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Friday, July 31, 2009

Comic Cuts

A week of ups and downs comes to a happy close. Accentuate the positive and all that... let's talk about the ups. We don't have to move house. For a while it was a distinct possibility but it looks like we'll be staying put for the foreseeable future. A couple of other problems and potential problems have also been resolved or are in the process of being resolved. Mostly personal stuff that doesn't have a place here.

All this to explain that I'm planning to take a couple of days off, so I probably won't post anything over the weekend unless the urge becomes too great. I'm taking a couple of days off. And I've got permission.

The proofing of the two Frank Bellamy books (Complete Swift Years and World War 1) is done, although we've still got to get a proof from the printers. But that brings my role in the books to an end so all I've got to do is wait (like everyone else) for the printed copies to turn up.

And over at Bear Alley Books we're announcing our next pair of books. Go look. There's nothing more to see here...

Sergio Toppi part 5

(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sergio Toppi part 4

(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sergio Toppi part 3

(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Francisco Hidalgo (1929-2009)

Francisco Hidalgo, Franco-Spanish artist and photographer, died in Paris on 25 July at the age of 80.

Born Francisco Hidalgo Bartau in Jaén, Andalusia, on 17 May 1929, Hidalgo studied at the schools of fine arts in Madrid and Barcelona before finishing his education in Paris. He was a youthful fan of comics, publishing his first, La Secta de Tong Khan (Marco, 1943), at the age of 14. Other early strips included "Ted Grangton" (Mundo Infantil, 1945) and "John Harrington" (El Gran Chicos, 1947), "Dick Sanders" (El Champeón), "El Lobo" (Victoria) and "Skilled" (El Coyote) (all 1948). He also participated in the animated film Garbancito de la Mancha (1945), directed by Arturo Moreno.

Hidalgo became the main artist of "Doctor Niebla" [Doctor Fog] which first appeared in El Campeon from issue 17 (1948). The character, based on the crime novels of Rafael González and scripted initially by Silver Kane (Francisco González Ledesma) and later by Victor Mora, appeared irregularly in various publications, Super Pulgarcito, Pulgarcito Almanaque (1953) and Suplemento de historietas de el DDT, the last appearing in 1959. He continued to create and draw other characters, including "Bing Fisher" (Historietas, 1949) "Dick Tobor" (Alcotán, 1951; El Coyote, 1952), 3 issues of El Inspector Dan (Bruguera, 1951), private eye "Ángel Audaz" (El Coyote, 1953), Al Dany (Cliper, 1953) and "Marga, la hechicera" (El Coyote, 1954).

In 1954, he moved to France, although continued to contribute to Spanish comic Bisonte Gráfico (Dan). His early work in France appeared in Spirou and Pierrot and Coers Vaillant. At the same time, he worked via A.L.I. for the British comic Comet, drawing 3 episodes of "Buffalo Bill" in 1955 alongside other Spanish imports Jesus Blasco, Eugenio Giner and Romeu.

In France he was best known as Yves Roy, under which name he took over the long-running "Bob Mallard" strip for Vaillant, where he also created the strip "Teddy Ted". His work appeared in numerous French comics, including Tintin, Lisette, Bayard, Pilote, Chouchou and Record.

In 1963, Hidalgo began photographing some of the world's great cities and, by the end of the 1960s, had left the comics' field to concentrate on photography. He worked for several agencies, producing images for Gamma, Image Bank and Getty Images as well as producing books of photographs of Paris, New York, London, Venice and Peru. His work was exhibited in Paris, Madrid, New York, London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Amongst the awards he received were the Obélisque d'or au salon mondial Photokina at Cologne in 1974 and the Lauréat du prix du meilleur livre photo at the festival of Arles in 1976.

Photographic books
Paris, text by Geneviève Pons. Paris, AGEP, 1976.
La Défense. Marseille, AGEP, 1979.
Venise, préface by Luc Senanque. Marseille, AGEP, 1980.
London. London & New York, Proteus, 1981.
New York. London, Proteus, 1981.
Oro del Perú, text by Aurelio Miró Quesada Soso. Lima, Banco de Lima, 1981; Boulogne, Éditions Delroisse, 1981.
Valparaiso, text by Jaime Valdés. Boulogne, Éditions Delroisse, 1981.
San Agustín, text Luis Duque Gómez. Boulogne-Billancourt, Éditions Delroisse, 1982.
St. Maarten. Boulogne-Billancourt, Éditions Delroisse, 1984.
Propos d'opéra. Images de la Bastille, with others. Paris, Establissement Public de l'Opéra de la Bastille, 1989.

Bear Alley Books: announcement on Friday

The second clue to the Bear Alley Books title that will be announced on Friday... don't forget, this is just for fun. No prizes, but hopefully a nice feeling of satisfaction if you've recognised the title from our two clues.

Sergio Toppi part 2

(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sergio Toppi

I'm not sure when I first stumbled across the artwork of Sergio Toppi but I believe it was a volume of Un uomo un'avventura [One man, one adventure] in Italian, which I'd become interested in because Gino D'Antonio and Ferdinando Tacconi (both regulars in British comics) were contributors. I immediately became a fan—his layouts and use of colour is astonishing.

Born in 1932, Toppi only became involved in comics in 1966, working for Il Corriere dei Piccoli rather than as a young artist working through one of the studios or agencies, which is, I suspect, why he did not contribute heavily to the UK market. Sadly his only contributions were a couple of strips in Eagle Annual in the early 1970s, probably reprinted from Il Corriere dei Ragazzi. Or so I thought...

I was really pleased to recently discover that Toppi had contributed original strips to the magazine Tell Me Why—and in colour. So over the next few days I'll be presenting all 10 of Toppi's contributions, which, to my knowledge, constitute his complete original UK output. If you've not come across Toppi before you're in for a treat.

(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm Marvelman... I'm back!! *Updated

"The biggest news of Comic Con International in San Diego was revealed moments ago and jaws are still on the floor—the world-renowned super hero MARVELMAN is now part of the Marvel Comics family."

So reads the Marvel Comics press release posted at around 9 o'clock last (Friday) night. Someone, somewhere has finally waded through the legal tangles surrounding the character and nailed down with some confidence who actually owns the rights. As it turns out, Marvel have struck a deal with Mick Anglo, now 93, and Anglo's representatives, Emotiv Records, a Glasgow-based company who purchased Mick Anglo Limited, a company incorporated by Anglo on 21 August 1954 for the purpose of "Artistic and literary creation", possibly around the time that Emotiv Records and Products Limited was incorporated (11 February 2009). Interesting to note that, according to UK Data, an application to have the company struck from the register (not as sinister as it sounds) was made on 16 July. Emotiv's involvement with Anglo dates back to at least 2006 when Jon Campbell of Emotiv was involved in putting together the documentary about Marvelman. A website was set up in 2007 which still announces that Who Stole Marvelman a.k.a. Miracleman? is "coming soon" to DVD.

"It is an honor to work with Mick Anglo to bring his creation to a larger audience than ever before," says Dan Buckley, CEO & Publisher, Print, Animation & Digital Media, Marvel Entertainment Inc. "Fans are in for something special as they discover just what makes Marvelman such an important character in comic book history."

The press release quotes Mick Anglo as saying, "I did not think it would ever happen. It's a wonderful thing to see my creation finally back."

At present, Marvel have officially announced the release of a Marvelman poster drawn by Joe Quesada (above) and limited edition Marvelman t-shirts. All the product announced so far has the old-style 1950s Marvelman logo.

What happens next will likely be revealed over weeks and months rather than days. "This is day one," Joe Quesada told CBR.

"Very few things in all my years as Editor-in-Chief and all my years in comics has thrilled me to the point that this has," says Quesada. "[Marvelman] has finally found a home where it can get published and we can see new stories... What sort of incarnation he will take within Marvel publishing? That's stuff that we'll discuss in the future."

Update: Sunday 26 July

It seems clear from comments made by Mark Buckingham that not all of the creators of the Eclipse era Miracleman issues knew of the deal prior to the announcement by Marvel. "Let me put it like this: I was just told, 'It would be a good idea if you came along to the Cup O Joe panel,' and that's about as much as I knew," Buckingham is quoted as saying.

However, the artist is as excited by the new opportunity as many fans are. "Obviously, for Neil and I this is a wonderful opportunity for us to finally get the material that we were doing back in the early '90s back in print again because it's been 16 years since our last issue hit the stands. Beyond anything else, we can get that stuff back in print now. There's material that was produced that's never been published, so from a fan's point of view that's fantastic. There's more Gaiman and Buckingham just waiting for printing already."

(* Marvelman © Marvel Entertainment—something I thought I'd never write.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

John Ryan (1921-2009)

John Ryan, artist, author and animator, the creator of Captain Pugwash, whose piratical adventures originally appeared in Eagle, and animated children's shows Mary, Mungo & Midge and Noah's Ark, died at the Cottage Hospital in Rye, East Sussex, on Wednesday, 22 July, aged 88.

John Gerald Christopher Ryan was born in Rintoul Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 March 1921, the fourth son of Sir Anthony Ryan. Because of his father's work with the diplomatic service, Ryan spent much of his early life in Turkey and Morocco, where his father was posted as consul-general. Although it meant an unsettled childhood, Ryan never regretted it as he was able to use the experiences in his later work. It was in Rabat, where his bedroom window overlooked the Moroccan coast that he became interested in pirates. A keen reader, he wrote his first book at the age of seven, selling the finished work—The Adventures of Tommy Brown—to his mother for tuppence.

Ryan was educated at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, a Roman Catholic public school run by the Benedictine monks. At school his art teacher was Father Sylvester Fryer, who had been a Fleet Street cartoonist before the First World War, which inspired Ryan to make a career in Art. His artistic talent was obvious to other teachers, including his English teacher, poet Robin Atthill, who allowed him to doodle in class. His doodles and writing led to the publication of a "scurrilous" magazine at the school.

He was due to move on to art college when the Second World War broke out and instead joined the Lincolnshire Regiment, spending three and a half years in Burma fighting the Japanese, rising to the rank of Captain. During this time he drew cartoons for army newspapers, many of them unflattering portraits of bombastic officers.

Demobbed in 1945, he resumed his art studies, attending Regent Street Polytechnic, where he met his future wife, Priscilla Blomfield. In 1948 he became an assistant art master at Harrow, a post he would hold until 1955.

Ryan married in January 1950 and, as a wedding present, a friend introduced him to the Rev. Marcus Morris, who was about to launch Eagle. Morris engaged him to write and draw a humorous two bank strip, ‘‘Captain Pugwash’’ which appeared in the first issue. The strip introduced the pompous, cowardly pirate captain of the Black Pig and many of the elements that would later become famous (including Pugwash's nemesis, Cut-Throat Jake), but it was not an initial success, the humour thought to be too juvenile for the average Eagle reader. It lasted only 19 episodes.

By the time Pugwash came to an end, Ryan was already working on another strip. It was his wife who suggested ‘‘a really stupid, handsome detective’’ and drew the first sketch of ‘‘Harris Tweed: Extra Special Agent’’, who was to run in Eagle for almost 12 years.

Tweed became a caricature of ‘‘all the bonehead majors’’ Ryan had encountered in the War. He was a blundering incompetant who owed all his success as an extra special agent to the ingenuity of the boy who assisted him. The ‘boy’ was created for the readers to identify with and was the forerunner of Tom the cabin boy who filled a similar role for Captain Pugwash when he returned in children’s books and on television in the late 1950s. Tom, incidentally, was not in the original Eagle strip, although Mrs. Pugwash was. She was dropped in later incarnations of the story.

Ryan created ‘‘Lettice Leefe: The Greenest Girl in the School’’ for Eagle’s companion, Girl, and the popular strip continued in Princess when Girl was merged in 1964, a total of 16 years.

With two popular strips running, Ryan returned to his favourite pirate and created his first picture book. It was rejected by a dozen publishers before being accepted by The Bodley Head in 1956. Ryan also made several contacts at the BBC including Kevin Sheldon, a children’s television producer, whom he approached with the idea to make semi-animated shows using cut-out figures. The BBC commissioned a short pilot film starring Pugwash which led to a series of 58 black & white episodes, the first broadcast on 22 October 1957.

The films were made by Ryan and a small team using cardboard figures with movable elements (arms, legs, mouths) operated by cardboard levers which allowed the episodes to be shot in real time. Ryan drew all the characters and backgrounds required for the 50 or so 'captions' (as he called them) needed per episode. These were coloured and cut out by Sara Cole and Hazel Martingell. With Ryan, his wife and Cole operating the characters (glued, taped on pinned to the background as required), the action was lit and filmed by Bob Bura and John Hardwick on 16mm film, as the characters were moved in time to a pre-recorded soundtrack by actor Peter Hawkins. In this fashion, it took Ryan only two weeks to produce each episode.

Pugwash became a huge success and, after a brief run of a few months in Swift (1958-59), began an 8-year run as a 3-frame strip in the Radio Times (1960-68); further children's books appeared from Bodley Head.

Ryan's next TV series was Mary, Mungo & Midge, created for the BBC's "Watch With Mother" in 1969. Unlike most children's shows, Mary lives in a busy town, reflecting the real-life shift from rural to urban population centres of the intended audience, many of whom were growing up in tower blocks similar to the one in which Mary lived. The stories were narrated by newsreader Richard Baker, with Ryan's daughter Isabel playing Mary. Only 13 episodes were made.

Ryan had created "Sir Boldasbrass" for Swift in 1954 and, in 1972, a similar character featured in The Adventures of Sir Prancelot, following the exploits of Prancelot as he makes his way to the Crusades. The story was told, five nights a week, over 32 episodes, voiced once again by Peter Hawkins. Ryan later said of the character, "I came up with Sir Prancelot but he isn't as interesting [as Pugwash] to me, he's a man funny things happen to, he doesn't make them happen."

A further series of 30 colour Captain Pugwash stories were produced in 1974-75, each taking about three weeks to film. Horatio Pugwash became a huge star, the shows being broadcast abroad and his storybooks translated into foreign languages. Videos and audiobooks featuring Pugwash appeared in the 1980s as well as new books and strip cartoons.

Ryan stepped in front of the camera for his next series. The Ark Stories, broadcast in 1981 on ITV, was introduced by Ryan as he worked in his studio, surrounded by toy animals who were representative of the animals who were aboard Noah's Ark. Ryan would then begin a sketch which would lead into the story which he narrated with the aid of Percy Edwards providing animal noises.

Whilst most of Ryan's cartoons are full of witty details clearly aimed at adults, all his work has been for young children, with the exception of the weekly topical cartoons he drew for over forty years for the Catholic Herald beginning in 1963. Highly protective of his creations, Ryan sued the Sunday Correspondent in 1990 and the Guardian in 1991, forcing them to apologise for repeating an urban legend that the Pugwash cartoons had featured characters named Seaman Staines and Master Bates and, for this reason, the show would never be repeated by the BBC. Ryan was paid damages and his legal costs.

Pugwash, with a number of new characters and settings, was revived in 1998 by John Cary Films with James Saxon providing the voice of the cowardly captain, although the series remained faithful to the old style despite being produced via computers rather than the original cardboard generated imaging.

Speaking of his long association with the character, Ryan said, "I'm a lucky man, because I've managed to earn a living by doing what I love: drawing and painting every day! And I've been supported by my wonderful wife, children and grandchildren, who've helped keep Pugwash afloat, sailing the high seas for 57 years! No matter how many other characters I create, I always seem to come back to the Captain. Pugwash has two qualities which I believe are present in all of us to some degree: Cowardice and Greed. It is the conflict between these opposing emotions which make the stories work. It may be that the Captain is popular because we all have something in common with him. What would YOU do if you saw a delicious toffee on the nose of a crocodile?"

As well as his many books, Ryan also exhibited at the Royal Academy, at Trafford Gallery, and at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Much of his work is held on permanent loan at the Centre for the Study of Cartoons in the University of Kent at Canterbury. He was also a popular visiting artist at schools and libaries where he would, drawing at a flip chart while explaining how his books were written and films were made.

Ryan's last regular cartoon series, featuring "Cardinal Grotti" and set in the Vatican, appeared in the Catholic Herald. Five collections of his Catholic Herald cartoons appeared, and Ryan, a devout Catholic, also wrote a number of religiously themed books for children.

Ryan, who worked in a studio in Kensington for many years, moved to Rye in 1987. He painted backdrops for the Christmas pantomimes performed by the Rye Players and continued to draw cartoons and write until the very end, although slowed by a stroke he suffered in the late 1990s.

Obituaries: BBC News (24 July); Daily Telegraph (24 July), The Times (25 July), The Guardian (25 July), The Independent (30 July).

PUBLICATIONS

Illustrated Books
Captain Pugwash. London, Bodley Head, 1957.
Pugwash Aloft. London, Bodley Head, 1958.
Pugwash and the Ghost Ship. London, Bodley Head, 1962.
The Church Flippant. Cartoons on an ecclesiastical theme. Southend-on-Sea, Mayhew-McCrimmon, 1972.
Pugwash in the Pacific. London, Bodley Head, 1973.
The John Ryan Ecclesiastical Fun Book. Great Wakering, Mayhew-McCrimmon, 1973.
Rolling in the Aisles. Cartoons on an ecclesiastical theme. Great Wakering, Mayhew-McCrimmon, 1975.
Captain Pugwash and the Elephant. London, Collins, 1976.
Captain Pugwash and the New Ship. London, Collins, 1976.
Captain Pugwash and the Ruby. London, Collins, 1976.
Captain Pugwash and the Treasure Chest. London, Collins, 1976.
Pugwash and the Sea Monster. London, Bodley Head, 1976.
Pugwash the Smuggler. London, Bodley Head, 1976.
Faith, Hope & Parity. More cartoons on an ecclesiastical theme. Great Wakering, Mayhew-McCrimmon, 1977.
The Captain Pugwash Cartoon Book. London, Bodley Head, 1977.
Dodo's Delight, or, Doodle and the state secrets. London, Deutsch, 1977.
Doodle's Homework, or, The fuddi-duddi-dodo's great mathematical experiment. London, Deutsch, 1978.
The Story of Tiger-Pig. London, Odhams Books, 1978.
Tiger-Pig at the Circus. London, Odhams Books, 1978.
All Aboard!. London, Beaver Books, 1979.
Crockle Saves the Ark. London, Beaver Books, 1979.
Pugwash and the Buried Treasure. London, Bodley Head, 1980.
Crockle Takes a Swim. London, Hamlyn, 1980.
The Haunted Ark. London, Hamlyn, 1980.
The Weather Forecast. London, Hamlyn, 1980.
Roll-Call on the Ark. London, Hamlyn, 1980.
Crockle Adrift. London, Hamlyn, 1981.
The Floating Jungle. London, Hamlyn, 1981.
Crockle and the Kite. London, Hamlyn, 1981.
Mr Noah's Birthday. London, Hamlyn, 1981.
Pugwash and the Fancy Dress Party. London, Bodley Head, 1982.
The Frozen Ark. London, Hamlyn, 1982.
Action Stations!. London, Hamlyn, 1982.
The Quest for the Golden Handshake (Pugwash). London, Bodley Head, 1983.
Pugwash and the Wreckers. London, Bodley Head, 1984.
Pugwash and the Midnight Feast. London, Bodley Head, 1984.
The Battle of Bunkum Bay (Pugwash). London, Bodley Head, 1984.
Believe It Or Not! A Christmas fun book. Great Wakering, McCrimmon, 1985.
Frisco and Fred. Glasgow, Drew, 1985.
The Secret of San Fiasco (Pugwash). London, Bodley Head, 1985.
One Dark and Stormy Night. The legend of Saint Christopher. London, Bodley Head, 1986.
A Bad Year for Dragons. The legend of Saint George. London, Bodley Head, 1986.
Frisco & Fred and the Space Monster. Glasgow, Drew, 1986.
Mabel and the Tower of Babel. Oxford, Lion, 1990.
Sir Cumference and Little Daisy / Sir Cumference and Clever Dick. London, Young Piper, 1991.
Captain Pugwash and the Pigwig, and other stories. London, Viking Children's Books, 1991.
Captain Pugwash and the Huge Reward. A tale of smuggling in the ancient town of Sinkport. Rye, Gungarden Books, 1991.
Jonah. A whale of a tale. Oxford, Lion, 1992.
Fatso the Fathead (Baron Fatsopilus Fitzpugwash). London, Bodley Head, 1993.
Soldier Sam and Trooper Ted. The battle that never was. London, Pan Macmillan Children's Books, 1994.
Admiral Fatso Fitzpugwash. London, Viking, 1994.
Giant-Killer. David and Goliath, the untold story. Oxford, Lion, 1995.
Mudge the Smuggler. London, Macmillan Children's, 1995.
The Very Hungry Lions. A story of Daniel. Oxford, Lion, 1996.
Murder in the Churchyard. The story of Rye's most infamous crime retold in pictures. East Sussex, Gungarden Books, 1997.
Captain Pugwash and the Birthday Party. London, Puffin, 1997.

Omnibus editions
Pugwash Ahoy! Four swashbuckling adventures (two books in slipcase, contains: Pugwash and the Sea Monster, Pugwash and the Buried Treasure, Pugwash the Smuggler, Pugwash in the Pacific). London, Octopus, 1984.
Pugwash and the Mutiny and Pugwash and the Fancy-Dress Party. Harmondsworth, Puffin, 1985.
Pugwash and the Midnight Feast and Pugwash and the Wreckers. Harmondsworth, Puffin, 1986.
The Captain Pugwash Collection (contains: The Secret of San Fiasco, The Battle of Bunkum Bay, The Quest of the Golden Handshake). London, Bodley Head, 1992.
Captain Pugwash Pirate Stories (contains: Captain Pugwash, Pugwash the Smuggler, Pugwash and the Buried Treasure). London, Cresset Press, 1992.

Illustrated
Piper's Tale. Rory's story of the Napoleonic Wars by Peter Stewart-Richardson. Cinque Port Press for Army Benevolent Fund, 1991.
Catholic Trivia. Our forgotten heritage by Mark Elvins. London, HarperCollins Religious, 1992.

OTHERS

Others (Captain Pugwash related)
Captain Pugwash Annual 1976. London, World Distributors, 1975.
Hot Chocolate, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
A Sticky Moment, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Stowaway Sheep, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Painting Contest, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Boat Race, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Vanishing Ship, adapted by Sally Byford. London, Red Fox, 2000.
Digging for Diamonds, adapted by Sue Mongredien, illus. by Ian Hillyard. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Treasure Trail, adapted by Sue Mongredien, illus. by Ian Hillyard. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Double-Dealing Duchess, adapted by Sue Mongredien, illus. by Ian Hillyard. London, Red Fox, 2000.
The Portobello Plague, adapted by Sue Mongredien, illus. Ian Hillyard. London, Red Fox, 2000.
Best Pirate Jokes by Ian Rylett. London, Red Fox, 2000.

Others (Mary, Mungo & Midge related)
Mary, Mungo and Midge Annual. London, Polystyle Publications, 1969-74.
Seven Stories About Mary, Mungo and Midge by Judy Lowe. London, Dean & Sons, 1970.
Midge's Boat Trip, retold by Daphne Jones. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1971.
Mary's Letter, retold by Daphne Jones. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1971.

Others (Sir Prancelot related)
The Sir Prancelot Annual [written by Jocelyn Phillips, illus. Toni Goffe]. London, Purnell, 3 vols, 1972-75.
Sir Prancelot in The Seige. 1972.
The Voyage of Sir Prancelot: Sunken Treasure and other sea adventures, told by Jane Morey. London, Collins, 1972.
The Adventures of Sir Prancelot (by Jane Morey, illus. Stewart):
__1 Sir Prancelot Goes to Sea. London, Collins, 1972.
__2 Count Otto the Blot. London, Collins, 1972.
__3 The Haunted Watch Tower. London, Collins, 1972.
__4 Watch the Dickie Bird. London, Collins, 1972.
__5 Splash Landing. London, Collins, 1972.
__6 The Caliph's Carpet. London, Collins, 1972.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Comic Cuts

A short week as I was late with the last update but I've got to say it has been a good one. A lot of different projects are coming together. Firstly, over at Book Palace Books, we're well underway with the proofing of the Frank Bellamy's World War 1 book, which we've had completely re-set as the text looked very poor when lifted from the original pages. As the time of writing, we've about 20 pages still to reset.

At Bear Alley Books I'm beginning the run-up to announcing our next pair of titles. It's a two-volume set that reprints a complete strip and I've got to say that it's another lost classic. Quirky, sometimes downright bizarre, storylines... funny, sometimes unintentionally... it's got robots, neanderthal giants, an evil mastermind and the hero punches out a leopard! It's British comics at their best—and weirdest!

And the titles are...

Well, I'll tell you that next Friday. I'm running a little teaser below—just for fun. There's no prize for guessing what the strip is and I hope the folks who spot what it is will keep it to themselves until next week. I'll run a second clue on Tuesday or Wednesday which should give it away to a lot of people. If you're still in the dark, I'll reveal all on the 31st.

Don't forget, "Eagles Over the Western Front" continues its run over the weekend.

(* Frank Bellamy illustration from Frank Bellamy's World War 1 © Look and Learn; teaser image by Bill Bradshaw. Thanks Bill!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Comic Cuts extra

A couple of items from the "comics not as comics" files...

Artist Dave Gibbons is teaming up with graffiti artist Chu to stage an exhibition with a difference on Tuesday, 28 July. The Southbank will play host to the two as they work alongside each other to transform the Skate Park, below the Southbank Centre, with a series of Watchmen-based scenes and characters. It should be quite an experience. The event begins at 2pm and runs until 5pm.

Mind you, they'll have to go some to beat this, a group of four graffiti artists hired by Paramount to help publicise the West End premier of the Watchmen movie last March.



The Watchmen movie--the theatrical version--is available on DVD and Bluray in the UK from 27 July. Following a limited theatrical release, the Director's Cut is out on DVD today (21 July) in the USA with an additional 24 minutes of footage. The USA also gets an Ultimate Edition of 5 discs in December, with the "Tales of the Black Freighter" stitched into the Director's Cut, commentary from director Zack Snyder and Dave Gibbons and loads of additional extras. Sadly, no release date has been set even for the Director's Cut in the UK. In fact, the Director's Cut has yet to be submitted to the BBFC for classification, so we might be in for a long wait.

More comics that aren't comics: Big Finish are producing four more Judge Dredd audio adventures under the title Judge Dredd: Crime Chronicles, which will be released on CD and for download between October 2009 and January 2010. The four stories (Stranger Than Truth, Blood Will Tell, The Devil's Playground and Double Zero) are written by David Bishop, Jonathan Clements and two by James Swallow. All feature Toby Longworth as Dredd, reprising his role from Big Finish's earlier series of Dredd adventures and Louise Jameson guests as Judge Anderson in the fourth story.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Comic Cuts

Another week has slipped by. I swear they're getting shorter. Thanks to the miracle of scheduled posting, Bear Alley has had something new appearing as regular as clockwork—and I hope you enjoyed the Wanderings of Ulysses—while I've been jumping around like one of those circus plate spinners trying not to let anything slow down and drop to the floor.

I'm still devoting most of my waking hours to Bear Alley Books. Word is definitely spreading and orders are still creeping in. The good news for everyone who has pre-ordered is that everything is still on schedule. We've had a few hiccups (what new venture doesn't?) but nothing that we've not been able to resolve pretty quickly.

We've added a second payment option to the Bear Alley Books site. Nochex is a tried and tested secure system for credit card payments for those of you who, for whatever reason, aren't keen to use PayPal. They also take a couple of different cards.

I should have some news about the next couple of titles soon. I'm just getting my ducks in a row before making an announcement but things are starting to come together nicely. And I've just borrowed a load of comics from which I'm hoping to compile at least two more volumes for publication this year. That brings the total to seven volumes in active preparation. At some point I'm going to need a holiday.

Below is the first part of a new "Eagles Over the Western Front" yarn. As the tale is rather short at only three parts, I'm going to run two stories consecutively, so the episodes will run over the weekend. I've already got something lined up for next week which is a bit different.

(* inspired by Lew Stringer's recent post about Summer Specials, our column header is the cover for the first ever Eagle Holiday Special from 1962.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our Little Friends by Harold Tamblyn-Watts

As a complete change of pace, I was recently received some scans of a small book drawn by Harold Tamblyn-Watts. The scans were sent by Michael Breeze whose family were friends of the Tamblyn-Watts's and are from a previously unrecorded book. I've not been able to find any information about it. The publisher, Rylee Ltd. was based in Birmingham and published from the late 1940s on, their output including a number of classic children's novels and stories in the 1960s and early 1970s, at which time they were using a London address. I'm reasonably sure this book dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

(* My thanks to Michael Breeze for the scans.)

Starblazer: In-jokes

Starblazer: In-Joke Credits
by Jeremy Briggs

Even before the current exhibition in the Lamb Gallery in Dundee, Starblazer was one of those titles that we seem to keep returning to, be it here on Bear Alley with Steve's memories of it, or on downthetubes with the ongoing foreign additions to our issue listing and the interviews with the two Bill's, Graham and McLoughlin, editor and sub-editor of the title. Even so little snippets that are worth mentioning continue to come to light.

Firstly a little background. Starblazer was DC Thomson's science fiction and fantasy digest sized title which began in 1979 on the back of the popularity of the first Star Wars film the year before and which ran until its final issue at the beginning of 1991. It was conceived by Thomson editor Jack Smith and he began the title with Bill McLoughlin as his deputy. Jack Smith retired in 1985 after which Bill McLoughlin continued on with new editor Bill Graham. Starblazer, like all DC Thomson titles of the time, did not credit its writers and artists let alone its editorial team however that does not mean that they did not get their names into it.

Being a science-fiction and fantasy title it was rare for the Starblazer covers to depict real places. However there were a few - issue 58 Pyramid Power had the Sphinx at Giza, issue 101 Forgotten World had the Forth Bridge near Edinburgh, issue 115 Liberty Goddess had the Statue of Liberty in New York while issue 155 Return To Darkland had Tower Bridge in London. Also with a London cover, issue 105 The Conquerors Of Earth showed a post-apocalyptic London street complete with shops and an underground station painted by regular Starblazer cover artist Keith Robson. Now since shops need names it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary for Robson to name one of the shops "Smith" since it is one of the most common British surnames however since he named another shop "McLoughlin and Co" I think that we can safely assume that the Smith is for Jack Smith while the McLoughlin is for Bill McLoughlin.

Issue 276 Outguard was one of the last issues of Starblazer when the title was winding down to its 281st and last issue. The internal art is by Alan Burrows and when one of the main characters needs to obtain some weapons he goes to a weapons dealership which is run by W McLoughlin and A Crook. Bill McLoughlin is obviously really William hence the "W" and we are more than happy to point out that he is not a crook. Did the writer, the late Alan Hemus, include those names in his script or did Alan Burrows add them? Without seeing the original script pages in DC Thomson's archive we may never really know for sure.

However one script that we know for certain had the production team names in it was for issue 258 Computer Killer. One of the Mikal R Kayn detective stories, the internal art for Computer Killer was by Vila and it includes a frame in which there is a list of murdered people. Top of the list is W McLoughin and second is W Graham which means that even Bill Graham got his name in print.

So how do we know for certain that the two Bill's names were included in the script and not added later? Easy. That script was written by Steve Holland.

[It was indeed. And, yes, I did put both Bills in the script as victims of the titular assassin. I think it was a coincidence that this was my last ever Starblazer
Steve]

(* Starblazer
© DC Thomson and Son Ltd.)