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Friday, 24 August 2007

Small Pressers Appeal

Comics columnist and downthetubes contributor Matthew Badham will be speaking at a comics and animation conference, The Aesthetics of Trash at Manchester University at the end of August and is appealing for information from small press publishers.

"I'm going to be talking about British small press comics," he says. "I'd be really grateful if small pressers could give me some feedback about their small press work.

Some questions then:

- What defines a small press comic?
- How did you first get involved in the small press?
- Why are you/were you involved in the small press?
- Please tell me about a little about your work (feel free to attach samples when you reply).
- What excites you about the small press in this country?
- What depresses you about the small press in this country?
- What are your feelings re: the Judge Dredd Megazine printing small press strips but not paying the creators?
- Who are the unsung heroes of the small press?
- Who are the (deservedly) sung heroes of the small press?

"Feel free to kick these questions about/tell me what I should be asking/disabuse me of the assumptions inherent in my questions and basically give me your perspective." he asks. "The more quotable the better. And feel free to forward this request to anyone who you think would be interested in giving me their thoughts/ideas."

Answers by email to mattbadham (at)

"The Aesthetics of Trash" : Reassessing Animation and the Comic
An International Conference
28th - 29th August 2007
Manchester Metropolitan University
The prices for attendees not delivering papers at this two day conference at the end of the month is £30, including refreshments.

• More information on the downthetubes events page

Project: Rooftop to host 'Wieringo Week' tribute

In memory of Mike Wieringo, who passed away earlier this month, Project: Rooftop has announced an open call for redesigns of Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash/The Flash), the character created in 1994 by Wieringo and Mark Waid.

Submissions will be accepted through Sunday, with the best entries showcased during a special "Wieringo Week," which also will feature some of the best costume work from Wieringo's career.

"Mike had a timeless appreciation for these awesome characters and enjoyed the heck out of online costuming/drawing events, so I think he'd really dig this kind of fun being held in his honor," writes Project: Rooftop founder Dean Trippe. "Whether you consider yourself a friend, fan, or both, come join us in remembering Mike Wieringo, whose incredible artwork and unfailing kindness continue to serve as a source of unending inspiration and joy."

For full details, visit the Project: Rooftop website at

Project Rooftop is where cartoonists and illustrators bring their costume design skills to task in tribute to the superheroes and villains we've grown up with. This site is intended to promote excellence in costume design as well as foster continued interest for these amazing characters.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Comics Britannia Series Info

The BBC have released full transmission details for Comics Britannia (or, How we grew up with comics and how comics grew up with us...), a series of four documentaries on comics which will screen on BBC4, to be broadcast as three hour-long episodes in September.

Many of the people involved in downthetubes helped out with the shows, providing contacts and info0rmation and the production team have sent a generous thank you note for their efforts.

Here's the promotional information from the BBC for the series:

From the Beano to Bunty, Commando to Viz, the Eagle to 2000AD, British comics have captivated generations from the thirties to the present day.

Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It) narrates the Comics Britannia seriesNarrated by comedy writer Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It) Comics Britannia will feature comics legends who wrote and drew the original strips, comics experts and a range of celebrity fans who re-live their favourite comic strip moments and characters.

Bash Street Kids, Dennis the Menace, Roy of The Rovers, Fat Slags, Watchmen, V for Vendetta and many more are brought to life using a special graphics style that allows the audience literally to step inside the comics.

Comics Britannia forms the centrepiece of BBC Four's comics season which also includes a one-off film, In Search of Steve Ditko, which sees Jonathan Ross go in search of his hero – comic book legend, Steve Ditko. Other programmes within the season include Adam West’s Batman series and a screening of the feature film Modesty Blaise.

The series features those who wrote and drew the original strips, comics experts and a range of fans whose lives have been shaped by reading ‘classic strips', offering a rich mix of interviews, strips and archive illuminated by a unique graphics style which literally allows you to step into the comics world.

George Entwistle, Acting Controller, BBC FOUR, says: “Whether you grew up on the Beano or Jackie – or wished you’d been allowed to - this season offers a trip down memory lane, peppered with the customary wit and intelligence of BBC Four".

PROGRAMME ONE: The Fun Factory (10th September)

COMICS BRITANNIA explores the world of the children’s humour comic and the revolution which began with the first publication of the Dandy in 1937.

The series explains why colourful, cheap publications like the Dandy, and then the Beano enchanted a generation living through the effects of the Depression, WW2 and post-war Austerity.

Comics Britannia revisits the golden age of comics in the Fifties and early Sixties and looks at the work of great comics artists Dudley Watkins, Davey Law, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, revealing how a new subversive and anarchic humour emerged from the pages of the Beano and the Dandy.

Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, writer Jacqueline Wilson, Oscar winning animator Nick Park and Cartoonist Steve Bell discuss their passion for comics, with some surprising revelations!

PROGRAMME TWO: Boys & Girls (17th September)

Following the Second World War boys and girls adventure comics emerged to capture the imaginations of the growing baby boomer generation.

Comics Britannia tells the extraordinary story of the bohemian vicar who founded the most ground-breaking comic to emerge in the immediate post- war era – The Eagle, complete with its very own super hero, Dan Dare.

The programme looks at attempts to create the equivalent for girls —comics featuring ballet and boarding schools, such as School Friend, Girl and Bunty.

Meanwhile, the boys grew up with their comic book heroes achieving impossible feats of courage and endeavour on the fields of sport and battle, with the larger than life exploits of Captain Hurricane and Roy of the Rovers.

But comics would soon have to reinvent themselves and follow their readers as they grew older. Titles such as Mirabelle and Romeo were introduced to appeal to older girls who had once loved Bunty & Girl.

Into the Sixties and Seventies the industry responded to a changing Britain with a new generation of comics such as Jackie, Tammy and Battle aimed at meeting the new demands of teenage readers.

Fans of comics in this episode include comedian Frank Skinner, ex footballer and pundit Mark Lawrenson, cartoonists Posy Simmonds and Gerald Scarfe, and writer Jacqueline Wilson, who all reveal their childhood favourites.

PROGRAMME THREE: X-Rated : Anarchy in the UK (24 September)

Comics Britannia X-Rated reveals how during the Seventies and Eighties a generation grew up reading a new kind of comic. Directed at older, adult readers, these comics had strips with darker, more satirical and sexual material. There was a new sophistication in the writing and artwork which began to see comic books evolve into a new phenomenon – the graphic novel.

From the bedroom of brothers Chris and Simon Donald in Newcastle came the outrageous Viz which was selling a million copies nationwide in the 1980s and was responsible for inventing the Fat Slags, Roger Mellie, Johnny Fartpants and Sid the Sexist.
A few years earlier, 2000AD was launched, sending Punks into Space and creating the iconic anti-hero Judge Dredd.

Out of this comics ‘new wave’ emerged a major talent, writer Alan Moore. Working with leading artists, he created ground-breaking work such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The programme interviews Moore and the group of other writers and artists who spearheaded the adult-oriented revolution in British comics: Simon and Chris Donald, Dave Gibbons, Carlos Ezquerra, Kevin O’Neill, Alan Grant and David Lloyd.

Super comics fans Frank Skinner, Stewart Lee, Andrew Collins and Charles Shaar Murray are also on hand to offer their take.

Making the most of classic War Comics

Carroll and Graf (the same publishing house of critically acclaimed The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga) releases The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics this month and the news has been picked up by several sites, including Releases de Neorama (part of the wider Neorama dos Quadrinhos, the widest 9th art newsletter in the world), delighted that three top Croatian artists are featured and describing the book as "a great jewel that must be read by many people far away from 'fandom'."

Comprising 26 self contained stories from American, British, Japanese, German, Russian and Croatian writers and artists, "It's the kind of book that merits to be shown to every kind of readers," the blog declares.

"The least informed people in Ninth Art themes may easily perceive that The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics is not a compilation about violence, but a large showcase for the general public on how the Ninth Art is able to express this kind of facts. Especially by including creators like Will Eisner, Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman and Keiji Nakazawa."

Three Croatian comics masters are included in the collection: Darko Macan, Edvin Biuković and Danijel Žeželj.

Over on Gad Sir! Comics! blog, Steve Flanagan reviews the new title by saying reproduction is generally good, but some of the material originally intended for US magazines or British half-tabloids suffers from reduction," and notes that despite its 500-page extent, "the main mode of war comics omitted... is what you might call the “war is fun” school, exemplified by Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos in the US and Captain Hurricane in Britain."

Several publishers are also not represented, presumably because they were unwilling to have their stories reprinted.

The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics, edited by David Kendall, is on sale from 28 August.

Buy it from
Buy it from

Wallace and Gromit web site revamped

Cynopsis reports that Aardman Animations has tapped the ROO Group, an online video solutions company, to re-launch its Wallace and Gromit website ( with increased video functionality.

Wallace and Gromit content, including a series of short films and clips from the classic stories, will be available for free online for the first time on the new site.

Hold Your Dinosaurs!

Although we now know T-Rex might have actually caught up with that landrover in Jurassic Park (it could certainly have iutrun most of the England football team based on last night's performance), we don't know any more about the next film in the series. It seems it's time to squash some rumours that Steve Spielberg's Jurassic Park 4 is heading into production, according to

The website reports that Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg's co-producers on the Jurassic Park movies, tells them the rumours are "unfounded," and that casting has not begun, "as the story and screenplay are still in development."

And don't even think about casting because despite talk of return visits by Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern, Amblin says "the property is still not ready to move forward toward production and no casting is taking place."

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Strange Embrace #3 Released

Strange Embrace #3 (the third issue in an eight-issue series) by British artist and writer David Hine is now on sale in specialist comic shops.

These days, Hine, who writes a regular column for comics news site Broken Frontier, is perhaps better known for mainstream comics such as X-Men: Civil War, but he was a regular contributor to many titles for Marvel UK in the past.

The comic, a modern gothic psycho-sexual tortured romance and is not for the nervous, has received high praise for many quarters and this digitally remastered edition is coloured by Flanimals co-creator Rob Steen.

For more about Strange Embrace visit the official web site.

Dalek Empire: The Fearless

Big Finish has just released an awesome CGI trailer to promote Dalek Empire IV: The Fearless, a mini-series of four, full-cast audio dramas with each chapter released on single CD.

Spanning four spin off series from Big Finish's Doctor Who dramas so far, Dalek Empire is an epic saga of humanity's struggle to survive the relentless onslaught of the Daleks. Spanning the entire galaxy and stretching over centuries, it is seemingly a war without end and The Fearless finds humanity on the losing side of the conflict.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Keith Robson’s History Of Comics

It has been open since the end of June and will end on Sunday 2nd September, but if you are near Hartlepool in the next couple of weeks then it is worth paying a visit to the Museum Of Hartlepool to see artist Keith Robson’s exhibition, The History Of Comics.

Keith has worked for D C Thomson on such diverse titles as The Dandy and Starblazer, for IPC on Jinty and Buster, was the artist for the Time Tram Dundee book project, and is currently working on a schools comic project for the Hartlepool area entitled Monkey Crew.

The exhibition includes numerous British comics, digests and annuals from Keith’s own collection as well as some of his original art.

Entry to the Museum of Hartlepool is free and it is part of the Hartlepool Maritime Experience which includes HMS Trincomalee, the oldest British warship still afloat.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Cubicle 7 licences DC Thomson’s Starblazer for 'space roleplaying adventures'

(With thanks to Jeremy Briggs): Games company Cubicle 7 has licensed DC Thomson's fondly remembered Starblazer title for a new roleplaying game, intent on making the most of gigantic fleets prowl the starlanes, mysterious aliens devise inexplicable fates for humankind, devilish scientists operate enormous engines of destruction and swashbuckling princes defend their world from ancient empires.

Each of Starblazer’s 281 issues explored a whole adventure set within the vast galactic empires of the far future, giving the forthcoming roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 Entertainment a wide variety of settings to explore. From low-fi space exploration to galaxy-busting wars to space fantasy epics at the end of time, there is plenty for everyone.

Published by DC Thomson, Starblazer – the subject of features by Jeremy Briggs and Ray Aspden on the main downthetubes site – was the home to some of the best British science fiction space opera of the 1970's and 80's. Featuring stunning art and classic space opera stories, comic creators such as Grant Morrison and John Smith, artists Enrique Alcatena, Mike McMahon, Cam Kennedy, John Ridgway, Alan Rogers, Jaime Oritz, Ian Kennedy, Colin MacNeil and Casanovas Junior helped bring the fantastic 'space fiction adventure in pictures' to life.

The Starblazer licence was picked up by British games publisher Cubicle 7 Entertainment, who also publish SLA Industries and Victoriana. Utilising the critically acclaimed FATE rules system, the core release will include three detailed settings based on the very best stories from Starblazer and will also detail recurring characters, organisations, empires and aliens such as the Fi-Sci (the Fighting Scientists of Galac Squad), The Star Patrol, The Suicide Squad, The Planet Tamer, Cinnibar the barbarian warrior of Babalon and galactic cop Frank Carter to name just a few.

• Steve Holland has more information on the genesis of this project over on his brilliant Bear Alley blog

Click here for a complete Starblazer checklist on downthetubes)

The Unofficial HANDbook of the Marvel Universe!

Here's a fun comics project from a real unsung talent. London-based comics fan and longtime frequenter of comics events Martin Hand has started a project on his livejournal to draw some of his favourite Marvel Comics characters, including the Absorbing Man, right. Each drawing is accompanied by some "fun facts" about the character.

So far he's completed entries for the Abomination, Absorbing Man, Angel and Arnim Zola, Bio-fanatic and Martin hopes to update his unofficial HANDbook with a new entry at least once a week

Kids Comics Competition announced

The Birmingham International Comics Show (BICS) in partnership with Peters the Booksellers and TBK Magazine recently launched the National Comic Art Competition.

Kids across the UK and beyond have been invited to tell a two page comic story about how they would save the world.

“This can be a real threat like global warming or something outlandish like an alien invasion!” said Shane Chebsey, one of the organisers behind BICS. The only requirements, and that the children create their own characters rather than use existing ones like Spider-Man and Dennis the Menace, and that there be at least six panels on each page

Fellow BICS organiser James Hodgkins added: “One of our remits is to reach outside of the usual fan base and try to bring in new readers, especially kids.” To that end, the competition has been split into categories to keep things fair, one for the 9-13 age group and the other for 14-16 year-olds.

Full details on how to enter the competition can be found at the BICS 2007 website ( and in copies of TBK Magazine, available free in all good public libraries and schools in the UK and English-speaking schools overseas. Educational authorities and Art councils are invited to join those already involved and spread the word even more!

The competition has got off to an excellent start with promotional flyers being handed out at various media events since Spring, and Paul H Birch’s public announcement of the competition during the popular BBC Blast Roadshow when it rolled onto Victoria Square in front of Birmingham Town Hall this June. It has subsequently been reported on BBC Radio with TV interest expected to follow.

Prizes include comic books from publishers including Dark Horse and Markosia, art supply manufacturers like Letraset, original pieces of art donated by creators, and a very special prize for the overall wining school entry that will be offered a free comic class by comic book professionals

The winners names will be announced live on stage at the Birmingham International Comics Show 2007 on October 13-14th at the Thinktank, Millennium Point. Fun and festivities are guaranteed all weekend at the show with an all-star line-up of international comic book celebrities and publishers, the finest dealers with excellent bargains and a jam-packed programme of extra-special events with competitions prizes and give-aways to be won all weekend long.

Read Yourself Raw

Online comics 'zine Read Yourself Raw has just had another update, which includes previews of new book, comic and manga releases for October 2007 and a new Essential Reading list.

The site's worth a visit for its huge links section alone but the articles are great and informed.

Star Wars Exhibition extended

Star Wars – The Exhibition has today announced that due to overwhelming popular demand the run at County Hall, Westminster, London will be extended until 12 January 2008.

Exhibition Coordinator Jonathan Sands said: “The Exhibition is proving so popular that we want families, film fans and everyone who loves the world’s most popular film franchise to enjoy the exhibition, so extending the run until 12 January 2008 was the best way to ensure everyone gets to re-live the magic of Star Wars.”

With twelve exhibition spaces and more than 240 original props, costumes, vehicles, artwork and models Star Wars – The Exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Star Wars memorabilia to come to the UK. The exhibition is open seven days per week from 10am-6pm.

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