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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sneek Peek: New Dan Dare for Spaceship Away

We're pleased to report that the next issue of the Dan Dare-inspired comics magazine Spaceship Away is on course to go to press very soon, featuring its regular thrice-yearly mix of comic strip and features.

Now edited by Des Shaw, taking over from the title's founder Rod Barzilay, I'm also delighted to report that the new issue includes the first part of a two-part Dan Dare story written by me, John Freeman, and drawn by Ex Astris artist Mike Nicoll, with lettering from Jim Campbell.

I feel very privileged to have been given the chance to write a Dan Dare tale for an officially licensed magazine, given the importance of both the character and Eagle in the history of British comics. I hope fans will enjoy the story - set on the Moon and featuring some very bizarre aliens designed by Mike.

Here's a sneek peek of the first page of the story, "Pre-Emptive Strike", starting in Issue 23, on sale in April 2011.

The Spaceship Away team have reluctantly had to raise the price of the basic issue of an issue including UK postage to £7.50, but the EU and overseas prices are remaining the same, as they were increased last year. The multi-issue offer when it comes to subscriptions continues:  UK residents can order three issues for £20.00, EU and Overseas surface mail customers £24.00, EU airmail customers for £27.00 and overseas airmail customers for £30.00, including future issues, up to Issue 25.

• To order the magazine visit the official web site:


Dan Dare © 2011 Dan Dare Corporation

Friday, 11 March 2011

Hurricane and Champion: the Companion Papers to Valiant

Top British comics archivist Steve Holland has re-launched his Bear Alley Books imprint with Mean Streetmaps, a collection of essays on crime noir, and an all-new index to two classic British comics.

Hurricane and Champion: The Companion Papers to Valiant details the histories of both papers and reveals - some for the first time - the names of many of the creators behind the classic comic strips that filled their pages.

Heavily illustrated throughout, Hurricane and Champion also includes title and creator indexes covering both papers, a gallery of annual covers and has a full-colour cover scanned from original artwork.

In his introduction, Steve Holland describes how Hurricane (1964-65) went through four phases during its lifetime and reveals the many problems faced by Champion (1966) during its brief 15-issue run.

• Hurricane and Champion is published in A4 saddle-stitch format, 48 pages black and white with a full colour cover by Allesandro Biffignandi. For ordering information, visit the Bear Alley Books site:

Hurricane and Champion are © IPC Media

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Panel Borders: The Art of Karrie Fransman

Continuing podcast Panel Borders month of shows looking at newspaper comics, Alex Fitch talks to cartoonist Karrie Fransman about her work which has been serialised in The Guardian and The Times.

Karrie started her comics career making self published autobiographical titles and these transferred to the G2 in 2008 as a weekly strip followed by a more ambitious David Lynch inspired full page comic in Times2 a year later. Alex and Karrie talk about all these projects as well as her mentoring of interns at the London Print Studio and her forthcoming graphic novel to be published by Random House.

• Panel Borders: The Art of Karrie Fransman airs at 5.00pm, Thursday 10th March 2011 on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at / extended podcast after broadcast at

Art © 2011 Karrie Fransman

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Take a Butcher’s at Slaughterman’s Creed

Markosia Enterprises have just announced their new graphic novel, Slaughterman’s Creed - a surreal London gangland thriller which combines the vicious intensity of British crime fiction with the structure and spirit of a Samurai revenge drama in a nightmarishly compelling urban fantasy.

The book re-unites writer Cy Dethan with artist Stephen Downey, the creators of the 2009 indie hit, Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth. Set in a world where an ethical knife-edge is all that separates hero from villain, the story combines a strong British crime aesthetic with mythological overtones and a distinctive noir edge.

“What you will find is a nasty, dark tale which cuts into the underbelly of gangland London," enthuses Laurence “The Punisher” Campbell in the album's foreword. "Think The Long Good Friday meets No Country For Old Men.

"... Cy Dethan pushes the boundaries. No, not pushes them - casually disregards them and walks right over them.”

Definitely not a book for the squeamish, as you'll gather from this free 12-page preview, the story centres on Sidney,   a professional killer working for Big Lenny Addison, a London ganglord specialising in human trafficking. He is almost completely uneducated except in his family’s trade at which he is an unparalleled expert.

When he's called upon to breach his code and bring a pregnant woman to slaughter, Sidney's world is changed forever. Betrayed by those he has served his whole life, the Slaughterman embarks on a bloody vendetta - determined to put Addison's entire monstrous empire to the blade.”

Described by writer Cy Dethan as “a story of the fall and rise of monsters”, the book is already carving a name a name for itself on the independent comic scene.
"My plan was to take my time and read Slaughterman’s Creed over a few days, but pretty much by page five I was in for the long haul and ended up reading the whole thing in a single sitting," says  Barry Nugent of The Geek Syndicate, while over at Sci-Fi Pulse, it gave reviewer Wayne Hall a case of the night terrors - although, strangely, he seems to have enjoyed them. "If Mr. Dethan keeps delivering this kind of novel perspective on the world, I’ll have trouble sleeping at night, says Wayne. "... But I was gripped from the first page, so please keep it up!"

Slaughterman’s Creed is published by Markosia Enterprises and will launch on 14th May  at the Bristol Comic and Small Press Expo, as part of the Markosia Madness event, which will include signing, sketching and facepainting.

A limited signed edition, costing £10 (RRP Price £12.99), is available to pre-order, which also includes entry into a draw to win a piece of original art by Stephen Downey and Vicky Stonebridge.

• Pre-order details can be found at Cy Dethan’s blog. The book can be ordered through the March edition of Diamond Previews in the usual way using order code MAR11 0811.

• Slaughterman’s Creed is also available digitally on the Sony Playstation Network with audio commentary by Cy Dethan, and will be available on Comixology and, with other formats to follow.

Slaughterman's Creed - Credits
Writer: Cy Dethan
Pencils & colours chapters 1-2: Stephen Downey
Inks: Andy Brown
Colours: Vicky Stonebridge
Letters: Nic Wilkinson
Cover: Ryan Brown
Foreword: Laurence Campbell

• More info at:

Monday, 7 March 2011

A Very British Appointment: Pat Mills becomes an honorary professor

The 'Godfather of British Comics' Pat Mills was presented an honorary professorship by Liverpool University this week for his contributions to popular culture and national literacy.

The creator of 2000AD, Slaine, Marshal Law and hundreds of other characters will be teaching at the University this coming autumn as well editorially advising on a new media incubator at the University - appropriately named SUBVERSION.

The news comes as Flesh returns to 2000AD (see news story) and news that Marshal Law,  by Pat and Kevin O'Neill, is to be reprinted by DC Comics. The strip has had several publishers over the years, from Epic (Marvel), Dark Horse, to the original Toxic.

"I'm currently working part of my time as consultant to a new private/public incubation initiative called SUBVERSION at the University of Liverpool, on some new multi-media projects as well as intending to give talks on graphic novels to students at the uni," Pat tells us.

"Last week, to my great surprise, the University made me a 'Visiting Professor in the School of Arts' in recognition of my past work in British comics.

"Once I'd got over all the blushing and the obvious 'Prof' jokes from my partner and friends (Please! No more!!) there's one thing in particular about this that delights me: the appointment is intended to help raise the profile of British comics, British creators and what we can achieve in the comic media in Britain.

"For too long we've been in the shadow of American comics as well as being rather looked down upon as an art form in the UK - certainly by comparison with France," Pat argues. "As a result, we have run the risk of losing our very British comic identity.

"So if this enhances the public image of important series like Charley's War, comics like 2000AD, and also my forthcoming graphic novels with Clint Langley for British-based Repeat Offenders Ltd., that's got to be a good thing for our industry.

"The Repeat Offenders novels commence with American Reaper - a science fiction cop drama beautifully imagined by Clint. I think it will show just what we can do with the graphic novel art form when British creators are in the driving seat.

"It's fantastic that the University of Liverpool supports British comics in this way and my thanks to everyone there who made it happen.

"It's too early to talk more about SUBVERSION (love the name - clearly it's an organization I can relate to!), but I hope to have some news on it soon."

Private Eye cartoonist Wilbur Dawbarn joins New British Comics line up

The latest issue of New British Comics, edited by , co-creator of the upcoming Harbor Moon graphic novel published by Arcana, will soon go on sale, featuring the work of creators such as Dan White, Paul O'Connell and Lawrence Elwick, who provides the stunning cover featuring "Charlie Parker - Handyman".

Also in the line up are strips by Warwick Johnson Cadwell, artist on Tag Team Tastic for The Dandy, and Wonderland by top cartoonist Wilbur Dawbarn, who has had hundreds of cartoons published in such diverse titles as Private Eye, The Sun, New Statesman, The Oldie and many others. He also created the comedy adventure strip Bodkin and the Bear for The DFC.

As with past issues, New British Comics Issue 3 will be available in both English and Polish.

The full line up is as follows:

Cindy & Biscuit Save The World (again) by Dan White

• Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense by Lawrence Elwick & Paul O'Connell

Ink vs Paper by John Miers

Charlie Parker "Handyman": Animal Magnetism by Lawrence Elwick & Paul O'Connell

Here Comes The Neighbourhood by Matthew Craig & Richard Johnson

Better Living Through Distance by Dave Thomson

The Quiet Burden by Craig Collins & Iain Lauire

Luvvable Lex: Dirty 'N' Down by Rob Miller

Wonderland by Wilbur Dawbarn

Charlie Parker "Handyman": Skyscraper Lunch by Lawrence Elwick & Paul O'Connell

(crack) by Van Nim

A Complex Machine by David Ziggy Greene

Von Trapp by Warwick Johnson Cadwell (WJC)

• For more information and stockists visit:

Alternative Press Fair exhbitions and events announced

The International Alternative Press Fair has announced several exhibitions relating to its two-day event in London at the end of May (Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th).

Creators interested in being part of the actual Fair at the Conway Hall, Holborn, London, should booking table space now, deadline 4th AprilThe Fair will offer zines, comix, poetry, radical literature, printmaking and anything else self-published!

There will also be workshops (screenprinting, life-drawing, DIY fashion, etc.), talks, and an upstairs zine library run by

The Fair is just part of a bigger festival of events:

• Festival Opening Party at the Miller Pub in London Bridge: Friday 27th May 2011

Featuring a performance by Resonance Radio Orchestra, an ensemble of musicians and actors from Resonance 104.4FM (, London's independent arts radio station. Collaborating with live illustration by artists from home and overseas.

The cover of Stripburger Issue 54

• Stripburger Exhibition: Saturday 28th May to Monday 13th June 2011
Small Press Supporters Orbital Comics, near Leicester Square

Europe’s best alternative comic Artists, workshops, talks and more TBC.

• Exhibition, New Gallery, Camberwell Alternative Press Takeover Week: Monday 30th May to Sunday 5th June 2011
Including a film night, storytelling, poetry and zine sleep-over! With a live printing event at the end of the week. Artists TBC

• Exhibition, Sassoon Gallery, Camberwell - Narrative Mural on Railway Arch gallery: Monday 30th May to Sunday 5th June

Artists TBC. There will be a Small Zine Fair to end the week

• For more details or to get involved visit:

Tube Surfing: Dan Dare, Death's Head and World Book Night outrage

Some quick news items...

• (via the Dan Dare Yahoo Group) A bust of Dan Dare is now sitting comfortably on a beautifully made plinth in a prominent position in the library of Southport College (where his creator, Frank Hampson and other original Dare team members, studied) as an inspiration to future budding Hampsons, Harold Johns or Eric Edens.

Once the library has been refurbished next year there is an intention to bring together a collection of Eagle-related material and have a special section set aside to display it.

• Paul Birch has posted an entertaining review of the Death's Head Volume 2 collection on Speech Balloons, noting the history of Marvel UK as both a publisher of licensed comics and publisher of many US format comics during Paul Neary's tenure as Editorial Director. "How many of the countless Marvel UK superheroes pumped out during that time can anyone remember fondly?" he challenges. "Aside from Death's Head II by Dan Abnett and Liam Sharp that is? Not many, I'm sure..."

Off the top of my head? Warheads, Digitek, Motormouth and Killpower, Hell's Angel (re-named Dark Angel after legal threats from the Hells Angels), Gene Dogs, Shadow Riders. Admittedly, I did edit some of those titles so my memory might be better than others. More important, perhaps, than the characters, was the sheer number of talented folk Paul and the MUK team nurtured between them, now widely known to the general comic audience: artists like Bryan Hitch who had worked for MUK for some time but was rightly given the limelight along with Liam Sharp, Gary Frank and many more.

• Let me join in with the widespread disappointment at the BBC's decision to totally ignore readers of science fiction and fantasy on World Book Night in its BBC2 show, The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special (currently available here on iPlayer). Over on the Forbidden Planet International blog, Joe Gordon notes there was "outraged chatter on Twitter about this over the weekend" over the slight.

"The simple fact is that SF&F novels absolutely dominate the bestseller charts and have done for a couple of decades now," notes Joe. "Terry Pratchett, Peter F Hamilton, Iain M Banks and many more almost always go right into the top ten national bestselling hardback list when their new books come out. You can’t do that if you are just a small, easily ignorable niche market." Too right.

Joe reports that long time SF&F commentator (and bestselling author in his own right now) Stephen Hunt (founder of ace SF web site has decided that instead of our usual moaning of the mainstream media’s dismissive and ignorant approach to our beloved genre that something should actually be done and the BBC made aware of how poor their decision was and how it meant they failed to serve the interest of a large percentage of viewers (who are the ones who fund the Corporation, after all). He has a fairly flaming response to the lack of coverage on his blog already.

"As the hour went by, strangely absent from this detailed parade of what people actually like to read was “a certain” genre, you know… the unclean one, speculative fiction, as in fantasy/horror/science fiction… which together accounts for between 20/30 per cent of the fiction market, depending on what measure you choose to believe.

"I can forgive the committee of World Book Night itself, whose selection of 25 titles to give one millions free copies away was made by a board which clearly apes the views of the Booker panel – which is that fantasy, horror and sci-fi, much like hardcore porn, has no place in any respectable fiction list, but the BBC?" (Philip Pulman's Northern Lights was on the World Book Night list, but only, the BBC made clear, as an example of Young Adult-crossover – heaven forbid it should be an actual example of fantasy).

Outraged, Stephen has set up a Facebook page as well as planning a petition of Brit SF&F authors to complain at the complete lack of coverage by the BBC. So if, as individual viewers based in the UK, you want to complain to the BBC about failing to cover a single fantasy, horror or science fiction novel, the online form to do this is located at... ... the more complaints, the better! Don't forget to mention the snobby show that started all this.

Perhaps, if enough people write in, we'll get a decent SF show on TV - and no, I'm not talking about Outcasts, which made it clear it was more about the "human condition" than SF, and has rightly bombed in the ratings as a result of boring its audience to death...

The Tartan Bucket Prize Competition

The Dundee Comics Day has been running since 2007 and in 2008 became part of the Dundee Literary Festival at Dundee University. The fifth comics day is due to be held in October and the University has announced that this year the Comics Day, in partnership with DC Thomson, will be running a comics creation competition for the new Tartan Bucket Prize.

The competition is to create a new character and a short story in the form of a comic that will be published by DC Thomson either in print or on their website. The prize will be for a humorous story of no more than two pages designed to be read by a young audience and would be in keeping with the kinds of stories DC Thomson publishes in comics like The Beano and The Dandy.

The Tartan Bucket first prize will be £1,000 plus publication of the story and there will also be four runner-up prizes of £250 each. In addition the winners and runner-ups will be invited to attend the Comics Day and there will also be an exhibition of the artwork from the competition during the Literary Festival. The competition will be judged by a panel consisting of comic professionals and scholars including Comics Day organiser Dr Chris Murray of the university's School of Humanities.

The aim of the prize is to nurture comics talent in comics and as such anyone can enter the competition. The submission can be in any style, in black and white or colour, but must be original, unpublished and a complete story effectively ready to be printed. The deadline for completed submissions is 1st July 2011 and the Dundee Literary Festival will take place from 27 to 30 October 2011.

There are more details including the full rules and guidelines of the Tartan Bucket competition on the University of Dundee website.

There are more details of the Dundee Literary Festival at their

The downthetubes reviews of the Dundee Comics Day are here -
2008 review, 2009 review and 2010 review.

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