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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Exhibitions Of Original Comic Art At Dundee University

This year the comic art exhibition at Dundee University, in conjunction with the Dundee Comics Day, will be Commando Battlelines which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Britain's last war comic.

Since the event that is now called the Dundee Comics Day began at Dundee University in 2007, the university's Museums Department has put on tie-in exhibitions of original comic artwork. The university's website has maintained its web pages about each of these exhibitions and often added extra pages after the exhibitions closed, as well as adding links to the various reviews of the events that have appeared here on downthetubes. Follow the links below to the official pages for each exhibition.

The first exhibition in 2007, like that year's event, was entitled Biff! Bam!! Crikey!! and included modern artwork from Hunt Emerson and Metaphrog's Louis series plus, impressively, original colour cover artwork by Ron Simmons from The Champion storypaper dating back at least fifty years.

2008 saw the start of the relationship that the University has developed with Dundee's publishing giant DC Thomson. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first issue of the Beano, the DC Thomson archive was opened and a large and impressive array of artwork was on display from the Beano as well as some from the various other DCT humour titles including some from the all but forgotten Magic, the third of the original 1930s humour titles that was lost to paper rationing in 1941.

2009 brought an exhibition on a title that is close to our hearts here on downthetubes - Starblazer. The exhibition included many original painted covers by Ian Kennedy and Keith Robson amongst others as well as scripts, internal art and some of the various Starblazer tie-ins. Also on display was original Starblazer artwork for Algol The Terrible by Grant Morrison showing, if truth be told, that there is a good reason that Morrison is not known as a comics artist.

2010 took the theme away from specific titles and instead focused on a single artist, Willie Richie, who had then only recently passed away. The artwork on display showed off the range of his art from black and white work on Sparky and Topper to painted colour on Bimbo. It also covered the "pony stories" work that he had done for the modern European girls comic Wendy.

The 2011 Dundee Comics Day takes place at Dundee University on Sunday 30 October. Tickets are priced at £10 per adult and £5 for under 13s for the complete day and will be available from the Dundee Literary Festival website in due course.

Friday, 9 September 2011

New Merlin magazine out today in the UK

(Updated 19/9/11): Well, here's a title many people thought should be out there but never thought we'd see: an official Merlin magazine, complete with its own official comic strip.

Children's Publisher Attic Brand Media launches The Official Merlin Magazine today, 9th September. Retailing at £3.20 per issue in the UK (the magazine is available worldwide from its official web site), it's the first magazine in the new monthly Futura Specials series from the company, a range which also includes the football-themed posters and puzzles magazine, KiCK! Extra, and the games and entertainment title, Kraze Club.

Attic Brand Media also publishes two monthly magazines, National Geographic Kids (UK) and KiCK!.

Brimming with behind-the-scenes secrets from the new series, we're told Merlin magazine will feature exclusive cast interviews, souvenir posters and prizes - including a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Merlin actor, Colin Morgan.

"It will be a magical treat for boys and girls aged seven to 14 (and a guilty pleasure for all those Merlin fans who are that little bit older!)," the PR proclaims.

Launched in 2008, the Merlin TV series tells the story of young Merlin in Camelot, as he comes to grips with his powers and destiny. Merlin's success and popularity continues to flourish across the globe.

FremantleMedia Enterprises, which has invested in the fifth series of the drama alongside UK broadcaster, BBC One, has now sold Merlin to over 50 broadcasters in more than 180 countries. The fourth series of the fantasy drama will begin in Autumn 2011 on BBC One in the UK. The third series, which was broadcast in winter 2010 pulled in the highest UK ratings for the drama so far, with a weekly average of over six million viewers.

Several publishers have previously pitched for a license for the Magazine, and samples designs and strips materials were created by Interzone illustrator Smuzz for one dummy. But it's Attic who have grabbed the crown and produced the Magazine.

The new Merlin magazine looks as though it wlll follow the same format as Doctor Who Adventures, published at present by the BBC, with with puzzles, quizzes and competitions and, most importantly for downthetubes fans, an exclusive Merlin comic strip, written by Damian Kelleher and drawn by Lee Carey, whose credits include various strips for Panini UK including Spider-Man and Friends.

The first issue will come with two high-quality gifts - a Magic Crystal Set and The Great Dragon Glider toy.

"The new magazine will be a fantastic opportunity for fans to get a glimpse into the world of Merlin, while having a lot of fun!" says the show's executive producer, Johnny Capps.

We wish Attic Brand Media every success with this project - it's great to see Merlin on our appear on our newsagents shelves at last.

• Official Merlin magazine web site:

• Official website to buy the Merlin magazine:
The magazine is available to buy worldwide from this website.

• BBC Merlin site:

Script And Art Droids Converge On Dundee

The latest guest list for the Dundee Comics Day, that runs as part of the Dundee Literary Festival at Dundee University, maintains the event's reputation for inviting an impressive array of speakers. This year's theme is "Wot Comics Taught Me..." and speaking on the day will be an impressive selection of 2000AD script and art droids including artists Cam Kennedy, Frank Quitely and Colin MacNeil plus writers John Wagner and Robbie Morrison.

Also attending will be the creative team behind the Scottish Independent Comic Book Award winning graphic novel Burke and Hare, writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering, and returning for a second visit to the Dundee event will be comics expert Paul Gravett who no doubt will have at least 1001 suggestions for comics that the attendees could read.

In addition to the talks and signing sessions, the University will be hosting the Commando Battlelines exhibition celebrating Commando's 50th anniversary, an exhibition that is in addition to the Draw Your Weapons exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The exact dates of the Dundee exhibition have yet to be announced but it will be open to attendees at the event.

The 2011 Dundee Comics Day takes place at Dundee University on Sunday 30 October. Tickets are £10 per adult and £5 for under 13s for the complete day and will be available from the Dundee Literary Festival website in due course.

There are more details of the Dundee Comics Day on the event's Facebook page.

The downthetubes review of the 2010 Dundee Comics Day is here.

Thursday, 8 September 2011 delivers on Crucible promo

Recently, British-based company offered us something for free in return for a spot of publicity for their wares on

Ever on the blag, we took them at their word and asked them to make up a 'Crucible' t-shirt, featuring artwork from the creator-owned strip I'm writing for publication next year, which is being drawn by Interzone illustrator and former 2000AD artist Smuzz.

We're happy to report to show off the t-shirt "in the wild", with modelling help from artist Smuzz's partner, Eira (who has also developed some amazing glyphs for our new world, by the way). have over 20 years experience in the screen printing industry and tell us they take pride in offering an honest, easy to understand way of doing business. "We believe our customers are searching for someone to fulfil their printing needs without stress and with their satisfaction being our main aim," they tell us.

While the design on our lovely, free, one-of-a-kind t-shirt is just A4 size, we're told they can print larger designs on shirts and the company can screen print to A3 and above.

The t-shirt is great and you can check the company out at Or phone them on 0800 046 7633.

• More about the Crucible project here:

Have Team TOXIC met their match?

The latest issue of Egmont's TOXIC is in the shops now and it's packed with comics strips and comes with no less than three free gifts -- secret spy glasses, a water squirter and "Deadly 60 Trading Cards".

One of the strip highlights in this comic magazine is Team Toxic, written and drawn by Lew Stringer, who tells us that this issue's story sees the villainous Baron Spyboss (who he introduced back in January) put his ultimate scheme into action, and the Team finally meet their nemesis.

"Regular readers of TOXIC will know that in an earlier issue Spyboss stole Doc Shock's brain -- don't worry, Doc had a spare," says Lew on his blog. "Transferring Doc's technical knowledge to his own mind, Spyboss uses it to take on the Team."

How can Doc Shock defeat a foe who knows as much as he does, and what is the gob-smacking, jaw dropping secret of Spyboss?

• TOXIC 191 is on sale now from newsagents and supermarkets, price £2.75

• Go to to find out how YOU can meet Dick & Dom!

TOXIC © Egmont UK Ltd

Turf Sequel in the works?

Bleeding Cool reports that Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards are considring a sequel to Turf, which was published in CLiNT in the UK and has just been releasd in a smashing hardcover edition by Titan Books.

Jonathan Ross announced that the pair are considering a sequel to Turf, this time set in the 1940s, during a signing for the new book in a London Waterstones.

Ross, who wrote the vampires, mobsters and aliens comic book set in 1920s America, already has a couple of other projects in the works with Edwards, including a retirement superhero comic called The Golden Age, and a racing comic called Speed Trap.

Ross recently outlined how Turf came to be written when he found himself "between jobs" after leaving the BBC and he finally had the time to do what he'd always wanted – write his own comic. Writing for The Guardian, he explained his lifelong love affair with masked men and caped crusaders.

While delighting in the comic form, he also admitted how hard he found it to write the comic.

"I've come to the conclusion that comics are a bit like golf, or Susan Boyle, or threesomes," he said. "You can find large sections of the population who can't get enough of that kind of thing, while the rest of us just don't see where the fun is supposed to lie. But when done right, for me, no other entertainment form can match the beautiful synthesis of hand-crafted art with lovingly chosen words. And as I discovered when I wrote my first comic book last year, in collaboration with Tommy Lee Edwards, less is most definitely more.

"'Newspaper headlines written by poets' was the description that the great Dennis O'Neil (Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman) used when asked to describe the art of writing for comics, and it's as good a guideline as any I've encountered."

Read the full article by Ross on The Guardian web site

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

So how did Comics Barcamp go?

(cross-posted with permission from Andy Luke's LiveJournal): Comics Barcamp, an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment,  happened on 3rd September 2011 at Blick Studios, Malone Road, Belfast.

Sponsored by Blick,, Paper Tiger Comix, Don't Panic! and Roger Sabin, it proved an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.

The first comics barcamp in the UK and Ireland, it pooled knowledge and shared it amongst comics creators and other people with an interest in the industry North and South of Ireland and a follow-up event in the South will take place next year.

Here, organiser Andy Luke offers his own take on the Belfast event...

Lots to tell about one of the first ever Comics Barcamps. So I may as well start here. (FTN) professionally shot a few interviews with folk in the morning but had to leave for midday. (They're working on a TV pilot). Posters were still being assembled around them and breakfast being consumed, brought along by myself and Jennifer Hanley on a reduced-to-clear croissant hunt.

The first session kicked off at 11:30 with Ciara Brennan, my new Absence liason at UnLtd, a charity which supports social entrepreneurs. She and I spoke about the group: its funding potential and the Southern equivalent. We gelled, and the piece gelled, clearing away my misgivings about UnLtd's case being treated as pie-in-the-sky.

Andy Luke and the Principles of Open Space
I folllowed this up with a piece on Writer Pitching with visuals of huge spiderplans and mind maps I made. There were jokes made about my bachelor status but more importantly I got people thinking, and Gar mentioned he'd like to try a proper personal project and raise the bar on his own work. There's an MP3 of this which I'm going to try to match with visuals of the pitch.

The presentation led to an intense discussion of work patterns and passions (kind of the point), and we ran well over the allotted time.

Lunch next, and everyone who tried it enjoyed Richard and Aofie's spicy noodle soup and the Mediterranean bread I sourced. We'd plenty of food and drink to keep going and Marc (of FTN) brought a few bags of crisps.

Attendance numbers were low, fluctuating between 7-10 (with 14 overall), so much that we felt best to restrict ourselves to one conference room. We didn't regroup to around 3.00pm. I didn't pick up much lunchtime chatter as I was helping with the food and trying to set up uStream.

Gareth Watson's session about portfolios on Wordpress was a bit tired I felt, as I knew half the group already used Wordpress. He knew his work though, so the best parts were when people asked questions. He would move to an unseen slide and explain exactly what we wanted to know. He also offered us some free consultation. The session ran to nearly an hour, tighter time control next time.

Paddy Brown's piece, "Getting it out", was a carefully scripted manifesto rallying against my own proposal of comics and business, stating that it was the love of the art that could only be achieved by an amateur approach to give the finished work better results. He used historical examples, and examined modern routes such as FPI, co-ops and speciality bookshops. He did it so well I almost gave him a standing ovation. The version on the web is poor sound quality, but he may be up for reprinting it at some point.

Adam Lively and the Law of Two Feet. Photo: Andy Luke
Gar and Deirdre had to catch their train to Dublin, so the session broke into informal discussion about the Black Panel and a Dublin co-op. In short, the former needs a serious re-tooling (I said) if it is to survive the year. Gar has a site in mind for the Dublin venture, and I made a point of saying they'd have to properly man-up before he undertook it. I mentioned he and Dee may like to perform a proper case study on London Underground Comics as an example of how to do it well.

The final piece was my own on digital distribution. I had 15 minutes to deliver it but it's the sort of thing that could really benefit from knowledge pooling, so I may wheel it out again. Then to clearing up the venue and balancing an enormous vat of soup on my lap in the car home. Lazy takeaway at Paddys and the best Doctor Who I'd ever seen.

Richard said afterwards, "I really feel that I learned a lot today", and I think this summed up everyone's experiences. As the person with the least involvement in the comics business, he said, "The industry seems like a really terrible place to work. Particularly in Belfast."

Richard probably knows me best and has been the closest to all the work I put into this event. The people who participated appreciated the sponsors and supporters, who were notable in facilitating hope for improvement.

We learned plenty about how to run a barcamp and I'm quite certain we'll see a comics camp in London, Dublin and somewhere else in the next nine months.

Web Links

• Original wiki for Comics Barcamp

Andy's  Comics Barcamp 2011 Set on Flickr

Comics Camp afternoon recordings on uStream (poor sound and slow loading)

Tales of the Fallen anthology cover revealed

Barry Nugent's rapidly expanding Unseen Shadows universe, which encompasses novels, comics and audio drama, has another addition on the way - a Tales of the Fallen anthology, hopefully due for release at the Thought Bubble in Leeds in November.

Barry tells us artwork is coming in from left, right and centre for the book which will come wrapped in a cover by Rob Carey (right). Writer Cy Dethan also offers this synopsis of the book:

They are murderers, martyrs and mercenaries in the no-man’s-land between adventure and crusade – soldiers of fate and fierce honour, bound together in mystery, darkness and blood. Their enemies are shadows haunting the outermost borders of a darkening world, and as night approaches the shadows grow long.

They are the Fallen, and these are their stories.

The Unseen Shadows universe kicked off with the Fallen Heroes novel - a follow-up, Forgotten Warriors, is on the way. It's a project that has also spanned comics, CDs and even, soon, a series of live action web episodes is currently being planned in conjunction with Zzizzl Media. 

"Originally Fallen Heroes was called Unseen Shadows but the more I worked on the story the more I felt that the title was a little too overarching to fit one book," says Barry of the project. "I knew I was going to tell this one huge adventure spread over three books and so Unseen Shadows became the overall theme for that story.

"Now with the ongoing work to expand the world and characters I’ve created via the mediums of comics, audio and live action it made sense to bring the term ‘Unseen Shadows’ more to the forefront. I know a lot of people, myself included sometimes, still refer to everything involved with the project as Fallen Heroes but in truth everything being worked on is part of the Unseen Shadows universe. It was one of the reasons I decided to launch a new website to try to reinforce that message.

"The really exciting thing for me is how the spin-off work has affected me as I work on the second book in the trilogy, Forgotten Warriors," he continues. "I found myself subconsciously referencing events in the spin-off scripts as if they were canon and then the thought occurred to me ‘Why don’t I just make them canon’. 

"So now every member of the creative team knows that their material is 100 per cent a part of the Unseen Shadows universe and not just a nice little side story with no impact on the events surrounding it." 

That team includes writers Martin Conaghan, Cy Dethan, Dan Thompson, Richmond Clements and Pete Rogers along with artists such as Conor Boyle, Steve Penfold and Roy Huteson Stewart.

"The spin-offs expand and enhance the characters lives and relationships within the novels," says Barry. "Although the books and the spin offs can be read and enjoyed independently of each other you will get more insights into the characters by experiencing all the stories across the Unseen Shadows universe. At least that is the plan we are all working towards. 

"You want to know more about the how the Reverend was trained to become the man we see in Fallen Heroes? Then you Cy Dethan’s The Reverend: Wrath of God comic. If you’ve ever wondered how did a decorated solider like Clancy become a mercenary then Dan Thompson’s Clancy Wallencheck: Band of Butchers is for you. Desperate to learn about the inner working of the Icarus Foundation? Alan White’s Tales of the Fallen: Empire of Blood audio drama is the place to begin your education."

• More about Unseen Shadows at: or on Facebook. Follow Barry on Twitter @ba_nuge

Leeds Alternative Comics Fair in October

The 3rd Leeds Alternative Comics Fair will take place on Saturday 1st October, in A Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds, just behind the Leeds City Art Gallery.

In keeping with previous events, this small but perfectly formed event hopes to bring you some of the best Northern, alternative comics makers, print-makers and illustrators, who will be selling their wares in the quirky, relaxed bar on Cookridge Street.

Don’t like comics? (Surely not! Did you think this was a surfing web site for some reason?) Well, there’ll be lots more on offer, such as craft wear, badges, art and music.

This event's guest list includes old friends such as Steve Tillotson (Banal Pig), Hugh “Shug” Raine (REET! Comics), Gary Bainbridge, Andy Waugh, Gareth Brookes, Helen “Memo” Entwisle, Huw “Lem” Davies, Ben Clark, Kristyna Baczynski and Geof Banyard (Fetishman), who will be showcasing new work.

New exhibitors include James Downing (COUK), Jim Medway, Isaac Lenkiewicz, Kelly Walton, Bob Milner (Milk Two Sugars) and a cameo appearance from Darryl Cunningham, of Psychiatric Tales fame.

The Fair is also reintroducing the communal table, giving non-exhibitors the chance to bring their comics along to sell. All we ask is that you help man the table for a short period of time.

• The event will run from 12 noon until 5pm and is free to enter. Get along, have a browse, a chat, a drink and a fish finger sarnie! More info:, Facebook search “Leeds Alternative Comics” or tweet us @leedsaltcomics

I'm ready for my close-up: Autumn Sci-Fi

As the Autumn nights start to draw in, ace podcast Panel Borders - who normally do comics stuff, but we think this item will appeal to our readers, too - has a couple of recommendations of DVDs worth staying in for, as Alex Fitch interviews a pair of directors who have both earned cult followings for their work in the SF genre.

Duncan Jones talks about his new film Source Code, a time travel thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and about how themes in his new movie consciously and unconsciously reflect some of his concerns of humanity dislocated by technology in his debut Moon.

Alex also chats to John Hough, director of the classic Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), starring Ray Milland and Donald Pleasance. Hough followed his first family film with a couple more for Disney – Return from Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods – and talks about how the company’s approach to live-action film making has changed over the years.

I'm ready for my close-up: Autumn Sci-Fi airs tonight at 6.30pm, Wednesday 6th September 2011 on Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at / extended podcast online, featuring an additional interview with John Hough on Sunday 10th September at

2000 AD Prog 1750 - Start Reading Here...

Greg Staples cover for 2000 AD 1750. © Rebellion

2000 AD Prog 1750 is a big jumping on point for potential 2000AD readers, on sale today (7th September)

Lowlife by Rob Williams and D'Israeli
The issue comes wrapped in a fab Greg Staples cover (above) and features a new Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Henry Flint (and with a shock ending for Dredd in Issue 1749, the issue is worth picking up just to find out what happens); Indigo Prime by John Smith and Edmund Bagwell; Lowlife by Rob Williams and D’Israeli - a new 12-part adventure - and Ampney Crucis by Ian Edginton and Simon Davies.

These are all new strips, all starting in one new issue. Give it a go!

More preview pages of Lowlife on Bleeding Cool here

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Little Lemming Books launched by Windett and Gatehouse

Artist Dave Windett and writer John Gatehouse have launched Little Lemming Books, a new publishing imprint for print and digital media, kicking their line off with Trick or Treat, the first story to feature aspring reporter Neela Nightshade.

Town gossip has it that creepy Monster Mansion on top of Gallows Hill is haunted. Investigating for herself, Neela discovers that the stories are all true…! And when the terrifying Monsters in the Basement escape, nothing can stop them from destroying the town…

Dave and John have worked together for numerous companies on more projects than they can remember, featuring both licensed characters and their own creations. Little Lemming Books is their first leap into the brave new world of electronic self publishing made possible by the emergence of devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Produced with the help of expert E–Book developer Paul Drummond,  Trick or Treat is the first of a series of illustrated children’s comedy horror books.

• Little Lemming Books can be found at:

• A version of Trick or Treat for Iphone, Ipod, Ipad, Nook and other epub readers is available at

• More of Dave’s artwork can be seen at and news and sneek peeks at upcoming projects can be found on Dave’s Blog.

• Paul Drummond's site has information about his E–Book development services.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Megazine reaps new Pat Mills and Clint Langley SF thrller

(with thanks to Pat Mills, via Matt Badham): American Reaper, by Pat Mills and Clint Langley, starts running monthly in Judge Dredd Megazine from 12th October 2011.

Pat says it's a dark science fiction thriller about future cops - known as Reapers - hunting down criminals  who carry out illegal identity transplants.  With the digitisation of consciousness, the old, the sick and the rich are able to occupy the bodies of healthy teenagers and enjoy a new lease of life.

There are even controversial plans to legalise ID transplants, with young prisoners on Death Row paying their debt to society by "donating" their bodies to the great and the good.

Produced by Repeat Offenders Ltd - a company formed by Pat, Clint and producer Jeremy Davis - and optioned as a movie by Xingu Films (producers of the superb Moon, and A Guide To Recognising Your Saints), Pat and Clint have produced a cinematic graphic novel series, and Pat feels Clint has surpassed himself on the art fron for this project.

The strip includes advert extras by Fay Dalton (winner of the 2010 Pickled Ink agency's Pickled Award, who's also working on the graphic novel Party Girls), featuring the Reapers' sinister Stop & Scan laws and the mysteries of hologram download dresses that are the height of teenage fashion in 2062.

Fay Dalton poster
Xingu says the film version of American Reaper was brought to them as a short pitch from Pat  with some sample art from Clint. "Immediately captivated by the exciting premise, and the exceptional track record of the creative team involved, Xingu came on board not only to commission a screenplay, but also to raise the financing for the graphic novel itself. A departure for our company, but another sign of our flexibility when it comes to how best to get the stories we believe in made."

• More about American Reaper on Facebook Page: American Reaper, or follow on Twitter @American_Reaper

More about the American Reaper movie project on the Xingu Films site 

• Judge Dredd Megazine Official:

BD & Comics Passion weekend in London in October

(With thanks to Paul Gravett): London's Institut Français in association with Comica Festival will hold the first of its annual BD & Comics Passion weekends in October (7th-9th).

The graphic novel medium has grown over the years to become an increasingly important force in popular culture, dominating the film landscape and coming into its own as an explosive new literary genre. To celebrate this, as well as explore accepted ideas about the genre, the Comica team have invited some of the most celebrated British and French authors to join them in London to discuss their work and share their love of graphic novels.

"Over the course of three days, enthusiasts and beginners alike are invited to participate in this exciting array of events," explains Comica Director Paul Gravett, "with acclaimed authors and artists such as Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), China Miéville (Kraken), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), Bryan Talbot (Grandville), Yves Sente and André Juillard (Blake & Mortimer).

"Plus there's Jean-Claude Mézières (Valérian & Laureline), Benoît Sokal (Canardo), Catel & Bocquet (Kiki de Montparnasse), Bastien Vivès (The Taste of Chlorine), comics guru Paul Gravett (1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die) and more!

"There's something for everyone here," Paul enthuses. "A drawing duel between Jean-Claude Mézières and Dave Gibbons, talks (Bryan Talbot on the tradition of animals in comic books, me on the history of the medium, China Miéville on his love for comics, Audrey Niffenegger on her passion for Aubrey Beardsley); a masterclass by Alan Moore collaborator Oscar Zárate (A Small Killing) on making a four-page comics about London, and a conversation with Yves Sente and André Juillard about the making of the popular series Blake & Mortimer.

"We'll also host a drawing session starring the rising star of French graphic novels, Bastien Vivès, a translation workshop given by the famous translator of Astérix, Anthea Bell, and live drawing events with Sokal and Catel & Bocquet."

Along with this , visitors will also be invited to celebrate their favourite character during the weekend's costume party!

• For the full programme which runs from 7th - 9th October 2011 and booking see The Institut Français is at 17 Queensberry Place, London. Tel: 0207 073 1350). Early reservations recommended. Tickets for each event £8 (Concessions £5)

In Review: XIII - Thirteen To One

Who is XIII?

Book 1 - Mr Alan Smith?
Books 2&3 - Captain Steve Rowland?
Book 4 - Corporal Ross Tanner?
Book 5 - Agent Jason Fly?
Books 6&7 - Writer John Fleming?

After the linked stories of the first five books and the two part Jason Fly story of the sixth and seventh books, in the eighth XIII book, Thirteen To One, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance return to a theme familiar to fans of The Prisoner, who is Number One?

It has been two months since the events of The Night Of August Third, and two years since the beginning of the series, and number XIII turns his attention back to finding out just who number I is. With Major Jones angered that he wants to find Captain Steve Rowland's wife, Kim, who is also number XVII, XIII uses his ultimate contact, the President of the United States, to get the authority and information that he needs. In the meantime the Mongoose, the assassin who has been trying to kill XIII, escapes from prison and continues his hunt.

For all the fact that this is a single book story, it requires so much knowledge of the XIII back story that it would make no sense to anyone jumping into the series at this point. That said Van Hamme rewards the readers that have stuck with the series by giving them an intriguing plot with Presidential and Secret Service involvement along with an illegitimate child that the series must surely return to at some point in the future. Meanwhile Jones, despite all her apparent huffiness at the beginning, has to depend on XIII as he makes the ultimate choice between her and Kim Rowland.

On the art front Vance is obviously enjoying himself as both the Secret Service agent and Jones herself get red sports cars to drive around in, while the climactic sequences along America's north eastern coast give him plenty of scope for beaches, islands and luxury yachts.

XIII - Thirteen To One almost reads like a thank-you from its creators to the French readers who, when it was originally published in 1991, had stuck with the series for seven years. Fortunately for us it has only taken Cinebook just over one year to get this far and they continue to forge ahead with XIII at one book every other month. Despite this schedule, and the possibility of getting complacent with it, XIII continues to be a series that doesn't disappoint.

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

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

• You can read an interview with Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin on downthetubes at XIII Questions About XIII.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Commando "Draw Your Weapons" exhibition opens at National Army Museum

The National Army Museum has just opened its small, but perfectly formed, exhibition based on the art of Commando comic, and Richard Sheaf was there for downthetubes on its opening night...

The official opening night on Thursday (having been open to the public on Thursday morning) saw members of the Commando production team (ex-editor George Low, current editor Calum Laird, deputy editor Scott Montgomery, artist Keith Page and scriptwriter Alan Hebden) take pride of place amongst the great and the good.

The exhibition features an unprecedented opportunity to see over 50 stunning original pieces of cover artwork by the likes of Ian Kennedy (over 30 pieces alone), Jordi Penalva (10 pieces), Ken Barr (four pieces), Keith Walker, Gordon Livingstone and Phil Gascoigne.

Some of the pieces featured include the cover artwork for Commando Number One (Walk or Die!), the covers of issues number 11, 71 & 98 as well as the original Commando dagger and the illustration made of it that graced so many issues (you can also see the stern warning on the original art that says “Please return to GM Low, Commando, 7th floor”).

In fact, the only problem with the exhibition is, really, how small it is. 50 covers sounds fantastic (and the art is great) until you remember that there nearly 4,500 issues, meaning that such a small proportion of art is on show here and the museum so large that it’s a shame a bigger space couldn’t have been found to display even more artwork. The exhibition really is just about the covers and the birth of the Commando’s as a unit as there just isn’t space to go into all the other aspects of Commando(‘s).

On sale in the shop are Issue 4419 (the tie in issue to the National Army Museum), the large Carlton reprint volumes, the new thin three-story reprints, the Commando calendar, a fridge magnet, postcard, drawing set and (a month ahead of its official publication) George Low’s enormous, superb-looking 175 page, full colour throughout, behind the scenes look at everything Commando: 50 Years a Home for Heroes.

• The exhibition runs for eight months (until 30th April 2012) and is well worth a visit. More info at:

More pictures from the opening night on Flickr here

 Other Coverage


Culture 24 - Draw Your Weapons

The Daily Mail

Daily Telegraph - Draw Your Weapons
ITN - Draw Your Weapons
Time Out - Draw Your Weapons 

In Print

Big Issue - 10 things to do this week in London: Draw Your Weapons
(Number 3)

Families Journal - Draw Your Weapons, page 6

All artwork copyright DC Thomson. Our thanks to the National Army Museum for the invite.

Ron Jobson Artwork Up For Auction

Ron Jobson is not that familiar a name to British comics collectors as he produced very few comic strips in his time, but mention the character of Captain "Space" Kingley to readers of a certain age or collectors of 1950s annuals and you tend to get a remarkable reaction.

Between 1952 and 1954 Sampson Low published three Space Kingley books all in annual size and format despite the character not actually appearing in any weekly comic. Kingley was one of the multitude of Dan Dare clones that were created by many publishers to cash in on the popularity of Eagle's spaceman. The only one to really approach the artistic excellence that was displayed each week in Eagle was Space Kingley and Ron Jobson was the artist who produced the vast majority of the artwork for the three books and four Kingley jigsaws that were released. His career was covered by Norman Wright and David Ashford in Book and Magazine Collector issue 320.

In addition to Space Kingley Jobson worked on may other subjects from 1950s children's picture books via 1960s Matchbox car boxes and 1970s Airfix boxes and instructions to 1980s aviation and space reference books. From a science fiction perspective he did the painted covers for the hardback versions of Charles Chilton's Journey Into Space novels and as well as some of the hardback covers for EC Elliott's Kemlo books.

Born in 1923 and called-up to wartime serve with the Royal Engineers and the War Office, Jobson retired from commercial painting quite some time ago but continued painting for pleasure until only recently. Twenty of these more recent paintings, mainly depicting military aircraft and including this lovely one of a World War One Royal Navy E Class submarine with a flying boat, are being auctioned by Aston's Auctioneers and Valuers of Baylies' Hall, Tower Street in Dudley on Saturday 15 October 2011 as part of their Toy Auction.

There are more pictures of all twenty of the Ron Jobson paintings to be auctioned, as well as details of the auction, on the Aston's Toy Auction blog.

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