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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Phoenix: a new British comic rises from the ashes of The DFC

A new British comic is in the offing, edited by former The DFC editor Ben Sharpe.

Contrary to earlier reports on Lew Stringer's blog, and elsewhere, Ben says The Phoenix is not a revival of The DFC, although its editorial team will include Will Fickling, who was heavily involved in that weekly subscription title.

"The Phoenix isn't affiliated to David Fickling Books or any other publisher," says Ben, who clearly enjoyed his time on The DFC, which gave him the chance, we gather, to look at wonderful artwork all day, and have vital conversations like 'how many nipples is it appropriate to show on strips about 30s-era crime-fighting dogs', 'do sheep really have the lung capacity to master the tuba' and 'does super-strength make a schoolgirl super-fast or actually a little bit ponderous'.

There's scant details of what format the title will take but it does seem that several DFC contributors will be involved, including Gary Northfield and Emma Vieceli.

They will be looking for submissions: Ben says he will post info on what they're particularly looking for as soon as the comic's main website goes live.

More news as we get it!

UPDATE 5 MARCH 2011: The Phoenix comic now has a website.

On a related note, three more books based strips from The DFC are due to be published in late 2011 from the David Fickling Library: Baggage from the Etherington Brothers; The Boss by John and Patrice Aggs; and Jame's Turner's marvellous Super Animal Adventure Squad.

• If you'd like to be on the early mailing list for The Phoneix, DM Ben Sharpe on Twitter

• Track news of The Phoenix comic on Twitter:

A Comic Convention Returns to Glasgow

It has been some 15 years since Glasgow hosted a comics convention with the last of the GlasCACs, the Glasgow Comic Art Conventions. Since then Scotland has had 2 Oxfam Comics Days in Edinburgh, 3 Hi-Exs in Inverness, 4 Dundee Comics Days as part of that city's Literature Festival and 5 Moniaive Comics Festivals near Dumfries.

While Moniaive has faded into history and Hi-Ex is taking a well deserved break, Oxfam and Dundee are both due back in 2011 in the summer and autumn respectively. However to tide Scottish comics fans over until then the organisers of the twice yearly Glasgow Comic and Toy Fair, Sha Nazir and John Farman, have taken the plunge and announced the new Glasgow Comic Con.

The convention will take place on Saturday 18 June 2011 in Glasgow's Mackintosh Church Arts and Heritage Centre at Queen's Cross with the doors open from 10am to 6pm. The first guests to be announced are V For Vendetta artist David Lloyd and local lads, artist Frank Quitely and writer Mark Millar (at his fourth comics event in Glasgow in five months). Tickets are priced at £7.50 and went on sale at the Glasgow comic and toy fair held last Saturday. They will be available to the rest of the country when the event's website goes live soon.

The convention will be run in partnership with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society with half of all profits going to the arts education and outreach work undertaken by the charity.

There are more details about the convention on its Facebook page.

There will be more details about the convention on its
website when it goes live.

Friday, 4 March 2011

STRIP Magazine editor at Lancaster comics event on 19th March

Lancaster's Storey Creative Industries Centre will host a comic and science fiction fair on Saturday 19th March.

A must for all collectors of Doctor Who, Marvel and DC Comics, film posters, trading cards and toys, along with an appearance by Star Wars robot R2D2,  John Freeman, editor of the upcoming STRIP Magazine and will be at this event - and we're sure some local Lancaster-based comic creators will also be putting in appearance, too.

The Fair opens at 12 noon, admission £1.

• For enquiries about exhibition stalls contact

•  Click here for a Google Map of the location

Sneek peek of 2000AD Lawgiver prop at National Space Centre's BritSciFi event

TV legend Gerry Anderson is to join the crew of Leicester's National Space Centre on 19th - 20th March for a celebration of British science fiction that also includes an appearance by Blake's 7's Gareth Thomas and a sneek peek look at the new Judge Dredd Lawgiver replica.

2000AD will be giving fans a world exclusive and allowing you a never before seen “sneak peek” at the new licensed replica Judge Dread Lawgiver MkII, made by Jon Scott of Great Scotts Props.

Gerry Anderson MBE, British publisher, producer, director and writer, famous for his shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL5, Space: 1999 and Joe 90, to name but a few, will be making a rare appearance next month as he joins the crew of the National Space Centre to celebrate all things science fiction and British.

Appearing on both days of the event, visitors will be able to meet the man who created the Supermarionation technique, that made the series he produced so ground breaking.

Anderson will be joined by a whole host of guests and characters from the past 50 years (with more to be announced), including Gareth Thomas who played the lead role of Blake in the iconic TV series Blake’s 7.

Alongside these guests will be displays and talks by Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker on the launch of their new book that charts their amazing careers leading the teams in the BBC Visual Effects Departments.  Between them they have worked on hundreds of shows including Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and Rentaghost.

An amazing display of original props and costumes will be guarded over by an invasion force of Daleks, who are out in force to raise money for Children in Need… and you thought they had no heart!

The original K9 will be joining Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks and Primeval writer James Moran, for some cozy chats on writing science fiction. James will not be alone as the Primeval team also be there to talk about the series.

Talks are still ongoing with more guests and participants, so all eyes should be on the sky as you never know who could be dropping in next!

The National Space Centre is the UK's largest visitor attraction and research facility dedicated to space. It opened to the public in June 2001 and was co-founded by The University of Leicester and Leicester City Council.

More info:

David Pugh's Slaine, Dan Dare art (and more) on sale for charity

Green for Danger, published in
New Eagle in 1990

(Updated) Following up on our recent post about a mystery Dan Dare page, which gave us chance to touch base with ace comics artist David Pugh, we can now report that he has begun auctioning off some of his old artwork to benefit migrant workers and refugees in India and Africa.

Bus Fare is a charity set up by David to help refugees and migrant workers visit their families, who have been separated by either political or economic necessity. It can also provide some pocket money to compensate for loss of wages, while they are travelling.

"The Tibetan people were the inspiration for setting up this trust, many of whom I count as good friends," says David.

Included in the art work sale are pages of Dan Dare, drawn for the New Eagle; and pages from the 2000AD story Slaine: Time Killer, including the first Slaine page David ever drew.

Although the site only features five pieces of artwork, there are links to many more pages on offer, which have been posted in a number of albums on Facebook as part of David's fan page.

The Slaine pages are selling for between £100 - £200. Many pages of full colour Dan Dare art from 1989-1994, including the Mekon's last appearance in the comic, are available from £65-£300.

David tells us two of the Dan Dare pages from the last story have been sold already, one for £250 one at £300, along with three Slaine Time killer pages. "Bus Fare is becoming a full time job but I'm very glad I have the time to work on it."

• If you are interested in any other pages not featured on the Web Store but which feature on Facebook, contact David direct via

David Pugh Art for sale - Bus Fare web store

Dan Dare Art on Facebook

Dan Dare Art - 1989 - 1990
Dan Dare: Destination X
Dan Dare: Dog Star 
Dan Dare: Murder Machine (1991)

Dan Dare's last ever New Eagle story

Eagle Comic Art

Joe Alien (1989)

M.A.S.K. Art on Facebook

M.A.S.K. - Colossus (1988)
M.A.S.K. - Funnsville and Double Cross (1988)

M.A.S.K. - Mayhem's Mansion (1988)
M.A.S.K. - Millionaire Mayhem (1988)
M.A.S.K. - Project Imposter (1988)
MA.S.K. - Kamikaze
M.A.S.K. Maelstrom Mayhem

Slaine Art

Slaine Art (Facebook album)

Teknophage Art

Teknophage Issue 2: A Show of Force (July 1996)
Teknophage Issue 3: The Jaws Of The Trap August 1996
Teknophage Issue 4: Death Arena! September 1996
Teknophage Issue 5: The Dragon's Teeth October 1996
Teknophage Issue 6: Sacrifice! November 1996

Wildcat Comic Art

Loner (1989)
Loner (Widcat Winter Special)

• Check out the Bus Fare site and find out more about the charity at http://busfare.

Convict Commandos debuts

Four new Commando issues are on sale now in newsagents, continuing our 50th year countdown from 12 to one of re-issues of the original dozen Commandos. This month sees Number 10 “Hun Bait”, written by Dan Dare writer David Motton under the pseudonym Bernard Castle, drawn by Gordon Livingstone, given a fresh airing.

Also launching this month is the first Convict Commando story, a mini-series of adventures for these new Commando heroes devised by Alan Hebden which will run in Issues 4371, 4379, 4387 and 4395. " And maybe more to come," hints editor Calum Laird.

Alan Hebden will be familiar to downthetubes readers, not only for his Commando work, but for his work on the 1970s title Battle Picture Weekly, for which he created strips such as Major Eazy and Crazy Keller, and also wrote scripts for Rat Pack and D-Day Dawson, among others. His body of work is immense, but he has resisted most attempts by fans of his work to be drawn into talking about his contributions to British comics.

Commando is now available through a digital subscription service — DC Thomson’s first foray into this medium. "Although it’s early days (the first month is just finishing), the numbers are building," says Calum, "as are those for the much longer established paper subscriptions."

Commando No 4371: Convict Commandos
Story: Alan Hebden Art and Cover: Benet

There you are — stuck in a military prison in Singapore when the Japanese smash into town. You know that if being a prisoner of the British is bad being a prisoner of the Japanese will be ten times worse.

So if a man in British officer’s uniform was to offer to get you out if you’d work for him, you’d agree to do anything he ordered, wouldn’t you?

The Convict Commandos did… and probably wished they hadn’t!

Commando 4372: Sky Sniper
Story: Ferg Handley Art: Vila Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Soaring above the battlefields of the Western Front, the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps saw themselves as guardians of chivalry — gentlemen fliers.

So Lieutenant James Wilford, the pilot of a Farman MF11 Shorthorn, got a shock when he met his new observer, Captain Alan Kingston. This gun-toting, hardened veteran had already seen action in the trenches — and had no time for old-fashioned chivalry. If the Huns wanted a fight… they’d get one!

Commando 4373: Hun Bait
Story: Castle Art: Gordon Livingstone Cover Art: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 10. Previously re-issued as No 2595. Now released in as near to the original presentation as possible.

They were keeping him away from the front line — a man like Sergeant Kelly! And yet this big Australian had such a deadly hatred for the enemy it made him into a fighting fury, a battling, raging, soldier supreme.

But John Kelly was a trier, and exciting was the path he trod to defy authority and get his hands on the enemy’s throat.

David Motton, who also wrote several Dan Dare and Jet Ace Logan stories, wrote this story under the pseudonym Bernard Castle. Alive  and well, and out in the western desert, downthetubes recently interviewed him here.

Commando 4374: The Eye of Ra

Story: Mike Knowles Art: Giralt Cover Art: F.D. Phillips
First Published in 1978 as Commando No 1212 and chosen by Scott Montgomery, Commando’s Deputy Editor

It was carved on the wall of an ancient tomb. The Eye of Ra, sun-god of Egypt. The legend said that if it gazed on anyone defiling the tomb, that person was doomed. The men who discovered it laughed at the idea, but one of them died violently and the others vanished without trace!

The war brought soldiers to Egypt, and among them was the brother of the dead man. From the moment his troop-train was ambushed until the moment he finally stood in that same tomb, Alan Fisher was to run into more dangers than he had ever thought possible.

• The Commando iPad and iPhone apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. For those not sure there are four free issues to download prior to making a purchase.

Commando Comics iPhone App on iTunes

Commando Comics iPad App on iTunes

• 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

Roll Up for Roll Out with Furman, Senior and more this Sunday

Transformers comic writer and ace scripter in his own right Simon Furman, artists Geoff Senior, Andrew Wildman, John Higgins and Martin Griffiths be in Fordingbridge, Hampshire on Sunday (6th March), for All the Cool Stuff’s combined Transformers/Action Force mini-con(vention), Roll Out/Roll Call 2.

"I can’t remember the last time Geoff, Andy and I were all together at an event," says Simon, "and John Higgins (who provided amazing Transformers covers and posters — anyone remember that amazing snowy Dinobots scene he painted for TF-UK?). It makes it a line-up not to be missed."

Roll Out is the UK show dedicated to Transformers, Action Force & GI Joe and the organisers say they are "very proud" to have Simon Furman return to the event along with some very special guests from the world of Transformers, Action Force & GI-Joe.

Simon's work with Transformers has spanned across Marvel UK, US, Dreamwave, Titan Magazines and IDW comics, while both Geoff Senior and Andrew Wildman have helped visualize some of Simon's best known work.  Both Geoff and Simon were the creative force behind Simon's cult bounty hunter character creator Deaths' Head, and Andrew worked on many other MUK favourites including Galaxy Rangers, The Real Ghostbusters and Thundercats.

All three worked on Action Force during the 'International Heroes' era.

John Higgins might best known for his work on 2000AD and as the colourist for Watchmen, however he was also involved with Marvel UK's bid for Action Force during the Palitoy years and, as Simon notes, provided many covers for the Marvel UK Transformer comics.

A late addition to the line up is artist Martin Griffiths, a legend for the Marvel UK Thundercats comic, but who also worked on Transformers.

Joining them will be colourists Liam Shalloo and John-Paul Bove, the current regulars for IDW comics, having worked on Transformers titles.

Also at the event will be James Eatock, the editor of cereal:geek magazine (currently hyping its upcoming seventh issue) and the fountain of all knowledge on cartoons of the 1980's, who will be on hand to showcase the publication and its truly amazing artwork.

• Tickets for the event will be available on the door. For more information on event art exclusives and trading affiliates, check out the All The Cool Stuff site here

Thursday, 3 March 2011

In Review: Fallen Heroes #1

Writer: Bary Nugent
Writer/Adaptor: Martin Conaghan
Artist: Steve Penfold
Publisher: Beyond the Bunker
Web Link: and
Also available on iTunes

The Comic: A stalker of demons and legends, a pair of master criminals, a teenager on the brink of madness and a man forever cursed with the desire for vengeance. They are all pawns in a plan set in motion over nine centuries before their birth. Pursued across the globe by enemies both human and supernatural, they must overcome their mistrust of each other and uncover the truth before it destroys them all.

Fallen Heroes is a supernatural adventure that pits an unlikely group of heroes and anti heroes against an evil which has existed since the first crusade. If they can keep from killing each other long enough they might just be able to stop the world from plunging into a new dark age.

The Review: Adapted from the contemporary fantasy novel by Barry Nugent, there's no doubting that the Fallen Heroes team have marketed the launch of this new comic very effectively - but is it actually any good?

Well, there's no doubting the quality of much of the art and the sheer impact of the visuals in this first issue, as we see a young student haunted by nightmares, a high-tech piece of burglary go badly wrong and are introduced, obliquely, to some of the main players in this story. Steve Penfold's art is terrific - vibrant, energetic, and for the most part, there's some great storytelling.

But - and for me, there is a huge but - while it's great to have a story that leaves you wanting more, tantalizing readers with tidbits of story and information, hooks to pull you along and, hopefully, into buying Issue 2, there's a fine line between doing that and the story becoming perhaps a shade incomprehensible.

Judging by other reviews, I'm conscious I'm perhaps in a minority here, but for me Fallen Heroes tends to fall into the latter category. Yes, there's a handy overview of the back story on the inside cover, but sadly, from bitter experience when editing Overkill and other Marvel UK titles back in the 1980s, we soon discovered many readers jumped straight to the comic and never read these handy guides.

There's some fun back matter, post story, too - but again, the comic's the thing, and if it's hard to work out what's going on, especially in a comic aimed firmly at the same market buying superhero titles, you're making things difficult for yourself when it comes to gaining readers.

Take, for example, a scene post a nightmare sequence, as a young student is haunted by a really bad dream. On waking, he disturbs a lecture - but which student is it in this panel?

You'd think it was the one with the light from a projector shining on him, perhaps? No. It's the guy in the hoodie at the back of the room.

Now, you're probably going to say this is the worst kind of nitpicking - after all, in the next panel we know exactly who's in the firing line - but its storytelling like this, however incidental, that might seem like a good idea at the time, to jar readers perceptions, perhaps, that actually, again in my experience, that puts them off.

Again, as our high-tech burglar enters a building, he seems to be heading for some kind of sensor net. Does he get through it somehow without setting it off? Does the power go off, shutting it down? Does he actually set it off and alert security? Again, the visuals are superb art wise, but as a reader, you're left unsure.

Yes, I am probably being hyper critical - but when you have such a good looking book as this, these things actually stand out all the more.

Don't get me wrong. Fallen Heroes shows immense promise and, given that the first printing has already sold out, it's clearly found a market. There have been many positive reviews. There's an intriguing back story, excellent art, and, all round, the team know what they're doing. But for me, I'm demanding more of them for Issue 2.

• The first printing of Fallen Heroes #1 has sold out: Beyond the Bunker are currently in the process of arranging a second print run with ukomics. This will again be a limited printing, so if you’re interested in picking up a copy when they become available then send us an email at with your name and address and they’ll add you to the list.

• Official web site:

Fallen Heroes #1 on iTunes

More Reviews...

Hi-Ex! Blog
"The strip itself starts with a bang- dropping the reader into the middle of an incredibly strange situation with no explanation at all of what’s happening to this characters. If you’re wondering- this is a Good Thing. Both the character and the book itself are instantly interesting as the reader asks the obvious question: what the hell is going on?... I cannot imagine anyone reading this and not wanting to pick up the next one.”

SciFi Pulse
“The teen in the red hoodie is not Clark Kent. But I will say that there’s more action and interesting storytelling in these 22 pages than in all of Superman: Earth One... It’s a roller coaster ride that includes skeletons, Mission: Impossible-like stunts, a mysterious data disc and teeth-rattling explosions.”

•  Geeky Girls Love Sci Fi
"Because the artwork is so heavily relied upon to tell this story, the story itself occasionally becomes lost and doesn't flow as well as it could. Like many greats before it, Fallen Heroes takes no prisoners in refusing to hold the reader's hand through its narrative, and neither should it, but while #1 has certainly piqued our interest, we're trusting that issue #2 will give us just a bit more to hold on to. And make no mistake; we'll be buying issue #2."

"Solid d├ębut issue that should leave you wanting more... Fallen Heroes is well worth a read and as an independent comics release that's a little bit different it is worth your support."

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Cesar to release Judge Dredd costume, ideal for would-be vigilantes

The new Judge Dredd costume
from Cesar. Solid helmet and
Lawgiver not included!
Costumed vigilante "The Statesman" may be gaining press coverage battling intoxicated baddies and wannabe burglars on the streets of Birmingham, as reported by papers such as the Daily Mail and the Sunday Mercury. But now the real law is coming, and you can patrol your local neighbourhood in the guise of the country's most famous future cop thanks to a new Judge Dredd costume from Cesar, available later this year.

The costume gives you everything you need to get into full law-giving character – a full body jumpsuit with muscle padding, plus utility belt with pockets for your phone and money, knee and elbow pads, detailed shoulder and eagle pads, boot covers, gloves and a shiny PVC helmet.

"You see people dressed in lots of 'superhero' costumes but now everyone can be the lawman of the future, Judge Dredd," enthuses 2000AD Matt Smith (aka Tharg, although we've never seen Matt dressed as old green bonce). “The helmet and shoulder pads make up one of the most iconic costumes in comic books, right up there with Superman's cape and Batman's cowl.

“Dredd is a uniquely British blend of satire, hyper-violence and action that has made him such an icon and a byword for the stern application of the law.

“What's certain is that he is the original British comic book hero – vigilantes spandex-clad superheroes had best beware as the judges take to the streets later this year!”

 Commenting on the new costume, Judge Dredd said: “Impersonating a judge is an offence, punk! Around these parts, I'M the law – 30 years in the iso-cubes, creep!”

Various newspapers, including The Sun, reported how Scott Cooke was patrolling the streets of Birmingham as The Statesman, a masked real-life 'Kick Ass'-inspired vigilante. The Sunday Mercury noted that despite his bravado, the 26-year-old failed to stop failed to stop 99 crimes in his own neighbourhood in the last month alone... plenty for would-be Judge Dredds to deal with, then.

• More Judge Dredd craziness over at

Comics Grid web blog on the move

The Comics Grid, a collaborative, peer-edited and authored blog dedicated to comics scholarshiphas moved its website to

Although the main focus of  the Comics Grid is on the analysis of specific comics page layouts and panels, the site also covers academic events and publications through their twitter account (@comicsgrid). So far, they've published posts on works by Charles Schulz, Art Spiegelman, Brecht Evens, Cameron Stewart, Frank King, Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Ware, Jerry Moriarty and Joe Sacco.

Site editor Greice Schneider, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, has also extended an  invitation to people who might wish to contribute with a short page analysis.

"Our blog's aim is to function as an online laboratory where different critical approaches to comics are publicly and collectively put to test," says Greice. "It would be great to have a sample of a variety of methodologies, comics traditions and international perspectives. Besides promoting discussion on comics studies, we believe this short format of collaborative lab also works as an effective means of giving a taste of specific research projects, redirecting a specialized audience towards it."

Earlier this week, the Grid published its first external contribution by Nina Mickwitz from the University of East Anglia, analysing a page by Joe Sacco.

• If you’re interested in contributing, please email us to comicsgrid AT gmail DOT com with some information about your work and how you could contribute.

Google Map of Comics Grid Contributors

Comics Launchpad initiative kicks off to help British comic creators

Orgnaisers who brought us the British International Comic Show have announced Launch Pad, a one-day conference aimed at comic professionals, aspiring professionals and those with a serious interest in the business of making comics, promising it will be "an enlightening and fascinating experience".

Launch Pad, which will take place on 18th June 2011 at The Studio, Birmingahm, features a full programme of talks, seminars, demonstrations and workshops all taking place under one roof. Leading artists, writers, editors, publishers, colourists, letterers and designers from all reaches of the industry will be on hand to share their wealth of experience and appraise your work.

Our guest speakers currently include Klaus Janson, Andi Watson, Mark Farmer and Emma Vieceli, with many more to be confirmed.

"With emphasis on the digital revolution that is sweeping the industry, there has never been a more exciting and challenging time for the medium," the organisers declare. "Launch Pad will examine and embrace these changes which affect not just how we create comics, but also how we deliver them to readers.

"All aspects of traditional and digital methods of creating and distributing comics, as well as the ever growing and diverse self-publishing movement, will be covered in depth."

Access to this event will be via advanced on line ticket sales only, limited to just 300 delegates. Demand will be high, so early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Co-organiser Shane Chebsey, the man behind Smallzone, tells us this is just the first of a series of events, with others being considered in different parts of the country.

• For full information and to book visit

Comics @ Edinburgh International Science Festival

Edinburgh's many festivals often offer comics events but they do tend to happen during the Book Festival or the Film Festival so it is unusual to see something turn up at the Science Festival.

This year Paul Collicutt, author and artist of the children's graphic novel series Robot City Adventures, will be giving a talk and art workshop about his robots. The 1 hour event is suitable for ages 7 and above and will take place at 2pm on Tuesday 12 April 2011 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the city's Royal Mile. The cost of the event is a very reasonable £4.

There are more details of the event and how to purchase tickets on the Edinburgh International Science Festival website.

There are more details of the Robot City Adventures books on the Templar Publishing

You can read an interview with Paul Collicutt on the Graphic Novel Reporter

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

WebFinds: Chris Weston, Movie Star

Today's WebFind: ace British artist Chris Weston has re-plugged some 'motion comics' created to promote last year's Book of Eli film directed by the Hughes brothers and starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.

It looks like two comics were published, with Chris, who drew the tale, making a cameo in the second, "The End", below...

So why didn't we we see him on the Oscars red carpet at the weekend?

A lone hero must fight his way across the wasteland of post-apocalyptic America to protect a sacred book that holds the key to saving the future of humanity. This motion comic was drawn by "the annoyingly talented Tommy Lee Edwards", Chris tells us.

"The End" - featuring Chris Weston (who also drew it)

Released to mix reviews and pitted against films such as Avatar, Box Office Mojo notes The Book of Eli gross $94,835,059 in the United States and Canada, and $62,256,659 in other markets, with an estimated worldwide total of $157,091,718.

The Image on the Sleeve May Not Necessarily Correspond with the Film

It isn’t often that we go eastern here on downthetubes and when we do it is normally manga or anime, so this is a little different.

Maiti Jakku was a 13 episode live action TV series broadcast in Japan in 1968, telling the story of a secret international policing organisation which uses a flying submarine against a terrorist organisation known as Q. Wikipedia tells us that in 1986 American producer Sandy Frank combined several of the Maiti Jakku episodes into a dubbed feature length film entitled Mighty Jack.

Fast forward two decades and Mighty Jack was released on DVD by a UK company called 23rd Century who produce very cheap DVDs and, suffice to say, have something of a reputation on many DVD forums. While their lack of grammar and spellchecking on the back cover may be amusing, it was the front cover that attracted the attention of Technodelic’s Shaqui LeVesconte. The DVD cover and menu screen both use the same illustration of a man and a spaceship which has absolutely nothing to do with the film.

How do we know that? Firstly because there is a disclaimer on the back cover of the DVD which states “The image on the sleeve may not necessarily correspond with the film.”

However secondly, and rather more importantly from a UK comics perspective, because the illustration is taken from the front cover of DC Thomson’s science fiction digest Starblazer. While some of the early Starblazers used generic agency art, the cover of issue 64 The Exterminator was painted by Ian Kennedy specifically for the story’s publication in November 1981.

Nice to think that someone at 23rd Century liked the image enough to use it but, since there is no reference to a DC Thomson copyright on the sleeve, we wonder if they paid a licensing fee for it?

We are more than happy to say "Starblazer © DC Thomson and Co Ltd" even if they aren't.

• There is much more about Starblazer on the downthetubes main site

• With thanks to Shaqui LeVesconte

Monday, 28 February 2011

Dan Dare of Eagle Force? A British comics mystery...

The mystery Dan Dare art - who
drew it, who wrote the script and
what was it for?
(Updated 28/2/11 PM) Dan Dare and Eagle fans were spoilt for choice last December and January when, in addition to the latest Dan Dare reprint book, Trip to Trouble, released by Titan Books, two other books on the creation of the original 1950s Dan Dare comic strip in Eagle were published. One was Tomorrow Revisited by Alistair Crompton, his long awaited follow up to The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, which focused on Dare creator Frank Hampson and was lushly illustrated with Eagle pages reprinted from the original art boards.

The other was the more mass market Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography by Daniel Tatarsky, which dealt with Dan Dare throughout the 1950s and 1960s along with mentions of his ongoing adventures elsewhere and with a few illustrated colour sections amongst the text.

Both books received good reviews but one image used in The Biography, not picked up by the reviewers, started to puzzle some Eagle fans.

The colour end pieces of the book have illustrations of original Dan Dare art boards. Both the front and back have the same head shot of Dare as well as each having separate full pages of painted comic strip. At the rear is a page from the Dan Dare story The Moonsleepers featuring Dan, Digby and the villain Xel while the front has a page featuring a space fighter training session run, apparently, by Colonel Dan Dare for an organisation called Eagle Force.

The Xel page was published in Eagle Vol 16 No 16 (17 April 1965) as the second page of that week's Dan Dare story but, so far, no one seems to recognise the other one and it was not referenced in the book's text. Since Eagle has had an active fandom since the 1960s and the current Eagle fanzine, Eagle Times, is now in its 24th year, it was very unusual for anything new or unknown to turn up.

This image shows where lettering
balloons once were.
The page is fully painted with stuck on hand written lettering much of which has now separated from the board and is missing. While this makes it more difficult to determine what is happening in the story it appears to be a space fighter training session run by a colonel for an organisation called Eagle Force. Since the colonel character has a kinked eyebrow (and it is published in a Dan Dare book) the assumption is that the character is Dan Dare. However no fans remember a published Dan Dare story in which he works for "Eagle Force" and the artist has not been identified.

Biography author Daniel Tatarsky told downthetubes the art was supplied direct from Dan Dare copyright holder Colin Frewin, and was a piece bought from Sothebys in a whole package of Dan Dare artwork. "We have the full artwork frame," says Colin, "but there is no signature or detail on it."

So what is it, who wrote the story and who drew it?

Since the art is fully painted, it is most likely aimed at an annual or a photogravure publication such as a high quality weekly comic or a summer special. The style suggests 1970s or 1980s although lettering stuck straight on the art board was going out of fashion in the 1980s. But if it isn't from original Eagle, 2000AD or new Eagle, or their annuals or summer specials, then where is it from?

It isn't the unused Dan Dare strip created by Costas for the 2000AD dummy issue which is illustrated in David Bishop's Thrill Power Overload. "None of the dummy material for 2000AD was in colour," he tells us, bar a very bad colour rough. Certainly none of the strip work was in colour, nor was much of it lettered."

Pat Mills, who worked on later incarnations of Dan Dare for 2000AD and new Eagle, is equally mystified, but agrees with us that it seems to echo the kind of action associated with Star Wars X-Wing fighters from the 1977 film. "I think you're right in your analysis," he says. "My guess is this was something devised after I'd left 2000AD, perhaps commissioned by Kelvin Gosnell post Star Lord.

A dummy cover for a proposed 1970s
version of Eagle, using art by Frank
"Then again, it's quite conservative - despite the Star Wars veneer - so it may have been a traditionalist at Fleetway who devised this."

Could it be an unused story intended for a 1970s Eagle annual, as those annuals had stories increasingly divorced from the original Hampson Dan Dare concept? In 1998, Sufferin' Satellites fanzine published artwork by Frank Bellamy for a dummy of a 1970s Eagle comic that never happened - could it be a strip page from that dummy?

At present, we know more about what it isn't, rather than what it actually is. It certainly wasn't commissioned by New Eagle editor Barrie Tomlinson.

"This doesn't ring a bell," says Barrie, whose more recent work includes writing the recently-ended Scorer for the Mirror. But he thinks he does know who drew it (as do some other Eagle and Battle fans).

"Do my beady old eyes deceive me... is the artwork by Joe Colquhoun?" he suggests, directing us to the artist on Charley's War and early episodes of Johnny Red. "I never realised he worked on Dan Dare."

Battle Picture Weekly Dave Hunt tells us it's a possibility, although he can't be definite. "When the 'New Eagle' was being thought of and during its early production, Barrie and myself invited a clutch of top British artists to have some fun and complete a Dan Dare sample page for our consideration," he tells us. "I can only think that this just might be one of those sample pages.

"While I'm pretty sure that the mighty Joe Colquhoun did complete a Dan Dare page and that this artwork could well be from him, I would not be 100% certain that this is indeed his work. You have to remember that Joe was heavily committed to the incredible Charley's War series at about the time we started 'New Eagle' and subsequently he would have been working day and night on that masterpiece. "

However, while the colouring might suggest Joe's work there are no distinctive Colquhoun faces, and his daughter Jane tells us she has had a look in diaries of the dates we suggested it might have been and there is no mention of a Dan Dare cover. "Dad seemed to list JR (Johnny Red) and CW then series number and whether or not he had an additional cover to do and often how many pages," she says. "But there's no mention at all of Dan Dare cover.

"He probably would have said no because his work load with the other strips was always rather overwhelming, especially if they threw in a cover as well.

"My mother thinks that he would have mentioned it and he didn't, so it may not be by him after all."

We can also tell you it wasn't drawn by two other suggested artists, Oliver Frey or David Pugh.

"It's definitely not me," says Oliver, whose comics art credits include War Picture Library and Trigan Empire. "I only got to do any Dan Dare from around 1980: two Annual covers, some Specials, then stories for the cheap and pulpy Eagle; all with the revamped 'modern' Dan.

"Unfortunately, while I recognise the style, I can't put a name to the creator. But this is still the original look Dan… so it goes back way before my time."

"Despite working on Dare from 1989-1994, I've not come across this piece of art," says David Pugh, who now has scans of much of his art on his Facebook fan page and will soon be selling much of it for charity. "It must be a try out before my time," he suggests, "as I was responsible for bringing in the more macho/aliens look to the strip, which a lot of the traditionalists hated."

Despite help from the comic creators listed above, plus David Bishop, Martin Morgan, Richard Sheaf, the Dan Dare Yahoo Group, at the moment Dan Dare of Eagle Force - and the artist who drew it - remains an intriguing British comics mystery.

If you can identify the page, whether it is from Dan Dare or another comic strip, or suggest who the artist is then feel free to leave a comment.

With thanks to Colin Frewin, Pat Mills, Daniel Tatarsky -- and many others!

Dan Dare © Colin Frewin And Associates

View from the Trenches: the Cardiff Comic Expo

Time Bomb Comics publisher Steve Tanner kindly sent us a report on the Cardiff International Comic Expo, which included the launch of titles such as Stuart Tipples 10thology project and Barry Nugent's Fallen Heroes...

Fallen Heroes - one of several new
titles attracting attention at CICE
When I heard a whisper last October that there was going to be a one day comics event taking place in Cardiff in February 2011 organised by those behind the Bristol Expo, I was straight in touch with them to book a table before any official announcements of the con had been made – I was that certain it was going to be a worthwhile addition to the Time Bomb Comics’ burgeoning convention calendar.

The last time comics conventions were held in Cardiff was back in the early 1980s. Known as the Cymrucons, they were small intimate affairs that boasted the likes of Alan Moore, Garry Leach and Dez Skinn as special guests. It’s probably no surprise that neither of those three pitched up in the Welsh Capital again for the inaugural Cardiff International Comics Expo that was held on Saturday 26th February, but I don’t think their lack of presence made much difference.

Arriving at the Mercure Holland House on the Friday night the first titbit I found out about the Expo was that the pre-event buzz had been so good that a decision had already been made to not only have another one in February 2012 but to make that one a two-day show. Clearly, after a barren 30 years the Welsh are intent on playing catch up!

Saturday morning arrived to find Cardiff grey, miserable and wet, but the banqueting room of the Mercure was already buzzing with tables being dressed, daleks being adjusted and stormtroopers ambling about looking lost. Outside, an impressively long queue was snaking away towards Newport. Inside, an equally-impressive looking TARDIS had been squeezed into place, and a quick nosey around the tables revealed some welcome new faces had arrived on the comics show circuit in amongst the old hands:

Dalen Books were here, a predominantly Welsh language publisher that has begun to release English editions of some of their licensed European titles such as TinTin and Lucky Luke. Anyone impressed by any of Cinebook’s editions would be blown away by Dalen’s Druids and Arthur books – wonderful stuff!

Dave Morris’ Corvus Press debuted their new The Baker Street Irregulars series, an intriguing looking story that channels those terrific spy and secret agent serials from the sixties.

The first issue of Fallen Heroes launched (check out videos of the event here on Geek Syndicate), the comics adaptation of Barry Nugent’s novel (and promptly sold out by 11.00am!).

Also launching to much excitement was 10thology, an impressive anthology of stories set in Wales by creators from Wales – it was obviously a big draw for the local crowd and it became more unusual to see someone who wasn’t clutching a copy of this as the day progressed.

Editor Stuart Tipples tells us the titles beat all expectations and sold out of the 80 copies available on the day for the soft launch. "Not bad for a 114 page graphic novel even with the price reduction to £12!" he says.

It wasn’t just about the new boys though. Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard had a constant line of fans waiting for sketches. The Etherington Brothers, Markosia, Dealer Comics and my own Time Bomb Comics all seemed to be holding their own. That said, things did quieten down considerably from 4.00pm, but it was then a good opportunity for those of all behind tables to get together and compare notes.

Having expected “Bristol-Lite” I was pleased that the Cardiff Expo had its own identity and the day was clearly a success, starting the UK 2011 convention season off with a bang. Hopefully CICE 2012 and Hi-Ex 2012 won’t clash!

• The Cardiff International Comic Expo wil return next year, running the wekend ofn 25-26th February 2012. More info:

Fallen Heroes Launch Event - Videos on GeekSyndicate

• Special thanks to Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to write this report. Check out Time Bomb Comics - which include Stephen Walsh and Keith page's London Calling - at

Flesh returns to 2000AD in March

After more than 30 years, one of very first strips to appear in 2000AD is to return in blood-splattering, eon-spanning dinosaur-hunting glory.

Dino-terror classic Flesh is to return to the weekly comic with Prog 1724, out on 9th March.
Written by the series‟ original creator, Pat Mills, and drawn by James McKay, the new series is the long-awaited sequel to the much-loved original Flesh – part of the line-up in the very first issue of 2000AD in 1977.

Penned by Mills and drawn by Spanish artist Boix and Ramon Sola, Flesh was a futuristic Western where time-travelling ranchers farmed dinosaurs like cattle and sent their meat back to a hungry future.

The dinosaurs fought back and destroyed the Trans-Time base – and the new series follows the survivors as, stranded millions of years in the past, are ordered to drive their herds across the prehistoric American landscape to Texas – where another base promises safety ... and profit!

The new series will premiere with a stunning gatefold cover by Death’s Head II and Testament artist Liam Sharp.

Flesh was one of the original strips from the very first issue of 2000AD in 1977 and while there have been spin off stories, we never found out what happened to the survivors of Trans-Time Base Three," notes 2000AD editor Matt Smith.

(A 10-page one shot 'prequel' to Flesh, written by Pat and drawn by Ramon Sola, ran in Prog 1526 in 2007, reviewed here on Broken Frontier).

“It's great to see the sequel make it into 2000AD, 30 years after it first appeared," he adds. "It's a great strip with some fantastically gory dinosaur action that will appeal to both old fans who read the original and new readers who want comics with some real bite!”

"James has done the impossible," says Pat. "He's brought Flesh back to life with a vengeance. After Ramon Sola's brilliant interpretation of Flesh in Book One, I never thought I'd find another artist who could do justice to its varied themes - cowboys, time travel, science fiction and dinosaurs. James has achieved this and more."

2000AD 1724 will be on sale from 9th March 2011, priced at £2.25, available to buy online, from all major magazine retailers across the UK and Europe and from all good comic stores across the US.

• More info at: For details on the original Flesh visit:

• Check out James' Official web site at:

GoCompare homages Dan Dare

The creators of those annoying Opera Singer insurance adverts for have redeemed themselves, in part, with this clearly Dan Dare inspired plug for their services - complete with comic-style speech balloons, weird aliens and Space Fleet uniforms.

'Gio Compario' is again played by real life Welsh opera star Wynne Evans,  one of the UK’s leading Tenors, having sung as a principal with most of the major opera houses and orchestras.

While the ads may be annoying, GoCompare say the response to their film related ads has been very positive,

"It’s fair to say that Gio Compario has become one of the most recognisable and talked about figures on British television," says’s head of marketing, Nick Hall. "Whether you’re an opera fan or not this campaign has made a massive difference in terms of brand awareness and recall and that has translated directly to a big uplift in site traffic.”

• For all of GoCompare's other annoying other TV Adverts, visit the Gio Compario YouTube Channel. Who needs meerkats, eh?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Commando Webbing: Ian Kennedy, Ken Barr and More Reprint Books

It has been a while since we did a Commando Webbing and there is rather a lot to get through...

Two weeks ago DC Thomson's Dundee Courier ran an interview with Commando cover artist Ian Kennedy on his long career in UK comics. The article, entitled "The Art Of The Illustrator", took a full page of the Courier's broadsheet Weekend section with photos of Kennedy and six unlettered versions of his Commando covers. The interview is now online both on the Courier website and the Commando website with different illustrations on each site.

Despite having done some 1200 Commando covers Kennedy did not start on the title until it was in its ninth year of publication. Before that time Ken Barr was the pre-eminent Commando cover artist with covers just as action packed as Kennedy's, albeit not as accurate. Peter Richardson has been choosing some of his favourite Commando covers by Barr and now has a string of articles showing them off over on the Cloud 109 blog - here, here and here.

From old covers to new books and the set of new Commando reprint books from Carlton that editor Calum Laird mentioned when he was interviewed on downthetubes at the start of January have made an appearance on Amazon UK. Unlike the previous Commando reprint books which were true doorstops with 10 or 12 stories each and which retailed around the £15 price point, these new books will have three stories in each and a £4.99 price point. They will also be published the same size as Commando as opposed to the 125% size of the thicker tomes. Each of the four books has a theme - Action Stations! will be naval warfare, Tally Ho! will be aerial warfare, Achtung! will pit British troops against the Germans while Banzai! unsurprisingly will set them against the Japanese. All four books will include an introduction by Calum Laird and will feature a Commando 50th anniversary logo. With 208 pages each, Amazon lists their publishing date as 7 July 2011.

The next of the new big Commando reprint books from Carlton is Rogue Raiders priced at £15.99 and due on 12 May 2011. Before that however is a reissue of D-Day: Fight or Die! originally published with 12 stories in 2009 and boasting a D-Day 65th anniversary logo. The new edition due on 5 May 2011 will not just loose the 65th anniversary logo but two stories as well - the 2011 edition will have 10 stories for the same £15.99 price as the 12 stories of 2009 edition.

Better value can be found in The Works bargain book shops with the reappearance of the SevenOaks versions of the big Commando books. When Carlton originally started publishing the big books they also did bargain versions of the first few under their SevenOaks imprint. These versions were the same size and had the same contents as the Carlton versions but used different covers and normally dropped the main title using instead the subtitle of the Carlton books. While they had the full Carlton price on the back cover they were normally discounted to around £7. There were at least five Carlton Commando titles given the Sevenoaks treatment some of which are mentioned over on Bear Alley. The second of the Carlton books to be published was Commando: True Brit with a cover of a marine firing a 20mm Oerlikon cannon which became The 12 Toughest Commando Stories Ever when SevenOaks published it with an Ian Kennedy cover of a paratrooper firing a PIAT. Just to confuse matters even further True Brit has now been re-released as a 10 story SevenOaks version with the original Oerlikon cover but the title has now become True Grit.

After all that we must have earned our compo rations for the day.

There is more information on Commando at the official Commando website.

There are more details of the Carlton Commando books on the Carlton website.

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