Friday, April 19, 2024

Comic Cuts – 19 April 2024

I have been keeping busy with a third commission from The Guardian, this one on the late Trina Robbins, which took me four days to complete: Sunday gathering information, Monday listening to some audio interviews and making notes, Tuesday reading her autobiography and various interviews. During this period of information gathering, I was also writing notes that I eventually pulled together into something I hoped was coherent.

On Tuesday night I had a draft that was 1,900 words. The commission  was for 900 or so, which meant Wednesday was spent slashing, rewriting and rewording until I had something I could submit.

Thursday was definitely more relaxing: I read Eagle Times (a review will appear on Saturday), got started on a little essay about Joan the Wad (the lucky Cornish Piskey) and... well, if you're reading this, I must have written it.

It hasn't been a mad rush all week: we managed to get a little gardening done on Sunday morning and I've started on a new book (The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award a few years ago; and was the first in a 4-book series that won a Hugo in 2019. Mel has already read them and recommended them and what I've read so far has been enjoyable. I'm still being introduced to the mixed-species crew of the Waylander, which made me think not of Star Trek as most people would, but of Eric Frank Russell's Jay Score stories, with its human / Martian crew.

It's a very popular series and, digging around, I discovered that it has its own Wayfarers Wiki website. That's where the cartoon of the crew is from, drawn by Elsa Varland; there are plenty of other images of aliens, of the Wayfarer ship... I'm a little wary of exploring too far, just in case the site begins to infect how I see the characters, but it's certainly something I'll explore once I've read the book(s).

We watched 3 Body Problem, which ended too quickly and there will now be a long wait until the next tiny batch of episodes. Apple have done one series right: Slow Horses has had seasons filmed one after the other in pairs, so release dates have been relatively close together: three seasons broadcast in two years, season four already filmed and the fifth already commissioned.

I appreciate it would be impossible to do this with all shows, but I do find the waits between seasons frustrating, especially as I have a lousy memory for faces and plots. Great for rewatching Poirot and other detective shows, but not so for Foundation where it was twenty months between seasons. (And as I like to save up a show until we have all the episodes, it was another three months waiting for the finale before we got started.) I think our longest wait was for the second season of Carnival Row, which we watched 43 months after season 1.

Of course, my other frustration is shows that end without a proper ending... so good news that Snowpiercer season 4, its last, which was filmed and ready for broadcast by TNT, has been picked up by another channel and will be available from early next year. Now I can watch season 3, which I have been sitting on for a year or two, safe in the knowledge that at some point I'll have the opportunity to try and figure out how to watch season 4 as it's gone to AMC, which was on Sky until 2019 when it became a BT TV exclusive before disappearing from there last year. Didn't bother me at the time (I'm not a Walking Dead fan), but now...

Now I need a lucky Cornish piskey...

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rebellion Releases – 17 April 2024

The latest episode of the 2000AD Thrill-Cast is not for the nervous! At least that’s what Ghastly McNasty, the editor of Scream! might claim! With a brand new hardcover collection publishing all the stories from the 1980s horror comic in order out in May, the Thrill-Cast talkes to its editor Ian Rimmer, sub-editor and writer Simon Furman, and SFX editor and Scream! reader Darren Scott about the history of the short-lived title and its enduring influence.

And if Hogwarts is the posh magical school, where do the comprehensive pupils go? We gain an education in conjuration with Lowborn High writer David Barnett and artist Mike Walters, talking about the all-ages series that’s getting its first collection.

You can find the 2000AD Thrill-Cast at your regular podcast provider and is also available on Soundcloud.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2378

Cover: Patrick Goddard / Dylan Teague (cols).

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
New! BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #467
Cover: John McCrea / Mike Spicer.

JUDGE DREDD: ESCALATION by Mike Carroll (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, PI: NO SMOKE by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
New! ARMITAGE: BULLETS FOR AN OLD MAN by Liam Johnson (w) Warren Pleece (a) Jim Campbell (l)
SCREAM: LIBRARY OF DEATH by Barrie Tomlinson (w) Cam Kennedy (a) Mike Peters (l)
HOOKJAW by Si Spurrier (w) Conor Boyle (a) Giulia Brusco (c) Rob Steen (l)
JUDGE DREDD: UNDER SIEGE by Mark Russell (w) Max Dunbar (a) Jose Luis Rio (c) Simon Bowland (l)
DEVLIN WAUGH: HOME AWAY FROM HOME by Aleš Kot (w) PJ Holden (a) Jack Davies (c) Simon Bowland (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: CALHAB COUNTRY by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

  • 14 Apr. Mark Millar has said that he intends writing Superman stories that he will then publish when Superman enters the public domain in 2033. As Rich Johnson points out, Millar is well known for headline-grabbing announcements and this might just be one more. "In a decade, DC Comics will lose the copyright on those first issues of Action Comics which established so much about the character. So yes, Mark Millar could absolutely publish Superman comics, though it would have to be under a different name, as DC/Warner Bros still owns the trademark."
  • 7 Apr. The BBC celebrates the work of Bryan Talbot. "Making up the story is the fun bit, the best bit really," Bryan says, adding: "Drawing it is the hard part."
  • 5 Apr. Steve Bell discusses getting fired from The Guardian in epsiode 41 of Caglecast with Daryl Cagle. "We get the whole story from Steve, at a time when more cartoonists who are critical of Israel or Netanyahu are being accused of drawing anti-Semitic cartoons. We also have two of Israel's top editorial cartoonists to discuss Steve's cartoon." (video, 20m)
  • 30 Mar. Comic Artist Bryan Hitch joined Bill Cox live at the Comic Art LIVE channel last Saturday (23 March). "Bryan has been an Artist and Writer of comics for over thirty years, on books such as the Authority, Ultimates, JLA, , Hawkman, Batman's Grave, Venom, Ultimate Invasion and now, GHOST MACHINE! For the art sale we'll have published pieces available for some of Bryan's most recent works and many from early in his career, and we'll also be taking on some commission opportunities." (video, 2hr 21m)
  • 27 Mar. Writer Paul Cornell and artist Rachael Smith have teamed up for a graphic novel whodunnit, Who Killed Nessie? and have launched a crowdfunding campaign at Zoop to find backers. According to Paul, "I was talking with some creator friends and just suddenly came out with this title and the idea for a cover. It’s one of those things that was just sitting there out in the ether waiting to happen. I’ve been reading about cryptids (largely under the bedclothes, the reading not the cryptids) since I was a kid, and sometimes Rachael’s amazing cartooning just connects with an idea I have in my head and I can see how her characters would look doing this stuff. Hence: this!"
  • 23 Mar. Dark Horse kicks off its Millarworld titles with Nemesis: Rogues Gallery, a 5-issue mini-series written by Mark Millar with art by Valerio Giangiodano & Lee Loughridge.. "Kicking it all off with Nemesis just feels right as it’s been the most asked about character since our Big game crossover concluded at Christmas."
  • 22 Mar. Neil Gaiman's recent Heritage Auctions sale raised over $1m. Of the 125 items that were sold, the top seller was a page of art from Watchmen #7 that had been gifted to Gaiman by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, which sold for $132,000. "A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Hero Initiative, which provides medical and other assistance to veteran comic creators in need, and the Authors League Fund, which helps professional authors, journalists, critics, poets, and dramatists in need of assistance.  Gaiman also plans to share a portion of the proceeds with the artists whose work is auctioned."
  • ... and in more Neil Gaiman news, his Dead Boy Detectives is getting the Netflix treatment. The streaming platform is already producing The Sandman, and will add the new show on 25 April. "The Flight Attendant’s Steve Yockey developed the series, and he is co-showrunning it with Beth Schwartz of The CW’s Arrowverse fame. The ensemble cast also includes Briana Cuoco, Ruth Connell, Jenn Lyon, Yuyu Kitamura, Lukas Gage, and Lindsey Gort."
  • 18 Mar. Andrew Sumner interviews Michael Moorcock about the second volume of Moorcock's Multiverse from Titan. "Moorcock and Sumner, as usual, also chat about a whole bunch of other things, including: the dark side of late stage capitalism; Moorcock's upcoming short story Wigan (plus Wigan the northern English town, Bowen's chunky steak pie and pie-coveting canine Alfie Evans); J.G Ballard; the Three Peaks Challenge; the sheer brilliance of Walter Simonson, the whereabouts of Mike's voucher copies, dream couches, Moorcock & Sumner's Hyperbolic Chambers (TM); Moorcock's undiminished singing voice; Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash & Joan Baez; Blossom Dearie's last gig, the unique nature of Moorcock's career, more on his association with Hawkwind & The Deep Fix, the foresight of Mike's beloved claw-hammer-wielding mother; Italian actress Silvano Manga, Taylor Walker beer barrels, Mike's upcoming novel The Wounds of Albion, Mike's relationship with Arthur C. Clarke, Philip José Farmer & Leigh Brackett; Jack Vance's The Dragon Masters; Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword; the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs; old-school Republicans; The Scaffold's Lily the Pink and Roger McGough's poetry; Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments; Mal Dean's Amazing Band; the glory of Liverpool's science-fiction & music scene; watching the boxing at Liverpool Stadium; visiting Apple Corps Ltd and turning down George Harrison's money!" (video, 1h 9m)
  • 12 Mar. Shining Spotlights casts a... spotlight on Paul Gravett. "Today we sit among an industry legend. He's written and recorded of comic industry for several decades. Interviewed industry giants such as Alan Moore, and even launched magazines such as Escape. Historical books such as Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. The list goes on." (video, 1h 15m)
  • 8 Mar. Joel Meadows talks to Bleeding Cool about his book Face to Face. "For me creating a portrait is intended to be a piece that reflects the essence of the subject that I have shot and that is why I like to photograph people that I have interviewed as I already have a rapport with the subject."

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Weird Planet audiobook

If you're read BEYOND THE VOID: THE REMARKABLE HISTORY OF BADGER BOOKS, you'll know that I've nominated Barney Ward as probably the worst science fiction writer of all time. I reprinted an extract of his story 'Weird Planet' in the book to give you a taste of his writing style... now here's the whole story in audiobook form, presented in three 15-minute-or-so episodes. It's the most bizarre story you'll ever hear... and possibly the ultimate way to enjoy/endure some of this publisher's terrible output.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy episode one of 'Weird Planet'...


Friday, April 12, 2024

Comic Cuts - 12 April 2024

After last week's late-running Comic Cuts column, I was convinced I wouldn't have any similar problems this week. Of course, I wasn't taking into account trying to hit a deadline with a piece I'm writing for The Guardian that I want to get out of the way before my birthday. So yesterday was dedicated to getting a first draft finished rather than my usual sit back, feet up Comic Cuts ramblings.

I won't mention the subject, as I'm writing a file obituary, which will be held on file by the paper so they can get it into print promptly when this person dies. It's a bit ghoulish, but this is how I earn a living.

Sales of BEYOND THE VOID are going OK at the moment, and I've finally managed to put together a bit of information about the book that has gone up on the Bear Alley Books page. For various reasons, I wasn't able to post this earlier — basically it boils down to how quickly Amazon and Ebay want you to supply books when an order comes in. All my orders have to be filled within three days and sent out using a service that allows tracking. If I was to wait for Lulu to print the book every time one was ordered (which can take up to five days), I'd be thrown off both platforms.

Following a successful trip to the Paperback & Pulp Book Fair, I had sold out, so I had to wait until I got another batch of books in, and as they were running late, I put in a second order so that they could be working their way through the system while I was waiting on the first batch.

So I had a couple of boxes of books land at chez Bear Alley during the week, so I'm stocked up to the max and I'm doing a stock take this weekend so that I'm not short of any other books. This is what writing obituaries pays for!

The pre-publication special offer on BEYOND THE VOID has come to an end now that the books are more widely available — you can now get copies through Ebay (you can see all my books at my Ebay store) and on Amazon. The varied price reflects how much those two platforms take out of every payment. Amazon also underpays postage and then takes a percentage of it, so that has to be added to the cover price: Amazon swallows up almost 30% of the cover price + postage, and I'm left to pay the true postage & packaging, printing costs and the costs of getting the book to me here; I also have to print out a postage label, which costs 4p but takes ages, because I have to do it on my old PC, which is old and cranky, like me.

Look at me and my middle-class problems!

That's it... I've got to get back to filing this obituary.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Commando 5739-5742

issues 5739-5742 are on sale from today, Thursday 11th April, 2024, featuring aerial hi-jinks and jeep hijacks!

5739: King and Aces

All Maude Graham wanted was to help the Royal Flying Corps during the Great War. She was tired of the ammunition factories and knew she could make a difference.
But when she arrives at the airfield with glowing references, all she is met with is laughter and prejudice. Well, she might be limited on the ground, but Maude knows the
sky’s the limit!
    Commando welcomes brand-new writer Petri Hanninen with his first tale in Issue 5739. With a little help from newcomer interior artist, Marc Viure, Hanninen weaves a wonder of a World War One story with a twist!

Story: Petri Hanninen
Art: Marc Viure
Cover: Neil Roberts

5740: The Bamboo Cage

To the crump of grenades and rattle of machine guns that echoed through the Burmese jungle in World War Two, a new sound was added... the twang of bow strings and the hiss of arrows flying through the air. And to the Japanese that sound brought terror. It meant Captain David Heywood and his fierce Kachin tribesmen were on the warpath!
    Classic Commando incoming! CG Walker’s great yarn is deep in the thick jungle in Burma, with magnificent artwork from Victor de la Fuente and Jordi Penalva.

Story: CG Walker
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 503

5741: Ramsey’s Raiders: Hijacked Jeeps!

Ramsey’s Raiders: the ragtag group of mavericks on wheels! The mounted Special Raiding Force were carnage on a chassis but what are the Raiders without their jeeps?
    Well they were about to find out as they returned from an ambush to find their jeeps missing in action!
    Ferg Handley’s rag-tag group of high-risk mavericks return in a brand-new adventure! This time the wheeled menaces are taken off the road when their jeeps are hijacked! Will the raiders recover — or will they be infantry from now on?!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

5742: Butterfield’s Battle

An easy-going manner and interest in history, plus a name like Claude Butterfield... they don’t seem to add up to the stuff that heroes are made of, do they?
But Claude could be as fierce as a tiger if something made him angry — and then whoever was responsible had better look out!
    Don't be fooled by this light and calm Ian Kennedy cover — for inside this Commando is a tiger of a story by CG Walker, full of hot-blooded action and adventure brought to life by Gordon C Livingstone!

Story: CG Walker
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy
First Published 1981 as Issue 1568

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 10 April 2024

Battle Action Force Treasury Editions

Battle Action Force was published weekly from October 1983 to November 1986 by IPC Magazines limited, and brought together some of the greatest talents in the British comics industry of that time, both on the editorial and illustrative fronts including names like Gerry Finley-Day, Geoff Campion and Cam Kennedy. Included within its pages were the adventures of “Action Force”, created by British toy manufacturer, Palitoy.

Four heroic Action Force teams: infantry specialists Z Force, ocean based Q Force, infiltration specialists the SAS and orbital guardians Space Force protected the world against the evil machinations of Baron Ironblood, The Black Major and their army of brainwashed Red Shadows.

Now, for the first time in over forty years, Total Toy Books, with kind permission from Hasbro and in collaboration with Rebellion Publishing and Skeletron, are proud to announce an officially licensed reprint of the Action Force tales from Battle Action Force collected in a series of deluxe sized ‘treasury editions.’

With original issues difficult to find and expensive to purchase in full, this is a collection not to be missed by fans of the original series or for those who only discovered the existence of the comic in more recent times.

More details about this exciting series will be revealed in the coming weeks. Sign up to Total Toy Books' mailing list to be the first to find out more about this forthcoming series.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2377
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
NEW: AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Joe Pineapples: Tin Man by Pat Mills (w), Simon Bisley & Clint Langley (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618493-1, 10 April 2024, 96pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

Stranded for millions of years on an asteroid is hard work – especially when you only have a sewage droid for company! Joe Pineapples, the hotshot robotic sniper who never misses and former member of the A.B.C. Warriors - a team of war robots sent to first conquer and then protect Mars - looks back over his life as he seeks to unravel the mystery behind an I.D. plate that he has carried around since his days as an X-terminator fighting in the Volgan War.
    This brand-new, stand-alone A.B.C. Warriors story marks the return of Simon Bisley (Lobo, Batman/Dredd: Judgement on Gotham) to the characters for the first time with 1988's classic Black Hole story, which kickstarted his comic career, but now in glorious painted colour reminiscent of Bisley's work on Slaine: The Horned God. Clint Langley, who has drawn A.B.C. Warriors stories for the last 15 years, completes this final tale of Joe Pineapples in his own unique style.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Comic Cuts — 5 April 2024

Um... where do I start? I had planned to take a couple of days off — just relaxing — because it has been a rough couple of weeks, thanks to the stress of preparing for the Book Fair and then going down with Covid and still having to work through that. Don't get me wrong... I've enjoyed most of what has been going on (the Book Fair especially), but it has been a full-on couple of weeks.

The plan was to wind down after writing last week's column, although that turned into an epic two-parter and we were still working on the Vernor Vinge piece that went live at 5.40 on Friday afternoon. Between shopping, hair cuts and games, I didn't manage to get my feet up on Saturday and I had promised to read someone's book, with an eye to seeing how it could be published, which took up most of Sunday, making a few additions and working out possible prices.

So I thought I'd take Monday off, and I was pottering around when I got a phone call from our landlady saying she wanted to come over on Wednesday. So that meant doing a lot of box shifting that I had promised to do but hadn't quite got around to. I'm now out of the old office and have parked myself up the far end of the living room. It's a sweet spot, right in front of the French windows. I moved in one of my shelves from the office so I have a lot of reference books behind me, and the scanner is still next to me, sitting on a little chest of drawers to my left; I moved a small shelf into the gap between the desk and curtains to the right, just to extend the desk top for various bits and bobs — a tape dispenser, calculator, pair of scissors, a box of rolls of sticky labels, a tiny fluffy lion, a mammoth and a squirrel with a busted ear.

Thanks to the rain (and, frankly not having enough time) we couldn't do any of the gardening, so that will be the next job when I have a chance. Meanwhile, I was thinking that Thursday would be a great opportunity to take a rest day, let my muscles relax and just generally chill.

I have been playing around with a programme called Gimp as an alternative to Photoshop. It's pretty good, and it'll be useful for little jobs that need doing on the laptop — like joining together pages for the column header on this very blog, which is beyond abilities of anything that comes with Microsoft (Photo and Paint are OK for pictures that just require a crop and resize, but nothing more). My first effort was the column header for Wednesday's Misty 2024 Special news.

However, I still need the old PC, so I set that up on Thursday morning and plugged it in and... nothing. There was none of the usual whir and clatter of the hard drive and fan coming to life and I feared the worst. My laptop was still working, but... hang on, the internet was down. I checked the phone, and that, too, was dead. I checked the fuse box and ran around the house with a hair dryer, the easiest thing I could think of to plug into a socket and see if it worked.

At the end of this little experiment I found that the lights downstairs and in my old office worked, the lights upstairs didn't; none of the plug sockets in the whole house worked, except in the old office, which is a converted garage, so it's on a different circuit. At nine I was thankfully able to get through to an electrician and he was able to rearrange his schedule. My laptop had stayed on thanks to the battery, but I wouldn't be able to run it all day, so I relocated to the old office, moving in a chair and using a box as a table.

Some years ago, I had bought some copies of Boy's Cinema from a friend, so I used my sudden free time to index them. Inadvertently, I was taking a day off and doing something I wouldn't normally have time for!

The electrician was here just after mid-day and left six and a half hours later, having worked his way around every plug socket in the house, switching everything off — just when you thought everything was off, there was still something connected, like the microwave, or the extractor hood above the cooker — and checking every one, then switching bits on and trying isolate the problem. We found out where the problem was at around five when he was getting some weird readings from one of the sockets and sending some power through it made it go bang. "Well, that was proper scary," he said in what I thought was quite a calm way.

Cutting to the chase, we got a new plug socket installed and fired up the electrickery (there's one for Catweazle fans) and was able to plug in my PC and fire it up once again, rattle and all. So this (Friday) morning I was able to get out a few orders and catch up with some mail. Overall it hasn't been a bad day — maybe I should count this as my day off?

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Comic Cuts - 4 April 2024

OK, so there's no column for Friday as we had an electrical blow-out this (Thursday) morning that still isn't completely fixed as I write this at 6 o'clock Thursday evening. Basically, at 8 o'clock in the morning, all the electrical sockets died in the house -- but I'll write more Friday and post something either Friday afternoon, or, more likely, Saturday morning, because my first job for Friday will be to catch up on what I've missed today (Thursday) through lack of internet and email.

More soon.

(* Column header image by nuraghies on Freepik.)

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 3 April 2024

Dare You Read It Alone? A classic horror series rises from beyond the grave in 2024, featuring four brand-new chilling adventures from some of the most terrifyingly talented creators in comics!

Misty, the classic horror series for young women, has been resurrected by megastar writer Gail Simone, who is being joined by a murderers’ row of talent for an all-new 48 page anthology special publishing on the 17th July 2024.

First published in 1978, Misty was the brainchild of legendary writer and editor Pat Mills, offering thrills and chills for a generation of young women in the UK and featuring stories from creators including Shirley Bellwood, Jesus Redondo, Jordi Badía Romero, and Mills. Running for over 100 issues in total, each issue was hosted by Misty, who acted as a guiding voice for her young readers – and in this new anthology we’ll be telling stories featuring Misty herself for the first time!

This anthology features three brand-new chilling stories written by Simone, with art by Carola Borelli (The Deadliest Bouquet, Spider-Woman), Aly Fell (A Trick of the Light) and Marianna Ignazzi (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), alongside a fourth story written and drawn by rising star Letty Wilson (Owl People). Completing this spectacularly spooky package is a cover from Eisner-winning artist Tula Lotay (Barnstormers)!

The four stories included in this collection are:

In Eleven Lonely Deaths. a true-crime podcaster visits a decades-old crime scene where eleven women lost their lives at the hands of a vicious strangler. There, he meets a mysterious young woman who knows more about the crimes than should be possible…

At The Pub at the End of the Road, an unscrupulous landlord of a dreary pub in the English countryside makes his gifted daughter work her fingers to the bone, and turns a blind eye to the customers’ wandering hands. She seeks solace in a secret love… until she’s forced to use her extraordinary gifts…

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Parker is set in a small English town where nothing’s been quite the same since the murders of eleven women some years ago...

The Cracked Glass – a tale too terrifying to even tell you about! Writer/artist Letty Wilson has some dark surprises in store for readers…
The Misty 2024 Special is coming to a newsagent or comic book shop near you on 17th July 2024 – lock the doors twice, make sure you’ve drawn the curtains, and BY ALL THAT’S HOLY don’t forget to pre-order your copy!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2376
Cover: RM Guera.
NEW: JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
NEW: TERROR TALES // ANTUMNOS by Jon Lock (w) Richard Elson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monster Fun #18
Cover: Dan Boultwood.

GUMS by Stacey Whittle (w) Brett Parson (a+l)
KID KONG // KID KONG GOES ON SAFARI by Alec Worley (w) Karl Dixon (a+l)
HELLS ANGEL by Chris Garbett (s+a+l)
SPACE INVADED // MURPH CONTAINS MULTITUDES by John Lucas (w+a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) H.A. O'Millar (l)
PEACHES' CREATURES // THE WEREWOLF OF WALL STREET by Ned Hartley (w) Dan Boultwood (a+c) Sarah Fimm (l)
DRACULASS // RARE BATS by Dave Bulmer (W+l) Abigail Bulmer (a+c)
ZORTHRAX THE UNFORGIVABLE by Alec Worley (w) PJ Holden (a+c) Ozwaldo Sanchez (l)
REX POWER by Ramzee (w) Claude TC (a+c) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (l)
FRANKIE STEIN // FRANKEN CRITTER by Steve Roberts (s+a) Harvey Caldarone (a+l)

Monday, April 01, 2024

Paperback & Pulp Book Fair — 24 March 2024

Here's Jules Burt's latest video covering the recent Paperback & Pulp Book Fair at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury on Sunday, 24 March. I'm interviewed briefly early on, so you'll get to see my BEYOND THE VOID t-shirt that I had made especially for the show.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Comic Cuts — 30 March 2024

Where was I? Oh, yes, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, at the Paperback and Pulp Book Fair.

By mid-day I'd sold out of BEYOND THE VOID and, feeling flush, I hunted around for a treat. I don't buy load of books at these fairs. I had the money from the Badger book, but half of that was needed to pay off the printing costs and the postage charges I'd had to pay to get the books to Wivenhoe. Then there was the train fare on top. I'd already been paid for three of the books so I'd sold 11 on the day at £20. £220 cash in hand, but only about £60 profit after print costs, postage and train fare.

So I bought a £30 book from Maurice Flanagan (Zardoz Books) that he generously knocked a fiver off. So one book ate up half my profit. Ah, but it was a nice book that I've been looking out for for many years. It has the unpromising title of The Plant From Infinity and appeared in 1954 under the house name Karl Maras. But Phil Harbottle, back in the 1980s, wrote up the story synopsis for our British Science Fiction Paperback and Magazine 1949-1954, and he thought it a bit of a lost gem. He said the same thing on a recent video (Phil published 68 videos on his 1950s British science fiction Youtube channel).

I picked up a second SF title, Sphero Nova by Berl Cameron, a Curtis Warren I realised I didn't have when I was writing about John Glasby for BEYOND THE VOID (it was one of his early sales). plus an old Emile Zola paperback reprint from the 1940s because I just liked the cover.

The only news I picked up that''s worth repeating here is that Rian Hughes' Rayguns and Rocketships has now sold out and there's a plan to reprint the book with a handful of corrections and some additional covers. No idea when, but if you didn't buy a copy previously, this will be your chance.

By one-thirty, the number of people in the room had dropped considerably; people were wandering off to try and find somewhere to have lunch or getting together for a drink. I thought I'd take the opportunity to head off as I had no more copies of the Badger to sell, and I think everyone had seen me wandering around in my t-shirt. There was no more promotion to be had by sticking it out for another hour and a half. I said my goodbyes and left.

The trip back was a lot easier – the trolley was a lot lighter – but I was still carrying quite a weight up and down stairs and my back was making its displeasure known. I got home about four and the house of quiet. Mel, still ill and not sleeping well overnight, must have dozed off; I put the TV on quietly and watched an episode of Halo (a solid if unimaginative SF show with plenty of action – super-soldiers vs. aliens). Mel woke up, we made some drinks and she went back to bed. I watched another episode of Halo and generally took the evening easy.

Monday morning and I had a pinpoint sharp pain in the muscles of my left-lower back, a general overall ache, a hacking cough, and no enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I also had a deadline, so I started work on an obituary for The Guardian to a background of caughs, splutters and sneezes from both Mel and I.

Apart from gathering something like 60 pages of notes, I wrote no more than 300 words.

Tuesday: Hot toddies was the smart suggestion Mel came up with; we did our own version with a huge slug of scotch, lemon, hot water and honey. It kept my throat from being torn out by huge, wracking caughs. The frustrating thing is that I don't feel ill, per se, just knackered from lack of sleep. Keeping hydrated means I'm up and down all night needing a wee.

By the end of the day I had a long draft of the obituary, but only 200 words too long, which is good for me – normally I'm waaay over! Remembered at the last minute I needed to get my Rebellion Releases column sorted, so ended up going to bed later than I planned.

On Wednesday morning I trimmed back and submitted the obituary.  Sorted out Thursday's Commando Releases column. Mel is testing negative for Covid and plans to head back to work tomorrow, so we headed out of the house for the first time in days and did some shopping. Chatted to my Mum for the first time in ten days. An hour flew by, mostly about symptoms (!). In fact the whole day flew by.

I was waiting for a FedEx delivery on Thursday which was due 8.50 to 12.50, so I started on Friday's Comic Cuts column, interspersed with some scanning and double-checking that was needed by The Guardian. I was eating a lunchtime roll at one o'clock when I spotted the FedEx van pull up outside. I went to the door and opened it and stood in the open door.

Nobody came. It was raining, so I stepped back inside and watched out the window. Still nobody came. I took a photo of the van outside through the trees and shrubs at the front of the house. And then the van drove off.

I checked the status of my package on the tracking app and it told me that they had delivered my package. I tried phoning and spoke to an AI computer. "How can I help you today?" "You've delivered a package but not to the correct address." "Let's see how we can help you... what's the package tracking number?" I tell the computer. "That package was delivered at 1:08 pm." "Yes, but where? Because I'm here and it hasn't been delivered here." "It was left with a neighbour." "We only have one neighbour and they aren't in... so where is the package?" "It was left with a neighbour." "No it wasn't." "Can we help you with anything else?" "You haven't helped me with this problem. Let's not complicate things." "Good bye."

I received an email soon after telling me that the package was with a neighbour named Doughty.

You've guessed correctly: we don't have a neighbour called Doughty. Eventually, via the electoral roll, I tracked down Adam Doughty, who I've never met, but who lives about six doors down the road; he was as confused as I was, since he also knew that he didn''t have a neighbour called Steve Holland.

If this is an example of The Singularity, I'm going to have to disagree with Vernor Vinge. He was saying that AI would develop at an increasing rate until it surpassed human understanding. In the real world, AI's lack of human understanding will earn it a thorough reprogramming with a baseball bat.

The package, by the way, had travelled all the way from Japan: a lovely looking magazine called Idea, which has published an issue dedicated to "Cross sections, floor plans and exploded diagrams: visualizing the invisible" to which I had been asked to contribute an article on Leslie Ashwell Wood. This was the article I was working on a couple of months ago.

Now it's Friday afternoon and I'm having my first day off in a while. The Vernor Vinge obituary is now up at The Guardian website, although it might be months before it appears in the print newspaper.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Comic Cuts — 29 March 2024

Well, that was a heck of a week, with some highs and lows and a relentless pace. In the movie of my life this week would be interrupted by two songs, one an uptempo all-cast dance number possibly called The Badger Burlesque, set against the backdrop of the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury; then there would a a darker, more tragic song about regret, ageing, and working through pain. I'm going with Old Bones, but I'll try to think of a better title later.

So, Friday was fine; I had a visit from Karl Kennedy, who helps run some of the comic swap meets that have now been running for the past couple of years. I had a table at the Colchester Swap Meet last October and did surprisingly well, and was kept cheerfully busy in between sales signing old copies of the Prion War, Battle and Air Ace reprint books.

What I didn't realise at the time was that having a table meant I also had a raffle ticket... and I won a poster of Codename: Warlord in a nice clear frame. My thanks to Karl, who came round despite a dodgy knee to deliver my prize. I'll have to see if I can dig out something suitable for the next raffle.

On Saturday, I tried to get some notes together for an obituary that The Guardian commissioned and spent part of the day reading True Names by Vernor Vinge, which was an astonishingly accurate depiction of 'cyberspace' before the term was coined three years later by William Gibson (Neuromancer, 1984). Vinge thought its denizens would create a fully immersive fantasy landscape (the Other Plane) where warlocks (hackers and trolls) attack corporations and vandalise their data sets. Vinge also predicted The Singularity, and in 1983 gave us 30 years. Well, all he missed was man's (and I do mean man's) ability to be distracted by using any new technology for porn so that AI is swamped by deep fake pornographic pics of some 4,000 celebrities and you can now chat to an AI girlfriend, as long as you sign away every quantum of privacy and you don't care who knows everything about you.

Once we've got over the "horny young men" bump (think of it as a speed bump on the information superhighway), AI will get back to the task in hand: astounding the world with new medicines and slowly crushing the population as it takes over your job. Something cheerful for you to mull over while you head for work this morning.

I was also prepping for my Big Day Out to the Paperaback & Pulp Book Fair on Sunday. I'd pre-booked my ticket and had a shopping trolley full of books... all I needed to do was get down to the train station on time. We're on a direct route to Liverpool Street, which is useful. Then it was four stops on the Central line to Holborn, a walk up Southampton Row, a right turn and a left turn and I'd be at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury.

It's days like this that make me realise how physically unfit I am. Overweight, sure, but quite weak through sitting in front of a computer all day, tapping on a keyboard; the most physical things I do are rolling a tiny wheel on a mouse and carrying the kettle to the tap when I need more water for coffee.

The trolley was very heavy — and top heavy because of the way I had to pack the boxes in, so the wheels weren't taking the most weight. I managed to turn off Southampton Row a road too early and wandered around for fifteen minutes trying to reorient myself; before that, I'd forgotten the stairs at both Liverpool Street and Holborn. By the time I got to the Fair, my back was aching, and every tendon twanging.

But I was there! I parked my trolley next to Bob Wardzinski's table(s) and whipped off my coat and jumper to reveal a one-off t-shirt I'd had made of the BEYOND THE VOID cover a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty quickly inundated (in a nice way) by people who were interested in the book — some had already ordered copies to be sent to their home,  three of the copies I'd taken up were earmarked for collection and I knocked the book out for a "Fair Special" price of £20.

And the books all went. I had to keep one back to show people that it existed as a real book, but the rest... gone. I even sold a couple of THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON.

It was incredibly busy for some hours, and I spent most of the four hours or so I was there chatting with people, about Badger, about paperbacks, about how busy it was... I met up with old friends, made some new ones, was briefly filmed for Jules Burt's latest Book Fair video, which I recommend you watch if you want a taste of what it was like. Jules' video has snippets of interviews with dealers, punters, and the organisers, through whom we learn that there will be a second Fair later in the year,  most probably on 24 November.

I doubt I'll be dragging up books for that one. It'll be dark and cold, but I'll certainly bring up anything if it's ordered. As long as I don't need to bring that damn trolley.

This has rambled on far too long. I'll do another Comic Cuts column for Saturday morning to fill you in on the rest of the week's doings. See you tomorrow.

(* I'll put in some links to Jules' videos as they become available. The pic of Jules and the column header are screengrabs from his video — my photographic skills let me down! — and the other two pics are by Karl Kennedy and used with permission.)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Commando 5735-5738

Commando celebrates legendary Commando cover artist Ken Barr with four special issues in an one-off set dedicated to the master himself. Commando issues 5735-5738 are on sale from today, Thursday 28th March, 2024!

5735: Sniper’s Island

Throughout the South Sea Islands, he was known as ‘Big Alec’. Six feet three inches of bronzed, husky, Australian beach-comber, gold prospector and hunter.
    Big Alec roamed the islands in a tattered shirt, slacks and an old bush hat, his only companion his big game rifle, with its deadly telescopic sight.
    Then came the Japanese, island-hopping their way to Australia, mowing down everything in their way — until they reached Big Alec’s island.
    There they stopped dead — very dead — for Big Alec never missed...
    The first up in our four issues dedicated to Ken Barr is one from his early Commando days, all the way back in 1963. Featuring the first of the two issues written by the wordsmith Eric Hebden and with stellar artwork by Medrano.

Story: E Hebden
Art: Medrano
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1963 as Issue 72

5736: Killer Crew

When Major Tod Raike and his ‘Raiders’ went on the warpath in their high-speed armed jeeps, the best thing a Jerry could do was dig a quick hole in the sand and pull it in after him!
    What a bunch of blokes!
    Issue 5736 is the second of our special one-off set dedicated to the legendary Commando cover artist Ken Barr! 'Killer Crew' features Eric Hebden’s rag-tag group of raiders operating behind enemy lines! With artwork by the legendary V Fuente to boot!

Story: E Hebden
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1964 as Issue 139

5737: Jet Menace

The Spits and the Hurris couldn’t get near the pilotless V1 flying bombs. So the Typhoons and the Tempests were rushed into the air.
    They did the job and were just getting their breath back when another menace appeared in the sky. A new jet, with a pilot this time. A plane they couldn’t touch, one that blasted them to pieces and then vanished without a trace.
    Ken Barr was an avid body-builder and often modelled for Commando covers, but while he was known for his amazing figure work, his covers featuring aircraft are not to be overlooked as the Glaswegian was a master of his craft!

Story: Newark
Art: Amador
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1967 as Issue 287

5738: Battle Crazy

Pilot Officer Peter Culver flew his hurricane slowly over a row of parked Me 109s, fired a
short burst to let them know he was there, then circled over the Nazi air base, waiting. They’d be coming up for him soon, and the odds would be twenty to one. They would shoot him and his plane to pieces, and he didn’t care...
    Issue 5738 ‘Battle Crazy’ is the final issues in the set dedicated to Ken Barr, and you’ll be crazy about it! It was the reader’s request to have more reprint sets dedicated to our artist and Commando was only too happy to oblige!

Story: Wilkinson
Art: Ken Barr
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1968 as Issue 330


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