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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Celebrity Comics Challenge!

Comic artists are being asked to design a 'Celebrity Comic' cover for the latest downthetubes forum art challenge.

What would the news stand be like if Alan Titchmarsh produced "Titchmarsh Comics"? How would Eamon Holmes present his comics persona? (Best be careful with that one, he seems a bit prickly...) Would Jennifer Love Hewitt's approach be more like Heat than Superman? What kind of comics would Phillip Schofield write?

And goodness only knows what Rolf Harris or Leonardo diCaprio might come up with! (Of course, Leonardo might get some help from his father, George, a comics writer, editor and major west coast underground comic book distributor.)

This is intended as a totally fun challenge, inspired by - well, if you've been following this blog recently you can probably guess, but if you can't, then if anyone involved in that project is reading this... we just couldn't resist and we love you really!

If you want to join in, if you aren't already partt of it, simply join the downthetubes forum (membership is moderated) and add your Celebrity Comic Cover to your downthetubes photo album (please include "Celebrity Comic Cover" in any title, so we can find it! For example, "Celebrity Comic Cover: Christopher Lee Comics presents...").

The entries will be assembled in the Celebrity Comics Challenge album here - currently illustrated by a very old 'celebrity comic' - an issue of Marvel's Strange Tales that saw the Fantastic Four meet The Beatles.

We may also feature some of the entries here on the blog.

This isn't our first art challenge - we had a terrific response to our Moon Landing Anniversary challenge last year. So we're hoping for a great response!

Web Links

Celebrity Comics Challenge album on the downthetubes forum

Moon Landing Anniversary

British Comic 'Ensemble' Covers
downthetubes members choose their favourite 'group' covers from their British comic collections

Friday, 6 August 2010

Commando: New Issue Gen

The new batch of Commando titles commemorate V-J Day, the victory over Japan and the ending of the Second World War 65 years ago this month with stories all set in the Far East and Pacific Theatre of Operations.

The two reprint titles are part of a series of stories originally commissioned by former editor George Low in 1995 with two more to follow in the second batch of Commandos in two weeks time. Along with these are two new stories commissioned by current editor Calum Laird with two more to follow in two weeks' time.

Issue 4315: Heights Of Fear
Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover Art: Carlos Pino
Flying vital military supplies between India and China during the Second World War was not a job for the faint-hearted. The planes of the day only just had the power to climb over the mountains of “The Hump” that barred the way — and that was on a good day. If you crashed, your chances of survival were slim and rescuers were unlikely to find you. But someone found Flying Officer Steve Long and his co-pilot Flight Sergeant Dave Trimble when they baled out. Someone and something…

Issue 4316: Unlikely Ace
Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Olivera
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
After months enduring the stifling heat and ever-present danger of the Burmese jungle, Flight-Sergeant Joe Griffin and his RAF Regiment platoon now had a to stage a fighting retreat from the advancing Japanese. All of his lads, right down to cooks and mechanics, were determined to fight. All except one - Lieutenant Peter Clarke, the arrogant pilot of their Stinson L5 reconnaissance aircraft. He wouldn’t even pick up a rifle, let alone fire one.

Issue 4317: Operation Break-Out
Story: Ian Clark
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 2879 from 1995
August, 1945 - Japan was being forced to surrender and after six long years, the Second World War was over. For many thousands it had been a bitter, hard fight on land, on sea and in the air. For Canadian army doctor Harry Murray, this war had started when the Japs had over-run Hong Kong in 1941. That was grim enough, but then he found himself a prisoner on a small, nameless island where men could die at the whim of the enemy guards. The only hope in the end for Harry and his mates was escape…

Issue 4318: Three Angry Men
Story: Ian Clark
Art: Benet
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 2880 from 1995
August, 1945 — Japan was being forced to surrender and after six long years, the Second World War was over. For many thousands it had been a bitter, hard fight on land, on sea and in the air. For three battle-hardened NCOs - a British infantryman, a Gurkha and a Sikh - their worst moment had come when a fanatical Japanese regiment wiped out an ambulance train, murdering their wounded relatives and friends. Despite their differences, the three angry men united to hunt down the killers… and collect a debt of blood!

Official Commando web site:

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

You can read interviews with former Commando editor George Low, current editor Calum Laird and writer Ferg Handley on the downthetubes main site.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tube Surfing: Cartoonists, Writers, Conventions (well, one) and the end of 2000 AD Review

• Joe Gordon of the Forbidden Planet International blog makes us aware that cartoonist and illustrator David Baillie has just uploaded a large PDF portfolio online. You should have a look!

David, who has been published in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, is one of my fave cartoonists and there are some cracking strips in the portfolio.

• Another of my fave illustrators is John Welding, whose diary comics are always a treat. However, even though he doesn't make that many comics any more, his blog is still worth following. Check out these sketches of Cumbria, in particular. Beautiful stuff.

• Caption, the small press convention held in Oxford, seems to have been a success (see Dan Fish's report on this blog and Bugpowder earlier in the week). Here are some more write-ups of the event for you to enjoy, from Jenni Scott and Sean Azzopardi. Plus, there's a growing set of photos from the event on Flickr.

• The San Diego Comic Books Examiner has an interview with Paul Cornell about Soldier Zero, the new comic he's doing with Stan Lee and Boom Studios.

• And finally, I'm saddened by the news that 2000AD Review has closed for business. It was a great site, with informative articles, interviews and, of course, reviews (which sometimes slagged off my work for the Judge Dredd Megazine, but, you know, that was their job). The reviews on 2000AD Review have, I hope, helped me to become a better writer. Go read the last 2000AD Review feature ('Best of 2000AD - the creators speak') here.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Yes, they're really calling it CLiNT

Comics 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, a 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, which debuts 2nd September in the UK and will be on sale in British newsagents as well as specialist comic stores.

The Jonathan Ross strip will first serialise his Image comic Turf, drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards, before moving on to new material. Comics news site Bleeding Cool reported back in May that the Frankie Boyle strip is likely to be the Hereditary/Project Bloodline concept about the descendant of FBI’s Top Ten Wanted supervillains on the run.

"This is The Eagle for the 21st Century,” declares Millar, whose genre-busting Kick-Ass scooped the number one movie spot in the US 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 in New York, 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 and 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."

Millar 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.”

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

CLiNT #1 is on sale 2nd September in the UK from all good retailers and specialist comic stores. Available in the US by subscription. For future exclusive information on CLiNT, follow

A CLiNT wallpaper to brighten up your desktops

Erskine in Essex for comic art masterclasses

wwe3_titan_erskine.jpgComics artist Gary Erskine (DC and Marvel Comics, Dark Horse, Virgin Comics and Titan Books) and Alan Batson (an official Disney artist, Pixar, Hanna Barbera, Warner Bros, the BBC) will be teaching master classes in how to draw the successful characters from the movies and comics at an Essex school in September.

Gary's projects currently include work on Titan Magazines WWE title. Check out his amazing cover for WWE #3 above and find out how it was created here on his blog.

Hollywood 2 Havering at Bower Park School in Romford will also feature exhibits and workshops from Titan Magazines, BBC Worldwide (Top Gear, Top of the Pops), Hollywood make-overs, live music, celebrity photography and much, more more.

Famous movie cars and large model aircraft will also be on display, along with a Royal Air Force Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Museum Display.

• Hollywood 2 Havering is on 4th & 5th September from 10.00am - 6.00pm at Bower Park School Havering Road, Romford, Essex RM1 4Y. Nearest tube Romford Station via Liverpool Street Rail. Tel: 0844 77 1000. Web: Prices: £8 each; Kids under 5 go free. Car Park £2

Mad Scientists storm Caption 2010

(cross posted from Bugpowder with the kind permission of Daniel Fish): The Mad Scientists have retired back to their mountain core fortresses following another successful Caption in Oxford this past weekend.

I had a fun time, meeting up with the usual crew, plus a few I hadn't yet met, and attempted to create my own Frankenstein's monster with a mixture of Beer, Burgers and Comics, using my by then ink-stained fingers.

Ant_Monkeys+logo1.jpgOn arriving Saturday morning, after a quick browse, and depositing my new Trevor the Ant minicomic on the freebie table, I drew a page of stickers with the Dino-Saw-Us crew (Tim Winchester, Philippa Rice, Lizz 'Lizz' Lunney et al), then took part in Jeremy Day's (formerly Jeremy Dennis) apocalyptic jam comic workshop.

Then PJ Holden, who's currently working on 2000AD and the new STRIP Magazine, gave an informative interview with Matt Badham, which was followed by Lost Girls co-creator Melinda Gebbie's revealing conversation with Jenni Scott.

Paul Gravett hosted the Webcomics panel next, with PJ, Tozo creator David O'Connell, Philippa, Lizz, and Sydney Padua, making her comics convention debut (creator of the excellent Lovelace and Babbage webcomic, which I'll be catching up on as soon as I've written this).

John Miers gave a talk next, which I missed, but heard was excellent, and would have been right up my street. You can buy his book online, its beautiful stuff.

The art auction followed, then Atomik Burgers for dinner, closing with Tony Hitchman's Mad Science quiz, then back to the B and B for cocktails and dancing girls.

The next DFC Library books, out in September 2010
Sunday followed (as is traditional), starting with the DFC Library panel - Sarah McIntyre and Neill Cameron showed off the first six DFC Library books (I still can't decide which is my favourite), and shared reminiscences of the much-missed DFC Comic.

(I had the pleasure of looking over Sarah's shoulder while she sketched Melinda Gebbie - See her page for the results, )

Paul Cornell chatted about his work (Knight & Squire from DC Comics sounds great), then Sydney Padua clued us in some more on her webcomic, and her work on animation for films including Clash of the Titans and Iron Giant ("Suuupperrrrrrrmaaaaannnnnnn!!!!").

Wrapping the event off was Darryl Cunningham, who discussed his experiences which inspired his Psychiatric Tales book and other work, then the 'Comics as Mind Control' panel followed, and we all shuffled off to find our ways home.

I haven't seen those dancing girls since...

Web Links

Official Caption web site

Sean Azzopardi
I was only attending the Saturday this year, but had a good time. There was a good range of talks, and a better variety of guests this year...."

Caption 2010 By Matthew Badham

Darryl Cunningham at Caption 2010

Caption 2010 Report - Part 1 - by co-organiser Selina Lock

Sarah McIntyre's CAPTION write-up

Jenni Scott
"Mostly mellow, definitely fun, great guests and panels..."

• There's also a growing set of photos from the event on Flickr.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Stan Lee supports UK's 'Eagle Initiative' for new creators

Stan LeeStan Lee – the celebrated co-creator of such enduring Marvel characters as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and the X-Men – has agreed to become patron of the Eagle Initiative.

Agreeing to give his backing to the innovative worldwide talent search, Lee said, 'Way back in 1976 mine was the first name enrolled on the Eagle Awards Roll of Honour and I’m thrilled, lo these many years later, to be invited to be a patron of this pioneering initiative which stems from such prestigious and long-running prizes.

“Breaking into comic books has never been easy and I think it's great that Barry Renshaw and Cassandra Conroy are devoting their energies to helping newcomers from around the world get their foot on – and up – the ladder,” added the venerated writer and editor.

“I’m delighted to add my name to the Eagle Initiative and wish every contestant all the best, both with their entries and their subsequent careers. Who knows, this ambitious project might lead to the discovery of a 21st century Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko... or Stan Lee!”

Launched earlier this year, the Eagles Initiative provides a unique platform from which the next generation of writers and artists can promote their storytelling ability in an increasingly competitive market. The brainchild of Barry Renshaw, the Initiative is an unprecedented global talent search, entrants will be asked to submit an original self-contained illustrated story.

The winner will be awarded a £1,000 cash prize; the runner up will win £500 with the third place submission being given £250. All three stories are to be included in the Initiative Anthology, which will be released as a print publication and in multiple languages across the digital media.

“Having an industry legend like Stan Lee not only support the Initiative but agree to be its patron is both incredibly exciting and humbling at the same time," says Barry Renshaw, who is spearheading the project.

"I certainly never expected to receive the amount of interest and support from industry professionals that we have done over just a few short months, and everyone behind the scenes at the Initiative is absolutely dedicated to making sure we live up to their faith in the endeavour."

Now heading up the Eagle Awards, Cassandra Conroy added, “The Marvel Universe had just had its 30th birthday when I came into this world but my dad familarised me with those classic early stories throughout my formative years. It is, therefore, a great honour to have Stan Lee not only support us on the Initiative but also be so enthusiastic about what Barry is doing.

"I’m sure his involvement will catapult the Initiative and the Eagle Awards themselves into the wider public spotlight.”

“Things just keep getting better for Barry and Cassandra," notes Eagle Awards founder Mike Conroy, who is serving as a consultant and publicist to the Initiative.

"The industry has been behind them from the start but to get backing from the living legend that is Stan Lee just turns things up to 11!”

• For further details on the Initiative, a full list of judges and complete submission guidelines, go to

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Andersonic flies back into action with exclusive interview

The latest issue of the ace Gerry Anderson fanzine, Andersonic, is now on sale. Issue 10 features a new interview with former Century 21 writer and director Leo Eaton in which he discusses his time directing the puppet series, writing for Captain Scarlet, what it was like working on Joe 90 and UFO, why he eventually left the series and how he came to work with Ed Wood.

Other features include:-

Supermerchandisation - A look at how Century 21 revolutionised the marketing of 'tie-in' products in the 1960s. (The Andersonic website has additonal info on this subject)
Into Infinity - Script to screen feature revealing scenes that didn't make it to the final version plus a new interview with musician Steve Coe.
Space:1999 - Earthbound - a look at Anthony Terpiloff's episode where Christopher Lee gives everyone an egg and Gerald Simmonds Esq does everything he can to get back to where he once belonged.
Brink of Disaster Retrospective - four writers evaluate one of Thunderbirds' most stylish episodes. Is complete automation a viable option? Whadda you think!
UFO - Survival - Michael Billington makes his UFO debut as test pilot Paul Foster in a moon-based episode that explores prejudice and, er, survival.
Space Patrol - a look at the 1960s series made by former Anderson alumni Arthur Provis and Roberta Leigh, which had an interesting legacy.
Review Section - New merchandise reviewed.
SHADO Staff Handbook - What not to do in your new job. Please sign and return to the HR department. What do you mean you don't want a lilac gull-wing company car?
Joe 90 A-Z - everything you need to know about WIN's 4' 4" Most Special Agent.
X-Planes Extra - more inspirational designs we couldn't fit in last time. Ever wondered what inspired the design of Thunderbird 1, FAB 1, Supercar and UFO's Lunar Carrier?

• The new issue is available via the website - price £2.40 including UK postage. It will also be available from eBay for a limited period. If you'd prefer to pay by cheque or PO, please get in touch for a postal address via the web site. Back issues are also back in print.

Metaphrog's Louis – Night Salad graphic novel gets YouTube trail

A trailer for the Louis – Night Salad graphic novel, created by Scotland's fab folks metaphrog, is now live on YouTube.

"Our friend hey from Berlin has made an amazing soundtrack inspired by Bach's beautifully emotive "Air on a G-string" and also by Delia Derbyshire's version," the team tell us.

Due for release in Octobr, Louis - Night Salad is a brand new stand-alone graphic novel, the moving tale of Louis’ quest for a cure to save his friend FC. It's descibes as a simple story of friendship, heart-warming and genuinely transporting.

metaphrog are the duo Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, creators of the critically acclaimed, multiple award nominee Louis series of graphic novels. Other titles include Strange Weather Lately and The Maze. They've also contributed short stories and illustrations to various publications, and enjoy spreading the word about comics at festivals, libraries and schools.

Louis - Night Salad is now available to order from Diamond Previews, item code AUG101077 LOUIS NIGHT SALAD HC (C: 0-0-1), page 297. More info here on the metaphrog web site

A Special Summer With The Beano

Mickey Mouse Special advertiesment, 1937(updated 2/8/10, with thanks to Lew Stringer) Summer and Holiday Specials of British comics were once a mainstay of the news stand year: special, (usually) higher-priced "one-offs' of popular comics that not only gave regular readers something extra featuring their favourite characters, but also offered a 'sampler' of a comic to those that might not be able to afford buying it regularly. They also might help attract new readers to the regular title.

The first such Special would appear to be a Mickey Mouse Holiday Special published in 1937, which Kaya Ă–zkaracalar, over on his Disneyville blog notes as being one of four holiday special issues published before the Second World War on the eve of the Christmas season. (These are, of course, some of the rarest pre-war British Disney publications and much sought after).

Over on Blimey! It's Another Blog about Comics, Lew Stringer's research would seem to indicate that regular holiday specials - issues that were not part of a comic's regular run - really kicked off in the 1960s. "Fleetway did a Jack and Jill one in 1960, Odhams did an Eagle one in 1962, and TV Publications produced the first TV Comic Summer Special in 1962 (all new material)," he tells us.

DC Thomson, with their all-reprint 1963 combined Dandy/Beano special, cautiously entered the area set up by others. It proved successful for them so they started doing individual all-new specials in 1964.

Beano3544.jpgWhile Summer Specials associated with weekly comics are now a thing of the past, the Beano and Dandy Xtreme don't seem to have fallen into the "Summer Annual" concept that other publishers now use.

To celebrate summer this year The Beano has instead decided to class their six summer holiday July/August issues, numbers 3544 to 3549, as collector's editions with wraparound summer activity cards on the outside and, along with the usual bagged toys and sweets, each issue will have an A3 poster of an old Beano cover.

Beano's Little Peanut Goes MissingLast week's issue 3544 had the first of the posters showing, not surprisingly, the cover of the first issue of the Beano with its 30 July 1938 cover date - except that it wasn't quite the complete cover. Black comic character 'Little Peanut' was missing.

When Waverley's History Of The Beano book was published in 2008 editor Christopher Riches pointed out that Peanut was retained on the cover of that book due to his historical context - but then it was a nostalgia book aimed at adults. It is therefore unsurprising that a 1930s comic's depiction of a black child would be removed from the image for a poster aimed squarely at modern children's bedroom walls.

Issue 3544 also listed the four "mega gifts" to be given away with this week's issue of the comic and they included a "Multi-Menace Blaster With Target!" This is actually a red plastic gun which fires yellow sucker tipped plastic darts.

One downthetubes reader who is also a Beano reader made the point of looking out for the Beano as he passed through a UK airport this week to see if the toy gun was included in the copy of The Beano that could be bought there. It wasn't and it had been replaced with a Dennis and Gnasher whoopee cushion instead. This is not surprising: airport retailers take a dim view of any free gifts that look like guns (one publisher fell foul of these concerns a couple of years ago, and, under protest, had to withdraw their title from sale because the free gift simply looked like a gun).

beano405_eagle1.jpgWhat is also available in the current issue, number 3545, is the second of the six posters of old Beano covers. This time it is the cover of the biggest selling Beano issue of all time, number 405. The History Of Beano book tells us that issue 405 sold 1.9 million copies and that "records show that an even higher sale could have been achieved but the presses just could not print any more!"

Was there a particular reason that issue 405 sold more than any other especially when there was no free gift with it to give it a sales boost? Perhaps the children of Britain were more tuned into comics that week than usual. After all the biggest selling issue of The Beano is dated 22 April 1950, eight days after the cover date of issue 1 of The Eagle.

The current idea of The Beano turning weekly issues into summer editions is a great idea, but it isn't new. Lew Stringer tells us it revives an early 20th Century concept, when Amalgamated Press would have "Holiday Numbers" as part of their regular weekly run, just as publishers still do with Christmas editions.

The Beano is published each Wednesday and costs £2.50. The set of A3 cover posters of old issues will continue with the issues up to and including issue 3549 which is due to be published on 25 August 2010

• There's more summer fun on the Beanotown website

Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics - Heyday of the Summer Special

The Guardian: What Became of comics' summer specials?

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