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Thursday, 18 February 2010

First Look - Torchwood 20 by Minchin, Yeowell, Workman

Torchwood strip drawn by Steve YeowellTitan Magazines Torchwood title has hit Issue 20 and the comic strip is sure to appeal to 2000AD fans – it's drawn by Steve "Zenith" Yeowell.

Written by Brian Minchin, a Script Editor and Assistant Producer on the Torchwood TV series, with art by Steve Yeowell (with lettering and additional art by John Workman), the story, 'Fated to Pretend', opens with a prison van driving at breakneck speed along an isolated road - as if pursued by the devil itself. The doors break open and prisoners spill out onto the road - but something yanks them back inside. By the time Torchwood arrive, the prisoners and warders are dead. But worse than that. They've been eaten...

Torchwood strip drawn by Steve YeowellTorchwood follow the prison van back to Mynydd Coch, an aging prison built high above Cardiff in the Black Mountains. The prison has been locked shut, the transporter was the first vehicle to leave the building for months, and there have been strange stories from within of horror and brutality, of Zombie warders, and prisoners eaten alive. Jack has another theory... But what will happen when he, Ianto and Gwen get inside...?

Steve Yeowell is one of the UK’s most successful comic artists, who began his career back in the 1980s working with writer Grant Morrison on Marvel UK’s Zoids, He then went on to work with Morrison on 2000AD’s ground-breaking Zenith series and has never looked back, working on 2000AD series such as Sinister Dexter and The Red Seas, and also on several comics for Marvel (Skrull Kill Krew), DC (Batman, Starman) and Vertigo (The Invisibles, Sebastian O).

John Workman is one of comics’ most famous letterers, and has worked on comics by Walt Simonson, Grant Morrison and many more on such titles as Doom Patrol and Thor. Also a comic artist, and the Torchwood comic editor Martin Eden invited him to contribute to this special strip.

Torchwood Magazine Issue 20 is on sale now in the UK (more info here) and on 16th March in the US (more info here) and is available from all good retailers and specialist comic stores.


• For the latest on Torchwood Magazine, sign aboard its Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/TorchwoodMagazine



Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Asterix in Britain heads for the cinemas

Asterix in Britain


Goodness gracious! A round of hot water for the entire Gaulish village! The long best-selling Asterix story, Asterix in Britain, is to become a movie.

Earlier this month, Les Editions Albert René and the Fidelite production company announced an agreement for a new feature-length film.

The fourth adaptation of the Asterix Adventures, Astérix chez les Bretons, to give it its French title, is to be directed by Laurent Tirard, who will also be co-writing the script with Grégoire Vigneron, based on the album.

The story sees the Romans invading Britain, but, like Gaul, one village still holds out against them. Asterix and Obelix cross the Channel to help the Britons, with plenty of digs at British culture along the way.

"Already produced as an animated film in 1986, Asterix in Britain is jam-packed with unforgettable scenes that we're dying to see in real-life action," say the Asterix team. "The excitement of Asterix and Obelix’s reunion at the Tower of London, an unexpected rugby match, an entire legion of wine-weary Romans, the delights of lukewarm beer and boiled boar with mint sauce, the exquisite care of the most impeccably kept lawn in the Ancient World, and the story of how tea became the Britons’ national beverage, thanks to Getafix’s well-meaning pranks....

Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo holds this early Asterix album in high regard. “In my opinion, René Goscinny’s best album will always be Asterix in Britain, thanks to an extraordinary trick that only he could have come up with since he spoke English: transforming the Britons’ speech with an English sentence structure.”

Asterix in Britain was also superbly translated on its original release by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge and like many of the early books, is an indicator of how important a good translation is to the success of foreign albums in the UK market. For me, reading the original Asterix the Gaul as a kid, nothing beats the scene in which Getafix and Asterix enjoy a round of wordplay at the Romans' expense...

Notes about some of the "in" and visual jokes in Asterix in Britain on The Asterix Annotations

More about the first three live-action films adapted from the Asterix universe on the official Asterix web site

Valentine Chronicles Comic Art Gallery Opens

The Valentine Chronicles: KatarinaThe web-based story site The Valentine Chronicles is celebrating its third birthday with a brand new gallery featuring artwork by top UK artists like Alan Davis (ClanDestine, Excalibur, Marvelman), Dylan Teague (Judge Dredd) Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy, Judge Dredd), his image below, left, Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies, Hellblazer), Jon Hodgson (Dragon Warriors, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering - check out his official web site for more art) and many more.

The Valentine Chronicles: Duncan Fegredo illustrationLaunched in 2007, The Valentine Chronicles was created to generate donations for the Myasthenia Gravis association, a charity dedicated to the research of the auto-immune condition Myasthenia Gravis. The site itself is a 100% free web-site featuring the serialised struggle of retired mercenary Ivan Valentine as he fights to keep his neices alive in a hostile galaxy.

There are currently 13 complete serials and six galleries of artwork to enjoy, all brought to you with no pop-ups and no ads.

Visit the site at: www.thevalentinechronicles.com

All art © respective artists

London International Creative Competition Launched

The London International Creative Competition for 2010 has just been announced and is calling for entries.

Described as "a vehicle for facilitating contact between uniquely talented artists and an international audience", work is juried by a board of internationally esteemed artists, writers, curators, gallery owners and other luminaries of the visual arts (full list here). The jury-selected finalists and shortlist will be published in the LICC Annual Awards Book, on the LICC website and announced to the creative arts and media outlets worldwide.

The 15 finalists works will be presented at the LICC awards ceremony in London and one prize-winner chosen by the jury will receive the £2,000 cash prize.

This year's categories are:

• Architectural
• Audio/Music
• Design (Environmental/Fashion/Graphic/Interior)
• Drawing/Illustration
• Installation
• Mixed Media
• NetArt/Web Design
• Painting
• Performance
• Photography
• Printmaking
• Sculpture
• Textile
• Video and Film
• Writing
• Other

The Entry Fee is £20 single or series, Students £15 single or series. For an online entry form, click here. For PDF submission forms click here

LICC was founded by the Farmani Group in 2006 which, among other things, has founded many charities, businesses, and organizations including the award-winning VUE magazine, The Lucie Awards (the Oscars of photography), , Focus on AIDS, International Photography Awards, Px3-Prix del la Photographie de la Paris, Art For New York, the Farmani Gallery, aNet Communications, Design Awards and FYIdesign.

• For more info visit: www.licc.us

In Review: Nikolai Dante - Amerika

Writer Robbie Morrison's roguish Nikolai Dante character has been a success for 2000AD from his first appearance in Prog 1035 in March 1997 and with Amerika the Rebellion reprint books of his ongoing adventures have reached number 9.

It is the 27th Century and the Earth is dominated by the Russian empire of Tsar Vladimir the Conqueror. Despite their considerable differences in the past, Dante is currently the Sword Of The Tsar, operating as a trouble shooter for the Empire. Of course this being Nikolai Dante he is more likely to cause the trouble than to shoot it. The book reprints the ongoing story of Dante from the Amerika story itself up to An Army Of Thieves And Whores and adds a shorter spin-off story, Lulu's War, at the end.

Amerika is set again a backdrop of unrest in New York in which suicidal rebels take strength enhancing drugs to attack their Russian occupiers. These drugs give then superhuman abilities and Morrison, along with artist Simon Fraser, have fun in creating perverse versions of familiar superhero characters from the Captain America styled character on the cover to the Incredible Hulk and even the Watchmen. This is not that unusual in the Dante stories as Morrison has previously incorporated his versions of British comics characters such as Janus Stark, Luther Arkwright and even Lord Peter Flint from Warlord into his stories. Along with his love interest, the Tsarina Jena Makarov, Dante's task is to stop the violence from the terrorist groups and get them to declare a truce to allow elections to take place. Simon Fraser, as artistic creator of Dante, draws him with his usual dynamicism and uses his surprisingly rare splash panels to good effect.

The art chores on Dante are regularly split between the Fraser's traditional comics style and veteran John M Burns fully painted stories. As different as they are they both work just as well for the character and Burns paints the middle section of the story as Dante, sickened by what he has seen and had to do in New York, finally snaps and turns against the Tsar. This is a more sober storyline of torture and repression and Burns moody style fits it well before Fraser returns to art duties as the story opens out into an all out revolution against the Tsar's regime.

The extra story in the book is a short spin-off tale set during the uprising and involves perhaps the darkest of all Dante's siblings, Lulu Romanov. Lulu's ability is the creation of supernatural demons and her battle is set in Venice against the vampiric Nightstalkers. The art by Paul Marshall, who has previous illustrated tales of the vampire Durham Red, is not as polished as Fraser or Burns however, in a story that could so easily been too dark visually as well as plot wise, Harrison ensures that the panels tell the fairly vicious story clearly.

Dante is a fan favourite in 2000AD but, as these stories show, the world that he inhabits is coming to an end, with Morrison portraying him as less of the happy-go-lucky swashbuckler than he once was while John M Burns in particular is beginning to portray him as an older man.

All good things come to an end but Amerika shows that the tale of Nikolai Dante is not there quite yet.

There are more details of Nikolai Dante: Amerika on Rebellion's 2000AD Online website.

Simon Fraser has a "semi-official" Nikolai Dante site as part of his own website and he will be a guest at the Hi-Ex comics convention in Inverness on 27/28 March 2010.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Book and Magazine Collector 318

The latest issue of Book and Magazine Collector is now available and features the first part of a series of articles entitled Forgotten British Comics on the titles of the so called Pirate Publishers, those companies that produced often one-off comics titles during the paper rationing on the late 1940s and the comics boom of the early 1950s.

Comics historian David Ashford takes a break from the magazine's long running Great British Comics Artists series to look at the now almost forgotten comics that some of those artists began their careers in. The first part of the series looks at Scion comics who's output included titles such as Big Pirate, Gunflash and All-Sorts Comic

The interest these comics generate for the modern comics reader most often is for the artists they include and Scion titles had art by Ron Turner, Ron Embleton (who simply signed himself as Ron) and Joe Colqhoun amongst others. The interest for the magazine collectors in these comics is the prices that these rare titles go for with the article covering 10 Scion comics ranging in price from £8 to £15 each.

Book and Magazine Collector issue 318 is available for £3.50 from WH Smiths and Easons, or from the B&MC website.

Other Pirate Publisher comic strips were reprinted in Ugly Duckling Press' Great British Fantasy Comic Book Heroes which was reviewed here.

Al Davison offers Life Drawing Master Class

Al Davison's Life Drawing Master ClassComics artist Al Davison has just announced he's running an all-day Life Drawing Master Class in Coventry in April.

An all-day life drawing extravaganza, it's the opportunity of expert tuition by the very talented Al, in the beautiful surroundings of of the Lock Gallery in Coventry's Canal Basin.

"All mediums are welcome," says Al, "but you'll have to bring your own materials."

• Spaces are limited, so it is a first come first served. Tea and coffee is provided, but you'll need to bring food for the break. Contact Al to book a space via his Astral Gypsy web site: http://www.astralgypsy.com/

More info on this Facebook page (Facebook membership required)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Compalcomics Auction offers rare Beanos, Frank Bellamy Art, Dick Tracy 1

Beano5_1938.jpgThe Spring 2010 auction at British comics auction site Compalcomics is now open.

The catalogue for the auction - one of four held every year - includes a rare copy of The Beano Issue 5 (expected to sell for between £550-600) published in 1938 - and other early issues of the comic - a complete set of Beanos from 1945, an unbroken run of Giles books (Volumes 2 - 21), two Young Marvelman annuals, a Four Feather Falls Snap Game (one of Gerry Anderson's early TV shows) and much more.

Two complete years of bound copies of Eagle are on offer: Volume 9 from 1958 includes the free gift BEA 16 page supplement given away with Issue 36., the comics of course including Dan Dare by Frank Hampson and Winston Churchill by Frank Bellamy. Volume 10 includes two competition leaflets with Dan Dare on Safari In Space by Frank Hampson, then on a Trip To Trouble by Frank Bellamy, both stories of course recently republished by Titan Books.

A copy of the 1953 Dan Dare Space Book is also on offer - a volume that includes some superb cutaways by Frank Hampson and crew, and is expected to sell for over £80

HerostheSpartan_Bellamy_Eaglevol16_20_1965.jpg

Artwork collectors are sure to be interested in various art by Dudley Watkins, Paddy Brennan and the Frank Bellamy board above, a spread for Heros The Spartan from The Eagle centre page spread Vol 16: No 20, published in 1965. Signed by Bellamy, the art sees Heros saved from The Living Dead by Zathran, ex-commander of the Black Guard. There's also a fabulous depiction of the Battle of Culloden on offer from ace Commando artist Ian Kennedy, some Garth strips by Martin Asbury, and a 1980 page of Faceache by the ever brilliant Ken Reid.

For music fans, also offered is a a major collection of Melody Maker. Comprising four yearly lots from 1960-1963, there are only a few issues missing and the condition is very fresh. They are publisher's file copies, each year with its own stamped file. 1963 has The Beatles first front cover. Poptastic!

DandyMonstrComic_1944.jpg1930s bound volumes are also among the lots with 1-20 of Modern Boy with its elusive No 1 free gift ‘George V' engine in tin plate and war year runs of Champion, Detective Weekly, Hotspur, Knock-Out, Thriller and Wizard. With the aforementioned Beano 5 there are a couple of Dandy Monster Comic and Magic-Beano Book beauties, all early years along with complete runs of Beano and Dandy comics from 1945. The 1950s offer bound volumes of Lion, Tiger, Radio Fun, TV Fun and School Friend – all high grade. Bunty, Lion, TV 21 and Valiant as well as those magnificent Melody Makers bestride the 1960s.

Dick_Tracy_01_1937_Dell.jpgThe auction's US section profiles a rare copy of Dick Tracy No 1 from 1937 with a good run of Batman early issues, many CGC graded. The Silver Age is dominated by runs of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Avengers and X-Men and Two-Face returns in Batman #234 CGCd at 9.4.

• Bids will be accepted until 8 PM UK time Tuesday 2 March. To go directly to the main page for the catalogue, visit: www.compalcomics.com/catalogue/index.htm

• You can now access Comic Book Auction's 11 year, 45 catalogue run of comics, annuals and artwork in our searchable database. Over 15,000 lots of comic titles, prices, issue numbers, years and grades all readily available. Just go to the top of the main page, click on ComicSearch and find what you need.

In Review: The Bluecoats - The Skyriders

The Bluecoats are two members of the Union cavalry during the American Civil War, the enthusiastic Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and the reluctant Corporal Blutch. In The Skyriders, having survived a battle that decimated their cavalry troop and with their commanding officer, Captain Stark, captured by the Confederate Army, Chesterfield and Blutch are volunteered as observers in one of the new tethered observation balloons just introduced on the Union side. From this lofty vantage point they discover where Stark is being held and hatch a plan to untether the balloon and use it to rescue him.

The Bluecoats were created by writer Raoul Cauvin and artist Louis Salverius with art duties taken over by Willy Lambil on Salverius' death after the fourth book. The series began as Les Tuniques Bleues in the weekly Spirou comic in 1968 with the stories being collected into albums and to date there have been a remarkable 53 Bluecoats albums published in French. A single album was translated and published in English by Reney in the US in 2004 under The Blue Tunics title before Cinebook took up the series last year. The Skyriders was originally published as Les Cavaliers Du Ciel in Spirou in 1975 beginning in issue 1940 and running for another 12 issues before being collected in 1976 as the eighth album in the series.

What is obvious from the cover, but not perhaps from the synopsis above, is that The Bluecoats is a humour title. Lambil's art is both fun and impressive with the amount of historical detail he includes while Cauvin has chosen an interesting and little known part of the American Civil War, the use of tethered observation balloons for reconnaissance and artillery spotting, and builds it into an amusing story. However it is just amusing rather than funny.

Now while I enjoy reading war comics and have enjoyed other adventure styled humour titles from Cinebook such as the Ancient Egypt based Papyrus and spy themed Clifton, for me, war and humour makes for an uncomfortable mixture. Asterix and Obelix might punch out every Roman soldier in sight but they don't run them through with swords or spears, however in The Skyriders Confederate soldiers are shot at point blank range and don't get up again while cavalry charges involve swords aimed at the enemy. Perhaps that is why while I find the story amusing, I don't find it funny.

Having said that, and considering that there have been 53 Les Tuniques Bleues albums published in the last 38 years, this is a series that has an impressive ongoing popularity in France and Belgium where there are obviously many readers that find it funnier than I do.

There are more details of the English language editions of The Bluecoats on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the original Dupuis editions on Les Tuniques Bleues website (in French).

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