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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Post Office celebrates British Comics

Britain's Post Office is celebrating what it's defined as "75 Years of British Comics" with a special issue of stamps featuring the covers of various much-loved comics, including 2000AD and The Beano.

Set to be released on 20th March 2012, the offer also includes two First Fay Covers featuring Boys Own and Girls Own - with a special 'Eagle' postmark.

The stamps comprise The Dandy (featuring Desperate Dan), The Beano (Dennis the Menace), Eagle (Dan Dare), Topper (Beryl the Peril), Tiger (Roy of the Rovers), Bunty (The Four Marys), Buster (Buster), Valiant (The Steel Claw), Twinkle (Twinkle), and 2000AD (Judge Dredd).

The stanps serve to indicate not just comics still going strong but just how many are no longer around, but it's great to see the Post Office promoting our industry in this way, even if British comics have been published for much longer than 75 years.

This release follows on the heels of  commeorative issues such as one celebrating the work of author Roald Dahl on 10th January and Classic Locomotives on 8th February.

• There's more details about the release on the British First Day Covers web site here:

• The full Special Stamp Programme for 2012 is as follows:

5t January - Olympic and Paralympic Definitives
10th January - Roald Dahl

2nd February - House of Windsor
6th February - Diamond Jubilee Definitives
23rd February - Britons of Distinction

8th March - Classic Locomotives of Scotland
20th March - Comics

10th April - A-Z of Britain Part 2

15th May - Great British Fashion
31st May - Diamond Jubilee

19th June - Charles Dickens

27th July - Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games

29th August - Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games

27th September - Memories of the London 2012

16th October - Dinosaurs
30th October - Space Science

6th November - Christmas

• For more on British Stamps visit the British Postal Museum and Archive

Art © Royal Mail

Happy New Commandos!

Here are the details of the first batch of Commandos for 2012.

Invasion Watch, one of the new stories this tim around, is the first part of a three-instalment story featuring the men of Britain’s Home Guard, many of whom had epic tales of previous wars to relate. Warriors! looks at the strange relationships which exist between apparent enemies. And both are cracking stories to boot.

Commando 4459: Invasion Watch
Script: Mac MacDonald Art: Carlos Pino Cover: Carlos Pino

In the early days of the Second World War, men too young, too old or too infirm for the regular services flocked to join Britain's Home Guard to do their bit. Because of this, the units were dismissed as a bit of a joke in some quarters.

If those nay-sayers had listened to the conversation in one Home Guard headquarters on a night in 1940, though, they might have changed their minds. For as the men there shared their stories it became very clear that they had fought, and would fight again. And fight like the demons they were.

Invaders beware!

Commando 4460: Warriors!
Script: Mac MacDonald Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page

Fighting men come in all shapes and sizes. They wear different uniforms and follow different flags. But the best of them share one quality. And that one quality marks them out from everyone else as men to be feared and respected in equal measure.

That's the quality that marks them out as...


Commando 4461: Upside Down Ace
Originally Commando No 572 (August 1971), re-issued as No 1604 (May 1982)
Script: Brunt Art: John Ridgway Cover: Ian Kennedy

Alan Burnett and Colin Harvey flew as the crew of a Boulton Paul Defiant night fighter. They shared the same room and spent almost every second of every day with each otheryet the very air around them seemed to vibrate with the fierce hate they had for each other.  
But, despite their bickering and brawling, they had the highest score of kills in the Group. How they kept it up was their own special secret!

"The Boulton Paul Defiant was one of many planes which didn't quite live up to their designers' hopes," notes Commando Editor Calum Laird in his introduction to this reprint issue. "But you'd never guess that from Ian Kennedy's dynamic cover where, as only he can, he turns the world on its head to create another perfect composition.

"Inside, John Ridgway - in only his second Commando outing - delivers an ideal complement to the cover, his crisp, accurate linework being perfect for aircraft illustration. Being a trained draughtsman is quite an asset.

"The script, by Brunt, gives them him full rein to tell the Defiant's story while at the same time touching on some of the super-secret 'boffins' war' that went on behind the action in the Second World War."

Commando No 4462: Death Of A Wimpey
Originally Commando No 469 (April 1970), re-issued as No 1335 (July 1979)
Script: Ken Gentry Art: Cam Kennedy Cover: Ian Kennedy

They found an abandoned plane in the desert, sand almost covering it. The paint was hanging off in shreds, the engines had seen better days and the fuselage was riddled with bullet holes. But it was still a Vickers Wellington bomber - one of the tough, famous Wimpeys. And it could fly - just.

So the men who found it, three army deserters and a no-good R.A.F. pilot, began to make plans to get back into the war - flying their own private bomber!

"At the end of October last year at the Dundee Comics Day, two men were honoured for their outstanding contribution to the comics artform," notes Calum. "Though they are not related, they share the same surname and, as you can see from this book, they have both worked for Commando.

"I'm talking, of course, about the two Kennedys, Cam and Ian who together have produced the art for this tale. Ian's cover wonderfully captures a stricken Wellington bomber trying desperately to land, while the characterisation and movement Cam brings to the inside art is outstanding.

"...And let's not forget scriptwriter Ken Gentry without whose contribution this classic Commando story the two Kennedys would never have had the chance to showcase their talents so well.

"By the way, I got to present the awards - how cool is that?"

• The Draw Your Weapons exhibition featuring art from Commando continues at the National Army Museum in London this month and runs until 30th April 2012. For the latest information visit:

• Official Commando web site:

Commando Official Facebook page

• Click here for subscription information or write to: D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, The Subscribers Department, Commando Library, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL or Freephone (UK only) 0800 318846

Commando is also available for iPad and iPhone. The apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. For those not sure there are four free issues to download prior to making a purchase.

Commando Comics iPhone App on iTunes

Commando Comics iPad App on iTunes

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

In Review: Yakari and the Coyote

Yakari is probably the most junior of Cinebook's various series and features the adventures of a Red Indian boy who is able to talk to and understand animals in the time before the white men appeared on the plains. The series, which has reached its 36th book in France (as well as having two different animated TV series based on it), is written by Job (André Jobin) and illustrated by Derib (Claude de Ribaupierre) both of whom are Swiss. The ninth Yakari title to be translated into English and published by Cinebook is Yakari and the Coyote.

Friendly beavers bring Yakari a damaged canoe that they have found and, with the help of his friends Rainbow and Buffalo Seed, Yakari fixes it and the three children set off on an adventure down the river. There Buffalo Seed is cornered in a cave by a cougar and Yakari and Rainbow have no choice but to enlist a somewhat suspicious coyote family to help them rescue their friend. With Rainbow remaining with the coyote mother and her cubs for her own safety, Yakari makes use of the cunning of the father coyote to help him distract the cougar long enough to allow Buffalo Seed to escape to safety.

While Cinebook are very good about sending out review copies of much of their range, the Yakari titles are a series that were apparently sent to only a few reviewers due, I would presume, to their young nature. Yet having nabbed a copy of the previous title in the series, Yakari And The White Fleece, I was very taken with its friendly artwork and lettering plus its adventurous, albeit junior, storyline.

This Coyote book is no different with Derib's artwork in particular being a delight to look at while Job's plot of both Yakari and the coyote father outwitting the dangerous cougar is much tighter than the rather more languid quest plot of Yakari And The White Fleece. Perhaps the most amusing part of this story is the fact that Yakari is the only human character in the book who can understand the animals and has to act as an interpreter for his two friends as the animals try to tell them things.

While it will be a quick read for an adult this series is not aimed at them, so if you are looking for an easily read and child friendly graphic novel for the younger members of the family, be they boys or girls, then Yakari and the Coyote is well worth searching out.

* There are more details of the English language Yakari books at the Cinebook website.

* There are more details of the French language Yakari books at the official Yakari
website (in French).

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Eagle Award nominations open

The nomination round for the Eagle Awards 2012 is now open.

Introducec in 1976, the Eagles are the comics industry’s longest established awards. Acknowledged as the pre-eminent international prizes, they have been featured on the covers of leading US and UK titles across the last 30 years. Unique in that they reflect the people’s choice, the Eagle Awards comprise of two distinct stages : nominations, in a wide range of categories covering every aspect of the comics industry; and a final vote.

For more info visit:

Monday, 2 January 2012

Re-staging Halo Jones: the inside story

When the Forbidden Planet International blog heard that there was going to be a new stage version of Halo Jones produced at the Lass O'Gowrie pub in Manchester (a spot already well known to local science fiction and comics fans), they sent roving reporter Bat Cardigan to find out what it was all about!

The following interview with Lass landlord and staunch comics and SF supporter and promoter, Gareth Kavanagh is the result of Bat's Mancunian adventure and is re-published here on downthetubes with full permission of all involved (thank you!)... 

Bat: Gareth, who are you and why would what you're doing be of interest to readers of the FPI blog?

Gareth: Well, over on Twitter I describe myself as "award-winning Northern hospitality operator, management consulting guru, publisher of Vworp Vworp and gentleman of the road."

In essence, I own and operate the Lass O'Gowrie, a very nice little pub down the side of the old BBC [in Manchester] and publish a very nice fanzine and (with luck) comics if we can get the rights to the odd interesting property.

I suppose it's of interest because I use the Lass as a platform for all the things I love, so it's festooned with original comic art, old collectables and vintage arcade machines. We also programme plenty of genre shows, including, come January, Russell T Davies' Midnight and a brand new adaptation of Halo Jones

Bat: Please tell us about this new production of Halo Jones? It's not just a re-staging of the 1980s stage play, is it? Who's involved and what's your role?

Gareth: No, it's a fresh adaptation of Books One and Two, going back to the source material. The odd thing we'll be looking at [changing] and there are a lot of healthy debates going on in the team as to location, characters and design.

There are some practical things to get over too, so Toby is now a humanoid dog character to get him off all fours, but it works trust me! I'm involved this time round as Producer, so I'm overseeing it, chipping in where I see fit and making useful suggestions.

The chaps have termed me Joel Silver, which I'm taking in the spirit it was intended (honest; you're fired, chaps!). Alongside me is Ross Kelly, who has been scripting, Daniel Thackery who is directing and a top-secret script editor who has asked not to be revealed, but has been brilliant to work with.

And, as of today, we've cast all but one of the roles and it's the best cast I've ever worked with. We've settled on Louise Hamer as Halo and she's perfect. See Casting Call Pro [now The Mandy Network - Ed] if you don't believe me. In fact, if you don't fall in love with Halo all over again after this then frankly, you're dead inside.

Bat: Halo Jones is part of the Mid-Winter Lassfest. What else have you got on that may be of interest to the blog's readers?

Gareth: A whole heap of goodies. An event with genre publisher Hirst Books. They will be bringing along a host of his writers for a day on Saturday, 7th January. Three episodes of Coronation Street from 1968 penned by the legendary Jack Rosenthal and performed on the ground floor of the pub, cast by the great June West of the Road to Coronation Street fame.

A revival of Jack's Play for Today from 1974, Hot Fat', never since repeated and the tapes have been long wiped by the BBC.

Oh, and an adaptation of Russell T. Davies' Midnight, originally from the 2008 run of Doctor Who in our claustrophobic Salmon Room upstairs.

Bat: How did you get permission to put on a performance of Halo Jones and also Russell T Davies' Midnight?

 G: Well, we asked Rebellion [publishers of 2000AD] very nicely and they very kindly allowed us to perform Halo. Similarly with Russell, who is a fan of [Gareth's rightly celebrated Doctor Who fanzine] Vworp Vworp and knows the Lass from his BBC Manchester days (apparently he lost his watch there in the 1990s. We've still not found it!), although what we're adapting is the script and characters created by Russell. Nowhere are the Doctor or Donna to be seen, but a brand new mysterious stranger known only as John Smith. You may recognise him. 

Bat: Word is that you had to chat to Tharg himself, the mighty Mr. Moore and that you've been seen in the company of television giant, Russell T Davies. It must be a big thrill to be rubbing shoulders with (or making phone calls to) these guys. Are you in geek heaven?

Gareth : Oh absolutely. In fact, it's like being controller of your own TV channel! Alan has been very kind to us with Vworp Vworp and he's such a pleasure to work with. I was adamant we wouldn't do Halo unless Alan was cool with it, even though it's not his IP, it's important to let people know what you're about and what we're here for.
Ditto with Russell who we've got to know again through Vworp Vworp, so we want it to be right.

 The Lass doesn't profit by a penny from Halo or Midnight. We do it, because we want to and we love the material. And it's often completely forgotten, but these guys are fans of things too. We're all fans.

Adrian Salmon's original art for the
new Halo Jones play poster
Bat: Please tell us about the theatre space you've got at the Lass.

Gareth : Well, we have a wee space above the pub called the Salmon Room (named after our good pal, the artist Adrian Salmon) which we've developed as we've gone along into a great studio space that seats around 35 people. Our budget is non-existent, but we work our capital hard and with support from sponsors, we do manage miracles. Of course, a first for us this January is to use the ground floor of the pub to stage things, so Halo and Corrie will be down there and that will be amazing.

Bat: Tell us about the mighty publishing adventure that has been Vworp Vworp. It's a fanzine that, I think, is fair to say, has exceeded expectations?

Gareth: Again, we've been blown away by the supper for our little fanzine, but the love and nostalgia seems to have been there, which is lovely. I mean, what could be better than publishing a lost Abslom Daak tale from Steve Moore?

Plus, working with people whose work I so admire like Steve Dillon, Steve Moore, Dez Skinn, Mick McMahon, Alan McKenzie, Ade Salmon and Martin Geraghty is so not work. It's an honour.

Bat: What's the word on Vworp Vworp 3? What's in it and when's it out?'

Gareth: Well we're beavering away myself and co-editor Colin Brockhurst and we're aiming for Summer 2012. And you can look forward to a frankly amazing chat with Alan Moore talking about his early Doctor Who and Empire Strikes Back strips, his thoughts on contemporary Doctor Who and something so top secret, you'll weep when you read it.

Elsewhere, we've more Abslom Daak as well as a sequel to the seminal Iron Legion strip penned by Lance Parkin with pencils and inks by Dan McDaid and colours by Charlie Kirchoff. And, of course, another wizard free gift that will top issue #1 2s transfers and #2 2s Weetabix cards.

Bat: What's next for you, the Lass and for your 
adventures in pub theatre?

Gareth: Well, we've ambitions for a much bigger space up there to make the Lass a proper, London-style theatrepub. We'll see.

Bat: Finally, there's quite a lot going on year round at the Lass. What regular events might the blog's readers want to pop along to?

Gareth: We open our doors to Doctor Who fans on the last Saturday of every month in the Snug for drinks and the occasional screenings. We also hold retro gaming nights on the second Friday and last Tuesday of the month, as well as open mics, book clubs, karaoke, meat-free Mondays and the like. Come see us on Facebook, or bob over to!'  

Thanks to Gareth and Bat for taking the time to conduct this interview. Bat, a short, balding man with (according to his dad) shifty eyes' was last seen at Manchester Piccadilly Station clutching a stained copy of Fantastic Four #6. If anyone has any information about his whereabouts, please contact us here at the blog. His mum is very worried about him. ' (To be honest, we're not that bothered, we know he'll come home when he gets hungry enough.) 

• The Halo Jones stage production runs from the 2nd to 7th January, a fine way to start the New Year if you're in town please do go along and give them some support.'

• Read the original interview here:'

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Chris Foss Comic Strip?

(with thanks to Bill Storie): Everyone knows veteran artist Chris Foss as the man who draws amazing spaceships - and whose art has inspired many an illustrator down the years. But did you also know one of his first commissions was a comic strip?

In an interview for New Scientist published back in September during promotion time for Titan Books brilliant Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, Foss revealed he drew for Penthouse in the 1960's, the first being a rabbit cartoon for Issue 3 of the then new adult and controversial magazine.

Publisher Bob Guccione promptly commissioned him to produce a regular strip, later putting the young artist on a retainer when he left his job as an assistant to other artists.

New Scientist notes that while the strip was predictably centred on adult concerns, its backdrop of "quarries and monsters" drew on Foss's surroundings as he grew up  amid half-derelict fortifications dating back to World War II on Guernsey - and foreshadowed the direction of his later science fiction work.

Penthouse had a policy of employing great artists so work in its pages - incuding Ron Embleton, Harvey Kurzman and Neal Adams, to name but a few.

While we imagine the strip itself might scare horses if published here on downthetubes, we'd be interested to know if anyone has further information about it. Given the length of Foss' career a definitive listing of his output over the years is still being built up and new images keep popping up in the strangest of places because his work has by no means limited to science fiction book covers (he also illustrated The Joy of Sex, for example).

Read the New Scientist Interview

• Chris Foss Official web site:

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