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Friday, 17 August 2007

Phil Gascoine Tributes pour in

Tributes to one of Britain's unsung comic heroes, Phil Gascoine, who has died after a short illness, have poured into downtheubes after an online appeal. You can read them alongside a 2006 interview with Phil on the main downthetubes site here, while over on Bear Alley, comics archivist Steve Holland has posted a more formal obituary.

Because of the minimal credits for creators on many British comics, Phil was a virtual unknown to many comics fans who admire his work, despite working on titles ranging from Bunty to Blake's 7, Battle and Look-In during his 45 year comics career. But he was a popular figure with many comic creators, always happy to mix with all generations, offer advice, and turn his hand to any assignment, even if it was to "fill in" for a regular artist, often at very short notice.

"I have been desperately trying to get some kind of acknowledgement of Phil's work with no success," Phil's longtime editor Bill Graham at DC Thomson, told downthetubes. "Your tribute is spot-on and summed up the man so well.

"I can't remember when I first started working with Phil. He just seems to have been around for ages
," he reveals. "But one of my first memories is, after he had been drawing football stories for me for some time, he amazed me by saying that he didn't really like football. You would never have known it from the quality of his work.

"This summed up Phil - he was a total professional. He could draw anything and make it look like he was an expert in that particular subject.

"The same guy who drew action heroes and footballers was also producing quality artwork for me on
Wendy - picture stories about teenage girls and ponies.

"Phil had just started work on a new episode when he took ill. He assured me that it wasn't serious and that he would be back to work in a few days. Typical of the man.

"Over the years I met Phil several times, mostly in pubs in London. He was always terrific company.The last time we met, a couple of years ago, he wandered into a seminar we were holding for the
Wendy artists in Richmond. He was wearing shorts, tee shirt and a great tan. He looked great. I'll miss him."

"Phil was always up for anything, a good friend and always busy," recalls Barrie Mitchell. "There aren't a lot of artists who can turn their hands to anything but he was one of them."

Tributes from Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd and John Ridgway are among others already posted with more to be posted as they arrive.

We'll be sinking a pint to you at BICS, Phil. If not before.

Reboot Competition

Here's some news of a great competition (its deadline 26 August) for comic artists courtesy of Josh Roberts, who runs the terrific comics web site comicspace - if you want to track down your favourite comic creators, try here!

Vancouver-based effects company Rainmaker Entertainment is working with Zeros 2 Heroes to bring back the classic ReBoot television series. As part of this campaign, Zeros 2 Heroes will be creating a new comic based on ReBoot.

Here's the twist: the art team will be picked solely from online submissions: essentially users upload a sketch, painting, even lettering work for one of the ReBoot characters. These sketches are then voted on by the ReBoot fans, with the winners being called on to make up the art team.

So, it's an unpaid audition, but it will be a paid gig starting in September. The winner will be announced at FanExpo in Toronto on 26th August 2007.

If you've got the time/interest, here's how to get involved:

(1) Go to and join the site.
(2) The ReBoot pitches are found here ( - you need to be logged in.
(3) Launch the Flash viewer by clicking on any of the pitch thumbnails.
(4) Browse through the pitches and pick the CHARACTER or WORLD you think is the most interesting
(5) Upload a sketch using the UPLOAD button

If you haven't got the time to get involved in this process (or you don't really think ReBoot is your thing), no problem. But you may want to join the site anyway... Zeros 2 Heroes will be hiring a LOT of artists in the next few months to work on a number of upcoming projects.

By the way, don't forget the humour competition to win $10,000 being run by ROK Comics - the comics to mobile service I'm Managing Editor for - runs until the end of this month. More details on

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Celebrity Chef

First we had Fanny Craddock, next Delia Smith, then Nigella Lawson, and now we have Maw Broon! Courtesy of those nice people at Waverley Books, Maw Broon's Cookbook is due to be released on an unsuspecting world in October, just in time for the Christmas puddings to be made.

A facsimile of Maw Broon's own cookbook, borrowed from the sideboard at No 10 Glebe Street, "it was made for Maw by her mother-in-law when Maw married Paw, it has been added to over the years with recipes from friends, family and neighbours – complete with clippings, family comments and stains!"

Also from Waverley Books and available now, is Fo Bhruid, the latest version of Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy's Kidnapped graphic novel, this time translated into Scots Gaelic by Ian MacDonald of the Scottish Books Council. That now makes six versions of the book published - the original Alan Grant text version in hardback, standard softcover and One Book One Edinburgh softcover, followed by the modern text softcover, the Lowland Scots softcover "Kidnappit" and now the Scots Gaelic version. Is it any wonder they are already working on the follow up, The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

CBBC LIne Up includes "Sarah Jane Adventures"

The BBC's revamped CBBC launches its new programming season on 3 September 2007 with a slew of fantasy and drama shows including Adventure Rock, a new online game and play environment for children which allows children to inhabit a virtual online world; The Revenge Files Of Alistair Fury, a new show of 'revenge fantasies' adapted from the best selling Jamie Rix books; Summerhill - a school where you don't have to go to lessons, you make all the rules yourself and climbing trees and building boats are definitely part of the curriculum - and Escape From Scorpion Island, a real life adventure game, set on an exotic island off the coast of Brazil. Also in the mix is The Secret Show, about secret people doing secret things.

Of interest to downtheubes readers will of course be the ten-part series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, centring on investigative journalist and former companion of the time travelling Doctor of Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith. Having travelled the universe with The Doctor, Sarah Jane is used to dealing with alien encounters. But when her young companions Maria, Luke and Clyde become embroiled in a mysterious world of chases, danger, and monsters from outer space, they soon discover that life on earth can be an adventure too.

Another show of interest may be Young Dracula, a new take on one of the most popular literary figures, with a single dad Count Dracula moving to modern-day Britain from Transylvania with his two children, Vlad and Ingrid. To his father's horror, Vlad – the show's eponymous hero – wants not to bite, but rather to fit in with his new-found British friends, but it's not easy when you are one of the undead.

Returning shows include M.I. High II with the jumior spy team again juggling the protection of Britain with handing their homework in on time Prank Patrol, the brilliant Shaun The Sheep, entertainment show TMi and Evacuation (a reality show in which six boys and six girls from cities around the UK are taken on an adventure back to wartime Britain – to live life as members of the household of a manor house), plus Blue Peter and Newsround.

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales - Region 2 release news

The previously-mentioned Region 2 release of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, a straight-to-DVD B5 project has been scehduled for 3 September 2007, quickly followed on 10 September by the release of Supernatural Season Two.

The Region 1 DVD was released on Region 1 on 31st July.

Lost Tales offers two stories set 10 years after John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) became President of the Interstellar Alliance and as he is preparing for a fateful Babylon 5 reunion that could prevent Earth’s impending doom… if he will also compromise his core principles.

Meanwhile, aboard B5, Commander Lochley (Tracy Scoggins), confronts an unexpected interloper on the way station – a being whose presence makes the freeport the crossroads between heaven and hell.

In Memoriam: Phil Gascoine

I'm very sorry to report that Phil Gascoine has died after a short illness.

For those of you who knew him the news comes as a terrible shock. He was once chairman of the Society of Strip Illustrators and always a consummate professional.

In the words of his good friend, fellow artist Barrie Mitchell, who I spoke with this morning, "There are not a lot of artists who can turn their hands to anything, but Phil was one of them."

I am preparing a tribute to Phil for downthetubes and would welcome memories of Phil if you have them. He was always one of those creators who would mix with all generations and was still working on DC Thomson's Wendy.

He will be much missed by all who knew him or worked with him.

Escape from New York - Again

Goodness only knows why, but a remake of Escape from New York is in the works. Various trade papers are reporting that New Line Cinema is in final talks with Len (Live Free or Die Hard) Wiseman to direct its remake of John Carpenter's cult classic. Wiseman is also working on an Underworld prequel.

300 star Gerard Butler has already signed on as the new Snake Plissken with Neal H. Moritz producing (he's also behind the scenes on the upcoming Luke Cage film and is also executive producer on the TV series Prison Break). The script from Ken (Black Hawk Down) Nolan, re-telling the story of convict/war hero Plissken who is sent into a futuristic Manhattan transformed into a maximum-security prison, to save the US President after Air Force One is shot down by the inmates.

Painkiller pulled

The SCI FI Channel US has cancelled the action series Painkiller Jane, according to Hollywood Reporter, which stars starring Kristanna Loken.

The show, based on the comic book heroine created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada for Event Comics in 1995, will finish out production on its first 22 episodes, which will continue to air as originally slated until its finale on 21 September in the US.

The series follows top a DEA agent with healing powers, Jane Vasco, as she tracks "neuros", humans with superhuman powers.

The comic version of the character has scored strong success, unlike her TV counterpart. Originally a five-issue miniseries, the character went on to star in numerous cross-over titles with the likes of the Punisher, Vampirella and Hellboy and had a sell-out first issue when recently relaunched by Dynamite Entertainment, who also publish various Red Sonja titles and Battlestar Galactica tie-ins.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Online superhero drama for SciFI UK in works

Sci Fi channel UK has ordered a superhero-themed mockumentary drama - the first commission for its new broadband player Sci Fi Play.

Legion of Fire stars Ron Moody, playing 80-something Cecil Roper, aka Flash Harry, who runs a Croydon-based superhero club. He's probably best known for his performance as Fagin in the 1960 feature film Oliver! but has guest starred in recent years on shows such as The Bill and Holby City.

Tellyjuice are no strangers to SF: some of the team produced a spoof of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has been broadcast online. For more of that team's work, check out their YouTube page at

There are six members of the Legion of Fire club, including plastic-snake adorned single mother 'Snakebite', the aging and botanically-inspired teacher "The Deadly Nightshade" and the electrically charged "Flex".

The mockumentary will be less caught up with super villains than super debts and declining recruitment numbers, spooing much of the superhero mania abounding in today’s pop culture.

World Screen Digest reports the 25-minute documentary-style script was commissioned by Ken Jones, the branded content manager for SciFi UK, and will be split into episodic installments for streaming on SciFi Play this autumn. As well as capitalising on the success of shows such as Heroes and Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero? SciFi UK hope to build on the fan-base established by a spoof documentary filmed earlier this summer titled Major Victory: Man Behind the Cape.

Conan Films on their way

Conan PC GameParadox Entertainment, the company which owns the stories and characters created by pulp author Robert E. Howard, including Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane, has announced it has sold the option for Conan movies to Millennium Films. Development has
started and discussions are underway for US and international distribution.

Conan has a long and proud history as novels, comics and film and Fredrik Malmberg, President & CEO of Paradox Entertainment feels the time's right for the Cimmerian's to return to the big screen. "Robert E. Howard's 'Conan' is undoubtedly one of the greatest fantasy characters in our time and with the right filmmaker this movie will be huge," he says. "We're very happy to be working with Millennium Films as they share our passion and are fasttracking the project."

Producers on the new Conan project are Malmberg and Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Joe Gatta and George Furla, from Millennium Films, who's also producer on the upcoming Day of the Dead project and Red Sonja, the latter currently scheduled for release next year.

The studio is currently working on Righteous Kill (starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro), King of California (starring Michael Douglas) and John Rambo (starring Sylvester Stallone).

Paradox Entertainment has owned the rights to Conan since 2002 through its subsidiary Conan Properties International LLC, and acquired the rest of the Howard library in early 2006. Conan has been making a comeback the past couple of years in publishing, gaming and collectibles. (Conan's female counterpart, Red Sonja, is currently published by US publisher Dynamite Entertainment).

This autumn sees the release of the action-packed Age of Conan videogame (pictured above, top) and spring 2008 sees release of the massively multiplayer online game Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures from Funcom/Eidos (pictured right).

Robert E. Howard is considered by many to be the creator of the genre "Sword & Sorcery", perhaps most known through the character 'Conan.' Despite his short literary career - Howard died when he was just 30 - he wrote over 800 stories and poems.

His breakthrough came when being published in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales during the 1930s with stories set in such different surroundings as ancient Atlantis, the North African desert during the first World War, hidden opium dens in dark alleys of the city, and northern Britain during the invasion of the Roman legions.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bear Alley Is (The) One

It hardly needs a plug from me here since if you are interested in the history of British comics you have probably already read it but, for those few of you who may not yet have succumbed to its charms, Steve Holland's Bear Alley blog is one year old. If you still aren't sure just why it is called Bear Alley then take a step back one year and look at Steve's very first post.

With its eclectic mix of articles, lists and comment on old comics, magazines, paperbacks and story books, it may not hit every one's mark every time but, even if it is about something you have never heard of, it never fails to impress. From photos of Tharg's futuristic spaceship to D C Thomson's century old HQ, from covers of Hot Dames On Cold Slabs to covers of The Water Babies, from the artists you knew of but didn't know about to the pseudonymous authors of text stories, there really must be something that will pique your curiosity.

Mind you since I guest on it from time to time I may not be the most objective person to talk about it, so why not head over and decide for yourself.

Hammer launches repro quad posters

HammerWeb, the official Hammer Films web site, has been updated today with information about the new range of official reproduction Quad posters which were launched last week. These comprise a set of 12 posters, released one a month, featuring digitally restored original UK quad poster artwork.

The Curse of Frankenstein is the first in the series in this, its 50th anniversary year. The posters are available from for £19.99 each with free global postage. The official Hammer Shop will also be stocking them.

Full details are available through the Hammer site (the old website, which I helped design, continues to be updated ahead of a relaunch in the coming months).

For fans who are on the various social networking sites, Hammer now has launched profiles and discussion groups on Bebo ( and Facebook (search for "Official Hammer Films") to accompany the myspace profile which has been operating for the last year.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Doctor Who Magazine Original Comic Art for sale

I'm selling four outstanding illustrations on ebay by top artist Gary Erskine (Knights of Pendragon etc) used to illustrate the short story "Pathfinders" published in Doctor Who Magazine #173 by Michael E.P. Stevens.

The illustrations are on two boards measuring over 29 x 40 centimetres, with two pictures comprising Tom Baker's Doctor outside the TARDIS and Romana (Lalla Ward) with K9 inside the TARDIS on the same board.

The boards include original artist notes in margins but could be cut to size to be mounted/framed individually.

Click here for the auction item

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