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Saturday, 13 August 2011

CDComics bring Salem to Sheffield

Following up on the success of their digital comics Meadowhell and The Attercliffe Prowler, Sheffield-based independent comic company CDComics has produced the third in their local horror series.

“I’m sort of on a mission to make Sheffield into Britain's Salem.” says writer-illustrator Craig Daley.

CD Comics are exactly that – comics/graphic novels on CD rather than paper, to read on your PC or on various other devices. Each CDComics release has more than 50 full colour pages.

Their latest horror tale - Football Crazy - is a 66-page full colour graphic novel available in two versions, Red or Blue. A reader can follow either Sheffield Wednesday or United on an eventful FA Cup run, so if you support either the Blades or Owls you have a choice of stories.

Football Crazy is Roy of the Rovers meets Frost, but set in The Twilight Zone," Craig says. "It’s for football fans with a sense humour, who like a ‘whodunnit’ and all the clues are in the comic, but I’m hoping I keep the reader guessing until the last few pages.”

"The story starts with a FA Cup Third Round Replay and Steel City Derby, covered by Radio Sheffield," says Craig. "The victorious Sheffield team go on to meet Manchester United in the Forth Round, but then the bizarre and macabre nightmare begins.

"One of the Sheffield players is murdered in strange circumstances and the police, led by D.I Charlton must find out who the killer is and why they killed a footballer."

The story has plenty of twists and turns, and, just like previous stories features plenty of Sheffield locations, including the Police Station in Attercliffe, Heeley Baths, Manor Lodge, the Moor and also visits several of England ’s larger football stadiums.

There are cameo appearances from the Look North team, Harry, Christa, Tanya and Paul the weather man, along with other famous faces like Jim Rosenthal, Alan Davies, Robson Green, Stephen Fry and the Chuckle Brothers.

Thanks to its local links the project has already attracted local press attention, just as other locally-based titles have done (Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland being a leading example). That will surely help boost local sales, which can be a boon to smaller independent press publishers.

The Football Crazy CD contains JPEG and PDF versions of either Sheffield United or Wednesday’s F.A Cup run.

All CD Comics are available at four Sheffield Retailers at the Wicker’s Sheffield Space Centre, Broomhill’s Galaxy 4, Blackwells on Carver Street and Rare and Racy on Devonshire Green, for £2.50. To order online go to: http://www.space-centre.co.uk/

• For more about CDComics visit: cdgraphicnovels.blogspot.com


Friday, 12 August 2011

Comic Book Auctions celebrates 20th birthday with mammoth catalogue

The Autumn 2011 auction at British auction house Comic Book Auctions opened for bidding today (12th August) and closes on Tuesday 6th September and includes the original file copies of the first volume of Eagle and a copy of TV Century 21 Number One - complete with free gift.

There are 301 lots in this catalogue -- and with the publication of this catalogue Comic Book Auctions is 20 years old. Blimey!

CBA's recent June auction sold all 363 lots on offer and was highlighted by £1155 for a Magic-Beano Book from 1945, £242 for The Dandy comic Christmas number for 1940 and an interplanetary £3025 for a Dan Dare Eagle cover artwork by Frank Hampson.

Their ‘one owner from new’ Dandy comics from the war years collection averaged £110 each and the final issues of this magnificent run are in this auction.










Eagle Volume 1
Also included in the auction is a a bound copy of the first year of Eagle (Vol 1 Nos 1-26) in rare high grades, Hulton Press file copies originally owned by comics historian, Denis Gifford. Eagle Volumes 7 and 8 are also offered in the same condition.

Fine copies of Super-Detective Library between 1-100 are well represented, along with Cowboy Picture Library and Thriller Comics Library, this last title including three front cover original artworks: Robin Hood, Rob Roy and Dick Turpin by Royal Academician artist, Septimus E Scott.

Lion Issue 1 and 2, Boys’ World 1 and TV Century 21 No 1, all with elusive free gifts are highlights along with a superb run of Commando, including most of the issues between 1-40 offered separately.

Diving back into the past, there's also the complete 66-issue run of the 1920s title Picture Show, starring Charlie Chaplin, William S Hart, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Marie Duro, May Allison, Lillian Gish and Buck Jones. All come with artplate supplement centrefolds.

Individual comics on offer include Dandy Comic No 2 from 1937; a 1994 Dandy Monster Comic; a 1947 Magic-Beano Book; along with issues of titles such as Champion and Film Fun.










Thunderbirds art from TV Century 21 by Frank Bellamy










Bionic Woman art by John Bolton for Look-In










Trigan Empire by Don Lawrence
The artwork selection is strong with Frank Bellamy to the fore with another two TV Century 21 boards, a Garth strip and The Southerner, a true life sea disaster dramatised for Look-in. There’s also a wonderful Don Lawrence Trigan Empire piece, a Bionic Woman spread by John Bolton, George Wakefield’s Laurel & Hardy and Ken Reid’s Faceache to complete the picture.

The US section is headlined by a fresh copy of Fantastic Four #1 in Fine Plus grade – which is rare in this condition.

• Catalogue: www.compalcomics.com/catalogue/index.htm

• If you have a question about any of the items in the catalogue, send an email to Compalcomics director Malcolm Phillips at comicbookATcompalcomics.com

Tube Surfing: TOXIC's new strips, Mudman and STRIP Magazine news

Here's a quick round up of British comics news courtesy of various sources...










Bro vs. Bro by Laura Howell
Lew Stringer reports the website for Egmont's popular TOXIC magazine for boys has recently had a revamp. Although some of the older items such as the Joke Machine have gone, the site now offers a bunch of new features, including one of his Team Toxic stories, Butt of the Joke, that you can read online for free.

The magazine itself also has two new strips this week (Issue 189), in addition to the ongoing Busted Bieber, stinky superhero Captain Gross and Lew's long-running Team Toxic. Luke's Spooks features a boy haunted by a couple of gross ghosts, and Bro vs Bro, drawn by Laura Howell, is about the rivalry of two brothers, one a boy genius, the other a sports jock.

"Hmm, thinking about it, a scenario about belligerent youths isn't much of a departure from BBC News 24 at all is it," Laura notes wryly on her blog. "Ahem, let's move on.."

• Print Media Productions STRIP Magazine is on course for an October launch - still no actual date yet - and the first three strips in the STRIP Challenge, seeking to spotlight new talent, have been chosen. As the title's editor, I can report we had a terrific selection to choose from and while there were some entries that strayed wildly from the declared content of the magazine most of the submissions were in the right ball park as regards content. The first three creative teams have been informed of their success, but we still have to decide the next three.

STRIP Magazine, a monthly anthology adventure title, will include stories by Phil Hester, John McCrea, PJ Holden, James Hudnall and John Ridgway (among others). More information at http://www.printmediaproductions.com/ (currently re-directing to the title's blog)










Paul Temple © London Evening News
Steve Holland is currently publishing episodes of the newspaper strip Paul Temple on his wonderful Bear Alley blog. Based on the BBC radio character of the same name and published in London's Evening News from 19th November 1951 until 1st May 1971, it's the adventures of an amateur detective told with typical derring-do of the period, and was drawn by a variety of artists - Alfred Sindall, Bill Bailey and John McNamara.

There's more about Paul Temple character here on the Thrilling Detective web site , but Steve has plenty more about the comic and Paul Temple's creator on Bear Alley.

Bryan Talbot, creator of Luther Arkwright and much more, has dropped us a line to say that his wife, Dr Mary Talbot, an internationally acclaimed scholar in her own right with published works on language, gender and power has a web site live dedicated to her upcoming graphic novel (drawn by Bryan), Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes, which will be published by Cape in February 2012. Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes contrasts two coming of age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S Atherton. ... a fine addition to the evolving genre of graphic memoir.

“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. 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.”

There are preview pages from Dotter on Mary’s website, © 2011 Mary M. Talbot. You can pre-order Dotter of Her Father's Eyes from amazon.co.uk now

• A quick reminder about the the upcoming Comics and Conflict conference which is being held in the Imperial War Museum on 19th-20th August, which will include panel discussion, workshops and a film screening, as well as boasting some terrific guests such as Pat Mills, Roger Sabin and Garth Ennis - among others. If you're a war comics fan and in London that weekend it's not to be missed.



• Talking of events. don't forget the Edinburgh Book Festival has started. Our own Jeremy Briggs has already brought us a run down of this year's comics-related events, which include appearances by the Etherington Brothers, Pat Mills, Tony Lee, Dan Boultwood, Emma Vicelli and many others.

There are more details of all the talks at the Edinburgh International Book Festival website where tickets can also be purchased.

• US publisher Image Comics have announced the upcoming publication of Mudman by Paul Grist. After self-publishing for much of the 1990s, Paul Grist brought two critically acclaimed original titles to Image Comics in 2002: the crime drama Kane and then the eclectic superhero series Jack Staff. Recently, Grist has been using his sparse, signature style to develop this new superhero that will be introduced to the world this November.

"This is my 'Back to Basics' superhero comic," explained Grist. "It's not about alien menaces or cosmic powers (though they may pop up once in a while); it's all about growing up and finding your way in the world, and how the decisions that you make can affect others. In a way, it's probably the most autobiographical comic I've ever done. But with added mud." There's more information here on the Image Comics web site.

I'll round off this Tube Surf with news of another event, again north of the border. An exhibition of paintings by HI-Ex co-organiser Vicky Stonebridge - well known for her indie comics work on titles such as Slaughterman's Creed - and artist John Mikietyn, and a ceramic sculpture by Allison Weightman, will open at the Scotland Russia Forum’s Edinburgh premises at 6.00pm tonight, Friday 12th August, attended by Sergei Krutikov, the Russian Consul General.

The week long exhibition - "Reactions to Vysotsky" - accompanies music by Scottish singer, songwriter and translator, Tommy Beavitt, whose long-term project to interpret and perform the work of the Russian Bard, Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980), in English and Russian, has been an inspiration for the work displayed. Alongside the artworks, the exhibition will present Tommy’s performances in Russian and English of some of Vysotsky’s songs, which feature universal themes of faith, conflict and individual freedom.

After closing in Edinburgh on the 18th, the exhibition will then re-open at the Inchmore Gallery, near Inverness, on the 19th August. Full details here on Vicky's Balnacra Arts web site

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Panel Borders: Buying and Selling comics

Continuing their month long look at comic book shops, radio show Panel Borders has interviews with the proprietors of a couple of venues that are unlike your average comic shop.

Veteran publisher Mike Lake and colleague Colin Strawbridge talk to Dickon Harris about their regular stall selling classic comics at the monthly Royal National Hotel Comic Mart off Russell Square.

Also, in an interview recorded at last week’s Caption festival in Oxford, Alex Fitch talks to comic book creator Pete Renshaw, author of Burke and Hare: The West Port Murders, about the Plan B, the graphic novels and coffee shop that he co-owns in Glasgow.

• Panel Borders: Buying and Selling comics airs at 5.00pm, Thursday 11/08/11, Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com / podcast after broadcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

The Return of Girls Comics? Pat Mills has plans...

Comic creator Pat Mills has hinted that he has plans to revive British girls comics with an all-new title he's currently discussing with publishers.

In an interview for the Bring Back Bunty website created by Jo Bevean, which she has kindly given us permission to cross post here. Pat said he felt the title would most likely have a digital platform, but a print edition was still part of the plan.

Pat has been a major supporter of girls comics for many years, working with a variety of publishers on various projects. Last year he was part of a competition organised by the Pickled Ink agency that will see British illustrator Fay Dalton drawing a new graphic novel for girls  by Super Gran creator and writer Jenny McDade.

Here's the interview in full, in which Pat talks about the difference of approach between girls and boys comics, and what he feels works – and doesn't work – on the British comics news stand...

Jo: I posed some questions about the dearth of quality girls’ comics to 'the godfather of British comics' Pat Mills. He is a keen advocate of girls’ comics, having begun his career in the 1970s working on British girls’ titles Romeo, Tammy, Jinty, Pink, Girl, Sandie and Misty, before helping to revitalise British boys’ comics and going on to create 2000AD and other titles. 

With Pat Mills leading the way, the future of girls’ comics looks very promising. Here’s what he had to say on the subject…

ON GIRLS COMICS...

Jo Bevan: You began your career in the 1970s on girls’ comics. Do you look back on those days fondly?

Pat Mills: Very much so. Those comics didn’t disappear because the market wasn’t there but because there weren’t enough professionals keeping them alive.

This is something I’m trying to change at the moment and I’m making a little progress.

Jo: Did you have a favourite title(s)?

Misty Issue 1
Misty © Egmont
Pat: I guess it would have to be Misty, which I originally devised as a female equivalent of 2000AD, but I dropped out when the publishers didn’t offer me the right deal. I then became an advisory launch editor.

Jo: Did you have a favourite story/strip?

Pat: Probably ‘Moonchild’, my lead story in Misty. It was based on [the film] Carrie and was the first story to have a more visual and adult approach.  

Bunty was great and original in its heyday, but it could be rather “young” on occasion. I wanted Misty to be cool. Sadly there was still some old-style thinking amongst the professionals and it was not as cool as I’d have liked.

Jo: Can you pinpoint what it is that makes a comic written exclusively for girls different from one for boys? Do you write differently for girls?

Pat: Girl as lead character. Although they may be unisex, there is an emphasis on the heroine. The objectives are different… a typical heroine wants to overcome obstacles to achieve some sport objective which provides some action. A typical hero for boys wants to kick ass and possibly destroy something!

Okay, that’s superficial, but you get the idea. There are key differences as I found to my cost. Thus girls love mystery (what’s in the locked room?) boys don’t care.

Moonchild, which featured in
Misty. Art: John Armstrong
© Egmont
Girls’ stories influenced boys, thus my very successful series Charley’s War (anti-war, sixteen-year-old kid in the trenches of the Great War) is essentially a girls’ comic in its thinking. When new volumes are reprinted it outsells all the macho superhero stuff in Forbidden Planet (the number one comic shop in the UK), for between two to four weeks. This is so embarrassing to my superhero-orientated peers you will rarely hear it mentioned, which is why I enjoy relating it.

Basically the industry is now run by blokes who love superheroes and they don’t want girls’ comics (or girls’ comic thinking) spoiling their fantasies. They all ignore the fact that girls’ comics used to easily outsell boys’. What a surprise! It’s common knowledge that women have always bought more reading matter than blokes. But that, too, is embarrassing – so it’s quietly ignored.

The gap in the market is actually a chasm!

Jo: Do you write for girls knowing that boys will read them too? When you wrote for Jinty etc did you hope that brothers would also pick them up? (My husband says he always read his sister’s comics and he was a big 2000AD fan!)

"Cult of the Cat People", a strip that appeared in
the Pat Mills-created title Misty
had all the elements
of mystery and rite of passage that appeal to girls.
© Egmont
Pat: Yeah, I’m aware of that. I used to read girls’ comics and girls’ novels (What Katy Did, Heidi etc) when I was a kid and when we did a recent straw poll, a 12 -year-old boy really enjoyed the girls’ stories we selected.

That’s why with a revival I think we would avoid using full-on terms like “girls’ comics” which sounds rather dated, so boys can read them, too. But it’s vital to keep that “girls’ comic thinking” at the core of any revival, even if the phrase is not used.

Jo: In an article written by John Freeman in 2004 ("Let’s Hear it for the Girls") you are quoted as saying girls’ comics were “destroyed from within”.

Pat: Yes, that’s right.

Jo: As you were working within the industry at the time, do you think this was the main reason for the decline of girls’ comics? Did girls’ interest in comics change, or was it more of a cultural shift? Perhaps the existing titles were unable to adapt and appeal to that generation of girls?

Pat: The main reason for the decline was the negative and even hostile attitude to girls’ comics from professionals and publishers – an attitude that continues to this day.

Most creative talent then and now either wants to do art house rather than mainstream or receive a proper financial reward and acknowledgement for their stories. When that was not forthcoming and faced with negativity, many left the industry. It has nothing to do with changing trends or demographics – although that will sometimes be used as an excuse. Many of us went on to revive the flagging male comic market and this left a hole in the girls’ market.

Jo: You then went on to write for and create new boys’ titles such as 2000AD; did you miss writing for the girls?

Pat: Totally. I still do.

Jo: There were some strong female characters in the 2000AD stories you created; did you write the stories to appeal to girls too?

Pat: Yes, as far as that was feasible.

COMICS TODAY IN BRITAIN

A snapshot of British comics on the news stand today
Photo: Jo Bevan
Jo: I have spoken about girls’ comics to many parents, teachers and comic creators over the past couple of months; there has been unanimous agreement that there is a gap in the market and much support for something new.

Pat: That’s good to know and I’m currently trying one approach with one publisher. If that fails, I will try another.

There’s certainly strong interest – the key is to get them to reach for their cheque books, though! I’m one of the last professionals from the original girls comic boom era, so I feel I have some responsibility to do so.
What do you think of the quality of children’s comics and magazines available on the newsstands today?

Pat: They’re aimed at a younger audience and seem pretty shallow. Or they’ve picked the wrong material (e.g. the recent Best of Misty was actually the worst. Whoever chose it didn’t understand the market). Or they’re poorly packaged for reading – thus the Best of Bunty is a great sampler, but no one could get into the stories and it’s clearly not designed for that. I also wondered about the content – I recall far better stories which were not included. Probably because the editor didn’t completely understand or know which stories worked and WHY.

A recent Japanese issue of W.I.T.C.H.
A notable exception is W.I.T.C.H. Slightly younger than the age group that I know, it was very cool, fashionable and interesting – at least to start with. This was an international best seller – all over the world except for guess where? UK and USA. What a surprise.

There’s something in our sensibility that is resistant to a product which sells in Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and I’m told even in the Middle East. I actually read passive-aggressive comments from the US parent house towards W.I.T.C.H. I was left with the distinct impression they didn’t want their “junior” European publishing house upstaging them.

Of course not. Let’s stick to Disney pink princess vapidity. It may have appeared in the UK, but it didn’t make an impact.
The BBC's long-canceelled version of
W.I.T.C.H - the comics material
virtually banished from the the cover


If a publisher or editor doesn’t want something they can be passively aggressive towards it and kill it. For a comic to work, it needs pro-active professionals and enthusiasm and energy with knowledge of what the Market wants (rather than what they want).

This is at the heart of why British mainstream comics largely died and the malaise is still there today.

Jo: It's particularly interesting that the teachers agree, as comics can help to improve/advance children’s literacy skills, especially “reading for meaning”; in KS2 literacy lessons the children often use storyboards to show their understanding of a story.

Pat: Absolutely. Although the subversive nature of comics is at the heart of why they worked. The middle-class Eagle worked, because of exceptional talents, but most of its successors failed because of a conscious need to impose education which kids will resist.

For example, there’s a magazine called Aquila (latin for Eagle) put together by teachers, available by mail order and hostile to mainstream comics. I bet that sells like a lead balloon, no matter what they say to the contrary.

The reason mainstream (aka working-class) comics worked is because they reflected what readers rather than teachers wanted. Thus The Guardian loathed 2000AD when we first appeared – to my great delight. If they hated it, I knew I’d got it right.

Jo: There seems to be a huge jump from pre-school comics to commercially branded magazines for older children. Many of the magazines available to Key Stage 2 girls contain advertising, not much substance and barely any stories. 

The young girls who I know love reading, playing and just being girls; they're not particularly interested in the latest fashions/pop stars. Do their advertising profits or their readers’ desires drive these magazines? Are they encouraging an aspiration to be older when girls should be allowed to be girls?

Pat: I totally agree with you. The girls’ stories I’ve devised and want to revive are free from those elements.

Jo: Seeing my own daughter’s interest, excitement and enthusiasm for the secondhand comics and annuals I’ve found for her, I think there is a need for a new contemporary girls’ comic. Do you agree?

Pat: Yes. I’ve pitched one and am waiting to see what happens. It has been adjusted for a 2011 sensibility, but its core will remain the same, because those stories from the 1970s still work today. A good story is not ephemeral – it will always be a good story.

Even though I don’t like them (for their middle-class “values”), Enid Blyton’s stories still appeal today, despite the negative press. Because she knew how to write. If I have the time, I want to analyse Angela Brazil who predated Blyton and see if I can identify on-going story elements that are relevant today. Because once again, she knew how to press buttons.

I’m also told her stories were totally innocent, although I recall buying a friend a book about Brazil’s heroine Lesbia. That seems a bit unnecessary – but perhaps subversion didn’t start in the 1970s.

I guess every author has some kind of agenda whether it’s conscious or otherwise. In my case it’s anti-establishment and anti-middle class, as is fairly obvious I fear (!!)

Harry Potter is set in a classic boarding school. So is Never Let Me Go (although I really dislike it for its passive characters, no matter how stylish and fashionable I’m told the author is. Heroes and heroines should fight back against oppression, not take it). So some kind of boarding school story is high on my list!

Jo: Many parents I know spend lots of money on children’s magazines, as many of them cost about £3 each. The variety of children’s magazines is huge and people do buy them, because that’s the only thing available. 

Why not more comics full of stories instead? Is the choice of comics different today simply because there isn't one? Can a comic that contains only stories work in today’s market?

Pat: The reason they’re not there is because most professionals don’t like mainstream comics very much. They want to appeal to elite audiences because of the financial rewards or prestige it will bring them. Although writing for mainstream is much harder.

Recently – when we did that poll – I was delighted to know ten-year-old girls thought my stories were great. That meant a lot more to me than some “prestige” award from an industry which has largely devoured itself through its obsession with superheroes.

COMICS IN THE FUTURE...

Jo: Many newspaper and magazine publishers are extending their frontiers on the Internet. Comics look great online, on computers, iPads and smart phones, where readers can interact with the story and individual images. As many children have access to the Internet, do you see digital media as a way for children’s comics to forge a future? Do you think a digital comic could open up a new audience?

Pat: Digital is the direction I’m coming from. Paper would be secondary. Whether we like it or not (and many don’t!) digital is the future.

Jo: In my limited research I've spoken to a large number of enthusiastic contemporary comic creators – there is a wealth of talent out there! It would be great to have some new comics, be it in paper or digital form for children to read and enjoy, weekly or even daily.

Pat: That’s my plan… To start with one digital comic and then expand. Formulae is everything in fiction. The wrong formula and it’s dead in the water. Art house creators are about personal expression, mainstream is about following story tramlines. Many creators don’t wish to do this, seeing it as a restriction on their vision. The trick is combining the two – not easy but possible. But I need to ensure the right business structure is also in place to make it happen. It’s looking promising.

Jo: Children love stories, be they traditional, Sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, jeopardy or another genre, and this love is reflected in their exciting and adventurous playground games and in the huge success of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars and similar series. Which kind of stories do you think make a successful comic? Should a comic have a variety, or stick to one type of story/genre?

Pat: Bitter experience has taught me that children want one type of story/genre per comic. As adults we think variety would be great. Not so. Or not in the way we think as adults.

Theme is everything – which kids understand immediately but adults are pretty slow on, often failing to recognise that theme is vital. Or even to understand what a theme is.

I learnt that the hard way. I found any story that was slightly different to the others (usually in tone) would be pounced on and torn apart by the readers. Often unfairly and with a Lord-of-the-Flies savagery!

I doubt today’s kids are different. These are lessons you never ever forget!

Jo: My daughter often wants to buy a book, but at roughly £5 each it gets expensive (we try to buy secondhand and borrow library books instead). A friend of mine was a great fan of the inexpensive "Picture Story Library" comic books. Do you think there a place for these in today’s children's market? Perhaps publishers could consider releasing their back catalogue, or are the stories too old fashioned?

Pat: Good point. I have some personal insights into this. The potential is there and there’s around (say) 25% of the back catalogue which is cool and will work. 75% doesn’t work and is dated. But publishers don’t know which is which and are likely to print the wrong stuff – for all the reasons I’ve given (and more) about professionals. Hence the Best of Misty was the Worst of Misty.

It’s a jungle for other reasons, too, which I’d better not get in to here.

But your optimism is confirmed by one example – Commando… It recently went digital and has excellent digital sales and paper sales went up too.

You and I can immediately see where that could lead the industry, but don’t hold your breath. Remember – the majority of people in comics don’t like mainstream, or don’t understand it, or don’t care, or want to impose an art house perspective or (worse) a middle-class perspective, or want to work for America (seeing Britain as beneath them or just a stepping stone to better things), or don’t have a pro-active publisher wanting to make it happen.

If that sounds disgraceful, you’re right. It is. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this: recently one leading publisher had to turn down reprinting a proven successful girls’ comic because none of his editors were interested including female editors.

You will note I barely mention female journalists/editors/writers in classic comics. This is because the majority (there were brilliant notable exceptions) actually hated girls’ comics because they wanted to work on features for teenage magazines and saw girls’ comics as embarrassing. That’s why us blokes mainly wrote and edited them – because we didn’t think it was beneath us and what would we know about teenage make-up and fashion?!!

So you see very little has changed – good and bad – over the years!

Jo: Mulling over the comics of our childhood with friends and fellow parents, it seems most of us had regular access to comics when we were children:

We bought copies with pocket money, reserved copies with newsagents or subscribed weekly. We read our friends’, neighbours’ and relatives’ comics; we read them at sleep-overs, we poured over annuals all year long and re-read great piles of comics when we couldn't get to sleep. Our bedrooms had a large heap of comics stored somewhere, and we read a huge selection of titles.

I feel for this generation missing out on all those wonderful, creative stories; it's such a shame that the variety we had isn't there anymore. Do you think today’s children are missing out too?

Pat: Completely. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.

Jo: You have been alluding to a possible return of girls’ comics; can you shed any light on your intentions?

Pat: Some clues above. It’s going to be a battle but I’m optimistic. I think it would broadly speaking be a digital girls’ mystery/supernatural.

Jo: Do you know of other past writers and artists keen to revive girls' comics?

Pat: I’m the last man standing I’m afraid. One exception, Jenny McDade was writer on ‘Bella’ for Tammy. Very popular. She went on to write ‘Supergran’. She’s currently working on a female graphic novel. We were so desperate for an artist that a competition was held with a 1K prize. We found a fantastic young artist.

One other promising sign… I wrote some short digital strips for inFamous2 publicity. They will be on their website. That is a promising intro to a new generation of mainly female comic artists and mainly female-orientated strip.

It’s not much, but it’s a start!

Special thanks to Jo for letting us cross post her interview. If you'd like to support her efforts to bring back girls comics then book mark her blog - http://ooteeny.posterous.com - or join the Bring Back Bunty group - part of the DownTheTubes forum

Scar Comics announces Madam Samurai sequel



Empire award winning screenwriter Gary Young (Harry Brown and Eagle Award winning artist David Hitchcock (Springheeled Jack) are combining their considerable talents once again for the return of the mute female warrior known only as Madam Samurai.

Since last year’s critically acclaimed debut fans of the first book, published by Britain's Scar Comics, have been eagerly awaiting the chance to get their hands on the second part of the action packed graphic novel series, which is now available via this month’s Previews Catalogue from Diamond Distribution.

The final instalment of this origin story will not disappoint fans as Hitchcock and Young pull out all the stops to deliver a lavishly detailed adrenaline rush of a finale.

There will also be a special launch for the book at the Birmingham Comic Con 2011 on 27th August where fans will get the chance to meet and have copies signed by the book’s creators.

- To find out more about the book and its creators go to: www.madamsamurai.com

- To find out more about the Birmingham Comic Con go to: www.thecomicsshow.co.uk





Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Ace Doctor Who fanzine Vworp Vowrp returns

The team behind the wonderful Doctor Who fan magazine Vworp Vworp - a fanzine about the long-running and best-seling Doctor Who Magazine - are taking pre-orders for their second issue

The new issue includes an all-new comic strip featuring the Dalek killing anti-hro Abslom Daak, created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon.

Editor Colin Brockhurst tells us they're aiming to publish in late August or early September after quite a break since Issue 1 - testament to the huge amount of work being put into the title, which even includes a smashing-looking free gift featuring art by Adrian Salmon.

Contents include
  • The first half of an exhaustive Abslom Daak tribute, including interviews with writer Steve Moore, and artists Steve Dillon and David Lloyd
  • There's also a Daak comic strip, written for Doctor Who Magazine by Steve Moore in 1980 but withdrawn after a disagreement with the editor, now finally brought to the page by DWM artists Martin Geraghty, Adrian Salmon and Roger Langridge.
  • A series of DWM editor interviews kicks off with a fascinating chat between founding Dez Skinn and current head honcho Tom Spilsbury. The magazine also chats to Paul Neary, Alan McKenzie, Cefn Ridout and the elusive Sheila Cranna.
  • Ex-Doctors Tom Baker and Colin Baker talk about their comic strip selves.
  • Dave Gibbons, Steve Parkhouse and Mick McMahon discuss The Tides of Time and Junkyard Demon, and we take in The Lodger with Gareth Roberts and Mike Collins.
  • Plus there's more comic strip - The Housekeeper, a story written by Paul Magrs and drawn by Bret M Herholz starring Mrs Wibbesey and the Fourth Doctor.
Vworp Vworp 2 comes with two covers: a wraparound Abslom Daak cover by Mike Collins, and an early Doctor Who Monthly pastiche featuring Junkyard Demon (with Jason Fletcher and Ben Willsher’s take on Daak on the back.

Plus, there's a fantastic free gift in the form of a ‘Vworpabix’ board game. Based on the 1970s Weetabix game, Vworp Vworp's has 16 character cards by Adrian Salmon and boards by Paul Grist, Jon Pinto, Leighton Noyes and Graeme Neil Reid.

A very limited edition magazine, you can pre-order it here from the Vworp Vworp web site!

Vworpabix board game

British comic shops trade on despite riot damage

Forbidden Planet Manchester - shop window damaged in riots but still open
Comic shops in Manchester, Birmingham and other cities are open for business as usual, despite coming under attack from looters over the past few days during Britain's riots.

Nostalgia and Comics - owned by Forbidden Planet International - and Forbidden Planet Manchester both came under attack, as did Place in Space in Croydon last weekend.





In Birmingham, looters were back on the streets last night. Richer Sounds, the electrical store next door to N&C was badly hit earlier in the week, the thieves recorded on video (above).

Customers of Richer Sounds - which is open for trading - were out in force to help staff clean up after the attacks. "We’re still evaluating the stock situation but the main point is that our colleagues are all safe and well," a spokesperson said on Twitter. "It’s reassuring that there are still plenty of decent people out there!"

Place in Space, Croydon - a popular store with its fans - escaped the worst of the rioting there but Bleeding Cool reports it would welcome business.

"After the rioting and fires in our area we have now regained access to our premises and will be working hard to get the shop open as soon as possible," say the staff. "The police cannot advise definitively when this will be but we hope it will be by the weekend. Additionally, we anticipate listing this weeks comics up on our Ebay Store, by Thursday.

"Outstanding orders, new orders and emails will be processed as soon as we can, but we desperately need the extreme understanding and patience from our customers – these circumstances are unprecedented and we are doing everything we can to resume business and regain a sense of normality as soon as possible.

"Our London Store is continuing to operate as normal.

"Please continue to support us  - it's a devastating time for us and our community... we need your support and continued business."

Forbidden Planet Croydon - owned by the Titan Entertainment Group - also escaped the devastation, as did Travelling Man in Manchester. "Manchester is unscathed," said Haroon, one of its staff via Twitter, "but a lot of damage in our area. "[The] Council have done a great job tidying!" The shop was offering brews to clean up squads this morning.

Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon tells us that he'd received numerous messages from Manchester comics folks outraged about the attack on the store, some posting goodwill message on the shop's Facebook page.

"It was shock news but also touching in a way," he says. "So many folks asked after the state of the store and the safety of the staff.

"I spoke to them on the phone this morning and they were much cheered by the news of how many local comics folks were worried about them - nice to have friends.

"The good news is that like the Nostalgia & Comics store the day before [the looters] damaged the windows but didn't get into the store and staff weren't there so they are all thankfully unharmed."

The chain's Wolverhampton store reports both staff and shop are fine despite overnight riots there.

"I checked with our Wolverhampton lot too as there was trouble there last night," Joe says. "They escaped it but some retailers near them not so lucky, although volunteers are already gathered and cleaning up the mess there.

"We're all open for business, it's New Comics Day and we'll be selling those comics if we have to stand there with a full load of hi-ex in our lawgivers!"

• Full news story: http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2011/open-for-business/

Nostalgia & Comics on Twitter

Tank Museum to host Charley's War exhibition

Charley's War creator Pat Mills will be appearing at an event celebrating the critically-acclaimed Battle Picture Weekly strip at Britain's Tank Museum in October.
The event ties in with a planned exhibition of Charley's War art which is being loaned to the Museum by artist Joe Colquhoun's family.

The tank was a British invention that changed warfare forever when it was introduced in World War One – and the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, has been the home of the tank ever since. From the Somme to Tiananmen Square or D-Day to Desert Storm the tank has played a part in shaping history - both good and bad – and it continues to do so today.

The Tank Museum is the only place where many of these rare and historic vehicles can be seen. Fresh from a £16 million investment in new exhibitions and facilities, with almost 200 vehicles on display in six large halls, you will come face-to-face with tanks that have seen action in all the major wars of the 20th century.

• The Tank Museum Bovington, Dorset, BH20 6JG. Telephone: 0929 405096. Full details of the event are not yet available, but the talk will take place on 22nd October and you can check the Museum's events diary here for updates

In Review: Orbital - Nomads and Ravages

Orbital is Cinebook's longest running science fiction series after the Worlds of Aldebaran books and which, like the Largo Winch books, tells each story over two books. The second pair of Orbital books, Nomads and Ravages, originally published in 2009 and 2010 bring this series by writer Sylvain Runberg and artist Serge Pelle up to date in with all four French albums now having been translated into English.

In Nomads a galactic celebration of the ending of the Human/Sandjarr war is due to be held in Kuala Lumpar and Interworld Diplomatic Office (IDO) agents Caleb from Earth and Mezoke from Sandjarr have been assigned to oversee security for the celebrations. After an incident between local Malaysian fishermen and the nomadic alien Rapakhun, tensions rise but there is also something that is killing people and aliens alike and no one knows what it is. In Ravages the fatal contamination moves from the swamps into the city and Caleb and Mezoke can only prove the innocence of the Rapakhun in the mounting death toll by finding out exactly what is causing the mysterious deaths.

The original pairing of Orbital books, Scars and Ruptures, felt somewhat derivative - the pair of intergalactic diplomatic police officers being reminiscent of the Jedi pairing in The Phantom Menace, who were sent to a human colony world overrun by innumerable vicious creatures being reminiscent of Aliens. While the Confederation and IDO's political intrigue still feels like the Republic and Jedi from the newer Star Wars movies, this pair of books feels much fresher with the Indonesian setting feeling almost as alien at times as some of the alien races that have come to Earth.

Runberg's plot initially sets off in the expected direction before taking a few twists plus a major excursion off-world before presenting an alien menace that would have many artists cap their pens in despair at its lack of visual identity. This is a menace that is shown on the cover of the second book, but the reader will probably not even notice it without having read the story first.

Yet it is Pelle's alien creature designs that are the standout for me in these books, the Rapakhun in particular. The cover for the first books with its IDO flyer surrounded by flying Rapakhuns is striking in its simplicity while the second cover is more figurative, showing a scene that isn't technically part of the story, but still remains an attention grabber. Pelle's muted colour art is a delight to look at throughout the two books from the stark clean lines of his cityscapes via the dynamic ocean chases to the moody gloom of the jungles.

Orbital's combination of diplomacy and adventure in Nomads and Ravages may not be quite to everybodies tastes, but the mixture of alienness and familiarity in Runberg's story combined with Pelle's lovely art make this mission in the series well worth a look.

There are more details of all the English language Orbital books on Cinebook's website.

There is more information on the original French language Orbital books on Dupuis'
website (in English).


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

British Newspaper Strip Club changes hands

There's a change of command at the All Devon Collectors Club, longtime archivists of British newspaper strips.

An offshoot of the old South West Comic Collectors Club, the ADCCC, mainly centred on the Exeter area, has members far and wide - and continues the relentless search for prime quality images for the (complete) British story booklets that is their raison d'etre.

The desire of elder members to see old newspaper strips again, linked with the poor quality of the yellowing photocopies that were doing the rounds, provided the impetus for the club to decide to track down and reprint 'lost' Garth strips. A search for other British titles naturally followed, such as Romeo Brown and Paul Temple.

Unfortunately, longtime co-ordinator Dave Westaway's health has deteriorated recently and as a result, he is no longer able to continue his duties with the ADCCC.

Luckily another member of the ADCCC, Paul Trotter, also editor of the the bi-monthly Newspaper Strip Gazette, has taken on  the administration role and is as enthusiastic as Dave about the old newspaper strips.

"Although I will see through to the end any correspondence, already started all future orders for the club's limited edition newspaper strip collections (listed here on the main DTT site), suggestion and offers of help should now be directed to Paul," Dave tells us.

"The club will continue to run very much as it has done for the last few years," he adds.

"I would like to thank all members for their enthusiastic support and help over the last eight years. Many of them have given time in searching, cleaning, providing colouring and artwork... I've been very grateful and would much appreciate it if you can give the same support to Paul."


Dave has long supported our work at DTT and offered help on British comic collections I've edited on a freelance basis for Titan Books. I wish him all the very best and offer a heartfelt thanks to him for his dedicated service preserving our British comics heritage.

• To contact the ADCCC, write to Paul Trotter, ADCCC, DSC Publications, 20 Wreake Drive, Rearsby, Leicester LE7 4YZ or email him via dsccomicsATaol.com

Monday, 8 August 2011

Titan Books Grabs Gordon (Flash, that is)

Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo is set for a March 2012 release

Titan Books has announced the publication of The Complete Flash Gordon Library in 2012. Compiling every strip and every story, this series of restored full-colour hardcover volumes will showcase the action and artistry that thrilled audiences for decades.

The first ever Flash Gordon episode, drawn by Alex Raymond
Everyone knows Flash Gordon -- the most iconic science fiction swashbuckler ever to burst forth from the newspaper pages and whose inclusion in a news paper was once considered part of its Unique Selling Point. His adventures wielded so much energy that they inspired everyone who followed, no matter what the medium.

Filmmaker George Lucas famously revealed, "Growing up in California, I was enchanted by two things...race cars and Flash Gordon. The first love I put to use in American Graffiti, the second eventually turned into Star Wars."


Flash Gordon first hit superstardom in 1934 with his comic strip adventures, which continued unabated for seven decades. His influence spread like wildfire into every medium -- films, television, novels, comic books, radio plays, and more. Every generation has had its incarnation of the character, and yet another major motion picture is reported to be in the works.

Launching in early 2012 with On the Planet Mongo, Titan says the mission of The Complete Flash Gordon Library will be to collect every strip and every story, offering them in affordable, full-colour hardcover volumes, carefully restored and revealing the action and the artistry that thrilled audiences for decades. Through the painstaking efforts of renowned comic strip historian Pete Maresca, readers will experience the heroics of Flash Gordon, the beauty of Dale Arden, the evil of Ming the Merciless, and the exotic setting of the distant planet Mongo. Each installment will be meticulously reworked so that the intricate artwork, the vivid colors, and the unparalleled action will explode off of the page.

Beginning with the renowned stories written and illustrations by Alex Raymond -- the genius behind the hero -- The Complete Flash Gordon Library will continue with the other brilliant illustrators who took the helm and ran with his creation: Austin Briggs, Mac Raboy, Dan Barry, and many more. Each page will be 11" x 10" -- specifically designed to spotlight the action-packed artistry of the creators, and each volume will feature 176 or more pages of full-color action.

A Flash Gordon Sunday strip, drawn by Jim O'Keefe
Volume One, On the Planet Mongo, will feature a foreword by renowned illustrator Alex Ross, and future installments will offer other special features revealing the secrets behind the strip and its creators.

The Complete Flash Gordon Library joins Titan's other long-running newspaper strip collections including the critically acclaimed Simon and Kirby Library, and the Modesty Blaise and James Bond series.

Pre-order The Complete Flash Gordon Library: On the Planet Mongo from amazon.co.uk



Pre-order The Complete Flash Gordon Library: On the Planet Mongo from amazon.com


Mazeworld collection set for 2011 release

Rebellion (the publishers of 2000AD) are to release a collection of Mazeworld, the acclaimed story written by Alan Grant, later this year.

The creator-owned comic series ran in 2000AD between 1996 and 1999. With the tagline "Is Death the Door to Another World?", it's a fantasy story about Cadman - the first person hanged in Britain since 1964 transported to the Mazeworld.

Only ever collected by in the US by Caliber Comics and in three black and white volumes, Mazeworld is well overdue a full-colour collected edition. Fans who started a campaign to get it back into print in 2010 felt that with Ranson's collaboration with John Wagner, Button-Man, having its option renewed by Dreamworks, it might not take much more than some demand from the public to see Mazeworld finally reprinted.

Talking about the collection over on his official web site last October, Arthur Ranson said there was "No way to measure what effect the ‘Let’s get Maze World back in print’ campaign had on Rebellion’s decision but a coincidence seems unlikely."

Fans will have to wait until November 2011 to see the collected edition, which is being edited by Keith Richardson.

Pre-order Mazeworld from amazon.co.uk

Info on Mazeworld on amazon.com

Second Northern Sequential Arts Competition launched

In 2010, the Leeds-based comic festival Thought Bubble launched its very own national award with the support of Arts Council funding - and the second Northern Sequential Arts Competition has just been announced.

The Northern Sequential Arts Competition is a new annual prize which is open to all artists and writers living in the UK. Budding artists and writers were invited to create their very own one page comic book story, and all the entries were judged by a leading panel of industry professionals, including 2000 AD Editor Matt Smith, Imagine FX Editor Claire Howlett and Marvel’s Spider-Man Editor Steve Wacker.

Six winning entrants will see their work published by Image Comics this year in a special Thought Bubble anthology which will also includes original work from leading international artists and writers including Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy), Andy Diggle (The Losers), Antony Johnston (Daredevil) and Mike Carey (Lucifer) plus many more.

Thought Bubble is on the look out for new one page comic book story creations. Once again, all entries will be judged by an industry panel and the winners will get to see their stories printed alongside the work of established artists and writers in a special Thought Bubble anthology which will also be distributed worldwide.

The competition is split into two age groups, 12 - 17 and 18 +

• Full details on how to enter can be found at www.thoughtbubblefestival.com

Thought Bubble official hotel announced, event plans promise snapshot of UK comic industry

The Leed-based comics festival Thought Bubble has just made a number of announcements - includinga remindert that this major comics event has been expanded over a week with a massive two day comic con.

"Since our biggest and most successful Thought Bubble festival in 2010 we have been busy making plans for the 2011 edition," says Festival Director Lisa Wood, "and we think it's going to be an unmissable event for comic book and graphic novel fans all over the country."
The biggest celebration of comic books, graphic novels and animated storytelling in the UK returns to Leeds this November, as Thought Bubble presents its most exciting programme to date. Celebrating its fifth year, the festival has been extended over a week from 14th – 20th November 2011 with a jam-packed programme of events including a fantastic programme of free interactive workshops & masterclasses in venues across Leeds and West Yorkshire for both young people and adults - with activity for beginners as well as more experienced writers and artists.

The centrepiece to the Thought Bubble festival is the massive, annual comic convention and this year it will take place over two days instead of one.

"We'll be using two of Leeds' largest exhibition halls, Saviles Hall and Royal Armouries Hall in the Clarence Dock area of Leeds to present the spectacular event," says Lisa. "The convention is now the largest in the UK and welcomes some of the biggest industry names in comics and graphic novels to Leeds to celebrate their work."

In 2011, over 50 leading writers and artists will attend the convention and guests will include Tim Sale, an Eisner Award winning artist whose work, including concept drawings for the TV show Heroes, has received widespread acclaim and Adam Hughes, one of the most respected artists currently working in the medium and responsible for the most popular and well loved DC comic book covers.

The weekend long convention will also welcome hundreds of exhibitors from brilliant small press artists and writers, to major UK retailers offering something for all comic book fans, all spread across three hundred tables in two halls. Aspiring artists and writers in our region are also encouraged to bring along their art portfolios as representatives from Marvel, 2000 AD and Self Made Hero will be on hand to give advice, and be on the look-out for the next big thing in comics.

The full Thought Bubble festival programme, along with full guest line up and venue details will be announced in Ocotober 2011, but comic con tickets are on sale now and cost just £18.00 for a weekend pass. Day tickets which provide full access to the convention on either the Saturday or the Sunday cost £10.

As with previous Thought Bubble comic conventions the entire event is free for the under 12's with tickets and passes availble on the day.

The official Thought Bubble hotel is the Leeds Marriott Hotel - the exclusive hotel partner of the Festival. The four star, 244-room hotel is located in the heart of Leeds City Centre, a stone's throw from Leeds train station and just a ten minute walk from the Thought Bubble Comic Convention in Saviles Hall and Royal Armouries Hall.

• Tickets are available to purchase online at http://www.thoughtbubblefestival.com/ or in person and by phone at the City Centre Box Office in Leeds on Millennium Square, tel: 0113 2243801. The first 500 people to purchase a weekend pass will also gain entry to the VIP convention after party at the Alea Casino on Saturday 19 November.

• Join the Thought Bubble social networking communities for the latest information and discussion - http://twitter.com/thoughtbubbleuk and http://www.facebook.com/thoughtbubblefestival

• This is the 3000th post on the downthetubes blog. Yay us and thanks for reading!

In Review: XIII - The Night Of August Third

Who is XIII?

Book 1 - Mr Alan Smith?
Book 2 - Captain Steve Rowland?
Book 3 - Prisoner Steve Rowland?
Book 4 - Corporal Ross Tanner?
Book 5 - Agent Jason Fly?
Book 6 - Writer John Fleming?

The seventh book in the XIII series, The Night Of August Third, continues the story begun in the previous book The Jason Fly Case.

XIII is trapped in the small town of Green Falls by an avalanche that has also trapped and injured his friend and ally, Major Jones. Still maintaining his cover of writer John Fleming, he is trying to track down what happened to the young Jason Fly, the person he now believes himself to be, and Fly's father on the third of August twenty years beforehand. Having made enemies of Sheriff Quinn and local bigwig Dwight Rigby, instigated partially by XIII's hitman enemy known as the Mongoose, XIII is now on the run with the town conducting a manhunt for him as he returns to the home of Zeke Hathaway. There he finds a hidden notebook that gives him much more information on his background.

In the meanwhile the Mongoose has tracked down Jones to the house of XIII's friend Judith Warner leading to a scantily clad Jones attempting to escape through the snow before she is imprisoned in the town's police station. This proves to be no safer for her as some of the locals break in with the intention of taking revenge on her for the death of their friend.

The Jason Fly Case and The Night Of August Third are two parts of the one story although, as ever, this book provides a detailed full page catch-up at the beginning. The relative peacefulness of the first book is thoroughly shattered in this conclusion with the series moving back into full blown action adventure mode as the plot twists back and forth from danger to intrigue to explanation.

Two sections standout: the book changes from colour to black and white art as XIII reads the notebook that details the two decade old back story of Jason Fly giving a true flashback feel to the panels, while the normally indefatigable Jones finally gets into a situation in the jail cell that she cannot save herself from. This jail scene, with its racial and sexual overtones, takes the series to a place that it has not previously been to and places Jones into a situation of implied peril that is perhaps more effective, and unnerving, than the multitude of fist fights and shoot-outs that we have seen her in before.

Just when you thought that XIII was giving you a relatively quiet small town mystery with The Jason Fly Case, The Night Of August Third turns the tables and reminds you just how much of an adrenaline rush Van Hamme's writing coupled with Vance's artwork can be.

Buy XIII Vol.7: The Night of August Third from amazon.co.uk 

Buy The Night of August Third: XIII Vol. 7 from amazon.com

• There are more details of the English language XIII books on Cinebook's website.

• There are more details of the original French XIII albums on the official XIII
website (in French).

• The downthetubes review of the previous XIII book, The Jason Fly Case is
here.

• You can read an interview with Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin on downthetubes at
XIII Questions About XIII.

Contact downthetubes

• Got a British Comics News Story? E-mail downthetubes!

• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials: editor@downthetubes.net

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