the hall was Dave Hitchcock selling his unusual horror title Gothic. Gothic has been out for a while now but remains unique amongst British small press in being a 48 page, mainly black and white, tabloid published on newsprint paper which makes it a completely different tactile experience. There are more details of Gothic on Dave’s blog.
Hidden away in one corner was Francesca Cassavetti of Fabtoons. Francesca is best known for her book on new parents, The Most Natural Thing in the World, which got great reviews here on downthetubes and on the FPI blog, but she also had more titles for sale including Striptacular, Party Pieces and Sole Searching which, unsurprisingly, is about buying shoes. More details of Francesca’s titles are on her website.
Just over from Francesca was John Maybury and Space Babe 113. These adult themed, tongue-in-cheek, science fiction comics feature John’s very minimalist art which show just how few lines of art it can take to tell a comic length story. As Space Babe converses with her artificially intelligent knickers, the art often appears to show little more of her than a bikini and her hair do, and yet it has a charm all of it own. More details of the Space Babe 113 titles are on John’s website.
And last, but certainly not least, there was the enormous stall given over to Olivier Cadic’s Cinebook titles. Olivier (in the centre of the photo) publishes English translations of Franco-Belgian bande dessinees albums and in a few short years has grown into a force to be reckoned with. Their titles range from the humourous Lucky Luke to the thoughtful Chimpanzee Complex, via the fantasy of Thorgal and the science-fiction of Aldebaran. With special deals for multiple purchases, Olivier and his team seemed to always be busy with sales as well as fielding the complements of the many purchasers and readers of their titles. With the first of their Spirou and Fantasio titles out now, featuring one of Belgium’s longest running and best known comics characters, as well as the popular espionage thriller XIII due to begin publication next year, Cinebook look as if they have a very secure future ahead of them. More details of their titles can be found at the Cinebook website.
Not having been to a Thought Bubble before I can’t say if it was as busy as in previous years but it didn’t seem to have been too badly affected by the recession as it was bustling with many happy punters.
There are many more photos from Thought Bubble on Matthew Kitchen’s Flickr account.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Small pressers to the end - John on the left with Ian Wheeler at the Lancaster Comics Day in 2006, proud parents of a bouncing baby EFA 14.
A hirsute John (on the left) with Telos publisher David J Howe and Sarah Jane Adventures script editor Gary Russell at the DWM panel at Galaxicon in 1990
Back to reality and a move to setting up Titan Magazines as its Managing Editor where, amongst other titles, he created RAF Magazine hence the now familiar photo of John standing beside a Red Arrows Hawk T1A jet.
Staying with Titan and, as if one major TV SF fandom wasn't enough wasn't enough for him, John became editor of the monthly Star Trek Magazine.
John and Lee Sullivan during the DWM panel at Panopticon 1988
Happy Birthday, John. Thanks for all those commissions you gave me, back in the day. You were a great editor to write for.
Telos partners, David J Howe and Stephen James Walker
Steve Holland: Comics historian and Bear Alley webmaster
Anniversaries are always worth celebrating, especially when it's a biggie like the big five-oh. 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of The Three Bears, Scoop Donovan, John Steel and Rory MacDuff, amongst many others, including the ever-youthful John Freeman, who doesn't seem to have changed much since we first met nearly twenty years ago when he was editor of Overkill at Marvel UK. Wiser, perhaps. As busy as ever, of course. But older? Maybe between scriptwriting, editorial chores and putting together downthetubes (10 years old itself) he just doesn't have time to age. Happy birthday, John, and congratulations on your thirtieth 21st birthday in a row.
SteveChief Bear in the Alley, Steve Holland.