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Friday, 7 May 2010

Nich Angell at work on Brief History of the Next Universe


Comics artist and animator Nich Angell has a full colour collection of short sci fi stories entitled A Brief History of the Next Universe due soon.

"The book is going to pull together brand new stuff I'm doing right now, older stories that previously only existed in black and white, and a collection of pin-ups and images to tie the whole thing together," he reveals.

"Expect stories about time travel, the end of the universe, futuristic paparazzi, eternal cosmic music, murder onboard a galactic honeymoon vessel, 24 hour comix and many more little snippets."

24-year-old Nich, whose previous comics include 7STRING, describes himself as "a comic-inspired illustrator.

"Comic books are an eternal fascination for me and I truly believe them to be the best medium for telling stories," he enthuses. "At this early stage in my career I'm stepping out keen and eager-eyed into a fantastic art filled world and hoping/believing I will make an impact."

Nich will be self-publishing the collection and selling them on his official web site and at amazon.

"I will also pursue publishers like a hound after donuts in the hope of letting everyone check out my stuff," he says.

• Nich Angell Official web site:

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Free Comic Book Day: a report from the (British) front line

Free Comic Book Day at First Age Comics, Lancaster

Free Comic Book Day - an annual event to promote the comics industry worldwide - gets bigger and better every year, and for First Age Comics, based in the Assembly Rooms on King Street, Lancaster, the latest incarnation was easily the most successful and popular to date. Store owner Mark Braithwaite offers a snapshot of how the event went down for one of Britain's smaller, but enthusiastic shops...

This year, First Age Comics decided to go for a family fun theme on Free Comic Book Day, making sure we had something of interest for everyone. In addition to a wide array of quality comics, we made sure there were plenty of "All Ages" material around - and offered free comic-themed cupcakes, sweets and snacks throughout the day.

Free Comic Book Day Comic Cupcakes at First Age Comics, Lancaster(The comic cupcakes were baked by Andrea Garcia, ably assisted by fiance Mike Charlton, who both did an amazing job coming up with so many different varieties. They proved to be a welcome addition to the First Age Comics Free Comic Book Day format).

Comics, cakes, sweets, balloons and music all combined to create a fun atmosphere. Kids couldn't believe what they were seeing, parents were thrilled to see the family enjoy themselves and everyone who came along spent the day discussing comics. What they currently read, what they want used to read and what they want to read.

The Free Comics on offer at Free Comic Book Day at First Age Comics, Lancaster

From childrens disbelief that there really is a day in the year when anyyone can get free comics, to the former readers thrilled to see their favourite writers/artists still involved in the industry and the current readers who appreciate the chance to show everyone else just what they're missing - this event truly caters for all.

It's always fascinating to see which free comic is going to be the first to go. It was an easy call last year with DC Comics Blackest Night #0 in the most demand. Free Comic Book Day 2010 was a little more open with Kevin Smith's Green Hornet winning in the popularity stakes, closely followed by humour title The Tick. Evoking the most nostalgia was the Fraggle Rock edition and the Lady Gaga Fame comic, which attracted the most interest from the teenagers.

This year we added a 50% off sale on selected graphic novels, trade paperbacks and hardcovers and spent the build up to Free Comic Book Day 2010 ramping up the anticipation by introducing the Story Arc Stand. This is basically filled with comic bundles that make up a full story arc or mini-series priced at a competitive £1 an issue.

New sets were aded in the run up and some rather special bundles such as Legion Of Three Worlds and Marvel Zombies hit the Story Arc Stand for the first time on Free Comic Book Day.

Comic-themed soundtracks were played in the background, to much enjoyment and the re-usable fabric comic bags new to Free Comic Book Day this year also got a great reception. Local soundmeister Matthew Armitage kindly compiled the comic mixtape and in the midst of all this we even had time to give podcast interviews to ipod, ucast (soon to be available on itunes).

First Age owner Mark Braithwaite with some of Free Comic Book Day offeringsIt's true that Free Comic Book Day was started to introduce new readers to comics, but over the years it's evolved. It's a celebration of creativity and whilst its primary goal must always be to introduce comics to new readers, it also gives retailers the chance to thank their customers for their continued support and also offer the opportunity to former readers to rediscover comics once more.

The response we've had from this years Free Comic Book Day has been incredibly overwhelming and First Age Comics are honoured to be a part of such a hugely popular event. We'd like to thank everyone involved in making Free Comic Book Day 2010 a fantastic success and look forward to participating in Free Comic Book Day 2011 and beyond.

Mark it in your calendar: the first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day.

• First Age Comics is at the Assembly Rooms, King Street, Lancaster LA1 1JN.

• Buy From First Age Comics On E-Bay:

• Find First Age Comics On Comic Space:

• Follow First Age Comics On:

Classics from the Comics plays Cops and Robbers

classicsfromthecomics169.jpgIssue 169 DC Thomson's Classics from the Comics is now on sale in all good newsagents -- another gem of a 68-page retro monthly, full of comic classics from the publisher of The Beano and The Dandy.

Humour strips in this 'Cops and Robbers'-themed issue include 'Little Plum', 'The Sparky People' (the bumbling office staff of the much-missed Sparky comic, terrorised by an always unseen editor), 'Dennis the Menace', 'The Jocks and the Geordies', 'PC Big Ears' (followed immediately in the comic by 'Bill the Burglar' - surely that should be the other way around?), 'L Cars', 'Baby Face Finlayson' and more.

There's also a number of adventure strips including more from 'General Jumbo' and 'The Truth About Wilson'

For fans nostalgic for an era when comics appealed not just to the very young, this is another great collection of yesteryear merriment.

Click here for subscription information

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

In Review: Comics at the London Book Fair

London Book Fair 2010

Last month the London Book Fair cranked up its coverage of comics and graphic novel publishing this year and David Baillie went along for downthetubes to see what was happening... LBF photos by Joel Meadows

The London Book Fair is an annual publishing juggernaut that attracts attendees and exhibitors from all over the world. They usually have a small, but notable, comics presence but this year promised to be the start of a new relationship between the event and the comics medium. Not only had they declared a section of the floor the 'Graphic Novel Pavilion', but the second day (of the four) also featured a schedule of industry-related panel discussions.

I've visited the LBF a couple of times in the past, usually trying to meet new publishers who I can scam for money... Erm... I mean investigate new work opportunities. It's never been the ideal venue for 'cold calling', as one of the main functions of the fair is the selling of foreign rights, but the main selling point of the LBF is the sheer number of industry people it draws together into a single location.

For example, it's certainly possible to schedule four or five meetings with different publishers, and your agent, all in one day. It's a shame, then, that because of the recent volcano chaos, the Earls Court floor was very quiet indeed. Some publishers didn't make it at all and more than one stand had a business card taped to an empty wall alongside a post-it apology.

The Graphic Novel Pavilion was a quite small, with less than a handful of publishers - but certainly those that you'd expect and hope to see at this event - Panini, Titan Books, Self Made Hero and Turnaround. Unfortunately Dark Horse only managed to get a few flyers, posters and business cards to the fair. I think I'm right in saying all of these guys were exhibitors last year - so there wasn't actually any fresh blood per se - but it certainly makes sense grouping them together in one place. There were also a few comics publishers spread around the floor outside of the Pavilion - probably because they publish in a wider variety of media.

The London Book Fair is an expensive event at which to exhibit. This accounts for the shortage of smaller UK publishers you see elsewhere, and even homegrown companies dealing solely in graphic novels. I know that, for example, Sean Azzopardi inquired about attending with a selection of UK Indie comics, but couldn't justify the cost.

The talks were a welcome addition to the programming. My favourite one, and definitely the one with the best sound bites, was supposed to be about the future of publishing for the comics world, particularly with regards to digital distribution and consumption. It featured a diverse cast of experts, some of whom had little or no interest in the proscribed topic, which made it all the more difficult for Self Made Hero's Emma Hayley to moderate. (She did, however, do very well indeed.) Come to think of it, this reluctance the panellists had to do what they were told probably made for a more interesting talk.

Paul Gravett started proceedings by talking about the origins of the graphic novel and the evolution of the medium – concentrating on its relationship with the wider publishing market.

Ian Rankin was next up, and he related how he'd been attracted to working in the medium primarily because the first thing he read was comics. In fact, his initial attempts at writing were probably stick man comics when he was in school. He also bemoaned the lack of weekly and monthly comics available in British newsagents - he said he thought that this 'missing rung in the reading ladder' is largely responsible for the poor literacy rates for teenage boys. Apparently his son had recently begged to be taken to see Macbeth after reading the Manga version, despite previously showing no interest at all in Shakesperare.

David Fickling followed on and he spoke about working on the DFC story John Blake with Philip Pullman (whom he knew before he was at all well-known). Pullman, he said, is a brilliant storyteller, and both of them learned about storytelling from reading comics as youngsters. Apparently Pullman had jumped at the chance to write a comic when Fickling suggested it.

He then told us what a joy it was to 'open the cupboard' and find a wealth of comics talent here in Britain. He explained that children want to read to be entertained, and that if we achieve that we can keep them for life instead of 'pissing readers into the street'.

london_book_fair_2010_sktch.jpgWhile everyone on the panel looked forward to the benefits of digital comics (although as Fickling noted, they're all already digital as everything is 'sent down the wire these days') there were some reservations about what might go astray in the transition. Rankin wondered if the double page spread reveal would be entirely lost if you were reading comics on a small device.

Emma said that when she was translating Self Made Hero's Cash GN to an iPhone-readable format, the artist had been hesitant because his page design, which is of course an important part of the storytelling, would disappear as the work was read panel by panel.

When the iPad was mentioned, it was also noted that if Cory Dotcorow had made it across the Atlantic he'd definitely be saying 'down with it' before anyone had a chance to sing its praises. Apart from the censorship and monopolistic issues, Ian Rankin also quipped that it meant an investment of five hundred pounds rather than the 'quid that 2000AD cost a few years ago'. The panel then discussed how, in a purely digital comics world, there would be no more comics swapping, which they mostly agreed was an important part of the reading culture.

In another talk that day Emma Hayley spoke about the beginnings of Self Made Hero - and how she saw a gap in the market back in 2004/2005. It was an article in the Financial Times which sparked her interest initially and she told us how surprised she'd been to go the newsagents two years later and find an article about the successful launch of her new Manga line on the front page of the FT. Self Made Hero now have 14 Manga Shakespeare editions in print, all by UK artists, as well the Eye Classic and Crime Classic lines. Their new Graphic Biography imprint has recently been launched leading with the warmly-received Cash (of course about Johnny Cash).

I didn't get much of a chance to investigate many other publishers on the floor as I had to return to Colchester for my artist residency (and neither did I manage to take advantage of the free back massages on offer!) but it did seem much quieter in general than recent years. There was also a noticeable absence of 'booth babes' (as I believe they're affectionately known in the trade) so I don't know if they're flown in from abroad especially.

All things considered I think this was a successful first outing for the Graphic Novels Pavilion and comics programme at the London Book Fair. Fingers crossed next year for a larger response from publishers and a lack of volcanic eruptions....

David Baillie was recently artist-in-residence for firstsite, Colchester, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

In Review: The Spider Moon

The Spider Moon by Kate BrownThe Spider Moon is the last of the first batch of books from the new DFC Library range, written and illustrated by Kate Brown it is set in a manga styled fantasy land of islands floating not just in the ocean but also in the air.

Young Bekka Kiski lives on an island in a world who's inhabitants believe is doomed - their only hope being to escape to the island that floats in the sky. Apparently human fishermen, Bekka's people have webbed hands and bigger lungs to allow them to dive for longer underwater. When her mother is arrested by the ruling bird folk of another island, Bekka takes a canoe and travels to the other island where she is detained in the palace. There she is befriended by Prince Kaliel with whom she sneaks around the palace and listens in on what is happening to her mother.

Manga artwork as a style can too often be relatively simple, concentrating on figure work to the detriment of backgrounds, but Kate Brown's artwork in Spider Moon stands out with her unusual but delightful page layouts coupled with her use of colours. Many pages have their different panels held together by rope, or cord or even chains intertwining through eyelets in the panels themselves. Other pages are broken into panels by Bekka's thoughts which are not represented by thought balloons but rather by straight white text boxes the width of the pages that pass through sections and divide the artwork as required. Her colours, particularly the layering of the colours in the underwater sequences in the first part of the story, standout. The cover gives an indication of this -- but does not show the full effect as Bekka is confronted by a whale during her diving exam.

And yet it all comes to an abrupt halt at the end of part three with the dreaded "To be continued..." This is not the fault of the story which was obviously setting down for a manga-esque long run when it was curtailed by the cancellation of the DFC comic.

As if to assuage that abrupt stop, and to help create interest in the larger story, the book is the only one of the three DFC Library titles that includes extras, with a two page map of Bekka's world as well as several pages of background to that world and its main characters. There is even a page by Brown on the creation of the book's cover showing the stages she went through. So, despite the lack of a conclusion, it all adds up to an impressive package.

The Spider Moon deserves to do well to allow the story to be continued, but even if it doesn't it shows just how much of a young talent its creator is and it tantalises us not just with how Bekka's story may continue but also with what else Kate Brown may produce in the future.

• More details of The Spider Moon, including sample pages, are available on the DFC Library website

• There are more details on The Spider Moon on Kate Brown's blog

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

In Memoriam: Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell

Peter O'Donnell with his Haxtur AwardWe're very sorry to report the death of Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell, who died over the Bank Holiday weekend at the age of 90.

Peter, who lived in Brighton, celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this month, had been ill for some time, suffering from Parkinson's disease.

He began writing professionally at the age of 16, and, while writing several popular newspaper strips down the years, including 'Garth' and 'Romeo Brown', is best known as the creator of female action hero Modesty Blaise, first published as a comic strip 1963, but who also featured in several novels from 1965 onwards and also made it to the silver screen on more than one occasion.

The books (all written by O'Donnell) ran concurrently with the comic strip until 1996 and the comic strip ran until 2001, running to over 10,000 strips.

'Modesty Blaise' ran daily in the Evening Standard newspaper during the 1960s. O’Donnell retired from writing in 2001, but had continued to oversee Titan Books release of more than a dozen Modesty Blaise collections, contributing introductions and commentaries to his classic stories.

His work was highly regarded: O'Donnell counted author Kingsley Amis among Modesty's fans and won the Haxtur Award in the category Best Script for the Modesty Blaise strip story Bad Suki in 2006 at the Asturias Internation Comic Convention in Spain, Peter.

Modesty Blaise"Peter had a 75-year-long career as a writer," notes comics expert Steve Holland in his online tribute to O'Donnell, "his first story appearing in the pages of Scout in 1936. He then joined the staff of the Amalgamated Press, working on Butterfly, Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips.

"...In 1952 he was asked to take over the 'Belinda' strip in the Daily Mirror while the regular author was ill; soon after he was invited to take over the writing of 'Garth', which he went on to write for the next thirteen years. Other strips written by O'Donnell include 'For Better or Worse', 'Tug Transom' and 'Romeo Brown', the latter teaming him up with Jim Holdaway for the first time."

DC Comics Modesty Blaise, graphic novel, adapted from the first Modesty Blaise novel, with artwork by Dick Giordano"I had the privilege of editing Peter on his graphic novel adaptation of the first Modesty Blaise story, drawn by the late Dick Giordano," recalls Mike Gold for Comic Mix of Modesty's US comic editions.

"It was something of an intimidating experience for me, having to discuss how to translate his own characters into the comic book medium. But Peter was eager to learn and immediately understood the differences between the comic strip and comic book media and how to best exploit the advantages of the latter; he quickly put me at ease. We stayed in touch ever since; I'll miss his annual Christmas card."

Despite retiring, he kept in contact with fans via the Modesty Blaise Ltd. web site and elsewhere.

modesty_blaise_film.jpgSuch was the popularity of his heroine that a film was made and released in 1966, widely regarded as a missed opportunity; O'Donnell himself was disappointed by the casting and the film, which starred Italian actress Monica Vitti as Modesty. To avoid any reoccurrence, he purchased all the rights and so gained full control.

In the 1970s he was approached by Diana Rigg, who wanted to bring the character to the small screen with herself playing Modesty Blaise. He was initially enthusiastic but the choice of leading man, Adam Faith, later became a stumbling block.

As well as writing the adventures of Modesty Blaise, O'Donnell also scripted the comic strip adaptations of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Doctor No, wrote the 1968 Hammer movie Vengeance of She and wrote a series of swashbuckling romance novels under the pen name of Madeleine Brent.

"Peter O'Donnell was respected as one of the greatest writers in the comics medium today and had a devout following amongst comics professionals and fans alike”, says Titan’s Managing Director, Nick Landau.

"I am honoured to have known him – and published his greatest creations, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin – for almost 40 years."

"What seems to have made the deepest impression on Modesty fans was not the storylines or adventures themselves, but the depth of Peter O'Donnell's characters," argues the Modesty Blaise Books web site's anonymous owner, a huge resource for Modesty fans. "Not just Modesty, but Willie Garvin, Tarrant, Fraser, Steve and Dinah... to name just a few.

Paying tribute to him on the London Evening Standard web site, avid fan Paul Woods sums up what so many admirers of O'Donnell's work feel. "I loved 'Modesty Blaise' since it first appeared in the Standard, which my mother always brought home from work," he recalls. "When I went off to university I made her clip out the strips and save them for me, and she had to describe the latest plot developments in her weekly letters to me!

"Later I collected all the Modesty novels and short story collections, and have re-read them many times. Mr O'Donnell was a fine storyteller, mixing suspense and humour most adeptly, and the relationship between his two lead characters, Modesty and Willie Garvin was superbly developed. There truly has never been a newspaper cartoon strip to rival Modesty Blaise - were there one it would certainly make me a devotee of that newspaper!"

Modesty Blaise toasts her makerPeter O’Donnell, born 11th April 1920, died on 3rd May, 2010. Survived by his wife, Constance, and their two daughters, Jill and Janet.

Obituaries and Tributes

Bear Alley: a tribute by Steve Holland

Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics: Tribute by Lew Stringer

College English: RIP Madeline Brent
"Although he is 'best known' as the author of Modesty Blaise, I personally knew him best for that series of unusually strong romance novels," writes Debbie Gascoyne. "I don’t think I would have ever guessed that they were written by a man; I liked them for their plucky and relatively believable heroines, romantic and adventurous plots, and for the glimpses they gave me of places like China, Venice and Cornwall, all of which I have now visited myself."

Comic Mix: Tribute by Mike Gold

Comic Artist Steve Epting: Good News, Terrible News
"If you've never read Modesty Blaise, I highly recommend it, particularly the first seven years or so of the strip which were drawn by the incomparable Jim Holdaway. I place these as my all time favorite adventure strip, even edging out Prince Valiant and Terry and the Pirates. In the words of Chuck Dixon - 'O'Donnell is in a very, very small club of writers who were masters of writing clear, concise, compelling action.'"

Forbidden Planet International 4thMay 2010: Peter O’Donnell R.I.P. 1920-2010

London Evening Standard, 4th May 2010: Modesty Blaise author dies aged 90

The Daily Telegraph, 5th May 2010: Obituary

The Guardian, 5th May 2010: Obituary by Steve Holland

Make Mine Mystery: A tribute by by crime writer Mark Troy
"O'Donnell showed me that it is possible to write a strong female protagonist in an adventure series without sinking to the misogynistic burlesque of Carter Brown's Mavis Seidlitz and others of that era. O'Donnell treated his protagonist with love and respect. His portrayal of the relationship based on respect, not sex, between Modesty and Willie was another powerful influence on me. and the model for the relationship between Ava and Moon in my stories."

The Times, 4 May 2010: Peter O’Donnell: creator of the comic strip heroine Modesty Blaise

World of Hurt: In Memoriam - Peter O'Donnell
"I cannot overstate what an tremendous influence Modesty Blaise was on World of Hurt," writes Jay Potts, creator and artist on the mature readers recommended World of Hurt comic. "Once I decided to create a black and white adventure strip, I engaged in a crash course on the best examples of the genre.  Although, artistically I found my primary inspiration in the work of Alex Raymond and Al Williamson, from a writing standpoint Peter O’Donnell was my greatest influence."

Other Links

• Modesty Blaise Ltd:
Official Modesty Blaise website, sanctioned by Peter O'Donnell

• Modesty Blaise Books:

Information on the Modesty Blaise books, their cover artwork, and related media

Modesty Blaise News: Blaise Blog
Modesty Blaise Books-related blog

Enrique Badia Romero

Modesty Blaise artist

Modesty Blaise Homepage

Includes an exclusive interview with Peter O'Donnell

• a href="" target="_blank">The Modesty Blaise Dossier by Jim Pattison

Modesty Blaise books on

Modesty Blaise books on

Peter O'Donnell on Wikipedia

Modesty Blaise on Wikipedia

Meet "Lil", the Girl who Left Home


Fans of Brighton-based creator Paul O'Connell's work with brilliant artist Lawrence Elwick may already be familiar with his gentle comic, She's Leaving Home. Inspired by inspired by now-designer Laura O’Callaghan-White's frequent yearnings for what was "out there" as a youngster, the strip has appeared in print and online - and for mobile via ROK Comics.

Anonymous in the strip, the little girl that was the focus of the story now has a name: 'Lil'.

"Lil has caught the interest of independent US production company Spoke Lane Entertainment," Paul tells downthetubes, "who would like to produce a series of childrens books,featuring Lil and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to try and fund the project.

Kickstarter is one of a new breed of indie funding initiatives whereby in return for a small pledge of financial support for a project, backers receive a 'reward'.

For instance, by giving Lil a $10 dollar pledge (around £6.50) you would receive copies of the first two books in the series which would be printed as 5.75" square glossy thick card books. "Which is actually cheaper than if you bought them when they are published!" Paul points out.

"The more you pledge, the better the reward and we have some pretty cool rewards on offer.

"Backers will only be charged for their pledge if our full target amount is raised," he adds. "So if we don't raise the funds, you don't owe a thing - but then you won't get to hold these lovely little books in your paws

Paul's work as a writer and graphic artist has appeared in a variety of international books, magazines and comic anthologies. As well as self-publishing collections of his own solo and collaborative work under the title “The Sound of Drowning”, Paul's work has also been exhibited in the UK, Australia, New York and Europe.

Lawrence Elwick also lives in Brighton and reads Tintin whilst listening to jazz and avoiding haircuts. He also plays the harmonica and more of his work can be found on his blog at

Laura O’Callaghan-White, who provided the inspiration for the story and who still owns the small red suitcase she used to dream of packing and running away with, is currently a designer of skateboard graphics for Lush Longboards.

• More info at - or go straight to the a Kickstarter pledge page (registration required to make a pledge)

Titan to launch "Eagle for the 21st Century"

kick-ass.jpgComics by two of the UK’s most outspoken TV personalities and burgeoning writing talents - Jonathan Ross and stand-up comedian Frankie Boyle - will feature in CLiNT Magazine, an exciting new joint venture between Kick Ass creator Mark Millar and Titan Magazines.

Millar’s sequel to his cult comic and smash hit movie will also feature in the monthly title to form a stunning line-up of stories.

“This is The Eagle for the 21st Century,” claims Millar, whose genre-busting Kick-Ass scooped the number one movie spot in America and whose previous work includes Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman.

“I’ve worked on everything from Spider-Man comics to the Iron Man movie for Marvel, but what really excites me is the gap I see in the UK market at the moment.

"There are absolutely no comic-books aimed at 16-30 year old guys," he claims, perhaps ignoring Judge Dredd: The Megazine. "I think CLiNT has potential to make an enormous impact, bringing a new type of magazine to a new generation.

“I want this to be edgy and irreverent, the kind of thing guys will be passing around lunch-halls and common rooms, and there’s nobody I’d rather have creating new characters for CLiNT than Jonathan and Frankie," he continues. They’re both brilliant writers and will surprise a lot of people with this stuff. The last thing you’d expect from Jonathan, for example, is a vampire strip, but he pulls it off amazingly. People are going to love this.”

hit-girl.jpgMillar is also launching his sequel to the hit Kick-Ass movie in the first issue of the comic. Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall has been scheduled for production in 2011 for a 2012 cinema release, but fans of the first movie can find out what happens two years in advance by picking up CLiNT.

The 100-page magazine will be packed with interviews and features from movies, games and television as well as four serialized comic-strips. The biggest names in entertainment will be featured every month and some will even be sticking around to write sci-fi, humour or horror stories after they’ve been interviewed and quizzed.

“We can’t say who else is involved at this stage,” says Millar. “Jonathan, Frankie and I will have our stories serialized over the first six months, but we have the most insane line-up of creators ready to come in and join us. You’d be amazed how many people who work in film and television want to be comic-book writers. It’s very exciting and we think we’re creating something potentially enormous here.”

Talking about the project on his web site, where he recently put out an appeal for one page science fiction humour strips, Mark told fans Clint is not aimed at comic stores but "the huge potential of a UK mass market, the like of which hasn’t really been reached in a generation.

"Newsagents and supermarkets don’t really care about regular pros like me, instead looking for brand names like movie titles and television personalities. Hence the reason I’m launching this with the Kick-Ass sequel and people like Frankie Boyle and Jonathan Ross.

"It’s going to be a massive venture and one aimed almost entirely at the UK," he enthused. "It’s obviously massively exciting and I’ve been secretly working on it for a little while with some people I’m very excited about... I want to make this big, a cultural phenomenon and a showcase in parts for the UK talent I don’t feel has a wide platform anymore here."

• Further information on who is involved can be found at, where future developments will be revealed on a regular basis.

CLiNT #1 will be on-sale from 2nd September in the UK: available from all good retailers and specialist comic stores. US subscriptions will be available.

In Review: Lady S - Latitude 59 Degrees North

Lady S - Lattitude 59 Degrees NorthBorn as Shania in Estonia, now a naturalised American as Suzan, while blackmailed into espionage activities as Lady S, the leading lady of writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Philippe Aymond's Lady S series has such a complicated back story that it took two full French albums to tell it. Fortunately when Cinebook translated them into English, the company published them as one book, Here's To Suzie! Despite the complexity of what has gone before Van Hamme provides everything that the new reader would need to know in a scene setting single page catch-up before launching into the main story of Latitude 59 Degrees North.

Lady sSuzan is in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, which is located 59 degrees north of the equator, with her diplomat father who is due to be attending the annual Nobel Prizes presentation, a night when when the eyes of the world turn to Sweden. Whilst enjoying the attentions of a Russian journalist, Suzan is told by her spy handler that she must acquire documents from the hotel room of a Pakistani businessman who is already under surveillance. The documents give the details of a plot to kidnap and hold the Nobel laureates for a ransom. However it all seems a little too easy and the authorities become suspicious that they may have been feed a red herring somewhere along the line.

Van Hamme's plotting takes the reader through several loops in the story that all tie up neatly in the end while Aymond's detailed artwork sets off the Swedish scenes, be they the historic buildings of Stockholm or the frozen shack on the front cover. The story intertwines the Americans, the Swedes, the Russian journalist and the Pakistani businessman into an tale of international intrigue and apparently political kidnapping. It even offers a little more detail on Suzan's handler Orion who, while effectively blackmailing her into working for him, is actually on the side of law and order. It is perhaps as close to a modern day Modesty Blaise as you can get.

I described the previous Lady S book as "simply one of the best bandes dessinees that I have read" so I approached this one with a little trepidation, wondering if it could stand up to my anticipation of it. I'm very glad to say that Latitude 59 Degrees North is an excellent continuation of the life of the woman who prefers to be known as Suzan Fitzroy.

• There are more details of the British Lady S books on the Cinebook website.

• There are more details of the six French Lady S books on the Dupuis website (in French).

• Jean Van Hamme, the writer of Lady S and many other bandes dessinees such as Largo Winch, Thorgal and XIII, will be in London on 5 May 2010. He will be signed copies of his books at the French Bookshop, 28 Bute Street, South Kensington (close to the South Kensington underground station) beginning at 5:30 pm. This will be followed by a question and answer session plus a screening of the Largo Winch film at the Institut Francais Cine Lumiere at 17 Queensberry Place, South Kensington beginning at 8:30 pm. The evening concludes with a launch party for Cinebook's XIII series at London's Movida club.

Monday, 3 May 2010

In Review: Clifton - Black Moon

Clifton - Black MoonColonel Sir Harold Wiberforce Clifton, British Secret Service (retired), returns to temporary active duty in Black Moon the (chronologically) second of Cinebook's publications of the new Clifton stories by writer Bob de Groot and artist Michel Rodrigue.

In the previous book Clifton met his glamorous sidekick Jade with whom he now has to infiltrate a religious sect in North Korea know as the Black Moon. The nephew of a senior British figure has apparently fallen under the influence of this sect and Clifton and Jade are tasked to bring him back to safety in Britain. Having literally bought their way into the money obsessed sect, they have to determine who out of all the hooded sect members their quarry is and how they are going to get him away for the sect's compound and out of the secretive country.

Originally published in 2004 as the 19th Clifton album Lune Noire, Black Moon continues de Groot's look at the British from the opposite side of the Channel. The most obvious digs at British sensibilities are the two British agents already undercover in North Korea, known as Fish and Chips. Their politeness and unflappability are rather taken to the extreme, while Clifton and Jade's target is described to them as "Tony's nephew". The young readers of the book will not get the reference but with Rodrigue drawing him as a caricature of a young Tony Blair, older readers will.

The other character I wonder about is Don, Clifton's boss, who resembles former international footballer and TV pundit Jimmy Greaves -- but maybe that is just a coincidence, despite Michel Rodrigue himself being a former international rugby player.

De Groot also combines references to North Korea's alleged nuclear bomb program with religious sects only interested in the wealthy or powerful, and adds in a villain who's lair would not look out of place in a James Bond film with its stylised doors and enormous indoor aquarium. Rodrigue's art runs the range from an accurate RAF Hercules transport aircraft to the humorous praying of the sect by hitting each other on the head with a book. He even has one fish in the aquarium fall in love with Jade.

As with the previous Clifton book, Black Moon is a tongue-in-cheek James Bond story for children, with Rodrigue's detailed artwork and de Groot's plotting and cheeky digs at Britons and the British way of life making the book readily enjoyable for adult readers as well.

There is one more de Groot/Rodrigue Clifton book still to be translated. Hopefully Cinebook will treat us to that one as well.

• There are more details of the English language Clifton books on the Cinebook website.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Dundee Comics Day 2010

The fourth annual Dundee Comics Day, part of the Dundee Literary Festival, will take place at Dundee University on Sunday 27 June 2010 and this year's theme is Creating Comics.

The guest speakers have now been announced and include Alan Davis, Rian Hughes, Pat Mills and Dez Skinn. With the addition of a workshop on creating Manga run by Nana Li, Dundee's impressive line-up of guests cover the entire range of comics creation from writing and artwork, via design and editing, through to publishing the end product.

As in previous years, the day will also include the opening of a comics exhibition in the University's Lamb Gallery. After the Beano's 70th birthday exhibition and last year's 30th anniversary of Starblazer, the subject of this year's exhibition is the late DC Thomson humour artist Bill Richie, perhaps best known for his work on Baby Crockett in the Beezer.

Tickets for the full day, beginning at 11am and finishing at 7pm, are £10 for adults and £5 for children under 13 and the cost of the ticket includes refreshments during the day.

More details of the Dundee Comics Day are available on the Dundee Literary Festival's website and tickets can be purchased from the University's on-line store.

The downthetubes review of last year's Dundee Comics Day is here and the review of the Starblazer exhibition is here.

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