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Saturday, 12 January 2008

Jeff Hawke's Cosmos

The latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos, Vol 4 Number 2, is now available. Bill Rudling's 72 page A4 fanzine continues to provide full length reprinted Jeff Hawke stories from the Daily Express newspaper.

The cover comes from The Helping Hand a story from 1964/65 concerning motor racing, a theme which runs through the issue with Hawke creator Sydney Jordan's article on artist and driver Nick Faure. However the Hawke strip's normal association with alien planets and spacecraft are not forgotten with On The Run from 1973, while then modern aircraft are the subject of Wildcat from 1966.

Hawke's Notes, written by Duncan Lunan, continue to detail the minutiae of the stories in a DVD commentary style, and the issue is rounded off with Andrew Darlington's article on Captain "Space" Kingley, a series of annuals from the early 1950s painted by RW Jobson.

Cosmos is only available by subscription from :
The Jeff Hawke Club, 6 The Close, Alwoodley, Leeds, LS17 7RD
UK rates are £16.50 for three issues, overseas rates are £26.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Billy's Birthday

A belated tribute to the first Doctor of Doctor Who, William Hartnell. Had he lived, this fine actor would would have been 100 on Tuesday, 8th January.

Born in London on 8th January 1908, Hartnell began acting professionally in 1924 in the theatre. Invalided out of the Tank Corps during the Second World War after 18 months suffering a nervous breakdown, he returned to acting, playing perhaps his first memorable role, Sergeant Ned Fletcher, in the film The Way Ahead in 1944. His move from comic to serious roles proved a success, with Hartnell playing mainly policemen, soldiers and thugs in his career (earning high praise for his role as the complex Dallow in Brighton Rock).

He topped the bill in the first Carry On film in 1958, Carry On Sergeant, playing Sergeant Grimshaw, also playing another army character, Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore, in his first TV role in The Army Game from 1957–1961 (replacing Bill Fraser, who played Sergeant Major Snudge in earlier episodes of the series).

But it is of course his work as the first Doctor Who for which he is best remembered, making the irascible grandfather figure his own between the show's debut in 1963 in An Unearthly Child and his final regular appearance in The Tenth Planet, pitted against the Cybermen, in 1966.

(Sadly, the fourth episode of this first appearance by the cybernetic nasties remains missing believed wiped but is available in full on audio. Other victims of this short sighted practice by the BBC back then include live commentary by Patrick Moore and James Burke in the BBC studio on the historic day of the first Moon landing).

Hartnell, already ill when he reprised his First Doctor role for The Three Doctors in the 1970s, died 23 April 1975, just a couple of years before organised fandom began to pay tribute to the contributors to the Doctor Who show. It would be his wife and grandson who would represent him at the first Doctor Who fan convention at Imperial College London, delighted by tributes to the actor.

• There's a "nexus" of William Hartnell links at

MamTor Music

Not content with publishing some pretty cutting edge comics in the past few years, UK Publisher MamTor, run by my old mucker artist Liam McCormack Sharp (you'll remmber him as now has its own music divsion via

"Mamtor" is decribed as a musical project that blurs genres and utilizes the skills of both accomplished musicianship and modern technology to create intimate and epic music for those of eclectic taste. I just enjoyed listening to "Tribal Memories" and will be stopping back for more later...

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Get Wasted!

Comics writer Alan Grant (Batman, Judge Dredd) wants you to get Wasted!

Grant is one of the big names behind Wasted, a new independent comic. It's Earth's new comic-book for today's Youth gone wild!*

Wasted features a cracking cover from Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman) and contributions from Grant and comic artist Jon Haward, among others, who has previously worked on comic strips for 2000AD, The Eagle and for Marvel UK.

Those of faint heart take note, the comic comes with the following warning:

“Should you suffer from narrow mindedness or are politically correct then sorry, you’re just not allowed to read this magazine… Log off now and report yourself to someone in authority. However, if you enjoy a good laugh then enjoy our twisted tales, astounding artwork and maliciously whimsical sexy babes. If you’re a female reader please substitute ’sexy hunks’ for ’sexy babes’.”

• You can buy the comic online for £2 and preview Wasted here. . A print version will hit the stands in February.

*according to its Website, anyway.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Who writer Gary Russell Interviewed

With a new Doctor Who comic book on its way from IDW Publishing (and reprints of the Marvel UK/Panini Who strips already on sale only in the US via the company), comics site Broken Frontier has an interview with its writer, Gary Russell.

Gary, who currently works as a script editor on Torchwood, says it's been easy to adapt the Tenth Doctor's character for comics, "by remembering that comics are a different medium to TV so it’s more about the sparky dialogue than David's unique delivery and energy. Then Nicky [artist Nick Roche] can capture that energy and fun in his panel layouts and facials. In other words, I make him do all the hard work."

Gary, a longtime Who fan and former editor of Doctor Who Magazine with plenty of comics experience, reveals the new book is not a mini-series, "just six individual stories, but with a few background links seeded through them."

In terms of TV monsters the first issue will feature the Sycorax who appeared in the 2006 Christmas Special, and we can also expect to see Catkind at some point. Gary says he has mapped out a second set of issues (a four or five part story, rather than individual issues) that he says mysteriously "showcase my favourite monsters from the classic series that have yet to turn up in the new show, so it’s a chance to give them a 21st century spin."

That'll be the Ice Warriors, if his work on the Radio Times comic strip some years back is any pointer...

• The Doctor Who comic book will be available in US comic shops later this month. The IDW Doctor Who comics will only be available in the US for licensing reasons.

Best Videos of 2007?

It's the time of year for "Best of.." lists and a look back at highlights of 2007, and here at downthetubes we thought our readers might be interested on what made it into the animated “all star” highlights over at Joost, one of the new ways of watching TV on the internet featuring thousands of shows and more than 400 channels in broadcast quality.

According to our friends at the company, over four million people downloaded the free service last year.

The top videos include Count Duckula and Wallace & Gromit, which stood out as some of the best loved for Joost from their growing library of 20,000-plus videos.

To see those clips on Joost and discover who also made it to the list, download the Joost viewer (available for Windows or Mac OSX) and then head over to

New Journey to the Centre of the Earth

RHI Entertainment, makers of TV dramas such as Earthsea, Flash Gordon, Tin Man and Pandemic, have produced a new version of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a two-hour telefilm which Jeremy Briggs tells me has already broadcast on Sky here in the UK, but will premiere in the US during the RHI Movie Weekend on the ION Television Network in the US, on Sunday 27 January.

The new production stars Ricky Schroder (Crimson Tide, Lonesome Dove, NYPD Blue, 24) and Peter Fonda (Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma) as well as Victoria Pratt (Daybreak, Brotherhood of Blood), Steven Grayhm (Taken,) and Mike Dopud (Smallville, Stargate SG-1).

Set in the late 1800’s, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the story of the noted anthropologist Jonathan Brock, who accepts a risky proposition to lead an expedition to find the missing Edward Dennison. Brock and his party re-trace Dennison’s last known tracks to a mysterious passage in Alaska (a change from the book's original point which was Iceland), rumoured to be the secret gateway to the center of the earth. As they descend deeper and deeper into the unknown, the group finds a vast world undergoing an evolutionary process unto itself, complete with prehistoric creatures, primitive tribes and amazing discoveries.

The production was shot on location in and around Vancouver on high definition video during the summer of 2007, and the area's spectacular scenery and dramatic weather are an integral part of the production.

“We have taken one of literature’s greatest adventures and turned it just enough to make it even more fresh and compelling for today’s audiences,” said Robert Halmi, Jr., President and CEO of RHI Entertainment. “This tale of action, fantasy and the unexpected will send viewers of all ages onto their own epic journey of exploration and discovery.”

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

In Memoriam: Marion Van Der Voort

I'm sorry to have to pass on the sad news of the death of Marion Van Der Voort.

Marion, with her husband Richard, ran the At The Sign Of The Dragon bookshop in London for many years and regularly took dealers tables at many British SF conventions, both literary and media based. When they retired from running the London shop they moved to Wigtown, the Scottish book town near the port of Stranraer. There they sold their ex-London stock through AA1 Books for a while, before moving the remainder to their house which they delighted in telling people was the odd looking first house you saw on driving into the village. They never completely retired as they continued to run their mail order business via their website and continued to be a fixture on the convention circuit.

They were due to take a dealer's table at the Satellite 1 convention in Glasgow last October when Marion was hospitalised with double pneumonia. She finally returned home on Christmas Eve but passed away on Boxing Day with her husband and her dog beside her. She was cremated yesterday with a request from Richard that any donations in lieu of flowers should be made to the Lifeboats or to disabled servicemen's charities.

The first time I met Marion was at a PanoptiCon in the 1980s where she, on hearing my Northern Ireland accent, regaled me with the story of their honeymoon which they had spent in the Provence. I only really knew them through attending conventions, but the last time I saw her was at their house in Wigtown where she wasn't the least bit surprised when I told her that I knew where they had spent their honeymoon.

My sincerest condolences to Richard, who gives more details of what happened on their website. British fandom has lost one of its own.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Spectacular Spider-Man sneak peek

Here's a nifty looking Electro versus Spider-Man page that will open a new story by Ferg Handley running in Panini UK's Spectacular Spider-Man #166, on sale in a few months.

Pencils are by John Royle, inks by Lee Townsend and colour by James Offredi.

More about the latest Spectacular Spider-Man on the Panini web site

Wake Up Cat

Often mis-titled 'Wake Up Cat', this bitter sweet but very funny animation (especially if you have cats) is by English animator Simon Tofield a friend sent me recently is actually titled 'Cat Man Do'.

Tofield works for animation company Tandem Films, who recently did the Paddington Bear Marmite ads for UK TV.

Peckerwood Competition

If you're interested in winning a copy of UK publisher Ablaze Media's latest graphic novel, Peckerwood: 24 Minutes, the company has teamed up with the good folks over at Memorabilia, who are giving away five copies of this majestic piece of literature. All you have to do is answer a simple question, and Bob's your proverbial relative. The compettion ends on Friday 11 January.

If you'd rather play it safe and actually buy Peckerwood, then the Comic Guru online store now has the limited edition signed TWAT books in stock.

"We only printed 250, and the Guru has 38 left," say the team at Tozzer Central, "so head on over and pick up your copy!

Already praised by Tozzer fans, Peckerwood: 24 Minutes finds Agent Jack Ass has just 24 minutes to abduct a hitman, raid a candy factory, save a panda, fly to Europe, have his hair done and prevent World War 3. Yup, he’s gonna need some help. Tozzer, Rod and Hornie are desperate for work, so when Jack offers them the acting gig of a lifetime, they jump at the chance. But how can they survive, when they're up against The Englishman, Peckerwood’s most notorious criminal mastermind? His minions include a cold-blooded celebrity assassin, a terrifying vending machine salesman and a pair of homicidal Mexican dwarves. The fate of the planet hangs in the balance, and the clock is ticking… Or at least it would be ticking, if it wasn’t digital.

You can read an 11-page preview of Peckerwood on the Tozzer web site

Primeval books from Titan

Titan Books will be making a new foray into fiction with the launch of a series of originated novels based on the hit ITV prime time TV series from Impossible Pictures, Primeval, which starts airing its second season on ITV next Saturday.

When strange anomalies in time start to appear, Evolutionary Zoologist Professor Cutter and his team find themselves confronted with the creatures of their studies, and they must help track down and capture a multitude of dangerous prehistoric creatures from Earth's distant past. Written by Steve Saville, SCRIBE nominated author of tie-ins for Torchwood, Star Wars and Doctor Who, the first of Titan’s novels will be Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar [Titan Books, 21 March 2008, £6.99], plunging Cutter and the team into the Peruvian rain forest for a thrilling prehistoric ride!

Action-adventure series Primeval has captured the imagination of audiences and critics alike, selling over 100,000 Season One DVD box sets and now syndicated to networks across the world, from Germany to Australia to Korea. The new novels look to be just the start of fast-developing merchandise tie ins, with a Primeval comic already in the works drawn by Neil Edwards.

Bond girl cast

British newcomer Gemma Arterton, currently in cinemas as one of the girls of St. Trinians, has been cast as the Bond girl for the latest installment of the James Bond franchise now filming in London.

Her RADA profile lists he specials skills as "Music, gigs, film, socialising, drawing/painting, playing the guitar, making clothes and jewellery". Make of that what you will...

Comics, Fantasy boost UK Box Office success

Animation, superheroes and fantasy films helped make 2007 a record year for the UK film box office, according to figures released this week - and several films are on course for a 2008 roll out may make this year another record-breaker.

Hollywood Reporter notes that data collated by Nielsen EDI revealed record box office revenue of more than £904 million pounds ($1.8 billion), 8 per cent higher than 2006. The Cinema Advertising Association, a trade association of cinema advertising contractors operating in the UK and Eire, estimates ticket sales of 175 million for the year, up 11.5% from 157 million in 2006.

Top of the league for 2007 was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (earning £49 million pounds -$96.8 million) heading a top 10 that included Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3.

That box office success is reflected in ongoing merchandising tie-ins such as Titan's Transformers and Dreamworks Tales comics in the UK.

I Am Legend, 300 and Transformers also performed well in the UK, prompting Dave Thurston, UK managing director of Nielsen EDI to predict strong box office for films such as Indiana Jones IV, The Incredible Hulk and many other fantasy or superhero franchise sequels.

Who's Superman?

Who will play Superman? Rumour has it that while Brandon Routh, the actor who played the Man of Steel in Warner Bros. Superman Returns, won't star in the studio's live action movie adaptation of another DC Comics property, Justice League, he will, however, Ain't it Cool News reports he'll continue to star in the individual Superman movies.

Routh took some flack at the time of the release of Superman Returns for allegedly playing Superman in a "less macho" way than previous portrayals. Routh hit back hard at his critics, telling the Sydney Morning Herald Superman certainly wasn't gay as some claimed, and neither was he.

The Justice League movie will reportedly be its "own experience", which is to say it won't reach out to the other existing DC Comics movie franchises such as Batman. This makes business sense -- Warner won't want to 'taint' their other superhero franchises if the new Justice league outing isn't a success.

Heart of Empire Online

The whole of the first chapter of Bryan Talbot's stunning story Heart of Empire is now online for free!

Taken from the CD-ROM, the "Director's cut" of Heart of Empire, the online promotional version includes every page in its original penciled format - then the interim inked format and then the final coloured format.

"Every page in very high rez," says James Robertson, webmaster of The Official Bryan Talbot fanpage ( of the Heart of Empire CD-ROM, "and then there's 60,000 words of annotations from Bryan on where he gets his ideas, with rants, digressions anecdotes and influences... and then every front and back cover, and biographies and interviews.... and also the whole of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright in the best ever digitally remastered format too.... it's a massive and insane labour of love.

"Precisely because it is so big and hard to describe we thought we would put the first chapter online for free so we could say 'y'know what? - here's the first part; go check it out and then you'll know what we are talkin' about!'

With online comics growing in popularity, Talbot again takes the comics medium to new levels by showing just what can be done with digital comics to create a distinctly different form of the original print tale. A more definitive explanation of the CD is online can be found on Bryan's site.

Web Comix Thing returns in March

The UK Web & Mini Comix Thing 2008 will be happening on 22 March 2008. The show, dedicated to small and independent comics press, is already looking pretty crowded and the organisers advise that if you're a potential exhibitor then you should act quick to secure one of the remaining tables.
For more information visit the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing 2008 web site at:

Sunday, 6 January 2008


On Thursday morning this week (10th Jan) Radio 4 (11:30am-noon) will be broadcasting Doonesburyland.

Joe Queenan conducts a rare interview with Gary Trudeau, creator of the Doonesbury cartoon strip and in many ways the most high profile chronicler of the American left.

Queenan also speaks to the Guardian's former features editor Ian Katz, who dropped the strip from the paper only to have to it reinstated after a wave of mass outrage from readers. Quite right to.

If you've never read Doonesbury it can be hard to know where to start (other than at the beginning) with a soap opera that has been running daily (apart from a long sabbatical c.1980) since 1970. Hopefully this programme will provide a 'jumping on' point for new readers.

Doonesbury appears daily in The Guardian newspaper in the UK, and the Sunday strip runs in The Independent. Doonesbury is also available on mobile in some countries for mobile via ROK Comics.

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