downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...
The downthetubes news blog was assimilated into our main site back in 2013, but we're glad you're here, because that's currently undergoing some under the bonnet refurb! So we've brought this blog back from the dead to tide us over.
We expect to be back up and running next week, just before the 2017 Lakes International Comic Art Festival - see you there?
Hop over to www.downthetubes.net for other British comics news, comic creating guides, interviews and much more!
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Friday, 19 March 2010
Richmond Clements is one of the busiest men working on the British independent comics scene today. While holding down a full-time job, he manages to (co-) run the successful Hi-Ex Comic Convention in Inverness, co-edit several small press anthologies and has even, recently, been scripting various comic projects.
Matt Badham caught up with him recently to talk about organising Hi-Ex!, finding time to write and why most people that are interested in comics just want to see "Hulk Smash!"...
downthetubes: Please tell us a little about yourself and your previous and current involvement in the British comics scene.
Richmond: About five years ago, I was asked to come on board the FutureQuake team as an editor. I've been there ever since.
We've added to the stable too: we now publish a horror book, Something Wicked, two 2000AD-inspired fanzines, Zarjaz and Dogbreath, and a Manga book called MangaQuake, although we've decided to shelve that one after the next issue.)
In addition to that, I'm currently writing two full-length graphic novels for Insomnia and co-organising Hi-Ex!, The Highland International Comic Convention.
I'm sure there's other stuff too...
downthetubes: How did your new comic, Turning Tiger from Renegade Arts Entertainment, come about?
Richmond: Well, first, I'd better give you a quick outline of the plot. Sarah Smith is a nine-year-old girl. JEN is a multi-billion dollar war robot. When JEN malfunctions and kidnaps Sarah, the military find themselves in desperate race against time to save the child and to stop her parents going public with the story.
As with a lot of things, it began with a couple of different ideas. I had a couple of particular images that kept popping into my mind featuring a young girl and a giant robot. One of these turns up as a panel in issue two. The other thing I can't talk about as it would spoiler the story in an enormous way!
So yeah, I one day realised that these two separate things were not actually separate but parts of the same story. Suddenly, Turning Tiger was born!
downthetubes: What have been the benefits of working for small press titles, in terms of writing and networking opportunities, and your life generally?
Richmond: In terms of writing, it's good practise!
What the small press can do is take a script that might not be anywhere near ready, but has perhaps just the spark of a good idea in it and work with the writer for as long as it takes until the script is ready. It also gives a writer or artist the undeniable thrill of seeing something you created in print.
In my life? Phew! Well... I can start with meeting my partner through working on comics and work down from there! I've made some incredibly good friends through my involvement in comics. That, and it gives me something to do with what little spare time I have!
Networking... I'm not sure how to answer this without coming over as terribly mercenary! It's great fun to meet pros and to have become friends with some. And to then have some of these guys agree to do covers for us is a real thrill.
On a personal level: sitting in a bar with an editor at a convention is a damned good way to pitch a story!
downthetubes: How did you develop your ideas? Do you bang away at a script or plot and write a synopsis first?
Richmond: Turning Tiger arrived pretty much fully formed.
Some things, the graphic novel Corvus I'm writing for Insomnia, for example, start off as an idea (a superhero story set in Roman Britain) and have to be worked into a plot. However, with Turning Tiger, once I had the original thought, it was more or less all there from the off. There have been a few very minor changes made, but that's all.
downthetubes: Corvus sounds interesting. Please tell us about that.
Richmond: Corvus is set in Roman-occupied Britain in 30AD.
The Brits are held in subjugation by the mighty Roman army, helped by their own superhero, Gladius. But the British have a hero too; a 15-year-old girl called Callie, who must become the Corvus, legendary guardian of the people... It's basically a rip-roaring adventure, with some awesome action set pieces in there, as well as, I hope, telling a good story.
The art is by the brilliant Kevin Levell, who has produced some cracking concept sketches already.
downthetubes: You seem to have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment. Are you doing all this stuff on top of a day job?
Richmond: Yes, I have a day job too! I'm lucky though, in that I'm a pretty fast writer once I get started. Also, I drive a lot in my day job and get a lot of time to edit in my head, so by the time I get to putting it on paper a script or story can be more or less fully mapped out.
downthetubes: It seems in one way that British comics are going through a bit of a golden age, with a thriving small press scene, lots of stuff happening online and lots of indie companies springing up. On the other hand, there seem to be few opportunities to actually make money from comics in this country.
Can you give us your perspective on the pros and cons of being a fledgling comics writer working right here, right now and also as a con' organiser, who perhaps gets a bit of an overview of the scene that way?
Richmond: The small press scene is indeed thriving.
In truth it's always been that way, but it's just that the 'top end' of the market, if you want to call it that, has all but disappeared, so now folks are starting to notice the small and mid-sized press more.
You're right though, there are a limited number of 'slots' in the industry where a writer or artist can expect to make a full-time wage -- to put it mildly! Frankly, though, if you're mental enough to get into comics as a way of making your fortune then you deserve everything you (don't) get! I think there's too many people who look at writers like Grant Morrison or Alan Moore and assume that everyone in the industry can make that kind of money. Which is of course stupid.
Every author doesn't make Rowling or King money. Every musician is not going to reach the earning level of U2 or Springsteen. You have to accept that the chances are you will not make your fortune writing or drawing comics unless you are very, very lucky.
On the convention organising front, we were delighted and surprised by the interest shown by the general public. Our first Hi-Ex! was all but snowed off, with only half the guests being able to make it because of the weather, yet we saw hundreds of members of the general public turn up, many of them in family groups, to join in. There's a massive market out there of 'ordinary' people who are interested in the medium.
The industry needs to focus on bringing them in and not on keeping an ever-diminishing number of hardcore fans and continuity whores happy. Most people want to open a comic and simply want to see Batman thwart the Joker or Hulk Smash. They don't care if Cyclops did such-and-such in a comic written 25 years ago. They just want entertainment.
downthetubes: What's next for you, in terms of your writing?
Richmond: Next up will be finishing off writing both Pinkerton and Corvus. There will be, if everything goes to plan, a collected edition of Turning Tiger available in print sometime in April, and after that I'll start writing the sequel. In between this I'd love to finish the children's book I'm writing, and we'll have new issues of all the FutureQuake books to get out, including an ABC Warriors special, which, if it all works the way we've planned it, will be very special indeed.
downthetubes: Please give the latest Hi-Ex! a pimp. Tell us about the guests and events...
Richmond: HiEx 2010 is on the 27th and 28th of March at Eden Court in Inverness. We've got an enormous number of guests with something for everyone. We've got a children's corner with some fantastic artists there. Kev F Sutherland is bringing his socks, the Beano guys are going to be doing their stuff and as always, we'll have a brilliant charity auction (and if you're not coming, you can still bid! Check out our website for details on the lots!). This year we're also running a games room, where the public can try their hands at things like the Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Doctor Who roleplaying games. And as if that's not enough, the one and only Cam Kennedy is coming!
downthetubes: And in terms of Zarjaz, you guys seem to have been very good at getting pros to contribute/let you work on their characters. Tell us about working with the likes of Pat Mills and Kek-W...
Richmond: Yup, getting to work with these guys is a great bonus! Pat's been very helpful and generous - not only by allowing us to use the characters, but in offering us pointers and advice on them. Kek-W has given us an awesome Rosie O'Rion story that I guarantee will make you want her back in the prog!
We've also been very fortunate with everyone from Simon Coleby to Rufus Dayglo doing covers for us! You can't imagine the thrill of seeing a specially drawn Kingdom cover by Richard Elson arriving in your inbox. And we've got a couple of very cool cover artists lined up for the next few issues of Zarjaz and Dogbreath...
downthetubes: Richmond, thank you very much for your time and the best of luck with all your projects.
• Hi-Ex Comic Convention Official Site
• Futurequake Official web site
This interview has been simultaneously cross-posted at both the Forbidden Planet International blog and downthetubes.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
The book will reprint seven complete comics originally published between 1947 and 1953 and is likely to appeal to fans of Dan Dare, Rick Random and those who like their sci-fi heroes retro.
While Dark Horse haven't specified the source, Flash Gordon fans online suggest the 312-page collection comprises comics originally published by Dell between 1947-49, drawn by Paul Norris in Four-Color #173, 190, 204 and 247; and from 1952-53:, three more from Four Color #424, #512 and Flash Gordon #2, featuring art by Jack Lehti and Frank Thorne.
Ardden Entertainment, a company with British connections, has the license to produce new range of Flash Gordon comics, and SciFiPulse.net reports the range has gone very well for them.
Another highly recommended Flash Gordon collection - Al Williamson's Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic was published last year, reprinting his Gold Key and Marvel Flash Gordon work.
• Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Volume 1 is available to pre-order from Forbidden Planet and other onlibne stores.
• Flash Gordon Story Index
Unfortunately the comic folded after 43 issues, but now a year on, the first three volumes of The DFC Library have been released, reprinting collections of material in European Graphic Album format.
On tonight's Strip! radio show on ResonanceFM, Alex Fitch talks to Kate Brown, the award winning creator of Spider Moon, Dave Shelton, the creator of Good Dog, Bad Dog and Ben Haggarty, the writer of MeZolith, who, with artist Adam Brockbank has created a book that one critic has already called “the most important British graphic novel of the last twenty years”.
The story is set 10,000 years ago, when the Kansa tribe live on the western shores of the North Sea Basin, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventure, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighbouring tribe is fraught with threats. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must play his part and trust the strength and wisdom of his elders. This is a tale of beasts and beauty, man, magic and... horror.
Kirk Bergman and Duncan McBoo are the stars of Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog: two pedigree police, the finest canine cops in all Muttropolis. And they're never short of work. The city is heaving with cunning crooks and malevolent mongrels who would sell their own mother for a bone. Join our dog detectives as they chase leads, sniff out crime, collar the bad guys and generally get their teeth into adventures full of action, suspense and ...milkshakes. Criminals beware: McBoo and Bergman are on your tail!
Spider Moon starts with tales of a prophecy, of homelands being crushed by a falling sky, at a time Bekka and her people are facing the end of days. They must do all in their power to save themselves from the fate they believe is theirs. But destiny is like a tightly coiled snake. Which Bekka must unfurl without getting bitten...
• Strip!: The DFC Library airs at 5.00pm today (Thursday 18the March) on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com / podcast online tonight at www.panelborders.wordpress.com
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
If you’re out and about in Inverness this coming Saturday (20th March) you best watch your step. Because at around mid-day, the Eastgate centre will see a mini invasion, in the shape of stormtroopers from the Star Wars movies, courtesy of members of the 501st Garrison.
They’ll be there to raise awareness of Children 1st, Scotland's leading welfare charity, and to let people know about the Hi-Ex - The Highland International Comic Expo - which will take place on the 27th and 28th at the city's Eden Court venue.
As well as the outreach programme funded by the Highland Council, HiEx also supports Children 1st with a raffle and auction during the weekend. Details of the auction items can be found on their website.
All items have been donated from various companies and comic artists, who have given pages of original art, including David Lloyd, co-creator of V for Vendetta and John Higgins, both of which have been recently been made into hit movies.
"Last year, the raffle and auction raised over £1600 for Children 1st," notes HiEx organiser Vicky Stonebridge, "with people bidding online from all over the world, and we hope to surpass that this time."
2010 will see the third time HiEx has been held in Inverness, and the first time they have succeeded in securing funding from the Highland Council. It's hoped there will be another HiEx event next year, but as Vicky explains, "It’s all very much dependant on future funding and how this years event goes.
"We have some very exciting guests this time, some coming from as far afield as Paris and New York, so we’re hopeful that HiEx 2010 will be a big enough success for us to continue next year."
• Details of the weekend events and discount weekend tickets can be found on the website: www.hi-ex.co.uk
Monday, 15 March 2010
Over the weekend of October 16th – 17th at the state of the art Think Tank, Millennium Point in Birmingham, organisers tell us visitors can look forward to a full program of events celebrating the medium of comics and manga including panels, competitions, book launches and a huge trade fair featuring the UK’s most well known publishers and dealers.
This year, the guest list includes the complete creative team from DC Comics imprint Vertigo's runaway success Unwritten including award winning illustrator Yuko Shimizu, writer Mike Carey and penciller Peter Gross. There will also be a special appearance by artist Jimmy Broxton as visitors have the chance to take part in an exclusive Unwritten panel at the show.
Vertigo editor Pornsak Picheshote will also be at hand conducting portfolio reviews and taking part in events.
Other big names flying in from across the world include Turkish creator Mahmud A Asrar and USaSuperstar Tommy Lee Edwards, whose work can be seen in the new Jonathan Ross-penned series Turf.
Along with a whole host of UK creators such as Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy), Alan Davis (X-Men), Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead) and Sean Phillips (Criminal) to name just a few – BICS 2010 surely boasts the most diverse and impressive guest list of any UK event.
• To find out more, book tables or tickets or to keep up with all the latest updates visit the official website at: www.thecomicsshow.co.uk
YouTube fan 'thegreyman' has put a strip from the 1980s version of Toxic! (not to be confused with Egmont's TOXIC of today) and put it to music.
Written and drawn by Jeremy Banx and David Leach the greyman says he originally wanted to put the comic to the song 'Hell Trucker' by Gama Bomb "but it turned out to be far too long for just the one tune".
The music used is instead is Meanstreak - "Road Kill"; Gama Bomb - "Hell Trucker"; and Thanatos - "Speed Kills".
Banx is currently a cartoonist for the Financial Times and working on an animated mini-series The Many Deaths of Norman Spittal, while David Leach now works in the comics department of Titan Magazines alongside Steve White, Ned Hartley and others.
Ghost follows the life of Jennifer Rhys, a troubled young woman who, from birth, has been tortured by visions of demonic angels, only to discover that she is an angel, not only an angel, but a Ghost, the last of the Heavenly Protectors of mankind in the great war to reclaim heaven.
Author Reeves-Murray mixes urban mythology, action, angelic lore and betrayal against a backdrop of a world being manipulated by evil to steal it away from the creator, while illustrator Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray brings the story to life with full page paintings.
Daniel has been a police officer for 19 years while at the same time working as an illustrator. The break came when he showed his portfolio to an editor at DC Comics during a convention, and from that point he’s slowly built a following and a reputation for creating images that are driven by light, passion and character.
Phoebe Reeves-Murray has been a teacher of non-traditional, at-risk - typically homeless and/or adjudicated high school and college age youth and adults as well as children in HeadStart for the last 20 years; creating “thinking and learning outside of the box” activities and curriculum for students, teachers, and faculty across the US. Most recently, Phoebe has created a pathways to college program for low level literacy and math youth living in New Orleans who are concurrently working on completing their secondary education and becoming employed in a first job.
"The story came from a set of characters and basic storyline I’ve had for a long time, and my wife, who is a writer, said, 'Let me do it,'" Murray says of the book's origins. "So she wrote the story, and I drew the illustrations."
"It's a graphic novel form — not a paperback, not a hardcover," he adds. "It's a hybrid of the two. It’s the size of a standard comic book, but it’s high-quality paper and high-quality illustrations.”
“It's intense stuff," says reviewer Lisa DuMond of the book. And it requires the reader’s full attention. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and beautifully done – those are reasons enough to pick up a copy as soon as possible."
"I think its a book whose time has come," feels Reeves-Murray. "It’s an unusual offering in the graphic novel arena because this is a illustrated novel. It's taking an old form of fairy tale books.
"I wanted to create a story like that with our heroine being a woman who doesn't want to be a heroine. She’s had terrible family tragedy caught between a war of demonic angels and heavenly angels. And her baby becomes the focus of the war."
• Read an interview with Phoebe Reeves-Murray and Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray on the Ghost web site
Ghost - Volume 1
Author Phoebe Reeves Murray (Scorpius Digital, Prima Publishing)
Illustrated by Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray (DC Comics, LucasFilm)
ISBN 978-0-9558088-6-9 • 160 pages, 244 x 172mm
£9.99 UK / $19.95 US • Available March 2010
Featured above: the cover and a promotional image for GHOST© The Illustrated Novel. Created by Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray and written by Phoebe Reeves Murray. Illustration by Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray, © 2010 Daniel Murray, All rights reserved. More info: www.ghostnovel.com
Commando No 4275: The Camouflage Kings
Story: Alan Hebden Inside Art: Vila Cover: Ian Kennedy
During World War II, Randolf King, a civilian film set designer, was employed by British Military Intelligence. His specialty was still the creation of illusions — but not for the movies this time. His talents were to put to use fooling the Germans with fake airfields, bases — even ships!
However, Randolf had a nemesis — a mysterious enemy with skills the equal of his own and, it seemed, the ability to anticipate his every move...
Commando No 4276: Deadly Feud
Story: Mike Knowles Inside Art: Macabich Cover: Macabich
August von Wurtburg, disgraced military cadet, had escaped from pre-First World War Germany, and his enemies, by joining the French Foreign Legion. There, to his surprise, he had been moulded into a skilled and dangerous fighting man.
When he returned to Germany after World War 1 he found it, and his family, in the grip of armed militias — a land on the brink of civil war. August would need all his considerable skills just to stay alive, never mind help his family.
Commando 4277: Combat Zone
Story: Ian Clark Inside Art: Ricardo Garijo Cover: Ian Kennedy
Previously No 2606 from 1992
The news team had known that filming a documentary in the middle of a combat zone was bound to be dangerous work. But nothing could have prepared them for a life-or-death chase by a gang of cut-throat bandits out for blood... or a direct attack by Hind helicopter gunships, each armed with a terrifying arsenal of machine guns, rockets and anti-tank missiles!
Commando 4278: Warriors of the Wilderness
Story: Alan Hemus Inside Art: Vila Cover: Alan Burrows
Previously No 2559 from 1992
A plane crash in an icy wilderness sets off a rescue operation with a difference because a Russian general in the plane carries vital secrets in his head. It means he must be rescued — or killed.
This desperate mission will make comrades of a strange assortment of fighting men...
• For more information, check out the official Commando site at: www.commandomag.com, which alos includes features on popular Commando characters such as Ramsey's Raiders and an ongoing day-by-day diary of World War 2...
• Click here for subscription information or write to: D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, The Subscribers Department, Commando Library, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL or Freephone (UK only) 0800 318846