downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...

This blog is no longer being updated

The downthetubes news blog was assimilated into our main site back in 2013.

Hop over to for other British comics news, comic creating guides, interviews and much more!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Hi-Ex: Again

A few more pictures for you from last week’s Hi-Ex comics convention based mainly in the ground floor area of the old Bishop’s Palace in Inverness.

Hi-Ex was organised by Vicky Stonebridge and Rich Cements of Future Quake Press so it was inevitable that FQP would be putting on a good display on their dealer's table - seen here in the calm before the storm of the doors opening to the public. FQP's titles include FutureQuake, MangaQuake and Something Wicked, plus the two 2000AD zines Dogbreath and Zarjaz.

Later on in one of the quieter moments on Sunday FQP's Dave Evans aka BOLT-01 got a chance to do a little sketching.

Over in Graeme Neil Reid's and my little section of the dealer's room Al Ewing gave us his best Sunday impression of "the morning after the night before".

Declan Shalvey stopped by as well to show off his Freak Show and Tequilla titles and to let us know that he is well advanced on his work for Classical Comics Frankenstein which is due to be published later in the year.

Meanwhile beside us Ben Clark and Paul Scott of Omnivistascope and Solar Wind wonder if there is a way to repress the irrepressible as Kev F Sutherland gives them little option but to be in a Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet video. The look on Cam Kennedy's face as he walked past while this was going on was a joy to behold.

Vicky and Rich have added a list of on-line reviews and press coverage that the convention received in the news section of the Hi-Ex website. Fingers crossed for Hi-Ex 2009.

Read another review of Hi-Ex on Hi-Arts by comics neophyte Georgina Coburn

Space News: Last Lunar Eclipse until 2010

The last Total Eclipse of the Moon before December 2010 will begin in the small hours of Thursday 21 February in the UK.

The entire event will be visible from South America and most of North America (on 20 February) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on 21 February).

This NASA web page explains that during a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark grey.

An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

In Western Europe and the UK the time of the eclipse on the 21st is as follows:

• Partial Eclipse begins 0143
• Total Eclipse begins 0301
• Total Eclipse ends 0351
• Partial Eclipse ends 0509

• For more information, visit this NASA page, and to find out more about lunar eclipses visit the agency's special web page lunar eclipses for beginners.

Image above: this picture of total lunar eclipse was captured on 20 January 2000. by Mr. Eclipse/Fred Espanack (

Friday, 8 February 2008

Technology News: Prince victim of Identity Theft

Morocco's state run news agency is reporting that authorities in Casablanca have rounded up the usual suspects and arrested an engineer accused of stealing the identity of Prince Moulay Rachid on Facebook.

The prince, shown here perhaps at the moment he realized his reputation as "The King of Hearts" had earned him the friendship of thousands on the online social network, is the younger brother of King Mohammed VI and second in line to the throne.

Among many other duties he is president of President of Marrakech International Film Festival Foundations, and has been focusing much of his programs on the need to bridge the North-South and East-West divide.

"The clash of civilizations has no place in Marrakech, Morocco since public appreciates as much as Hollywood or Bollywood films as they do appreciate Moroccan films," he recently told the German press. (This doesn't stop Morocco's authorities barring access to sites that might offend the King, as they did with YouTube for a time last year - a bar now lifted. I'm guessing Facebook isn't very popular right now, either).

I can see British journalists picking up on this and scouring Facebook for Prince Charles or the Queen's profile even now. The closest they may come is to the "Campaign for the Return of Prince Charles' Moustache"or links to news stories about the Prince's decision not to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing, posted by a Free Tibet Group.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Sarah Jane To Return

Despite bad news on some fronts for children's drama in the UK - the cancellation of Grange Hill surely a reflection of how disparate TV viewing has become that it can no longer attract a large audience - the BBC has announced several new commissions for its children's channel CBBC.

Among them are a second season for Doctor Who spin off The Sarah Jane Adventures and a new season of M.I. High.

The second season of Sarah Jane Adventures starring Elizabeth Sladen as investigator (and former companion of the Doctor) Sarah Jane Smith will comprise 12 episodes, for broadcast later this year. Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner for BBC Wales and Sue Nott for CBBC will executive produce.

New to the CBBC drama family are Half Moon Investigations about crime, based on the books by Eoin (Artemis Fowl) Colfer, corruption and general wrong doing in the school playground; We Are Family (working title), following the colourful and heart warming comedic adventures of a singing family who are a talk show's resident pop group; Roy, the story of an extraordinary cartoon boy marooned in the real world; and Paradise Café, a beachside mystery with a supernatural twist.

Announcing the line up, Anne Gilchrist controller of CBBC described drama as being "at the heart of CBBC".

"We're very excited about these new and returning commissions," she continued. "As well as the titles we're announcing today, we are also developing an exciting drama based in the north east of England for 2009/10 and a project from Lime Pictures with writer Jeanette Winterson. The dramas will be from across the UK, and I am extremely proud of such a strong line-up."

On the cancellation of Grange Hill, Gilchrist explained that "Part of CBBC's reputation for reflecting contemporary Britain back to UK children has been built upon Phil Redmond's brilliantly realised idea and of course it's sad to say goodbye to such a much loved institution."

Ratings for the series have declined in recent years, with what were once controversial storylines replaced by mild comedy. The Scotsman notes that perhaps reality has left Grange Hill behind, and the disruptive behaviour and classroom language of 2008 cannot be broadcast before the evening watershed.

Gilchrist feels the lives of children have changed a great deal since Grange Hill began and "we owe it to our audience to reflect this.

"We're actively seeking out new and exciting ways of bringing social realism to the CBBC audience," she outlined, "through drama and other genres."

The first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures will begin to be released on DVD in March.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

RIP: Barry Morse

Actor Barry Morse, best known for his role as Lt Philip Gerard in the classic drama The Fugitive but who also starred as knowledgeable Victor Bergman in the first season of Gerry Anderson’s live action series Space:1999, died earlier this week after a short illness. He was 89.

His much-praised career spanned more than seven decades, and his official web site estimates the actor played more than 3,000 roles on radio, television, stage and in film.

He was a five-time winner of Canada's Best Television Actor award and the former Artistic Director of the famed Shaw Festival of Canada.

"Up against Martin Landau and Barbara Bain’s comically straight-laced turns, Morse provided some much-needed sparkle," writes Mark Wright in a tribute to the actor in The Stage. "When asked to rattle off some piece of technobabble, there’d be a mischievous smile pulling at the corners of his mouth before he delivered undeliverable lines with gusto. More actors in science-fiction shows could learn from his fine example – take it seriously, but not too seriously…"

Barry's autobiography, Remember with Advantages, was published in 2006, in which Barry candidly related his childhood as a Cockney boy in the East End of London and his win, against all odds, of a full scholarship to the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the age of 15.

He describes how this unlikely beginning propelled him into an international career on stage and screen, including starring roles on Broadway, London's West End, and in television series such as The Fugitive, Space:1999, and The Winds of War.

He crossed paths with numerous notable figures along the way, including George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock, David Janssen, Robert Mitchum, and many others.

Speaking to the BBC, Barry's son, Hayward Morse, said his father's proudest achievement was reviving the George Bernard Shaw theatre festival in Ontario, which he rescued from financial crisis after becoming its Artistic Director in 1966.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Marvel in the UK - The Early Years

With plenty of interest in Marvel UK right now from sites such as It Came From Darkmoor, regular readers not already checking out Lew Stringer's brilliant Blimey! blog might want to head over there now and read his three part history of early appearances of Marvel superheroes in Britain.

As most people reading this know, Marvel Comics established a British arm in the 1970s to handle reprints and some distribution, but there were plenty of other companies that had already licensed various strips, some even running in the same titles that also featured DC Comics characters, and Lew details them in his three-part guide.

The overview includes details of ghastly colouring mistakes and re-writes of the original material that see the Silver Surfer murdering the Inhumans, and Spider-Man's retirement!

Part One charts the earliest Marvel UK reprints including Smash! and Pow!
Part Two covers the colouring madness that was the Fantastic Annuals and more
Part Three covers the TV21 Marvel reprints and more

Phoo Action debuts 12 February

Phoo Action, a futuristic kung fu action film written by Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett, will form part of the opening night line-up of the revamped BBC3 next week, debuting on Tuesday 12 February at 10.30pm.

As we reported last July, Phoo Action is based on the comic strip Get The Freebies which appeared in The Face magazine. Written by Matthew Enriquez Wakeham, Peter Martin and Jessica Hynes and produced by Matthew Read for BBC Scotland, the Phoo Action MySpace site explains the show follows the exploits of Terry Phoo, a Buddhist kung-fu law enforcement sweetheart and Whitey Action, an enigmatic young anarchist turned super-cop.

Set in 2012 in a London in a grip of mutant crimnals, the Freebies, they form an unlikely, but effective, crime-fighting team in the face of a super-vile, super-famous army of mutated criminals spat out from the revolutionary Decriminaliser Machine.

Jaime Winstone (Kidulthood) stars as teenage anarchist Whitey Action, Eddie Shin (ER) as martial arts sweetheart Terry Phoo and Rocky legend Carl Weathers as Benjamin Benson, Chief of Police and long-suffering father to the rebellious Whitey.

Jaime Winstone says he loved playing the role of Phoo's resident teenage anarchist, Whitey Action: "It's not every day that you wake up and become a super hero… I was happy to be sucked into the comic strip madness!"

The film is described as The Fifth Element meets Enter The Dragon before being beaten and mugged in Sin City on the way home after a Rush Hour inspired night out with the cast and crew of Kung Fu Hustle.

"It's exciting, it really does look great and it is so good to see the comic strip turned into a TV drama," says Hewlett of the production. "The costumes, the sets, the creatures are all really faithful to my original stuff. Annie Symons, the costume designer, has done a great job."

Yet, as writer Wakeham readily admits, it's proved quite a challenge to bring a comic strip to life for the TV screen.

"I had to try and keep true to the spirit of the characters," he explains. "It's been hard. There are differences between the comic strip and the drama. We wanted to make sure there was more emotion in the TV drama. It's one thing having a satire in a style magazine running once a month, but you want viewers to come back again, and so there have to be human elements that you can connect with."

The film is part of an overall revamp for BBC3 that will tie-in with a major new multi-platform strategy for the digital channel. From next Tuesday, all BBC3 programmes will be simulcast on the web at

Doctor Who Art and Magazines on ebay

(Posted by John Freeman, updated 6/2/08): Several items are now up for sale on ebay from me, with more to come, which some readers may be interested in here:

Doctor Who Comic Art

"Ravens" Promotional Art
This piece of art by Brian Williamson (right) was commissioned to promote the comic strip "Ravens", written by Andrew Cartmel, which ran in Doctor Who Magazine #188 - 190 in 1992. It would have featured in Diamond Previews and attendant PR but I cannot recall if I ever featured it in DWM itself.
The story saw a medieval Japenese warrior transported to the present to save a mother and child from a teenage gang.
Brian is now of course contributing comic strip to Torchwood Magazine as well as many other publications.
The illustration measures just over 210 mm width by 300 mm and the board includes the signature of the artist, in pencil. It is drawn on Marvel art board.

• "Metamorphosis"
The Daleks get a satisfying comeuppance in one of the final pages from "Metamorphosis", a strip written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Lee Sullivan for the Doctor Who Year Book 1993. In the story, the Seventh Doctor and companion Ace turn the tables on the Daleks' plot to transform the Doctor (due to his Time Lord genes' susceptibility) and a shipload of 'blank' embryos into Dalek-hybrids with their Mutation-Beam.

Doctor Who Weekly

Early issues of the Marvel weekly that mutated into the Monthly and then Doctor Who Magazine. Some great strip work by writers such as Pat Mills and John Wagner and Steve Moore, and artists Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd and Steve Dillon.

Issue One (with transfers)
Issue Two (with transfers)
Issue Three (no transfers)
Issue Four (with transfers)
Issue Five
Issue Six
Issue Seven
Issue Eight
Issue Nine
Issue 10

Doctor Who Comic Classics

The first four issues of this Marvel UK title reprinting the early Doctor Who comic strips that featured in Countdown, TV Action and TV Comic. The Countdown strips are excellent and the magazine was a labour of love from Gary Russell and his team.

Doctor Who Comic Classics Issue 1
Doctor Who Comic Classics Issue 2
Doctor Who Comic Classics Issue 3
Doctor Who Comic Classics Issue 4


Dinky SHADO Mobile
This is the later re-issue with the 'rugged' roof. Comes with much sought after missiles - three of them!

US Comics

Love and Rockets #1

Monday, 4 February 2008

Mike Battles On!

Out now is the lastest issue of much-praised UK indie title Sgt. Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero. #10 is the final part of the epic adventure Last Admin Hero, wrapped in a fantastic colour cover.

When the terrorist group A.C.R.O.N.Y.M hijack a top-secret weapons lab and hold the world to ransom, Sgt Mike Battle goes in to stop them but gets captured. To make matters worse A.C.R.O.N.Y.M have also hijacked the TORCH OF LIBERTY, a hi-tech Orbiting Defence Satellite, and have set it on a course to vaporise Washington. The world’s only hope is John Trojan, a humble bespectacled office worker who was on the toilet when A.C.R.O.N.Y.M struck.

“John Trojan was very much an accidental hero in the first 2 acts of the story” explains writer/artist Graham Pearce. “He manages to stumble his way through a couple of action sequences like Mr Bean… but now he has to find the courage to rescue Sgt Mike Battle and stop the terrorists.

“if you're not reading Sgt. Mike Battle, you're letting the terrorists win!” advised Kelvin Green over on what is now Comic Bulletin, while Grant Springford, the creator of another indie title, Pest Control, describes Mike Battle as "definitely one of the most fun titles on the small press market at the moment!”

Having completed his 80 plus page story, Pearce says isn’t in any hurry to tell another epic just yet. “After all the work and attention that went into making Last Admin Hero, I need to unwind with a simpler story. Issue #11 will be a straight forward action comic which recounts how the Sarge nearly captured Osama Bin Laden in December 2001. After that, I’ve got several more multipart stories to tell, including a crossover with a British secret agent!"

Mike Battle #10 is available for just £1.50 for 40 b+w pages from Graham Pearce c/o 42 Talbot Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 9QX. For more information, visit

Prestonpandemonium 3

Just when you thought that there couldn't possibly be any more Scottish comics related news comes confirmation from Nigel Barker that the third of his Prestonpandemonium mini comic marts will be held on Saturday 31 May.

Running from Noon to 3pm in the Prestoungrange Gothenburgh pub in Prestonpans, East Lothian near Edinburgh, the mart will be part of the Three Harbours Arts Festival. Entrance for the general public is free while dealer's tables are £10. More details about the event and the location are on Nigel's website plus photos from the previous two Prestonpandemoniums.

Kidnapped - Collector's Limited Edition

With thanks to Ron Grosset at Waverley Books we can show you the preview illustration of the two volume Collector's Limited Edition of Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy's Kidnapped graphic novel.

In addition to a hardback version of the graphic novel this will include a new hardback book entitled Creating The Graphic Novel taking a behind the scenes look at how the graphic novel was put together and heavily illustrated with Cam's original pencils and pre-production work.

The two books will be clothbound with embossed covers and will be safely housed in a slipcase. The edition will be limited to 500 numbered copies which will be signed by the creators.

The release date is expected to be later this year with a price tag around the £50 mark and it will only be available from the Books From Scotland website.

Babies Go Boom

UK independent publisher Orang Utan Comics has announced a new title they're describing as “Calvin and Hobbes meets Spy vs Spy”.

Baby Boomers is a heartwarming tale of two adorable infants and their ongoing desire to cause each other as much physical pain as possible.

Writer Richard McAuliffe and artist Chad Cicconi say that with the new title, they are simply doing their part to convince the next generation of comic readers that perhaps having children might not be the best option to take. While at the same time reassuring those who have already spawned that things really could be much worse.

“As soon as I saw the sample pages I knew this was a title that we had to get out there” explains Orang Utan Comics founder Peter Rogers. “No Universe, no continuity, no convoluted backstory. Just two babies fighting - with Jerry Bruckheimer producing and John Woo in the director’s chair.

"Baby Boomers is as high concept as it gets and that’s why it works. Simple but never stupid, Baby Boomers is like a classic newspaper humour strip on steroids.”

McAuliffe and Cicconi are both relative newcomers and Baby Boomers is their first published work.

“I just hope people like it and find it funny," says McAuliffe. "If they do, it's all in the writing, if not... blame the artist, he won't mind. I'd like to thank all the people who saw snippets of this online and gave us so much encouragement to make the move into print.”

“I had a great time working on this book, and I'm excited to see it in print” says artist Chad Cicconi.

Baby Boomers is scheduled to launch at this year’s Web and Mini Comix Thing in London . And it will also be available to buy online at the Orang Utan Comics site from March. For more information on Orang Utan Comics and what else they have planned for 2008, visit them online at

Hanging around as The Doctor

In the run up to recording an interview for an upcoming "Stripped for Action" feature on an as-yet-unannounced future Doctor Who DVD, I came across a few photographs in my archive from my time as editor of Doctor Who Magazine I thought might be of interest.

For DWM Issue 140 we commissioned ace artist John Higgins to draw a painted cover, to tie in with the story he'd drawn in the issue (Keepsake by Simon Furman). The painting arrived, we liked it, we told John so, and we sent it off to Sylvester McCoy's agent for approval.

Sylvester didn't like it.

So we had to go back to John and tell him Sylvester didn't like it and cower under our desks as expletives rained down on Redan Place from somewhere in Croydon (a bit less dangerous than the huge crane that crashed into the offices at a later date, but that's another story).

Still, Sylvester was nothing if not helpful (he always was) and I was duly invited up to recording of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, a story set often in a large tent being recorded... in a tent. At Elstree, in a car park, to be precise, the recording location necessitated by problems with asbestos found in the BBC's studios.

The aim: to try and get the painting sorted out and keep the issue on schedule.

This was a) the first time I'd been to a recording of Doctor Who and b) the first time I'd met Sylvester (and also one of the first times I'd met producer John Nathan-Turner, who turned in his chair to greet me and almost fell backward, which would have brought even more disaster to an already difficult shoot if I hadn't grabbed the chair in time. I could hear the curses of some vitriolic Who fans even as I did it).

I didn't know what to expect from Sylvester but I certainly didn't expect him to be so helpful: he looked at the art I'd brought with me, offered his comments ("too dour" he opined) and then suggested he pose for some photographs to help out.

Not only did he pose for photographs - he even climbed the scaffolding used to construct the emergency set (health and safety would have had a fit if they'd seen him!) and swung around to try and match John's striking pose in the painting as closely as possible. Then with that, he apologised for being difficult and went back to filming.

Anyway, I sent the photos to John, he repainted Sylvester's face (still firing off invectives, I imagine), Sylvester approved the revised art and we made the most of it, not only using it as planned as a cover but also as a poster.

You can see how closely Sylvester managed to match his comics self - remember, only the face was changed in the revised version.

This wasn't the only time Sylvester posed for reference - I took several photographs of him during location shooting for Survival and we often used other photographs taken by Steve Cook - but it was certainly the most memorable!

Exclusive: Stand By For Action!

Comics International is to continue its unique coverage of classic TV SF in British comics with six linked features devoted to the shows of Gerry Anderson.

Written by Shaqui Le Vesconte, a leading expert on Anderson in comics (he's webmaster for Gerry Anderson: The Complete Comics History), this mammoth and exhaustive series is to showcase artwork by some of the world’s top illustrators who brought the fantastic worlds of International Rescue and Spectrum to life on the page, including such greats as Frank Bellamy, Ron Embleton and Mike Noble.

This special series begins in Comics International #205 (March 2008) under a special tribute cover, with an overview of Anderson’s 45-year long association with comics. With each succeeding 100-page issue also featuring an appropriate Anderson cover, Part 2 (CI #206) focuses on the early years spotlighting Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray in the 1960s weekly, TV Comic.

Part 3 (#207) is dedicated to the many strip incarnations of Thunderbirds while Part 4 (#208) features Captain Scarlet and Joe 90. Comics based on Anderson’s live action projects, UFO, Space:1999 and others are explored in Part 5 (#209) while Part 6 (#210) wraps it all up with a look at Project SWORD, Agent 21, Starcruiser and those Anderson concepts seen only in comics or test story form.

Anderson’s many creations have not just appeared in British titles. His vivid futures hold global appeal to young and old alike. Accordingly, the six-parter will also explore various international editions.

Cosmic Publications is offering Gerry Anderson devotees an exclusive a money-saving opportunity to have these six special issues delivered direct to their door every month as they come off the presses. Not only is it dropping its usual 12-issue minimum, but it is offering six issues for the price of five! Get #205-210 for just £15 (£19 first class) in the UK; mainland Europe £25/€36; rest of the world $60 (air)/$46 (surface).

To take advantage of this offer, email with your name, address and payment details quoting reference FAB01 OFFER or send to: Comics International (Department FAB01), 8 Galliford Road, Maldon, Essex CM9 4XD, England. PayPal [] and all major credit cards accepted. Make cheques etc payable to Cosmic Publications. Subscriptions enquiries telephone: 01621 877231 [011-44-1621 8772321 from North America].

Acquired by Cosmic Publications at the end of 2006, Comics Iinternational was launched in April 1990 to fill a need for a trade magazine for the US and UK comics industry. From its 48-page 4,000 copy debut, it has expanded to a 100-page monthly with many pages in full colour and a circulation in excess of 24,000. Read internationally by fans, collectors, publishers and creators, it is the independent guide to the world of English-language comics.

Jeykll and Hyde Graphic Novel

This year's graphic novel created for the One Book - One Edinburgh reading campaign by the "Scottish Dream Team" of Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy will be the Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

As with last year's Kidnapped graphic novel this will be available in four different versions with Waverley Books publishing the original language version, the Lowland Scots version and the Scots Gaelic version, with Barrington Stoke publishing the Modern Text version.

Unlike last year where the cover illustration changed between editions, this year there will be a consistent approach with all versions using Cam Kennedy's moody illustration of the title characters standing back to back. The books will be differentiated by the colour of their covers - blue for the original, orange for the Scots, green (appropriately) for the Gaelic, and purple for the Modern Text.

In addition to the graphic novels a new publication of the original text novel has been created with the same cover in red and with a selection of Cam's sketches for the graphic novel included throughout the text.

This is the edition that will be available free to Edinburgh residents on Friday 22 February, the same date that both the book and all versions of the graphic novels will be available to buy through the usual outlets.

Local Heroes Exhibition

There were more details at Hi-Ex of the comics exhibition that the National Library of Scotland is putting on later in the year in Edinburgh.

Previously reported here as Comics Grow Up! it has now been retitled as Local Heroes - The Art Of The Graphic Novel and will be taking place at the National Library Of Scotland on Edinburgh's George IV Bridge from 4 April to 1 June.
The exhibition will be open seven days a week for the two month run and admission is free.
More details can be found at the NLS Website.

Hi-Ex: High Excitement In The Snow

The Inverness comic convention Hi-Ex really couldn't have chosen a worse weekend weather-wise with heavy snow, high winds and sub-zero wind chill in the days leading up to it but, despite loosing some guests and dealers to the weather, it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the participants - unless you were tied to a light post outside in the cold wind.

Inverness is at sea-level and so whilst the snow wasn't particularly deep in the city those of us driving north had to brave the snow over 1500 foot altitude sections of the A9 having given up counting the number of snow ploughs and gritters we passed that were trying to keep the road open.

Held in the newly refurbished Eden Court Arts Centre, the main section of the con took over the ground floor of the old Bishops Palace with the panels being held in one of the new theatres.

The first inkling the general public got that this was not a normal weekend at Eden Court would have been the troopers of the 501st UK Garrison who, ironically, did not have any snowtroopers in their midst. They proved a fascination for the local kids, even if some were a bit wary of the black troopers.

Manning artist Graeme Neil Reid's sales table, I tended to see the convention from the dealer's perspective. The dealer's room certainly proved a popular destination for the punters with barely a break on the Saturday as well as being surprisingly busy on the Sunday as well.

Meanwhile any time I got a chance to pop into the Artist's Room there were queues in front of most of the tables. Here Colin MacNeil takes a short breather from sketching with a cup of something warm...

...while John Higgins and Declan Shalvey are still hard at it.

Back in the Dealer's Room Cam Kennedy was hard at work on the Waverley Books table signing all that was put in front of him as Ron Grosset of Waverley Books looked on. While the table was based on last year's Kidnapped graphic novel Ron was good enough to show some of the pages of Cam's art for the forthcoming Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to those who were interested.

There was a small display of 2000AD art, while those who were not tempted by the art for sale in the Dealer's and Artist's Rooms had a chance to bid in the charity auction on pages from Boo Cook, Liam Sharp, Graeme Neil Reid, Richard Elson and Rufus Dayglo.

The auction, which was entertainingly compared by Michael Carrol, raised some £600 for the Children 1st charity (the Scottish version of the NSPCC) with the raffle also adding to the eventual total. I was sitting beside the Childen 1st representative during the auction and she was delighted with the amounts that were being bid.

The one noticeable thing over the weekend was the numbers of the general public that were attending. There had been a lot of local pre-publicity for the event and from the people that were coming past our table it had certainly paid off. The free entrance for those in costume proved entertaining as we watched kids appear in various outfits. Here Superman and Dennis The Menace ponder what to buy with the money they just saved at the door.

Organisers Vicky Stonebridge and Rich Clemments, who didn't look too panicked over the two day event, hit their hoped for attendance target for the entire weekend on the first day and so Hi-Ex 2 seems to be very much on the cards for early next year.

So goodbye from a chilly but busy Hi-Ex 2008 - see you in 2009.

  • You can read Graeme Neil Reid's report on Hi-Ex on his blog.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

When alien cats attack...

Putting a few items up on ebay over the weekend and the SHADO Mobile I decided to include attracted the attention of a dangerous foe during photography....

I know a Siamese cat gave SHADO a few problems in the show but nothing on this scale!

Yes, yes, I know... special effects just aren't what they used to be.

Death Watch from Broken Voice

Leading UK comics indie Broken Voice Comics recently released an online edition of Chapter 8 of its flagship title – the online graphic novel Shades. (Some early episodes of Shades are also trailed on ROK Comics).

Written by David A J Berner and illustrated in full colour by artist Harsho Mohan Chattoraj, Shades tells the story of a group of heroes in the UK, struggling to come to terms with their role in late 20th Century Britain; a Britain still haunted by the loss of Empire.

“This is an important milestone for us,” explains Berner. “We intend to release the print version of Shades in two volumes. Chapter 8 is the final chapter of Volume 1 and so we will be preparing formal submissions to publishers very shortly.”

“Personally, I think it’s a fantastic chapter to end the volume,” he added. “Harsho has produced some of his best artwork to-date and, whilst it will be a little while before readers can see it all online, story-wise, there’s still plenty in store for them!”

“The chapter opens with the central characters trying to deal with the loss of one of their number and proceeds to flesh out the back-story of the Shaman, one of the more enigmatic characters in the book. And then, of course there’s a spectacular ending which – for obvious reasons – I’m not at liberty to disclose!”

Andersonic #5 On Sale via ebay

A quick plug for Andersonic Issue 5, now available via ebay as well as by post, a fanzine dedicated to all things Gerry Anderson that is garnering much praise from fans of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet et al.

This issue comprises 40 A5 pages with colour covers and includes articles on the UFO comic strips, The Females of Century 21, The Investigator, Trapped in the Sky, The Man Who Came Back, Space:1999's connection with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dorzak, a Captain Scarlet retrospective and even something on Star Maidens.

• Andersonic Issue 5 costs £2.10 incl UK postage from R.Farrell, 11 Stevenson Drive, Spital, Wirral, CH63 9AH or via paypal to; or buy it via ebay

Shooting the Witness

Shooting the Witness is an exhibition at London's Political Cartoon Gallery (6 March – 12 April 2008) of the work of the Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his assassination in London.

Naji Al-Ali was one of the most prominent cartoonists in the Arab world. Sarcastic, poignant and perhaps too bold, El Ali's cartoons were drawn from his experience as a Palestinian refugee since childhood and clearly reflected his political stance.

Naji Al-Ali had no political affiliations and the absence of slogans and dogma in his work brought both success and criticism. His bold and illustrative cartoons, widely published over the past 20-30 years, reveal the tragic state of the Middle East. The artist combined art and political satire like none other; his work sadly still rings true today, drawing a critique of all sides in the conflict, and the world's complicity in the prolonged occupation of the Palestinians.

"Naji al-Ali developed a stark and symbolic style during his thirty-year campaign on behalf of the Palestinians, a web site dedicated to him declares. "Unaligned with any political party, he strove to speak to and for ordinary Arab people. His life was seamlessly interwoven with the trials of exiled Palestinians. Due to invasion, censorship and threats he lived in exile most of his life, much of the time between Beirut and Kuwait."

His cartoons portrayed the bitter struggle and plight of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression. He also campaigned against the absence of democracy, widespread corruption, and gross inequality in the Arab world. He was said to have antagonized virtually everyone in the Middle East. During his lifetime, he was said to have drawn around 40,000 drawings, on average two cartoons a day, working for various publications in the Arab world.

On 22 July 1987, Naji al-Ali was shot in the face and mortally wounded in London, outside the offices of al-Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper for which he drew political caricatures. He died five weeks later.

His killers were never identified.

For the first time in London, sixty of Naji Al-Ali’s original artwork will be exhibited in the Political Cartoon Gallery, the world’s only centre dedicated to Political Cartoons and Caricature. The gallery is organising the exhibition in cooperation with the SOAS Palestine Society, the Nakba60 group, Cartoon County and the family of Naji Al-Ali.

• The Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, London WC1E 7BS, is open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.30pm and on Saturdays between 11.30am – 5.30pm.
Wikipedia article on Nji Al-Ali

Hi-Ex in the Highlands: First Report

Over on the Forbidden International blog, Joe Gordon has posted one of the first reports on Hi-Ex, the first major comics convention staged in Inverness held this weekend. Guests included Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Colin MacNeil and many others, and downthetubes contributor Jeremy Briggs was at the event so we hope he'll give us his insights soon (unless he's been eaten by reindeer or escaped wolves or something on his way back from the Highlands).

"I asked [the creators and stall holders] how their experience [of the con] had been and had it been worth the trip?" Joe reports. "They all responded in the affirmative - they had all been enjoying the con and, yes, it had been worth it both in terms of exposure and financially (FutureQuake’s Dave happily reported that decent sales meant he would indeed be eating this evening and not trying to pull raw fish from the nearby river like some comics geek Gollum), while Graeme had actually sold out of some of his titles he had brought up.

"Note to some of the other folks in the Brit comics community who were wondering if Inverness was worth adding to their list of cons to try attending - that looks like a big yes from where I am standing and from some of the small press folks who came along, so if you are reading this and wondering if you should think about attending any future one, drop the boys a line and ask them how it went for them."

• Check the FPI Flickr stream for photos of the Hi-Ex convention weekend starting here
Read another review of Hi-Ex on Hi-Arts by comics neophyte Georgina Coburn

Latest News on

Contact downthetubes

• Got a British Comics News Story? E-mail downthetubes!

• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials:

Click here to subscribe to our RSS NewsFeed

Powered by  FeedBurner