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Friday, 9 November 2007

Brodie's Law Art Exhibition

Brodie's Law artist David Bircham writes to let us know about an exhibition at London's Animation Gallery that will feature unseen art from the highly acclaimed forthcoming Hollywood movie based on the much-praised and best selling comic.

The exhibition will be open to the public from 15th – 21st November, but there is a private viewing on 14 November. Apply to the Animation Gallery via their web site for tickets.

Gallery opening times
Mon - Wed 10am - 6pm
Thurs & Fri 10am - 7pm
Saturday 10am - 6pm

For more info please visit:

In Memoriam: Chad Varah

(With thanks to Jeremy Briggs): downthetubes is sorry to report the death of Reverend Chad Varah who co-founded and wrote comic strips for Eagle, and Girl, and was what he himself once described as "Scientific and Astronautical Consultant" for Dan Dare. He was 95.

While also undertaking his duties as as vicar of St Paul’s Clapham Junction and Chaplain of St John’s Hospital Battersea he recalled that "When I wasn’t running an ‘open’ youth club, or bawling prayers at geriatric patients, or teaching in my Church School, or cycling around giving Holy Communion to the sick, I was pounding my typewriter up to 2 or 3am earning my living, as my stipend was only enough to pay my secretary.

"There was no time to discover whether I was happy or not, and I’ve managed to keep it that way.

"Chad Varah... was with me from the first," Eagle founder Reverend Marcus Morris once decclared, "and brought his considerable powers of mind and invention to write not only the scripts for our Bible stories but also to take on the scripting of Dan Dare at a moment's notice."

Dan Dare was originally conceived as an Anglican chaplain, described as "Chaplain Dan Dare of the Interplanet Patrol", such were the Christian ideals of the Eagle's co-founders.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Chad at a couple of events over the years," recalls downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf, "and he was always very approachable and happy to talk about his Eagle days."

Varah, who dedicated his life to both education and the provision of emotional support., founded Samaritans in 1953 with one telephone line "to befriend the suicidal and despairing" and saw it grow into a world-wide organisation helping thousands of people to avoid the ultimate act of desperation.

The Movement is now a household name, with 202 branches in UK and Ireland, and around 15,500 Samaritans volunteers providing confidential, non-judgmental, emotional support, around the clock.

In addition to his strip work (including the Dan Dare story Marooned on Mercury), Varah also wrote carried a religious feature on the back page bearing his by-line. More controversially, but in line with a long-standing commitment to sex education, he was for the better part of three decades a member of the board of reference of the British edition of the adult magazine Forum.

He was awarded the Order of the Companion of Honour for Services to the Samaritans in the Millennium New Year's Honours List.

Edward Chad Varah, CH, CBE Born 12 November, 1911, died 8 November 2007. He is survived by four sons and one daughter.

• Steve Holland has also posted a tribute on Bear Alley with more detail on his strip credits.

• A lengthy
biographical article about Varah can be found at the website of the Samaritans.

• Further information from: BBC News (8 November 2007), Daily Telegraph (9 November), Guardian (9 November), The Independent (9 November)

Friday Fun - Mission: Impossible Squirrel

Okay, okay, nothing to do with comics, cult tv (well, apart from the theme tune, surely one of the best ever for an adventure show), but it's Friday and this Carling Black Label ad is one of the best UK ads ever in my humble opinion...

The ad, made by London-based agency WCRS and screened in the UK in the 1980s, used a sequence originally shot by the BBC Natural History Unit and became the focus for a show, Daylight Robbery (followed up with the originally titled Daylight Robbery II) presented by Doctor Jessica Holm, which has been screened all over the world.

It apparently took the squirrel nearly a week to figure out what to do.

It seems that the squirrel didn't pass on his knowledge to others: there was a report in the Guardian last month about one who had to be rescued from a bird feeder by the RSPCA after eating so many nuts that it could no longer squeeze through the bars!

More clever animals to be found at:

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Champions Return

Hollywood Reporter notes that Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro has signed on to write and adapt a big screen version of the 1960s ITC drama The Champions for United Artists.

Del Toro will also will produce the film along with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's C/W Prods.

The Champions ran for 30 episodes in 1968-69 and centred on the adventures of a trio of secret agents working for a multinational organisation Nemesis, whose lives were saved when their plane crashed in the Himalayas and they were rescued by an advanced civilization who also bestowed them with superhuman abilities.

Despite its international flavour the show was entirely shot in England. Stuart Damon, today best known for his role as is best known for 30 years of portraying the character Alan Quartermaine on the US soap opera General Hospital, played series lead Craig Stirling. William Gaunt, whose other fantasy credits include Doctor Who and The Avengers, was Richard Barrett and Alexandra Bastedo played the cool-as-ice female superagent Sharron Macready (She has a blog about her work at her donkey sanctuary on Wordpress). Anthony Nicholls played their long-suffering and often bemused boss Tremayne.

Originally produced by ITC, who also made The Saint, The Prisoner and other shows, the company's assets are now owned by Granada International, who optioned the rights to the television series to Universal.

This is the fifth high-profile film that has been set up at UA since Cruise and Wagner have taken its helm.

The Champions is available on DVD

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Steampunk Dalek!

Matthew Badham and the Forbidden Planet International blog have discovered this fab Victorian Dalek via Boing Boing, the creation of Promus-Ka also put this short animated clip on YouTube, complete with silent movie-style caption cards proclaiming “exterminate!”.

The artist describe the animation as a short CG animation project by MechMaster (, based on a design "Promus" created a few years back.

Although the Dalek would I imagine surely fast run out of fuel with the level of armament in use, it's a fun design. You can download desktop backgrounds here (Standard) and here (Widescreen).

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Solo behind the Iron Curtain

Just broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Monday this week as an afternoon play was Solo behind the Iron Curtain, Tracy Spottiswoode's thriller is based on real events.

Actor Robert Vaughn, famous at the time as TV spy Napoleon Solo, is making a movie in Prague with several other Hollywood stars. Filming stops abruptly, however, when Russian tanks roll into Czechoslovakia. Cast and crew find themselves trapped. The Man from UNCLE must find a way to escape, and quickly.

The play is based on real events in 1968, during the brief flowering of freedom known as the Prague Spring. Vaughn was in Prague for the filming of Second World War feature The Bridge At Remagen, along with George Segal and Ben Gazzara. Helping them negotiate the tricky business of filming in a Communist country was their interpreter Pepsi, a young woman whose life had been changed that year by the relative freedoms brought by Alexander Dubcek's liberal reforms. It was too good to last.

On 20 August, filming ground to a halt when more than 5,000 Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and Robert and the rest of the film's cast and crew found themselves trapped.

Robert vividly remembers the tanks with their big red stars painted on the side, and the guns, manned by alarmingly young Russian soldiers, which were turned on their hotel. As Americans and enemy aliens they had to find a way to escape and the ensuing adventure was worthy of the men from UNCLE.

Tracy Spottiswoode is an actor, writer and director whose plays are broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Wales, who presented Vaughn with the script for the radio play with a request for him to narrate the story. Vaughn so loved the script that he ended up agreeing to playing himself.

“I read it (the script) and I was absolutely astonished at how accurate it was – it was as if the writer Tracey Spottiswoode had lived it herself, it’s so exact,” Vaughn told the Western Mail.

“It was an extraordinary time for us as actors and for the Czech people around us," he added. "We were waiting to see what our fate would be.

“During my career, I’ve been under house arrest in Caracas, I’ve been in Peru where I had to have a 24-hour bodyguard with machine gun, but this was the most dramatic event I’ve ever been involved with.”

• Luckily for those of us working at the time of broadcast, you can "Listen Again" to this play until Sunday.

The cast is as follows:

Robert Vaughn ...... Himself
Pepsi ...... Vesna Stanojevic
George Segal ...... Robert Glenister
Ben Gazzara ...... John Guerrasio
Bradford Dillman ...... Richard Laing
David Wolper ...... Garrick Hagon (Garrick has previously narrated Ed McBain novels for the BBC)
Honzo ...... Robert Luckay
Sadovsky ...... Rad Lazar

Monday, 5 November 2007

Does Sarah Love Daniel?

The Sarah Jane Adventures, CBBC's delightfully fun take on the 'new' Doctor Who universe, is getting a bit of a reputation for referencing 'old' Doctor Who in each story. In the first part of the story Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane? our journalist heroine is seen taking a copy of her own book, entitled UNIT: Fighting For Humankind, off a book shelf.

It is a real "blink and you'll miss it" moment but if you don't get distracted by the foreground book you will see that on her bookcase there is a copy of the ninth Dan Dare book, Terra Nova Trilogy, published by Hawk Books back in 1994. I wonder who the Dan Dare fan is on The Sarah Jane Adventures team?

Down The Tubes would like to apologise that there is no link to Amazon for you to purchase UNIT: Fighting For Humankind by Sarah Jane Smith, however considering the amount of Who related merchandise in the shops at the moment surely it will only be a matter of time before you will be able to buy it.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Hammer Horror Exhibition

The Falkirk WheelThe Falkirk Wheel is a unique rotating boat lift which links the Union Canal, which ends in Edinburgh, with the Forth and Clyde Canal, which ends in Glasgow. It may not be the most obvious place to hold a exhibition on
the horror films of the British film company Hammer, especially as the Wheel looks more like something out of a Thunderbirds episode, but as part of their Halloween celebrations the Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre did just that.

The small exhibition was free to enter and was split between the main Visitor Centre restaurant area and an exhibition/conference room. The majority of the exhibits were 30 Hammer film posters mainly British, American, French and Australian.

While it was claimed both in the exhibition and on the Wheel’s website that all the posters were originals, the "Hammer Glamour" double bill poster for She and One Million Years BC was actually a reproduction.

With most of the posters and a selection of framed autographs being on display in the exhibition room, the restaurant had more posters, costumes and a selection of merchandise. Customers could sip their Cock-a-leekie
soup whilst admiring the large French posters, or checking that the reproduction Mummy was still in exactly the same position it had been the last time they looked at it.

While the costumes did attract some comments as to their apparent newness, the merchandise on display was certainly authentic and included the first issue of Dez Skinn’s House of Hammer magazine and the EMI LP Hammer presents Dracula with Christopher Lee - “A horrifying story of vampirism with spine-chilling sounds and music”.

• The exhibition runs until Sunday 11 November at the Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre where entrance is free and car parking is £2 per day.

John Cooper - RWC strip

For the Rugby World Cup final (yes, yes , I know it was a couple of weeks abo but I'm a bit behind) the Guardian newspaper produced a 12 page special full of the usual talikng heads, talking, as it turned out, turkey. Anyway, they also found room to comission a 15-panel strip from John "Johnny Red" Cooper who I haven't seen produce a comic strip for what feels like a very long time.

Anyway, here it is....

I've had to stitch it together on my scanner because the newspaper is so large but hopefully that doesn't detract from the overall quality or the joy at seeing John working on comic strips again.

The only other place I've seen his work recently (and even then not very often) is on Channel 4 news as their courtroom sketch artist.

this material is (C) The Guardian newspaper

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