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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Rough Cut Comics brings Freedom Collective to book

Freedom Collective

Rough Cut Comics will release its long-awaited new volume of Freedom Collective stories through the June edition of Diamond Previews.

The original one-shot title – which re-imagined the type of comic-books that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, could have created IF they had been born and worked in the 1960s Soviet Union – became a “sleeper hit” in the independent comic-book scene and has attracted fans such as Grant Morrison and Alex Ross.

It also received the backing of The Jack Kirby Collector and was one of new distributor UKonDisplay’s biggest selling titles at their launch earlier this year.

The new 76-page Compulsory Freedom Collective re-prints the original 20-page one-shot story and adds three brand new adventures featuring the titular Red Avengers, adding more ’Silver Age’ parodies in the shape of The Siberian Six and Ivan Karnage, Agent of KRUSH.

The original teaming of Dom Regan (A1) and Colin Barr are joined in this volume with the art of renowned Kirby enthusiast Dave Golding, award-winning Dave Alexander, Total Fear creator Curt Sibling, and Zenescope Entertainment colourist Derek Dow.

Creators Igor Sloano and Barr are again providing the scripts which truly capture the jingoistic style of the House of Ideas back in the sixties.

Publisher Ed Murphy said: “This is a tribute to a long-lost style of comic-book story-telling. It’s one which conveyed the action dynamics in five-to-nine frame panel pages; with cut-to-the-chase dialogue sometimes conveyed in the now-defunct style of ‘thought bubbles’.

“I’m so glad the original one-shot found its audience and continues to grow in popularity. I think this is a book for genuine comic-book fans and particularly of the Lee/Kirby style which should never be forgotten.”

Rough Cut Comics will attend the Glasgow Comic Con on 13-14th July at the city’s CCA, where they will preview the new Freedom Collective book. Artists Dave Alexander and Dom Regan are also expected to be in the attendance.

• You can find out more about Rough Cut Comics at on their Facebook page: or their twitter feed @roughcutcomics.

• THE COMPULSORY FREEDOM COLLECTIVE is solicited in the June edition of Previews for shipping August 2013. The product code is JUN131260 and is featured in Page 333 of the edition.


In Review: Largo Winch - 3 Eyes Of The Guardians Of The Tao/The Way And The Virtue

Largo Winch, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Philippe Francq's James Bond-like billionaire businessman adventurer, returns in his latest two part adventure in Cinebook's The Three Eyes Of The Guardians Of The Tao and The Way And The Virtue.

An aircraft manufacturing deal between one of the W Corporation companies and a Chinese business requires Largo to travel to Hong Kong to sign the contract personally. With Hong Kong now part of China this is a plot by the Chinese to get Largo back into the country to arrest him because of his past. Previously Largo had been imprisoned in Chinese occupied Tibet, a prison that he escaped from and the Chinese authorities want him back in it.

Largo escaped from that prison with the help of a Chinese triad arms smuggler, Tan Ming T'Sien, whose triad later helped rescue Largo's good friend Simon Ovronnaz from a Burma prison. But that help came with a price and the triad are now calling in that favour as they want an ancient religious document, the Tao Te Ching, the book of the Way and the Virtue, that is owned by the man who runs the Chinese aircraft business that Largo is dealing with.

Largo must steal from the man he is doing business with while avoiding the authorities...

This pair of titles are effectively the sequel to the much earlier book The Hour Of The Tiger but you really do not need to have read that book to understand what is going on here as Jean Van Hamme gives the reader all the information that they need in these new titles to appreciate the back story of this meticulously plotted tale of business, triads and friendship. Indeed the main story is so heavy that it is good that Van Hamme has introduced a new sidekick for Largo in the petite and pretty form of his new personal pilot Silky, as seen on the cover of the first book. As the main plot starts to get so serious, the sparring of Simon and Silky over Silky having much better luck with women than Simon gives the first book in particular some lighter breathing spaces.

Les Trois Yeux Des Gardiens Du Tao was originally published in France in March 2007 while La Voie Et La Vertu was published in November 2008 just before the release of the big budget live action Largo Winch film with Sisley Tomer and Kristin Scott Tomas. It is interesting to note that the film transposed the W Corporation headquarters from New York to Hong Kong, a fact that Van Hamme would presumably have known, and where he set so much of the spectacle of these books.

Philippe Francq's artwork plays well to that spectacle with  various Bond film-style set pieces such as a car chase between an ancient Renault 4 and a new Smart ForTwo Cabrio, or an aerial sequence with an old and unarmed Beaver float-plane being chased between the Hong Kong skyscrapers by a new and armed MD-520N Notar helicopter. It all comes together to make this story feel like the big budget action film it deserves to be.

It is easy to get used to how good Jean Van Hamme's various series can be but Largo Winch - The Three Eyes Of The Guardians Of The Tao and The Way And The Virtue are perhaps the most impressive Largo books yet. For those wanting to sample this series I used to recommend the pairing of See Venice... ...And Die! but now I would say that these are the best pair of titles in the series to date, and well worth picking up. 

• There are more details of the English language Largo Winch books at the Cinebook website

• There are more details about all the Largo Winch books, as well as the two live action films, at the official Largo Winch website (in French).

Digital Dandy Issue 9 Now Available

Bertie Buncle’s Chemical Uncle has uncovered a new scientific formula! It’s…
DD9 (D + D + D x C + G + DtvV) x iTAS + GP + = FUN

For any non-mad scientists out there, that means…

Digital Dandy Issue 9 (including the best DAFT, DRAMATIC and DIFFERENT COMICS and GAMES plus a new DANDY TV VIDEO) from the iTUNES APP STORE and GOOGLE PLAY and at equals FUN!

In the latest mad mixture…
DESPERATE DAN plus a busted steam train feature in a tale of cowboys and engines!
Loo-Loo Land gets an unruly ruler in the big, blue, greedy shape of KINGO BANGO!
JONAH’s accident-prone ancestor proves that bad luck runs in some families!
There’s foul play afoot when BRASSNECK takes up football!
BERTIE BUNCLE & HIS CHEMICAL UNCLE need guarding from their guard… er… dog???
A hero from the past is revealed in RETRO-ACTIVE! His name, Flint. His Codename, WARLORD!
When they’re not stomping around and roaring, where do dinosaurs go for fun? JURASSIC PLAY PARK!
Earth is under the power of THE LEAGUE OF SUPERVILLAINS! Only BANANAMAN can save us!
Not forgetting the vital ingredients of BLINKY, GROWLPH, HARRY & HIS HIPPO, THE LAUGHING PLANET, FLATMAN & RIBBON, BLINKY, JIBBER & STEVE, BAD HAIR DAY, KEYHOLE KATE, and Chris accepting a kung fu challenge in the latest DANDY TV!

DIGITAL DANDY 9 - on sale now! It’s not rocket science*!

*Good thing too, with Bertie’s crazy uncle around!

Digital Dandy Issue 9 is available from the Dandy website,, and on the Dandy App.

Fight My Monster joins BeanoMax - Beano strip to follow in August

DC Thomson has announced that a strip based on digital trading card game Fight My Monster will appear in The Beano for the first time in its Saturday 3rd August issue, alongside Dennis and Gnasher, The Bash Street Kids and Roger the Dodger.

DC Thomson agreed a promotional programme with Lisle International recently and a Fight My Monster strip features in the current issues of BeanoMax (starting in Issue 78) joining other licensed strips such as Wallace & Gromit alongside DCT's own brands.

“We’re delighted to be working with Fight My Monster," commented Editor-in-Chief Mike Stirling. "The Beano is the quintessential British children’s comic and it makes hundreds of thousands of children laugh every week. Now in its 75th year, The Beano is the longest running and one of the most successful comics in the world. That’s because we continue to move with the times and represent what’s going on in kids’ lives today.
“Fight My Monster will bring a fantastic extra dimension to The Beano and we can’t wait to discover the feedback from our readers.”

Fight My Monster is the fastest growing digital trading card game in the UK, say the publishers. The site, where users battle each other to collect and trade monster cards, is revolutionising the on-line trading card genre by letting children create their own monsters on-demand to send into battle on-line. It has grown into a community of over two million players, with over eight million unique monsters created since its New Year 2011 launch.

Fight My Monster has always blended humour with competition, and that makes The Beano an ideal partner," enthuses Dominic Williams, CEO of Fight My Monster. "They have done a fantastic job bringing our characters to the comic format and are brilliant partners.”

The Beano is the perfect audience for Fight My Monster with a reach of over 420,000 readers in each of the 13 scheduled issues," says Lisle International spokeswoman Francesca Lisle. "We are therefore delighted to see the property take a regular presence in the comic.

"With this promotion, we hope to introduce even more users to the game each month and in so doing add further weight to the licensing programme.”

Friday, 31 May 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins - Official Trailer

Here's an impressive-looking trailer from Batman: Arkham Origins, the next installment in the blockbuster "Batman: Arkham" videogame franchise whic goes on sale in the UK in October. Developed by WB Games Montréal, the game features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, the first two critically acclaimed games of the franchise which spawned their own comic tie-ins.

Taking place before the rise of Gotham City's most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships. (One shot suggest we might have a Green Arrow cameo, but that could just be a tease).

Deathstroke will be a fully playable character in the challenge mode for Batman: Arkham Origins, and will come complete with his own unique weapons and special moves. Fans who pre-order the game for Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation3 system or Windows PC will receive exclusive early access to the Deathstroke pack containing two additional challenge maps and two alternate Deathstroke character skins.

Batman: Arkham Origins will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3, the Wii U system, and Windows PC. The game will release worldwide 25th October 2013 along with Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate for Nintendo 3DS handheld system and PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system.

Alternative Press at London's No Dark Places Festival this weekend

Alternative Press are bringing the Small Press to No Dark Places, the DIY music festival tomorow (1st June 2013) in London.

From 11am – 5pm, artists will be exhibiting and selling their self published comix, zines, book arts, and prints, alongside a programme of workshops and talks.

Workshops and Highlights

Introducing the Kevin Van O’Dreams and Breaking Beard!
Cookin’ up something good in ‘Kevin Van O’Dreams’ for Breaking Beard and more!
Join us and give Heisenberg a beard!
Inside the Kevin Van O’Dreams, artists in residence StoryHands, a collective on a mission of awesome colourful narrative illustration perfection, will be offering live portraits to all who visit! Portraits starting at £3 are a one off opportunity to get a unique illustrated picture of you.
• Sign up for yours at the AP table on the day. More information here

DIY Stop Motion Animation Workshop
12.30pm – 3.30pm: Having worked for Disney, Warner, Universal, Paramount, and Redbull, as well as lecturing at four of the top universities for animation and leading workshops for the Tate, and Barbican, the amazing Shaun McGlinchey will be now running the AP DIY Stop Motion 2D Puppet Making Workshop!
Places are limited to only four participants per hour. To reserve your place in advance email or alternatively sign up on the day.

DIY Politics: “Is this a good situation?”
4pm:  3 invited speakers, and those who attend, will informally discuss how they think the nation is being run.  Are the folks in charge doing a good job?
With Pragmatists’ Party:  a newly formed party
A conversation open to all and everyone, come along and give your ten pence worth!
Entry is completely free and open to all in a celebration of creativity and DIY.

Join the facebook event here
Workshops from AP Friends
As a part of the NO DARK PLACES festival, Dimitri Antorka Pieri will be running his Blind Drawing workshops at 2, 4, and 6pm. More information here

The festival will also include a Live Printing Stand run by the collaborative force of  Animaux Circus and Studio Mothership. From 11am – 4pm and for a small fee, you can have a go printing on their amazing table top letter press!
The No Dark Places music programme will start at 12pm and continue till 1.30am. £15 on the door
For further information: NO DARK PLACES

Venue: The Albert, 1 Albert Road, London, NW6 5DT
For a list of the  exhibitors please click here

Rare Roy of the Rovers art, Dan Dare toys go under the hammer

Roy Of The Rovers original artwork (1993) drawn and signed by Barrie Mitchell.
From the last issue of Roy Of The Rovers
Comic Book Postal Auctions Summer 2013 auction has another wide range of British comics lots, from the first issue of Comic Cuts published in 1890 (one of only eight known copies to exist), Radio Fun Number One from 1938,  a fine run of early Dandy comics and Desperate Dan’s fourth appearance original artwork by Dudley Watkins , from the Dandy No 4 Christmas issue 1937 – Dan’s first use of the famous blow-torch for shaving!
Desperate Dan art by Dudley Watkins from The Dandy Number 4, published in 1937

The auction closes on Tuesday 11th June, so nip over and take a look at the catalogue, which also includes a number of US comics.

In ComPal's March catalogue a number of Beano printer’s proof covers sold strongly and their vendor has decided to offer eight more covers - this time Dandy proofs. all signed by legendary editor Albert Barnes, whose granite jaw was copied by Dudley Watkins when creating Desperate Dan.

The Beano is also well represented with bound volumes of the complete years of 1945, 1953 and 1955. There’s also a copy of The Beano Number 1 but it is in dull, brittle condition and offered at No Reserve.

For only the second time in 20 years ComPal have unearthed a Broons At The Seaside Jigsaw from 1944. This one is missing 14 out of its 400 pieces and is estimated at £350-400. One for Sunday Post readers, perhaps.

The company has never featured Thomas The Tank Engine before and a run of his first print books along with the rarer Isle of Sodor Railway Map are also in the auction.

Of interest to Eagle and Dan Dare fans will be a number of scarce Dan Dare toys and games feature so now is the time to consider your skills at Dominoes, Draughts and Rocket projection -- plenty to write home about using the Eagle Stationery Set and Dan Dare postcards.

There’s also a high grade run of Girl comics and some rare TV Century 21 gifts and spin-offs including issue 90 with Thunderbirds Cap (yes, I do remember wearing mine to destruction), Thunderbirds Are Go original film poster and a Stingray-inspired space pistol.

The 1970s offer key runs of Buster, Cor, Shiver And Shake and Valiant with the rarer Summer Specials including Beano, Dandy, Victor, Krazy and Tammy.

2000AD 1-3 are also up for grabs with their free gifts and there’s cover art by Colin MacNeill from Classic 2000AD #1, artwork from The Trigan Empire, Frankie Stein, Rupert and an exceptional Roy Of The Rovers board to complete the UK line-up by ace artist Barrie Mitchell.

The US section highlights a third tranche of 1950s pre-code horror, science fiction and EC titles with key issues of Astonishing, Beware, Vault Of Horror, Weird Science/Fantasy and the classic bondage/headlights favourite, Phantom Lady #17. The Silver Age offers Avengers #1, Hulk #1, Journey Into Mystery #83 and Tales Of Suspense #39 – all in affordable low grades.

• The Summer 2013 auction bidding ends on Tuesday 11 June at 8.00pm UK time.

• More info:

• Receive an email before auctions open and closes: Click here to join their mailing list

Middlesbrough Literary Festival hosts "Mini Comic Con"

Middlesbrough will host a Mini Comic Con on Saturday 22nd June as part of the fifth Middlesbrough Literary Festival , which begins on Saturday 15th June.

The ethos of the Middlesbrough Literary Festival is to celebrate the word in all its forms through reading, writing, music and spoken word and we have something to cover all these forms in this year's programme.

The team are putting particular emphasis on creative writing and performance in 2013, offering variety of learning opportunities including writing workshops, local history sessions and opportunities to meet and learn from literary agents, publishers and learning providers.

The Mini Comic Con starts at Middlesbrough Central Library at 10.00am and includes a talk by 2000AD and Beano comic artist Nigel Dobbyn.

Tickets for all Festival are on sale at Middlesbrough Central Library or you can book and pay for them at any Middlesbrough library.

• More info and full Festival timetable:

• Follow the Middlesbrough Literary Festival on Facebook and Twitter

Medicine and Comics merge for unusual conference

Ethics Under Cover
Ethics Under Cover is an interdisciplinary conference in July in Brighton, intended to appeal to a wide audience, including healthcare professionals, comics creators, students, academic scholars, comics enthusiasts and various stakeholder groups.

The meeting, organised by Brighton and Sussex Medical School in collaboration with Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust, the Wellcome Trust and Graphic Medicine will consist of a mix of peer reviewed academic papers, lectures and workshops. Guests include Paul Gravett and Nicola Streeten. There will also be an exhibition and stalls for participants’ work.

The organisers of the event are Muna Al-Jawad, Bobbie Farsides, Sue Eckstein, talented comic creator Ian Williams, Susan Squier, Michael Green, Shelley Wall, MK Czerwiec and Lydia Gregg.

Graphic Medicine is a web site created by Ian Williams, who coined the title as a handy term to denote the role that comics can play in the study and delivery of healthcare.
Ian writes papers and articles on comics and medicine, and has just started to run a medical student module at the Medical School in Manchester and also makescomics under the pseudonym Thom Ferrier. He's currently working on a graphic novel, to be published by Myriad Editions in 2014.

"I did an MA in medical humanities (looking at the discourse of medicine using the conceptual tools of the arts and humanities)," Ian explains, "and am a member of the advisory board for the International Health Humanities Network.

"I wrote a dissertation on medical narrative in graphic novels - it's my contention that comic/graphic fiction could be a useful resource for healthcare professionals, patients and carers. Soon after I set up the Graphic Medicine site, one of the first people to get in touch was Michael Green of Penn State University Medical School, who had started to teach a comics class to medical students around the time I was doing my MA.

"It seemed like a critical mass was starting to build, and it has gotten more exciting over the last few years, and will continue to gain momentum over the next few, as people realise that comics can articulate profound truths about the discourse of medicine, and healthcare in general."

• For more information visit:

Mars Attacks - Your Wallet!

Mars Attacks Red
IDW Limited has announced plans for interstellar domination of your wallets this week, beginning with the Mars Attacks: Attack from Space Limited-Edition Hardcover. The book collects the first five issues of the popular IDW comic series drawn by top talent John McCrea.

Drawing on the rich card-based history by Topps, each of these highly collectible and rare books will be paired with hand-drawn sketch cards from a wide variety of artists, ranging from fine-art gallery painters to comic-book and trading-card artists.

All of the sketch cards are official Mars Attacks sketch cards provided by Topps, and foil stamped exclusively for this limited-edition release.

The Red edition will set you back $125, the Blue $400 - definitely one for the major Mars Attacks collector at those prices - but it's a handsome collectible given the promised extras if you are a fan.

“The new Mars Attacks comic has been an absolute blast!” says IDW Limited director Jerry Bennington. “And when we started designs for the limited edition, we wanted to make sure we celebrated not just the IDW comic, but the roots of the series as well. To us, that meant we had to do sketch cards, and we had to do them right.”

Working closely with Topps, IDW Limited has selected a wide variety of top creative talent to provide original, hand-illustrated as well as hand-painted sketch-card art for this special edition. Ranging in diverse style and background, the group assembled for this book is unrivaled in experience and talent. From series artist John McCrea to alternative gallery painter Apricot Mantle to popular trading-card artist Nar!, each participant brings a unique view and twist to the Mars Attacks universe.

“I grew up drawing 'Mars Attacks my school' on the back of my bio homework ,” says gallery artist Apricot Mantle. “To have the chance to be a part of this book, it’s almost unbelievable. I can’t wait for people to see what I have planned.”

The roster of artists selected for the first volume includes:
  • Jason Adams
  • Ted Dastick
  • Alex Deligiannis
  • Charles Hall
  • Dan Duncan
  • Dan Harding
  • Gary Kezele
  • Miran Kim
  • Apricot Mantle
  • Chris Mason
  • John McCrea
  • Nar!
  • Sean Pence
  • Tim Proctor
  • Eric Talbot
  • Chris Uminga
  • George Webber
  • Jeff Zapata
The book will be released in both Red and Blue Label offerings, with each edition being signed by the creative team of John Layman and John McCrea, housed in a custom-built tray case and paired with hand-drawn cards. Red Label books (250 total) will include one sketch card, while each Blue Label edition (50 total) will be packaged with a four-card puzzle-set.

• Available for pre-order now, get your copy:

MARS ATTACKS: ATTACK FROM SPACE DELUXE LIMITED EDITION (RED-$125.00; BLUE-$400; 124 pages; 11” x 7.3”; hardcover)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

In Review: Peter Pan by by Régis Loisel

by Régis Loisel
Out: Now (UK and Europe only)
Publisher: Soaring Penguin

The Book: Before he became Peter Pan, before his arrival to Neverland, he was a boy fighting for survival. Born into the suburbs of harsh, Dickensian London, to an alcoholic mother who leaves him in an almost-orphan state, Peter’s only retreat from reality is the fantastical stories given to him by a friendly neighbour — allowing him to escape temporarily from the darkness of the adult world.

Told in language as strong as his mother’s brandy, Peter’s story is no less intoxicating. While nearly devoid of comfort and compassion, Peter’s world becomes rich in magic. Lost fairies, pirates and sirens form a cast both shocking and strangely familiar — this is J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan story for an adult audience.

Outside of Peter Pan - which he spent years working on - French creator Régis Loisel is best known for his work on the best-selling series The Quest of the Time-Bird (La Quete de l’Oiseay du Temps) and has also worked with Disney on various animated films such as Mulan and Atlantis.

The Review: For the first time this six-volume bande dessinée series - which has sold over one million copies in French and has been adapted into a film by Nicholas Duval - has been translated into English and collected in one hardcover, omnibus graphic novel. Through emotive and engaging artwork, Loisel offers a unique take on a well-known tale, a prequel to the original story that offers up a grim and dark world; the type of childhood where staying a child is not an option.

Let's be absolutely clear - this version of Peter Pan is not one you leave lying around for young fans of Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys. Its language, art and storyline offer a complex, multi-layered and very adult take on the Peter Pan mythos, with some twists throughout that might leave you scratching your head but hopefully, in a good way. (I don't want to spoil the surprizes, so I won't be mentioning some aspects of the plot in this review).
The story starts and ends for some characters on the grim, dangerous streets of Victorian London - streets where Peter, estranged from his family, hated by his broken mother, is freed when he encounters the fairy he comes to call Tinkerbell.

Over the course of 300 plus pages we learn how Peter gets to Neverland, his first meeting with Captain Hook, the origin of the Lost Boys - and how the deadly (and we mean deadly) Croc got his Tick. Along the way, we're treated to a sumptuous, beautifully realized and quite haunting story: the artwork alone will delight.
Facing battles with Indians, Pirates, a dangerous storm, encounters with drunken and violent men and women, Peter Pan slowly develops into the character we know from JM Barrie's story - although Loisel prefers to focus on the darker aspects of the tale, and, as mentioned, there are some aspects that will challenge the 'reality' of Peter's tale and suggest, perhaps, a more sinister one to events in this prequel story.

This take will not be to everyone's taste and at times, I suspect the 14 year gestation project of the French version took its toll on some of the plotting of the story - at times, I got the impression that the final twists developed as the story unfolded, rather than being the original plan for the story. But the artwork is truly stunning and despite my reservations about the plot, the story fully deserves this new, English edition.

John Anderson at Soaring Penguin made an inspired choice when he decided to chase the rights for this incredible bande dessine: its English publication is welcome and long overdue. While again stressing this is a tale for adults, I recommend it to our readers.

• Soaring Penguin Press will be debuting Peter Pan with special guest Régis Loisel, the creator of this brilliant series, at BD and Comics Passion in London:

• Soaring Penguin Press:
• Facebook:

Peter Pan by Régis Loisel
Translated by Nicolas Rossert, with Paul Rafferty, Nora Goldberg & Cheryl Anderson
ISBN 9781908030078
Cover Price: £29.99
Format: 336 pages, full colour, hardcover
Rights: UK & European English Print Rights only
Available through Turnaround UK and Diamond Comics UK (Order code: MAY132444)

French Links
• Peter Pan Micro Site (with character outlines, sketch books and more):
• An interview with Loisel:
• Trailer for the film by Nicholas Duval (official web site:

• On adapting the story for film: item from France Télévisions Poitou-Charentes

10 Questions: Russell Willis, publisher of SEQUENTIAL and Panel Nine

Russell Willis - Publisher of Panel Nine
I've known Russell Willis since the 1980s, first encountering him at the Fast Fiction stall run by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury at the now-legendary Westminster Comic Marts when he was publishing INFINITY, a zine that included many interviews with leading comic creators back then such as David Lloyd and others.

Russell has worked in publishing for over 25 years, specialising in digital media. In 1993 he set up a multimedia development company in Japan which produced customised language-learning software for Canon and published a large number of successful language-learning software products, including Finding Out, a joint venture with Macmillan described by Modern Education as the "best language- learning software for children available".

He has created products for TIME, the British government, Oxford University Press, and many others.

Russell’s audiobooks, podcasts, and iOS apps have all reached the Number One spot in Apple’s iTunes charts in Japan.

He is the publisher at Panel Nine (which has previously sponsored downthetubes), who have just launched SEQUENTIAL, a new digital store for a range of graphic novels. 
We'd like to thank him for taking time out of a busy schedule to answer our questions...

downthetubes: Tell us what SEQUENTIAL is and what you hope to achieve?

Russell Willis: SEQUENTIAL is a digital graphic novel storefront app for that iPad, that is primarily designed for people who would read Persepolis or From Hell or something by Eddie Campbell or Alison Bechdel, but would never think of going to a typical geeky comic shop. It's a place to put together all the quality material that's out there and provide an environment where a mainstream reader can feel comfortable and not have a virtual She-Hulk scaring them off at the door. This time, we want to be on the main street of culture with our underwear worn *under* our trousers.

SEQUENTIAL has just launched in the UK and Ireland, and will launch in the US and the rest of the world at the end of June. It's free to download with the ability to purchase graphic novels from within the app.

downthetubes: How did the project come about? 
Russell's early publishing
venture, INFINITY (#5)
Russell: As you know, I have been fascinated by sequential art since my teens when I was publishing INFINITY. About 18 months ago, I found myself running a software development and publishing company and realised that I had the ability to do something exceptional in the area of digital graphic novels. 
Having always talked about how graphic novels should be marketed and presented I had the opportunity to put my time and money where my mouth was. 
Right time, right place, it just seemed the right thing to do.

downthetubes: What are the initial titles being offered through SEQUENTIAL?
Russell: We have 21 graphic novels, coming from Blank Slate, Knockabout and Myriad Editions. We've got From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, Bolland Strips by Brian Bolland, Lady Chatterly's Lover by Hunt Emerson, Science Tales by Darryl Cunningham, Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis, Kickback by David Lloyd… it's a great list and we'll be adding lots of new titles every week. 
We've also got a new "Sequential Mode" reader that is a bit like what Alex di Campi and Mark Waid have done with digital comics but with a few tweaks. There's a story drawn by Terry Wiley that can be downloaded for free from the app (which is also free to download).

downthetubes: How do you see the project developing over the next year?
Russell: The addition of more graphic novels, publishers like Self-Made Hero, Jonathan Cape, Walker Books, Abram Comic Arts coming on board, we'll be creating "Expanded Versions" of many titles, by adding audio commentaries by the creators along with interviews, production sketches, etc. and we'll be marketing graphic novels as a mainstream choice of entertainment, untainted by superheroes.

downthetubes: How will SEQUENTIAL impact on your other publications so far - will they merge with this new platform?
Russell: Yes, the four existing Panel Nine titles are on SEQUENTIAL.

downthetubes: You're busy developing a comics platform based on British and Western comics but Panel Nine is based in Japan... is there interest in the comics SEQUENTIAL will carry there?
Russell: The market for western graphic novels in Japan is quite small, but we are talking with Japanese publishers about doing some things.

downthetubes: What do you think are the main advantages for creators and publishers publishing their work digitally?
Russell: Availability -- in theory anyone with an iPad can purchase one of our titles, and creators can more effectively promote their own titles by directing their fan base straight to SEQUENTIAL to purchase immediately. 

downthetubes: Growing a digital comics audience isn't easy, despite the hype for digital publishing. Are we in an age of 10 per cent perspiration, 90 per cent promotion to compete with all the other offerings out there - legally free comics, other media and the pirates?
Russell: The ubiquitous availability is there as mentioned above, but just because you have a phone number doesn't mean everyone calls you. The promotional aspect of digital comics is, as you suggest, extremely important, and is a demanding ongoing exercise. With printed books, once they are in the shops then the shops are out selling them for the publisher every day. With digital the publisher (or platform owner, in our case) has to be doing that -- through advertising, social media, events, promotions etc.

downthetubes: While generating revenues on the iPad and related Apple platforms seems a given, purchases on other platforms (Android, for example) seem slow in comparison. Do you think there's still a resistance to the concept that digital creations have intrinsic value?
Russell: The stats at the end of last year indicated that for every four iOS apps sold only one Android app was sold. And this is despite Android having a larger installed base. The demographics of Android device owners and iOS device owners has been quite different, and simply put, Android owners tend to buy less stuff, are younger, and more inclined to settle for free stuff.

With regard to digital creations having less intrinsic value, I think that part of the reason for that is that so much digital is of less intrinsic value. Publishers shovel stuff into ePubs or put out apps that work incredibly badly. One point of pride that we have about our apps is that they are often described as "deluxe" "coffee table" apps, which is exactly what we intended. Getting them like that involved sweating hundreds if not thousands of details. 
I think when people use our apps, they do perceive the value. Our problem is that all the crap that gets put out means that people are very wary. 
SEQUENTIAL, being a container app, should partly solve that problem as they can download it for free, try out a free app and get a real sense of the value that we are providing before they purchase.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you regularly give new comic creators?
Russell: I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to give a new comic creator any advice. But if I am in that position, I would suggest that people ensure that they have a strong social media following. If there are two artists of equal merit and one has 10,000 Twitter followers, then choosing which artist to publish just got a lot easier. (And that advice is advice I need to take too!)

WebFinds: Wonderfully Vulgar, an online exhibition of British Comics

Early comics merchandise: an Ally Sloper greeting card from 1890

(with thanks to Norman Boyd and Kevin Carpenter): It was a surprize to me too - but British Comics do turn up in the strangest of places - but none appear to be treated with more reverence lately than by Germany's Library of the University of Oldenburg, which has around 5000 old British comics, mainly Amalgamated Press products of the era 1890 to 1930, but also including odd items such as The Man in the Moon (1848) and Ally Sloper: A Moral Lesson (1873).

Making full use of just some of these assets, the Library has created Wonderfully Vulgar - a superb online exhibition to show off some of the archive, documenting the early history of British comics up until the 1930s. The online display includes plenty of Victorian comics, comic covers and strips published during World War One - and a wonderful selection of material from the post-war years including information on such longtime favourites as Tiger Tim and Comic Cuts.

The Library also has around 300 bound volumes of Victorian story-papers (B.O.P., The Captain, G.O.P., The Monthly Packet, etc.) and around 200 bound "penny dreadfuls" 1830-1900.

• View the web exhibition at

• Robert J. Kirkpatrick's recent book From the Penny Dreadful to the the Ha'Penny Dreadfuller (2013) is a truly magisterial study of periodicals for boys

Latest Issue of Illustrators Journal now available

Illustrators journal celebrates the finest magazine, book and comics illustrators published in the UK and Europe featuring fabulous artwork in every issue, much of which is taken from scans of the original art. It gives readers the stories behind the artists with features written by some of the most eminent enthusiasts of this oft neglected art form.

Features inside Illustrators issue 3 include:

Fortunino Matania: Peter Richardson writes about the talented and versatile artist who plunged his audience into the heart of historical events in magazines such as The Sphere and Look and Learn.

Andy Virgil: Bryn Havord writes about one of New York's leading illustrators who Havord commissioned to work for many British women’s magazines.

Peter Maddocks: Bryn Havord covers the life and times of the Fleet Street cartoonist who created Four D Jones for the Daily Express.

Told in Pictures: Former Micron editor Keith Chapman shows that there is much more to the pocket library than meets the eye as he remembers his time working for the publisher of such titles as Combat Picture Library and Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine.

The Studio: featuring the art of the influential American illustrator Bernie Fuchs.

Illustrators issue 3 is a 96 page, softcover book available directly from Book Palace Books who have an e-preview on their website.

• There are more details and illustrations from Illustrators as well as ordering details on the Book Palace Books website.

• Illustrators editor Peter Richardson was interviewed on downthetubes here.

Elephantmen storm 2D Festival as new issue debuts

With the brilliant 2D Festival on this weekend in Northern Ireland, here's a quick plug for the latest issue of Richard Starkings Elephantmen.

Issue 48, with art from Axel Medellin and a cover by the ever brilliant Boo Cookoffers the seventh part of 'Sleeping Partners' storyline, in which you'll find there's a price on Gabbatha's head and the Silencer means to collect...

The issue also features new pages of Charley Loves Robots by JG & Gabo in EM#48 -- here's the previous installment to catch you up!

Now a major publisher in his own right, Richard is just one of many former Marvel UK creatives  at 2D this coming weekend. The line up also includes Simon Furman, Mike Collins, Doug Braithwaite, Gary Erskine and David Hine, alongside other great comics talet such as Cam Kennedy, Garry Leach, PJ Holden and many, many more. 

downthetubes Jeremy Briggs will also be at the event. Smile for his camera!

Elephantmen #48  is available in all good comic shops and online. Read a six-page preview at CBR

• Also on sale: the first hardcover volume of Elephantmen - "Wounded Animals" is back in print and now includes the ZERO issue with art by LADRÖNN, as well as a new sketchbook section, the Englishe and Media Studies backmatter from the single issues, and an all-new introduction by Jonathan Ross. Collects Elephantmen #0-7 with art by Ladrönn, Moritat, Henry Flint, Tom Scioli, David Hine and Chris Bachalo. Story: Richard Starkings, Joe Kelly Artwork: Moritat, Ladrönn, Henry Flint, Tom Scioli, David Hine and Chris Bachalo.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Six-Gun Gorilla comics inspired by British pulp hero in the pipeline

Two comics projects inspired by an obscure British Pulp hero published by DC Thomson the 1930s are in the works, illustrating, perhaps, the potential pitfalls of reviving "Golden Age" heroes in the public domain.

Six-Gun Gorilla was published in Wizard, published by DC Thomson and written by an anonymous author in 1939. The only survivor from a circus train wreck, a baby gorilla is found by Johnson, an elderly prospector,. He names him O’Neil and raises him, teaching how help him pan for gold, as well as how to cook, clean and survive on his own in the Western wilderness, part of which involves O’Neil learning how to use a revolver – learning it so well he becomes a crack shot.

When Johnson is killed by bandits after his gold, O'Neil sets after them seeking vengeance.

The character is now considered to be in the public domain in both the US and UK, as the serial's copyright was never renewed in the United States, and 50 years have passed since its publication here.

Earlier this summer, US publisher BOOM! Studios announced that they were releasing a Six-Gun Gorilla title (Issue 1 is on sale in next month), written by Si Spurrier and drawn by Jeff Stokely. "If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will. He is perfect for this book," says Si of Jeff's work.
Six-Gun Gorilla by Jeff Stokely

In #1, we're introduced to “the Blister” -- a bizarre other-world colonized by humans sometime in the 22nd century, which quickly became a hotly-contested source of fertile land and natural resources long ago exhausted on Earth. In this new frontier, a rogue gunslinger and his companion wander across a wilderness in the grips of a civil war, encountering lawlessness, natives, and perversions of civilization in a world at the crossroads between the past and the future.

The fact that said gunslinger is a bio-surgically modified silverback gorilla toting a pair of enormous revolvers is neither here nor there.

"I love Westerns," Si said of the project earlier this year. "Six-Gun Gorilla is the culmination of all my obsessive theorizing and cultural sampling: a love-letter to the most beautiful, most tragic, most self-fulfillingly-obsolete genre of them all. 

"It’s is not about a Gorilla in a cowboy hat. It features a hole in the wall of reality, a mass-market tv-show based on violent military suicide, a world where the laws of physics don’t work quite right, and - yes. A f****** enormous primate with a f******  enormous gun. And wide shots. And high noon. And deals gone wrong and war and death and frontier life and corrupt men."

The project sounds great and has gained plenty of comic press attention, although part of it, of course, is down to the fact that there's a rival project in the works.

The rival, which has yet to get a publisher, appears to be more in line with the source material, and is described by writer Brian Christgau as “A very big ape with very big guns blowing very big holes in very bad people.”

With a cover by Wes Huffor, Six Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance is drawn by  Argentinian artist Adrian Sibar, best known to fans for his work on DC’s Batgirl, Planet of the Apes for Dark Horse and more.

“I wish BOOM, Si Spurrier and his collaborators the best,” says Christgau. “I genuinely do, but their book is completely different from what I’m doing.

“A few years ago I stumbled across the title while browsing a website about Golden Age and Pulp superheroes,” Christgau says . “I heard that title and BANG! It was like a firecracker went off in my head. Later I was driving to a local shopping mall, listening to the Hawk the Slayer soundtrack of all things, and by the time I parked I already had the entire story.”

“I approached the story as Tarzan in reverse,” Christgau elaborates. “Instead of a human raised by apes in the jungle you’ve got an ape raised by humans in the Old West. The only thing I took from the original story is the title and the basic idea of a gorilla stalking the Old West for the outlaws who murdered his adopted human father. And boy did I run with it.”

Six Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance is the story of Kumba, an intelligent, sharp-shooting circus gorilla who blazes a trail across the Old West in search of the outlaws who murdered the man who raised him. Along the way he joins forces with his human sister, the only one who truly understands him, and Union spy Giuliano Schmidt. Together they uncover a much greater threat.

“What starts out as a small, simple revenge story swells up like a fat lip,” says Christgau.  “When he sets out to hunt down the killers, Kumba and his friends uncover a much wider conspiracy that extends far beyond his one-primate search for vengeance, leaving the destiny of the very country in his hairy hands.”

“It’s not campy, that’s for damn sure,” says Christgau. “I really, strongly believe that this sort of story is best served by being played poker-faced. It has a sense of fun and adventure, but avoids the pitfall of self-parody. Comics and movies have become too self-aware these days. The last thing I wanted to do was slip into empty hipster irony.”

“Adrian has a visual storytelling ability that is great at conveying atmosphere, drama and a sense of the epic,” Christgau enthuses. “Most of all, he invests his work with the one thing so rare in today’s comics: heart. He gives the characters a real sense of soul. I fashion them out of clay and he breathes life into them.”

“Wes’s incredible covers show the book for what it ultimately is: a Western comic. This isn’t a spoof or a ‘re-imagining’. This is a rootin’, tootin’, two-fisted tale of one very pissed off, pistol-packin’ gorilla on the hot trial to vengeance in the Old West! It’s got showdowns, saloon brawls, heroic loners, horse chases – the works. I think people are going to get a real kick out of it.”

Si Spurrier is non-plussed by the rival project. Like Christgau, he wishes him all the best with his version.

"I have great sympathy for Mr Christgrau because – yeah – there really is nothing more annoying-seeming than being pipped to an idea," said last month. "It’s happened to me more times than I can remember. 

"I have nothing but good wishes for him and his project: the art looks lovely and, hey, it’s about a gorilla with a gun. Sold. But the important point (as he explains) is that his vision for 6GG and mine are totally different. I’m no expert on trademark or copyright laws so I won’t speculate about use of the title (except to gently recall that comics with, say, “Dracula” in the title are released by multitudinous publishers every year, aren’t they?) but I see no reason both versions can’t co-exist, under whatever name."

Si points out that there's also at least one other Six-Gun Gorilla project has launched before, written by Colin Bel with art by Tanya Roberts. "Again, it’s a million miles away from the Boom Studios version," says Si. "Too many cooks? Too much broth? ... No. There’s always room for more gun-toting gorillas."

“If [no publisher wants it] I’ll probably just throw the thing online for digital download,” Christgau speculates of his version. “I’m old enough to remember that in 1983 there were two James Bond movies that came out that same summer, one with Roger Moore and another with Sean Connery. Hopefully there’ll be room for two Six-Gun Gorillas!”

While it's all sounding wonderfully amicable, if DC Thomson decide to revive the character in the digital Dandy we'll really be having a Harry Hill summer of brawling gorillas!

• For more information on Six Gun Gorilla #1 written by Si Spurrier and drawn by Jeff Stokely visit:

• For more information on Six Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance, visit for links to the official blog and Facebook page.

View samples of the Six-Gun Gorilla project written by Colin Bel with art by Tanya Roberts

Read more about the original Six-Gun Gorilla story in Wizard here on Jess Nevins web site

Complete Zenith Collection finally on its way from 2000AD

2000AD is to publish a complete - if strictly limited - collection of Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s ground-breaking superhero series Zenith for the first time in December.

The 2000AD marketing team have been teasing fans with the possibility of a collection for weeks, starting, it appears, by wearing Zenith t-shirts at CE2 and running Zenith covers and other art on the comic's official tumblr. The official announcement was embargoed until today.

The limited edition hardback book will only be available from the 2000AD online shop. Restricted in 1,000 copies, it will be available for pre-order from 1 July 2013 and will be published on 1 December.

Although Titan Books published five collections, Zenith has never collected in its entirety before due to copyright issues, so this is a unique opportunity to own the whole of Morrison’s first superhero series in a never-to-be-repeated format.

Zenith is the world’s first “Superbrat” - a vain, self-obsessed, egotistical pop singer whose only interests are girls, partying, and where he is in the charts. Yet he does not realise that there are mighty forces at work which seek to enslave the Earth - and use him to do it!

Zenith on the cover of 2000 AD
prog 792, by Steve Yeowell
Starting in 1987, Zenith heralded the arrival of a talent to 2000AD who has since gone on to become one of the biggest names in comic books. A very cynical British take on superheroes, Zenith showcases themes and ideas found throughout Morrison’s later work for Marvel and DC, and demonstrates his remarkable depth and maturity as a writer.

Steve Yeowell’s striking black and white artwork - based on Zenith's character design by Brendan McCarthy - gave the strip a vitality and rawness that still shines through today.

The collection will feature all four series, or ‘phases’, the latter two of which have never been reprinted - and will also include later stories by Morrison and Mark Millar.

Both Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell have been informed of the exciting plans for The Complete Zenith, and this new edition is being handled with the same respect and close attention to detail that 2000AD gives all its much-praised archive reproductions.

Brendan McCarthy's character design for Zenith
The Complete Zenith is one of more than 30 graphic novels that 2000AD will release in 2013.

The cover of Titan Books
Zenith Book 1
Titan Books published five trade paperbacks of Zenith between 1988 and 1990 collecting Phase I through III but previous attempts to republish the series (including the never collected Phase IV) were prevented by a copyright dispute between the publisher and Morrison.

"Fleetway have no paperwork to confirm their ownership of Zenith," Morrision told David Bishop in 2007 during interviews for David's book Thrill Power Overload, "so I'm currently involved in legal proceedings to clear things up."

(Titan did get as far as printing a Phase IV collection but had to warehouse the entire print run, hoping a deal could be worked out between Morrison and Rebellion. When nothing was forthcoming, Bleeding Cool reported back in 2010 that they pulped the entire run rather than pay the warehouse fees any longer. A few copies did escape, and were sold on eBay.

The Complete Zenith will be available to pre-order 1st July 2013 only from the 2000AD online shop:

Background to the Zenith stories on International Hero

Sunday, 26 May 2013

More Big Commando Books From Prion

15 August 2013 will see Prion Books release four new Commando books, each reprinting six stories from the long running war comic, and bring the number of Commando reprint books released by Prion in 2013 to eight.

With painted covers by the likes of Ian Kennedy and Jordi Penalva, Marching To Glory features British Army stories, The Deadly Sea features Royal Navy stories, Heroes Fly High! features Royal Air Force stories, and finally Rampaging Raiders! features stories of Commando unit missions. Each feature a new introduction by Commando editor Calum Laird.

Unlike the previous three batches of Commando books from Prion which were 208 page paperbacks with three stories each, these titles echo the IPC War, Battle and Air Ace Picture Library titles that were published by Prion in 2010 as they are 400 page softcovers each reprinting six stories. This is the first time that Prion has released Commando titles in this 6 story format.

There are more details of all Prion's Commando titles on the Prion website.

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