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Saturday, 2 February 2008

Patrick Stewart praises new Macbeth graphic novel

Classical Comics new Macbeth graphic novel sees publication later this month, arriving in three formats and after much hard work from a number of well known British creators.

Colourist Nigel Dobbyn recently told the downthetubes forum artist Jon Haward "has certainly made me work for my money on the last few pages, which have a huge cast and a suitably epic quality to them.

"Gary Erskine also pitched in to help with the inking on the last pages," he also revealed, "and will be fully inking Jon on the next project of his - The Tempest - which I'm also down to colour and letter."

"It's been a slog at times getting the 121 pages of Macbeth finished, especially these last pages, but I think we're all agreed, it's something to be proud of."

Meanwhile, artist Jon Haward is delighted that Shakespeare and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart has recently been singing the praises of the new comic version of Macbeth.

"I'm fascinated by your approach," he recently told publishers Classical Comics referring to their three original, plain and "quick text" editions of their comic strip adaptations of the play. "I find them gripping, dramatic and, although for me the original Shakespeare is always my reason for turning to these plays, I think that what you are doing in illuminating and making perhaps more lucid, especially for young people, is clever and meaningful."

Patrick Stewart's recent stint in Macbeth at the Gielgud Theatre in London garnered him several awards - including Best Actor at the Evening Standard Awards, and the prize for Best Shakespearean Performance at the 19th annual Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (which he shares with Chiwetel Ejiofor for Othello) - and the production transfers to New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music on 12 February.

"As a a big fan of Patrick Stewart, this news really made my day," Jon told downthetubes.

Here at downthetubes, we think the advance pages from the project look great and Jon has clearly proven the right choice for bring Macbeth to life, successfully accommodating the demands of three different formats with consumate professionalism. Couple that with Nigel's colouring and Classical Comics surely has a winner on its hands.

The interpretation Jon's brought to the text is bold and striking and should surely stir some young hearts and minds to take an interest in our beloved Bard of Stratford!

Macbeth and Henry V are Classical Comics' first books in its range of graphic novel adaptations. Other great literary novels receiving the Classical Comic treatment include: Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (Summer 2008, drawn by John M. Burns), Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (Autumn 2008, drawn by John Stokes), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (September 2008, drawn by Declan Shalvey), along with A Christmas Carol and Dracula.

Macbeth is published on Monday 25 February 2008 and can be ordered from in three forms - original text, plain text and quick text. Henry V, drawn by Neill Cameron, is available now in three forms - original text, plain text and quick text

Win Copies of Jeff Hawke: Overlord!

Titan Books releases its first new Jeff Hawke collection, Overlord, later this month, and here at downthetubes. we have five copies to give away!

Jeff Hawke: Overlord (to be released 22 February 2008, £16.99) is the first volume in a new series of collector's library editions from Titan, bringing together four timeless Hawke tales from the pages of the Daily Express: Overlord, Survival, Wondrous Lamp and Counsel for the Defence.

To be in with a chance to win one of five copies, simply answer the question below and send your answer to, to arrive by 12 noon GMT on Friday 15 February 2008:

Which British armed service was Jeff Hawke a member of?

Friday, 1 February 2008

Who producer to head up new drama unit

A new BBC drama unit is to set up shop in Manchester, run by Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson.

Broadcast reports Collinson's new role will be developing links with on and off-screen talent in the region, and developing new shows for the BBC drama slate. He will take up the position "in a few weeks", after work on the fourth Doctor Who series, currently being trailed in UK cinema ads, is complete.

Several new projects are under discussion and while the two may be connected, downthetubes knows of at least one Doctor Who writer who is hoping an adventure show he has been developing for some time may get a green light this year, as a new Saturday night series for the BBC.

Bill Mevin Interviewed on Time Meddler DVD

Perishers and TV Comic Doctor Who artist Bill Mevin is one of several comics creators interviewed on a special release of the Doctor Who story The Time Meddler, released 4 February in the UK.

This is the first of several "Stripped for Action" features which will feature on upcoming Doctor Who DVD releases. This documentary centres on the First Doctor's comic strip adventures which began in TV Comic and in addition to Mevin includes interviews with comics historians Jeremy Bentham and John Ainsworth and former Doctor Who Magazine editors Gary Russell and Alan Barnes. (Russell edited Marvel UK's Doctor Who Classic Comics, after John Freeman negotiated purchase of publishing rights for all the Doctor Who TV Comic strips on behalf of Marvel UK, with what was then owner London and North Surrey Newspapers, now owned by Trinity Mirror).

Bill Mevin, now 87, studied at Liverpool School of Art Before joining Gaumont British Studios as a trainee film animator, working on the 1954 animated film Animal Farm and various shorts. He then went on to work as a topical cartoonist for the Sunday Chronicle newspaper for six months, later working in children's comics for several years on characters that included a six-month stint on Doctor Who for TV Comic - a strip he remains proud of to this day - Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Space Patrol and many others.

He later created The Soapremes for the Daily Mail, a cartoon strip satirising American soaps Dallas and Dynasty, before going on to work on The Perishers for the Daily Mirror for over eleven years before its cancellation. You can view caricatures and other art by Mevin on The Authentic Perishers web site and read a more detailed profile of Bill's career on Bear Alley).

Every comics incarnation of the Doctor will feature in the "Stripped for Action" series which is being co-ordinated by acclaimed writer and publisher Marcus Hearn. Interviews for a Seventh Doctor segment, recorded this week in London include Paul Cornell, Lee Sullivan, Simon Furman, John Freeman and Andrew Cartmel.

The Time Meddler also features a commentary with actor Peter Purves, producer Verity Lambert, script editor Donald Tosh and designer Barry Newbery, plus production and publicity photos from the story.

Buy The Time Meddler from

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Boring Death's Head cover

Dragon's Claws #5Former Marvel UK editor in chief Richard Starkings just sent me this unused cover for the original Dragon's Claws #5, drawn by Geofff Senior, following discussion about Death's Head on It Came from Darkmoor.

Richard says the cover was rejected as "too boring" and wonders just why Simon Furman was not asked to write Death's Head II when Paul Neary took editorial control at Marvel UK back in the 1990s.

"I never understood why he wasn't writing the relaunch," says Richard, "having worked with him on... um, everything, I know that he would have taken on a new direction quite happily."

As I recall, Simon did indeed pitch a revamped Death's Head treatment to Paul, which was rejected, but I don't know the reasons.

Cell Phone Video Underworld Exposed In "Contraband"

Contraband ( a new graphic novel by Canadian writer Thomas Behe and illustrator Phil Elliott, is a near-future tale revealing an all-too-possibly-real world of underground video, violence and crime on cell phone networks.

Contraband follows a young man's journey into a new "voyeur underground", where profit-hungry youths prowl streets, secretly filming radical events with mobile devices to satisfy society's demand for sensational on-the-go content.

UK co-creator Phil Elliott, whose also work includes Tupelo and Illegal Alien, was approached on the street by a teenage girl asking for money. It's a sad but common enough occurrence in cities, but when Elliott refused, the situation became something much different from anything he'd experienced.

"A younger kid -- he must have only been about 10 -- started swearing at me, 'Give us some ******* money!'" he recalled. "I was then aware that there was another girl filming all this on her mobile phone. What was going on here? Were they trying to provoke me? What happened to the video?"

The incident took on a greater significance for Elliott when writer Thomas Behe contacted him to see if he were interested in drawing a story he'd written. That book became Contraband. Behe was inspired to write the story after he noticed that people's concerns about cell phones had shifted from the physical dangers, such as radiation or tumours, to more cultural concerns.

"The new concerns were more social-related," he said. "Kids receiving intimidating texts from class bullies. A mate of mine was even propositioned to subscribe to some sort of spy-cam exhibitionist mobi-blog. I had no idea why these folks were secretly filming everyone, but there was tons of stuff on there."

In the near-future society of Contraband, bands of content-hungry amateurs armed with camera phones record violent scenes, some of which they instigate, to satisfy society's demand for ever more shocking on-the-go entertainment. Toby, a self-styled "citizen journalist," is
documenting this underground when he is discovered by agents for a cell-phone channel called Contraband. Forced to work for them, Toby is assigned the task of finding a female activist set on sabotaging Contraband and must navigate a difficult path where he must choose
between his own safety and the greater good.

Contraband is a 144 page black and white graphic novel written by Thomas Behe and illustrated by Phil Elliott. Published by SLG Publishing and due for release in February 2008, Contraband (Isbn #978-1593621018) is available from

• For more information about Contraband go to

It Came From Darkmoor...

(with thanks to Matthew Badham and Paul Cornell): British comics fan Mark Roberts has kicked off a promising new blog It Came from Darkmoor, dedicated to the mysteries of mighty Marvel UK (sadly absorbed by Panini in the early 1990s, and still no sign of a resurrection of Death's Head).

Mark describes it as "a blog dedicated to the mostly forgotten, but ultimately worthwhile, British corner of the Marvel Universe. It titles, its characters, its fallen imprint and recent revivals. God knows they seem to eat into my brain so often, I may as well try to excorcise them in a constructive fashion!"

Early posts include a feature on the Frontiers character Immortalis from Nick Vince and Mark Buckingham, published under the "Frontiers" banner at the tail end of MUK's existence; and of course, a piece on the best robot-turned cyborg in Marvel history, Death's Head.

Primeval Renewed

Broadcast reports ITV's SF time-spanning drama Primeval has been renewed, with the current (second) season continuing to score good ratings in its Saturday slot.

Production on the third season will begin in March, for broadcast in January 2009. The first episode of the next series will feature a monster designed by a member of the public, with viewers invited to submit their designs in an online competition before 7 Apil 2008.

"By giving people the opportunity to design a monster for the third series, we are creating a chance for them to be more involved," explained Tim Haines, executive producer for Impossible Pictures, "and feel closer to the programme."

The first three episodes have pulled an average audience of 5.7m in its 7.30pm slot and won a 26% share of viewers for last Saturday's installment.

When the first season screened last year on ITV, it picked up a strong 6.7m (28.5%) in a slightly later slot of 7.45pm. The entire six-part series averaged 6m (26.6%).

Season One DVD box sets of the show are already on sale and Titan Books are to release a series of novels, the first titled Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar (released on 21 March 2008), plunging Cutter and the team into the Peruvian rain forest for a thrilling prehistoric ride. A Primeval comic is also in the works, drawn by Neil Edwards, and this may now get a green light with the new commission.

A range of Primeval action figures from Character Options is also now widely available, who also make the Doctor Who and Scooby Doo figures

• ITV's Primeval web site:

Monday, 28 January 2008

Hicklenton hits out at MS in new film

2000AD artist John Hicklenton has reacted angrily to becoming ill with MS, inviting cameras into his home for a new documentary, Here's Johnny, to record the destruction of his life by the disease, and to campaign for better treatment for sufferers.

A screening of the film, will take place at the Dana Centre in the Science Museum, London, on 30 January and John will be speaking at the event.

John cannot move without a wheelchair and is often confined to his west London home. He talks candidly about his problems in the film, but also with great humour; at times he has relied utterly on that to see him through some very bleak days.

The Daily Telegraph
reports that when the 40-year-old British comic artist, perhaps best known for his brutal, visceral work on 2000AD characters such as Judge Dredd, learnt that he had multiple sclerosis, the news was delivered with a brutality that stuns him still - nearly seven years later.

"The doctor, a locum, just stared at her computer screen," he told the Telegraph, "and never once looking at me, said: 'You've got MS. You'll be dead in 12 to 15 years.' Just like that." Her remit, he says, was presumably not to become emotionally engaged. Johnny's is the opposite, and is now passionately involved in a fight against what he terms "this terrorist illness".

Now virtually bed-bound, John talks candidly about his illness in the documentary, made by Animal Monday and funded by the Channel 4 British Documentary Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. It's due for international release later this year.

The film shows how John, whose work also includes record covers for Switzerland-based Red Light Records as well as comics, escapes the confines of his front room by drawing. In Here's Johnny, you'll learn about the disease that he is forced to co exist with through the expression of his brilliant, and sometimes troubled, imagination.

"For Johnny," the Animal Monday web site reveals, "to draw is to live." Unfortunately, even that is now being taken from him, but he is beginning to face up to the fact that MS is stealing away his powers to draw.

"I haven't got MS when you are looking at my pictures," he says in the film. "I haven't got MS when I am drawing them." But in the past month, the spasms have begun to affect his arms and the Telegraph reports Johnny has found himself making excuses not to get the drawing board out.
''I am grateful for the amount of drawing I have done so far, but I'm scared to put pen to paper now," he told the newspaper. "The last time I drew anything was last year."
Despite this, he remains remarkably upbeat, with strong support of friends and family. "The more intense the disease gets, the more intense my relationships become," he says. "I never feel excluded because people are really sweet and they forget I am ill. My mum has been particularly helpful."
To book tickets for the free Dana Centre screening of Here's Johnny call 020 7942 4040 (you must reserve a place to attend) or e-mail
• For a clip of the film or more information, visit or
• MS Society Helpline: 0800 800 8000

(With thanks to Dave Windett for the link)

Update: John died in early 2010. Pat Mills, who often worked with John, looks back at the career of an extraordinarily talented artist here on the downthetubes main site, a version of his feature for Judge Dredd: The Megazine which has also appeared elsewhere online.

Stardust on DVD

Neil Gaiman's Stardust will be released on DVD in the UK next month (25th February), featuring a host of British talent in a spectacular and critically-acclaimed fantasy adventure from renowned director Matthew (Layer Cake) Vaughn. The film script, based on Gaiman's novel of the same name, was co-written by Vaughn and fellow Brit Jane Goldman.

Starring a huge cast of Hollywood heavyweights including Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, the film introduces talented newcomer Charlie Cox as Tristan (soon to be seen in Stone of Destiny, a drama written and directed by Charles Martin Smith centring on the 1950s raid to recover the Stone of Scone from London and return it to Scotland).

A host of home grown talent star in the film, including Ian McKellen, Sienna Miller, Rupert Everett and comedian Ricky Gervais.

Stardust tells the tale of Tristan (Cox) as he sets out to recover a fallen star in the hope of winning the heart of the prettiest girl in his village (Miller).Tristan’s journey takes an unexpected turn when he discovers that the fallen star is actually a beautiful, ethereal young woman named Yvaine who he must help protect from having her secret powers stolen by an evil witch (Pfeiffer) seeking eternal youth as well as seven power-hungry princes.

Tristan enlists the aid of a rogue pirate (played with gusto by De Niro) to keep Yvaine from their clutches in a well-received family adventure.

When not distracted by web sites like Strange Maps, Gaiman, whose comic credits include Violent Cases, Sandman, Eternals and Neverwhere, reports he is currently writing The Graveyard Book, illustrated by Dave McKean, which he reveals more about in his official online journal and is scheduled for release in July.

You can download a free audio story by Gaiman, A Study in Emerald, from HarperCollins web site. "Alluding to both the Sherlock Holmes canon and the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, this Hugo Award winning short story will delight fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and of course, Neil Gaiman, " the site declares.

"A Study in Emerald draws listeners in through carefully revealed details as a consulting detective and his narrator friend solve the mystery of a murdered German noble. But with its subtle allusions and surprise ending, this mystery hints that the real fun in solving this case lies in imagining all the details that Gaiman doesn’t reveal, and challenges listeners to be detectives themselves."

Torchwood Magazine on YouTube, Facebook

Titan Publishing's Torchwood: The Official Magazine launched last week in the UK (and is already proving hard to find), which also includes 10 pages of original Torchwood comic strip fiction in each issue. The first issue is published in the US on 19 February.

Now, Titan have a preview of some of the strip on a Torchwood: The Official Magazine YouTube special.

Torchwood: The Official Magazine includes the latest news from the Torchwood set in Cardiff, exclusive cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes features on the show’s special effects and 10 pages of original Torchwood comic strip fiction.

The launch issue includes interviews with Torchwood lead John Barrowman, and guest star James Marsters (Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), plus, exclusive photography and concept artwork of the Hub.

• For more information join the Torchwood: The Official Magazine Facebook group:

IndieReview Revamped

The UK Indie Comic and Manga Community, established in late 2007, has undergone some major refurbishment ready for 2008.

The Community aims to bring the work of UK Indie Comic/Manga talent to the attention of a wider public through a selection of resources and reviews of small press releases, and has introduced a number of new incentives to encourage participation.

UK creators are encouraged to contact with details of their work, including specific comics or manga created and published, personal websites and individual biographies ready to be included in the site.

Creators and fans alike are welcome to visit the site to gain access to valuable information including rare reviews of Indie works, interviews with top Indie creators as well as a wealth of information presented in articles from a step-by-step guide on how to publish your own work to a commentary on the current UK comic/manga environment.

Like other comics communities such as ComicSpace, members are able to setup a Personal Space with which to share their work with the UK Community, as well as submit their own reviews and articles relating to the UK Indie scene.

• You can visit IndieReview at:

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