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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Book And Magazine Collector 294

The latest issue of Book and Magazine Collector, issue 294, is now available and has a selection of interesting articles.

David Ashford and Norman Wright's Great British Comic Artists series hits number 28 with Philip Mendoza who worked for Thriller Comics Library and Playhour as well as producing painted covers for Pan Books.

The Ian Fleming cover refers to two different articles, one on the type of books that Fleming collected himself and one on the collectiblity of books signed by Fleming.
The issue also has a long article on The American Rivals of James Bond (due to conclude in the next issue) of various other spy and adventurer book series, as well as an article on the science fiction author Jack Williamson.

Book and Magazine Collector costs £3.50 and is available from WH Smith or directly from the B&MC website.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Thunderbirds Specsavers Ad

(Updated 11 April): Now being screened in the UK is this fun Thunderbirds-inspired advertisement for Specsavers featuring an updated Virgil Tracy and The Hood in a mini adventure to promote their Specsavers Reaction lenses. The advertisement was shot using the same techniques as employed in the original 1960s production.

The mini adventure sees Virgil pursued by his arch-enemy, the villainous Hood, through snow capped mountains. Virgil comes out of a tunnel into the glare of the sun and his Specsavers lenses immediately darken to protect his vision. The Hood is not so lucky and, blinded by the bright light, he crashes into a mountain. The chase is over and Virgil escapes again, thanks to modern technology, and to the relief of his father, Jeff.

Specsavers Creative Director Graham Daldry worked with director Tobias Fouracre at Tandem Films to film the new TV ad, which recreates the excitement of the hit 1960s children’s series, including the original Thunderbirds March music written by Barry Gray.

"It was a fascinating experience working with the guys from International Rescue and The Hood," says Daldry. "They were all extremely professional and I was particularly impressed by the fact that The Hood did his own stunts (and yes, he did walk away from the explosion).

"It's been a long time since they were on our screens and we hope that the Specsavers advert will relaunch their careers."

The filming, which took place in Clapham Studios in London, marked a departure from computer-generated imagery in an effort to stay as close as possible to the original "Supermarionation" production techniques. This meant enlisting experts who had worked on the original supermarionation, using miniatures for the wide shots and filming a chemical explosion. The team even got to work with one of the puppeteers from the original series.

Continues Daldry: ‘It was great change to be filming in three dimensions, where real characters cast real shadows on the model makers scenery.’

The commercial is already attracting interest from die-hard Thunderbirds fans, and Granada Studios, who own the rights to the original series, haven’t ruled out that it may be shown on our screens again in the future. Says a spokesman; ‘We are delighted to introduce Thunderbirds to a new generation."

Specsavers on YouTube
Specsavers web site
Tandem Films' blog notes on the advertisement

Friday Fun: Unsold SciFi Pilots

After getting a phone call from a TV producer this week seeking comics that could be adapted for TV - and suggesting a few British independents and UK publishers he should try -- it seems it's TV pilot pitching season out there in meeja-land. Here's some more ideas from the wacky 1970s and 1980s -- anyone remember their original airings?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

More Local Heroes Events In Edinburgh

The National Library of Scotland have released details of more free events to tie-in with their Local Heroes exhibition on the art of graphic novels. In addition to the events already mentioned here on downthetubes, two more talks plus two workshops have been added.

On Saturday 17 May at 10am there will be a family workshop entitled Let's do Kamishibai! This is suitable for children of 7 and over who can make manga-style picture cards with artist Julianna Capes based on traditional Japanese stories told by Mio Shapley and Fergus McNicol, while on Friday 23 May at 2.30pm, the Metaphrog team will be running a workshop to introduce children of 8-12 years to basic design and illustration techniques.

Meanwhile, for older readers, current Dan Dare artist Gary Erskine will give an illustrated talk on his career on Tuesday 6 May at 7pm, and the season of events will conclude on Wednesday 28 May at 7pm with an illustrated talk from D C Thomson's Managing Editor David Donaldson who has been scriptwriter for The Broons and Oor Wullie since 1962.

As ever more details of the events and the exhibition itself are available from the NLS website.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

William, not Billy the Cat

The Beano's Billy the Cat artist Nigel Dobbyn tells us he has completed his script for his Victorian-style Billy the Cat adventure "William the Cat", a ten page strip will appear in the Beano Annual 2010 (out in 2009).

"I'm pleased to say that the script has been accepted without any changes," says Nigel, "so I'll be drawing it up over the next few months.

"Since this was so well received, I aleady have plans for writing and drawing further, modern day, Billy strips. I'd never realised writing would be so much fun!"

Nigel has also just completed some illustrations for the next issue of the fanzine Dogbreath, published by the recently Eagle Award-nominated Futurequake team.

In Memoriam: Terry Maloney

Over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland has just paid tribute to writer and illustrator Terry Maloney, who died on 16 March 2008, aged 90.

In the 1930s, Maloney joined the Communist Party and renounced his Catholic upbringing and the church and volunteered for the International Brigades fighting in the Spanish Civil War in November 1937 and was assigned to the British Battalion's machine-gun company.

Steve recounts how he survived a shrapnel wound to the chest at the battle of the Ebro in August 1938, the last great Republican offensive, having already seen many of his comrades killed fighting around Gandesa. He had earlier encountered the enemy when he inadvertently crossed the lines in search of drinking water but, thinking he was an Italian, Maloney slipped away - minus the company's water bottles - before Franco's troops realised who he was.

Maloney was 'lucky': it's estimated that of the 2,000 soldiers in the British Battalion, 500 were killed and 1,200 were seriously wounded during the conflict.

He also fought in the Second World War and afterwards helped design posters for London Underground and became art editor of Spain Today (originally called first called The Volunteer for Liberty), produced by the International Brigade Association to publicise the repression in Spain under Franco.

He also took up astronomy, which led eventually to work, briefly, in Frank Hampson's studio, working on Dan Dare for the cover of Eagle, then finding work producing a number of book covers paperback science fiction novels before beginning to concentrate on work as a writer/illustrator and editor of books in the mid 1950s. His non fiction work included Other Worlds in Space and The Sky at Night.

Read Steve's tribute in full...

By Sea, By Land, By Air: An Interview with Calum Laird

This interview was first published on 9 April 2008 on dowthetubes and has been merged with this blog in 2013.

First published in 1961 Commando is Britain's last war comic. Indeed, of those British comics that many of us grew up with, only the ubiquitous Dandy and Beano are older - however, since there are eight Commandos a month, its issue count is much higher than both of its septuagenarian cousins. Commando even makes the thirty year old 2000AD look like a young upstart. 

In 2007 , long time Commando editor George Low gave downthetubes an interview on his retirement. As the title approaches issue 4100 in 2008, Jeremy Briggs talked to new editor Calum Laird, who joined DC Thomson in 1979, on the recent changes he has made and the growth in Commando related tie-ins...

downthetubes: What comics did you read as a child and which were your favourites?

Calum Laird: I started with Playhour, then Sparky, Victor and, yes really, Commando. A pal used to get US comics like Silver Surfer but they never totally worked for me.

I also remember reading someone else’s Look and Learn for The Trigan Empire stories. Working here at DC Thomson, we used to see all the war comics on the market and I really enjoyed Battle.

Favourites? Sparky and, yes really again, Commando.

downthetubes: What other DC Thomson titles have you worked on over the years?

Calum: Jackie, Etcetra, Blue Jeans, Classic Motorcycling Legends, Best Of Bunty, Dandy.

downthetubes: As readers we perceive a big difference between boys and girls titles. From a production and editorial perspective is there much difference between working on a girl’s title like Bunty or Jackie to working on a boy’s title?

Calum: From a production point of view there is little difference in a boys’ or girls’ title; the deadlines are the same and the mechanical processes are the same. Editorially, the difference is in the content, otherwise it’s broadly similar.

downtheubes: Is there a difference to working on a comic strip title like Bunty or Commando to working on a features and photos title like Jackie or Blue Jeans?

Calum: When I started on Jackie there were no photostories - they were handled by the two younger sisters, Blue Jeans and Patches - just illustrated strips. The big difference is between Commando (or any novel-style publication) and the rest. Each issue is one story as compared to several, or several plus features.

downthetubes: Having worked in the Syndication Department of DC Thomson, what other countries licence old material and what type of story is the most popular to be licensed?

Calum: Material is syndicated to all corners of the globe and not just stories. I suppose that historically, our Boys’ and Girls’ Paper material will be the most syndicated.

downthetubes: When did you start working on Commando and when did you get the job of editor?

Calum: I ’ve worked on Commando on four occasions, starting in 1981. I got the job of editor in September last year (2007) joining up with Chief Sub Scott Montgomery who I’d previously worked with on The Dandy.

downthetubes: Having worked on Commando at different times over the last quarter of a century, what different jobs have you performed on the title and how has the production and editorial side changed over the years?

Calum: I’ve always been editorial. I’ve never been on the art side of things. So it’s always been the same, editing contributions and organising illustration of the stories then getting them ready for printing. It’s different now, because there’s a computer and phone on every desk, sorry, workstation. I still prefer to sub with a pen and paper -- I must be too set in my ways after the last "quarter of a century"!

downtheubes: For the collectors, the biggest change that you have made as editor is the addition of credit details in the shape of a grenade. While some artists have signed their work in recent years, the writers for the most part have remained mysterious. Were the credit grenades something that you had planned from the start and was there resistance within the company to introducing them?

Calum: It wasn't planned from the start -- it just became clear that part of the market was interested in that information so we decided to put it on. No, there was no resistance. The Credit Grenade was done by an unknown artist (unknown by me, anyway) for advertising purposes a long time ago.

downthetubes: With eight issues a month, four new and four reprint, how far ahead of the publishing schedule do you work?

Calum: How long is a piece of string? Our print deadline is two months before sale date. Our artists may take up to three months to illustrate a story and for us to organise a cover, so that’s five months. Then it can take a month for a script to go from synopsis to artist-ready. That would make it around six months.
downtheubes: What artists and writers are currently regulars on Commando

Calum: I’m tempted to say buy the books and you’ll find out from the credits on page three...
Covers: Keith Page, Carlos Pino. Jordi Macabich, José Maria Jorge, John Ridgway, Ian Kennedy and Nicholas Forder.
Inside artwork: Page, Pino, Macabich, Garijo, Morihan, Olivera, Vila, Jorge and Ridgway.

Writers: Alan Hebden, Ferg Handley and Mike Knowles provide a lot of stories.

Other writers, like Norman Adams and Sean Blair, provide regular contributions, just at a lower frequency.
downthetubes: With a number of Commando artists not being UK based and the growing ease of sending documents electronically, do you still receive the original art boards from the artists or is the art now mainly delivered in the form of high quality scans?

Calum: With the exception of a few covers, all the illustrations arrive on board. It’s much more satisfying to open a parcel that an e-file.

downthetubes: Some of the artists provide covers as well as the comic strip. Is it preferable for the same artist to do both?

Calum: No, not really. Every case is different and our arrangements with artists are different.

downthetubes: The covers display a range of styles: José Maria Jorge’s fully painted covers, Keith Page’s coloured line art and John Ridgway’s computer generated covers for instance. Is there an editorial policy of varying the styles of covers for a given batch of four titles?

Calum: The range of styles reflects the range of inside artwork and we do try to have a mix of stories and styles in every four. I suppose it’s like a comic where you have different artists doing different strips rather than one doing every story.

downthetubes: Most non-readers consider that Commando stories only cover World War 2 despite the title covering most conflicts from the Roman Empire to the Gulf War. Do you have a favourite era and are there any eras that you would like to see more stories from?

Calum: At the risk of giving what sounds like a politician’s answer, what I like has nothing to do with it. It’s what our feedback tells me that the majority of our readers and potential readers want that counts. My job is to make sure that the stories are set when and where they want them and they are good, entertaining yarns.

I like to give them something different every now and again, though, just to keep it interesting...

downthetubes: The readers of Commando have recently been asked to take part in a survey. As Commando has never had a letters page, has there ever been that much feedback from readers prior to the survey?

Calum: Yes, we get plenty of feedback. Our readers have always been happy to put pen to paper.

downthetubes: One of the survey questions asked readers where they purchased their copies. Could you tell us where we would expect to be able to buy the title?
Calum: Local newsagents, WH Smith, Eason & Sons, Martin McColl, WHS Travel, Co-op, NAAFI, SPAR...

downthetubes: Foreign comics websites show the number of foreign editions of Commando. Are Commando stories still being licensed in other countries?

Calum: Yes. Finland’s Korkeajännitys has been a long-time collaborator and Eurokids in India have just come aboard. There are contacts with Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well. We are also available by subscription to all corners of the globe at very reasonable rates. (More info by emailing:

downthetubes: The D C Thomson syndication website shows Starblazer issue 269, which was originally published in black and white, coloured for potential reprinting. Other than the two Commando annuals which used a larger coloured format, have any Commando stories been reprinted in colour around the world and would you like to see some Commando stories reproduced in colour?

Calum: I know about those images because I organised their colouring. That story was chosen because those particular images lent themselves to being coloured, a lot of black and white illustration doesn’t. I have seen coloured Commando artwork that would turn you green. [See example below].

Would I like to see artwork in Commando meant for colour from the word go? Yes I would -- but I don’t think it would be an economic proposition as things stand. However, all things are possible and I live in hope that we may be able to do something in the future.

downthetubes: The Commando website (, is being promoted more heavily both on the back cover as well as on the inside. Has the extra promotion increased the number of visitors to the site?

Calum: It’s early days so it’s difficult to say.

downthetubes: The letters section of the website has now been replaced with a blog style comment option to go with the news and features. Are you pleased with the response of reads to the site and its various features?

Calum: All the reaction I’ve had has been positive so, yes, I’m pleased.

downthetubes: The site now has an ongoing e-comic version of Commando Issue 221, Wall Of Death, in addition to inside cover features from a variety of artists and an increasing number of covers available as wallpapers. Can we look forward to seeing more along the same lines?

Calum: Yes. The website is a developing project that will evolve over time. There will be more things to come that we haven’t even thought of yet.

downthetubes: The website also now has a shop with mugs and T-shirts available with various exclusive designs featuring the title logo and the knife emblem. Has the response to these been good and are any other items planned?

Calum: The response has been okay and we expect it to improve as we find out more about what our online shoppers want. There are more products planned including limited-edition T-shirts. Another calendar is a possibility too. E-mail me ( with suggestions.

downthetubes: The Carlton/Sevenoaks Commando reprint books have been very successful, inspiring similar IPC boys and girls titles to be published. Can we expect to see these Commando titles continuing?

Calum: There are two more planned for this year, but after that nothing has been settled. All fans of the compilations should e-mail me ( with their support.

downthetubes: With the success of the reprint books licensed to another publisher, would DC Thomson not consider doing their own annual Commando publication alongside the current Beano, Dandy, Broons and Oor Wullie publications?

Calum: I’m not sure that the two products (the compilations and our annuals) are comparable, so I don’t know how the success would impact on that decision. And just because there hasn’t been a Commando Annual since the early 1990s doesn’t mean it hasn’t been considered...

downthetubes: Of all the titles that you have worked on in your career which do you look back on with the greatest affection?

Calum: This is impossible to answer. The titles are mixed up with the people I worked with as well as the work I was doing. They’ve all been great fun to put together.

downthetubes: Commando reached Issue 4000 last year. Despite the contraction and juvenilisation of the comics market in recent years, do you foresee the title reaching its 5000th issue in around nine years time?

Calum: This is another impossible question. However, as I’m not due to retire before 2021, I certainly hope so!
downthetubes: Calum, thank you very much for your time and best of luck with Commando's continued success

All illustrations are © D C Thomson

Commando Foreign Editions

DC Thomson's Finnish partner

Commando Artists

Keith Page

Carlos Pino
 Dan Dare Info Entry:
 2000AD Artist Profile: Go

Jordi Macabich
Links Welcome!

José Maria Jorge

John Ridgway
downthetubes/Eagle Flies Again Interview: Here

Ian Kennedy

Nicholas Forder

Official Web Site:

Links Welcome!

Links Welcome!

Links Welcome!

Commando Writers
Alan Hebden
2000AD Profile: Click Here

Ferg Handley
Advice on Comics Writing: Article on Magnus

Mike Knowles

Norman Adams
Links Welcome!

Sean Blair
Advice on writing Commando: downthetubes article here
BBC News Feature:

The perils of bad colouring exposed - pink SS officers from the 1986 Warlord Annual. "I must make it plain that the "bad colouring" on the Warlord annual is not a pop at Bill Graham and his merry men," explains Calum. "They were given a single colour wash over different bits of the annuals and had to choose the best compromise. I'm sure they didn't want the SS in pink..." 

On the ComicsUK website, Lew Stringer, who knows a thing or two about artwork, points out the difference between black and white artwork drawn for colouring and black and white artwork drawn to be seen just as black and white artwork. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

By Sea, By Land, By Air

First published in 1961 Commando is Britain's last war comic. Indeed, of those British comics that many of us grew up with, only the ubiquitous Dandy and Beano are older - however, since there are eight Commandos a month, its issue count is much higher than both of its septuagenarian cousins. Commando even makes the thirty year old 2000AD look like a young upstart.

In 2007, long time Commando editor George Low gave downthetubes an interview on his retirement. As the title approaches issue 4100 in 2008, Jeremy Briggs talks to current editor Calum Laird, who joined DC Thomson in 1979, on the recent changes he has made and the growth in Commando related tie-ins... Read the Interview on the main downthetubes site

Eagle Awards voting begins

Voting for the 2007 Eagle Awards is open now at the Eagle Awards site. The Awards will be presented in May at the Bristol International Comic Expo on the 10th May 2008.

While downthetubes is not one of the comic web sites on the voting form - despite a few nominations from our loyal readers - the sites that are there are well deserving of inclusion. (It's a shame the Forbidden Planet International Weblog or Bear Alley didn't get there either, hard luck and better luck next time!)

We don't want this to sound like sour grapes, but as Joe Gordon said this last year on the FPI blog, there is still a lack of British websites in general on the voting form - but the good news is that the 2000AD Online is. And in other categories there are several British nominees, including Simon Spurrier and Tony Lee, Alan Davis, Bryan Hitch and many more, so get over to the site and get voting!

Vote in the Eagle Awards Now

Monday, 7 April 2008

Every Letter Printed Wins A T-Shirt! how the editor of The Victor, James Halley, enticed his readers to write into the comic's letters page, Tupper's Talk-In. The Tough Of The Track was runner Alf Tupper who of course mixed competitive running with eating fish and chips.

Any former Victor readers out there who would like to re-live their childhood can now purchase a new fully licensed Tough Of The Track t-shirt - and this time they are available in adult sizes.

Fine'n'Dandy specialise in D C Thomson licensed merchandise, which inevitably means Beano and Dandy, however it is worth looking through the rest of their catalogue at the other items they have. While the Jackie alarm clock may not be top of your list, you might be more interested in the Dennis The Menace place mats or fridge magnets of classic annual covers.

The Fine'n'Dandy website can be found here.

Leicester Has A Hero

The winner of the Hero for Leicester competition - part of the Blam! comics season organised by Leicester library earlier this year which included appearances by Bryan Talbot and others - was Fox Spirit by Giles Meakin.

Eight entries were shortlisted for the Hero for Leicester competition from all those received. A panel of judges including Matt Smith (Editor, 2000AD), John Freeman (ROK Comics), Bryan Talbot (Tale of One Bad Rat, Luther Arkwright) and Jay Eales (publisher of Factor Fiction) selected Fox Spirit for its sophisticated storytelling and graphic style. All the other stories received praise for their strengths but in the end there could be only one.

Talking about his strip to the Leicester Mercury, Meakin said he wanted to portray a more positive message about the city rather than draw a vigilante tackling alcohol-related crime.

"I thought that it detracted from the good work that regular people were doing behind the scenes and it was about time the unsung heroes got some recognition.

"I just needed something that linked all those people together and the idea of a guardian spirit struck a chord with me."

The strip has been published by the local newspaper as part of their coverage of the Blam! events. "We've had great feedback on the BLAM season overall," Literature Development Officer at Leicester City Council Damien Walter told downthetubes, "and we've already started planning another season of events next year."

View The Fox Spirit by Giles Meakin in full and the shortlist

Live Star Wars Art and Competition

It’s the biggest team-up in UK SF: Forbidden Planet and the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival are joining forces with the 501st UK Garrison to bring you live Star Wars Urban Art, from the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London between 23rd and 29th April.

Cult street artist The Artful Dodger, aka ADee, achieved huge recognition when he live-painted the astounding Star Wars Urban Art mural over the three days of Star Wars Celebration Europe. He’s also worked for MTV, the South Bank Show and the Sunday Times. Working live, he’ll be painting five canvases, each one a unique, one-off piece of original urban art: Iron Man versus Batman! Gothic and CyberPunk art, Manga art, plus a Dead Space image based on EA Games title (look out for free copies of the comic).

The cntrepiece will of course be a Star Wars image, with work beginning Friday 25th April and continuing through Saturday 26th April in the run up to the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival which opens on 30 April and runs until 4 May at the Apollo West End and online.

In attendance on Friday and Saturday will be the 501st UK Garrison: Vader's Fist in full Stormtrooper gear.

As a major bonus, thanks to the Sci-Fi London, the Star Wars canvas will be available to be won through the Forbidden Planet website ( at the end of the event.

ITV seeks Sanctuary

Trade magazine Broadcast reports ITV4 has secured broadcasting rights to the first season of Sanctuary, a new show starring Stargate-SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis star Amanda Tapping, which started life recently as Internet webisodes. The 20-minute web pilot gained more than 500,000 online viewers on debut.

The show centres on the dangers caused by genetic mishaps and, perhaps, deliberately engineered genetic versions of “humanity”, a darker side to the evolution of mankind which has let monsters loose in the world -- but may be the key to the future of our race.

Each webisode of Sanctuary follows the exploits of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis) as she seeks out all manner of terrifying and monstrous creatures.

Also in the cast are Dawson's Creek actor Robin Dunne who plays reluctant protege Will Zimmerman and Emilie Ullerup, (seen in Battlestar Galactica), who plays Helen's
intrepid, if somewhat reckless, daughter Ashley. Together they are drawn into a frightening and mysterious world populated by beings that defy explanation.

made by Toronto-based producer and distributor Tricon Films & Television, is the creation of veteran science fiction writer and producer Damian Kindler and directed by Martin Wood (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis). Kindler, Tapping and Wood serve as executive producers along with N. John Smith.

The TV version of the drama, currently in production from Vancouver-based Stage 3 Media for the Sci Fi Channel in the US, will air later this year on ITV4, which already screens a number of cult SF TV shows from the ITV archive including The Champions, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased and UFO.

Sanctuary is probably the first television series shot almost entirely on green screen with live action actors and uses the same style as seen in feature films 300 and Sin City.

Visit the official Santuary web site

ITV's Sanctuary Web Site

Blogging Till You Drop...

The New York Times reports some professional bloggers complain of physical and emotional strain created by an Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment. It's worst, apparently, for tech bloggers but let's be honest, sedentary jobs like comics art and writing isn't doing creators many favours when it comes to good health.

read more | digg story

London Comics Exhibition

London's independent book distributor bookartbookshop is hosting an exhibition of comics this month from London Underground Comics and the Camden Comics Stall.

Regular titles such as Modern Monstrosity, Summer Ball Tongue of the Dead, Monkeys might Puke, Ninja Bunny and Twelve Hour Shift will be displayed at the Bookartsbookshop at 17 Pitfield St, N1 6HB, London, along with the vast talents of the every changing table stock.

There's an opening night and private view on 11th April 2008 around 6ish, and the show will run until the 25th April.

Bookartsbookshop features the publications of some of Britain’s best-known artist presses and publishers of artists’ books, as well as books from abroad. The shop is a centre and a service for individual and institutional collectors, artists, publishers and the aesthetically and bibliographically curious. It is presently a not-for-profit organisation, ploughing back any profits into the improvement of the enterprise, and while it aspires to have a team of full paid staff it is still dependent partly upon volunteer labour.

Vist the Bookartsbookshop web site

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Alan Davis' new CI Cover

Courtesy of Comics International editor Mike Conroy, downthetubes is one of the first sites to be able to post a sneak peek of Alan Davis' stunning cover for Issue 206 of the comics news magazine.

The issue includes a competition to win some ClanDestine artwork, Alan's latest Marvel Comics book.

Visit the Comics International web site

Solar Wind Collected

The Bumper Book of Solar Wind, a two-volume collection of all of the issues of the award-winning and very funny Solar Wind and its equally madcap companion titles, are now available from thanks to publisher and editor Paul Scott.

"The books collect the best part of five years work from a host of contributors to all 11 issues of Solar Wind, Sunny for Girls and Big War Comic across two 250+ page volumes," Paul tells downthetubes. "Solar Wind was a spoof kid's comic, in the mould of those great comics from the late 1970s and early 1980s, helmed by a criminally irresponsible editor called Cosmic Ray.

"The comic was created by myself and Gareth Whitty after we'd written a story (Deathsphere, a future sports strip) and didn't want to give it to a publisher," he continues. "Solar Wind was my first experience of creating a comic book, and I learnt a lot from it. Especially that I don't envy the work of an Editor! But we got great reviews, won a National Comic Award, nominated for an Eagle and best of all, lots of praise from readers.

"Highlights for me included Issue 4, the Action!-inspired Aggro issue," he reveals, "Griefbringer (by Ben Clark, which is soon to become a web comic) the tale of a past-haunted tyrant in a distant fantasy kingdom and Jack Knacker, a man who deals with all of socities problems with a piece of 2x4 wood.

"There are so many other good strips that people did, that I felt it was a shame that it was doomed to oblivion once the print runs ran out, so I put together a reprint via (an on-demand internet publisher) to keep it available for contributors and readers alike.

"While the publisher takes its cut, I take no profits myself, so it's possible to order both volumes and all 500+ pages for £15," says Paul, who is impressed by the lulu service, also used by other UK comic creators such as Chris (Moon Queen) Reynolds. "I think it's a publishing revolution more small press people should take advantage of, and I couldn't have dreamt of doing this without it."

Sound of Drowning #11 On Sale Now

The Sound of Drowning #11 from creator Paul O'Connell is out now and available from eponymous web site priced just £3.

The issue includes strips such as 'The Optician', 'Mexican Surgery' and Daze: The Post Apocalyptic Avon Lady in Happy Daze, among others.

Also on sale from the same site is the beautifully drawn She's Leaving Home Mini Comic, featuring art by Lawrence Elwick.

Always busy on the comics front, Paul tells us he's currently accepting submissions for the second Soda anthology of illustrated song lyrics - a collection of illustrations inspired by lyrics from those songs that get stuck in your head all day.

Submissions should be
single page A5 300dpi, deadline 1st June 2008. More information here, plus details of the contributors to the first volume, who included Indigo, Nelson Evergreen, James Daniel Rory Price, Lawrence Elwick, Lee O'Connor and many, many others.

The Kitten Problem

Garfield animated cartoon writer Mark Evanier (also writer of the brilliant Groo comic and more) is having a hard time trapping a stray cat he's (sort of) adopted -- as much as you can adopt any cat.

His aim is to do the right thing and have it spayed, but despite taking food from him for eight months or so, it's proven remarkably savvy about what might be about to happen to it. You can read his diary of the experience here.

Good luck, Mark! Given the reproduction rate of feral cats and the problems they can cause (bless 'em), you're doing the right thing, honestly. I speak as someone who has rescued a stray myself in the past.

Other celebrity cat adopters I know include J. Michael Stracyznski and others - mainly SF writers by the way, is there some unwritten law?

Woo Who! Another Hugo?

Can we drag you away from last night's interminably cute Adipose (and how much do you want to bet that a few of them missed getting picked up by the mother ship and will turn up on Sarah Jane Adventures?) and return to some considerably more scary Doctor Who creatures?

The 2008 Hugo award nominations have been announced and Russell T Davies' new Who empire has taken three of the five nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Torchwood has one nomination with Captain Jack Harkness while Doctor Who has two with the Human Nature/Family Of Blood two parter and, what must be the bookie's favourite for the award, Blink. The Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II episode World Enough and Time, and the Battlestar Galactica telemovie Razor complete the Short Form nominations.

As for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form the nominations are Enchanted, The Golden Compass, Stardust, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, and the entire first season of Heroes.

The awards will be presented on 9 August 2008 at Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention, being held in Denver, USA.

Diamond Dan

He may remain sartorially challenged but at least the Grand Orange Lodge's superhero character now has a name.

Back in November 2007 downthetubes reported on the nameless character who was being introduced via a competition to name him. Seven year old Steven Mitchell of Lisburn came up with the winning name of Diamond Dan The Orangeman - Dan Winter being one of the founding fathers of the organisation. Other possibilities had included the rather obvious Sashman and the amusing Boyne Wonder.

The character will now be featured on merchandise including badges, notebooks and fridge magnets.

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