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Saturday, 26 December 2009

In Review: Pandora's Box - Sloth

As we all slowly recover from the excesses of Christmas it seems an appropriate time to be looking at Cinebook's latest offering from their Pandora's Box series, Sloth.

American Olympic sprinter Paris Troy has been the fastest man in the world over 100 metres since the Istanbul Olympics almost 10 years ago but an injury has left his record vulnerable to the younger sprinter Ace Achean. However the rivalry between the two men goes deeper since Achean's supermodel girlfriend Helen had left him for Paris. With Achean closing in on his record and with his recovery from injury not happening as quickly as he would like, Paris' brother Hector, a former sprinter who is a convicted drugs cheat, suggests he meet with a doctor who is prepared to prescribe something that will help him. Is Paris prepared to use the slothful way of cheating to return to his world beating fitness?

The Pandora's Box series from Cinebook is a set of eight books all written by the same author, Alcante, with seven different artists covering each of the seven deadly sins plus an eighth book, Hope, with art from the artist for the first book as a finale. Sloth is the second book in the series with art by Vujadin Radovanovic which was originally published in French by Dupuis in 2005 as Pandora Box 2: La Paresse.

As the names of the characters suggest, Alcante uses classical mythology as the basis for his characters - Paris stole away the beautiful Helen from the King of Sparta starting the 10 year siege of the city of Troy which ended with the deception of the Trojan Horse - while setting his story in the modern day. While not a plot point, the Trojan Horse itself does make an appearance as a tourist attraction in Istanbul, the best known Turkish city close to the modern day ruins of the city of Troy. While the book's characters are not quite faithful to those from the Trojan War, Helen is barely mentioned for instance, those readers with a classical education will be intrigued as to who Alcante introduces next in the plot and will also get a good indication of the climax of the story when they see that the doctor willing to prescribe the doping drugs to Paris is called Philoctetes.

Radovanovic's art is adequate for the job but doesn't sparkle and while Alcante's plotting is interesting, as he interweaves his story with the Trojan myth, his characters are ultimately unsympathetic and in the end I was left disinterested as to whether Paris decides to take the drugs or not. Indeed the last couple of pages of seemingly tacked on epilogue just appear to push the drugs message too far. Of course since the Pandora's Box series is individual and unconnected stories with different artists this doesn't mean that the next title, Gluttony, due in February 2010 can fully be judged on the basis of this one.

Pandora's Box is an interesting idea that Sloth just doesn't quite pull off.

There are more details of Pandora's Box: Sloth on the Cinebook website.

There are more details about the original publications of Pandora's Box on the Dupuis Pandora Box website.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Well hopefully Santa arrived at your house last night and didn't look too much like this.

New Eagle's most popular character was of course Dan Dare but its most popular new character was Doomlord.
The alien Doomlord Vek from the planet Nox created and written by Alan Grant was originally an evil character out to destroy the Earth but eventually became its protector. It this issue he takes on the disguise of Santa to hide from the Deathlords of Nox who are on Earth to kill him.

The issue also included Dan Dare fighting for his life on the planet Belendotor, cop One Eyed Jack fighting for his life on the streets of New York and heavyweight boxer Danny Pike fighting in a European Championship eliminator in Madrid.

Christmas was also a theme in the issue's Amstor Computer story. The Amstor Computer stories were one off stories based on suggestions sent in by readers and "A Modern Christmas..." was suggested by Daniel Stockman of Middlesex. Artist Ron Turner shows that even Father Christmas needs a little help from modern technology.

And so we leave our Christmas covers for yet another year and but not before we take the time to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas: 1 Day To Go

Our run of Christmas covers continue as we countdown to Christmas Day.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a good Look and Learn Santa cover and this one comes from issue 728 in 1975.

With Santa speeding over the snow on a snowmobile it is advertising the Speed and Power article "Skimming Over The Snow When It's Forty Below" which highlights snowmobiles, Sno-Cat tractors, the unpowered Sno-Bob as well as of course husky powered sleighs. The rest of the issue pretty much ignores Christmas with articles on General Montgomery's double, Clifton James, how a telephone works and the mud left behind when the Nile floods. The comic strips were the B&W Oliver Twist and of course More Adventures Of The Trigan Empire in full Don Laurence colour.

The following year, for issue 780, it was less 20th Century Santa and more a case of 21st Century Santa as Gerry Wood painted this amusing image of Santa on the surface of Mars. For someone able to visit every child on Earth in one night a quick detour to Mars doesn't hold many problems such as breathing the thin Martian air without a helmet on or, even more importantly, how he gets that beard into the helmet in the first place.

This advertised the second of a Speed and Power series entitled "Exploring Space" which included an illustration of the same Martian lander with rather more realistic astronauts surrounding it. Trigan Empire had moved into the hands of Oliver Frey by this issue and the B&W strip was Great Expectations.

Let's hope when Santa visits your house tonight his bag is as full as it is shown in these covers. Our final Christmas cover will appear tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

New Sandman Collections Announced

sandman1_rmw.jpgDC Comics imprint Vertigo has announced new, re-mastered editions of Neil Gaiman's critically-acclaimed series, Sandman.

Beginning next year, Vertigo will publish new trade paperback editions of Sandman in ten volumes - remastered and corrected versions of the comic the Los Angeles Times Magazine called “the greatest epic in the history of comic books,” featuring newly designed covers using Dave McKean’s spectacular and innovative art.

The series was initially re-coloured for the four oversized Absolute Sandman editions.

Vertigo previewed the covers of the first two volumes - Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll's House - on its Graphic Content blog.

Merry Christmas: 2 Days To Go

Our run of Christmas covers continue as we countdown to Christmas Day.

There wasn't much Christmas cheer on display on the Christmas cover for Bunty in 1987. Indeed it seemed to be all doom and gloom - a miserable Christmas for The Kids Of Hunger House, a cold Christmas in School's Out and tears at Christmas in The Four Mary's.

After Ian Kennedy's full colour IPC Fleetway cover of Super Naturals 1987 Christmas issue yesterday, he returns to DC Thomson's limited colour newsprint for this compilation cover for Bunty in the same year.

The tears are not from one of the four Mary's - Field, Cotter, Simpson and Radleigh, but rather for one of their friends, Denise Fowlds, who is feeling sorry for herself since her divorced mother is in hospital and she has fallen out with her sister who has sided with their father.

Set in the past, Hunger House is Conwyn Castle stately home where the bereaved master of the house is such a miser that he doesn't feed his children properly. But all is not lost as finding and reading his late wife's diary brings him to his senses in time for Christmas dinner.

School's Out has four pupils of Wansdale School - Carol, Dawn, Marie and Ellie, queuing in the snow for the New Year Sales. So really they only have themselves to blame if they have a cold Christmas.

More Christmas covers tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Paul Cornell: Hanging with the Captain

Paul CornellBack in 2008, during the publication run of Captain Britain and MI13 by Marvel Comics, downthetubes regular contributor and Judge Dredd: The Megazine feature writer Matt Badham conducted an interview with novelist, comics and TV writer Paul Cornell, as research material for an article about Captain Britain that subsequently appeared in the the Megazine.

Although various quotes were used in the Meg, and a highly edited version did previously appear in Tripwire, downthetubes is pleased to now present a full version of the interview, recorded during Captain Britain and MI13's run and before its cancellation.

It offers a fascinating insight into Paul's approach to writing (and indeed, re-inventing) Captain Britain for the 21st Century - while building on the work of many creators before him.

"Alan Moore and Alan Davis do loom hugely over the title," says Paul, also paying tribute to the work of original Captain Britain Weekly artist Herb Trimpe back in the 1970s, and other writers such as Dave Thorpe. "So much so that the only thing to do when I took over was to move it out of their sphere of influence, because a character that is being influenced by previous versions to an undue degree is not a living character.

"I tried to do what I think Ed Brubaker has done spectacularly on Captain America, which is to find what would work for the character now and move it out of the shadow of previous interpretations..."

Read the interview with Paul Cornell on the main downthetubes web site

Tube Surfing: Wallace and Gromit, Insomnia on PSP, Free Digital Comics and Christmas Covers


• Titan Publishing's Wallace & Gromit digital comic has taken the iPhone by storm with over half a million downloads of its first free app - and the company is surely hoping to repeat the success with its release on the new PSP comics service. More on this story on the downthetubes Mobile Comics Blog

• Talking of digital comics, Insomnia Publications is one of a handful of UK comic publishers featuring on the launch offering for the PlayStation Network's Digital Comics service, which enables you to download the comics directly to your PSP over Wi-Fi or you use your PC to transfer the files. Although there's bound to be more coverage of both Marvel and Disney's offerings on the platform, this is a major coup for the independent publisher: titles on offer include Cancertown Burke and Hare, Cages and more. (Click here for a full list of titles on offer on the Insomnia blog).
The service is also being supported by IDW Publishing and iVerse Media, among others and over 550 comics were made available at launch with more to be added as the service develops.

Forbidden Planet International reports that audio recordings from the Women in Comics conference, which took place a few weeks ago in Cambridge, are now available on the New Hall Art Collection site, including Sarah McIntyre, Asia Alfasi, Nicola Streeten and others, with more audio to follow in due course.

• Matthew Badham has re-posted an interview with comic creators Adam Cadwell (left, as visualised by cartoonist Marc Ellerby) and Jim Medway that disappeared into the ether when his previous blog bit the dust. Matthew sasy both Adam and Jim say a lot of interesting things about comics and art, and make some good observations about the Brit' small press scene, as well as offering their insight into the failure of The DFC and much more. Jim, it seems, by the way, has a phobia about comic shops, arguing many are "awful" (with some notable exceptions, such as Nottingham's Page 45. "You can’t expect anyone else to go into a shop with goblins on the window," he feels.

• Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited is to give away 1,000 free one-year subscriptions of its digital comics to enlisted US military personnel from Monday through 7th January. Air Force Times reports the offer is on a first come, first served basis. A year’s online subscription would normally cost $59.88, she said. Enlisted personnel who want to sign up for the free subscription can send an e-mail to to receive a promotion code.

• And finally... as you've noticed, Jeremy Briggs is once again plunging us back into British comics history with various Christmas covers here on downthetubes - expect one post a day in the run up to the Big Day - and Lew Stringer is also offering his annual Christmas comics posting, which started with a Valiant and TV21 cover and will focus on just four comics in depth this year. It's a real treat to see Leo Baxendale’s ‘The Swots And The Blots’ once again. View all Lew's posts over on Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics.

Merry Christmas: 3 Days To Go

Our run of Christmas covers continue as we countdown to Christmas Day.

"Merry Christmas, Mortals!" Does anyone actually remember this short run, toy tie-in title from Christmas 1987?

Ian Kennedy does his typically superlative full colour cover for the fifth Super Naturals comic based on the range of action figures that were produced, not by Palitoy or Mattel, but by Tonka - which rather explains why they were riding around in what looks like a Big Foot-style pickup truck called the Ghost Finder.

The toys included holograms which changed with the viewing angle and featured broadly drawn characters. The three standing up at the back of the truck are the knight Lionheart, the American Indian Eagle Eye and the Viking Thunder Bolt.

There are more details of the Super Naturals toys on the Action Figure Archive.

More Christmas covers tomorrow.

Monday, 21 December 2009

In Review: Smart Bomb

Smart Bomb Issue 1(Our apologies to both reviewer Dave Hailwood and the Smart Bomb team for the delay posting this item)

Smart Bomb is a brand new all ages anthology that fuses computer game geekiness with comic-style nerdiness.

You can be forgiven for thinking that crossbreeding geeks with nerds might result in some sort of slack-jawed dribbling one-eyed mutant of a comic, with acne encrusted pages. But no! Somehow editor Wil Overton has managed to create something quite beautiful (this statement should in no way be viewed as an endorsement for comic nerds and computer geeks to breed).

The presentation throughout Smart Bomb is faultless, containing a puzzles page, pull out poster, free giveaway Super Action Battle Hack cards (which successfully satirise the Battle Cards genre, by being overly complex and impossible to play), and a crazy intergalactic furball editor named Kosmikat! At times, it’s almost like reading a professional comic.

Although there’s only four strips inside Smart Bomb, the artwork throughout is crisp and clear, ranging from the near animation-cell quality of Phillip M. Jackson’s ‘Clean Up’ (a brilliantly written tale about two FBI agents who don’t quite have the alien situation under control as well as they’d like to think they do) to the gorgeously painted fantasy artwork of Eddie Sharam’s Double Dragon (in which a T-rex faces off against a Medieval Dragon. Brilliant!).

Wil Overton’s ‘Pulsar Crash’ relied a bit too much on gamer lingo for my liking, though the ‘funny animal’ character in the strip was likeable enough and the cartoon artwork of a high standard.

Ryan Stevenson’s ‘Galactic Libre and the Soul Of Mars’ gave me fond memories of the gritty comic strips that used to run in C and VG magazine, with its moody artwork and claustrophobic ‘Dead Space’ atmosphere.

All in all, a bloody impressive first issue, especially from a bunch of largely unknown contributors who are all talented individuals in their own right. Judging by the preview page of what’s to come, we can expect a similar high standard next issue. So keep your eyes peeled for Smart Bomb Level 1-2, when the comic advances to the next stage!

Smart Bomb Level 1-1 is £4.00, full colour, 44 pages, and available to buy from: and and from indyplanet (in the US).

• Smart Bomb blog at:

Striker Returns

Long-running football strip Striker is set to return - this time as a weekly strip in an as yet unnamed magazine.

A Striker movie is also again in development.

Announcing the return on the official Striker forum (membership required to view link), creator Pete Nash told fans of the strip, which reached the end of its run in British national newspaper The Sun earlier this year, that the strip looked likely to resume towards the end of January.

"It will be one page in a weekly mag but as I've said before, I can't mention [its name] until the contract's been signed and both parties have agreed to it being made public," he said.

Although the strip reached a natural conclusion in the The Sun, the new home for the strip will feature all-new adventures from Warbury.

"It will pick up from where it left off in The Sun but the beauty of it being one page a week is that it will give me the time to work on Striker the movie," says Pete.

Striker remains one of few "3D" comics to have enjoyed ongoing success, both as a newspaper strip and, for a short time, as part of a weekly comic. Although it no longer features in The Sun it continues to enjoy a fan following and various tie-in projects are "in the works".

Merry Christmas: 4 Days To Go

Our run of Christmas covers continue as we countdown to Christmas Day.

By far the oldest of our Christmas covers for this year, the girl's comic School Friend wished their readers "A Very Happy Christmas" in December 1962 with this compilation cover.

School Friend began in May 1950 and ran for almost fifteen years until January 1965 when it was amalgamated into June. While the comic's best remembered strip was The Silent Three it does not feature in this issue. However this issue does have strips such as Sunny - The Girl With The Smiling Eyes, My School Friend Sara and the historical The Sign Of The Fish as well as a text story The Mystery Of Flint House by Jean Theydon. The Christmas issue continues beyond the front cover as most of the strips have a Christmas or winter theme to them.

Included in the text story is this Christmas message from the editor which shows the age of the title as included in the illustration of Santa reading a copy of the comic is a Golliwog toy.

The other interesting thing about this illustration is the message is from "The Editor and his staff" when the letters page in this girl's comic is run by Sally Brooks of whom there are photographs. I wonder if that caused any confusion amongst the comics readers back then?

More Christmas covers tomorrow.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Merry Christmas: 5 Days To Go

Our run of Christmas covers continue as we countdown to Christmas Day.

DC Thomson's humour comics can always be relied on to do Christmas issues. Christmas 1984 brought these offerings from the digest sized Beano Comic Library.

Pup Parade are the Bash Street Kids' dogs, each with the appropriate attributes of their owners, and in issue 66, Snow Joke, they were out to perform their own winter Olympics with sledging, skiing and ice skating. Indeed the story shows its age by including a reference to Torvil and Dean's Bolero ice skating routine.

Meanwhile issue 65 had the Bash Street Kids themselves staring in Panto Time. After much initial to-do in which it only takes seven panels before Teacher's cane is produced, they choose to put on Cinderella, not that you can really tell from the front cover, and the expected chaos ensues.

More Christmas covers tomorrow.

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