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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Comics Scotland: Team Girl

The Team Girl collective, who now consist of upwards of twenty female writers and artists, have been making a name for themselves recently, not just with their small press Team Girl Comic which is now on its third issue, but also by holding talks and workshops in locations as diverse as the Glasgow Film Festival and the International Alternative Press Festival in London. Team Girl Comic editor Gillian Hatcher (above left with Coleen Campbell right) talked to downthetubes about how the team got together, what inspires them and what their plans are for the future.

I first had the idea of starting a female comic group about two years ago. I’d been making my own comics for a few years before that- just photocopied zines- but was starting to feel a little isolated as I didn’t have any female friends who were into comics, and as far as I could tell at the time I was the only girl in Glasgow making comics (this of course turned out to be untrue). There were a few reasons why I wanted the group to be all-female. Firstly I didn’t think that my work quite fitted in with all the male-created comics coming out of Glasgow. Also I felt that Team Girl Comic had to be exclusively female, at least for the time being, as there are comparatively so few female created and female oriented comics out there right now in the indie comics scene. I wanted it to be something that was appealing to women readers and non- intimidating for the creators. From my own experience, women are more likely to be lacking in self-confidence when it comes to showing off their work, and it’s been great to see women pick up Team Girl Comic and say ‘hey, I could try that!’

We want the group to be inclusive and constantly evolving, so we welcome women and girls from any background, age or experience. This means we’ve got artists from their teens to their forties, professional artists to engineers, experienced cartoonists to people trying out comics for the first time.

To get the group started I began by looking to the people around me. I knew my friend Katie Pope had drawn comics in art school, and my engineer friend Iona Mowat had mentioned she sometimes drew comics but wasn’t publicising them. My little cousin Emma McLuckie liked to draw and my younger sister Jessica was up for giving it a go, so that was the beginning of Team Girl Comic. Very quickly word got round and those other women in Glasgow who were drawing comics, such as Heather Middleton and Penny Sharp came forward, as well as whole load of other contributors. Some heard about it through their friends in the group, some found us online or met us at comic and zine fairs. The first issue had just six contributors, the second twelve and the most recent issue had fourteen, and there are now more than twenty artists in the loop. It’s quite a lot to manage but we want to be as fluid as possible: contributors can be as committed as they want to be, keeping the comic fresh and varied.

As for the comics, each issue is a collection of short comic stories. There are no rules about what the comics can be about so we get a whole variety of submissions: autobiographical, sci-fi, cute animals, feminism, observations from our daily lives. Although most of the stories are written by adults for adults, we want to make sure Team Girl Comic is something a younger girl could pick up and perhaps be inspired by. Obviously being all girls the stories come from a female perspective, but we don’t set out to be especially ‘girly’ and the comics are read by both men and women more or less 50-50. This is exactly the way we wanted it to be: a comic that appealed to any gender but might also draw in some women who wouldn’t normally pick up a comic book.

Although the content isn’t all girly, the design of the comics so far has been very much influenced by the classic girls comics and magazines that some of us enjoyed growing up, such as Bunty, Twinkle and Misty. A lot of us also grew up reading the ‘boys’ comics too like The Beano and X-Men, as well as things like Tintin, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes.

These days I think most of us mainly read indie graphic novels and collections, from Sandman and Maus to Persepolis and Blankets, but there are a fair number of us who are into our superheroes and manga too. I think the growing popularity of such graphic novels and their gradual acceptance as genuine literature has drawn a lot more women towards comics in the past few years.

The main point to Team Girl Comic is that it’s supposed to be DIY and fun, but if we can promote the ‘cause’ of women and girls in comics at the same time that’s great. So as word has got round and we’ve got a little press coverage, we’ve been invited to do a few workshops on the subject of women and comics for both the International Alternative Press Festival in London and the Glasgow Comic Con. This was perhaps helped by the fact I volunteered to do a presentation on making your own comics for the Glasgow Film Festival, which had a comics theme this year. Although we’re not experts in female comics it’s obviously something that interests us a lot, so we were able to lead discussions around what women and girls want from comics and what we could do about it. It was concluded in these workshops that although the situation is definitely improving, there is definitely a few gaps in the market when it comes to comics for girls and the world of comics can still be especially intimidating to a female newbie. We didn’t of course arrive at the ultimate solution to these problems, but it was great to hear the thoughts and experiences of regular female comics readers and creators, some lifelong fans others quite new to the scene.

We don’t have any more workshops planned at the moment but we will be attending several fairs in the near future, the big one being Thought Bubble in November (expect issue 4 by then, featuring even more new creators!). In the meantime you can buy Team Girl Comics from our BigCartel shop online or from various comics shops around the country.

We can’t believe how quickly the group has grown in such a short space of time and the positive responses we’ve got from the readers has been so encouraging. Our main plan for the future is to just keep going and going, making more and more comics and engaging with more people through our stories and events.

Team Girl Comic is stocked in Orbital in London, Plan B Books in Glasgow, Deadhead Comics in Edinburgh and OK Comics in Leeds.

There is more information about Team Girl on their
blog, which includes links to their on-line shop, and also on their Facebook page.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Liam Sharp announces new digital comic project

Treatment by and ©
Dave Gibbons
(with thanks to Matt Badham for the spot): Comic creator Liam Sharp and Ben Wolstenholme, founding member and CEO of Moving Brands, are teaming up with creators such as Dave Gibbons and to launch Madefire, a new digital comics company.

Debuting at the San Diego Comic Convention next week, Liam says Madefire was initially almost a digital and PoD version of Mam Tor Publishing, with new work created by top names at the highest level.

"What I found with Mam Tor was that the costs were prohibitive when it came to small runs printed traditionally," he notes on his web site. "Unfortunately for small companies there are no concessions and you don't get the same benefits. Print runs, advertising, distribution, etc. cost the full amount. Bigger companies with huge runs get all the discounts as incentives.

"It's the way of the world that wealth and success is rewarded with gifts, discounts and free promotion - you can see and clearly understand the economical model and thinking behind that, but it makes it extremely hard for start-ups. So Mam Tor lost a lot of money, but I still felt it mattered and remained an important platform.

When Ben, a talented artist who attended Liam's school, was finally reunited with his old friend, they soon set about putting the world to rights and looking at ways to work together.
Dead Apes in the Snow
by Liam Sharp

"Ben was desperate to exercise his creative side again and showed me some brilliant developmental work he had been doing on various characters - for films, books and comics. I told him our experience with Mam Tor, he told me his at Moving Brands, and we started throwing ideas around for projects we could jointly be involved with... Ultimately what we both knew we wanted out of a collaboration between us was simple - the chance to publish our own work under our own terms. So then it became a question about how do we do that?

"The answer was - create a digital comic. Create an app.

"The great thing about the current situation of digital publishing is that it's wide open," Liam argues. "There are no rules yet, and nothing is truly dominating in the same way the big companies dominate printed matter. We can get our work out to anybody. And it can also be collated and printed to order for anybody who loves printed matter.

"For me, the internet is the new corner shop - the more comics are seen in digital format the more people will get interested in them and find their way back to the stores. At the moment kids no longer see comics in the shops. In day to day life you barely see them at all! When I was young you saw them in every newsagent and street corner store. On holiday they were bagged in multiple copies and sold cheap. That was the thing - it was cheap, accessible entertainment. I didn't even know there were specialist outlets until I was about 19! So for me it was the wider visibility of the material that hooked me in, and later took me to the stores where you could really indulge your interest. One led to the other. So after that it was about building a fantastic platform and getting some great talent on board - and that's where we're at now."

Captain Stone is Missing
by Liam and Chris Sharp
Stories planned for release later this year so far are Captain Stone is Missing... by Liam and his wife Christina; and Dave Gibbons is writing and drawing a story featuring his creator-owned characters called 'Treatment'.

"Ben is debuting in comics and showcasing his character 'Mono'," Liam reveals. "We have other stories in development too, from Mike Carey and Dave Kendall, called 'Houses of the Holy', and Edmund Bagwell, called 'Ricky the Boy Machine'. And there will be opportunities for established talent and new creators to get involved as we progress.

"Ben and I have been working on this for a couple of years now, and San Diego Comic Con just seemed the perfect place to raise our heads above the parapets and announce our arrival - which we're celebrating with my books Dead Apes in the Snow and The Shed, as well as Ben's Mono sketchbook, all published traditionally by Madefire."

• Dave Gibbons, Ben and Liam will be signing and answering questions on the Madefire stand (4902 in SDCC) on the Saturday afternoon at 4.00pm, and they'll have other bits and bobs to give away, too. More info:

Thursday, 14 July 2011

In Review: Eagles Over The Western Front Volume 2

Bear Alley Books continue their Eagles Over The Western Front reprints from Look and Learn magazine with the second of three volumes that will combine into the entire run of the strip written by Trigan Empire's Mike Butterworth with black and white artwork by Bill Lacey and originally printed between 1971 to 1973. Set in France during the later years of World War I, the series relates the tales of Royal Flying Corps pilot Harry Hawkes as he fights the Germans in a series of improving biplane fighters.

As in the previous volume the stories range from short to long, tongue-in-cheek to deadly serious. The book begins in fun form with Harry travelling from France to London to be bequeathed a St Bernard in a relative's will, a dog which causes chaos at the airbase trying to get into the planes, and then is apparently killed by German shelling which means that Harry flies a bombing raid against the German gun emplacement only to find the dog safe and well on his return - a story that is all told in six pages. Perhaps the most interesting story of this volume is the rather longer tale of a famous music hall entertainer to signs up for the RFC and proves popular in the squadron due to his singing, however he is a considerably better singer than fighter pilot as is demonstrated when he enters the gun-sights of the feared Red Baron.

Whatever they are about, Butterworth's stories are fast paced and action packed and never repetitive as our hero's friends and colleagues come and go as he moves between squadrons and the series timeline progresses as he flies the newer and better planes that are being supplied to the RFC against differing German opposition. The story rarely feels confined by the original two pages per week publication rate from Look and Learn and Bill Lacey's artwork remains consistently good with a remarkable amount of detail in each panel.

Unsurprisingly for a Steve Holland reprint book there is a feature at the beginning and after last volume's factual background to the war and the RFC, this volume's feature is rather more comics based with a article on writer Mike Butterworth. This takes the reader from Butterworth's abortive attempts to sell Avery scales through to his novel writing via the creation of various notable British comics characters such as Battler Britton and Jet-Ace Logan, his work as editor of comic titles as diverse as Playhour, Honey and Ranger, and of course his creation and long term writing of Look and Learn's best remembered and most loved strip, The Trigan Empire. The book also has a short feature on the original artwork that much of the pages are reproduced from and which, unusually, shows an alternate frame from one of the pages that artist Bill Lacey had to redraw prior to publication.

With a wraparound cover featuring World War One biplane combat by Wilf Hardy, Eagles Of The Western Front Volume 2 continues pilot Harry Hawkes' story and while, forty years on from its creation, its format and pacing are very different to modern comics, it shows just how good weekly British comic strips were be when a skilled writer was teamed with an enthusiastic artist.

• There are more details of the Eagles Over The Western Front books as well as ordering details on the Bear Alley Books blog.

• You can read early parts of Eagles Over The Western Front on the Bear Alley

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Brit Comic Creators Abroad: Who's at San Diego?

(Updated 16 July): British comic publishers and creators will be making their presence felt at the San Diego Comic Con (21st - 24th July), including Com.X, 2000 AD publishers Rebellion and many more. Plus, you can expect many Brit creators to be taking part in activities organised by every major US publisher such as Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, BOOM! and others.

Here's a very quick run down of what you might want to look out for if you're attending... (please note, booth numbers are per the SDCC web site but may change in the run up to the event)

2000 AD
With its re-vamped web site and plenty of US-formatted product, Rebellion are making a big push into the US in advance of the new Judge Dredd movie.
Visit them at Booth #2806

• BBC America
While not a comics publisher, you might well find some Doctor Who goodies on their stand, especially given that the show was the BBC's Number One best-selling show worldwide last year
Visit them at Booth #3629

Publishers of Razorjack, Class War and other great indie titles, tell us they've got some exciting new projects coming up, plus some interesting San Diego exclusive goodies. One of their recent reeases was Seeds by Ross Mackintosh - a touching tribute and powerful, autobiographical account of one man’s experience, combining humour, sadness, philosophy and honesty.
Visit them at Booth #1035

Groovy UK Ltd
Giftware company, offering product based on brands such as Marvel, Star Wars and Hello Kitty, among many others

SFX Magazine
Britain's leading SF magazine - expect them to have samples of Comic Heroes on sale there, though!
Visit them at Booth #1502

Dave Gibbons, Ben and Liam will be signing and answering questions about their nw digital comics project on  Saturday afternoon at 4.00pm, and they'll have other bits and bobs to give away, too. News story here
Visit them at Booth #4902
In the massive convention's Artist Alley, you may find several Brit creators, including David Lloyd. But many Brit creators are on the show's guest list, so they'll be turning up on panels. These include Garth Ennis, Alan Davis, Dave Gibbons, John Higgins and Grant Morrison. Artist Rufus Dayglo is also in attendance.

Comic Con offers plenty of collectables and other fine stuff for sale - and online, some companies, such as Elephantmen creator Richard Starkings, are holding special SDCC-related sales

Your best source for updated Comic-Con information the official website: You can also subscribe to their RSS feeds and get Comic-Con news delivered via email! Click here for complete details; or follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or download the iPhone app

• Publishers List:
• Artist Alley:

The Scoop web site has a clear concise rundown of events through the weekend 

Comic-Con: Preview Night - Wednesday 20th July
Comic-Con: Thursday 21st July
Comic-Con: Friday 22nd July
Comic-Con: Saturday 23rd July
Comic-Con: Sunday 24th July

In Review: Commando - Tally Ho!

After fifty years of publication Commando has quite possibly had its highest public profile ever over the last few years due largely to the success of the large flexi-covered reprint books published by Carlton. These shelf bending doorstops contain 10 to 12 different complete Commando stories along with B&W versions of their covers plus introductions from past and present Commando editors and they present the artwork 25% larger than the original comic publication. The first of these was Command: Dirty Dozen which went, very unusually for a British graphic novel, to multiple reprints plus a re-covered, and partially retitled, bargain version and even a Book Club Associates softcover edition. While these big reprints continue with the recently released Commando: Rogue Raiders, Carlton have now introduced a smaller and more price friendly range of Commando reprint books which includes Commando: Tally Ho!

Published in paperback at almost exactly original Commando size, Tally Ho! features three RAF themed reprints - Whirlwind from issue 640 in April 1972 (reprinted as issue 1772 in February 1984), O For Orange from issue 977 in October (and never reprinted until now) and Hurri To The Rescue from issue 750 in June 1973 (reprinted as issue 1940 in November 1985).

Hurri To The Rescue features the best known of the aircraft in the book, the Hawker Hurricane fighter. Two Hurricane pilots escape the fall of Singapore with their aircraft but end up on a remote island with an assortment of British Army and Royal Australian Navy survivors all of whom have a low opinion of the RAF. However when they discover a secret Japanese submarine base on the island they all have to pull together for the greater good.

O For Orange tells of the crew of a Vickers Wellington medium bomber that has been made famous by a documentary film. Having lost their 'lucky' pilot to a German night-fighter's bullets, can that pilot's cousin take over command of the bomber and convince the rest of the crew that they are still lucky?

Finally Whirlwind spotlights the Westland Whirlwind fighter-bomber and provides the book with that most unusual of Commando subjects, female characters, as a witch's 500 year old curse is visited through the ages on the warriors of the Sinclair family, the latest of whom is flying Whirlwinds on intruder raids again the Germans in occupied France.

The cover, by original 1960s Commando cover artist Ken Barr, comes from Death Flies Fast, issue 184 from October 1965, and the book also includes B&W versions of the Ian Kennedy covers for the three original issues that the stories appeared in. In addition to an introduction by current Commando editor Calum Laird, each story has a single factual page, originally from the comic's inside covers, relating to the subject of each story from a lovely Ian Kennedy pin-up of a Whirlwind, via a cockpit layout for a Wellington to, unusually for a DC Thomson title, a cutaway of a Hurricane.

Unlike the regular comic, but in keeping with the rest of the Carlton Commando range, Tally Ho! contains no credits whatsoever despite the information being known and there easily being enough space in the book to include it. I do think that for this book in particular Carlton are missing out on a selling point by not including them as the Hurricane story in this collection is by fan favourite artist Cam Kennedy, originally published long before his Star Wars work for Dark Horse and even before his first work for 2000AD. Since this book is the same cover price as a copy of the Judge Dredd Megazine, knowing that early Cam Kennedy artwork is included could well be the unique selling point of Tally Ho! for 2000AD fans if they only knew about it. But that is a minor gripe.

Commando has long been a favourite title of mine and of the four new books available I chose the aviation themed one to review simply because I like aircraft. Tally Ho! ticks all the boxes for me but with its selection of early and not recently reprinted stories, its handy size and cheap cover price, it could well tick all the boxes for you as well, even if it is only as a sneaky read to remind yourself how good Commando can be before you hand it off to a younger member of the family.

• The four titles in this new Carlton Commando range are Achtung!, Action Stations!, Banzai! and Tally Ho! There are more details of the Carlton Commando range on the Carlton website.

• The official DC Thomson Commando website is

Monday, 11 July 2011

2000 AD website revamped, digital editions get another boost

The online home of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 2000 AD, has undergone a dramatic transformation - and sees publisher Rebellion crank up its digital offering of 2000 AD several more notches.

The legendary British anthology comic, due to celebrate its 35th anniversary next year, has rebooted its website with new features, including:

• new digital versions of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine available to buy
• brand new digital graphic novels – never available online before
• brand new news blog, bringing all the latest news, releases and deals from the House of Tharg
• share your favourite issues, characters and news with your friends thanks to Facebook ‘like’ and Twitter ‘share’ buttons
• new section detailing all the latest US graphic novels
• updated online shop where you can buy the latest 2000 AD comics, graphic novels and limited edition merchandise – everything from mugs and action figures to t-shirts and badges

The redesign, topped with a brand new image from Judge Dredd artist Ben Willsher, is now live - providing a new home for 2000 AD fans to keep abreast of the title’s thrill-powered storytelling and breathtaking artwork from some of the biggest names in the industry.

This week also sees the launch of the exciting beta release of the brand new 2000 AD wiki database – an online repository of 35 years of thrill-power, editable by fans themselves! Specially selected site users will be able to give the wiki a test run before it is opened up to the wider online community within the next month.

Readers unable to get hold of a physical copy of 2000 AD or the Judge Dredd Megazine will now be able to buy digital versions* direct through the website, as well as new digital copies of collected editions, beginning with fan favourite - Geek-zapping space marines The VCs.

“With 2012 marking not only 2000 AD’s 35th anniversary but also the release of the eagerly anticipated Dredd movie, we felt needed to be THE hub for all 2000 AD news," explains editor Matt Smith.

"Virtually every week we have new announcements about upcoming stories, merchandise and top-name creators working for 2000 AD, and the sleekly redesigned site will make it easier to keep fans informed while also attracting new readers.

“US Earthlets will be regularly updated on the latest 2000 AD graphic novel releases on their side of the Atlantic, and with every new issue available to buy both as physical and digital copies we’re striving to reach as many potential readers as possible.”

Fifth year for Observer, Cape and Comica Graphic Short Story Comp

(via Paul Gravett): Back for For its fifth year, The Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize has just been announced, inviting UK residents to submit a four-page comic on any theme, with the winner receiving £1,000 (the runner-up £250) and getting their story published in The Observer Review and on the Guardian and Vintage websites.

"This Prize has really galvanised the creative comics scene in this country, stimulating more people to try their hand at sequential art to express themselves," says organiser and Comica Festival director Paul Gravett. "It's also led to several fresh British voices having their debut graphic novels published by Jonathan Cape."

Regular jury members Observer literary critic Rachel Cooke, Random House Creative Director Suzanne Dean, Cape publisher Dan Franklin, and Paul Gravett are joined this year by the pioneer of UK graphic novels Bryan Talbot, of Luther Arkwright, Alice In Sunderland and Grandville fame, and David Nicholls, acclaimed author of One Day and a writer for film, television and theatre.

You can see the stories of previous winners and entrants here on the Vintage Books web site and listen to Paul's conversation with Stephen Collins, winner of last year’s Prize here on Vintage Books.

"The winner and runner-up will be announced as part of this November’s Comica Festival and we’re hoping to exhibit both stories and some of those by shortlisted finalists as well," says Paul. Further details to follow.

You’ve got about three months, till 14th October 2011, to send in your entry. Entry forms with the full rules and conditions can be downloaded here and you can see how your story will be laid out in The Observer here.

Best of luck to everyone who enters and be sure to to send Paul a web link if you also post your entry online so that it can be listed on his Comica website.

• More about the competition:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Rose Black: Demon Seed Due In August

We reviewed Rose Black, the graphic novel published by Rough Cut Comics, recently and teased that the second book was due soon. Courtesy of Rose Black co-creator Ed Murphy we now have the impressive cover by Joel Carpenter to the sequel, Rose Black: Demon Seed, which is due in the next month or so.

Created by Ed Murphy and Tom Campbell, Rose is a 600 year old vampire in a world in which vampires don't exist and over her long life has been everything from a British secret agent to a nun. The new book pits her against Eloise, a genetically-engineered vampire who is depicted as a white angel on the book's cover.

Originally published in 2004 the first Rose Black book was written by Tom Campbell, pencilled by Jaeson Finn and inked by Colin Barr and was very much in the style of 1980s 2000AD with its stark black and white artwork. Since then Jaeson Finn has moved on to become a storyboard artist on films such as Doomsday and Centurion by Neil Marshall as well as the recent Liam Neeson thriller Unknown.

Replacing Finn on the new book is Joel Carpenter, who has previously worked on Pete Nash's football strip Striker, and his pencils and inks are coloured by Derek Dow. “It’s a definite change in style,” said Murphy, “but we felt the colour pages would bring in more new readers than we’d lose from the original fan base. I think Joel’s created some beautiful frames and his style is very cinematic, which is exactly what we were looking for."

Rose Black: Demon Seed is solicited in the July UK Previews for release in August and there are more details and artwork on the Rough Cut Comics Facebook page.

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