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Saturday, 5 February 2011

War Comics On Tour In Scotland

On a day of protests to keep UK libraries open we are pleased to bring you a positive library story. In early December 2010 Carnoustie Library opened an exhibition of war comics that was due to run of the entire month and which we covered here. Due to the unprecedented snow that blanketed the country in December the exhibition was extended into January 2011 to allow visitors to see it.

As well as Commando images taken from the World War 1 story The 11th Hour, written by Ferg Handley, and with artwork of by both Ian Kennedy (right) and Olivera, the exhibition covered Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s Charley’s War and Jacques Tardi’s It Was The War Of The Trenches. Other war titles in the exhibition included DC’s Enemy Ace and anthologies showing work by Reed Crandall, John Severin, Art Spiegelman and Alex Toth. The exhibition also looked at how British comics dealt with war through the years with Adam Riches’ book When The Comics Went To War.

Exhibition organiser David Robertson, who is Senior Library Assistant at Carnoustie, has been back in touch with downthetubes to tell us that Commando artist Ian Kennedy visited the library to see the exhibition for himself while it was on. He goes on to tell us that the response to the exhibition has been so positive that it is now going on tour around five of the other Angus region libraries.

In February it is in Arbroath Library, in March it will be in Brechin Library, April will take it to Kirriemuir Library, in May it will be in Forfar Library, and finally in June it will be in Monifieth Library.

Dates for the exhibition at each of the libraries will be available closer to the time while the opening hours for each of the five libraries are available on the Angus Council website.

Great British Comics Reprinted - a quick round up

Despite the recent release of Johnny Red Volume 1 by Titan Books, it seems there are plenty of British comics fans who are totally unaware that attempts are being made to republish a lot of our classic comic material.

Johnny Red is just the latest British comics collection from Titan Books, whose other reprints include Charley's War, James Bond, Modesty Blaise and Dan Dare, with more character-focused projects in the works. These include the release of an uncensored collection of John Wagner and Mike Western's classic but perhaps controversial Darkie's Mob from Battle Picture Weekly, on sale in late March.

Johnny Red is surely one of the best-loved aerial combat comics ever, plucked from the pages of Battle. When pilot Johnny Redburn is discharged from the RAF for striking an officer, he is forced to join the Merchant Navy. But a German sneak attack forces Redburn back into the air - in a stolen Hurricane. Redburn aims for Russia, planning to save his plane and career, but on landing, meets the 'Falcon Squadron' of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, who are under German attack! Redburn takes to the skies once more - to fight for Russia.

This first collection of the classic strip by Tom Tully (whose credits include Roy of the Rovers) and, features the first strips which were all drawn by Joe Colquhoun (Charley's War) and includes a new introduction by Garth Ennis and a feature on real-world origins of the strip by downthetubes very own Jeremy Briggs.

Titan have also published a number of Dan Dare collections from the original Eagle, The Misadventures of Jane, compiling strips from the femme fatale's early adventures in the Daily Mirror, and seven volumes of Charley's War, with Volume 8 in pre-production - a volume that will include hero Charley Bourne's dangerous encounter with a young Adolf Hitler.

Collections of other strips from Battle are in development, although one major issue is finding good quality copies of the original comics.

Elsewhere, the monthly anthology STRIP Magazine is to re-publishing Hookjaw from Action, with the first issue on sale later this year. This will be in colour and re-lettered (but not censored), which may upset purists but the work being done is top notch (declared bias - I commissioned it), with some stunning re-presentation work by Jim Campbell and colouring by Gary Caldwell.

DC Thomson has been no slouch in getting some of its classic comics work in print. Quite aside from collections of Beano and its other humour comics, Carlton have published several collections of Commando stories and of course The Best of Victor was released last year.

In terms of sheer volume of re-releases, however, 2000AD publishers Rebellion surely win hands down, with a wide range of collections featuring the likes of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and other. Here's a link to a search for 2000AD titles on

Reynolds and Hearn published four collections of TV Century 21 and Countdown stories inspired by the Gerry Anderson science fiction shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO, with a fifth in the series on its way from the same editorial team (but different publisher, no matter what Amazon says).

And then there's the work of the Book Palace, who have been republishing a lot of Frank Bellamy's work, and a glorious (but pricey) collection of Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton from Express Weekly.

There is, of course, a huge amount of British comics material that could be reprinted. Of the companies that own rights, the newspapers are perhaps the most receptive, with Rebellion and DC Thomson leading the field in terms of keeping their properties in print. Egmont is supportive of licensing deals - Billy's Boots was re-published in Striker, for example.

IPC Media own rights to a lot of British characters, revamping many of them back in 2007 in the Albion mini series by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Shane Oakley. There have been limited attempts to reprint other IPC characters such as Steel Claw and Spider (again by Titan Books), but apart from the superb Trigan Empire collections from The Don Lawrence Collection, there's so much more that could be reprinted from their archive - but that's of course dependent on many factors, not least of which is finding an audience. But here's hoping!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Ramsey’s Raiders in latest Commando comic

Four new Commando comics are on sale now in all good newsagents - here's the intel... Don't forget, downthtubes has a special offer on Commando subscriptions - check out the ad elsewhere on this page

Commando No 4363: Raiders - Operation Anvil
Story: Ferg Handley Art: Keith Page
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Ramsey’s Raiders are in the bad books after a little fun at the expense of some arrogant American troops during a routine training exercise. There again, Captain Jimmy Ramsey and his Special Raiding Force team were never really ones for sticking to the rules.
Every cloud has a silver lining, though, because it gave them the chance to get back to business with a dangerous mission to Norway — one that would provide an unexpected opportunity to settle a score with an old enemy…

Operation Anvil continues the story of The Raiders started in Operation Hammer — two unofficial missions kept secret…until now.

Commando No 4364: Duel over the Desert
Story: Ferg Handley Art: Morahin
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

High above the arid deserts of Egypt during the First World War, two Royal Flying Corps officers in their RE8 biplane were carrying out vital reconnaissance missions over the positions of their Turkish enemies.

All was not running smoothly, though. Lieutenant Tim Blake was a decent enough pilot but got nervous under pressure. And he was teamed up with an abrasive know-it-all observer, Lieutenant Danny Woods.

So far, it looked like a recipe for disaster. Could they ever stop fighting each other long to concentrate on the enemy?

Commando 4365: Closer than Brothers
Story: Eric Hebden
Art: Ortiz
Cover Art: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No11 from November 1961

What a trio! Tom, Dick and Harry. Three ordinary names, but what extraordinary blokes.

A Scottish captain, an English sergeant, and a corporal from the West Indies, they were probably the closest pals ever known in the British Army.

And what fighters! No matter the odds, nothing was ever known to stop them. Between them they had all the guts in the world.

What a band of brothers! What a trio to belong to! Join them in this, the first of their amazing stories, told just as it happened…

• This story has never been re-issued before in any format — it’s a genuine classic from 1961 re-produced as closely as the Commando team can manage to the original.

Commando 436: Ace without Honur
Story: Bill Fear Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 1196 from February 1978, re-issued as No 2508 in October 1991

It should have been an honour to fly as wingman to Philip Templeton. Wasn’t he “The Shark” — the sleek, efficient, deadly fighter ace? His boyish charm and good humour had won him many admirers, so why feel uneasy?

Could it be you saw the other side of the man, the cold, calculating glory-hunter who let nothing stand in his way, even murder? If the victim were an enemy in time of war then that could be understandable, but what if The Shark’s next victim was his wingman? That’s right — you!

• 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, 3 February 2011

Panel Borders: Trina Robbins' Underground Comix

Starting a month of shows about female comic book creators, the Panel Borders radio show and podcast will present a talk recorded at ‘Laydeez do Comics’ in September 2010 this week.

Edited and introduced by Alex Fitch, veteran ‘Underground Comix’ creator and historian Trina Robbins chats about her six decades of working in the industry, creating and publishing titles that challenged the mainstream, as well as her flirtations with populist sex symbols Wonder Woman and Vampirella.

• Panel Borders: Trina Robbins' Underground Comix airs at 5.00pm, 3rd February 2011 on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at / podcast after broadcast at

Graphic novel celebrates the life of world's first spaceman, Yuri Gagarin

Artist Andrew King and writer Piers Bizony have launched Yuri's Day, a new comic graphic novel dedicated to the first man in space, celebrating both his story and the origin of the Soviet space program.

Now, the Moscow Times, a newspaper for expats in Moscow, is looking for comments on the new comic, and you can view some sample pages here: The plan is to publish opinions of it from English and Russian comic fans in the review.

Yuri's Day is the story of a man and his young protegĂ© who altered the course of history in 1961, even though the world knew almost nothing about them. The younger man’s great achievement, celebrated to this day, took him less than two hours to complete, yet required his courage and commitment over a period of years.

A happy and triumphant superstar at the age of 27, Yuri Gagarin's toughest challenge was to recover his sanity and self-respect in the glare of the global fame that came afterwards. Meanwhile, his protector and boss, Russia’s greatest rocket genius, Sergei Povlovich Korolev was forced into the shadows of obscurity by the State authorities.

In 1938 Russian aircraft engineer Korolev was developing simple rockets at an army laboratory in St. Petersburg when he fell victim to Stalin’s terror purge. He was beaten, then imprisoned in a freezing Siberian labour camp. Three years later, on the verge of death, he was ordered to Moscow. Hitler’s armies had invaded and Stalin suddenly needed engineers. In 1945 Korolev was sent into the German heartland, where he found to his dismay that Wernher von Braun’s V2 rocket bomb had already outstripped his wildest ambitions.

But by 1957 Korolev had created ‘Raketa-7,’ the first intercontinental ballistic missile. It was designed to drop nuclear bombs onto the United States, but Korolev knew it could also reach into space. On October 4, 1957 he launched Sputnik into orbit. A month later Sputnik II went up, carrying the dog Laika. Korolev then told the Red Army generals he could build a satellite to snoop on the West, but first he would have to enlist a pilot with excellent eyesight to look out of the satellite’s window and check on what the spy cameras might see. The generals believed him, and in October 1959 a squad of ‘cosmonauts’ was formed.

From among that small cadre of hopeful candidates, Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin was selected to become the world’s first human space voyager. The consequences of his successful flight are still being felt today.

In the wake of Gagarin’s triumph - and almost exclusively because of it - the United States felt compelled to bid for the moon. Korolev’s strength of personality enabled him to bend the clumsy Soviet industrial system to his own ends. The moon was his dream, too. Only in recent years has it become clear just how hard he (and other elements within the sprawling Russian rocket sector) really did try to beat Apollo to that famous lunar touchdown.

Korolev died at the age of 59 in 1966 during what should have been a routine stomach operation. He had designed Soyuz, Russia’s workhorse capsule which is still in use today. He had also embarked on a giant lunar booster, the N-1. After 1966 his legacy was in the hands of weaker administrators. Who knows what might have happened if he had lived a few more years?

As for Gagarin: had he lived a little longer, he would have become, to our generation, so much more than merely a famous name repeated in history classes.Yuri’s Day illustrates a merging of incredible events in comic style, teeling the story of the early Soviet space program in comic and text. The project is the work of artist Andrew King, who lectures on design history and theory to students on architecture, design and professional model making degrees; and written by Pieres Bizony, author of 2001: Filming the Future and The Man Who Ran the Moon, who has written about science, aerospace and cosmology for a wide variety of magazines in the UK and the US. (Bizony also helped create the Millennium Fund bid for the At-Bristol complex in the UK and created, wrote, picture-researched and project-managed  Space: 50, a major colour book collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and worldwide publishers HarperCollins, marking the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.

His recent project, Atom, a tie-in book for a BBC TV series, tells the dramatic story of the rivalries and passions at play during the discovery of quantum physics.

• More about the graphic novel at:

• View sample pages here:

• Post you comments here on downthethetubes (membership required): or post a comment below

In Review: XIII - SPADS

Who is XIII? Book 1 - presidential assassin? Book 2 - special forces soldier? Book 3 - psychotic murderer? In the fourth XIII book, SPADS, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance take XIII back to the Special Assault and Destruction Squads of the US Army that were mentioned fleetingly in the second book in the ongoing attempt to discover just who he is.

XIII looks so like Captain Rowland of the SPADS that Roland's own family believed that he was. In an attempt to discover the truth, and to keep him safe from the shadowy figures trying to kill him, General Carrington assigns XIII to a SPADS team under the new name of Corporal Ross Tanner. There he is told in no uncertain terms by his commanding officer that he is no soldier but it is where he meets a sergeant who was in the Women's Army Corps when she knew Captain Rowland. Meanwhile at the Pentagon, CIA agent Colonel Amos, who has been tasked to bring the President's assassin to justice, confronts General Carrington as to why he is helping XIII while, inm the background, the election for a new President moves into full swing.

SPADS is the first of Cinebook’s XIII books that hasn't previously been released in English by another publisher yet it is the first title in the series that starts to lift the veil on just who XIII is and why he apparently assassinated the President of the United States. In it Van Hamme gives the reader, but not necessarily XIII himself, a virtual avalanche of information about who this mystery man is and just what is going on with the story. It also raises even more questions about Carrington's assistant, the trusted, capable, seemingly indestructible but ultimately mysterious, Lt Jones.

Vance's art continues to impress with much of the army side of the plot taking place at night or in rain which allows him to experiment with how much he can obscure the contents of some panels while still making them understandable. His military equipment is detailed and accurate and since the US military still uses the same helicopters today they don't give the book a dated look despite it having originally been published in France in 1987.

The only time the book seems to wrong foot itself is with the character of the freckled Sergeant Betty Barnowsky who comes across as far too cute and petite to be a special forces soldier who can kill a man with her bare hands. We know exactly how petite she is as she spends most of her time wearing only the scantiest of underwear, including at the point in the story when she has to parachute out of a helicopter (and if that doesn't make you want to at least look at the book, nothing will).

The three previous XIII books were so different to each other story wise that it was difficult to see just were Jean Van Hamme was heading with the overall plot arc although that is partially what made them so interesting. With SPADS Van Hamme pulls together the various plot points from the previous books and explains enough of them to leave the reader both satisfied with where the overall arc has got to as well as wanting more.

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

• There are more details of the original French XIII albums on the official XIII website (in French).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Effects director Shaun Whittacker-Cook interviewed in new Andersonic

Issue 11 of the ace Gerry Anderson fanzine Andersonic is now available via the publication's website and features a new interview with former Century 21 SFX director Shaun Whittacker-Cook in which he discusses his time working at Century 21 on all the series from Thunderbirds up to UFO.

Shaun shares anecdotes of his time at the studio and reveals how certain sequences were created, his favourite effects shots and what it was really like trying to get a sofa on board Thunderbird 3 and make spinning UFOs fly!

Other features include an analysis of Starcruiser: 'Run Robot Run', a recently unearthed script for the Anderson TV series that never was; Gerry Anderson collectibles (and why they're collected); a guide to the Space: 1999 episode 'Force of Life' in which Ian McShane catches a chill as Moonbase Alpha revisits Quatermass; a look at the South African puppet series Interster, which was influenced by Century 21; and Could You Fly a Thunderbird? - take a psychometric test and find out!

The new issue comprises 44 pages with colour inner & outer covers and is available via the website - price £2.20 including UK postage. It will also be available from eBay for a limited period.

If you'd prefer to pay by cheque or PO, you can get in with Andersonic via their website for a postal address. Issues 4 to 10 are still available to buy from the website.

Croatian comics portal Stripovi launches Best of 2010 vote

The Eagle Awards aren't the only people seeking comic fans votes this month: the fantastic-looking Croatian comics portal has just announced its annual poll for the best comics published in the past year.

Unlike other comic awards, stripovi have decided to keep things simple, limiting the voting to the best European comic strip album and best volumes, which include titles such as Blueberry - arguing that an excessive number of categories would be counterproductive and discouraging to visitors.

Selection is done by filling out a simple form on the Stripovi website

Voting ends on 1st March 2011, so brush up on your Croatian and take a look! (Or, for the faint-hearted like me, use Google Translate to see the nominated books list) .

Web Site:

In Review: Long John Silver - Lady Vivian Hastings

Long John Silver is yet another new bandes dessinee series to be translated into English for the first time by Cinebook. Written by Xavier Dorison and illustrated by Mathieu Lauffray, it is described not as a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island but as an homage to it set some 20 years after the return of the Hispaniola to England at the end of the novel.

Lord Byron Hastings has been so fascinated by the legend of the El Dorado-like lost city of Guiana-Capac that he has spent the last three years in the Americas attempting to find it. Meanwhile back in England his wife, Lady Vivian, has been enjoying herself so much that she is now penniless, pregnant and attempting to lure one of her rich lovers into marrying her after she has had her husband declared dead. Before she can succeed in this her brother-in-law, Captain Edward Hastings, arrives with word from her husband that he has found the lost city and for Edward to sell his entire assets and finance an expedition to come and get him. Edward's intention is to send Lady Vivian, whom he does not approve of, to a convent while he sails to the Americas but she out manoeuvres him to join the expedition and, knowing that she needs allies on board ship, hires John Silver and his crew to work for her.

Treasure Island was one of those books that, for me, was a school reading text, the over analysis of which was normally more than enough to put me off any of those books for life. However I also had a copy of the early 1970s Collins storybook of the novel with gorgeous painted illustrations by Ron Embleton which helped me retain a love of the book despite having to discuss the story in class every week. (My English teacher must be chuckling in his grave that I freely choose to do now what I hated to do back then.)

This first book in the series, as the title would suggest, is very much Lady Vivian's story establishing her as a head strong but wily character. Rather than dropping us headlong into the story Dorison builds his plot nicely, establishing each character and their motivations before moving on to the next and finally leading us to Long John himself. The suggestion here is that few of the characters in the book are going to be straightforwardly good or bad with virtually everyone having their own secret agenda as their ship, the Neptune, sets sail for the New World.

In contrast to the smoothness of Ron Embleton's art in that Collins storybook, Lauffrey's style is more sketchy but this is to the benefit of the story as it quickly moves from the classy surroundings of the Hastings' grand home to the darkness and danger of Silver's inn. Indeed his take on Silver could be described as a peg legged Wolverine, without the claws but just as dangerous, as the body count once he is introduced would suggest. While the cover painting is perhaps a little too moody to be striking, the fact that the book is published full BD size rather than the US size that Cinebook use for some of their other more mature adventure titles allows you to appreciate Lauffrey's art better.

Long John Silver - Lady Vivian Hastings sets the scene well for the ongoing adventures of literature's best known pirate and I look forward to seeing more of the books in the series translated soon.

There are more details of the Long John Silver series on the Cinebook website and the second book Neptune is due to be published in March 2011.

There are more details of the original French language versions of Long John Silver on the Dargaud website (in French).

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Nominations Open for Eagle Awards 2011

What was your favourite comic of 2010? Which artists and writers really grabbed your attention? Wekl, nominations open on Friday 4 February and run until 7th March for the world-famous Eagle Awards, so head on over to to make your voice heard!

The top five nominations in each section will then be verified and voting gets underway on 14th March – let us know who you want to see honoured on the big night of 27th May at the London MCM Expo by picking your favourites of 2010.

Once again the awards ceremony will be streamed LIVE to the world over the internet via which proved extremely popular in 2010.

Introduced in 1976, the Eagles are the comics industry’s most prestigious fan-selected awards, giving the entire comics community the opportunity to vote for the finest publications and brightest talent of the past year, with categories covering the whole world of comics, including manga, movies and webcomics.

MCM Expo Group managing director Paul Miley and the Eagle Awards’ Cassandra Conroy have also announced that going forward, the Eagle Awards will be co-owned and organised equally by both parties.

Last October the Eagles moved to their new home at London MCM Expo, London’s Comic Con - - and 2011 sees the awards return to Excel once again – this time back in their traditional May slot.

“All nominees will be invited to the Awards Ceremony at May’s London MCM Expo and the winners will be offered the opportunity to give an acceptance speech,” said Cassandra Conroy. “The full list of Award Winners will be released to the world 27 May.”

• For general enquiries on the Eagle Awards, contact

• To buy tickets to the London MCM Expo at Excel London on 27-29 May, please visit: 

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