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Monday, 31 December 2012

Eagle Times reaches 100th issue

(Via the Eagle Times blog): The 100th issue of Eagle Times, the journal of the Eagle Society, is available now.

The picture on the cover of the issue  (Volume 25 No 4) is from the Dan Dare story 'Operation Saturn', art by Desmond Walduck (from Eagle, Vol 4 No 38, 24th December 1953).

The man at the rear of the picture has an obviously intentional resemblance to Dan Dare's creator, Frank Hampson...

In the issue:
  • PC49 and the Case of the Christmas Ornament - a seasonal short-story featuring radios (and Eagle's) police hero, from the radio stories by Alan Stranks
  • Christmas Customs from Hulton Press shows how Eagle and Girl magazines presented the traditions of Christmas in strip form in 1955 and 1953, respectively
  • It Wouldn't be Christmas... revisits an article in the first Eagle Annual, in which Chad Varah told of the origins of some of the familiar Christmas Customs
  • 'Starring Bayford Lodge', takes a look at how Frank Hampson used locations in his own home and, sometimes, members of his own family in his art, with examples from some of his post-Eagle work
  • A Look at Luck - part 6, concludes an examination of the French Foreign Legion strip by Geoffrey Bond and Martin Aitchison, which ran in Eagle from 1952 - 1961
  • A PC49 radio script: 'The Case of the Haunting Refrain', reproduces the final part of an Alan Stranks-written performance script
  • 'From Under the 1950s Christmas Tree, Eagle Bagatelles' - a seasonal look at 1950s pin-ball games from the makers Chad Valley and Mettoy, featuring Dan Dare and Riders of the Range
  • ''Eagle Summer Special (1966) - a (not so seasonal!) review of the second (of two) Eagle holiday special issues that appeared in the 1960s 
  • 'Dan Dare Projected, Part 3: The Films' - this final part looks at the many 'Dan Dare' film strips that were available in the 1950s for use with the viewers and projectors previously described
  • 'Churchill Revisited' - report of a visit to an exhibition held at the J.P. Morgan Library and Museum in NewYork (June - September, 2012), where the recent U.S. reprint edition of Clifford Makins' and Frank Bellamy's Life of Churchill, The Happy Warrior was found in the bookshop
  • 'Report on the Eagle Day' provides an illustrated account of the event held at Great Staughton, Cambs, on 23rd September, 2012
  • 'Remembering Terra Nova' - has a re-look at the Dan Dare story from 1959 that saw the last Dan Dare work of Frank Hampson and the arrival of Frank Bellamy as lead artist
  • Rivals of Jeff Arnold - Hopalong Cassidy. A look at the origin (1904) and development of the character (from the 1930s through the 1950s) in film, radio, television and comics of the fictional cowboy hero, created by Clarence E. Mulford and played on the screen by William Boyd.
  • Looks Familiar? (Dans in all but name) - on the Captain Jet Harrison Space Explorer Space Gun from Retro Toys and Games, and its seeming likeness to the Merit Dan Dare Planet Gun of the 1950s
  • Writing a Lament - the writing of a musical accompaniment to Lament to a Dead Swan, which, as a 1954 schoolboys poem, won a prize from Eagle's Special Investigator, Macdonald Hastings
  • 'The Intrepid Cowpuncher' discusses the feasibility of Dan Dare being (albeit in the fictional world!) a descendant of Buffalo Bill - as he joked in the 'Red Moon Mystery'
• To get a copy, join the The Eagle Society via Annual Subscription to Eagle Times magazine, which is published four times annually. The Subscription rate for 2012 is: UK £27; Overseas £38 (in £s Sterling, please). Postal applications to: Keith Howard, 25A Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 2UA, United Kingdom.
If you wish to pay by Paypal (to the eagle-times hotmail address below) we request an additional payment of £1.50:

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Gerry Anderson: A Tribute by Shaqui le Vesconte

Gerry Anderson

This week, a scant eighth of the way into the 21st century that had already been mapped out for many children - and adults - we lost a true icon of British television and film.

The hallmark of Gerry Anderson's most famous and loved series was a setting one hundred years on. Now, at a halfway mark, we are in a unique position to see the past fifty years since series like Fireball XL5 must have opened eyes to the wonder of space, and wonder differently if now and in the next fifty years, the hope and optimism of Thunderbirds - his most human and accessible of series, speaking to every generation - is as much a fantasy as the universe of Steve Zodiac. in these dire social and economic times.

I only met Gerry once, briefly at a convention many years ago, and spoke to him on one other occasion, trying to arrange an interview for the Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History website - an interview that, unfortunately, never happened. Unlike others, I never got the chance to tell him how much his series, and particularly the comic and annual tie-ins I starting reading when only four years old (Joe 90: Top Secret), had meant, and continued to mean something and inspire well into adult life.

What that briefest of conversations confirmed is what many have already said, and probably far better. Quiet and modest, polite and gentlemanly. An incredible far cry from the action heroes he created but then, to other creatives, inspiration can also come from a quiet determination to do better, to raise the bar. Gerry's shows did that not only for the whole British and television SF genre, but also his own. During the 1960s, each new series was technically more brilliant than the last, and tried to push the envelope. Not always successfully but at least he showed a willingness not to full into a rut.

Another strength of his was recognising talent and giving those people under him the chance to flourish, producing quality work - names like musician Barry Gray, effects expert Derek Meddings, scriptwriter and editor of TV Century 21 Alan Fennell. Names which, like Gerry himself now, are no longer with us and have left their own legacies.

It was Fennell himself, writing in the Thunderbirds Television Mail Supplement in December 1965, who perhaps put his finger on the reason for success: "All the old 'do's and don'ts' of publishing had been ignored in one fell swoop. The originators asked why things could not be done... and then did them."

Gerry Anderson was not a born maker of puppet films, it was a serendipitous event that he became involved when no other opportunities to produce were about. So his outsider approach, the question presumably being 'Why can't we make puppet films as well as any other?" and then doing just that, is what does make them stand out. No-one had made puppet film series with such utter conviction and daring, and, if we're honest, no-one has ever come close to bettering them since. Which is why, close to the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of Thunderbirds, that series quite rightly lives on as the pinnacle of his success. It had real human values. It was a true family show. It put life above all else, in a world where - still evidently not learning from historic mistakes - it is sometimes placed last over commercial and political concerns.

Unfortunately, unlike the hero of his follow-up series Captain Scarlet, Gerry was not indestructible. It had been evident in recent years his health was failing. Even the heartening news that he was on the verge of making a new series of Thunderbirds could not push that to the background. As with all the most dramatic moments in his shows, the clock was ticking away...

But his legacy does live on, in every media conceivable. Hopefully, for at least another fifty years, until we reach those well-imagined and immaculately believable 2060s.

And hopefully, forever.

Thank you, Gerry. A lot of us are where we are now because of you and your team, because you all inspired, and made us believe not only what was possible - but more.

• Shaqui le Vesconte is webmaster for Gerry Anderson: The Complete Comic History

• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving GerrryAnderson


Friday, 28 December 2012

Doctor Who Adventures arrives on iPad, iPhone

(Updated, #300 info corrected): Immediate Media has just released Doctor Who Adventures for iPad and iPhone, bringing the junior Who comic magazine to digital devices.

The title reaches its landmark 300th issue this week.

Described as "the ultimate magazine for kids that are crazy about monsters, aliens and that top Time Lord, the Doctor!" each weekly issue of Doctor Who Adventures comes "bursting with beasts, brain-teasers and big Who news".

Sadly, there's little emphasis in its marketing for the comic strip element of the title, although it is mentioned, the iTunes promo mildly enthusing: "Follow the Doctor’s adventures as he battles aliens, saves worlds and tries out new hats..." I have to say I find this a little disappointing.

However, if it's brain teasers, behind-the-scenes info (although we'd argue Doctor Who Magazine was by far your best port of call for that) and finding out a Dalek’s weak spot, how to knock out a Sontaran or survive a Weeping Angel attack - then DWA is for you.

That said, given the physical title's free Who-related gifts - some of which have been rather cool - we'd suggest this might be a title that's still got the edge when it comes to news stand presence.

A three month app subscription costs - £22.99 and single issue copies are also available within the App. The subscription will include the current issue if you do not already own it and subsequently published future issues. Payment will be charged to your iTunes Account at confirmation of purchase.

More about the app on iTunes

Doctor Who Adventures Official web site:


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Gerry Anderson: A Tribute by Peter Greenwood

Scott Tracy aboard Thunderbird 1
When we lose a personality of any kind, there is always a outcry for this loss, but in this case the loss is so much more personal to an entire generation of adults and children alike. Gerry Anderson, who passed this month, was and will remain the Walt Disney of United Kingdom.

He built his career from the ground up, struggling to get a foothold with no contacts in the film industry. He was, in the best sense of the term, a self made filmmaker, and as such he was instrumental in gathering a crew of such immense talent that their work resonates at full strength to this day.

From a tiny studio, Century 21 Productions produced adventures in the best traditions of a boy's own adventure annuals with its unique British charm and design. The magical and hypnotic space age craft brought all of us to the edge of our chairs.

This complex group of worlds were linked by the beautiful TV Century 21 comic pages, with artwork and storytelling that was and is to this day in step with the impressive nature of the shows each strip mirrored.

With the addition of Dinky's Die Cast range the craftsmanship that made England great was front and centre in every outing for the golden area that was Gerry Anderson's reign as the king of British children's television.

Gerry Anderson broke so much new ground in so many areas it will now be almost impossible in the future of children's television not to walk in his shadow, a legacy that is not I can almost say with total certainty ever never be equaled in it's diversity again.

He was the first to pull together all aspects of marketing for television, with his publishing division and a recording unit for children's albums TV21 Toys, fancy dress, sweets, ice lollies and an amazing stand alone Project Sword space toys line.

Anderson merchandising provided income to a whole generation of British workers. This was no flash in the pan operation... and for all of this, production on these shows had a budget that was not even close to the live action fare from ATV.

Ironically, ATV and all its owners have profited above and beyond even Lew Grade's expectations for these shows. I'm sure he would have ordered another 32 episodes of Thunderbirds had they understood the vast returns it was to continue to generate to this day.

You see, Gerry was a leader strong and with a sense of what he wanted from his creations, in his office with monitors watching the progress on his stages in order to get these complex children's film to the screen wielding the producers power with pure skill.

For myself, I loved these shows - all of them - and I played with the toys and read the comics and watched them and continue to, as they are ageless and timeless in so many ways. Ttheir charm is beyond a doubt as the next group of children will soon find.

And to this day, all of us involved in merchandising and licensing of classic television look to Century 21 productions and marvel at the vast scope of what was produced and accomplished was such a uncommon feat of brilliant marketing unequaled to this day.

So we have lost a master of our childhood day dreams in Gerry Anderson, yet in one sense he will be with us in so many levels for all time.

So thank you Gerry, for showing us the way and raising the bar so high for the future of great British Television.

• Peter Greenwood, whose numerous licensing credits include a series of Thunderbirds-inspired Kit Kat adverts for Australian television, is currently working on the retro-merchandising of TV comedy My Favourite Martian, which was also a strip drawn by Bill Titcombe for TV Century 21. A digital collection of the strips is in the works for 2013

• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving Page:


Gerry Anderson: A Tribute by Marcus Hearn

Thunderbirds by Frank Bellamy
My sorrow at the passing of Gerry Anderson has been eased a little by the glowing tributes that appeared across the British media. The television and newspaper obituaries presented a warm, if understandably reductive, view of his remarkable career.

However, even those who only knew Gerry slightly would have winced at the articles that described him as a ‘puppeteer’. Many of Gerry’s best known shows did indeed feature puppets, but for Gerry this was entirely incidental to their appeal. The worlds of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were produced in miniature because that was the only way to realise Gerry’s epic vision on a film or television budget.

Away from film and television, Gerry’s concepts knew no constraints. His production company AP Films and its successor Century 21 launched a number of successful spin-offs, including record and publishing divisions where his characters could roam freely, unhindered by the puppet wires and door frames that compromised his perfectionist zeal.

The publishing division was by far the most successful, and the jewel in its crown was a title that would become one of the best loved and most successful adventure comics of all time.

TV Century 21
Gerry devised the unusual tabloid format for TV Century 21 himself, maintaining that it should be distinctive from all its competition. Gerry’s format and television concepts, combined with the editorial guidance of Alan Fennell and the contributions of some outstanding artists proved unstoppable.

The first issue of TV Century 21 was published in January 1965, and when Gerry discovered that its 750,000 print run had sold out he remembered feeling like “the happiest man on earth.” By 1966 the combined sales of TV 21 and its sister comic Lady Penelope were estimated at 1.3 million.

There was little time for Gerry to dwell on this incredible achievement. He returned to a giddy schedule of film and television production, monitoring his publishing company’s endeavours until it wound down in the early 1970s.

Nearly 40 years later, I suggested to Gerry that the time had come to re-examine the archive of artwork, and to share it with a new audience. Together with my friend and colleague Chris Bentley, I pointed out that artwork of this quality had the potential to look even better than it had looked on its original printing. Gerry was probably the least nostalgic man I have ever met, and it took a few moments for him to recall the details of the publications he had helped to create back in 1964.

“This material really is some of the finest ever seen in British comics,” I insisted.

Gerry smiled, and feigned surprise that he needed reminding. He looked at me and said, “Well of course it was!”

Gerry inspected the surviving artboards and the memories came flooding back. As we admired the work of Frank Bellamy, Mike Noble and Ron Embleton he became enthused about the project. With Chris Bentley heading a dedicated team of digital restoration experts the first volume of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson was published in 2009. Gerry threw himself into publicising the new books, and remained in close contact over future volumes.

Gerry’s health was declining when the fifth volume, Menace from Space, was prepared in 2011. I explained that for this latest instalment we would be improving the binding and paper, and printing exclusively in hardback. “I want this to look as good as possible,” I said to him, “even if it means putting quality before commercial considerations.”

“I know you do,” he replied. “I think that’s why we’ve always got on so well.”

Gerry was delighted with the result, and added Menace from Space to his Century 21 collection. The last call I received from him was an optimistic enquiry to see “how things were getting on with the comic books.”

We will continue to work with Gerry’s family and his company, Anderson Entertainment, but we are all so sad that we will do so without the guidance of the man we regarded as our editor-in-chief. To rediscover, restore and represent these strips was a wonderful adventure. And to do all that with Gerry’s blessing made it a privilege.

• Marcus Hearn is the publisher of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips From the Worlds of Gerry Anderson

• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving Page:


In Memoriam: Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson
Everybody has heroes. Some people create them.

One man who created them for me as I grew up as a kid in the 1960s was Gerry Anderson, aided by his not inconsiderable team behind the Supermarionation shows such as Captain Scarlet, Stingray and, of course, Thunderbirds. Later, he would continue to thrill with UFO. For others in our industry, Space:1999 or one of his other shows - and there were many - also inspired.

Many of my generation remember not just the shows, but also the inventive merchandising of those childhood favourites, particularly TV Century 21, the weekly comic providing all-new adventures of Troy Tempest, the Tracy family and Spectrum. A title that captured the mood of the technology-obsessed as humankind engaged in a race to reach the moon, realized in 1969. It was a comic I only saw occasionally as a child - it did, after all, cost seven pence! - often given to me by my Grandfather during holidays.

I have only the vaguest childhood memories of his last black and white puppet show, Fireball XL5 - one being the show's launch sequence for Steve Zodiac's spacecraft, the other being Steve and Venus trapped in some kind of ice corridor ass a wall of water headed toward them (Possibly imagined. Gerry Anderson's shows made me imagine a lot). My memory of Fireball is shaped more by the beautifully crafted art of Mike Noble for the show's comic strip in TV Century 21, also drawn by Frank Hampson; far more impressive, in my view, than the show that inspired it.

Stingray - Gerry's fantastical and wonderfully bonkers undersea adventure - I remember more of. Again though, it was a spin-off item - Armada Books' Stingray and the Monster - that drove my enthusiasm for the show, the mysterious 'John Theydon' deepening the mythos with an engaging sea monster battle. Mr Theydon would go on to develop a number of Thunderbirds stories, novels which, nestled next to other SF in bookshops, would help to send me off exploring other fantastic worlds, created by the lkes of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson and Ray Bradbury, to name but a few.

Thus, Gerry Anderson's creations, translated to comics and books, helped shaped my continuing interests today, as did many SF authors, Doctor Who, Star Trek and CS Lewis and Tolkein.

In that sense, then, the Anderson creations are an integral part of my creative DNA, for which I make no apology today, although being what's now known as a 'geek' earned me my fair share of brickbats at school.

And nothing is more integral to my DNA than the sense of wonder and enjoyment Thunderbirds inspired as a child, from its fantastical life saving machines to its engaging characters like Parker, the villainous Hood and the demure Lady Penelope. (Look - I was six when the show began. We weren't 'sophisticated' as it's claimed modern children are, although the successful 1992 revival of Thunderbirds suggests this is not as true as some cynics would have you believe).

Like many, I was caught up in Thunderbirds, thanks to Gerry Anderson. Not just in the show itself. My parents secured a precious 'data sheet' and two photos of both Thunderbirds craft and the Tracy family for one birthday. My mum baked me a Thunderbird 3 birthday cake. Like kids today caught up by Transformers, Ben 10 and other series in later decades, I was an avid fan at an early age thanks to the series.

Gerry Anderson not only inspired with the shows he produceed. He and his TV creations - also reimagined in comics and books - engendered something in me that has shaped my life as a comics creator and story writer from an early age.

Strangely, for all my work on licensed titles - Doctor Who, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Star Wars, to name a few - I have never worked on an official Gerry Anderson project. I met him just once, briefly, at a Forbidden Planet signing. I was glad I was finally able to thank him personally for the shows that provided so much fun and thrills as I grew up.

Overnight, many other comic creators have also enthused about his work. Artist Chris Weston recalled his love of Thunderbirds: writer and editor Marcus Hearn, who has been workng hard for several years to bring us collections of TV Century 21 and Countdown comic strips described knowing Gerry as a privilege.

Warren Ellis, who revealed he once showed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollshouse creator Joss Whedon the title sequence of Joe 90 and he thought he was trying to drive him mad.

"If you grew up weird in Britain between the 60s and the 80s, Gerry Anderson was at least partly why," he commented on Twitter, citing the title sequence of UFO as an example. A sentiment I happily share.

Not every show was a success. Gerry's life is full of roads not taken, for a variety of reasons. His creations have, occasionally, been hijacked by people with no empathy whatsoever for the original, and those recreations have proven spectacular failures. The treatment of his own CGI revival of Captain Scarlet by ITV was woeful and wholly undeserved, but reflects the idiocy of many managers working in TV programming today.

(You know the ones: they're the kind with no respect for creatives, who squeeze the credits in favour of an advert so modern children will possibly never know the names of the creators who inspire them with The Witches Broom or Merlin).

But the shows that were a success, for me, positively shine, and were an influence on many far beyond their production years, on both those who watched them and those who helped create them alongside Gerry.

The strings are broken. An amazing soul flies free.

Thank you, Gerry, for so many wonderful, inspiring creations. You were and will always be an inspiration to many and you will never be forgotten.

• Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry via his son Jamie Anderson's Just Giving GerrryAnderson


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Comicbook Creators Interpret 'Magic Mike' in Male Stripper App

Comicbook artist Stephen Downey (Torchwood, Jennifer Wilde) draws hunky muscly men, and this time they're not superheroes, but males strippers.

Together with comic podcaster Scott Grandison (Comicbook Outsiders), they designed, developed and published Magic Mike: The Moves app through their Outsider Games studio to coincide with Lionsgate's Home Entertainment release of the Channing Tatum movie.

Magic Mike was co-produced with Northern Ireland Screen as part of their Games on Film initiative, which also included the free Grabbers game app by Iglu Media/Billygoat Entertainment.

The comicbook style art really appealed to Lionsgate UK, who wanted a fun, visually interesting game that would appeal to a mass audience.

The Magic Mike film features Channing Tatum, who sizzles in the role of the irresistible Mike, the shining star act in a steamy men’s dance show. The game develops the stripping theme as the player becomes an ‘Endless Dancer’, performing touch-screen gestures in time with music, enabling their dancer to perform provocative dance routines. Increasing the Strip Power and completing achievements will allow the dancer to strip off items of clothing, revealing their hunky forms!

In true comic artist fashion, Stephen had to draw every angle and move that the exotic dancers make.

Magic Mike app art by Stephen Downey
Magic Mike: The Moves translates perfectly to the casual gaming market with its edgy concept, interesting visuals,and signature dance moves”, says Stephen.

“Working with Lionsgate UK was fantastic," he adds. "They are extremely open to new and interesting ideas, with their refined approval and feedback process creating a smooth and fun development environment that we think will be evident while playing Magic Mike: The Moves.

Lionsgate’s Nicola Pearcey, Managing Director of Home Entertainment and New Media, commented, “Magic Mike is one of the most fun and entertaining movies of the year. Magic Mike: The Moves provides fantastic content to further the immersive experience for fans – and will create exposure to a new audience for the film.

"Outsider Games have been a pleasure to work with and this app demonstrates their innovation, creativity and understanding of what our audience wants.”

• Magic Mike: The Moves can be downloaded FREE on IOS: or, on Android:

It's also available on Kindle Fire and the Amazon App Store


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Kapow convention cancelled, but back in 2014

Pavillion of Dreams from Millarworld Productions
A busy workload for Millarworld Productions that included the upcoming 'Pavillion of Dreams' for BBC Scotland has led to the cancellation of Kapow next year
Bad news for fans of the Mark Millar-initiated Kapow Comic convention, which has been held in London for the last two years - there won't be one in 2013.

The ComicBookMovie news site broke the news that Millarworld and Millarworld Productions have announced that due to work commitments - which not only nclude new comics but TV and film productions - they simply not have time to arrange the convention, but plan to return in 2014.

Here's the statement from the Millar team in full:


Dear Friends,

Due to an increased workload in Millarworld and Millarworld Productions, we will not have time to arrange another wonderful Kapow! Comic Convention in 2013.

Sarah and I have had to make a very tough decision, and after much deliberation and poring over upcoming work schedules, we have decided to put Kapow! 2013 on hold. The event is a genuine pleasure to work on and everyone has been a total delight, but this year we are unable to dedicate the time necessary to deliver a weekend that once again exceeds the expectations of attendees, guests, exhibitors, publishers and studios.

Millarworld Productions first TV show ‘Pavilion of Dreams’ is scheduled to air on BBC One Scotland on Jan 3rd at 9pm and in 2013 both myself and Sarah will be heavily involved in the development and production of various TV shows and feature films.

We hope to return with an even bigger and better show for Kapow! 2014.

Best wishes and enjoy Christmas and New Year,

Lucy & Sarah Unwin


In Pavillion of Dreams (9.00-10.00pm Thursday 3 January BBC One Scotland) viewers will discover keeping the dreams alive at the Pavilion Theatre Glasgow hasn’t been easy over the decades. Like Circus folk, General Manager Iain Gordon, his family and his dedicated staff have always been all hands to the pumps to keep one of the last original totally unsubsidised Variety Theatres open for business.

This film from Millarworld Productions offers a unique peek behind the scenes as Iain and a well-known cast prepare for this year’s Christmas panto The Wizard of Never Woz, a roller coaster ride of rehearsals, singing, dancing and finally The Opening Night. Along the way, the programme features comments and interviews from stars that have also graced the stage over the years; from Ken Dodd, Lena Martell, Sydney Devine to the phenomenon that is Mrs Brown’s Boys.

• More info: and


Friday, 21 December 2012

Last Commandos of the year troop to the news stand

Here's the info on the final issues of DC Thomson's Commando for 2012 - a total of 104  stories, tucked away. It's been a good year for the title, helped, we're told by our coverage and plugs on other sites such as Blimey! It's Another Blog about Comics and others. Time for a quick celebratory pint in the Mess!

Commando No 4559 - Nightmare Hunt
Story: Mac MacDonald Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page

Almost every night, Captain Neil Rigby would wake up in a cold sweat, a nightmare vision before his eyes. The face he saw, twisted with evil, was that of the Nazi officer who had ordered his men slaughtered as he lay powerless to help.

Every time he saw that maniacal, distorted face he swore vengeance, never thinking he would get the opportunity.

Then fate intervened and Neil began his… Nightmare Hunt!

Commando No 4560 - In The Line Of FireStory: Alan Hebden Art: Morahin Cover: Janek Matysiak

In the North African desert the fast-moving vehicles of the Allied armoured car reconnaissance units were always right in the thick of the action - constantly trading shots with the enemy.

Things got even more dangerous when two recce unit commanders - nursing a decades-old grudge between their families - began trying to outdo each other. Both were determined to be first… In The Line Of Fire...

Commando No 4561 - Duel In The SunOriginally Commando No 47 (December 1962)
Story: Stainton Art: Sostres Cover: Ken Barr

Bert Johnson settled in the pilot's seat of the RAF fighter. He wasn't a pilot, but he revved the engine, taxied the plane to the runway, and took off.

As he handled the unfamiliar controls and circled to gain height he saw, coming straight at him, a crack squadron of the Luftwaffe.

Bert's thumbs fumbled for the gun-button on the joystick… Pilot or not, he would have to fight it out now.

“You can tell from Ken Barr's cover that this is an air story, yet the most important action takes place on the ground,” notes editor Calum Laird. “That action is the play between two men - one a frustrated would-be flier, the other a man who has flown, and fought, just too much. In the capable black and whites provided by Sostres, author Stainton paints a captivating tale that is in part all too believable, in part pure Commando invention.

“See if you can tell which bits are which."

Commando No 4562 - From Out Of The Sea…
Originally Commando No 825 (March 1974), re-issued as No 2099 (July 1987)
Story: Eric Hebden Art: Cam Kennedy Cover: Ian Kennedy

They came by night… sinister figures in black rubber suits, rising from the depths of the Norwegian harbour. And when they came, the Nazis shivered - for they knew that their precious ships, their vital war materials, were the target. How they dreaded those men from out of the sea…

Commando stories come with all sorts of different settings but the thing that makes them Commandos is the aggro between the players in the drama,” says Calum. “This one, in the capable hands of Eric Hebden, has that hallmark. But, as with any story from the House of Hebden, things aren't as straightforward as they first appear.

“With dripping wet cover art by Ian Kennedy and strong, flowing lines inside from Cam Kennedy (no relation apart from the standard of their art) this story is a winner from Page One.

“You'll have guessed that I liked it.”


downthetubes is pleased to offer an exclusive discount on a subscription to DC Thomson's Commando comic, entitling readers to save 50% by ordering using our special discount code!

When prompted, enter this unique code COMDT - then make your payment and your subscription will be up and running. The price quoted offers a 50% discount for three months at £12.50. That’s £68.50 off the shop price.

Please note, although the offer is not restricted to UK delivery (you need a UK bank account), the price increases for overseas delivery although the offer of 50% discount for three months is the same.

*Saving based on discounted Direct Debit price compared with shop price. First quarterly payment discounted by 50% at £12.50 and £25 per quarter thereafter. UK bank accounts only. One year discounted subscription rate of £99.

SelfMadeHero's HP Lovecraft titles get Kindle-fied

Fancy a slice of the macabre alongside your Christmas turkey this year?

Just in time for the Yuletide festivities, SelfMadeHero - a quirky British independent publishing house committed to producing ground-breaking work in the graphic novel medium - has announced their adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror tales are now available for Kindle users! 

An ideal gift and the perfect introduction to their extensive catalogue, these digital editions are sure to give the Kindle owner in your life an icy chill this Christmas.

These e-versions are suitable for: Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle for iPad and Kindle for Android and the titles available are:

At The Mountains of Madness
Adapted and illustrated by Ian Culbard

A scientific expedition to Antarctica unearths a shocking discovery that challenges humanity’s place in the universe and threatens our very existence. This one's totally brilliant and highly recommended.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Adapted and illustrated by Ian Culbard.

In which the eponymous hero obsesses over the life of his 16th ancestor, an evil alchemist. Trying to emulate the wizard, Ward not only revives old experiments but also resurrects the mage himself, with terrifying consequences.

Seven of Lovecraft’s best known short stories are brought to life by an array of creative talent, including Ian Edginton, D’Israeli, Shane Oakley, Rob Davis, I.N.J. Culbard, David Hine, Mark Stafford, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Leigh Gallagher, David Hartman, Dan Lockwood and Alice Duke.

Nine more haunting Lovecraft tales are interpreted by top-notch creators, including Jamie Delano, Steve Pugh, Chris Lackey, Adrian Salmon, David Camus, Nicolas Fructus, Dwight L. MacPherson, Paul Peart-Smith, Chad Fifer, Bryan Baugh, Pat Mills, Attila Futaki, Benjamin Dickson, Mick McMahon, Simon Spurrier, Matt Timson, Dan Lockwood and Warwick Johnson Cadwell.
SelfMadeHero say they will be rolling out more digital editions in 2013. 

More info:

Just Dandy TV Documentary On 75 Years Of The Comic

Just Dandy, the 1 hour long documentary on the 75 year history of The Dandy comic, will be screened on BBC1 Scotland at 9.00pm on New Year's Eve

Hosted by comic actor Ford Kiernan from BBC Scotland's sitcom Still Game, the programme will include contributions from actors Brian Cox and Bill Patterson, comedian Frank Skinner, and animator Nick Park.

On your right is a promotional image, courtesy of BBC Scotland.

 While Just Dandy is only being broadcast on BBC1 Scotland, and not being networked, it is worth remembering that the rest of the UK receives BBC1 Scotland on Sky Channel 951, FreeSat Channel 960 and Virgin Media Channel 862 and therefore can watch it at the same time as Scotland. It will of course be available to the whole of the UK for 7 days on BBC iPlayer  once it has been broadcast.

There are more details of Just Dandy on the BBC website.

Image from the Scotland/Border edition of the Radio Times (c) Immediate Media Company Ltd

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Horizon: The Falling on sale now

Signed copies of Andrew Wildman's amazing looking HORIZON - the falling are now available from his online shop - go on, gift yourself a copy.

For those who don't already know, HORIZON - which we're told now looks like being a three book series - is a story of Love and Loss, Fear and Freedom, a toy rabbit... and very big robots.

Ali is 15. Nothing works. School doesn't work, home doesn't work and everyone she loves is no longer there. Then she discovers an access to a place where all the answers can be found.

Horizon. A place of dreams, metaphor, discovery....and freedom.

Dreams are something that we all have. They are an essential part of being human. In HORIZON, writer/artist Andrew Wildman weaves a narrative that draws from not only his long career as a comic book artist - which includes work on Transformers and his own co-created project, Frontier, with Jason Cobley - but also from his experience of Gestalt dream interpretation and his training in personal development coaching.

"The metaphor and symbolism in dreams tell us more about ourselves than any other conversation," he says. "We already know who we are but our access to this insight is lost as we have forgotten how to understand our own internal dialogue.

"HORIZON is a story of Ali, a young girl who's understanding of herself is transformed through her dreams and how she learns to interpret them."

• To hear more about seminars and workshops based on the narrative structure of HORIZON and its inherent dream interpretation technology go here

UK Comics Creative launches indie comic catalogue

Print services folk UK Comics Creative has announced the completion and launch of UK On Display, their new catalogue available to purchase from

Featuring the publications of many British comics creators, the Catalogue will be making its way into Comic Book Shops, Book Shops and other outlets over the course of the next few weeks. 
"We will be compiling issue 3 in January, says Stuart Gould, who is busily working on the site to add online ordering and much more. "Our initial intention is to print four catalogues per annum with a new magazine popping up in between. 
"We will actively market all titles throughout each month and issue a monthly update to include new titles as they publish. We will also be launching many other features including Art Prints, Hardcover Art Books, Event Management and comic books in schools."

• You can  visit for information on printing and publishing from this company

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Eco Comics wins Green Apple Award

British digital comics publisher Eco Comics, whose titles include Mr T, Green Man and Dick Turpin, is a winner of a 2012 Green Apple Award.

The award was presented to the comic book and graphic novel publisher during a carbon-neutral ceremony at the House of Commons in London.

"Global deforestation by paper production continues to have a major negative impact on the eco-system," notes the publisher. "Therefore Eco Comics takes advantage of the emerging digital technologies to produce exclusively in the new frontier of the paperless format.

"The publishing industry, and readers, must realise that wildlife, such as tigers and gorillas, are likely to pay the ultimate price of deforestation: extinction," they argue. "Even sustainable forestry is not a magic cure-all, shown by the criticism received from leading environmental organisations.

"Our titles are designed to the same physical format as leading print titles, but are kept paperless. The digital platforms also allow the reader an even greater interactive experience. There is no excuse for deforestation due to comic book production."

In a continuing bid to raise awareness through various initiatives, the publisher recently brought the legendary Green Man to comic books, with the character also becoming its official mascot.

Eco Comics competed against more than 500 other nominations at the awards ceremony.

"That our achievements have already been recognised by the prestigious Green Apple Awards has given us added faith that we are trailblazing the future direction of this industry, and it will help show that paperless is best for both readers and the ecosystem."

• More about Eco Comics:

Adventures in Comics competition returns for 2013

Celebrating illustration, writing, making, sequential narrative, and all that is Comics, Margate-based Marine Studios has just announced the launch of its 2013 Adventures in Comics comic competition.

AIC3 is inviting UK-based creators to respond to their annual two-page-comic challenge. Simply create a 2-page-comic* in response to this year’s theme – The Great Tree.

All entries will be showcased in an exhibition and free printed publication in February 2013 and the winning entry will be judged by comics aficionado Paul Gravett.

To enter, send your 2-page-comic to: or

The deadline for submissions: 25th January 2013

• Visit to find out more. Previous AIC entries can be seen on our website and blog.

• Marine Studios Margate is at 17 Albert Terrace, Margate, Kent CT9 1UJ. Tel: 01843 282 219 Web:

*Each page maximum A4 size (210 x 297 mm) in either landscape or portrait format.

Jim Stewart, Mychailo Kazybrid feature in new, free Self Publisher Magazine

Self Publisher! Magazine #60 is available now free as a PDF download and introduces "a whole new look" to the magazine, offering lots of articles and features any indy creator or fan of such would enjoy, its editorial team at Dimestore Productions enthuse.

While this is a US magazine, based in Madison, it's of interest here for its interviews with British comics creators Jim "Ganjaman" Stewart and Wallace & Gromit artist Mychailo Kazybrid, talking about their careers in comic and self publishing.

There's also an ace strip by fab US artist Michael Neno, a guide to adding pictures to a SmashWords project, a look at Print on Demand, indie comic reviews and lots more.

Self Publisher! Magazine is the work of the Self Publisher Association, currently a "not for profit" group, their main goal in the coming months to officially become a Non-Profit organization, so thatthey  may better serve the world with their efforts to bring forth better tools for all creators to use to make it more likely that they can survive in today's changing markets.

"We are seeking to forge the foundation of a permanent Self Publisher Hall of Fame," they say, "and do everything we can to bring recognition to the do-it-yourself level of publishing. We hope you will take the time to learn about us, and then join in our efforts."

The editorial team on the magazine are doing everything they can to increase readership, so they can do more good for the self publishing comic creator community.

"We'd greatly appreciate anything you can do to help this issue go viral and reach our 1,000 download goal!", says publisher Ian Shires.

• Download it (PDF):

Strip #7 on sale today in UK comic shops

The print edition of Strip Magazine #7 is on sale from today in UK comic shops, a Christmas Special that takes a slightly different form to the usual magazine.

It will also mark the final issue of the comic shop only issues, as publisher Print Media retrenches behind the scenes in an effort to get the project ready for its long planned but frustratingly delayed newstand launch next year.

This latest issue includes a new episode of Phil Hester and John McCrea's regular series Warpaint, but the rest of the anthology comic magazine is devoted to a variety of one off stories, including Citadel – a story created by the late, great French creator Moebius, previously published in Heavy Metal back in 1980.

There's also some previews of several all-new stories including Thracius by James Hudnall and Mark Vigouroux; Denizens (left, by Miko Horvatic and Maxim Simic); Dan Barton of Space Command (by myself, drawn by Andrew Chiu), an affectionate comedy homage to space heroes, and the strip that in a small way began the discussion to produce the magazine back in 2010; and Corwin Blays, a festive tale starring a hapless thief.

Feature-wise, there's not so many of these this issue, although David Lloyd's digital project, Aces Weekly gets a two page spot with editor Bambos Georgiou talking about how the project came about and plans for the future.

• If your local comic shop doesn't have copies, quote Diamond Previews code SEP127823 - STRIP MAGAZINE CHRISTMAS 2012 SPECIAL

Although listed as "sold out" the title is listed on the Forbidden Planet web site, so they seem to be expecting copies: see

OK Comics in Leeds also has copies in stock:

You can also buy STRIP Magazine #7 for iPad on iTunes (IOS6 only at present, update for older iPads submitted): I did the walkthrough above of the app (created by Rok Comics) for Print Media boss Ivo Milicevic, to give him an idea of what we'd added to augment the print magazine, which he gave me permission to republish.

As it was done at home, there was a point it looked like recording might get interrupted by an excitable feline, but it didn't happen!

The previous digital issues of STRIP - for iPad only at present - are also available for just £1.99 each.

STRIP Magazine for iPad Issue 1

STRIP Magazine for iPad Issue 2

STRIP Magazine for iPad Issue 3

STRIP Magazine for iPad Issue 4

• The print edition of STRIP #5/6 was split into two digital editions for iPad, which include a small amount of digital extra material, some of which will be featured in future print issues

STRIP Magazine Issue 5

STRIP Magazine Issue 6


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Gift? What about a Commando subscription?

Looking for a British comics-related Christmas present? downthetubes is pleased to offer an exclusive discount on a subscription to DC Thomson's Commando comic, entitling readers to save 50% by ordering using our special discount code!

Follow this link to DC Thomson's subscription page.

When prompted, enter this unique code COMDT - then make your payment and your subscription will be up and running.

The price quoted offers a 50% discount for three months at £12.50. That’s £68.50 off the shop price.

Please note, although the offer is not restricted to UK delivery (you need a UK bank account), the price increases for overseas delivery although the offer of 50% discount for three months is the same.

*Saving based on discounted Direct Debit price compared with shop price. First quarterly payment discounted by 50% at £12.50 and £25 per quarter thereafter. UK bank accounts only. One year discounted subscription rate of £99.

Monday, 17 December 2012

I Went to Malta and all I got was This Great Comic Convention

Guests are greeted for the Malta Comic Convention. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con
Writer, editor and comics event organizer Richmond Clements reports on his visit to Malta as a guest of the island's increasingly popular annual comic convention. British guests this year included Dave Gibbons, Sean Azzopardi, Tim Perkins, Dez Skinn and other creators from around the globe...

I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Malta Comic Con this year.

So, while this is a kind of review/overview of the event, I will freely admit that a lot of what I say may be swayed by my position as a guest.

Sunny Malta! Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con
First off: Malta itself. It is gorgeous. A truly stunning place with thousands of years of history oozing out of every corner, and inhabited by some of the most warm and friendly people I have ever encountered. The weather was, for the most part, great. (Well, I thought it was great. The locals seemed to consider temperatures in the mid-teens to be signalling the next Ice-Age, but it was t-shirt and shorts weather for me!)

Inside the Malta Comic Convention at St James Cavalier in Valletta. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

The venue, St James Cavalier in Valletta, is one that any other convention on the planet would struggle to match. Certainly, it’s the only convention that I am aware of that is held in a 700 year old fort! Tables are spread throughout the venue on multiple floors. This did make for an initial bit of confusion when finding your way about, but after a lap or two, things were a lot clearer.

And there were an impressive array of books for sale. They ranged from the usual dealers selling graphic novels and action figures, to some incredible local talents.

The Pilot team. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con
One of these books is Pilot. The publishers and creators, all local Maltese folks, had just published the second edition in time from this convention. It is an astounding book, both in the production value and content. It is something all involved should be very proud of. In my opinion, it’s matching in quality anything I have seen for a UK publisher. Seek this book out and order yourself a copy if at all possible.

Tim Perkins delivers a comic art workshop for Maltese schoolchildren. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

Sean Azzopardi sketching at the event. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

Emma Emma RĂ­os delivers a Guided Tour of her exhibition. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

 Dave Gibbons meets Maltese comic fans. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con
As usual, the event was held over the weekend, and even though there were a few last-minute cancellations, most of the guests managed it, and from what I heard, all of them enjoyed themselves.

The venue and general size of the event help lend it a wonderful, friendly atmosphere. The kind of atmosphere that Hi-Ex!, which I co-organize in Inverness has, in fact. There were a lot of families and children there, and all were enjoying themselves.

Richmond Clements with cosplayer and cosmaker Federica di Nardo. Photo courtesy Richmond Clements
It is always pleasing to talk to people who don’t read comics, but thought they’d turn up and have a look, and then they end up buying some stuff. This, to me, is what these events are all about: introducing comics to a new generation and showing them the possibilities and scope of the medium.

The celebratory meal in Valletta, in front of the St John's Co-Cathedral. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con
So, on our final night in Malta, we had a wonderful meal with all the remaining guests and organisers. I was forced to eat octopus. (Not like in Oldboy, though).

After the meal, there were, of course, a few speeches.

During one of these, organiser Chris Le Galle said that one of their ambitions is to try to create a comic community in Malta.

Well, Chris, from what I seen over the weekend, you can stop trying. You have already done it. There is a vibrant and exciting comics community in Malta, and these guys are to be thanks for it.

What they need now is support to help make it grow. So, buy their comics and visit their convention! And don’t think it’s out of your price range either. It cost me less to go to Malta than to the Bristol Convention, after all...

• For more information about the Malta Comic Con visit or find them on Facebook

• The Pilot Comic Anthology Richmond mentions above  is a collection of short comics, each drawn and written by a different artist or author. Every volume of Pilot features a new theme, the first one being Steampunk and the second and latest book being Medieval. The book places a strong emphasis on variation of comic styles and stories that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of audience.
If you're interested in purchasing Pilot, drop an email to 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Radio interviews with Glyn Dillon and Joff Winterhart

Panel Borders: Brown, Nao / Bagnold Summer

In the third of a trilogy of shows about depictions of lives on the comic book page, Alex Fitch talks to the authors of two of 2012's most acclaimed graphic novels. Glyn Dillon discusses The Nao of Brown, his long awaited return to comics after much loved contributions to strips published by Deadline and Vertigo in the 1990s. Dillon's graphic novel depicts the life of an OCD sufferer who channels her creativity into toys, relationships and storytelling...
Alex also talks to Joff Winterhart, writer / artist of Days of the Bagnold Summer, an affectionate, warts and all depiction of six weeks in the life of a dissolutioned 15 year old and his long suffering mother as they try to endure the summer holidays together. Joff discusses the history of the book, how it relates to his animation work and music, and his feelings about the book's nomination as one of the first two graphic novels to be short listed for the Costa Awards.

(Panel Borders will return in January with a month of shows looking at the 25th anniversary of John Constantine: Hellblazer)

8pm, Sunday 16th December 2012, Resonance 104.4 FM / streamed at / extended podcast at

Modesty Blaise comes to Radio 4

Daphne Alexander as Modesty Blaise. Photo copyright BBC
Daphne Alexander as Modesty Blaise. Photo copyright BBC
(with thanks to Reuben Wilmott) A radio adaptation of Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise story A Taste for Death novel airs on BBC Radio 4 this week.

Starring Daphne Alexander - who was given a Modesty makeover for the serial's PR shots, above - the drama airs Monday to Friday in the 10:45/7:45 drama slot (see, with an omnibus on Radio 4 Extra on Saturday (

Modesty Blaise
Modesty first started life in 1963 as a strip cartoon in the London Evening Standard - the first of the novels followed three years later.

Glamorous, intelligent, rich and very, very cool, Modesty Blaise has been called the female James Bond but she's much more interesting than that. With her expertise in martial arts and unusual weapons, the ability to speak several languages and her liking for fast cars, twenty-something Modesty became a female icon long before the likes of Emma Peel, Lara Croft, or Buffy.

In Stef Penney's brand new radio adaptation of Peter O'Donnell's novel, Sir Gerald Tarrant, Head of a secret British agency, tempts Modesty out of retirement and into a job involving a young woman with extra sensory powers, an exotic desert location, and a larger than life public school villain, intent on murdering his way to a vast fortune.

With its perfect cocktail of glamorous settings, hidden treasure, a twisting turning plot, and characters to root for, the BBC describe A Taste for Death as "an action packed treat - and a guilty pleasure".

"If one person stumbles across this adaptation and goes out to buy one of the books for the first time, I will be happy," says Stef Penney, whose previous adaptations include Moby Dick and her own novel, A Tenderness of Wolves. "If a few people do, I will be ecstatic."

Revealing she chose A Taste for Death, which is not the first Modesty novel, because it is both her favourite and she might not get another chance, Stef is full of praise for both O'Donnell's character and setting."James Bond is more popular than ever, and the films have changed with the times – different actors play the roles, wear different suits, drive different cars and deploy the latest technology," she notes in a feature for the BBC web site.

"By contrast, A Taste for Death is firmly set in the 1960s and that is very much part of the pleasure – Modesty wears the fashions of the time and uses shortwave radio. She drives a classic car (a 1950s Jensen Interceptor) and listens to Thelonius Monk.

"And, in any case, when the chips are down and you are held captive by sadistic criminals on a remote archaeological site in the Sahara, no technology is going to find the buried treasure or overcome the villains who have stripped you of all your gear.

"Only Modesty and Willie’s unique ingenuity and will power can do that. And only their sense of humour and irreverence can make the whole thing so much fun.

With an original score by Goldfrapp's Will Gregory, arranged by Ian Gardiner, and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Ben Foster, produced and directed by Kate McAll, this definitely looks like a show to tune into.

Stef Penney discusses her adaptation of A Taste for Death on the BBC web site

• Stef Penney's official web site:

Amnesia Agents Issue 1 Available From Jason Cobley

"Have you ever wondered what happens to the things - or the people - you forget? 
There is a place where these things end up, a place just beyond what we can normally see and hear... or remember. There are dark forces at work at the edge of remembering. 
This is where The Amnesia Agents come in..."

The first issue of writer Jason Cobley's new A4, 52 page, small press anthology title Amnesia Agents is now available.

"It's been great fun putting this together, my first foray back into small press for some years, "says Jason. "One of the things I wanted to ensure was that this could still be an all-ages comic. I've never been a big fan of gore and swearing for the sake of it in comics, so although this features our friend Hugo the zombie and some scary themes, it doesn't get that 'for mature readers only' tag. I'd like to say a public thank you to all those talented people who contributed artwork and/or scripts to this project at relatively short notice."

Indeed the line-up of creators in the first issue reads like a who's-who of British small press -
Opening page by Jason Cobley & Andy Bloor
The Selkie Wedding by Jason Cobley & Chris Askham (letters by Jim Campbell)
Funny Humpty Dumpty by Dave Bulmer
Never Sleep Again by Gary Crutchley
Runaway by Vicky Stonebridge
Breakfast by Jason Cobley
Leo by Andy Winter & Barry Renshaw
The Screaming Lighthouse by Jason Cobley & Fred O’Rourke
Pub by Jason Cobley & Grant Perkins (pencils) and Mike Bunt (inks & letters)
Bits by Jason Cobley
Closing pages by Jason Cobley & Barry Renshaw

The issue also includes comic strip previews of two of Jason's forthcoming books -
The Signal-Man adapted by Jason Cobley & artwork by David Hitchcock
The Legend of Tom Hickathrift by Jason Cobley & Paul Harrison-Davies

There are more details of Amnesia Agents, and the rest of Jason Cobley's work, on his Writing Coblers blog.

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