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Friday, 25 March 2011

Tube Surfing: Weekend Comic events, another Royal Wedding Comic and Phoenix Comic

• The final cover art for another Royal Wedding comic has been revealed. The Geek Files, which also has some interior art, reports Bluewater Productions biography comic, Fame: The Royals, will be released next month in time for the wedding on 29th April, pitting it against Markosia's wedding comic whose contributors include Gary Erskine and Mike Collins (see news story).
Bluewater's cover is by Michal Szyksznian and there will be no alternative covers.

• This Saturday, the 26th March 2011, Dan Abnett will be at Forbidden Planet's London Megastore signing an exclusive Forbidden Planet Limited Edition of his new Angry Robot novel Embedded. Details here on the Forbidden Planet web site between 1 and 2.00pm. This is in advance of general publication, so don't miss out.

• Talking of events, Speech Balloon reminds us the cream of Midlands comic talent is taking part in the Memorabilia Show at Birmingham NEC this weekend. The London MCM Expo's famous Comic Village is taking comics around the country and the first stage of the tour is Memorabilia on 26-27 March.
Comic creators attending this weekend's Memorabilia include Lee Bradley; John McCrea; Kat Nicholson; Jason Cardy; Laura Howell; Liam Shalloo; Al Davison; Keith Burns; MC2; Matthew Craig; Lizz Lunney; Philippa Rice; Dylan Cook; Tony McGee; Markosia; Alice De Ste Croix; Ian Sharman; Josh Clarke; Linh Ha; Scot Stanford; Lyndon White; Ty Wilson; Sean Azzopardi; Lily Mitchell; Howard Hardiman; Toonikun and Minyi.

• The 2011 Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival is almost upon us and visitors can expect a packed weekend of activities in the heart of the medieval town. The main event weekend is April 16th-17th but many shows and exhibitions open in advance and ace British cartoonists blog Bloghorn has published details along with a handy map.

• A little more on the new 'DFC' (or 'Not DFC'). The new comic is expected to launch in early 2012 and you get more information by signing up for their mailing list at http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/, or by following editor Ben Sharpe on Twitter.

• And finally, because the journalist probably had nothing better to do, the Daily Telegraph let William Langley wheel out the trite "comics aren't as good as they used to be" line, this time marking Dennis the Menace's 60th birthday. "In these over-sensitive times, the Beano's greatest creation, the rascally schoolboy Dennis the Menace - who has just turned 60 - is not as much fun as he used to be," he moaned. Did he actually read last week's ace celebratory issue? I thought it was great fun seeing the modern Menace alongside his yesteryear counterpart - and still menacing, for all his modern updating.

Wales Comic Con features Simon Furman in line up

One of the fastest growing events of recent years, the next installment in the Wales Comic Con saga lands in Wrexham this Summer.

"We plan to bring fans more of 'everything' trying to make the show the best possible day out for all the family," say organisers.

Along with a host of guests covering all fields including; Chris Barrie of Red Dwarf, comics creator Simon Furman, voice actor and professional Thundercat Larry Kenney and of course Hollywood legend Ray Stevenson (star of Rome).

The usual mix of free talk sessions, photoshoots, stalls selling all the cool stuff, cosplay and more will also be happening throughout the day as well as giveaways from heavyweight associates - Games Workshop, Blizzard Inc (World of Warcraft) and ODEON Wrexham.

• Wales Comic Con 2011 takes place on 5th June 2011 at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, North Wales. For more details visit www.walescomiccon.com. They're also on Facebook here or you can follow them on Twitter here

Pass the cheese Gromit, while I listen to our podcast!

This week's Panel Borders, now available as a podcast, continues this month’s theme of shows about newspaper comics, with Alex Fitch talking to a couple of creators working on newspaper strips featuring popular British science-fiction characters.

Richy K Chandler is a member of a writing team penning new adventures of 'Wallace and Gromit' for The Sun newspaper, drawn by Mychailo Kazybrid, including this week’s story ‘Paper Hound’ and talks about his interest in humour strips and writing licensed characters.

Alex also chats with writer / artist Huw J Davies, who was approached by the Daily Mirror in 2007 to update their classic adventure strip 'Garth' for the 21st Century and he talks about his problems in achieving this goal and how it lead to a re-imagining of the character in his graphic novel Freeman.

• Panel Borders: British Newspaper Strips is podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

In Review: Hurricane and Champion: the Companion Papers to Valiant

The Book: Top British comics archivist Steve Holland has re-launched his Bear Alley Books imprint with Hurricane and Champion: The Companion Papers to Valiant an all-new index to two classic British comics detailing the histories of both papers and reveals - some for the first time - the names of many of the creators behind the classic comic strips that filled their pages.

Heavily illustrated throughout, Hurricane and Champion also includes title and creator indexes covering both papers, a gallery of annual covers and has a full-colour cover scanned from original artwork.

The Review: Fans of British comics will enjoy this 48-page guide to a pair of 1960s titles that spawned some of this country's most memorable characters, including motor racing ace Skid Solo and the gloriously daft superhero The Phantom Viking.

Hurricane Issue 1. Cover star 'Typhoon
Tracy' echoed the format of Valiant's
popular 'Captain Hurricane'
In his introduction, Steve Holland describes how Hurricane (published in 1964-65) went through four phases during its lifetime before being merged with Tiger, and reveals the many problems faced by Champion (1966) during its brief 15-issue run.

It's a fascinating tale for those of us who might vaguely recall these titles, which were largely overshadowed by more successful comics such as Lion, Valiant and TV Century 21. Steve documents the development of both comics, aided in this by recollections of surviving contributors such as former Champion editor Gil Page.

It's no easy feat to produce these accounts and Steve deserves praise for his hard work. The many changes of ownership that befell the Amalgamated Press titles, many finally coming to rest at Egmont (who now own almost every character first published by Fleetway Editions after 1st January 1970), means any documentation listing contributors and sales figures is scant. With the help of numerous fellow enthusiasts, including downthetubes own Jeremy Briggs, Steve has nevertheless assembled a fascinating account of both titles, detailing their many much-lauded artists, including Marion Capaldi (drawing the popular strip 'Typhoon Tracy' for Hurricane) Eric Bradbury (drawing the bonkers tale featuring revived Nazis in a world without armies, 'Return of the Stormtroopers'' in Champion), Joe Colquhoun ('Hurry of the Hammers' and 'Danger Island' in Hurricane) and Graham Coton ('The Phantom Viking' for Champion).

Intriguing titbits along the way include learning that despite its many SF strips such as 'School for Spacemen' (drawn by Mike Western) and 'When the Sky Turned Green' (drawn by Carlos Cruz and Mario Capaldi), Champion was never intended as a science fiction title - but its lack of success impacted on any attempts to create another SF comic until the success of Star Wars and the creation of 2000AD, over 10 years later.

It's also interesting to see just how much European material was reprinted in these titles, including humour strips such as Belgium's 'Lucky Luke' as 'Boy Kidd' in Champion and 'Michel Vaillant' as the 'Knights of Konigsfeld'. There are no US superheroes striding the pages of these titles.

Champion cover star 'Jet Jordan' reprinted
'Dan Cooper' from Belgium's Tintin magazine
If I have one criticism of this title, it's the layout of its index pages. For me, I think these would have been better presented in a two-column format and while the main section outlines most strip's content, I'd have liked a little more information on stories and maybe some synopses. A little more about each creator in the 'Creators Index' would also have been welcomed, although of course it's likely that many will have had their careers detailed on Steve's superlative Bear Alley blog.

But for anyone intrigued by British comics history this is a handy reference guide to two little known titles, crammed with some choice strip samples and entertaining information about the many strips and creators involved. A welcome addition to Steve's extensive cataloguing of our unsung comics past.

• Hurricane and Champion is published in A4 saddle-stitch format, 48 pages black and white with a full colour cover by Allesandro Biffignandi. For ordering information, visit the Bear Alley Books site: http://bearalleybooks.blogspot.com/2011/02/hurricane-and-champion-index.html

• Comics UK has a handy 'Family Tree' and examples of the covers of both titles: http://comicsuk.co.uk/

Hurricane and Champion are © IPC Media

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Multiverse springs back onto the shelves

The second 52-page issue of comics news and features magazine Multiverse is now at the printer with copies due to go on sale at the end of the month in all UK comic shops.

Alongside the £2.50/$3.99 title’s regular news and reviews sections and Frame to Frame, publisher Mike Conroy tells us Multiverse #2 also includes exclusive interviews with Garth Ennis, Frank Quitely, David Lapham, Mark Waid and the new Silver Surfer creative team of Greg Pak and Stephen Segovia. Also, newcomer Ross Mackintosh talks about his new com.X graphic novel, Seeds, while Dave West discusses the new Accent Press title Fall of the Wolfmen and the burgeoning British small press scene.

Multiverse #3 is scheduled to hit shops on 21st April.

Among exclusives lined up for the issue are Missy Suicide and artist David Hahn talking Suicide Girls; Peter Milligan, Tomm Coker and editor Sebastian Girner discussing Marvel’s latest Wolverine saga, 5 Ronin; writer Chris Roberson discusses Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse and Elric: The Balance Lost; and Christopher Monfette reveals all about resurrecting Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.

• Latest information at: facebook.com/pages/multiverse

Bryan Talbot's Family Business

Grandville creator Bryan Talbot is currently drawing a graphic novel written by his wife, Mary Talbot, to be published by Jonathan Cape in the UK and Dark Horse in the US, hopefully later this year.

Dotter of her Father’s Eyes is partly autobiographical, charting the relationship between Mary and her father, the Joycean scholar James S Atherton and partly biographical, dealing with the life of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia.

Mary has written several academic textbooks -- but this is her first piece of creative writing.

"I think what's been most distinctive about this project is that I haven't just completed a script and then passed it over to an artist," she says. "We've been able to work on the book together, with an intensive and ongoing creative interaction that's usually missing from writer/artist collaborations.”

“I’ve developed what I think is an appropriate art style and visual storytelling technique for the book," Bryan adds. "I’m hoping to finish the artwork within the next six weeks.”

Dotter of her Father’s Eyes is Bryan’s third non-genre graphic novel, the others being The Tale of One Bad Rat and Alice in Sunderland.

Meanwhile, keeping it all in the family, he’s also collaborated with his youngest son Alwyn (recently profiled on Creative Boom) on Caterpillars, a Judge Dredd story for 2000AD.

“Alwyn’s an incredibly talented illustrator and concept designer for computer games, which is why I asked him to colour some of the pages of my last graphic novel, Grandville Mon Amour, to help me meet the deadline," says Bryan. "When Tharg asked me if I’d be interested in illustrating Michael Carroll’s Dredd script, I immediately thought of him.

"I didn’t have the time to ink and colour the strip myself so that suggested that Alwyn turned my pencils into fully rendered artwork. He did a great job. I also like Michael’s script, which is basically a cool, self-contained short SF story.”

Although working in the computer game industry for the past eleven years, Alwyn’s previous comic work includes strips for Negative Burn, DC Comics and the miniseries Armageddon Patrol, recently reprinted by Kult Creations.

"I've been drawing since I was 2 and enjoy more as I go," says Alwyn. "When you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I find this to be true... even when pulling 15 hour days!"

Caterpillars will appear in 2000AD Prog 1730 on 20th April

Monday, 21 March 2011

In Review: Lucky Luke - The Bounty Hunter

The Lucky Luke titles from Cinebook come thick and fast, one every two months and, while I don't review them all, how could I pass up The Bounty Hunter when it has Lee Van Cleef on the cover?

Bounty hunters are the lowest of the low, apparently willing to do virtually anything to get paid for bringing in their quarry and the most successful bounty hunter of them all is Elliot Belt. Lucky Luke is doing the job of a bounty hunter in Cheyenne Pass without accepting the bounty in return which, of course, means that he remains whiter than white. The two men separately set out to hunt down a missing thorough-bred horse called His Highness which the owner believes was stolen by the Indian Wet Blanket who he is offering an enormous bounty for the capture of. Elliot Belt can only see the dollar signs of the bounty for Wet Blanket whilst Lucky Luke is more interested in finding the horse to see if the Indian is really guilty of the crime.

Guest starring Lee Van Cleef portraying Angel Eyes, the "Bad" from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, as the conniving Elliot Belt, The Bounty Hunter unsurprisingly sets Lucky Luke up as the "Good", specifically in this case the Lone Ranger. The movie themes continue with the Indian medicine man and his trainee sporting Universal movie style Frankenstein's monster masks for no apparently good reason other than it is funny - and the book is funny.

Just as importantly though the book fleshes out its characters and it does it much more than I would have expected. Rene Goscinny's plot ranges around between the town, the reservation and the horse ranch, but it focuses on a fairly small set of characters allowing the reader to discover quite a lot about them from the trainee medicine man who does not really apply himself, to the Indian chief more interested in selling Custer souvenirs to the palefaces, to the horse ranch owner who is obsessed with horses to the point of his wife leaving him over it. But the star of the book is definitely Elliot Belt who is given almost two complete pages of back story to explain just how he became a bounty hunter and what lead him to where is is today.

Morris' art is a delight the whole way through from the horse ranch house with its saddle shaped stools to the reactions of the bar patrons and the dancing girls as the Indians march in demanding firewater. In a book that is so themed around horses, he even has Luke's horse Jolly Jumper rather haughtily giving Snowy-like asides to the reader. It all works so well.

I tend to prefer story driven adventure books to humour titles, whoever publishes them. A humour book has to be very good for me to rave about it so let me just say this - if you haven't tried a Lucky Luke book yet then The Bounty Hunter would be a very good place to begin.

• There are more details of the Lucky Luke books on Cinebook's newly redesigned web site: www.cinebook.co.uk

• There are more details on Lucky Luke on the official Lucky Luke website (in French).

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