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Saturday, 21 March 2009

Can DFC Readers Save Their Comic?

Save The DFCA group of readers of the Random House subscription-only comic The DFC are trying to raise funds to stage a 'subscriber' buy-out of the title and have launched a blog to chart the progress of the campaign at:

If you would like to pledge a sum to take part in the buy out please click on the blog's pledgling links to send them an email indicating the amount you would be happy to pledge.

"Save The DGC is a wholly independent bid to create a subscriber take-over / buy out of the amazing DFC weekly comic for kids," explains architect Barnaby Gunning, who is heading up the campaign, who, along with his kids, think it would be a real shame to lose the comic.

"Our aim is to build up enough pledges to be able to buy The DFC title from Random House and support it for the next 12 months.

"We are not looking for any money unless we manage to raise sufficient pledges," adds Barnaby. "We will not divulge any emails to third parties, or use your email address for anything other than confirming your pledge and keeping you informed of progress."

• Whether you're a subscriber or not, this is a brave effort on the part of its loyal fans: for more information visit:

• For more information, visit the blog or call Barnaby on 07779107365

• If you want to ctach up with some of the creators of The DFC strips, here's some links: Neill Cameron (Mo-Bot High), Jim Medway (Crab Lane Crew), Dave Shelton (Good Dog, Bad Dog), Sarah McIntyre (Vern and Lettuce), Jamie Smart (Fish-Head Steve), The Etherington Brothers (Monkey Nuts), Jason Cobley (Frontier), John Welding (Will Scoggin's Skull), James Turner (Super Animal Adventure Squad), Wilbur Dawbarn (Bodkin and the Bear), Laura Howell (The Mighty M), Kate Brown (Spider Moon), Gary Northfield [Little Cutie] and Simone Lia [Sausage and Carrots]

Friday, 20 March 2009

How to Paint Rorschach

A bit late to the table with this one, but what with trips to London and the ramping up of the first of several new web sites during the day, I've been a bit sidetracked - apologies!

The April issue of ImagineFX – on sale now - boasts world-exclusive cover art from Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, with an in depth workshop ‘How to Paint Rorschach’ and an accompanying video workshop from Dave on our free DVD.

There’s also an eight-page feature looking at the history and influence of the genre-defining comic, with comment from Vertigo Comics president Paul Levitz, Watchmen colourist John Higgins and one of the film’s concept artists Scott Lukowski.

The magazine's DVD also features over nine hours worth of video tuition, along with two fantastic comic creation software trials.

• IFX is on sale in WHSmith, Tesco, and all good newsagents. More info and subscription details at

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Tharg's Head Revisited

HellblazerIn October 2008, occasional downthetubes contributor Matthew Badham interviewed freelance writer Andy Diggle (who is also the ex-editor of 2000AD). An edited 2000 word version of that interview was published in the February edition of the Judge Dredd Megazine.

Now, with the kind permission of Andy and Megazine editor Matt Smith, the full, un-edited transcript of the interview has been posted at Citizen Badham, Matthew's blog.

In the interview, Andy talks about writing comics and video games, editing 2000AD and gives his thoughts on the future of comics and the British comics scene:

"Yeah, I've always enjoyed telling stories. I tend to think very visually, and I was always more drawn to script writing than prose. I remember when I was a kid, back before we had a VCR, I recorded The Empire Strikes Back on audio tape off the TV and then transcribed the asteroid field sequence in screenplay format. Just to get a feel for the medium, I guess.

"Weeding through the submission pile was always grim, but you made up for that when you found the occasional ruby in the dust. Guys like Jock and Frazer Irving were sending me unsolicited submissions; now we're not only working together, we're good mates. A lot of great talent came out of that slush pile: Mike Carey, Ben Oliver, Si Spurrier, Boo Cook, Rob Williams, Ian Edgington, Al Ewing...

"As for British comics, there seems to be quite a thriving small press scene at the moment. So much so that I've been seriously considering setting up a small comic con. Watch this space."

• Read the full interview at Matthew's blog here.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Newspaper Cull in Manchester: Fighting Back

All right, this isn't quite comics, but it's definitely not good news if you're a comics creator who's ever used your local papers to promote events or projects like I have (our Morecambe Visitor kindly ran a two-page spread on Ex Astris when it started running in Spaceship Away).

Local newspapers, while rarely featuring comic strips themselves, are at least very good at giving a local voice to creators. Some, like the Birmingham Mail, even have a regular comics column, Speech Balloon, written by Paul Birch.

But many are in crisis: almost 60 have closed in the past 18 months, the victims of credit crunch and competition from online news and more particularly the huge decline in classified ad sales. Jobs are being slashed and behind the scenes departments (subbing, photography) merged as the large newspaper groups that have gobbled up all these newspapers seek to make savings.

Annoyingly for most of the local newspapers in question, if they were still locally owned some would be profitable and able to maintain staffing levels. As part of much wider groups their individual worth is just not being valued, especially by bean counters in the accounts departments of big companies such as Newsquest and Johnston Press.

Now, management at the Manchester Evening News group, which is owned by the Guardian, want to make nearly 80 journalists redundant - roughly a third of its editorial staff - and close all the offices of its Greater Manchester weekly newspapers, thereby depriving Manchester's population of its local voice.

These are savage cuts - the biggest of their type in the country - and an assault on local democracy that campaigners argue will tear apart the fabric of Manchester's community news.

There's now an online petition calling for the cuts plans to be dropped: and a Facebook Group marshalling opposition to the cull.

The newspapers affected are:

Accrington Observer
Oldham Advertiser
North and East Manchester Advertiser
Rossendale Free Press
Middleton and North Manchester Guardian
Tameside Advertiser and the Glossop Advertiser
South Manchester Reporter
Stockport Express and Times
Salford Advertiser and the Prestwich and Whitefield Advertiser
Macclesfield Express and Times and the Poynton Times
Wilmslow Express
Trafford Metro News
Rochdale Observer
Heywood Advertiser

The plans would mean all weekly papers in the MEN group, from as far north as Accrington to as far south as Wilmslow, would be based at its Deansgate office in central Manchester. Journalists would be expected to cover their areas from Manchester and there would be nowhere for local people to drop into in their local area.

Inevitably this will mean that the quality of Manchester's local papers will suffer; journalists will no longer be able to get a grasp on local issues and will rarely, if ever, be able to cover council meetings or court cases - a role which is an intrinsic part of local democracy.

This is devastating not only for the staff involved, but for Greater Manchester as a whole, and is being fought tooth and nail by the staff affected, local Chambers of Commerce, councils and more.

If this kind of cull happens in Manchester, it will be a green light for other companies to follow suit.

Incredibly, the cuts are being done in the name of the Scott Trust, which was set up to safeguard the Guardian's liberal principles in perpetuity. Strangling Manchester's newspapers and so suffocating the region's democracy is not the way to go about preserving those principles.

Stop The Manchester Cuts Petition
Facebook: Stop the closure of Greater Manchester's local newspapers

Daleks Series That Never Was

The latest issue of Panini UK's Doctor Who Magazine -- alongside its usual as ever excellent coverage of the ongoing TV series -- features some cracking illustrations by comics artist Brian Williamson that accompany a feature on a series spin-off that never made it to the screen: The Daleks.

Written by top TV archivist Andrew Pixley, Daleks' Invasion USA: 1967 AD details how Dalek creator Terry Nation tried to get a Daleks series off the ground at a time when Dalekmania gripped the nation. According to the article, which includes a detailed synopis of Nation's "pilot episode" for the series, set construction had even begun when negotiations between Nation and the BBC broke down, largely over costs.

Meticulously researched, Pixley delivers one of the most intriguing freatures on the history of Doctor Who in many a year... we just hope that given the Magazine's cover date, it's not an April Fool*.

Brian will be well known to some downthetubes readers for his work on the Torchwood strip for Torchwood Magazine, and for his past Doctor Who and Marvel UK work. Lured away from comics by the regular paycheck of the games industry he's now freelance once more, working as an illustrator for newspapers, books and advertising.

Despite their popularity, the Daleks have had an ill-fated history outside the Doctor Who show when it comes to spin-offs. In the 1990s Keith Barnfather of Reeltime Pictures, Nicholas Briggs, Kevin Davies and John Freeman attempted to get an animated Daleks series off the ground and began discussion with Nation, but the plans got no further than initial outlines and conversations with Nation himself during a US convention in Chicago.

• Doctor Who Magzine Issue 406 which also includes an interview with David Tennant, a new comic strip written by Dan McDaid with art by Sean Longcroft and a tribute to the late Dalek operator John Scott Martin is on sale in all good UK newsagents and available in US comic shops.

* It isn't. Phew!

In Review: Tripwire Superhero Special 2009

Editor and publisher Joel Meadows kindly sent us a copy of the Tripwire Superhero Special, which is now on sale in all good comic shops, Borders UK and Barnes & Noble in the US.

Building on the fine work that went into last year's Tripwire Annual, this time round the focus is costumed heroes and the magazine is packed with exclusive interviews with creators such as Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn (talking about the Kick-Ass movie and comic - John Romita Jr also talks about designing the Kick-Ass characters), Paul Cornell (on Captain Britain), Geoff Johns (on his work on DC Comics Flash and the upcoming DC Universe game) and much more.

Highlights for me are the Cornell interview, a creator I've worked with in the past on Doctor Who Magazine and who always offers an interesting insight on his approach to writing. The feature includes an admittedly short overview of Captain Britain's history which thankfully notes the contributions to the character of creators other than Alans Moore and Davis.

Also of note is an excellent interview-feature with Tim Kring, Mark Verheiden and Bryan Fuller on their plans for TV's Heroes, which was recently re-commissioned, something Kring was unsure of at the time the feature was compiled, and he offers an interesting insight into the state of US TV at present. "Things change so quickly and the American networks are in a real transition period right now," he says. "Right now, nobody knows if there's going to be a network in a year!"

Printed on high quality paper with a wealth of impressive visuals, this is again an impressive self-published title, well worth tracking down if you're looking for an entertaining "snapshot" of the state of the superhero comics genre.

While my feeling is that the design of this issue is less polished than last year's Annual, and in places, some of the subbing is a little off -- not that I can talk, the way I miss words out of articles! -- this Tripwire Superhero Special is another labour of love from Joel and his team and features such as "15 Important Graphic Novels Ever" are worthy of attention and discussion.

So go, buy a copy now!

• The Tripwire Superhero Special is also available from Diamond, item code DEC084396, price just £4.95 UK, $7.95 US

The Last Word on Watchmen?

Cartoon by Mal Clark

Monday, 16 March 2009

'Watchmensch' Ships This Week

Rich Johnston and Simon Rohrmuller's Watchmensch -- a parody of a certain legendary graphic novel and recent blockbuster movie, as well as a trip through time to the beginnings of superhero comics -- ships Wednesday 18th March in the USA and Thursday 19th March in the UK.

Written by London-based comics gossip industry columnist Rich Johnston, drawn by newcomer Swedish artist Simon Rohrmuller and published by American publisher Brain Scan Comics, "Watchmensch" seeks to compare and contrast the legal wranglings over the recent movie, with the comics industry as a whole, from the creation of Superman in the 1930s to the present day.

Featuring a large half-naked blue man (modestly covered) as the omnipotent voice of business, 1700 Broadway Manhattan, a vengeful and Hassidic-attired Spottyman, the rockstar billionaire Ozyosbourne, the legal eagle Silk Taker and the cross-dressing Nite Nurse, the Watchmensch have to fight against a global conspiracy that threatens
the destruction of comics' creators rights.

"I laughed out loud at Watchmensch. Several times, in fact," says Watchmen co-creator and artist Dave Gibbons. Referring to the amended end of the Watchmen movie, he added "[Watchmensch's] climactic scene is more awesome than any squid!"

Shops stocking the comic can be found at as well as art from the comic and reviews and interviews with the creative team.

We reviewed Watchmensch earlier in the year: it's a savage take on US comics, laced with a decent amount slice of humour and visual gags. Read our full review here

• Visit the Brain Scan Studios website for more information. For sample pages, a list of stockists and other info, visit the book's official web site:

Talbot Praises Insomnia's CancerTown

Myebook - Cancertown - click here to open my ebookTo the delight of new British indie comics company Insomnia Publications, top British comics creator Bryan Talbot (The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland) has written the foreword for their upcoming title Cancertown, written by Cy Dethan with art from Stephen Downey.

"This is seriously the best thing that has happened to us since we began our adventures in comics," Insomnia's Creative Director Nichola Wilkinson told downthetubes.

Cancertown - previewed on myebook, click image right - centres on Vince Morley, a man with big problems and a brain tumour like a baby's fist, living with one foot in a monstrous alternate world he calls Cancertown.

When the lost and dispossessed of London start tripping over the same cracks in reality he spends his life avoiding, Morley realises he must confront the residents of Cancertown - and risk finding his place among them.

Cancertown will be released in May, and is currently available to pre-order from Amazon.

"For a first graphic novel from a new creative team, Cancertown is remarkable," says Bryan. "Cy Dethan’s concept alone is brilliant. Is the protagonist, Vincent Morley, a cynical knight in tarnished armour battling unspeakable monsters in a gonzoid Chapel Perilous or a dying sad bastard besieged by visions generated by his terminal brain tumour?

"... Moreover (do people still say that?) Cancertown actively embraces horror, the genre of horror fiction," he adds. "It’s not trigger-shy... It sets out to horrify, and it succeeds. Although Cancertown owes more to Clive Barker than Ramsey Campbell, it still, like Campbell, has its roots in H.P. Lovecraft and its evocation of genuine creepiness is undeniable. This is in no small part due to the visceral, hallucinogenic art of Stephen Downey working in tandem with the hard-bitten script, the atmospheric colours of Melanie Cook and inventive lettering of Nic Wilkinson.

"We’re seeing here the first outing of creators who will make their mark on the future comic industry."

"The eye-opening experience of reading Luther Arkwright as a kid was one of the key reasons I wanted to start writing comics in the first place," says Cancertown writer Cy Dethan, "so to have an introduction from its creator is simply unbelievable."

• If you're going to be at the Bristol International Comic Expo and the Small Press Expo 2009, you'll be able to pick Cancertown up (along with its Insomnia brethren, Layer Zero 3 and Cages) at special convention prices or by pre-ordering directly from Insomnia before 9th May (either to pick up at the convention or to be posted to you if you can't make it). Just email Nichola at and let her know what you need.

• You can read Bryan's full foreword here on the Insomnia Publications official blog.

• Insomnia's website:

More Commandos Officially Available Online

(With thanks to Jeremy Briggs): DC Thomson's official Commando web site has been updated again with another free to read strip and more giveaways to promote the popular digest title. Our sources at DC Thomson indicate the Commando web site is something of a "test bed" for the company's ongoing experimentation with web promotion for its titles, and we have to wonder if it's considering the rollout of similar sites promoting some of its archive – Starblazer, anybody?

The latest e-Commando story Buccaneer Bob RN is now complete on the site. Written by R.A. 'Monty' Montague and illustrated by DCT stalwart Gordon Livingstone, it was originally published as issue 618 in January 1972 and reprinted as issue 1740 in October 1983. Read it here

This is the fourth complete Commando story to go onto the site for free viewing. The others are Wall of Death, They Flew By Night and Last Laugh.

The Commando cover gallery has been updated again and now features issues 1 to 60 with credits for cover artist, interior artist and writer for each issue plus the often lurid back cover description - Terror reigned in German hearts whenever the high-pitched scream of power dives warned of the coming of the... Phantom Fighters!

Desktop wallpapers, based on the original art for the comic's covers, are now up to batch 20 which includes art from Ian Kennedy and Keith Page.

With the Commando office recently restarting the Ramsey's Raiders series, written by Ferg Handley, two of the four wallpapers this time are Raiders covers illustrated by Ian Kennedy including one what would make a perfect cover for a big Carlton reprint book of the Raiders series -- if Carlton ever realise that such a book would be a good idea.

That said, with six Commando reprint books behind them, including the latest Bandits at 12 O'Clock, the next Carlton Commando book is already scheduled for May 14 2009 and will be entitled D-Day Fight Or Die!.

D-Day 1944 was the largest amphibious invasion in history and is one of the world's most famous military actions. The stories, chosen by both ex-editor George Low and current editor Calum Laird, cover all the heroic action of 'The Longest Day', 6 June 1944. Including Ambush at Dawn, Normandy Drop and Blood of Heroes to Operation Bulldog and The Footsloggers, Commando: D-Day Fight or Die! features a dozen action-packed stories of the soldiers who stormed Hitler's formidable Atlantic Wall from air, land and sea-and won.

The CommandoMag website can be found here

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Happy 50th Birthday, Mighty Moth!

(with thanks to "Ian"): The first appearance of Mighty Moth, the longest-running strip in Britain's TV Comic was in Issue 384, dated week ending 14th March 1959.

The strip ran every week until the title was cancelled in June 1984 and was the creation of Dick Millington, whose more recent credits include The Guinness Book of Records for the Mail on Sunday for 10 years and who still writes and draws the I Don't Believe It strip in the Daily Mail

Technically, of course, TV Comic Issue 384 would have been on on sale since the previous Monday (9th March), but for a strip that simply featured man versus moth every issue for some reason it stuck in my brain and was often great fun, as was Dick's other TV Comic work such as Basil Brush and The Moonbeams. He also wrote several strips including The Telegoons and edited TV Comic's stable mate title Pippin and drew Happy Famillies for Whizzer and Chips and Ray Presto for Krazy.

Mighty Moth also stuck in the mind of Alan Moore, apparently making a cameo in The Black Dossier (on Page 190).

"I wrote the stories and drew the entertainment for 16 years in the Sixties and Seventies, along with Basil Brush," Millington, who lives in Canterbury, confirmed in the Daily Mail in 2002 when asked if he was the Moth's creator by a reader. "My career in humour began in early youth when I was stooge to my dad, a semi-professional comedian ('don't give up the day job') whose stage name was Billy Jiggs.

"We were children's entertainers by day and on the working mens club circuit in London and Essex - an experience that has subdued better men than me.

"Unable to overcome stage-fright, I decided to retire from showbusiness and become a cartoonist - where, in a high- circulation newspapers like the Daily Mail one can reach a huge audience without them shouting back!"

Here at downthetubes we echo other fans who say "Here's to 50 more years swatting", but like many other great comics and strips, it's not to be.

The Mirror
's parent Trinity Mirror of course owns the rights to Mighty Moth and other non-licensed strips that featured in TV Comic.

More TV Comic Highlights Here
Dick Millington on Lambiek

Alan Davis Expo Print Revealed

The Alan Davis DR and Quinch Britsol EXpo EXclusive Limited Very Edition Print can now be ordered via the Expo site:

Produced only for Expo, which runs from 9-10 May in Bristol, this signed A3 Full Colour Print on 300gsm card is strictly limited. Each print will be dedicated by Alan Davis and has been produced by kind permission of Rebellion.

Orders are limited to one per person and can be ordered now for collection at the show, price just £15.

To pre-order just email

The Bristol Comics Expo, which features the usual line up of ace British talent, takes place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May 2009.

Fallen Angel Media ( will also be hosting a special Small Press Expo on the Saturday only at Bristol’s Mercure Hotel. A dedicated web site for this event will be going live in the next few days at:

Guests confirmed so far (subject to work comitments) include Charles Adlard, Asia Alfasi, Bambos!, Graham Bleathman, David Baillie, Stephen Baskerville, Jim Boswell, Dan Boultwood, Simon Bisley (in association with Reed Comics), Lee Bradley, Mark Buckingham, John M. Burns, Laurence Campbell, Jason Cardy, John Charles, Mike Collins, Mike Conroy, Steve Cook,Ian Culbard, Alan Davis, Al Davison, Cy Dethan, Andy Diggle, Jon Davis-Hunt, Robert Deas, Ian Edginton, Hunt Emerson (in association with Knockabout), Gary Erskine, Neil Edwards, Sally Evans, Andi Ewington, Duncan Fegredo, Henry Flint, Gary Frank, Lee Garbett, Dave Gibbons, Paul Gravett, Paul Grist, Ferg Handley, Martin Hayes, John Higgins, (in association with Com.X), David Hine, James A. Hodgkins, Peter Hogan, Jock, Kris Justice, Shaky Kane, Roger Langridge, Tony Lee, Lya, John McCrea, Joel Meadows, Gary Spencer Millidge, Kat Nicholson, Kevin O'Neill (in association with Top Shelf & Knockabout), Tim Perkins, Sean Phillips, Tim Pilcher, Mike Ploog (in association with Reed Comics), Dave Shelton, Gilbert Shelton (in association with Knockabout), Siku, Lew Stringer, Kirsty Swan, Dylan Teague, Andie Tong, Lee Townsend, John Watson, Emma Vieceli, Kit Wallis, Phil Winslade, Rob Williams and Yishan.

Publishers and retailers at the event include DC Comics, Ardden Entertainment, Classics Illustrated, Cine Books, Panini, Rebellion, Titan, Tripwire, Markosia, Wizards Keep, Forbidden Planet (London) and more.

• More Bristol Comic Expo Information:

• Festival Web site:
Fallen Angel Media
For information on the small press event contact for full details
Ramada Hotel, Bristol
Mercure Hotel, Bristol

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