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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Alan and Steve Moore's poetry goes online

One of the more obscure of Alan Moore's works is Technical Vocabularies, a poetry collection he and Steve Moore produced in 2004 in very limited numbers. Now, Alan and Steve have allowed Padraig O Méaloid to post it online on Glycon, his Alan Moore obsession site.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to do this," says Padraig. "I seem to have, more by accident than by design, become a sort of honorary online publisher to some of Alan's lesser known back catalogue, which I'm pleased to say he seems to be happy for me to do, as it makes it available for free to people who wouldn't get to see it otherwise.

"I have a general imprimatur from him to publish the standard unavailable stuff, old comics stories and the like, but there are a number of things I like to check back with him about, and this was definitely one of them.

"The fact that I was also able to check with Steve Moore is a double bonus, as he not only wrote half the poems, he also published it as part of his Somnium Press imprint."

In the post, Steve reveals the project was a 'spur of the moment' thing.  "Alan was visiting me for the weekend and the Saturday was 1st May 2004, and we just decided we wanted to do something creative. So we decided to produce a booklet of poems in a single day.

"We decided to use four traditional verse forms ... Alan wrote a pantoum and a sestina, I did a sonnet and a villanelle … which explains the title, Technical Vocabularies. That’s actually a quotation from Théophile Gautier’s biography of Baudelaire, where he mentions this in a definition of the Decadent writing style. The sub-title ‘Games for May’ comes from a Syd Barrett song and was obviously applicable to the date we were doing this.

"So we wrote the poems and then I designed and typeset the pages while Alan drew the cover illustration, and we had the whole thing assembled by the evening. It took a bit longer to actually print, of course, and then we had to get together again to sign the copies. So we ended up with a ‘private edition’ of 26 copies to give to our friends, which had silver covers, and a ‘public edition’ of 75 copies with cream covers, which were then sent over to Chris Staros at Top Shelf to market, and they sold out in two hours. We used to do things a bit quicker in those days!"

• Read Technical Vocabularies at:

Bizarre Omen Bodes Well for Strip Magazine?

It's a funny old world.

This week, Print Media Productions launched their new comic magazine Strip, featuring reprints of the classic 1970s comic story Hookjaw, which features a shark with a hook stuck in its jaw as the main character.

Today The Sun, amongst others, reports that Chris Handley, an angler in Florida, beat odds of billions to one catching a shark by hooking a hook already stuck in its mouth!

The good news? The shark was released and is back in the water.

As Harry Hill might say, 'What are the chances of that happening, eh?'

Check out the full story here.

Photo Review: Dundee Comics Day 2011

"The Dundee Comics Day has been the highlight of my comics year so far and I look forward in anticipation to what Chris Murray and his team have in store for next year" was how I ended my review of the 2010 Dundee Comics Day some 16 months ago, so this year's event had a lot to live up to.

As part of the Dundee Literary Festival organised by Dundee University, the Comics Day had to move with the festival from its normal timeslot in June to October putting it close to Thoughtbubble, and its academic conference, and clashing with London's MCM Expo. Yet, other than the fact that it was too cold to eat lunch outside on the front lawn, the date change does not seem to have negatively affected the event or the attendance, indeed the turnout was noticeably larger than in previous years. Whether this was down to the fact that it was term time and Dundee's students were around, or that the 2000AD fans realised that it was worth attending due to the number of script and art droids due to be there, or even that the Glasgow Comic Con in July had opened Glaswegian comics fans eyes to what was going on in the rest of Scotland, is open to debate.

In previous years the day has begun with a morning workshop but this year the workshop was done away with and the pre-lunch session was expanded into a series of talks beginning at 11am with comics historian and author Paul Gravett (above). Paul has been to Dundee before and this year his talk was based around his new book 1001 Comic Books You Must Read Before You Die as he suggested a fairly long list of comics creators, several of which I hadn't heard of, from which to chose five.

Next up were Burke and Hare writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering, talking about their graphic novel, originally published by Edinburgh's Insomnia, and which won the Best Graphic Novel, and Conaghan best writer, at the inaugural Scottish Independent Comic Awards at the Glasgow Comic Con in July. They discussed the background to the book, their inspiration for it in the form of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, plus the amount of research that they put into it to avoid the many myths that have grown up around the two murderers.

The morning session came to an end with a short talk by artist Jimmy O'Ready about his new comic Death Sentence which he writes under the pen name Montynero and which has art by Rex Royd's Mike Dowling. The audience showed their interest after this talk by buying every copy of the comic that Jimmy had with him.

A light buffet lunch was proved as part of the day's entrance cost of £10 after which the early afternoon session took on a heavily 2000AD feel. Yet for all the fact that John Wagner is associated with 2000AD and his co-creation of Judge Dredd, he began his talk with his time at DC Thomson and showed photos of Pat Mills' former garden shed where the pair of DC Thomson men had written 23 scripts for IPC's Cor! humour comic and had 12 of them accepted. They wrote IPC humour characters such as Jack Pott and Tom Boy. He then moved on to the creation of Battle Picture Weekly as a competitor to DCT's Warlord and the attempts to shore up the falling sales of Valiant before it was amalgamated into Battle. One of the Valiant characters was the Dirty Harry-esque One Eyed Jack who mutated with the arrival of 2000AD into Judge Dredd.

Robbie Morrison was next who has been writing Nikolai Dante in 2000AD for the last 16 years as well as creating Shimura and Shakara which, it was pointed out, sound similar but aren't. Of the two very different artists on Dante, Robbie said that he wrote to their strengths with John M Burns preferring adventure over science-fiction and Simon Fraser getting the more SF and emotionally charged stories. One snippet that I hadn't heard before was that his first professional script sale was to DCT's SF digest Starblazer and that he had written some 4 or 5 scripts for the title, none of which were used before Starblazer was cancelled in 1991. Chances are those scripts are still sitting in DC Thomson's archive.

Finally in this session was artist Colin MacNeil, another of the Starblazer alumni who pointed out that he was "not a comics artist, just an artist who draws comics." Stating that he was more at home with pictures than words, Colin then went on to give a very thoughtful talk about his work over the years, his influences including his very close encounter with Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch' in Holland and his plans for a Battle of the Somme graphic novel to come out in 2016. Colin was followed by a break for refreshments and a signing session in the foyer.

The final session of the day began with Matthew Jarron of the university's Museum Services introducing Commando editor Calum Laird (right), deputy editor Scott Montgomery (left) and former editor George Low (centre) for a short talk about the Commando Battlelines exhibition that was displaying original cover and internal artwork from the comic in the foyer. They gave a good-natured talk and answered questions about one of the great survivors of British comics during which they got what was perhaps the most off-the-wall question of the day when they were asked how much of their readership was female. Surprisingly it is 2%, or 1 in 50, which may not sound like much but it is much higher than I would have expected it to be.

Next up was at talk by Jamie Bryan (left) of computer game firm Tiger Games who, along with the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design lecturer and one of the organisers of the Dundee Comics Day Phillip Vaughn (right), talked about their new Superman game for iPads and iPhones which has not been released yet. While it was an interesting talk, it was definitely the odd-man-out of all the talks during the day.

Things got back on a comics track with artist Cam Kennedy who stood at the front with the microphone and, rather than giving a talk, immediately asked for questions. Cam has a dry humour and it came across well here as questions set him off on amusing anecdotes about his career as he told the audience about his time in France and America as well as his disregard for Star Wars. After the success of his two Dark Empire series when Dark Horse asked for a third he turned them down as he was "fed up drawing a big carpet and a dustbin." When pressed by them he said that he would do a series on Boba Fett as long as John Wagner wrote it and they agreed - not realising that John Wagner hadn't even seen Star Wars at that point. With his art on the screen behind him and the chance of a sketch book of his work being published in Europe (we can but hope), Cam's session was one of the highlights of the day.

After the energy and humour of Cam came one of the most highly regarded comic strip artists of modern times, Frank Quitely, whose 'secret identity' just happens to be a quietly spoken bloke from Glasgow called Vincent Deighan. Unlike most artists who prefer their artwork to do the talking, Vinnie is at home in front of an audience and he sat at the front cradling the mic and talked about his work and career. Like Colin MacNeil, as a child he had considered books were something for school and it was comics that he read for fun at home, while his favourite pastime even then was drawing.

The audience were then invited to move out to the foyer for the Tartan Bucket awards presentation. In association with DC Thomson the university had run a competition to create a new 1 or 2 page humour strip in the vein of Beano and Dandy. With a honourable mention for Craig Balmer, the four runners up who received a cheque for £250 each were Steven Baskerville, Jamie Huxtable, Paul Rainey and Adam Smith while the tartan Bucket Prize was won by Steve English (below) with his two page strip Belle's Magic Mobile. As well as a cheque for £1000 and, quite literally, a bucket full of DC Thomson merchandise, Steve's strip will be published in the Beano in the new year.

Finally, and a surprise to most not least of all Cam Kennedy, there was a short presentation by Calum Laird about the two unrelated Kennedy "brothers", Cam and Ian. Artist Ian Kennedy had quietly joined the audience towards the end of the day which meant that he was there for Calum presenting him, and John Wagner presenting Cam, with lifetime achievement awards which, it has to be said, were both very richly deserved. Despite both being Scottish, Cam (left) and Ian (right) had never met before and this candid photo below shows the moment when the men were introduced to each other for the first time by a delighted Phillip Vaughn.

The day's talks were themed as 'Wot I Learnt From Comics' and two fairly consistent things came from that. Firstly comics creators don't read many comics (and why would they when they spend all day working on them?) and secondly, and more importantly for budding creators in the audience, if you want to make a comic just go ahead and do it - practice may not make perfect but it can only benefit you in the long run.

Practice has pretty much made perfect when it comes to the Dundee Comics Day and congratulations must go to Dr Chris Murray and his team for yet another excellent event covering both old and modern British comics and their creators. Long may it continue.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Angels - Immediate Launch!

Despite Captain Scarlet being over 40 years old, Spectrum remains green.

Spectrum's Angel aircraft, as featured in Gerry Anderson's 1967 TV series Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, remain popular enough to have two new merchandise releases before Christmas. Featuring in various British Captain Scarlet comic strips drawn by the likes of Ron Embleton in TV Century 21 or John Cooper in the News Of The World magazine, or even in The Angels strip in Lady Penelope drawn by Jon Davis, the Angel aircraft retain a sleek futuristic look even after all these years.

Robert Harrup Designs, who produce miniature figurines of various comic and TV themes including The Beano and Thunderbirds, have produced a diorama of an Angel aircraft launching from Cloudbase, Spectrum's hovering HQ. The Angel diorama is made of hand painted ceramic resin in a limited edition of 250 and costs £65 with free postage and packaging in the UK.

Many people refer to the Angel aircraft as Angel Interceptors because that is the name that Airfix gave to their plastic construction kit of the plane which was originally released as a Series 2 kit in 1968. The Angel Interceptor kit remained in Airfix's range for many years after the series left TV screens but eventually passed into history.

However, due to demand from the kit-building fraternity, Airfix have re-released the kit and it can only be a bonus for everyone that they are reusing the original box illustration painted by Eagle and Swift artist Roy Cross which, no doubt, did much to inspire several generations of children who had never seen or even heard of Captain Scarlet to buy the kit in the past. The kit is available now and costs £6.99.

To finish we have a special Friday treat from Anderson fan James Fielding who has combined the Japanese title sequences of various Gerry Anderson TV series and also added subtitles which translate the songs that were added to them for the Japanese market.

There are more details of the Angel launch diorama at the Robert Harrup website.

There is more information on the Angel Interceptor kit at the Airfix website.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Artist Spotlight: Jésus Blasco

The Illustration Art Gallery is spotlighting the work of the late Jésus Blasco this month, offering a 20 per cent discount on any orders of his original art, which includes pages of perhaps his best-known strip in the UK, The Steel Claw but also some gorgeous illustrations for Sleeping Beauty, Hansel & Gretel, Princess Grace, Snow White, The Wombles and many more.

Blasco (Jesús Blasco Monterde), considered one of the masters of Spanish comics, made his comics debut in 1935, working on the Spanish version of the Disney Mickey magazine, then creating 'Cuto', one of his best-known characters, for Boliche. Other early credits include work for Chicos, still working on 'Cuto' and several adventure and science-fiction comics.

Cuto for Chicos - early work
More info in Spanish
He began working for Fleetway in the 1950s, initially drawing Buffalo Bill for Comet in 1954, followed by Robin Hood for the Sun comic and various strips for Playhour. This was followed by plenty of work for titles such as Mirabelle and Valentine, before moving on to work such as Blackbow the Cheyenne for Swift, The Steel Claw for Valiant and Danger Man for Lion.

An incredibly versatile artist, he also drew strips such as The Water Babies and Alice in Wonderland for Once Upon a Time in 1970, before returning to action strips such as Dredger for Action and Invasion for 2000AD in the mid-1970s.

For Europe, he drew Los Guerilleros for Spirou from 1968 and at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s he and his brothers Alejandro and Adriano worked on Une Bible en Bande Dessinée, followed by Tex Willer and Capitan Trueno with writer Victor Mora, with whom he also made the medieval series Tallafero in 1987.

Jésus Blasco's very productive and influential career ended with his death on 21st October 1995.

• The 20 per cent strictly limited exclusive discount expires on 30th November 2011. Gallery Page:

Jesús Blasco Fleetway credit list (by Dave Roach, but in Spanish):

• The work of Jesús Blasco:

Cartoonist Steve English wins first 'Tartan Bucket' prize

Steve English with his
'Tartan Bucket'
Steve English has just been awarded the first Tartan Bucket Prize (named in honour of famous Scottish comics character Oor Wullie) organised by Dundee University in conjunction with D C Thomson.

The aim of the competition was to design a cartoon character and story that would be suitable for the likes of weekly print comics Beano and Dandy.

Steve's winning entry, Belle's Magic Mobile, will feature in the Beano in January 2012.

"It's about a girl with a magic mobile phone that she gets from her grandad who looks suspiciously like Alexander Graham Bell," Steve tells us. "I'm hoping there's lots of scope for follow up stories. I'm madly inking some new stories to show the Beano, but time will only tell if they see it that way too.

"They're going to publish it in January," he reveals. "Chris Murray, the guy who organised the Dundee Comic Day, has said he would probably put an exhibition together for that time too."

Some readers may recall Steve also won the ROK Comics cartoon competition back in 2007, which had the then editor of The Beano as its external judge.

In addition to his competition success, Steve's football humour strip Football Earth now features in two more publications, She Kicks published by Baltic Publications and Farnborough OBG matchday programme.

His crazy Madd Science is one of three creator-owned iPhone apps available from ROK Comics.

The tartan on that 'Tartan Bucket', by the way, is the officially registered Oor Wullie tartan . The Broons tartan, strangely enough, is more brown.

In Review: The Boss

Mix the pupils of a single school year concept in something like Harry Potter plus the control of agents from a command centre from something like NCIS:Los Angeles with the child investigators of, say, Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers and Dog and you have the latest title from the DFC Library, The Boss by writer John Aggs and artist Patrice Aggs.

The class of year five are on a school trip during they overhear two men plotting to steal something from the castle that they are visiting. One of the kids, known only as The Boss, quickly forms the class into teams covering the main areas of the castle as well as reconnaissance squads to find and then track the criminals.

Castle maps, video cameras with zoom lenses and mobile phones keep the class in touch with the criminals while reporting back to the Boss who tries to keep his fellow students away from the teachers while gathering enough evidence against the men to give to the police. But can a bunch of kids really save the castle's priceless illustrated manuscript from being stolen?

It is to the credit of writer John Aggs that I read The Boss straight through without even considering that it had originally been subdivided into weekly segments in The DFC comic, where this particular Boss story was called The Castle Heist. Scanning back through it again with that in mind I could see where it was split up, a few moved word balloons helping to obscure the splits, but that does not diminish the fact that this is a fast paced and involving story as the children attempt to outwit the criminals while at the same time protecting their own actions from any potential interference by their teachers. To say that this has the feel of a modern take on an Enid Blyton style adventure story may be taken by some people these days as a mark of disrespect to John Aggs, but I say it having read and enjoyed dozens of Blyton's Famous, Secret and Mystery adventure books in my youth.

Patrice Aggs' art impresses in differentiating between a posse of school children all wearing the same coloured uniforms as well as creating a convincing castle where the majority of the action is set and that the reader gets to know their way around over the course of the story. Her choice of angles in her panels keep the story interesting in what could have been a repetitive locale while her reveal of how the class capture the person they consider to be the criminal is startlingly effective.

Why do the children consider one of their number to be 'The Boss'? Who is he and, for that matter, what is his name? How does he know what to do and how are the class so good at all this 'secret agent' stuff? We aren't told and, in fact, it doesn't really matter as the story proceeds at such a fast pace that the Boss himself is onto coping with the next problem without having time for the reader to think too much about the background to the situation.

The Boss is the sort of 'kids outsmarting the adults' adventure story that children love to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as well.

• There are more details of The Boss on on the David Fickling Books website.

• There are more details of John Agg's work on his blog.

• There are more details of Patrice Agg's work on her website.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Remembering Lis Sladen, aka Sarah Jane Smith

Aurum Press will release Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen's autobiography this week - an occasion tempered with sadness, given her untimely death back in April - but a release that prompted my own memories of 'working' with the accomplished actress back when I was editing Doctor Who Magazine.

When Lis first appeared as journalist Sarah Jane Smith in the 1973 Doctor Who story The Time Warrior, little did she know the character would become one of the most enduring and fondly remembered of the series' long history.

The years that followed saw Lis traverse time and space alongside classic Doctors Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, whilst a generation of children crouched behind the sofa, terrified but transfixed as their tea-time heroine found herself menaced by Daleks, dinosaurs, Cybermen, Egyptian mummies, actors in green Bubble Wrap and even the Loch Ness Monster.

By the time she quit the TARDIS in 1976, making front-page news, Lis had become one of the most familiar faces of a TV golden age.

But you don't just walk away from Doctor Who. Fandom made Sarah Jane Smith their own, while Lis Sladen took on another adventure - bringing up her daughter. But even then, she was asked to reprise her role many times, appearing in anniversary specials, the ill-fated 1981 spin-off with robotic sidekick K-9, radio plays, for the BBC's Children in Need and, in the first Doctor Who comic strip I edited for Doctor Who Magazine, Train Flight.

Written by Andrew Donkin and Graham S. Brand, drawn by John Ridgway, I recall I wanted to make a statement with my first edited strip and like editors before me, put my own 'stamp' on what I wanted to see in the magazine's comic section. That included, on occasion, utilising more elements of the TV show than just the Seventh Doctor, such as featuring some TV monsters and, eventually having Ace (played on TV by Sophie Aldred) join the Time Lord in the TARDIS.

John Ridgway work in progress
for Train-Flight
I'd already been in contact with Lis Sladen before her comic appearance: as part of its obligations to the BBC and actors union Equity, in my time as editor DWM had a requirement to pay 'appearance fees' to actors for the use of BBC photographs not connected with recently-transmitted episodes. While these fees were quite low, the paperwork required to secure permissions from actors and their agents (and the owners of rights on some of the monsters such as the Daleks, Cybermen and Yeti) was quite time consuming (but needed to get new photos from the BBC Photographs department featuring those actors) and hadn't been carried out for some time before I took on the Magazine.

As a result there was a small backlog of monies owed to some actors, which I got resolved with the support of the rest of Marvel UK's magazine department (even though I think they thought I was mad to take on such a task).

Despite the cost, the bonus of sorting out this paper work was a much improved relationship with some of the show's key actors and rights holders. It meant that when I asked Lis if she would give permission to feature her likeness, as Sarah, in the strip, she happily agreed for the princely sum of £40 per issue.

It was also, I believe, the beginning of her stepping back into attending more fan events: I recall the first of these was one in Birmingham, which I went to along with then Who producer, the late John Nathan-Turner.
I don't recall if Lis liked her comic appearance but she gave permission for a further use (in a K-9 & Company inspired strip drawn by Vincent Danks), so it can't have been too badly received.  John Ridgway did a cracking job on the art, I felt, which I'm sure didn't hurt.

During my time as editor (and even after I had moved on from DWM) Lis occasionally phoned me up and asked me advice on some matters relating to fan invitations and other opportunities relating to her role as Sarah Jane Smith. She was always a pleasure to deal with.

Down the years, she toured the weird, wide and wonderful world of Doctor Who fandom and of course, as we know, became one of the series' all-time favourite companions. So when TV wunderkind Russell T Davies approached her to come back again, this time to a show backed by multi-million-pound budgets and garlanded with critical plaudits, how could she refuse?

This warm and witty autobiography, completed only months before Elisabeth died, tells her remarkable story, from humble beginnings in post-war Liverpool, through an acclaimed theatrical career working alongside stage luminaries such as Alan Ayckbourn, to Coronation Street, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and the furthest reaches of the Universe.

A unique insider's view of the world's longest-running science fiction series, and of British television yesterday and today, Elisabeth's memoir is funny, ridiculous, insightful and entertaining and a fitting tribute to a woman who will be sadly missed by millions - myself included.

Elisabeth Sladen: the autobiography is published by Aurum Press on 7th November 2011 at £18.99

Inside Doctor Who Magazine: an article about a day in the DWM office while I was editor by David Bishop

Strip Magazine launches today in UK comic shops

STRIP Magazine Issue One is available in British comics shops from today. The digital edition for iPad is also available and can be downloaded from the iTunes Store. The cost of either edition is £2.99. (of course, the digital edition doesn't come with the fab giant Mirabilis poster).

And in case you'd forgotten - STRIP Magazine is an adventure anthology comic featuring some great art and stories from some brilliant creators including PJ Holden (Judge Dredd), John McCrea (Hitman, The Boys), Michael Penick (Insurrection), John Ridgway and many more.

Offering a range of strip stories, comics news, interviews and features, plus a fully re-mastered version of the classic British comic strip Hookjaw, this is a first issue you will not want to miss!

As the title's editor, I'd like to thank everyone who's been involved so far - it's not been the easiest of 'births' - and everyone who's already bought the iPad edition, or is heading out to buy the comic today.

Print Media is a new British company formed by Ivo Milicevic, who has been publishing comics and graphic albums in Bosnia and Croatia for 20 years, working with publishers such as Bamboo, Casterman Dupuis, Les Humanoides Associes and King Features Syndicate.

PMP UK plans to publish comics and graphic albums in the UK market, developing their own characters but also working directly with creators and other publishers to create new graphic albums and comic strips.

• More info at

• There's a list of comic shops we know are stocking the title, some of whom do mail order, on the STRIP blog:

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Dick Turpin returns to Time Bomb Comics

Time Bomb Comics has announced that their next release, Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague, will be launched at the Leeds Thoughtbubble weekend of the 19th & 20th November, where the creative team will be conducting a mid-day signing session at the Time Bomb Comics table on the Saturday afternoon.

One week later, Steve Tanner and Time Bomb Comics will be at the Malta Comic-Con taking place in Valletta, Malta over the weekend of 26th & 27th November to launch the book internationally.

The long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed one-shot Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead, Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague features the notorious highwayman up against a nest of vampires in 18th Century London.

Once again written by Steve Tanner, this second horrors and highwaymen mash-up from the Birmingham based company features artwork from rising star Graeme Howard – who is currently drawing Cy Dethan’s Cancertown 2 for Markosia – and lettering by the talented Nikki Foxrobot.

Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague also contains The Rogues Gallery featuring exclusive Dick Turpin artwork from Keith Page, Stuart Tipples, Simon Wyatt, Alex Thompson, Josceline Fenton and Glenn Jones.

It has also been confirmed that Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague will be available to order in the December 2011 Diamond Previews Catalogue.

Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague -  56 pages, Graphic Album, perfect bound, full colour cover, black and white interior, retail price £6.99/$11.99, ISBN 978-0-9561822-4-1

• For more information on this and any other Time Bomb Comics visit:

In Review: Lady S - Game Of Fools

Suzan Fitzroy, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Philippe Aymond's reluctant spy who is codenamed Lady S, returns in Game Of Fools, the third of her books from Cinebook, originally published in the French weekly comic Spirou before being complied into the album Jeu De Dupes in 2007.

Suzan and her adoptive father James Fitzroy, who is an American ambassador without portfolio, are on holiday at his villa in France. Unknown to them the CIA have discovered that Suzan is linked to the mysterious European counter-terrorist organisation that, despite sharing the same objectives, the CIA has little information on and is therefore suspicious of. In an attempt to learn more about this organisation, the CIA stage her father's abduction by 'Islamic terrorists' in an attempt to force Suzan's handlers into the open.

Believing her father kidnapped, Suzan's handler Orion, who has been injured by the CIA, puts her on the run to apparent safety at a retirement home in a remote mountain pass. With the CIA's operatives hot on her trail, Suzan soon discovers that there is more to this retirement home than meets the eye while the French police begin to suspect that the on-the-run daughter of the kidnapped American ambassador is somehow involved with a notorious cat-burglar.

In Game Of Fools Suzan/Shania/Lady S is presented with a situation that has the potential to expose not just her spy life but also her criminal past as she attempts to find the retirement home where Orion told her to find a new contact known as Betelgeuse. Otherwise the book as a relatively linear plot of a girl on the run being passed from handler to handler until she reaches her destination followed by the big reveal of what that destination is hiding.

Whether this revelation is actually good for the series is debatable although there are another three French albums waiting to be translated. One of the strengths of the previous Lady S books was the fact that writer Jean Van Hamme left Orion's organisation mysterious and that Suzan did not really work for them as much as being blackmailed into doing things by them. Indeed the organisation is not even named in the previous books yet in this one its name appears in the very first panel of the book. So in Game Of Fools everything is revealed and Suzan asked to formally work for the uninspiringly acronymed CATRIG (Centre For Anti-Terrorism Research and Intelligence Gathering) which somehow sounds so much more interesting in the original French book as CIRCAT (Centralised Information And Research Centre Against Terrorism).

Philippe Aymond's artwork remains as grounded in reality as in the previous books. His clear artwork, as ever, portrays Suzan as a pretty young woman living in a real world of trains, truckers and motorcyclists rather than portraying her with a distorted body image and capable of physical feats that would put any real person in hospital.

Game Of Fools is not the strongest of the Lady S books translated to date but it does open up the series so that the reader has a better idea of the background to Orion and the organisation that he, and by default Suzan, works for. Whether this is a good thing for the plotlines of future books remains to be seen.

• There are more details of the Lady S books on the Cinebook website.

• There are more details of the French Lady S books on the Dupuis
website (in English).

• There are more Lady S images, as well as preparatory sketches for the books, on Philippe Aymond's blog at

Monday, 31 October 2011

Email woes befall Northern Sequential Art Competition

If you have entered the Northern Sequential Art Competition the organisers have been in touch to say  that they've  had some email issues and may not of received your entry.

They're urging entrants to check their website on Wednesday 2nd November to make sure your entry is there. If not, then you should re-send it to

"We will extend the deadline to Friday 4th November in case anyone's page has gone astray," they say. "Sorry for any inconvenience caused and good luck with your entry!"

For all who have not entered our art competition, did you know you can send in existing pages as long as they have not been published anywhere else? The organisers are extending the deadline to Friday 4th November.

Check the website for guidelines on sending your comic page. You never know -- your work could end up being featured worldwide in an Images Comics publication!

• The THOUGHT BUBBLE COMIC CON will take place from the 19th to 20th November 2011

• Competition Gallery:

In Review: Antares - Episode 1

After the five albums of the Aldebaran sequence followed by the five albums of the Betelgeuse sequence, the science fiction tales of the Worlds Of Aldebaran, written and illustrated by Leo (Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira), continue with the first episode of the third sequence, Antares.

Leo paints a picture of Earth in 2196 not that far removed from ours but where atmospheric pollution requires gasmasks for walking outside, there have been religious wars and the great apes are all but extinct. Against this background Kim Keller has become a reluctant celebrity after saving the Betelgeuse expedition, however her friends Alexa and Mark have been imprisoned for stealing the spaceship that they took to Betelgeuse to rescue her. To free them Kim agrees to be part of a reconnaissance team to the planet Antares for Forward Enterprises, the corporation who have been financing the potential colonisation of Antares, and who can have Alexa and Mark freed to help her.

During the health check for the job, Kim is told that she is pregnant and, realising to her horror who the father is, she returns to Betelgeuse to give birth. Released from imprisonment, Alexa and Mark go to Betelgeuse to find Kim to convince her to begin the Antares expedition, unaware of the strange disappearances have been happening on the new planet.

The highlight of all these books is Leo's art which here is as impressive as ever with yet another batch of very alien creatures for the potential colonists to deal with while his image sequences of the mysterious disappearances that occur on Antares are shockingly beautiful. The cover, with its semi-transparent floating worm creature, sets the scene beautifully and yet it is Kim's pregnancy and, later in the book, her child that are the focus of Episode 1. Leo throws both his characters and the readers a most unexpected curve ball as we are introduced to Kim's daughter Lynn for the first time.

Individually Leo's Aldebaran sagas can be slow with apparently irrelevant passages, but they build into something that is greater than the sum of their parts as he weaves a tale of truly alien worlds and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. Indeed Kim, as the main character in the books, has not even begun her space voyage to the planet Antares let alone stepped onto the planet by the end of this book. That said I would expect this sequence to run to the usual five albums and the fourth Antares book, unsurprisingly entitled Episode 4, has just been released in France.

Antares Episode 1 lives up to the promise of its World of Aldebaran predecessors with the fascinatingly alien fauna and a long form plot that demands you buy the rest of the series.

• There are more details of Antares (and Aldebaran and Betelgeuse) on the Cinebook website. Antares Episode 2 is due to be released in May 2012.

• There are more details of all Leo's books on The Worlds Of Aldebaran website (in French).

• The downthetubes review of Aldebaran is here and the review of Betelgeuse is here.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Ladybird Art Exhibition At The Heritage Motor Centre

The Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars Exhibition is currently on at the Heritage Motor Centre near Warwick. This exhibition includes over 120 Ladybird books plus more than 30 original pieces of Ladybird artwork alongside many of the vehicles which feature in them. The vehicles on display include a 1886 Rover bicycle, a 1904 Wolseley, a 1967 Austin 1100, a 1936 MG and a 1971 Rover P5.

The traditional small hardback Ladybird books were first published by Wills & Hepworth in 1940 and their standard format of text on the left page coupled with fully painted artwork on the right page of a two page spread, made them popular with adults and children alike.

Many artists familiar to British comics readers of the 1950s and 1960s worked on Ladybird books during this period making them desirable items for comics collectors to have. Perhaps the most desirable Ladybird titles for British comics collectors are those that were illustrated by Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson which include Kings and Queens of England and three of the Nursery Rhymes books.

The Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars exhibition began on the 17 September 2011 and runs to 15 January 2012 at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon which is near Junction 12 of the M40. There are more details of the exhibition on the Heritage Motor Centre website.

There are more details of the traditional style Ladybird books at the Vintage Ladybird

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