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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Comics Artist In Residence at the V&A

(via ComicBitsonline): Award-winning comics artist and animator Karin Rubins, whose work includes the indie mini-series Dark, Urban Beasts and Tales by Ghost Light, takes up her post as Comics Artist in Residence at London's prestigious V&A Museum next week.

Working at the Museum until the end of December, Karin is keen to gain support for what she sees as an exciting link between the comics community, the mainstream,
and our huge potential audience, so check out her web site, for news on how things develop, which include Open Studio days from 1.00 - 4.00pm at the Museum.

Karen will also be delivering news via her own blog and writing a Residency blog for the V&A website.

• Karin's web site:

• Karin's blog:

Temple APA Issue 4 Online

The indie British creators group known as the Temple APA has just released the fourth issue of their 'portfolio' comic, available free in hi-res PDF format from their Forum here.

Intended as a digital showcase of British comic writers and artists both amateur and professional and also UK small press comics the comic, this stonking 132 page edition also includes an interview with Accent Press masterminds Dave West and Colin Mathieson.

Creators such as Tony Suleri, Dave Hailwood, Adam Grose, Paul Eldridge, Dave Thomson, John Kirkham and Jim Stewart; Malcolm Kirk, have all contributed material to the issue, ranging from full page comic strip to portfolio work. Adam Grose' work grows with confidence every time I see it, and his sample pages from new project, Time Wave Zero, are no exception. I definitely want to see more of Dave Thomson's work -- why isn't someone of this standard getting more notice from publishers? -- while Malcolm Kirk's parody of the sadly-missed Junior TV Times, Look-In, (or Pyook-In, as Malcom has re-named it), is a delight. Plus, with more great stuff from the likes of Paul Eldridge, Paul Harrison-Davies, Simon Mackie and others, this portfolio edition is well worth taking time to download.

That said, I think the team are missing a trick by not giving this quarterly outing a bit more structure: it might be worth considering making it more of a comic event, as sketch book pages and single page samples tend to be a little out of place. By taking a leaf from Accent Press' anthologies - extensively featured in this issue - and sticking to an overall theme for portfolio pieces -- SF, for example, heroes, steampunk or horror -- the Temple APA might prove an even nore attractive digital release.

The next issue is due in September and the team invite all British comic creators to join the APA and contribute via

One great item in this edition is the ever-growing British Small Press Directory, useful for those of you trying to track down some of the higher profile indie titles at comics events or online. That this regular section has even more page dedicated to covering these is testament to the energy of the indie scene at the moment (and, of course, an indication of how ill-served our comic creators are by the sheer lack of professional outlets for their work...)

Download Temple APA Issue Four

• Feedback on the work is always welcomed. Post any comments or feedback on the Temple APA forum here

In Review: Cancertown

CancertownWhile regular downthetubes readers are well aware there are plenty of "graphic novels" on the market, they also know many are actually collections of monthly comics, better known as "trade paperbacks", perhaps complemented by additional material such as pin ups and background "extras". It's actually quite rare to pick up a graphic novel that truly exploits the opportunities afforded by the longform equivalent of a novel, slowly but surely delivering a story over many pages rather than in bite-sized, previously-published material.

Cancertown is one of those exceptions.

It's the story of Morley, a former mental patient with an inoperable brain tumour who conducts search-and-rescue missions into a monstrous, alternate version of London. Except that, if you're reading Cancertown without the advantage of press previews, even this nugget of information only becomes apparent as you read the story - and that carefully strung out, steadily-paced unfolding of the story is just one of the appeals of this horror tale, a book I described to someone asking me what it was about as a "rip-roaring mindf***".

Morley suffers from a rare mental disorder that causes him to believe a number of weird things about himself and his relationship to the outside world. The major upshot of this is that his delusions manifest themselves in a twisted alternate world he calls Cancertown. The real fun for Morley began when dispossessed people - those who were lost or who had a diminished sense of their own identity - started to fall into Cancertown and Morley decided that his purpose in life was to find those people and return them to the real world before they became permanent residents.

Cancertown is no easy read: you have to pay attention as Morley's adventure and encounters with warped characters such as Corpsegrinder and Piecemaker unfold, and what may be the truth of the origin of Cancertown is revealed. The overall feel of the book is distinctly unsettling but rivetting -- a graphic novel you'll find yourself wanting to read in one sitting.

Speaking personally, I think I would rather have had a little more exposition than unasnswered mysteries, but that isn't to denigrate Cy Dethan's script, which successfully delivers a powerful horror story, ably complemented by Stephen Downey's creepy otherworld art, the Cancertown elements juxtaposed by very realistic "real world" sequences the artist reveals in background notes are based on photo shoots and other reference. While this is still early days for Downey, with the right guidance I can easily see him making the jump to, say, drawing for Vertigo or other publishers. Good luck to him -- and Cy, too, whose potential as a writer is, frankly, enormous.

Considering that all the creators involved in this project are, for the most part, relative newcomers to the professional comics industry, and the opportunities to break into the maintstream these days are scarce, they can all can be proud of their work on this book. In his introduction, veteran comic creator Bryan Talbot, whose talent for creating longform graphic novels himself is well known, suggests we're seeing the first outing of creators who will make their mark in future on the wider comic industry: and I can fully agree with that sentiment.

A tip of the hat too, to newcomer publisher Insomnia Publications for publishing Cancertown: they're nurturing some fine new talents that would otherwise find publishing opportunities in short supply, and if this first title is any evidence of intent, then we can expect further treats in coming months.

Cancertown is written by Cy Dethan with art from Stephen Downey, with colour by Melanie Cook and lettering by Nic Wilkinson and is introduced by Bryan Talbot. It's available from specialist comic stores and the Insomnia Publications web site: /

In Review: Wasted #2 - Back With Bite!

Wasted #2The second issue of Bad Press' adult humour anthology mag Wasted is on sale now, cranking up the quality several more notches on its launch issue with some terrific strips from a wide range of creators that include Alan Grant, Jon Haward, Martin Hayes, Adrian Bamforth, Jamie Grant, Frank Quitely, Alan Burrows and many others.

Wrapped in a stunning cover of demon teen Lusi Sulfura by Alan Kerr, this 70-page magazine is not for the lily-livered - crammed as it is with strips such as The Dirty Dog (toilet humour extreme from Grant, Quitely and John Wagner) and the brilliant Tales of the Buddha (from Grant and Haward, the Buddha partnered this issue with a very angry Jesus).

Alan Kerr's superb Lusi Sulfura - surely a character of Tank Girl and Nemi cult potential - a wonderful gem, as is Holmes Has It Large by Martin Hayes and Adrian Bamforth; and there's more gems in the form of Fun Guys (by Grant and Burrows, drawing in a much looser style than you'd expect from this line man-extraordinaire, and I liked it), The Dopranos, Space Cabby and tons of other strips.

Anthology titles - especially humour titles - are never going to score on every page, because there's no telling what will make any one person laugh out loud. But when even 'throwaway' strips like Rom McPherson's Amber Nectar raise a smile, the good outweighs the occasional dud.

With full colour throughout for a measly £3.25, Wasted eats rival titles like Viz - perhaps these days over reliant on a trusted formula for its continued success - for breakfast. Yes, there are some rough edges (not literally - it's not that dangerous), but for a second outing, Wasted #2 is another cracking read and well worth tracking down.

Wasted is available from and selected newsagents and other outlets. "You can Try Before You Buy" by grabbing this still-available preview edition of the first issue

Friday, 26 June 2009

In Review: Biggles - Spitfire Parade

James Bigglesworth, popularly known as Biggles, is one of those fictional characters that has entered the British public consciousness whether or not they have read any of the novels or short stories written by Captain WE Johns. The first Biggles book, The Camels are ComingBiggles: The Camels are Coming, was published in 1932 in which he was a World War 1 pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and he would progress through various jobs and adventures in the inter-war years before returning to once again defend the country from the Germans during World War Two despite having barely aged along the way.

Spitfire Parade was published as a hardback collection of thirteen related short stories in August 1941 when the imminent invasion of Britain had receded but King, Country and Empire still stood alone against the Nazi war machine. It tells the ongoing story of Biggles taking charge of the fictional Royal Air Force 666 Squadron in Summer 1940 and building a disparate group of pilots into a fighting team. Operating Spitfire fighters, they take on the Luftwaffe fighters and bombers as well as trying their best to outdo the neighbouring Hurricane fighter squadron.

This is an often tongue-in-cheek and unashamedly pro-British story which is only to be expected considering the book was written for children in the darkest days of the war. All but one of the RAF pilots return unscathed to their base no matter what happens to their planes whilst the Luftwaffe aircraft crash and burn.

In the Cinebook graphic novel of Spitfire ParadeSpitfire Parade, writer and artist Francis Bergese adapts around half of Johns' original short stories into 52 pages of comic strip that was originally published in France by Claude Lefrancq Editeur as Le Bal Des Spitfire in 1992. The comic strip story moves quickly without appearing to skip much of its source material while Bergese's art is clear and accurate despite the large number of aircraft types he has to illustrate - Spitfire, Hurricane, Blenheim and Tiger Moth on the RAF side and Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110, Junkers Ju88, Heinkel He111 as well as the inevitable Stuka on the German. He even manages to get a Matilda tank in on the action as well.

Bergese’s accuracy even extends to the British military serial numbers of the RAF aircraft. Most of the aircraft serial numbers are readable and, considering that most artists would ignore them or simply make them up, he uses serial numbers that are historically accurate for the types of RAF aircraft involved. While that might be totally irrelevant to the vast majority of the book’s readers, it shows an impressive dedication to accuracy by the artist.

British publications of Biggles graphic novels have been sporadic over the years but date back to artist Pat Williams' 1955 hardback "Biggles strip book" adaptation of the 1933 novel Cruise Of The Condor, while Hodder & Stoughton published various translated Swedish Biggles albums by Bjorn Karlstrom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is not the first time that this particular bande dessinee album has been published in the UK, the previous edition being published by Random House’s Red Fox imprint in 1993, but the Cinebook version is a new translation by Luke Spear.

This does beggar a comparison between the two translations and while the Cinebook version probably remains more faithful to the original French text, it does feel a little clunky in comparison to the more naturalistic translation by Adam Robson in the Red Fox version. A few differences between the two do occur, such as Flying Officer George Ferris being from Liverpool in the Red Fox version while the Cinebook version has him from Wales - but the biggest change is in the nickname used by the characters when referring to the Germans. The Red Fox version calls them "Huns" and is at pains to point out in an editorial note that this is used in a familiar rather than a derogatory sense(!), while the Cinebook version goes uses a wider variety of nicknames although they do retain "Hun" as well. However parents considering giving this book to younger children should be aware that Cinebook have included “bastard” as a description of one of the German pilots.

The Cinebook translation also tends to show a lack of RAF knowledge with Coastal Command being referred to as “the Coastal Command” and the squadron’s A Flight and B Flight being renamed the distinctly un-RAF Flight A and Flight B. At one point a Spitfire is described as belonging to Her Majesty's Government, however the biggest clanger is their description of one of the RAF pilots ejecting from a Spitfire, years before ejector seats were fitted to British aircraft. The Red Fox version more accurately described the pilot as having bailed out, as shown in the artwork.

Despite this, Spitfire Parade is a bright, often funny, boy's-own romp through English wartime skies. Just don't expect this to be a war story along the lines of Darkie's Mob or Charley's War - it is still Biggles after all.

• Spitfire Parade is the latest Biggles graphic novel to be published in the UK. The first UK Biggles graphic novel was Cruise of the Condor in 1955 and you can read Jeremy's review of it on Steve Holland's Bear Alley.

• More details of Biggles - Spitfire Parade can be found on the Cinebook website

• More details of foreign language Biggles albums that have been published in English can be found on the Euro Comics translations website.

• All the foreign language Biggles editions in print are available from the International Biggles Association Online Shop

Tube Surfing 26 June: Awards, Phantom Patrol and Steampunk!

comic_solesearching.jpg• Comics artist Francesca Cassavetti has confirmed her brand new 24 page comic will be on sale at the upcoming 176 event in London tomorrow (Saturday 27 June). Put your best foot forward and stride on down to 176 for a fab day out in Camden and pick yourself up a copy while you're there.

• Other exhibitors at 176 include Oli Smith, Sean Azzopardi, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, David Baillie, Thomas Plaskitt, Juan-Carlos Cambon, Phil Spence, Paul Rainey, Gavin Burrows, Sally-Anne Hickman, John Maybury, Andy Luke and many others - a great line up and well worth checking out if you're in the smoke!

Commando artist Keith Page is having fun teasing his fans with art from his upcoming steampunk adventure Iron Moon, which features an alternate version of his heroine, Charlotte Corday. Iron Moon will be fully painted and appear as part of the new line up in Spaceship Away: coincidentally, the latest issue features a cover by this terrific artist.

Jon Haward, who reveals he's back at work on a Judge Dredd story for 2000AD - his first strip for the comic since 1993 - also reports that Classical Comics award-wiining comics adaptation of Macbeth is to be published in Turkey. In more good news for the determined publisher, another of its titles, Frankenstein received its first award, given by the Association of Educational Publishers in America, for Distinguished Achievement in grades 9-12. Every notable educational publisher enters these awards, so to win on their first attempt is a great accomplishment.

• Chris Weston has just posted the final art for his cover for Bear Alley Books upcoming Phantom Patrol - and as you can see, it's truly stunning.


Both Phantom Patrol and Cursitor Doom will ship in August: ordering information will be online soon at

• Artist Rob Davis, whose working on several projects at once, reports he busy working on layouts for a 10-page Doctor Who comic strip that will be "a bit of a tribute to a true comic genius.

"Dan McDaid has written me a mad little story full of genius characters.

"I'm also juggling two other comic strips with the help of Geraint Ford and Faz Choudhury. I'm trying not to keep using the word busy in all my posts, so I'll just say that I'm... fully occupied."

• Boychild Productions' Sean Michael Wilson reports he has opened up a new blog to tell people more directly about the Bespoke Comic book service that he's now developing with various artists.

• And finally: Simon Furman reminds us the latest issue of Wildstorm's StarCraft Issue (#2), written by Simon with art by Federico Dallochio, hits stores this week (24th June in the US, 25th in the UK). A spin-off from the upcoming StarCraft 2 game, due out later this year, the second issue sees the recently reformed, hard bitten team of ex-cons, The War Pigs, running up against serious opposition in the shape of space-going cutthroat mercs. Will their quest to find and ‘retire’ ex-marshal and StarCraft mainstay Jim Raynor collapse before it’s even started? Probably not, as this is issue #2 of an ongoing series, but there’s still 22 packed pages of searing story action waiting for you, with a twist or two thrown in for good measure.
"Things are really starting to hot up, and whether you’re a fan of the game or not, you’d do well to jump onboard now!" Simon urges.

Doctor Who RPG Release Date Announced

game_rpg_drwho.jpgCubicle 7, producers of the new DC Thomson-comic inspired Starblazer game, have just announced that their Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG will be released in October 2009.

There's no more details yet about the game.

• Look out for more details in the coming months on the Cubicle 7 web site:

The Furies Preview Released

Myebook - The Furies - Chapter One Preview - click here to open my ebookThe full first chapter of Time Bomb Comics forthcoming graphic novel The Furies, written by Steve Tanner with artwork by Andy Dodd is now up and running at myebook.

A dark, apocalyptic tale set in 2012, The Furies is also the first comic Steve and Andy first completed together more than twenty years ago!

Originally due to be serialised in the short-lived Ground Zero anthology in 198, only three chapters were published before Ground Zero ceased to be. The forthcoming Time Bomb release, of The Furies, due for release this autumn, will be first time the story will be collected in its entirety.

Storm Comics Thief Taker #2 On Sale Now

comic_thieftakergeneral2.jpg British indie publisher Storm Comics ( has just released Thief-Taker General #2, concluding the true-life stories of two legends of 18th century London, Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard.

Sheppard was a petty thief who has gone down in legend for his many daring and seemingly-impossible escapes from some of the city's most notorious prisons. Wild was the self-proclaimed Thief-Taker General of Britain who both sold captured felons on to the courts and employed them into his own criminal network.

Issue 2 follows the fates of these two men. Sub-titled The Triple Tree, this refers to the three-sided hanging posts of Tyburn, execution capital of Britain.

Like issue 1, and the SF tale Afterlife before it, this is a 32-page black and white comic with colour cover. The two previous titles are still retailing at £2.25 each plus p&p though to cover costs issue 2 sells at £2.50. However all three Storm Comics titles can be bought in one fell swoop for £8.00 inc. p&p, a saving of £1.25.

"Sales of these titles have been slow but steady and judging by the emails, interest is good," writer and artist Michael Crouch tells downthetubes, who has also been busy with some contributions to the Temple APA #4 which will be available on line soon. "All in all things are going prety well."

• Visit Storm Comics at to order copies of Thief Taker and Afterlife

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Moon Landing Anniversary Art Appeal

art_neil_armstrong.jpgNext month is the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing (20th July 1969). We're already planning some special posts to mark this occasion, since the moon landings (and indeed, space exploration in general) has inspired many of our readers and the British comics we grew up with (2000AD, TV Century 21, Eagle and Countdown, just to name four).

As a result, we're appealing to comics artists and illustrators to help mark this major anniversary for space exploration by offering art inspired by the moon landings and space exploration which can then be added to this album in our forum - - which will then be presented on the main downthetubes site to mark the anniversary.

The idea is that this is not just a celebration of the Moon landing but also an opportunity to present a portfolio of themed work based on space and space exploration (real or imagined) that should generate press interest given the upcoming anniversary.

By “inspired by”, we mean this loosely, as long as there’s a “space” aspect to the submission. Some of you reading this will have grown up watching the moon landings and perhaps inspired by them to become an artist. You may simply have drawn adventures that have taken place on the Moon. So if you have art featuring a space hero or heroine we’d say that was ideal for this – just let us know what © info should be included, and please make sure you send me a web link if you have one. (I know folk are busy and may not have time to do something specific or new).

The album will then be “embedded” on the main downthetubes site to mark the anniversary (and, indeed, can be embedded on any web site, so you could feature it on your site, too).

Any art - illustration, strip, cartoons – welcome. If there’s a strong response to this, we may also do a MyEbook version.

Text pieces are also welcomed: we're not quite sure how to present those yet, perhaps in another part of the downthetubes forum. We don’t want writers to be left out.

Any art - illustration, strip, cartoons, montage - welcome!

If you don't want to join our forum and upload art but would like to join in with the celebrations, simply send your work to Please ensure images are no larger than 2MB in size.

• Visit the downthetubes forum at:

• The image above is a painting by Alan Bean and shows how Neil Armstrong would have looked (since there are no photos) while taking his iconic photo of his lunar companion, Buzz Aldrin. This painting is a mirror image of the First Men - Aldrin painting held in Washington's National Air and Space Museum which will premiere Alan Bean: Painting Apollo, First Artist On Another World at the Museum on the National Mall July 16, 2009 through January 13, 2010 in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landings. Image © Smithsonian.

Battle Picture Weekly Now on Sale

Battle Picture Weekly SpecialNostalgia fans are in for a summer treat with the release of a special Battle Picture Weekly collection this week, marking the return of the classic war comic to new stands for the first time 21 years.

The second in the new Classic Comics series from Egmont, which kicked off with a special issue of Roy of the Rovers (see news story), is now on sale exclusively in WHSmith stores across the country.

Readers who grew up with classic characters such as D-Day Dawson, Rat Pack and the Bootneck Boy can relive the exploits of these fabled fighters in this classic collection of picture-strips. The special edition features several selected strips from the comic, including episodes of Johnny Red, The Sarge, Major Eazy, Hellman, Rat Pack, The Bootneck Boy and D-Day Dawson.

Also included is some of the original vintage advertising that featured in the comic.

Published between 1975 and 1988, Battle fired the imaginations of countless schoolboys, many of whom had a surviving relative from the war. This selection of classic strips is republished in the original, glorious black and white. The stories are uncut with many an “ARGH!” and an “URRGH!” standing between the reader and eventual victory.

"We’ve stayed as close to the original as possible with specially produced tactile paper," a Fleetway spokesperson told downthetubes.

Egmont acquired the Fleetway stable of comics in 1991 which included the four Classic Comics being released this year: Roy of the Rovers, Battle, Misty and Buster.

Fleetwway tell us that final sales figures for the Roy of the Rovers special are still being compiled.

"We’re still waiting for final numbers on Roy of the Rovers but we had great feedback especially in the first few days – it was flying off the shelves."

• The 52-page Battle Picture Weekly special edition costs £3.99 and is on sale now

5 By 5 Festival Cancelled

The mysterious 5 By 5 Festival announced for this year, which caused plenty of discussion on comics news groups on both sides of the Atlantic after it was wrongly linked with rumoured plans for a ComicCon in the UK, has been cancelled.

Organiser Liam Fisher told downthetubes this morning that the Festival has been cancelled "due to a lead sponsor dropping out last minute.

"To continue this year we would have to charge and that's not something we want to do," he says. "We're planning to launch the festival next year exactly how we intended it to be and we'll be presenting monthly four day film events from August onwards."

Creator Signings in Bedford


This coming Saturday (27th June), an all-star line up of talent will be in Bedford attending the five year anniversary signing for comic shop Close Encounters.

Leah Moore and John Reppion (Dracula), David Hine (Strange Embrace), Adi Granov (Iron Man), Glen Fabry (Preacher) and lots more are scheduled to put in appearances.

• The signing starts at 1pm at Close Encounters, 59 Midland Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire. Tel: 01234 270 777. Click here for a map and other contact details

Strip!: The Art of Rutu Modan

Concluding cross cultural comics month on Resonance FM's Strip! radio show, Roehampton University Illustration lecturer Ariel Kahn talks to award-winning graphic novelist Rutu Modan about her work, in an interview conducted live at the Jewish Community Centre in North London.

Illustrator and comic book creator Rutu Modan is a chosen artist of the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation. She's created comic strips for the Israeli newpapers Yedioth Acharonot and Ma’ariv and illustrations for The New Yorker, Le Monde, The New York Times, along with many other publications. Her first graphic novel, Exit WoundsExit Wounds, received much critical acclaim and she's had equally postive reviews for her new collection Jamilti and Other Stories.

Discussing her career, from Exit WoundsExit Wounds to Jamilti and Other StoriesJamilti and Other Stories, released in April, Rutu and Ariel talk about her influences, the difficulties in depicting a city as rich and diverse as Tel Aviv in print and adjusting to life in England.

Strip!: The Art of Rutu Modan is broadcast today, Thursday 25th June on Resonance 104.4 FM (London), streamed at, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 28th June. An extended podcast of the first half of the interview is online now on Panel Borders, with Part Two to follow after the Resonance broadcast.

Read an online strip by Rutu Modan, Honey Talks, on Stripburger

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Scotch Corner: A New Daily Art Blog

While the geographical Scotch Corner is (ironically enough) in England, on the web at least it will be firmly north of the border come Wednesday 1st of July.

Six Scottish artists have grouped together to produce a team blog in a show of Celtic solidarity with, or as the Scots put it "shamelessly inspired and ripped off from", the Eclectic Micks art blog.

The six artists will each take one day a week to post an illustration to the Scotch Corner blog -

Jon Hodgson is fair of face on Monday

Graeme Neil Reid is full of grace on Tuesday

Andy Hepworth is full of woe(!) on Wednesday

Gary Erskine has far to go on Thursday

Thomas Crielly is loving and giving on Friday

and they have yet to announce someone who works hard for a living on Saturday!

Which leaves the Sunday slot and, in a twist, they are offering the day as a guest slot for anyone who would like to contribute. Aspiring artists should contact the team via the e-mail address on their blog if they would like to be considered for one of the Sunday guest slots. You will be pleased to know that being "bonny and blithe and good and gay" on the Sabbath day is not a prerequisite for selection.

The Scotch Corner Daily Art Blog begins on Wednesday 1st July.

Spaceship Away 18 Arrives!

Spaceship Away 18.jpgAfter a few printing delays, we're pleased to report that Spaceship Away Part 18 - the British comics SF magazine inspired by space hero Dan Dare - is now available, and most prepaid subscriber issues have been posted.

Apart from its regular three Dan Dare strips - with Keith Page's Rocket Pilot prequel story reaching a conclusion this issue - artist Bruce Cornwell writes about his work on the Dan Dare comic for Eagle, artist Don Harley provides artwork of the 1960 Dare team and both Gerald Palmer and Harley have delivered an impressive 1960's Dan Dare centrespread while illustrator Gragam Bleathman provides a Zylbat spaceship cutaway and top Commando and Starblazer artist Ian Kennedy a painting of Dan Dare's ship, the Anastasia.

The issue also sees the final part, for now, of Ex Astris by John Freeman and Mike Nicoll, but the the strip will return to the Magazine next year - and this time, it will be for an ongoing run. (more on this on the Ex Astris blog)

It looks like it's going to be an interesting year ahead for the SF comic magazine: in addition to continuing Dan Dare stories and more, Issue 19 will see the arrival of the Daily Mirror's classic strip Garth, coloured by John Ridgway - a story that has never been reprinted in the UK.

Spaceship Away Part 18 is being distributed to existing subscribers. For more about the issue, click here

To order Spaceship Away, click here

Starblazer Exhibition Details Announced

Time Frames 2009 ExhibitionAs we've previously reported, top comics writer Warren Ellis will be headlining the Comics Conference at this year's Dundee Literary Festival, but the Festival has now also released details of its planned exhibition dedicated to the 1980s SF comic Starblazer, published by DC Thomson.

The exhibition marks the first time artwork from the now defunct, but much missed British sci-fi comic Starblazer has been exhibited, which, in addition to art by the likes of Keith Robson, Jaimie Ortiz, Ian Kennedy and many others featured the early work of Grant Morrison, the hugley successful Glaswegian comics writer. The comic has such a cult status it's even recently spawned its own Roleplaying Game (see news story).

In addition to the exhibition, the publication's editor Bill McLoughlin and artist Keith Robson will discuss their experiences on Starblazer during the day.

Ellis, now best known for his work with US comics giants Marvel and DC, and relative newcomer, Avatar, will be discussing his career when he appears at the third annual Dundee Comics Day, part of the University of Dundee-organised Festival, on Sunday 28th June.

He's just one of a number of star names from the world of comics lined up to take part in the event, which features talks, exhibitions, book signings and workshops.

2000AD writer Alan Grant will also speak about his work while other speakers will discuss 2000AD. David Bishop, former editor of the comic, will discuss the work of Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, while other talks, delivered by scholars researching comics, will address how comics represent time.

The programme will begin with a workshop in Writing for Graphic Novels hosted by Bishop, which will prove an invaluable insight into the process of creating comics. Manga artist Emma Vieceli, creator of the recently released Much Ado About Nothing, a manga version of the Shakespeare play, will also discuss her creative process.

Comics Programme organiser Dr Christopher Murray said he is delighted to have been able to put together such an exciting line-up of authors, artists and writers.

"Comics are a wonderful form of literary and artistic expression," he feels. "They're entertaining for all ages, a unique artform blending words and images, and Dundee is a city with a long and proud history of comics production.

"The Third Annual Comics Day promises to be an important meeting of comics scholars and comics creators, and everyone with an interest in comics is welcome to attend. We're also proud to be be bringing together the considerable talents of writers Warren Ellis and Alan Grant, and artists Emma Vieceli and Keith Robson. Each year the annual Dundee Comics Day grows in profile and it is my intention to make it a staple event, underscoring Dundee's central position as the home of comic culture in the UK.

Comics Day not only gives the Festival a dimension not present in other literary celebrations, but also celebrates the city's position as a world leader in comics, established by the likes of The Beano and The Dandy, published by DC Thomson".

Tickets are priced £10/£5 (concessions) for the entire day's programme including workshops, and £3 for the workshop only.

The Dundee Literary Festival is now in its third year, and is bigger than ever, with star authors from the fields of philosophy, fiction, politics and poetry set to appear in Dundee. They include David Peace, renowned author of The Damned United and the Red-Riding Quartet and Straw Dogs writer John Gray. Talks, book signings, workshops and other events take place across four days.

• Exhibition Web Link:

• The full programme for the Dundee Literary Festival, and the Comics Day, is available online at

Read our Starblazer feature on the downthetubes main site by Jeremy Briggs

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Torchwood: They Are Coming Soon


It began on BBC3, transferred to BBC2 and now Doctor Who's adult spin-off, Torchwood is finally arriving on BBC1.

The third season of Torchwood, which will run over the course of five consecutive nights on the BBC's premier channel, is starting at 9pm on Monday 6 July. Starring the survivors of the second season, Ianto Jones played by Gareth David-Lloyd, Gwenn Cooper played by Eve Myles and of course Captain Jack Harkness played by the irrepressible and omnipresent John Barrowman, the ongoing story is entitled Children Of Earth which the BBC are quietly playing down as "Torchwood's greatest adrenalin-fuelled, high octane adventure yet".

Prior to the TV series returning BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting a series of three 45 minute Torchwood radio dramas in their Afternoon Plays slot. All starting at 2.15pm, these are Asylum written by Anita Sullivan on Wednesday 1 July, Golden Age by James Goss on Thursday 2 July and finally The Dead Line by Phil Ford on Friday 3 July.

Since these will be on at awkward times for most Torchwood fans, they will be available for seven days after broadcast on the BBC iPlayer.

• More details of the Torchwood TV series and radio series are available on the BBC's Torchwood website

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Alan Moore - Interviewed and Interviewing

A quick reminder (courtesy of artist Graeme Neil Reid) that writer Alan Moore is being interviewed on the BBC Radio 7 programme Chain Reaction tonight, Sunday 21 June, at 10:30pm.

The format of the series is that this week's interviewee becomes next week's interviewer which means that Alan Moore will be interviewed this week by comedian Stewart Lee and in next week's programme, on Sunday 28 June, Moore will interview musician Brian Eno.

More details of the programme are at the BBC Radio 7 website where tonight's programme will be available to listen for seven days via BBCi Player.

In Review: Lady S - Here's To Suzie!

Lady SIf you are looking at the cover and thinking that Lady S could to be a story along the lines of Modesty Blaise then you are not far off the mark. Like Modesty, Suzan Fitzroy has a complicated, and not entirely legal, back story which has brought her into contact with shadowy authorities who, in a contemporary setting, use her talents when the law needs to be bent.

When the parents of twelve year old Estonian Shania Rivkas are detained by the KGB, Shania’s mother gives her life to allow her daughter to escape. She finds sanctuary with a local thief, Anton Grivenko, who teaches her his trade and they eventually try to escape the dangers of the new Russia with Shania using the stolen passport of New Zealander Suzan McKenzie. In the West, some years later, she eventually meets an American diplomat, James Fitzroy, whom her father knew and who, in a nicely plotted section which completes the initially puzzling back-story, adopts her as his American daughter Suzan Fitzroy. The main plot however concerns the diplomatic and espionage concerns over a document stolen from the Turkish embassy in Brussels as the Turks attempt to cover up something that would impede their membership of the EU.

The Lady S series of bande dessinee albums written by Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by Philippe Aymond began in 2004 and have reached number 5 in France where they are published by Dupuis. In the UK, Cinebook have translated the first two albums, Na Zdorovié, Shaniouchka! and A Ta Santé, Suzie!, into English and published them as one book under the second album's cover and translated title of Here's To Suzie!, although the first album's Russian title means much the same with her Estonian name. Since the first album’s cover shows a KGB agent executing Suzan’s mother it has to be said that the second album’s cover, which shows her as a cat burglar, is a better representation of the contents and considerably more shop friendly for a UK and US market.

Van Hamme's plotting is fast and complex and the twists build as the story continues. While these were originally published in France as two separate albums the story runs seamlessly from the first to the second and, as with the Cinebook publication of Aldebaran, Lady S works better for having the two original albums published as one British book. Aymond's artwork is detailed and dynamic when it needs to be, with his colour palates differing between the contemporary western settings and the Russian flash-backs.

Considering that most European creators are not well known in the UK it would be nice to see Cinebook adding some basic information on both Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Aymond in the book, even if it was only the minimal amount that Rebellion put into their 2000AD reprint books. Van Hamme has many bande dessinee series to his credit including the newer Blake and Mortimer stories and XIII as well as two other series that Cinebook publish, Largo Winch and Thorgal, so it seems surprising that there isn’t some sort of bio which would point readers at these other Cinebook releases.

My only complaint would be a minor one. The book spells its female lead’s first name in the same way the original French script does, as Suzan. Since that name comes from a New Zealand passport one would expect that the name should have been translated to Susan in the English adaptation as it does look odd with a “z”.
However it does not detract from a well plotted and well drawn book. Lady S – Here’s To Suzie! is simply one of the best bande dessinees that I have read.

Buy Lady S Volume 1: Here's to Suzie! from Lady S Volume 1: Here's to Suzie! from

• More details of Lady S can be found on the Cinebook website.

• More details of the original French books can be found on the Dupuis website

• More details of foreign language albums that have been published in English can be found on the Euro Comics translations website.

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