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Saturday, 26 September 2009

Scottish Dragons In The Crimea

Just how far around the world do the words of some blogs get? For Scotch Corner, the Scottish daily art blog, it is the Ukraine. Specifically Bakhchisaray School No. 1 in Crimea, Ukraine.

Scotch Corner runs a monthly competition to win artwork from each of the five artists involved in the blog. The August competition was for a limited edition print by Jon Hodgson entitled 'Dragon Rein' and it was won by Brian Woods who is a Peace Corps volunteer teacher at the school and who donated the print, and others that were sent with it, to the school. "The students from today were very impressed with the artwork," said Brian. " I told them that maybe today they don't know enough (English) but I hope one day they will write stories about what they see in those pictures!"

The current Scotch Corner competition runs until the end of September and the prize is the original artwork for a Star Wars style poster for the Doctor Who story Remembrance Of The Daleks drawn by Graeme Neil Reid as well as the DVD of the story.

The Scotch Corner art blog is here.

Entry to the September competition is free and details can be found here.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Avengers Amended

comic_theavengers1_goldkey.jpgA lot of people know that there was a US comic featuring TV's The Avengers, which to avoid confusion with a similarly-named title and, probably, litigation from Marvel, was actually named the John Steed Emma Peel comic.

Published by Gold Key, a few people may also know that this featured colourised reprints from Polystyle's TV Comic, a weekly title which ran from 1951 to 1984 that mixed licensed strips such as Doctor Who, Fireball XL5, the Pink Panther and Tom and Jerry with original strips such as the long-running Mighty Moth.

The other British anthologies which featured Avengers-based strips were 'girls' comics, Diana and June.

tvcomic0756.jpgtvcomic0756b.jpgThe Gold Key comic reprinted two complete Steed and Mrs Peel strips from TV Comic, which ran from issues 756 to 766, published in 1966.

Although untitled in TV Comic, Gold Key named them The Roman Invasion and The Mirage Maker, with the first issue published in November 1968.

Although uncredited in TV Comic, Gold Key also identified the artist for their Issue 2 as as Pat Williams, who also drew the Doctor Who Sky Ray cards and album, and a couple of TV Comic Annual/Special strips. He also produced 46 pages of colour internal artwork as well as the wraparound cover for the annual sized hardback release of the second Biggles novel, The Cruise Of The Condor (More information on this on Bear Alley).

goldkey1.jpgThe reprint was, it turns out, actually highly modified. To illustrate the changes, we've published sample pages from TV Comic 756 (click the images above for larger examples): and the resulting Gold Key versions.

goldkey2.jpgIn an age where reprint across continents is big business, it's interesting to see just how much the US version of the Avengers strips were changed: while non-English speaking countries also carried out extensive 'surgery' to fit comics into their chosen format, I hadn't seen this level of reformatting in an English language reprint before, which included re-lettering and removal of some panels.

• For more on TV's Avengers comic incarnations visit:

(Article complied with thanks to Ian Phillips and Jeremy Briggs, for the Bear Alley link)

Comics, science fiction and poetry

Metaphrog-Edwin-Morgan-comics-poetry.jpgNext month sees the return of National Poetry Day in the UK, with a theme sure to appeal to comics as well as poetry fans - Heroes and Heroines.

To mark the day, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has written a special poem to celebrate this theme and in Scotland, to try and encourage more poetry reading the Association for Scottish Literary Studies has teamed up with Glasgow’s Metaphrog, creators of the wonderful Louis comics, to make a four page comic adaptation of The First Men on Mercury by Edwin Morgan.

The hope is that the project will prove a way of interesting children (and adults) in poetry, visually. The story spans four, full colour A4 pages and has had the blessing of the poet himself and will be made available in print (32, 500 copies) to all pupils in Glasgow secondary schools on National Poetry Day, 8th October, and will also be made available on the web at

The metro newspaper ran a full page feature on the project this week; the National Poetry Day website will be linking to the online version and the Forbidden Planet Blog will also be running the strip.

This is a brilliant way of getting people excited about both poetry and comics, and, not for the first time, the Scots seem streets ahead of English arts organisations when it comes to supporting comic creators (notwithstanding the NPD supporting this idea and the Arts Council grant which was recently awarded the British International Comics Show).

"We’re thrilled to be working on this," Metaphrog told the Forbidden Planet International blog. "Adapting poetry into comics is proving to be a really interesting project, and The First Men on Mercury, being largely dialogue-based, is ideally suited to this."

Copyright: Internet Access Cut Off No Answer, say Greens

Europe's Green Party has stepped into the battle about copyright and piracy, which increasingly affects comics publishing as comics are scanned as soon as they are published and re-distributed free online.

Last week, the French National Assembly adopted a modified version of controversial 'Hadopi' legislation against online copyright infringement. The approved 'Hadopi 2' law now sets out a simplified procedure with a single judge to examine the charges brought by the administrative agency which retains controversial aspects of the original proposal: harsh financial penalties and the option to withdraw Internet access - the latter also being mooted in the UK by the Labour government.

"We regret the French National Assembly's decision, which officially advocates the penalty of barring Internet access," commented Daniel Cohn-Bendit, President of the Greens/EFA group and Helga Truepel, Vice Chairman of the European Parliament's Culture Committee in a joint statement. "When the European Parliament voted on the EU telecoms package of legislation, we supported the maintenance of Amendment 138.

"We stand firm on our demand: there must be no withdrawal of an internet connection without a prior judicial decision. We remain opposed to the 'Hadopi' law, even in its modified form, because it still fails to provide for a fair trial and goes against the principle of presuming innocence."

The Greens are calling for copyright to protect cultural and creative content from being posted on the Internet against the will of its creators but argue the penalties foreseen in 'Hadopi 2' will do nothing to resolve the conflicting interests of different groups.

"We call for the development of a new copyright system that will respect the rights of artists, without curbing the potential of the Internet," stated Cohn-Bendit and Truepel. "Freedom of communication, the presumption of innocence and a meaningful role for the courts must not be compromised."

Panel Borders: Emma Vieceli, promoting new British Manga


Continuing ‘Women in Comics’ month on podcast Panel Borders - and originally broadcast on Resonance FM - this week Alex Fitch talks to Emma Vieceli, illustrator of the Manga Shakespeare adaptations of Hamlet and Much ado about Nothing who has also contributed to the graphic anthology ‘Comic Book Tattoo’ which adapts the songs of Tori Amos into strip format.

Alex and Emma also talk about the crossover between traditional Western comics and Manga as a new generation of small press creators in the UK experiment with both forms, a practice that is encouraged by the ‘Artists Alley’ that Emma helps organise at the twice yearly MCM Expos in the Docklands and the publishing collective ‘Sweatdrop studios’ that she’s a member of.

• For more info about this podcast and a variety of formats you can stream or download, please visit the home of this episode at


• Emma’s website and livejournal

• More info about Manga Shakespeare

• ‘Sweatdrop studios’: website and Manga day at the V & A

• Vote for Sweatdrop and Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show in the NEO Awards

Panel Border on Facebook / follow Panel Borders on twitter

Kingdom of Adventure's 24 Hour Comic Day


Kingdom Of Adventure, Fife's comic shop, will be bringing 24 Hour Comics Day to Scotland this October. So far, KoA is one of only two shops taking part in this event in the UK.

24 Hour Comics Day, organised by ComicsPro, a trade organization dedicated to the progress of direct market comic book retailers, is an annual worldwide challenge for cartoonists and others to produce a 24-page comic book written, drawn, and completed in 24 consecutive hours and the newly opened Kirkcaldy shop will be flying the flag for Scotland in this year's challenge. Starting at 2.00pm on Saturday October 3rd and ending 24 hours later at 2pm on Sunday October 4th Kingdom of Adventure will try to produce Fife's first 24 hour comic.

Owner Dave Wright is confident that people in Fife and throughout Scotland can rise to the
challenge that will have comic artists, writers and fans collaborating across the world.

"Over the years, the 24 Hour Comics Day event has challenged such comics luminaries as Scott McCloud, Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Eastman and many others. It brings creators of all ages, skill levels and experience together in a creative comic marathon.

"It’s a first for Fife, and I'm confident we'll produce a fantastic collection of books - after all, Scotland has a great pedigree when it comes to producing comics.”

"By participating, I want to attract people to the amazing medium that comics are, while
also providing space for cartoonists and others to show their works to all interested

All participants in the event will have their comic books, complete or otherwise, scanned
and put on the shop website. They will also be displayed in the shop as part of the
Kingdom of Adventure gallery.

South of the border, so far only Kube in Poole, Dorset, has gotten involved in 24 Hour Comic Day. Formerly known as The Study Gallery of Modern Art, it's an education-based venue, not a shop: their event takes place on 3rd October, starting at 10.00 am.

• For more information please contact Dave Wright on 01592 328121 or by email at

• Full details of the event will be on the Kingdom Of Adventure website in due course –

• For more information of this worldwide event please check

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Knights of Pendragon Collection Cover Revealed


Gary Erskine, the original artist of Marvel UK's Knights of Pendragon back in the 1990s, has just published this superb cover to Panini UK's upcoming collection of the strip over on the Scotch Corner Blog.

Gary also goes into the background behind his design, and has posted some early drafts and designs.

"It has been truly magical to work on the series again," he told downthetubes.

downthetubes first learnt of the planned collections back in February (see news story): the first nine issues will feature in one single volume later this year, with the remaining volume to follow next year.

Knights of Pendragon, which also featured covers by artists such as Alan Davis and Simon Bisley, was initially a highly political and environmental comic, its themes drawn from the British folklore of King Arthur, environmental issues and New Age and neo-pagan subcultures.

"Knights was the first book I worked on (some twenty years ago) and still remains a favourite with fans," says Gary. "I found it difficult to return to the characters after so long away and the final design was limited by how much of the first half of the story we could reveal... I took the decison to draw our heroes (and villian) individually to allow for re-sizing and positioning. This proved very helpful in choosing each character's prominence relative to Captain Britain who was always front and centre.

"[Editor] Brady Webb at Panini and myself went through many ideas before settling on the final design shown here... our heroes charging defiantly towards the reader. A fairly simple idea (you may think) but a cover is the singular most important selling point of any medium (be it a cd, magazine or comic book cover) The cover has to be attention grabbing and instantly promote interest in the product and a desire to see more."

Read more about the work Gary put into the cover and see his design work for it over on Scotch Corner

Countdown to Brit Comics Show Begins

A massive gathering of British comic publishers and creators will be showing the public what the indigenous industry has to offer at the Think Tank in Birmingham next weekend for the British International Comics Show.

As well as well known overseas guests like Howard Chaykin and Pasqual Ferry, visitors to the show will be able to meet some of the top British creators working in comics today.

slainecovers.jpgGuests at the event include DC and Marvel Writer Andy Diggle, Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo, the legendary Bryan Talbot, whose new graphic novel Grandville was released recently.

New additions to the guest list for the event, which has funding from the National Lottery via the Arts Council of England, include 2000AD superstar artist Clint Langley, who will be signing copies of his acclaimed graphic novels Volgan War and Slaine: Book Of Invasion at the 2000AD booth.

Titan Magazines will also be appearing at the show to find new talent, and Editors will be conducting portfolio reviews on the Saturday, joining DC Comics editor Michael Wright as they give up and coming artists the chance to receive feedback on the work and possibly a chance to land their first professional assignment in the industry.

"Many people out there think that British Comics are a thing of the past, but at BICS readers will discover, that it is anything but the truth, with publishers like Com.X, Markosia and Insomnia innovating with fresh talent and ground breaking stories, expanding the medium in new directions and taking risks creatively,” said show co-organiser Shane Chebsey.

• To find out more about BICS visit:

Latest Commandos - Check!

Here's the latest issues of war comic Commando from DC Thomson, on sale from today, 24 September, to 7th October 2009. Commando can be ordered from your local newsagent or you can subscribe.

commando4231.jpg• Commando 4231: The King's Cossack

(First published in Commando 2583)

• Story: Alan Hemus • Art: Janek Matysiak • Cover: Janek Matysiak

Charging across the Russian steppes with sword in hand, Major Jack Faraday was in his natural element, eager to get to grips with the enemy. But how did a British army officer come to be leading a wild Cossack squadron anyway?

Jack’s companion, Trooper Tom Tuttle, was wondering the same thing himself as he clung desperately to his saddle, too busy trying not to fall off to worry about such details as shrapnel and flying bullets!

Janek Matysiak, who illustrated King's Cossack, is the son of long-time DCT staff artist Dave Matysiak whose output can be seen in DCT's women's titles and the Scots Magazine. Commando editor Calum Laird first worked with Dave when he did romance strips for Jackie.

commando4232.jpg• Commando 4232: R.A.F. Commando!

(First published in Commando 2599)

• Story: Ian Clark • Art: Gordon Livingstone • Cover: Gordon Livingstone

The wartime exploits of Britain’s Royal Marine and Army Commandos are world-famous, but the Royal Air Force had their Commando units too. These were the RAF Servicing Commandos, a highly-trained elite who served on recently-captured airfields, readying aircraft for battle, often under enemy fire... and sometimes having to fend off counter-attacks from those determined to get their old airstrips back!

commando4233.jpg• Commando 4233: Messerschmitt Storm!

Story: Alan Hebden • Art: José Maria Jorge • Cover: José Maria Jorge

In July 1939, RAF Flight Lieutenant Mike Storm was posted to Yugoslavia to instruct that country’s pilots to fly Hurricane fighters. He soon clashed with a Luftwaffe rival, Hauptmann Konrad Schwarz, an expert but ruthless Messerschmitt Bf109 pilot.

Years later, with World War Two raging, their paths would cross again. This time Mike somehow found himself flying Yugoslav 109s against their German counterparts....

commando4234.jpg• Commando 4234: Operation Steamboat

• Story: Ferg Handley • Art: Olivera • Cover: Ian Kennedy

Burma 1945: First Lieutenant Jack Hibbert had a reputation for being unorthodox, much to the annoyance of his superiors.

However, when a strategically important bridge must be secured, Jack is the one who gets the job. Will he play by the rules this time? It doesn’t look like it when he commandeers an ancient paddle steamer...

Editor Calum tells us Operation Steamboat came from an anecdote Ferg Handley came across concerning a paddle steamer in Burma which was full of Japanese soldiers. Somehow a British officer got on board by mistake, opened a door to see a group of enemy officers playing cards at a table. "Oh, excuse me," he said, shutting the door and legging it into the night. The Japanese were so surprised there wasn't even any shooting!

• For subscription information, visit CommandoMag, DC Thomson's official website for the digest

• As we noted earlier this week, the next Commando reprint book from Carlton, Battle of Britain – Scramble! is due to be published at the beginning of October. Co-edited by former Commando editor George Low and current editor Calum Laird, the colection includes stories such as "Ace Without Honour", "Island of Heroes" and "Brigand Squadron" as well as "Blind Courage", "Fly Fast-Shoot Fast" or "Spitfire Spirit".

FTL Anthology Back for Thirds

comic_FTL03_oup.jpgOrang Utan Comics has released the third issue of its anthology title Faster Than Light, featuring the work of creators such as Ian Sharman, Valerio Giangiordano, Simon Wyatt, Ashley Soltis and Jeff Balke.

Indie publisher OUC's flagship anthology series, FTL offers a range of quick fire stories, this time including a trip back in time to the hallowed halls of Valhalla for a twisted weird war tale and a lone teenager debating his fate with the omniscient narrator of his life’s story.

Alongside four comic strips are two prose stories, beautifully illustrated by exceptional, young photographer, Ashley Soltis.

"I’ve always loved photographs," says Ashley on her blog, in an interview with OUC's Managing Editor Ian Sharman. "My family has always documented life through photography and at first, that’s all I wanted to do... just take snapshots. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t as in love with it as I am now until I joined a href="">DeviantArt where I was inspired by a lot of photographers that I continue to follow to this day."

“2009 has been a big year for Orang Utan Comics and we’re seeing the year out with some exciting new releases," says Ian. "This third issue of FTL sees us taking some bold new steps as we begin to create a clear identity for our flagship anthology.”

• FTL #3 is currently available to order in print from IndyPlanet and also as a digital download from DriveThru Comics

Terry-Thomas Bio Released in Paperback

filmfun59.jpgThe first biography of comedian Terry-Thomas - considered by some to be the inspiration for Captain Britain villain Mad Jim Jaspers and who made frequent British comics appearances - has just been released in paperback by Aurum Press, also publishers of facsimile editions of The Broons and Oor Wullie.

One of Britain's most beloved comics, Bounder! by Graham McCabb - also the author of Spike & Co., Dad's Army and Morecambe & Wise - traces Terry's life from his humble days in suburbia, to his dandy-like persona in Hollywood. With his sly little moustache, braod gap-toothed grin, garish waistcoats and ostentatious cigarette holder, Terry-Thomas certainly was an absolute bounder - both onscreen and off.

From an early age, Terry-Thomas set his sights on show business, making his television debut in 1949 in the groundbreaking How Do You View?. Cinema soon called and ith hit films such as School For Scoundrels and Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, he went on to form a long and lucrative celluloid career. America loved the gap-toothed, English cad.


Terry also featured in several comic strips, including strips featured in Film Fun, such as this one by George Wakefield from a 1957 edition.

Sadly, in the 1970's, Parkinson's disease eventually forced him out of the limelight and into comparative obscurity.

Well-received on its hardcover release last year, Bounder! taps into a widespread nostalgia for the golden age of British entertainment. Terry-Thomas has become a cult figure, cited as a key influence by contemporary comedians such as Paul Whitehouse and Vic Reeves.

Read an extract from the book, published by the Daily Mail on its hardcover release

The Times review of Bounder!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Comics International Not Dead, Says Publisher

magazine_ci_stspecial09.jpgPeter Boyce, publisher of Comics International, has categorically denied the long-running magazine has been cancelled, even though a regular issue has not been published for some months.

downthetubes approached Mr Boyce for comment after former editor and publisher Dez Skinn lamented the woeful state of modern genre publishing in the UK in a personal email. "I gather two of me wee bairns have died in the last month," he told us, "first Comics International and now Starburst."

The casual comment rang alarm bells with us, as we have been asking Comic International's editorial team for confirmation of the title's return for some time. But while the release date of a new issue has not been announced, we're pleased to report the title has not been cancelled.

"Comics International dead?" Peter Boyce, owner of Movie New Media has invested in several comic-related projects including the arts magazine Dangerous Ink and others, responded. "It's news to me."

Two Comics International Specials were published in July (see news story), suggesting perhaps that the frequency of the magazine was being changed. We're delighted to hear that the magazine may be returning.

Current CI Editor Mike Conroy was unavailable for comment but Dez said he was delighted to hear the rumours were ill-founded, adding "Ecstatic and relieved!

While enjoying the lack of deadlines in his life (as the picture below shows) "Perhaps foolishly, we bought out one of the UK's leading back issue dealers shortly after selling Comics International," he tells us.

"Outside of a 16-year emotional attachment, it would be nice to have somewhere to actually advertise all that stock to keep my merry band busy!

"As for Starburst, it's a shame it never evolved instead of becoming merely a forgotten pathfinder for SFX."


Above: Dez Skinn enjoying 'retirement' from magazine publishing with Mail Order Manager Charlotte and best pal Leonie (who give Dez a lift in times of worry). Picture courtesy of Dez Skinn

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Zombies invade the Wild West!

comic_starscape_dead.jpgSpitfire Comics, the publishing arm of have a couple of new items out: a re-release of the sold out Collected Hook Jaw by Pat Mills and others, compiled from the pages of the 1970s comic, Action!; and a zombies in the Wild West horror comic called Dead. There's just no stopping these reanimated corpses invading every milieu, is there?

Starscape Presents: Dead is a 24 page US-sized comic in which zombies have invaded the Wild West. All that stands between the hungry mouths of the living dead and the last refuge of salvation is one kick-ass beautiful female sheriff.

Recommended for fans of The Walking Dead and other zombie horror comics, this self-contained horror tale is the work of writer Gary Simpson (2000AD, Engine Comics) with quite breathtaking art from Lee O'Connor (Vurt, Shelf Life and Iraq: The Graphic War).

Collected from the pages of the million sales-per-month Action! comic, The Collected Hook Jaw is the tale of the man-eating great white shark, Hook Jaw. This forerunner of 2000AD sees blood-n-guts and limbs-a-flying mix with environmental issues. The collection comprises the two storylines prior to Action!'s banning after protests about the levels of violence, written by Pat Mills (2000AD, Charley's War, Slaine and more and Ken Armstrong (Flesh, Dan Dare and other uncredited stories), with art by Ramon Sola (Action!, 2000AD, Battle) and Felix Carrion.

Starscape Presents: Dead and The Collected Hookjaw are available via Diamond Distribution (UK only), IndyPlanet, Lulu or from For cover art and previews of Dead, click here for its page on Indyplanet.

Tube Surfing: Hi-Ex!, Insomnia, Commando and Francesca Cassavetti

The Scottish comics convention, Hi-Ex!, will be returning to Inverness in the Highlands over the weekend of 27 - 28 March 2010. We echo the sentiment in their new leaflet promoting the event, a quote for the SFX Blog stating "If UK comic cons were described as body parts, then Hi-Ex would be the heart."

Staying with Hi-Ex and Scotland, we pass on our congratulations to Hi-Ex! co-organiser, Richmond Clements, who has signed with Edinburgh based publisher Insomnia Publications to write a Vigil bio-graphic novel about the life of Glasgow born Allen Pinkerton who founded the America's Pinkerton National Detective Agency and who fought on the Union side during the Civil War. There are more details of the signing on Insomnia's weekly Red Eye blog.

CommandoMag, DC Thomson's official website for their Commando digest, has been in hibernation recently with just the details of the latest issues being added but we are pleased to report that it has sprung back into life recently with a daily feature Diary Of World War II which gives a brief glimpse of what was happening on the posting day seventy years ago.

The next Commando reprint book from Carlton, Battle Of Britain – Scramble! is due to be published at the beginning of October.

• And, finally, we welcome baby Arianna Law into the world. Dad, Steve, has been a long time supporter of downthetubes and we are pleased to say that despite being premature both mother and baby are fine - and dad isn't getting much sleep. Having received a copy of Francesca Cassavetti's The Most Natural Thing In The World as a present, they are now accosting their visitors with Francesca's excellent book pointing out which page their life with a new baby has currently reached.

The downthetubes review of the book is here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Crawford Coutts On The Spot

Insomina Publications is fast becoming something of a rising star in the UK indie publishing press, with graphic novels such as Cancertown and the upcoming Burke & Hare just some of its well-received titles. As the company prepares to launch its much-anticipated Vigil range - graphic novels re-telling the events, lives and stories of famous men and women - David Hailwood chats with with Crawford Coutts, Insomnia Publications Managing Director...

Cancertowndownthetubes: When was Insomnia first formed, and how did you get involved?

Crawford Coutts: Since as long as I can remember, I’d always wanted to start-up and run my own business. When I was completing my degree at Dundee University back in 2005, Alasdair Duncan approached me with a screenplay script. I had been reading a lot of independent comics, such as 30 Days of Night from IDW, by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, and The Red Star by Archangel Studio’s by Christian Gossett and noticed that there was an increase in creator-owned work which was being aimed at mature readers with more novel-style themes and content, which was appealing to a wider audience.

By the time I'd graduated, I suggested to Alasdair that we should adapt his script into a six-issue mini-series and try something different with it, but first of all, we had to undertake a huge amount of research to ensure we were starting from the strongest possible position.

I began my comics career by illustrating our first series, Daemon, which was released in January 2007. Unfortunately, due to the demand on my time required to run the business, I had to stop only three issues in to the six issue series.

gn_layerzero_ip.jpgWe wanted to emphasize that Insomnia was not just another indie "company" which would produce one product and then disappear like so many people trying to self-publish, I wanted the company to grow into a publishing house, and with the interest and success of our Layer Zero anthology series we had started this process.

The decision to take on the role of "Managing Director" rather than "artist" was very difficult, but incidentally came at a crucial time and has since enabled us to get our products into the high street bookstore as well as online shops like Amazon and we are becoming more accepted by the general public rather than purely comic-book fans.

downthetubes: What type of material is Insomnia most likely to publish? Is there any particular genre you would avoid, or have a personal disliking for?

gn_krnoscity_ip.jpgWe produce a wide range of Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror titles. With each of our products, we look to publish something which is unusual, literate, challenging and thought provoking. Most of our books are aimed at teen/mature readers and most have an 18+ age rating so we're not limiting our content and restricting character development.

We're pretty open to most genres, as long as it's meets some (or all) of the above criteria. Readers of the likes of From Hell, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, Fell and Nightly News will undoubtedly like our titles.

downthetubes: Which small press/independent titles would you recommend, and why?

Crawford: Unfortunately, I don’t really get a chance to read many other titles these days, and if I do it's mainly researching what the "competition" is up to! I do have a huge "to-read" pile sitting by the bedside, which is ever increasing!

I’ve been paying close attention to C2D4 and their new Graphic Novel, Jack in the Box, which looks stunning. I picked up some of the individual issues by Tony Wicks and Martin Buxton and I’m looking forward to seeing how the full book has turned out. Martin’s created a wonderful mix of sci-fi and the surreal complimented by Tony’s exceptional art style.

There’s some pretty good looking books from Studio 407 which I’d like to get my hands on as well, along with (Bob) Heske Horror's award winning Bone Chiller Anthology series which I’ve heard great things about.

Incidentally, Bob is currently producing another anthology, entitled 2012 which will be one to watch out for. Many of the Insomnia creators have been involved with this project, including Stephen “Cancertown” Downey. In fact many of the Insomnia creators have lots other projects on the go, either self-published or with other indie companies.

downthetubes: What advice would you offer aspiring comic artists and writers?

Crawford: Keep writing, drawing, inking, colouring, and generally "creating" as much as possible. Practice when you can and don’t be afraid to submit your work to publishers. Be sure to check out submissions guidelines and look at the current products they have to see if your ideas will fit in with what they produce.

There are many small press and indie publishers out there who are looking for contributions to anthology series, showcases, magazines etc and they’re great places to get initial feedback, constructive criticism and hopefully exposure which unfortunately the larger, mainstream publishers just can’t do.

downthetubes: Which of the upcoming Insomnia releases are you most excited about?

Crawofrd: There’s so many books currently in production it’s very hard to pick any particular titles, and to be honest, I’m very excited about them all. Next month, we're launching our first title from our new Bio-Graphic Novel imprint, Vigil (which is very exciting in itself).

Burke & Hare will be released at the British International Comics Show (BICS) followed closely with several signing events in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The book is completely research-based on the historical facts, written by Martin Conaghan, illustrated by Will Pickering, with letters by Paul McLaren and a cover by Rian Hughes.

It also has a wonderful foreword from Alan Grant where he says, "Martin and Will have produced something of which they and their publisher - the relative newcomer, Insomnia - can be very proud. As well as being educational and entertaining, they've gone one better and given us something important. Hopefully, the Universe will ripple and change for a great many of their readers."

gn_buskers_ip.jpgWe'll be releasing a Special Convention Edition of Buskers at BICS. Earlier in the year we were approached by Sean Michael Wilson and Jeymes Samuel with this offbeat tale set in contemporary London with an array of odd but realistic characters.

The comic book is based on a story by Jeymes (who incidentally is the brother of the singer SEAL), which is being created both in graphic novel form and as a film. Buskers is written by Sean and illustrated by Michiru Morikawa, an incredibly talented Japanese artist who won the International Manga and Anime Festival Award a few years back.

Jeymes is currently working on the film version of Buskers with a cast including Kevin Spacey and Mos Def, and the different versions will complement each other. [Read our news item on this project here - Ed]

The Special Signed Convention Edition will be limited to 100 copies and includes a CD with exclusive music from the OST and bonus features.

downthetubes: Could you tell us a little about the new Vigil imprint?

Crawford: Vigil specifically deals with historical graphic novels and stories of a biographical nature. Think along the lines of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell or Frank Miller’s 300; we’re looking for rich stories based on fact, not facts dressed up as fiction.

The stories published under Vigil can be about a significant global event, the life of a famous personality or historical figure, cultural events, political scandals, wars, assassinations, rock stars, miscarriages of justice, cover-ups, conspiracies or inspirational tales from ordinary lives.

Biopics like Ali, Ray, Valkyrie, Frost/Nixon, JFK, Persepolis, Braveheart, Wyatt Earp, Apollo 13, Gandhi and Chariots of Fire are all similar to what we’re publishing. Each one tells a story about the life of someone unique, or chronicles events so dramatic and inspirational that they almost seem entirely fictional or unbelievable.

Historical accuracy was paramount in the development of Burke & Hare. Martin and Will spent much of the last year waist-deep in research material: original documents, biographies, contemporary maps, portraits, street scenes, architectural drawings, fashion illustrations, photos of antique furnishings and fireplaces - all to ensure that the representation of history in a comic offers something that cannot be achieved in any other medium.

This amount of effort is put into each Vigil title so that every book is as much a work of scholarship as entertainment and readers will almost be able to smell the setting every time they turn a page.

The next books we have signed for the line are Crowley: Wandering The Wastes by Martin Hayes, and Allen Pinkerton by Richmond Clements. We'll have more information on these at BICS.

downthetubes: Do Insomnia’s publications have a following in the US and other countries, or are you mostly concentrating on building up a UK fan base first?

Crawford: In the UK our titles are available in Waterstones, Borders and other good book stores, most of the independent comic shops including Forbidden Planet International and available online from

In France, our titles are available from Album and exclusively on sale from our independent stockist - Librairie Delvaux, 17 rue du Val, 77160, Provins.

Now that we're one of the largest Independent publishers in the UK and we have a pretty solid grounding in the market, we're currently researching distribution avenues to tap into the North American market - speaking with various shops, distributors and shipping companies. By early 2010, readers will hopefully be able to purchase our books from many of the book stores and comic shops.

Of course our books can currently be bought for international delivery from various online stores. If you want an excellent personal service, try Whatever Comics who are not only a fantastic comic shop providing international shipping, but who are also the sponsors of Cancertown.

downthetubes: I believe you also have plans to option movie rights for various comic projects; any luck generating interest so far?

Crawford: With the huge amount of interest from film studios in the comic industry, especially with the recent news of Disney and Time Warner acquiring Marvel and DC respectively, we believe our titles are well suited to adaptation into these areas.

We have a dedicated Agent based in New York who actively looks into optioning Film and TV rights for us so we’ll keep you posted of any news further down the line!

Myebook - Insomnia Publications Catalogue - click here to open my ebook• A list of Insomnia's creators and their personal sites and blogs can be found on the official Insomnia blog:

Read David Hailwood's review of the upcoming Burke & Hare

Read David Hailwood's review of Milk by Stref

Read the downthetubes review of Cancertown

In Review: Burke & Hare

InsomniaBandHCover.jpgReviewed by David Hailwood

The Plot: Over a 12-month period from 1827-1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland, two Irishmen by the names of William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people and disposed of their bodies to the eminent dissectionist Dr Robert Knox.

Delve into the murky, misquoted history of Scotland's most notorious serial killers with a research-based graphic novel that unravels a ghoulish story of medicine, murder and money.

The Review: As Martin Conaghan, writer of Burke & Hare, states in the appendix, 'Burke and Hare does not attempt to solve the crimes or analyse the behaviour of Burke and Hare, but merely to present the facts in as straightforward a fashion as possible, given the available historical and anecdotal information'.

Martin never gives in to the temptation to over dramatise events in a bloodthirsty Hammer Horror sort of way, even when there's ample opportunity to really play up the blood and gore angle. For example, in the space of just two pages, Martin has Burke and Hare dispose of seven people 'in the same manner'. By downplaying their deaths, moving swiftly through the murders rather than choosing to dwell on them, Burke and Hare's actions seem all the more chilling; they're businessmen who deal in death, selling corpses to medical science for a tidy profit. The fact that they have to murder people to obtain these corpses (usually by getting their victims drunk and smothering them) is a mere detail.

Burke & Hare is illustrated by Will 'Something Fast' Pickering, who employs delicate inking and well-researched visuals to capture the feel of 19th century Scotland, treating the readers to sweeping scenery, and moody crosshatching for those darker moments (of which there are many).

The graphic novel also comes with a sizeable thirty page 'companion' at the rear, written by Martin Conaghan, which gives a page by page breakdown of the comic, including precise details of research undertaken, and highlighting which parts are fiction and which are based on fact. Judging by the bibliography, a vast amount of research has gone into creating Burke & Hare, and it's worth anyone with a passing interest in the story, whether they're a comic fan or not, picking it up for the scholarly companion alone.

There's also a terrific gallery containing interpretations of Scotland's most notorious serial killers, as illustrated by Scotland's most notorious serial artists (and several artists of Irish descent) such as Frank Quitely, Dave Alexander, Stref, Gary Erskine and many more.

In summary, Burke and Hare is well paced, beautifully illustrated and painstakingly researched. A very impressive launch for Insomnia's new Vigil imprint.

Burke & Hare ((ISBN-10: 1905808127; ISBN-978-1905808120) is 120 pages, b/w paperback, priced at £12.99 with a colour cover by Rian Hughes and an introduction by Alan Grant.

Burke & Hare will be launched at the British International Comics Show 2009 on Saturday 3 October 2009. Writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering will be available at the Insomnia stand to talk about the book, sign copies, and provide sketches. There will also be guest appearances by some of the gallery contributors.

• If you're interested in the world of Burke and Hare, check out, a website apparently related to another book, The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosner. The site's full of background information on the pair.

Rebellion Takes on Solaris

accord-med.jpgMissed this owing to holidays, but just to note here 2000AD publishers Rebellion's acquisition of the Solaris book publishing imprint from Games Workshop, completed earlier this month for an undisclosed sum.

Solaris offers a mixture of new and traditional science fiction, fantasy and horror books and has many bestselling titles from both upcoming and established names such as Brian Lumley, Keith Brooke, Gail Z. Martin, Eric Brown and Simon R. Green, amongst others.

The publisher recently concluded a three-book deal for Australian fantasy writer Rowena Cory Daniells, via agent John Jarrold. The series is entitled King Rolen’s Kin and the first book, provisionally called Byren's Bane, is due for publication in early 2010.

Solaris will sit alongside, and be run in parallel with, Rebellion's own Abaddon Books. Games Workshop will now focus its attention on its Black Library imprint.

"We've been aware of the Solaris imprint for some years now and have admired its success with fantastic stories and great writers," commented Jason Kingsley, CEO of Rebellion. "Acquiring Solaris will allow us to continue to push our publishing trajectory upwards and expand the quantity, whilst maintaining the quality, of all our titles."

Rebellion has also entered into a sales and distribution agreement with Simon and Schuster which means the CBS-owned book publisher and distributor will continue to handle sales, distribution and fulfilment of all Solaris titles for all new and backlist titles to trade and specialty accounts.

Ray Harryhausen at Forbidden Planet in October

Ray_Harryhausen.jpgRay Harryhausen and Tony Dalton will be signing An Animated Life at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 24th October between 1 – 2pm.

The last great animator before the introduction of CGI, Ray’s book takes us through 60 years of bringing dreams to life. From harpies and skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts to the six-armed Kali in Sinbad, Ray explains the films' journeys, from original concept through to the critics' reviews, as well as the basics of special effects and stop-motion animation. Now re-issued in softcover, An Animated Life is a wonderland guide through a golden age of SFX magic.

Inspired at 13 years old by seeing King Kong, Ray knew his future lay in special effects. Following on from his mentor Willis O'Brien, creator of Kong, Ray took the art of stop-motion animation one step further, weaving his magic on every concept from dinosaur to alien.

Probably the single best-known name in special effects, Ray Harryhausen is both visionary and artist and has written two previous and very successful books on the subject.

Em joins The Sun


(with thanks to David Baillie for the tip): The cartoon strip Em, the creation of Swedish cartoonist Maria Smedstad, joins The Sun on Tuesday.

"Yes, it's true," says Marie. "Em will be packing her little messily drawn bags and move to The Sun for two days a week. And to those of you who have asked - no, she will not be on page three."

First published in the free thelondonpaper for three years, which is closing, Em was created as an autobiographical side project, depicting life as a young (semi) professional in a shared London house.

"It was picked up by thelondonpaper in October 2006," Marie outlines on her web site. "Since then the often acerbic portrayal of Em’s life has received a hugely positive response and has struck a chord not only with Londoners, but with people worldwide who sympathise with her and her friends’ daily struggle to keep their wine intake down, fight broadband service providers and find that special someone to keep them warm at night."

Marie has hinted that a collection of Em strips is in the pipeline. Any publishers reading this...?

• EmCartoons on the Web at:

Follow EmCartoons on Twitter

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Egmont Classic Comics: Misty

(Updated 21/9/09): The latest of the quarterly title Egmont Classic Comics featuring IPC's girls comic Misty is now available. As with the previous two titles, Roy Of The Rovers and Battle Picture Weekly, the issue is available exclusively on the high street from WH Smith at a cover price of £3.99.

WH Smith's placement of these titles on their shelves can make them problematical to find - Roy Of The Rovers was racked with the football magazines (which seems a logical choice) while Battle Picture Weekly was racked in the Military History section (go figure). Misty on the other hand has been racked in the Hobbies - Sci-Fi section which may seem a little strange but it does at least mean that the supernatural girls title, in some WH Smith stores at least, can be found sitting beside the current issue of 2000AD, much as it would have done thirty years ago when it was first published.

For anyone who cannot get to a WH Smith or cannot find it in their local one, Egmont have advertised back issues of Egmont Classic Comics in the Misty title. Anyone who wishes to get copies of the Roy or Battle, the price including P&P is £5.50.

The customer should send a cheque made out to Egmont UK Ltd together with mailing address to Melanie Leggett at Egmont UK Ltd., 239 Kensington High Street,
London W8 6SA.

buster09.jpgAt this point, Egmont can only send out Misty when it comes off sale (9th December) and Buster when it comes off sale, as Smiths have an exclusive slot until then. For further information e-mail for more details.

The next issue of Egmont Classic Comics will feature Buster and be available on 9 December 2009.

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