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Saturday, 19 June 2010

In Review: IR$ - The Corrupter

The Corrupter is the second and final part of the IR$ story begun in Silica, Inc. which was reviewed on downthetubes when it was published earlier in the year. That first book left the reader wondering about a red haired woman and, to a certain extent, just how the apparently divergent strands of the plot were ever going to get pulled together.

Larry B Max, taxman with a gun, continues his investigation of the activities of a company, Silicia, that apparently deals in assassination. Learning from the CIA that they have used the services of Silicia in the past, Larry has a run in with the mysterious red haired woman who points him in the direction of a new tax trail before apparently attempting to kill him.

In this second half of the story, originally published in French by Lombard in 2004, the reader is given a lot more information about the redheaded Silicia and Max's own relationship with a phone sex worker in what seems, at times, to be an overload of irrelevant information. The Corrupter does eventually pull all these strands together but it certainly takes its own sweet time about it. Just who is genuinely corrupt and who is being forced into corruption and why is left to virtually the final scene.

Writer Stephen Dresberg manages to cram a lot of strands into his plot between the Internal Revenue Service, the police, the CIA and the American Mob as well as local and national politicians and a foreign government. While at times it does seem like too much, everything does eventually tie together. Bernard Vrancken's art is clear and concise without being overly showy and often has to content with large speech balloons as the plot gets more convoluted.

Overall The Corrupter does not quite live up to the promise of Silicia, Inc. but it does provide a highly intelligent, calculating and coldblooded villain in the form of Silicia herself, a character that hopefully the series will return to in the future.

There are more details of the English language versions of IR$ on the Cinebook website.

More details of the original French IR$ publications are available (in French) on the Lombard website including details of the 12th album, Au Nom Du President, which is due for release at the end of the June.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Commando - New Issue Gen

Straight from the Commando C.O. comes all the gen on the four latest issues of Commando available from 17 June:

4303 : STEER FOR ACTION

From the first day of war in 1939, the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the countries opposed to Hitler’s Germany knew that it would be a long, bloody struggle before the Nazis were toppled to defeat. They couldn't know then that the day of victory would come in May, 1945, and for those six years of savage war, Clive Sterling, Royal Navy, would sail hostile seas and face deadly danger almost every day in that fight for freedom.

Story: Ian Clark
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 2857 from 1995

This final part of the seven-part VE Day series is a naval story which contrives to tie all the previous tales together

4304 : THE BLACK GAUNTLET

Two pilots duelling to the death…just what you’d expect in the days of the Second World War. But what was unusual about this pair — one British, one German — was that there wasn’t an aircraft in sight and they were fighting on the ground. This clash was just as deadly, though, for on the German’s right hand was a heavy spiked and studded gauntlet…one blow from which could be fatal!

Story: Cyril Walker
Art: Ricardo Garijo
Cover: Alan Burrows
Originally No 2703 from 1993

4305 : MONSTER OF WAR

Central Russia, 1918. An armoured train, bristling with artillery and machine guns is locked in a duel to the death. But what with? A spindly freakish contraption seemingly too fragile for battle. Yet this nightmare of a device blasting away with its own deadly guns towers over the train. Where has it come from, this monster of war? And why is it crewed by the Royal Naval Air Service?

Story: Norman Adams
Art: John Ridgway
Cover Art: John Ridgway

4306 : THE PHANTOM’S STRIKE

A cloaked and masked figure who stalks the city of Paris protecting the underdog and escaping through the sewers to outwit his pursuers — obviously this is the invention of a Victorian mystery writer, not a real person. Yet, this was 1944 and, if you asked the German authorities or the pro-Nazi French Militia, you would find that this character was all too real. And all too deadly.

Story: Norman Adams
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Tube Surfing: Dez Skinn, Fanzines Galore and Simone Lia

Right, what's happening out there...

Lew Stringer's ace comics blog informs us that Dez Skinn has a new website. Dez was, of course, the man behind such titles as Warrior, Comics International and Doctor Who Weekly (still with us as Doctor Who Magazine).

Warwick Johnson Cadwell has posted his ace A.B.C Warriors strip from new 2000 AD fanzine, Nu Earth online at his blog. Warwick sent me a copy of the fanzine and I have to say it's, well, zarjaz. Will Kirkby has done the same with the pencils for his cracking contribution, a fab Rogue Trooper strip. Tharg, employ these men now!!!

Paul Gravett's new article about and interview with cartoonist Simone Lia is well worth checking out. In the interview, Simone talks about various topics, including her new work-in-progress, a graphic novel about her relationship with God:

"I was passing through Leicester Square almost three years ago and the bubbling inspiration came to me and I had a fuzzy vision of the completed story whilst standing near a red telephone box," she explains. "I was so excited and happy to be suddenly inspired again, I had a sense the book would be about an adventure with God. When it came to starting the work however I really didn’t know how to go about having an adventure with God and how I might show it in a comic. Showing that relationship is such a personal thing. Part of me definitely did not want to open that up for everyone to see but the feeling to make the book didn’t go away. It’s been taking a long time to produce partly because of that uncertainty of depicting this personal area of my life and also because the story in real life has had to unravel."

Paul also sends word of an opportunity for creators of humorous zines and comics to have their work displayed in the reading room at Tate Britain as part of their Rude Britannia exhibition.

Here's the skinny, from the Tate's website:

"Help us curate the reading room of the Rude Britannia exhibition with an array of humorous fanzines, comics and home made publications. Rude Britannia: British Comic Art celebrates all that is comical, satirical, political, absurd and bawdy in British art from 1600s to today and we would like you to respond to these themes. The best fanzines will be selected by curator Cedar Lewisohn and placed in the exhibition space for a period of time. Please only send publications that you think are funny. We will notify you if your publication has been selected, but we cannot commit to sending your publication back to you."

And finally, small press comics news blog Bugpower draws our attention to another opportunity for self-publishers:

"Cerebus.TV are starting a "Small Press Comics Focus" feature, and they are looking for submissions for future episodes. Email indie@exoss.net for details. You can see a promo for the first one HERE. The 'pilot' has been put together by the guys at Cerebus.tv and features the minicomics of Dan Fish (Hey, that's ME). It appears as part of Episode 30, which streams online starting Friday 18th June and 24/7 all week long."

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Oxfam Comic Event Tickets Now Available

Following on from last year's event, tickets are now available for the snappily entitled Oxfam Bookfest Comic Event in Edinburgh - Issue 2. This discussion based event will take place on Saturday 17 July 2010 in Edinburgh's MacDonald Road Library which is only a 10 - 15 minute walk from the city's main bus and train stations.

After last year's discussions about Scotland in comics and Scottish comics in general, this year's theme will be, like the Dundee Comics Day three weeks beforehand, the evolution of a comic from original idea to writing, art and publishing. As with last year the day will feature contributions from Marvel Heroes and Commando writer Ferg Handley, writer and former 2000AD editor David Bishop and Insomnia publisher Crawford Coutts. The four hour event begins at Noon with tickets costing only £3, the same as last year.

Tickets are now available from the Morningside Oxfam Bookshop which once again is organising the event. It is located at 210 Morningside Road, Edinburgh, EH10 4QQ, and the telephone number is 0131 4469169. The shop can also be contacted by e-mail via oxfamshopf5808AToxfam.org.uk.

The fun poster for the event is the work of Edinburgh based artist Ben Morris who is a regular illustrator on Doctor Who Magazine and the junior Doctor Who Adventures.

There are more details of the 2010 event at the Oxfam BookFest website and on the Oxfam Morningside Twitter feed.

There are videos of Ferg Handley and David Bishop at the 2009 event on YouTube.

New Eagle Annuals Website

We are pleased to report that Eagle has inspired a new fan website set up by Ian and Sharon Hartas. While most Eagle sites are devoted to Dan Dare this one is specifically for the Eagle annuals both from the original Eagle run between 1952 and 1975 and the new Eagle run between 1983 and 1992. In that time it had mutated from the familiar red covered, green spined 1950s style Eagle Annual into The New Eagle Yearbook and the price had increased ten fold from 8/6 (which equates to 42.5p) to £4.25.

Each annual has a clear cover picture plus publishing details and a contents listing which sets the site apart from the majority of annual sites which are normally photographically based. In addition to the main set of annuals the site also dips its toe into the tie-in Eagle Sports Annuals and Eagle Books plus the annuals of the companion titles Girl, Swift and Robin.

While the site is by no means complete on the tie-in and companion annuals the site owners are promising more updates to come.

The Eagle Annuals website can be found at http://www.eagleannual.info/.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Comica/Observer/Cape Graphic Short Fiction prize 2010


The Comica/Observer/Cape Graphic Short Fiction prize 2010 is now open for entries.

The deadline is 6th October 2010, with a first prize of £1000 and a runners-up prize of £250. The competition, now in its fourth year, usually creates a bit of a buzz on the British comics scene and is a good opportunity for aspiring cartoonists. The winner will see their strip published in the Observer Review (the arts section of broadsheet newspaper, The Observer), while the runner-up will have their work published at the Guardian website and on the Vintage website.

The winner (and the runners-up) of the 2008 competition can be found here. The winner (as well as the runner-up) of the 2009 competition, meanwhile, are here.

In related news, one of the competition's judges, Rachel Cooke, has just written an article for the Guardian extolling the virtues of the medium of comics, which she discovered as an adult:

"I'm not proud of this but, for years and years, I thought that graphic novels were only read by geeky guys with long hair, fetid bedrooms and a serious fondness for thrash. Yes, I had read Maus by Art Spiegelman (just in case you don't know, it tells the story of Spiegelman's father, Vladek, a Polish Jew; Spiegelman draws the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats). And I thought it was amazing, of course. But still, it seemed to me to be one of a kind. After all, graphic novels are basically comics, aren't they? And there's only so much a writer can do with a comic, and only so much pleasure a reader (at least a grown-up reader) can take in one."

And, finally, last year, the Forbidden Planet International blog, did a series of posts on the various 'non-winners' of the 2009 that had posted their strips online. These are well worth reading and can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Rare Skull Badge From Scream For Sale

downthetubes contributor Ian Wheeler is delving into his personal collection of Doctor Who and comics memorabilia to offer some unique items on ebay.

Says Ian: 'Like everyone else, I am feeling the pinch at the moment. I am therefore reluctantly selling a very treasured item in the form of the free 'glow in the dark' skull badge which was given way with Scream! comic issue 3 in the early 80s. It's rarer than most of the comics.' The badge is ebay item 230487466350.

Also on sale is the very first issue of the Dark Horse UK Star Wars comic from 1992 with free gift still attached (230487460943), the very rare David Tennant Radio Times special which was only available by mail order (230486634841) and rare Doctor Who production office paperwork from the 80s which was sent out to enquirers (230487392718.).

More items should be added soon.
Update 15 June - the badge is proving quite a talking point on the forum of the excellent Scream! website Back from the Depths!!
Update 16 June - turns out the skull badge is not from Scream! after all! A number of contributors to back from the depths seemed to have a sort of collective folk memory that the badge had indeed been given away with Scream! Then I remembered - it was in fact from Spike comic issue 4!! In the interests of fairplay, I've withdrawn the item from sale for the time being.

Competition: Win Tickets to Madame Tussauds Marvel 4D!

Two of the world's leading entertainment brands - Madame Tussauds, part of the Merlin Entertainments Group, and Marvel Entertainment - have joined forces to create a unique new visitor experience at the leading London attraction - MARVEL SUPERHEROES 4D - and downthetubes, in partnership with British SF and Fantasy news site SciFiPulse.net, has TWO pairs of tickets to give away! Find out how below!

As we previously reported, the stunning Marvel Super Heroes 4D features a mix of 4D animation, interactive themed areas and startlingly realistic Madame Tussauds wax figures over three floors of the attraction, featuring characters such as the Hulk, Iron Man, Nick Fury, Spider-Man and many others. There's even a specially-shot film that forms part of the exhibition.

HOW TO ENTER OUR COMPETITION: Simply answer the question below and send the answer to this special competition email address - johnfreeman6-4dcomp@yahoo.co.uk - by 12 noon GMT on Friday 25th June 2010.

Two lucky winners with the right answer will be drawn from Thor's helmet and will win a pair of tickets for the exhibition each. Please note, the prize is only for tickets, no travel or accommodation!

What is the name of the billionaire who is also the superhero, Iron Man?

• For more information about Marvel Super Heroes 4D go to: www.madame-tussauds.co.uk/4d

Sunday, 13 June 2010

In Review: Largo Winch - See Venice... And Die

Largo Winch is the Eagle Award nominated series that follows the life, loves and tribulations of one of the richest men in the world. Written by Lady S, Thorgal and XIII's Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by Philippe Francq, the series has reached 16 albums in French of which 10 have now been translated by Cinebook into English.

Largo is the adopted son of the billionaire owner of the W organisation which he inherited on his father's death. In Paris Largo meets up with Charity, an old girlfriend from his previous life, who he cannot persuade to return to New York with him. Instead she goes to Venice to meet her former lover Domenica who has just had a run in with Italian terrorists attempting to escape the police after assassinating a local banker. When the terrorists return and kidnap Charity, Largo and Domenica team up to attempt to retrieve her which leads them to the Masked Ball of the Doge of Venice, a man that Largo has already been warned about.

The character began in a series of text novels by Van Hamme in the 1970s which then became a series of graphic novels beginning with L'Héritier in 1990. It is a popular series in the French speaking world with both a live action television series based on the character and, more recently, a film which is due for UK DVD release in August.

Each Largo Winch story is split over two French language albums which Cinebook have always paired into double thickness English language books, so their decision to standardise all their publications as one French album to one English book perhaps affects Largo Winch more than the rest of their ongoing titles. See Venice... was originally published by Dupuis as Voir Venise... in 1998 while ...And Die was published as ...Et Mourir in 1999 and, while it has a one page recap, you cannot really read and make sense of ...And Die without having read See Venice... first.

That said the double length page count allows Van Hamme space to develop his characters and plots in the 92 pages that each story provides. As for the title character, it may be easiest to think of Largo Winch as a rich James Bond whose wealth allows him to operate outside of any government control but whose sense of morality keeps any excesses in check. In these books we see him fly between Paris, New York and Venice, dealing with terrorist kidnapping, a former girlfriend who is less than enamoured with his wealth and, while it doesn't appear that way in the first book, a considerable amount of corporate intrigue.

Personally I find that the books can be a little far fetched at times, with Largo's Bond-like ability to be surrounded by beautiful women somewhat trying, which perhaps is why I prefer the same writer's Lady S. That said the Largo Winch books are never disappointing with Francq's artwork always impressive and accessible. His women are indeed beautiful and his ability to draw detailed backgrounds is shown off well in these two books, with impressive views of Parisian and Venetian architecture and landscapes as the story progresses in addition to the more usual American skyscrapers.

Jean Van Hamme is a master when it comes to writing contemporary thrillers and the pairing of See Venice... And Die retains the reader's interest in both his ongoing and new characters while showing off his twisty but fast paced plotting to good effect.

There are more details of the English language Largo Winch books at the Cinebook website.

There are more details about the Largo Winch series at the official website (in English).

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