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Friday, 16 March 2012

Flesh chomps back into 2000AD

Flesh: Midnight Cowboys

Time-travelling cowboys and murderous lizards are rampaging back into the pages of 2000AD, as Flesh returns again.

One of the all-time classic strips from early 2000AD, Flesh made a thrilling, blood-splattering return to the weekly British anthology title last year after a hiatus of more than 30 years.

Created by Pat Mills (Marshal Law, Sláine: The Horned God) and Spanish artist Boix, Flesh: Midnight Cowboys follows on from the first series, with black and white artwork from series regular James McKay.

Last year’s Flesh: Texas was the long-awaited sequel to the much-loved original Flesh – part of the line-up in the very first issue of 2000AD in 1977.

The new series debuted this week in Prog 1774, on sale in the UK now, is on sale online on 21st March, and in North America from 28th March.

Flesh: Midnight Cowboys premiered with a riotous wraparound cover by 2000AD legend Mark Harrison.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Go Undercover, Low Life!

Undercover 02 cover by Rufus Dayglo

From the world of Judge Dredd, comes Mega-City Undercover 02 – four tales about the idiosyncratic members of Justice Department undercover unit, known as the ‘Wally Squad’. But they patrol no ordinary patch - this is the Low Life, the nastiest, most crime-infested part of the city.

This band of misfits, nut-jobs and social outcasts – cynical Aimee Nixon, unhinged Dirty Frank, adult baby Eric ‘Mortal’ Coil, and their controller Thora – try and administer something akin to justice in the city’s darkest corners.

From bizarre biblical plagues to dockside revolutions and huge sinister conspiracies, these gritty, noir and darkly humourous tales reject Dredd’s black-and-white instant justice and instead bring to life a nasty, vicious underworld full of terrible deprivation, larger-than-life mob bosses, petty criminals, cowardly informants, and muddied waters.

This stunning second volume of tales from the pen of Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Ghost Rider, The Iron Age) features artwork from D’Israeli (SVK), Rufus Dayglo (Judge Dredd, Tank Girl), and Smudge (Chiaroscuro) that captures both the decaying grandeur and the dark desperation of the Low Life.

This edition comes with a brand new wraparound cover from Rufus Dayglo.

Discover the darker side of Judge Dredd’s world - take a trip through the Low Life...


Middle England unites to save The Hobbit

Save The Hobbit campaign poster by Marcus Gabriel

Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen are just some top creative names backing a campaign to stop a small English pub from having to change its name at the instruction of American corporate lawyers.

The Hobbit in Southampton, a late night entertainment venue and Traditional English Pub rolled into one, has been threatened with legal action by the Saul Zaentz Company, who are forcing them to rebrand by threatening what protestors describe as an unfair law suit.

The Saul Zaentz Company, who own the merchandising and film rights to some of Tolkien's works and have done for 35 years, are demaning the rebrand by the end of May, also threatening other British companies with legal action, including a cafe and a maker of 'hobbit houses".

"Obviously, it wouldn't be our beloved Hobbit if it weren't The Hobbit anymore," say campaigners, who have mounted a huge and now widely-publicised protest about SZC's actions. "Whilst copyright must be respected it seems as though this legal case is being put forward for the wrong reasons - the SZC had an ongoing dispute with New Line Cinema over The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and as a way of exerting their power over the legal rights, have started forcing small companies to rebrand.

Stephen Fry's tweet about The Hobbit

"This is not right, and we can't just let this happen. We must unite to stop this!"

"I'd not sue, if you named your cafe or pub after something I created & owned," said Neil Gaiman on Twitter, prompting a conversation on copyright to which he is still as of publishing this news story, still commenting on.

A Facebook campaign page set up by student Heather Cartwright now has over 40,000 likes and the protest is being backed by Neil Gaiman, actors amazing Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen.

"I am a part-landlord of a pub called The Grapes, notes Sir McKellen in a blog post on the matter. "So far no vintners' group has objected. That would be silly of course. As is this unnecessary pettiness. More Alice's Wonderland than Tolkien's Middle-earth. Harrumph.

"I haven't yet talked to Stephen Fry about his disapproval of this Hollywood bullying but I'm with him all the way. All the way to The Hobbit pub once filming is over in July."

The landlords of the pub, which has traded as The Hobbit for more than 20 years, seem to be a bit taken aback by the protest, started by their customers.

"We are in shock by the passionate and heartfelt support we have received," they commented on their web site. "Keep it up guys and thank you all so much."

The Hobbit Pub is located close to Southampton University on Bevois Valley Road. With its split levels,two bars, huge beer garden, Chef Bernie’s Caribbean BBQ and the very best live music entertainment there is something for all. "Popular with students, and like-minded locals, theatmosphere simply oozes from the bare brick walls every night as the pub fills to capacity," they enthuse.

The bars open from 4pm until 3am Monday to Friday and from 12 noon until 3.00am Saturday and 4.00pm until 2.00am Sunday, with musical entertainment every night of the week.

Punch Taverns, which owns the freehold to the building, told the BBC: "We are aware of the situation and are currently consulting with our legal advisors."

British company Visionary Media is also being threatened with legal action and has received "Pages of legal documents threatening us and our customers about out Hobbit Houses."

Also threatened is The Hungry Hobbit cafe in Moseley close to where Hobbit creator JRR Tolkein grew up.

SZC is not connected with New Line, makers of the Lord of the Rings feature films and the upcoming Hobbit film. SZC owns the rights to characters and places referred to in JRR Tolkein's stories and New Line licensed usage from SZC, who produced an animated version of part of the Lord of The Rings trilogy in 1978 and is also responsible for films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient.

SZC's lawyers letters to affected businesses state that "only those who qualify for a trademark licence may use Hobbit and other marks registered by SZC" and that use of the name Hobbit "is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception among prospective purchasers, who are likely to believe that your business is licensed, authorised, sponsored or endorsed by SZC". Use of the name, say the lawyers, "takes unfair advantage of, and is detrimental to the reputation of SZC's Hobbit mark".

Other companies have successfully defeated previous attempts to stop them using the hobbit name, including Wozniak Travel. 
• Twitter @savethehobbit
• Pub web site:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Heroes aplenty in new Commandos

Here's details on the latest Commandos, on sale now in all good UK newsagents...

Commando No 4479: Every Man A Hero! 
Story: Mac MacDonald Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page

Zander Zarris was half-British and half-Greek. As he'd never known his father, an officer sent to Greece and lost in the First World War, his allegiance was to Greece first and last.

Came the German invasion of his country and he was in the front line fighting alongside some of the toughest men in the Allied armies. He often wondered how his father would have rated him as a warrior but he'd never know. All he did know was that every one of his comrades was a hero.

And every one of them would say the same of him.

Commando No 4480: “Eject! Eject!” 
Story: Alan Hebden Art: Rezzonico Cover: Ian Kennedy

During the Vietnam War Flight Lieutenant Gary Frakes and Pilot Officer Lew Martin - the crew of an RAAF Canberra - flew bombing missions, neutralising targets like enemy bridges and transport. Their luck ran out when they tangled with a MiG21 fighter and were forced to eject over the hostile territory of neighbouring Laos.

They had barely touched the ground when they realised they'd jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire - deep in the dense jungle there wasn't one enemy, but two!

Commando No 4481: Hill 13
Originally Commando No 23 (May 1962) Story: Eric Hebden Art: Garcia Cover: Ken Barr

When a platoon of front line soldiers earn the nickname “Yellow-Bellies” they can only rid themselves of it by fighting like supermen.

Here, then, is the story of one such platoon, and of how on the bullet-swept slopes of an Italian hill they grabbed desperately at the chance to get rid of that smear on their name.

Officially it was called Hill 13, but to the heroic “Yellow-Bellies,” it will always be “Dead Man's Hill”…

"The great thing about the Commando Gold Collection is the chance to read all the comics I missed first time round," notes Calum Laird, Commando Editor. "Well, I was only five years old when this one came out…

"Eric Hebden has crafted a classic tale of redemption here in Hill 13 where a disgraced unit fights to regain its reputation and self-respect. Cleverly he does it by telling it as the tale of two men, once friends now enemies, in the ideal Commando style.

"Combined with intricate, detailed (though sometime details which are awry) inside art by Garcia and a trademark bullet-riddled Ken Barr cover it's precious bullion for Commando's vaults.


Commando No 4482: Hit-Man! 
Originally Commando No 2095 (June 1987) Story: Alan Hebden Art: Ibanez Cover: Jeff Bevan

Danny Mantini - crack-shot, bodyguard to one of American's top gangsters.

Dan Martin - crack-shot, one of the American Army's toughest, most respected sergeants.

Different names, but it was the same man. And as the Allies fought their way up through the Italian battlefields,

Dan Martin suddenly found there was someone who wanted revenge on Danny Mantini!

"Only in Commando can the backdrop of World War II provide a steady supply of versatile story opportunities - even after 50 years of publishing our authors do it time and again," says Scott Montgomery, Commando Deputy Editor.

"Quirkier fare like this from our Silver Collection proves the point.

"Only in Commando could an American gangster with a dubious past transform himself into a tough but conscientious hero.

"And only in Commando do we get a dream team of quality creators who constantly deliver: on this occasion; writer Alan Hebden and artists Ibanez and Jeff Bevan (cover)."

• 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

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Mixing with Freaks - Darren Craske illustrates new short story collection

Harper Collins is to release Freaks next month under it Friday Project imprint - a unique collection of short stories dedicatd to dedicated "To all who, if only for a moment, felt that they didn’t belong", featuring comic book style illustrations by Cornelius Quaint Chronicles artist Darren Craske.

Darren, who lives in Hampshire, began his career writing and illustrating comic books before his published work with book one of the The Equivoque Principle (Cornelius Quaint Chronicles). The second book in the series, The Eleventh Plague followed soon after, with The Lazarus Curse, the conclusion to the series to be published in paperback September 2012.

(The Lazarus Curse Kindle edition was released last month).

Written by Caroline Smailes and Nik Perring, the bizarre, darkly humorous stories of Freaks explore the more disturbing consequences of ordinary, flawed human beings obtaining superpowers, tapping into the current growth in popularity of short stories and fascination with imperfect super heroes, as seen in recent film Chronicles and Channels 4’s cult series Misfits.

Meet The Photocopier, a woman who can reproduce herself at will and attempts to teach her daughter to do the same. The man who can break his way into his lovers dream and the woman in My Little Pony pants who likes to be ridden like a Pony. Over 50 freaks and misfits feature in this unforgettable book.

With a cover by leading movie poster designer Sam Bennett, Freaks will appeal to contemporary fiction, short story and graphic novel fans alike.

Born in Newcastle, in 2005 a chance remark on a daytime chat show caused Caroline Smailes to reconsider her life. She enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing and began writing. She lives in the North West of England with her husband and three children.

Nik Perring lives in Cheshire where he writes, mostly, short stories, many collected in the book Not So Perfect (Roast Books, 2010), read at events, printed on fliers and used, with one of Dave Eggers’, as essential material on a creative writing course in the US. If Nik could choose a super power he would rather like the ability to type a little faster.

Either that, or be able to talk to cats. He likes cats.

Freaks by Caroline Smailes & Nik Perring, illustrated by Darren Craske Paperback Published 12 April 2012, £6.99. The Friday Project ISBN 978-0-00-744289-8

Monday, 12 March 2012

In Memoriam: Jean Giraud

Image via Le Blog de Mister Jacq
downthetubes was sorry to hear about the passing of one of the world's greatest comics artists, Jean Giraud (aka Moebius, or, simply, 'Gir').

Born in 1938, Giraud's comics work may have had sporadic publication in the UK but in the US and as far as many British comic creators are concerned his body of work - which includes strips for Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) magazine and stories such as Arzach, the Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius, The Incal and the western adventure, Blueberry - is without equal.

He also worked on both computer game and film design, working on storyboards for films such as Alien, Willow, adaptations of his own Blueberry character and Thru the Moebius Strip, and his work influenced many film makers, including George Lucas.

A painting inspired by Jean Giraud's story, Arzach.
"I consider him more important than Doré," said Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. "He’s a unique talent endowed with an extraordinary visionary imagination that’s constantly renewed and never vulgar. Moebius disturbs and consoles. He has the ability to transport us into unknown worlds where we encounter unsettling characters.

"My admiration for him is total. I consider him a great artist, as great as Picasso and Matisse."

"It seems only a few years ago that we collaborated under the tutorship of Alejandro Jodorowsky on the initial version of Dune in Paris," recalls veteran SF illustrator Chris Foss. "Many, many happy memories come flooding back of our time together. It is fair to say that the firm basis of our relationship was a mutual admiration of each others work.

"... I fortunately spoke at length with Jean last year and the years just fell away. He was bright and cheerful and talked enthusiastically of his various projects. It did not occur to me that such a talented life would end so abruptly."

Above: Moebius at work on Telerama in 2010

There's no doubt his work was a strong influence on many and he was and will ever be, one of the best known artists of bandes dessinées outside France.

"Those that know me know what this man meant to me," says artist Dave Taylor, who make no secret of the impact Moebius' work had on his own art. "He was, at the beginning of my comic book career, my inspiration, my master and my guide. He continues to be all these things, he always will be.

"... Jean was, in a way, a father figure to me. I became aware of his work only a few years before my Father passed away. His work spoke to me as only a father can. He once told me that we were brothers. I guess this explains my mixed emotions right now. I've lost another Father and a brother all in one day."

"This has hit me hard like a thump to the heart," agrees artist Jon Haward."...  have loved this man's work for almost all my life.

"He showed me magical worlds beautiful people incredible creatures and inspired me on so many levels -- one being you don't have to draw only in one style. Jean was successful at what ever he drew, be it westerns, sci-fi, fantasy."

"I met Jean Giraud on a couple of occasions over the years," remembers writer Neil Gaiman. "He was sweet and gentle and really... I don't know. Spiritual is not a word I use much, mostly because it feels so very misused these days, but I'd go with it for him. I liked him enormously, and felt humbled around him. And in my 20s and 30s I didn't do humbled very much or very well."

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho (whose work Moebius once illustrated) paid tribute on Twitter this weekend, stating: "The great Moebius died today, but the great Moebius is still alive. Your body died today, your work is more alive than ever."

"France has lost one of its best known artists in the world," commented Benoit Mouchart, artistic director at France's Angouleme International Comics Festival. "In Japan, Italy, in the United States he is an incredible star who influenced world comics.

"Moebius will remain part of the history of drawing, in the same right as Dürer or Ingres. He was an incredible producer, he said he wanted to show what eyes do not always see".

While here at downthetubes we'll remember him for his amazing work on Arzach and Incal, and strips for Heavy Metal - but his many credits in comics, film and illustration mean that he will never be remembered across the globe for just one of his creations alone.

Ride on, sir - and live on in my minds and hearts.

Moebius: Official website (French)

Leeds Alternative Comics Fair back in April

The Leeds Alternative Comics Fair is back once more on Saturday 28th April, and the fourth fair is once again going to be held at A Nation of Shopkeepers, which has proved itself an ideal venue with its great atmosphere, interesting food menu and a well-stocked bar. 

The organisers are sticking with the same formula as the previous fairs, with a diverse selection of creators from the North of England, keeping it intimate in scale so that attendees can have a good look at everything on offer, get to have a chat to the exhibitors and choose from a wide range of comics along with badges, posters, cards and other handmade items direct from their makers.

Exhibitors at the fair this time include John Allison, Oliver East, James Downing, Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Adam Cadwell, Gary Bainbridge and Andy ‘Hexjibber’ Sykes, organisers Steve Tillotson and Hugh Raine plus more yet to be confirmed. 

The Fair opens at 12 noon and runs until 5.00pm and as usual the event is completely free to enter, so get along, have a browse, a chat, a drink and a fish finger sarnie. 

• More info:, Facebook search “Leeds Alternative Comics” or tweet them @leedsaltcomics

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Really Heavy Greatcoat: Death Comes in Threes

The Really Heavy Greatcoat - Death Comes in Threes

With the greatest of respect to all creators, of so many hues and four dimensions, everywhere...

In Review: Superior

Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu
By Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Titan Books
Out: Now
ISBN: 9780857685940

The Book: Simon Pooni had it all going for him - plenty of friends at school, good looks, and his coach called him one of the most talented basketball players he's ever seen. But that was when he could still move his legs. Now he's living with multiple sclerosis — until Superior entered his life! But is the result f one magic wish all it seems?

The Review: Everyone knows the kind of comics Mark Millar writes, yes? Those ultra-violent, gore-filled comic books that horrify and hypnotise at the same time, like Nemesis and Kick-Ass. Angst and anger-filled nastiness writ large for alleged disaffected youth. Comics that would horrify the writers of the moribund Comic Code.

Trust me. Superior is not one of those books, which popular though they are, I can't say I enjoy reading (sorry, Mark).

Superior is, instead, pure unadulterated fun, with heart to boot, and one of my favourite comic collection reads so far this year.

Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu

Oh, of course it pulls in ideas and concepts from the movie Big to Superman to Marvelman, as young multiple-sclerosis sufferer and superhero fan Simon Pooni is turned into his idol, Superior, by Ormon, a mysterious talking monkey. But as the tale develops, Millar turns that well-trodden background into a singular tale, as Superior's story becomes real and Simon is forced to make a choice beteween saving the world or losing his immortal soul.

Throughout, Leinil Yu's art on this book - published under Marvel's Icon imprint in the US and CLiNT in the UK - is distinctive, although I do feel the superhero scenes work better than some of those with Simon as himself. There's a depth and detail to Yu's work that does not fail to impress.

As for the story - lightweight it might be, and perhaps a little padded (do we really need so many pages where Simon discovers what Superior's powers are and wherher he has all those of the fictional character he adores?) but above all else, as I said above, it's tremendous fun. And that, from reading Mark's interviews about the story before it launched back in 2010, was entirely the point of the tale.

Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu
So yes, you do genuinely feel for Simon when, after one week of playing the role of Superior, he learns that Ormon is actually a demon incarnate, and he must sell his soul to the devil in order to remain the superhero - and put back in his old, disease-wracked body while he makes his choice. You know he feels he really has no choice but to accept Ormon's deal when the demon also makes one of his school mates - this one a two-dimensional, no holds-barred bully - Superior's arch nemesis, Abraxas, who proceeds to set out to destroy New York. And yes, jaded by superheroes though I probably am, I did hear myself mentally cheer as Superior and his friends find a way to cheat a terrible fate and end the tale on a happy note (surely a rarity by Mark Millar standards).

While there are a couple of nearly gruesome scenes, there's nothing in Superior on a par with the (for me) unpleasant visceral nastiness you'll find in Nemesis or Kick-Ass. It's all the better for that.

Superior is a joyous romp, perhaps a trifle padded, but with some great characters and characterisation, a charming story - and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Just one question. Who will play President Obama in Matthew Vaughn's movie version?

Art copyright Millarworld/Leinil Yu. downthetubes was provided with a copy of Superior by Titan Books for review purposes.

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