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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Interview: Bringing Comics to the Classroom

Digital comics are pushing boundaries on many fronts, but one British company is pushing them into the classroom, aiming to harness the timeless appeal of comics to create a uniquely engaging learning tool. 

The first Comics in the Classroom projects utilize the art of Adam Humphries, one of the project's core team, Amy Pearson, Dave Webb and Italian Marvel Comics artist Giancarlo Carcuzzo, who is also currently working on ROK Comics upcoming audio comic, Master Merlini, and WarWorldz for STRIP Magazine.

The Directors of Comics in the Classroom are old friends, growing up in the same area of Birmingham, attended the same school etc and haven't been able to shake each other loose yet.

James Ball, 36, is currently the Head of History at the Wordsley School in Stourbridge, West Midlands. A History graduate, he trained and worked as a journalist before entering education and co-authored four highly successful text books for Oxford University Press.

Adam Humphries, 39, has spent nearly two decades in graphic design, including five years as a Senior Designer at McCann's advertising agency. He recently went freelance in order to devote more time to CitC.

With those distinct skill sets and backgrounds, the division of labour broadly falls into James taking care of “words” and Adam taking charge of “pictures” and all things visual.

Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
downthetubes: What is the concept behind Comics in the Classroom and how did it come about?

Comics in the Classroom: The idea behind CitC is to harness the timeless appeal of comics to create a uniquely engaging learning tool. Our titles differ from traditional comics in that, before each page of the comic is accessed, the user reads or listens to around 250 words of prose. Each word is highlighted as it is spoken in order to boost literacy and accessibly and the events that are depicted in the comic are broadly outlined.

Armed with their new knowledge, the user moves on to the comic - but a comic with blank narrator's boxes and speech bubbles. Once these bubbles are tapped, the user is confronted with three possible entries. Drawing on what they have just learned, they identify the correct entry, swipe to the next panel and eventually the next page. CitC is essentially a formative assessment, not that the user will realise this, and by correctly filling all of the bubbles and “unlocking” the comic, they are not only learning, they are demonstrating their understanding to their teacher or parent.

The idea for the App came from the classroom itself and from James Ball's attempts to engage some very challenging Year 10 boys in the study of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Furnished with a comic version of the novel from a friend, he colour-photocopied it and tippexed out all of the bubbles. He then read Shelley's novel with the class and set the youngsters the task of generating the text for the comic. It was an instant and roaring success.

Convinced that the concept had wider applications, he approached Adam about the idea of creating historical comics with blank bubbles. Adam immediately saw the potential - particularly with the new possibilities offered by the iPad - and we got to work.

Art by Dave Webb
downthetubes: Are your releases iBooks or Apps (so people know where to look) and what has been released so far?

CitC: Comics in the Classroom will be in the App Store. The App is free to download and features three free demos. Each title is priced at £1.99 and can be purchased through in App purchasing. Our three launch titles are The Archduke and the Black Hand Gang, The Dambusters and The Murder of Thomas Becket. We plan to add to our title list rapidly and regularly and, in various states of completion, we have The Attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack the Ripper, Rasputin, Billy the Kid, 1066, The Gunpowder Plot, Joan of Arc and The Battle of Trafalgar in the pipe-line.

Art by Wynn Ryder
downthetubes: The titles are currently available for iPad – are you planning to export them to other platforms, such as Android?

CitC: Absolutely. We are initially launching exclusively on the iPad and iPad Mini but plan to expand onto other platforms such as Android, Web App and Mac App as soon as possible.

downthetubes: What is your target audience? Is it teachers or student or both?

CitC: Definitely both. We intend to market directly to schools as so many are investing in tablets and we believe this App can do so much to enrich the learning that takes place in the classroom. This will also expose the legions of iPad owning youngsters to Comics in the Classroom whose parents, who have often bought their offspring tablets because of the educational benefits they offer, are bound to be interested in an App that both excites and educates their kids. And it will be the kids who decide whether we are successful or not. It doesn't matter who we target if the App doesn't captivate and inspire the youngsters to learn about history.

Working on Jack the Ripper
downthetubes: You have a range of creators involved, including Giancarlo Caracuzzo. Are you looking for more creators or do you prefer to look for artists whose style you like yourself?

CitC: We're always on the look out for new illustrators - and want to try and include as broad a range of styles as possible. It does ultimately come down to our personal preference but we want to avoid developing any kind of house style.

Art by Amy Pearson
downthetubes: How long does it take to create one of your comics projects, from plotting through to release?

CitC: It's hard to put an exact timescale on the entire creative process as there are so many variables. It starts with us discussing and selecting possible figures or events and, with so many to choose from, it's not always easy to reach a decision. Once we have settled on a subject, James gets reading and researching and starts putting the prose together.

This always provides a challenge as the entire story has to fit into 1,000 words and be snappy and dramatic enough to maintain the reader's interest between the comic pages. Once complete, we independently break it down a comic and then come together to compare results.

When we have agreed on every panel, Adam puts together a rough story board, James writes the copy for the comic and the title is assigned to an illustrator. After we sign off pencils and we get the inks (always a joyous experience), Adam gets to work creating the mastheads and textures and choosing a colour palette for the colourist. Then begins the more prosaic process of recording and mixing the audio and putting the artwork into the app itself.

As you can see, there are quite a few stages to the process and we always have several titles on the go at once. Although several elements are fairly arduous and things don't always run as smoothly as we'd like, it is always an immensely satisfying and enjoyable experience.

downthetubes: Do you have any plans to collect the strips into print form?

CitC: Not in the short term. The nature of the App, with its interactive and educational element, means that a printed version would give the game away. That said, it would be lovely to see the art work all together in a book

downthetubes: You've mentioned you have Oliver Frey, the man behind the amazing covers of the 1980s computer magazines Crash and Zzap64 , working with you on a new title. Can you tell us more about that at this point?

CitC: We were both enormous fans of Oliver's work when we were Sinclair Spectrum owning teens - it did so much to bridge the gap between the very basic 8-bit graphics and the scenarios they were meant to depict. We were certain he could do the same for historical figures and, after buying Roger Kean's book on his work, we discovered he had a love of history. We looked him up on the internet ( and he immediately grasped the concept and jumped at the chance to draw Joan of Arc for us. We're very excited about this - both because of the quality of his work and because it's Oliver Frey!

downthetubes: Producing apps is time consuming in itself but what is working best for you in terms of marketing them, given the huge number of digital products aimed at children on the iTunes store (18,000 children books alone for the UK market - and counting?)

CitC: At the time of writing this, we are really only just embarking on our marketing campaign as all of our time has been taken up getting the App itself built. With so much out there it can be hard to make yourself heard, but we're confident our history and educational angle - combined with the standard of the artwork - will set us apart. If you have a look at what education Apps are in the store for History, there is hardly a wealth of choices - and certainly nothing that utilises the iPad's capabilities in the way Comics in the Classroom does.

There is currently a big shift in technology in education, with things moving away from the teacher operated interactive whiteboard to pupil operated devices - and this shift is getting plenty of column inches. We are working with a PR agency to get Comics in the Classroom in front of the myriad of App reviewers - whether they be in the education, tech or parent sector or appear in print or online. We believe we represent something genuinely new and innovative in an area where the software has failed to keep pace with the capabilities of the hardware. That's got to grab some attention!  

downthetubes: What one piece of advice above all else would you give an aspiring comic creator seeing to break into the industry?

CitC: This is a tricky one for us to answer as we're probably coming at this from a different angle to most people entering the comic industry. I suppose the best advice we can give is to back your own judgment and give it a go. The only way you can be certain it will fail is by not trying in the first place - and it's amazing what you learn along the way.

• Find out more about Comics in the Classroom at

Download the free Comics in the Classroom app from iTunes

London's Orbital Comics to host Des Taylor exhibition

Art of Des Taylor exhibition poster

Orbital Comics has announced an exhibition of limited edition art prints and sketches by British illustrator DesTaylor will open at their Central London store later this month.

Born and bred in Tottenham, London with a passion for comic book and Pop Art fused with an obsession for retro film and 1950's pin up girls, Taylor's client list includes the likes of Michael Jackson, Theo Fennell, La Perla, FHM, Cosmopolitan, Ministry of Sound, Universal Music, ITV Studios, and many more. His faux superhero "LIFE magazine" cover art lit up the internet last year and was the talk of conventions from London to San Diego.

This exhibition will feature pieces from his vast collection of artwork influenced by fashion, classic comics, Pop art Icons and his love for screen sirens of the 1950′s and 60′s.

He will also be promoting art from his latest upcoming creator-owned book Scarlett Couture Investigations and The Trouble With Katie Rogers, which has recently been optioned by ITV Studios America. An artbook will be on sale exclusively for this event as well as tickets for a scheduled Pin-Up Art Class, where budding artists can join Des in sketching one of his stunning muses - Nina Hearne.

• The Art of Des Taylor runs from 19th March - 14th April 2013. More info at:

• Des Taylor speaks about this upcoming Exhibition with the Orbiting Pod during London ComicCon:

• To see more of Des's art visit his blog or his Facebook page-

Dennis the Menace, Daleks and Darth in Cover of the Century poll

Dennis the Menace, Daleks and Darth Vader rub shoulders with other memorable magazine covers in a new poll celebrating 100 years of the Professional Publishers Association - Britain's trade organisation representing more than 200 publishing-related companies.

The PPA Cover of the Century Poll is part of the organization's 100th birthday extravaganza, looking back at some of the greatest covers ever made.

The 10 covers span different decades and genres and include covers of Time Out, Mac User and Harpers Bazaar - and three covers in particular will surely appeal to most of our readers.

Star Wars Darth Vader features on Empire's 'Breathing Vader' cover published in 2005, which "breathed" when you opened it. Vader's famous rasping drew in people of all ages and still the biggest-selling issue of all time.

A Dalek threatens readers on a 2005 Radio Times cover that celebrated the Daleks’ return after two decades away from Doctor Who, coinciding with the 2005 General Election.

The publisher neatly brought these two events together by recreating a famous 1964 scene of Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge – and had to clear coachloads of tourists to get the shot. A memorable image, topped off with the cheeky coverline: “Vote Dalek!”.

The 1999 Beano cover selected is the issue that first featured Dennis The Menace in non-comic-strip style. The editor faced strong internal opposition to choosing this bold child-like graphic, but his innovation delivered a sale of 202,528 copies, the highest of that entire year.

The Professional Publishers Association represents more than 200 companies, covering everything from consumer magazine publishers to business-to-business data and information providers and smaller independents.

They promote the industry in all its forms, protect members through lobbying activities, and advise the industry through communications and training work.

• Vote Here: Voting closes in December.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Scar Comics bring back Roger Mason's Mice

Now available from Scar Comics is the new sci-fi graphic novel from acclaimed bande dessinée and 2000AD artist Roger Mason.

Featuring the giant alien factory Order Nine, The Mice graphic novels tell the story of the remnants of humanity who survive under the feet of house-sized alien invaders who have destroyed civilisation and built factories on the rubble.

While trying to eliminate the human infestation, they also like to moan about their jobs and each other.

In Culture Shock The Mice leave the factory and journey into the endless fields around it. Something is out there; something which will change the course of human and alien history for ever. Meanwhile, the sinister factory manager is performing grisly experiments...

• The Mice: Culture Shock (100 Pages, £8.99. Black & white with colour cover.)

• Also available: The Mice: The Factory (80 pages, £7.99. Black & white with colour cover.)

• Go to Facebook/scarcomics for details of other great independent graphic novels by Ben Dickson, David Hitchcock, Gary Young and Tony Suleri, among others.

Panel Nine releases Terry Wiley's VerityFair on iPad

Panel Nine, digital publishers of Eddie Campbell's Dapper John and The Certified Hunt Emerson, and has just released their iPad edition of "unheralded star" Terry Wiley's VerityFair.

A slightly twisted soap opera with the merest dash of X-Files, VerityFair tells the story of Verity Bourneville, a 40-something semi-talented actress and full-time extrovert, in her quest for success and a good night's sleep.

This app collects together almost 100 pages of comics comprising the whole of VerityFair Part 1 – Chapters 1, 2 and 3, which Terry first published in 2010 and 2011.

It gained some terrific reviews, with Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston describing Terry as "The greatest comics creator you may never have heard of."

"Look out, Verity Bourneville doesn't so much break 'the fourth wall' to address you directly, as demolish it and grab you to join her and her mates for all sort of escapades inside the panels," enthuses Paul Gravett of the story. "Terry Wiley is at the top of his game in VerityFair, fashioning this '45-year-old car-crash of a personality' into the most feisty, fascinating, personable, unpredictable, multi-faceted new character in 21st-century British comics. She'll tell you what it's all about. Brilliant!"

Terry Wiley is also the artist behind Sleaze Castle, with a tight-knit and dedicated group of admirers from within the comics community and others in the know.

"Quite frankly, nobody else produces comic stories that are anywhere similar to Terry Wiley's," says Bryan Talbot. "They are unique, well-crafted, character-driven comics, filled with humour, incident and emotion and populated largely by a cast of distinctly individual female characters. In a medium that's still, in the English-speaking world at least, largely considered by the general public to be dominated by male adolescent power fantasies, Terry's stories are firmly set outside this geek boy's locker-room territory."

Almost every comics page in the new VerityFair app has audio commentary recorded by Terry exclusively for the production.

VerityFair Part 1 is also supplemented by a whole host of extras including sketches and artwork, seven strips and stories including Sleaze Castle and Surreal School Stories, and an exclusive interview with Terry himself.

This stunning app for the iPad includes the following special features:

• Introductory notes to each extra comic strip and piece of artwork, written by the artist
• Beautiful high-quality digital images, with a specially-designed user interface that gives you fast, smooth swiping from page to page and flawless pixel-per-second movement
• Audio commentaries on over 80 pages, recorded by Terry Wiley exclusively for this app
• Panel Mode where you can double-tap on comics pages to view them panel by panel
• Visual contents and bookmarks that let you view thumbnails of all pages and navigate quickly and easily

Be warned the story does contain adult language and scenes, as indicated by its 12+ Apple rating.

Buy VerityFair from iTunes

Terry Wiley's Official web site

Follow Terry Wiley on Twitter

VerityFair © 2013 Terry Wiley. Panel Nine sponsors DownTheTubes

Steampunk Radio with Panel Borders

Panel Borders: Steampunk Geniuses

Continuing a month of shows looking at webcomics, Alex Fitch talks to the creators of a popular online steampunk strip that combines Victoriana, mad scientists, fantasy and strong female characters. Phil and Kaja Foglio discuss the history of Girl Genius, their careers before the start of their most famous comic and why they prefer the term 'gaslamp fantasy' for their niche in the science-fiction subgenre. (Recorded at Congenial, Role-Playing Unicon, Cambridge 2012)

6pm Sunday 10th March, repeated 4.30pm Tuesday 12th March 2013, Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at / podcast at

In Review: XIII - Maximilian's Gold

XIII reaches book 16, Maximilian's Gold, in which writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance give readers the conclusion to the golden treasure hunt arc that began in book 11, Three Silver Watches.

XIII, Jones and co have left Costa Verde and are hiding out in Mexico from the US authorities as NSA chief Dick Giordino continues his attempts to capture XIII. In the relative safety of a friendly hotel, they start to unravel the mystery of the numbers and letters that are engraved on the three watches which gives them what they believe may be the location of the 100,000 gold coins that could be worth up to $15 million. However the suggestion that there may be something worth hunting for in the Mexican mountains attracts some unwanted attention.

With only two other books to go after this one in the XIII series, Jean Van Hamme is starting to complete some of the story arcs that he has so carefully plotted in the previous books. Maximilian's Gold is the conclusion to the buried treasure arc as XIII, Jones and others finally decipher the information on the watches and set out to find the gold that Sean Mulligan, who may or may not be XIII's father, has been searching for much of years. However as that goes on, the political machinations in Washington over the presidential assassination and power play that began way back in the first book in the series also begin to reach a climax as NSA chief Giordino shows that he is prepared to do anything to preserve his power base.

The last quarter of this book gives artist William Vance scope to provide some quite unearthly vistas and locations in the mountains where the gold may be hidden to go along with his much more familiar planes, boats and rainfall at the beginning of the book.

We are so close to the end of the XIII saga and Maximilian's Gold gives me hope that after all the plotting and side tracks that Van Hamme and Vance have taken readers down over the last 750+ pages of this ongoing story that the final conclusion will be just as interesting as the trip we have  taken to get there.

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

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

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

Thursday, 7 March 2013

SelfMadeHero launches 'Art Masters' series with Rembrandt bio

SelfMadeHero are to release a graphical biography of the world’s greatest portrait painter, Rembrandt, in April, produced in association with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The biography from Dutch illustrator Typex presents an unique colourful account of the great artist's life and times in 17th century Amsterdam – and is the first in a new range of Art Masters titles from SelfMadeHero, intended to appeal to both fans of art history and graphic novels alike. 

Rembrandt is regarded as one of the greatest painters and print makers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His self-portraits have revealed an intimate personal record of himself as an artist, but he has also established his reputation for reflecting the growing wealth and prosperity of 17th century Amsterdam and its

This new graphic novel presents an authentic account of his life full of historical colour, and in an absence of facts, the authors have drawn inspiration from the wealth of anecdotes about the world-famous artist. His private life often found him at odds with the Church and nobility, forever in debt and living with his former maid. It’s a story that unfolds with all the passion and drama of a TV series as it reveals one man’s artistic vocation and the work it demands, a world of life and death, love and bereavement, fame and loss.

"Rembrandt represents an unique collaborative enterprise between the author, Typex, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the Rijksmuseum, home of the world’s largest and most important Rembrandt collection," says a spokesperson for SelfMadehero, "which has resulted in a stunning and surprising account of one of
the world’s most influential painters."

Gerrit de Jager and Gert Jan Pos wrote the concept for Rembrandt. Pos is a journalist and translator who has curated several comic related art shows and works as a trustee of comics for The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.

The art of illustrator Typex, an Amsterdam College for the Arts graduate, appears in many Dutch national newspapers and magazines and has illustrated numerous children’s books. He is also author of numerous comic books.

Rembrandt is the first of a new series from SelfMadeHero under the Art Masters banner. Future volumes will give the same biographical treatment to the lives of Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, all told by internationally renowned writers and illustrators.

Artist Colin Andrew: A Tribute by Syd Jordan

As we reported earlier this week, veteran comic artist Colin Andrew recently passed. Here, Syd Jordan pays tribute to this unsung artisan of British comics (and much more)...

An episode of Jeff Hawke: Overlord. Jeff Hawke © Daily Express


In the Eastern Chapel of Golders Green Crematorium, filled to overflowing with family and friends, Colin Andrew's simple "green" coffin rested on the venerable catafalque, its top and sides bedecked with drawings and written valedictions.

Between my first meeting with Colin and this moment, lay the gulf of sixty-two years. But the inner heart remembers. The 18th century turreted building in Dundee with a spiral staircase up to a little two-roomed studio, and the young darkly handsome visitor with a sheaf of drawings, an already evident talent and a dream...

A few years later and he, Willie Patterson and myself had been christened "The Scottish Mafia" by the Express strip department. A nickname which Colin's acerbic approach to authority did little to mollify! His was a quite staggering artistic grasp of form and texture, and his ability to create convincing scenarios without any reference was to amaze and intrigue his clients, from the world of comics to that of the advertising media.

When I asked Colin to stand in for me while I worked on a possible Jeff Hawke weekly, what I got was a fabulous set of "wall-to-wall" drawings with effortless dramatic lighting and wonderful character images of the aliens.

The literary quality of Scottish education is something I shared with both Willie and Colin and the scholarly side to Colin's nature was well served by that.

A heartfelt reading of Robert Burns' "A Man's a Man for a' that" and the closing music of Paul Robeson's "Going Home" linked his political beliefs to those of two others who dreamt of harmony among men. Modest, caring and honourable in his dealings, the tenor of his life was reflected in the range of people who came to mark his passing, good kindly folk whose grief was tempered by a sense of privilege at having been part of that life.

Good night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

You'd know where that's from, Colin.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Paul Cornell signing Wolverine #1 at Forbidden Planet London

Paul Cornell will be signing The Forbidden Planet Variant of Marvel Comics new Wolverine #1 at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Wednesday 13th  March from 6 – 7.00pm.

The best there is at what he does gets an all-new on-going series. When Wolverine finds himself the bargaining chip in a hostage situation, he must make a decision to save a little boy that will follow him forever - literally!

The Forbidden Planet variant edition features Wolverine plus fan-favourite Deadpool, illustrated by Salvador Larroca.

Paul Cornell should need no introduction to downthetubes readers but for those of you just joining us, he's a writer of SF/F in prose, television and comics whose credits include Doctor Who for the BBC, Superman and Batman for DC, and he's the creator of Saucer Country for Vertigo. He's now writing Wolverine for Marvel Comics, and his first urban fantasy novel, London Falling, is out from Tor.

More info on the Forbidden Planet web site

In Review: Blake and Mortimer - Curse Of The 30 Pieces Of Silver

EP Jacobs’ adventurers, Professor Phillip Mortimer and British agent Captain Francis Blake, return in a pair of modern books, The Curse of the 30 Pieces of Silver Parts 1 and 2, written by Jean Van Hamme, illustrated by three different artists, and originally published in France in 2009 and 2010.

When Colonel Olrik is broken out of an American jail, Captain Blake is called in by the American police to advise them while Professor Mortimer is invited to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens to consult on a ancient coin that may be one of the 30 pieces of silver given to Judas to betray Jesus to the Romans. Meanwhile Olrik discovers that his 'benefactor' is a former Nazi officer who believes that if he can find Judas' 30 pieces of silver he will command the wrath of God and so be able to dominate the world. With Blake after Olrik, Olrik after Mortimer, and Mortimer after the coins, the scene is set for a cat and mouse treasure hunt around the Greek islands.

Jacob’ original Blake and Mortimer books can be long winded due to the author’s often lengthy speech bubbles full of exposition making even the single book stories feel very long due to the amount of reading involved. The modern ones can still give the originals a run for their denarii when it comes to long bubbles but with The Curse of the 30 Pieces of Silver, Jean Van Hamme, who we are more used to writing the modern day tales XIII and Largo Winch, gives us a double length story in the same way that he always uses two Largo Winch books to tell one long story.

Here we have a 1950s tale that owes much to Raiders of the Lost Ark as our heroes battle Nazis who are out to recover a Biblical relic, though in this case the 30 denarii of 'blood money' given to Judas Iscariot rather than the Ark of the Covenant. This provides us with a military tinged thriller set in and around the Greek islands as the RAF, MI6 and FBI agents are called on to help out the Greek police. As with the majority of the modern Blake and Mortimer books, female characters are heavily featured, with Greek archaeologist Eleni Philippides teaming up with Mortimer while Blake is accompanied by FBI agent Jessie Wingo previously seen in Van Hamme's The Strange Encounter.

The first of these two books had something of a tortured gestation as the original artist, René Sterne, died suddenly while working on it and it was finished by his girlfriend, Chantal De Spiegeleer, eventually being published in 2009, three years after his passing. The second book was then illustrated by Aubin Frechon and published a year later. Since the art style of the B&M books has always be ligne claire, this mixture of artists is not as jarring as it would initially sound. Indeed there is little to find fault with in the internal artwork and it is the cover of Part 1 of the story which is perhaps the greatest let down.

The cover, which shows Mortimer bobbing in the ocean as a ship sails away from him, is part of the storyline but really has to take the biscuit for the dullest Blake and Mortimer cover ever with far too much sky and sea which, since it is set at night, is all virtually the same colour. It’s certainly not Cinebook’s fault, they use the original French covers, but it does make me wonder what the original French editor was thinking when he gave this image the nod to be used on the front of the book. It is interesting to note that the French PC game based on this B&M tale uses a much modified, and visually more striking, version of the cover.

While it does feel like a post-war take on Raiders of the Lost Ark, the two parts of Blake and Mortimer – The Curse Of The 30 Pieces Of Silver are an enjoyable romp around the Greek Islands with more than enough twists and turns to keep our heroes perplexed and the reader entertained.

• There are more details of the English language Blake and Mortimer books on the Cinebook website.

• There are more details on the series in general on the official Blake and Mortimer
website (in French). 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Titan Comics announces IT CAME! from Dan Boultwood

Titan Comics releases the brand-new creator-owned series, IT CAME! – a four-issue, 1950s B-movie style mini-series by Dan Boultwood – in August.

Judging from the sneek peek trailer (created by Angie Thomas) which  has just been released, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will love this hilarious romp, a knowing throwback to the heyday of low-budget Sci-Fi cinema, described as a 1950s B-Movie comedy fromtThe vaults of Movie History! 

Trundling through the 1950s British countryside, unthinkingly misogynistic space scientist, Dr. Boy Brett and the suitably chaperoned Doris Night pop into a quaint village pub for a cheese ploughman's... But waiting for them outside is a most unwelcome visitor: Grurk, an indestructible, rampaging robot from outer space, on a mission to harvest the British Blitz spirit for energy!

Pursuing Grurk in their Morris Minor, will Boy and Doris be able to save the British from a life without stiff upper lippedness, or will Her Majesty's Kingdom be forever resigned to an eternity down in the mouth?

Dan Boultwood's credits include titles such as Danger Academy, Hope Falls and Baker Street Irregulars. Dan origianlly considered IT CAME! as a potential crowdfunded title, so it's great news that Titan has picked the project up. Here's another nifty promo for the project: Rich Johnston also posted some unlettered pages on Bleeding Cool last year here.

IT CAME! #1 will hit comic stores on 7th August 2013. The series will also be available to read day and date on the iPad, iPhone, Web, Android and Kindle Fire, exclusively through the comiXology app and

Retailers can order IT CAME #1 from the April 2013 edition of Diamond PREVIEWS.

Dan's website is here and his DeviantArt is here, and you can also find him on Twitter

• To keep up-to-date with news from Titan Comics, visit:

• Connect with Titan Comics on Twitter ( and Facebook (

Luck for Some: Temple APA 13 released

The Temple APA Issue Thirteen is now available to download as a totally free pdf file, containing contributions from the likes of Dave Hailwood, Paul Eldridge, Simon Mackie, Tony Suleri, Dirk Van Dom and Malcolm Kirk – who also provides the cover.

The Temple APA is a showcase for amateur and professional creators who are active in the UK comics scene. If you'd like to contribute or just want more information, check out the Temple blog or like us them Facebook.

You can download from Dropbox, MediaFire or view online at MyEbook.
PDF file size is 20.9 MB.

•  Temple APA blog
Temple APA Facebook page

Soaring Penguin Press to publish Régis Loisel's "Peter Pan"

Indie publisher Soaring Penguin Press is to publish Régis Loisel's epic series, Peter Pan for the first time in English, in one omnibus edition, later this year - and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to support publication.
The 372-page, full colour hardback will tell the entire story of how Peter, a young boy on the streets of Dickensian London, became Peter Pan.
The omnibus edition will collect the complete six volume bande dessinee series lovingly created by Loisel from 1990 to 2004. It looks absolutely stunning from the pages posted on the project's IndieGogo fund raising page, with translation work already started.
Soaring Penguin Press tell us they have created the Indiegogo campaign, which aims to raise £8000, to support the venture. "It allows me to build publicity for the book and sell copies in advance of printing," Publisher John Anderson told downthetubes.
"We’ve developed a few perks to accompany the campaign," he says, "although we’d rather sell the book. If you have a choice between buying one of the lesser perks, and saving your money to buy the book, buy the book."
Loisel will be attending the BD & Comics Passion Festival, (30th May to 2nd June) at the Institute française, London. If you are able to attend, purchase the Pan perk offered in the campaign, which include t-shirts and badges as well as the book itself. You'll get a copy of the book, and a pass for the weekend so you can meet him.
If you are unable to attend, then purchase the Peter perk, and Soaring Penguin will send you a copy of the book as soon as it becomes available.
Soaring Penguin Press has the UK and European English Language Rights only, so the book cannot be offered outside of the UK or Europe. However, they say they will be shortly starting a Kickstarter campaign to secure the North American Rights.
• IndieGogo Campaign Page:

Brubaker, Sacco and Munoz among first 'big name' guests for Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Lakes International Comic Art Festival Poster
by Bryan Talbot. Competition below!
Some of the biggest names in comic art - including top names such as Joe Sacco, Ed Brubaker and Posy Simmonds, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra - will be heading to the inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival later this year.

Festival organisers have just announced some of the guests of honour who will be appearing at the event which will run from 18-20th October 2013 in Kendal in Cumbria, who include writers and artists from the United States, Argentina, Spain and the UK, working in a wide range of different genres.

The event, which is modelled on the European style comic art festivals such as Angouleme, has a guest list running to more than 40 writers and artists - some yet to be announced.

Ed Brubaker. Photo: Luigi Novi
Organisers plan to reveal more names over the next few months, in the run up to tickets going on sale in May.

American writer Ed Brubaker is making his first visit to a British comic art event.  He is famous for his work on comics like Captain America, Batman, Catwoman, Uncanny X-Men and Daredevil, as well as the creator owned comics Criminal and Fatale. He has won four Eisner awards, the comic industry’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Artist Sean Phillips, a founder patron of the new festival along with Bryan Talbot, has been working with Ed Brubaker for about 12 years, most recently on Criminal and Fatale. “I find Ed’s work believable," he says. "We do crime fiction so there are obviously things like armoured car heists, pickpockets and other crime plots.

“But the important bit is the characters and how they react to their situations.  And the way the characters created by Ed react is always believable.  You have to be able to care about what happens to the characters and that is what he does really well.”

Jose Muñoz
Another guest at the festival, the highly rated Argentine artist Jose Muñoz, has had a strong influence on a number of other leading comic artists.  Muñoz is noted for his influential black and white artwork and his graphic novel series Alack Sinner was the inspiration for Frank Miller's Sin City comic series.

Art by Joe Sacco
Another US writer and artist who will be flying over for the festival is Joe Sacco, who writes and draws international political reportage in a comic book format, providing an insight into the complex issues of global politics while telling the stories of some of the ordinary people living in war torn areas like Sarajevo, Chechnya and Palestine.

Festival patron Bryan Talbot says: “Joe was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of sequential art to its full advantage. His books, such as Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde or his recent Footnotes in Gaza, follow his investigations and interviews, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the situation as he goes along.” 

Judge Dredd fans will be particularly looking forward to meeting British writer John Wagner and Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra, who are the co-creators of the famous law maker.  They have both created many other characters for 2000AD including Strontium Dog. 

John is also credited as being one of the people who revitalised British comics in the 1970s along with Pat Mills and others.

The work of another guest, cartoonist Posy Simmonds, could not be more different.  She satirises the English middle classes, particularly those of a literary bent.  Her cartoons for The Guardian, Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, have both been turned into books.  Tamara Drewe won the Prix Des Critiques in 2009 and was made into a feature film in 2010. 

Posy has also written and drawn several books for children.

Two British comic creators coming to the festival recently won prestigious awards at Europe’s biggest comic art festival in Angouleme.

Glyn Dillon won the the Prix Spécial du Jury for The Nao of Brown, the story of a half Japanese, half English woman who suffers from violent morbid obsessions and a racing, unruly mind.  He has had a wide ranging career, including working as a storyboard artist and concept designer for both film and television.

Jon McNaught was the first Briton to win the Prix Révélation, The Best Newcomer Award, at Angouleme, for his first full-length book Automne (entitled Dockwood in English).

Artist Doug Braithwaite began his career in comics 25 years ago working for Marvel UK and 2000AD.  He has worked on many of the industry’s flagship titles, and has drawn just about every major character for both Marvel and DC comics. His recent work includes Secret Invasion: Thor, Wolverine Origins, and the award winning Justice series for DC comics.  He is currently working on the creator owned series Storm Dogs with writer David Hine.

Another British writer who will star at the inaugural festival is Andy Diggle.  He is currently working on Superman and writing stories for Doctor Who, Thief of Thieves and a new supernatural comic, Uncanny.  Andy has recently launched his own thriller called Snapshot with artist Jock.  He has also been nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award for co-creating the New York Times best-selling action thriller The Losers, which was turned into a film.

Andy says: “The wider world is finally waking up to the richness, vibrancy and immediacy of the comics medium in all its diverse genres. Comics aren't just great art and great entertainment - they're also educational. Multiple studies have shown that kids who read comics have improved literacy, and go on to read more prose in a wider range of styles and genres than kids who don't.

“So it's great to see a European-style comics festival come to the North-West, bringing the joy of comics to a whole new audience.

"As for myself, I'm looking forward to meeting the fans - and the other creators. Festival Director Julie Tait has pulled together an amazing line-up of talent, especially considering it's the inaugural festival. Long may it continue!”

These first nine guests of honour join founder patrons Bryan and Mary Talbot, who won the biography category in the Costa Book Awards earlier this year, and Sean Phillips.

Bryan Talbot has also created a special festival poster which features Kendal’s town hall a lake and references to 28 different comic art characters. If you can name all the comic characters referenced in the Festival's poster which has been created by Bryan Talbot, they'll put you into a prize draw to win one of five signed copies and our festival mug. Email your answers to by 11.00am on Monday 18th March.

The festival will include events where people will be able hear from writers and artists, panel discussions, special live drawing events, films, several exhibitions, workshops and a kids’ zone.  Authors and artists will be signing copies of their work and there will be a marketplace to buy comics and comic art.  There will also be some free events and exhibitions.

Festival Director Julie Tait says: “We’re very excited to give people their first real taste of the guest list for our new festival.  We have a great line up which includes top creators from the UK, Europe and further afield who are recognised as leading lights or exciting new talent - all are pioneers in some shape or form.

“We’ll be revealing more big names over the next few months.  We know people are eager to find out who all our guests are but we want to keep people in suspense for a bit longer!

“The festival will include a wide range of events, including some which are free.  We want The Lakes International Comic Art Festival to appeal not just to the people who are already big comic art fans but also to help bring new audiences to this fantastic and versatile medium.”
The founder partners of the event are the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal College, South Lakeland District Council and Osprey Communications. Founder supporters are Curious Road, Designworks and Jonathan Cape. The festival is also supported by Kendal Library and publishers Myriad Editions, Nobrow, Blank Slate, Knockabout and Selfmadehero.

The leader of SLDC, Councillor Peter Thornton, says: “I’m really excited about this inaugural Comic Art Festival. Super Heroes in Kendal, Spiderman climbing the Town Hall – who knows what will happen?

“Kendal’s a great place to have this festival and I know that it will draw in many visitors who will experience Kendal hospitality and return again and again. Great work by Julie and her team, South Lakeland District Council is pleased to be able to support this event.”

• More details about the new event are available at  It is also possible to keep up to date with plans for the festival by following @comicartfest on Twitter or by liking the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Facebook page.

Monday, 4 March 2013

In Memoriam: Colin Andrew

Colin Andrew
Colin Andrew. Photo courtesy the New Camden Journal

The following tribute is compiled with grateful thanks to Martin Baines, Gerry Dolan, Martin Griffiths, the Illustration Art Gallery (from where much of the information featured below about Colin's career was sourced), Steve Holland , the New Camden Journal and Geoff Senior.

We're saddened to report that the British comics industry is one less very talented artist with the loss of astute Scottish scholar and veteran artist Colin Andrew, whose credits span several decades including work for Eagle, Doctor Who Magazine, book publishers, advertising and much more.

Colin, who died in the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead last week, had a long and varied career in comics and as an illustrator and book cover artist, yet remains one of the lesser-known names in the field despite some high profile work.

Born and raised in Dundee, he found work as a junior in Bill McCail's Mallard Features studio in Glasgow. His first published work was a cartoon in Lilliput magazine, and his first strip was for a local paper. For the latter he dreamed up the storylines and drew layouts for a story of anthropomorphic trains, in the spirit of Thomas the Tank Engine.

After his National Service, he moved to London and joined the King-Ganteaume studio, working mostly Westerns and historical strips for Pancho Villa, Rocky Mountain King, TV Heroes and other Len Miller titles. When the King-Ganteaume partnership split, Andrew continued to work for Kenneth King, contributing to Lone Star and Space Ace.

What is Exhibit XIn the late 1950s, he was drawing a great deal for Zip (notably the "Captain Morgan" strip) and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. In 1960 he assisted Syd Jordan, another McCail studio alumni, on Jordan's Daily Express strip "Jeff Hawke" on stories such as 'Overlord'. The strips were written by Willie Patterson, with whom Andrew collaborated on two factual newspaper strips in Lord Beaverbrook's Glasgow Daily Herald, one a history of the world cup, the other on famous football players. He would go on to illutrate many sporting events as an illustrator in later life.

His favourite strip was also penned by Patterson, "What Is Exhibit X" in Boys' World, starring John Brody, a scientific investigator for the Daily Newsflash. The strip was subsequently taken over by other creators and Andrew found himself drawing "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" in Buster as well as features for Boys' World, Eagle, Lion and Tiger over the next few years.

A man of decided left-wing ideas, Colin and his wife Janet then worked as teachers in China in the mid-1960s, but he returned to strip work drawing "Tomorrow West" in Solo, followed by stints in "Fireball XL5" and "Stingray" in TV Century 21, and "Marina, Girl of the Sea" for Lady Penelope.

He also worked on the Eagle drawing "Home of the Wanderers" and "The Guinea Pig". In the 1970s he drew "Alias Smith and Jones" for TV Action.

Original artwork for Aluas Smith and Jones

His work in comics then became limited, as he concentrated on illustration (including work for both World of Wonder and Look and Learn) and book covers, including publishers such as the New English Library.

He also worked in advertising and for an advertising studio where he storyboarded television commercials; his work in the latter field included storyboarding the government's sell-off of PowerGen.

He was keen to support the Camden New Journal after its launch in the 1980s, volunteering to support it with cartoons and illustrations, and became a regular contributor for several years.

Andrew returned to comics in the 1990s via his friend Syd Jordan, who suggested he submit samples to Fleetway and Marvel UK. After some 18 months he was contacted by the latter, initially thanks to Paul Neary, and worked on several Doctor Who strips for Doctor Who Magazine.

A panel from Pureblood

It was at this point that I got to know Colin, although it was my successor, Gary Russell, who worked with him most. His work was astonishing, and perfect for the strip, bringing his talents to bear on bringing on strips featuring the Sontarans (in 'Pureblood') and Silurians ( in 'Final Genesis') - as well as many new creations.

"My memories of Colin are as a man of similar cloth to Syd Jordan," artist Gerry Dolan recalls, who also drew for DWM. "A gentleman who was talented visually, well educated and great company who also had a grounded sense of how the world worked. When they worked at Helicopter Grafix, those guys were mentors of a type to the younger generation of artists who were making a mark forthemselves in advertising.

"We worked hard were paid well and laughed a lot, and from guys like Colin and Syd learned a little bit of both the world we had missed and the possible world to come... I wish looking back that, that time could have stayed still a little bit longer."

In recent years, Colin shared Smudge Pencil studios, in London with artists such as Martin Griffiths, Kev Hopgood, Geoff Senior and Martin Baines.

"I met Colin, when I started working at Helicopter Grafix," Martin Griffiths recalls.

"He was one of those artist who could draw everything and draw it well, a fantastic artist! From a quick doodle to a highly finished illustration.

"Every artist in the studio would admit to being inspired by him.

"When Helicopter 'crashed' and all the artist went into other studios, we all kept in contact and would meet regularly for a beer or two, enjoying Colin's stories and opinions."

Storyboards for a Guinness ad by Colin Andrew.


"He was not a man who suffered fools," he continues, "although he would bite his lip if he felt like he was doing work for one, they would be paying the bills at the end of the day.

"Myself, Geoff Senior, Rick Fairlamb and Martin Baines, will miss his presence dearly at our regular Friday night get togethers."

"He was a brilliant, brilliant artist which was an honour knowing him," adds Martin Baines. "Colin could draw anything and his career spanned decades.

"I have known him for over 12 years as he was in the same advertising storyboards studio where I worked as a junior and I was awe of him. He always gave advice and support and will be greatly missed.

"I have lost a great friend and mentor."

"I'll remember Colin as a fantastic Artist and a Gent," says fellow Smudge Penciller Rick Fairlamb.

Colin Andrew. Photo: Geoff Senior

"Colin told amazing stories about his times in Russia and China when it really was 'Russia' and 'China'," recalls Geoff Senior. "As well as being an artist of the highest skill he was a font of historical facts and the wheeler dealings of political history.

"His travels were adventures themselves and he saw historical figures whom you read about in text books in the flesh.

"My favourite story was when in the Alps he went walking with a German friend. Without any specialist equipment he followed his friend through a narrow rock 'crevasse' which became so narrow he had to use flexed shoulders and 'shimmy' himself forward. At this point his feet dangling in space with no sign of any floor below!"Thankfully he made it across and they carried on. Soon they came to a dark hole in the ground. The German friend proceeded to jump into the hole. 'OK Colin, your turn now' called the friend from below. 'But it's dark' Colin exclaimed. 'I can't see the bottom!'

'Don't worry' came the answer. With which the friend lit a match below. 'There, now you can see.' Colin proceeded to jump just as the 'friend' blew out the match.

"That's my favourite story from Colin. Probably because it came from an era before 'health and safety' and people just got on with it.

"Colin was also convinced the Moon landings never happened," Geoff revealed. "The Van Allen belt radiation levels made it impossible, in Colin's view. I could never convince him otherwise, though it was a recurring conversation due to alcohol consumption.

"Martin Griffiths and I visited Colin in hospital the day before he died. We talked briefly as he was wearing a mask which hindered him a little. We made to leave and he smiled as he said goodbye.

"We never thought it was to be the last time we would see him. I'll miss him."

Colin is survived by his wife, Janet, and daughters Catriona and Shona.


• Colin Andrew art at the Book Palace -

• Colin Andrew's Doctor Who credits -


• Main photo: New Camden Journal

• 'What Is Exhibit X?' © IPC Media. Alias Smith and Jones © ABC TV. Doctor Who © BBC


Neil Gaiman to give keynote at 'Digital Minds' conference

Image via London Book Fair
The London Book Fair has announced that comic writer and author Neil Gaiman will give the opening keynote speech at the fifth Digital Minds Conference in London on Sunday 14th April.

Neil is internationally recognised via his bestselling novels: American Gods and Coraline, graphic novels, films and TV programmes. His presence on social media via his blog and Twitter as @neilhimself has elevated him to superstar status and nurtured a vast, loyal and vocal online community of readers for his works.

"As a writer whose stories cross genres, Gaiman enjoys success across multiple media embodying all of the themes that the Digital Minds Conference will explore in its fifth edition," say the organisers.

The wide range of speakers at the event includes Darren Nash, Digital Publisher for Gollancz, Orion’s SF & fantasy imprint, where he runs the SF Gateway initiative; and Eric Huang, the New Business/IP Acquisitions Director for the Penguin Children’s Group in London whose team work on apps, game-like books, and books.

View the 'Digital Minds' Programme

Gateshead's BALTIC announces June Artist’s Book Fair

For two days in June, Gateshead's BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead will play host to a national two day Artist’s Book Fair. (Friday 14th & Saturday 15th 10-6pm June 2013).

They're now actively seeking creators who may want to have a table at the event. Submissions are welcome from artists, bookmakers, small press publishers, zine artists and bookbinders.

BALTIC is running the Fair to celebrate the Festival of the North East. the hope is for the venue to become a market place of exhibiting book stalls within Quay, with opportunities to have a go at bookmaking and experience some Bibliotherapy from Lucy May Schofield in a Citreon Van and mobile library.

Also on display is The Sunderland Book Project offering visitors the chance to explore the city through the medium of artist’s books, The Book Apothecary, a travelling museum of book art encased in suitcases and sculpted bookwork from Cleveland College of Art.

The Festival of the North East is a month long celebration of the region’s creativity and innovation jam packed with over 200 events happening in every part of England’s North East during June 2013.

Application Details

Application Fee £10
Tables 90x180cm £60

How to apply: contact for further details or download an application form (PDF)

The deadline for submission is 1st April 2013. Successful applicants will be notified by 15th April 2013

More info:
• Festival of the North East:
• Baltic Mill:
• Fabulous Books, Fantastic Places:

In Review: XIII - Operation Montecristo

With Operation Montecristo, XIII the series reaches the 15th book of the 18 that Cinebook are releasing and, after a run of solo adventures, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance get XIII the man back with his friends - albeit not in the most friendly of  situations.

XIII, Major Jones, Colonel Amos, General Carrington, and the Marquis De Preseau and his wife, and ex-SPAD, Betty, have all taken refuge in the central American country of Costa Verde, the president of which is XIII’s former wife Maria De Los Santos. Under pressure from the US, Maria is forced to imprison XIII while the US authorities attempt to extradite him for his “terrorist” activities.

However Maria organises a jail break to free XIII and his friends and get them to a safe house in the country. Whilst there Sean Mullway, who claims to be XIII's father, tells them that he believes he knows the location of the third silver watch which in turn will reveal the location of the gold that XIII’s ancestors hid. He believes that the watch is in the old church of Montecristo which, unfortunately, is now 150 feet below the surface of a dammed reservoir.

After the solo adventures that XIII had in the last two books, which harked back to the style of the earliest books in the series, it is good to get the gang back together again and off on a what is basically a secretive treasure hunt with little of the political machinations that the series has had recently. While it does feel that writer Jean Van Hamme has added a story that doesn’t really need to be there, there must have been a quicker way for XIII to find that third silver watch, this story is great fun with American agents trying to locate XIII and his friends, while they try to find the final clue to the treasure haul.

With XIII and Jones diving into the reservoir in scuba gear, artist William Vance gives readers five consecutive pages of silent underwater panels as our heroes search for the submerged church and then battle the US agents sent to kill them. With only two speech bubbles with question marks in them, those five pages tell the story of the search and battle remarkably well and are a highlight of the book.

As we get close to the conclusion to the XIII series, Operation Montecristo provides a breather to the heavier aspects of the on-going saga and gives readers a fun, action adventure.

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

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

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

From all at downthetubes, we wish Cinebook’s sales table maestro Aldous Russell a speedy recovery and hope to see him fit and well at comics events later in the year.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dead Space Liberation a top seller for Titan Books

Titan Books new graphic novel, Dead Space: Liberation hit The New York Times Best-Sellers List at Number 3 in the Hardcover Graphic Books category this week.

Following the events of the smash video game hit Dead Space 2, the new adventure by Ian Edginton and Christopher Shy, a prequel to the Dead Space 3 video game launched last month,  follows Earthgov Sergeant John Carver, whose wife and son are attacked by fanatics trying to liberate the Marker site where she works. Racing to solve the clues his wife left behind, Carver teams up with Ellie Langford, survivor of an earlier Necromorph outbreak on the Sprawl, and EarthGov Captain Robert Norton.

Together they unlock deep secrets about the Markers in an epic adventure that will determine the fate of mankind.

The title is the third release in the Dead Space saga, and Titan have also re-released both Dead Space and Dead Space - Salvage in new editions.

New York Times Graphic Novel Bestsellers: March 3 2013

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