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Saturday, 14 July 2007

Who Artist Interviewed

Doctor Who and Dan Dare illustrator Andrew Skilleter is the focus of a 15-page, full colour, highly illustrated, wide ranging interview covering highlights of his career, in the August edition of Book & Magazine Collector, a glossy pocket size monthly magazine, on sale now.

Copies are available from most good sized W H Smiths (and some other newsagents), usually under a section like special interests/ collecting.

As downthetubes reported last month on the main site, Andrew recently released a new print celebrating the work of Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson.

Visit the Book & Magazine Collector website :

• Andrew's official we site, is under construction and he tells us he hopes to have it online for August.

Dirk Gently heads for Radio 4

The BBC has announced that Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency will make his UK broadcast debut on BBC Radio 4 this October, with Harry Enfield in the starring role.

The show is an Above The Title Production for Radio 4 and will be produced by Dirk Maggs, the same award-winning team who produced the conclusion to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Enfield is joined by Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd as Dirk's client Richard Macduff, Fawlty Towers' Andrew Sachs as Professor Reg Chronotis, The Golden Compass' Jim Carter as Dirk's nemesis DS Gilks; and Peepshow's Olivia Colman as Dirk's secretary Janice Pearce.

Also in the cast are Felicity Montagu (I'm Alan Partridge) as Susan Way, with Robert Duncan (Drop The Dead Donkey) as her brother Gordon; Toby Longworth (Star Wars) as the Electric Monk; and Michael Fenton Stevens (Nighty Night) as Michael Wenton Weakes.
Guest appearances are made by Andrew Secombe (Star Wars); Jon Glover (Harry Enfield And Chums); Jeffrey Holland (Hi-De-Hi); Wayne Forester (Captain Scarlet) and Tamsin Heatley (Broken Sword).

Considered by many Adams fans to be as funny as, if darker than, Hitchhikers, the Dirk Gently novels reflect Douglas's unique and funny take on matters as wide-ranging as consciousness, conservation, man's place in the cosmos and crime. The first series features everything from quantum physics to missing cats, via Coleridge, Bach and an Electric Monk.

Dirk Gently has an unshakeable belief in the interconnectedness of all things but his Holistic Detective Agency's only success seems to be tracking down missing cats for old ladies. Then Dirk stumbles upon an old friend behaving bizarrely, and he is drawn into a four billion-year-old mystery that must be solved if the human race is to avoid immediate extinction.

This first series of six 30-minute episodes is adapted from the book of the same name and directed by Dirk Maggs, who was chosen by Douglas Adams to conclude the Hitchhikers saga, while the cast and production team feature many old friends and colleagues of Douglas, including music composer Phillip Pope. The production team, from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases is led by Executive Producer Helen Chattwell and the Producers are Jo Wheeler and Dirk Maggs.

• The series begins in October and will also have its own dedicated webpages on featuring trailers, photographs, production diaries, video and competitions. Programmes will also be available on Radio 4's listen again service.

Dandy - weekly no more

Over on the official DCT website there is confirmation of a recent rumour, yes the Dandy is going from being a weekly comic to a fortnightly one....

While the Dandy has been fortnightly before (during WWII) it's a slippery slope, in peacetime, towards cancellation. While comics very occasionally go from fortnightly to weekly (Mask comic in the '80s for instance), they rarely go back the other way.

The end of an era. Sad, really.

Friday, 13 July 2007

More fantasy films on the way

Everyone seems to be chasing the next Harry Potter, and Warner Bros., who produce the box office-busting films (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix took in an estimated $44.2 million in its first full day in the US alone) are no exception. They've just picked up the movie rights to Septimus Heap, a popular seven-book fantasy series by author Angie Sage, from publisher HarperCollins.

Ctnopsis reports the movie adaptation of Septimus Heap: Magyk, the first book title in the series, will be produced by Karen (Devil Wears Prada) Rosenfelt with author Sage serving as executive producer.

Magyk was published in March 2005, followed by the second and third books, Septimus Heap: Flyte and Septimus Heap: Physik, which were published in March 2006 and March 2007 respectively.

Tin Tin under fire again

I don't understand why there's all this sudden fuss about Tin Tin in the Congo from the Commission for Racial Equality. I'm all for racial equality, but it's not as if this book has just gone on sale, and it's usually been published with warnings about its content, so why all the fuss now?

I do agree with Borders decision to move it out of its children's section (where it should not have been placed in the first place, as reported by the BBC and other media today) but has some bigwig at the CRE (described by Lesley Thomas in the Daily Telegraph has described as "The Commission for Racial Idiocy" in her latest column) just discovered some comics aren't published for kids?

The versions of Tin Tin in the Congo I've seen in print are clearly prefaced with warnings about the content, warning of its naive depiction of colonialism and racism, as well as casual violence towards animals. Which is more than can be said for Doctor Dolittle (also available from Borders and Amazon), in which, at least in the versions I read as a child but have now I gather been edited, "Prince Bumpo" seeks to be white and the good Doctor helps him -- a concept deservedly to be condemned today, but in the context of its original publication back in 1920, part and parcel of the fabric and mores of that time.

Reuters reports the Hergé foundation has hit back at the CRE's complaint , saying the 1931 story-- one of 23 books which track the adventures of the fictional young journalist and his trusty dog Snowy -- should be read in the context of the period when it was published.

I agree.

"The context is outdated ... what's left are the jokes," Marcel Wilmet, a spokesman for the HergĂ© foundation said in reply to a recommendation from Britain's Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) that the book be removed from bookshops. It's also well known to those that really know about comics (clearly, no-one at the CRE!) that Herge later distanced himself from the sentiments of the story. "I portrayed these Africans according to … this purely paternalistic spirit of the time," he is reported as commenting. It's one of the reasons its took so long for a collection to be published in English in the first place.

What next? Peter Pan, for its portrayal of 'Red Indians'? Tarzan for its portrayal of a white man in Africa? (If you ever find early editions of some of the books, I guarantee you'll be shocked by Burroughs treatment of the Germans).

This is a silly campaign and the CRE has better things it could be campaigning on, in my opinon. Slapping the Evening Standard for spreading the fiction that Ken Livingstone has given huge amounts of money to build a mosque in London's East End for example, a story that is completely erroneous (Livingstone issued a little-reported denial way back in April) but has inspired someone to petition the government to stop it which has been doing the e-mail rounds for weeks.

Addendum: for more on the 'mega mosque' myth, see this blog item by Doris Marsh, which offers a couple of media sources for the story.

Doug Marlette killed in car crash

The Pulitzer Prize-winning and sometimes controversial cartoonist Doug Marlette, who the Washington Post reports recently turned his incisive wit toward a budding career as a novelist, died on Tuesday 10 July in a car accident in Mississippi.

Marlette, who was 57, split his time between Hillsborough and Tulsa, and was visiting Mississippi to help a group of high school students with the musical version of his syndicated comic strip, Kudzu., and had just delivered the eulogy at his father's funeral Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

Marlette's editorial cartoons and his comic strip, Kudzu (which has been made into a musical) are syndicated in newspapers worldwide and he won every major US award for editorial cartooning, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and was the first and only cartoonist ever awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

His work has appeared in media such as Time and The Washington Post, and he made many TV appearances, as well as writing an ethics column for Esquire and contributing to titles that included The New Republic, The Nation and

He was opinionated and often controversial: residents of Hillborough, the small town west of Raleigh that is home to several well-known writers were annoyed by his first novel, The Bridge, feeling some of the characters were based on them. In 2002, he received death threats for a cartoon he drew in 2002 that depicted a Muslim driving a rental truck with a nuclear weapon on board. Above were the words, "What Would Muhammad Drive?"

Above: Today's Kudzu, published online by gocomics.

Much of his work has been collected - although, sadly, none recently it appears - including In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work (selected by the American Library Association as one of its Best Books of the Year for Young People as an inspirational work on cartooning for young artists), Faux Bubba: Bill and Hillary Go To Washington, Gone With The Kudzu, Shred This Book: The Scandalous Cartoons of Doug Marlette, I Feel Your Pain, What Would Marlette Drive?, and the brilliantly-titled A Town So Backwards Even the Episcopalians Handle Snakes.

Doug Marlette's first novel, The Bridge, was published in 2001 and was voted one of the best books of the last five years by BookSense, the American Booksellers Association after release. Paramount Pictures purchased the rights for a film adaptation for Tom Cruise some time ago. His second novel, the critically acclaimed thriller Magic Time, was published earlier this year.

Our sympathies to his friends and family.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Art Attack TV show cancelled

Art Attack, the long-running children's ITV show, has been cancelled after an 18 year run - which could be bad news for Panini UK's tie-in magazine which has been a staple of the company's line for a long time.

UK media magazine Broadcast reports the three-time Bafta-winning kids show has been dropped by ITV as fears grow about the long-term future of the CITV channel.

The Neil Buchanan-fronted programme has run for 19 series over 18 years on ITV1 and CITV and is one of several high-profile shows that have not been recommissioned, which include the My Parents are Aliens. Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids and Jungle Run are also understood to tow more casualties in the latest round of cuts.

The cancellation is the lastest in a string of attacks on ITV's children's output and Broadcast reports speculation about the future of the CITV channel (or rather, the lack of a future) is rife. Sources say CITV has not been commissioning new content and that many new shows -- such as Kickback Media's upcoming show Captain Mac -- were greenlit at least 18 months ago.

Broadcast has also learnt that ITV executive chairman Michael Grade (yes, the man who cancelled Doctor Who back in the 1980s) told a meeting in April that it did not make commercial sense to invest more money in the channel.

Lew Grade, the man who commissioned Gerry Anderson to make Stingray, Thunderbirds et al , nust be turning in his grave.

Many TV professionals are voicing concern at the state of children's TV in the UK, and ITV isn't the only TV company guilty of making cuts. The BBC apparently deciding childhood stops at 11 with the cancellation of Byker Grove.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

New fantasy dramas on BBC3

BBC3 has just announced six new drama projects, two with comics and SF TV connections.

Being Human, by Doctor Who and Torchwood writer Toby Whithouse, centres on three young flatmates – a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf. Produced by Touchpaper TV, who made Rocket Man, which starred Robson Green. The pilot will be filmed in September in and around Bristol.

Jamie Hewlett, creator of Tank Girl, has come up with Phoo Action, based on the comic strip Get The Freebies which appeared in The Face magazine. Phoo Action is written by Matthew Enriquez Wakeham, Peter Martin and Jessica Hynes and produced by Matthew Read for BBC Scotland and will again be filmed in September. (You'll probably recognise some of these names from the production side of Channel 4's Spaced).

The Phoo Action MySpace site describes the show as:
PHOO ACTION is a forthcoming TV Series and Feature Film based on the comic strip “Get the Freebies”, by Tank Girl and Gorillaz creator Jamie Hewlett. PHOO ACTION follows the exploits of Terry Phoo, a Buddhist kung-fu law enforcement sweetheart and Whitey Action an enigmatic young anarchist turned super-cop. They form an unlikely, but effective, crime-fighting team in the face of a super-vile, super-famous army of mutated criminals spat out from the revolutionary Decriminaliser Machine.

Delivered in an offbeat and hilarious package of fight sequences, car chases, kung fu, comedy and music, all tied up in an explosive rabbit punch to the head, Phoo Action is a regular chop-socky-balls-out-laugh-a-minute-fashioned-up-scrap-fest taking place in its own idiosyncratic hyperreal world set on London’s famous streets.

Best described as The Fifth Element meets Enter The Dragon before being beaten and mugged in Sin City on the way home after a Rush Hour inspired night out with the cast and crew of Kung Fu Hustle, Phoo Action crosses the mighty divides between Hong Kong action cinema, comedy and brooding comic book fantasy adaptation like a latter day colossus.
Sounds mad but appealing!

Things I Haven't Told You is a dark thriller by writer Lisa McGee, whose credits include the Channel 4 comedy drama Totally Frank for TV and plays such as Jump, set in a sixth form of a school. Produced by Tiger Aspect, the story follows the events following a girl's disappearance.

Finally, there's W10 LDN from Kidulthood and Doctor Who writer Noel Clarke (who also played Mickey), set on a housing estate in west London, a drama is about the lives, loves, ambitions and dreams of a group of young teenagers. This will be produced by Kudos Film and TV.

All positive news for fantasy and SF fans. What with the continuation of Doctor Who, Primeval, Cape Wrath and more it could almost be the 1970s again.

Although obviously, without the sideburns, flares and platform shoes...

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

James Reddington dies

I was very sad to hear of the death of British small press activist and Portent Comics activist James Reddington, who died last week aged, I'm told, just 28.

I met him only a couple of times, but he came across as a genuinely decent bloke, clearly enthused by comics and the comics making process. He will clearly be much missed. My sympathies to all his friends and family.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

FAB Makeover

The new issue of Fanderson's fanzine FAB, (Number 57), has just been released.

With Chris Bentley's retirement as editor, Fanderson have taken the opportunity to redesign the 56 page glossy colour A5 zine and bring in new features, intended to increase the membership involvement in FAB while maintaining the high standards set by Bentley.

For comics fans the issue includes the third of award-winning science fiction author Stephen Baxter's articles on TV Century 21 comic, this one featuring the TV 21 Extras and Specials. Like all too many summer specials from British comics, these are hard to come by and expensive when found, yet it means that fans miss out on strips by the likes of artists such as Ron Turner, Ron Embleton, Don Harley and Frank Hampson. In addition, FAB continues to reprint the Don Lawrence Fireball XL5 strip from TV 21 in full colour on its back page.

• FAB is only available to Fanderson members: for membership details, visit the Fanderson web site.

Omnivistascope Hat Trick

It has been available for a while, but SFX have just made Omnivistascope 3 their Fanzine Of The Month, giving Paul Scott's big 78 page A4 zine a hat trick with each of the three issues receiving the title. His previous title, Solar Wind, also won SFX Fanzine Of The Month.

Omnivistascope is a square bound anthology science fiction title with a glossy colour cover surrounding black and white art and, beginning in this issue, articles on comics, television and film.

More details can be found at the Omnivistascope website with details on ordering and as well as details of the back issues and the few remaining available copies of Solar Wind.

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