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Friday, 24 October 2008

Creating Tammy: A True Story

Many years ago, British newsagents were awash with all sorts of comics: boys' adventure, children's titles, educational comics and more. But while humour comics reigned supreme in Britain, and still do, girls comics regularly outsold most of the more famous boys titles most fans remember today.

Sadly their history and success often remains neglected today, much to the chagrin of those who wrote and drew them.

One of the success stories was IPC's Tammy published between 1971 and 1984. Always a title keen on a good weepy, Tammy rivalled DC Thomson's Bunty in sales terms. It incorporated six other titles during its lifetime, including June, Misty and Jinty and introduced readers to strips such as Girls of Liberty Lodge, Slaves of War Orphan Farm and even re-launched the these days decidedly un-PC Bessie Bunter, created decades earlier by Frank Richards.

Now, downthetubes is proud to reveal how Jenny McDade, who today writes animation and children's TV drama (her credits include SuperGran, Mr Majeika and C.A.T.S. Eyes), really became a Tammy writer, one of very few women to regularly write girls' comics at the time. Her first strip was Star Struck Sister, drawn by Giorgio Giorgetti (pictured below).

"Although" she notes, "it probably reads more like a Tammy story - plucky little ditsy blonde with no hope succeeds in the end in cut-throat male-dominated magazine world!..."

Star Struck Sister from Tammy"Just because a female readership isn't as fan orientated as male readers they tend not to be as vocal and organised," says comics writer Pat Mills who authored many a girls story for both DC Thomson and IPC, "but female comic sales sold more than double the number of male comics and those readers have equally valid nostalgia interest.

"In its heyday during the seventies our now iconic Tammy sold 250,000 copies per week, which was more than 2000AD!"

We're delighted to shed some light on just one aspect in the creation of one of Britain's best loved but seemingly forgotten comics genres... Read the feature

ROK Comics Now on iPhone

Rok Comics

British webcomics and mobile comics publisher and distributor ROK Comics has launched ROK Comics as an application on the Apple iPhone.

The ROK Comics application, the first of a planned series of applications currently in development by ROK for the iPhone, enables iPhone-owners to read a selection of strips from the huge and fast-growing ROK Comics portfolio, to include such strips as Anomaly (by Kennedy Rose), Crumb (by David Fletcher), Reddickulous (by David Reddick), sci-fi strip Crazy Mary (by Mike Colbert, Edward Woodward and others) and gothic comic Ligeia (by Rodrigo D. Ricci).

"We felt we should offer variety in our comics offering and this selection reflects the diversity of strips available on ROK Comics to include humour, adventure and sci-fi," ROK Comics Managing Editor John Freeman, also owner of, commented. "We will constantly be evaluating, adapting and looking at new features while adding further strips in future versions of the application."

"The iPhone is having a far-reaching effect in transforming access to - and use of - mobile entertainment," added ROK's Creative Director Graham Baines, "and we at ROK are focussed on deploying ever-more interesting, engaging and easy-to-use content services and applications into this fast-growing channel".

This week, the New York Times reported that Apple sold 6.9 million iPhones in the last quarter in the US alone and has already surpassed its goal of selling 10 million iPhones during 2008, according to Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs.

"This is an exciting development for us," said ROK’s Group CEO, Laurence Alexander "and reflects our ongoing commitment to develop and deploy engaging entertainment services to mobile phones globally."

ROK Comics ( provides comic publishers and creators to reach a worldwide audience by delivering comics to mobile phones, either by WAP subscription of Pay Per Download via Multi Media Messaging (MMS) with creators receiving up to 50% of the available revenue on every sale.

• If you already have iTunes installed on your computer, you can view the App on ITunes via:

• More information about the new application can be found at:

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sexier Than The President's Wife?

The French President's Wife, Carla Bruni-SarkozyAfter hosting the Dundee Literary Festival Comics Day and the Official Beano 70th Anniversary Exhibition, the University of Dundee are continuing with their championing of all things comics related.

On Wednesday 29 October 2008, beginning at 6.00 pm, visiting lecturer Dr Laurence Grove of the University of Glasgow will give a talk entitled Sexier than the President's Wife: French Comics. This will explore the history of bande dessinée, giving an insight into French comics for those who have little or no experience of them and touching upon the ways in which the French comics culture differs from comics traditions in other countries.

Dr Grove is the President of the International Bande Dessinée Society and co-editor of The Francophone Bande Dessinée.

The talk will take place in the University of Dundee's Baxter Conference Suite, Room 1.36, 1st floor Tower Building. The talk is open to the public and entrance is free.

In Memoriam: Les Barton

I-Spy by Les Barton(via Lew Stringer and Steve Bright): downthetubes is sorry to report the death of cartoonist Les Barton, the artist who originally drew DC Thomson's Sparky comic's brilliant I-Spy character.

Les, who lived in Uxbridge, Middlesex, passed away in a nursing home after a long illness. He was 85.

"I'm sure that other comic enthusiasts more familiar with his long career will be publishing their tributes to Mr.Barton, but to my mind he will always be "The I-Spy artist"," says Lew Stringer on his blog. "Back in 1969, aged 10, I would look forward to every Friday to read the latest installment of comedy-action serial I-Spy in the Sparky. This was a strip in a similar vein to Odhams' Eagle Eye and The Cloak, but it had its own unique charm thanks to the clear penmanship of its artist Les Barton."

Like Lew, I remember Sparky with considerable fondness, and particularly characters such as I-Spy, written in the 1970s by George Glencairn Urwin. You never saw I-Spy's face but what you did see were no end of crazy Heath Robinson-inspired gadgets and other things he used in his eternal war on enemy spies.

He was also responsible for The Wonderful World Inside Ma Kelly's Telly in the same madcap title, which featured the tiny characters who live inside your TV set and act out all the shows, viewers unaware that this is how it is done. That too is a memorable strip, surely owing its heritage to the kind of 'living toys' tales of countless childrens' annuals down the years as well as strips such as The Tellybugs in Smash! and The Numskulls in The Beezer.

The British Cartoon Archive notes that Les was born on 8 December 1923 in Wareham, Dorset. A self-taught artist, he started work at the age of 14 as a telegraph clerk and his first published cartoon appeared in the Militant Miner published by the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1944, one of three titles they distributed (Les would contribute cartoons to many campaigning groups during his lifetime, drawing political cartoons and caricatures for The Statist in 1963 and 1964.

During World War Two he served as a draughtsman in the Royal Signals and War Office Signals and produced his first regular cartoons for WAM (West African Magazine) when he was stationed in Lagos in 1946.

After the war, Les worked as a photographic retouching artist and commercial artist in advertising, and during his diverse career, signing his early work "Lezz", drew cartoons for a huge range of titles during his career such as Revellie, Tit Bits, Sporting Record, Punch, Men Only, the Daily Mirror, The Times and Private Eye.

He was staff artist on The Sun during the Falkands War in 1982.

In addition to his much-loved Sparky work, his comics credits include Billy Bunter in the 1950s. He also drew strips for IPC including Whizzer and Chips (drawing episodes of Harry's Haunted House), Cor! and Oink. He also designed humorous greetings cards for Camden Graphics, Rainbow Cards and Cardtoons.

He continued working into his eighties. In 2004 he provided illustrations for Baxter Vs. The Bookies, written by Roy Granville, which had a follow-up in 2007, both published by Hayes Press.

A water colour and oil painter in his spare time, he was one of the longest standing members of the Cartoonist Club of Great Britain, where he attended the first meeting (on April Fool's Day 1960) and held the position of treasurer for over 20 years.

"During the final days of his illness, Les dictated a letter to his son to be sent to the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain in order to thank them for their 'many cards and cheerful messages during my incarceration (care of Her Majesty's NHS)'. Lew Stringer writes. "It's a warm and heartfelt letter showing how much he appreciated the camaraderie of his fellow cartoonists over the years.

"It tells of the highs and lows as experienced by everyone in the business and ends on a positive note: 'I wouldn't change a damn thing'."

• Les Barton, 8 December 1923 - 20 October 2008
View a selection of Les' cartoons on the ToonTrek Comic Relief Tour Site

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Tube Surfing: 21 October 2008

• Titan is to release a collection of Jane strips from the Daily Mirror later this week and over on Bear Alley Steve Holland has cast his expert eye over the various stories which made up the strip’s run. The article includes a full listing of her stories.
Jane: The Misadventures of a Bright Young Thing is published by Titan Books on 24 October 2008. You can buy it from (ISBN 978-1848561670)

• (via Forbidden Planet International): Phill Jupitus continues his series talking to a variety of cartoonists for Radio 4, this week meeting Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, creators of the financially obsessed City businessman Alex. As with the first two parts (with Gary Trudeau and the Cartoonists With Attitude group) there is also a permanent link. If you missed the show show or forget to use the BBC's "Listen Again feature" before it expires (it has a seven day window) you’re still covered.

downthetubes is pleased to report that contributor John Freeman is now writng British comics news items for the SciFi Channel UK web site.

• The first issue of Liam Sharp's new project, Gears of War, has sold out! "I'm so delighted," the British artist says via his deviantart blog. "It's been an age since I last had a sell out comic - Death's Head Gold in fact, from '93 I think. Thankfully I hear Diamond are putting in an order for more, so if you missed it make sure to go and reserve a copy!"
There's a new site up with art for sale from Gears of War but Liam warns it's selling really fast. "My head is spinning!" he says. Check it out at:

• Talking of Death's Head, Marvel UK fan blog It Came From Darkmoor has a detailed psoting on the appearance of Doctor Necker, creator of Minion aka Death's Head II in a recent issue of Marvel's Nova, written by Dan Abnett (also the writer of Death's Head II back in the 1990s) and Andy lanning. So, any chance Marvel is finally bringing Death's Head intot he mainstream Marvel Universe? Read the full post...

Insomnia's Beastly New Signing

Upcoming British indie publisher Insomnia Publications have just announced its first signing following the Birmingham International Comic Show: Unbelievable (The Man Who Ate Daffodils) written and drawn by Welsh comics creator Simon Wyatt.

In the remote mining village of Bryn Boncath has its share of stories, of local legends, of half believed histories. It is a close knit community, with closely guarded secrets, home to the orphaned Ben Ellis and his grandfather, Emrys... and it has become the scene of a series of bizarre and mysterious deaths.

A new neighbour has moved in. A man long thought dead has returned. Livestock are missing. There are noises in the night. People are afraid to go into out after dark and sightings of a giant hound, or maybe a big cat are on the increase once again.

Suddenly it seems to Ben that what he took to be the tall tales of his grandfather may be more than just stories. It seems that something is stirring in the forests and the mountains around Bryn Boncath. It seems that ancient history is repeating and this time round Ben has an important part to play...

Unbelievable is described as a dark masterpiece that weaves strands of Welsh legend, modern murder mystery and horror with a dash of cryptozoology that wonders: What if seeing isn’t always believing, but believing will allow you to see?

"I first saw Simon's work in progress on Unbelievable on his comicspace page back before I was working with Insomnia, and the art just blew me away," explains Nic Wilkinson, Creative Director of the new company. "I love British mythology and we chatted about an earlier project of his, Mabinogion - Dawn of The Gods. He promised to draw me a sketch of my favourite Unbelievable character if we met up at BICS later in the year.

"Months pass. BICS rolls round... On Saturday morning I spot him sitting at the Orang-Utan table, drawing away and go to collect my picture. It's fantastic.

"Since we last spoke about Unbelievable things have changed," Nic continues in a posting to the Insomnia blog. "Under the table is a big black folder with the art almost complete and a spiral bound pitch book with character backgrounds, concept sketches, the full plot breakdown the whole works."

After discussion with publisher Crawfor Coutts, the team quickly cut a deal to secure the project.

"I 'm very proud to be able to say this was my first signing for Insomnia, and it exemplifies everything we are looking for in a book and from a creator," Nic says. "In short, being able to bring out work like this is everything that we, as a company, are trying to do."

Previously voted National Young Cartoonist of the Year for Wales, Simon Wyatt has been illustrating books, comics and games for over 20 years. He's worked for various indie comics publishers including Orang Utan Comics Studio, Angry Gnome Comics and Markosia. Unbelievable is his first full-length graphic novel.

Visit the Insomnia Publications Official web site
Simon Wyatt on ComicSpace
• Simon's
MySpace and Blog Pages

Monday, 20 October 2008

Stan Lee Signed Comic Must be Won!

Marking the impending release of Iron Man on Region 2 DVD, downthetubes and SF web site scifipulse have teamed up with Paramount Home Entertainment UK to offer readers the chance to win a Marvel Legends comic signed by Stan "The Man" Lee, who was there at the beginning of the Iron Man legend.

Iron Man, which earned £17 million at the UK Box Office, comes to DVD and Blu-ray on 27 October 2008 in Ultimate Edition two-disc sets, delivering non-stop action and excitement from a Super Hero who boasts not only unique powers, but also irresistible charm, penetrating intelligence and a wry wit.

Such is the current popularity of Iron Man, the superhero is one of the first to feature in Panini UK's new Marvel Heroes comic, in an all-new story written by Scott Gray with art by Carlos Gomez and Gary Erskine (see downthetubes news story)

Iron Man thrilled both critics and audiences around the world with its captivating story and stunning visual effects. The film features an all-star cast including Academy Award nominees Robert Downey Jr. (Zodiac, Chaplin), Jeff Bridges (The Contender) and Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow) and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare In Love) and was directed by Jon Favreau (Elf).

The Iron Man Ultimate Edition two-disc sets are super-charged with hours of explosive bonus features that take viewers inside the suit of self-made super hero Tony Stark and his invincible alter ego. The sets also includes extensive explorations of the origins of the character in a six-part featurette, as well as a seven-part in-depth look at the making of the film, a revealing documentary on the stellar visual effects, Robert Downey Jr.’s original screen test, deleted and extended scenes, a photo gallery of concept art and behind-the-scenes images on the set and more. (The Iron Man single-disc DVD bonus features include the deleted and extended scenes).

As one of the most anticipated releases of the year, the Iron Man Blu-ray presentation offers even more exclusive content for an incredible entertainment experience including a “Hall of Armour” that allows fans to enter the Stark database to zoom in on any of the three Iron Man suits – or Iron Monger. They can then activate the digital 3-D schematics to check out every weapon and the full high-definition renders let users fly around each suit to explore each of the armors in comprehensive detail. The “Iron Man IQ” is a user-friendly web application that lets users create and share new multiple choice quizzes based on clips from the film. Fans can also download other users’ challenges via BD-Live.

• To be in with a chance to win a copy of Marvel Legends signed by Stan Lee, simply answer this question by 12 noon GMT on Monday 3rd November:

What is the name of the writer of the new Iron Man story in Marvel Heroes #1, on sale now from Panini UK?

E-mail you answer to us at downthetubes via this address

• Iron Man is available to buy in the UK from 27th October 27 2008 from Paramount Home Entertainment. Order the DVD or Blu-ray from

New Eagle Times Available Now

The latest issue of Eagle Times, the quarterly journal dedicated to Britain's national picture strip weekly Eagle, features 50+ A4 pages (of which 20 are in full colour) of all sorts of things to do with Eagle and boys' comics of the 1950s and 60s.

This issues includes articles on Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson; artists Ian Kennedy, who helped shape the look of the 1980s Dan Dare, Tony 'Matt Mariott' Weare and Ron Embleton; Dan Dare reviews; a PC49 story; and more on the recently discovered 2nd Eagle dummy (see our previous news story).

If you subscribe for 2009 before 31/12/08 costs are £20/year for UK based members or £32 for overseas. Subscribing after this date will cost you a extra £2.

Membership secretary is Keith Howard, 25a Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 2UA
Cheques should be made payable to "Eagle Society"

• Further information about Eagle Times and the Eagle from

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Splendid Chaps, All Of Them!

Slipping for this post into first person mode, I had a wonderful time on Saturday at Vworp! Vworp!, a one day event at Manchester's Lass O'Gowrie pub organised by landlord Gareth Kavangah and his dedicated team, in partnership with the Manchester Literature Festival.

Dedicated to Doctor Who in comics, the day gave me a chance to catch up with the likes of founding Doctor Who Weekly editor Dez Skinn, writer and editors Gary Russell and Scott Gray, writers Paul Cornell and Ian Edginton, artists Lee Sullivan, Matt ('Isareli) Brooker, Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon, feature writer John Ainsworth, as well as touch base with many other creators drawn to the event including Matthew Badham, Leon Hewitt, Barry Renshaw, Brian Gorman, Ian Cullen and others.

Despite some minor technical problems and the usual over running any jam-packed day filled with people like myself who will insist on answering a question with 50 words when 10 will do, I think most people enjoyed themselves, the whole show ably held together by writer, actor and comedian John Cooper.

Dez Skinn's opening chat, in which he proudly showed off the 'dummy' of the first ever Doctor Who Weekly and then let fans read the oriuginal, type-written scripts of the first-ever Doctor Who Weely comic strip The Iron Legion by Pat Mills and John Wagner, was just one of many delights to the event, held in one of Manchester's best-known and best-loved pubs.

Ever the memory man, Gary Russell (pictured left, middle) proved a welcome lynchpin to the event since he not omly remembered much of what happened during his tenure as Editor of Doctor Who Magazine (unlike me!), with Lee Sullivan and Paul Cornell also providing many enjoyable anecdotes about past comic strip creation and the history of the Doctor Who comic strip, ably assisted by John Ainsworth.

Later, Scott Gray and Martin Geraghty offered their insights on the current Doctor Who strip. Other panels included one on animated Doctor Who such as The Infinite Quest, with Jon Doyle (two-time Bafta winning Animation Producer/ Director/Artist, and founder of Firestep, the studio behind that production and others) wowing the auidence with a taster of an animated version of Patrick Troughton's first ever story, Power of the Daleks -- sadly a project that it is apparently unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Torchwood also proved a talking point, with the first part of Ian Edginton and Matt Brooker's Torchwood strip out now in the new issue of Torchwood magazine - Issue 10. Unfortunately, by that time I had to wend my way home, but other reports on the event with more detail of these panels are sure to crop up on the web soon.

As a guest, I always find such events a bit like a wedding reception – there's never enough time to catch up with everyone there except in passing or while you share the stage with them. But for me, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day catching up with old friends and sharing memories of some wonderful times working on Doctor Who Magazine way back when, with some of the most talented people I know in the comics business.

As I said at the top - splendid chaps, all of them. Cheers!

My thanks to everyone who organised the day and I hope there's another similar event at "The Lass" in the future.

• The Lass O’Gowrie is currently playing host to an exhibition of Adrian Salmon's work, including pages from The Cybermen strip he drew for Doctor Who Magazine, illustrations from the magazine and more. "I’ve been a huge fan of Ade’s work for years and he’s a definite 'one off!'" says pub landlord and art collector Gareth Kavanagh. "Comic gurus and Who fans of all ages will love what they see, trust me." The histroic pub is located next to the BBC in Manchester city centre. Web site:

All pictures by John Freeman. Top: the event poster outside The Lass; Dez Skinn, Gary Russell and John Ainsworth on stage; and attendees watch one of several 'clips' of Doctor Who Magazine history assembled by the Vworp! Vworp! team.

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