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Friday, 22 January 2010

Commando celebrates Ian Kennedy anniversary

Commando4259.jpgThe latest batch of issues of DC Thomson's long-runing war picture library title Commando includes the first two of four re-issues of classic Ian Kennedy illustrations for the comic. Number 4261 was the first cover he executed and 4262 was the first complete book he drew, 40 years ago.

Desperate Despatches brings to a close the adventures of the Headline Heroes created by Norman Adams and given from by Keith Page. The popular newsmen have fought their last battle... or have they? A groundswell of opinion on the Commando website is asking for the reporters’ notebooks to be re-opened. Who knows if that will happen?

The Ghost Front is set in the Ardennes, the third of three stories based round the Battle of the Bulge and, sadly, the last contribution by Ricardo Garijo who passed away last year.

Commando No 4259: Desperate Despatches

Story: Norman Adams Inside art and cover: Keith Page

The year was 1901 and a run-in with “The Mad Mullah” of British Somaliland was all in a day’s work for the intrepid war reporters of the Trident newspaper, working alongside rival scribes Charles Black and Ned Bly. Sent to South Africa to cover the final stages of the Boer War, the news men didn't think there would be much of a story there... but with a rogue Boer Commando unit on the rampage and the return of an old enemy, there most definitely was a story to tell. And you can read the exclusive right here, of course.

Commando4260.jpgCommando No 4260: The Ghost Front

Story: Ferg Handley Inside art: Ricardo Garijo Cover: Ian Kennedy

In December 1944, after a six-month-long, hard-fought advance by the Allies, the Ardennes sector of Belgium seemed so quiet it was nicknamed “The Ghost Front” by troops stationed there. All that changed with the shock German offensive which became known as The Battle Of The Bulge.

With his fellow soldiers reeling from this surprise attack, First Lieutenant Sam Bendis – a Signals Corps Field Photographer – would have to step up to the challenge of leadership. He and his new buddies would have to dig in…and fight to the death if need be.

Commando4261.jpgCommando 4261: Seek and Strike

First published in Issue 453
Story: Roger Clegg Inside art: Amador Cover: Ian Kennedy

High over the Mediterranean appeared the Junkers 87s to raid and pummel the Allied convoys bound for Malta. Their deadly work done, the Junkers flew off and disappeared... no one knew where. Time and again, it happened.

But the day came when these killers met their match − a sturdy old Fairey Swordfish that took to the air with a torpedo slung below her belly. One, plane, one torpedo — but she’d finish them all.

Commando4262.jpgCommando 4262: Cougar Squadron

First published in Issue 2967
Story: Ian Clark Inside art and cover: Ian Kennedy

In the skies over Vietnam, the Americans and the North Vietnamese fought for supremacy day after day. When expert tactician Major John Gardener was given command of the crack Cougar Squadron, he thought his great planning skills would make all the difference.

But he quickly found out that tactics on the ground did not always work in the air. Especially when you are up against an enemy who is every bit as cunning and able as you are!

More Commandos are, of course, already on their way: coming on 28th January the 28th are two more classic contributions from Ian Kennedy, a high-explosive story from Alan Hebden and Keith Page plus high-flying tale from the pen of Sean Blair and the brushes of José Maria Jorge.

• For more information, check out the official Commando site at:

• Click here for subscription information or write to: D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, The Subscribers Department, Commando Library, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL or Freephone (UK only) 0800 318846

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bart Simpson tops UK readers poll

Bart_Simpson.pngIn a recent poll to mark the twentieth anniversary of The Simpsons, Bart Simpson has been named the nation’s favourite Simpsons character by the official Simpsons Comics, published in the UK by Titan Magazines and the company's top-selling title.

Simpson’s patriarch Homer came in second place and Lisa was third.

“Picking up nearly half of all the votes cast, Bart was a clear winner," noted Simpsons Comics Brand Manager, Jo Browne, "demonstrating the on-going popularity of Springfield’s anarchic first son with UK Simpsons fans."

The top ten characters, as voted for by Simpsons Comics readers, were:

1 - Bart Simpson

2 - Homer Simpson

3 - Lisa

4 - Maggie

5 - Krusty the Clown

6 - Marge

7 - Mr Burns

8 - Ned Flanders

9 - Moe

10 - Santa’s Little Helper

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

TV21 Turns 45...

9c68.jpg-- or at least it would have done, had it had the longevity of The Beano!

We have Lew Stringer to thank for pointing out that 45 years ago, City Magazines launched the first issue of TV Century 21 - a bold new large format comic that would become one of the most fondly remembered titles in UK comics history.

"With City's close association with Gerry Anderson's Century 21 productions, TV21 was far more than just a comic that featured tv characters," notes Lew. "The editor himself (Alan Fennell) was a scriptwriter on Fireball XL5 and Stingray, and Lady Penelope debuted in her own strip in issue one several months before the first episode of Thunderbirds ever appeared on tv. The comic also had access to exclusive photographs of the models and characters, which were ideal for the newspaper-style covers of TV21.

"All in all, TV21 was very much a part of the Gerry Anderson universe," Lew argues, "and the exciting thing was that the comic presented all those tv shows as part of a shared universe."

aa5a.jpgWhile the comic's success was in part due to the phenomenal popularity of the Gerry Anderson series it centred on - Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet probably being the most memorable - it was supported by regular advertising on TV and more - something most British publishers can only dream of these days.

This was one of the comics I most remember reading growing up, followed by Countdown in the 1970s and Look-In; but it was TV21 that most captured my imagination, with its shared universe, stunning art and background features to the Gerry Anderson universe.

"I was five years old when TV21 was launched, so a little under the target age of 7 to 12 year olds. Nevertheless, like many kids, I was thrilled by this new comic," Lew recalls. "I became an avid reader of TV21 throughout 1965, and so did many other kids apparently, with the comic becoming the most successful launch of the period. (It's initial print run of 450,000 being insufficient to meet demand. Incredible, when comics today are considered a success for selling 60,000)... Sadly toward the end of the sixties, the quality of TV21 began to decline, and interest in 'space' petered out after the first moon landing. By the time TV21 merged into Valiant in 1971 it was little different to any other boys adventure comic of the time. However, for today, it's time to remember when TV21 was fresh and innovative, and when 'Adventure in the 21st Century' was something to look forward to every Wednesday."

Sadly, licensing costs mean there's little chance of there ever being a title combining many different TV shows being launched today: the focus of publishers these days is very much on one show, such as with Doctor Who Adventures or Simpsons Comics.

You have to wonder, though, who might be drawing the strips of TV21 today if it had lasted: Chris Weston on Fireball XL5? Dylan Teague on Captain Scarlet? Garen Ewing on Lady Penelope? Neill Cameron on Stingray? Lee Sullivan back on Thunderbirds, a strip he drew for the Redan Thunderbirds comic? Lew Stringer drawing The Munsters and Kev F. Sutherland or Jamie Smart drawing My Favourite Martian? Who knows...

You can, of course, enjoy some of TV21's brilliant strips in the new Century 21 collections being published by Reynolds & Hearn: a third volume was released recently.

Gerry Anderson's Century 21: v. 3: Escape from Aquatraz is on sale 30 November: buy it from Anderson's Century 21: v. 3: Escape from Aquatraz
• Lew has put together a potted tribute to this ground-breaking comic, which featured the work of artists such as Frank Bellamy, Frank Hampson, Don Lawrence and many other greats during its run. You can view it here on his as ever brilliant Blimey! blog.

• For an online history and guide to TV21, visit the superb The Gerry Anderson Comics Listing

Buy Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 1 from

Buy Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Andserson Volume 2 from

Buy Gerry Anderson's UFO: The Technical Manual from

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Foundry supports Haiti relief effort, comic creators wanted

London's The Foundry is running an evening to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti on 27th January - and comic creators are invited to get involved.

The event is just part of a joint fund raising campaign by the Haitian arts group Ghetto Biennale, which is based in Port-Au-Prince, and the Foundry. A foundry/haiti fund to support the artists community in Grand Rue, Port-au Prince has now been set up.

The evening will have entertainment, but funds will be raised by people bringing tables on which to sell their wares to those attending, the money from the sales of which are to be given to the fund. Jonathan, who runs the Foundry, has asked if Britain's small press community would be able to bring a table and sell some of their items to raise money for charity.

The Alternative Press have done two "Are You Zine Friendly" events there previously, but by chance all of them are out of the country at that time, so they can't bring a table for people to sell their stuff on.

"So we're asking if anyone is interested in bringing a table to the Foundry, for use by the small press community," Peter Lally told downthetubes, "so that they can sell their goodies and give the money to the Haiti fund.

If they can, they should contact me ( and we'll put the details up on our "Are You Zine Friendly" Blog so that anyone interested in selling their goods can get the information and contact you to arrange things."

"So for example, we can put on the blog 'Johnny from Johnny Zine is bringing a table down to the Foundry, he'll be there by 6pm, and if you're coming please email him at:' etc., etc."

Pete adds that you should also contact Jonathan of The Foundry to say you're bringing a table, his contact details are on the Foundry link below.

If you cannot attend but wish to donate some money to their Fund, there is a Paypal button on the Foundry page.

• The event takes place on Wednesday 27th January 6pm - 11pm, The Foundry, 84-86 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3JL (nearest station: Old Street) Web Link:

Tube Surfing: Alternative Press, Bryan Talbot, Comic Sales Figure and more Mackie!


• The Alternative Press Fair is back! Taking place in London on 13th February, this is a free event celebrating all things self-published and DIY: Comics and Zines, Radical Literature, Poetry, Printmaking, Book Arts and even a bit of DIY Fashion come together in this carnival of modern cottage industry!

There will be a huge variety of things to see and do, including collaborative drawing and live screen printing where you can make your own poster of the day. Plus, in the evening there will be a party to celebrate the first birthday of the Alternative Press Fair with an open mic night for all comers to try, also featuring poetry, spoken word and music. Get along and help the organisers blow out the candles! More info at

• Talking of events, Bryan Talbot and Denise Mina will be attending Glasgow's Aye Write Festival on Friday 12th March at 7.30-21.00. Bryan will of course be well known to most readers as the creator of Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland, hailed by the Guardian as one of the ten best graphic novels ever and, more recently, Grandville, inspired by the work of the nineteenth-century French illustrator Gerard. Denise Mina is well known as a crime writer but recently worked with Leonardo Manco on John Constantine: Hellblazer: Empathy Is the Enemy, set in Glasgow. They'll be discussing graphic novels in a specially illustrated event with Stuart Kelly. Tickets are £7/£6 and you can find more info here on the Festival web site.

• (via Bugpowder): British independent Unico Comics is on the look out for British artists who can complete books they intend to publish in 2011! Unico's plans include a series of 22 page one shots published in b/w or using grey scale. Paul H Birch has the story at speechballoons.

• News that Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders' S.W.O.R.D. series from Marvel, which guest-starred Death's Head in its first two issues, is to meet an untimely demise has prompted a flurry of debate over on the Marvel UK-inspired It Came from Darkmoor blog. #3 came out this week, to be rewarded with the news that #5 will now be the final issue, and the Darkmoor editor has joined others campaigning for its continuation, offering several insights into the state of US comic publishing. It's worth checking out the comments on the piece, where we learn the success threshold of a US comic is, apparently, some 27,000 copies. (#1 of S.W.O.R.D. sold 21,988, according to ICV2)

• A much longer living comic was Britain's weekly title Film Fun, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last week. One of the most successful comics from Amalgamated Press, it ran from 1920 to 1962, compiling over 2,000 issues before it merged into new kid on the block Buster and Lew Stringer has published an affectionate tribute on his always-entertaining Blimey! It's another blog about comics blog...

Simon Mackie's new comic for Satyr• And finally... comic creator Simon Mackie, who kindly dropped us a line about his new blog devoted to The Beezer earlier this week, is certainly keeping busy. He's currently working on 'digitalising' an old comic strip he drew with Ben Rowdon Called 'Ride Your Horse Cowboy' and you can view the first two pages over on the Drunk Duck web comics portal. Also, look out for an autobiographical story of his coming out very soon in the mature readers only US comic Satyr, in #10, available from Dimestore Productions and other online stores.

(Compiled with thanks to John Owens and Matthew Badham)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Striker bounces back again - into Nuts

Striker's MascotFootball comic Striker has kicked off its 25th anniversary year by signing exclusively to Nuts, Britain’s biggest-selling weekly mens lifestyle magazine published by IPC. (We're betting the team mascot might just be a bit racier than its past cheerleader, pictured here).

The computer-generated adventures of Warbury Warriors football club, which previously featured daily in The Sun and, for a time, in their own weekly comic, will launch in the issue going on sale on Tuesday 26th January.

Striker will have its own page in Nuts and will feature all-new adventures, starting with the resurrection of the destitute Warriors by Arab billionaire Sheikh Mustapha Futti Kulub (Gedditt!?).

Striker was created by journalist and artist Pete Nash back in 1985 and made its debut in The Sun newspaper in November of that year as a three-panel black-and-white cartoon, switching to colour four years later. In 1999, Striker became the first daily newspaper strip in the world to be created entirely in computer-generated 3D software.

Nuts will be the perfect new home for Striker," says creator Pete Nash. "The magazine’s readership of young adult males matches Striker’s core following and the cheeky, entertaining style of Nuts is exactly on a par with Striker.

“What’s more is that a weekly format, rather than daily, will give me time to work on developing Striker into a movie and possible TV series. Talks are at an advanced stage with two producers and I can’t wait to see the Striker characters come to life in Nuts and on the screen.”

Launched in 2004, Nuts has established itself as the biggest brand in men's media and is the PPA Consumer Media Brand of the Year 2009, accounting for one out of every two men's lifestyle mags purchased at newsstand. Online, is Britain's number one men's lifestyle website, according to the Hitwise UK Online Performance Awards 2008, and gives IPC an unparalleled total reach into what;s often regarded as the most elusive and hardest to please audience there is – young men.

“Pete Nash's Striker strips are legendary," added Nuts editor Dominic Smith. "To sign him up and bring the Warbury Warriors to Nuts readers exclusively every week is a dream come true.

"Without a doubt Striker is a perfect fit for Nuts, with our mix of sport, girls and humour.

"Striker will be must-read material for our football-mad fans - and we've got much more planned for the magazine this year that will underline Nuts' premier league position."

Nuts is on sale every Tuesday, priced £1.70, and online at

The Dark, Freeman titles from Markosia

The_Dark_01.jpg(Before any hardcore fans of this blog get hugely excited, we should point out that Freeman is the name of one of the books due soon from Markosia, not the name of one of its creators...)

March will see the introduction of two new original Graphic Novels from publisher AAM/Markosia, following hot on the heels of recent successes From the Pages of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Harker, Serpent Wars and Kong: King of Skull Island.

The Dark, written and created by Chris Lynch with art by Rick Lundeen, is a super-hero sci-fi thriller that challenges the reader’s very perceptions of reality versus fiction. It's the story of Daniel Abbot, a brilliant young scientist on the fringes of the establishment and the creator of Memetech - a technology that encodes information and memories into a liquid form, allowing anyone to literally "drink" the encoded knowledge.

Terrified that his invention will be used for military purposes he decides to destroy his research, but not before he takes one last trip... with disastrous results.

Two years on and the genie is out of the bottle. Abbot, having perfected his own version of the technology, fights a one-man war against the spread of his own invention and the collapse of our information culture in the guise of ‘The Dark’.

“We've hidden lots of coded messages throughout the book,” explains Lynch, “Both in the dialogue and in the artwork. From the symbol on The Dark's chest to adverts in the background, everything is there for a reason. Hopefully people will get a kick out of trying to solve the mystery, or at least from looking back after they've read the book for the first time to find all the clues they missed.

"Either way, we wanted to create something with enough depth to bring people back to re-read the story time and again.”

Freeman_Of_The_Armed _orcesTPB.jpgAlso shipping in the same month is Freeman of the Armed Services, written and drawn by industry veteran Huw-J. Freeman is a true archetypal British hero of old, a cross between James Bond, Doc Savage and Captain Britain without the spandex, from the artist perhaps best known for re-iventing Garth for the Mirror newspaper - to mixed reviews.

This new book is packed with action and adventure throughout as Freeman takes readers back to the good old days, where the spirit of adventure and good old-fashioned action reigned supreme. You join Captain Freeman in his search of a mysterious Viking treasure in the frozen north (a re-working of the Garth story published online by the Mirror) and battling an evil Chinese drug lord alongside Irish gangs in prohibitionist era New York, in a non-stop action-packed adventure akin to the old Saturday morning pulp shows.

“When I decided to take the successful Garth strip down from the Mirror website it was with both sadness and excitement,” explains Huw-J. "Re-branding the character as 'Freeman' was easy as I wanted the character to be 'a homage' to all the creators who went before me, so buckle up and enjoy the ride!”

• The Diamond order codes for both books are:

JAN10 0699 THE DARK Graphic Novel

Read an 18 page preview online here on Mysebook


Read an 28pg preview online here on Myebook

Beezer Blog Launched

The BeezerComic creator and Beezer fan Simon Mackie has launched a new blog that aims to chart the history of DC Thomson's best-known large format humour comic.

The Beezer was a large format (tabloid newspaper/A3 sized) weekly published by DC Thomson from 1956-1981. Along with its sister comic, The Topper, it dominated the comic stands from the late 1950's to early 80's until it was cut down to A4 size.

"For many years the comic retained a charming consistency," says Simon, who is a huge fan of the comic. "Fantastic artists like Dudley D. Watkins, Bill Ritchie, Leo Baxendale and Mal Judge contributed: the characters rarely changed and when you opened up the comic every week you knew exactly on what page they were going to be."

Sadly, when it was shrunk in size, a lot of the original artists left and the characters and formats changed. The Beezer continued until 1993 when, after merging with The Topper, it ran for 153 issues before cancellation. Although never officially merged, some characters did continue in The Dandy and The Beano.

"My blog is solely devoted to the glory years of The Beezer when quality, style, consistency and above all size mattered," Simon enthuses.

• Simon Mackie's Beezer Blog:

New Biography of Showbiz Legend Lew Grade

Lew Grade: All My Shows Are GreatA new biography of British media entrepeneur Lew Grade - without whom shows such as Thunderbirds, UFO and The Muppets might never have been made - is to be published by Aurum Press next month.

All My Shows are Great is the first biography of a giant of British show business and the story of a pioneer of commercial television. A portrait of a genuinely larger-than-life figure legendary for his witticisms, Lew Grade was the last of the old-time media moguls – a genuine show business tycoon. From humble Jewish immigrant beginnings in east London, he became the world Charleston dance champion (and could dance it well into his eighties), from which he drifted into theatrical agenting, at which he discovered he was extremely good.

Soon he was a top impresario, with his brothers Bernard (Delfont) and Leslie Grade putting together variety bills, owning theatres, and eventually booking showbiz’s biggest names from both sides of the Atlantic.

The birth of commercial television saw him win a franchise with ATV, where Grade was a pioneer of popular culture, responsible for such TV hits as Saturday Night at the London Palladium, Robert Powell’s epic portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth and bringing shows like Thunderbirds, Space:1999 and The Muppets to British TV screens. It was his genius that also, then, paved the way for fan favourite comics such as TV Century 21 to reach the news stands.

Grade then went into films, most notoriously with Raise the Titantic! whose cost over-runs inspired his most memorable witticism, that “It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic”.

Grade was still working until he died in his early nineties, in the office at dawn, puffing on his trademark giant Montecristo cigars, and never losing his love of a deal. “Some of my shows are good, some are bad,” he once said. “All of them are great”.

Former Sunday Times journalist Lew Chester’s biography – the first to be written, is an entertaining portrait of someone who was truly larger than life.

• All My Shows are Great by Lewis Chester is published by Aurum Press on 18th February at £20 in the UK

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