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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Upcoming Releases: October 2014


Age of the Wolf by Alec Worley & Jon Davis Hunt.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082638, 23 October 2014, 160pp, £16.99.
In this debut graphic novel collection for writer Alec Worley and artist Jon Davis Hunt, humanity's days are numbered. On a quiet day in London the peace is shattered as ravening werewolves appear from nowhere to rip the city and its populace apart. Rowan Morrigan is one of the few to reach safety and it is with dawning apprehension that it becomes clear she is our only hope, the last witch who, untrained as she is, may be able to hold the wolves back. In a story full of unexpected twists and turns that stretches across Rowan's lifetime, nothing can be taken for granted.
Order from Amazon.

Arena by Dave H. Taylor & Enrique Alcatena.
Bear Alley Books ISBN 978-1907081750, 9 October 2014, 140pp, £14.99. 
Collected for the first time, "Arena" is set in the dark future of a 21st century in which corporations are all-powerful, protected by heavily militarized police forces and a legal system that removes dissenting voices by sentencing men to fight violent gladiatorial battles broadcast to the masses as entertainment from the Arena.
    Journalist Mark Sabor is sent to the Arena after criticizing the government. Even as he trains to fight, forces are at work to make sure he will never survive. Pitted against merciless opponents whose sole objective is to kill the newcomer any way they can, Sabor must use his wits and strength to survive.
    But for Sabor the battle isn't just about surviving. It's about fighting back!
    Trained in every form of weapon, the Arena warriors make a formidable army. Sabor becomes part of the resistance, searching for the truth about who controls the government and, through them, mankind's fate. And when he discovers the truth, it will be a bigger shock than he could ever have imagined.
Order from Bear Alley Books.

Arkwright Integral by Bryan Talbot.
Dark Horse, October 2014, £37.99. [£32.10 from Amazon]
In a swirling multiverse of endless possibilities and incalculable dangers, malign forces manipulate history through countless timelines and act to wreak destruction across universes. But amongst these infinite existences, their fate depends on one man, an anomaly who exists in but a single universe, a being of vast psychic power capable of travelling between parallel realities--Luther Arkwright!
    An adult science-fiction epic of boundless imagination and audacious vision, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire are brought together for the first time in one essential hardcover volume, including bonus material and an afterword by Warren Ellis.
Order from Amazon.

Bake With Maw Broon: My Favourite Recipes for All the Family.
Broons Books ISBN 978-1910230022, 16 October 2014, 192pp, £14.99. [£10.48 from Amazon]
Always up to her elbows in flour or stirring bubbling pots of homemade jam, Maw Broon has been baking cracking cakes, braw biscuits and perfect pastry for her hungry family for years. And now, in BAKE with Maw Broon, she finally shares her secrets...Following on from the bestselling Maw Broon's Cookbook, Maw will show you how to bake a mouthwatering collection of sweet favourites, from shortbread to sugar craft, from Dundee cake to Edinburgh tart, and from black bun to clootie dumpling. Beautifully designed and easy to follow, BAKE with Maw Broon is the definitive guide to traditional baking.
Order from Amazon.

The Broons: Ceilidh Dance Party.
Broons Books ISBN 978-1910230039, 31 October 2014, 192pp, £9.99. [£8.75 from Amazon]
Ever wanted to throw a ceilidh but don't know where to start? Looking for some Scottish inspiration for a wedding or party? Or do you want to brush up on steps or learn a new reel? Braw! The Broons' Come Tae the Ceilidh Dance Party will have you whirling and birling in no time! Everyone knows Scotland's favourite happy family can throw a party, so who better to guide you through the world of traditional Scottish dancing? This simple, easy-to-follow guide is fun for all the family, laying out the steps to the most popular dances found at a ceilidh, including the Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, the Canadian Barn Dance, the Gay Gordons and, of course, the Broons' Reel. Suitable for all ages, from the Bairn to Gran'paw Broon, The Broons' Come Tae the Ceilidh Dance Party is the perfect guide to ceilidh dancing, the most fun you can have with a kilt on!
Order from Amazon.

Knit Your Own Broons by Jackie Holt & Ruth Bailey.
Broons Books ISBN 978-1910230046, 7 October 2014, 160pp, £9.99. [£6.99 from Amazon]
The Broons have been making readers laugh for decades, so what better way to celebrate Scotland's most-loved family than creating miniature woolly versions of your very own! From the authors of the much-loved Knit Your Own Scotland and Knit Your Own Britain comes this wonderful guide to knitting your own Broons family. With detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create Maw, Paw, Joe, Hen, Daphne, Maggie, Horace, the Twins, the Bairn and not forgetting Gran'paw, Knit Your Own Broons is perfect for knitters of all abilities and an ideal gift for fans of Scotland's favourite happy family.
Order from Amazon.

Modesty Blaise: The Grim Joker by Peter O'Donnell & Enric Badia Romero.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1781167113, 24 October 2014, 104pp, £11.99. [£8.39 from Amazon]
As dangerous as she is desirable, Modesty Blaise, the cult creation of best-selling writer Peter O'Donnell, returns for three more devastating adventures! Features the classic stories The Grim Joker, A Present for the Princess and Black Queens Pawn, written by Peter O'Donnell and beautifully illustrated by Enric Badia Romero!
Order from Amazon.

Nikolai Dante: Love and War by Robbie Morrison, John Burns, Simon Fraser & Charlie Adlard
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082614, 9 October 2014, 160pp, £17.99.
It is the year of the Tsar 2668 AD and the sound of wedding bells is in the air. Jena Makarov, the daughter of Tsar Vladimir the Conqueror, is betrothed to Mikhail Deriabin, media tyrant and patriarch of the House of Bolshoi. Nikolai Dante is less than happy with the announcement. Now, assigned to be Jena's bodyguard, Dante has to protect her from more than his own passions as those who would seek to bring about war set their sights on Russia's fairest.
Order from Amazon.

Oor Wullie: His Secret Capers Are Finally Oot.
Broons Books ISBN 978-1910230053, 31 October 2014, 256pp, £5.99. [£5.70 from Amazon]
Ello ello ello? What's going on here, then? Why, it's Oor Wullie's Secret Capers! Over the years, PC Joe Murdoch, Auchenshoogle's long-suffering local bobby, has borne the brunt of Oor Wullie's escapades. But while the spiky-haired laddie and his pals Wee Eck, Fat Boab and Soapy Soutar have been giving poor PC Murdoch the runaround, he has collected their most ingenious escapades and playful pranks in his police notepad! Take a keek inside Oor Wullie's Secret Capers for an uproarious look at Oor Wullie's most famous japes, from the the 'cartie grand prix' to the 'moose-napping' of wee Jeemy. Perfect for all the family, this is sure to put a smile on the face of every fan of Scotland's favourite son.
Order from Amazon.

Strontium Dog: Mutant for Hire by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080313, 28 October 2014, 192pp.
No further details. The book was originally announced in January 2012 with no publication date (later announced as 17 July 2013) and this may be a placeholder error at Neilsen picked up by Amazon.
Order from Amazon.

Tank Girl: Carioca by Alan Martin & Mike McMahon.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1845766894, 14 October 2014, 160pp, £12.02. [£10.13 at Amazon]
Tank Girl returns again in a brand new graphic novel written by original co-creator Alan Martin with artwork by the amazing Mike McMahon (Judge Dredd)! After our heroine is rudely snubbed on a TV game show, she plots the death of the vulgar host in question unwittingly releasing the vengeance of his embittered wife and a gang of highly trained assassins as a result!
    Paperback edition of hardback released in November 2012.
Order from Amazon.

Wallace & Gromit: Comic Strips Collection Volume 2 by Jimmy Hansen & Mike Kazybrid.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1782760825, 7 October 2014, 136pp, £12.99. [£10.54 from Amazon]
The continuing daily comic-strip adventures of Wallace, the world's most famous inventor, and Gromit his ever faithful and resourceful canine companion. Packed with jokes, gags and gadgets. Appearing every day in The Sun, the UK's biggest selling national newspaper. This volume collects the entire second year's worth of material and features scripts written and drawn by some of the best names working in British comics today.
Order from Amazon.

Zenith: Phase 1 by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082751, 23 October 2014, 112pp, £20.00.
The all time classic is back! Berlin, 1945: The allies unleashed the second world war hero Maximan upon the German super soldier Masterman. Maximan's defeat was only kept secret by the nuclear bomb which destroyed both men. Forty-plus years later, and twenty years after a generation of '60s British superpowered heroes came and went, the teenage pop star Zenith is the only superhuman left - and his only interest in women, drugs, alchohol and fame. So when he is contacted about the threat from the many-angled ones and the impending destruction of our world, his first reaction is to steer well clear. But the superhumans of the past have other plans...
Order from Amazon.

Upcoming Releases

A round-up of forthcoming books relating to or reprinting British comics and cartoons, along with some selected original graphic novels.

  • Brass Sun. Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082690, 4 December 2014.
  • Harker: The Black Hound by Roger Gibson & Vince Danks. Titan Books ISBN 978-1781166987, 31 December 2014.
  • Johnny Red: The Flying Gun. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848564442, 5 December 2014 [originally announced as Johnny Red: England or Bust! for 12 September 2014, then 10 March 2015].
  • Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore by Lance Parkin. Aurum Press ISBN 978-1781312841, 20 November 2014 [originally announced for 1 May 2014]. Paperback edition.
  • The Secret Service by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons.Titan Books ISBN 978-1781165836, 9 December 2014 [originally announced for 26 April 2013, then 28 May 2013, then 2 Jul 2013, then 27 August 2013, then 1 October 2013, then 5 November 2013, then 21 January 2014, then 21 June 2014, then 1 October 2014]. Re-release?
  • Zenith: Phase 2. Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082775, 4 December 2014.
  • Uncensored Action! (The Best of Action Vol.1). Titan Books ISBN 978-1848560260, 1 April 2015 [originally announced for 24 September 2010, then 28 October 2011, then disappeared from schedules and Titan's webpage, then 6 March 2014, then 1 August 2014]. Currently not listed on Amazon.
  • The Best of Battle Vol.2. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848567313, 29 Jul 2011 [originally announced as Best of Land Battle for 28 May 2010, then 27 August 2010]. Currently not listed on Titan's website.
  • The Best of Misty. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848560277 [originally announced for October 2010]. Currently not listed on Titan's website.
  • Charley's War 1914-2014 [Slipcased Commemorative Edition Volume 1]. Titan Books ISBN 978-1783290734, 2 September 2014 [originally announced for 8 August 2014]. Currently not listed on Amazon or Titan's website.
  • Charley's War 1914-2014 [Slipcased Commemorative Edition Volume 2]. Titan Books ISBN 978-1783290741, 2 September 2014. Currently not listed on Titan's website.
  • Good Dog, Bad Dog Book 2 by Dave Shelton. David Fickling Books ISBN 978-0857560063, 6 March 2014. No longer listed on Amazon.
  • Hamlet (Original Text) by John McDonald, David Lorenzo Riveiro & Gary Erskine. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332341, 30 September 2014 [originally announced for 31 July 2012, then early 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Hamlet (Plain Text) by John McDonald, David Lorenzo Riveiro & Gary Erskine. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332358, 30 September 2014 [originally announced for 31 July 2012, then early 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Hamlet (Quick Text) by John McDonald, David Lorenzo Riveiro & Gary Erskine. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332365, 30 September 2014 [originally announced for 31 July 2012, then early 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest [Original Text] by John Stokes. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332921, 30 November 2013 [originally announced for 12 September 2010, then December 2010, then April 2012, then May 2012, then October 2012, then 30 November 2012, then March 2013, then August 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest [Quick Text] by John Stokes. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332938, 30 November 2013 [originally announced for 12 September 2010, then December 2010, then April 2012, then May 2012, then October 2012, then 30 November 2012, then March 2013, then August 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Julius Caesar (Original Text) by John McDonald & Sean O'Connor. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332945, 31 January 2014 [originally announced for 31 August 2010, then 31 May 2011, then July 2011, then March 2012, then 31 May 2012, then September 2012, then 31 May 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Julius Caesar (Plain Text) by John McDonald & Sean O'Connor. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332952, 31 January 2014 [originally announced for 31 August 2010, then 31 May 2011, then July 2011, then March 2012, then 31 May 2012, then September 2012, then 31 May 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Julius Caesar (Quick Text) by John McDonald & Sean O'Connor. Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332969, 31 January 2014 [originally announced for 31 August 2010, then 31 May 2011, then July 2011, then March 2012, then 31 May 2012, then September 2012, then 31 May 2013]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Major Eazy: The African Campaign by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848560383, 22 March 2013. Currently not listed on Titan's website; Amazon page removed.
  • Mezolith Vol. 2 by Ben Heggarty. David Fickling Books ISBN 978-0857560513, 6 March 2014. No longer listed on Amazon.
  • Mirabilis Vol. 2: Year of Wonders by Dave Morris & Leo Hartas. Print Media Productions ISBN 978-0956712127, February 2012 [originally announced for October 2011]. 
  • Richard III (Original Text, abridged). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332228, [originally announced for 1 March 2009, then 1 September 2009, then 14 May 2010, then December 2011, then mid-2012]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Richard III (Plain Text). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332235, [originally announced for 1 March 2009, then 1 September 2009, then 14 May 2010, then December 2011, then mid-2012]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Richard III (Quick Text). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1906332242, [originally announced for 1 March 2009, then 1 September 2009, then 14 May 2010, then December 2011, then mid-2012]. Currently not listed on Classical Comics' website.
  • Snow/Tiger by Andy Diggle & Andy Clarke. Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080702, 12 December 2013. Currently not listed on Rebellion's website.
  • Vertigo Visions: Frank Quitely by Frank Quitely. DC Comics/Vertigo ISBN 978-1401242374, 26 November 2013. No longer listed on Amazon.
Please note: All dates are subject to change.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Recent Releases: September 2014


ABC Warriors: The Mek Files 02 by Pat Mills, Clint Langley, Dave Gibbons, Kevin O'Neill, Mick McMajon & Simon Bisley.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082591, 11 September 2014, 208pp, £25.00. [£17.00 from Amazon]
This hardback collection continues the new series collecting up the complete A.B.C. Warriors stories in a highly collectable hardback format. This is the same size as the sell-out hardback Volgan War series! This second volume collects the material from the long unavailable Kronicles of Khaos and Hellbringer volumes.
Order from Amazon.

Durham Red: The Bitch by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Carlos Ezquerra.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082515, 16 September 2014, 144pp, £10.93.
Order from Amazon.

Kick-Ass 3 by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Titan Books ISBN 978-1783290727, 9 September 2014, 184pp, £22.99. [£15.63 from Amazon]
Mark Millar and John Romita's mega-selling series returns for its final story! Hit-Girl is in jail, leaving Kick-Ass to lead the super hero team Justice Forever. But super heroes have been outlawed, leaving Kick-Ass to dodge both cops and some terrifying new foes! For the first time, Kick-Ass is beginning to have doubts. Is he in too deep to get out?
Order from Amazon.

Oor Wullie: The Big Bucket of Laughs Joke Book
Broons Books ISBN 978-1910230008, 25 September 2014, 192pp, £5.99. [£5.75 from Amazon]
Jings! Crivens! Help ma boab! It's Oor Wullie's Big Bucket of Laughs Joke Book! With a bucketful of Wullie's funniest one-liners and jokes and a wee bit of help from Wee Eck and Soapy Soutar, Oor Wullie's Big Bucket of Laughs Joke Book is a must-have collection of jokes, japes and jests from Scotland's lovable scamp. What do you call two banana skins? A pair o' slippers. What is bright, red and sounds like parrot? A carrot. How did the witch know she was ill? She had a dizzy spell! It'll fair mak ye laugh!
Order from Amazon.

Predator vs. Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus and More by John Wagner, Andy Diggle, Henry Flint, Alcatena, Brian Bolland, Jock, et al.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781082539, 11 September 2014, 208pp, £25.00. [£17.00 from Amazon]
The first complete collection of Judge Dredd's crossovers with both the Predator and Aliens characters in one volume! The Predators enter the urban jungle of Mega-City One to hunt a challenging prey - the Judges themselves. As the Judges' heads start accumulating in the Predators' trophy room it is down to Dredd and Judge Schaefer to stop the hunt. When an Alien surfaces in Mega-City One, the Judges must go all-out to capture or destroy it. But there's a devastating secret concealed beneath the city - and it may well be more than the Justice Department can handle!
Order from Amazon.

Recent Releases

A round up of recently released titles reprinting or relating to British comics. Some titles announced for publication in the past few months but which have yet to appear can be found on the Upcoming Releases listing. An expanded, annotated and illustrated version of this list covering releases in 2010 can be found here. An expanded listing for 2011 can be found here and an expanded listing for 2012 can be found here.

JULY 2014
JUNE 2014
MAY 2014
APRIL 2014
MARCH 2014
  • Batman Judge Dredd Collection. Rebellion/DC Comics ISBN 978-1781080788, 16 January 2014.
  • Battle Classics ed. Garth Ennis. Titan Books ISBN 978-1781167410, 9 January 2014 [originally announced for 25 October 2013]. 
  • The Man Who Searched for Fear. Bear Alley Books ISBN 978-1907081736, 31 January 2014.
  • Space Ace Vol. 2 by Ron Turner. John Lawrence [no ISBN], January 2013.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Comic Cuts - 26 September 2014

I'm writing this on Thursday morning because it's Mel's birthday. We were out last night and tonight is our only chance to catch our breath because we're out Friday and Saturday nights. Think lovely thoughts of Mel... she's put up with me for 21 years, protecting the world from my terrible jokes and the incessant stream of stupid thoughts that stumble around my brain that need to be spoken out loud. So you should be thanking her for her years of dedicated service, dealing with me so you don't have to.

It was a bit of a race against time yesterday to complete a second draft of the Harry Bensley/Man in the Iron Mask story, which I wanted to get done before we went out. The current version runs to just over 12,000 words and I'm waiting on some certificates to confirm one or two new details that I've added—like the identity of a previously unreported child. If you read the story as it was serialised earlier this month, the main thrust of rewriting it has simply been to add more detail. The serial version has been removed ahead of its ebook appearance.

I've also been working on a second, similar piece that I suspect will also be serialised on Bear Alley. These essays take quite a chunk of time to write because I'm researching as I write and you end up digging around in places that won't necessarily become part of the final story—but you still have to find out what you can so that you know for sure that a particular thread leads nowhere. My most sustained piece of writing was The Trials of Hank Janson, which was 100,000 words written in twenty days... but it required twenty years of research to put me in a position where I could do that.

And I wouldn't want to do that again. It was quite tiring.

I did once write a 30,000-word magazine supplement in a week. Again, not recommended. This was back in 1999, the days of dial-up modems and around the time that major companies were introducing ADSL lines. Publicity companies welcomed this innovation as it meant that they could post images behind a password-protected wall that editors/designers could download, saving the publicity company tons of cash because they no longer had to produce photographs or slides and post them out to magazines.

In theory, a 1 megabyte photograph could be downloaded on a 500kbit/s [kilobytes per second] ADSL line in 2 seconds.

However, because I was freelance and working from home, I didn't have ADSL. I did have a new, dedicated phone line put in, with a maximum download speed of around 43kbit/s, or so the phone company promised (I think... it was fifteen years ago!). The actual speed varied but was usually about 12kbit/s tops and once hit a maximum of 18kbit/sec. Broadband, for comparison, should be a minimum of 256kbit/s over a phone line, but if you've ever downloaded anything you'll know from watching the green bar crawl that it can be far slower. Ditto our old phone line which often worked at around 6-8kbit/s and any lengthy pause meant that the signal was lost and the photo request cancelled, half-an-hour into a download. All you could do was swear and start the download again.

So... this magazine supplement I was putting together back in 1999 was about the upcoming relaunch of the Star Wars franchise. The Phantom Menace was the first new film in 22 years and my bosses at Trinity Publications (part of Trinity Mirror) were thinking about putting out a science fiction magazine called Quest. Not my idea (or my title!) but I was happy to go along with it. And they decided, very late in the day, that the new Star Wars movie was a good place to launch a 64-page supplement to the magazine that I was editing at the time, Model Mart. There was bugger-all budget and they wanted it in two weeks because it was going to be printed in colour.

Muggins here had to stay up all night for a couple of nights trying to download every available photo from the publicity company so we had illustrations. I was praying that the lack of any other traffic on the line might meant that the connection held a little better. I still had glitches, including one picture that had already taken 45 minutes to download reaching 98% downloaded before the line crapped out and I was left with a near complete file that I was unable to open. Nor was the system smart enough for me to simply download the missing 2%... I had to start all over again.

Problems of a couple of sleepless nights were compounded by the fact that I didn't have any writers able to deliver in the time available. By luck one guy had an interview lined up with Ray Park which he promised to turn around in almost no time at all. I was also in touch with a Star Wars fan who was writing some features on the previous Star Wars movies for the monthly magazine I was working on; he quickly put together a short piece that I wove into a longer narrative about the history/making of the new film and how we learned all about the development and production of the film through this then relatively novel thing called the internet.

When it finally appeared, Quest was a lovely-looking failure. It didn't get the advertising the company had hoped for, probably because it was being bagged with a cheap black & white "mart" title; I think there was a degree of cannibalizing Model Mart and trying to persuade our regular b/w advertisers to switch to colour... which most of them resisted.

Anyway, enough rambling. I've forgotten what the point of all this was. Oh, yes. Writing this new serial. It seems likely that I'll run it here because it's going to involve quite a lot of research and I don't like to leave Bear Alley bare for any great length of time. It's the gateway for Bear Alley Books, which is where I'm earning my meagre living these days, so I need the visitors.

On Sunday I wandered around town following a bit of the Sale Trail. This is a first for me and a fantastic idea... people set up tables in their gardens on in public areas and flog off stuff they don't want anymore. Coordinated centrally, there was a Sale Trail map produced so you could see where tables were located. I strolled down the road to the quay and picked up three decent DVDs for £3.50 total. The bulk of the items for sale seemed to be baby clothes and there were a lot of old kids' games and toys. Nothing from the childhood of this fifty-two-year-old, but spin-offs from the bizarre and surreal In the Night Garden and the like.

We don't watch many kids programmes, not since they cancelled I'm Sorry I've Got No Head, which was hilarious. There are still moments of genius: Horrible Histories told the life story of Charles Dickens in a spot on parody of the songs of The Smiths. But there's nothing like Thunderbirds or Catweazle or (my sister's favourite) The Adventures of Black Beauty (featuring one of my favourites, Stacy Dorning!).

Stacy Dorning in Adventures of Black Beauty and an episode of Space: 1999

I cut back from the quay—remember? I was out walking—past the chip shop where we sometimes pick up fish 'n' chips, but which made the papers this week as the scene of a most violent crime. We were alone in the shop with the guy involved only a week earlier... but I guess that was the problem—we were alone. Business was not thriving.

The biggest frustration is that we have another chip shop here in town but it's just a little too far to walk back from and still have piping hot food. You need to eat it on the hoof and that's fine if you just want chips... but try eating fish with your fingers. Or even with one of those horrible little wooden forks. It's not on.

This column is turning into a right old ramble. To get back to something approaching business, I'm currently waiting on the OK from the copyright holder regards Arena and I'm starting to explore ideas for other books. I've had a few suggestions and I think some of them will make excellent collections.

My problem is getting hold of the comics themselves. Not always easy without spending a lot of money. So to start with, I may be limited to areas where I already have comics. But if there's anyone out there with a scanner and good runs of old DC Thomson comics from the sixties and seventies, let me know. Fifties, too, if you have them.

Random scans this week are a trio of children's stories that fit into the dystopian theme that I've been looking at on occasions over the past few weeks. The Hunger Games was incredibly popular and it has spawned a hugely successful movie series. Of course, success breeds more of the same, and we've recently had Divergence, based on the novel by Veronica Roth and, arriving in cinemas shortly, The Maze Runner from the novel by James Dashner.

Upcoming... well, it'll be patchy again because we're out for the next couple of evenings; also, I need to set up the payment system so that people can start ordering copies of the new book. It's all fiddly stuff that takes time. But I'll squeeze whatever I can into the weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Commando issues 4743-4746

Commando issues on sale 25 September 2014.

Commando No 4743 – Return To The Sky
No, you’re not seeing things, that is a Sopwith Camel scout attacking a Ju 87 Stuka. But surely, you say, they’re planes from two different wars, their designs nearly 25 years apart. Surely they would never have met in combat.
   Well, yes and no.
   How this unlikely pair came face to face takes a bit of explaining. It’s the story of a warrior’s…

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Commando No 4744 – Scourge Of The Desert
The Sign of the Scorpion was their badge, and soon the Germans learned why…for the men of the Long Range Desert Group would fight as long as they drew breath. Their raids were as fast as the sting of the scorpion, and twice as deadly!

The sub-title “the toughest desert rat of them all” would seem to sum up this story very neatly but there is a lot more going on here than just a lantern-jawed British hero beating the beastly Jerries. There are at least two other battles going on alongside that struggle.
   Gordon Livingstone’s crisp interior artwork — with Zip-a-tone shading in amongst the black pen work — marries excellent detail work along with dynamic figures to match the frantic mood of the action.
   Ken Barr’s cover work does what it always does — makes you want to open the book. And as you’ve done that, it’s worked!
   Originally titled Single Fare To Tobruk, this is classic Commando at its finest.—Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Kenner
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr
originally Commando No 123 (July 1964), re-issued as No 663 (July 1972)

Commando No 4745 – “On The Run!”
On the retreat to Dunkirk, Sergeant-Major Mike Fletcher had hooked up with a trio of individuals separated from their units. Eventually they were captured and became POWs.
   However, Mike saw some potential in this down-trodden and uninspired bunch. The Sergeant-Major was determined to turn them into proper soldiers once and for all!
   First, all they had to do was escape…

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4746 – No-Gun Hero
When Johnny Peace was called up to the army he refused to fight, refused to kill anyone. And he was branded a coward.
   So he went to war as a medical orderly. Not for him guns or grenades — his only weapons were his medical satchel and his courage.
   A coward? Not Johnny Peace. There was probably never a braver man in the British Army!

Although Medical Orderly Johnny Peace (yes, really) is our eponymous No-Gun Hero, he is all but upstaged by a magnificent mutt — the fierce but noble Alsatian called Satan (yes, really).
   There have been a few fighting dogs in Commando’s long history. Memorable canine “tails” (sorry, at least one pooch-related pun is compulsory) have included “Wagger’s War” (No 1106), “Billy’s Best Friend” (No 3938) and “Hounds Of War” (originally No 67, re-issued late in 2013 as No 4664).
   So, “Fetch!” a cuppa, “Sit!” back and enjoy the story of a devilishly heroic hound.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Bernard Gregg
Art: Boluda
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 965 (September 1975), re-issued as No 2299 (August 1989)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Walter & Leonard Townsend

In April 1930, two brothers were threatened with legal action by Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office pathologist. The brothers were authors Walter and Leonard Townsend, who had collaborated on a book about Spilsbury, as they had on two previous biographies. In September 1929, Albert E. Marriott & Son had published a well-received biography of the Prince of Wales and a biography of the Pope was due for publication in May 1930.

The Townsend brothers had been contracted by Marriott to write the book about Spilsbury. After taking the trouble to ascertain from official sources that no record such as they were compiling existed officially, Sir Bernard Spilsbury and His Famous Cases was completed and a set of proofs were sent to Sir Bernard.

It was then that Spilsbury acted, saying on Monday, 21 April 1930, "I shall take legal action to stop the publication of the book unless I receive within the next day or two an undertaking that it is to be withdrawn. The book is quite unauthorised by me, and until the proofs were submitted to me a week ago I had no knowledge at all of the publication."

The brothers expressed astonishment at the statement that Spilsbury was ignorant of the publication, claiming that they had written to Spilsbury making clear their intentions to write a book and asking asking the privilege of submit ting a questionnaire to him. "The letter to Sir Bernard was written on January 29th, and I know for a fact that it was posted. If it was not received by him, then it is a different matter. The postal authorities do sometimes misplace letters in transit, but not often."

Walter Townsend noted regarding the questionnaire that any points which were considered by Sir Bernard to be improper or of too private a nature could be deleted. When they received no reply, they assumed that Spilsbury was either not sufficiently interested in the matter to deem it worth while refusing, or he was indifferent as to whether the book was written on not.

"There is no doubt that there is some misunderstanding about the whole affair," Leonard Townsend told the Hull Daily Mail (22 April 1930). "With regard to the legal question we have no intention of withdrawing the manuscript in view of our letter to Sir Bernard, but we are securing a ruling from the Society of Authors."

Sir Bernard maintained that the book was "a disgraceful piece of work, entirely unauthorised and unwelcome. The manuscript was written in such a way as to lead me to understand that it had been written by an American. Many of the 'facts' are inaccurate, and it is full of the grossest flattery." According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, who carried the news on the day Spilsbury issued his statement, "Some of the details of Sir Bernard's cases are so intimately described, it is stated, that the impression might be gathered that the facts are taken from personal sources."

Answering this latter point, Leonard Townsend was quoted as saying: "We have no wish to imply that we are reproducing Sir Bernard's own case-book. One section, dealing with about 20 of Sir Bernard's most famous cases, we gave the title, "Sir Bernard's case-book," but only in a general sense and never thinking that it could be taken to imply anything actually associated with the written records of a doctor, which anyone should know would be jealously guarded."

Walter Townsend added. "We were asked by a member of a publishing firm to write this book, and have done so under contract. We completed it only last week, and the firm submitted it immediately to Sir Bernard Spilsbury. It was definitely understood between us and the publishers that after Sir Bernard read the manuscript, we would make any alterations he might suggest."

The Hull Daily Mail noted that "During last week-end frantic efforts were made to get in touch with Mr. Marriott, who was away yachting on the French coast. Several wires were sent to him on Tuesday at various points at which he might have called."

As soon as Mr. Marriott reached England (the report continued), he telephoned his London office and, on reaching London, he at once got into touch with Sir Bernard Spilsbury's solicitors. He then issued the following statement:
Mr Marriott has had a consultation with Sir Bernard Spilsbury's solicitors with reference to Sir Bernard's objection to the book which was shortly to be issued by Messrs Albert E. Marriott, Ltd., and which dealt with himself and the murder cases with which he had been connected.
    In view of the position in which Sir Bernard would be placed with the General Medical Council, Mr Marriott has agreed to withold the publication of this actual work and a new book is being planned to bear the title of 'Murder Will Out,' and in which Sir Bernard Spilsbury will be in no way connected.
Leonard Townsend confirmed the news to the Hull Daily Mail (23 April 1930), saying: "We are re-writing the book under the title 'Murder Will Out,' and the new version will be published as soon as possible."

The Townsends had already penned two biographies for the same publisher, making their debut with Marriott with the first complete biography of the Prince of Wales. To insure the accuracy of the book, the manuscript was forwarded to St. James's Palace for the attention of Sir Godfrey Thomas, K.C.V.O., Principal Private Secretary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Sir Godfrey not only read and corrected the manuscript before publication, but also supplied certain facts and details of the greatest use to the authors.

The writing had not been easy, reported the Yorkshire Post (27 September 1929): "Interviewed yesterday, they said they experienced great difficulty in collecting material for their biography of the Prince, as many people in a position to give information declined to do so. Sir Godfrey Thomas, private secretary to his Royal Highness, had been most helpful, they said, in correcting the proofs. Cuts were made, chiefly of anecdotes, but they say that out of 85,000 words Sir Godfrey did not cut out more than 1,000 words.

Described as "unpretentious in their appearance and demeanour", Walter and Leonard Townsend, of 67 Princes Avenue, Hull, were well known local authors, having published articles in a number  of newspapers that had received favourable criticism and reviews as widely as Canada, South Africa and America. Before taking up writing as a profession, they were both accountants of Yorkshire Bank Chambers, Princes's Avenue. They were invited to undertake the biography of the Prince of Wales after the publisher, Albert E. Marriott, after publishing a series of articles on the centenaries of certain celebrities. Some of their work had been published anonymously, but they were credited with two books at that time: An Introduction to Finance and Lucrative Hobbies.

The various titles they wrote for Marriott included The Biography of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, The Biography of His Holiness Pope Pius XI (which, they claimed, was "an unbiased biography without any grinding of personal religious axes, or prejudiced by active participation in the rites of any definite Church.") and, belatedly, Black Cap, subtitled Murder Will Out.

Their father, Walter Leonard Townsend (1873-1943), was the librarian of the Hull Central Library and was for 12 years on the staff of the Leeds Public Libraries.Walter had married Florence Gertrude Monkman (1872-1950) on 4 August 1897 and had five children: Hilda Gertrude Townsend (1898-1966), Walter, Leonard, Elsie (1903-1904), who died before she was a year old, and Frank.

Walter junior was born in Hull on 16 December 1899 and his brother Leonard was born two years later in late 1901. As well as being partners in commercial business and as writers, the two made a splash locally on 9 February 1933 when they celebrated a double wedding at St. Augustine's, Queen's Road, Hull. Walter and Leonard married respectively Lilian Ellen East, daughter of Mr & Mrs T. A. East, and Mary Marjorie Pease, daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Pease. The only thing the grooms did not share was their honeymoon destinations: Leonard went to Whitby and Walter to Scarborough. They were also living apart, Leonard in Hall Road and Walter in Allderidge Avenue.

It was noted at the time that they had collaborated on "several light novels", presumably published under pen-names. The earliest known novel written by the pair is Luck of the Course, published by Hornsey Journal as part of their FP Racing novels series in October 1934. A second, A Shadow on the Course, followed four months later. Four more novels appeared in the same series in 1940-42.

Little is known about their output at this time. The two brothers were still writing after the war and a report in the Hull Daily Mail (22 February 1945) reveals that they had were still collaborating, giving a joint talk to the Hull Publicity Club where they recounted the worries and humours of their literary partnership. "It was evident that the partnership is a happy and productive one which has lasted 25 years." The two had recently been elected members of the Royal Society of Literature.

A report from August 1945 noted that the brothers had three books due to go to press: Secret of the Sands ("a new analysis of some famous unsolved real-life mysteries); Wreckers of the Range ("a conventional Western thriller"); and Happy Holidays ("a book for boys, [which] has been copiously illustrated in black and white by the authors"). As far as I am aware, only the second of these appeared.

The news item also revealed that the brothers Townsend were "at present engaged on rather more serious literary work, for they have been invited by a well-known Indian firm of educational publishers to write a series of English Grammar books for Forms I. to VI., to be used in Indian schools." Whether these appeared, I have no idea.

John Humber, in his regular column in the Hull Daily Mail, commented that the brothers were "versatile writers about whom items have appeared in these Notes over the years," had had one of their short stories translated into Danish with such success that they had been invited by a Danish literary agent in Copenhagen to write stories especially for the Danish reading public. "In addition to their latest enterprise," Humber continued, "demands have come this month for their literary work from Malaya and Burma." Their publisher in Stockholm had managed to get their annual royalty cheque through to Hull without a break during the six years of war.

In November 1947, the two brothers were elected Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society. This followed the publication of several officially sponsored guides to rural England which the brother had written since 1945. These were published anonymously – possibly by Century Press, who published an extensive run of Rural Guides in the late 1940s and early 1950s. "In their researches they have set down not only populations and rural rating notes," said one newspaper report, "but have redescribed well-known beauty spots, rural industries, traditions, and hopes for the future. They have set themselves the task of delving into every rural district in the United Kingdom."

The last traced books written by the Townsends are poles apart: Costing for Builders, with illustrations prepared by Walter's son, Robin, was published in 1948 and revised in 1957; their last known fiction, Gipsies in the Wood, was a short novel for children published in 1953.

The brothers were still active at least until the late 1940s when Leonard was listed in The Author's and Writer's Who's Who 1948-49. The entry noted that he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and that his recreations included touring, fruit-growing, music and bridge. An earlier (1930s) entry for Walter noted that he was the local representative for several trade journals and had contributed to over 90 newspapers and magazines. He listed his recreations as swimming and chess.

Walter died in Hull on 6 June 1972, aged 72. Leonard died in Beverley, Yorkshire, in 1986, aged 84.


Novels as W. & L. Townsend
Luck of the Course. London, Hornsey Journal Printing Works (FP Racing 172), Oct 1934.
A Shadow on the Course. London, Hornsey Journal Printing Works (FP Racing 180), Feb 1935.
Judy’s Horse. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 305), Apr 1940.
The Thoroughbred. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 311), 1942.
A Long Chance. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 317), 1942.
The Wonder Horse. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 319), 1942.
Secret of Blue Gully. London, Martin & Reid, Nov 1948.
Gun Branded. London, Martin & Reid, May 1949.
Riding High. London, Martin & Reid, May 1949.
Rex the Rectory Mouse, illus. Vera Rice-Jay. London, Thames Publishing Co., 1950.
The Round House Mystery, illus. Joyce Johnson. Huddersfield, Schofield & Sims, 1951.
Gipsies in the Wood, illus. J. W. Tate. Leeds, E. J. Arnold & Son, 1953.

Novels as Wal Leonard
The Buckaroo Rides Out. London, Piccadilly Novels 223, 1945.
Trouble Trail. Leicester, Fiction House, 1951.
Nevada Pay-Off. Leicester, Fiction House, Feb 1952.

Novels as Leonard Walters (series: St Hal's [Jack Barry & Co.])
Wreckers of the Range. London, Martin & Reid, Nov 1945.
The Gold Trail. London, Martin & Reid, Apr 1946.
Yellow Streak. London, Martin & Reid, Apr 1946.
The Boss of Gray Flats. London, Martin & Reid, Feb 1947.
The Bounder of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Rift at St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Rebel of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Snob of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, Dec 1947.

Non-fiction as W. & L. Townsend
An Introduction to Finance: a book for the average man. London, Crosby, Lockwood & Son, 1927.
Lucrative Hobbies. London, G. Allen & Unwin, 1927.
The Biography of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. London, A. E. Marriott & Son, 1929.
Black Cap. Murder Will Out. London, A. E. Marriott, 1930; in 2 volumes, Black Cap and Murder Will Out, London, Mellifont Press, 1938.
The Biography of His Holiness Pope Pius XI. London, A. E. Marriott, 1930.
Mystery & Miracle Plays in England. London, Henry Hartley, 1931.
Costing for Builders, illus. prepared by Robin Townsend. London, E. & F. N. Spon, 1948; revised, 1957.