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Friday, 19 September 2008

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

So, let's celebrate...

Talk Like A Pirate Day Official web site

EyeCandy iPhone Kids Comic

... an idea which speaks for itself from Paul J. Holden after his content problems with Murderdrome, so let's let him do the talking about his new iphone app, EyeCandy, available from the iApps Store soon for 99 cents.

More about Murderdrome on YouTube

Thursday, 18 September 2008

In Review: The Tripwire Annual 2008

Review by John Freeman

Joel Meadows has edited and designed Tripwire since 1992, and, as editor of the magazine and a freelance journalist for newspapers such as The Times, The Indpendent and various other titles, has interviewed almost everyone of import in the comics world, including Alex Ross, Alan Moore, Mike Mignola and more.

Despite his numerous other writing credits, it's Tripwire that remains his passion (that, and photography) and this passion is nowhere more evident than in the pages of the latest annual, wraped this time in a gorgeous Doctor Who cover by Tommy Lee Edwards.

With a remit that includes television, film and animation as well as comics, I'd best describe this as an essential snapshot of developments in those industries, something that magazine and books can deliver that the web, with its constantly changing flux of material, cannot. Readers could pick up this Magazine five years from now and get a feel for some of the cutting edge developments for key sectors of the entertainment industry in 2008, and still learn from the sheer wealth of material included.

This latest annual is elegantly designed by someone who knows the best way to present the visuals in a way that complements the editorial -- something many magazine designers, with their idiotic predilection for seeming hip, using white lettering on brash colours that make whole sections illegible for example fail to achieve. The title offers a fascinating, carefully chosen selection of material, presented in a way that will appeal not just to fans of an article's subject matter but also for those simply dipping into the mysteries of, for example, Futurama or the many worlds of Michael Moorcock, for the first time.

Features include interviews with Bryan Fuller about the Emmy award-nominated hit TV show Pushing Daisies; with Tim Kring and Jeph Loeb on the future of Heroes; a celebration of the "renaiassance" of British sci-fi, wirh articles covering Doctor Who (fronted by a stunning double page illustration by Jeff Carlisle), Life on Mars and Primeval (the latter highlighting design secrets on the show); an entertaining and informative interview with Matt Groening, David Cohen and Bill Morrison discussing the return of Futurama in the form of made-for-DVD movies as well as to TV; and a look at Pinewood Studios’ new plans.

For comics fans, the annual includes an enjoyable by Andrew Colman feature on the seventy year history of Superman; an interview with graphic novelist Posy Simmonds, author of Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovary, who talks about illustration and her career; and a feature about the career of James Bond storyboard artist Martin Asbury; and a much fought over list of 15 grahic novels for 'regular readers', books the Tripwire team recommend for people who don't read comics such as Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs and We Can Still be Friends by Mawil.

Michael Moorcock also talks about Elric - a film starring the character is imminent - and Walt Simonson, Michael Whelan and P. Craig Russell discuss translating Moorcock’s vision to the comics.

There's plenty more, too: the magazine is a veritable cornocupia of visual and editorial delight for someone like me, rounded off with a small selection of short. sharp but carefully selected comic strips from creators such as Roger Langridge, Jamie McKelvie and Declan Shalvey, whose No Witnesses is "silent strip" perfection in terms of storytelling.

This is a truly excellent collection, taking full advantage of the beauty of print in presenting stunning visuals in a way that the Internet has yet to emulate in any meaningful way. Editor Joel Meadows has an instinctive feel for the advantages of print as opposed to the immediacy of the electronic medium and puts those skills to good use throughout.

The next Tripwire Special will be released at the end of February 2009 and will focus on Superheroes in comics, TV and Film and in the works are a Joss Whedon interview, a DC feature that chats to Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns about the current state of play in the DC Universe, a Marvel feature that chats to Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker and also a looks at Marvel in the wake of Secret Invasion. Look out for updates via Joel's Walls and Bridges blog.

• You can buy Tripwire from any good comic shop (or they should be able to order it for you via Diamond). The title will be available soon via online sales points.


Tripwire Annual:
In development as of 18 September 2008
Walls and Bridges: Joel Meadoews' Blog Tripwire Specific Posts (including layout examples)
• Read a 2008 interview with Joel Meadows, discussing his other 2008 project, and Studio SpaceTripwire on the Forbidden Planet International blog Buy the 2007 Tripwire Annual from which includes interview with Mike Mignola

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Comic Timing at Harrods!

The Harrods "Comic Timing" Exhibition starts tomorrow, running until 31st October 2008 in London's perhaps most famous department store.

Curated by comics journalist Rich Johnston and organised by Harrods Head Of Creative, James Chittenden the exhibition features a large collection of original comic book art boards by British creators, and celebrates the tremendously diverse range of stories and styles of British comics.

Pieces have been loaned by the likes of Rufus Dayglo, a comics art dealer who began his career diving in skips outside publishers who often just threw the original art work away - and now represents many British artists; the DC Thomson Archive and the London Cartoon Museum who treasure such works and many private collectors. As a result, most of the work shown has never been seen by the public in its original form.

Included are two pages from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, worth many many thousand of pounds and dsiplayed under tight security, an early double page Tank Girl spread by Jamie Hewlett, now more famous for Gorillaz, the very first Judge Dredd page by Mike McMahon, early Oor Wullie, Dennis The Menace and Korky The Kat, pages from favourites such as Jackie and Commando, Frank Quitely's All Star Superman, Raymond Briggs' Gentlemen Jim, Posie Simmonds' Tamara Drewe, Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta and much more.

As well as the exhibition, David Lloyd, artist of V For Vendetta, will be on the Harrods stage on the 29th September presenting a look through the beginning of this graphic novel, its long drawn out publication and eventual adaptation by the Wachowski Brothers as the Natalie Portman starring movie. (More details here)

• "Comic Timing" is located in the Lower Ground Floor of Harrods and is directly down the stairs from Door Five, by the Knightsbridge Tube exit.

The Exhibition includes pages from: Watchmen, Judge Dredd, The Bash Street Kids, Dennis The Menace (1950s), Korky The Kat (1930s), Oor Wullie (1940s), Batman: The Killing Joke, V For Vendetta, From Hell, Tamara Drewe, Petra Etcetera, Commando, Finbar Saunders And His Double Entendres, Tank Girl, Tale Of One Bad Rat, Mauretania, Captain Britain, Phonogram, Breakfast After Noon, Slaine, Robusters, Summer Of Love, Four Feet From A Rat, Rhapsody Of Love, All Star Superman, The Filth, Hellblazer, Nellyphant, Face Ache, Jackie, Commando, Gentleman Jim, Look-In, Cherubs, Judge Death, Jack Staff, Books Of Magic, Superfly, Goddess, Wired World, Charley's War.

Abracadabra! It's Shaun the Sheep

Baa! Another bunch of great woolly adventures for Shaun, Bitzer, Shirley and the flock, not to mention those troublesome pigs is about to be released on DVD, as they go looking for more sheep thrills.

The shear delights in this collection of Aardman's fab animated show include: a disappearing flock in Shaun’s magic show, newly-hatched chicks thinking Shaun is their mum, Shirley getting the hiccups and a bull seeing red all over when the Naughty Pigs pour paint into the sheep dip.

Shaun The Sheep: Abracadabra is available on DVD from 20th October, priced £12.99, and features 8 barnstorming adventures: Abracadabra, The Bull, Who's the Mummy?,
Hiccups, Heavy Metal Shaun, Troublesome Tractor, Sheepwalking and Save the Tree

This baa..rilliant DVD also features Meet the Animals?, an introduction to Shaun’s farm friends from some of his young fans.

Pre-order Shaun the Sheep: Abracadabra from
Buy the Shaun the Sheep ringtone from the downthetubes mobile site

Dreaming Up The DFC: An Interview with Publisher David Fickling

DFC #1Earlier this year, David Fickling Books and Random House launched The DFC, a new weekly comic in the UK, the first of its kind in terms of the levels of originated, new characters for many years.

Packed to the gunnels with a selection of some of the best of British talent including artists such as Kate Brown, David Shelton, James Turner, Garen Ewing, the Etherington Brothers and Neill Cameron (to name but a few), aided in its advance publicity by the inclusion of self-confessed comics fan and top author Phillip Pullman, the currently subscription-only comic is beginning to find its feet and publisher David Fickling has high hopes for both the comic, which include bringing it into newsagents and specialist comic shops, further development of the comic's web site and much more.

DFC Issue 15After soliciting questions from downthetubes readers about the comic and David's plans for it prior to launch, a number of circumstances conspired to prevent the interview below taking place, not least of them being David Fickling's hectic schedule and the demands a weekly title imposes on even the most dedicated of editorial teams. But now he's been able to sit down and chat about the comic, his love of comics and plans for so much more than just one new comic...

Read the interview on the main downthetubes web site
Discuss the interview on the downthetubes forum (membership required)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Beano, Dandy Too PC?

Euan Kerr, former editor of The Beano, has hit out at the current content of the comic and the Dandy arguing they have become too politically correct.

In an article in the Telegraph, picking up on a report in Scotland on Sunday, Kerr, who edited the Beano for 22 years, says key characters such as Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan in the Dandy had to be "toned down" during his tenure.

He stopped Dennis menacing the character Walter the Softy in the 1980s to avoid claims that the comic may have encouraged "gay bashing, and points to how cow-pie eating cowboy Desperate Dan was forced to go on a diet have his revolver was replaced by a water pisto.

Dennis routinely tormented soppy Walter, a bespectacled boy who spent his days sewing, picking flowers and holding tea parties for his teddy bear.

"The evidence is that the kids understand a comic is a comic and that it isn't anything like real life," he told the paper. "But the relationship between Dennis and Walter was always one that worried me.

"There were accusations from certain quarters that it was a little like gay-bashing. This obviously wasn't the way we intended it to be perceived.

"We decided the best way to approach it was to make sure that even though he and Dennis didn't get along, Walter was completely happy about who he was and a confident, likeable character in his own right."

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Kerr conceded that other aspects of the Beano had been softened to avoid falling foul of liberal critics.

"The comic has certainly changed over the years to come in line with political correctness," he said. "For example, every strip used to end with the rogue of the piece being punished in some way – usually a smack across the head or a slipper across the bottom.

"This sort of corporal punishment became outdated and eventually it was phased out."

Now, Kerr argues the pendulum had now swung too far and he would welcome a return to the comic's anti-establishment roots and there are already signs that the balance is slowly turning against PC culture in strips such as The Neds, which chronicled the misadventures of work-shy, Scottish ne'er-do-wells.

Kerr's concerns about the comic are supported by the Campaign Against Political Correctness, publishers of The Politically Correct Scrapbooks.

"For 70 years the Beano has been read by children and they do not look at comics through politically correct eyes," commented John Midgeley. "It's a great shame that in recent years this national institution has been watered down to placate a tiny minority of humourless, do-gooding adults."

DC Thomson has so far declined to comment.

Read the full article on the Daily Telegraph web site
• Click here for the story in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper and here for the story in The Times.

In Memoriam: Pink Floyd's Richard Wright

I was sorry to hear that founding Pink Floyd member and keyboardist Richard Wright has died at the age of 65 after losing a short struggle with cancer.

Wright performed with the legendary rock outfit from their very early beginnings and for almost their entire career, contributing to the group’s 1967 Syd Barrett-led debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and classic Floyd albums as Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.

That album features a song cycle dedicated to Pink Floyd's original frontman, Syd Barrett, who'd flamed out years before, and while the image had no connection with the Human Torch its simple but stunning cover was one no Marvel Comics fan could fail to notice on its first release way back when. I certainly did.

The official web site issued the following brief announcement yesterday:

"The family of Richard Wright, founder member of Pink Floyd, announce with great sadness, that Richard died today .

"The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this difficult time."

Wright, a self-taught keyboardist and pianist met fellow band members Roger Waters and Nick Mason while at architecture school and was a founder member of The Pink Floyd Sound in 1965, and the group's previous incarnations, such as Sigma 6.

In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright, along with Syd Barrett, was seen as the group's dominant musical force. The London-born musician and son of a biochemist wrote and sang several songs of his own. He left the band after falling out with Roger Waters during recording of The Wall but officially rejoined when Waters hiself left, contributing vocals and keyboards to the 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. In 1994, he co-wrote five songs on The Division Bell album, singing lead vocals on the track Wearing The Inside Out.

Writing on his website, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has praised Wright for his "vitality, spark and humour".

"In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten," he notes. "He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound.

"I have never played with anyone quite like him."

Official Pink Floyd UK web site
David Gilmour's official site
National Public Radio Tribute by Robert Hilton

Monday, 15 September 2008

Etherington Brothers 'Go Nuts!'

After a summer spent diligently producing page after page of comic book nonsense in their Bristol studio, the Etherington Brothers, creators of strips such Monkey Nuts and Malcolm Magic are about to begin an frenetic End of Year appearance schedule, much of it part of ongoing promotion for the subscription-only weekly title The DFC.

Bob and Lorenzo will be meeting and greeting lots of comic fans as they commence the official 'Go Nuts' Tour, starting with the Bath Festival of Children's Literature panel on 27th September, when the brothers will be joined by John Aggs, artist on Phillip Pullman's John Blake and Sarah McIntyre, creator of Vern and Lettuce, which both appear in The DFC, with publisher David Fickling hosting.

Then it's off to Birmingham for the International Comic Show on the 4-5th October for another DFC panel, comic signings and banter!

The Cheltenham Literature Festival will play host to an Etherington Brothers comic workshop, on the 11th October. With limited places available (first 40 to book get in!) it's first come, first served!

Finally, we'll be hosting two 'Tales On Moon Lane' festival workshops at the Herne Hill and Primrose Hill Children's bookstores. This event will take place on Saturday 25th, with the boys completing one workshop, then being whisked across London to the other store! Exciting times!

For more details check out the tour poster here
The Bath Festival of Children's Literature
Birmingham International Comics Show
The Cheltenham Literature Festival
Tales On Moon Lane book store and festival details

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Doctor Who DVD Files Magazine "Market Tested"

Last month, we reported on a new Doctor Who magazine in development from part works publishers GE Fabbri, publishers of the Doctor Who magazine Battles in Time and magazine-video titles such as Ronnie Barker, Charmed and Stargate SG-1.

Although GE Fabbri confirmed the Doctor Who DVD Files part work was in development at the time of our first report, they told downthetubes the project was at a very early stage but that "early development" has now reached a limited "market test" in the Tyne Tees TV region of the UK.

The tests usually run for some eight issues before a later nationwide launch, beginning again (obviously) at number one.

Copies of the test are on sale in outlets such as WH Smiths in Scarborough and the title, which we're told will start with a focus on the new series that began with Christopher Eccleston but may later feature older stories from the original Doctor Who, is clearly aimed at younger readers, as was Battles in Time, which recently completed its initial run.

Based on the test issues it appears the first run of the Magazine will cover all four seasons of the show to date and the Christmas specials.

Secrets of Ceres joins Spaceship Away

A bit of shameless self-promotion: I'm delighted to report that Secrets of Ceres, the first part of a new SF strip drawn by Mike Nicoll and written by me, John Freeman, will feature in the next issue of the Dan Dare-inspired comics magazine Spaceship Away, now at the printers and which editor Rod Barzilay tells us will soon be shipped to subscribers.

Secrets of Ceres is a three part-story set in the Ex Astris universe created by Mike, set some years before the strip available as a free to view comic on ROK Comics and the one-off strip Homecoming, appearing in another independent UK comics title, Bulletproof Comics, which will be available from that publisher's Online Store soon.

Secrets of Ceres is set in the mid 21st Century, at a time when the race to space has been rekindled, borne from both the need for raw materials and a desire to explore. With bases on the Moon, Mars and the asteroids, humankind has truly expanded beyond the confines of home planet Earth... but is this fast expansion driven by other needs, unknown to the general public at large?

By 2040, the major asteroid Ceres has been selected as staging post for the mineral exploitation of the Asteroid Belt, with big corporations paying for the base in return for property rights. By 2050, Ceres base is fully up and running -- moved using giant ram jets into Mars orbit to better exploit its resources.

But beneath the surface of Ceres secrets are about to be uncovered - secrets investigator Sarah Blake may not live to reveal...

Spaceship Away (a three times a year, full colour, glossy magazine) started out as a way to get a newly created 1950’s ‘old Eagle’ style Dan Dare strip story (Drawn by Keith Watson and Don Harley) in print, along with how it was done. However, it didn’t stop there! Soon, other new Dan Dare stories - some serious, some not, and features joined the title, including plans, cutaway drawings, development notes, real science connections, custom-built models, foreign DD, readers' chat-back and background write-ups.

The magazine has grown from 24 to 48 pages over its five year publishing history and is now moving sideways into other SF comics as well. Of the latest issue's 11 regular strips, five are non-Dan Dare, including Charles Chilton's Journey into Space, Space Girls and Ron Turner's Nick Hazard Interstellar Agent - Mission to Vorga.

More about Spaceship Away at
More about Ex Astris at
Discuss Spaceship Away on the downthetubes forum

Silverfin Graphic Novel announced

(with thanks to Reuben Willmott): Penguin Books will publish a graphic novel version of Charlie Higson's first Young James Bond story, Silverfin, in October.

Drawn by 2000AD's Kev Walker, the story begins with James Bond's first day at Eton, and already he's met his first enemy. This is the start of an adventure that will take him from the school playing fields to the remote shores of Loch Silverfin and a terrifying discovery that threatens to unleash a new breed of warfare.

The official Young Bond web site reports Times entertainment critic Amanda Craig scored an early look at the 160 page SilverFin Graphic Novel by Charlie Higson and Kev Walker and described this first Young Bond comics adaptations by Kev Walker, as “a bold and brilliant Manga-inspired treat."

Walker, now working on Marvel Zombies 3 which also launches in October, is well known to 2000AD fans for his art on strips such as Judge Dredd, Rogue Troper and ABC Warriors. He's contributed to the Young Bond website, is also responsible for the cover art on the US releases of Blood Fever and Double Or Die.

The Young Bond series follows the adventures of the schoolboy James Bond, from arriving a friendless orphan at Eton to a deadly chase through the Mexican jungle, the young hero leading a thrilling and dangerous life in a series of novels by Charlie Higson. All of the Young Bond books, including the latest adventure, By Royal Command, are published by Puffin in the UK.

Released on 2 October, both Kev Walker and Charlie Higson will be signing copies of the books at the London Forbidden Planet Megastore on Thursday 9 October from 6.00 - 7.00pm. More info at

Buy the Silverfin graphic novel from
Visit the Penguin Young Bond web site

Black Boar Goes Gothic

Dave Hitchcock, the man behind Black Boar Press and highly acclaimed indie comics such as Whitechapel Freak and Springheeled Jack, is about to self publish another newspaper/comic called Gothic.

"It will include some of my short stories from way back," Dave told downthetubes, "which I produced as limited edition mini comics. Numbering between 50 and 100 these normally sold fairly quickly at shows, I felt that many folk did not get the chance to see them. "

"Fans have asked over the years if I'm ever going to get some of them together in a collection," he says of the new title, "so along with a new Springheeled Jack story and a witch-hunting tale (with was originally done for Gary Spencer Millidge's Strangehaven) I decided the time was right.

"It's the most extensive collection I've ever done," he reveals, "so, if you like skeleton pirates, vampires, zombies, Victorian aliens, sea monsters, and more, then Gothic is for you."

As if that wasn't enough, Gothic also includes two great tales written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, courtesy of AccentUK.

All of the short stories are printed standard US comic size -- two pages per one newsprint page (the beauty of large format) and there's also a gallery of mainstream stuff and unpublished work at the end of the paper too.

Black Boar Press first began publishing in the mid-1990s. "I had an interest in genres that were very much out of the spotlight in mainstream comics," Dave explains. "My first graphic novel was Spirit of the Highwayman, a tale of brigandry and black magic. This was followed by the newspaper-styled Whitechapel Freak, my own spin on the Jack the Ripper killings.

"I found that I preferred the Victorian era as it's a lot more visually interesting, " he reveals. "My next foray into making comics was Springheeled Jack, another little-known Victorian myth. After reading the 'eye-witness' reports dotted about the internet, I decided to embark on what has become my longest project to date, and possibly the most popular, as it won a much coveted Eagle award in 2006, something I never expected due to the sporadic nature of my work: it's really just a great hobby which I do as and when time permits.

"Springheeled Jack also garnered great quotes from Alan Moore, David Hine, Moore and Reppion, Dave Gibbons and even possible movie interest from maverick producer Don Murphy."

• The 48 page Gothic will be launched at Birmingham International Comic Show, price £3, and Dave will be selling some of the original art pages off at £30 each (anyone who buys art will receive Gothic free). Visit Dave's blog for the latest news at
• Copies of Springheeled Jack are available from Full Circle Publications

End of the Road for Flick and Jube

Simon Mackie's ace Flick and Jube web comic, published over on DrunkDuck (along with several more of his comics such as Dr Ballard The Golem Rises and Bikini Blow Up, is finally complete. "Now to try and find a publisher," he tells us.

Simon ( has been a regular contributor to underground comics for many years contributing to comics in the UK, Holland and the US. For a number of years he lived and worked in Japan where he found himself heavily influenced the Ukiyoe prints of Hiroshige.

In Flick and Jube, this manic pair of characters break out from their mundane world and find themselves on a journey of exploration through nature and psyche that Simon describes as "both exhilarating and terrifying as they try to comprehend their new found power."

Running to some 97 pages, the strip finds Flick and Jube both benefitting and suffering as a result of their talents, with evil minds set to try and destroy them at every turn.

"Go out looking for Nirvana and you end up in hell" says Simon.

Read Flick and Jube on

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