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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Happy 70th Birthday, Beano!

As Britain's top weekly humour comic The Beano celebrates its 70th birthday, downthetubes asked comic creators to offer their birthday wishes, and the first received have now been published in a special tribute section on the main downthetubes site, including this great Minnie the Minx drawing by Garen Ewing.

Special thanks to everyone who has responded so far!

More are very welcome: you can share your memories or thoughts about the comic on the downthtubes forum (please note, membership requires approval) where you can also post art as well as comment.

Read the Birthday Wishes Tribute
Find out more about the Official 70th Birthday Exhibition in Dundee
Visit the Official Beano web site

Find out more about the Cartoon Museum's Beano exhbition

Friday, 25 July 2008

If You Go Down to the Woods Today...

You'll find Malcolm Kirk has used ROK Comics to promote an appeal for creators for his new Scream-inspired project... and a fab little story it is too!

Check out the Back from the Depths web site

Sun, Sangria and San Diego...

• It's the San Diego Comic Con this weekend and many British comic creators, including Grant Morrison, have headed to the sunshine state for the monstrous event, surrounded by thousands of sweating people and lovely ladies in very few clothes (pic right admittedly from last year's event), promoting all manner of comics, films and other media just before they head off to promote wardrobes and interior decorating in a similar manner at some other major convention.

Yes, we are a bit jealous, although
over on his Newsarama blog, Jeff Trexler has raised concerns once again about how the event is developing. "There’s a rising concern in some quarters that Comic-Con International has sold out in ways that go beyond the lack of on-site registration," he feels.

"What once had been an educational community seems to have morphed into a PR-palooza, with the celebration of an art form giving way to corporate hype and celebutards..." You can read his full article here.

Coverage is pretty much everywhere on the US comics and other media sites: the G4TV site has a number of videos at the event and US mainstream media have their own reports on the event and its impact on pop culture, including the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ("Get Your Geek On". No, really). Even The Times has its own take on the event, noting
the first Comic-Con, in 1972, was held in the basement of a San Diego hotel and drew 300 people, almost all male. It's much more of a family affair now.

Highlights of the event so far include a premiere for the new straight to DVD Stargate: Continuum film and promotions for
X-Men Origins: Wolverine, next year’s entry from the X-Men series from Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox and the the vampire film Twilight.

Some of the best coverage I've read thus far is on Newsarama, offering full coverage of the event, including a report on Grant Morrison's new animation project for Virgin Comics, working alongside Stan Lee, as well as his X-Men work.

While downtheubes is primarily devoted to British Comics, news that novelist Orson Scott Card's classic SF Ender's Game is coming to comics, a new Marvel Comics project, stirred interest here: and we're told the art by Pascal promises to be beautiful. Chris Yost is writing. Let's hope this adaptation isn't as wordy as the disappointing comics version of Card's fantasy novel Red Prophet. The good news is that apparently the creators were being so faithful to the story that the editors felt the comic had too much narration and Yost was sent back to re-work the story without narrartion.

Among the talents at ComicCon will be Active Images, run by former Marvel UK editor Richard Starkings, along with Comicraft's "secret weapon" John JG Roshell.

Aside from hot-off-the-presses copies of the Elephantmen: War Toys and Elephantmen: Wounded Animals trade paperbacks, the latest issue of Elephantmen (#13) and the Beautiful Deluxe Edition of the Kelly/Bachalo masterpiece Captain Stoneheart & The Truth Fairy, recently much praised by top British creator David Hine, they'll have two show exclusives -- the new Tim Sale sketchbook, Heroes/Villains/Babes and the glorious hardcover edition of David Hine's gothic shocker, Strange Embrace, which features an exclusive print signed and numbered by Dave.

For those creators not at ComicCon, there's still an opportunity to benefit from the event, as Comicraft always hold their annual half price font sale right now - well worth checking out if you're looking for a new lettering font to dress up your new comic.

Newsarama Coverage of San Diego ComicCon

Tube Surfing: 25 July 2008

Dan Dare audio• Steve Winders has reviewed Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future Voyage to Venus Part 1 , Orion’s new audio version of the first half of Dan Dare’s first ever adventure from Eagle for Bear Alley, noting it sticks rigidly to Frank Hampson’s original script and this is a major strength of the production. "Hampson’s story is well paced and his witty script, with strong character interplay, transfers well to audio."

• We're sorry to report that Randy Pausch, inspirational author of The Last Lecture, died today, aged 47. We ran a news item on him and his famous lectureback in March - creators could do worse than view his talk. The Los Angeles Times (among many others) posted a tribute to him, noting his book, , has sold over two million copies and is being published in 29 languages. Memorial donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network,, or to Carnegie-Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund,

• A quick reminder that this Saturday sees the Edinburgh Zine and Small Press Fair, which is due to take place from 12 noon to 5.00pm in the upstairs section of the Forest Cafe, 3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh. Malcy Duff's new comic The 4th 4th Bridge should be on sale at the fair as well as from his Missing Twin website.

• Over on the Birmingham Mail's Speech Balloons, Paul Birch reports that on Sunday 27th July three young local comic creators will be featured on Carl Chinn's BBC Radio WM show. Among other things, Matthew Craig, Donato Esposito and Jack Davies will be discussing their new webcomic Bostin Heroes.The Mail also has a feature on the comic here. To hear the Carl Chinn radio show featuring Bostin Heroes visit:

Doctor Who had them back in the Tom Baker years. Now Judge Dredd has followed into the netherwear universe with the release of Judge Dredd underpants, avalable from August from Asda stores across the UK. A snip at £3 a pair. Will the lawman be investigating how Asda make them so cheaply? "Are these standard issue Justice Department knickers, I wonder?" ponders Joe Gordon over at Forbidden Planet International. "I’d have thought Dredd might need something with some padding around the back to make sitting on that bike all day more comfortable and prevent chafing." Coming soon: Halo Jones thongs and Gronk nose pins. (Sorry, we made the last bit up, especially about the nose pins).

• More up the street of reader here is probably the Dredd vs Death statue from First4Figures, now available from Based on an image by artist Greg Staples, the figurine features the future lawman locked in a deadly struggle with the alien superfiend - and all orders taken through the webshop will come with an exclusive print signed by the Staples droid, which isn't available in any stores. A snip at £119.99 (Earth money). Recession? What recession? Your domicile demands it!

In Review: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics

Editor: Paul Gravett
Publisher: Constance and Robinson

Considering crime comics as featured in this collection span some 80 years of the medium's history, I can't begin to imagine how hard it must have been for Paul Gravett, editor of The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, to whittle his choices down to the excellent selection featured in this book.

Sandwiched between two great crime-inspired stories by Alan Moore ("Old Gangsters Never Die", drawn by the much-missed-from-comicdom Lloyd Thatcher - where is he now? - and "I Keep Coming Back" Oscar Zarate) are 22 more top tales. These feature the work of creators such as Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Max Allan Collins, and Mickey Spillaine, the latter at his nastiest with the truly hard boiled Mike Hammer, just one of a host of characters many will recognise such as The Spirit, Ms. Tree and Agent X-9.

Superbly restored, albeit for one unfortunate page transposition in the X-9 story, the choice of stories is a delight, from straight mystery with Bernie Kriegstein adapting an 87th Precinct Mystery, "Blind Man's Bluff", originally penned by Ed McBain, to the creeping horror of crime-does-not pay tales from Johnny Craig ("The Sewer") and Jack Cole ("Murder, Morphine and Me"). These veteran tales are neatly balance with modern stories from the likes of Paul Grist ("Kane: Rat in the House") and Gianluigi Gonano and Gianni De Luca ("Comissario Spada: The Street").

This is the kind of well put together, lovingly designed collection that not only delivers a great rad but leaves you wanting to track more from the creators featured. If crime comics are new to you but you fancy more than superhero fare, you'd be well advised to give this a try and find out what you've missed. If you are a crime comics fan, then The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics may well send you hunting for creators you'll discover here for the first time. Recommended.

Buy Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics from
Buy Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics from
View a selection of pages on The Times web site
Read an interview with Paul Gravett about Mammoth Crime Comics

Crime comic articles by Paul Gravett on his web site
Crime Comics: The Many Colours Of Noir
Charles Burns: Body Horror In Black Ink
Bernie Krigstein: The Right To Silence
José Muñoz: 2007 Angoulême Grand Prix Winner
Warren Pleece: Profile & Interview

Other Reviews
Read a review of the book by Steve Holland on Bear Alley
Read a review of the book on Crime Time
Read a review on Gad Sir! Comics

Other Links
Listen to an MP3 of "Old Gangsters Never Die"

Weird Web Finds

Turn your iphone into a light saber

Warning: video above includes swearing...

If there was ever a reason to buy an iphone, surely the PhoneSaber app is it, now available free from the Apple
"App Store".

This fun little app fires up a virtual lightsaber that uses the iPhone accelerometer to crackle and fizz as you swish your phone around.

For Star Wars fans this is possibly the greatest technological event of the year... and with tongue in cheek, the sugust techie organ ITPro has declared "this alone proves that the iPhone is an elegant device for a civilized age, rather than the crude mobiles that most people have by their sides."

Apart from the demo above, here's a video I found on flickr of another Star Wars fan enjoying their find -- part of a continuing series, apparently.

Alternatively, how about a much more useful application: iBeer. Sadly, virtual...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Tube Surfing: 23 July 2008

Two DVD releases coming soon from the worlds of Gerry Anderson are worth a mention. The last of the major Anderson productions to reach UK DVD, the 1969 live action feature film Doppelganger, will be released under its American title of Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun on 8 September. Doppelganger was very much the prototype for the UFO TV series which made use of much of its hardware. The other Anderson release is the complete Thunderbirds TV series on Blu-Ray on 15 September. This will be the first time that any of the Anderson titles has been released in a high definition format although the 4:3 format of the originals will probably be zoomed and otherwise reformatted for 16:9 widescreen.
Buy Journey to the Far Side of the Sun from (Region 2)
Buy the Thunderbirds Blu-Ray set from
Buy Journey to the Far Side of the Sun from (Region 1)

The second Hillhead Comic and Toy Fair of 2008 will take place in Hillhead Library, Glasgow on Saturday 6 September starting at 11am and running to 3pm. Entry is free and there are more details on their Myspace page.

The special Virgin Dan Dare hardback which reprints the first three issues of the seven issue limited series is now in the shops. This should not be confused with the full version of the story which will be released as a graphic novel in October. The seventh and final part of the Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine title is available from this week and it is a double issue.

More Halloween Comics on the way

Halloween comic from Devil's DueFollowing the success of Halloween: Nightdance, the four issue mini-series based on the popular film franchise, more Halloween-inspired comics are on their way, after issues one and two of the mini series proved so popular publishers Devil’s Due have had to reprint them.

The Halloween 30th Anniversary Special will be a 48 page standalone title featuring artwork by comic talent such as Tim Seeley, Bret Wedele, and Danijel Zezelj.

Writer Stef Hutchinson says that "This year is the 30th anniversary of the film, and the previous decades have all had some sort of celebration. In 1988, they brought back the character in Halloween 4; and in 1998, they had the 20th anniversary film Halloween: H20. This year, with the remake having come out in 2007, there's nothing in place to celebrate it.

"So what we have here is a double-sized anniversary book, with five short stories inspired by characters and situations from John Carpenter's classic. The artists have been chosen by the series editor, Stephen Christy, and he's brought in some fantastic talent to bring these to life."

With other Halloween comics planned, such as a mini-series focusing on Laurie Strode, there is much for Halloween fans to look forward to.

• For more information, see

Monday, 21 July 2008

Les Starblazeurs

It has been eleven months since both downthetubes and Bear Alley mentioned the Starblazer Adventures role-playing game due out from Cubicle Seven.

The Starblazer Adventures core rulebook is now scheduled to be in games stores in "Autumn/Winter 2008" according to the Cubicle Seven website, which means that it may still beat their other licenced SF role playing game, Doctor Who, to the shops (but admittedly it is unlikely to outsell it). In the meantime you can download a PDF preview of the rulebook from the Cubicle Seven site.

If you cannot wait for a new dose of Starblazer then take a look at the downthetubes list of Starblazer foreign editions where, with the help of Shaqui Le Vesconte, we have added details of the French Starblazer reprints.

Comic Book Adventures in Time and Space!

A group of Manchester comic and Doctor Who fans have organised a special event on 18 October at the Lass O’Gowrie, Manchester featuring several top creator names including Paul Cornell (left) and Steve Dillon.

Vworp Vworp! Comic Book Adventures in Time and Space, arranged in conjunction with Engine Comics and the team behind Redeye - one of the UK's most influential comics fanzines - will explore the highs, lows, challenges and pitfalls of creating comics based on BBC’s Doctor Who and other popular television and movie characters.

Intended as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, this intimate "mini-con" will be staged over a day and feature formal panels, smaller breakout rooms with powerpoint-based artist showcases and a signing/merchandising areas where the artists can make their work available to attendees.

In terms of guests, the organisers have put out a number of 'in principal' feelers to the following comic creators who have agreed to appear, subject to work commitments:

Steve Dillon
Co-creator of Abslom Daak and Kroton, Steve was responsible for visualizing some of the most memorable back-up strips in Doctor Who Weekly. An internationally renowned talent, Steve’s best known for his run on DC Comics Hellblazer and as creator of Preacher. (Photo: Chris Lander)

Ian Edgington
Writer: 2000AD, Marvel, DC Comics, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes, Predator, Aliens, Torchwood

Adrian Salmon
Artist: Doctor Who, the Cybermen, Power Rangers, 2000AD. His work is currently on display in the Snug of the Lass (see news story on the Kasterborous web site)

Lee Sullivan
Artist: Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, Transformers, Robocop

Paul Cornell
Writer: Doctor Who – TV show/comics, Wisdom, Benny Summerfield

John Freeman
Writer/editor; Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine, Star Wars Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine and others: writer of Ex Astris and The Really Heavy Greatcoat

Gary Russell
Writer/editor; Script Editor - Torchwood, former editor - Doctor Who Magazine and editor of IDW's new Doctor Who US comic mini-series

John Ainsworth
Writer/producer; producer of the 2000AD series of audio dramas released by Big Finish Productions and producer for Noise Monster Productions. John has written numerous articles, reviews and interviews for various SF magazines and wrote the definitive history of Doctor Who in comics for Doctor Who - Classic Comics

The organisers are also awaiting confirmation from a number of additional guests.

The Programme The event will run from 10am - 5:30pm (doors @ 9:30am). Panels planned at this stage include;

10.00-11.00am – Doctor Who in the Comics
In the beginning… a history of the development of the comic spinoffs, challenges to overcome, opportunities and constraints.
Proposed Panel; Gary Russell, Ian Edgington, John Ainsworth, John Freeman

11.30 – 12.30pm - "What do you do when the show runs out?"
Exploring the unique challenges and opportunities of dealing with a dead, or 'dormant' franchise and how fans can fill the void) - using the Doctor Who Magazine strip "Emperor of the Daleks", launched during the TV hiatus as the central "case study".
Proposed Panel; Paul Cornell, John Freeman and Lee Sullivan

1.30-2.30pm - "What's that coming over the hill?"
Considering how at times the Daleks and other villains often take centre stage - featuring the back-up strips and Doctor Who Magazine's (DWM) "the Cybermen" as the main case study
Proposed Panel; Gary Russell, Adrian Salmon (TBC - Alan Barnes), Steve Dillon

2.30-3.30pm - "What do you do when it returns?"
Considering how the ground shifted for the comic strip when Doctor Who returned to out screens, featuring DWM’s "Universal Monsters" as central case studies
Proposed Panel; Ian Edgington, Ade Salmon, Scott Gray (TBC)

3.45-4.30pm – “The Yanks are coming…”
An interview considering how the US dominance of the comic scene has begun to change how we deal with classic British franchises, focusing on IDW’s new Doctor Who title – the latest fully originated dedicated Who comic aimed at the US market and Captain Britain
Proposed Panel; Gary Russell, Paul Cornell, Ian Edgington, Steve Dillon

4.40pm – Charity Auction, in support of MIND
5.00pm – Event Close (Pub to reopen to public)

Each panel will be interviewer-led and framed by a powerpoint presentation, introducing the topic and framing the discussion.

A full programme of signings and sketching sessions in the Snug will also be made available to event goers.

The Venue
The event will be staged at the Lass O'Gowrie ( - one of Manchester's most celebrated pubs. Famous for real ale and our fantastic homemade pies, the bar and kitchen will be open throughout the event.

The event will use spaces throughout the whole pub, utilising the stage and saloon as "main hall" and the Snug and our proposed upstairs function room as breakout/signing spaces.

A merchandising area will also be made available, subject to agreement with a suitable retailer.

Tickets for the event are £9.00 (Adult) and £6.50 (concessions/U16), with a total of 80 tickets available. Any additional funds raised once guest and associated costs have been covered will be donated to the mental health charity MIND, together with any proceeds of the charity auction.

Contact details are as follows:

The Lass O'Gowrie
36 Charles Street
M1 7DB
T/F: 0161 273 6932

The Graphic Art of Comment

With the flurry of outrage over New Yorker's recent Barrack Obama cover, a new exhibition of cartoons commenting on politics and more published by Britain's Guardian newspaper may well gain more attention than usual.

The Graphic Art of Comment
runs from Thursday 24 July until Friday September 26 2008 at the The Newsroom, Archive and Visitor Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA, offering a collection of illustrations and cartoons from the Comment pages of the Guardian. Featuring the work of artists such as Steve Bell, Simon Farr and Martin Rowson, the exhibition showcases the distinctive visual intelligence and wit that the illustrators and cartoonists bring to bear on the issues of the day.

A free catalogue will accompany the show, while stocks last. (free p+p)

Opening times to the exhibition:
Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday 12pm to 4pm
Closed August Bank Holiday weekend, 23 and 25 August.
Free admission, free catalogue while stocks last. For more information call 020 7886 9898 or email

The web sites of the artists featured:

Simon Farr
David Parkins
Matt Kenyon
Daniel Pudles
JAS (Jim Sillavan)
Frazer Hudson
Paul Blow
Tobias Shickey
Simon Pemberton
Joe Magee
Lawrence Zeegan
Phil Disley
Tim Ellis
Gillian Blease
Gary Kempston
Satoshi Kambayashi
Toby Morrison
Steve Bell
Martin Rowson
Matthew Richardson

Beano Mischief on Radio 4!

Special Dennis the Menace cartoon: Humphrys and the Naughtie gangWallace & Gromit creator Nick Park and Beano editor Alan Digby were interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, part of the ongoing celebrations for the weekly comic as it fast approaches its 70th birthday.

Park, who is guest editing the 70th anniversary issue this month, again waxed lyrical about the Beano's timeles quality, feeling that like it or not the comic was part of Britain's cultural identitly while Digby (who quickly denied the Beano had any culture!) explained the title's longevity as being down to having its own sense of identity and never becoming a slave to contemporary fashion.

The Today team have joined in the birthday fun by becoming part of a special comic strip, Humphrys and the Naughtie gang, which you can read on the programme's web site but will also feature in an upcoming issue of The Beano.

Presenter James Naughtie, usually something of a ferocious pack animal when it comes to top politicians, was clearly delighted by the upcoming appearance and far from his normal acerbic self during the piece!

Listen to the interview with Nick Park and Alan Digby
Read Humphrys and the Naughtie gang

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Crikey's DC Thomson Special

The next issue of British comics history magazine Crikey! (Number 6) on sale soon, with the editors promising that the "Summer Special" (remember those?) is a DC Thomson focused issue, apt given the upcoming 70th birthday celebrations for that company's flagship comics title, The Beano.

A subscription to the magazine, available from, offers a subscription for £19.95 - six issues for the price of five. That brings you 52 fun packed pages of memories, articles, features and stunning artwork every issue (a single issue costs £3.99 including postage).

Payment through PayPal via the website or send a cheque payable to: Sequential Media at 4 Hillsborough Drive, Unsworth, Bury BL9 8LE.

Tube Surfing: 20 July 2008

Tank Girl co-creator Jamie Hewlett has been interviewed by The Guardian. "His is the pen behind Eighties comic-strip heroine Tank Girl, virtual band Gorillaz and the opera Monkey," the article opens, "and soon you'll be seeing his animated title sequence for the Olympics on TV. He tells Mark Kermode how a shy boy turned into a great graphic art rebel...

• Over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland has posted a galley of book covers that have graced the work of the brilliant SF author Eric Frank Russell. Like Steve, I have devoured much of his work, thanks to being introduced to him by peter pinto of Lancaster's Interstellar Master Traders (no offence to perte by the way, but the shop, contrary to the bigger-on-the-inside appearance given by photos on its web site is actually much smaller-on-the-inside!). Older British comics fans may remember peter as one of the people behind Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, one of the first comic shops in the UK back in the 1970s. The founder of that fondly-remembered shop, Derek 'Bram' Stokes, also lives in Lancaster and can be found working behind the till of one of its charity book stores.
He chose some odd titles, did Eric - the Space Willies surely one of the strangest...

Empire magazine has an online listing for its pick of the 50 greatest comic book characters, starting with Todd MacFarlane's Spawn at Number 50 and Superman at Number One. Good to see British and European characters included such as Tin Tin's Captain Haddock (No. 49), , the Mekon (No. 39), Johnny Alpha (No. 27), Obelix (No. 23), Halo Jones (No. 18) and Judge Dredd (No. 7). Not forgetting, of course, characters created by British writers such as Warren Ellis' Jenny Sparks (No. 44) and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Rorsharch from Watchmen.

• Talking of Watchmen, Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Alan Moore online and Empire has posted a trailer for the movie, set to debut in 2009. Moore continues to remain scathing of film adaptations of comics. "I increasingly fear that nothing good can come of almost any adaptation, and obviously that's sweeping," he says. "There are a couple of adaptations that are perhaps as good or better than the original work. But the vast majority of them are pointless." Moore also talks about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. III): Century and his upcoming novel, Jerusalem, and also reveals what he currently rates as one of the best TV shows ever: US TV cop series The Wire. (Older readers will recall how Alan Moore and Jamie Delano used to race off from Westminster Comic Mart drinking sessions to watch the latest episode of Hill Street Blues back in the 1980s...).

Round up gathered with thanks to Matthew Badham and the team at Forbidden Planet International

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