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Saturday, 10 July 2010

A Tribute to Neil Emery, who helped bring back Charley's War

Here at downthetubes we were sorry to learn this week of the death of Charley's War fan site runner Neil Emery, who his partner tells us passed suddenly and unexpectedly, cause unknown, at the far too early age of 39 in June.

Charley's War co-creator Pat Mills campaigned for some time for the re-publication of the critically-acclaimd World War One series first published in Battle Picture Weekly. But it was Neil's interest in the saga, creating a small but fascinating web site devoted to the saga (that grew very quickly), which played a significant role in revitalising interest in the series and persuading Titan Books to reprint it.

Recently, after a long absence from the web following the death of his mother in 2006, Neil 'rebooted' the site and both he and I (as the current editor of Titan's Charley's War books) talked about expanding the resource, giving it a higher profile it fully deserved. Sadly, shockingly, those plans are, for now, in abeyance.

I had only limited contact with Neil and did not know him well, but he was always helpful in all our correspondence and I wish I'd known him better. ("I'm currently finding myself," he noted on his Blogger profile. "I did see myself in Ealing Broadway once, but couldn't find me in the crowd.")

downthetubes extends our sympathies to all those who knew Neil well at this time.

Here, Catherine Marie Gypsy Glenton, Neil's partner, pays tribute to him. in a piece she fully admits is "written from the heart"....

A dedication to Neil Emery

It is with great sorrow and heartache that I bring you the news, that my partner Neil Emery, who most of you here will know as the author and creater of the stunning Charley's War website died suddenly on 18th June 2010.

He died in my arms, cause of death not yet determind, aged just 39.

Those of you familar with the Charley's War site will know how passionate Neil was on the subject and the time and effort he put in to making the site shows his dedication and love for the comic and World War 1.

The best tribute I can give you on Neil and give you a little of Neil's background, is by way of a few excerpts from the eulogy myself and my daughter wrote and read out at Neil's funeral...

We will never meet anyone like Neil again. Some people are lucky enough to be blessed with one gift in life: Neil was multi talented. A draughtsman by trade, he was an amazing artist, musician and historian, particularly of World War 1. A prolific writer and journalist admired by people around the globe for his articles and blogs, but mostly for his intelligence, wit and humour, he was a comedy genius.

Often referring to himself as an "anorak", his knowledge on subjects he was passionate about was infinite. He would have made a great teacher.

Those who were lucky enough to meet Neil in person would find the most polite, warm, quiet, unassuming man. He had a beautiful presence about him: he would always try to think for others. He was often shy, but if you were privileged enough to get close to Neil, the wall of shyness fell and there would be the most amazing character that could fill a stadium.

Neil was brilliant, articulate, a complex and a unique individual, misunderstood at times, but the good soul always shone through. Honest and deep, yet forthright and modest, he was a no nonsense person who wouldn't suffer a fool, yet was fiercely loyal to those he cared about.

He is idolized and loved by many for his wit and warmth. His real father Pete Townshend (that’s an in joke) described Neil as ‘The Legend’, and he was to so many, he captured the hearts of so many people it is no exaggeration to say that tears are falling all around the world for Neil today.

• Visit Neil's site at: Be aware that the site has limited bandwidth and traffic is likely to be high over the next few days.

• Pat Mills has initiated a comments thread on his Facebook page, Pat Mills Political Comics

A tribute to Neil by 'Amanda and Super Amanda'

The Best Of The Victor Due For Release

The Titan Books publications of Best Of Battle along with the individual Battle character books of Johnny Red, Rat Pack and Darkie's Mob have obviously not gone unnoticed by other publishers and, with a lull in publication of their thick Commando reprint books, Carlton have now scheduled The Best Of The Victor.

The Victor was first published by DC Thomson in February 1961 and was a boy's adventure weekly perhaps best known for featuring true stories of men at war on its front and back covers. Yet despite this regular cover feature it was by no means a war comic with other regular stories involving runner Alf Tupper, the Tough Of The Track, footballer Gorgeous Gus and DCT's long running Tarzan character, Morgyn The Mighty.

The Victor was by far the longest running of any of DCT's boy's picture strip weeklies and it was also the "last man standing" having absorbed Wizard, Hotspur, Scoop, Buddy, Champ and Warlord along the way before it came to an end in November 1992.

The Best Of The Victor will feature Victor comic strips from the early 1960s and includes a foreword by former SAS soldier Andy McNab and an introduction from DC Thomson's archivist Morris Heggie.

Carlton will be releasing The Best Of The Victor under their Prion label in time for Christmas, with Amazon giving a release date of 4 October 2010. The cover price will be £16.99. (With thanks to Morris Heggie.)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Caption 2010 'Mad Science' Art Appeal and guest update

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & BabbageFor anyone interested in exhibiting artwork and/or donating artwork to the Caption auction, part of Mad Science Caption 2010 at the East Oxford Community Centre on 31st July - 2nd August, the organisers tell downthetubes they can accept artwork right up to the opening day of this ace British small press event.

However, if you'd like your artwork to appear in the Mad Science Caption 2010 souvenir printed booklet then they will need a 300dpi scan, or hard copy of the artwork by 13th July. Any queries to

Guests already lined up include Sydney Padua, animator and creator of the superb webcomic, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage (sample above), which sees Victorian scientists Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage fighting crime; Al Davison, who will once be providing one of his fabulous drawing workshops, bringing along stock from his Astral Gypsy Comic Shop, and is also designing the Caption t-shirt this year; and John Miers, who will be doing a talk about a large-format project, Babel, exhibited as part of last year's Comica, that uses a wordless pictorial language to interpret the biblical myth.

Jeremy Day will kick Caption off on the Saturday morning with a workshop; Tony Hitchman will be providing us with one of his fun quizzes on the Mad Science theme.

This year's Special Guest is Melinda Gebbie, who started out in the American alternative comics scene in the 1970s and is now best known for her collaboration on Lost Girls with Alan Moore; Sarah McIntyre will be interviewing Darryl Cunningham about his new book Psychiatric Tales and his other work; and 2000AD and incoming Strip Magazine UK artist PJ Holden, will be talking about digital comics.

Other guests are Paul Duffield, artist on Warren Ellis' FreakAngels, who will join the webcomic panel, Neill Cameron and Kate Brown, who will be talking about their DFC Library books, Mobot High and Spider Moon.

• Caption report they are also experiencing a few problems with the Caption website at the moment, so you can also check the Facebook Event page or Livejournal site for the latest news.

Tube Surfing: Monsters, Heroes, Cycling and Moon Hoaxes

I'm really behind with everything. Anyone else behind with their deadlines and work?

Oh, dear, it's all gone a bit Pete Tong...

Anyway, a bit of tube surfing always peps me up. What's out there today?

Ace cartoonist Darryl Cunningham offers previews of the strips he's currently working on over at his blog. He's been doing various science-related strips and the latest one is about the supposed 'moon hoax'. He's also working on an instalment of his rather ace 'Uncle Bob' series. All good stuff!

The Forbidden Planet International blog makes us aware of cartoonist and illustrator Luke Pearson's inclusion in an exhibition hosted by the London Transport Museum (well done, Luke). The exhibition is on the theme of cycling and if you want to check out the art on display, it runs until 22 August. Some of the art is also online at the Guardian website. Go take a look!

Cartoonist Sarah McIntyre has been on holiday to Cornwall and I suspect that in the coming days she'll be posting some cool artwork chronicling her trip. There's already one picture up.

Just stumbled across this 2009 mini-interview with cartoonist James Nash. James is a major talent and the interview is worth a read.

The Manchester Comix Collective has lots of interesting stuff to share with the world, including news of Heroes and Monsters, the summer exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery, which features a mural and workshops by cartoonist Jim Medway. Here’s more information from Manchester Art Gallery’s site:

‘Come and play in our Heroes and Monsters exhibition (20 July – 19 September) and see Jim Medway’s fantastic mural. It brings those Ancient Greek superbeings into our modern world and sends you on a journey of discovery around the gallery. There you can put on your crown and pick up one of Jim’s amazing interactive Hero Quest maps. You are the hero in your own epic story as you play, draw and imagine your way around the gallery, finding mysterious objects, meeting other heroes and immortals and slaying monsters.’

And finally, I wanted to mention the Birmingham Zine Festival. Running from September 10 - 12, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, with a zine fair, zine picnic, Atta Girl zine party, exhibitions and also workshops to be announced. (Via Pete Ashton.)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Vintage British Star Trek pages sold on eBay

Two pages of vintage Star Trek art by veteran British comic artist John Stokes created for British publication have just been sold on eBay.

Published in August 1972 in Valiant and TV21, John Stokes was one of several artists to work on the property, which first featured in the weekly comic Joe 90: Top Secret in January 1969, six months before the TV show itself began to air in the UK on BBC1, coinciding with the first moon landing.

Star Trek transferred to TV21 when the two titles merged in September 1969, becoming TV21 and Joe 90.

TV21, a pale shadow of its former 1960s self, was eventually merged with Valiant in late 1971, with Star Trek one of the strips that survived the merger.

Artists who worked on the strip - which proved an instant hit from its first appearance in Joe 90 - included Harry Lindfield, Mike Noble, Ron Turner, Harold Johns, Carlos Pino and Vicente Alcazar and, finally, John Stokes, who drew 13 untitled stories in total.

The strip appeared in colour, his art often falling prey to the vagaries of Valiant's letterpress printing, running until 29 December 1973.

This artwork was part of a huge deal between IPC and collector Peter Hansen and Blase Books, run by Phil Clark, regularly offer items via eBay, sold as from the Peter Hansen Five Star IPC Archive Collection.

While the British Star Trek comic is riddled with continuity errors, especially in early stories where the artists and writers had no idea of the show's format or how its vehicles looked, aside from what we can only assume would have been a few reference photographs, there is still plenty of interest in this curious spin-off from the hit SF franchise, which included one of the first attempts to visualize the Romulan homeworld and a story set on Earth - a setting never realized on the original TV series itself.

Perhaps there may yet be interest in a print collection of the material at some point.

• Written by pop-culture historian Alan J. Porter, author of the bestselling James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007, Star Trek: A Comic Book History, published last year, should be of interest to people interested in the story above, offering a complete history of the Star Trek universe in comic books and newspaper strips all over the world.

It features nine information-packed chapters detailing the history of Star Trek in comic books and newspaper strips from the first Gold Key comic book, the British Star Trek strips to Marvel and DC's titles, and up to the present day. Covering all publications of the entire Star Trek universe it includes creator interviews, unpublished artwork, and a detailed checklist.

Liam Sharp, Gary Erskine and Tim Perkins to attend Malta ComicCon 2010

(via Tim Perkins): The second Maltese Comic Convention has announced its first guests for this year’s line up, who include Liam Sharp (left), Gary Erskine and Tim Perkins (below).

Taking place 16th-17th October, the convention will take place in the Saint James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valetta.

The convention is organised by Wicked Comics, a non-profit voluntary organization aimed at promoting the comic culture both in Malta and abroad.

Wicked Comics was conceived in 2005 when a bunch of proud-to-be-geeks with a penchant for writing, drawing and organizing events decided that it was time to kick start the local comic scene, and held their first annual Comic Convention in Malta last year. "The road to the Comic Con wasn’t easy," they say. "In fact, one day, we might just write a comic book about it!

The intention behind the convention is to place Malta in the heart of the International Comic World and Wicked Comics hope the Malta Comic Con will become a yearly event which will grow bigger each year.

The venue looks impressive: housed in a 16th Century fort, the centre is home to a small theatre-in-the-round, an arthouse cinema, a chamber music room and gallaries.

Now celebrating its 10th year, the the Saint James Cavalier Centre has welcomed both local and foreign artists, writers, singers and actors, dancers, musicians as well as thinkers, scientists and other creators. It has staged operas and premiered plays, held major exhibitions of contemporary pieces as well as past masters.

It runs courses for adults and children and has been enjoyed for over a million vsiitors in the past 10 years.

More info:

Malta ComicCon2

Malta ComiCon on Facebook

Wicked Comics – Malta Comic Web Hub

Tim Perkins 1st Annual Malta Comic Con Report Part 1; Part 2; Part 3

Dudley D. Watkins gallery launched as Courier revamps web site

(with thanks to Lew Stringer and the Forbidden Planet International blogs who spotted this first): DC Thomson has just revamped its web site for its Scottish newspaper The Courier -  and  included a fantastic gallery of comic work by Dudley D. Watkins.

Considered an icon of Scottish culture, Watkins amazing talents are forever linked with DC Thomson, working on comics, newspapers, books and more from 1925 right up until his death in 1969, gving life to unforgettable characters such as The Broons, Oor Wullie and Desperate Dan.

The paper presents a gallery of his work, drawn from the huge DC Thomson comics archive, much of it not been seen since it was first printed, so many decades ago, including strips from annuals, religious images from a 1957 Beezer book (Watkins was a devout Christian and it's thought he was given rein to create these images in order to persuade him to do other work).

Offering some fine examples of the artist's range and offers the chance to see different versions of some of the most famous characters "Watty" created, with very familiar faces from the Sunday Post.

Desperate Dan © 2010 DC Thomson

Frank's Fantastic Send Off - thanks to his fans

We're pleased to report that the late comedian and comic creator Chris Sievey, aka Frank Sidebottom had the fantastic send off he would have wanted thanks to his fans last week - rather than a pauper's funeral.

The comedian's financial affairs when he died mean that his family were struggling to do him and his memory the justice it deserves - but as we previously reported, Frank's many fans banded together via the Internet to contribute to the costs of his funeral, raising thousands to give him a good send-off.

As well as his world-famous comedy show, a Frank Sidebottom comic strip ran in Oink! in the 1980s, written and drawn by Chris himself (as Frank, of course).

Family friend and Frank fan James Malach reports the funeral was a robust show of love and support as the day progressed - and the donations of many fans of proved that human kindness still exists in abundance.

"The funeral for Chris Sievey was held on Friday 2nd July at Altrincham crematorium and was attended by the family and friends of the man behind the papier mache mask," James reported to fans. "The occasion, whilst tinged with sadness, was also a fitting tribute to a man who has brought so much happiness to so many others."

Because of the sheer amount of love and goodwill, the family have also agreed to host another seperate send-off for Frank Sidebottom which will be held tomorrow, 8th July, at Castlefield Arena between 7.00 and 10.00pm. The event is totally free and will feature the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, Charlie Chuck and others. More details can be found at

The send off appeal has now closed and money has been transferred from the Paypal account and has been paid as a cheque to Stirling Sievey, Chris's eldest son. Given the funds raised - well over the amount needed to pay the funeral costs - there have been many great suggestions made by donors, all of which have been duly noted and passed on to Stirling who (with the input of Chris's immediate family and friends) will decide the
best future for the remaining funds.

"The intention and aim of Frank’s Fantastic Funeral Fund has always been to support and help the Sievey family in this extremely difficult time," says James, "and with the expense of an unexpected funeral for a loving father, friend and entertainer."

If anyone is unhappy with the fund’s direction, James says they are happy to return any contributions immediately in good faith. "If this is the case, please do email us back now and your donation can be reversed from Paypal.

"Thank you... You are all Top Fantastic and Ace!"

Frank fans who made donations will be kept informed directly regarding the deployment of the fund via the website at and any further ideas they have will be passed on to Chris' family.

• Frank Sidebottom's Official web site: and Blog

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

First 2000AD Dredd cover to go under the hammer

2000AD_0005_CVR.jpgVeteran comics artist Barrie Mitchell, perhaps best known for his work on Roy of the Rovers, is selling some of his art - including the 2000AD cover that was the first to feature Judge Dredd.

Featuring on Issue 5 of 2000AD, published in March 1977, the cover sees Dredd in action against a giant robot, Krong, inspired by the story in the same issue, which was drawn by Carlos Ezquerra.

Despite having the honour of being the first Judge Dredd cover artist, Barrie's 2000AD career is quite scant in comparison with the huge amount of work he has done for a slew of publishers down the years. His credits include work for girls titles such as Bunty, Mandy and Diana, as well as action titles like Look-In, Pow and Wham, and various Marvel UK titles. He was the final artist on the Roy of the Rovers comic, drawing the strip from October 1992 until its cancelalion in March 1993, returning the character in 1997. He also worked on the The Mirror's Scorer strip in 1989-1990. (More info here on this downthtetubes comic artists page)

The cover will be auctioned by Island Auctions at Cowes Masonic Lodge on the Isle of Wight on 5th August 2010, as part of a larger sale of special auction of Fine Art & Maritime Collectables during Cowes Week.

In addition to this 2000AD art, Barrie told downthetubes he is selling some other pieces of art, some by other artists, in the auction. These include some pages of his own Doctor Who strip for Doctor Who Magazine, featuring Third Doctor Jon Pertwee, two pages of his Roy of the Rovers work, a signed page of the Penthouse strip Wicked Wanda by Ron Embleton, bought some years ago at a Society of Strip Illustrators event, two examples of John M. Burns Seekers and a page of Dan Dare from the Eagle, drawn by Keith Watson in the late 1960s. (Barrie wasn't able to tell us which story this art was from).

• Island Auctions web site: or telephone 0198386

Barrie Mitchell's 2000AD Credits

In Review: The Scorpion - The Holy Valley

Adventurer, womaniser, swordsman, thief, swindler, arrogantly self assured of his own survival, with blood ties to one of the most important people on the planet, and a woman whom he both hates and desires, and who appears to reciprocate those same feelings back at him - The Scorpion could quite easily be 2000AD's Nikolai Dante. Yet there is one big difference - instead of being set in the 27th century, The Scorpion is set in the 18th century.

In the Vatican the old Pope has been murdered and Cardinal Trebaldi, the Prefect for the Propagation of the Faith, which he propagates with warrior monks, has been elected in his place after showing the other Cardinals in the Conclave what he claims to be the true Cross of Saint Peter, the first Pope. Yet there is more to the deceit since the new Pope does not believe in God and is considerably more Roman than Catholic. The Scorpion is on a quest to find the true Cross of St Peter, a quest that takes him, his sidekick, a former Hussar, and the beautifully dangerous Egyptian woman, Mejai, to Cappadocia pursued by the leader of Tebaldi's warrior monks Rochnan and the new Pope's own treasure hunter, Ansea Latal.

The Holy Valley is reminiscent of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade with the Scorpion treasure hunting up an enclosed valley for a religious artifact hotly pursued by those who want the treasure for more nefarious means, yet to suggest the connection almost does the book an injustice. Written by Stephen Desberg, The Scorpion is a major departure from his other Cinebook series, IR$, which is built around international banking intrigue. The Scorpion is an historical swash buckling adventure with a dizzying array of double and triple crosses as the story progresses. Indeed the only person that the Scorpion seems to be able to trust thus far is Hussar.

The artist for the series is Enrico Marini who doesn't feature in any other Cinebook series which is a pity because of all the adventure artists that Cinebook publish Marini is my favourite. From his well defined and charismatic characters to his scene setting panels with their unusual angles, from the dynamism of his fight scenes to his use of colour, The Scorpion books look sumptuous whether the action is set inside the opulence of the Vatican or in an arid sun baked valley. I would certainly like to see Cinebook publish other series with Marini's art.

So is there a drawback? Sort of because The Scorpion isn't a series, it is a serial. The Holy Valley is the third English language Scorpion book which translates La Vallee Sacree, the fifth French language album originally published in 2004. Now since the previous two Cinebook titles, The Devil's Mark and The Devil In The Vatican, were both double length books no albums have been missed but you shouldn't really miss out on them either otherwise you will have missed a big chunk of the story, despite the short textual update at the start of each book.

The Scorpion is great fun, a well written and beautifully illustrated series that deserves to be read from the beginning and you will appreciate The Holy Valley much more for doing so. If you like Nikolai Dante, you should try it.

There are more details of The Scorpion books on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the French Scorpion books on the Le Scorpion website (in French).

The next Scorpion book, The Treasure Of The Templars, is due to be published by Cinebook in August 2010.

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