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Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

The final Christmas cover and a cover that just screams Seventies at you.

Since the cover date was 25 December 1977 Look and Learn Plus Speed and Power went all out with this gem from artist Ron Embleton. Having presumably finished his rounds, Santa enjoys a trip on what many young children must have also been playing on that Christmas, a skateboard. Not, of course, one of the long wooden and heavily illustrated boards of today but one of those small garishly coloured plastic boards with their brightly coloured wheels that we all spent more time falling off than staying on that Christmas.

Merry Christmas for 2008.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas: 1 Day To Go

After the less than peaceful image of yesterday our Christmas covers look to their feminine side.

Ian Kennedy is the artist once again but from DC Thomson's long running "For Girls" title Bunty and a far cry it is from Kennedy's more traditional DCT duty providing war covers for Commando.

By Christmas 1990 Bunty had moved away from DCT's tradition newsprint onto higher quality paper which allowed for full colour rather than four colour covers. Here we have Bunty favourites The Four Mary's caroling in front of their St Elmo's school.

From all the team here at downthetubes, "We wish you a Merry Christmas".

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Primeval Greetings!

Card and wrapping paper company Gemma International are to launch a range of greeting cards inspired by top ITV show Primeval in January.

LicnesingBiz reports the collection will consist of age cards for six to nine year-olds, a no-age card, a sticker card, a moving picture card, a pop-up card, male relations and gift wrap.

The range will launch in January to catch the start of the third season of Primeval, which is due to begin broadcasting from February on ITV.

With all this interest in the show, can a comic-magazine be far behind from some savvy publisher?

Eagle Times Vol 21 No 4 Now Available

The Christmas issue of the fanzine devoted to the original Eagle comic, Eagle Times, published by The Eagle Society, is now available.

Volume 21 Issue 4 includes articles on artists Tony Weare and Ian Kennedy, the first part of a series of features on Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan, beginning a review of Eagle's popular 1960s sword and sorcery strip.

The issue's "I was there" feature covers the launch of Denis Gifford's Ally Sloper Magazine in 1976 and there's more onthe title's 2nd issue dummy, including Norman Thelwell's Pop Milligan and Frank Hampson's The Great Adventurer.

Joan Porter's recollections of the Bakehouse Studio in the 1950s also feature, as does Part two of The Career of Ian Kennedy from the eighties to the new millennium.

Membership of The Eagle Society is via Annual Subscription to Eagle Times magazine, which is published four times annually. The Subscription rate for 2009 is UK £22, Overseas £34 (paymenst must be in £s Sterling, please)

To join, apply by mail to: Keith Howard, 25A Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 2UA United Kingdom. Enquiries:

More information on the new issue via the Eagle Times blog

Merry Christmas: 2 Days To Go

Two days to go to Christmas and a slight cheat on our Christmas cover today in that it is the cover of an annual rather than a weekly title. That said Christmas covers on war comics are few and far between and it is an Ian Kennedy painting on the Warlord annual for Christmas 1984.

It is set forty years before in Christmas 1944 and Royal Marine Union Jack Jackson is fighting the Germans in post D-Day Europe. By this point in the stories he was still attached to the US Marine Corps but by his own choice rather than by circumstance.

The idea of Santa charging with a fixed bayonet is certainly one of the more unusual Christmas covers.

Hinton Memorial Anthology Released

Shelf Life, the tribute anthology dedicated to Doctor Who author Craig Hinton, who sadly died two years ago, is now available.

The memorial anthology, edited by Factor Fiction's Jay Eales, David McIntee and Adrian Middleton is an unofficial collection of illustrated fiction inspired by the Doctor Who fiction of Craig Hinton, who passed away suddenly in 2006 and is dedicated to his memory. All profits will be donated to the British Heart Foundation.

Craig, who passed away on 3rd December 2006, was best known for his Doctor Who spin-off works, which included the novels The Crystal Bucephalus, Millennial Rites, GodEngine, The Quantum Archangel and Synthespians, as well as the Excelis Decays audio play.

Such was the love and affection felt for Craig in the world of Doctor Who that many of his friends and fans felt the need to do something special to remember him by. The result of that need has now been realised in the form of Shelf Life, which contains stories and illustrations from people all around the world, writers and ordinary fans alike.

The list of contributors is enormous, featuring stories by a huge number of SF and Who authors, and includes illustrations by several British comics creators such as D’Israeli, Vince Danks, Jay Eales, Garen Ewing, Laura Howell, Tim Keable, Lee O’Connor, Graeme Neil Reid, Dave Windett and others.

With so many contributions, and so many breakthrough writers, and with each story accompanied by full-page artwork, the editorial team explain it has taken the best part of two years to bring this project to fruition. With slipping deadlines fluctuating between his birthdays and the anniversaries of his death, they're finally in a position to make our tribute available.

Shelf Life is currently available in the following formats via the project's web site:

  • A low resolution .PDF file (9.19MB) available by email (The Shelf Life team are not currently able to provide this in downloadable form). Price £5. Please ensure that your email host has the capacity to receive files of this size.
  • A high resolution electronic .PDF file (49.8MB) burned onto CD. Price £5 + £1.50 post & packaging. Please note high resolution .PDFs cannot be despatched until after Christmas.
  • A 624-page hardback book. Price £18 + £4.40 post & packaging.

To buy any version of the book or for overseas see rates visit the Shelf Life web site:

• Parents of younger Doctor Who fans should note that while none of the content in Shelf Life could be considered offensive, this anthology is aimed at an older readership, and as such may not be suitable for younger readers. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

Monday, 22 December 2008

New Thunderbirds Merchandise in 2009

It's just been announced that Gerry Anderson's classic puppet series Thunderbirds has been re-licensed to Sci Fi Channel UK.

SCI FI has renewed its license for the 32-episode show, for launch in the spring, and has also taken two additional Gerry Anderson series: all 30 half hour episodes of the junior spy adventure series Joe 90 and the earliest Anderson colour series, Stingray.

New Gerry Anderson series-related merchandise inspired by Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and Stingray is also in development, for release next year.

The three series will broadcast from spring 2009 as part of the network’s primetime line-up.

Meanwhile, BBC Two will re-air Stingray: The Reunion Party at 4.00pm on 28 December, a special compilation episode first shown earlier this year utilising footage found in Japan.

The screening will be followed by the one-hour documentary All About Thunderbirds also screened earlier in 2008. In it, Anderson, together with the show's cast, crew and fans, reflect back on the series and its legacy. The documentary will be followed by a screening of the Thunderbirds episode Attack of the Alligators.

Both Thunderbirds films are set for early morning showings on Channel 4 on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th, with another chance to catch Attack of the Alligators on New Year's Day on BBC2.

The British TV activity comes as ITV Global gears up to relaunch the Thunderbirds consumer-products campaign next year and launch new products for Joe 90 and Stingray.

"Thunderbirds has been entertaining the world for decades and the trusted brand continues to deliver new and dedicated fans to all it touches, including consumer products -- which currently features fashion, toys, Blu-ray DVD and gaming," said Giles Ridge, the head of brand and product development at ITV Global Entertainment in a press release. "We're looking forward to developing new and exciting licensing partnerships with Thunderbirds for 2009."

As we reported earlier this month, the new merchandise includes collections of strips from the classic 1960s comics TV Century 21 and Lady Penelope, which are being published by Reynolds and Hearn in the UK.

Thunderbirds fans may be interested in joining Fanderson, the Gerry Anderson fan club. More info:

Merry Christmas: 3 Days To Go

Just when you though that there couldn't possibly be any Christmas covers that Lew hadn't used in his mammoth, and excellent, coverage of Christmas comics over on Blimey, let us bring you just a few more in this countdown to Christmas (and Doctor Who and Wallace and Gromit).

With three days to go, a big step back in time to Christmas 1936. The Gem was one of the story papers published by Amalgamated Press that pre-date the more modern style of picture strip comics that we are more used to. While its cover image does not appear to tie-in to Christmas, its logo has the inevitable snow and it even goes as far as adding holly into the top corners.

The Hidden Hand was a 19 page text story of Tom Merry and the schoolboys of St Jim's which did take place during the school's Christmas holidays - "Thrill follows thrill throughout this gripping Xmas yarn of Tom Merry & Co on holiday".

The most interesting advert inside is for the batch of AP annuals with 1937 cover dates complete with its schoolboy in double breasted jacket, tie and slicked down hair. "Packed with stories of thrilling adventures, this Annual is splendid value. Its hundred and ninety pages of specially selected fiction provide many hours of wholesome entertainment for the healthy boy of today."

Well it was a different millennium.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Simon Mackie's Christmas Credit Crunch!

Tis the season for Christmas e-cards, and this one from cartoonist and illustrator Simon Mackie, creator of the Flick and Jube web comic, is one of my favourites so far... not only funny but summing up the mood of the season at present! (Presents?)

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Sock Puppets at Christmas...

The Sock Puppet Theatre, scourge* of many a British comics event is counting down the Christmas with The Socks' Advent Calendar, a wee musical treat! Eat your heart out Aled & Terry. And Bing and David...

Comic creator tells us you can see the Socks performing/murdering songs such as Rolf Harris' Two Little Boys live every night in Edinburgh; they're currently performing every night in the Spiegeltent in Princes St Gardens. Book tickets now at:

* Oh OK, they're not really a scourge. You can see more of their videos at

Tube Surfing: 18 December 2008

• Latest details on the subscription-only weekly comic The DFC are among the updates to our British Comics On Sale Now list on the main downthetubes site. The page has gotten quite lengthy thanks to all the information some publishers are now kindly supplying, so we've split our information on new comics over two pages!

• Talking of The DFC, Mo-Bot High artist Neill Cameron is spreading festive cheer via his blog at, posting a Santa a Day from now 'till Christmas! Our favourite so far? Probably Kung Fu Santa...

• E-Cards aren't everyone's cup of tea but they are a good way to reach a huge number of contacts especially as postal prices rise. Wizards Keep creator Tim Perkins has uploaded his to his blog: entitled “The Last Drop” it's also available as a limited edition A5 card set, which you can purchase from Wizards Keep.

• Continuing our Christmas theme, over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland has published a special treat. Franco Giacomini has very kindly sent over scans of a sequence from an early strip drawn by Tony Weare, shortly before he began the strip on which his fame rests, Matt Marriott. City Under the Sea was published in 1954 in the Daily Herald. Enjoy!

• Talking of Christmas treats, cartoonist Lew Stringer has almost completed his round up of Christmas comic covers, with a post devoted to current covers yet to be published. Read part 9 over on Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics!

Rod McKie has written an interesting article for the Forbidden Planet International blog, talking about cartooning today, the fewer spots open to cartoonists in newspapers and journals. Rod says it is a bit of a downer but he has a second related part coming which will be more positive.

• It's not British comics-related, but since I work on the site, a quick plug for Nicholas Yanes interview with Brahm Revel on scifipulse, who's written and drawn Guerillas is a nine part series published by Image Comics. "Guerillas takes place during the Vietnam Conflict and follows a new recruit who accidentally falls in with a platoon of experimentally trained chimpanzee soldiers," explains Revel. "The story centres on the relationships and bonds that form within a platoon during the hardships of war despite race, creed, or in this case, species."

• An appeal for help now. Over on ComicBitsOnline Terry Hooper is asking if anyone can help with scans of some British small press comics from the 1960s and 70s, including some with some fantastic titles such as Owl Jumpers and The Toad Papers.

The Twelve artist Chris Weston is back from abraod and back in the saddle on his blog, with some samples of his The Little Guy strip for Time Out, which he says he's hoping to get polished off over christmas. No rest for The Weston.

• Someone never lost for words when it comes to Internet posting is Warren Ellis... until that is, he read this strip by Dharbin entitled Warren Ellis: King of the Internet. "I am not entirely sure what to say," Ellis responded.

• Mark Wallinger's transparent TARDIS will be part of an exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery in February before touring to Leeds and Swansea. Wallinger's work is a full-size re-creation of a traditional police box in mirrored steel. Placed in the corner of a room, the mirrored surface gives the impression that the sculpture is transparent. "In the early days of Doctor Who the Tardis always faded away and disappeared," he tells The Guardian. "I wanted to make an object that was trying not to be there," said Wallinger who is perhaps best known for his work State Britain, a recreation at Tate Britain of Brian Haw's protest display outside parliament. He won the Turner Prize in 2007.

• Talking of Doctor Who, Tony Lee has published a sneek peak of a double page spread from #6 his Doctor Who: The Forgotten story for IDW featuring all ten Doctors. Just a shame the thing isn't officially on sale in the Uk when it comes out in the New Year, eh?

• And finally for this round up, with all the doom and gloom about despite the Christmas season, is there anything to look forward to in 2009? Well, look out for some baragins in the sales and early months from retailers. reckons that in January and beyond prices are set to get even lower as they still clamour for our money. "This could mean the less successful follow in the footsteps of Woolworths, but we might as well enjoy the bargains while we can." Not all prices are low of course, Diamond having implemented an immediate price hike on many US comics on sale in the specialist stores recently...

• (For some genuine Christmas Cheer, try here! Courtesy of the ever wonderful Etherington Brothers).

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Drawn to be Wild!

Broadcaster and comedienne Jenny Eclair explores the world of outrageous animated ladies in Drawn to be Wild, a show for BBC Radio 4 broadcast last week, and available for now via iplayer until 12:02pm Thursday 18th December, and considers why certain creations have upset censors and infuriated moralists over the years.

Popular characters such as Betty Boop, Minnie the Minx and Wonder Woman have frequently challenged stereotypes of how 'good girls' should look and behave. Examining today's female comic book heroes, Jenny discovers how far we have come from being offended by Betty Boop's garter.

The show includes contributions from comic strip enthusiasts Paul Gravett and Mel Gibson.

Direct Link:

Merry Fringemas

Gene the Cow from ABC's Fringe, showing on Sky in the UK, is working overtime this month to provide milk for Santa Claus, but she still found some time to wish you all a Happy Fringemas.

Stick-Man's Christmas Adventure

Courtesy of Scottish cartoonist Malcolm Kirk, whose hilarious Stick Man discovers Santa has gone a bit, well, strange this year...

Check out for more of Mal's work, and there are more of his Stick Man cartoons here on ROK Comics.

No Heroics Gets ITV1 Airing

ITV2's superhero sitcom No Heroics will be repeated on ITV1 from 6 January, screening at 11.35pm on the terrestrial channel, after a successful debut run on ITV2 over the autumn.

The six-part series features a group of British off-duty superheroes living their day to day life, which for supposed saviours of the world is actually rather normal – as they just can’t be bothered. Instead this group of b-listers would rather get drunk in their local superheroes-only pub, The Fortress, and commiserate at their lack of superiority.

Visit the official No Heroics web site (featuring spoof trading cards created by Sam Gibley)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Connecting Conversations in London

Two masters of their craft, award-winning children’s author David Almond and author and illustrator Quentin Blake, will talk about the drive to write and the visual expression of emotion with experts from the field of psychoanalysis at two forthcoming Connecting Conversations events in London the new year.

On 11 January David Almond, whose award winning novel Skellig has been made into an opera and will be released as a film adaptation in 2009, will talk to child and adult psychotherapist Viviane Green at Swiss Cottage Library, NW3.

"Like all writers, I'm driven to write, and that's because something inside me is demanding to be written, to be given form," says Almond, whose latest book, Jackdaw Summer, was released last month. "I think I've begun to understand what this 'something' is, and I see how it has shaped so much of my work. But a lot remains mysterious, and I continue to be surprised by what emerges. Maybe this is why writing can often seem like dreaming, and why imagining can seem like remembering.’

"Psychotherapists are naturally interested in people’s interior lives and how their hopes, fears and wishes shape the world they see," Green says. "David Almond’s fiction explores these themes in a haunting way. He has an uncanny ability to write in spare and poetic prose how gritty physical reality is transformed by the power of the child’s imagination.’

On 8 February Quentin Blake, one of the UK’s best-known artists and authors, illustrator of books such as Clement Freud's Grimble at Christmas and Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader, discusses his work with psychoanalyst Avi Shmueli at the Anna Freud Centre, NW3.

"I have illustrated picture-books and stories for young people, and also invented them; more recently I have produced sequences of pictures for hospitals for patients both young and old," says Blake. "What I think might be interesting to discuss in this context – and about which I would be interested to hear a comment from another point of view – is the search for the suitable fable or metaphor, the ways in which feeling and energy can be expressed in a visual form, and what the benefits of any of that might be, in varying circumstances, beyond immediate distraction. Perhaps this also relates to the nature of humour.’

"This is an exciting opportunity to talk to a master of his art about his creative process and the use of metaphor," feels Shmueli. "Quentin Blake has a profound ability to capture the multiple layers of his characters and integrate these in a way that enables readers of all ages to find meaning and insight in his stories and illustrations."

Both events are part of the Connecting Conversations children's books series of events bringing together psychoanalysis and other fields. Forthcoming events include authors Elisabeth Russell Taylor, Gillian Slovo and David Grossman. For more details visit

David Almond's Official Web Site
Quentin Blake's Official Web Site

Monday, 15 December 2008

2009 Book & Book Cover Illustration Awards

The closing date for the 2009 Book & Book Cover Illustration Awards, sponsored by the Enid Linder Foundation and organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, is fast approaching.

Entry into the Awards is free, with winners will be chosen from the following categories:
  • Book Illustration
  • Book Cover and Jacket Illustration

The winner of each category will receive £2,000. An overall winner will be receive an additional £2,000.

Entrants so far include comics creators such as I.N.J Culbard ("The Picture of Dorian Gray", above), Adam Grose ("The Prison"), Jason Lutes ("Jar of Fools"), Dave McKean, Mio Matsumoto ("My Diary"), Mungo McCosh, Chantal Montellier ("The Trail of Franz Kafka"), Ryuta Osada, Harriet Russell ("Envelopes"), Danusia Schejbal, Posy Simmonds ("Tamara Drewe"), Adrian Tomine and others.

• Entry into the V&A Illustration Awards is via the online entry form. Entrants may submit up to three images of their work. See conditions of entry here. The closing date is 31 December 2008. For further information about the Awards please contact

Comic Christmas Covers

Over on his ever-wonderful Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics!, Lew Stringer has been running a series of features on British Christmas Comic Covers, offerings samples from a wide range of titles, from Film Fun and TV Express to the Beano, Eagle and Buster - including this fab cover from Sparky, back in 1970.

It's a positive joy to see these smashing snow-covered covers of comics yesteryear -- it make you realize just how much we've lost. Still, nostalgia is a powerful antidote!

Lew also offers a number of European and Scandinavian Christmas covers, including one from Nemi.

Here are the links to all Lew's well-received posts so far:
By sheer coincidence, Jon K's ace Random Acts of Geekiness blog started running Christmas comic covers the same day Lew did, except Jon's blog features American comic covers, which he's updating every day. It's a great selection of varied titles from over the decades.

Full Colour Crikey!

As reported here last month, Issue 8 is a milestone edition for British comics fan magazine Crikey! with this 52-page issue published in full colour throughout.

"So far, the response has been tremendous and the issue has only been on sale for a few days," editor Glenn B Fleming told downthetubes, who also revealed more of the title's latest contents.

"As usual Crikey! has a varying choice of articles: Tony Ingram's always sensational Nutty Notions leads the way, then there is a fantastic review of the 'zine Spaceship Away featuring all things Dan Dare.

"Charley's War
brings the attention back to superb comic writing and even better artwork, as we present an overview of Pat Mills' and Joe Colquhoun's amazing adaptation of the Great War.

"If that's not enough for you how about this: Crikey! enjoys a remarkable relationship with comics giants DC Thomson and they kindly gave us the go-ahead to publish (for the first time in almost half a century) some stunning Avengers artwork by Spanish artist Emilio Fejo Abegon. Not to be outdone, British artist Mike (The Cloak) Higgs gave up his time to draw a four page, full colour 'Comicy Saturday' for us - it's hilarious and a 'must see'!"

There are other articles and amongst them is the British 'Mickey Mouse' invasion and Peter Hansen's 'The Best of British' covering almost a hundred years of comics artists and their work. Issue 8 even brings an American hero into the realm of British Comics: The Phantom in the UK!

"We don't know at this point if the next issue of Crikey! will be in colour," says Glenn, "but we do know that Issue 9 brings exclusive chats with Modesty Blaise artist Romero and David 'V for Vendetta' Lloyd - watch out for that then!"

• More info at:

Tube Surfing: 15 December 2008

Warren Ellis has announced he will be writing a column for Conde Nast's upcoming Wired UK magazine, edited by David Rowan, which launches next spring. "This attempt involves the services of Ben Hammersley, whose CV is twice as long as mine or yours and eighteen times as mad. And Ben Hammersley has engaged me as a monthly columnist for Wired UK, with an editorial mandate of, well, writing about anything I feel like writing about... This will be massive amounts of fun."

• Hot on the heels of the launch of a web site promoting Mirabilis: The Year of Wonders, a new strip for The DFC, comes another trailing Frontier, described as a 'weird wild west' strip by Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman.

• Talking of Mirabilis, which we plugged last week, there's now a trailer for the strip on YouTube. Just in case you can't see it below...

Blueberry artist Colin Wilson reveals a limited selection of his earlier art for 2000AD, Blueberry, Point Blank and The Losers etc (but, as yet, no Star Wars art) is now available to buy online. "Royd Burgoyne has kindly agreed to look after this for me," he notes on his blog, "and the first selection of my work to be made available can now be seen at his online Comic Art Shop.

"I've spent a lot of time over the last few weeks sorting and cataloging my artwork from the 80's and 90's," he notes. "There's a lot of it, and I've been discovering things that I can't even remember producing.... things like this."

Cy Dethan has just posted an early version of Scott James' cover for The Case Files of Harlan Falk #3, to be published next year by Markosia. Read more about this here

• Jennifer Contino of The Pulse has just interviewed Tony Lee on the upcoming MILF Magnet from Moonstone, with five or six teasers from the comic itself.

• (With thanks to Matthew Badham): Top US writer Mark Waid has begun blogging about comics wrting on the Kung Fu Monkey blog, which also features contributions from John Rogers and Michael Alan Nelson. "His first post is f****** gold," enthuses Matt Badham.

• And finally, in my only acknowledgement so far for the season, Paul Cornell has posted a number of Christmas recipes from comic creators. These include suggestions from the likes of Frazer Irving, Andy Diggle and Joe Quesada. My all-time favourite comic creator recipe was that of Martin Skidmore, once editor of Fantasy Advertiser, for a BAPA mailing. "Go to the fish and chip shop. Buy some fish and chips. Eat them..."

In Review: Dick Turpin And The Restless Dead

Dick Turpin: The Restless DeadA break from the keyboard and other projects have jointly conspired in my attempts to write this review of TimeBomb Comics' Dick Turpin And The Restless Dead, written by Steve Tanner and drawn Andrew Dodd.

Notorious highwayman Dick Turpin stumbles across a deserted village following his latest highway robbery, and it seems the ideal place to hide out. But the village is not as empty as it first appears – and Turpin soon finds himself surrounded by hordes of rotting, hungry zombies!

This straightforward action-horror yarn is a change of pace from the intricacies of Timebomb's first title, Ragamuffins:
Stitches in Time
, but zombies and the darker, grislier setting rather suit Andy Dodd's 'scratchy' art style (and I don't mean for that description to sound derogatory). Turpin himself is an interesting choice of anti-hero, and there's no doubt he's a villain at heart from the get-go, as the book opens with his hold up of a stagecoach.

The script is fun with a serious edge although I'm sure the closing line is a homage to a film, but I can't think which one. While there are some odd choices of panel -- Andrew favours mid shots with few close ups which I think is to the detriment of some pages -- this is fun one shot worth checking out from either the publisher's web site or the company's other distributors.

You can read the first five pages of Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead on TimeBomb Comics' ComicSpace gallery.
Visit the official TimeBomb Comics web site

Friday, 12 December 2008

Starscape Comic Turns Magazine

For the past seven or so years, Chris Smillie's Starscape has been a comic then a webcomic, inspired by the idea of the evolution of traditional British comics, such as 2000AD, Mighty World of Marvel, Eagle and the Victor, taking up the title 'Valiant for the 21st Century'.

Now, Chris has announced Starscape comic has evolved into Starscape comic magazine.

Now, along with all-new comic strips from emerging and established creators from 2000AD, Marvel, DC Thomson etc., plus classic tales from the golden age to modern classics, Starscape also presents Comicscape and Moviescape, offering news feeds, reviews of current and past comics, graphic novels, tv series and films, plus downloads of classic movies, serials, cartoons and fanfilms.

Chris wants all fans of the title to get involved in the revamp, perhaps by sharing your views on the latest graphic novel, a favourite fantasy book or a sci-fi drama from many years ago. If you have the desire to interview comic creators (contacts preferred but not required) or are looking for somewhere to publish your comic, or a story to draw, then head over to or pitch your ideas to Chris via

Please note, there's no indication in Chris' PR for the relaunch that there is any renumeration for contributions -- check with him for more information.

Dragons, Duels and Deadly Danger in The DFC!

Mirabilis: Year of Wonders is a new ongoing series that starts in Issue 30 of Random House's comic subsscription-only weekly comic The DFC on 19th December.

Written by Dave Morris and illustrated by Leo Hartas, the series tells of a lost year forgotten by history "sometime between Victorian and Edwardian times" when a green comet appears in the sky. As the comet grows brighter, the barriers between reality and fantasy begin to break down, unleashing a tide of mystery, wonder and supernatural excitement. Intrepid hero and former grocer's delivery boy Jack Ember is sent by the eccentric boffins of the Royal Mythological Society to investigate strange happenings all over the world.

Despite the constant incursions of folklore, myth, horror, fantasy and outright whimsy, Jack soon finds there is nothing in the world more perplexing than girls - in particular Estelle Meadowvane, the beautiful young amateur astronomer who discovered the green comet.

The series unfolds in five-page episodes which will later be collected in graphic novel format as the four seasons of the Mirabilis year. The whole story,written by Morris and illustrated by Hartas is planned to run to an epic 56 episodes.

The pair dreamed up the entire Mirabilis concept between them one evening as a love letter to the brilliance of human imagination and storytelling, and in particular to their creative heroes Lord Dunsany, Steve Ditko and Neil Gaiman. They spent ten years looking for the right form to tell the story, and a publisher who could really appreciate the head-on collision of witches, robots, undersea kingdoms, airships, ghosts, aliens, pterodactyls, homicidal saints and man-eating plants. Luckily, along came just the man they needed: UK publishing visionary David Fickling, who seized on Mirabilis with gusto and immediately saw that it would make a perfect ongoing series in his weekly comic The DFC.

Leo and Dave have worked together on many other projects - notably on the classic role-playing game Dragon Warriors, coincidentally reissued this month. They thrash out the overall storyline together, then Dave writes the scripts for each episode and gives them to Leo along with his own "thumbnail layouts" to show what he's got in mind. Leo then quickly works up a rough pencil version of the episode, they discuss any changes of camera angle or text that might then be needed with series producer Tom Fickling, and Leo then goes straight to finished art.

A final touch of magic is applied in Athens by internationally renowned colorist Nikos Koutsis. For the final page layout and word balloons they use Serif PagePlus, with fonts from Blambot. The covers are being painted by Martin McKenna.

• For more stunning art and information about the series visit

• The DFC
is published every week by Random House and for the time being is available only by subscription - see

Spider-Man Sneek Peek

Courtesy of artist John Royle, here's a sneek peek to the cover of Panini UK's upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man Issue 180, on sale in February. The issue sees Spidey up against Kraven the Hunter, side by side with Spider-Woman.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dan Dare Returns Again!

US Comics news site Newsarama has reported that Dynamite Entertainment, who also publish titles such as Battlestar Galactia, has picked up the rights to publish new Dan Dare comics based on Garth Ennis' interpretation of the character, first published by the now defunct Virgin Comics.

When Virgin dissolved earlier this year, Dynamite announced that it would collect their Dan Dare series, which will be released in February. In addition to the story itself the hardcover edition will include several extras including pencils, sketches and design work as additional material. (More details here)

Now Dynamite has confirmed they have landed the rights to publish future Dan Dare comics projects, beating out at least one other publisher interested in developing a new Dare title, in addition to the new "classic" Dan Dare adventures being published in Spaceship Away magazine.

"I am delighted to be working with Nicky [Barrucci, Dynamite President] and his team, on the collection of one of my favorite series in years," writer Garth Ennis said, "and very happy indeed that Dan Dare has found a great home in Dynamite.”

Barrucci told Newsarama's Matt Brady that Ennis championed Dynamite to Colin Frewin at the Dan Dare Corporation which owns the rights to all material publised in Eagle and New Eagle.

Frewin himself is clearly delighted by the deal describing Dynamite Entertainment as exactly what Dan Dare needs for global distribution.

There's no news as yet as to whether Gary Erskine, who drew the Virgin Dan Dare series, will draw the second series.

At least one other publisher had been negotiating a license for a new Dan Dare comic which would have been more of a "Year One" style title but following the Dynamite announcemnet have told downthetubes they have now witdrawn from discussions.

Cartoon Days of Christmas!

Cartoonist and friend Rich Diesslin came up with this Cartoon 12 Days of Christmas. Enjoy. You can check out more of his work at

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tube Surfing: Gerry Anderson

British publisher Reynolds and Hearn are to release two books reprinting strips from TV Century 21 comic and other titles first published by City Editions in the 1960s such as Joe 90.

Scheduled for release early next year and titled Century 21 - Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson, they're being complied by regular Anderson author Chris Bentley, who has written the The Complete Book of Thunderbirds and the The Complete Book of Gerry Anderson's UFO as well as the The Complete Gerry Anderson, now in its fourth edition.

“This is a subject close to our hearts, and we’ve been working on it for quite a few months,” publisher Marcus Hearn told downthetubes, who kindly supplied us with this exclusive provisional cover, left. “We can’t really describe these books as TV21 compilations because they will also contain material from other publications, such as some of Frank Langford’s work from Lady Penelope and some of Martin Asbury’s strips from Joe 90.

"We've got a team of four designers nearing the end of some pretty intensive restoration, and I think the results are stunning. Gerry Anderson has been working with us since day one, and has written the introduction to Volume One.”

The two 160 page softcover books are currently scheduled for publication on 31 March 2009.

Back in September we told you about the second of FTL Publication's Thunderbirds novels. With the first novel Countdown To Action! released earlier this year, the second novel Action Alert! is now available.

Both novels were written by Joan Marie Verba and are officially only available in the United States and Canada under the terms of the license FTL have with Carlton, the Thunderbirds copyright holder. This hasn't stopped copies arriving in the UK via and from UK based Gerry Anderson dealers. The first chapters of both books are available to read on-line, with Countdown To Action! here and Action Alert! here.

And finally to the man himself. Gerry Anderson will be 80 on his next birthday but still has no plans to retire. He has maintained an office at Pinewood Studios for the last number of years which is where he was interviewed for the Dick Spanner PI DVD extra.

While there has been many rumours over the last year that he has been talking to ITV about a new series nothing has yet been confirmed. That said, Pinewood Studios management have told Gerry that they don't have space for the foreseeable future to house a production of the scale he expects, so he is downsizing his office there whilst he waits a production green light and then looks for alternative studio space.

Now, Fanderson, the Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society, have announced an auction of the contents of Gerry's current office to be conducted by Comet Miniatures. The auction will take place in Battersea Arts Centre in London on Saturday 7 February 2009 and there are more details on the Fanderson website.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

In Memoriam: Oliver Postgate

"Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were two overgrown boys called Oliver and Peter.
And Peter lived on a farm.
It was a rather unusual farm because it didn't grow any crops and there were no sheep or cows, but it was the home of Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers and of course Bagpuss.
And there they made the most beautiful, the most brilliant, funny old Small Films in the whole wide world or so we like to think..."
(reproduced from the opening page of the Smallfilms official web site)

I was very sorry to hear that Oliver Postgate, co-creator of wonderful childrens animated shows such as The Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogle's Wood, died earlier this week aged 83.

Postgate's partner, Naomi Linnell, confirmed he died at a nursing home near his home in Broadstairs in Kent on Monday.

BBC News reports how Postgate created some of the best-loved children's TV, often in collaboration with the artist and puppeteer Peter Firmin. In a poll earlier this year, Bagpuss, a saggy pink cloth cat, was voted the best TV animal of all-time.

Ivor the Engine, about a little Welsh steam engine who wanted to sing in a choir, was Postgate and Firmin's first creation followed by Noggin the Nog, Pogle's Wood and many more. Bagpuss and The Clangers - rights to which were recently bought by media company Coolbai - remain popular to this day for many fans old and young.

"Oliver Postgate should be remembered as one of the great children's storytellers of the 20th century," commented Ben Davies on the New Statesman web site. Postgate wrote for the magazine's site between November 2006 and February 2008. "Generations were transported by his imagination - and thanks to creations like Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine - were inspired to use their own." (You can read all Oliver's contributions to by clicking here)

For all his delight at creating many wonderful and characters for television and the young at heart, Postgate became increasingly disillusioned by modern times.

"We now live in a world which no longer needs people," he wrote in his autobiography, Seeing Things, published in 2001, "a world in which many people have no meaningful part to play in their own lives and have gradually become passengers, inert consumers, nurtured and given identity by supermarkets, spin-doctors, and the bright, brittle media."

He gave much of his money to charity and was a conscientious objector during World War 2, and was very concerned about the environment in later years.

Postgate himself was never one not to play a meaningful part, and brought much joy to many in all that he created.

More Tributes
BBC Obituary: Oliver Postgate
In pictures: Oliver Postgate's career
The Daily Mail: From Bagpuss to the Clangers, he enchanted youngsters... So why did Oliver Postgate fall out of love with TV and his children?
The Daily Mail, 9th December 2008
The Guardian: Oliver Postgate: a very traditional subversive
The New Statesman: Thank You, Oliver Postgate
Socialist Unity Tribute
What he understood brilliantly is that children are self-aware of the transient nature of their own childhood..."
The Stage: And when Oliver goes to sleep, children’s television goes to sleep…
Telegraph Obituary
The Times Obituary
Oliver Postgate memorial on
Pay tribute to Postgate yourselves

Oliver Himself...
• Oliver Postgate's official web site(?):
Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate in his own words
The Guardian, 9 December 2008: Oliver Postgate talks about his creations, including how the voice of Bagpuss character Professor Yaffle was based on philosopher Bertrand Russell
You can read all Oliver's contributions to by clicking here

Related News Items and Web Sites
Bagpuss poised to make comeback
(BBC News, 24 October 2008) The original Bagpuss is on display at the Canterbury Museum.
The Dragon Friendly Society
This Society exclusively publishes books and videos of the children's television programmes made by Smallfilms.
Official Small Films Web Site

New art team tackles villains for BVC's Shades

Briitsh onlince comics publisher Broken Voice Comics has just published Chapters 9 and 10 of its flagship title Shades on its website (

Written by David A J Berner, the new chapters of the comic continue BVC's timely examination of the characteristics and traits that have come to define the British national character and are the first to be illustrated by the new art team of E.C. Nickel and Muamal Khairi.

“The fact that its story is set in the UK means that Shades is able to re-examine the super hero genre in a way that US comics usually don't,” suggests Berner. “The conventions and norms of the genre are so well-established in the US mainstream that they often seem to be taken for granted or self-consciously spoofed.”

The first half of Shades (Chapters 1 - 8) was illustrated by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj and is available to read in its entirety online. It tells the story of retired tailor Stanley Miller as he attempts to reunite a group of faded British heroes - a group which includes a prehistoric shaman, a World War 2 fighter pilot and the First Century warrior queen Boudicca!

Covering some five centuries of British history, these opening chapters pitch this motley group against an evil mystic, a giant experimental super-bomber and a demonic serpent.

In the second half of the story (Chapters 9 - 16), the stakes are due to be raised even further, as our heroes are forced to confront a threefold threat to the nation.

The new art team for this part of the story comprises Brazilian artist E.C. Nickel (pencils and inks) and Indonesian colourist Muamal Khairi. The challenge for them was to retain something of the distinctive style set by Chattoraj while bringing something of their own to the title.

“Nickel and Qoiri are already doing a fantastic job,” says Berner. “Anyone familiar with their work will know they each have a distinctive style of their own but that they both share Harsho's love of detail and character.”

As for the future plot, Berner explains that readers can expect the action levels to increase significantly from here on in. “Shades was always designed to be a single-story graphic novel,” he says. “And so Chapters 9 - 16 will essentially be building towards the climax of that story.

“Without giving too much away, I can reveal that we'll be seeing a lot more of the bad guys in the new chapters. We'll be getting to understand just how they became the people they are and, as their evil plans unfold, you can be sure the action will start ratcheting up through the gears!”

Broken Voice Comics was founded in February 2006 by David Berner, formerly the Senior Editor of webcomic studio Midnite Comics which ceased operations at the end of 2005.

Since its official launch in March 2006, BVC has been the new home of Berner's own comic projects, notably his online graphic novel Shades and his two four-part fantasy mini-series, The Spires and Hunted. In addition, the site also hosts a small number of Guest Titles which initially comprised three titles previously featured at Midnite Comics (Rob Jones's Perfect Storm and two titles by E.C. Nickel, Immortality and The Long Vigil). More recently, the site has added Lee Munday's The Lumbering Dead to its line-up, as well as Thy Will Be Done, another title by E.C. Nickel, created in collaboration with Alexandre Lobao.

Established fan favourite G.A.A.K. by Darryl Hughes and Monique McNaughton is the most recent addition to the line-up.

Shades is updated every Monday on the BVC web site. It is also serialised at the Graphic Smash ( and Drunk Duck ( websites.

Stormtrooper on a Spacehopper

... probably one the dreaded Copyright Police will be jumping on, but what the heck: more madcap pop culture designs can be found on RedBubble. They include a Star Wars Eco-Saber and a Starbucks parody. These guys obviously like to live dangerously...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Planet of the Apes - Down the Tube!

Commuters on the London Underground were amazed last Tuesday when characters from the Planet of the Apes films joined them on the Tube!

The apes were in town to celebrate the re-release of the classic film, now 40 years old, on Blu-ray DVD.

We don't want to annoy the copyright holders of the photos so check them out on the Daily Mail or The Sun's own web sites.

• Buy Planet Of The Apes Blu-Ray Collection from

There's a chance to win the Blu-Ray set on the i-Gizmo web site. Entries need to be in by 16 December 2008

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Will Sci-Fi Star George Be King of the Jungle?

George TakeiSci-fi icon George Takei, Star Trek's Mr Sulu, is one of the finalists in this year's series of ITV's hit reality show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

ITV viewers will discover tomorrow night whether George will beat the other two contestants to make it through to the final, tennis legend Martina Navratilova and former Eastenders star Joe Swash.

Aged 71, George has more than proved to be up to the physical challenges of the show, with his many and varied experiences including skydiving from a 'plane, falling down a steep drop and being taught a bawdy cockney song by fellow star Joe Swash.

Reality TV highlights a person's real character perhaps more than any other type of television show, and it's great to know that George has proved to be a real gentleman. He thoroughly deserves his success in becoming one of the last three from the original group of 12 celebrities.

Dark Inheritance by Roberta Leigh

Over on Bear Alley Steve Holland has put up two previously unrecorded dust jacket illustrations by Frank Bellamy. These are for romance novels, My True Love by Denise Robins and Dark Inheritance by Roberta Leigh, both published by the Valentine Romance Book Club in 1954.

Frank Bellamy of course is one of the best comic artists that Britain has ever produced having worked on Dan Dare in original Eagle, Thunderbirds in TV Century 21 and Garth in the Daily Mirror. His work has appeared in many more places that those publications and Norman Boyd's Frank Bellamy Checklist Blog is well worth reading for the more obscure items that Bellamy has produced.

Roberta Leigh is the professional name of Janey Scott, a novelist and painter who is perhaps best known to us here on downthetubes as the creator of two of the Gerry Anderson puppet series, The Adventures Of Twizzle and Torchy The Battery Boy, and the non-Anderson science fiction puppet series Space Patrol. Comic strips based on all three of these series appeared in various British comics in the 1960s. Twizzle appeared in TV Land, Torchy in Harold Hare's Own Paper and Space Patrol in both TV Comic and The Beezer plus two issues of Super Mag.

As well as writing novels Robert Leigh also wrote storybooks, both softcover and annual style, for children based on her TV series with at least four appearing for Twizzle and nine for Torchy. Due to their age, their intended audience and presumably low print runs, these are amongst the scarcest Gerry Anderson related books and pose a real challenge for collectors to find.

Roberta Leigh's website, which covers her paintings, can be found here while her novels, written under various pseudonyms, can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Martian Tripod Attacks Cardiff!

Where are Torchwood when you need them? (Probably at a John Barrowman concert.)

The touring version of Jeff Wayne's album The War Of The Worlds, complete with enormous Martian tripod, returns to British stages in June 2009 and they have just added concerts in Cardiff's CIA and London's O2 to their schedule. The tour will take in venues from Aberdeen to Bournemouth.

Based on the 1978 double album, the concert is a live performance of the story and music complete with CGI effects projected onto wide screen behind the orchestra plus an enormous talking head "hologram" representing the album's narrator, the late Richard Burton. For anyone who enjoyed the album over the last thirty years, the concert is both an impressive live recreation of it as well as providing a CGI prequel set on Mars itself.

More details of the tour are on the War of the Worlds website.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Tube Surfing: 2 December 2008

It is not often we would advertise cars here on downthetubes but take a look at this cutaway of a Honda Accord. The artist is Graham Bleathman, more familiar perhaps for creating cutaways of Thunderbirds or other Gerry Anderson creations. Graham turned the inside of the vehicle into numerous rooms with workers in them performing the functions that the car requires. These designs were then passed over to model makers and CGI animators to turn the concept into a 30 second Honda advert entitled All In One Place. More of Graham's designs for the car, and the finished advert, can be found on the Motion Theory website. Other examples of Graham's work can be found on his own website.

The London Evening Standard began reprinting Modesty Blaise strips as of yesterday. The strip is The Gabriel Set-Up written, as all Modesty Blaise newspaper strips were, by Peter O'Donnell with art by Jim Holdaway. This was the third Modesty story originally published in the London Evening Standard beginning in January 1964 and reprinted in the first of Titan's current set of Modesty Blaise softcover reprint books, itself entitled The Gabriel Set-Up. It is good to see a major newspaper printing an adventure strip, even if it is one that is readily available elsewhere, so let's hope that they get good feedback from their readers.
Meanwhile in the new Radio Times, the one with the Doctor Who Christmas special on the cover, artist Graeme Neil Reid has turned mild mannered reporter Andrew Marr into SuperMarr in a four image colour comic strip as part of the magazine's Review Of The Year. Graeme talks about the creation of the strip on his blog I Got No Work Done Today Because... and teases about a new secret project that he is working on.

The Western Fiction Review blog has an interview with Doctor Who cover artist Tony Masero on the subject of his numerous covers for western novels including the Edge and Adam Steele series. Masero produced covers for Target Doctor Who paperbacks as diverse as the first Doctor story The Reign Of Terror, the third Doctor story The Ambassadors Of Death and the sixth Doctor story Terror Of The Vervoids which do receive a passing mention in the interview.

Finally a brief piece of Commando Webbing. Commando and Panini Spiderman writer Ferg Handley is interviewed on the Commando Mag website using questions supplied by Commando readers. In the interview, which is spread over two parts, Ferg talks about his inspiration of writing the war stories and the amount of research that they entail, as well as discussing his recurring Commando characters, Ramsey's Raiders. While Ferg does not have a website or a blog he will be appearing at the Hi-Ex comics convention in Inverness on 14/15 February 2009. Part One of the interview is here, followed by part two here.

(With thanks to Katie Bleathman, Richard Sheaf and Steve Holland)

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