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Friday, 7 August 2009

Comics @ Edinburgh BookFest

With only a week to go before the start of this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival it seems that the comics related events have proved to be exceedingly popular. So popular in fact that the majority of them are already sold out. Last year's EdBookFest events were featured in a downthetubes photo review here.

This year's Festival begins on Saturday 15 August with a Beano character workshop for children in which former Dandy editor, DC Thomson archivist and author of The History Of The Beano, Morris Heggie, former Beano and BeanoMAX editor Euan Kerr and Minnie The Minx artist Jim Petrie will take over the Studio Theatre to create a new Beano inspired character with the help of the children in the audience. This appears to be a repeat of their workshop at the Glasgow Aye Write book festival and, like the Glasgow one, is a sell out. Indeed most of the comics related workshops are sold out – Mio Matsumoto's manga art workshop, Gary Erskine's comic art workshop, David Bishop's adult writers workshop, Metaphrog's comic creation workshop and Chie Kutsuwada's manga art workshop are all sold out. In addition Gerald Scarf's political cartooning talk is sold out, as well as both Neil Gaiman's solo talk and his talk with Ian Rankin on their graphic novel work, plus writer Mark Millar's talk about his graphic novels.

At the moment there are still some tickets left for Mio Matsumoto's talk about her autobiographical manga book My Diary on Saturday 15 August, comics academic Dr Mel Gibson's talk entitled Visual Literacy, Learning and Graphic Novels on Thursday 20 August and Tony Lee's talk on his new Robin Hood graphic novel on Tuesday 25 August. Hopefully this ability for the Festival's comics related events to sell out will stand them in good stead with the new Festival Director due to arrive in 2010 whoever he or she may be.

Entrance to the Book Festival in Edinburgh Charlotte Square Gardens is free and there are two major book stall tents at the site. It is worth pointing out that most of the Festival's guests do a signing session immediately after their talks which are normally accessible to those without tickets for the talks themselves and will often sign additional copies of their books which are put on sale at cover price in the book stall tents. So if you are in Edinburgh, and you have missed the chance of getting tickets, it can still be worth turning up on the day for autographs.

More details of the events are on the Edinburgh International Book Festival's website.

Comic Strip at The Fringe: Two Shows to Catch

With the Edinburgh Fringe on now, our readers may already be aware that the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, stars of BBC 3's Comedy Shuffle and Upstaged, whose number includes comic creator Kev F. Sutherland, will be back at this major Scottish arts event with a new show, The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes To Hollywood. They'll be performing at the Gilded Balloon venue every day until Sunday 30th August.

The Socks earned a quick spot on GMTV this week as part of the breakfast's show's coverage of the Fringe - check out their web for their "half second of fame"!

Also at the Fringe is the UK premiere of Scarlattine Teatro's Manolibera, a show celebrating cartoons at the theatre. Written and Performed by Michele Cremaschi, Michele Eynard and Anna Fascendini with music by Django Reinhardt, the show invites the audience to enter the world of the comic book, where the actors interact with the characters and become part of the story. Share the joy and fascination of letting your imagination go in this funny, original and highly visual show.

Drawing on the clowning techniques of Jacques Lecoq and inspired by Dario Fo, Scarlattine intertwine animation, jazz and bubbles in a celebration of life that crosses linguistic and age barriers.

Suitable for all the family, Manolibera is described by its creators as "like the comic story that adults buy for their children only to hide it away to read it for themselves..."

Scarlattine Teatro is part of Espresso! – a selection of four theatre, comedy and dance companies at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival – all performing at C Venues. Sponsored by the Milanese banking foundation, Fondazione Cariplo, Espresso! is part of the Être Project - Esperienze Teatrali di Residenza (residential theatre experiences) that financially supports emerging companies from the Lombardy region in Italy.

Other companies performing at C Venues as part of the Espresso! season include Dionisi with Serate Bastarde (Bastard Nights), Animanera with Or[f]unny and Sanpapiè with Boh!

In addition to comic strip-inspired shows there's a wealth of comics at The Fringe this year, too!

• Manolibera runs until Monday 31st August at 15:55hrs (16:55hrs) at the C VENUE (venue 34). Tickets are £6.50-£11.50. Box Office: 0845 260 1234

• Fringe Tickets from: or on the door of venues

Manolibera italian Web Site (In Italian)

Scarlattine Teatro Web Site

Luna e Gnac Web Site

In Review: Tripwire 2009 Annual... Simply Awesome!

magazine_tripwire_annual200.jpgRegular readers of downthetubes will recall that as a result of distributor Diamond's recently-introduced minimum order levels, this latest edition of ace comics and genre magazine Tripwire is not being distributed in the US. (See news story).

While not the only victim of distribution changes brought on by the recession and, we assume, an attempt by Diamond to focus on promoting releases from bigger companies on the assumption they are to be of higher quality than material published by small independents, in the case of Tripwire this decision was a mistake, because the editorial team led by Joel Meadows have really pulled out the stops with this Annual and delivered a jaw-dropping publication well deserving of purchase and wider (that is, US, availabilty).

The magazine's stunning "Samuel l. Jackson as Nick Fury" cover by Jeff Carlisle (prompted by an in-depth look at Marvel Comics and its 70th anniversary) is the first indication of the title's quality. Design throughout is also superb, with strong text carefully counter-balanced with no shortage of great visuals - both art and photographic. (I'd argue for a consistent three-column layout and same point size throughout in future issues, but this niggly editorial view shouldn't diminish the worth of this product).

Editorially, the annual offers an incredible range of features including an exclusive interview with award-winning genre master Guillermo Del Toro discussing his new novel The Strain as well as a few tidbits on Hellboy 3 and upcoming movie projects; a guide to the critically-acclaimed low budget British sci-fi movie Moon starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones; a Bongo Comics interview with Bill Morrison; an exclusive and beautifully illustrated interview with comics veteran Joe Kubert, a guide to the rise of Tintin and a look at European comics, a handy retrospective to 30 years of Alien films - handy, given news that director Ridley Scott is to return to the franchise; and much, much more, including an eclectic 'Stripwire' section that features comic strips from the likes of Roger Langridge, Declan Shalvey, David Hitchcock and others..

When the project was announced earlier in the year it was described as the best Tripwire yet, and I can only concur - and how. Anyone who argues print is dead should be shown this top-notch, high-quality magazine, to show not only how print still has its place in terms of promoting the comics industry, but also as a template for future magazine publishing in a more digital age.

This is a truly awesome edition of Tripwire - buy it now!

• The Tripwire Annual 2009 is available now from all right-minded and quality comic stores in the UK and online from:

• UK retailers can order Tripwire from Diamond UK, item number APR097907. US retailers should contact Tripwire direct about ordering copies for their stores. Do it now!

Latest Tripwire news on the Tripwire Twitter feed

• Tripwire on Flickr:

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Children's Comics Fortnight for Resonance FM

Horrible HistoriesStarting children's comics fortnight on London-based radio station Resonance FM, Alex Fitch talks to writer Terry Deary and cartoonist Martin Brown for his Strip! radio show this week. It's a chance to find out more about their hugely successful Horrible Histories range of children's books, also published in part work comics form and which have inspired a "Terrible Trenches" exhibition that's just opened at the Imperial War Museum, London and runs until the end of October.

Horrible Histories has also been turned into a popular show on CBBC and Terry is busy working on another TV show, Terry's True Time Tales, with partners Green Leaf. The storyteller is based on Terry himself and will broadcast from Autumn 2010.

Also this week, in Clear Spot: In search of the Atom Style, Alex talks to artists Woodrow Phoenix and Garen Ewing about their work and the influence of the Atom Style / ligne claire tradition on their comics, which was most famously exemplified in the art of Hergé's Adventures of Tintin. Also (to be confirmed), Alex talks to comics historian Paul Gravett about his exhibition on the movement which is currently showing at The Atomium in Brussels until 20th September.

Concluding children's comics fortnight next week is Strip!: Octopi, dogs and bears, oh my!, in which artists Henri Goldsmann and Richy K. Chandler about their work. Henri is the author of a new picture book - Harold (a dog's best friend) - and has a successful career as a caricaturist, having dabbled in graphic novels such as Secret Agent Spanky Sheep on the side. Richy has produced ten terrific mini comics such as Lucy the Octopus and Govinda the Meditating Rabbit over the last couple of years which are now available in a cute bear shaped box set (see news story)

(This is the last in the current series of Strip! and the show will return in September)

Strip!: Horrible Histories airs at 5.00pm on Thursday 6th August, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 9th August Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at podcast soon after transmission at

c12705.jpg• Horrible Histories Terrible Trenches Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum runs until 31 October 2010. Relive the terrors of the trenches at the nasty new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. Discover all the dire details of life in the blood and mud of the First World War trenches... from both sides of the barbed wire. More info from

• Clear Spot: In search of the Atom Style broadcasts at 8.00pm on Thursday 6th August / streamed at podcast 20th August

Strip!: Octopi, dogs and bears, oh my! broadcasts at 5.00pm Thursday 13th August, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 16th August Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at podcast soon after transmission at

Sharp Advice on Breaking Into Comics

Gears of war Girls by Liam SharpBritish comics artist Liam Sharp (publisher of MamTor, artist on Gears of War and, many moons ago, Death's Head II) has just posted a revamped version of his excellent guide to breaking into comics over on DeviantArt.

The post is packed with a huge amount of useful advice and suggestions for aspiring creators, building on an article he first wrote a couple of years back.

"Getting into comics is something a lot of people want to know how to do, but there's a lot of questions you want to ask yourself first," he advises. "There's such a vast array of genre and subgenre, technique, approach, and so on, that it’s important to be clear on where you want to go with your work at the outset – and you have to be really honest and tough with yourself at this stage!

"If you're into the capes and tights and you want to go mainstream you’re going to have to want it incredibly badly, as the competition is the most extreme I’ve ever known it right now," he warns. "...Right across the industry there's an enormous amount of competition.

"One thing I'm not seeing at cons is break-the-mould, edgy and accomplished new types of comic art," Liam notes. "Invariably it's by-numbers superhero fare of a fairly similar standard - what I would typify as three or four years off pro-standard but showing promise. I often wonder when we're going to see the next Sienkewicz, the next great stylist. Originality is not only becoming rarer, it seems less desired - either by the industry or the fans, who want above all else consistency."

• Packed with advice on indie publishing and promotion, you can read Liam's article in full on DeviantArt here.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Nexion Knuckles In

NexionNexion is a new anthology showcasing some of the fine underground comics talent of Glasgow and Edinburgh, full to the brim with Sci-Fi treats, Horror meats and myraid acts of unseemly behaviour!

Featuring 68 pages of black and white madness, all pulled together by the mighty yet modest Curt Sibling, other contributors include Iain Laurie, Craig Collins, Rob Miller, Jim Stewart, Dave Gordon and Secret Agent Comics publisher John Miller.

Nexion is available to buy for a measly £2.75 from and should surface at various UK comic marts over the next few months.

• For more info and sample pages visit:

In Review: Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe by Posy SimmondsThe Plot: Tamara Drewe has transformed herself. Plastic surgery, a different wardrobe, a smouldering look, have given her confidence and a new and thrilling power to attract, which she uses recklessly. Often just for the fun of it.

People are drawn to Tamara Drewe, male and female. In the remote village where her late mother lived Tamara arrives to clear up the house. Here she becomes an object of lust, of envy, the focus of unrequited love, a seductress. To the village teenagers she is 'plastic-fantastic', a role model. Ultimately, when her hot and indiscriminate glances lead to tragedy, she is seen as a man-eater, a heartless marriage wrecker, a slut.

First appearing as a serial in the Guardian, in book form Tamara Drewe has been enlarged, embellished and lovingly improved by the author.

The Review: This latest edition of Posy Simmonds' Tamara Drewe, first published in British newspaper The Guardian in episodic form, proved an entertaining weekend read (and a marked contrast to my other Jonathan Cape-supplied reading matter, Bryan Talbot's Grandville!).

Inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, Tamara Drewe is an entertaining, acerbic jab at idealized views of both the British countryside and country life. For Simmonds, the countryside in Tamara Drewe, centring on the life of a young newspaper colunnist, is far from safe: with angry cows and even more dangerous writers ensconced in a writers' retreat, there is plenty to be wary of. Not least of which being superbly observed bored, sidelined teenagers, watching the comings and goings of rich middle class Incomers with a mixture of contempt, boredom and desire.

It is the teenagers who prove the engineers, albeit in part quite innocently, in circumstances which lead famous crime writer Nick Hardiman away from his much put-upon Beth and wife into the arms of Tamara Drewe: a choice which, ultimately, results in chaos and more than one tragedy.

Nick Hardiman and Tamara Drewe's affair begins after the sending of an emailAn understated yet powerful tale, this version of the story is revised from the original newspaper edition, presumably to make for a more coherent graphic novel: in this it almost fully succeeds.

There remains, for me, an uneven nature to the finale, the understated fate of writer Nick almost lost in continuing character development: indeed, it's the death of one of the teenagers that proves all the more dramatic. Which of course proves a superb counterpoint to the village youngsters otherwise drab lives, enlivened only by minor vandalism and a spot of housebreaking.

The delight of a graphic novel Tamara Drewe comes more from Simmonds observations and characterization - both visual and textual - rather than the perhaps rambling plot: insecure writers, sex-starved teenagers (and writers!), pompous d-list celebrities - none are safe from Posy's wicked pen.

If you're a longtime comics fan seeking to persuade friends of the form's many merits, this would be one of my recommendations...

Web Links

Apart from the first episode - go figure! - the newspaper version of Tamara Drewe can still be read on The Guardian's web site

Guardian Video: Posy Simmonds on creating Tamara Drewe

Posy Simmonds talks about the origins of Tamara Drewe and the processes by which she ends up on the printed page.

Stephen Frears drawn to Tamara Drewe film

The Guardian, 17th July 2009: Gemma Arterton reportedly cast as title character in movie adaptation of Posy Simmonds's comic strip about a beautiful columnist who ruffles feathers in a rural writers' retreat...

More Reviews...

Best of 2008: Comics Worth Reading

"Although relatively well-off, definitely middle class, with the ability to choose lives of the mind, everyone’s unhappy. They want things they’re not likely to get: Beth, to stop being worried about her husband; Glen, the novel to save his career; Andy, Tamara; Tamara, a career as a writer, not just a journalist. So I was surprised to see, by the end, most everyone had a happy ending. That’s a pleasant change of pace from Gemma Bovery..."

Mick Imlah in The Times: Tamara Drewe's Wessex

"If there was a time when what Posy Simmonds seemed to offer was an “entertaining satire on the middle classes”, that limitation no longer applies. There is nothing in Hardy, you might say, which more grimly conveys the paralysis of lesser rural life than her pictures of Casey and Jody at the old bus shelter..."

Richard Pachter for Graphic Novel Reporter

"Simmonds is a wonderful artist. Her fluid storytelling skills are strong and her clean, illustrative style is a delight. Great faces, landscapes, still lives, and emotions are portrayed with precision and panache. The coloring is subtle yet effective, and her language is simple yet rich and evocative..."

Sara Cole for Pop Matters

"... Somehow, Simmonds’ work seems aimed neither for graphic novel enthusiasts nor for the aspiring cosmopolitan types whom it both embraces and skewers. With its hyper-self-awareness of class and clout yearnings among the middle-class, Tamara Drewe comes off a bit like the graphic novel equivalent of Frasier..."

Briefly Noted in The New Yorker

"Like Bathsheba, Tamara leaves a series of the local men in her wake, including two associated with a writer’s retreat next door. Simmonds’s lushly realistic drawings and complex female characters recall those of Alison Bechdel, but her learned references and her ear for a variegated British vernacular make her unique."

Robert Wringham for The Skinny

"Lengthy paragraphs - usually internal monologues of the characters - have been added alongside the strips but it's uncertain of what these are supposed to achieve, as the comics work brilliantly in their own right..."

Penny Perrick in The Times

"Posy Simmonds is a true child of Hogarth, her accomplished cartoons a merciless commentary on the way we live now. Going one better than her progenitor, she adds a tangy text to illuminate further her characters."

Sun Spikes Smith Story

Good news! Since downthetubes drew attention to British newspaper The Sun's out of date story about 2000AD artist Ron Smith's trial, they have removed it from their web site.

Ron's fans over on the official 2000AD web site followed up on our report, and their campaign should be given full credit for the article's removal.

Responding to one complaint, Jane Hamilton at The Sun was clearly apologetic. "Having done some research this verdict was way back at the start of June and then only reported by a small number of local websites," she explained. "I will need to find out why this is as no reputable new agency or freelancer has filed it to us. I will ask a reporter to check with the court."

Now they've done this, the story has been removed from The Sun's site.

While it's a shame they haven't run a new story to point out he was totally absolved of some horrendous accusations, this is at least, a ghafflebette victory, as Tharg might say!

See our initial story here)

(Thanks to Paul Rainey for the update)

Futurama Films Air as Episodics on Sky1 in UK

Futurama, the quick-witted animation from the mastermind behind The Simpsons, makes a much anticipated television return on Sunday 30th August at 6pm only on Sky1 in the UK, with the channel's screening of the episodes originally released as direct-to-DVD films.

The screenings come just as Fox has inked deals with the original cast for a new series that will start airing on Comedy Central in the US next year.

Set in the 31st century, Matt Groening’s Futurama - also available in comics from from Titan Magazines - is sci-fi comedy at its very best. Billy West voices Fry, the 20th century pizza delivery boy who awoke in the year 3000. Katey Sagal voices Leela, the sexy cyclops who captains the Planet Express ship and is the object of Fry’s affections; and John DiMaggio voices Bender, the crude, rude alcohol-fueled robot. As the Planet Express crew explore New New York City and the universe beyond, the latest Futurama episodes promise to be as spectacularly silly as ever.

In Bender’s Game, with fuel prices skyrocketing, the Planet Express crew set off on a dangerous mission: to infiltrate the world's only dark-matter mine, source of all spaceship fuel. But deep beneath the surface lies a far stranger place... a medieval land of dragons and sorcery and intoxicated knights who look suspiciously like Bender. With Leela transformed into a centaur, the gang soon become embroiled in a Lord of the Rings-esque mission in one of Futurama's greatest adventures.

The galactical laughs continue with Into The Wild Green Yonder where dark forces older than time itself are on the attack, hell-bent on stopping the dawn of a wondrous new green age. Even more shocking: Bender's in love with a married fembot, and Leela's on the run from the law - Zapp Brannigan's law! Fry is the last hope of the universe, recruited for an ultra top-secret mission. Could this be the end of the Planet Express crew forever?

These Futurama adventures feature guest appearances from a whole host of celebrities including Star Trek's George Takei, rapper Snoop Dogg and Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy).

Screenings begin on Sunday 30th August at 6pm only on Sky1.

New TOXIC On Sale Now, Complete With Bad Jokes!

TOXIC ComicThe latest issue of Egmont's TOXIC is in the shops now and comes with a free electronic handheld game that the publishers say is guaranteed to keep readers busy on boring car journeys or when they're stuck round your nan's!

They've also kindly sent us some jokes you can tell over the summer holidays, so as a bit of midweek relief, we thought we'd pas 'em on...

Q. What do you call a fish with no eyes?

A. Fsh!

Q. What do vampires have at eleven o'clock every day?

A. A coffin break!

Knock Knock

Who's there?


Abbott who?

Abbott time you answered the door!

Knock Knock

Who's there?


Boo who?

Don't cry it's only a joke!

Look, don't blame us - we just work here. Send TOXIC better jokes via

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Blade Runner Tops "Greatest SciFi" Poll

Ridley Scott’s Blade RunnerBlade Runner, starring Harrison Ford and set in a bleak LA of the future, has been named the greatest sci-fi movie of all time by the Titan Magazines-run sci-fi website,

The online publication has produced a definitive list of the top 100 films in sci-fi, with the 1982 film beating off strong competition to take the top slot.

Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey comes in second place, while the first release of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars Episode IV: A New HopeStar Wars is at number three.

As the news breaks that Ridley Scott is set to make Alien 5, his first entryAlien in the franchise is named the fourth best sci-fi movie of all time, and MetropolisMetropolis, Fritz Lang’s iconic film from the silent period, completes the top five.

The authoritative list spans more than a century of movies in the sci-fi genre, with current release Moon making position 74, and the pioneering A Trip to the Moon from 1902 in the top fifteen.

Other entries in the list include two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a plethora of titles from the genre’s 1970s heyday such as Silent Running, The Man Who Fell To Earth and The Andromeda Strain, and classic films by Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky.

Surprisingly, the recent smash hit Star Trek movie prequel makes the list, but comes in at a lowly 93. Two other Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, are adjudged to be superior entries in the franchise, coming in at 19 and 67 respectively.

“It’s odd to think that Blade Runner was not a critical or commercial success on its initial release in 1982," commented Matt McAllister, Editor of "Some critics dismissed it as a case of style over substance. Yet while the depiction of a neon-lit future LA is still breathtaking, Ridley Scott’s film is backed up a real sense of sadness, fear and longing. It also contains career-best performances from Harrison Ford as Deckard and Rutger Hauer as the charming, feral Roy Batty, and terrific supporting performances from the likes of Daryl Hannah and Sean Young.

"However many times you’ve seen Blade Runner before, it retains its awe-inspiring power. A sci-fi masterpiece.”

The Top Ten:

1. Blade RunnerBlade Runner (1982)

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New HopeStar Wars (1977)

4. AlienAlien (1979)

5. MetropolisMetropolis (1927)

6. The Day The Earth Stood StillThe Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

7. The TerminatorTerminator (1984)

8. The Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes (1968)

9. E.T. - The Extra TerrestrialE.T. (1982)

10. Solaris (1972)

• To view the 'Top 100 films in sci-fi' list in full, visit:

Campbell at ComICA 2009

gn_topshelf_alec_pants.jpgMark it in your calendar: Eddie Campbell is the first confirmed international guest for the Comica Festival ‘09.

Over from Australia, Eddie will be in conversation with a special guest on Saturday 7th November, 7pm to 9.00pm in the Nash Room at the ICA, and then signing books afterwards, in particular his new 640-page compilation Alec: The Years Have Pants.

Published by Top Shelf, the book collects the whole saga, including the early episodes first serialised in Escape Magazine and three Escape graphic novels.

Earlier that Saturday -- between 2 and 4.00pm -- he’ll also be signing at the London comic shop Gosh!.

(Via The Fate of the Artist.)

Tube Surfing: The Dark, Fat Man, Milk and Mirabilis

• Here's the trailer for Chris Lynch's new cyberpunk/superhero comic The Dark, which is being published by Markosia (see news story on the downthetubes mobile blog). Written by Chris and with art by Rick Lundeen, it will be released later this month as an iTunes application and as an original graphic novel.

• There will be full reviews later, but just to say that having received review copies of Bryan Talbot's Grandeville (due in October) and Posy Simmonds' Tamara Drewe (out now in paperback) last Friday, I couldn't have wanted for better weekend reading material. Those eagerly awaiting Bryan's Nutwood-meets-Quention-Tarrantino romp will not be disappointed!• Comics artist and Concept Artist Lee Carter has been plugging Com.X superhero project in a video interview for CG Artist Daily. View the full interview here.

comic_fatman_ch9.jpg• Part Nine of Thomas Cochrane's ongoing time-travelling graphic novel The Fat Man, drawn by veteran illustrator and designer Alan Tanner (whose credits include covers for Time Out and the infamous Oz magazine), is now online at It's free and just reading it helps rise money for charity. (The more people who view the material online, the more sponsorship we can raise).

Responsible for the death of millions, the mysterious 'Tegel Project' threatens the very core of civilisation. Betrayed by MI5, the Fat Man finds himself caught between the blazing guns of would-be assassins and the blood-red lips of silent movie star Louise Brooks.

Unable to trust anyone and faced with a series of unpalatable choices, he careers madly along the arch of time on the seemingly impossible mission of keeping himself and his lover alive...

exhibition_steve_cook.jpg• London's Orbital Comics is to host an exhibition of portrait photographs by fab designer Steve Cook next month, featuring behind the scenes photographs of comics creators from the early days of Marvel UK to 2000AD and beyond. Witness Mark Millar driving a tank; Peter Milligan as Lawrence of Arabia and see what happened when Grant Morrison posed for a photograph at Land's End in Cornwall, during the Solar Eclipse of 1999. More info here on Facebook or check out the Orbital Comics web site

• Insomnia Publications has just revealed the foreword of the upcoming graphic novel Burke and Hare by Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering has been penned by comic supremo Alan Grant. Alan's enthused by the book, saying "there’s a moment in life that I savour: that delicious, perplexing instant when you realise that something you’ve ‘known’ for years is actually a crock of nonsense. Like discovering there’s no Santa Claus. Or realising your parents can’t read your mind when you think about sex. The Universe ripples like Predator shimmying through the jungle…and when it rights itself, reality has taken on a slightly different hue.

I had just such a mini-epiphany the first time I read Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering’s Burke & Hare..." You can read the full foreword here on the Insomnia Publications blog

• Talking of Insomnia Publications, they recently announced you can now pre-order the special edition hardback of Stref's Milk from Milk is an incredible piece of work by artist Stref, and has been 10 years in the making.

• Congratulations to former 2000AD editor and flat mate David Bishop, who has script, The Woman Who Screamed Butterflies, is through to the semi-finals of the 2009 Page International Screenwriting Awards. "That sounds more impressive than it is, since there are 25 semi-finalists in ten different categories, chosen from nearly 4400 entries in total," he says, modestly. "I'm in Short Film, a section I won two years ago for my animation project Danny's Toys." Finalist will be announced on 1st September, the winners a month later. Best of luck to him.

• A quick reminder that Antony Johnson's Skeleton Key, the third Alex Rider graphic novel, is out next month (7th September) in the UK. As with the previous books in the series, the 176 page adventure is ably illustrated by sisters Kanako and Yuzuru. "If events follow past form, readers in the US should be able to get hold of an edition a few months afterward," says Antony.

• Writer Cy Dethan has posted some pages from his current project, Harlan Falk, on his blog. "Most of the activity taking place below the waterline and several key things I'm not allowed to talk about yet. Scott James's work on this book has been phenomenal, and Jason Millet's colours are consistently amazing." In addition to the previews on Cy's site, you can check out the cover to Falk on Scott's blog here.


• Comics writer Tony Lee has just posted his full and enjoyable report on the San Diego Comic Convention on his LiveJournal, apologizing to his fans for his failure to maintain a promised daily update. "As it does every year, San Diego Comic Con screwed me over," he admits. "Blog writing wise, that is. I always promise to do a daily blog - and it always collapses and dies by Friday. In the past I've had valid excuses - for the first couple of years it was lack of internet opportunity, but this year I simply had too much going on. Which, considering that I'd made big speeches before going that this was going to be my 'most relaxed year ever' was quite simply a pile of old bobbins..." Meanwhile, if it's more of a visual reportage you're after, check out Tripwire editor Joel Meadows' fab photo reports, starting here... We particularly liked this one of American film director, producer, writer and artist Tim Burton, above. (Photo © Joel Meadows)

gn_orbital2_cinebook.jpgCinebooks, the UK publisher of English language editions of various bande dessines collections and more, has several titles out now which may be of interest to downthetubes readers, including Volume 2 of Orbital. (The first volume was published back in May).

In the story, human Caleb and an alien, Mezoke, are paired up and trained as special agents to keep the intergalactic peace.This is a controversial and historic alliance given their races’ longstanding enmity, and a lot of people are watching them. Their first mission is to keep war from breaking out between humans and Javlodes on the planet Senestam.

Also out now are Roger Leloup's Daughters of the Wind and Jean-Claude Bartolli's stunning-looking Insiders Volume 1: Chechen Guerilla.

Cinebook plans to publish some 38 new titles this year and launch eight new characters or series. It's an impressive output and as regular readers know, Jeremy Briggs has given the company some strong reviews in the past few months.

• With everything that's been going on at downthetubes - behind the scenes work on Ex Astris, book projects, the resumption of work for ROK Comics Inidian mobile comics project and editing work for some of Titan Books' British comics collections (more on this later in the week), I've completely missed Dave Morris sneak peek at some work on some Mirabilis short stories originally intended for The Guardian newspaper, which he's been teasing fans with on his blog. Check out the latest new here

• And finally... Orang Utan Comics has teamed up with DriveThru Comics to offer all of their new titles in a digital format. The UK indie's new anthology, FTL #1 and the Alpha Gods OGN are now both available to download in PDF format from the popular digital comics site. Orang also report their next release on DriveThru will be FTL #2 which will be simultaneously available in print format via IndyPlanet and in digital format via DriveThru.

"This is a really exciting time for comic books and we intend to continue to explore new ways of delivering our comics to readers," says the company. "We will have many exciting announcements about new digital comics projects in the near future, including our first big step into the world of comics for mobile devices."

Monday, 3 August 2009

Rainbow Orchid Unfurls at Foyles

gn_rainbow_orchid.jpgComic creator Garen Ewing was mixing with other British artists and writers at top London bookshop Foyles on Monday night to celebrate the launch of the first volume of his three-part adventure story, Rainbow Orchid.

An original, award-winning 1920's mystery tale of Julius Chancer's search for a mythical flower mentioned by the Greek philosopher and botanist, Theophrastus, the first part of Rainbow Orchid has just been published in full colour in a stunning edition by Egmont Books and is available now in all good bookshops.

Initially published in Jason Cobley's Bulldog Adventure Magazine, the first chapter was then published as a small press book, before gravitating onto the web, where it picked up a considerable following.

Rainbow Orchid is very much in the spirit of European adventure stories, with Herge's Tintin a major influence, so, as Ben Dickson points out in his interview with Garen Ewing for the new digital edition of Redeye magazine, to find itself at Tintin’s English language publishing house is a major coup, and a clear indication of the story’s quality.

Welcoming the book's publication, Garen, who admitted he was initially wary of working with a big company on the collection, enthused about Egmont's commitment and support for his work, which sees the first volume of the story on sale now and will be followed by the second chapter early next year.

The first volume is a sumptuous re-packaging of the initial story, a version which Garen has spent some time "cleaning up" for this edition - including re-lettering the balloons and some artwork changes. The colour work throughout is simply gorgeous, lifting further Garen's finely-honed, detailed inks, his technical skill never detracting from the skilled storytelling as Chancer and gang in planes, trains and beautifully-realized 1920s automobiles.

With a complex, intelligent but far from bewildering script and a cast that includes adventerers, film stars, a femme fatale and scheming masterminds, it's great to see a title as enjoyable and finely-crafted tale as Rainbow Orchid leap from digital media back to the printed page in such style.

Roll on 2010 for Volume Two!

• Pictures from the event by Tripwire editor Joel Meadows to follow!

• Official web site:

Harker #6 Debuts, Collected Edition Delayed

comic_harker6.jpgHarker #6 from indie creators Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks has just been released and available from the comic's online store now.

The issue includes the news that the first collected edition of this intriguing fantasy detective series was supposed to have been solicited in the August edition of Diamond Previews, available from all good comic shops - but it's mysteriously disappeared! "We've found out to our dismay that it's not there, but it's not our fault!" says Roger.

"We're not sure what's happened, but we've already emailed Diamond and asked them to solicit the collection in the next possible Previews.

"In the light of this, we have decided to abandon our idea of September being a 'gap month', he adds. "This is good news for everyone, as it means that issue seven will now be out next month (on the 1st September) with the start of our new six issue storyline, with the current working title of 'Murder By the Book', set in Whitby. It'll continue monthly, as ever!"

As we previously reported, Harker is now available in 15 comic shops across the UK, with more about to jump on board. More info here on the Harker and Critchley blog

Sunday, 2 August 2009

ScotchComp Launched: Win a Limited Edition Dragon Print

The Scottish Comics Creators blog Scotchblog, which features work by artists such as Jon Hodgson, Graeme Neil Reid, Gary Erskine and others, has a new competition for all followers of their humble site. Each month there will be a fantastic prize supplied by one of their contributors which you'll get a chance to win.

It couldn't be easier to enter: all you need to do is leave a comment about the prize and you'll be entered into the running. Any kind of comment counts but you have to make sure you think about it as you can only enter once, so make it funny, make it complimentary, make it a song, make it weird, make it anything you want but make your comment count.

To start off Jon Hodgson is supplying something very special as prize: a 60 cm x 30 cm print on really heavy, glossy poster stock, featuring artwork which was used on the cover of "Dragon Rein" by David F Berens. As you can see from the image above, it features an ancient and evil sorcer-king surveying the lands under his thrall beside his equally ancient, though considerably less evil, dragon mount.

"The print is a crop of the full painting, which was considerably wider to wrap around the novel cover front and back," says Jon. "It was made in Painter and Photoshop last year, and I think for me it was something of a milestone in adding details, and generally producing tighter work than what had gone before. I have one of these very prints hanging in my toilet."

So far there are only five of these in existence, and the prize is signed and numbered print two of an open edition. It's not a strictly limited run as such, but there aren't many about, and never will be!

• Click on the preview image box to see a larger version of this great image!

Visit Scotch Corner for more information and full terms of entry

It's Fantastic: Johnny Future Flies in from the Sixties

Johnny FutureNever before reprinted, Bear Alley Books have just announced they are to reprint the complete adventures of Johnny Future, a stunning British superhero strip which first appeared in 1960s comic Fantastic. The stories, featuring art by Luis Bermejo, will be published in two volumes this October.

Published in 1967 and 1968, Johnny Future's origin springs from Bull Belson's hunt in deep African jungle for a creature known to natives as the Link -- the missing step between ape and man in human evolution. Captured, the creature is brought to England, where he breaks loose. Striking out across country, the Link hides for the night at a top secret research station, little knowing that an experiment to produce a new form of nuclear energy is underway... and out of control!

Professor Richard Allen's assistant has his own ideas about this energy source. An agent of a foreign power, he knocks out the professor and leaves, fast, before the rising radiation levels cause the nuclear-testing machine to reach critical mass.

Bathed in radiation, the Link begins to evolve at unbelievable speed until, lying unconscious before the machine, is a man of superhuman intelligence and animal strength... a man who will become known to the world as Johnny Future.

Johnny Future is described as one of the most memorable strips of the 1960s. Debuting in the very first issue of Fantastic, rubbing shoulders with reprints of US superhero comics, The Missing Link became Johnny Future after 15 issues and ran for a total of 51 episodes, the only originated strip in the 40-page comic. The Bear Alley Books collection reprints all 51 episodes and a scarce one-off 14-page story from the pages of Fantastic Annual.

"The Missing Link/Johnny Future is a fondly remembered strip by many readers who grew up with comics in the Sixties," says cartoonist Lew Stringer in a blog post about the project, "including Alan Moore, who was inspired enough to name one of his characters Jonni Future when he created the anthology Tomorrow Stories for Wildstorm Comics."

"In many ways, the story that began as The Missing Link was just that: a now-forgotten bridge between old-style British comics and the American superhero formula (and it has to be said that there are some of us who still prefer the former)," says ace British comics writer Steve Moore in his foreword to the collections and was one of the team who put together Fantastic every week. "It was written by Alf Wallace, then the managing editor of the Odhams group, and drawn by Spanish artist Luis Bermejo (who I never met, the artwork always being delivered by his London agent).

"The most obvious thing that strikes one about the story is the beauty of Bermejo’s black-and-white artwork," he continues. "In many ways, this was the stand-out artwork in the magazine, as the Marvel superhero strips, despite being drawn by the likes of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, were always intended for overlaid colour reproduction and suffered considerably from being printed in black line alone.

"The story itself is very much a child of its time and circumstances," Steve feels. "Wallace’s influences are obvious... a little King Kong, a little Hulk, a fair amount of general Marvel Comics "superhero angst". The villains, however, and the way Johnny Future deals with them, are much more in the British style: not so much page after page of costumed punch-ups, but a more science-fiction approach where the conflicts are between heroes and villains of considerable or frankly impossible intelligence that I, for one, find far more satisfying."

Both volumes will feature covers by Garry Leach and Una Fricker, the team behind the cover for Titan Books' The Spider: King of Crooks volume. Individually their credits range from Marvelman and 2000AD to the Magic the Gathering RPG game and countless comics and book covers.

Johnny Future fighting a leopard"Johnny Future is a classic," Steve Holland enthuses. "A mere 51 episodes appeared in [Fantastic] but the storylines spanned everything you could ever want: supervillains and Sex, Killer Robots and Renusians... and heroes punching leopards!

"I still need to work out the final price of the books and we won't be taking pre-orders for at least a month," Steve adds. "So you've still got plenty of time to buy the first two Bear Alley books before you need to start saving your pennies!"

Cursitor Doom and The Phantom Patrol are on sale now from Bear Alley Books:

Johnny Future: The Missing Link

Featuring art by Luis Bermejo from scripts by Alf Wallace; cover by Garry Leach/Una Fricker, foreword by Steve Moore. ISBN 978-1-907081-53-8: to be published in October 2009

Johnny Future vs. The Secret Society of Science

Featuring art by Luis Bermejo from scripts by Alf Wallace; cover by Garry Leach/Una Fricker, introduction by Steve Holland. ISBN 978-1-907081-54-5: to be published in October 2009

All images © IPC Media

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