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Friday, 16 April 2010

Vaughn to Jonathan Ross' Turf

turf_01.jpgVarious web sites have picke up on the information that Turf, the prohibition-era mash-up of gangsters, vampires and aliens written by TV presenter Jonathan Ross and drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards for Image Comics may be headed to the big screen. and Scoop both follow up on UK news stories, initially from papers such as The Guardian earlier this month, that the mini series could be movie-bound, directed by Kick-Ass and Stardust director Matthew Vaughn.

"Both Kick-Ass and Stardust were co-scripted by Vaughn and Ross’s wife, Jane Goldman," notes Scoop, "so there’s a connection there that only the government could miss."

The first issue - which has already sold out and gone to a second printing - opens in New York, 1929. The height of prohibition. The cops turn a blind eye while the mobs run the city, dealing in guns, girls and illegal liquor. But the arrival of the mysterious Dragonmir Family from Eastern Europe with more of a taste for blood than booze coincides with a series of brutal attacks on the gangsters themselves.

As the gangs fall before the fangs, only handful of mobsters survive. But an unlikely alliance formed between tough guy Eddie Falco and a character from a long way from New York City - a long way from Earth in fact - offers the humans a glimmer of hope...

"What Turf is about – in my head, anyway – is connection," Ross has revealed. "It's about a life not being worth living unless you have people around you and connect. It's about not following your basest instincts, not following urges or ambition. It's about saying family's important, other people are important.

"One of the characters, Susie, is initially an ambitious young journalist who wants to make a name for herself. And then she comes to realise all of her ambitions mean nothing, because actually, you know, deep down all the things we achieve or acquire via work are ultimately unimportant."

Buy Turf from Forbidden Planet (.com)

Read a Guardian interview with Jonathan Ross about Turf and non-comic matters, like him leaving the BBC

That Alan Moore, He Likes to Draw

The Forbidden Planet Blog Log has just posted this fab wraparound cover for esoteric comics-magazine-thing Dodgem Logic #3 (courtesy of Knockabout Comics), featuring artwork by none other than Alan Moore himself, who as older readers will recall, once drew the marvellous Maxwell the Cat before he got distrcted by a dubious writing career...

Issue 3, is a monster of an issue and comes perfect bound. While that also means a price increase, we're assured the pages contain a rare compendium of delights.

"We’ve got confessions of calamitous careers in the constabulary, step-by-step instructions for do-it-yourself diabolism and the rigorous recriminatory ruminations of a rogue town planner," say the publishers. "We’ve got divine decadence and sultry San Francisco nights along with the exploits of troubled everyman Johnny Viable, some glamorous graffiti, and a tantalising T-shirt transfer from the crayon box of Dodgem Logic’s vendor of voluptuousness Melinda Gebbie."

Order Dodgem Logic #3 from Forbidden Planet International - or buy it from your local specialist comic shop

John Watkiss' Sherlock Holmes Art on Sale


Dez Skinn's Quality Communications is offering a limited edition collection of movie concept art by comics creator John Watkiss he did for a proposed Sherlock Holmes movie via eBay.

"One member of our funnybook community whose quality of work far exceeds his profile is John Watkiss," says Dez. "I first knew his classical linework in Acme's old Ring of Roses, written by Das Petrou and reprinted by Dark Horse (and now in pre-production as a Hollywood movie).

"No stranger to film, John spent 15 years working in tinseltown for Disney (and has a some seriously scary stories about such). He's back in Blighty now, and working on a Robert E Howard production. But his last major work was as concept artist for fellow Brit Lionel Wigram, a film producer who had the hots on for making a young Sherlock movie. John produced 18 pieces of concept art which Wigram used to sell the idea."

Dez is offering a unique behind-the-scenes limited edition of the art, offered exclusively on eBay, revealing how the movie would look long before Ritchie, Law or Robert Downey Jr were involved.

On offer are limited edition prints of 18 pen and ink drawings which made the movie happen. Each plate is reproduced on high quality 240gsm glossy card, measuring 11.75 x 8.25", and suitable for framing. This portfolio comes with an annotations page, detailing both the history of the film and descriptions of each print, written by Dez.

Produced by Quality Communications, this is a strictly limited edition of 500 sets, with each top plate signed by the artist and numbered.

Check the portfolio out here on eBay

Check out the Quality Communications store on eBay - lots of British Comics goodies!

Windett Joins Comic Book Mafia!

windett_CBMafia001.jpgPreston-based comics artist Dave Windett - whose credits include work on a variety of animated characters from Fox and Warner Bros. and his illustrations for the Norwegian book series, Magic - has joined the Comic Book Mafia.

Lest you think mild-mannered Dave has taken to threatening editors with a machine gun pulled from a portfolio case, we hasten to add we mean the webcomic project, The Comic Book Mafia, part of a number of projects featured on the Webcomic Factory, the brainchild of creators Christian Beranek and Tony DiGerolamo.

Both creators Christian and Tony have worked in print comics for many years. An early advocate of webcomics, Tony convinced his friend Christian that webcomics were the way of the future and have created a webcomic “hub” of high quality comics from a variety of artists, most creations of Christian and Tony.

The Comic Book Mafia centres on characters CB and Tony D, who would like to invite you to the offices of Lead Pipe Studios where they conduct perfectly legitimate comic book business. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how CB and Tony D make very legal comic books and never beat up comic book store owners, abuse fans or make satirical jabs at the comic book industry.

The first episode is live now, and for comic creators, we can see this becoming something of a regular bookmark to return to - just in case they get featured, perhaps. With Dave a regular attendee at many British comic conventions, we're sure he has plenty of potential reference!

Remember, there is no such thing as the Comic Book Mafia...

Initial strips featuring on the Factory include Post Apocalyptic Nick (Can a man who knows nothing about survival survive without his iPhone, Chinese Take Out and Cable TV?), The Gentlemen’s Club (Welcome to Boobopolis, a typical sleazy strip joint off the New Jersey Turnpike); and Japanese School Girls in Love (Saving the Universe right after class).

• Check out at the WebComic Fatory at:

Blast from the Past: SCAN, with added Alan Moore

Scan 26 CoverAfter a brief conversation with Bugpowder's Andrew Luke earlier this week, I've digitized a couple of issues of my early fanzine, SCAN, which I initially co-produced with designer Matt Bingham and helped set nme on the road to my comics career at Marvel UK and beyond.

SCAN started out a poke in the eye at British comics generally - both small press and mainstream. Matt designed the first cover to be as bland as possible, reflecting, I seem to recall, his annoyance at pretentious many small press comic covers were that he'd seen.

Issue 1/26, our first issue, includes a made-up letter from one "Alan Moore". We cheekily pushed a copy of our comic into Alan's hands at a legendary Westminster Comic Mart and thanked him for it: Alan retorted "Did you write yoo a letter?" before returning to sign early Marvel UK comics for a long queue of fans....

The digital version of Issue 2/25 includes what remains a very funny real letter from one Alan Moore in our 'Scan newsletter': he became a subscriber and the fnazine had support from huge numbers of creators including Mike Collins, Richard Starkings, Bryan Talbot, John Tomlinson, Dave Jones, Ralph Kidson and others, and, eventually helped me get a job at Marvel UK. (Which is why I always say it's worth self publishing).

01_Scan_26.cbr - Page 5.jpgOur main strip, a convoluted time travel story called "Cat and Mouse", had an episode published in a Marvel UK title thanks to support from John Tomlinson. The cheque we received for use - my first paid comics work! - was amazing, with a Spider-Man and Hulk logo. I'd never have cashed it if I hadn't needed the money).

A word about the numbering. We started at Issue 26 and worked backwards, then forwards, then missed issues, then changed formats. It drove some readers mad. It certainly drove Paul Gravett mad, who very kindly distributed SCAN through "Fast Fiction", at the Westminster Marts and by mail order, so later issues, if you can find them. do run consecutively.

To further confuse things for any potential buyers in Lancaster, SCAN was and remains the name of the Lancaster University Students Union (a particularly arrogant Student Union president had seriously annoyed me on some issue and this was a weird bit of revenge), and we sold it in local pubs. Folk did confuse the two, so we probably wisely stopped doing that.

Matthew Bingham, of course went on to become a top-flight designer and editor, working on titles such as FHM.

John Freeman continued to be annoying.

I hope you enjoy this small "blast from the past".

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ron Jobson In Book And Magazine Collector

The latest issue of the A5 size monthly Book and Magazine Collector is now in the shops and it has reached issue 350.

This issue has an article by Norman Wright and David Ashford on the artist Ron Jobson. While Jobson was the artist on the three "annuals" based on the science fiction character Space Kingley, since Kingley wasn't a character that featured in any of the weekly comics, the article doesn't fall under Norman and David's usual banner of Great British Comics Artists.

That said anyone who has the good fortune to own one or more of the Space Kingley books published by Sampson Low between 1952 and 1954 will know that Jobson did a superb job on the painted artwork for what was effectively a Dan Dare clone. Indeed the Kingley character was popular enough that there were even jigsaws released at the time featuring him in new Jobson artwork.

The other science fiction series that Jobson worked on were the covers for the earliest Kemlo juvenile novels by EC Eliott and the hardback dust jackets for Charles Chilton's Journey Into Space novelisations of the BBC radio series.

Book and Magazine Collector issue 350 is available for £3.50 from WH Smiths and Easons, or from the B&MC website.

Panini's Marvel Deal Under Threat?

Back when Disney bought out Marvel Comics, here at downthetubes we speculated Panini, which reprints Marvel titles across Europe, may find their titles under threat.

Now, news site Bleeding Cool reports that as Disney has now finally taken charge of Marvel’s international licensing, those concerns might have some substance.

Panini license Marvel extensively outside of the US, across South America and Europe, with a range of titles on sale on the UK news stand. But the problem with licensed titles is that the majority of fans of a license, assuming the quality of product is maintained, simply would never notice the company publishing their comic has changed.

If Disney now decides to withdraw Panini's license and develop its own publishing operations - as it does in countries such as India - this could leave a gaping hole in the European company's finances.

While there's no suggestion at this stage that Disney is considering such a move, Bleeding Cool notes that in Italy, for example, Panini and Disney are "sworn rivals in the comic book arena", which may not bode well for a publisher that has successfully developed the Marvel brand in Europe for many years.

In a separate development, Cynopsis Kids reports Marvel is shifting its book market distribution in an effort to aggressively grow its book business, and is also extending its direct marketing deal. It has just signed a worldwide book deal with the Hachette Book Group, who already distribute a wide range of manga titles, to sell and distribute its books, which will begin in September.

One piece of good news for existing Marvel partners - and comic fans - Marvel has also signed a deal with Diamond Comics Distributor to extend its exclusive Direct Market Service Agreement, which will see it continuing to distribute Marvel's product to the comic shop market in the UK and elsewhere.

More Scottish Comics Events

As the afterglow of Hi-Ex slowly fades we have some advance notice of two other comics events in Scotland.
The fourth Dundee Comics Day will be held at Dundee University as part of the Dundee Literary Festival on Sunday 27 June 2010. Previous speakers on the day have included Alan Grant, Warren Ellis, Bryan Talbot and Paul Gravett as seen in our reviews of the 2009 and 2008 events. This year's guests will be announced in due course.

Also returning is the Oxfam Comic Book Event which will be held in Edinburgh's MacDonald Road Library on Saturday 17 July 2010 beginning at 1pm. Last year's event, as part of the 2009 Oxfam Book Festival, was a small affair based around discussion panels with guests including former 2000AD editor David Bishop and Commando writer Ferg Handley. As with Dundee, Oxfam's guests will be announced in due course and there will be more details on Oxfam Morningside's Twitter feed. Last year's Oxfam panel on Scottish settings in graphic novels was filmed and is available to view on YouTube - part 1 and part 2.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

LifeSupport: Change Through Art Competition

What has the recession meant to you? LifeSupport: Change through art, a project of online guide to life, is challenging comic creators to express their view on the Globalization Crisis.

Creators are being encouraged to create a photograph, film or comic that represents what the recession means to you and you could win £1000* and have your work judged by the Managing Director of Saatchi Design, Ashley Goodall, Turner Prize nominee Yinka Shonibare and comic artist Jamie McKelvie.

There is less than a three weeks left of the competition, so if you want to enter make sure you get your entry by no later than midnight on 30th April 2010.

Shortlisted and winning artwork will appear on the online guide to life for 16-25s,, and be displayed at an awards event in London.

LifeSupport: Change through art is a project of online guide to life,, made possible by funding from the Citi Foundation.

“Young people are one of the groups hardest hit by the recession, so it’s vital that they’re given an outlet to get their voices heard," says Fiona Dawe, Chief Executive of YouthNet. "This competition provides young people with an opportunity to express how the economic crisis has impacted their lives so that they feel empowered in an area that can often feel crowded by the opinions of the older generations.”

• See all of LifeSupport's latest comic entries here or for details of how to enter see our join in page.

*The winner will receive any prize of their choice; as long as it’s related to their field of art; to the value of £1000 and three runners up win prizes of their choice to the value of £300. Be it a course or equipment, competition sponsor Egg and the Citi Foundation will purchase the prize on your behalf if you successfully impress our judges!

Time Leech: Time Bomb!


The final instalment of a Doctor Who comic strip, Time Bomb, is live on the Doctor Who fan site,

Written by Christian Cawley, with art and lettering by Rick Lundeen, this is the concluding episode of the Time Leech trilogy which started last year, tying up the loose ends from Time Leech parts one and two (Hellstar) and pitting the Tenth Doctor and companion Ruth against a desperate group of Daleks aiming to use a Time Lord weapon to change human history…

Beginning as a series of conversations between Cawley and Brian A. Terranova, The Time Leech went from six-part epic to a more manageable three-part serial: the initial episode featured input from former Doctor Who Magazine editor John Freeman (who?)

• Find out more about Time Leech and the competition that spawned a monster on the site's dedicated page.

Time Leech: Part OneAvailable for download on Kasterborous, in PDF format for viewing on PCs and mobile devices. This episode also featured in Vworp Vworp magazine (available from

•  Time Leech: Part Two - Hellstar 
Illustrated by competition winner Justin Abbot, with letters courtesy of Colin Brockhurst.

• Time Leech: Part Three - Time Bomb

• Download the ZIP (8 MB)
• Download the RAR format file (8 MB)
• Download the CBZ format file (8 MB)
• Download the CBR format file (8 MB)

Sci-Fi London Lines Up Comic Creator events

Garry Leach, Rian Hughes, Dez Skinn, Gary Erskine, Emma Vieceli and Simon Furman are just some of the comic creators who will be appearing at this year's SCI-FI-LONDON event on Saturday 1st May.

At last year’s SCI-FI-LONDON ( the organisers added the notion of Sci-Fi Labs to the festival line-up: panel discussions which mixed artists, writers, scientists and cultural commentators to explore various SF themed topics. This format and a screening of Hardware introduced comic book creators such as Kevin O’Neill, Bryan Talbot, Paul Cornell, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Paul Duffiel to SCI-FI-LONDON in 2009 and this year's event sees an increase in the number of events featuring top British graphic novelists which are sure to interest downthetubes readers.

Now in its ninth year, SCI-FI-LONDON is the UK's only dedicated Sci-Fi and Fantasy film festival, screening world and UK film premieres, documentaries and a selection of classic SF titles. SCI-FI-LONDON also has a strong international shorts programme and screens a short film with every feature screening. It also holds a film school and filmmaking competitions to encourage more science fiction films to be made in the UK.

This year's comic-related events are as follows:

hospital_of_the_transfigurationw.jpgScreening: The Hospital Of Transfiguration - Thursday 29 April 6.30pm

Country: Poland, Year: 1979, Dir: Edward Zebrowski, Runtime: 90mins, Language: Polish/English subtitles
Format: 35mm, Source: Polish Cultural Institute

Set in 1943, this film is based on Stanislaw Lem’s first novel, and chronicles the experiences of a young doctor starting out in a mental hospital. But who is more crazy here the patients or the doctors? Semi-autobiographical, the controversial nature of the story led to the book being suppressed by the authorities in the 1950s.

Introduction and Q&A with Andrzej Klimowski, a world-renowned film poster designer and graphic novelist. In the UK, his visual style proved too controversial when his poster for Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty was banned by the London Underground. As a writer and artist, he has authored three graphic novels, The Secret, The Depository and Horace Dorlan. With his wife, Danusia Schebal he has adapted Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde and The Master and Margarita to comic book format. Andrzej and Danusia were active participants in the Warsaw film scene in the late 1970s and Professor Klimowski chose The Hospital Of Transfiguration from our ‘Focus on Poland’ to introduce, as an example of how genre films from that period stand up today.

Girl Geek Dinners: British Women Of Manga Panel – Thursday 29th April 7.00pm

Although there have been notable and successful female comic book creators on both sides of the Atlantic over the last half century, it is the translation of Japanese Manga in the West that has seen considerably more female comics creators join the medium in recent years. This is possibly a combination of Manga having a greater female appeal than traditional Western comics and original Japanese Manga being already created by women in Japan.

To discuss these issues SCI-FI-LONDON have a trio of up and coming UK Manga creators:

Kate Brown illustrated the Manga Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Emma Vieceli is contributing to the comic strip adaptations of the songs of Tori Amos, Comic Book Tattoo and continues to draw an online Manga story, Dragon Heir.

Karen Rubins found early acclaim for her selfpublished graphic novel The Dark,

Chair: Judith Lewis, one of the founders of Geek Girl Dinners is a veteran of anime conventions and has hosted Shinnenkai events

This is a free event for women only. Men are allowed as guests of a LGGD member. To get your tickets register at

60 Years of Dan Dare - Saturday 1st May 10:30am

Celebrating the continuing popularity of the iconic British Space Hero whose first appearance in the Eagle was published in April 1950, Sci-Fi London presents a quartet of artists who have created new adventures for the lantern jawed pilot in more recent years. Panellists include:

• Garry Leach drew Dan’s return to print in 2000AD for two stories: "The Doomsday Machine" and "Visco", ten years after the end of the original Eagle in the late 1970s and more recently covers for Virgin comics’ revival of the ‘Pilot of the future’ in 2008.

Rian Hughes drew the Eagle-inspired comic The Science Service in 1989 and then the Mekon’s final revenge in the Thatcherite satire Dare, written by Grant Morrison, in the adult comics Revolver and Crisis a year later.

Gary Erskine drew Dan Dare’s most recent official comic book adventures in the Virgin Comics periodical of the same name.

John Freeman is a comics historian and writer, webmaster of downthetubes and the current editor of Titan Books Dan Dare collections. He previous wrote The Science Service and now writes the strip Ex Astris in the Dan Dare-inspired magazine Spaceship Away.

Chair: Duncan Nott historian and presenter on Resonance 104.4 FM, the Arts Council radio station.

Manga Mashup: Make A Comic In A Couple Of Hours - Sat 1st May 11:00am

Inspired by Manga? Want to make a comic of your own? You can do it in just a couple of hours - and you don’t have to draw a line unless you want to! Come and try out comic-making hints, tips and techniques that work for any kind of artist and any style of art. Letraset has provided all the materials, Helen McCarthy provides the method and oils the wheels of your genius if you get stuck, and you bring whatever’s in your head for inspiration. Solo artists/writers, duos and small circles welcome.

FREE EVENT at Project Space, BFI Southbank Limited to 15 places.

What A Marvel - Saturday 1st May 11:45am

With Marvel comic book heroes such as Iron Man and Spider-Man more popular than ever, we look at home-grown additions to the Marvel Universe. Marvel UK was founded in the early 1970s as a British affiliate to the US company, but in 1976 they added original material to their newsagent reprints, starting with Captain Britain and a new pantheon of popular characters over the next three decades. Panellists include:

Dez Skinn is a pioneering Marvel UK editor who launched titles such as Hulk Comic and Doctor Who Weekly, which featured early work by Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons.

Dan Abnett gave Captain Britain a darker spin in the 1990s by adding him to a new team of heroes with:

Gary Erskine co-creator of the popular SF / Arthurian themed Knights of Pendragon.

John Freeman was editor on many of Marvel UK’s early 1990s titles such as weekly comic Overkill, Death’s Head II, Warheads, Killpower and Motormouth, contributing strips to several issues, and was one of the longest-serving editors on the award-winning Doctor Who Magazine.

Simon Furman was the primary writer for Marvel’s Transformers, a dozen issues of Doctor Who Magazine and creator of Marvel UK’s most memorable SF titles including Dragon Claws and the original Death’s Head.

Chair: Alex Fitch, presenter of the UK’s only weekly radio show on comics, ‘Panel Borders’, broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM, the Arts Council radio station in London.

Future Publishing? - Sat 1st May 1:00pm

The publishing industry is coming under assault from all sides. Are Kindles, iPads and smartphones signalling the end of traditional paper publishing? Customers no longer believe publishers can justify the prices they charge, not just for books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals are also suffering. How will the publishing industry re-shape itself for 2050? Will Apple and Google become the new big publishing houses? And if ubiquitous digital delivery means anyone can be a publisher, will we even need the big guns anymore?

Paul Graham-Raven is a freelance writer, editor and webgeek, genre fiction reviewer and editor-in-chief of the near-future science fiction webzine Futurismic.

Paul Rainey is a cartoonist, illustrator and creator of diary-comic-strip-in-list-form Book of Lists. He is currently serialising his graphic novel, or ‘thick comic book’, There’s No Time Like The Present.

Mark Charan-Newton is a Blogger, Tweeter and author of debut novel Nights of Villjamur, one of the most critically acclaimed fantasy works of 2009.

Dave Bradley is Editor-in-Chief of SFX magazine, Europe’s best-selling sci-fi and fantasy title and a fan of all forms of science fiction and fantasy.

Chair: Tom Hunter, Award Administrator for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature.

Comics And Film - Mon 3rd May 4:00pm

While the cinema seems to be obsessed with comic book adaptations in recent years, this panel looks at the more general phenomenon of the dialogue between comics and film as comic book creators help design movies and draw storyboards for moving pictures and in turn, film has started to dictate the format of modern comics. Panellists include:

Woodrow Phoenix started off as a small press comic book creator in the vibrant British scene of the 1980s before becoming a popular kids illustrator that lead to such unlikely collaborations as with Mark (Kick-Ass) Millar on Sonic the Comic and lettering Alan Moore's A Small Killing. More recently he has seen his comic Pants Ant turned into an animated pilot by The Cartoon Network and produced the acclaimed graphic novel Rumble Strip which was influenced by film noir and road movies.

Howard Webster is an award-winning photographer who has combined film and sequential art in the web comic. The Many Worlds of Jonas Moore, which combines comic book art with both images and action movie sequences starring Colin Salmon.

Cyriak Harris is one of the hottest viral animation creators in the UK and an ident designer for E4. He comes from a background drawing underground comics and sees a direct link with the creation of his CGI cartoons.

Chair: Alex Fitch

• With the exception of the MANGA MASHUP event, all events and screenings take place at the Apollo Piccadilly Cinema, 19 Lower Regent Street, London, SW1Y 4LR.

• Web Link:

Southport College Celebrates Eagle Anniversary

Dan Dare bust.jpgSouthport College - where Dan Dare co-creator Frank Hampson studied art - is hosting to a Dan Dare exhibtion celebrating 60 years of Eagle until the end of the month.

"When you enter Southport College’s Library Learning Centre you may notice two figures perched on high behind the reception counter," says the College’s Library Learning Centre Officer, Sammantha Browne in a web post. "Dan Dare and his arch-enemy the Mekon turn sixty this year. Internationally famous, they are the ‘founding members’ of several appreciation societies across the globe.

"Dan Dare was the brain child of Frank Hampson, who enrolled at Southport College in 1947 for a course on illustration. But he was not the fresh-faced teenager you might suppose. 29 and married with a son, Frank had witnessed at first hand the ravages of war, seeing active service in Dunkirk and Normandy. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps and rose to the rank of a junior officer, but he always wanted to be a pilot with the RAF. Some may say he achieved this vicariously through his creation of Dan Dare."

The exhibition, which opened today on the the 60th anniversary of the launch of Eagle comic, details Frank Hampson’s biography, including his time at the College, the history of Eagle, its Southport connections and the legacy of Dan Dare. Members of the Eagle Society were on hand to mark the exhibit's opening.

Sam asks that if readers have any fond memories you would like to share of Dan Dare, the Mekon or Eagle comic, please email her at and she will pin up your messages for others to enjoy.

Eagle Anniversary News Items

BBC Liverpool: Southport College celebrates Dan Dare 60th anniversary

Southport Vister: Exhibition to mark 60th anniversary of comic book hero Dan Dare

Liverpool Daily Post: Dan Dare, the comic star who put Southport on the interstellar map

Lancashire Magazine: Future Perfect
Sixty years ago the genius of two men turned the seaside town of Southport into the centre of the universe. Mark Gorton explains how and why.

• Dan Dare bust image courtesy of Southport College. Used with permission

60th Anniversary of Eagle - Part 2

eagle01_p01_dd_panel1.jpgThe famous cover of Eagle Issue 1 is well known to comic fans everywhere, but what lay inside for the 1950s boy?

As we celebrate 60 years of Eagle today, Richard Sheaf steps back to this week in 1950 to find out what readers found in this brand-new comic...

Like the proverbial curate’s egg Eagle Issue 1 is good in parts. Your 3d got you 20 pages of comic, of which eight were in beautiful photogravure colour but the stories and artwork were of Dan Dare from Eagle Issue 1a variable quality. Take just the front page: the first frame of Dan Dare is a masterpiece of design, colour and layout - but the third frame is about as lifeless as can be. Like the rest of "the new national strip cartoon weekly", it was still finding its feet.

Turning over the front page, we get to the first black and white page and the spot in Eagle that BBC Radio's PC49 would make his own for a decade.

His adventures are already being scripted by Alan Stranks (as they were on the wireless) but the artist is not John Worsley, who ultimately made the strip his own - in fact it’s Strom Gould (who would also later draw the Storm Nelson strip, before handing it over to its more famous illustrator, Richard Jennings) and follows the story of Police Constable Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby as he patrols his beat in London.

PC 49 from Eagle Issue 1

Having a strip which readers would have heard of was presumably a sort of insurance against the unknown quantity that the rest of the comic presented. For anyone familiar with John Worsley’s densely packed strips - an example features below - which almost smelled of London, this looser, bigger, blander version of PC49 can come as a shock. Another example then of a strip finding its feet.

A panel of PC 49 by John Worsley from a later issue of Eagle

Pages 4 and 5 are mainly taken up with that boys comic stalwart (at least up until then) the text story. This one is called “Plot Against the World” as was written Chad Varah (who would later find worldwide acclaim as the founder of the Samaritans organisation, but who at this point was simply a colleague of editor Marcus Morris).

Also nestling at the foot of Page 5 was the very first instalment of Captain Pugwash.

 Captain Pugwash from Eagle Issue 1 - © the John Ryan Estate

While Frank Hampson would famously lose the copyright to his most famous creation, Dan Dare, somehow John Ryan would hold onto his copyright to Pugwash. He also spent many years drawing the adventures of Harris Tweed for Eagle but began with Pugwash (an introduction to editor Marcus Morris had been a wedding present to Ryan from a friend) and, indeed, Mrs Pugwash too.

The character is a long way from looking like the jovial, avuncular figure that would be recognisable to millions once he debuted on BBC TV in 1957 (having also featured in a comic strip for the Radio Times). At this stage, instead he looks like a rather sallow character with a rather impressive Zapata moustache to go with his stubble.

Turning the page we have half a page of cricket coaching tips from Leary Constantine ("This week – the stance") and a full page article on "The Spies who Saved London" by Bernard Newman and then a whole page on how radar works from Professor Brittain – so the educational ethos of Eagle was established from early on, even if Professor Brittain would normally only get half a page to himself in future.

Seth and Shorty from Eagle Issue 1

Heading towards the centre pages now, on the page that Jeff Arnold and the other ‘Riders of the Range’ would occupy magnificently for so many years. However, before Jeff Arnold there were Seth and Shorty – cowboys. And that would be where the similarities between the two strips would end. Seth and Shorty was one of the worst strips published in Eagle, as the opening panels above reveal, complete with classic lines such as:

Frame 1 - Man 1 (Seth even though he is addressed as Wal in frame 3) “The redskins hev broken out of their reservation”
Frame 2 - Man 1 again “Come on!! Let’s find the boss”
Man 2 (presumably Shorty but who knows) “Gosh!! Won’t he rage!”

And the strip finishes with the line “Doggone! Sure this range is gonna hum!”

There is a certain car-crash awfulness to this that means you can’t take your eyes off it, even though it’s just terrible.

Into the centre pages now and there is a glorious Leslie Ashwell Wood cutaway drawing of the new gas turbine – electric locomotive, setting the standard for years to come. Underneath that is the strip Skippy the Kangaroo by Danet, Dubisay and Genestre which sounds like a French reprint strip. It too is terrible, and was replaced by Tintin (his first appearance in English) and then, latterly by Luck of the Legion.

Over the page and there two more (half page) education features – "Heroes of the Clouds" by Kenneth McDonagh and "Discovering the Countryside" by John Dyke (this week: the hedgehog). More half page features on the next two pages – Real Life mysteries, making your own model racing car and Sporting personalities (this week: Stan Mortensen). Educational features come thick and fast here but they definitely feel like padding – so perhaps it was no surprise that Eagle soon dropped from 20 pages down to 16 pages a week.

The Eagle Club and editor’s page was then followed by another text strip, this time entitled “Lash Lonergan’s Quest” it was written by Moore Raymond and was set in the Wild West.

The first panel of Rob Conway from Eagle Issue 1

On the inside back page, Frank Hampson draws his third page of the issue with Rob Conway (the strip had been called Secret City in the dummy versions that Frank Hampson and Marcus Morris had put together) and rather than being the “RAF in space strip” (Dan Dare) is instead the “young RAF in England” strip in the shape of the air training corps. Again, some of the frames are brilliant – just look at how much work has gone into the engine behind the cadet on the right hand side of the opening frame, above - but some of it is very flat and incredibly lifeless.

That, of course, might have something to do with the volume of work that Hampson was putting into the issue, the inside back page was also by him -- an advertising strip for Walls ice cream and featured the adventures of Tommy Walls, the lad who has adventures but always, somewhere long the way, time for a tub/cornet/slab of walls ice cream. The early stories are all standalone stories and featured Tommy gaining superhuman powers from his ice cream...

Tommy Walls from Eagle Issue 1

Later strips would feature longer strips and the ice cream as a treat / reward rather than the equivalent of the magic potion in Asterix.

The back page featured the first of Eagle’s famed adaptations of real lives – usually adventurous lives, sometimes religious and taken from anytime in history. It all began here with the life of St Paul (although initially he is plain Saul of Tarsus before his conversion of the road to Damascus).

Paul, the Great Adventurer from Eagle Issue 1

So, all in all then, all the right ingredients are there to make Eagle a great success over the next decade – Dan Dare, the police strip, the western strip, the educational features, the cutaway drawing and the real life back page strip – they just needed some time to settle in and become the Eagle that people would think of as being the classic 1950s comic that is remembered - especially today - so fondly...

Eagle and Dan Dare are © the Dan Dare Corporation. Pugwash © the John Ryan Estate. Tommy Walls © Walls Ice Cream.

Where's Me Flippin' Jet Pack?

It's the cry of many a 1960s child, wowed by future visions featured in comic strips and TV shows like Captain Scarlet. Well, it seems that, finally, the future is here, thanks to the Martin Aircraft Company...

Last year, the New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company had its first five customers pay to be jetpack pilots and fly the Martin Jetpack. You can see from this video the thrill they had. This day was a very early trial of this concept: all five customers were novice pilots, and they all made safe solo flights.

Captain_Scarlet_Card.jpgThe Martin Aircraft Company is planning a Martin Jetpack Experience business, to open for tourist jetpack flights in 2010 - and it's expected that early orders for sales to private individuals will commence late 2010. (The company signed a $12 million joint-venture deal with an as yet unnamed international aircraft company to start production of the world's first commercially available jetpack just last month).

Of course, these days a world where people are buzzing around on jet packs seems a bit scary... quite apart from the potential terrorism implications, can you imagine what kind of damage drunk flyers might cause? The company is well aware of these issues of course, and notes that after manufacture the "human factors" come into play.

"These include standard operating procedures, training and retraining of the end users to maintain a high degree of compliance."

Captain_Blue_Card.jpgBefore you or I can get your hands on one, the jetpacks will be sold to emergency response organisations, such as police and military, providing a quick way of getting aid and relief into disaster-hit areas.

The company says the jet pack is "unlikely" to have a direct military application but could be used in a troop-support role.

Yeah, right - we've seen how Captain Scarlet and SPECTRUM operates!

• Fly the Dream:

CD24 Launches Alameda Web Comic

alameda-p02.jpgUK indie publisher CD24 has just launched Alameda, a new weekly web comic by Tony Wicks.

"John Higgs is no longer a participant in the rat race," says Tony of the story. "He's living the life he always wanted, with his family and his music on an island paradise. But nothing ever seems to last forever.

"Something bad is waiting just around the corner, and in his extremity John will be given a life line. Will he be able to lay old ghosts to rest and listen to the one who can help him, before it's too late?"

CD24, also publishers of projects such as Jack in the Box and Last of the Chickenheads hope a new page will be uploaded on a weekly basis(ish) -- work and real life permitting!

Check it out at:

Elephantmen: more details on film emerge

Elephantmen Issue 24Following up on our previous story about Comicraft/Active Images Elephantmen, more details have been released about the planned film of the comic created by top British creator and former Marvel UK Group Editor Richard Starkings.

Comicraft has now officially announced Elephantmen has been by Zucker Productions for major motion picture development and the treatment for the movie is being drafted by Richard Starkings, creator and writer of the book.

"I'm very pleased to be working with producer Janet Zucker and everyone at Zucker Productions, says Richard. "Janet has a wonderful instinct for story and totally understands the more subtle tones of the Elephantmen series."

"Richard has created a world of implausible ideas and impossible characters, a world where transgenic animals and human beings come together in a dark, yet hopeful universe," says Janet Zucker. "Jerry [Zucker, director of Ghost] and I can't wait to bring the stories of Hip, Horn and Sahara to life on screen in a way that will simply take your breath away

Starkings reveals he was approached by a number of companies and directors interested in optioning the project, but until recently he brushed them away, preferring to concentrate on putting out a good book.

"On the road to the creation of Elephantmen, I talked to everyone else in the business and listened to their advice. It's taken a very long time to build the series -- I created these characters 15 years ago -- and I'm very grateful for our loyal readers and the incredible professional support that the book has received." says Starkings. "I didn't set out with a movie in mind, but I am grateful that this opportunity has come along and allows me to continue to write something that is very dear to me."

Elephantmen -- a brilliant commentary on racism, miscegenation, global warming, stem cell research and warfare -- is an Eisner Award winning series first published in 2002 under Starkings' Active Images imprint. In 2006, Image Comics, a leading US comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists, approached Starkings to bring the book under their umbrella.

Featuring art by the likes of Ladrönn, Moritat and Boo Cook, the story of the Elephantmen takes place in Los Angeles in the not too distant future -- in a world where human/animal hybrids were created to fight a war between Africa and China. Scarred by their experiences in war and seeking to somehow find their own humanity, the Elephantmen are now scattered throughout the world amongst the humans they were created to kill.

Elephantmen #25 (DEC090405), a 32-page full colour comic book for $3.50, will be available in specialist comic stores in the UK from 21st April. Collections of the ongoing series include Elephantmen 01: No Surrender, Elephantmen 02: Wounded Animals and Elephantmen 03: Dangerous Liasons, and others.

Hip Flask Official web site

Elephantmen Official Site

Elephantmen Blog

Active Images


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Charity shop's first-edition Beano find

beano_book_1939.jpgThe Scotsman reports today that a rare first-edition Beano annual from the 1930s is set to make a small fortune for Cancer Research UK after it turned up in a pile of donations at their St. Andrews shop.

The annual, which will be auctioned off by London-based Comic Book Auctions Ltd. next month, could raise as much as £2000 or more when it goes on sale.

"It's a very exciting find," Malcolm Phillips told the paper. "Our estimate is between £1,500 and £2,000, but we are hoping it will do a bit more than that – particularly because all the money raised is going to charity."

The highest price ever paid for a British comic was £20,350, which was paid for a mint copy of the first copy of The Dandy comic, published in 1937 and complete with a free whistle on the cover.

Before that, the record was £12,100, for the first copy of The Beano, published in 1938. Only 12 copies are believed to still exist.

The annual – known to collectors as Beano book number one – turned up in a pile of donations given to the Cancer UK's St Andrews shop in Scotland, to the delight of 24-year-old volunteer Matthew Harris.

"I knew it might be worth more than the average comic book, but when I checked it out online, and learned it could be worth more than £2,000, I could hardly believe it," he said.

Read the full story on the Scotsman web site

• The annual will be on offer at on 16 May. Bids closing at 8.00pm on 1 June.

Torchwood star pens new comic

Torchwood by Pia GuerraThe new issue of Titan's official Torchwood magazine – on sale in the UK on Thursday 15th April – plays host to an exclusive Torchwood comic strip penned by series star and fan-favourite, Gareth David-Lloyd and drawn by award-winning artist Pia Guerra.

David-Lloyd's character, Ianto Jones, who died in Captain Jack’s arms in the recent Torchwood five-part story Children of Earth, gets a new lease of life and takes centre stage once again in this exclusive comic strip - a move that will delight all fans of the criticallly acclaimed Doctor Who spin-off.

"I feel I know this character implicitly," says David-Lloyd, talking exclusively to the official Torchwood magazine. "The narrative of this comic focuses predominantly on Ianto, and integrates a number of characters who have been missed by Torchwood's ardent followers."

Titled 'Shrouded', the story comes in two parts as Ianto, who struggles with his tumultuous feelings for Captain Jack from the offset, has his world turned upside-down by the visit of a familiar face from the future.

Additionally, he is set a mission that could alter the course of life, as he knows it, forever...

'Shrouded' is illustrated by Pia Guerra, the critically acclaimed artist of Vertigo Comics' ground-breaking series, Y: The Last Man and more recently, Doctor Who: The Forgotten for IDW Comics. Pia won Outstanding comic book artist for 2006 at the Joe Schuster Awards.

• Torchwood Magazine #21 is on sale on 15th April in the UK and 11th May in the US. For more information, visit or

Cornell Takes on Action Comics

Hugo Award-nominated, top British comics creator Paul Cornell - whose credits include Captain Britain and MI13 and Doctor Who – has just been announced as the writer of DC Comics prestigious Superman title, Action Comics.

Paul Cornell will join interior artist Pete Woods and cover artist David Finch on Action Comics in June, stepping in at a critical point for Superman, coming out of The War of the Supermen.

"I'm seriously psyched to be working on such a legendary title," says Paul via his blog, "and to be back on an ongoing again, and to be working with artist Pete Woods, whose designs are a delight already.

"And my first story arc centres on Lex Luthor, who's always been a favourite of mine."

"So many legendary creators have written this title in the past that I’m giddy and frankly terrified at the prospect of following in their footsteps,” he commented on the DC Comics site The Source.

Paul replaces author Marc Guggenheim, who had been announced as the new Action Comics writer earlier in the year but who, says Superman Group Editor Matt Idelson, had concerns about whether he was the man to write the tale he had come up with for the title. "Rather than do a disservice to the book, the readers and himself, Marc decided to step away from Action, and we both know that sometime in the future, we’ll be collaborating on Superman for sure."

Action Comics has often been a 'home' for British talent: artist Gary Frank is among recent creators who have worked on the title. 

Paul Cornell's Official Web Site

Pete Woods Official web site

DC Comics web site

In Review: Harker 11

The Plot: Another body has been discovered, but the killer has been careless. DCI Harker makes his move, determined to expose the murderer and take him in. But never mind all that! The Goths are three goals down and only Critchley can save the day! Goal!!!

The Review: It's no small achievement for a small, independent comic publisher - especially a small, independent British comic publisher - to maintain a monthly schedule on a US-style comic book. That Ariel Press, headed by Roger Gibson and Vince Danks, have succeeded in doing this for some time now with detective tale Harker is a testament to their dedicated professionalism.

That Harker continues to entertain, at present with a murder mystery set in a hotel in Whitby, and DCI Harker's gruff, grumbling character still continues to entertain as he tracks down the offender at a football match is however, the larger of the achievements of his creators. This is a comic book crying out for more attention; for an Eagle Award; and for the obligatory TV series pick up.

Revealing the murderer in a detective series often descends into Agatha Christie parlour room revelation - a device no doubt born of the stage than the demands of a novel or other medium, like comics - and can be quite boring in delivery. Gibson avoids the trap by setting most of this issue at a football match, where his deputy, Critchley, is seconded to play for The Goths as they battle the local newspaper for victory. 

As Harker confronts the murderer, Critchley gets to be Roy Race and enjoys every minute - and artist Vince Danks again shows off his prestigious skills as the tale unfolds.

Harker is a joyous independent title and fully deserves support. Roger and Vince have been plugging away with various comic titles at Ariel Press for years, promoting them at every comic show they can afford to get to - but Harker is by far their most accomplished series to date. Recommended...

Publication Date : February 2010
Format : Standard comic book size. 24 pages, full colour cover/BW interior
Price : £1.95 (including postage and packing)
Download Price : £1.00

Take me to the store so I can buy it!

New Doctor Who a "Half Witted Clown"

Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, as he appeared in TV ComicWith new Doctor Who Matt Smith now on our screens, reaction to this latest regeneration seems to have been generally positive. But to hear a new Doctor described as a "pantomime character" or "a looney" may come as a surprize. Are these critics of a new incarnation watching the same show as the rest of us?

Indeed not - these comments were made when past Doctors - some of whom went on to become hugely popular - first debuted.

Reaction to new regenerations of everyone's favourite Time Lord on Doctor Who has always been mixed, as a favourite, established character changes into something completely new -- and newly-published BBC Archive documents reveal just how much these transformations have affected some of the show's audience.

Papers spanning the 40-plus years history of Doctor Who have just been published online and reveal the difficulties of bedding in the new Doctor, with internal memos noting how his first transformation (with Patrick Troughton replacing William Hartnell) was originally envisaged as a bad LSD trip.

"Once a brilliant but eccentric scientist, he now comes over as a half-witted clown," objected one viewer of Troughton's new role, while another told the BBC's Audience Research Department: "I'm not sure that I really like his portrayal - I feel the part is exaggerated - whimsical even.

"I keep expecting him to take a great watch out of his pocket and mutter about being late like Alice's White Rabbit."

Jon Pertwee fared a little better in 1970 but one document reveals "Reaction to this first episode of the new Dr Who series can hardly be described as enthusiastic." Tom Baker, too - despite becoming one of the series best-loved incarnations - was described by a viewer as "a looney.

"He is an eccentric always, but the way it was presented made him stupid," said one viewer, while others urged the return of Pertwee.

"It was nice and creepy, but I like the other Dr Who best," claimed a 12-year-old boy.

Colin Baker's arrival in 1984 provoked savage criticism, failing to impress half the viewing panel when BBC chiefs conducted research.

"The new Doctor is too stern and doesn't have enough humour," thought one viewer, while another said: "I find him too aggressive and just not as pleasant as other Doctors."

It was a sign of things to come, as dissatisfaction with Doctor Who grew. "The whole concept is now outdated and overworked," one viewer opined, with around a fifth of those interviewed feeling the show had lost its edge. "The stories have become predictable and lack excitement. I'm afraid it has lost its appeal."

Poor old Sylvester McCoy fared even worse than maligned Colin. His "approval rating" when he debuted in Time and the Rani in 1987 was considerably lower than Colin Baker's, although the reception given to his sidekick Mel (played by Bonnie Langford) proved to be the show's nadir: a quarter of viewers said she was the worst thing about the series, with over half the audience wishing she had been eaten by cannibalistic senior citizens in McCoy's second story, Paradise Towers.

Faced with such criticism, moved to a time slot that put it up against Coronation Street and hated by BBC executives such as Michael Grade, it is hardly surprising the show was put on hiatus two years later - and seemed, back then, unlikely ever to return.

Reactions to new Doctor Who leads down the years forms part of a new online collection from BBC Archive which looks at the changing face of the Doctor and includes internal BBC memos which outline new characters and plot devices.

One document from 1970 discusses plans for the debut of the Master emphasising how he must be played in a "natural and convincing" way.

"He must not be written as a moustache-twirling villain of melodrama or given melodramatic dialogue; if anything his evil quality should be underplayed, though never forgotten," it urges. Actor Roger Delgado was to fulfill those obligations with consummate skill and delivery.

Articles from Radio Times and programme images have also been digitised for the new site.

"The whole idea of regenerating the Doctor was a flash of genius that's kept Doctor Who fresh and exciting for 47 years now," argues Roly Keating, the BBC's director for archive content.

"As we welcome Matt Smith and Karen Gillan into the TARDIS, it's the perfect moment to remember his predecessors and also to celebrate the work of the BBC Archive in preserving these documents and photographs for future generations."

• View the material at from today

Monday, 12 April 2010

Commando Goes Fornightly

Commando 4283If you're looking for the first four new Commandos released for the first half of April, you'd better be quick. The next batch will be out on 22nd April as publishers DC Thomson have had their sale dates brought forward.

This means four new issues of the popular, long-running pocket war comic digest will then be every fortnight until July, so Commando will now go on sale on the first Thursday of every month rather than the second.

Commando 4283 - Operation: Red Commando
Story: Alan Hebden Inside Art: Vila Cover Art: Ian Kennedy (could that be a touch of Dan Dare on the radar Console?)

In early 1942, Lieutenant Rory Granger and his Commando squad were chosen for a daring mission to destroy a vital German radar station in the far north of Norway.

However, the plan went awry. Rory and his men found themselves up against a ruthless enemy in the bitterly cold wastes of Russia, fighting just to stay alive!

Commando 4284Commando 4284 - Race to Freedom
Story: Ferg Handley Inside Art: Keith Page Cover Art: Keith Page

Reeling back from the German onslaught in May 1940, Private Tom Dawson and his mate, Harry Greene, saw their company decimated in a terrifying Stuka attack. They teamed up with other stragglers — including a very unconventional Signals officer — determined to join the mass evacuation at Dunkirk. But to get to those beaches they’d have to make a perilous journey through occupied Belgium...

Commando4285.jpgCommando 4285 - Mercenaries!
Story: Mike Knowles Inside Art: Ricardo Garijo Cover Art: Alan Burrows
Previously No 2575 from 1992

Thirsting for excitement and adventure, paratrooper Jack Nash had seized the chance to become a mercenary — a hired soldier in someone else’s war — with the promise of action and a hefty pay-packet.

Well, Jack got plenty of action — more than most men could handle. As for the money, that might just be a different story...

Commando4286.jpgCommando 4286 - Welcome to the War!
Story: Mike Knowles Inside Art: Olivera Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Previously No 2626 from 1992

They kept telling Andy Webster that he was doing a great job, beavering away behind the scenes as the war raged all over Europe. But that wasn’t good enough for Andy. He wanted to be in the front line, right in the thickest of the action.

Well, his dearest wish would come true far sooner then he thought, but there was one big snag. It didn’t look as if he would survive to enjoy the glory!

• 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

Dan Dare Film: Latest News

(UPDATED: Steve Holland over on Bear Alley has discovered the mentioned Cinemas-Online item about a possible Dan Dare film is not a new item about the project - it was first posted in 2005. The story below has been updated to reflect this. My apologies, but there was no obvious date on the page).

Development on a Dan Dare movie is now at script stage - and actor Sam Worthington, star of films such as the new Clash of the Titans and Avatar - is being considered for what is probably a key role.

It has been a month since we first reported on rumours of new attempt to get a Dan Dare movie off the ground, but the Dan Dare Corporation has made little comment on stories across the web, which began when reviews site Pajaba reported that British-born actor Sam Worthington has been cast as the lead in a Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future film.

Since then, Worthington, who is on board for another comics-to-film project, The Last Days of American Crime, based on the Radical Publishing series by Rick Remender, has confirmed his interest. In a video interview for MTV he confirmed he was involved, but stopped short of explaining his role.

Interestingly, he referenced Grant Morrison as writer - which could either be a mistake on the actor's part, as he might also be referring to the most recent Dare reboot by Garth Ennis - or a deliberate reference to Dare, Morrison's re-telling of the Dan Dare mythos for Revolver in the 1980s, drawn by Rian Hughes. (Hughes was reportedly attached to an earlier attempt to make a Dan Dare film, directed by Ridley Scott).

"We're seeing how they're going to develop it and where they want it to go," Worthington said. "I'm at that stage now where I want to do movies where I get my $16 worth ... Something like Dan Dare, there was something in the reboot by Grant Morrison that was amazing."

Since Worthington seems well versed in comics and characters, it seems possible the mention of Grant Morrison may not be the mistake MTV thinks it is in its reporting.

A new Dan Dare film has been "in development" for some time. Back in 2005, website CinemasOnline reported on a possible Dan Dare film project, which the Dan Dare Corporation, producers of the Dan Dare animated series back in 2001, said was at script stage.

The aim was to feature live actors superimposed over computer generated backgrounds. Coincidentally perhaps, this is the technique that ATV planned for their aborted 1980 Dan Dare television series, electronically keying actors over a drawn comic strip background, and which has perhaps been used most successfully on the big screen for films such as the 2004 SF feature Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow', which was shot digitally in just one studio against a blue screen.

CinemasOnline reported the movie is being represented by of Hollywood's biggest agents, which DDC chairman Colin Frewin counts as a 'real success'. But it would appear development stalled, so perhaps the new project will be entirely different.

With the 60th anniversary of Eagle this week, let's hope some official announcement about a Dan Dare film is not too far off.

Meet Gerry Anderson

Century 21 Volume 4Television legend Gerry Anderson will be signing the two new volumes of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips From The Worlds Of Gerry Anderson, at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR on Saturday 1st May. He will be joined by the series editor Chris Bentley.

From its launch in 1965, TV Century 21 (later known simply as TV 21) was the smash-hit British comic of the 1960s. Thunderbirds, Lady Penelope, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Captain Scarlet all burst forth in full colour from the magazine's packed pages, in stories illustrated by such giants of the comic industry as Frank Bellamy, Don Harley, Mike Noble, Ron and Gerry Embleton.

Gerry Anderson needs no introduction as the creator of the massive number of still hugely popular TV series that include Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Stingray and Space: 1999.

Chris Bentley was Chairman of Fanderson, the Official Gerry Anderson Fan Club, for over ten years. He is the author of The Complete Gerry Anderson and The Complete Book of Gerry Anderson’s UFO.

• The signing runs from 2 - 3.0ppm. More information here on the Forbidden Planet web site

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Happy Birthday, Peter O'Donnell - 90 Today

Modesty_Blaise by Jim Holdaway(With thanks to David Westaway): Happy Birthday today to veteran British comics creator Peter O'Donnell on attaining his 90th birthday today (11th April).

Born in 1920 in Lewisham, Peter, who began writing professionally at 16, is, of course, most famous for his wonderful Modesty Blaise strips and books, but he also wrote newspaper strips such as Romeo Brown and the best of the Garth stories.

In a three-part article about O'Donnell, Kristy Valenti notes O'Donnell's body of work, featuring bold and capable heroines — primarily in the genres of spy thriller and gothic romance, and in the forms of comic strips, short stories and novels — has had millions of readers. Quinten Tarantino counts among O'Donnell's fans, but his most loyal audience is women and, especially and to this day, girls.

"As such, it makes a curious sense that the catalyst for his greatest creation, the criminal-turned-spy Modesty Blaise, was a girl," says Valenti. "In 1942, among the refugees fleeing from German troops through the mountains bordering Iran, was 'a little girl no more than seven.'Posted nearby was a unit of the Royal Corps of Signals, of which O'Donnell was a member.

"The war ended, and O'Donnell freelanced on projects like writing serials for women's magazines and a few comic strips — Garth, Tug Transom and Romeo Brown — for the next 21 years, while carrying with him a mental image of this child, who became a symbol for a 'tough survivor.'"

After a first failed attempt with Dan Dare artist Frank Hampson, O'Donnell paired with his Romeo Brown collaborator Jim Holdaway — and unleashed Modesty Blaise as a daily comic strip in the pages of the The Evening Standard on 13th May 1963. The strips are currently being collected by Titan Books, with the latest volume, Modesty Blaise: Death in Slow Motion, on sale on 23rd April.

The official web site for Modesty Blaise offers Peter's best advice for aspiring writers. "In 1948, I was working freelance and, amongst other things, was writing two, 3,000 word stories a week for Film Fun," he recalls.

"The editor was a tough but fair man, a big horse racing enthusiast always reading his racing paper, even when we were discussing stories. I used to go into his office each Thursday morning, about 10, with the ideas for that week’s stories. He would be sitting behind his desk reading his racing paper.

"I would give him the general plot of each of the stories, he would OK them and go back to his paper. I would then write one of the stories during the rest of that day, the other one on Friday and deliver both to him by Friday evening.

"On one occasion, I had been very distracted. My wife was giving birth to our second daughter by caesarean section, not a common occurrence in those days, and I was very worried about her. On that Thursday, when I went into his office I had no ideas in my head. I told him I had been very distracted due to personal circumstances and said that I really needed a little bit of help. I asked if we could go around a few ideas.

He lowered his paper slowly, fixed me with a stony eye and said: 'You’re supposed to be an author aren’t you?'

"I started to mumble an apology but he broke in: 'Well f*** off and auth' and raised his paper."

• More about Peter O'Donnell on the official Modesty Blaise website:

'Girl Walking: The Real Modesty Blaise' - Peter O'Donnell on Modesty Blaise for Crime Time Magazine.

Peter O'Donnell - Modesty Blaise Check List 

• Kristy Valenti's three-part article on Peter O'Donnell - Part One; Part Two and Part Three at comiXology

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