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Friday, 9 November 2012

Radio shows featuring Min-Woo Hyung, Andy Diggle, Gail Simone, Al Ewing and more

I'm ready for my close-up: Manhwa and Metamorphosis

Two events taking place this weekend are ideal places for fans of fantasy and SF to visit - SCI-FI-LONDON: EAST and Manhwa: Korean Story & Painting - each in venues not known for exploring those genres. Alex Fitch talks to director Chris Swanton about his adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, screening Sunday 11th November at Stratford Picturehouse and to comic book creator Min-Woo Hyung regarding the art he's exhibiting at the Korean Creative Content Agency, 1-3 The Strand. Alex and Chris discuss why the director chose a hard to translate novel by Kafka as his directorial debut, following a career as an editor on such projects as the BBC's Ghostwatch, and Min-Woo talks about his career as a Manhwa creator from his debut Chronicle of a Hot-blooded Judo King to his latest project Ghostface and his most famous series Priest, which was adapted as a blockbuster in 2011.

More info about SCI-FI-LONDON: EAST (9th-11th November) at www.scfilondon.com and Manhwa: Korean Story & Painting (1st-21st November) at www.manhwa101.com

7.30pm, Friday 9th November 2012, Resonance 104.4 FM / www.resonancefm.com / podcast at www.scifilondon.com/podcast

Panel Borders: Writing serialised comics

Continuing Panel Borders' month of shows looking at the writing of superhero comics, Alex Fitch talks to writers Gail Simone, Andy Diggle, Robin Furth and Al Ewing about their work on British and American titles, in a panel discussion recorded at last year's Thought Bubble festival. Gail and Andy discuss their work for DC Comics and contributing to anthology titles, while Robin talks about adapting Stephen King's The Dark Tower for Marvel Comics and Al discusses moving from 2000AD to his first work on American strips.

Thought Bubble 2012 runs from 11th - 18th November, culminating with a two day comics convention on 17th and 18th November at Royal Armouries, Leeds

8pm, Sunday 11th November 2012, Resonance 104.4 FM / www.resonancefm.com / podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

Is online reading bad for you? Leading book store The Works argues it might be

Battling the ever increasing push toward digital reading that threatens its bottom line UK discount book chain The Works – responding to perhaps controversial claims about the dangers of online reading – has launched an investigation into why reading books is better for young children’s development than watching screens.

Despite increased digital reading – this week, US comics publisher DC Comics revealed its digital comic book sales are up 197% compared with the same period in 2011 –  the online and high street book retailer says it has recently noticed a significant increase in children’s books sales that relate to children’s television series including: Dr Seuss, Mr Men, Horrid Henry, Horrible Histories, Thomas The Tank Engine and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

After recent controversy over claims that watching TV can cause young children  psychological and physical damage, The Works interviewed professionals in the field, including children’s literacy expert, Doctor Sandra Williams, and the National Literacy Trust, to establish the benefits of reading books.

The Works research began after publication of claims by Doctor Aric Sigman, a psychologist whose similar claims about the dangers of social media were widely reported in 2009, recently saw his paper on screen time published as a Leading Article in the British Medical Association British Medical Journals’ Archives of Disease in Childhood.

In it, he argued the sheer amount of average daily screen time during discretionary hours after school children were having, be it watching TV, reading on computers or tablets, was increasingly being considered an independent risk factor for disease, and is recognised as such by other governments and medical bodies but not, however, in Britain or in most of the EU.

Doctor Williams, a Senior Lecturer at Brighton University who specialises in children’s literacy and a wide interest in emergent children's literature, said: “Reading a book, together with the tactile turning of the page is pleasurable and a good picture book has qualities that may not be found in electronic media.

"What is important is the construction of the child and many good quality picture books invite active participation and involvement. Significantly the authors/illustrators leave gaps for the readers to fill. There is a tension between text and picture which invites consideration.”

The Works hope that the printed book will survive the digital revolution. Reading doesn’t provide ready-made answers; it leaves room for imagination and extended periods of focus. This is increasingly important in today’s multi-media world, in which the over-abundance of information can be heavily distracting.

Conal Presho, Head of Development at the National Literacy Trust, agrees: “Only time will tell if print books will be excluded from children’s reading altogether, although it seems unlikely…there is an inherent value in a book as a physical item, particularly when given as a present. We are also very aware that print books are currently much more accessible to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and printed books can be more easily shared or passed on from child to child.”

The Works is keen to promote the exploration of words, sounds, stories and writing amongst young children and will continue working alongside experts and parents to ensure the rightful survival of the book.

We should advise a note of caution regarding Doctor Sprigman's research that seems to have sparked The Works good intentions (albeit intentions which also aim to encourage book sales in their shops, which isn't something we would not encourage anyway). In 2009, when Sprigman appeared on BBC's Newsnight talking about the dangers of social media, Ben Goodacre, writer of The Guardian's "Bad Science" feature, argued he was distorting scientific evidence. "He is the man behind the 'Facebook causes cancer' story in the Daily Mail," he noted, "and many other similar stories over the years (as part of the Daily Mail’s ongoing oncological ontology project). His article can be read in full online here as a PDF.

"I explained that he had cherry picked the evidence in his rather fanciful essay, selectively only mentioning the evidence that supports his case, and ignoring the evidence that goes against it. 

"I claim no expertise on the question of whether social networking and internet use is linked to loneliness," he continued. "I merely have a basic ability to use searchable databases of academic evidence, like anybody else. If you go to PubMed and type in:
loneliness [ti] AND internet
you will get 12 results.

"Many of them do not support Dr Sigman’s theory. These are the ones he completely ignores... [snip] Dr Sigman has ignored inconvenient evidence, in order to build his case."

In Review: Lucky Luke - The Daltons Always On The Run

Morris and Goscinny's honest cowboy and his horse, Jolly Jumper returns in Lucky Luke - The Daltons Always On The Run.

The new President of the United States announces a general amnesty for all prisoners freeing amongst many others Joe, Jack, William and Averill Dalton. However just because they are free doesn't make them any more honest and, after trying to rob the bank at Awful Gulch, they steal the money  from a stagecoach delivery to the bank and hightail it into the desert with Luke in pursuit.

Meanwhile an Apache attack on the prison frees the Daltons yet again but they are soon the prisoners of the tribe. However they are able to persuade Chief Tipi Toes that Averell is a great sorcerer and so get the Apaches to help them continue robbing people. Lucky Luke now not only has to stop the cavalry going to war with the Apaches but must also convince the Apaches that they are being used by the Daltons, however the only way he can find their hidden camp is with the help of the prison's rather stupid dog, Rin Tin Can.

This Lucky Luke book is the 34th that Cinebook have published but it was originally the 24th French album when it was published in 1964. Does it feel like it is almost half a century old? Not at all. From the vertically challenged, and often incandescently outraged, Joe to the tall and somewhat dim-witted Averell, the four Dalton brothers always ensure an enjoyable Lucky Luke book, and this one is no different. What is slightly different is that its 48 pages are made up of one short and one long tale that sort of dovetail together but must have have been separate stories when they were originally published in the weekly Spirou comic in the early 1960s due to their separate page codes in the artwork.

The first story is short, sweet and fun while the second story does rather involve a lot of back and forth between the prison and the Indian camp making it feel a little longer that it probably should be. However the dumb mutt, Rin Tin Can, an obvious play on Hollywood's Rin Tin Tin, who doesn't really understand anything that is asked of him but still manages to save the day, is a nice addition especially with the reader being able to see the his thoughts as we sometimes do with Snowy in the Tintin books.

Lucky Luke - The Daltons Always On The Run with its two part structure and reliance on the characters of the Daltons and Rin Tin Can rather than Lucky Luke himself may not be to everyone's taste, but Lucky Luke books featuring the Daltons are always worth reading and this is no exception.

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

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

•  Cinebook will be selling their range of books including Lucky Luke at the Comica Comiket Fall 2012 Independent Comics Fair in the City Of London on Saturday 10 November 2012 and at Thought Bubble's Royal Armouries Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

ROK releases first Beatles audio comic in new eight-issue series

ROK Mobile Comics has released the first issue of its new audio comic The Beatles Story for iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices.

The eight-issue digital series collects, for the first time in its entirety, the classic and highly-acclaimed Beatles strip created by the late Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson for the British weekly comic, Look-In.

With new covers by Martin Baines, the digitally-enhanced audio comic also includes rare Beatles videos and other material to complement the comic, including audio commentary memories from writer and radio broadcaster Angie McCartney.

Working closely with artist Arthur Ranson - with some pages scanned from original artwork - and the estate of writer Angus Allan, the eight-issue digital audio comic is available for for iPad, iPhone, Android and other mobile devices, the strip complemented by fully authored audio enhancements that further bring this unique comic biography of The Beatles to life.

The launch coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's beginnings back in 1962, when The Beatles - John, Paul, George and Ringo - took the charts by storm in 1962 with their first official release, "Love Me Do", quickly followed by "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You". Beatlemania soon swept across the globe as the Fab Four recorded a staggering 12 studio albums, 13 EPs and 22 singles from 1962 to 1970.

It is estimated they have sold over one billion records worldwide and The Beatles continue to influence many musicians and artists today, attracting a new generation of fans.

Beautifully realized, The Beatles Story charts the history of the band from their struggle for success in the early 1960s through their entire career until the band's split in 1970.

DJ Mike Read has called the strip "the only worthwhile strip record of the Beatles" and the creator-owned comic, first published in British comic Look-In has only ever been reprinted in an abridged form, both in the UK and in Europe.



The opening page of The Beatles Story
© Angus Allan & Arthur Ranson

"Before The Beatles - Their Story in Pictures strip, Angus Allan, comic-book and Paperback Writer, and I had been teamed up by Look-in Editor Colin Shelbourn to do The Elvis Story," recalls Arthur Ranson of the origins of his acclaimed Beatles comic strip. "Like Dreamers Do I suggested to Angus that we might retain the copyright - prompted by belief in its future possibilities and thinking possible returns When I'm Sixty-Four.

"Rather than just the Money there was also pride in ownership and an interest in creators rights. Creator ownership was at that time even less usual then it is now and Nobody I Know at the time had done that. Can’t now imagine the hubris that made me pushy so don’t Ask Me Why.

"When Angus heard the idea he was nervous about it," Arthur continues. "Apart from the gamble that a reduction in fee would later be recouped I think it ran against his idea of how professional comics guys worked and he might be seen as a  Bad Boy. I convinced Angus We Can Work It Out and the Two of Us took the proposal to Colin. I said I would not draw the strip on any other terms. (How was it I was so cocky?) With much less argument than I expected Colin agreed. Thank you, Colin.

"When Colin wanted The Beatles strip it was more or less understood that the same terms would apply. At Look-in’s expense Angus and I became Day Trippers, took A Ticket to Ride and went to Liverpool for research, visiting  Penny Lane and all.

"ITV Publications reproduced the strip as a paper book only four months after its first appearance in Look-In, hardly Any Time at All. The impression I was left with was that whoever organised the reprint was so miffed when he discovered that Angus and I had the copyright that he made no attempt to sell it on so it wasn’t exactly Here, There, and Everywhere. Angus and I took on an agent to act on our behalf and he landed some foreign versions.

"Some of the artwork was displayed at the Walker Art Gallery in their 1984 'Art of the Beatles' exhibition."

"Do You Want to Know a Secret? Drawing a weekly story with the hope of seeing it reappearing in a complete continuous format did need some thinking about," Arthur reveals. "The space where the title would go required filling, but not with anything that was essential. For new readers the breaks are then not apparent and the story will move without interruption, Act Naturally..." 

The Beatles Story is the latest audio comic project from ROK, who launched their first audio adventure comic Team M.O.B.I.L.E. earlier this year, with several new titles, including Houdini, new adventures of the world's greatest escape artist soon to follow, along with spy adventure Tomorrow We Live, written and drawn by Mike Collins.

The company is also working on a number of music comics featuring up and coming bands, and a collection of Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson's other creator-owned strip for Look-In, The Elvis Story.

• The Beatles Story by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson, with new covers by Martin Baines

• From iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/app/the-beatles-story/id569176209?mt=8

• Android Edition: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rok.comics.beatles001

Warm reception for new Judge Dredd's tale "Cold Deck"


The co-creator of Judge Dredd, John Wagner, has praised "Cold Deck", the latest Judge Dredd serial in 2000AD - a storyline by three of British comics’ top writers that has electrified the fan base.

The audacious plot twist in last week’s Prog 1807 by Al Ewing, Simon Spurrier  and Rob Williams was “a little bit of comics genius”, said the man behind many of the title’s most popular characters.

And the critics agree - Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 blog called it “an instant classic” while chaoshour.com described the opening episode in Prog 1806 as “the kind of comic that reminds you of why you fell in love with comics in the first place.


"Writer Al Ewing’s talent at making even the most insignificant characters come to life is evident here, as is his wonderful take on the ruthless attitude needed to succeed in a political environment," chaoshour reviewer Gareth Davies enthuses. But it’s his depiction of Dredd that sticks with you, the way that even he must now force himself to carry on with his duties.

"It’s a subtle touch, but one that strikes a nerve. After all if the toughest judge on the beat is finding it hard to keep a grip on things, what hope does anyone else have?

The latest installment, Prog 1808, arrived day-and-date digital and in UK stores today.

Now readers who have missed the story so far can read the prologue of Al Ewing’s story, Judge Dredd: Cold Deck from Prog 1802, absolutely free (PDF link). With art from Henry Flint, this six-page opening episode is, 2000AD tell us, the beginning of the biggest Dredd story since Wagner’s year-long Day of Chaos changed the world of the lawman of the future forever.

• Prog 1804 and the issues that follow are available digitally from the 2000 AD online shop or through the 2000AD iPad/iPhone app.

In Review: WesterNoir Book 1

Writer Dave West and artist Gary Crutchley take us to the Old West where they introduce us to the character of Josiah Black in the first book of Accent UK's supernatural WesterNoir.

In the Lucky Star Saloon in the town of Moses Creek, former sheriff Josiah Black is approached by Mrs Greta Anderson who wants him to find Jim Wilson, the man who killed her family. She is prepared to pay Black for his time and when he finds Wilson, she wants Black to kill him. Black agrees to find Wilson and the owner of the local livery stables points him towards the Plunkett homestead. Riding there, Black is just in time to see Wilson kill the husband of the house but prevents him killing the wife as Wilson raves about the family being demon spawn. It would seem that there is more to the story of Greta Anderson than she has let on.

Writer Dave West has come up with a complex character in the form of Josiah Black by hinting at his background through Mrs Anderson's knowledge of him as well as having his thoughts in text boxes on many of the panels.This is no simple killer for hire as he realises just what is going on around him. Artist Gary Crutchley's black and white artwork shows much in the long shots while ignoring backgrounds in the close ups which seems to give a more more immediate or intimate feeling to those panels in which the eye is not distracted from the main characters.

The supernatural aspect of the story comes to the fore in the second half of the book and while reminiscent of Frontier in The DFC, this is a much more mature take on the concept than the children's comic could ever have portrayed. Indeed the book has a four page backup strip which adds a little more depth to the character of Jim Wilson as well as three pages of his journal that Black is seen reading towards the end of the story.

Credit must also go to Accent UK designer Andy Bloor for the overall design of the book making even the non-story pages interesting to look at and doing a striking job on the distressed look of the covers and spine - there was more that one occasion when I found myself wiping the cover to get rid of a non-existent mark or crease that was actually part of the image.

WesterNoir Book 1 is a remarkably well produced book with an intriguing character at its core. With Book 2 due to be released at Thoughtbubble 2012 it will be interesting to see just where this four book storyline takes us.

• There are more details of WesterNoir on the Accent UK website.

• There are more details of Dave West's work on his blog, Strange Times.

• There are more details of Gary Crutchley's work on his blog, Driblin' On.

• Accent UK will be selling their range of books including WesterNoir at the Comica Comiket Fall 2012 Independent Comics Fair in the City Of London on Saturday 10 November 2012 and at Thought Bubble's New Dock Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012 when WesterNoir Book 2 is scheduled to be released.


 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Leeds Alternative Comic Fair back in December

The free Leeds Alternative Comics Fair returns for its fifth outing on Saturday 8th December, and this time it’s got a distinctly seasonal theme.

The organisers are encouraging everyone to ditch the Christmas shopping and discover a haven of creativity and inspiration from some of the finest artists in the North (and beyond), and there will be plenty of unique and unusual comics, art and crafts that will make great gifts.

Once again, it’ll take place at A Nation of Shopkeepers, a spacious bar that has proved to be the ideal venue with its great atmosphere, interesting food menu and well-stocked bar, and as usual the team will be keeping it intimate in scale so that attendees can have a good look at everything on offer, and get to chat with the creators about their wares.

Exhibitors this time include ‘friends of LACF’ Gareth Brookes, James ‘Couk’ Downing, Kristyna Baczynski, Adam Cadwell, Andy ‘Hexjibber’ Sykes, plus organisers Steve Tillotson and Hugh Raine, and Sean Azzopardi will be exhibiting for the first time, along with more new faces to be announced soon.

It’s on from 12 noon until 5pm and as usual the event is completely free to enter, so come along, have a browse, a chat, a drink and a fish finger sarnie, and pick up some unique presents for your friends and family (and don’t forget to treat yourself of course!)."

• More info: www.leedsaltcomics.wordpress.com Twitter: www.twitter.com/leedsaltcomics and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/385617881507995

New Grandville book launches on Friday at Foyles, London


On Friday 9th November, the Badger is back! Comica Festival at Foyles will be presenting the world premiere of Grandville BĂȘte Noire, the third thrilling episode in Bryan Talbot’s phenomenal Grandville series of anthropomorphic steampunk scientific-romance-thrillers starring Inspector Le Brock.

Be among the very first people on the planet to get hold of this stunning, sumptuous edition and get your copy signed with a personalised sketch by Bryan.

In his interview with writer and cultural historian Kim Newman, Bryan will also be joined by his wife Mary Talbot, writer and co-creator of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, part autobiographical family history, part biography of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia. There will also be a trailer and exclusive sneak peak at the forthcoming Bryan Talbot documentary.

• Comica presents: Grandville at Foyles, Doors open 6pm for 6.30pm start, followed by book signing. Tickets cost £8 online http://www.wegottickets.com/event/191081 or on the door (subject to capacity).

In Review: SPOOKS - The Fall Of Babylon / Century Club



The start of a new adventure series by Cinebook is always something to be looked forward to as they have proved to have made excellent choices of what Franco-Belgian bandes dessinees to translate into English. Their new series set in America at the beginning of the twentieth century is SPOOKS written by Xavier Dorison and Fabien Nury and illustrated and coloured by Christian Rossi. The first two SPOOKS books, which form a single story, are The Fall Of Babylon and Century Club.

In 1901 influential members of American society on the east coast begin dying in unusual or mysterious circumstances and presidential advisor Richard Clayton asks agent Morton Chapel to reform his team of SPecialists in the Odd and the OCcult - SPOOKS. Meanwhile high ranking Americans are being invited to join the shadowy Century Club which promises to fulfil their heart's desires in exchange for help from them in their own areas of expertise. However as the SPOOKS start to investigate, they are lead towards both the underworld of drugs and of the supernatural. 

SPOOKS is the English title for the series that is known as W.E.S.T. in France and has reached its sixth book there. In the French books the acronym WEST stands for 'Weird Enforcement Special Team' so why did Cinebook change it when it was already in English? Based on the cover of the first book, showing what appear to be gunslingers, the title W.E.S.T. could well have suggested a cowboy book to potential buyers whereas SPOOKS, with its double meaning of secret agents and the supernatural, is much more in keeping with what the series is about.

Xavier Dorison's name may be familiar from Cinebook's excellent Long John Silver series and here he teams up on writing duties with Fabien Nury while Christian Rossi is on art. The writing for this series is very dense with Dorison and Nury introducing six members of SPOOKS and several family members plus multiple victims and members of the Century Club in the first book alone, as well as having to move the story along. Indeed the complexity of the story and depth of characterisation reminded me somewhat of the early Blake and Mortimer books although, fortunately, here the text doesn't get in the way of the artwork as it can do in some of those Blake and Mortimer titles. That said The Fall Of Babylon did leave me wondering if Century Club would be worth reading or not, but the second book did not let me down as it could get on with the complex story having left the character introductions to the first book.

Rossi's artwork is exceedingly detailed, gruesomely so in the various death scenes, and he does like his sound effects, the number of different words used for gunshots in a street shoot-out for instance is impressive. But then so is his artwork as moodily painted backgrounds emphasise the characters in the foreground.

SPOOKS - The Fall Of Babylon and Century Club between them make for a densely written and interestingly plotted supernatural investigation. If you can wade through the multiple introductions of the first book then the second book will make the reading of this pair worthwhile and, given that we now know the characters, further titles in the series should feel more like the second than the first.

There are more details of the SPOOKS books on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the W.E.S.T. books on the Editions Dargaud website (in French).

Cinebook will be selling their range of books including SPOOKS at the Comica Comiket Fall 2012 Independent Comics Fair in the City Of London on Saturday 10 November 2012 and at Thought Bubble's Royal Armouries Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Judge Dredd-focused digital issue of Tripwire released


The first digital TRIPWIRE edition since 2011 has just been released, this time focusing on Dredd 3D the movie.

It's packed full of Dredd-related goodies like interviews with Dredd comic writers John Wagner, Alan Grant, actor Karl Urban (who plays Judge Dredd) and more.

To vary the menu a little, it also includes reviews of the latest James Bond movie Skyfall and Ben Affleck’s Argo.

Publisher Joel Meadows tells us the plan is to bring TRIPWIRE Digital out every two months from the first quarter of 2013.

• More info: tripwire-digital-dredd-nov-2012

Kevin O'Neill at Foyles for Comica on Thursday

On Thursday 8th November British artist and co-creator Kevin O’Neill will be talking about his bestselling series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Since 1999, O'Neill has been collaborating with Alan Moore on the imagining an entire parallel universe and secret history, in which both famous and esoteric figures of fiction collide and become real. From their beginnings in Victorian fantasy, O’Neill and Moore have expanded their vision in their recently completed third volume, Century, to encompass the shifting worlds of 1910, 1969 and 2009.

O’Neill discusses this insanely ambitious, multi-referential trilogy and gives the first sneak peaks of next year’s League graphic novel, Heart of Ice, starring Captain Nemo’s daughter.

He will be interviewed by acclaimed author Toby Litt, whose passion for comics has led him to writing his first script, published by DC Vertigo in the current issue of Ghosts.

• Comica presents... Kevin O'Neill: Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. Doors open 6pm for 6.30pm start, followed by book signing. Tickets cost £6 online at http://www.wegottickets.com/event/191278 and on the door (subject to capacity).

Halo Jones heads for Thought Bubble

Morag Peacock will play Halo Jones in the latest stage play production of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson's brilliant comic story. Photo courtesy Lass O'Gowrie Productions
Scytheplays and Lass O'Gowrie Productions have announced that their much-lauded adaptation of writer Alan Moore and artist Ian Gibson's comic book series, The Ballad of Halo Jones, is to be re-staged as part of Thought Bubble, the week-long comic arts festival held in Leeds from Sunday 11th to Sunday 18th November.

Originally published in 2000AD from 1984 to 1986 for three adventures, Scytheplays' production, written by Ross Kelly (The Year of the Sex Olympics) and Ian Winterton (Baby Jesus Freak, Sherica), adapts the first two stories.

Halo Jones was originally conceived by Gibson and Moore as an antidote to the violent and testosterone-fuelled adventures common in 2000AD; Halo is an everywoman whose adventure is simply to get through life day-to-day in the hellish far-future environment of 'the Hoop', the lawless and directionless slum and dumping ground for the unemployed of 51st century society in which she lives, while always dreaming of a way out.

Halo's youthful pluck and sense of humour, plus Gibson's beautiful design and the richness of Moore's quirky details and imaginative future-speak, made the series a cult classic and an early step on the writer's journey to becoming the world's foremost comic book author (as creator of V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen among many others).

When first performed in January 2012 at the Lass O'Gowrie, The Ballad of Halo Jones received rave reviews (including this extremely detailed one over on the Forbidden Planet blog).  The new production, which performs at Leeds' The Library Scream Pub on Sunday 11th November (7.30pm), Monday 12th November (7.30pm) and Saturday 17th November (12.30pm and 2.45pm), retains the key creative team from that show and three of the cast: Zoe Iqbal (as Swifty Frisco), Marlon Solomon (Mix Ninegold) and Will Hutchby (Lux Roth Chop).  A preview of Zoe's performance as Swifty can be seen here.

Mora*g McLean Whyman Peacock will lead the new production as Halo Jones with Rodice Olsun played by Sinead Parker (from the comedy duo Norris and Parker) and Brinna Childresse-Lao by Carly Tarett (from Comedy Sportz), along with Adam Beresford (from TV's Shameless), Ellie Beesle, Leni Columbo Murphy, Sean Mason and Ian Winterton.

Producer of Halo Jones Gareth Kavanagh remarks: “It really is an honour to be staging Halo Jones in the midst of Thought Bubble, the UK’s premiere comic festival. With a tale built on unemployment, immigration, urban decay, benefit dependency and illegal wars, Halo’s story of struggle and above all hope, is perhaps more relevant today than it ever has been. I can’t wait for people to see her story with fresh eyes.”

• Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/events/158272227648959

• Tickets for The Ballad of Halo Jones at Thought Bubble will cost £10 on the door, and online sales will shortly be opened through WeGotTickets.  

Poster art by Adrian Salmon and graphic design by Daniel Thackeray

Monday, 5 November 2012

Alan Moore releases single in support of Occupy and Anonymous

Art: AD
Anonymous and Occupy supporters around the world are in for a special treat today, Monday 5th November, as Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta from which those infamous Guy Fawkes masks became popularised, releases his first ever single as a world exclusive through Occupation Records, the record label born out of the Occupy movement.

The song, entitled 'The Decline of English Murder', tells the story of the 'English murder' imposed on the people by the greed of the banks and incompetence of the state, and is written and sung by Moore with music by Joe Brown.

Available to download via the Occupation Records website (www.occupationrecords.com), with the chance of one lucky person to win an Alan Moore signed V for Vendetta mask, this is the first single to be released from Occupation Records' upcoming second album.

A supporter of Occupy from the beginning, Alan Moore visited the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp by St Paul's in London, where he said of the Occupy movement: "A tidal wave cannot be said to have succeeded or failed. All that it can be said to have done is changed things. Often monumental ... I would say to critics - what are you doing about the current situation. If you are happy with it, what the hell is wrong with you?"

The release of Alan's track comes on the day that almost 5,000 people are potentially set to re-enact the final scene of V for Vendetta by descending on the British Parliament as part of Anonymous' Operation Vendetta (#OpVendetta), alongside other actions around the world and online.

"While tomorrow Americans decide if a candidate who ran on "change" four years ago keeps his job, we know that change never comes from leaders but always from the people. Alan's character "V" understood that perhaps better than most and why we are honoured to be able to release it," said Adam Jung, Artist Relations at Occupation Records. "As Anons prepare to march on Parliament in London, and Occupy Wall Street coordinates post-Sandy relief efforts in New York, Alan's song is an appropriate gift to the people."

Occupation Records - set up to spread the word and benefit the Occupy movement through music - on 17th September, in collaboration with Occupy Guitarmy, released a version of 'Which Side Are You On?' with Jello Biafra, Tom Morello, Occupy Guitarmy & more, recorded live at Foley Square with proceeds going to the Occupy Wall St. #S17 Bail Fund. Its debut album - Folk the Banks - was released in June 2012 on a pay what you can afford basis featuring 17 tracks from artists including Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Ani DiFranco, Get Cape. Wear Cape and more.

The collective behind Occupation Records, who are currently involved as activists with Occupy Wall St and Occupy London, came together at the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, putting on events with Thom Yorke (Radiohead), 3D from Massive Attack, Ani Di Franco, Billy Bragg, Enter Shikari, Alabama 3 and more.

• Occupation Records: www.occupationrecords.com

In Review: XIII - Top Secret


Who is XIII? Writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance's renegade agent/spy has reached a section of his story arc when we as readers know a lot more about him and the machinations that were going on in the previous books in the series. With major characters from previous stories now dead, XIII is in no less trouble than before in the XIIIth book in the XIII series, Top Secret. 

The events of the previous book, The Trial, despite being in the national interest have left XIII himself on trial for crimes against the United States. The secret trial, orchestrated by the American intelligence community, was never going to be easy for XIII amd while he escapes custody, he ends up captured by former KGB agent Irina Svetlanova who, having lost an eye to XIII in a previous encounter, is in no mood to given him any help.

With the Mongoose dead, writer Jean Van Hamme has to introduce another lurking dangerous killer into the series and so brings the glamorous Irina, who readers have seen in previous books, to the fore. He also adds another American traitor to the cast in the form of NSA agent Jessica Martin and cannot resist the temptation for lesbian undertones in the relationship between the two women. Van Hamme gives this section of the story a James Bond feel, unusual for a XIII plot, by placing Irina in charge of a secret international killing organisation headquartered in a ocean-going ship. Yet for all the Bond styling for the middle of the book the last section of the book gets us back to what the series is best at with XIII on the run for his life.

The Irina/Jessica section of the story gives artist William Vance a brief chance to inject some of the female glamour that would be more common in Van Hamme's Largo Winch books into XIII before getting back to the grim and gritty action that he has shown that he is so good in previous books in the series.

There is a minor trip up in the story when a Provisional IRA terrorist with the unlikely name of Angus Brannigan is brought to the trial to give evidence against XIII and who claims to be  fighting for "the independence of Ulster". That is not something either side has fought for in Ireland over the last century, indeed the concept would be an anathema to the Provisional IRA, and it does seem to suggest that Van Hamme did not have a strong understanding of the conflict was about when he wrote this in 2000. This misstep does concern me a little as to what the penultimate book in the XIII series, The Irish Version, will be like when it is published in English in 2013 but, given that the original French versions were published five years apart, I can hope that Van Hamme would have researched the situation better for that later book.

XIII - Top Secret is a book of two halves with the trial section somewhat exposition heavy and action light while the second half heads off into James Bond/Largo Winch action territory against a somewhat over-the-top villain, yet it remains a XIII book and XIII books are always worth reading.

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).

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

Cinebook will be selling their range of books including XIII at the Comica Comiket Fall 2012 Independent Comics Fair in the City Of London on Saturday 10 November 2012 and at Thought Bubble's Royal Armouries Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Brit team bring Transformers fans biggest ever Optimus Prime-Megatron clash

Simon Furman, the comic creator who single handedly has probably done more to shape the mythology of Hasbro's Transfomers than any other over the past two decades (and counting) is promising an epic battle in #85 of IDW's latest Transformers title, Transformers Regeneration.

Out on Wednesday (7th November) Simon acknowledges that with this climax to his "Loose Ends" story arc "Pretty much everyone now knows it features what I hope is the most titanic and revealing Prime/Megatron clash ever.

"I’d always felt vaguely unsatisfied that the two towering titans of Transformers-dom had never really had an appropriately epic smackdown in the (original) comic series," he reveals in a blog post. "Circumstances and story direction just seemed to have them in different corners of the storyline, or the clashes would end in stalemate. When I came on the (US) book, with issue #56, the first thing on my mind was to get Megatron back in the fray. But through twists and turns (of my own devising) somehow I could never get them face-to-face, toe-to-toe (if you discount the Mega-Ratchet combo fight with Prime, where it’s fair to say Megatron wasn’t exactly feeling himself).

"So uppermost in mind when we got to continue the saga beyond its abrupt conclusion in issue #80 (in Regeneration One), was to put that to rights, to accelerate Optimus and Megatron into a showdown where all bets are off, the stakes and surrounding elements too mighty to brush off with an inconclusive draw (another stalemate was just not on the cards).

"In one corner, you’ve got Prime, who’s been head in the sand for the past 20 years, in the other Megatron, who’s been laying waste to Earth with almost the sole aim of sticking it to Prime and getting his attention. Well, now he’s got it — big time. The gloves are well and truly off.

"...As well as a totally titanic battle, I really wanted to get under the skin of the truly time and space-spanning grudge these two characters have," says Simon of the issue, which features art from Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville. "I wanted to understand this strange, almost symbiotic relationship a little more, before, well, it ends. Forever.

"All I can say is, whatever you might think you know from the covers and forums and whatever else has engendered a mountain of speculation, think again. Nothing can be taken from granted. And the Prime/Megatron clash is just one part of this packed issue!"

Read more about the issue, created by a near all-Brit team, on Simon's blog here



 

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