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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Simon Heneage (1930-2011)

Simon Heneage, co-founder of the Cartoon Art Trust and the Cartoon Museum and co-author of Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980, died on 14 May, aged 80.

Born Simon Anthony Helyar Walker-Heneage in London in 1930, he served with the Grenadier Guards before taking a degree in history at Cambridge. Heneage spent 21 years in the wine trade before founding Potter Books and Pendomer Press, publishing limited editon monogrraph on illustrators. His fascination with caricatures and cartoons led him to build one of the biggest collections of comic art and books in the UK. In 1989 he helped set up the Cartoon Art Trust, a charity to raise money for a permanent Cartoon Museum, which was finally opened in Little Russell Street in 2006. The Museum houses the Heneage Library 5,000 books on cartoons, comics, caricature and animation and the Cartoon Art Trust Awards include the Heneage Cup for Lifetime Achievement.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children.

Obituaries: Daily Telegraph (31 May)

PUBLICATIONS

Books
Simon Sime. Master of the Mysterious, with Henry Ford. London, Thames & Hudson, 1980.
The Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980, with Mark Bryant. Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1994.
Heath Robinson's Helpful Solutions, with an introduction by Graeme Garden. London, Cartoon Museum, 2007.

Others

The Comic Cruickshank, edited by Mark Bryant; introduction by Heneage. London, Bellew Pub., 1992.

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 16

(* © Evening News)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Eagle Award for Commando

The MCM London Expo was held over the weekend while I was struggling to get my computer back up and running (grrrrr!). Rich Johnston's Bleeding Cool has the full list of winners, which includes a win for Commando in the Favourite British Comic (Black & White) category.

Commando editor Calum Laird says: "It goes without saying that everybody at Commando HQ was highly delighted. But it's not all about the small handful of us here, the award is a fitting recognition of the work of all those who have put so much into the title over the last 50 years. It is their efforts that have made Commando so highly-regarded the comics world. This includes our legion of supporters (you) who have helped keep awareness of Commando so high in the minds of comic-buyers. I regard you as very much part of our team."

In October, Carlton are publishing a history of the famous pocket library, Commando: 50 Years a Home for Heroes, penned by George Low. Details are still fairly sparse at the moment: it's a 176-page hardback and will include 50 full-colour covers. Here's the synopsis from Carlton which reveals almost nothing...
50 years of "Commando"...home for heroes...and still going strong! And now you...yes, YOU...can advance shoulder to shoulder with the bravest and the best through six of the finest "Commando" stories ever...brought together in this battling book for all "Commando" fans out there! When the toughest of the tough get going, the action accelerates from page to blistering page. Can you cope with the pressure? Are you sure? Good, because we're also going to unleash the stinging power of 50 full-colour covers on you as well. That's one for every hard-fought year, and you'll need nerves of steel to get in close...combat close...to pick out the finer details of these startling illustrations. You just know it will be well worth the risk. And all the gen from the classified documents which shield the secrets of "Commando" comic books will be there too for you to explore and enjoy. The truth is revealed about the 50-year fight from day one of a carefully planned and well executed campaign to bring you the best of the action to rock you right back on your heels. You've proved you can take all that's thrown at you by reading this far, so don't miss out on this mother of all battle books. Remember what they say. Who dares wins...and that could be YOU!

Comic Cuts - 30 January 2011

Click here to pre-order
I spoke too soon... shortly after writing that I hadn't been hit by the Thursday curse, the raid system crapped out for the second time in three weeks. This time, at the suggestion of Dell's technical support team, I ran some tests on the discs; the first took 3 hours to test, the second took 18 hours. 18 hours!!!

The computer finally rebooted and then took another hour and a half for the raid system to rebuild. Everything is now working again, but I'm convinced this is a second warning shot across the bows that I mustn't ignore. I've got to think about buying a new computer. Damn! The computer isn't a huge expense these days - I don't need a new monitor, keyboard, etc. as I'm happy with the one's I've got. The expense is going to be software (I run a full, professional suite of Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Acrabat, etc.) which could cost me over a grand... Eeek. I think it's going to be a while yet before I get the money together so I'm going to be playing things a bit careful over the coming weeks... lots of backing up!

One thing I'll say about Dell Technical Support... what the hell happened to the phone call? I'd got hold of them on Thursday about half an hour before the guy went off duty for the evening, so we arranged for him to call back the Friday morning. Come Friday, no call. Nothing. Not a peep. Now, as my computer is out of warranty, their technical help cost me £28, which you pay up front. And I've received no effing technical support for my money. I wonder if Dell would like to refund my money because I don't think that suggesting that I run a self-test on the machine is £28 worth of advice.

Anyway, now I've got that off my chest...

This is just a quick note to say that on Saturday we pressed the green button and copies of Eagles Over the Western Front volume 2 have been ordered. The official release date is 13 June, but if copies arrive before that — and I get a chance to address up envelopes and whatnot — they'll be sent out earlier. I'll have copies available at the ABC Show on 12 June as well as copies of volume one, just in case you've not got one yet.

As this is an extra Comic Cuts, here are  a couple of Random Photos sent over by William Rudling who was at Bristol recently promoting the Jeff Hawke Club alongside Syd Jordan. As you'll see, the guests also included Martin Asbury, John M. Burns and an Alien.

Back to normal Friday... if I can get past Thursday!

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 15

(* © Evening News)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Comic Cuts - 27 May 2011

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This is going to be a shorter column than usual, not because of the "Thursday Night Curse" which kept hitting me earlier in the month but simply down to a lack of time. Normally I've had a chance to jot down some notes during the week, but haven't had much of an opportunity this week. My carefully planned schedule was thrown out somewhat by an enquiry from The Guardian regarding an obituary which came through at 10:30 Tuesday morning. It took a couple of hours of digging around to make sure I had enough material to do the job and the piece was commissioned around 12:30. At which point I had to go down to the post office, had lunch, watched a film and then dozed off because I hadn't have much sleep the night before.

Got up around 4:30 pm, hustled my notes together and worked through the evening, finally finishing the piece a thousand words later at 1:45 in the morning. Many people believe that I'm a fast writer but they couldn't be more wrong... I have to put in the hours, same as everyone else. I just don't go to bed early and the Guardian pay me enough to make sure I don't miss a deadline.

What a life, eh, readers? But at least there'll be jam on my bread this month.

I'd planned Tuesday as a Bear Alley Books day, reading and writing up a fantastic old comic strip for the next book I'm planning. I had two projects in my cross-hairs, one an index, one not; I thought the index was going to be the first project out of the gate but it will involve tracking down a lot of illustrations that I don't have; so, during the pause I cracked on with project two, even though I knew I didn't have all the research material together. I could at least get things rolling, I thought.

And roll they have. In fact, I've reached a tipping point where it makes no sense to stop writing. So the next book from Bear Alley Books is almost certain to be the much expanded edition of The Mike Western Story. It almost stalled because, as I said, there was a massive hole in my collection... but, thanks to my mate John Allen-Clark, the hole is now filled and I'm chugging along at a nice pace, surrounded by piles of Battle Action and Eagle comics as I type.

It's no secret that Mike was one of my favourite artists when I was growing up reading Valiant. I did a little booklet about him back in 1990 which contained a lengthy autobiographical piece by Mike that I cobbled together from our correspondence and a running commentary from myself about his work. This new version will be much expanded; sadly, Mike is no longer around but I'll run the autobiography complete and intact as it was a piece Mike approved of; I'm now in the process of doing a ground-up rewrite of my own commentary and digging out illustrations, including some images from Mike's scrapbooks and pieces that will, I hope, come as a nice surprise to even long time fans.

This is going to take me some while to piece together - I've got to make a living in the meantime and paying work must come first - but I'll keep you up-to-date with the book's progress.

I mentioned last week that Disney, now owners of Marvel, had put out an edict that from now on, none of their licensees were allowed to originate material in their own countries. This has had an instant effect on two titles put out here by Pannini UK, bringing Marvel Heroes to an end after 35 issues. The last issue dated 19 May-15 June (it being a four-weekly rather than a monthly) carries the news that it will be relaunching next month as Marvel Super Heroes, continuing the numbering but with a new line-up of characters.

Question is, will it retain the audience who have grown used to strips designed specifically for the British market, usually running for between 7 and 11 pages? Will the reprints be run as full 22 page stories or will they be chopped up in a way they were never intended to be? We will just have to wait and see.

Spectacular Spider-Man will also be losing any UK originated content. Three years ago, the title won the Eagle Award for Favourite British Colour Comicbook, and the strips therein were reprinted around the world from Germany to Brazil.  The latest issue appeared on 5 May and announced "This issue's comic strip has so much action, we've had to add two extra pages to squeeze it all in!" ... or, as I now suspect they meant, "We've had this storyline cancelled by Disney and we were given two pages to wrap the whole thing up." (I don't have the issue and I may be doing both Disney and Panini a disservice; perhaps someone will let me know the truth.)

Also in the past week we've heard that Wasted is coming to an end as a print magazine as of issue 8, a combination of print and delivery costs and falling sales being responsible for its demise. Wasted may not have been everybody's cup of tea with its adult/drug-related content but it was certainly more than just a underground comic.

Back issues are still available directly from Bad Press.

This isn't the end of Wasted. According to Alan Grant (as reported over on John Freeman's Down the Tubes), the paper will, in future, switch to digital publication and will be available via DriveThru, who already carry digital editions of 2000AD and titles published by AAM/Markosia Press.

And it isn't all bad news on the comics' front: we still have Phoenix to look forward to, the new title from the David Fickling stable. Their blog went live on Monday and an on-line flyer (above) was posted on the website. The blog promises that "we think you'll have lots of fun visiting [the website] as the weeks go by and we can start giving glimpses of some of the story marvels the Phoenix has in store."

Today's random scans...

My mate John dropped off a huge pile of comics the other day (as mentioned above) and had also picked up an old Dennis Wheatley book for me. This is a fourth printing Arrow edition from 1961 with a cover by Sax. I also had a bit of luck in town on Saturday, picking up an old Pan edition of Morning at Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. The cover is by Sidney Sheldon and I was prompted to post this by a recent comment that came through from a Sheldon admirer Rob Matthews following the appearance of some of his work in my Peter Cheyney cover gallery. Well, here's another one for you, Rob.

The final scan is an addition for the Comics Novelisations & Tie-Ins gallery. I've had a couple of other additions for past galleries that need to be put in place but I've not had the time... hopefully I'll have them all in place by next week.

Talking of next week... our current Paul Temple serial will be building up to a climax and I'll be back on Friday. You know, this isn't nearly as short a column as I was expecting.

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 12

(* © Evening News)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eagles Over the Western Front volume 2 - pre-order your copy now!

Eagles Over the Western Front
Volume 2
I'm pleased to announce that we are now taking pre-orders for Eagles Over the Western Front Volume Two. Ordering information can be found over on the Bear Alley Books blog but for a quick preview...

The introduction to volume two takes a look at the career of Eagles scriptwriter Mike Butterworth, from his early days on Sun comic to his post-Trigan Empire career as a noted author of crime and historical novels.

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 8

(* © Evening News)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Comic Cuts - 20 January 2011

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I did a bit of a double-take earlier this week when I received an e-mail from the British Library asking whether they could archive Bear Alley as part of their UK Web Archive. I hadn't actually heard of the UK Web Archive but it has apparently been running since 2004 and has so far archived some 36,500. You can read more about its history and aims here, although I have to admit that I was a little confused by the constant reference to "UK" archive when the example they pointed me at was an Australian blog all about Sydney which doesn't really "reflect the diversity of lives, interests and activities throughout the UK, and demonstrate web innovation". A minor point. If they're actually covering the whole of the world wide web it makes it even more amazing that they've stumbled across Bear Alley amongst the 325 million websites that make up the internet.

Having quickly checked with various contributors, I've agreed to have Bear Alley archived, so we'll be joining the 0.01% elite that are currently being preserved by the British Library.

The British Library aren't the only ones that have been keeping an eye on my activities. The house we now rent (I can't believe we've already been here ten months!) had a garage conversion which I now use as my office. A path runs down one side to a side gate and there are trees running down the side of the path between this house and our neighbours. The office has a flat roof which local cats use as a short cut, so, every now and then, you can hear the pitter patter of little feet as a cat runs across the roof. Scared the bejesus out of me the first time I heard it, moreso the first time two cats met on the roof and had a catfight right above my head.

One particular cat has made our garden his own domain. Because his gold collar looked like the kind of 'bling' that's common these days, we've nicknamed him Blingy. As nicknames always develop and evolve, last week I was calling him 'The Blingmeister'. This week it's 'Snoop Catty Cat' because I was typing away the other day, turned my head to look out the window and found him staring straight at me. This isn't my best animal/rapper joke... I've yet to tell you about the Koi carp called Fishy Scent. I'll stop making jokes now.

A bit of actual British comics news. I'm sorry to see that Disney have put the skids under Marvel Heroes with their decision to disallow companies reprinting Marvel characters to create home-grown strips. Here in the UK, both Marvel Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man, published by Panini UK, had strips originated by British creators. From now on, all strips featuring Marvel characters can only be created in the US.

Tony Ingram, in an article over on Down the Tubes, makes the valid point when he says this is a "sad loss as those magazines currently act as a gateway into Marvel for younger readers who then move on to Panini's reprint titles and possibly to the US originals." I've often argued that one of the reasons we no longer have the boys' adventure comics that we had when I was growing up is that vital links were severed in the chain that saw children introduced to comics pre-school; there were comics for all ages that you could progress to, whether it was humour comics or adventure comics aimed at a slightly younger age range. The ultimate example of this was, I believe, the Eagle group of titles, which had Robin for the very young and, as the readers grew older, they could progress to Swift (a unisex humour/adventure comic) and then to Girl or Eagle.

I'm not sure why this model failed, or whether it did fail. I do know that when Longacre Press revamped Swift in 1960 to aim it at a slightly older age group and then cancelled the title in 1963, there was a break in the chain that fed Girl and Eagle. Girl folded in 1964 and Eagle followed in 1969. I'm sure there were many other factors involved in the older titles folding (Girl's sales being undermined by the launch of Princess, for instance), but I suspect that the break in the chain caused by repositioning Swift was one of them.

"On the face of it, Disney's decision makes little sense," says Tony. "It will deprive creators of work and Panini of revenue, which admittedly isn’t [Disney's] problem (and may even be seen as a plus by them, since Panini are in competition with them in other areas), but more to the point it will deprive a section of their fan base of that way in to Marvel I mentioned, which can’t be good for business in the long run. And the only justification for it seems to be creating a uniform brand under Disney’s total control."

I couldn't agree more. There are almost no comics aimed at the junior school age group, and if schoolkids get out of the habit of reading comics, where will the next generation of Marvel readers come from in the UK? Isn't it ironic that Longacre Press (aka Odhams Press) was the publisher of the Power Group of comics that, for many fans, launched Marvel characters in the UK in the 1960s. Now, fifty years on, Disney are seemingly about to repeat the same mistakes that Longacre made.

Oddly enough, Panini UK may have resolved the potential problem as they're due to launch a ThunderCats comic to tie in with the new TV show that's due to hit the small screen in the autumn. I imagine it will be aimed at roughly the same age group that previously bought Marvel Heroes and should do well if the show is a hit. (The second dose of irony isn't lost on me... the original show inspired the long-running ThunderCats comic published in 1989-91 by Marvel UK.) Hopefully we will now see the next generation of comic readers growing up without the urge to move onto Marvel's older superhero titles. If there's a positive spin to be put on this, that could be good news for 2000AD, if it can hang on a few more years.

To be published in June
Bear Alley Books: Sales of Eagles Over the Western Front have been slow but steady. I'll be putting up the ordering information for volume two early next week in the hope of catching you all with some money in your pockets when pay day rolls around at the end of the month. I'll post a note here on Bear Alley when the info. goes up.

I've been hard at work on the next book but I've no idea how long it is going to take to write as I'm doing a little bit here, a little bit there, with only the occasional full day to work on it. I'm also trying to squeeze in some work on the next index, so there's a lot going on behind the scenes even if that's not reflected in the sedate way the Bear Alley Book website gets updated.

If you haven yet to pick up those missing issues of Comic World magazine, please get in touch soon as I've now run out of spares of nine issues. You can find a gallery of the covers here; I still have copies of the remaining 34 issues, although I'm down to only one or two copies of some, so grab 'em while you can!

Today's random scans...

A long, long time ago I did a cover gallery for John Wyndham... I think it was the first cover gallery I ever posted on Bear Alley. Well, I recently picked up a Penguin box set labelled The Best of John Wyndham. The covers were all by Peter Lord, as was the box, and they were so nice that I couldn't resist buying them... and sharing them with you. Rather than cram them in here, I'll do a second post, so you'll find them if you scroll down.

Next week, and, indeed, over the weekend, we'll have more from Paul Temple. See you next week.

John Wyndham Gallery 2

The Day of the Triffids
Penguin Book 0140-00993-0, 30th imp., 1980, 272pp, 95p. Cover by Peter Lord

The Kraken Wakes
Penguin Books 0140-01075-0, 21st imp., 1979, 240pp, 95p. Cover by Peter Lord

The Crysalids
Penguin Books 0140-01308-3, 26th imp., 1980, 200pp, 90p. Cover by Peter Lord

Trouble with Lichin
Penguin Books 0140-01986-3, 15th imp., 1980, 204pp, 95p. Cover by Peter Lord

Chocky
Penguin Books 0140-03121-9, 10th imp., 1980, 153pp, 85p. Cover by Peter Lord

The Best of John Wyndham (Box)
Penguin Books, nd (c.1980). Cover by Peter Lord

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 5

(* © Evening News)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First review of Eagles Over the Western Front

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Jeremy Briggs has posted a nice review of Eagles Over the Western Front over on Down the Tubes. I've also started to get feedback from people who pre-ordered the books and have now received their copies. The feedback has all been incredibly positive so far and I'm especially pleased that I'm hearing nice things from people who don't remember Eagles from reading it as as kid (as I did) but are discovering how good the story is for the first time.

Hopefully we can rescue a few gems over the coming months and years.

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 2

(* © Evening News)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paul Temple and the Runaway Knight part 1

A new week, a new strip. We've not seen anything from Paul Temple for a while; I've run two full-length Paul Temple strips here in the past - still available here - and I'm pleased to say that I have at least one more on file. The artist is John McNamara, a fine New Zealand artist about whom I wrote a biographical sketch over on the Illustration Art Gallery blog.

(* © Evening News)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pedigree's Satanic Selection

While looking through my folders for something suitable to post on a Friday the 13th, I dug out these three covers for cleaning up. Pedigree Books were active in the late 1950s and early 1960s, run by Edwin Self who had been active during the gangster boom a few years earlier as both an editor and publisher. He earned himself a little jail time when it was decided that some of his books were obscene—which they certainly were not, in my opinion. You can find out more about the case in my essay "In Self Defence" which appears in Mean Streetmaps and takes a closer look at one of the books that was put on trial.

Pedigree had a fantastic line-up of titles, many of them bordering on what modern collectors call sleaze due to the concentration on juvenile delinquency (e.g. reprints of Hal Ellson) and non-fiction about murder, torture and prostitution. And satanism, as the trio below shows.

The real surprise here is a cover by none other than Ron Turner. Unfortunately, this is the best scan I have been able to locate. It cleaned up reasonably well, but if anyone has a copy of the original and a scanner, I wouldn't mind a high res scan.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Comic Cuts - 13 May 2011

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OUT NOW!

Last week I ended my blog mentioning that we were on the run-up to Friday the 13th. I've never had any superstitions regarding that day/date, having been born on Friday the 13th, but I'm beginning to get a bit nervous about Thursday evenings.

Last Thursday my computer went inexplicably wrong, which meant I could only post a brief message on Friday morning. This week it was the whole of Blogger that went belly-up. The explanation offered by Google is that, during scheduled maintenance work on Wednesday, some data corruption began impacting Blogger's behaviour, so they reset the whole system back to the Wednesday back-up and made the whole of Blogger "read only".

The impact here was that Thursday's post, the second part of a 2-part 'Man Who Searched for Fear' strip, disappeared, and I couldn't write anything last night for today. It also meant that a few minor updates also disappeared. Blogger are still trying to restore some of the missing posts and comments, so there may be some minor glitches still to come. For instance, I've reposted the second part of the strip... but will Blogger now attempt to repost it as well?

Anyway, enough with the problems: I've been with Blogger for four and a half years and it has been pretty reliable, so I'm not planning to make a move to another service. Blogger is a popular choice - a lot of blogs relating to British comics, such as Lew Stringer's Blimey!, Peter Richardson's Cloud 109 and the blogs relating to Book Palace Books and the Illustration Art Gallery, are all powered by Blogger.

To be published in June
Fortunately, there's not much news to relate, as I posted the last Comic Cuts column on Monday. As promised, pre-ordered copies of volume one of Eagles Over the Western Front have been posted out and the Bear Alley Books ordering system has been unaffected by the Blogger outage. My thanks to everyone who pre-ordered - a kind show of confidence which I think the books live up to. Volume two is all ready to go at the printers, so there shouldn't be any delay with the release and it will be out in time for the ABC Show in London on June 12th.

I'm hard at work on the next couple of books, one of which is an index. The other is a project I've had on the back-burner for a couple of years. I've no idea how long they'll take as I'm having to fit them in around earning a living but as soon as I have something concrete to say about their release, you'll be the second to know (because, obviously, I'll be the first to know!).

I've been having a bit of a spring clean and selling off some spares of Comic World magazine. You can find a gallery of the covers here and I still have copies for sale, although eight issues have now sold out and I've only a handful of spares of many others. Grab 'em while you can because once they're gone, that's it.

I'm planning to clear out some other boxes of comics and sell off any duplicates, which I'll offer here on Bear Alley first.

Talking of sales, Bob Edmands aimed me in the direction of an eBay listing of the first issue of Hurricane with the free gift, which eventually sold for £193 after 14 bids. Amazing! Mind you, I've no idea why I'm surprised as prices on first issues seem to keep going up and up.

Today's random scans...

Rob Matthews has pointed out an interesting bit of information relating to the Peter Cheyney cover gallery. The Ace cover for Calling Mr Callaghan is by Robert McGinnis and was originally used on Henry S. Maxfield's Legacy of a Spy (Fawcett Crest s288, 1959). Cheers, Rob.

And this one I spotted myself. "The best 10 best..." according to the cover. Oops. But even with the extraneous "best" removed the cover line still sound clunky... "The 10 best Commando Raids Comic Books Ever!"

Next week... at the moment I'm clueless. I'm running a day late thanks to Blogger and, as I suddenly had some spare time, sorted out some comics. I do have a little cover gallery lined up but given the day and the date and what's been happening, I'll hold that over for a day or two. I should have some more 'Man Who Searched for Fear' if I can get to grips with the scans over the weekend, Blogger and computer-willing.