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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Orang Utan Moves to Light Speed

British indie publisher Orang Utan Comics have just released two new comics, both available to order online - and which will be on sale at the Comics Expo in Bristol next month.

FTL#1, available from Indyplanet, is the first issue of their brand new black and white anthology featuring 32 pages of beautifully greyscaled art and new stories by Orang Utan Comics veterans Ian Sharman, Peter Rogers and Trey Wickwire, along with a brand new story from the exceptionally talented Dwight L. MacPherson (creator of the web comic, The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo).

The first senses shattering issue of FTL will take you to a future Earth ravaged by a war between humans and robots; you’ll see a young girl seduced and corrupted by the darkness of vampirism:you’ll ride with a group of vampire hunters as they hunt the last true vampire; and you’ll see terrifying beasts return from myth and legend to lay waste to mankind!

Also released today is the Alpha Gods graphic novel, previously available to read online in ebook form. Since its online launch via, the in excess of 8,000 views in the three months since its release have persuaded Orang Utan Comics to release the entire 48 page, full colour graphic novel in print.

Wraped in a cover by John Charles, Alpha Gods follows in the foot steps of many a superhero comic, charting the gathering of an all-new superteam to battle threats to the world. Like Marvel's X-Men characters (particularly Nightcrawler and Beast), some are outcasts from society, untrained loose cannons whose mettle has yet to be tested. Against this, writer Ian Sharman weaves an unsettling background tale of fallen gods with Machiavellian plans for the world, with some accomplished if in places still-developing art from Ezequiel Pineda. (The good, I hasten to add, more than outweighing the occasional composition glitch: his design and visual sense is superb, influenced I suspect more by George Perez Teen Titans than the X-Men artists I can think of, although Paul Smith also springs to mind).

This graphic novel is effectively a scene setter for a wider story to come, but it's an entertaining and intriguing scene setter nevertheless, offering a depth to many of the characters often missing from many superteam books.

Both FTL and Alpha Gods will be available at the Orang Utan Comics stand at next month’s Bristol International Comic Expo, and also at the London MCM Expo later in the month. You can also order both titles online via the print on demand service, IndyPlanet (see links below).

“May is going to be a big month for Orang Utan Comics," enthuses Ian. "Not only do we have two great new titles to promote, but we’re also looking forward to getting out and meeting our fans.”

• There will be an Orang Utan Comics panel at the Bristol International Comic Expo next month. The panel will be held at 4.00pm in the Park Suite at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Bristol on Saturday 9th May, where the OUC team will be celebrating their second anniversary of creating what Ian calls “comics for a strange new world."

Order Alpha Gods from IndyPlanet

Order FTL #1 from IndyPlanet

• To find out more about Alpha Gods, read character bios and creator profiles, please visit

• For more information on Orang Utan Comics visit them online at

Friday, 24 April 2009

Cold Day on Sale!

... Well, almost. I've just received an advance copy of Panini's Doctor Who: A Cold Day in Hell collection which features strips from my period working on Doctor Who Magazine, as designer then editor.

The Panini team have done the stories proud, wrapping this eleventh collection of Who strips in a cover by Mike Collins and Dave Roach. The collection includes a 'commentary' (compiled by me!) on the making of the strips from creators such as Simon Furman, John Ridgway, Grant Morrison, Lee Sullivan, Kev Hopgood and others.

All the strips featured were commissioned and edited by Comicraft's Richard Starkings, who also provides an introduction to the book, revealing the strips were published at a time when Marvel UK was seriously considering removing comic strip from DWM altogether.

Doctor Who: A Cold Day in Hell is officially on sale from 4th May and DWM editor told Tom Spilsbury told downthetubes he's hoping some of the creators can be persuaded to stop by at the Panini table and do some signings at the Comic Expo in Bristol.

As previously reported, a second volume of Seventh Doctor is planned, but is unlikely to be scheduled for this year. If (and when) it’s published, it’s intended that the stories will continue to be released in order (starting with Nemesis of the Daleks featuring Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer). A third volume, featuring strips from the Storybooks, Hulk Comic and later issues of DWM may follow.

Buy A Cold Day in Hell from
Buy A Cold Day in Hell from

Mirabalis Continues Online

New episodes of Mirabilis, which ran in the dead-but-just-resting The DFC, have just been posted online:

The creation of Dave Morris and Leo Hartas, Mirabilis was originally intended to appear in episodic form in Random House's weekly comic, before being collected for publication in book form. As the DFC has gone (although it may resurface next year), you'll now have to wait for the graphic novels – the first of which, Winter, is planned to be 160 pages long.

The creators will announce the release date for that as soon as they know it.

"We're hoping to get all the earlier episodes up online eventually, but for contractual reasons that isn't possible just yet," says Dave. You can read the first four episodes, and episode 1, “Stung!” in both English and French.

DFC readers who were left on tenterhooks with Estelle plummeting through the train window at the end of episode 10 (“Outside Looking In”) can now find out what happened. Those further two episodes, “Murders to Dissect” and “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” may only be online for a limited time, however, so read them while you can!

Incidentally, of the many Flash readers for online comics I've used, the engine for Mirabilis is excellent, if a little requiring of instinctive clicking on first use. There's no clutter of uneccessary bells and whistles to help read the strip. Check it out.

You Are The Law!

Licensed Judge Dredd belt buckles are now available to pre-order from Termight Replicas.

This heavy buckle has been cast in zinc alloy and then gold plated with an enamelled flag on the front, and the results look impressive. The buckle is 9cm tall x 12cm wide x 1cm thick and can be attached to a 4cm wide belt.

The pre-order price is £39.95 post-free world wide and a suitable belt can be ordered for an additional £9.95. Click here to order

A quick reminder, too, that Termight also produce an officially licensed Dan Dare cap badge measuring 4.5cm in diameter and costs £9.95. The concept art is by Chris Weston, based on Frank Hampson's original design. Click here to order the Dare badge

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Diggle's Free Comic Book Day

Thunderbolts and Green Arrow writer Andy Diggle will be signing comics at Lancaster's First Age Comics in the Assembly Rooms, King Street on Free Comic Book Day (Saturday 2nd May). The signing starts at 2.00pm.

Andy's credits also include Hellblazer, The Losers and Capcom's Bionic Commando. He recently signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics and will be writing future issues of long-running title Daredevil (see news story).

"I've always enjoyed telling stories," Andy told downthetubes contributeor Matthew Badham in an interview recently. "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. I've never had any talent for drawing, though, so I'd write up these little comic scripts and then try to convince my more artistically talented school mates to draw them."

Andy also says he learnt a lot from being editor of 2000AD, although he regrets Rebellion's determination to abandon the publication of creator-owned material. "I had never wanted to be an editor, and I never particularly enjoyed being one. I always wanted to write. When the Editorial Assistant job came up, it was a great opportunity to learn, and I would have been a fool not to give it a go; and I did learn a lot and I made a lot of good friends; but I always knew I'd eventually go back to writing."

Read Matt's interview with Andy Diggle

Andy Diggle's Official Site

Strip!: Ed Pinsent and Fast Fiction

Continuing comic book publishing month on his Strip! radio show on London-based art radio station Resonance FM, Alex Fitch talks to comics creator Ed Pinsent, the second editor of the 1980s small press anthology Fast Fiction which was a ground breaking publication in the history of British comics.

As well as the magazine and small press distribution service - a precursor to today's Smallzone, run by Shane Chebsey - Fast Fiction also had a regular stand at the legendary Westminster Comic Marts in the 1980s, selling the small press works of the likes of Warren Ellis, SMS, Glen Dakin, Phil Elliott, Rian Hughes and many other top talents. It helped launch their careers in comics and illustration.

Alex talks to Ed about his comic book work then and now, his processes of including work in the Fast Fiction anthology and the reasons it came to an end.

Pinsent has written and drawn his own small press comics since 1982, including characters such as Primitif, Henrietta and Windy Wilberforce. His work also appeared in Escape Magazine, Knockabout Comix, and Fox Comics in Australia. He took over Fast Fiction in 1987, the name taken from a Classics Illustrated knock-off spotted in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. After Fast Fiction closed the mailing list was passed on to Luke Walsh and Mike Kidson, who used it to launch the small press comics review zine Zum!.

He also publishes The Sound Projector Music Magazine, devoted to reviews of experimental music, which launched in 1996.

This episode also features a competition to win a complete set of Dare Comics' The Hunter: tune in / download the podcast for more details!

• Strip! Ed Pinsent and Fast Fiction airs at 5.00pm tonight (Thursday 23rd April) and is repeated at 11.30pm Sunday 26th April on Resonance 104.4 FM (London), streamed at An extended podcast tonight at

In Review: New British Comics

Last month we gave a quick plug for the first issue of New British Comics, an 80-page comics anthology featuring, 13 stories and 17 artists including Dave Thomson, Malcy Duff, Paul O’Connell and Rob Miller.

The book has been self-published in Poland in both a Polish and English edition by Karol Wisniewski, the contents and strips are the same in both editions but the only difference is language.

Karol kindly sent us a copy of both editions to review and I have to say that I really enjoyed reading the English edition. (Lancaster has a large Polish community, so we plan to donate that one to the Library here when it re-opens after some Lottery-funded refurbishment -- they have a good comic collection for lendng).

Back in the 1980s, there were numerous independent comic anthologies published in the UK, and the tradition continues with the likes of the brilliant Futurequake and Omnivistascope. But, I'd argue, none of these modern titles have the quirkiness that made long-gone titles like Escape, which was home to creators such as Eddie Campbell, Glen Dakin and Eddie Campbell so distinctly memorable.

Maybe - just maybe - New British Comics will take up the mantle.

Crammed with great strips and a web site to showcase more to back it up, New British Comics doesn't yet have the same voice as Escape - there's no feature material and neither do I expect there will be. But what it does have is a range of challenging, for the most part enjoyable material from a disparate range of comic talents.

I always say this, but an anthology title is never not going to throw up a strip or two that isn't too the reader's personal taste - that's what makes them such a hard sell. But the good outweighs the borderline here, from the opening shot of Brownehayes by Dave Thomson, a bizarre fable about a bizarre prophet; Dan White's illustrated tale, Jackie Goes to Hell, as a girl plunges, Dante-like, into Satan's domain to find her dead boyfriend's soul (the Howling Men are just superb...); and Daniel Locke's woodcut-styled ghost story, No Word of a Lie.

And there's more: Paul O’Connell's edgy one pae strip, The Child Molester and his wonderful creation, Charley Parker, Handyman; Nelson Evergreen's Damieinne Hobbs Reflects, Caroline Parkinson's romance tale, Inner City... the list of notable material stretches on.

In short, if you can track down a copy of New British Comics then buy it. Give this ground-breaking project your support. The fact that this title has been co-published in Poland has helped raise awareness of all these comics talents and fly the flag for British comics on the continent - always something worth doing. Editor Karol Wisniewski has pulled off a remarkable coup in being one of the first independent 'small press' publishers to accomplish something akin to the sort of strip syndication that made giant publishers like IPC, DC Thomson and Egmont so successful. Perhaps others will now take his lead...

New British Comics is now available through SmallZone's online shop -, and Karol tells us that other UK shops should soon be distributing the book, too.

• There's now a new web site about the project at:

• More information and sample pages visit:

• In addition to the book a Polish website dedicated to comics - - has started publishing online British comics (click here for these)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Dave McKean Retrospective in Scotland

Dalmuir Library, Scotland is hosting a retrospective of artist Dave McKean's work until 30th May.

This free exhibition in the Library's Backdoor Gallery, part of the Booked! Festival which inclues appearances by SF writers Ian McLeod and Iain M. Banks, focuses on of framed works of original comic book art, book illustrations, photographs, and printed album covers is particularly aimed at a teenage and young adult audience -- although anyone with an interest in contemporary popular culture will find it exhilarating.

Dave McKean ( grew up with the exciting potential of New Comics - with the idea that for the artist the comic medium could be a means of creative expression and not merely an exercise in drawing graphic stereotypes.

McKean quickly emerged as an artist of rare innovative ideas, adapting mixed media and collage techniques to the compelling design of covers and layouts for comic books and Exhibitions the new graphic novels. Often working with Neil Gaiman, his reputation was spread through such works as Violent Cases, Arkham Asylum, Signal to Noise, Sandman, and Mr. Punch.

McKean embraced the new disciplines and possibilities of computer graphics from the 1980s onwards. He has already created many memorable pieces of work, which have assured him a place in the international history of 21st century graphic art.

In 2005 he made his directorial debut in film with Mirror Mask - a visually stunning fantasy story co-written with Gaiman, who in addition to comics projects, he has also worked with on the children's books The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and Wolves in the Wall. (The latter has been interpreted for theatre by the Improbable Company together with the National Theatre of Scotland).

• The Dave McKean Retrospective is at the Backdoor Gallery, Dalmuir Library, 3 Lennox Place, Dalmuir G81 4HR. Open Mon, Wed - Fri: 9.30am - 5pm; Tue: 1.30pm - 8pm; Sat: 10am - 1pm
• Go to to download the Booked! 2009 programme of events, which includes more information on the McKean exhibition on Page 9

Smart Wins TOXIC Poll

Jamie Smart has won the TOXIC Crazy Comic Poll and his strip, Count von Poo, will now have a regular spot in the comic.

Jamie announced he'd won the poll via Twitter earlier today and thanked everyone who'd voted for him.

TOXIC's Supplement featured work from a host of great creators and, hopefully the project will encourage Egmont to develop its comics brands further.

CTOXIC Comic Supplement - Free with Issue 137ount von Poo was well ahead in the online poll from Day One, followed by Zombie Nation by Luke Paton and Laura Howell.

Jamie is of course, perhaps best known for his 10-issue comic Bear and My Own Genie in The Dandy, but his credits also include Desperate Dan, Whubble and Fish Head Steve. Since 2004, he's also been developing shows with Cartoon Network.

Other contenders in the poll included Luke Paton, Laura Howell, Paul H Birch, John Freeman, Steve Harrison, Paul J Palmer, David Hailwood, Paul Harrison-Davies, Shane Oakley, John Erasmus, Lew Stringer and Stuart Arrowsmith.

TOXIC Web Site

Jamie Smart's Site

Tube Surfing: 22 April 2009

It's been a busy couple of weeks so our quick round ups of British comics news here have been a bit lacking. My apologies.

• The reason things have been scant here is down to the soft launch of, the technology, scifi and other weirdness site I work for as a day job, part of Steam Industries (the name inspired by steampunk). We're still shaping the site and there comics may begin to be included... Expect some cross posting of reviews at the very least.

Oli Smith got in touch ages ago to tell us his Grumpy Days has finished for the moment, but he's started an all new four pages per Wednesday comic called I, Toddler - "a fairytale about growing up and a bit of a departure in terms of style and content from me usual autobiography work." The first part can be viewed here

• Steve Holland has his hands full with various projects, but he's not leaving loyal fans of his Bear Alley blog in the lurch. To make up for the lack of daily posts he's publishing, with full permission, Eagles on the Western Front from Look and Learn. The was a long-running First World War strip that appeared in the magazine between July 1971 and October 1973. "The artwork throughout was by the great Bill Lacey and I think you'll enjoy the way it unfolds as a story," says Steve.

• The Girly Comic Book Volume 1 is now available from Factor Fiction here for the very reasonable price of £15. The Girly Comic website has a lot of sampler strips for the book as well as some original Girly Comic webcomics. "I’d encourage any of you interested in picking up the book to visit and see what you think - I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, enthuses Richard Bruton in a review over on the Forbidden Planet International web site. "The sheer breadth of styles and topics means there’s just got to be something here for you. But The Girly Comic Book is far more than your usual comic anthology, so I’d imagine you, like me, will be flicking through the pages finding new, exciting and interesting strips from the start to the end of this very impressive collection."

• (via Boing Boing) The free quarterly speculative fiction ‘zine Heliotrope’s fifth issue is a tribute to the mighty Michael Moorcock and boasts articles and short fiction from comics artist Bryan Talbot, Pyr Books editor Lou Anders, Hal Duncan, Catherynne M Valente, Chris Roberson, Paul S Kemp, Rhys Hughes and author Neil Gaiman, available online now as as PDF or to read in HTML format, all totally free from

• It looks like Jamie Smart's Count von Poo will will TOXIC's Crazy Comic poll, still ahead of strips featured in its recent strip giveaway, which has just gone off-sale. Jamie's strip is just ahead of Dave Hailwood and Paul Harrison-Davies Hoaxers, Werewilf and Lew Stringer's The Clump. Still, pleased to see that Bovver Baby by myself and Paul J. Palmer has claimed five per cent of the votes so far. Vote online at

• To commemorate Charles Darwin’s bicentenary, cartoons for the sixth Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival (where Darwin was born) are on a science and nature theme. Bloghorn is running some of them on its site. We particularly liked Royston Robertson's entry (oi). Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2009 is on 24th - 26th April. More info at:

• Talking of cartoons, Daniel Merlin Godbrey posits this intriguing insight into the life of cows, who apparently possess a secret fourth stomach to digest time...

• And finally for now... with animals in mind, we're pleased to report that comics creator 'Israeli has spotted Lucky the Half-Face Cat, which means it's officially the first day of spring in his neck of the woods. Half Face is something of a legend with the 2000AD contributor, a true cat survivor of many escapades.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Adlard, Reppion and Moore Interviewed

Along with its usal mix of great comic strip, the new issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine (Issue 283) contains two articles by downthetubes contributor Matthew Badham. They're both interviews. The first, Drawn of the Dead, is with artist Charlie Adlard. The second, The Writer with Two Brains!, is with writing team Leah Moore and John Reppion.

The issue also contains various articles and comic strips by all sorts of venerable creators, including Insurrection by Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil; and a stonking Judge Dredd tale, The Americans from Al Ewing and Nick Dyer.

The issue is on sale now in all good UK newsagents and available as an online download Clickwheel, which has had a re-design recently, as is 2000AD.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Absolute V for Vendetta Previewed

Top comics artist David Lloyd, creator of Kickback, has been sharing some of the newly-coloured 'bridging pages' for the upcoming Absolute V For Vendetta, due for release in August.

"For those of you who are only familiar with V in its collected form as a paperback or hardback, or in the various versions of it which have been published around the world, the bridging pages were full-page illustrations which I created for the original issues," David explains via his web site, "in order to link together the separate chapters of the story, and sometimes lead into and out of the issues.

"For the purpose of printing economics, all of the individual issues had to have a specific page-count, but the interiors of the issues couldn't be completely filled with reprint story material without breaking the chapters up. Blank pages were not an option of course, and we didn't want any advertising filling these blanks and marring the atmosphere of the story - so the concept of using bridging pages arose.

"My intention with them was never to use them to add meaning that wasn't intended to the end of a chapter if they followed one, or to it's beginning if the pages preceded a chapter," David continues. "My purpose at all times was for them to complement the action and not distort it. Within those boundaries I had a very enjoyable and creative time, and produced some illustration work I'm proud of."

However, David notes a caveat to the original version of the work. "At the time this work was done, there was no budget available to pay for these illustrations to be fully coloured and little time to do it anyway, so they were all simply tinted with an overall tone of any colour I considered appropriate for the atmosphere of the chapters they were attached to," he reveals. "But for the Absolute edition, I was offered the opportunity to fully colour all these pages, and I gladly took it.

"Over 50 of these full-page illustrations are now in full color, and have been colored using the same palette that V's colourists - Siobhan Dodds and Steve Whitaker - used in the individual chapters they worked on, to homage their contribution and join theirs in its tone. Siobhan and Steve used watercolour and colored inks respectively for their work, but I used coloured pencils, manipulated in Photoshop, in a repetition of the technique I applied to the colour of my graphic novel, Kickback. It worked well in maintaining the look of the original colour work.

"This new colour is part of a great package in the Absolute Vendetta," David enthuses, "which will look very much like a perfect binder of all the original issues of the serial, reprinting for the first time absolutely all of the art they contained, and more of the preparatory art that went into all the issues."

Recently, David also explains he wants to clear up a misconception that many V for Vendetta may be suffering from over how V came to be published in colour after its long run in the British comics magazine, Warrior in black and white, "a form that many admirers of the graphic novel still have a great fondness for," he acknowledges.

"This didn't happen because DC Comics insisted on it as part of the deal of reprinting and continuing the serial, as many may imagine," David explains. "DC's Executive Editor at the time, Dick Giordano, asked me if I wanted it to be reprinted in black and white and kept in black and white for future issues. I said I didn't, because I knew that the widest readership could only be accessed through publishing it in full colour.

"This was not a decision I made because of a blinkered interest in the greater financial rewards of gaining the widest readership," David insists. "It was because I wanted the work and its message to spread as far as it could possibly go.

"In my view, what had prompted Dick to offer me that choice between colour and black and white from the high position he occupied in a company which was built on colour comics, was the remarkable success of some of the b/w indie books of the time, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which sold massively despite being in monotone. I thought then that this development in comic-reader habits was a detour, not a new highway, and I was convinced that Vendetta could be coloured appropriately and effectively in its new incarnation.

"Printing didn't always do its best in representing the skill that Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds - V's major colourists - applied to the work, but that's another long story," David adds. "For those interested, I can tell you that the definitive colour balances in V were applied to the hardback version of the collection in 2006 and are now also seen in the latest softcovers. And, of course, they will appear in the Absolute edition."

Absolute V for Vendetta will be released in August 2009. View more previews on

Read our 2006 interview with David about his Kickback project

Robot Steel Alien

Robot Steel Alien
Originally uploaded by JohnFreeman.
This was just one of several stunning steel sculptures created by the folk at on view at The Gadget Show at the NEC Birmingham this weekend.

Based in Ireland, RoboSteel designs and creates handmade steel sculptures inspired by science fiction and fantasy films.

The company says it's completed many commissions for customers from around the world, including promotional props for Hollywood, and futuristic robots for gaming arcades in Japan and Singapore.

Large commissions have included a giant 8foot robot which one lucky winner received from Trukz, an online games company.

I'm surprized they haven't yet explored comics for inspiration. ABC Warrriors, anyone?

• Read my report on the Gadget Show event on

Ackerman Auction in May

Hot on the heels of the upcoming Battlestar Galactica auction (see this news story I wrote for weirdand comes news of another major scifi and fantasy auction event, this time from Profiles in History who will offer over 1100 iconic pieces of Hollywood history on the auction block on 30 April 30 and 1 May 2009.

Some of Hollywood’s greatest props, costumes, photography, design sketches, posters and more from a huge range of film, television and music history will go under the hammer, including a one-sheet poster from the original Frankenstein film (considered the greatest horror film of all time), which is expected to sell for aro0und $200,000-$250,000, Harrison Ford's "Rick Deckard" hero blaster from Blade Runner and an original hero "Gill Man" mask from the classic horror film Revenge of the Creature, the sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon.

It's well worth checking out the auction web site just to take a look at some of the rare items Ackerman collected down the years, such as the Thunderbirds are Go poster above.

• For more on this auction read this story on weirdandbeard.

• Worldwide bidding begins at 12.00pm 30 April and 11.00am 1 May and can be placed either in person, via mail, phone or live on the Internet at For more information and to download a complete catalog of this auction, please visit

Sunday, 19 April 2009

2nd Leeds Zombie Film Festival Approaches

Sunday 26 April sees the second Leeds Zombie Film Festival. Held at the Cottage Road Cinema in the Headingly region of the city from 12 noon to 12 midnight, full day passes (available from the box office on the day or the ticket hotline - 0113 275 1606 ) will cost £15 with profits going to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. There will also be an aftershow party at the New Inn, opposite the cinema, from midnight. Food and drink are available from the pub all day.

The event is organised by two stars of the Emmerdale series - Dominic Brunt and Mark Charnock (Paddy and Marlon) - who are self-confessed zombie obsessives. The two will give a brief intro to each film shown and explain why it was chosen.

The current proposed line-up of films includes Plan 9 from Outer Space and Black Sheep.

• Check out the website at for the latest list.

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