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Friday, 30 November 2007

Crackdown on comics piracy begins

Countdown comicWith their digital comics offerings now up and running, the big US publishers such as Marvel and DC Comics are beginning to crack down on comics piracy -- the online uploading of complete scans of new US comics almost as soon as they hit the shelves.

The ComicMix web site reports that there's been a lot of talk about how DC and Marvel started going after scanners and torrent sites earlier this month, and now one of the leading share sites, Z-Cult, has agreed to take down all Marvel, DC and Top Cow books.

All of which prompted ComicMix's Glenn Hauman to ask "What took you so long?"

Glenn has good reason to pose the question, because back in April 2005 he met with DC's vice president of legal affairs, Lillian Laserson, and her assistants, Paula Lowitt and Jay Kogen, about the issue of scans available online.

"At the two hour meeting which covered legal issues, business cases, media ecology, and public relations, I delivered a spreadsheet to them that was current as of 1 April 2005, showing them how many DC comics had been scanned in and were available online," he reveals. "This wasn't a spread sheet I created, mind you, it was created by the scanning community showing their progress. And they had made some serious progress: I pointed out that of all the comics published by DC in their (at the time) 70 year history, over 75% of them had already been scanned in and were available online. The numbers were closer to 90% post-Crisis. In short, the genie was already pretty much out of the bottle."

Glenn notes he laid out a full online strategy for them, suggesting that the best thing for DC Comics to do would be to get in front and pretend they were leading the parade when it came to online comics. he advised they partner with their corporate parent, AOL, and make their content available either freely online or behind AOL's wall, so that they could expand the brand and readership for their products, and get their comics in front of a much wider audience.

Nothing happened, and other companies he has met with over the years have turned a blind eye to rights management, piracy and creating digital libraries they could use to promote their archive online, too. It seems the top US comics companies are in a bit of a mess when it comes to their assets - and there is even some doubt as to what rights they have when it comes to publishiung their back catalogue electronically - and I'm sure it won't surprise British comics fans to know that the libraries of almost every British comics publisher - especially those no longer publishing comics - are little better.

While US comics are now entering a new period of piracy crackdown, digitised editions of British and European titles are unlikely to escape in the long term, even though most UK scans are of comics that are highly unlikely to ever be republished, in print form at least. (BBC Worldwide has, for example, investigated the illegal sale of digital versions of comics such as the 1970s tv comic Countdown on auction sites such as ebay in the past few months).

Digital publication of comics is an exciting opportunity and it's great to see the likes of Marvel and DC embrace the medium at last. It would be even more exciting for those of us on this side of the pond if Rebellion digitised its huge 2000AD and Megazine archive (Egmont still owns Starlord), perhaps, or some enterprising publisher sought some way to present the likes of Century TV21 or the Eagle online.

We'll just have to see what tomorrow brings...

TV Continues in Comics

Fans of American TV are in a tailspin. The current writers strike means The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and even new shows like Pushing Daisies and Chuck are either out of fresh episodes or quickly running out.

Well, over on TV Squad, the team there urge loyal fans not to panic. "You don't need to spend the "strike season" curled up in the corner of your bedroom crying through a pile of TV Guides, remembering the good old days when you didn't already know what was going to happen this week on House.

"Television is alive and well, and even growing ... just somewhere else. Want to know what happened to Jack Bauer before Season One of 24? How about Buffy and the Scooby Gang after the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? More and more shows are expanding their horizons by telling prequels, sequels and even in-between-quels in comic books, or graphic novels."

The article details many new TV comics including 24, Battlestar Galactica, hypes IDW's Doctor Who (although not the comic strip that has been running for years in Doctor Who Magazine), official continuations of the TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other spin offs from TV shows.

Happy 70th Birthday, Dandy!

Over on Lew Stringer's always wonderful Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics, he notes that the world's longest running comic The Dandy is 70 years old any day now.

Issue Number 1 was cover dated 4th December 1937, which means DC Thomson's ground-breaking title would have been in the shops a few days before that.

"A proper history and tribute to the comic would take more time and reference than I have," says Lew, "so as a nod of respect to the first comic I ever had (and which helped me learn to read) I just want to focus on a period in the mid 1960s. In particular the adventure strips that appeared in The Dandy at that time."

Lew offers a great overview of some of the best-remembered strips that featured in the comic, reminding us how many British comics featured both humour and adventure tales in their pages at one time (but, sadly, no longer). Check out the article for yourself, but meanwhile, happy birthday to the Dandy! May there be many more, whatver form the title takes in the future.

The growing pains of the New Media...

This comic from Hijinks Ensue elaborates changes in new media, and will for many be a fantastic and encouraging statement on the future: that media is becoming more. Becoming less about directly monetized intellectual content and instead focusing on the mass of human brains who choose to tune into this digital art.

Imagine a world where it is almost a silly idea to pay for media. Digital TV, Music, Feature Films, Books and Print Media will be widely and easily available. The public, amateurs and fans will have unprecedented power... Is that scary -- or exciting?

Read the cartoon

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The World Needs More Teddies

At this festive time for many religions, perhaps it's time to start spreading some love so I've gone all fuzzy and am proposing a Send a Teddy Campaign.

So, if you're concerned by religious intolerance (Catholic groups bemoaning The Golden Compass? Governments enforcing laws on people making an innocent error of judgment?), worried by bigotry (forced to listen to Talksport, for example?) or race hate - send the 'offender' a teddy!

We simply can't have teddies becoming a symbol of intolerance.

This week's person in desperate need of more teddies:

The Sudanese Ambassador, the Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 3 Cleveland Row, St. James’s London SW1A 1DD

Don't be abusive when you send your teddy. Send it with a polite message asking for a change of heart where anger and unpleasantness is evident.

I have no idea if this is one of those things that might spread like wildfire or not, it's just a crazy idea I had. I get those. Happy holidays, all.

You can buy teddy bears online:

Update: We don't think this kind of teddy is the sort you should be sending

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Blog Readability Test

The reading level of this site is Genius(with thanks to Gad Sir! Comics). According to this simple Blog Readability Test from the Critics Rant web site, you apparently have to be a genius to read the downthetubes blog.

It appears to work on some HTML based sites too, so we did a few checks. Top-selling UK tabloid newspaper The Sun's web site gets "Junior High School" while both The Times and The Guardian's is "High School" (it couldn't read the Daily Telegraph's site, which is perhaps no surprise).

Apparently, you have to be a post grad to understand the Star Wars and Star Trek official sites and a college undergrad to understand the official Doctor Who site. (Yes, this is obviously an American test site).

As dtb contributor Jeremy Briggs points out, the Genius level for this blog doesn't mean that you have to be a genius to read it - but that you have to be a genius to understand it!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Your Office Anywhere Man

If proof were needed of the enduring appeal of comics as a medium, it's the way companies the world over continue to use the form in their marketing.

Last year, Doctor Who artist and writer Mike Collins and I began writing strips for UK company Cardium, to promote a suite of software products, Your Office Anywhere offering off site back up of documents, email services and more.

Cardium have now cranked up their creation, Your Office Anywhere Man, and turned him into a major part of their promotion for their products, creating a standee for Mike's interpretation of the character and blowing up frames of the promotional strips that appear on the YOA web site to decorate their trade stands at exhibitions.

I always hoped to make it big as a writer in comics -- but giant panels wasn't quite what I had in mind! They do look great, though.

Survivors Returns

The Forbidden Planet International web site reports the BBC has confirmed that it has concluded a deal with the estate of the late Terry Nation to create a new version of the cult 70s science fiction show Survivors.

Nation, well-known to SF viewers for Blake’s 7, not to mention creating the Daleks for Doctor Who, devised Survivors which ran for three seasons on the BBC from 1975 and which followed a small group of people who had survived a sudden pandemic which had wiped out much of humanity. The series gave the clear impression the virus was man-made, playing on Cold War fears of biological attack.

The new series will be written by BAFTA award-winning writer Adrian Hodges, who adapted Philip Pullman’s Ruby in the Smoke and co-created the time-travel/monster show Primeval.

Survivors was one of the bravest and most exciting programmes of its time and I’m thrilled to be involved with re-imagining it for a new audience, says Hodges. "I remember its original impact vividly and I hope we can make a similar impression with the new version.”

Kate Harwood, Head of Series and Serials, BBC Drama Production, said of the accquisition: "The opportunity to remake Survivors for a modern generation proved irresistible.

"After months of negotiations, I am delighted that one of British television's great cult series will return with original stories packed with adventure and spirit set against the backdrop of our own recognisable world."

The Survivors: a World Away site notes this confirmation comes after much speculation, citing news items from the Guardian and SFX from 2006 confidently proclaiming the series was about to return.

This isn't the first time Survivors has been revived: Terry Nation himself once told me he had attempted to get a series off the grounbd after he moved to the US, with little success. The World Away site has more information on past attempts at a remake of this classic show.

Web Links
• For a detailed episode guide visit
Unofficial Guide to Survivors Book

The Survivors on DVD (Region Two)
Season One
Season Two
Season Three

Thy Will Be Done Launches

The first few pages of a new SF comic title, Thy Will Be Done, have been posted at Broken Voice Comics and are just waiting for you to go and enjoy them.

Thy Will Be Done is written by Alexandre Lobao and boasts gorgeous artwork by E.C. Nickel (the talented artist behind Immortality and The Long Vigil).

"Without giving away any major plot spoilers, I can tell you that it's a SciFi story with more than enough twists and turns to keep even the most cynical conspiracy theorist guessing until the end," advises publisher David Berner. "Part Matrix, part 1984 and with just a dash of Starship Troopers, it has a flavour all its own."

The cover and four full-colour pages have been posted, so there's enough to give you a real taste of both the wonderful artwork and the beginnings of the intriguing story line. In future this title will be updated every Friday at Broken Voice Comics.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Orange Superman

Northern Ireland seems to be having a bit of a fad for superhero characters this year. After the CPYU educational comic The Super Six comes an as yet unnamed superhero produced for the Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland.

Sporting an orange sash and what the BBC website describes as “a trendy purple cape”, the character is to be used by the Orange Order to generate interest in the junior section of the organisation, and they have launched a competition to name him.

However popular the new superhero may prove to be, he is unlikely to eclipse the organisation’s other hero King William III, or William of Orange, who died in 1702. William III is probably best remembered in England and Wales as the William of William and Mary, while in Scotland (where he was William II) and Ireland (where he was William I), he is known as King Billy.

With so many names to chose from for their old hero, surely there should be no difficulty in finding just one for their new hero!

Verity Lambert OBE 1935 - 2007

downthetubes was saddened to receive the news of the death of original Doctor Who producer, Verity Lambert. (Pictured here surrounded by monsters during filing of the epic story The Daleks' Master Plan)

Verity was a pioneering producer on a pioneering programme. She worked on Doctor Who from 1963, when the programme started, until 1965. She was notable not only for being a talented, young television professional, but also for being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

In addition to Doctor Who, her many credits included cult series such as Adam Adamant Lives!, Budgie, Minder and Jonathan Creek and outstanding dramas such as The Naked Civil Servant and Alan Bleasdale's GBH. (For more detailed credits see Screen Online)

Of course, Doctor Who, which was cancelled in 1989, returned to our screens in 2005 to great popular and critical acclaim.

New series lead writer and Executive Producer, Russell T Davies, quoted on the official BBC Doctor Who website, said: "There are a hundred people in Cardiff working on Doctor Who and millions of viewers, in particular many children, who love the programme that Verity helped create. This is her legacy and we will never forget that."

""She made the television drama genre utterly her own," commented Jane Tranter, controller of BBC Fiction. "She was deaf to the notion of compromise and there wasn't an actor, writer, director or television executive she worked with who didn't regard her with admiration, respect and awe."

Our deep condolences to Verity's family and friends.

Daily Telegraph Obituary
Guardian Obituary
The Guardian notes Verity's death comes only days after it was announced that she was to receive the Working Title Films lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Women in Film and Television Awards next month.
The Independent

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