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Friday, 13 March 2009

Tube Surfing: 13 March 2009

• Lucasfilm has published a feature on Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s connections to Star Wars, documenting the pair's early Star Wars work. Alan wrote several Star Wars tales for Marvel UK while Dave's first contribution was as an artist on the second set of Star Wars Galaxy cards from Topps. Moore's Star Wars contributions went largely unknown outside the UK until the mid-1990s, when Dark Horse Comics collected them into a two-issue limited series, Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds. Pictured here is a frame from the story Rust Never Sleeps.

The Guardian reports a man dressed as Batman villain the Joker has been shot dead by police in America after pointing a loaded shotgun at them...

• The splendid fellows at Doctor Who podcast Radio Free Skaro have posted up an MP3 interview with Simon Guerrier, conducted at the Gallifrey convention in LA last month. "Hear me stumble my way towards the articulate without ever quite getting there," says Simon.

• As part of the Bradford Laisterdyke Business & Enterprise College's innovative mini-literary festival and literacy promotion event Leap Into Books, Tony Lee will be doing two days, Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th April at the college. Also as part of the evening programming, he'll be live on stage at the Bradford Playhouse on the night of Wednesday the 8th from 7.30pm - 8.30pm, doing a 'one man show' for the more mature comic reader. The He's Only a Writer event is at 7.30pm-8.30pm, Wednesday 8th April. Tickets are £5.00 (£3.00 concession) and are available from the Playhouse Box Office (01274 820666), or online from (payment is either using Paypal or personal cheque)

• The upcoming Cold Day in Hell collection of early Seventh Doctor Who stories from Panini, out in May, will include a background feature on the 'making' of the stripsincluding interview material with Lee Sullivan, Ricard StarKings, Mike Collins and others. (I know this because I just filed it...) Richard Starking also provides an introduction to the volume.

• More Watchmen "and I know there’s been plenty of those around recently, but I think this one is a bit different," says Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon. New York writer Tom Crosshill kindly offered FPI a combi review/interview piece on the Watchmen: Portraits book after he met the photographer Clay Enos at the MoCCA Art of Watchmen exhibition and interviewed him. "I know some folks were less than impressed with the idea of that book but I thought it had some gorgeous photography and I like the fact Clay avoided Photoshop in the work," says Joe. "There’s plenty of gorgeous, luminous black and white photos to enjoy in the article too." Read it here

Jim Boswell has posted pages of his Michael Owen strip from Kick! that is on sale now in the UK.

• (with thanks to David Hughes) Hungry? This won't help but it's worthwhile swinging by Rob Jacksons website as a matter of regularity, his work on a Pasty Anthology is continuing apace with a great planet of the apes painting, erm with a twist. The anthology is based around Greggs Pasties - the food of modern Britain. "The story of Greggs is a Viz style tale of the centuries of loyal service done for the people of Britain by the bakers, and lots of other stuff about pasties too," Rob explains. Small press at its best, although my favourite food-related comics idea was one from former Fantasy Advertiser editor Martin Skidmore who, when asked to contribute a recipe to a fanzine wrote soemthing along the lines of: "Get Some Money. Go To a Fish and Chip Shop. Buy Fish and Chips. Eat Them." Priceless...

• And finally on Comic Relief Day, over on Bear Alley Steve Holland has uncovered a classic comic-styled cookery book from Disney: Cooking with Pooh. No, really...

John Higgins Talks Razorjack, Watchmen

Brilliant artist and colourist John Higgins has just completed a new four page comic strip for his collected magnum opus, Razorjack. Published with revived Com.x, the Brit independent comic company that John says "have quality and production values that can be compared to any of the big companies".

Com.X is led by Eddie Deighton as the sole remaining Com.x creator and Publisher with his USA creative representative and co Publisher, Benjamin Shahrabani.
(See news story)

"All I had wanted to do with Razorjack was to create my own world outside of what I had been commissioned to do all my professional life," John, whose past credits include strips for 2000AD, The Hills Have Eyes and Thunderbolt Jaxon, tells downthetubes. "As much as I love working on Batman, Spider-Man or even the Watchman (sorry Watchmen), it has always been as a gun for hire.

"Now that doesn't stop you from being the best you can be, the best artist, the best writer, the best colourist or the best anyone, of the long production line of creative people that makes the book that goes on the shelves. But I had a story I wanted to tell, a story that no one else could tell, it was a John Higgins story. It is not profound, it won’t make you look at the world around you in a different way and it will never win the Nobel Prize for literature. (Although it would be nice to be nominated). But anyway, it is just a horror story populated by weird creatures, with colourful art and nice designs.

"It kept me entertained writing, drawing and colouring it on and off for around ten years," says John, " and now it's finally collected into one book.

"Check it out, I hope for you to get at least a couple of hours enjoyment from it and if you do, tell your friends and even tell me."

John also tells us he's currently enjoying all the renewed interest in Watchmen generated by the new film. "I'm blown away by the interest in Watchmen now, from all corners – not just comic fans.

"For me it has always been a towering creative presence that has been there on the periphery of my career, for twenty odd years, due to the genius of Alan and Dave," he continues. "But until I had the opportunity to digitalize the colour for the Absolute Watchmen I had no real interest seeing it or talking about it. As I have said in my section of the Dave Gibbons book Watching the Watchmen, all I could see were the limitations imposed by the primitive colour printing process in 1986 when it was first printed and I hated what I saw on those collected editions for over twenty years.

"But thankfully I got the second bite of that creative cherry in 2005, and was gratified my Watchmen colour concept had stood the test of time and was still relevant for the subject matter. We could also finally get rid of the grey I used on the first couple of issues, before we found how badly it printed and create a consistency of scene colouring, add better modeling and balance the colour across the Watchmen spectrum. I was also working directly on the art/print files so no intermediate hands interpreted and hand sep’d my colour for the printing plates this time.

"Absolute had a direct link to my golden years at Marvel UK," John reveals. "I worked closely with that goddess of comic production, the immaculate Alison Gill who worked at Marvel UK all those years ago, (and she still only looks 16!) and who was one of the stalwarts of the socializing then and is now working at DC as the Head of the Production department ensuring the highest level of comic production. And a glass of White Chardonnay is till her tipple of choice!"

Absolute Watchmen original colour proofs are now on sale,
via Splash Page Comic Art’s website When John was hired to re-master the colours for the oversized edition of the series in 2004, a single colour proof was printed out for each interior page of the book and the colours were checked for accuracy, which is what is being offered at Splash Page. With Watchmen original published artwork selling for several thousands per page and more, this is a rare opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind piece of original Watchmen artwork.

Each colour proof is printed on high quality paper that measures 11 X 17”, and will be signed by both Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins, and embossed with a Watchmen design seal at the bottom of the page. A certificate of authenticity will be provided for each page purchased.

Read an interview with John Higgins on The Mindless Ones web site

Issue 281 of Judge Dredd Megazine (dated 3 Mar 09) contains a seven-page interview with John, in which Michael Molcher covers almost every aspect of John's career. It's available digitally via

• John will be doing a signing at Orbital Comics in London on Saturday 18th April 2009

Cla$$war Returns

This month sees the welcome return of British indie publisher Com.X, whose success was torpedoed by a series of unfortunate events shortly after it launched in the early Noughties.

Com.X kicks off its new projects with a hardcover collected edition of Cla$$war, comprising the first six issues of the superhero tale initially drawn by Trevor Hairsine back in 2002.

In a candid interview for ComicBookResources, publisher Eddie Deighton and Cla$$war writer Rob Williams reveal the story behind Com.X's woes that put paid to its initial publishing plans, which included the loss of two of its top artists to industry heavyweight Marvel Comics and a devastating burglary that saw all their equipment stolen and effectively brought an end to the company.

After launching its flagship sampler Issue#Zero in April 2000, Com.x released its first titles into the comic marketplace in February 2001. The first wave of titles were Bazooka Jules, John Higgins' Razorjack and Puncture, followed by Cla$$war, Sky Between Branches, Codename: Babetool, N-jin, and the collected edition of The Last American – titles whose art and production values were as high or higher than those of industry leaders like Marvel and DC Comics.

The company foundered, but is now back in business, with a collected edition of John Higgins' Razorjack set to debut by the end of March and a brand new original superhero graphic novel, 45, planned for this summer.

"45 is well on it's way to complete," publisher Eddie Deigton told CBR. "The script is finished, and we've gotten maybe about 35 artists on board for the whole project." You can view work in progress here

"The concept is that a normal Joe Public journalist finds out his wife is about to give birth to a baby that may have the S-gene -- or 'the super gene' -- and he has to face reality and accept the kid may change the whole course of his life," Eddie explains. "So he decides to go and interview 45 different superheroes."

For more on Cla$$war and other upcoming Com.X projects, check out the publisher's blog at

Read the CBR interview with the Com.X team

Frazer Irving Goes Orbital

The great Frazer Irving, doodler of the dark and diabolical including Judge Death, From Grace and amazing writer David Hine, currently writing on Spider-Man Noir but whose credits stretch back to the 1980s with strips for Crisis, 2000AD and Doctor Who, will be signing at London's Orbital Comics on 28th March at 3.00pm.

British comic artist and musician Irving broke into comics via 2000AD and since then has drawn" for all the big shots in comics" as well as playing in a band called the Atom Heart Brothers.

Orbital Comics
8 Great Newport Street
London WC2H 7JA
Tel: 0207 2400591

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Electric Sheep Springs on Tainted Love

The all new spring issue of Electric Sheep Magzine, featuring illustrations by Oli Smith, Emma Price and Tom Humberstone and a new comic strip by Mark Stafford, focuses on Tainted Love to celebrate the release of the sweet and bloody pre-teen vampire romance Let the Right One In, with articles on incestuous cinematic siblings, François Ozon’s tales of tortuous relationships, destructive passion in Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing, Julio Medem’s ambiguous lovers and nihilistic tenderness from Kôji Wakamatsu.

Alex Fitch also reviews Timecrimes, in which a man who accidentally travels back into the past and meets himself, and looks at the similarities between Wall-E and the Planet of the Apes (!), Tania Glyde discusses her 'alter-ego' in The Last Seduction and Virginie Selavy interviews Tomas Alfredson, author of Let the Right one in...

Electric Sheep Magazine is available in good UK bookshops now and available online (with a 15% disconut) at

• More info at

• The March digital edition of Electric Sheep Magazine is online now and includes a review of Watchmen by Alex Fitch, Not Quite Hollywood and Bronson by Mark Stafford and a round table discussion of the short films of Jeff Keen by Tania Glyde, Alex Fitch and Kim Morgan

Simonson On Air and Other Podcasts...

Alex Fitch talks to artist and writer Walter Simonson on Resonance FM which week, the creator whose exceptional four-year run on the Marvel comic The Mighty Thor in the early 1980s remains the most appreciated version of the character since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought the Viking hero to Marvel comics a generation before.

Alex and Walt talk about combining European mythology and space opera, esoteric character design (why does Beta Ray Bill have a face like a horse's skull?), turning the Norse god of war into a talking frog and the joy of revisiting classic heroes.

• Strip!: The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson airs at 5.00pm Thursday 12/03/09, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 15/03/09, Resonance 104.4 FM (London), streamed at / extended podcast after transmission at

Also this week, Resonance FM's weekly show about Asian Culture,
Lucky Cat: Live Action Manga, regular host Zoe Baxter invites Alex Fitch (Electric Sheep Magazine) and Helen McCarthy (The Animé Encyclopedia) into the studio to discuss live action manga adaptations such as 20th Century Boys and Death Note and how these compare to animé versions and adaptations of Western comic books such as Watchmen. The show includes Zoe's regular eclectic mix of Asian music from the last half century and live tastings from the Dim Sum Lunchbox...

• Lucky Cat: Live action Manga airs at 9.00pm Tuesday 17/03/09, Resonance 104.4 FM (London), streamed at

Online now at, downthetubes readers may also be interested in Reality Check: The Invisible Art of Acting for Radio, in which Alex Fitch talks to actor Rupert Degas about his various roles in genre radio and audio dramas such as playing David Warner’s sidekick “Rizla” in the BBC7 adaptation of Robert Rankin’s The Brightonomicon and playing the father of a cyrogenically preserved child in Kim Newman’s Cry-Babies which was recently broadcast on Radio 4. Alex and Rupert also talk about his roles in Dan Dare, Dirk Gently and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy plus his uncredited role voicing the devil in Exorcist: The Beginning

Monday, 9 March 2009

Thought Bubble Plans Mass Book Crossing

The Leeds Thought Bubble festival team have announced this year's event will run from the 20 - 22 November, with a one day convention event on Saturday 21st at Saviles Hall Leeds, England.

"Throughout this year's event we will hold workshops, talks, comic related film screenings and a huge book crossing," says Thought Bubble director Lisa Wood. Book crossing, which began in 2001, is of course the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others (more info on

"In our 2009 book crossing we'll attempt to turn Leeds in to one massive comic store, by leaving graphic novels all around the city for people to pick up in our goal to promote literacy though sequential art.

Thought Bubble,, which attracted some 1600 fans in 2008, is a non-profit making organisation dedicated to spreading the word of comics and manga though free workshops for children and adults and other comic related activities.

• If anyone is interested in helping, appearing or finding out more about this year's even contact Lisa via
• More infomation via

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Tube Surfing: 8 March 2009

• (via Matt Badham): Space war story Insurrection is currently wowing all those Earthlets who pick up Judge Dredd: The Megazine every month - with many suggesting that it might be one of the best series the Megazine has ever produced. John Burdis caught up with writer Dan Abnett to find out more. "The actual brief was to bring to the Dredd Universe something of the epic war-in-space scale of the stuff I write for Warhammer 40K," Dan reveals. "Tharg (Matt to his friends) wanted a stonking big space war story that would suit the universe of the Mega-Cities. I was happy to oblige..." The full interview features on 2000AD Review here

Thomas Cochrane informs us a new chapter of his fabulous tortological time travel tale Fat Man strip is now available via, introducing the fabulous Louise Brooks as a character. Thomas is also launching an online comic strip Soap Opera on 1st April called The Queen of Spades, a modern version of Pushkin's classic. Described as a live action comic book, find out more about this dark tale of murder, madness and satanism via facebook...• (via Warren Ellis): Rudy Rucker’s webmag of weird fiction and stuff, FLURB (, has reached its seventh iteration, with an excellent line-up including 2000AD creator Kek-W, Richard Kadrey and Simon Logan. FLURB is rarely less than fascinating. Go and read, all for free.

• After months of talking about it, Jon Haward and Andie Lines have launched their new web strip, the amazing interplanetary travels of Joe Gravity and his friends in their first adventure called Gravity Quest. "It's a new kid friendly blog strip," says Jon.

• Former Marvel UK Bullpen boss Richard Starkings got the opportunity to enthuse (as well he should) about Elephantmen on Electric Playground recently: catch the interview via this link, about two-thirds in...

Antony Johnson's Alan Moore adaptation Light of Thy Countenance is now finally available in stores.

Jim Boswell has a two-page strip featuring Wayne Rooney in the latest issue of footie mag Kick!, on sale now in all good newsagents!

ComPal Auction Closes This Week

A quick reminder that the Spring 2009 auction at Compalcomics, which includes offerings of art from TV21 by Frank Bellamy and Mike Noble (see news story) closes this week.

Bidding will close on Tuesday 10 March at 8 PM UK time.

There are 426 lots in the Spring catalogue and the UK section comprises a strong collection of war years comics from DC Thomson's finest and a further good run of early bound volumes including Union Jack, Boys' Friend Library (with some first publications of Biggles novels), Champion (from No 1), Crackers, Detective Weekly, Film Fun, Thriller and the last few volumes of Schoolgirls' Own Library.

Also featured is original artwork from Laurel And Hardy, Oor Wullie, The Broons, Desperate Dan, Keyhole Kate, and a rare cover board by Frank Bellamy of TV Century 21's Captain Scarlet followed closely by Fireball XL5 and Joe 90: Top Secret original pieces.

Finally a wonderful run of Lady Penelope 1-100 is parked at lots 114-130 ('old tight, m'lady, I'm on me way...').

The catalogue's US (depth?) charge is led by Sub-Mariner Comics #1 from 1941; a rare Timely piece at lot 158, and the second tranche of the auction house's single owner collection in 132 lots from Batman #3, #5 and #38 through The Avengers, Daredevil and Fantastic Four to X-Men. There's also an original artwork splash page of The Invincible Iron Man by Don Heck at lot 260, and also look out for Superman #40 with a Mr Mxyztplk cover.

• Compalcomics holds four auctions a year. View the auction catalogue via

TV Magician Ali Bongo Dies

TV Magician Ali Bongodownthetubes is sorry to report that TV Magician Ali Bongo -- described by friends as "the most influential and respected man in magic" -- has died following a stroke, after being taken ill in France last month during a lecture. He was 79.

Bongo, real name William Wallace, was born in India and acted as a consultant on The Paul Daniels Magic Show and was also an assistant to fellow magician David Nixon. He was awarded the 1993 Carlton Award for Comedy and was elected President of The Magic Circle last September.

Perhaps of most interest to readers of this website, however, were his appearances in The Tomorrow People (in the story The Revenge of Jedikiah by Roger Price) and his work advising on Jonathan Creek. Indeed, Creek's creator David Renwick once said that Bongo's work was the inspiration behind the main character. He also acted as the full-time magical advisor to 1970s cult TV show, Ace of Wands also building specialised props for the show, such as the snake in the story "The Power of Atep", the smoke bombs in "Now You See It, Now You Don't" and even played the mummy in "The Eye Of Ra".

Bongo also advised Doctor Who during the making of the Tom Baker story The Talons of Weng-Chiang. His input, alongside Larry Barnes, went uncredited but his involvement was appreciated by Tom Baker in his autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker?

"This is especially distressing after reports of his progress had been so encouraging, and the whole world of magic will mourn his passing," a statement reads on the web site of The Magic Circle. "Ali devoted his life to magic, and The Magic Circle in particular, for whom he was our finest international ambassador. Our sympathies go out to his family and close friends at this sad time. The numerous tributes that continue to flood in are testament to his far reaching influence and popularity.

Ali Bongo (William Wallace), magician, born on December 8, 1929, died of pneumonia on March 8, 2009, aged 79

Daily Telegraph Obituary
The Times Obituary
Home Counties Magical Society

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