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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Draw the World Together Transformers Auction launches

In case you haven't seen it yet, comics charity Draw the World Together has launched its promised Transformers Auction. It offers an amazing array of goodies from the world of Transformers.

Some of the comics and books on offer include the only known copies to be signed by the complete creative team of writer Simon Furman, artists  Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville, and Nel Yomtov (the colourist of every single issue of the original Marvel US Transformers comic book).

It's a real rare treat for any serious Transformers comics collector.

Also on offer is a limited edition NightBird toy and exclusive items from those Movie Magic Geniuses, Digital Domain.

Draw the World Together is an organisation that has been created to unite arts communities in providing possibilities for children who do not have the opportunity for basic healthcare and education.

• You can check it all out at
or go straight to the eBay list at

Friday, 19 November 2010

Dan Dare inspired a lifetime of science for Professor Pillinger

Dan Dare fans inspired by his adventures might well be interested in Professor Colin Pillinger's new book, My Life on Mars.

Colin gained his PhD from the University of Swansea, Wales, in the late 1960s , and became one of the lucky few Britons to work on the lunar samples brought back by the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission. Later, at Cambridge and the Open University, he developed techniques for classifying meteorites according to their chemical composition, and has worked on a NASA mission to collect a sample of the 'solar wind', and ESA missions to investigate how meteorites erode in space.

He's perhaps best known for his work on the European Mars Express project and the the Mars Lander, Beagle 2 and his experiences surrounding its development are a major part of the new book.

Journey in to Space -
like Dan Dare, an
Born in 1943 and growing up in the 1950s, it should come as no surprize to learn that Professor Pillinger was inspired by reading Dan Dare in the Eagle and the BBC's  Journey into Space radio adventure serial as a child. 

"Like many kids, I used to read Dan Dare comics and listen to Journey into Space on the radio," he revealed in an interview for the European Space Agency web site. "And I would draw rockets, which, of course, bore no resemblance to how they are now. It was a big surprise when I first saw that spacecraft didn’t have a point at the top and fins at the bottom!

"But I was not an anorak," he insisted in another interview for the Daily Telegraph. "When I went to class, it was to sit in the back row. School was a place to meet other kids and play football. I didn't want to be the next Einstein."

"My Life on Mars is a dual autobiography," Professor Pillinger says of the book. "Mine interwoven with the untold story (including the bits some people didn't want anybody to know) of Beagle 2. For seven years the British mission to look for life on the Red Planet captivated the public all over the World."

Stories about about the mission appeared in the media all over the World, particularly in the United States as the following extract from the book’s dust jacket reveals:
On 12 March 2010 Astronauts Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, Gene Cernan, the last man to do so and Jim Lovell, who piloted the stricken Apollo 13 home, broke a journey back to the United States to attend an event at the Royal Society designed to encourage an audience of young people to follow careers in science and technology. Among the Fellows of the Society present was Colin Pillinger.

As Colin got up to leave at the end of the afternoon, he was grabbed by a US Embassy official who said “The Astronauts would like to meet you.” Of course Colin wanted to meet them but he wasn’t prepared for the greeting he received from Neil Armstrong, perhaps the best known man on Earth, “You analysed some of my samples!” Being recognised by such a trio must make Colin, a man with a passion for telling the public about science, one of the best known scientists in Britain.

Colin owed Armstrong et al. a great deal. He had come from what can only be described as an under-privileged background, via the Apollo programme to lead the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars. In 1996 he gathered around him an unlikely team consisting of the Rock Band, Blur, the country’s most controversial artist Damien Hirst, combined them with top University scientists and engineers from the satellite Industry, designed a spacecraft on the back of a beer mat, built it in a garage and set off 250 million miles to answer one of life’s ultimate questions: “Are we alone in the Universe?” Colin’s wife, Judith, named the spacecraft Beagle 2; it had the British Nation on the edge of its seat at Christmas 2003.
This then is Colin Pillinger’s story and the full, previously undisclosed, account of the Beagle 2 mission.
Published by the British Interplanetary Society, this 369 page book features over 100 illustartions and a foreword by Sir Patrick Moore. It  costs £16.50 (plus £2.50 P&P in UK, overseas please enquire) when purchased from British Interplanetary Society’s website at and is also available from all good bookshops (ISBN 978-0-9506597-3-2).

• For signed and dedicated copies contact the author at

More famous Dan Dare fans listed here on our main site

Inside Out - 2004 BBC interview with Professor Pillinger 

The Guardian, 16th January 2009: Britain needs a real-life Dan Dare to inspire the young

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Simon Wyatt's Unbelievable gets New Publisher

Writer and artist Simon Wyatt has signed aboard with UK publisher Markosia Enterprises who will publish his story Unbelievable - The Man Who Ate Daffodils.

The story was orignally destined for release by the now defunct Insomnia Publishing.

"I'm thrilled that my beastly tale will finally be unleashed," Simon, whose projects also include Danick and the Dragon for Orang Utan, told downthetubes.

"The first chapter of Volume 1 will be available for digital download sometime in the first quarter of 2011."

The story opens in the remote mining village of Bryn Boncath has its share of stories, of local legends, of half believed histories. It is a close knit community, with closely guarded secrets and home to the orphaned Ben Ellis and his grandfather, Emrys, and it has become the scene of a series of bizarre and mysterious deaths.

A new neighbour has moved in. A man long thought dead has returned. Livestock are missing. There are noises in the night. People are afraid to go into out after dark and sightings of a giant hound, or maybe a big cat are on the increase once again.

Suddenly it seems to Ben that what he took to be the tall tales of his grandfather may be more than just stories. It seems that something is stirring in the forests and the mountains around Bryn Boncath. It seems that ancient history is repeating and this time round Ben has an important part to play.

Unbelievable is a dark masterpiece that weaves strands of Welsh legend, modern murder mystery and horror with a dash of crytozoology that wonders: What if seeing isn’t always believing, but believing will allow you to see?

Myebook - Unbelievable by Simon Wyatt - click here to open my ebookUnbelievable - The Man Who Ate Daffodils  is written and drawn by Simon Wyatt, lettered by Nic Wilkinson, with forewords by monster hunters/authors Nick Redfern (There's Something In The Woods, Three Men Seeking Monsters) and Neil Arnold (MONSTER - The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena and Paranormal London).

Check out a preview of Unbelievable on myEbook

• Check out Simon's work at and

The Monstrous Art of Simon Wyatt (myEbook)

Danick and the Dragon (myEbook)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Upping the action with new Commandos

Four new Commando titles are now on sale in all good newsagents. With Colditz wowing audiences on Yesterday, and the complete BBC TV series out now on DVD, surely there's no better time to pick up a war comic?

Commando 4343 Killer Shark
Story: K. P. Mackenzie Art: Peter Foster Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 2722 from 1993

Hitler’s U-boats were the killer sharks of the Second World War, roaming the oceans of the world, terrorising the shipping lanes. Gerhard Hagen, a Nazi to the core, was one of the most ruthless skippers of those hunter submarines.

But even a killer shark will eventually meet its match, and time was running out for Hagen…

Commando 4344 Action Team
Story: Ian Clark Art: Denis McLoughlin Cover: Alan Burrows
Originally No 2655 from 1993

Wangling a place in a special Combined Action Group, working with Vietnamese villagers, Marine Wayne Norris was sure he’d be a lot safer now than with the regular troops in the front line.

But he was about to learn the hard way that the CAG wasn’t called an ACTION team for nothing — especially when there seemed to be a traitor in their midst, sabotaging their every move!

Commando 4345 Operation “Ice-Breaker”
Story: Sean Blair Art: Vila Cover: Janek Matysiak

The Arctic ice cap — freezing, windswept and inhospitable. In the period when East and West faced each other in a tense nuclear stand-off, many things were concealed on and below its wasted landscape. From submarines to top-secret bases, the cloaking ice covered all.

But nothing was as monstrous as the weapon created by a team of ruthless scientists working for the Soviets and led by the mysterious “Chief Technician.”

Commando 4346 Seeing Double
Story: Mac Macdonald Art: Carlos Pino Cover: Carlos Pino

So, how did the epitome of evil, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, join forces with a sworn enemy — Britain’s most famous military leader, General Bernard Montgomery — and unwittingly become involved in a madcap, hair-raising adventure in the North African desert?

As you might have guessed, things aren’t quite as they seem. In fact, you may well be seeing double...

• 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.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Panel Borders chasing Batwoman and Promethea this week

Continuing British radio show Panel Borders month-long look at unusual depictions of superheroes, Alex Fitch talks to comic book artist and graphic designer J. H. Williams III about his work from early forays into the superhero genre for DC's imprint 'Milestone' to his acclaimed renditions of female characters in Chase, Detective Comics and Alan Moore's epic Promethea.

Alex and Jim talk about the latter's approach to creating sequential art, from the layout of a page to the relation of a sequence to its surrounding comic or graphic novel and the delegation of work on his new ongoing Batwoman comic.

• Panel Borders: Chase, Batwoman and Prmothes broadcasts at 5.00pm, Thursday 18th November 2010, Resonance 104.4 FM (London):

Drop in on comics artist Vicky Stonebridge

Vicky Stonebridge at work
For those of you going to the British comics convention Thought Bubble in Leed this weekend, drop in on the Eco-comics workshop run by Sci-Fi Art Now contributor  Vicky Stonebridge.

The workshop will run from 1.30pm-4pm on Sunday in the Leeds Art Gallery Tiled Hall and
admission is free.

Vicky, who's currently working on the comics project Slaughterman's Creed written by Cy Dethan for Markosia, will be showing how to make your own handmade small storybooks using a variety of recycled products such as waste products, old magazines, scrap paper and packaging.

"It's quick, easy and fun to do," she enthuses.

This is a drop in workshop, but places are limited so if you want to be sure of a place you can pre-book by emailing

Vicky will also have prints of her own work for sale over the weekend.

• The full programme of Thought Bubble events is

More about Slaughterman's Creed

Read an interview with Vicky on the SciFi-Art Now blog

• Visit Vicky's web site at:

Unique Ron Embleton Man from U.N.C.L.E. art offered on eBay

Illya in Oils by Ron Embleton
A one off oil painting by much-admired TV Century 21 and Wulf the Briton comics artist Ron Embleton of David McCallum as Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Illya Kuryakin is currently being offered on eBay.

The Complete Gerry Anderson Comics history site, sourcing information from a 1966 issue of Retail Newsagent, notes the art was specially commissioned for a competition for TV Century 21's sister comic Lady Penelope, and was won by 10-year-old Lynda Barlow of Woolton, Liverpool (below).

Competition winner
Lynda Barlow
The competition, which ran in Issue 7 of the best-selling comic in March 1966, challenged readers to match the mood of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star with six photographs of him from the smash hit spy show.

Ron Embleton, who died in 1988, was not the regular artist on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. strip in the comic and is perhaps better known for strips such as Stingray (for TV Century 21) and Wicked Wanda (for Penthouse). His much-admired strip work also featured in titles such as Express WeeklyPrincess, Boy's World and Look and Learn.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. strip was drawn by Juan González Alacreu, an artist now better known for his fine art, who Bear Alley notes also worked on The Avengers for the girls comic Diana and many war library titles.

The Lady Penelope comic itself was a hugely successful title, less reliant on stories set in the future with lead character Lady Penelope more of an "action person" than she had been in her TV Century 21 strips, according to editor Gillian Allan, to make the stories more geared to her, and more interesting. "She was the heroine of the magazine, after all."

Other strips in the comic during its run included The Monkees, Daktari, Marina, Girl from the Sea and Bewitched.

The competition was part of ongoing promotions by publisher City Magazines to promote the comic, along with the publisher's other titles, and serves to illustrates how much effort was put into ensuring continued high sales. That hard work paid off: even in 1968, two years after the title launch, records show the comic was selling 315,662 copies a week.

• The auction closes on 22nd November 2010.

View the item on eBay (£250 reserve)

The story Lady Penelope comic on the Complete Gerry Anderson Comic History

Lady Penelope comic: Wikipedia Entry

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. art by Juan González Alacreu on Peter Rice's Art Gallery

Art by Juan González Alacreu

Monday, 15 November 2010

Frank Bellamy Thunderbirds art, Commando Issue 1 in comics auction

The Winter 2010 auction at British auction Compalcomics includes another Frank Bellamy Thunderbirds board and is sure to attract strong bids from his legion of fans. 

The company's last catalogue in September saw a 1968 Thunderbirds board by Frank Bellamy from TV Century 21 sell for £3388.

This new item of Thunderbirds original artwork was drawn in the same year and signed by Frank Bellamy for TV Century 21 No 206. The page finds Thunderbird 1 pilot Scott Tracy and Professor Davies have travelled back in time to get Thunderbird 4 and save a fractured dam's waters from drowning New York, but before they can activate the main controls the time-machine topples into a raging torrent of water.

Thunderbirds fans may also be interested in a 73-card Thunderbirds Colour Card Set, released in 1967 in near-perfect condition featuring the characters and machines from the Gerry Anderson TV series, along with issues of TV Century 21 itself.
There are 316 lots in the winter catalogue, which includes a strong selection of early Dandy comics from Number 19 through to 109, including many issues that have not been seen until now such as the title's first Easter issue, published in 1938 and Dandy 100, published in 1939.

Also unearthed is a fine run of seasonal Christmas issues from the 1920s and Thirties of Butterfly, Comic Cuts, Chips, Jester, Rainbow and Tiger Tim’s Weekly as well as war years Beano and Dandy.

Bound volumes on offer includes The Thriller 1-25, Scoops 1-20, (the UK’s first science fiction magazine, published in 1934) and full years of Adventure 1941 and 1943 with Hotspur 1938 and 1940. There are also complete years of Mickey Mouse Weekly 1940 - 1941 with the first four Mickey Mouse Weekly Holiday/Xmas Specials and Mickey’s Calendar from 1939 – scarce wartime rations.

Also featured are issues of The Sun magazine featuring Battler Britton and collections of the original Eagle.

A star lot on offer is The Magic-Beano Book from 1944. As well as being the first annual to combine the characters from the Magic and Beano comics, the aucton house tell us this example is in exceptionally high grade. The auction also includes an early run of Magic comic itself with the scarce Number 1 Flyer.

Other art on offer includes are Davy Law’s Dennis The Menace for Issue 481, published in 1951; a rare piece of Pansy Potter art by Jimmy Clark (apparently the first art from him to come to auction in 11 years), Captain Condor art by Ron Forbes, Frankie Stein by Ken Reid and Morecambe & Wise by Roy Wilson. Dudley Watkins’s The Broons and Oor Wullie complete the line-up.

Also offered is magnificent collection of DC Thomson's still-in-publication Commando, starting with numbers 1 - 6, the 47 issues having been secured in a biscuit tin for over 50 years. Near complete runs of TV Century 21, Fantastic!, It’s Terrific!, Pow!, Smash! and TV Tornado encapsulate the 1960s selection.

US comics on offer include an early run of Golden Age Batman (#36), while Iron Man’s first appearance in Tales Of Suspense (#39), Fantastic Four 48 and Silver Surfer #1 headline Silver Age runs of key Marvel and DC titles.

• Bids will be accepted until Tuesday 30th November at 8.00pm UK time. Catalogue at:

Ten Questions for artist Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot has worked on underground comics, science fiction and superhero stories such as Judge Dredd and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Vertigo titles including Hellblazer, Sandman and Fables and has written and drawn the graphic novels The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Heart of Empire, The Tale of One Bad Rat and Alice in Sunderland. In 2009 he was awarded a Doctorate in Arts.

Here, he talks about his latest project, Grandville Mon Amour, the sequel to his cirtically-acclaimed Grandville steampunk tale, which will be launched at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds this coming weekend...

The Jonathan Cape edition of Grandville Mon Amour
Set three weeks after the finale of Grandville, Grandville, Mon Amour pits Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock of Scotland Yard against an old adversary, Edward 'Mad Dog' Mastock - a psychotic serial killer whose shocking escape from his execution at the Tower of London begins this fast-paced, Hitchcockian steampunk thriller.

With a range of new and fascinating characters and a mix of Holmesian deduction, knowing humour and edge of the seat action, Grandville Mon Amour continues the vein of high-octane adventure begun in the first volume. Can even LeBrock escape the past or do heroes have feet of clay?

downthetubes: Grandville was a huge, deserved success for you. How does Grandville Mon Amour add to the 'universe' you have created?

Bryan Talbot: It builds on the characters of Detective Inspector LeBrock and his adjunct Detective Roderick Ratzi and supplies an insight into what Britain was like during the French occupation and the role of LeBrock and the British Resistance back then.

downthetubes: What kind of background research have you done to create the Grandville universe?

Bryan: Mainly reading books on Belle Epoch Paris and collecting images of animals and late Victorian and early Edwardian costume. I’ve also visited Paris a few times to do location and architectural research and the Natural History Museum in Milan, which has a huge collection of stuffed animals. The police museum in the Paris Prefecture was also very useful, as was the one in Manchester.

On the steampunk side, I’ve taken many photographs at the Victorian water pumping station in Sunderland, the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the Birmingham Think Tank Science Museum and had my brother-in-law take a bunch at the Industrial Museum at Kelham Island in Sheffield. Grandville Mon Amour has a sequence set in Westminster Abbey, so I had to visit that last year too.

downthetubes: Do you have a favourite new character in this story?

Bryan: I have a few. I think Billie is great. She more or less invented herself while I was in the early “blue sky” stages of the book. She’s a badger prostitute who’ll become a major character in further books. She’s very worldly, intelligent and more than a little tragic. Another character who’ll be recurring is Chief Inspector Rocher of the Paris Prefecture, who’s a little like a posh Maigret.

There’s also a hipopotamus brothel madame that I’m particulary pleased with and Harold Drummond, the prime minister of Britain, a bulldog, obviously. The one that steals the show, though is probably Edward Mastock, the (literally) mad dog serial killer and a totally despicable villain.

downthetubes: You've been writing and drawing your own stories for many years. Do you think that sets any particular challenge in terms of storytelling? Have you ever pulled back from drawing a 'crowd scene', for example, because you have so much control over your work?

Bryan: As the writer, I’m a total bastard to myself the artist. I’m always writing in scenes that I think will look great while the artist is groaning inside, knowing how much work will be involved.

downthetubes: You've said elsewhere that it's hard to make money as a comics storyteller in the UK. Is there one thing that might help change that?

Bryan: The ongoing growth of the market for graphic novels and their mainstream acceptance as a legitimate artist medium.

downthetubes: What is the continued appeal of comics as a storytelling medium for you?

Bryan: I love illustration. I like looking at drawings. Comics take illustration even further, using multiple drawings to tell stories. What could be better than that? I also enjoy playing with the structures and visual storytelling of the medium: manipulating atmospheres, playing with layouts and compositional lines, designing everything to enhance the particular story I’m working on.

downthetubes: As a frequent self publisher in your earlier career, what one tool available to modern creators could you most have used back then to sell your books?

Bryan: Actually, I only ever published one small print run comic in the late 1970s when I was working somewhere that had a litho press. The rest of the time, the comics, even the underground ones, were published by other people. The obvious answer, though is the internet.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice would you give would be self publishers working on their first book?

Bryan: Persevere.

downthetubes: What's next for Grandville? Is it ongoing?

Bryan: I’ve plotted out the next three books and am currently scripting the third one while waiting to hear back from a publisher about a graphic novel collaboration that I may well be doing first with a writer. I don’t want to mention it here, in case it doesn’t happen, but will definitely let you know when and if it’s going ahead.

downthetubes: Would you consider seeing Grandville in other mediums, like animation, for example?

Bryan: Absolutely. It would work fine as a CGI movie.

downthetubes: Bryan, thanks very much for your time. Follow the badger!

• More about Bryan Talbot at:

Comic Book Resources Interview with Bryan Talbot
August 2010

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour from Grandville Mon Amour from

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour (Dark Horse edition) from

The Grandville: Mon Amour Tour
Saturday 20th November
The book will be officially launched at the Thought Bubble Comics Festival. Saviles Hall, Leeds. Bryan will be there all day to sign copies. On Sunday he will be giving the Grandville Presentation in the Hepworth Room at the Leeds Art Gallery at 3.30pm - 4.30pm. Admission free.

Tuesday 30 Nov 2010 7.00pm
"Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition" - Powerpoint presentation at Orleans House Gallery - Coach House, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ: Full price £7.00 Concession £6.00: Richmond Literature Festival.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 6.45pm to 8.15pm 
ICA, The Mall, London SW1, In conversation with Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell: Tickets: £12, Concessions £11, Members £10

Thursday 02 December 6.00pm - 7.00pm
Forbidden Planet London Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR

Saturday 4th December 1pm - 2pm
Travelling Man Newcastle, 43 Grainger St, NewcastleNE1 5JE, 0191 2614993

Saturday 11th December 12.00pm - 1.00pm
Travelling Man York 54 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LF, United Kingdom, 01904 628 787

Saturday 11th December 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Travelling Man Manchester, 4-4A Dale Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester M1 1JW, 01612 373422

Pre-order Grandville Mon Amour(Dark Horse edition) from

Charley's War: The Great Mutiny released by Titan Books

Titan Books have just released Charley's War: The Great Mutiny by Pat Mils and Joe Colquhoun, the seventh volume of their Charley's War collections from Battle Picture Weekly.

Opening in September 1917, Charley is caught up in the mutiny by troops against harsh treatment at Etaples and faces divided loyalties as the rebellion gathers pace. Eventually, back on the front line, he faces death once more as a stretcher bearer - a precursor to an encounter with a German soldier who will, later in life, strike terror into millions of people.

Included in the book is a feature by Steve White on another little-documented mutiny - by French troops - and a forthright commentary on the British mutiny at Etaples from Charley's War co-creator and script writer Pat Mills.

"It’s still incredible and very gratifying to see an army mutiny as the most popular story in a British war comic," he writes. "It was inspired by the book and the TV series The Monocled Mutineer, and also by other accounts that confirm the mutiny at Etaples took place in September 1917.

"However, since the excellent TV version by Alan Bleasdale (also writer of Boys from the Black Stuff) appeared, there have been desperate attempts by right-wing historians to challenge its authenticity. Any search on the web will now suggest to you it’s a dubious work of fiction. Even the BBC DVD states the drama, 'based on supposedly true events', is adapted from 'the novel' and notes that the 'the BAFTA award winning series provoked intense political controversy on its broadcast in 1986 and, after an initial repeat, has not been shown since on British television.'

"I’ve read the source book carefully many times and whilst there are sections that are legitimately speculative, as in a novel, they are relatively few," Pat notes. "Nowhere does it state it is a work of fiction."

Pat's comments are bound to provoke debate among war historians but the writer meticulously researched the story from available resources at the time.

"Supposedly, a full account of what happened at Etaples will be released by the Ministry of Defence in 2017, one hundred years after the events. So there’s seven years to go - but don’t hold your breath. As the Daily Record noted only last year, the British government did not even concede there had been a mutiny at Etaples until 1978."

Charley's War: The Great Mutiny is available from all good bookshops.

Buy Charley's War: Great Mutiny from

Buy Charley's War: Great Mutiny from

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