Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Scrapbook: Johnny Speight

A scan from my scrapbook: Johnny Speight was a screenwriter best known for Till Death Us Do Part. Here's the news report and obituary from The Times, 6 July 1998.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Comic Cuts - 17 February 2017

On Monday I found myself in the following situation at the dentist: a tooth that had previously been filled was showing some signs of decay under the filling. It might not be decay, it might just be a shadow caused by the x-ray.

I was given  a number of options: I could leave it alone and monitor the tooth to see if it developed into a problem. I could have the filling removed to see if there is definitely decay; the risk here is that a tooth that is currently causing me no problem at all may be revealed to have decay, which it may or may not be possible to fix; if the decay proves to be below the gum line, the tooth would almost certainly have to be removed. (Long-time readers will know this happened to me before with another tooth which was supposed to be crowned but which ended up being removed.)

Now, because I'm not a trained dentist, I don't know which is the best option. So I asked the one person in the room with the years of training and experience in this precise area, the one person who knows my teeth better than I do, for their advice, only to be told that she wasn't allowed to offer me advice, only advise me of the options.

I made a choice, but because the person with the right knowledge in the room wasn't allowed to give me a straight answer, I haven't a clue if it was the best option. Frankly, I've never understood the obsession with choice over expert advice.

For the rest of the week I've been working on the Valiant index, mostly on the annuals, typing up lists of contents—and, yes, it really is as dull as it sounds, especially trying to i.d. the original sources for strips like 'The Nutts' and 'The Crows'. These things have to be done if I'm to make this book as complete as possible.

At the time of writing I've clocked up 8,200 words of lists and maybe a few hundred more for the introduction last weekend. Not a bad week and definitely a step in the right direction.

Our random scans this week are more random than usual. Here are a few odds and ends I've picked up over the past few weeks:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 15 February 2017.

2000AD Prog 2018
Judge Dredd: Deep In The Heart by Michael Carroll (w) Henry Flint (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Kingmaker by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Kingdom: As It Is In Heaven by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
The Order:  Wyrm War by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Sinister Dexter: One-Hit Wonder by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cecil Aldin

During his lifetime, Cecil Aldin was described as one of the leading spirits in the renaissance of British sporting art. Following the death of Henry Aiken in 1851, sporting art had been in the doldrums—the comic art of John Leech aside—until the emergence of Aldin and Denholm Armour (1864-1949) towards the end of the 19th century. Between them, they founded a school of realistic portrayal of country pursuits which not only appealed to sportsmen but to the broader public.

He was particularly noted for painting of horses, dogs and hunting scenes—a hobby he particularly enjoyed. The anonymous writer of Aldin’s obituary in The Times noted, “Criticism was possible against his drawings of horses: landscapes and architectural studies have been done better by others. But there never yet has been a painter of dogs fit to hold a candle to him. Of all his immensely diverse interests the study of dogs came foremost. as an artist he had the ability to portray the character of his subject: as a man he understood that subject with the sympathy that enabled him to show us our very friend himself … Somebody once complained that his drawings of dogs were ‘too human’; they were not, but often showed character that even their owners had not noticed.”

Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was born in Slough, Buckinghamshire, on 28 April 1870, the son of Charles, a well-to-do builder and contractor, and Sarah Aldin. From an early age he was keen on sketching animals and the countryside and he was encouraged in his artistic aspirations by his father, who readily agreed to his studying art. At first a boarder at Eastbourne College, he later attended Solihull Grammar School before studying anatomy at South Kensington and animal painting at Midhurst, Sussex, under W. Frank Calderon, who went on to found the School of Animal Painting in 1894 and later produced a definitive book on the subject, Animal Painting and Anatomy (1936).

The Aldin family, which also included Cecil’s siblings Arthur Reginald (1872-1937), Percy Charles (1874-1956), Mildred Lilian (later Dunn; 1876-1931), had moved to Clapham and lived in a house called Windemere on the south side of Clapham Common. Cecil Aldin continued to live with his family until he began selling his artwork regularly, his first sale—a drawing of a dog show to Graphic—appearing around the time of his 21st birthday.

From this small beginning, Aldin rapidly established himself as a versatile and productive artist. He moved first to Chelsea and then to Bedford Park, Chiswick, where he found himself in a brotherhood of artists which included James Pryde and his brother-in-law William Nicholson—the Beggarstaff Brothers—and John Hassall, who was to become a very good friend. Aldin’s other associates included Phil May, Dudley Hardy, Lance Thackeray and many others; this wide range of friends and colleagues led to much cross-pollination of ideas and techniques.

One of his earliest commissions came from a Master of Foxhounds who wanted a portrait. The M.F.H. then asked for a portrait of a horse, an old polo pony, with the horse itself as payment, which Aldin housed in a bicycle shed. Before long, he could be found hacking on his own mount from Bedford Park to meets at Esher. Over a short period he accumulated a second horse (again in exchange for a portrait of a hunter), a Shetland pony, a donkey, two monkeys and thirteen dogs.

It was an early ambition of Aldin’s to hunt, and from his early associations with mainly Metropolitan packs, he went on to hunt with his own pack of harriers, beagles; for five seasons during World War I he was Master of the South Berkshire Foxhounds, resigning in 1919; he later hunted with Godfrey Heseltine’s pack of Basset hounds. Aldin hunted in upwards of 30 counties. Even in his early days such was his passion that he was able to persuade a leading sporting paper to employ him as a hunting correspondent.

His artwork sales paid for his sporting hobbies and there was no shortage of magazines and newspapers who wanted Aldin’s work. He found early success when he was asked to illustrated Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Stories’ in Pall Mall Budget (1894-95). He produced numerous sporting colour prints as well as a series on old inns of England (1919-20), illustrated R. S. Surtees’ famous hunting character Jorrocks (Jorrocks on ‘Uniting, 1909; Handley Cross, 1911), Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1910) and many other books, as well as contributing to Ladies Pictorial, Illustrated London News, Sketch, The Gentlewoman, Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Queen, Penny Illustrated Paper, The Sphere, Country Gentleman, Printers’ Pie, Windsor, Cassell’s Family Magazine, Ludgate Monthly, Royal Magazine, Black and White, Good Words, Boy’s Own Paper, The Captain, Animal World, Land and Water Illustrated, The Poster, Pearson’s Magazine and Punch, amongst others.

In his autobiography, Aldin claimed: “I may as well state here and have done with it that I have no pretensions to Art. Art for the true artist should have a capital A. For me, I am ashamed to say, it has had a rather small one for my painting has always been founded on substrata of hunting possibilities, that is to say, it has had to provide me with the wherewithal to enable me to hunt, and has been tainted with this aftermath of sporting commercialism.” Commercialism (beyond obvious advertising, as he produced many posters, particularly for Cadburys) was not especially evident in his work and it was argued that his realistic portrayal of sport was appreciated by those with “little appreciation of art with a capital ‘A'” because it showed the audience the things they knew and things as they were really done. Aldin’s talents did not go unrecognised: he was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the London Sketch Club and had many paintings exhibited.

Cecil was married to Marguerite Dorothy Morris, daughter of merchant Frederic Hall Morris, on 18 June 1895 at Ascension, Balham Hill. The newly married couple lived at ‘The Limes’, Flanders Road, Bedford Park, where their son Dudley Cecil Aldin was born in 1897, and, from around 1898, at 41 Priory Road, Chiswick, where daughter Gwendolene Mabel Aldin was born in 1899. He subsequently moved to Henley-on-Thames.

Aldin was said to be a man of great charm. He organised various shows, including childrens’ pony shows at Cloutsham Ball and Dunster, le Touquet, and dog shows which were not always serious (with awards for the ugliest dog, for example). In 1919, he co-wrote (with Adrian Ross) a play for children entitled The Happy Family, produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre and later at The Strand, in which three children learn the language of the animals around them.

Aldin wrote numerous books in the 1920s, including Ratcatcher to Scarlet (1926), Dogs of Character (1927), Romance of the Road (1928), An Artist’s Models (1930), Mrs. Tickler’s Caravan (1931) and an autobiography, Time I was Dead (1934).

Aldin suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, aggravated by falls in the hunting field, which forced him to give up the sport. He retired to the Balearic Islands, taking all his dogs with him (horses were left behind with approved new owners) and made his home at Camp de Mar, Andraitz, Mallorca. Fortunately, he made many new friends amongst the visitors to the islands and was able to continue to work, despite his indifferent health.

He died at 20 Devonshire Place, Marylebone, London, on 6 January 1935. He was survived by his wife and daughter, his son having been killed in action whilst serving with the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1916.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stanley L. Wood

Stanley Llewellyn Wood was born in Maindee, Christchuch, now a suburb of Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1867, the son of Stanley James Wood (1838- ), a cement manufacturer, and his wife Charlotte (nee Atkins, c1838- ) who had married in St. Pancras in 1859. The Wood family appear to have moved around:  daughter Amy (c.1860- ) was born in Millwall, whilst daughters Norah (1862- ), Jessie (1863- ) and Edith (1866-1940) were born in Gillingham (Kent), Keynsham (Somerset) and Christchurch (Monmouthshire) respectively.

It may be that Stanley James Wood moved regularly as he left a trail of creditors behind him. He was taken to court in August 1860 and, on 26 February 1861, he was judged bankrupt over his business in Millwall. On 1 October 1861, he was granted a Certificate of the second class, which was issued when the bankrupt may have brought about his misfortune by carelessness or recklessness, but not by dishonesty.

Further financial problems led Wood and his then partner, John Evered Poole, to give up their estate and effects for the benefit of creditors in July 1869, and Wood was again summoned before the bankruptcy court in September 1870. Bankruptcy does not seem to have phased Stanley James Wood as, at the time of the 1871 census, he and his family were living at Bolton Place, Maindee, and had three general servants.

Stanley Llewellyn Wood grew up in Maindee, until the age of 6—not aged 12 as has otherwise been reported—when he and his family travelled to America, sailing from Bristol and arriving in New York on 1 September 1873. His father had bought a ranch in Indian territory in Kansas, the bodies of the former owners, who had been murdered by a raiding party of braves, being buried in the garden. Shortly after Stanley James Wood’s death (it is possible that he may have returned to England, where he died suddenly in 1879, aged 41), the house was surrounded by Ute Indians. To scare them away, Charlotte had her children put on riding boots and spurs and they tramped up and down the stairs and from room to room, making as much noise as possible. The ruse worked and, believing the house to be heavily occupied, the natives retreated.

Charlotte and her family returned to London, and were living at 4 Mornington Street, St. Pancras, at the time of the 1881 census. Norah was working as a clerk (she later married Edward Jones in 1888)  and Jessie M. (as she was now listed as) was an artist's apprentice. (Elder sister Amy, I believe, was working as a bar maid at the Duke of York in York Road, Lambeth, at this time.) Charlotte and her son Stanley were the only residents at that same address ten years later, his occupation now a full time artist.

Wood become a prolific illustrator of newspapers and magazines, including Black and White, Boy’s Own Paper, Cassell’s Magazine, Chums, The Graphic, The Harmsworth Magazine, The Idler, The London Magazine, The Pall Mall Magazine, Pearson’s Magazine, The Penny Magazine, The Sporting and Dramatic News, The Strand Magazine, Wide World Magazine, The Windsor Magazine and Young England. As a painter he also exhibited at the Royal Academy.

He was especially known for his western art and was sent in 1888 to South Dakota by The Illustrated London News, where he was able to gain an authentic view of the wild west which he infused into his illustrations. His work was widely appreciated and Jeff Dykes, in Fifty Great Western Illustrators, said that "No better horse artist ever lived than Stanley L. Wood – there is more action in a Stanley Wood illustration than in the story itself."

Wood’s magazine and book illustrations included works by Cutcliffe Hyne (Captain Kettle), Dr. Nikola by Guy Boothby and Don Q. by Hesketh Pritchard.

Wood was reputedly a fine all-round athlete, indulging in swimming, boxing and horse riding. He travelled widely.

Wood married Mary Elizabeth Jenkins, the daughter of George Simpson Jenkins (a tailor) in Fulham on 21 February 1899. They had three children: Stanley Montague, Henry Lawrence and Jack Steward.

Wood, of 23 Windsor Road, Palmers Green, Middlesex, died at his home on Thursday, 1 March 1928, aged 61. He had been ill for some weeks and, although he could not raise himself from his bed unaided, insisted that he continue working on his final illustration – for a ‘Kettle’ story – with his wife and son supporting him.

For such a major artist, he left little in the way of rewards, leaving his widow of legacy of only £114 15s.


Ten Little Sausages, illus. Stanley L. Wood. London, 1915.

The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, a new edition revised by the Rev. G. F. Townsend. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1887.
A Waif of the Plains, by Bret Harte. London, Chatto & Windus, 1890.
A Ward of the Golden Gate, by Bret Harte. London, Chatto & Windus, 1890.
Rujub, the Juggler, by G. A. Henty. London, Chatto & Windus, 1893.
The Curse of Clement Waynflete. A tale of two wars, by Bernard Mitford. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1894.
In Strange Company. A story of Chili and the southern seas, by Guy Boothby. London & New York, Ward, Lock & Bowden, 1894.
The King’s Assegaie. A Matabili story, by Bertram Mitford. London, Chatto & Windus, 1894.
A Protégée of Jack Hamlin's, by Bret Harte, illus. William Small, A. S. Boyd, Stanley Wood, etc. London, Chatto & Windus, 1894.
Romance of the Old Seraglio, by H. N. Crellin. London, Chatto & Windus, 1894.
Lady Turpin, by Henry Herman. London, 1895.
Doctor Nikola, by Guy Boothby. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1896.
The Beautiful White Devil, by Guy Boothby. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1896?
Paris at Bay. A story of the siege and the Commune, by Herbert Hayens. London, Blackie & Son, 1897.
The Phantom Stockman, by Guy Boothby. Elgin & Dunfermline, Phono Co. (Photo Novelettes 1), 1897.
The Lust of Hate, by Guy Boothby. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1898.
Brave Men of Action, by S. J. Mackenna & J. A. O’Shea. London, Chatto & Windus, 1899.
Further Advetnures of Captain Kettle, by C. J. Cutcliffe-Hyne. London, C. A. Pearson, 1899.
How Soldiers Fight, by F. Norreys Connell, illus. R. Caton Woodville, Stanley L. Wood, W. H. Overend, etc. London, James Bowden, 1899.
1779: A story of old Shoreham, by Frederick Harrison. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1899; New York, E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1899.
With Shield and Assegai. A tale of the Zulu war, by Capt. F. S. Brereton. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1899.
No Surrender. A tale of the rising of La Vendée. London, Blackie & Son, 1900 [1899].
In the King’s Service. A tale of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland, by Capt. F. S. Brereton. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1901 [1900].
The Survivor, by E. Phillips Oppenheim. London, Ward, Lock, 1901.
Contraband; or, A Losing Hazard, by G. J. Whyte-Melvill. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1902.
Tilbury Nogo, by G. J. Whyte-Melville. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1902.
Rob Roy MacGregor. Highland chief and outlaw, by Gordon Stables. London, E. Nister, 1902.
One of the Fighting Scouts. A tale of guerrilla warfare in South Africa, by Capt. F. S. Brereton. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1903 [1902].
A Soldier of Japan. A tale of the Russo-Japanese war, by F. S. Brereton. London, Blackie, 1906.
Roughriders of the Pampas. A tale of ranch life in South America. London, Blackie & Son, 1909 [1908].
The Disputed V.C. A tale of the Indian Mutiny, by Frederick P. Gibbon. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1909.
Jumped by Convicts. A tale of plantation life in British Guiana, by Joy Merivale. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919.
Under the Serpent’s Fang. A tale of adventure in New Guinea in the last century, by J. Claverdon Wood. London, “Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1924.

(* Many more illustrations by Wood can be found at this Pinterest board.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Comic Cuts - 10 February 2017

My first week of freedom / underemployment [delete as applicable] and the weather decides to turn chilly again, making my little office (a former garage with no insulation) cold and uninviting.  But on Sunday I braced myself against the cold and pulled on my thickest winter jumper, wrapped myself up in a dressing gown that I've had since I lived in Chelmsford twenty-five years ago (and it's still snuggly) and got down to writing the introduction for the next Bear Alley book, which will be a major overhaul of the Valiant Index.

At the moment there isn't much of it: on Saturday I'd broken down my listing of the comic's contents so that I had a chronology of when strips started and finished plus various other events in the paper's history. I started writing on Sunday and managed over 1,000 words (which was my target)... and, apart from some odd bits of research, that's where the work finished. On Tuesday I spent the day on a fruitless search for some photocopies that I know are in the house... but where??? Somewhere amongst the photocopies might lie the answer to a question that's bugging me.

Now, of course, the bigger question that's bugging me is... where are the photocopies? The search did turn up another, different set of photocopies that I was wondering about six months ago, so what I need to do is look for something else and with any luck the information I'm after will turn up.

On Wednesday and Thursday I was working on a couple of articles that will help towards paying the rent. They're on topics I'm utterly unfamiliar with, namely finance, but you can soon become a mini-expert on certain topics if you can find three or four good sources of information on the subject. Just keep your fingers crossed that those writers weren't desperate freelancers who had the same idea and simply looked for three or four online sources of their own.

As I was writing about financial statements, I did actually do some original research and looked up some annual returns for a few companies. What I found was that trying to understand what the numbers represent is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone. That said, I think I got there in the end. We shall see what happens when I send them to the editor.

I'm back on the book until the middle of next week, so hopefully I'll be able to update you next Friday. And just because I'm reading old comic strips that I've loved since I was a kid, don't think this isn't work. It's tough having to write about all these stories rather than just read them.

This week's random scan theme just had to be about money and finance.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Commando issues 4991 - 4994

Commando issues on sale 9th February 2017.

Commando – 4991 – Achtung, We Surrender
In 1940, small time crook Ned Turpin claimed to be the descendant of the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin. He, with his partner in crime, Bert Bloomer, had no intention of involving himself in the war… or at least until he was caught robbing notorious East London gangsters, the Bailey brothers.
Shipped off to France to avoid the Baileys and time behind bars, Ned and Bert found themselves on the front line in a war they wanted no part of. The advancing Germans had heard many cries on the battlefields but now they would hear the screams of… Achtung, we surrender!

Story: George Low
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Commando – 4992 – Legion of the Lost
The Foreign Legion breeds tough men. Sergeant Steve Millar was tough – he needed to be.
    He was stranded in the desert with a fortune of gold. He knew he would be attacked by Germans, Italians and marauding Arabs. And for company he had four legionnaires – killers all, with the smell of gold in their nostrils.

Mepham’s tale of the legendary Foreign Legion challenges the intense Espirit de Corps traditionally established by the Legion’s units. With enemy forces surrounding our heroes as they cross treacherous desert conditions, it is essential that they work as a team. Their journey goes to plan until the Legionnaire’s Code of Honour is disrupted by an irrefutable force: gold.
    Mepham brilliantly explores the soldiers’ fight for survival, and the unfortunate consequences of greed in this thrilling tale. Illustrated wonderfully by the talented Segrelles, Legion of the Lost is an epic adventure through the desert to find where man’s wealth really lays.—The Commando Team.

Story: Mepham
Art: Segrelles
Cover: Segrelles
Legion of the Lost, originally Commando No. 311 (February 1968)

Commando - 4993 – Barbed Wire Battlers
Seaman Andy Walker had been a loner all his life. From his beginnings at the orphanage to his posting in the Royal Navy, Andy struggled to be accepted…
    But Andy’s isolation worsened when he was captured and put in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Once his jailers learnt he could speak their language, he was singled out and, from his fellow prisoners’ perspective, given special treatment.
    It would take everything Andy had to prove he was no traitor, no Japanese pet… to prove that he was one of them. That he was a Barbed Wire Battler!

Story: George Low
Art: Rezzonico and Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando - 4994 – Ground Strike!
The Bristol Beaufighter packed an awesome punch with its arsenal of machine guns and cannons. Turned against an enemy, it was a lethal weapon of war.
    But one Beaufighter pilot, Andy Shaw, knew to his cost that it could be just as deadly against a friendly target hit by mistake…

Alan Hemus does it again in this outstanding Commando outing! Hemus’ storytelling is at the top of its game with his two heroes, Andy and Harry, caught in a web of uncertainty.
    They shoot down a launch, convinced it’s an enemy E-Boat, but their superiors believe they have actually sunk one of their own rescue launches. Their moral dilemma looms over them until the climax. The tension Hemus draws out in the plot is matched by the scratch lines of Terry Patrick’s interior art. This all topped off with another amazing Ian Kennedy cover!—The Commando Team.

Story: Alan Hemus
Art: Terry Patrick
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Ground Strike!, originally Commando No. 2518 (November 1991)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 8-9 February 2017.

2000AD Prog 2017
Judge Dredd: Deep In The Heart by Michael Carroll (w) Henry Flint (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Kingmaker by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Kingdom: As It Is In Heaven by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
The Order:  Wyrm War by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Future Shocks: Donations Welcome! by Rory McConville(w) Steven Austin (a) Simon Bowland (l)

2000AD's Greatest: Celebrating Forty Years by various
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08540-0, 9 February 2017, £12.99. Available from Amazon.
Some of british comics' top creators pick their favorite one-off stories from 2000 AD's 40 year run. From humorously twisted Future Shocks to the dystopian escapades of Judge Dredd, 2000 AD has inspired generations of readers and has spawned some of the greatest talents in the comics industry. To celebrate the creative droids behind the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, a selection of writers and artists from across 2000 AD's forty-year history were asked to choose their favourite one-off story by a fellow creator and explain why they chose it. The result is this incredible anthology featuring work by Alan Grant, Kevin O'Neill, Rob Williams, Brian Bolland, Chris Weston and Steve Dillon selected by creators such as founding editor Pat Mills, celebrated artist Jock, and recent newcomer Tom Foster.

Judge Dredd: Every Empire Falls by Michael Carroll, Paul Davidson, Colin Macneil, Henry Flint, PJ Holden & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08531-8, 9 February 2017, £19.99. Available from Amazon.
Following the decimation of Mega-City One during Chaos Day, Judges from other "friendly" Justice Departments have been brought in to strengthen the ranks and help maintain law and order on the streets. Among the newcomers is Fintan Joyce, son of a former Emerald Isle Judge, who teamed up with Judge Dredd in one of the most fondly remembered Judge Dredd stories. Exploiting Big Meg's weakened state, several groups have risen up against the Judges. If things couldn't get any worse, Dredd has fallen foul of Brit-Cit and they want him in prison or on a slab. Have the odds finally stacked up enough to spell the end of Mega-City One's greatest lawman?

Thrill-Power Overload [updated 40th Anniversary edition] by David Bishop and Karl Stock
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08522-6, 9 February 2017, £35.00 / $45.00 (US). Available from Amazon.
The definitive history of the most influential British comic ever! Updated, expanded and revised for 2000 AD’s 40th anniversary. From 2000 AD's humble and rocky beginnings to its current position as the Galaxy’s Greatest comic, Thrill-Power Overload charts the incredible history of this ground-breaking comic. With exclusive interviews, hundreds of illustrations and rarely-seen artwork, former 2000 AD editor, David Bishop and journalist Karl Stock, guide the reader through four decades of action, adventure, excitement and the occasional editorial nightmare! Told by the people who were there, this is the definitive history of the comic that launched a thousand talents including legends such as John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Mick McMahon, Grant Morrison, Kevin O'Neill, Simon Bisley and continues with 21st Century breakthrough talents such as Jock, Rob Williams, Andy Diggle, Al Ewing, Henry Flint, Frazer Irving - and many many more.

Monday, February 06, 2017

John Bolton

A mystery that has me mystified.

John Bolton was the author of eight swift-moving adventure yarns written in the late 1930s, centred around the popular subject of aeroplanes and flying. Although I don't own any of  his books, I was interested in finding out who he was and had a dig around looking for reviews.

His writing was melodramatic and full of rapid-fire action. "Cliches bristle in every chapter and incidents pile upon incident leaving the reader breathless," opined one reviewer. "Even the character are in a hurry." His debut novel, The Mystery Plane, came in for some criticism for its own rapidity: "This melodramatic novel of a would-be world dictator who established himself on the Broads, began to collect war munitions, stole 'hush-hush' plane plans, attacked R.A.F. planes and such trifles, bears the stamp of being hurriedly written."

The settings ranged from the Broads to Anglesey, the Isle of Wight to Iraq and Persia. The plots involved German spies, dope smugglers, kidnapping and murder. After his first novel, Bolton seems to have settled into a groove of entertaining, if cliched, writing, his next few books – The Air Sleuth, The Desert Flyer and The Air Smugglers – described as providing "a few unexpected thrills" and "A pleasant book for a leisure hour."

The most interesting of the eight titles might be The Island Mystery which eschews the usual enterprising young man as its hero. "Tales of smuggling by aeroplanes are not new, but in his evident knowledge of the character of the British Customs officer and his red tape and the places where the story is laid, Mr Bolton gets across a readable book. His hero is no dashing young blood of his Majesty's service, but a middle-aged Customs officer, a widower with two children, a boy and a girl whose mischievous doings and remarks are as good as any part of the main story ... The almost man-in-the-street character of the Customs officer, who is up against a gang who do not stop at murder only adds to the interest of a story which moves with increasing pace to a great climax in which Revenue cutters and Government planes battle with the smugglers."

Unfortunately, the war appears to have put paid to John Bolton's writing. His next novel, Perils in Persia, was issued a few months before war was declared and two more books followed, The Swimming Pool Murder in 1940 and The Spy Hunters in 1943. A series of abridged paperback editions was published by Dublin-based printers Mellifont Press, but these also came to an end in 1940 after six titles.

What happened to John Bolton is unknown. It seems likely that the byline was a pseudonym and if the author survived the war, he may have picked up his career under a different name.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Mike Carey Cover Gallery


The Devil You Know (London, Orbit, 2006)
Orbit 1841-49413-5, (Apr) 2006, 470pp, £6.99. Cover by Alex Williamson
---- [2nd imp.] 2007, 470pp, £6.99. Cover by Alex Williamson
Orbit 978-1841-49413-5, 2008, 470pp, £7.99. Cover design by Tim Byrne & Sean Garrehy
---- [4th imp.] 2008. 

Vicious Circle (London, Orbit, 2006)
Orbit 1841-49414-3, (Oct) 2006, 501pp, £7.99. Cover by Alex Williamson
Orbit 978-1841-49414-2, (Apr) 2008, 501pp, £7.99.

Dead Men's Boots (London, Orbit, 2007)
Orbit 978-1841-49415-9, (Sep) 2007, 534pp, £7.99. Cover design by Tim Byrne

Thicker Than Water (London, Orbit, 2009)
Orbit 978-0841-49656-6, (Mar) 2009, 480[+20]pp, £7.99. Cover design by Tim Byrne & Sean Garrehy

The Naming of the Beasts (London, Orbit, 2009)
Orbit 978-1841-49655-9, 2009, 463[+40]pp, £7.99. Cover design by Tim Byrne & Sean Garrehy


The Girl With All the Gifts (London, Orbit, 2014)
Orbit 978-0356-50284-7, 2014, 407pp, [tpb]
Orbit 978-0356-50015-7, 2014, 461pp, £7.99. Cover design by Duncan Spilling/LBBG

Fellside (London, Orbit, 2016)
Orbit 978-0356-50359-2, (Apr) 2016, 496pp, £13.99.
Orbit 978-0356-50360-8, (Aug) 2016, 486pp, £7.99.


The City of Silk and Steel (London, Gollancz, 2013; US as The Steel Seraglion)
Gollancz 978-0575-13266-5, 2013. 537pp.

The House of War and Witness (London, Gollancz, 2014)
Gollancz 978-0575-13273-3, 2015.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Comic Cuts - 3 February 2017

I had some bad news this week. My day job for the past couple of years has been editing a trade paper called Hotel Business. Sadly, the paper is no more. I found out on Wednesday. Since the referendum, the paper has struggled to get in the levels of advertising we need; Brexit has created terrible uncertainty in the market and companies have been concentrating their advertising online.

Unfortunately, this has coincided with the collapse of the pound against the Euro and the vast majority of magazines rely on Europe for their paper. Prices jumped 10% in January and Hotel, which might have survived one line of attack, could not sustain itself with this second front opening up. Sales had gone up (we were the only magazine in the sector to be ABC'd), but not enough to counter the rise in costs.

So Wednesday got off to a pretty poor start, unless you think of being laid off as a holiday that surprises you. And who doesn't like holidays!

This morning (I'm writing this Thursday night) was better as I picked up some writing work, which will guarantee me at least one more payday. I'm not up to speed on what the work requires, but I'll hopefully have more idea next week, when I will be an expert on "How Brexit has impacted UK franchising". Bloody Brexit. I can certainly tell you how it's impacted me...

Until Wednesday I was having quite an interesting week. On Friday I received a newsletter from an Italian friend which included a flyer for Lucca, the huge Italian comics festival that will be running in a couple of weeks. This year they are planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Italian series Storia del West. My Italian pal was most surprised when I mentioned that it wasn't the 50th anniversary this year... it was the 51st and the famous Italian series had first appeared over here in the UK.

Storia del West was created by Gino D'Antonio, who scripted the series as well as drawing some episodes, with Renzo Calegari and a small group of other Italian artists who would draw the bulk of the series, which originally ran to 73 episodes. Most collectors will tell you that the series first appeared in the Italian comic Collana Rodeo, beginning in June 1967. I was long aware that there was a connection between Storia del West and a British series entitled Valiant Story of the West, but it was only when I was researching the introduction for Worlds of Adventure that it struck me that the Valiant spin-off had appeared in April 1966, fourteen months before the series began in Italy.

I mentioned this to David Roach the other day while I was checking with him a couple of credits for the Valiant Story of the West books. David commented on Facebook "This is the equivalent of finding out that the X-men was in fact created by DC Thomson years before Marvel printed a copy." 

Hopefully the origins of Storia del West will be discovered while I'm researching my next book. Yes, I'm planning to use my surprise holiday to get another book together. That's the plan, anyway. Things may change. We're living in interesting times.

As I write this I'm listening to the absolutely fascinating story of Jimmy Cagney's years at Warner Bros. in the third and final part of "Bullets and Blood", a sprawling nine hour (!) podcast in the fantastic The Secret History of Hollywood series. I cannot recommend this highly enough. As a fan of all those old gangster movies it's fascinating to learn more about their background. Cagney always considered himself a dancer who did a bit of acting but his influence on Hollywood was immense. This episode (following on from two previous almost as vast episodes), takes the story through the war years, Cagney's Oscar win and... well, I'm still listening to it, so I'll find out. If you have any interest in Hollywood, Cagney or old movies, you really should try this. It's a spin-off from another show, Attaboy Clarence, which is a more light-hearted show, mixing reviews with old-time radio shows. 

I'm filled with admiration for the quality of "Bullets and Blood". The whole thing is put together by one person, Adam Roche, and I can tell you from my own experience of trying to put together even a 15-minute podcast that it's not easy. (I don't think I've ever mentioned this before... it was maybe a year ago, and it was meant to be a little serial about a long-forgotten writer, hopefully the first of a broader series on forgotten writers. Unfortunately the real world got in the way and I had to pause the project in order to pay the rent and the pause button has never come off. Maybe one day I'll pluck up enough courage to post the first episode.)

One bit of good news I can share: Barrie Tomlinson, whose recent book on his days editing Roy of the Rovers has been very well received (not least by me... you can read my review here), is to write a follow-up, to be called A Comic Book Hero: Working With Britain's Picture-Strip Legends, which will reveal more of Barrie's editorial history working on Tiger, Roy, Eagle, Scream, Speed, etc. plus writing for the Daily Mirror and editing his local village magazine! It will be out next September.

For our random scans this week I couldn't resist putting together a little collection of covers with the word 'West' in the title. As you can see, a lot of thought goes into these random scan galleries...!