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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Comic Cuts - 16 October 2020

I managed to upload some more comics to eBay over the weekend, which  went live on Sunday evening. Sales have been going pretty well, and I'm hopeful that there will be a couple of fans of the old Dracula Lives who want to bid on my broken run of, I think, fifty-four issues out of eighty-seven issues. I managed to misplace a couple of issues, including the first issue, which I've now tracked down, so that will probably go up this weekend.

I haven't included much news on the magazine of late for the simple reason that there hasn't been much. I'm still working on articles, but I think I made a reasonably big breakthrough this week, and I may have the final main article in place (actually replacing something that I thought I might have to run this time, but which I'll now hold over to issue two so that I have more time to work on it).

Next step will be rewrites of my own material, a bit more subbing on other folks' contributions, and start doing some layouts so that I have some idea of how many pages have been filled and what I still need to do. There are a couple of short filler pieces that I may have to write, but most of the longer pieces are done. I still need to get some of the artwork sorted out, but even that's starting to come together.

Although I haven't set myself a strict timescale to get things done, I'd have to say that the magazine is reasonably on schedule. I knew there would be bumps in the road — I had to stop dead in my tracks last Friday to sort out my accounts, for instance — but I'm happy with the way it's coming together.

As always, our review this week has spoilers, so if that kind of thing annoys you, jump to the end.

After a couple of disappointing shows watched over the past few weeks, I'm pleased to say that I've hit a seam of good TV. First up was Hanna, the second season of the spin-off from the 2011 movie. I went into the first season as a fan of the film and nervous that it wouldn't be able to live up to my expectations. Thankfully, the series didn't simply mirror the film, but expanded upon it by developing the background and taking it off into a new direction;  having David Farr, one of the film's screenwriters so heavily involved in the TV series has meant it has stayed true to the tone of the movie without being trapped within its confines.

Season one explored the basics: Hanna has been raised by Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman), who took her as a baby from a facility where young girls were trained as assassins. Trained in isolation in a forest, Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) tries to learn more about the world beyond her immediate environment; unfortunately, this attracts the attention of CIA operative Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). Separated from her (adoptive) father, Hanna learns that Erik isn't her father; reunited after he has been captured and tortured, Erik reveals that she was part of a programme run by UTRAX. Making their way to the Rumanian facility, they try to rescue the trainees but Erik is killed.

That's where season two picks up. Hanna manages to rescue one of the trainees, Clara, and they are hiding out in the forest. Meanwhile, the other trainees are removed to a new facility in Scotland where they are assigned new identities and backgrounds. Clara, meanwhile, is fooled into thinking she has contacted her mother it is actually Marissa and is recaptured in Bucharest. Hanna, following Clara, is reunited with Marissa and they escape to Paris.

Hanna is determined to track down and save Clara, which she eventually does. Clara, now believing her mother dead, has succumbed somewhat to her new surroundings and freedoms of the Meadows, and Hanna is captured. She, too, appears to accept her role as an assassin for UTRAX.

It's a season where both Marissa (now on the side of the angels) and Hanna are attempting to rescue someone (Hanna and Clara respectively) who doesn't feel the need to be saved. It means that their trust is betrayed more than once but the plot requires they try, try, try again. Without taking away from the actors cast as Hanna, Clara or the UTRAX students, the season belongs to Mireille Enos as beaten and bloodied Marissa, coolly and dangerously trying to rescue Hanna and right wrongs that she, in her shady past, has been partly responsible for.

Thankfully, the battle will continue into a third season. A bit like the Jason Bourne movies, there is bound to be another layer of deceit that needs to be uncovered surrounding the UTRAX programme. It's a series that could run and run, and I'll be happy to see it do so.

The second show I've only just started, so you'll have to wait until next week to find out if it kept up the promise of the opening episodes.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Commando 5375-5378

Commando serves up some alternative angles on the Second World War in this audacious and action-packed set — out today!

5375: Four Horsemen

World War Two is in its final chapters, and American M8 Tankie Gene Danvers finds himself on an unexpected journey — on horseback no less! Accompanied by a British POW, a defecting Cossack and a German infantryman, these four horsemen put their histories and differences aside to save the rare and coveted Lipizzaner horses in this fast-paced adventure.

With a dramatic cover from Neil Roberts and interiors by Khato, Ferg Handley’s newest story presents the closing days and camaraderie of war in a new light.

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Khato
Cover | Neil Roberts

5376: Top Bomber

Pete Harker is a name that evokes dread in each and every crew at his RAF base. Fly with him and you’ll be lucky to get back in one piece, or so the story goes. But there’s no doubt the man always gets the job done — that is until his determination lands him in hospital. Scarred in more ways than one, the lone wolf eventually retrains as a bomber and makes a fine job of it. But he’ll need to overcome his demons and reconnect with his crew if he wants to survive the war!

This perilous classic from Fitzsimmons offers a look at the dark side of flying, with highly detailed artwork from Medrano and a painterly cover from Buccherri.

Story | Fitzsimmons
Art | Medrano
Cover | Buccherri
Originally Commando No. 879 (1974).

5377: Third Time Lucky

In a mountainous region of Italy, Captain Jack Harks and his fellows have hit a strategic supply tunnel twice with their Thunderbolts… to no avail. The German anti-aircraft guns have the area well-defended and even Harks’ skills can’t get him close enough to drop a decent payload — though they’ll get him into plenty of trouble! Blundering into an SOE operation, Harks finds himself embedded in an Italian Resistance group, desperate to identify a traitor before the Nazis close in!

A story from new writer JP Bridson with Paolo Ongaro’s trademark lively interiors and a superb cover from well-loved artist Keith Burns, this Commando is worth adding to any collection.

Story | JP Bridson
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Keith Burns

5378: Cowards Always Run

The village of Rethcourt almost seems to have a curse upon it… haunting three men who abandoned the battlefield in The Great War. Now, the Nazis trample Europe and the three men are presented with an opportunity to right their wrongs. This tale of desperation for survival, half-truths and the fog of war brings together the stories of several unlikely comrades as they look to reconcile their actions and bring peace to their consciences.

A classic combination from CG Walker, Carrion and Kennedy, this is a thoughtful, action-packed adventure.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Carrion
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1586 (1982).

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 14 October 2020

The new collection of the brilliant horror series The Thirteenth Floor - featuring never-before-reprinted stories - is out this week and if you’ve not encountered the homicidal computer Max before, then I really recommend you check these books out!

Perhaps the most fondly remembered of all the strips to originate in the short-lived British horror weekly Scream!, The Thirteenth Floor was created by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with spookily atmospheric art from José Ortiz. Max is an artificial intelligence created to be superintendent of council tower block Maxwell Tower, who sends humans he doesn’t like to his nightmarish thirteenth floor.

But after being exposed as a killer, Maxis is shut down and sold off to fancy Oxford Street department store, Pringles - giving him a new hunting ground of shop-lifters, obnoxious customers and even secret agents!

2000AD Prog 2203

Cover: Jake Lynch.

Judge Dredd: Carry the Nine by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)

The Thirteenth Floor Vol.2 by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Jose Ortiz
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08772-5, 15 October 2020, 176pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

Privatisation has never been so deadly - the homicidal computer Max returns in the second collection of The Thirteenth Floor, featuring never-before-reprinted classic horror comics! Max is being packed off to the private sector in the second volume of The Thirteenth Floor - one of the most iconic comics of the 1980s! Perhaps the most fondly remembered of all the strips to originate in the short-lived British horror weekly Scream!, The Thirteenth Floor was created by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with spookily atmospheric art from José Ortiz. Max is an artificial intelligence created to be superintendent of council tower block Maxwell Tower. Max was determined to make sure that all of his tenants were safe and happy - even if it meant sending humans he didn’t like to his thirteenth floor - a nightmarish virtual world where their worst dreams became a fitting punishment, whether it was zombies, giant cockroaches, medieval executioners, or sharks! But, after being exposed as a homicidal killer, Max the computer has been shut down and removed from Maxwell Tower - but the unscrupulous council has sold the computer to fancy Oxford Street department store, Pringles. Now, Max has a new hunting ground and a whole host of potential ‘victims’, including shop-lifters, obnoxious customers and even secret agents!

Friday, October 09, 2020

Comic Cuts - 9 October 2020

Just over there to your left on the screen there's a big rectangle that says eBay... click on it or the link just underneath and that will take you through to some odds and ends that I'm selling. I did quite a few sales back in the summer 2019 (and long-term readers will recall the problems I was having with my internet connection during July and August of last year), but it slowed to a standstill while I concentrated on publishing the Rocket book and the recent two volumes of Longbow.

Well, I've now managed to sort out a few more boxes of stuff that I want to let back into the wild. During the hot weather (which seemed to disappear the moment summer turned to autumn) Mel was putting out a box of books on the street to see if they were of interest to anyone locally (and we don't have access to charity shops at the moment). I joined in and on day two all the books – and the box – disappeared within a few hours. I put out a box full of Ian Rankin novels, which emptied the same day; the next day all my old Inspector Morse novels went and I've also emptied the house of Ken Follett. A box of Frederick Forsyth is waiting on a day where it isn't threatening to rain.

I haven't gone off these authors, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm unlikely to have time to ever re-read them. I was tempted to hold back The Day of the Jackal, but talked myself out of it. I'd deliberately chosen runs of books which would make an appreciable difference and that, should I ever feel the need to own them again, they would be relatively easy to pick up in charity shops. Ian Rankin was a good three feet of shelf space and the 17 Forsyth novels is another two feet.

I'm trying to empty a few shelves so I can move some reference books around and make them more accessible, but I'm having to make some hard decisions. There may be books that I could sell on eBay, but the price of postage these days makes it impossible. A 99p hardback book could cost over £4.00 by the time you add postage and packing, simply because of its size or weight. And if you charge more to offset the charges at eBay and PayPal, you could be looking at something like £4.80... and nobody is going to pay that for a 99p book.

I might list some books here in the future because someone might want to make me an offer for a box of, say, Robert E. Howard paperbacks. At the moment I'm sorting through a box of Heavy Metal comics (and a few Metal Hurlant) that I'm planning to put up on eBay. Various Penthouse Comix spinoffs went up at the weekend just gone, plus a couple of Eagle picture libraries. I still have a couple of Starblazers listed, although most have already gone. Next up on the scanner is Savage Sword of Conan, so watch out for those in the next week or two.

Splitting my time between this and writing is not the smartest move as it means I'm still working on things that I should have finished last week. The good news is that I'm still edging forward. Someone is doing some reviews for me, so that will save me a little bit of time. I could always use a few more volunteers for reviews and the like. I'm still hoping to have something out this side of Christmas.

One job I did get around to was to scan a stack of pocket libraries as illustrations to an article on their history (70th anniversary this year). The column header is one of only two issues of Giant War Picture Library I own, both rather battered, but glorious to behold because the weird format means the covers are big enough to frame. This is an extract as the original comic is over a foot tall and I need something that will fit comfortably on the blog here and on Facebook.

There are spoilers ahead in our look at Young Wallander, so jump to the end if you don't like them.

Following closely on the heels of the slightly disappointing Strike: Lethal White, we managed to watch Young Wallander without throwing a slipper at the TV screen, although there were a couple of moments that had us reaching. This was meant to be a prequel to the famous Wallander novels / TV shows by Henning Menkel, whose third (?) TV outing was a British co-production starring Kenneth Branagh. Wallander was a morose character but perceptive, making him difficult to work with and even harder to befriend.

Young Wallander is all about setting up the later character. So we discover how he meets Mona, whom he will subsequently marry and divorce before the novels begin; he says he dislikes opera when it is played to him by his boss but begins listening to it as he drives (he is an opera-lover); and he's already a morose, tetchy young man. As we meet him, he has been passed over for promotion to the major crimes unit, a position well-earned and taken by his partner, Reza. A shocking death of a young white teenager, a grenade taped into his mouth, opens up the debate on racism in modern Sweden.

As Wallander is a witness, he is seconded to the unit, replacing his partner. At a rally of right wing extremists, Wallander sees the killer of the teenage boy and gives chase, leaving Reza without back-up when he is attacked, beaten and almost killed.

This is not Wallander's only mistake – he is stabbed, beaten and puts the investigation in jeopardy more than once. Convinced he knows who the killer is, but unable to find the evidence that will convict him, he confronts him. It seems inevitable that he has the wrong guy, and that's precisely what happens.

Rather than creating a character, Young Wallander is more like a series of tick boxes, which makes it problematic. Wallander dislikes bureaucracy, can be hot-headed and impulsive. Well, that's fine if you have a proven track record and a solid group of people supporting you and protecting you, like the older Wallander, but not when you're a newcomer on your first case. Young Wallander would be instantly demoted or drummed out of the force for putting his own and others lives at risk. I'd sooner see the smart, naive newcomer who has yet to be ground down by the things he sees as a policeman rather than this odd mix of new boy and grizzled veteran, already well on his way to problems with depression and alcohol that we have here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Rebellion releases - 7 October 2020

His name is legend, a myth that has passed into popular culture via stories, word of mouth, comics, merchandise, and more — that of the formidable Great White shark known as HOOK-JAW. A spear protruding from his lower jaw, few who encounter him live to tell the tale, so terrible is his hunger. Bodies rent asunder in his wake, the sea stained red with the blood of his victims, he’s a true terror of the deep...

2000 AD Prog 2202
Cover: Simon Coleby / Dylan Teague (cols)

Judge Dredd: Carry the Nine
by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, October 02, 2020

Comic Cuts - 2 October 2020

I'm still working on my John Burns article, which I'm hoping to have finished by the end of the week. One reason it's taking a little while is because I decided to write it in a slightly non-linear way so, while it covers the whole of John's career, it doesn't read like an obituary. Yes, the magazine will include an obits. section, so I'm trying to vary the tone of the features; it's one of the reasons I'd like to have more contributors so that there are a number of different voices in the magazine.

I'm using a list of John's favourite strips as a through-line and then weave in details of how his career progressed over the years. In fact, one of the reasons I'm spending so long on this is that I keep getting distracted digging out and reading old strips. I pulled a couple of annuals out of a cupboard and was reading 'Guardians of the Reef' and an episode of 'Wrath of the Gods' on Monday. On Tuesday I finally found my copy of 'Danielle', some 'Modesty Blaise' and some girls' annuals, so that kept me busy for a bit, and on Wednesday I dug out copies of ESPers, James Bond: A Silent Armageddon and Sable & Fortune. Today (Thursday, as I write) I'm on the look-out for a box of Heavy Metal to see if I can find some of the MI9 strips he did for that paper. I've already dug out the one issue of Penthouse Comix I have with John's work but whether I can find anything useable is another question.

I managed to post a few items up on EBay and I'm pleased to say that about half of them sold first time around. I have much more to go, and I was meant to do some scanning and listing at the weekend, but it didn't work out. Instead, I had a hair cut on Saturday and spent time chatting and catching up with friends over an online board game, and Sunday just seemed to disappear. I remember trying to sort through a load of podcasts in the morning and chatting with my Mum, dozing off after lunch and waking up a couple of hours later. By the time I'd caught up on some e-mail, it was dark, Mel was back from her parents and we were finishing off the last episode of Cormoran Strike that has been sitting on the Blu-ray box for some weeks. The day was over before I had a chance to scan anything.

I'm reviewing it below the pic, and there will be spoilers, so hop to the end if you want to avoid them.

This is the fourth of the adaptations of Robert Galbraith's (J. K. Rowling's) novels, released to coincide with the release of Galbraith's fifth novel and therefore against a background of a backlash against that novel's reputed transphobia. I'm no expert, but those complaining about having a crook dress up as a woman are surely reducing transvestism to an act of dressing up and they really ought to be looking at their own perceptions and prejudices. They need to learn that it's about more than wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. I think a lot of the coverage was wilfully ignorant as it allowed the writers to take a poke at the BBC for adapting her novels. It is no surprise that the most negative reviews appeared in the Mail on Sunday and The Times.

The action picks up immediately following the end of the third novel adaptation -- broadcast 30 months ago in early 2018 -- with Holiday Grainger's Robin Ellacott about to marry the awful Matthew (Kerr Logan). Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) has raced to the church, disheveled and beaten, wondering why she has not responded to his calls and texts. Matthew had deleted them and having Strike hovering around the outskirts of the wedding doesn't bode well for a happy ceremony or honeymoon.

A year later, Robin is now an equal partner in the private investigation firm of C. B. Strike. Arriving at the firm's Denmark Street office (above 12 Bar Club at 26 Denmark Street... Forbidden Planet was at 23 Denmark Street for many years), the two discover it has been broken into by a disturbed young man, Billy, who babbles about a murder while waving around a bloody knife he has used to carve a cave-painting style drawing of a horse on the wall. The incident leads them to investigate a group of left-wing radicals.

A second case involves the blackmail of an M.P., Jasper Chiswell (Robert Glennister), the head of a family who despise him and are despised by him – except for his dead son, whom he worships, but who was (of course) awful. Chiswell is being blackmailed and, as the two investigations merge, it seems to involve the death of a young girl (an incident seen by Billy when he was a boy), on a chalk horse at Uffington. Cormoran and Robin discover a grave, but no further action appears to be taken by the police. Could it be a cover-up?

When Robin goes undercover at the Houses of Parliament to trap one of the blackmailers, the show descends into Spitting Image territory of ghastly MPs, horny aides and competent secretaries. The other blackmailer turns out to be Billy's brother, Jimmy, who is also a cartoon radical.

Thankfully the two leads are engaging enough to carry the four episodes. Robin is suffering from PTSD following an attack she suffered in the third series, but Cormoran's missing leg is now barely an inconvenience, except when he's chasing someone. Robin ditches Matthew (who is conveniently having an affair) and Cormoran is dumped by his girlfriend, making the "will they? won't they?" soap opera standard a big part of the story. Meaningful looks and long hugs are as far as it goes, but don't be surprised if they get together at some point down the line.

I've enjoyed previous adaptations. This one, like the book, was longer. Unfortunately, twice the length didn't add up to twice the fun, but it was OK. I was just hoping for better than OK.

(* The column header this week is from El Capitan Trueno: La reina bruja de anubis, which, sadly, has never been translated into English – I did these few panels for your reading pleasure.)

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Commando 5371-5374

There’s something for everyone in this brand-new set of Commando comics: from murder mysteries, tiny aircraft carriers, and a motley band of rogues, to a Science Fiction adventure! Commando issues 5371 - 5374 — out soon!

5371: Five Little Soldier Boys

Three words: gothic, murder mystery. That enough of a hook? Issue 5371: ‘Five Little Soldier Boys’ is a Commando debut by war comic writer Colin Maxwell! When a bunch of soldiers get lost in a storm in the French Alps, their only refuge is an eerie chateau isolated in the hills… only this isn’t a refuge — it’s a house of death! With gothic-esque art from Manuel Benet — the question is, will they survive the night?

Story | Colin Maxwell
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5372: McGinty’s Mob

Classic Commando action in Issue 5372: ‘McGinty’s Mob’! McGinty and his ragtag band from the Pioneer Corps are on a demolition mission! When a gung-ho Major General who won’t take no for an answer marches up to McGinty and demands his help, McGinty puts together an outfit the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It’s all guns blazing in this Eric Hebden Commando from 1967 with art by Victor de la Fuente!

Story | Eric Hebden
Art | Victor de la Fuente
Cover | Segrelles
Originally Commando No. 279 (1967).

5373: Face of 1000 Heroes

Commando goes to the future in a rare Science Fiction comic in Issue 5373: ‘Face of 1000 Heroes’! The year is 2104 and clone armies wage war in a bid for corporate supremacy, but when a battle against Atlantic pirates goes wrong the clone designated N4 is left damaged and changed forever. Free from control, N4 is thirsty for liberation in the form of a corporate takedown! With amazing cover from artist Neil Roberts!

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Muller and Klacik
Cover | Neil Roberts

5374: Convoy Patrol

You think your job is stressful? Try this on for size: taking off in a Fairey Swordfish from a miniscule aircraft carrier converted from a merchant ship — in the middle of the Atlantic! And if that wasn’t bad enough for Fleet Air Arm pilot, Paul Drayton, along with the constant raids from Folk-Wolf Kondors and the blasted weather , he’s also got fellow airmen trying to kill each other! Think I’ll stick to my day job!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Carmona
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1582 (1982).

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 30 September 2020

Misty & Scream returns with another 48-page anthology stuffed with scares to create a new generation from British horror fans!

Horror comics don't get enough attention (if you ask me) and the Misty & Scream! Special, which has become an annual tradition for Hallowe'en, includes fantastic new work from the likes of Maura McHugh, Olivia Hicks, Kristyna Baczynski, Mary Safro, and 2000 AD talent search winner Robin Henley.

The Prince of Darkness comes face to face with an old foe in 'The Dracula Files' from Cavan Scott and Vincenzo Riccardi; Black Beth's quest for vengeance continues thanks to the fevered minds of Alec Worley and DaNi; and Kek-W and Simon Coleby reveal the ghoulish World War I air ace, Black Max, attempting to cross back over into the world of the living!

Plus there's three frightfully fresh stories to shock your socks off - 'Thief of Senses' by Maura Mchugh and Robin Henley; 'Bumps in the Night' by Olivia Hicks and John Lucas, and 'The Aegis' by Kristyna Baczynski and Mary Safro!

So lock your doors and hide under the duvet as this is the spookiest read you've encounter this Hallowe'en!

2000 AD Prog 2201
Cover: Tiernen Trevallion.

Judge Dredd: Carry the Nine by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Misty & Scream! 2020 Special
Cover: Andrea Bulgarelli.

Thief of Senses by Maura McHugh (w) Robin Henley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Aegis by Kristyna Baczynski (w) Mary Safro (a+l)
Bumps in the Night by Olivia Hicks (w) John Lucas (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Oz Ozborne (l)
Black Beth by Alec Worley (w) DaNi (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Return of Black Max: Flying Solo byKek-W (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O’Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Dracula File by Cavan Scott (w) Vincenzo Riccardi (a) Simon Bowland (l)

America: Lost and Found The Rediscovered Scripts by John Wagner & Colin MacNeil
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08894-4, 30 September 2020, 128pp, £19.99. Hardcover.

Long considered one of the most important stories in British comics history, the long-lost scripts behind the Judge Dredd story America are now to be revealed in a brand new book.
    America was a Judge Dredd story about freedom, terrorism, and armed struggle that has fresh and powerful resonance in today’s world – and America: Lost & Found – The Rediscovered Scripts takes you behind-the-scenes on John Wagner and Colin MacNeil’s groundbreaking story, which confirmed Judge Dredd‘s place as one of the most politically charged and nuanced series in comics.
    Rediscovered by chance three decades after publication, Wagner’s surviving scripts for America are now presented with in-depth commentary from the writer, followed by the story itself with MacNeil’s beautifully fully-painted art remastered and still delivering its emotional gut-punches after 30 years.
    With new introductions from John Wagner and Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys), this title will be available exclusively from the 2000 AD webshop at

Major Eazy vs Rat Pack by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08855-5, 1 October 2020, 48pp, £14.99. Hardcover.

The war’s dirtiest fighters led by the war’s coolest soldier – it’s Major Eazy vs Rat Pack! Blasting out from the pages of the legendary Battle, this 48-page special edition of this classic crossover story from 1977 is available exclusively from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops! Bringing together two of Battle’s most popular strips in one explosive 12-part story, this collection also includes two carefully selected stand-alone Battle classics featuring art by Ezquerra – ‘The Hidden Bomb’ and ‘The Orphan’ from 1980. This special collection is a must have for fans of classic war comics and of Ezquerra’s groundbreaking art, which made him one of the most important artists in post-war British comics.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Comic Cuts - 25 September 2020

After a break last week to write a book introduction, I'm back to writing for BAM! — the new magazine I'm putting together. I've had a pretty good couple of days working on an article that I've been looking forward to writing. At the tail-end of August I spoke to John Burns, one of my favourite artists, and I'm now piecing together a look at his very extensive — sixty-six year! — career in both comics and newspapers.

I've been waiting for this opportunity for over a decade. When I was still finding my feet with Bear Alley Books, one of the ideas was to do a magazine, with a big interview or career overview as its centrepiece. Had that idea taken off at the time, Burns was one of the big names I wanted to chase down. For such an amazing artist, there have been very few interviews; I can think of only half a dozen. I published one in Comic World. Back then it took me 14 issues to get John in — timed to coincide with the release of A Silent Armageddon — but I'm making up for that by putting him centre stage in the first issue this time.

There's a feature on the history of pocket libraries, one on Frank Bellamy and some early artwork by Dave Gibbons, plus a look at an old SF newspaper strip. I have been playing around with some layouts, which I'm now happy with. I don't like over-complicated layouts where you can barely read the text, but I like an occasional flourish, as anyone who has read any of the books from Bear Alley will know as I'm not only head cook and bottle washer, but I've designed all our books, too. (That sounded a bit more smug than I intended... sorry.)

More news on the contents and when BAM! will make its appearance when I know more myself.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd started watching The Plot Against America, an alternate history of the USA based on the novel by Philip Roth in which Charles Lindbergh won the 1940 election on a platform of keeping America out of the war in Europe. He signs a neutrality agreement with Hitler and brings in his own right wing agenda which has terrible consequences for the Jewish families the show centres upon.

The show received some fine reviews and the first two episodes were compelling drama. However, I wasn't in the right mood for it — I've read the book and things weren't going to get any more cheerful — and instead I switched to something with a bit less on the nose fascism and a bit more action, hence Condor and Snowpiercer. I'll get back to The Plot Against America after November.

(Spoilers below the pic, so skip to the end if you don't like that kind of thing.)

However, the urge for an alternate history led me to For All Mankind, which imagines what might have happened if the Russians had won the space race. Tensions at NASA run high when Alexei Leonov becomes the first cosmonaut to set foot on the Moon (in reality, he was to have been the commander of a planned Russian moon landing that was cancelled). The Apollo 11 landing is close to being a disaster and, back on Earth, astronaut Ed Baldwin raises hackles when he tells a reporter that he could have landed Apollo 10 rather than just fly over the surface. As a result, Baldwin is reassigned to a desk job.

Baldwin's comments are seen by some to prove that mission director Werner von Braun is too cautious and a way is found to remove him, a step in the direction of President Nixon's plans to build a military base on the Moon. Meanwhile, the Soviets trump the US again when they land a female cosmonaut on the surface and NASA are ordered to find a female astronaut, throwing planned missions into disarray.

I really enjoyed it. It has taken me almost a year to get around to watching it (it debuted on Apple TV in November 2019) but I'm glad I got there in the end. 2019 was a celebratory year, with the anniversary of the Moon landings all over TV in high definition. One thing that came out of those various shows (and, indeed, the movie Apollo 13 fifteen years ago) is that knowing the outcome doesn't mean that they weren't filled with drama and tension. We learned more about the astronauts, their families, the people behind the flight crew and the people who populated mission control. They all had a story to tell and hearing them, and seeing their reactions to events as they unfolded, gave us all a stake in the game.

For All Mankind also relies on this soap-operatic style of storytelling. The show has a small group of fictional characters who are blended into known history and real historical figures. So while Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) is an invention of executive producers Ronald D. Moore (of revamped Battlestar Galactica fame), Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, we also meet real astronauts like Neil Amstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who take Apollo 11 to the Moon. We also meet Ed's family (wife and son) and the families of his fellow astronauts; we follow them as the various crews train and fly missions, react to each Soviet advance/threat (depending on how you see it), and each American failure, most notably the destruction of Apollo 23, which traps three astronauts in Jamestown Base at the edge of a crater with a Soviet base only a few miles away.

While some of the more soap opera aspects of the show puncture the tension a little, there is enough to propel you right to the end and beyond... because the trailer for season two has dropped and I'll hopefully get to see it in a more timely fashion. The trailer hints that the cooperation seen between astronauts and cosmonauts at the end of season one will break down and the US, now under Reagan, and Soviets could be turning the lunar surface into a battleground. Yikes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 23 September 2020

Don’t delay, jump on board today - 2000 AD Prog 2200 is the perfect jumping on issue for the greatest comic in the galaxy!

Twice a year the legendary weekly anthology makes it easier than ever for new and lapsed readers to jump on board, the ideal way to step onto the Thrill-train that is 2000 AD!

2000 AD Prog 2200 is on sale 23 September with new stories beginning that make it easy to pick up the best comics the galaxy has to offer.

Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), Arthur Wyatt (Dredd movie tie-in), and Boo Cook (Elephantmen) follow up on this summer’s mega-event, ‘End of Days’, with Judge Dredd: Carry The Nine, where the Judge Dredd strip continues its long tradition of reflecting current events by seeing a simple solution to the problem of crime in Mega-City One...

The longest-running series for 2000 AD from Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy) - Sinister Dexter - continues with a shocking turn of events. They’ve worked together - on and off - for 25 years, but could the partnership of mercenary gun sharks Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter be coming to an end ... with a blast?

After the shocking surprise at the end of ‘The Thru'Penny Opera’ back in 2014, Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s Stickleback returns with the story of how the genius detective Sherlock Holmes transformed himself into the kingpin of crime in Victorian London. Time has not diminished the impact of Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker’s distinctive style on this steampunk series with a twist. Welcome back, Stickleback - London needs you!

And forget Jaws - Hook-Jaw is the real terror from the deep (and the sequels are way better). Escaping from the pages of the controversial Action!, this pelagic predator is now chomping his way through the pages of its spiritual successor! A great new series for old comic and horror fans alike!

2000 AD Prog 2200 will be available in print from newsagents, comic book stores, and 2000 AD’s webshop, and digitally from 2000 AD’s webshop and apps from 23 September 2020.

2000 AD Prog 2200

Cover: Tim Napper

Judge Dredd: Carry the Nine
by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Future Shocks: Omnidetectorists by Rory McConville (w) Joel Carpenter (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Sinister Dexter: Ghostlands by Dan Abnett (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 21 September 2020 (bonus episode)

The anniversary issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine sold out from distributors in under 24 hours.

Issue #424 marked 30 years of continuous publication with a bumper issue featuring new work by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, the creative team behind the first Megazine’s ground-breaking story ‘America’, as well as brand new series by some of Rebellion’s best writers and artists.

After hitting shelves on Wednesday 16 September, unprecedented demand for this issue, combined with a significant increase in new monthly subscribers, saw copies from distributors and the 2000 AD webshop completely sell out by the following morning.

The issue has gone to immediate reprint. It is also available digitally from 2000 AD’s webshop and apps.

Matt Smith, editor of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, said: "The reaction to the Megazine's 30th anniversary issue has overwhelmingly positive, which has been very gratifying. I knew it was a strong issue, and one that celebrated this epic milestone in fine style, but to see it sell out like this on day of release was amazing. This clearly was an event issue that Dredd fans had to get their hands on, and for anyone that hasn't yet picked it up, I urge you to do so pronto before the reprint gets snapped up too."

Debuting in September 1990, the Judge Dredd Megazine was launched as a companion title to 2000 AD with the remit of expanding on the world of futuristic dystopian cop Judge Dredd. Put together by commissioning editors John Wagner and Alan Grant, its first issue featured the first episode of the powerful 'America', as well 'Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend', the origin story of Dredd’s arch-nemesis Judge Death by Wagner and Peter Doherty; 'Chopper: Earth, Wind & Fire', Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s revival of the skysurfing rebel 'Chopper; Beyond Our Kenny' by Wagner and Cam Kennedy, about a struggling Scottish artist exploited by unscrupulous Mega-City publishers; and Dredd thriller 'Midnite’s Children' by Alan Grant and Jim Baikie. This was complemented by spoof Mega-City One newspaper written by stand-up comedian Tony Allen and designed by Shanti Tolputt, as well as a cover by superstar artist Glenn Fabry.

The anniversary issue sees the debut of two brand new series - Kenneth Niemand and Dave Taylor’s Dredd ‘Elseworlds’ series 'Megatropolis' and Michael Carroll and John Higgins’ Dredd-world origin series 'Dreadnoughts' - as well as the first episodes of new stories for Anderson, Psi Division by Maura McHugh and Steven Austin, The Returners by Si Spencer and Nicolo Assirelli, and The Dark Judges by David Hine and Nick Percival, plus the first instalment of the new 2000 AD Encyclopedia by Scott Montgomery.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Comic Cuts - 18 September 2020

I've had to take a few days off to write an introduction to a book and earn a bit of money. Sales of the Longbow book have slowed to a trickle even with the money-off offer that's running at the moment. If it doesn't generate any sales, I may revert back to full price to take advantage of the little uptick I see from buyers on the run up to Christmas. It would make a nice present... just look at that Don Lawrence artwork at the head of the column!

The piece I'm writing (not quite finished as I write this) is for a gorgeously illustrated book of pulpy SF covers. I'm not sure how much more I can say as I don't know whether everything has been cleared yet. What I can say is that it's right up my street and I've been doing a deep dive into my own past as a reader and collector.

Which leaves me with little in the way of news to talk about. We had a fairly geeky Zoom quiz on Sunday, with rounds on Judge Dredd and SF TV, which I thought we had stormed, but a round on Tolkien proved our downfall. While I was confident that Mel and I had won, when the points were totted up, it proved otherwise -- we were a point shy of top spot, losing to (I'm sure she won't mind being described as) another SF nerd. If only we'd known what a siphonophore was (it wasn't all SF).

I've also spent a little time sorting through some old comics, so there might be one or two things popping up on EBay in the near future. This morning, for instance, I went through all my copies of Starblazer and pulled out a dozen or so duplicates that I've managed to pick up. (Most of my copies were bought as they came out, although a few I had to miss out on when I was short of a penny or two. I think I'm now only about 18 shy of a complete set.) The goodies that will probably be on offer soon will include Savage Sword of Conan, Dracula Lives, Heavy Metal and Penthouse Comix, with more to come as I sort through more boxes.

Next week, I'm back on BAM!, so I'm hopeful that there will be some news on that soon. I'm having to take on most of the writing for this first one, but I'm hopeful that, once people have seen it, I might be able to attract a small team of writers who can help out. I have a few already, but a few more never goes amiss.

Having not moved out of Wivenhoe since March — except that one trip to have my eyes tested back in August — the days and weeks are pretty similar. Our day consists of two walks, work and watching a bit of TV during the week. At weekends we can welcome a small number of people (thankfully it has always been less than six, so the new restrictions have not caused any problems), sometimes in the house, sometimes in the garden. We're still sticking to the rules, as, thankfully, is everyone in our immediate neighbourhood.

I managed to finish off the last few episodes of Snowpiercer, which did not disappoint. We watched the French serial The Last Wave which was a ho-hum piece of hokum, and we've a lot of programmes about Japan that we recorded a few weeks ago that we're finally getting around to watching. For a bit of daft entertainment, we discovered Stu Goldsmith's The Infinite Sofa on Twitch TV (older episodes can be found on YouTube) some months ago and have been regular watchers ever since. It's part chat show, part interactive game show, all daft show, with comedian Goldsmith as host.

The idea, I think, was that he would invite people who donated to join him (via Zoom) to watch and interact with the guests. Over the months, rather than new faces each episode, the chief donors have been a small group of avid fans who make up the pool who receive invitations that week, so the faces on the 'sofa' have become familiar. A little like Romesh Ranganathan's 'Nation' where you also began, over time, to discover the personalities, quirks and talents of the wall of people who appear on the show. The members sat on the infinite sofa are not Romesh's focus group, rather they're a nice bunch who are there to hang out and have a laugh.

It may take a couple of episodes to get into as catchphrases and memes can develop with terrifying speed thanks to a constant stream of chatroom chatter — we missed a couple of episodes and we're still trying to work out some of the weird additions to the common language of sofa dwellers. But it is entertaining, daft and, frankly, it's just what you might need in these trying times.

I'm away now to finish this introduction. I'll let you know what it's about when the book is announced.