There's a mini-revival of Doctor Who fanzines at the moment (something dtb welcomes) with many Who fans still enjoying the experience of reading something on paper rather than just looking at all the assorted Doctor Who websites that are around these days.
An honourable mention, then, for Panic Moon, a terrific little 'zine which is worthy of widespread support. We say 'little' because the publication is A6 in format. Yes, A6, but believe us, it works. Each issue is absolutely packed with well-written commentary and illustrative material that wouldn't look out of place in DWM.
The latest issue has a lovely mix of stuff with a look at the Richard E Grant version of the Doctor, the Silver Nemesis 'Making of' documentary, a tribute to Nicholas Courtney and (as they say) much much more!
At £1.20 an issue, it's worth a punt surely? Get a copy and let's help keep printed 'zines alive.
Forbidden Planet has announced a series of Doctor Who Fun Days in the run up to the return of Doctor Who to BBC1 - and a competition to win tie-in merchandise.
There will be an in-store competiton to win a range of Doctor Who prizes - including the chance to be the first in the UK to get your hands on both the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond mini busts from Titan Merchandise (which will go on sale soon at just under £50 each).
There's also a Goody Bag for anyone who comes to the store in Doctor Who costume (while stocks last) and special one-day-only bargain prices of selected Doctor Who lines.
Top comics artist Neill Cameron has begun a comics project on his blog to help raise money for Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims.
Describing the 'Awesome Japan' as "my small bit to help", Neill will be drawing and posting a picture a day, one for every letter of the alphabet, of Things That Are Awesome.
His fans have been invited to join in, by suggesting things for him to draw in comments on his blog, twitter feed or on the A-Z of Awesomeness Facebook Group. "Feel free to suggest anything you like from the worlds of Manga, Anime, Gaming, Movies, Music," he says, "and I will attempt to draw the best suggestions."
There are bonus points for alliteration, he adds, "and it might be nice to get a bit of cross-cultural exchange going on in there.
"If, for example, for 'D' you were to suggest Doctor Who and Doraemon Dunking Donuts Daintily, well then I would probably have to draw that. You get the idea.
"I did something like this once before and people seemed to like it," he continues, "so I thought I'd try it again but with a couple of differences: 1) this time we'll be focussing on the insanely rich field of Japanese Things That Are Awesome, and 2) I will be asking people to sponsor me in this endeavour.
"Please do chip in if you can! This is going to be rather a lot of work and if no-one sponsors me I'm, uh, going to feel totally stupid.
Four new shiny Commandos, including a new 'Convict Commados' story, 'Mask of Death' by Alan Hebden with art from Benet, are on sale today - in newsagents and online. As usual, the releases include two carefully selected reprint titles - chosen by the Commando editorial team to mark the title's impressive 50th year.
Commando 4379: Mask Of Death
Story: Alan Hebden Art: Benet Cover Art: Benet
The Convict Commandos - Jelly Jakes, Smiler Dawson, Titch Mooney - and their leader Guy Tenby are back in action. This time they are planning to snatch a scientist from under the noses of the Nazis in occupied Europe. It’s no easy job and, with treachery afoot, the prison sentences they’re trying to avoid begin to look a very tempting alternative.
The second adventure for the latest band of Commando heroes.
Commando 4380: Attack From The East
Story: Tom Hart Art Rezzonico Cover: Janek Matysiak
Most people would think that nothing much happened in the peaceful village of Helmsbeath, situated on a remote island on Scotland’s North West coast. And most people would have been right to think that…until the fateful day in late 1944 when Helmsbeath was invaded. Invaded by the armed and dangerous crew of a Japanese C3 submarine and the crazed Nazi scientist who was with them!
Would the villagers survive?
Commando 4381 Jungle Fury
Originally Commando No 9 (October 1961), re-issued as No 2587 (August 1992)
Story: Couglin Art: Cecil Rigby Cover Art: Ken Barr
In the steaming jungles of Burma, man has a thousand enemies… the wild animals, the snakes and poisonous insects, the deadly fevers. But the fighting British jungle patrols had an enemy more deadly that any of these…the creeping Japanese soldiers who could appear from nowhere and sow the lead seeds of death before melting again into the waiting green background. But Sergeant Tom Flynn had his own way of silencing the Banzai cries of those Sons of Nippon. With a handful of men and a heart full of courage he fought his way through them - and with him he brought a strange prize… ten million pounds in solid gold.
"What hits you most about this story is the cover," says Commando editor Calum Laird, who picked out this title for reprint. "Ken Barr’s image leaps clean off the page and you can almost hear that soldier screaming blue murder. Inside, the story is of a jungle trek involving an elephant and train. It shouldn’t work, but it does picking up pace throughout. "Artist Cecil Rigby was a Commando regular from 1961 until No 3272 in late 1999 - a total of around 150 books - and he well captures the atmosphere of the jungle and the fury in this one."
Commando 4382 Six Of The Best
Originally Commando No 490 (July 1970), re-issued as No 1379 (January 1980)
Story: David Motton Art: Ramon de la Fuente Cover Art: Penalva
Six men - five private soldiers who couldn’t do a thing right and a brand-new Second Lieutenant who had never been in action. Left behind as a rearguard just in case the Jerries showed up, they landed in a hotter spot than anyone had bargained for - and became the most unlikely heroes of the Second World War!
"There are many types of hero but, in my opinion, the most interesting kind is the unlikely hero - the underdog," says Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor, of this reprint issue. "And, as you may have guessed from the title, in this brilliant tale you get six for the price of one (which, back in 1980 was a mere 12p — even at today’s prices we reckon we’re still good value). "So please join me in rooting for half-a-dozen ordinary (if admittedly a bit useless) blokes, left behind as a desert rearguard, determined to prove that they’ve got what it takes to be the best."
• Official Commando web site: http://www.commandocomics.com/ • 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 • Commando is also available for iPad and iPhone. The apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. For those not sure there are four free issues to download prior to making a purchase. • Commando Comics iPhone App on iTunes • Commando Comics iPad App on iTunes
The Bonds Of Friendship sees the return of The Bellybuttons in their third book with high school girl talk, fights over boys, bitchy asides and heavily stylised art. Indeed everything that I would normally avoid like the plague in a graphic novel, except for one vital piece of information - The Bellybuttons is a brilliant series.
High school girl Karine, the tall one, is much put upon by her two malicious friends Vicky, with the blue eyeshadow, and Jenny, with the green eyeshadow, both of whom have been trying to become the girlfriend of the motorbike riding and permanently helmeted John John. The enmity between the two girls over John John in the last couple of books now moves into all out war which Jenny appears to have won while Vicky consoles herself by chasing the hunky new basketball teacher.
In the meantime, Karine's boyfriend Dan is introduced to the pretty and almost too nice to be true Melanie and both Vicky and Jenny use her in their continuing attempts to try to drive a wedge between Karine and Dan.
Published as Les Nombrils in Spirou magazine, The Bellybuttons is created by French-Canadian husband and wife team of writer Maryse Dubuc and artist Marc Delafontaine (Delaf). An ongoing story told in mainly one page segments, The Bonds of Friendship is so well written that you soon forget that it was originally one page per week and get absorbed in Dubuc's story of the ongoing efforts of both Vicky and Jenny to get one over on the other.
Running alongside this is Karine's shock discovery of why John John always wears a helmet which keeps the reader on tenterhooks until literally the last page of the book. If ever there was a book that you cannot flick through because of spoilers then this is it because of that one last page.
Delaf's art suits the story well with the boys all being drawn in a laid back and fairly lifelike style while the girls are drawn in much more extreme styles which suits their characters. He draws the new character of Melanie as less caricatured than the rest of the girls, as suggested by her rather normal and likable character, however as the story progresses and Dubuc throws up questions about her trustworthiness, it will be interesting to see how or if Delaf changes her in the next book.
The Bellybuttons is probably the strongest of all Cinebooks humour titles and certainly one of the newest with this book originally being published as Les Liens De L'Amitie in 2008.
Interestingly Dupuis tag Le Nombrils on their website as "all audience" ie all ages, and it is a strip that appears in Spirou after all, while Cinebook tag the books as for ages 15+. I'm with Cinebook on this one as this is very much a teen book and not for younger readers.
The first book of The Bellybuttons that I read was the second one, It's Ugly Out There!, which surprised me as to just how good it was. The Bonds Of Friendship shows that it was not a fluke and that this superbly written series is definitely one to look out for.
• There are more details of The Bellybuttons on the Cinebook website.
• There are more details of Les Nombrils on the Dupuis website (in English).
David Lloyd has just been in touch to tell us that there are no more places available for Marvel Comics talent scout CB Cebulski's appearance at London's Cartoon Museum (see news story), organised by Cartoon Classroom (www.cartoonclassroom.co.uk).
"I wish we could have offered more time for this service to aspiring Marvel talent from CB, but we've all done our best in this instance," says David.
"Hopefully, we can repeat the event at some convenient time for everyone in the future."
Artists atending the Kapow Comics Convention in London will also of course have a chance to see CB.
The latest issue of British indie title Paragon is out now - so here's a chance to find out why it has been nominated for an Eagle award as best British black and white comic book by buying the latest issue.
With a full colour cover by the fantastic Matt Soffe, publisher Davey Candlish tells us this issue makes a great jumping on point for those who want to see what all the fuss is about, as it includes two new stories.
What if Icarus hadn't plunged to his doom as his wings melted? Read his further adventures in Icarus Dangerous by Dirk Van Dom, Stephen Prestwood and Jim Campbell
Plus there's Rise of the MekkoSapiens... in which the question asked is - is G127 a robot? Human? Both? Does G127 even know? By Matthew McLaughlin, Dave Candlish and Matt Brown.
Alongside these new tales there's the terrific Jikan (by Mark Howard, El Chivo and Matt Brown), in a a double length 16-page complete adventure starring the time-travelling, demon-hunting Japanese warrior.
• Current Jikan scribe Mark Howard is auctioning off some original Jikan art for charity, namely to help those affected by the Japanese tsunami, and wrote a four page script for the occasion. More info here at http://genreforjapan.wordpress.com
Artist Keith Page, best known for Commando but who has also illustrated Thunderbirds and Dan Dare over the years, has an unusual character in the form of dimension hopping French agent Charlotte Corday whom Page considers to be something of a Jerry Cornelius figure -- although Garth or Adam Eterno might be closer from a comics perspective.
With a story by Commando writer Stephen Walsh, London Calling places a confused Charlotte in 1950s London in which not everything is quite as it should be. During World War II, the French experimented with giving their troops vampire blood to try to make them impervious to bombs and bullets but post-war this backfired with an outbreak of vampirism in the country. To prevent the vampires taking over Paris the city was taken out of time using captured Nazi technology and now, as it tries to return, it is causing ripples in the fabric of time that are affecting Charlotte Corday in her undercover mission in London.
There, befriended by a charming vampire called Luca and while looking for another French agent, she gets caught up in a raid on a vampire club by the Metropolitan Police's V-Squad and is arrested suspected of being a vampire herself.
The whole plot is book ended by a different Charlotte recovering her children from a flooded London and telling them the story of the book to pass the time.
As the above might suggest the main story is a little bizarre. This is partially deliberate, due to the time ripples caused by the French which throw up images of a Nazi-occupied London, HG Wells' Martian invasion and Orwell's 1984, but also because there is just too much trying to happen.
As much as I would like to read more about the French vampire problem, I think that a straight French agent caught up in the London vampire underworld would have worked better without the whole out-of-time-Paris trying to contact a confused Charlotte, which only serves to confuse the reader as well.
That said, there is much to recommend the book. Stephen Walsh's script revels in in-jokes from TV film, radio and novels - they come thick and fast and I'm sure that I didn't even catch them all. Keith Page's black and white artwork, so familiar from his many issues of Commando, has more depth and detail that that title allows for and his designs for the V-Cars squad with their black cars, Vespa scooters and crossbows will raise a smile while he manages to get many faces familiar from 1950s and 1960s film and TV into his crowd scenes.
Charlotte Corday gas had a somewhat unusual history with stories appearing on the ROK Comics mobile comic platform and on Keith Page's blog before finally appearing in this softcover black and white book and now in the hardcover colour book, The Iron Moon. Full marks must go to Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics for choosing to publish this first paper version of the Charlotte Corday character. With the majority of Time Bomb's output being colour US size comics, a 52 page, A4, black and white graphic novel is a step in a new direction for the publisher.
With its story and artwork brimming over with ideas, London Calling is an impressive first outing for Keith Page and Stephen Walsh's Charlotte Corday character which is worth looking out for.
• There are more details of London Calling and how to purchase it on the Time Bomb Comics website. Keith Page's blog with previews of future issues of Commando and other graphic novels that he is working on is here.
• There is an interview with Keith Page on the downthetubes main site and his Witchcraft Street strip featuring a young Charlotte Corday is serialised on the Witchcraft Street blog.
The Crusade that is missing from history continues with its second book Qa'Dj, named for the demon that hid in the shadow of Christ's cross. After the massive battle of the first book this time around writer Jean Dufaux and artist Philippe Xavier focus their tale down onto several smaller groups of warriors.
After the Christian army's defeat in the desert in the last book, Gauthier of Flanders attempts to ally himself with a literally underground Jewish sect who fear a demon known as the Aa. Meanwhile Robert, Duke of Taranto, and his lover, Elenore of Arcos, tighten their political grip on the remnants of the Christian army and send Elenore's sister Syria to supposed safety in a desert oasis. Before Syria reaches there she is captured by Muslim bandits controlled by the grossly deformed Sarek Pasha and forced into his harem. Meanwhile Elenore has paid highly for the services of a mercenary army which has arrived lead by the man known simply as the Master of the Machines.
I love Xavier's covers of this series. At no point in this book or the previous one does Syria of Arcos stand holding a spear and the decapitated head of an enemy but that really doesn't matter. With the ghostly image of an astrolabe in the background this cover, like all the covers in this series, is striking in its focus on a single main character. Xavier's interior art is as good as in the first book and his choice of panel layouts remains as interesting as before.
Jean Dufaux's plot in this book alone has three story lines running more or less in parallel with different characters and that isn't even counting the main Muslim force from the first book controlled by Sultan Abdul Razim who just manages to squeeze in here as well. While each story is interesting and they no doubt will pull back together again in the future, the complexity of the book and the sheer number of characters that it takes in can be frustrating. I suspect that Crusade will work better when we have the chance to read all four books back to back and with the third book The Master Of The Machines due in July 2011 and the fourth book The Fire Breaks due in February 2012, Cinebook are already on course to make sure that we can.
While it may remain somewhat perplexing due to the sheer number of characters, Crusade - Qa'Dj continues the series complex but interesting storyline as well as its excellent art and remains a title to watch.
• The are more details of the Crusade books on the Cinebook website.
• There are more details of the original Croisade books on Le Lombard website (in French).