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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Don Lawrence: The Invincible Weapon

Here's a treat for you, although a sadly incomplete one. Lurking in one of the boxes I've just emptied were three issues of a Dutch science fiction magazine called Essef which contained a mixture of text stories and comic strips. As well as a reprint of Druillet's Delirius and a number of black & white strips that I believe were original Dutch productions, the centre pages from issue 3 (1977) featured an original 2-page colour strip drawn by Don Lawrence. "Het verschrikkelijke wapen" (The Invincible Weapon) was scripted by Raymond Donkersloot (Robert Zielschot) and ran to at least six episodes; it was missing from issue 9 and then reappeared in issue 10 (1979), possibly with a different scriptwriter (Wout Verkuil)... I'm a little shaky on my facts because all my reference books are packed away.

The strip came to an end incomplete after only 14 pages and it wasn't until the 1990s when Rob van Bavel asked Lawrence to finish it off, coming up with a newly concocted ending which Lawrence and his son, Chuff, completed in 1993. The newly completed strip was published (along with a couple of other scarce Lawrence strips) as a hardcover album in June of that year by Don Lawrence Collection in a limited edition of 1,500 copies.

The strip has never appeared in the UK, so I'm pleased to present a couple of episodes here, from issue 4 (episode 2) and issue 7 (episode 5). A third episode will appear tomorrow, all I have of the strip's original appearance.

Lawrence also drew 3 covers to accompany the strip, the first (in black & white) for issue 3, which I don't have although you can see all ten covers on this site. I grabbed the missing cover to use as our column header.

(* © RAJ Publications)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Comic Cuts - 23 July 2010

By the time you read this there's a good chance that everything in our house will be packed—it needs to be because tomorrow we begin the second phase of moving house, moving fridge, washing machine, tumble dryer and TV, bit of furniture and boxes, boxes and more boxes. But not as many boxes as last weekend. Sunday we move the computers, beds, anything that's left and we're officially in residence at the new house from then on.

We still have a week left on the rent for the old house so we've got a chance to give it a thorough clean and cut the grass and get rid of a few things that are being left behind. Sadly one of my old shelves has given up the ghost and it's very likely that some filing cabinets will have to be let go as part of the down-sizing. Where the contents will live in the new house is a mystery I'm not especially looking forward to figuring out. There's likely to be a few odds and ends popping up on Bear Alley for sale in the next few months as I empty boxes and discover that the contents have no home to go to.

But enough moaning. Everything will sort itself out in the end.

There's a chance that I may not be able to post much next week as we are still trying to sort out the broadband situation at the new house. The Talk Talk customer services person I spoke to said it might take as long as 28 days to transfer the account of the present owner to us, which is a ridiculously long period of time in these days of near instant communication and the fact that it will probably only involve someone pressing a few keys on a keyboard. Hopefully we'll have things sorted within days.

I managed to get something lined up for the weekend, which I hope you'll all enjoy, but failed miserably to get a new strip lined up for next week. So service might be a bit patchy. I'll rerun the monthly upcoming comics list on Monday but it may not  be as fully updated as I would like. Unfortunately I've just managed to delete the recent releases list—d'oh!—so I'll need to see if I can piece it back together again once I've got the computer and internet connection up and running after the move. I don't suppose anyone copied it for their own reference?

I keep stumbling across old newspapers and magazines that I've kept for years without clipping out the bits that I actually want or find interesting and, in most cases, I've completely forgotten about and buried in amongst piles of other paperwork. I stumbled across this 2004 interview with the late Harvey Pekar and Joe Sacco from the Daily Telegraph the other morning.

Or how about an interview with Roy of the Rovers (from Flicks, April 1997)...

More clippings as and when I get a chance to fire up the scanner. 

In the news:

Garen Ewing tells me that Rainbow Orchid is to have a Dutch edition. Published by Silvester Strips in September, it will be followed by volumes two and three in January and May 2011.

The third volume of the series will be published here in the UK around the same time in the spring of 2011. I've just read the second volume and it continues with the high standard of storytelling from the first volume, mixing adventure, action and introspection beautifully. That this is the middle volume of a trilogy doesn't cause it as many problems as some reviews might imply. There's enough action to carry the story along and we learn a little about the backgrounds of some of the story's main characters, including hero, research assistant Julius Chancer, and heroine, actress Lily Lawrence. The book is beautifully paced, with occasional moments of humour (usually supplied by Lily's manager, Nathaniel Crumpole) and plenty of tension as the baddies, led by the villainous Evelyn Crow, stalk every step that our heroes take.

The whole thing ends on a cliff-hanger and I'm looking forward to finding out how it will be resolved in early 2011. And I'm sure the books will do well in Europe where the clear-line style of artwork developed (which is why it is known as ligne claire; those canny French have been studying the ninth art closely for years and have a snappy name for everything): if you're a fan of the old-school art style used by Hergé and Edgar P. Jacobs or the more modern, stylised art of Yves Chaland, you'll love Garen's work on The Rainbow Orchid. Like the work of his European influences, Rainbow Orchid is one of those stories that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, the action and humour broad enough for youngsters to enjoy and the plot complex enough for adults.

The latest volume is available at a knockdown price from Amazon, as is the first volume... worth every penny and more!

The Rainbow Orchid: Volume 1. Egmont ISBN 978-1405248532, 4 August 2009.
The Rainbow Orchid: Volume 2. Egmont ISBN 978-1405250474, 5 July 2010.

Yesterday's mention of Farscape tie-in novelisations prompted an e-mail from Lee Goldberg and Max Allan Collins of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers about the book Tied-In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing edited by Goldberg. I'll let Messrs, Goldberg and Collins introduce the book:
Tie-in novels are books based on pre-existing media properties—like TV shows, movies and games—and they regularly top the national bestseller lists. But as popular as tie-ins books and novelizations are among readers, few people know how the books are written or the rich history behind the hugely successful and enduring genre.

This 75,000 word book is a ground-breaking collection of lively, informative, and provocative essays and interviews by some of the best-selling, and most acclaimed, writers in the tie-in business, offering an inside glimpse into what they do and how they do it. Contributors include Alina Adams, Jeff Ayers, Donald Bain, Burl Barer, Raymond Benson, Max Allan Collins, Greg Cox, William C. Dietz, Tod Goldberg, Robert Greenberger, Nancy Holder, Paul Kupperberg, Jeff Mariotte, Elizabeth Massie, William Rabkin, Aaron Rosenberg, David Spencer, and Brandie Tarvin.
The book is currently available as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords and will shortly be available through the iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. A trade paperback edition, for those of us who like old-fashioned hard copy to read, will be published next month. There's a nice article by Paul Kupperberg on comics tie-ins amongst the articles, something of an interest of mine as anyone who followed my lengthy attempt to chart as many of them as possible will recall.

I think I'd better call it a night. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TV Tie-ins: Farscape

Back in 2000-02, Boxtree (here in the UK) and Tor (in the US) published three tie-in novels based on the Farscape TV series. The same three novels with one interesting difference: the first, entitled Dark Side of the Sun, was announced by Boxtree as by Andrew Dymond, the press release (above) describing Dymond as "an experienced sci-fi author who has written several novels for Boxtree."

But the book itself revealed the author to be Jim Mortimer, although the American edition, published by Tor did indeed appear under the name Andrew Dymond.

Jim Mortimer is, in fact, Jim Mortimore,  better known for his Doctor Who novels but also author of a number of other tie-in titles, including a Babylon 5 tie-in for Boxtree.


Farscape: Dark Side of the Sun by Jim Mortimer. Boxtree 075227234-9, Nov 2000.
Farscape: Dark Side of the Sun by Andrew Dymond. Tor 076534001-1, Sep 2001.

The other books in the series are rather less mysterious. Both Keith R. A. DeCandido and David Bischoff have SF novel pedigrees, although I have to admit I've not read their contributions to the Farscape series.

Farscape: House of Cards by Keith DeCandido. Boxtree 075221917-0, Mar 2001.
Farscape: House of Cards by Keith DeCandido.Tor 081256162-7, May 2001.

Farscape: Ship of Ghosts by David Bischoff. Boxtree 075227233-0, Sep 2001.
Farscape: Ship of Ghosts by David Bischoff. Tor 076534002-X, Jan 2002.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Man for the Throne part 1

Here's a brief strip based on the true story of Henry Bolingbroke, otherwise King Henry IV, and his relationship with Richard II. I'm not sure who the artist is... I wonder if it's someone like Ralph Bruce, who was contributing artwork to Look and Learn around the time this appeared (1968). More tomorrow.

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Trigan Empire in Germany part 2

The following volumes were published in hardcover in Germany. I've no idea to what extent each series ran as I only had a handful of them. The first series ran to at least four volumes published by Paul Rijperman Comics in 1983; the second set was quite a luxury item, a limited (to 1,500), numbered edition, published by Norbert Hethke Verlag in around 1989 (vols. 1, 2 and 4 shown).

(* Trigan Empire © IPC Media)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Trigan Empire in Germany

I'm sneakily splitting this into two parts so that I can cover the whole weekend while we're moving. The first volume here is from a 1977 run while the remainder are from a series published by Hethke Verlag beginning in 1989. I've only seen up to volume 14 (1992) but the series continued until at least volume 34. The first volume on display (i.e. the second image below) seems not to have been numbered and was published in 1991, reprinting the first Trigan story, but is clearly part of the same series.

(* Trigan Empire © IPC Media)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comic Cuts - 16 July 2010

We're finally on our way tomorrow and despite weeks of preparation and packing I can honestly say that I'm neither prepared nor packed!

Around 6.30 pm Monday evening I had a phone call from The Guardian asking if I could put together an obituary for Harvey Pekar double-quick. I managed to get it started around 9.30 and had it completed at 2 am Tuesday morning, at which point I crawled off to bed. Got to sleep around 3 am and woke up six hours later. A couple of cups of coffee later, I was back onto it, revising a little and trying to trim it down as it was overlength. Sent in a version at 10.30 am, received an edited version to check at 12.20 pm and the whole thing was online at the Guardian website just before two in the afternoon and in the newspaper the next day.

Which was fine because I was out of the house and heading over to our new home at 11.30 am for a couple of hours scampering around with a tape measure. The big worry now is that I have a nasty feeling I won't be able to get all of our shelving into the new place, so my first task after the move will be to make a decision on what has to go and what I can't live without. Some hard decisions are going to have to be made, although I've proved to myself that I can do it when push comes to shove. Two more bags of magazines went out for recycling yesterday reducing two comic boxes to one comic box (they were old copies of Wizard which, frankly, I haven't looked at for 15 years and probably would never have looked at again).

Since announcing my move I've been hearing dozens of stories of other people doing the same thing, including one guy who recently took 3,500 magazines down to the local council dump and skipped the whole lot. I prefer a more human form of recycling, so there might be some bargains to be had in August and September once I sort out what books I can live without.

Next week is going to be frantic and, at this precise moment, I've no idea what I can do for Bear Alley. Hopefully I'll have something running as I enjoy putting these columns together and the contacts and comments I get from readers. The one thing that will almost certainly fall apart is correspondence. If you have any questions, it might be best to leave it a couple of weeks as I'm already falling badly behind and there's a good chance that, once the computer is moved I'll be incommunicado until we can get a decent internet connection and the wireless set up at our new home. I may also have to set up a temporary e-mail contact address.

I'm writing this in the wee hours of Friday morning having just put together a draft of another obituary (for SF writer James P. Hogan). The Al Williamson obituary (published yesterday) was my 33rd obituary for The Guardian, and they've given me my own page! At the back of my mind I have an idea for a novel about an impoverished freelance writer who deliberately goes around bumping people off so that he can write up their obituaries.

A quick round-up of news: I heard today from Geoff that Book Palace Books are to publish Wulf the Briton. This is one of the jewels in the British comics' crown and has been on my wish list of strips that need reprinting for years (along with Heros the Spartan and a complete set of Steel Claw). The details are still to be worked out but it will run to over 300 pages, full colour and will hopefully be published in a volume the same size as the original Express Weekly. Best guess for a publication date is "late 2010" at the moment but, now that the contract has been signed, things are hopefully going to move pretty quickly.

I should add that the cover at the top of the column is only provisional and not the final cover. I just needed something to tease you.

I've also heard from Rob van Bavel of Don Lawrence Collection that the last three Storm volumes (10, 11 and 12) are heading to the printers and should be back at the end of July and ready for shipping out to customers the first week of August. Just what I need: a trio of deluxe hardcovers to find space on my shelves for!