downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...
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!
Friday, 28 December 2012
The title reaches its landmark 300th issue this week.
Described as "the ultimate magazine for kids that are crazy about monsters, aliens and that top Time Lord, the Doctor!" each weekly issue of Doctor Who Adventures comes "bursting with beasts, brain-teasers and big Who news".
Sadly, there's little emphasis in its marketing for the comic strip element of the title, although it is mentioned, the iTunes promo mildly enthusing: "Follow the Doctor’s adventures as he battles aliens, saves worlds and tries out new hats..." I have to say I find this a little disappointing.
However, if it's brain teasers, behind-the-scenes info (although we'd argue Doctor Who Magazine was by far your best port of call for that) and finding out a Dalek’s weak spot, how to knock out a Sontaran or survive a Weeping Angel attack - then DWA is for you.
A three month app subscription costs - £22.99 and single issue copies are also available within the App. The subscription will include the current issue if you do not already own it and subsequently published future issues. Payment will be charged to your iTunes Account at confirmation of purchase.
• More about the app on iTunes
• Doctor Who Adventures Official web site: www.dwamag.com
Thursday, 27 December 2012
He built his career from the ground up, struggling to get a foothold with no contacts in the film industry. He was, in the best sense of the term, a self made filmmaker, and as such he was instrumental in gathering a crew of such immense talent that their work resonates at full strength to this day.
From a tiny studio, Century 21 Productions produced adventures in the best traditions of a boy's own adventure annuals with its unique British charm and design. The magical and hypnotic space age craft brought all of us to the edge of our chairs.
This complex group of worlds were linked by the beautiful TV Century 21 comic pages, with artwork and storytelling that was and is to this day in step with the impressive nature of the shows each strip mirrored.
With the addition of Dinky's Die Cast range the craftsmanship that made England great was front and centre in every outing for the golden area that was Gerry Anderson's reign as the king of British children's television.
Gerry Anderson broke so much new ground in so many areas it will now be almost impossible in the future of children's television not to walk in his shadow, a legacy that is not I can almost say with total certainty ever never be equaled in it's diversity again.
He was the first to pull together all aspects of marketing for television, with his publishing division and a recording unit for children's albums TV21 Toys, fancy dress, sweets, ice lollies and an amazing stand alone Project Sword space toys line.
Anderson merchandising provided income to a whole generation of British workers. This was no flash in the pan operation... and for all of this, production on these shows had a budget that was not even close to the live action fare from ATV.
Ironically, ATV and all its owners have profited above and beyond even Lew Grade's expectations for these shows. I'm sure he would have ordered another 32 episodes of Thunderbirds had they understood the vast returns it was to continue to generate to this day.
You see, Gerry was a leader strong and with a sense of what he wanted from his creations, in his office with monitors watching the progress on his stages in order to get these complex children's film to the screen wielding the producers power with pure skill.
For myself, I loved these shows - all of them - and I played with the toys and read the comics and watched them and continue to, as they are ageless and timeless in so many ways. Ttheir charm is beyond a doubt as the next group of children will soon find.
And to this day, all of us involved in merchandising and licensing of classic television look to Century 21 productions and marvel at the vast scope of what was produced and accomplished ..it was such a uncommon feat of brilliant marketing unequaled to this day.
So we have lost a master of our childhood day dreams in Gerry Anderson, yet in one sense he will be with us in so many levels for all time.
So thank you Gerry, for showing us the way and raising the bar so high for the future of great British Television.
• Peter Greenwood, whose numerous licensing credits include a series of Thunderbirds-inspired Kit Kat adverts for Australian television, is currently working on the retro-merchandising of TV comedy My Favourite Martian, which was also a strip drawn by Bill Titcombe for TV Century 21. A digital collection of the strips is in the works for 2013
• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving Page: justgiving.com/RememberingGerrryAnderson
However, even those who only knew Gerry slightly would have winced at the articles that described him as a ‘puppeteer’. Many of Gerry’s best known shows did indeed feature puppets, but for Gerry this was entirely incidental to their appeal. The worlds of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were produced in miniature because that was the only way to realise Gerry’s epic vision on a film or television budget.
Away from film and television, Gerry’s concepts knew no constraints. His production company AP Films and its successor Century 21 launched a number of successful spin-offs, including record and publishing divisions where his characters could roam freely, unhindered by the puppet wires and door frames that compromised his perfectionist zeal.
The publishing division was by far the most successful, and the jewel in its crown was a title that would become one of the best loved and most successful adventure comics of all time.
The first issue of TV Century 21 was published in January 1965, and when Gerry discovered that its 750,000 print run had sold out he remembered feeling like “the happiest man on earth.” By 1966 the combined sales of TV 21 and its sister comic Lady Penelope were estimated at 1.3 million.
There was little time for Gerry to dwell on this incredible achievement. He returned to a giddy schedule of film and television production, monitoring his publishing company’s endeavours until it wound down in the early 1970s.
Nearly 40 years later, I suggested to Gerry that the time had come to re-examine the archive of artwork, and to share it with a new audience. Together with my friend and colleague Chris Bentley, I pointed out that artwork of this quality had the potential to look even better than it had looked on its original printing. Gerry was probably the least nostalgic man I have ever met, and it took a few moments for him to recall the details of the publications he had helped to create back in 1964.
“This material really is some of the finest ever seen in British comics,” I insisted.
Gerry smiled, and feigned surprise that he needed reminding. He looked at me and said, “Well of course it was!”
Gerry inspected the surviving artboards and the memories came flooding back. As we admired the work of Frank Bellamy, Mike Noble and Ron Embleton he became enthused about the project. With Chris Bentley heading a dedicated team of digital restoration experts the first volume of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson was published in 2009. Gerry threw himself into publicising the new books, and remained in close contact over future volumes.
Gerry’s health was declining when the fifth volume, Menace from Space, was prepared in 2011. I explained that for this latest instalment we would be improving the binding and paper, and printing exclusively in hardback. “I want this to look as good as possible,” I said to him, “even if it means putting quality before commercial considerations.”
“I know you do,” he replied. “I think that’s why we’ve always got on so well.”
Gerry was delighted with the result, and added Menace from Space to his Century 21 collection. The last call I received from him was an optimistic enquiry to see “how things were getting on with the comic books.”
We will continue to work with Gerry’s family and his company, Anderson Entertainment, but we are all so sad that we will do so without the guidance of the man we regarded as our editor-in-chief. To rediscover, restore and represent these strips was a wonderful adventure. And to do all that with Gerry’s blessing made it a privilege.
• Marcus Hearn is the publisher of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips From the Worlds of Gerry Anderson
• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving Page: justgiving.com/RememberingGerrryAnderson
One man who created them for me as I grew up as a kid in the 1960s was Gerry Anderson, aided by his not inconsiderable team behind the Supermarionation shows such as Captain Scarlet, Stingray and, of course, Thunderbirds. Later, he would continue to thrill with UFO. For others in our industry, Space:1999 or one of his other shows - and there were many - also inspired.
Many of my generation remember not just the shows, but also the inventive merchandising of those childhood favourites, particularly TV Century 21, the weekly comic providing all-new adventures of Troy Tempest, the Tracy family and Spectrum. A title that captured the mood of the technology-obsessed as humankind engaged in a race to reach the moon, realized in 1969. It was a comic I only saw occasionally as a child - it did, after all, cost seven pence! - often given to me by my Grandfather during holidays.
I have only the vaguest childhood memories of his last black and white puppet show, Fireball XL5 - one being the show's launch sequence for Steve Zodiac's spacecraft, the other being Steve and Venus trapped in some kind of ice corridor ass a wall of water headed toward them (Possibly imagined. Gerry Anderson's shows made me imagine a lot). My memory of Fireball is shaped more by the beautifully crafted art of Mike Noble for the show's comic strip in TV Century 21, also drawn by Frank Hampson; far more impressive, in my view, than the show that inspired it.
Stingray - Gerry's fantastical and wonderfully bonkers undersea adventure - I remember more of. Again though, it was a spin-off item - Armada Books' Stingray and the Monster - that drove my enthusiasm for the show, the mysterious 'John Theydon' deepening the mythos with an engaging sea monster battle. Mr Theydon would go on to develop a number of Thunderbirds stories, novels which, nestled next to other SF in bookshops, would help to send me off exploring other fantastic worlds, created by the lkes of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson and Ray Bradbury, to name but a few.
Thus, Gerry Anderson's creations, translated to comics and books, helped shaped my continuing interests today, as did many SF authors, Doctor Who, Star Trek and CS Lewis and Tolkein.
In that sense, then, the Anderson creations are an integral part of my creative DNA, for which I make no apology today, although being what's now known as a 'geek' earned me my fair share of brickbats at school.
And nothing is more integral to my DNA than the sense of wonder and enjoyment Thunderbirds inspired as a child, from its fantastical life saving machines to its engaging characters like Parker, the villainous Hood and the demure Lady Penelope. (Look - I was six when the show began. We weren't 'sophisticated' as it's claimed modern children are, although the successful 1992 revival of Thunderbirds suggests this is not as true as some cynics would have you believe).
Like many, I was caught up in Thunderbirds, thanks to Gerry Anderson. Not just in the show itself. My parents secured a precious 'data sheet' and two photos of both Thunderbirds craft and the Tracy family for one birthday. My mum baked me a Thunderbird 3 birthday cake. Like kids today caught up by Transformers, Ben 10 and other series in later decades, I was an avid fan at an early age thanks to the series.
Gerry Anderson not only inspired with the shows he produceed. He and his TV creations - also reimagined in comics and books - engendered something in me that has shaped my life as a comics creator and story writer from an early age.
Strangely, for all my work on licensed titles - Doctor Who, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Star Wars, to name a few - I have never worked on an official Gerry Anderson project. I met him just once, briefly, at a Forbidden Planet signing. I was glad I was finally able to thank him personally for the shows that provided so much fun and thrills as I grew up.
Overnight, many other comic creators have also enthused about his work. Artist Chris Weston recalled his love of Thunderbirds: writer and editor Marcus Hearn, who has been workng hard for several years to bring us collections of TV Century 21 and Countdown comic strips described knowing Gerry as a privilege.
Warren Ellis, who revealed he once showed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollshouse creator Joss Whedon the title sequence of Joe 90 and he thought he was trying to drive him mad.
"If you grew up weird in Britain between the 60s and the 80s, Gerry Anderson was at least partly why," he commented on Twitter, citing the title sequence of UFO as an example. A sentiment I happily share.
Not every show was a success. Gerry's life is full of roads not taken, for a variety of reasons. His creations have, occasionally, been hijacked by people with no empathy whatsoever for the original, and those recreations have proven spectacular failures. The treatment of his own CGI revival of Captain Scarlet by ITV was woeful and wholly undeserved, but reflects the idiocy of many managers working in TV programming today.
(You know the ones: they're the kind with no respect for creatives, who squeeze the credits in favour of an advert so modern children will possibly never know the names of the creators who inspire them with The Witches Broom or Merlin).
But the shows that were a success, for me, positively shine, and were an influence on many far beyond their production years, on both those who watched them and those who helped create them alongside Gerry.
The strings are broken. An amazing soul flies free.
Thank you, Gerry, for so many wonderful, inspiring creations. You were and will always be an inspiration to many and you will never be forgotten.
• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving Page:justgiving.com/Remembering GerrryAnderson
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Together with comic podcaster Scott Grandison (Comicbook Outsiders), they designed, developed and published Magic Mike: The Moves app through their Outsider Games studio to coincide with Lionsgate's Home Entertainment release of the Channing Tatum movie.
Magic Mike was co-produced with Northern Ireland Screen as part of their Games on Film initiative, which also included the free Grabbers game app by Iglu Media/Billygoat Entertainment.
The comicbook style art really appealed to Lionsgate UK, who wanted a fun, visually interesting game that would appeal to a mass audience.
The Magic Mike film features Channing Tatum, who sizzles in the role of the irresistible Mike, the shining star act in a steamy men’s dance show. The game develops the stripping theme as the player becomes an ‘Endless Dancer’, performing touch-screen gestures in time with music, enabling their dancer to perform provocative dance routines. Increasing the Strip Power and completing achievements will allow the dancer to strip off items of clothing, revealing their hunky forms!
In true comic artist fashion, Stephen had to draw every angle and move that the exotic dancers make.
“Working with Lionsgate UK was fantastic," he adds. "They are extremely open to new and interesting ideas, with their refined approval and feedback process creating a smooth and fun development environment that we think will be evident while playing Magic Mike: The Moves.”
Lionsgate’s Nicola Pearcey, Managing Director of Home Entertainment and New Media, commented, “Magic Mike is one of the most fun and entertaining movies of the year. Magic Mike: The Moves provides fantastic content to further the immersive experience for fans – and will create exposure to a new audience for the film.
"Outsider Games have been a pleasure to work with and this app demonstrates their innovation, creativity and understanding of what our audience wants.”
• Magic Mike: The Moves can be downloaded FREE on IOS: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/magic-mike-the-moves/id578743312?mt=8 or, on Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.outsidergames.magicmike
It's also available on Kindle Fire and the Amazon App Store
Monday, 24 December 2012
Sunday, 23 December 2012
|A busy workload for Millarworld Productions that included the upcoming 'Pavillion of Dreams' for BBC Scotland has led to the cancellation of Kapow next year|
The ComicBookMovie news site broke the news that Millarworld and Millarworld Productions have announced that due to work commitments - which not only nclude new comics but TV and film productions - they simply not have time to arrange the convention, but plan to return in 2014.
Here's the statement from the Millar team in full:
Due to an increased workload in Millarworld and Millarworld Productions, we will not have time to arrange another wonderful Kapow! Comic Convention in 2013.
Sarah and I have had to make a very tough decision, and after much deliberation and poring over upcoming work schedules, we have decided to put Kapow! 2013 on hold. The event is a genuine pleasure to work on and everyone has been a total delight, but this year we are unable to dedicate the time necessary to deliver a weekend that once again exceeds the expectations of attendees, guests, exhibitors, publishers and studios.
Millarworld Productions first TV show ‘Pavilion of Dreams’ is scheduled to air on BBC One Scotland on Jan 3rd at 9pm and in 2013 both myself and Sarah will be heavily involved in the development and production of various TV shows and feature films.
We hope to return with an even bigger and better show for Kapow! 2014.
Best wishes and enjoy Christmas and New Year,
Lucy & Sarah Unwin
In Pavillion of Dreams (9.00-10.00pm Thursday 3 January BBC One Scotland) viewers will discover keeping the dreams alive at the Pavilion Theatre Glasgow hasn’t been easy over the decades. Like Circus folk, General Manager Iain Gordon, his family and his dedicated staff have always been all hands to the pumps to keep one of the last original totally unsubsidised Variety Theatres open for business.
This film from Millarworld Productions offers a unique peek behind the scenes as Iain and a well-known cast prepare for this year’s Christmas panto The Wizard of Never Woz, a roller coaster ride of rehearsals, singing, dancing and finally The Opening Night. Along the way, the programme features comments and interviews from stars that have also graced the stage over the years; from Ken Dodd, Lena Martell, Sydney Devine to the phenomenon that is Mrs Brown’s Boys.
• More info: www.paviliontheatre.co.uk/pavilion-of-dreams and www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pp3qy