downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...
Saturday, 7th October 2017
The downthetubes news blog was assimilated into our main site back in 2013, but we're glad you're here, because that's currently undergoing some under the bonnet refurb! So we've brought this blog back from the dead to tide us over.
We expect to be back up and running next week, just before the 2017 Lakes International Comic Art Festival - see you there?
Hop over to www.downthetubes.net for other British comics news, comic creating guides, interviews and much more!
Fantasy comics are definitely seeing something of an upswing in popularity right now, a reflection, perhaps of a general desire to escape the doom and gloom of everyday life in a recession. Well, another title is about to join the fray -- Damsels, from US publisher Dynamite Entertainment.
On sale in comic shops in September, the comic is being written by Leah Moore and John Reppion , with stunning looking art by Aneke, and dynamic covers by J. Scott Campbell and Sean Chen.
In Damsels #1, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White come together with other damsels in a new adventure filled with danger and intrigue, as the alluring princesses of classic fairy tales take up arms to save their kingdoms from war.Rediscover the darkness at the heart of fairy tales and why there will be no happily ever after.
Damsels opens with Rapa wishing she had not got out of bed that morning, if she had a bed to get out of that is. The day began badly and has gone rapidly and literally downhill ever since. A series of peculiar and baffling encounters throw obstacle after obstacle into her path, intent it seems on preventing her progress. The thing is, until today she had no idea she was trying to make any progress, toward anything!
A collection of hazy memories and bewildering tattoos are all she has to help her figure it all out, and to be honest, she'd just as soon not bother. Around her, we see the mountain city of Caumont thrown into overdrive by the arrival of Queen Talia and King Aurore of Perrault. The streets are thronged with cheering people, does it matter they aren't exactly sure why they are cheering, or for whom?
Damsels joins a growing number of fairy story inspired comic titles on sale now, which include Vertigo's Fables and Dynamite's own fantasy comics such as their adaptation of Game of Thrones.
"We are thoroughly enchanted to be working on such a spellbinding series," says writers Leah Moore and John Reppion. "It's fantastic fun for us as writers to be able to play with characters and concepts that are familiar, but then put our own Moore & Reppion style spin on things.
"Yes, there are Damsels and yes, there will be plenty of distress, but nothing is how it seems, and there is brutal action and weird surprises at every turn. We have had so much fun writing this, and we are so pleased with the art team Dynamite have set us up with. We can't wait to see it in print."
"We've been talking about Damsels for a long time internally, and trying to figure out who the best writers would be," states Dynamite Publisher Nick Barrucci. "Leah and John were at the top of the list, but they had taken a break from comics. Debating who to approach, we followed up with Leah and John to see if they would script once time freed up. They said yes. It was the best decision for the comic.
"Get ready for one hell of a ride. Not every fairy tale has a happy ending."
For the third time in less than twelve months the Commando archive has been opened to allow artwork to be used in a public exhibition. After the Draw Your Weapons exhibition in London's National Army Museum (with downthetubes being the only British comics website invited to the opening night last September) and the Battlelines exhibition in the University Of Dundee barely a month later, the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen are about to present Steadfast! Commando at The Gordon Highlanders Museum.
This is a new display of Commando artwork especially selected by the museum from the DC Thomson archive and includes a special section commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and the role of the Gordon Highlanders in the Desert War in 1942 and 1943. The exhibition opens at the museum on Monday 9 July 2012 and runs until Friday 30 November 2012 and entrance to the Steadfast! exhibition is included in the general admission price for the museum.
In the meantime the next four issues of Commando are available this week -
Commando No 4507: The Spy Catchers Story: Alan Hebden Art: Olivera Cover: Ian Kennedy
Espionage is as much a part of warfare as infantry or artillery. Knowing what your enemy is planning is a great help when it comes to stopping him. But all the time you’re watching him, he’s watching you, isn’t he? Which is why you need spy catchers, men who will sniff out the spies and neutralise them. British Army lorry-driver Arnie Kershaw loved to read about the adventures of such men…but even he never dreamt for a moment that he’d be caught up in their activities for real.
Commando No 4508: The Voyage Of HMS Onion Wagon Story: Peter Grehan Art: Vila Cover: Ian Kennedy
How did a motley crew of British and New Zealand sailors end up on a British Army Bedford lorry in the desert? How did a routine operation so very quickly go wrong and become an unexpected voyage into danger? Hop aboard HMS Onion Wagon and find out!
Commando No 4509: Cold Steel (Originally No 22 - April 1962) Story: Kenner Art: Gordon Livingstone Cover: Ken Barr
Ten Desperate Men… Armed to the teeth, they slipped and slithered from the hull of a submarine into a wave-battered rubber dinghy. A grim cargo of trouble on a life-or-death mission. Ten desperate men who were destined to become… Ten dauntless heroes.
In his introduction to this Gold Collection reprint, Commando editor Calum Laird says, "Secret, dangerous, well-nigh impossible missions have been firm favourites with Commando readers (and editors) since the earliest days. The title was less than a year old when Gordon Livingstone’s trademark art gave life to ten men on the deadliest of missions. (The ten-man mission is another theme that’s been visited and re-visited over the years without getting stale.) Author Kenner’s tale sets the men at their officer’s throat from the off…as soon as they settle with the Nazis he’s likely to be next. All that AND Ken Barr’s menacing cover? What a bargain for a shilling!"
Commando No 4510: Freedom — Or Death! (Originally No 2062 - February 1987) Story: Bill Fear Art: Keith Shone Cover: Jeff Bevan
To a Gurkha soldier honour is all important, and young Lal had a very important debt of honour to settle with his officer, Lieutenant Archie Cameron. So when the two men were captured by the Japs and sent to different POW camps, Lal was determined to free Archie. There was only one snag, though. First he had to get free himself!
In his introduction to this Silver Collection reprint, Commando Deputy Editor Scott Montgomery remembers, "As young readers, whenever my brothers or I started to read a jungle-based Commando book we always hoped it would feature Gurkha soldiers. There was always something just so…for want of a better word, cool about those stoic, loyal and deadly efficient fighting men from Nepal, armed with their iconic, curved Kukri blades. And I was always glad that they fought on our side. Even twenty-five years after this great jungle tale was first published, I still feel the same way about the amazing Gurkhas."
• 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.
Abstracts are now being accepted for inclusion in an anthology to be produced by UK comic scholars on “The Adventures of Tintin.” Proposed essay topics should creatively engage with the critical, philosophical, and social issues explored in the Tintin universe.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to: • Tintin and Hergé • Tintin and comic book history • Tintin and detective fiction • Tintin and the adventure story • Tintin in translation • Censorship of Tintin • Tintin’s spinoffs • Tintin in adaptations • Tintin in films • Tintin clubs • Tintin and geography • Tintin and travel • Travel and colonialism • Treatment of race in Tintin • Snowy as sidekick • Animal welfare • EcoTintin • Tintin and gender • Tintin and masculinity; homosocial relations • Tintin in criticism Submission Guidelines: 1. Submission deadline for abstracts (100-500 words) and (one-page) CVs: 30 August, 2012 2. Submission deadline for first drafts of accepted papers: 15 December 2012. 3. Submission deadline for final papers: 1 February 2013 Kindly submit abstracts (as Word Document attachment) to BOTH Tyler Shores (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tom Ue (email@example.com).
Lee Robson and Matthew Badham alerted me to this last month but it got buried in my in-tray. Writer-To-Watch-Out-For Dan Hill has managed to recompile a huge collection of articles and links from professional comic writers about the various aspects of the creative process that originally appeared on the now defunct Warren Ellis forum, The Engine.
The articles cover pretty much everything you could ever want to know about the process of writing comics, from moulding the initial idea all the way through to pitching it, and all of them are written by pros from across the industry, including Chuck Dixon, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and a shed load more.
Stref', who is also known as Stephen White, has a diverse amount of work to his credit with strips in The Beano and The Dandy, his hardback anthology Milk and the violent X. Raising Amy, published by Markosia, is a collection of humorous newspaper strip cartoons featuring an out-of-control youngster.
Amy strains the nerves of her long suffering mother and father who only get a rest when they can persuade, cajole or over-pay baby-sitter Flower to give them the night off, while Flower in turn has to cope with the unwanted attentions of Dick who wants to be her boyfriend but, in reality, is effectively her stalker. As for what happens in the house, well Amy's toys aren't safe from her attentions, she manages to bring zoo animals home as pets, nothing seems to prevent her accessing her father's tool box for all sorts of nefarious schemes and, perhaps worst of all, she has developed a taste for earth worms - live earth worms.
Stref's previous work, X, definitely put the graphic into graphic novel and Raising Amy couldn't be more different - unless you happen to love cuddly toys which, as the cover suggests, take a lot of abuse from this precocious child.
There are 250 colour cartoon strips in the book which begin by breaking the reader in gently to what is going on in Amy's home with single strips telling each incident before moving on to themed sets telling of longer on-going events. Stref' also manages to show his taste in cinema with strips featuring references to films such as The Shining, The Godfather, The Wicker Man and Psycho.
Perhaps though my favourite strips are those in which Amy talks to her artist, telling him off and even threatening him enough for him to take his revenge. Indeed some of these strips even have the artist's hand and pen included Beano-style and, inevitably, even he has problems controlling her. These hypertextual moments raise the book beyond the norm as Stref' plays with the format of Amy's world for his, and our, entertainment.
With Raising Amy Stref' has created a glossy, colourful and delightfully enjoyable Minnie The Minx for the 21st century.
• There are more details, preview strips and ordering information on Raising Amy on the Markosia website.
• There are more details of the book on the Raising AmyFacebook page.
• Stref'/Stephen White will be at the Glasgow Comic Con on Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July where he will have copies of Raising Amy, along with X and Milk+, for sale.
Matt Badham talks to Gareth Kavanagh – Greater Manchester Fringe Chair and Lass O’Gowrie pub co-owner – about the upcoming Manchester Fringe Festival and, specifically, the Doctor Who inspired play Robots of Death that is part of it - and features a one-night only appearance by Blake's 7's Paul Darrow.
The inaugural Greater Manchester Fringe Festival is taking place in July 2012, and will feature a whole range of drama premieres, live music, dance, stand-up comedy, visual arts, literature and workshops.
Matt: Why and how did you decide to set up the Manchester Fringe? What's your history, specifically, when it comes to promoting the 'Arts' locally?
Gareth: It’s a very organic process that has developed over a few years to be honest. We really turned on to entertainment in the aftermath of the Smoking Ban in 2007, and started with a modest programme of live music gigs, quizzes, a retro video gaming night, comedy and small drama one and two handers.
Out of this came a realisation that although it takes a huge effort to get these things off the ground, there is an audience for this kind of thing, notably fringe theatre. So, we got involved quite heavily in the 2009 (sadly defunct) Not Part of Festival (both as programmers of in-house shows and as host to people wanting to put on gigs) before launching Lassfest in 2010 which was a month long fringe festival bespoke to the Lass. This grew into a slightly larger Lassfest in 2011 and spawned a January Midwinter Lassfest in 2012, before we decided to get others involved through the Greater Manchester Fringe.
Of course, in theory we could have just sat on Lassfest and kept it all to ourselves, but that’s both selfish and short sighted. It’s been great collaborating with other venues although, I accept it’s not for everyone. It takes a certain level of confidence and trust to do it.
Matt: What's the programme like? How have you programmed it, in terms of the practicalities of working with multiple venues and the 'artistic' approach when it came to your programme, i.e. what sort of shows have you gone for and why?
Gareth: To be honest, every venue is a little different. As this is the first one, we’ve made a decision at the Lass to ‘hard programme’ the majority of the slots with in-house productions, with a minority of slots for travelling acts. It makes for a lot of work, but it does give us a solid base of things that are sometimes trickier to attract like genre drama. It also lets us build on areas in which we have a strong track record, notably revivals and retro television adaptations.
Matt: What sort of opportunities do you hope the Fringe will offer new/emerging (maybe even established) artists/writers/actors?
Gareth: It’s a great platform for all levels. For artists starting out, it’s a virtually risk free opportunity to test material out in front of a live audience. For more established artists, it’s an invaluable opportunity to test new material, polish existing sets raise cash before embarking onto pasture more pricier like Edinburgh.
Likewise, is there a business angle here... an attempt to bring punters (and their money) into Manchester at a time of recession...It’s exactly that. It’s no coincidence that Lassfest grew out of the two quietest months for us – July and January and in a University dominated city centre, I think we’re not alone in suffering the Summertime blues when the students all go home. I think that opportunities can grow out of recessions, as you innovate and create to combat troughs in the market.
I also believe that the kind of levels of genuine co-operation I’ve witnessed between venues would have been unthinkable five years ago when things were booming for bars in Manchester.
Matt: What are the picks of the Fringe... the shows personally that you are looking forward to?
Gareth: Gosh, so much good stuff in the pipeline it’s difficult to choose. There’s a ton of good stuff at the Kings Arms, notably Dev’s Army which I’m determined to see. Peter Slater’s House that Stank of Death will be extraordinarily good at the horror themed club Satan’s Hollow, as will Robots of Death in Fab. And that’s before I think about Storm Mine (the Robots sequel), Porridge, Together in Electric Dreams (featuring 1980’s incarnations of Sir Clive Sinclair and Lord Sugar) and Year of the Sex Olympics – an adaptation of Nigel Kneale's 1968 TV play.
Matt: How did you decide on Robots of Death as your 'lead' show?
Gareth: Well, given the Doctor Who links, rudely ambitious nature and the presence of TV legend Paul Darrow on stage for one day only playing the lead, it seemed to make a decent curtain raiser for the Fringe. I have a theory that occasionally theatre and Fringe suffers from (a largely unjustified) reputation for being up itself. By tacking productions that people can quickly get their heads round or trust, like Doctor Who it means these productions make for pain-free introductions into the rich world of Fringe.
Matt: How do you solve the problem of the Doctor-less nature of your show?
Gareth: Well, it’s not the first time we’ve tackled this issue. Back in January, [Doctor Who producer] Russell T Davies was outrageously kind enough to allow us to adapt his 2008 episode of Doctor Who Midnight – a episode which helpfully features a group of characters in the equivalent of a single train carriage. It could have been practically written for stage.
However, neither us nor Russell owns the Doctor. That character is owned by the BBC, so his part had to be played by someone new. But in many ways, it’s a lot easier to solve than you’d think. However you look at it, a Doctor shaped hole remains in the plot so we just fill it another way.
With Robots, the solution came by transposing the Doctor and Leela with Iago and Blayes – two security agents from a Doctor-less spin off series of audio sequels to the 1977 Doctor Who series Robots of Death. Naturally, this has meant a few narrative shifts to the story, but it’s pretty clever stuff and happily the original serial author Chris Boucher agreed to the retooling.
Imagine taking a Roger Moore Bond movie and replacing Bond with Jason Bourne within the narrative and you’re there….
Matt: Why should the punters come to see RoD when they could just buy the DVD?
Gareth: Well, for one it’s a different experience. This tale will cleverly unfold right in front of our eyes, you’re there on the Storm Mine. Buy the DVD by all means (it’s excellent), but it’s a different pleasure.
Matt: What makes RoD suitable for stage adaptation?
Gareth: Like a lot of sixties and seventies television, it’s a disciplined piece of writing with longer scenes than modern TV, less scene changes and a smaller pallet to fill. And we were encouraged to think more use our imaginations back then. Taking all that on board, it’s actually a lot easier than you’d think!
Matt: You've got Paul Darrow on board for one night only. How did that come about and what do you think he will bring to the show?
Gareth: Paul Darrow is simply a television god for those of us who grew up with Blake’s 7 in the late 19760s and early Eighties, and his performances as Kaston Iago in the Kaldor City audios are a logical continuation of his work in Blake’s 7. Inviting him down was always one of those ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ daydreams, but it was Alan Stevens of Kaldor City (and who has been adapting the Robots and Storm Mine scripts for the stage for us) who made it happen.
So, we have for one day only Paul Darrow playing his Iago with the rest of the cast and audio co-star Tracy Russell as Blayes. How can’t you get excited about that? It’s the British equivalent of William Shatner dropping by to read a Star Trek script. It’s mouth-watering.
Matt: Please tell us something about your pedigree as a producer and the pedigree of the various other cast/crew members working on RoD.
Gareth: I’m a huge television fan first and foremost, in particular genre material and forgotten gems from the golden age of television in the 1960s and Seventies. More importantly, I’m mad enough to get these things on the stage and seem to be trusted by the rights holders, despite only having been active in this field for 12 months.
I see the Producer role as one of commissioner, organiser, occasional authority figure, buck stopper, catalyst and initial project starter. I work with some talented people and most of the time, we go on to work together again. Sometimes I'm very hands on, other times I get it going then step back.
So far, I’ve been proud to produce Coronation Street 1968, Hot Fat, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Porridge, Midnight, The Year of the Sex Olympics, Together in Electric Dreams, Robots of Death, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and Storm Mine. And there’s more in the pipeline for sure.
Matt: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the show?
Gareth: Robots of Death is exactly why I became a Doctor Who fan in 1977 and our redux version is a sophisticated polish of the ideas that made it so great, albeit with a twist. It’s brilliant.
Artist Dave Windett- who has drawn comics featuring some of the biggest licensed characters including Korky the Cat, Inspector Gadget, Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny - has once again teamed up with writer and frequent collaborator John Gatehouse (Trick or Treat) to work on a series of children’s illustrated books under the working title of The Monster Hunters Guide for Penguin US.
“Back when John Gatehouse and I were working on Lazarus Lemming for The DFC, we came up with an idea for a kid’s book which we called the Monster Hunters Handbook” said Dave Windett who was one of the guests at Malta Comic Con 2010."
The creative duo put together a proposal which John Gatehouse described as "the fun way to help brave-hearted readers to become celebrity 'monster-hunters'!
"We introduce them to the terrifying, bloodcurdling supernatural world that exists outside their own front door. (Monster-hunting is a lot more fun than flipping burgers for a living - although we wouldn’t suggest taking out any long-term pension plans!)”
“It’s taken a while, and there have been a few bumps along the way," says Dave, "but thanks to the hard work of agents Watson Little, John and I are now working on a series of four books for Penguin US.”
The Monster Hunters Guide book will be edited for Penguin by Rob Valios (one of the team behind Reading with Pictures) and the first outing of the series is due to be released before Halloween 2013.
Star Trek: The Next Generation's John de Lancie is the Guest of Honour at Britain's first ever 'Brony' convention in August, taking place in Manchester, celebrating all things My Little Pony.
While My Little Pony may not seem our usual purview, the franchise has an incredible following and, of course, its own British magazine titles, so we're happy to give this event a plug. The team behind it are enthusiastic and determined to make the show a great event set to take place on the 18th - 19th of August 2012 in Manchester.
Known in My Little Pony fandom for voicing the lord of chaos Discord, John de Lancie is also known in the wider community for his role as Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as appearances in many other shows, such as Stargate SG1, Torchwood, Breaking Bad, and Johnny Quest. John will be answering questions, signing autographs, and filming his Brony documentary at the con.
Exeter-based LCD Publishing will launch a new title aimed at 5-7 year-old boys this Friday (22nd June 2012).
It’s For Boys, a new 13 issue a year title priced £2.50 is, according to distributors COMAG, “designed to make learning fun for boys, every issue will be crammed full of activities, stories and games using some of the most popular TV characters around."
Every issue of the 32-page It’s For Boys title will include numbering, spelling, counting, matching and observational activities designed to educate and entertain early-learners.
Featuring characters such as Garfield, Scooby-Doo, Spider-Man, Mr. Bean and Spongebob Squarepants, the publishers hope It’s For Boys will encourage young boys that learning can be fun.
As is almost the norm these days, every issue will have a covermounted gift. Number 1 will come with three great racing cars.
We can only assume that if this is a success the publishers, whose titles include Pony World and Action GTX, will look at other titles in the same vein. Surely It's For Girls can't be far behind?
The annual list was published this weekend and saw just three authors - crime writer Susan Hill, poet Jean Binta Breeze and Grant, who is perhaps best known today for his work for the US market such as The Invisibles, New X-Men, Doom Patrol. His recent work includes DC Comics Action Comics and the newly-relaunched Batman Incorporated.
Needless to say, some in the comics community have expressed surprise at the news, given the nature of much of his work.
"Little surprising perhaps that a man so rooted in anti-establishment ideas, and writer of some controversial comics would be honoured this way, and would accept the honour," says Joe Gordon over at the Forbidden Planet International blog of the 52-year-old Scottish writer. "But what the hell. Congratulations Grant."
Indeed. One of three authors to get an honour? That's impressive in itself, surely.
An MBE is the lowest rank in the Order of the British Empire, established in 1917, the youngest of the British Empire's chivalry orders. It's handed out to people who in one field or another have provided a service to the UK.
Artist Andrew Skilleter has released Sarah Jane Tribute Charity Print, donating a set sum from each and every print sale to supporting the Macmillan (Cancer) Nurses, £2.50 on an A4 size print, and £5 on an A3 size print.
The print celebrates the Doctor Who character portrayed by the late Elisabeth Sladen, who died last year.
You can also choose to have a Remarque Edition if you wish and Andrew will add a drawing, donating an extra £5.
"Please try and support this - let’s raise some money," asks Andrew. The image posted here is deliberately watermarked the image here to encourage as many of you as possible to buy the print which is not!