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Friday, 17 September 2010

Andy Diggle, Ian Rankin line up for prestigious LitFest appearance

Marvel writer Andy Diggle
The Losers and Daredevil writer Andy Diggle will be wowing his hometown fans alongside author Ian Rankin next month as part of the Lancaster Literature Festival - Britain's oldest annual literature event.

Ian Rankin is Britain’s number one best-selling crime author, creator of the phenomenally successful Edinburghian sleuth Inspector Rebus, and described by the LitFest's blog as "a serial award winner whose bristling mantel-piece is home to the prestigious CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in crime writing, and for the imperialists in the audience he is also an Officer of the Order of the British Empire."

Former 2000AD editor Andy, despite being well known to readers of downthetubes, is, it seems, a harder sell for the LitFest - but they don't pull any punches when it comes to promoting him and his work, dismissing the concerns of those who happily describe comics as "a genre that is packed to the gills with adolescent nonsense.

"Comics doesn’t mean the Dandy or Beano," a spokesperson for LitFest argues in an enthusiastic blogpost. "Doesn’t just mean Superman and Spiderman (sic) either. And 'adult comics' doesn’t imply dodgy hand-drawn porno.

"There are plenty of comics out on the market that are smart and grown-up. Andy Diggle is a great example of how much you can do with the comics medium once you get over all the muscle-bound weirdos in leotards. And so, for that matter, is Ian Rankin."

"...Dark Entries is tight, a real little doozie," they continue. "...The noir sentiments of the story are supported by a scratchy, minimal black-and-white art style from Werther Dell’Edera, who picks the characters out with nasty grins and sharp lines. You’ll polish off Dark Entries in about the time it’d take you to watch a decent crime movie.

"The main story [of The Losers] is a conspiracy – who betrayed the Losers, and why?" they note of Andy's work, "but the action unfolds as a spate of high-profile heists in the best tradition of Mission: Impossible, Where Eagles Dare and The Italian Job, as the Losers fight to get the information and the leverage they need to win their lives back. Throw in a villain who makes James Bond’s worst nemeses look like short-termist, visionless wimps and you’ve got a winning combo.

"I should mention the artist, Jock, who’s done a great job creating the story’s many sets and differentiating the key characters. Best of all is the sense of motion and energy in every panel of the story. His action scenes are frenetic. You can hear his explosions go 'Boom'."

Cleraly impressed by their catch from the comic world for the Festival, whose line up also includes Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and author Sarah Fine, Andy and Ian's talk is described as "a discussion between the two of their different contributions to the comics field and the experience of having their work adapted for the screen.

"I’ve also been informed by Andy Diggle that together they can 'talk the leg off a dead donkey', so perhaps we’ll find ourselves regailed with some entirely tangential stories. The only way to find out is to come, of course."

While comics are increasingly getting onto the literary agenda, it's always gratifying to see so much enthusiasm for some of its proponents from such a well-regarded literature organisation.

Ian Rankin and Andy Diggle, 7.30pm, Thursday 21st October, The Storey, Lancaster £8.50 (£7 concs) – £1 off if you order in advance.  Call the LitFest Box Office on 01524 582394 or book online

Will The Beano go digital?

Nestling among recent trade reports about Beano and Commando publishers DC Thomson is news that more changes are in the offing for its comics output, including, perhaps, digital editions.

DC Thomson is one of hundreds of companies that will be exhibiting at the Brand Licensing Europe event in London at the end of this month, and a company profile reports the company will be making a concerted effort to promote its various comic brands at the gathering, working with its UK licensing agent, Start Licensing, which highlights The Beano, Dandy's Bananaman and the recently-launch Jacqueline Wilson magazine on its web site.

"At the show we will debut our plans for The Broons – best known amongst Scots - but arguably one of the biggest character brands never to have been licensed," says Tim Collins, who heads up the company's commercial development for children's entertainment.

Collins joined DC Thomson late last year and handles the management of their licensing, TV, syndication and digital project teams. Joining him soon is John Paul Murphy,  a former marketing chief for Edinburgh’s Winter Festival, who has been appointed the company's brands marketing manager, and who has been tasked with developing the company's brands across all available 'channels', including traditional publishing, digital, events, sponsorship, promotions, advertising and licensing where appropriate.

Of major interest to comic fans are the company's plans for possible digital publication, which
Collins describes as "One of our big opportunities.

"We have access to five million pages of comic book material from the 1930s to current publications,"  he notes.

Could this mean DC Thomson is finally looking to develop digital editions of its titles such as The Beano and Commando? It certainly seems to be ramping up to take on the challenges of the online world, with a new direct-to-consumer sales department, a new telephony system and a new e-commerce website, which HoldtheFrontPage recently reported would complement its established relationships with suppliers to assist with subscription services and orders.

New licensing plans for The Beano, both kids and adult themed products, will be revealed at the show, reported last month, along with a new vision for Commando, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. DC Thomson says it is looking to licence the brand into a wide range of adult gifts and stationery.

With longtime staff members such as Editorial Manager Ian Lamb about to retire, it seems big changes are set to follow the 'changing of the guard'. But DC Thomson has not given up on print, despite the announced cancellation of Classics from the Comics (see earlier story).

"We are expanding our children’s magazine publishing business," says Tim Collins, "so are on the look-out for new properties as well."

• DC Thomson Official web site:

• Start Licensing:

In Review: Classics from the Comics 174

The latest issue of Classics from the Comics offers the usual fine selection of both humour and adventure comics from the DC Thomson archive, this month spotlighting longtime Minnie the Minx artist Jim Petrie and bringing fans an episode of King Cobra, a superhero drawn by Ron Smith.

Alongside the mix of strips from The Beano, Dandy, Topper and Sparky - to name but a few - there's also the chance to win a Gnasher picture box and a Bash Street Kids-inspired Plug and Sally fugurine.

There's plenty to enjoy this issue - so it's very sad to learn that the title, in its fourteenth year of publication, is destined for cancellation due to low sales, especially after all hard work editor Garry Fraser has been putting into recent issues (the last issue will be Number 175, on sale on 13th October). Sadly, Classics from the Comics has been poorly distributed and behind-the-scenes production changes at DC Thomson mean it's no longer viable for them to publish this wonderful assemblage of comics from yesteryear.

It's a darn shame, too, because I'm sure there is a market for this kind of title, albeit one that's fairly 'niche'.

Favourite strips this issue for me are Beryl the Peril (whose magic tricks land her in hot water); a superhero skit from Sparky's Puss an' Boots; a bizarre strip from Nutty titled Dick Turban, pitting a desert thief against the Foreign Legion; a fab Mickey the Monkey from Topper; and the ever-brilliant Spoofer McGraw from Sparky, this issue explaining that Moby Dick, the great white whale, was actually a great white polar bear that ate too much honey. Priceless!
King Cobra, drawn by Ron Smith

The continuing adventures of The Space Kids, and appearance of King Cobra, who featured in The Hotspur, and a text adventure, Dixon Hawke, from 1938 (presumably from an early Beano) make up the adventure content of the issue. Cobra is a bizarre British superhero with little originality - a reporter by day, crime fighter by night - but Ron Smith's art is great, and this snake-inspired adventurer is far less violent than Indian publisher Raj Comics Nagraj, who is the only reptilian-powered hero I can think of at this time of the morning.

Classics from the Comics has much to recommend it for any fan of British comics of yesteryear; it's just a shame its distribution is so patchy (which must surely be another reason for its demise). If you can find a copy in your local newsagents, check it out, and revel in a bit of welcome nostalgia...

Classics from the Comics, published by DC Thomson, is on sale now in all good UK newsagents, price £2 (a bargain!)

More about King Cobra on the International Hero web site

• Lew Stringer ponders the demise of CfrC here on his blog and reviews Issue 174 here

Cover image © 2010 DC Thomson, published with full permission

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Scramble for the new Commandos!

The first three Commando books now on sale in all good newsagents complete DC Thomson's series of six books saluting the heroes of the Battle Of Britain, called "Aces High".

"We’ve dug back into the archives to give some of the older books an airing," says editor Calum Laird. "Very few Commando readers will have seen these, I hope, and will appreciate them."

Inside the front covers of them all are individual aircraft illustrations by Ian Kennedy.

If you like these stories, Carlton’s jumbo Commando collection of 10 stories from the Battle Of Britain – appropriately called Scramble! – is available from all good bookshops (ISBN 978-1-84732-421-4).  It includes stories like "Ace Without Honour", "Island of Heroes" and "Brigand Squadron" as well as "Blind Courage", "Fly Fast-Shoot Fast" or "Spitfire Spirit" and there's one of our usual amazon links at the end of this news item

Commando 4327: Black Ace
Story: Alan Parlett Art: Medrano Cover: Ken Barr
Originally No 124 from 1964

A survivor… alone on a cold, dark sea…this was the best that any RAF pilot could hope for if he ran up against Von Stein of the Luftwaffe. The German flew a jet-black Focke-Wulf 190, and his emblem was the ace of spades, the card of death.They called young Jack Collins a coward until the day he and his Hurricane took off to meet the Black Ace in mortal combat…

Commando No 4328: Lone Ace
Story: David Bingley Art: Gordon Livingstone Cover: Buccheri
Originally No 275 from 1967

“Stand by for a crash — young Danny Price has just taken off!” What a reputation for a young pilot to get. Too bad that every word of it was true.
From recklessness and bad judgement, or maybe just through bad luck, Dan finished up pranging every aircraft he ever flew. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Grumman Wildcats – they were all the same to Dan. In the sea, in the fields, on the decks of carriers he dumped them with amazing regularity, totally beyond repair.
Not until he crashed one with cold courage right on to an attacking U-Boat did anyone start believing in Dan — even Dan himself!

Commando No 4329: Divided Aces
Story: Ferg Handley Art: José Maria Jorge Cover: José Maria Jorge

Squadron Leader Jack Pearson was beginning to wonder if his first command might be his last. English-born Jack was determined to make the most of his posting to a base outside Edinburgh — even if the locals were less than friendly about his, and his fellow countrymen’s, presence.
As if that wasn’t enough, added to the mix were some veteran Polish fliers who didn’t like the way their new skipper was running things… Jack would have his work cut out for him if he was going to unite these divided aces? 

Commando No 4330: Sniper Hunt
Story: Alan Hebden Art: Morahin Cover: Keith Page

Lance-Corporal Matt Horne always wanted to be a sniper. So when the chance came to join an established sniper team as a flanker — to watch the backs of the sniper and his spotter — Matt grabbed it.
However, with a mysterious rival marksman causing carefully-calculated mayhem, Matt soon found out that sniping was a bitter, deadly game — one where there were no rules and the hunter very easily became the hunted…

• 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.

Panel Borders: Making Marvels in the UK (Part 2)

Continuing radio show and podcast Panel Borders month long look at British creators who have written and drawn superhero comics, (in a panel recorded in front of a live audience at the London Science-Fiction Film Festival) Alex Fitch concludes his talk with a quartet of Marvel UK luminaries who were responsible for some of the best British action / adventure titles in the 1980s and 90s.

Alex discusses with artist Gary Erskine and writers Dan Abnett, Simon Furman and John Freeman, the decline in fortunes of Marvel UK as a publisher in the 1990s – despite their creation of memorable titles such as Knights of Pendragon, Dragon’s Claws and popular Transformers spin-off title Death’s Head - due to changing market pressures.

Alex did a fab job of making sense of what must have been a fairly chaotic panel with Part 1 last week, so I'm looking forward to listening to this second part.

• Panel Borders: Making Marvels in the UK (Part 2) airs at 5.00pm, Thursday 16th September, Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at / podcast at and now on itunes (

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Dougie's War - revealing the hidden costs of conflict

Dougie’s War, a new graphic novel about a Scottish soldier’s return from Afghanistan, explores the little-discussed but important issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The book gets its launch tomorrow (Thursday 16th September 2010) with a signing by author Rodge Glass and artist Dave Turbitt at Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.

Dougie's War is written by Somerset Maugham Award-winning novelist and biographer Rodge Glass, illustrated by Glasgow-born artist Dave Turbitt.

It's Dave’s first graphic novel. Trained in graphic design he's employed by the BBC, where he works on Doctor Who.

The book is being published by Glasgow-based Freight, who also publish the award-winning literary magazine, Gutter.

Dougie Campbell is a Scottish soldier, a veteran of Afghanistan, who comes home to the south side of Glasgow. He's just left the British Army but cannot forget his experiences of combat. A battle rages inside as he struggles to adjust to civilian life, trying to live with his memories and understand his burning need for recognition.

The story is a fictionalised account of real veterans’ experiences based on meticulous research and interviews with soldiers conducted by the author.

“We ask our service men and women to do things and witness things the rest of us cannot imagine," explains Rodge Glass, who is author of two novels, No Fireworks, Hope for Newborns and Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography. "They're trained to operate in the harshest and most stressful environments. But medical research shows that the effects of those experiences can be deeply damaging, sometimes after a single traumatic event, sometimes many years later, the cumulative effect of pushing oneself to the limit over long periods.

Dougie’s War aims to do for the war in Afghanistan what Waltz with Bashir did for the Arab-Israeli conflict," he adds. "Graphic novels have an advantage over other art forms in allowing the reader to experience something of the horror chronic PTSD can induce. Treatment of PTSD is improving all the time, whether via the NHS or veterans’ charities, but it is vital that soldiers and those closest to them recognise the symptoms and seek help.

“We hope that Dougie’s War increases understanding of what some veterans suffer, particularly to a younger generation, and illustrates the dangers of leaving PTSD untreated. In years to come thousands of ex-soldiers and other service personnel will be living day to day with the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is vital that society addresses this, making it as easy as possible for veterans to seek help.”

Part funded by the Scottish Veterans Fund and Creative Scotland, along with photography taken in combat in Afghanistan, the book includes moving interviews with a number of army officers and others who have experienced combat first hand in a range of conflicts from the Falklands to Iraq and Afghanistan and have suffered the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. They expose a culture in which appearances are everything and asking for help risks a dangerous loss of authority.

Tam, a veteran of Northern Ireland and the Falklands, who suffered chronic PTSD and is interviewed in Dougie’s War said, "You look out for others and you can’t display weakness, it’s about the role you’re in, you’ve to project an image for people to trust you. I think servicemen are some of the greatest actors in the world. You play this part.

"I didn’t talk to my wife about it, she had years of it," he continues. ‘The neighbours used to think the house was haunted, the screaming…

"The worst was I had my wife by the nightdress and I was physically dragging her off the bed during the night, saying 'get into this trench, get into the trench'." 

Dougie’s War also contains extracts from Pat Mills’ highly influential early 1980s comic strip Charley’s War, the precursor of many contemporary British graphic novels, which is currently being published in full by Titan Books. Set in the First World War, it was the first war comic to highlight the psychological effects of combat and what was then called shell shock.

“The only graphic novel I’m aware of on the war in Afghanistan, Dougie’s War reveals the hidden cost of all wars," notes Charley's War writer Pat Mills. "It's very memorable and powerful, the art is stylish, moody and cinematic.”

“Rodge was a natural choice to write this graphic novel," feels Adrian Searle, Publisher at Freight and co-editor of Gutter magazine. "His fiction has a forensic interest in families and the stresses contemporary life places on them.

"Our troops in Afghanistan have seen some of the fiercest fighting since the Second World War and, in addition to the tragic loss of life, there will be a resulting long-term legacy for many of those who have served there.

“This an important and timely book and is already generating wide interest, not just in the UK. We’ve had enquiries from publishers and retailers in the US and Germany and will be talking to potential partners in countries involved in the coalition across the world in the months to come.”

• More info:

Charity comics project hopes to count the cost of war

"Caging the Snow Lion" by Sean Duffield and Lawrence Elwick, just one of many comics in the War: The Human Cost book. It tells the remarkable true story of Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Monk imprisoned and tortured for 33 years
Brighton-based comics creator group Paper Tiger Comix has raised £3500 towards the publication of its mammoth War: The Human Cost book and CD non-profit anthology, and needs just £500 to make it the project, some four years in the planning, a reality.

Publishing underground and alternative comix since early 2004, Sean, the book's editor says he has been putting this mammoth project over the last four years, and is appealing for help to raise the last bit of cash to get it out for the world to see. 

War: The Human Cost will consist of a 260 page perfect bound book, and a 21-track music CD compilation on themes of war and peace. Its publication will raise money and and awareness for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (, as well as raising awareness of campaign groups such as War On Want and Amnesty International and Hero Rats (training African rats to safely sniff out landmines).

Priced at just £12, £1 from every book and CD sold will go to CAAT and all the other proceeds will go to the Community Arts Project/Paper Tiger Comix.

"The work is more or less finished, as is the majority of the fund raising," says the book's editor, Sean Duffield. "It’s just the raising of the remainder of money for the project which is left." He's using the fund raising project site Indie Go Go to get the final donations and anyone who donates just £5.00 will get a 50% discount off the price of the book and CD when it comes out.

A page from "A Tale of Two Faces"
by Sean Duffield & Nelson Evergreen
- a current story about nuclear weapons
and the double-talk of politicians
The comic strips include well researched stories from around the world such as Tibet, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, which cover everything from human rights struggles, war veterans and Post Traumatic Dtress Disorder, political imprisonment and torture, child soldiers, refugees /asylum seekers, peace campaigns, the arms trade, corruption/ conflicts of interest, military spending, propaganda to humour and satire.

Contributors, who have all donated their work comprise the cream of underground and international talent from 17 countries and well known respected artists from the comics world such as Spain's Rodriguez (Ché: The illustrated Biography), Peter Kuper (World War 3 Illustrated/ Speechless), Alexsandar Zograf (Regards from Serbia), Lawrence Elwick, Nelson Evergreen, Ulli Lust (Warburger), Mazen Kerbaj, Ben Jennings (The Guardian), Alejandro Alvarez (The Bush Junta), Paul O'Connell, Dr Parsons, Abu Mahjoob and many others.

Some of the stories are more historical, going back to previous generations (Vietnam, World War 2, Spanish Civil War etc) and the very personal/ moving stories of those involved.

"My motivation behind creating this project was to put together a work which would help raise money for worthy causes," he explains, "but also to provide the reader with an educational and engaging collection of comics, art and illustrated factual and pieces surrounding themes of war, but from an emotional and humanitarian angle.

Think of it like a WikiLeaks; getting the real stories out there, but with mostly personal accounts and emotive art."

With so much conflict in the world, the contributions to War: The Human Cost expose the surrounding complex issues on why humans go to war, and the very real universal cost that it entails. It also looks at the more positive stories to come out of war and suffering and those creating practical alternatives to the destruction it causes.

'The Soldier' by Hannes Pasqualini.
A tale about becoming the thing you
fear the most
"I contacted many people, commissioned work and also allowed for open submissions from comic artists, writers, illustrators and musicians," Sean says of the project's beginnings. "I was astounded by the response.

"I received over 800 pages of work from artists from 24 countries, with some amazing, heartfelt and well-researched work. I’ve now edited that down to a much smaller and better book, and am just working on my own last three contributions to this work.

"The aim is to bring people together, and look at the causes and effects of war. I believe, that it is through understanding, real-life stories, solid journalism, and allowing different voices to be represented, that we can work against fear, propaganda and warmongering, and lessen the dehumanisation and ‘us and them’ mentality that is whipped up around the world by various leaders/ groups to create conflict, exploitation  and hate."

The CD features well known artists who support the project, such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sly and Robbie, DJ Spooky, Blue King Brown, Zion Train, The Levellers, Big Youth and Twilight Dub Circus, The Groove Corporation and many more.

So far the project has raised £3450 externally, and Sean himself has £1500 into the project, and  raised another £1750 via some wonderful sponsors, contributers, and by putting on two benefit gigs.

Donations start from £5 ($8.00 US). "The smallest donation helps!" says Sean.

• You can support this project via

• Samples of the work featured in the project can be found on Paper Tiger Comix Facebook page and MySpace page

Hypercomics Exhibition wows Time Out critic, talk tonight

Hypercomics Installation: the first complete Wall Comic
by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, 'Dream'. Photo: Paul Gravett
(with thanks to Paul Gravett): The Hypercomics Exhibition in Pump House Gallery in London’s Battersea Park has just been picked as exhibition of the week and given five stars by Time Out London.

For innovative comics creator Daniel Merlin Godbrey a hyperomic can be defined as "a webcomic with a multi-cursal narrative structure.

"In a hypercomic the choices made by the reader may influence the sequence of events, the outcome of events or the point of view through which events are seen… it’s that element of reader choice and interaction that makes a hypercomic a hypercomic."

Paul Gravett, who has been pushing the comics form for over 25 years through projects such as the fondly-remembered Escape magazine, is enthused by the Hypercomics concept and will be giving a talk on it tonight (Wednesday 15th September) as part of the SW11 Literary Festival.

"For me, the key to Hypercomics is their ability to branch off into multi-linear yet interrelated storylines and push against the traditional constraints of the page format, reading order or panel layouts we’re used to," he notes on his web site.

"Comics have been defined for so long by their print incarnations, and even now most webcomics conform to individual ‘pages’ within the standard rectangular computer screen. Hypercomics explore where the medium might be heading next, especially with the growth of iPhones, iPads and other Readers and the scope of greater interactivity. I’m convinced that there’s massive potential still to be unlocked in how we create and experience ‘the shapes of comics to come’."

The work of Adam Dant.
Image via
"If comics were once the preserve of spotty teens, the culture of the modern graphic novel has come of age," notes JJ Charlesworth in the Time Out review."...'Hypercomics', curated by comics impresario Paul Gravett, is a superb exhibition of work by comic artists who experiment with non-linear narrative forms, while using the three dimensions of the gallery space as a sort of expanded canvas."

The exhibition features the work of Jerwood Prize-winning artist Adam Dant, who has transformed the top mezzanine level of the gallery into the period tromp l’oeil library of a Doctor London; Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, with a piece called 'The Archivist', createing an alternate history for the gallery as an archive for infamous glam-rock dictator Hieronymus Pop and charting the facets of its lone archivist at work, at play and in dreams (this can also be viewed online at; Dave McKean's ‘The Rut’ presents three characters’ viewpoints of an assault in the park: Perpetrator, Victim and Witness; and Warren Pleece’s animated installation ‘Montague Terrace’, through which the audience can to pry into the lives of four dysfunctional tenants: Marvo the magic bunny, the insidious Puppeteer, Paul Gregory the wannabe celebrity and Babushka an unlikely covert spy.

Dave McKean, 'Alveolate 1' Image via
The Pump House Gallery
Pleece imagines the Pump House redeveloped as the Montague Terrace apartments and turns the gallery space into a fifth seedy flat from which to spy on the other ‘inmates’.

Working with Nick Kalpony, Paul chose the Pump House Gallery – a huge tall pump house built in 1861 – for its unique location, describing it as "a hidden gem, a quirky four-floor tower tucked away in Battersea Park.

"The location came first and I saw it as defining the exhibition, as both a space and a setting. I asked all four artists to respond in some way to it in their pieces, imagining their stories around it, creating an alternative existence, past, present or future, for the building.

"The other proviso behind the Hypercomics exhibition was to encourage the artists to explore different forms and formats of comics. During their print incarnation, comics have conformed to the page and book, but their origins go right back to the very first art galleries, caves. What happens when we liberate comics from the confines of the standardised uniform page and the system of reading only one, singular story from beginning to middle to end?"

'Montague Terrace'
by Warren Pleece
If you're in London, this is a ground-breaking exhibition clearly worth visiting. For more on the background and some stunning photographs of the exhibition and launch event, visit Paul's web site.

• Paul Gravett will be giving an illustrated talk about the Hypercomics show tonight (Wednesday 15th September) at 7.00pm, as part of the SW11 Literary Festival, entitled More Than Words Can Say: The Future Is Graphic.

• Hypercomics runs till Sunday 26th September (closed Monday and Tuesday). More details: There’s also an ipad app and a mini site at to compliment the show.

Time Out London Five Star Review

Never In The Field Of Human Conflict...

The 15th of September is Battle Of Britain Day commemorating the victory of the Royal Air Force seventy years ago in defending the United Kingdom from the up to then undefeated forces of Nazi Germany. Yet things could easily have been very different...

It is Britain, late autumn, 1940: it started with Ju87 Stuka dive bombers felling the towers of the Chain Home radar stations.

Without adequate radar coverage, Fighter Command did not have prior warning of the waves of Luftwaffe bombers that pounded the RAF's fighter bases. With their southern airfields destroyed, what was left of the RAF did not have the range to attack the Nazi invasion barges as they crossed the Channel. With our remaining fighters operating from any northern airstrip they can find, spares and replacement aircraft are non-existent and what little defence the RAF can still muster is fading fast.

As it sailed south from Scapa Flow to stem the flow of German equipment crossing the Channel, and with the RAF unable to provide adequate fighter air cover, the Royal Navy's Home Fleet was ambushed in the North Sea by an overwhelming force of torpedo bombers, dive bombers and U-boats operating out of occupied Norwegian and Danish bases. With the Pacific fleet too far away, the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet immediately set sail for home waters but by the time they reach us the only major anchorages likely to be still available to them could be the Clyde in western Scotland and Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland. With the Province's minimal air defences there will probably be little left for them to do there but to gather as many transport ships as possible to evacuate those who want to leave to the Dominions. With the fall of Britain, the neutral Irish Free State will have little choice but to capitulate to German demands.

In Scotland the east coast mainline railway has been thrown into chaos after Luftwaffe bombers successfully downed the spans of the Forth Rail Bridge trapping warships and oil tankers up river.

In England, the Wehrmacht's Blitzkrieg has breached all the southern English Stop Lines and reached Northampton.

With their Whitehall war rooms destroyed, Churchill and what is left of the war cabinet are in the Paddock bunker in North London.

The King and Queen are on a Royal Air Force flying boat bound for Nova Scotia.

London is surrounded. Millions are trapped in the ruins and in the occupied south of England, Nazi forces are beginning to round up citizens based on a list published in the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B.

Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. - the infamous 'Black Book'Fortunately most of that never happened but one part, the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B., is real. It translates literally as the Special Search List for Great Britain but today it is better known simply as The Black Book. It is the list of Britains that the Germans intended to round up once they had control of the country. It does not list what would happen to them but it does list who they were to be handed over to - organisations that included the Geheim Staadts Polizei, better known as the Gestapo. While this book includes the obvious politicians and trade unionists, it also lists other public figures who had spoken out against the Nazi cause including writers, performers and journalists. Based on what happened in other occupied countries, it is unlikely that many would ever have been seen alive again.

It is not really surprising that the Gestapo would want to take control of the British newspapers and, since they worked for a large newspaper organisation, it has frequently been written that DC Thomson staff were included on the list, specifically the editors of the Beano and Dandy as well as Thomson's top humour artist, Dudley D Watkins. You can read the truth behind this in Were The Wartime Beano And Dandy Editors On A Nazi Death List? over on Bear Alley.

Of course the invasion never happened. The Chain Home stations survived and the Luftwaffe stopped bombing the RAF airfields and shifted their emphasis to the cities. It was enough of a breathing space for the RAF to regroup and go on to win the Battle Of Britain. While it didn't seem like it at the time as British cities and their occupants endured the Blitz, it was a turning point in the war. Without that victory the world today would be a very different place but, being a British comics blog, we can speculate what might have been in the comics of a Nazi occupied Britain.

With their editors gone and publication ceased, the Beano and Dandy would not be the best known comics in the country today. They would have become mere footnotes in history along with other short run 1930s titles like Magic and Skipper, forgotten by all but the most ardent comics fans.

Kommandant Dredd by Grame Neil ReidIn 2000AD, Kommandant Dredd of the Berliner Mega-Stadt would fight the Apocalypse War against the evil forces of West Meg One, while Reichsmarshal Torquemada would command the all conquering forces of the thousand year Reich as they take their rightful place in the Universe by sweeping aside all lesser life forms.

With no Dudley Watkins drawing his two greatest creations in the Sunday Post newspaper, The Brawns and Oor Villi could have turned out rather differently. Grandpaw Brawn would reminisce on the glorious day that German troops held their victory parade down the main street of Auchenshuggle while Daphne would be jealous of younger sister Maggie's SS boyfriend. Meanwhile Villi would try not to get in trouble with the local Polizsten while searching for English fifth columnists.

In Warlord, "Swastika Fritz" Fredriksohn would have been the only German to fight with the Japanese forces as they launched their amphibious invasion of the Hawaiian Islands, while Abwehr agent Reichsherr Peter Flint would wage a secret war against the insidious activities of Canadian, Australian and American spies.

In Battle, on the Eastern Front the English traitor Johnny Redburn would watch the gradual destruction of the Soviet Falcon Squadron as he lead them to their deaths against the might of the glorious Luftwaffe, while the less gung-ho and much more thoughtful Young Hitler tells the story of the Fuhrer's time in the trenches of France and the incompetence of the Imperial German generals as they sacrificed their men against the hail of bullets from the American machine guns.

Of course after seven decades as citizens of the Reich it is highly unlikely that we would have been reading any of them in English.

• The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is the RAF's leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to serving and former members of the RAF - regardless of rank - as well as their partners and dependents. Their website is here.

(With thanks to Graeme Neil Reid for the illustration of Kommandant Dredd)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Striker on the Subs Bench Again...

Episodes of the 1987 Striker
story 'Dirty Money'. The strip
today is published in CGI
Striker © 2010 Pete Nash.
Long-running football strip Striker’s run in Nuts magazine will come to an end next month, creator Pete Nash reports.

Sadly for Striker fans who have followed the strip from The Sun to its weekly own comic, then back to the daily paper once more and now, Nuts, the magazine has told Pete they haven’t been able to secure a sponsor which means the income is insufficient to cover the artwork and production costs.

Striker, which has been produced as a Computer Generated strip for several years, has previously been sponsored by big brands such as Virgin.

"It simply isn’t viable to continue," Pete told fans on the official StrikerWorld web forum, revealing the last issue of Nuts featuring Striker will be the one from 5-11 October.

"There will be no big bang ending, just a wrapping up of the current story," he added, before also noting that this might, finally, be the last hurrah for the strip.

"I am long enough in the tooth to know you should never say never but I don’t see any likelihood of Striker re-emerging elsewhere," he says. "Twenty five years is a hell of a run and I feel the time to stop, or at least take a substantial break, is probably overdue. I am finally going to concentrate on my other writing projects."

Striker today. Find out how it's
produced here on the official
Strikerworld web site
Despite the bad news for the strip, there is some good news for its fans - the StrikerWorld web site, which is publishing an archive of past strips, is doing well and Intelligence Ltd – its designers and hosts – are committed to keeping the archive and forum going.

"We are going to shoot a promotional video for the archive to host on Youtube," Pete reports, "so hopefully visitor traffic will improve and the forum will eventually attract more members."

• Visit the StrikerWorld web site at:

Pete's guide to producing Striker in CG

UK Annuals deep discounted, exclusive extras at some retailers

It's the season for UK annuals - another sign that retailers are warming up for Christmas that is as regular as Sky screening festive movies in July and UK Gold airing Victoria Wood Christmas Specials this week.

For comics fans, only the Beano and Dandy annuals seem to offer cover-to-cover comic strip (with the Beano offering art by the likes of Hunt Emerson and Laura Howell, to name but two); other annuals are largely quiz, text and pin up heavy, possibly re-using material from regular titles.

As well as discounts on cover price, some retailers are going all out to encourage sales of annuals, which began to go on sale at the start of last month.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury's, for example, is only now promoting a wide range of annuals - many published by Egmont - in well-placed 'dump bins' at store entrances. Their copies of the Beano annual - on sale for just £5, with a '2 for £8' offer – come shrink-wrapped with a facsimile edition of Beano #1.

Here's a list of annuals on sale now (or due to go on sale soon). This isn't a full list, but this year's offerings include (all links below go to

Andy Capp Annual 2011
Created by Reg Smythe in 1957, "Andy Capp" became one of the most popular British newspaper comic strips. Jobless Andy creates havoc for his long-suffering wife Flo, spending most of his time in the pub playing darts and snooker, or getting into fights on the football pitch. This new, full-colour collection from Titan Books features hundreds of Andy Capp strips from the "Daily" and "Sunday Mirror Archives".

Barbie Annual 2011Barbie Annual 2011

Bart Simpson Annual 2011Bart Simpson Annual 2011

Beano Annual 2011Beano Annual 2011
As well as plenty of humour strips there's also a 10-page 'Billy the Cat' adventure by Nigel Dobbyn. A real treat of an annual.
Read Lew Stringer's review of this annual

Beast Quest Annual 2011Beast Quest Annual 2011
Games, activities, Beast profiles, stories, puzzles and much more, drawing on the TV series

Ben 10: Alien Force Annual 2011Ben 10: Alien Force
Comic strip stories, challenging activities and puzzles, and profiles on every "Ben 10 Alien Force" fan's favorite aliens.

Blue Peter Annual 2011Blue Peter Annual 2011
But where's bleep and Booster?

Bob the Builder Annual 2011Bob the Builder Annual 2011

The Boys' Annual 2011The Boys' Anual 2011
There's a Girls' Annual, too...

Brownie Annual 2011Brownie Annual 2011

My Favourite and Best Charlie and Lola Annual 2011My Favourite and Best Charlie and Lola Annual 2011

Chuggington Annual 2011Chuggington Annual 2011

Clone Wars Annual 2011Clone Wars 2011

Club Penguin: The Official Annual 2011Club Penguin: The Official Annual 2011
Puzzles, activities, mazes, crafts and memory games; plus, create your own submissions for The Club Penguin Times with how-to-draw activities and tips for writing your own newspaper stories and poems.

Dandy Annual 2011Dandy Annual 2011
Featuring comic strip art from Nigel Parkinson, Jamie Smart and many more
Read Lew Stringer's review of this annual

Dennis and Gnasher Annual 2011Dennis and Gnasher Annual 2011

Dinosaur King Annual 2011Dinosaur Annual 2011

Disney Princess Annual 2011Disney Princess Annual 2011

Disney Pixar Annual 2011Disney Pixar Annual 2011
Featuring Disney-Pixar characters from "Toy Story 3", "Up", "Wall-E", "Finding Nemo", and "Monsters Inc". Stories, games, activities, and puzzles.

Disney Pixar

Disney Playhouse Annual 2011
Stories, games and activities that encourage learning through play.

Doctor Who: Official Annual 2011Doctor Who: Official Annual 2011
Featuring original comic strips and an exciting new story starring Matt Smith's Doctor, as well as puzzles and features on series episodes, characters and aliens

Dora the Explorer Annual 2011

Family Guy Annual 2011

Fireman Sam Annual

The Girls' Annual 2011
Told you. Indeed, when it comes to annuals, there are plenty for girls and boys... This one's described as "suitable for fun-loving girls who want to fill their days with activity and adventure" and includes imaginative things to make, games to play, treats to cook and puzzles to solve.

The Official Glee Annual 2011

Gogo's Annual 2011

Gormiti Annual 2011

iCarly Annual 2011

Hello Kitty Annual 2011Hello Kitty Annual 2011

Horrid Henry Annual 2011

In the Night Garden: Annual 2011

Jacqueline Wilson Annual 2011

LEGO: The Official Annual 2011LEGO: The Official Annual 2011
Puzzles, comics and games, and there are also 14 brilliant LEGO bricks to use in the activities

Marvel Annual 2011
Comic strip abounds...

Match of the Day Annual 2011

Merlin Annual 2011

Oor Wullie Book 2011 Annual

Peppa Pig: The Official Annual 2011Peppa Pig: The Official Annual 2011

Pokemon Annual 2011

Postman Pat Annual 2011

Power Rangers Annual 2011Power Rangers Annual 2011

The QI Annual, 2011
Featuring cartoons, jokes, facts and games from Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Jo Brand, Clive Anderson, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Bailey, David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Sean Lock, Jimmy Carr and many more.

Rainbow Magic Annual 2011

Roary the Racing Car Annual 2011

Shoot Bumper Book of Football Annual 2011

SpongeBob Squarepants Annual 2011
Features puzzles, SpongeBob's savoury snacks, and comic-strip adventures.

Simpsons Annual 2011 (Annuals)

Star Wars Annual 2011

Timmy Time Annual 2011

Tinker Bell Annual 2011

Thomas and Friends Annual 2011

Top Gear: Official Annual 2011Top Gear: Official Annual 2011

Transformers - Transformers Annual 2011
"Packed with Transformers action to keep all fans happy." Sstories, data, activities and more

The Five Knuckle Shuffle 2011 (Annuals)

Willy Wonka's Whipplescrumptious Annual 2011
Includes story extracts, games, puzzles, ideas to make, colour and draw and crammed with squiffingly-good stickers

WWE Annual 2011

ZingZillas: Annual 2011ZingZillas: Annual 2011

2011 Annuals on Sale from

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