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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Win an original sketch by Graeme Neil Reid

Graeme Neil Reid artThroughout December and January artist Graeme Neil Reid posted up 18 different ink sketches ranging from comic superheroes, sci-fi film and Doctor Who characters on his blog, now you have the chance to pick one of theses sketches and have it posted off to you.

To enter the competition you need to be a 'Follower' of his blog so if you are not already then just hit that Follow button on site and sign on. Then, just leave your selection of which ink sketch you would like to win as a comment on this post only.

All the posts in December and January with titles that finished 'Ink Sketch' are the ones to pick from.

• The competition runs until the end of the 28th February when one winner will be randomly chosen. Full details at:

Friday, 29 January 2010

Colchester's firstsite puts out Call to Comic Artists


(with thanks to Smallzone and Bryan Talbot): Colchester-based visual arts organisation firstsite wants to hear from artists working with comic imagery and media, who are interested in undertaking a unique residency as part of their next project... here's the details in full.

WHAAM! Comics, art and popular culture : Artist Residency

Minimum of 10 days between 12 April - 1 May 2010, to include some evening and weekend work Based at firstsite, 4-6 Short Wyre Street, Colchester, Essex Artist Fee £3,000 + expenses (including materials, accommodation and per diems as required). This residency is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The opportunity

firstsite is hosting an artist residency as part of their forthcoming programme, WHAAM! Comics, art and popular culture.

The selected artist should be able to demonstrate a professional artistic practice working with comic imagery and media. During the residency the artist will be expected to develop and produce an artwork that can be printed or reproduced at the end.

This artwork could take the form of a comic book or graphic novel (approximately 8-12 pages), wall drawing, storyboard, animation, projection, installation but must be rooted in the language of comic art. The subject matter of the artwork should develop from Colchester and its urban landscape, using this as a backdrop to develop a new narrative.

The total artist fee available can be used by one artist to produce the artwork; any fees associated with a collaborative work must come from the allotted budget.

The residency will be hosted in firstsite's Project Space. This is a semi-public space and the appointed artist would be expected to engage with audiences and visitors, discussing their work and the project they are developing.

During the residency (12 April - 1 May) it is expected that the artist will be working in firstsite's Project Space for at least 10 days, which should include at least two Saturdays. The artist will need to run a "masterclass" for the public (to include all ages) on Saturday 24 April.

This residency is part of firstsite's Artist Space programme which was piloted at the Minories Art Gallery and will be an integral part of the programme planned for firstsite's new building. It seeks to be process-led and developmental, continuing to occupy the space between an open studio event and an exhibition.

firstsite is open to a range of career stages, practices and activities. All activity needs to be planned and proposed to firstsite in advance so that it can be prepared for.

WHAAM! Comics, art and popular culture Programme details: April 2010

This programme focuses on comics and graphic novels from the 1950s to the present day. Writers, graphic artists, academics, school children, teenagers and members of the public will be taking part in talks, workshops and an artist residency.

Talks include:

• Dan Dare and Misty: boys and girls comics from the 1950s and 1970s
Pat Mills, comics writer and editor Eric Fernie, ex-director of the Courtauld Institute and comics specialist

• How contemporary artists are using popular culture in their work
Richard Reynolds, Central Saint Martins and comic artist Simon Grennan, artist

• Manga comic artists on the subversion of popular culture / female stereotypes
Paul Gravett, Manga specialist, comic historian and curator Chie Kutsuwada, Manga artist

WHAAM! Comics, art and popular culture is programmed in collaboration with Ace Comics.

How to apply

Interested artists should submit:

• a CV
• up to 3 images
• a proposal (not exceeding 350 words) describing their aims and intentions for the residency and scope of activity that it would involve over the 10 days.

• Questions and applications should be sent by email to:

• Deadline for submissions: 5pm Monday 15 February 2010. Interviews may be held on Monday 22 February 2010

firstsite website

British FX designer Mike Trim headlines Andersonic Nine

andersonic_Issue_9.jpgThe latest issue of the brilliant Gerry Anderson 'zine Andersonic (Issue 9) is now available and features a new, nine-page interview with designer Mike Trim, who discusses his work on the Anderson series from Thunderbirds through to UFO. His latest project, Agent Crush - a marionette-oriented spy spoof - is currently in post production.

While there's no comics material this time around, the 44-page magazine does include a feature that recalls a visit to the set of Space:1999's last episode, The Dorcons, in December 1976, and a reappraisal of Gerry Anderson's early supermarionation show, Supercar. Has it been unfairly overlooked in favour of its more colourful descendents? Andersonic argue it's 'most satisfactory'!

"X Marks The Spot" takes a look at the X-Planes and concept aircraft of the 50s and 60s that had such an influence on the designers at Century 21, while "The Roots of UFO" examines the film and literary influences that shaped the format of the Andersons' first live-action series.

Also included are retrospectives of some key episodes from several of the Anderson shows, including UFO's Ordeal, and a look at both sides of the argument when it comes to dating the time period of Thunderbirds, which was re-set to the 2020s in the 1990s.

Andersonic is available via the website - price £2.20 including UK postage and also from eBay for a limited period

Crikey! It's The Cloak!

crikey13.gifBritish comic fans heading to their local comic store should ask if they're stocking Crikey!, the monthly magazine devoted to British comics, if only because the latest issue marks the return of Mike Higgs' The Cloak.

The Cloak first appeared in 1967 in Odhams' Pow! weekly, one of many comics that combined both adventure and humour strips within its pages - a format that, sadly, seems to have been consigned to history. Mike retained ownership of The Cloak and has brought the character back before (Lew Stringer has more info on his blog and Mike Higgs himself offers more background on The Cloak for both old and new readers in the magazine itself), but now, he's hopefully back for a longer run, starring in a four-page full colour comic strip in Crikey! Issue 13 that pits him against the Time Tea Leaf - a fun story that brings him to the present day.

Along with this wonderful strip Crikey! 13 also includes an exclusive interview with Kevin O'Neill, the Tony Ingram's concluding part of his Doctor Who comics series, a feature on Action! comic, and more on the Rise and Fall of Marvel UK.

• A subscription to Crikey! costs £30 for six issues. Subscribe by visiting the Crikey! website here:

Lew Stringer's Blimey! blog articles on The Cloak:

The Cloak is Back
Enter The Cloak
Christmas Comics: Smash, 1968
40 Year Flashback: Smash Regenerates

Make Your Own Film-Inspired Comic Strip Challenge

Kick Ass movie

(via Andy Diggle and Creative Review): UK indie film magazine Little White Lies is challenging comic creator to re-imagine your favourite film as a six frame comic book story. The best mini-strips will then be featured in the next issue.

The competition ties in with the upcoming release of the Kick Ass movie based on the comic by Mark Millar, which will be the next 'cover' film for the magazine.

• All entries, which must be received by 6.00pm on Friday 12th February must be black and white. No grayscale may be used – they’re looking for a traditional comic book style. Please use whatever media you see fit.

• All entries should be sent to as 300dpi JPGs or Tiffs, full size, (all downloadable templates are the correct size) or they won’t be good enough quality to print in the magazine. If your finished artwork is too large to email, please use a file transfer site such as YouSendit.

• You must stick to their template exactly, not breaking down the boxes or altering the format. (Download the template here, zip file)

• The brief is open to interpretation, so it can be literal or more skewed, if you prefer. "So long as it tells the full story of one film, in a manner that would be pretty much coherent to someone who’d never seen it, we’re happy," say the magazine.

More info on the Little White Lies web site

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Comic creators to deliver serial killer talk in Edinburgh

InsomniaBandHCover.jpgMartin Conaghan and Will Pickering, creators ofnew graphic novel Burke & Hare, will be at the Edinburgh Central Library in the Edinburgh Room on 28th January presenting a talk on the history of the serial killers and the production of the book for Insomnia Publications bio-graphic novel imprint, Vigil.

If you’d like to book a place at the talk, please contact the Fine Art Library in the Central Library Tel: 0131 242 8040 as numbers are limited.

After the talk, there will be a siging session of the book where guests can talk with the creators.

There will also be option to join West Port Tours popular, Burke and Hare Murder Tour for free, which will start just outside the entrance of the Central Library. For more details of the tour please visit West Port Tours official website

In Memoriam: William Ritchie


Willie Ritchie, sitting at DC Thomson editor Morris Heggie's desk in DCT Meadowside, Dundee with his beloved "Baby Crockett" in October 2009. Photo courtesy Morris Heggie

We're sorry to report the passing of the popular comics artist William Ritchie, who died suddenly at his home in Friockheim, Scotland, on Monday evening.

baby_crockett_william_ritchie.jpgBorn in 1931, he was best known for his work for DC Thomson for over 40 years. He had a long and industrious career, working on titles such as The Beezer, penning such favourites "Baby Crockett", for which he is best known, and "Smiffy" but drew many others strips such as "Barney" for Sparky.

Also a keen photographer and sculptor, he continued to work for DC Thomson even after retirement.

"Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan," noted Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin earlier this week, reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum. "For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill.

"His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

baby_crockett_daydream.jpgScottish newspaper The Courier notes that Glasgow-born “Bill” or “Willie,” also illustrated for various international magazines and exhibited in several European comic book exhibitions and collaborated with Alison Mary Fitt, producing illustrations for the Clan McWee series of books in 2008.

He wasn't always known as a cartoonist: he was one of the country’s top cycle speedway riders as a teenager and competed in the first ever “international” match against England in 1949, and spent his National Service as a corporal in the Military Police, serving in the Korean War.

William is survived by his wife, Anne, and three children, Pete, Ian and Jacqueline. He had four granddaughters and a great-grandson, "all of whom brought him much joy", the Courier notes.

"Bill Ritchie's work was always gently amusing and very individualistic," says fellow comics creator Lew Stringer in his tribute to the artist. "The simplicity of the line disguised the absolute craftsmanship and skilled composition of his pages.

"There's no mistaking his style and it was always of the highest professional standard. Over the decades his work must have entertained millions of children, and that's a proud achievement that I hope will bring some comfort for his family in this time of loss."

cat_street_kids_new_hotspur.jpg• William Ritchie, born 1st August 1931, died 25th January 2010.

Pictures include (click for a larger version) "Baby Crocket" from The Beezer annual 1962, and a superb "Baby Crocket" strip reflecting Bill's superb colouring talents, also from a Beezer Annual; and "The Cat Street Kids" from a 1960 edition of New Hotspur. All images © DC Thomson


Lew Stringer Tribute
Peter Gray's Bill Ritchie Gallery
The Courier news report on Bill's passing

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Dying to be dead? Forbidden Planet has the answer...

ServantUnderworld.jpgThe top comics and specialist store Forbidden Planet London is offering horror fans an exclusive opportunity to win your own gruesome demise in John Meaney’s (Thomas Blackthorne’s) next Angry Robot title – or to get your hands on a gorgeous replica Aztec calendar offered by Aliette de Bodard.

All you have to do is be at the signing of their latest Angry Robot titles Edge and Servant of the Underworld at Forbidden Planet’s London Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue on Friday 12th February 6 – 7pm.

There will also be a unique opportunity to interview the authors – and to speak to them about their work – after the signing.

Writing as Thomas Blackthorne, John Meaney - whose credits include Bone Song and Dark Blood, set in a dark, gothamesque city called Tristopolis, and exploring other parts of that strange alternate Earth - brings his readers the terror of Knife Edge – the reality TV show where wannabe blade fighters are the celebrities in a nation going to hell. Take a bloodied trip through a future London where prime-time gladiatorial combat has taken on a deadly bite...

AZ-CAL.jpgParis-based author Aliette de Bodard is a winner of the Writers of the Future Award and a Campbell Award finalist. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of venues, such as Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

Servant of the Underworld is her debut novel, an Aztec mystery-fantasy featuring ghostly jaguars, bloodthirsty Gods and fingernail-eating monsters – and revealing her passion for, and knowledge of, Aztec mythology and culture.

For more news about Forbidden Planet London signings visit

Accent's "Fastest Man" one shot goes on sale

Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man coverAccent UK's latest one shot, Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man?, which has picked up glowing reviews from all who read review copies, is now available in all those UK comic stores which ordered it.

Co-written and created by Dave West and Marleen Lowe, the book is the first of Accent's Blessed/Cursed imprint, and deals with the duality of any special ability... there will always be a downside. Over on, Glenn Carter described it as "a very early contender for the strongest indie comic of 2009." while Jim Schwitzer ( described the story itself as "outstanding," but the art "is just as impressive.

"Although the comic is black and white, there is a distinct difference when Lowe draws the people frozen in time and when they are active." (More reviews here on the Accent web site)

It's difficult for stores to judge new comic books and, in the current economic climate, these unknown books often lose out to the major company crossover events that litter the Diamond catalogue. Indeed, the chances are then that if you can't find a copy in your local it's because they either ordered too few, or none at all. So, if you want to read a copy then it's down to you to help them out a little by asking them to order you a copy, which they can do through Diamond as usual.

Stores outside of the UK should be getting their copies in the coming week.

In another piece of good news for one of Britain's enthusiastic indie comic publishers, who are based in Cheshire, Brazil's Gal Editora are currently in discussions with Accent UK to publish a Portuguese version of the book for Brazilian stores - but that isn't expected to be released until September 2010.

View sample pages of Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man? on the Accent UK web site

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Thunderbirds Aren't Go: Sylvia Anderson cancels nationwide tour

Fans of Gerry Anderson's 1960s cult puppet show Thunderbirds are downhearted that Lady Penelope, aka Sylvia Anderson, has pulled out of a nationwide tour - citing lack of interest.

Sylvia, now in her 80s, was to have been in conversation at several venues across the UK with composer and record producer David Courtney, to talk about her long-awaited biography My Fab Years and her time working on some of Britain's best-loved children's shows, from the early 'Supermarionation' days of Thunderbirds, for which she provided the voice of superspy Lady Penelope, and live action series Space:1999 and UFO.

The cancellation comes despite what we're told were strong sales at some venues: downthetubes say her agent claims that there hadn't been enough interest in the tour.

Comics @ Glasgow Film Festival

It is a sign of the times in Mark Millar's career that he has moved from talking to a professional librarian audience in 2008 to the Edinburgh International Book Festival audience in 2009 while in 2010 he will be talking to a film festival audience.

Friday 26 February will see Mark Millar talking at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Great Scots strand of the Glasgow Film Festival on the subject of his comic books and graphic novels being turned into films by Hollywood. These include Wanted and Kick-Ass as well as those in development such as Wanted 2, American Jesus and War Heroes.

Mark Millar's talk begins at 4pm and is scheduled to run for 1.5 hours. Tickets are priced at £7 and are available from the Glasgow Film Festival website.

Monday, 25 January 2010

ICA threatened with closure?

London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, recently the hub for many brilliant and much-praised ComICA events, could close later this year due to funding cuts.

The Guardian reports the ICA, founded in 1947, could fall victim to recession with costs needing a £1m trim.

Staff members have been told that a financial deficit currently at around £600,000 might rise to £1.2m and if radical steps are not taken the ICA could be closed by May.

If the ICA closes it could be bad news for the growing raised profile of comics in the UK thanks to events organised there and Round London by Paul Gravett and the ComICA team. While comics events and activity in the UK are far from limited to London, it's an indisputable fact that London comics happenings are those most likely to attract the attention of the mainstream media, coverage which in turn helps boost the British comics industry nationally.

"This is bad news for the arts and ComICA too if it happens," commented one leading British comics commentator. "This recession is screwing everyone but bank directors."

The closure fears come after the Guardian had sight of the minutes of a sometimes bad-tempered staff meeting held last month, attended by Alan Yentob, the BBC creative director, and Tessa Ross, Channel 4's head of film and drama, both of whom sit on the ICA's council.

The meeting saw ICA director Ekow Eshun explain that a staff bill of £2.5m will have to be reduced by £1m for the organisation to survive. Without a wholesale restructuring, he argued, the ICA could be the first major British cultural organisation to fall victim to the recession.

The total turnover of the ICA is £4.5m, and it receives an annual ACE grant of £1.3m; recent fund raising initiatives have not been as successf as hoped, including hiring out the venue for commercial purposes.

Yentob told the Guardian: "We've been managing a programme with a large staff running numerous individual projects. When trouble emerged and financial problems surfaced because of the recession it was as if we had been ambushed from every side."

The ICA's management is now consulting on staff redundancies, with the process due to be completed by the end of March.

Ekow Eshun, who has been director of the ICA since 2005, said that he did take "responsibility for the ICA's present and future over the time that I've been here. But it has been going for 60 years. Trying to turn it round isn't straightforward."

Eshun's rein as director has not met with universal approval. "Talking to different staffers I got the impression there was disappointment that Mr Eshun was never around and didn't attend many events," one ICA-goer told downthetubes. It's difficult to know how committed he is and I think it's time someone else took over. Last year they closed the Performance Department. Tate Modern may have stolen the ICA's thunder to some extent but that is no excuse for a lack of new ideas with all those talented, artistic people."


The Daily Mail: Why ICA stands for Institute of Craftless Tat, by former chairman Ivan Massow

Doctor Who-inspired Star Tigers returns as animated fan project

startigers_av21cov.jpgAltered Vistas, an amateur production company dedicated to creating Doctor Who-related features from the "fringes" of the franchise, has just released its twenty-first animated CGI release - the first chapter of an all-new Star Tigers adventure, plucked from the pages of Doctor Who Weekly. It's a fan project written and fully supported by original Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer and Star Tigers creator and writer Steve Moore himself.

Set in the 26th century universe first seen on Doctor Who in Frontier in Space on TV back in the 1970s, Star Tigers was a follow up story published in Doctor Who Weekly to the hugely popular Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer.

The new animated story sees the Daleks' second greatest enemy heading into Draconian space in an attempt to find help for Princess Taiyin. There, he is taken under the wing of Prince Salander, noble of the Draconian royal court, but their association leads them both into a web of intrigue, bribery, corruption and jealousy that will inevitably end in tragedy.


Steve Moore has also been interviewed by AV for their web site, and has nothing but praise for the Star Tigers project. "I’ve never seen [animator Stuart Palmer] on better form than he is here," he enthuses in a on-site review. "We all know that everything he does is a labour of love, but this is just downright Herculean... The whole thing looks absolutely stunning, and there are some sequences, like the scene where the Killwagon first takes off and heads for space, or the meeting with Vol Mercurius on Dispater, which are just so perfect they make an old fogey like me quite emotional... and that’s to say nothing of the fantastic sets on Draconia and Paradise, where Stuart has picked up the original designs by Steve Dillon and David Lloyd and extended them into wonderful new areas.

"And for all you fans of dead women (!), Taiyin just looks fabulous... what a babe!"

Steve is, perhaps understandably given the passage of time and the sheer volume of material he wrote for various comics back in the 1970s, vague on the origins of Abslom Daak for Doctor Who Weekly. "I’d done a couple of stories about Kroton the Cyberman, and Dez Skinn asked me to come up with a character that would be an independent creation of the magazine, even though it was still set in the Doctor Who universe. Whether it was his idea or mine to include the Daleks, I really can’t remember... it could just have been that it was their 'turn', after we’d worked through some of the other alien races, and so they got included."


Even today, Moore sites Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer and Star Tigers as some of his favourite creations. "I’d been writing for seven or eight years," he reveals, "and, although I’d come up with characters like Kroton the Cyberman, who was still first and foremost a Cyberman, this was the first time since I’d got some experience behind me that someone actually asked me to create my own character. So in many ways it was a breakthrough strip for me.

"It was also very personal. At the time I was deeply depressed over a broken romance, and a lot of that angst went into the first Daak story... it wasn’t just Daak who was feeling suicidal and betrayed. And as I was still carrying around a lot of grief about the lady in question by the time I began writing Star Tigers, so Daak carried the dead Taiyin round with him too, in hope of reviving their love."

Talking about his attitude to "readership ages" - often a bugbear with modern British comic fans bemoaning the patronising format of some modern comic strip story telling in news stand publications, Moore reveals he never used to think about the readership at all, let alone their age when he wrote his many stories for various comics in the 1970s.

"You know, when you’re up against deadlines, all you think is: ‘Come up with a story that works… and before you go to bed this evening.’", he says, answering questions about the Doctor Who strip "K9's Finest Hour". "Naturally I knew I couldn’t handle adult themes like sex or excess violence, but apart from that all my attention was on the story and just getting it done.

"Looking back, I doubt that K9 would have been my first choice of character, so it may have been suggested to me by Dez that we should do a story about him. And once you’ve decided to do a solo story about a robot dog, it pretty much asks for a more humorous treatment. That may be what made the story different from the others, rather than any intention to write for a younger audience."

Also included in the interview is a synopsis for a ten issue mini-series of an Abslom Daak story, After Dark, written by Steve which would have concluded Daak’s story as Steve wanted to tell it.

First discussed at a time when Dan Abnett was heading up new project development at Marvel UK, Moore describes it as "the most complex plot I’d ever come up with, and the outline was written in minute detail."

Unfortunately, Moore notes, the idea was savaged by another Marvel UK editor, John Freeman...

"[He] asked me to cut the story down from ten issues to four, which was absurd, and to concentrate on 'what Daak does best'.. in other words, he wanted a thug with a chainsaw. I wasn’t prepared to chop After Daak about like that, so I made a compromise offer that we’d put that story to one side and I’d write another outline for a four-issue series, which would concentrate on Daak’s youth and early exploits with Mercurius and Selene, for which I jotted down a couple of paragraphs. If that went well, I suggested, we might do After Daak afterwards. But nothing ever came of that idea either, and everything just sort of fizzled out."

daak2.gifJohn's recollection of events is that both Dan and discussed several ideas for limited series Marvel UK projects. "We shared the same office space at the time," he recalls. "The word came down from Marvel US - probably from either Tom de Falco or Carol Kalish - that ten issue mini series were no longer favoured for costs reasons, and Marvel was seeking to publish four-issue mini series instead to try out new characters. (Proposed projects included a Death's Head revival and a try out for Rourke, a character created by Freeman and Liam Sharp for the Strip comic magazine). The emphasis for these projects also had to be very much on the action, rather than what might have been described as the cereberal."

"Four issues were the minimum Marvel could publish - there was some legal or distribution restriction in the US on publishing three-part mini series, which the company would have preferred."

In the end, neither Steve's ten-part or four-part proposal was ever taken up, although both treatments would almost certainly have been seen by Paul Neary when he took up the reins as Editorial Director at Marvel UK in the 1990s. By that time, Marvel US considered Doctor Who a 'dead' franchise and there was no value to Marvel in seeking to extend a brand they did not themselves own. Instead, Paul developed a range of new characters for the company while also revamping Death's Head, drawn by Liam Sharp.

Daak has, of course, returned to the pages of Doctor Who Magazine several times since his Star Tigers appearance, always to fan enthusiasm.

Unlike other fan groups dedicated to creating additional adventures for the good Doctor, Altered Vistas is dedicated to adapting and bringing to life stories that already exist on the fringes of Who-lore. That covers a broad spectrum of stories, and they're hoping to adapt for the screen as many of them as they can using animated CGI, blended with high quality 2D animation, screen grabs (where appropriate) and high quality stills taken from CGI source, and all assembled against a high quality soundtrack with music, sound effects and the best amateur actors they can get our hands on.

• The second chapter of Star Tigers will be released later in the year. Check out the site for details of the Star Tigers project and Steve's revealing interview

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