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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.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Commando 5367-5370

spans the globe in this set, featuring stories from the Balkans, Pacific Theatre, Malta, and mainland Europe. Commando issues 5367-5370 — out today!

5367: Fear The Jackal!

Greece has fallen, and an unlikely pair of survivors find themselves washed up on the shores of Yugoslavia. But Aussie Sergeant Hutchings and British Lieutenant Robertson must put aside their differences and help a notorious partisan band if they ever want to make it home from the mountains. The hills may be crawling with Italians but The Jackal is gradually picking them off!

Featuring a dynamic cover by Neil Roberts and gritty interiors from Klacik and Muller in a new story by Jim and David Turner.

Story | Jim & David Turner
Art | Klacik and Muller
Cover | Neil Roberts

5368: Tail-End Charlie

Aussie Major Ted Carson has heard a lot about ‘Pommies’, so isn’t best pleased when he’s made to team up with the British in an attempt to wipe out the Japanese guns on the island of Kublai. With a disastrous start to the mission to save the Allied Fleet, it looks like all may be lost, until both teams realise the other will do anything it takes to take out their common enemy.

There’s no end to action in this classic story by Spence, with interiors by Martin and a striking Ken Barr cover.

Story | Spence
Art | Martin
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 174 (1965).

5369: Flight to Freedom

The Siege of Malta sees British pilots Maddock and Wintrell in an endless cycle of dogfights and dodgy landings to hold the Axis powers at bay. But when the pair are rescued from disaster by the intriguing Italian Captain Fattorini, they are determined to escape their captivity and rejoin the fray. They don’t know why the Russian is there, but they’re happy to have him along.

This light-hearted but pacey adventure from Andrew Knighton captures the intensity of the fighting around Malta, with a fiery cover from veteran artist Ian Kennedy and exceptional interiors by Morhain and Defeo.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Morhain and Defeo
Cover | Ian Kennedy

5370: Bravery!

With a story that spans Medieval France to the Second World War, a mysterious family goblet is rumoured to grant enormous courage to any who drink from it. As WWII begins, brothers Claude and Georges Vaubois have differing mindsets to war, and while Claude bravely presses the Nazis from the air, his brother finds himself alone and in exile in his home country, hiding from any who might see him. That is until the fateful day their father is captured and only the words of a good friend and a drink from a strange cup can convince Georges to move past his fears…

An elaborate classic by CG Walker with interiors by CT Rigby and cover by Ian Kennedy.

Story | CG Walker
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1576 (1982).

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 16 September 2020

It's Super Wednesday on 16 September with TWO major comic book milestones available in print and digital - the Battle of Britain Special and the 30th anniversary edition of the Judge Dredd Megazine!

Battle revolutionised comics in the 1970s - gritty, hardcore war stories that rejected gung-ho patriotism in favour of telling the stories of the soldiers on the ground. It paved the way for 2000 AD and this special issue, timed to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, features new work by Garth Ennis (Preacher), Alex de Campi (Madi), Glenn Fabry (Preacher), Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy) and many more.

For 30 years, the Judge Dredd Megazine has explored the world of Dredd and this anniversary issue features some incredible new stories - from Kenneth Neimand and Dave Taylor's MEGATROPOLIS, an Elseworlds-style series which reimagines Mega-City One as a Futurist dystopia in the style of Metropolis, and DREADNAUGHTS, a frighteningly topical tale by Mike Carroll and John Higgins set in the earliest days of Justice Department, when riots and disorder threaten to tear America apart - and the Judges begin their rise to power. This issue also features the first part of the serialised 2000 AD Encyclopedia, a sure-to-be-indispensible guide to the stories and characters from more than four decades of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic!

2000AD Prog 2199
Cover: Paul Williams / Chris Blythe (col).

Judge Dredd: End of Days by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Sinister Dexter: Ghostlands by Dan Abnett (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Tharg's 3rillers: Saphir by Kek-W (w) David Roach (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
The Diaboliks: A Crooked Beat by Gordon Rennie (a) Dom Reardon (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #424
Cover: Greg Staples.

Judge Dredd: The Victims of Bennett Beeny by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil, Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Megatropolis by Kenneth Neimand (w) Dave Taylor (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dreadnaughts: Breaking Ground by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l) 
Anderson, Psi Divison: No Country For Old Psis by Maura McHugh (w) Steven Austin (a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) Simon Bowland (l)
The Returners: Heartswood by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Dark Judges: Deliverance by David Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Lawless by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Features: Dave Hunt, Battle of Britain Special
Bagged collection: THE 2000 AD ENCYCLOPEDIA by Scott Montgomery

Battle of Britain Special
Cover: Nelson Daniel.

Rat Pack: The Tough Way Out by Garth Ennis (w) Keith Burns (a) Jason Wordie (c) Rob Steen (l)
Lofty and The Eagle by Peter Briggs (w) Eoin Marron (a) Jason Wordie (c) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Face of the Enemy by Alan Grant (w) Davide Fabbri (a) Domenico Neziti (c) Oz (l)
War Child by Dan Abnett (w) Jimmy Broxton (a+c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Destroyer by Rob Williams (w) PJ Holden (a) Simon Bolland (l)
Sniper Elite: The Vulture by Karl Stock (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Bravo, Black Lion by Alex de Campi (w) Glenn Fabry (a) Karen Holloway (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Young Cockney Commandos by Keith Richardson (w) Tom Paterson (a+c) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (l)
El Mestizo by Alan Hebden (w) Brent McKee (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (l)
Gustav of the Bearmacht by Kek-W (w) Staz Johnson (a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Also featuring:
Double Hero
by Ian Kennedy (a)
Vultures! by B. Burrell (w) Carlos Ezquerra (a) N Eaton (l)
Scourge of the Skies by Karl Stock (w) Patrick Goddard (a) John Charles (c) Oz (l)

Friday, September 11, 2020

Comic Cuts - 11 September 2020

I've had a busy week trying to juggle a bit of subbing articles, writing and designing some pages, transcribing an interview and finishing off a huge scanning project. Only one thing fell by the wayside, which is an article I'm supposed to have finished by the end of the month... but the end of the month seems so far away at the moment and I didn't want to put everything else on hold.

What do you mean "We're already a third of the way through September"? Oh, well, I guess everything will have to go on hold next week.

I'm still undecided about what I'm doing with this magazine. There are a number of choices... keep it slim so I can keep it coming out regularly under my own steam, make it bigger and produce fewer issues a year. I want to include lengthier features and interviews than has been the norm of late, and that means two things straight away: either lots of pages, so you can present a number of features, both long and short, that will attract a broad audience, or a slimmer but regular publication which forces you to split long features across issues. I'm really not keen on the latter, so the question is, how big should I make each issue.

I've been thinking of 64 pages, maybe as many as 72 — which is a lot of work. Then there's an impish voice that pops up in my brain that says "Why not go all out and double the page count, do a proper quarterly book." I'm tempted. I really am. It would also  increase the price, but maybe that's not a bad thing... it wouldn't double the price if I were to double the pages.

Damn you, Imp! Now I'm seriously thinking it might be possible. Features wouldn't need to be split, and there would be room for comics and (my favourite!) comic indexes. I might be able to run some material —  some extensive index material, my history of old pirate publishers — that would otherwise have to wait twenty years before I could get it finished, if it were to be in book form. But serialised in twenty page chunks... I could do that!

The more I think about it, the more I think that Imp might be right. It might make October an impossible deadline, but let's see what happens.

With my thoughts dominated by this new project, I haven't had much time for anything else. We were hosts of a pub quiz held over Zoom on Saturday, which went well — I think we got the right mix of easy, guessable and impossible to guess questions and we varied things by having a "guess the year" round and a multiple choice round. Everyone seemed happy and we're doing another one at the weekend , although not hosting this time.

We've recently finished watching The Umbrella Academy season two, which was as good as the first outing, having just the right levels of action, humour, silliness and weirdness. Much better than Condor season two, which I spent most of wondering how the supposedly super-smart intelligence agent could be made to look any dumber, having lost a Russian defector, helped cost an innocent man his freedom (and, eventually, his life) and given away everything to the Russian mole in the CIA he knew was there but couldn't help confiding in. Idiot.

I'm stalled on The Plot Against America —I'm a couple of episodes in and it's good, but I find I'm not in the mood for it at the moment. Instead, I'm watching Snowpiercer, which I'm really enjoying. Based, of course, on a comic that was previously turned into a movie. The changes made to spin it out into a 10-part TV series hasn't stretched the show completely out of shape and made it unrecognisable. At the same time, it has introduced a police procedural element that works and ends after a few episodes in a way that powers the rest of the show's plot. I'm six episodes in and still gripped.

(* The image at the top of the column is based on the covers of the two Longbow books. The real covers you can see in the column to the right. I still have a handful of signed copies available, which I'm still offering with a 10% discount if you buy both volumes.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 9 September 2020

Rebellion have announced the publication of the first ever comprehensive and definitive encyclopedia of the worlds of the legendary comic book, 2000 AD. The 2000 AD Encyclopedia — launched in the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine this month — will for the first time bring together synopses and details of every series published in the weekly anthology and its sister comic.

Written by writer and journalist Scott Montgomery, this expansive new project that will be serialised in regular instalments over the next year. Included as supplements with the Megazine, the 2000 AD Encyclopedia promises to become the go-to resource for the hundreds of creations that have appeared in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics over the past four decades.

The first instalment, covering A to B from Mike Carey and Andy Clarke's punky urban SF series TH1RT3EN, from 2002, to John Wagner and Arthur Ranson's gritty 90s' anti-hero Button Man, is published with Judge Dredd Megazine #424, which is on sale from Wednesday 16 September.

The whole series will be collected into a single volume for publication in early 2022, as part of the celebrations around 2000 AD’s 45th anniversary.

Matt Smith, editor of 2000 AD, said: “As 2000 AD approaches its 45th anniversary, the comic's assembled a formidable stable of characters and stories over the past four and a half decades. For anyone not equipped with a vast Betelgeusian brain, it may be intimidating trying to keep track of them all - but no more! The 2000 AD Encyclopedia is your new go-to resource for all the strips that have appeared in both the Prog and Meg, with a comprehensive rundown of creators, notable series, and where the stories have been collected for handy access. No Squaxx dek Thargo should be without it!”

Scott Montgomery said: “Having been a 2000 AD reader since the age of nine in 1981, I was delighted to accept when Matt [Smith, Tharg the Mighty’s earthly 2000 AD editor droid] offered me the chance to write the 2000 AD Encyclopedia. This is a huge honour and the timing was perfect; coming right at the start of lockdown in March. I can’t think of a better way to ‘work from home’ – engrossed in the minutiae of nearly 45 years-worth of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and also celebrating 30 years of the Galaxy’s Greatest Spin-Off – Judge Dredd Megazine. Encompassing major and minor characters, classic stories like Flesh from the earliest issue – through to future masterpieces like The Out in 2020 - I hope that fellow 2000 AD fans will enjoy this informative guide to the thrill-archive and beyond!”

Rebellion's Head of Publishing Ben Smith said, "2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine have made a profound cultural impact in the past half-century. Much of today's global popular culture would be unrecognisable without the work of the artists and writers who have contributed to these ground-breaking comics. Their influence can be felt across generations of  not just UK talent but internationally as the waves that this comic started ripple out through film, music, television, literature and beyond. Only now will the towering achievement of decades of stories, characters and prophetic visions be brought together and laid out for everyone to lose themselves in, finding much-loved favourites, hidden treasures and some shocking creations with each turn of the page."

2000AD Prog 2198
Cover: Luke Preece.

Judge Dredd: End of Days by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Sinister Dexter: Ghostlands by Dan Abnett (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Tharg's 3rillers: Saphir by Kek-W (w) David Roach (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
The Diaboliks: A Crooked Beat by Gordon Rennie (a) Dom Reardon (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Friday, September 04, 2020

Comic Cuts - 4 September 2020

Scanning and wrapping books, scanning and packing envelopes, scanning and running down to the post office...

How was your week? Mine was mostly scanning and getting books into the post. By the time you've checked the order, wrapped up the books (if they go out from here, I try to always wrap books up in newspaper to protect the corners from being bumped in the post), dug out the correct address and walked them down to the post office, you've lost most of a morning.

I'm pleased to say that all our Longbow pre-orders were posted out by Wednesday, and copies posted Friday were already starting to arrive. I'm getting some good feedback on the books, which is always nice because even after however many books I've put together — written in full or edited — there's always a sense of apprehension as you approach publication day. I know how much work has gone into them, and you try always to make them the best books you can, but there's always a nagging doubt at the back of your mind that some might not appreciate them the way you would like.

You'll find some entertaining stories and some impressive black and white art in these books and old EAGLE readers who disliked the supernatural and fantasy elements of the sixties weekly, may well prefer these stories to the later ones [...] These are two good books which deserve to be widely read. Jim Duckett, Eagle Times, 26 August 2020.

But the reviews are good and the comments that I'm seeing on Facebook are very pleasing. There seems to be a lot of appreciation for the extras that have gone into the book — the introductions and the extensive biographies that I wrote for the twelve artists who contributed to the series. I've tried to add these kind of extras to all the books I've produced, working on the principal that I, too, like a book with a good introduction and bonus related material.

So the rest of the week has involved scanning dozens of small comics, most of them only eight or twelve pages, but it still takes ages. I'm doing 300dpi scans because this is likely to be the last time I get an opportunity to scan a collection like this. "This" is a selection of slim comics from the 1940s, nowadays as rare as hen's teeth, and an era of independent comic production that I find fascinating.

Many years ago, I wrote some articles for a collecting magazine about these old comics, and they have a fascinating history — collectors will recognise some of the names associated with them, names like Gerald G. Swan, Len Miller, Mick Anglo and others. When you drill down into them you discover a group of artists who were producing strips them likes of which were never seen before (or after). Again, names like Nat Brand, Dennis M. Reader and Crewe Davies float around amongst collectors without much being known about them. A few artists went on to greater things — Ron Embleton, Don Lawrence, Paddy Brennan, Syd Jordan — but they often had their start in these independent comics.

So I'm planning to go back into my own archive of articles and write the history of these comics. I mentioned this to Peter Hansen, saying at the time (last November) that a lack of illustrations was holding me back. Well, I now have those illustrations and a venue in BAM!. Get ready to discover some of the weirdest comics you've ever seen!

I'm off to write some questions. We had our first Zoom Quiz evening last Saturday with a small group of friends and we've accidentally landed ourselves with the task of hosting the next one, which will involve at least twice as many people spread around the country. It will either be brilliant or a disaster. I'll let you know which next week.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Commando 5363-5366

Brand new Commando issues  — out today!

5363: Daggers Drawn

From writer and ex-serviceman Russell Sheath comes a modern-era Commando with classic themes. ‘Daggers Drawn’ follows a group of Royal Marine Commandos on a routine training exercise in the Scottish Highlands that goes horribly wrong when they interrupt an illegal arms-deal. Now, unarmed and stranded in an unforgiving terrain, two rookies must do what they can to make it out alive and stop the deal!

Story: Russell Sheath
Art:  Khato
Cover:  Neil Roberts

5364: Born Brave

In Captain Eric Hebden’s classic Commando from the 1960s, British dispatch rider Sergeant George Ward was roaring back to his base in France after a routine delivery job when the road swung into a dark forest — and what happened when George raced into that wood was to give him nightmares for months to come!

Story:  Eric Hebden
Art: Frollo
Cover:  Ken Barr:
Originally Commando No. 161 (1965).

5365: Ramsey’s Raiders: The Rats’ Nest

Ramsey’s Raiders return yet again – this time for a less than above board mission in a SS infested village in France. The elite Special Raiding Force are out to rescue the trapped SOE agent, who also happens to be a relative of their commanding officer  — and to make matters worse, their secret rescue mission is hot off the back of D-Day and the Allies are ready to blast the Jerries out!

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

5366: The Secret Heroes

Family loyalties are often stronger than any other ties in Commando. That’s why in ‘The Secret Heroes’ Olaf Milang couldn’t believe what he was told by the Resistance when he returned home to his native Norway on a secret mission. Was his own brother really acting the traitor and wearing the uniform of the Nazi-controlled police?! Find out is this fantastic silver-era reprint!

Story: Bill Fear
Art: Ruiz#
Cover:  Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1569 (1981).

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD) - 2 September 2020

Rebellion Publishing is pleased to announce a new graphic novel line focusing on the indispensable stories of the greatest lawman of the future, beginning with a blistering tale where the terrorists want only one thing – democracy!

Perfect for new readers and retailers, the Essential Judge Dredd line of graphic novels will focus on the key stories that have established and confirmed Dredd’s place as one of the most complex and nuanced characters in comics.

The first collection in the new line, Essential Judge Dredd: America, includes work by John Wagner (A History of Violence), Garth Ennis (Preacher), Alan Grant (Batman), Colin MacNeil (Judge Dredd), John Higgins (Watchmen), John M Burns (Modesty Blaise), and Jeff Anderson (Transformers).

Out in September 2020 and retailing at £19.99 / $25, this 160-page paperback in larger format (276mm x 210mm) collects the America storyline, which focuses on the lives of ordinary citizens living under Justice Department’s despotic system.

Time drew childhood friends America Jara and Bennett Beeny apart, but when they reunite Beeny discovers America has become involved with the terrorist organisation ‘Total War’. This dark and complex tale is considered to be one of the best stories to ever come out of the Judge Dredd universe.

Now contextualised with contemporarily-thematic stories, the collection will also feature new colour by renowned Watchmen colourist John Higgins.

The series continues in November 2020 with Essential Judge Dredd: Origins, the unprecedented epic that sees Wagner and Ezquerra return to tell the origin story of their greatest creation.

First appearing in 1977, Wagner and Ezquerra’s fascist future cop has become the byword for dystopian law enforcement and has inspired generations of artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. Patrolling the streets of Mega-City One on America’s Eastern seaboard 122 years in the future, Dredd is judge, jury, and executioner in a blackly funny, often challenging, and always riotous satire of ‘law and order’ politics, whose underlying message has only become more relevant in the 21st Century.

Ben Smith, head of Rebellion Publishing, said: “Not only is America one of the most amazing Judge Dredd stories ever told, this incredibly prescient look at the demands society must make for democracy and what a state will do to protect itself couldn’t be more contemporary. This is not only the ideal first story for any reader new to Dredd, it’s something everyone should read in this year of all years. Make sure you read it before you vote, citizens!”


2000AD Prog 1297
Cover: Dom Reardon.

Judge Dredd: End of Days by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Future Shocks: Stream M For Murder by Liam Johnson (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Tharg's 3rillers: Saphir by Kek-W (w) David Roach (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
The Diaboliks: A Crooked Beat by Gordon Rennie (a) Dom Reardon (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Essential Judge Dredd: America by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis (w), Colin MacNeil, John Higgins, John M. Burns, Jeff Anderson (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08860-9, 3 September 2020 (print & digital), 160pp, £19.99 / $25.

In Mega-City One, the Judges are the law - acting as judge, jury, and executioner. But how do the citizens really feel about a system where they are powerless? America Jara and Bennett Beeny grow up as best friends, living a fairly trouble-free life in a dangerous city... bar the odd, negative encounter with a Judge. Time draws them apart, and when they are brought back together, Beeny is a successful singer and America has become involved with a terrorist organisation known as Total War, which has the Justice Department in its sights!

This dark and complex tale, considered to be one of the best stories to ever come out of the Judge Dredd universe, has been contextualised with contemporarily thematic stories with re-coloured art by Watchmen's John Higgins.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Comic Cuts - 28 August 2020

Now, this is the photo that I wanted to have on last week's post. I thought I was being cautious by setting the publication date for the Longbow books as August 21st, but I'd forgotten how slow everything has become during the ongoing Covid crisis—yes, still ongoing, although it's easy to forget that there are still over 1,000 new cases every day the way some politicians talk.

I took my first trip into Colchester last week, as I had an appointment to take an eye test at a surgery the other side of town. As you'll see from the photos, things were quiet, even around mid-day on a Friday. I stopped off at a few of my favourite charity shops for the first time in six months, but I must confess I wasn't in a buying frame of mind and ended up with two DVDs (Dunkirk, which I've seen but which had an extra disc of documentaries, and 1917, which I haven't seen—not a bad pair for two quid!).

The day was a series of firsts in six months—first bus ride, first time out of Wivenhoe, first time visiting a shop that wasn't the local Co-Op... it was quite exhilarating! The trip back wasn't quite so much fun. It wasn't a normal eye test. Rather, I was having my retinas photographed, which meant having eye drops put in (which stung like accidentally putting shampoo in your eyes) to enlarge the pupils. The photos were fine, as was sitting in a darkened room, but although I had been warned that my sight might be blurry for a couple of hours afterwards, nobody had told me to take sunglasses. During the trip in, it was wall-to-wall clouds. When I stepped out of the surgery, the sunlight was blinding. So now I'm blurry-eyed and squinting, trying to find a bus stop in a part of town I've never visited before; I can't read the map on my tablet because it's too bright and the screen too reflective to see anything; and I'm tearing up.

So there I am, this crying, broken, blinded creature approaching two ladies waiting at the nearby bus stop, and the question torn from my heart as I dab at my eyes is: "Do you know where I can catch a bus to the town centre?" Not quite what they were expecting from an emotional wreck, who might be on drugs ("Have you seen the size of his pupils?").

I was quite emotional Monday morning with the latest Windows update, although this was the shouting helplessly at the screen kind of emotion as the blue screen warned me about turning off my computer as it sl-o-o-o-w-ly worked its way towards 100%. Inevitably, it made some unwelcome changes to programmes (nowadays called Apps) and also buggered up my scanner. Every bloody time it updates I have to download new drivers for the scanner.

Tuesday was a considerable improvement as I spent the day looking at brilliant artwork and topped off the day chatting to one of my favourite  artists, John M. Burns, who is our interview for BAM! #1. This was the last large piece of the jigsaw of the the first issue. I now have (or will have when I've written it up) the big interview I wanted, a lengthy historical article, a few shorter pieces, and a comic strip reprint that I'm pretty sure few people will have even heard of. I already have a couple of items in for issues two and one for issue three.

I still need writers, and anyone who wants to put together features on comics from the past seventy years, do interviews or write reviews, please get in touch. I really don't want to have to fill the magazine myself... I'll have nothing to read!

Well, I guess I'd better sign off here and get down to signing those books. I did promise that the first fifty sets of books would be autographed and they're almost sold out. Everyone should receive their copies next week if you're in the UK, a little longer for anyone in America or Australia. I think you'll find they're worth the wait. We've had a couple of excellent reviews so far, and I'm hoping to see a few more as copies are distributed. Oh, and I'll keep the 10% off running for a little longer as I appreciate that some people are only just being paid and it can take a few days for money to reach their accounts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD) - 26 August 2020

The all-ages issue of 2000 AD is back with a bang—and brand new, Thrill-packed stories designed to appeal to Earthlets everywhere!

Legendary cartoonist Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show) returns to 2000 AD with 'Pandora Perfect'—the tale of the nefarious safe-cracker, armed bandit and all-round career criminal Pandora Perez and her loyal robot assistant Gort, with art by Brett Parson (Tank Girl)!

Plus there's 'Cadet Dredd', more 'Finder & Keeper', 'Future Shocks', and the new Dredd-world 'Department K' by Rory McConville and PJ Holden! This is another all-ages issue that's ideal for younger and YA readers, with a Regened collection coming next year!

2000AD Prog 2196
Cover: Neil Roberts.

Cadet Dredd: Bad Seeds by Mike Carroll (w) Luke Horsman (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bolland (l)
Finder & Keeper: The Curse of Kreepindeth by John Reppion (w) Davide Tinto (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bolland (l)
Future Shocks: Boss Level by Karl Stock (w) Tom Newell (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K by Rory McConville (w) PJ Holden (a) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Comic Cuts - 21 August 2020

Some highs and lows this week. I thought I would put together a video for last week, thinking that I could show off the proof copies of the two volumes of Longbow during the record. Which I did... unfortunately, at the same time as the telephone rang. A spam caller warning me about something or other. I couldn't hear what because I was too busy slamming down the phone.

When I came to edit the video together, I hadn't retaken that little section of video, so it ended up on the (digital) cutting room floor, and I had to insert a little bit into the middle of the video to show off the covers. Hey, ho. If I was professional, I'd have a script, a shot list... a plan!

It took until two in the morning to post the video and I crawled off to bed still full of adrenaline, watching a video until I dozed off about an hour later. Up again slightly later than usual at six-thirty ready for our walk. I think we got back about eight and I turned on the computer and a couple of messages telling me that the buttons set up for payment for the books were not working. After some fruitless efforts to re-do the buttons, I had to admit defeat and put up a notice saying that advance orders were on hold.

I cannot describe how frustrating this was. I wasn't doing anything different to how I had set these things up for the past decade. The problem, as far as I can see, is Google trying to make things impossible for third-party links. They're redesigning the Blogger interface and have been moving things around willy-nilly. Things that used to be easy -- such as uploading multiple pictures -- aren't so easy any more. I spend more time nowadays trying to disentangle the HTML code to make things look the way I want to. Even getting something as simple as a single line gap between this paragraph and the next can't be done by simple hitting the return key. I now have to hit shift+return.


John Freeman gets my no-prize award for the first review of the Longbow books: "Offering intense, fast-paced action adventure throughout, this strip is surely classic British weekly comics at its best"-- Down the Tubes.


What this meant, in practical terms last Friday, was that any attempt to cut and paste in new buttons generated by PayPal only resulted in being taken to a screen that said "This page does not exist". Let me reassure you that all the old buttons are still working fine. I did find a note in the depths of Blogger help that mentioned that old code works fine until you try to make changes. Then the new code kicks in and things stop working. Cutting and pasting old code into new posts doesn't work (I've tried it).

After spending all of Friday fretting and waiting for PayPal and Blogger to get back to me about this, I had to bite the bullet and posted alternative arrangements on Saturday morning. Thankfully, orders started to come in almost immediately and there has been a steady trickle of pre-orders over the past week. I'm waiting on a couple of boxes of books to arrive at Chez Bear Alley and hopefully orders will pick up once the books are actually in and working folk get paid at the end of the month.

That was the week's low point. I spent a large chunk of the weekend scanning and indexing old 1940s comics from obscure little publishers that will become illustrations for a series of articles I'm planning to run through the pages of BAM! The history of the pirate publishers who thrived in the post-war decade is an under-explored area of British comics' history that I want to put under the microscope. There are a lot -- a LOT -- of these little comics and they had some fascinating people behind them and drawing for them.

I'm not sure when that series will run, although issue four looks likely at the moment. Mind you, plans change from one minute to the next. Issue one is starting to take shape, and I have one interview sorted and a second interview under way. There will be a long article on the history of British pocket libraries with some astonishing statistics, some shorter articles, including one on how Frank Bellamy found himself in trouble with Eagle, and we will be running a science fiction strip that has never previously been reprinted (I'm taking a break from writing about it in order to write this!) and some rarely seen work from a well-known artist.

I spent yesterday (Wednesday) playing around with some layouts on a couple of shorter articles to see what the magazine might look like. I've still got some 'furniture' to put in (logos, page numbers) but I'm happy with the results. There's still a long way to go, but getting those first few articles together has really lifted my spirits. Every low is followed by a high.

I'm still on the lookout for contributions, reviews and suggestions. All ideas will be treated sympathetically and nothing dismissed out of hand.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Commando 5359-5362

Commando touches down through several ages of war in this striking set, full of mystery and intrigue. Commando issues — out today!

5359: War Crime

Kurt Silverton has landed with the British taskforce on East Falkland where his cousin, Steven, arrived earlier — but all is not well when the pair finally catch up. Amidst the chaos of conflict there are other, darker whispers around Kurt, which if true could bring the whole of the Royal Navy into disrepute! Can Kurt discover the truth before it is burie

d in the fog of war?

‘War Crimes’ features a stunning cover by Ian Kennedy and dynamic interiors from Paolo Ongaro with thrilling panoramic double-page spreads.

Story | Dominic Teague
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Ian Kennedy

5360: Trail of a Hero

Boasting one of Ken Barr’s greatest covers — recently featured in Illustrator’s Quarterly, ‘Trail of a Hero’ is a throwback from the Golden era of British comics. Action-packed from the very outset, this issue has everything from Chindits to stolen identities in the jungles of East Asia!
As the Luftwaffe lay bombs across the British landscape, Pinto Miller and his family are caught up in the destruction. As his fellow Roma are patched up, Pinto sets out for revenge against the Nazi onslaught, but soon finds himself in the thick of the Burmese jungle, wreaking havoc on the Japanese! Pinto’s techniques are definitely out of the ordinary, but his skills are just the ticket in this fast-paced story of heroism against the odds.

Story | Fitzsimmons
Art | Ortiz
Cover | Ken Barr

Originally Commando No. 138 (1964).

5361: Curse of the Condor

In a small Cornish village, there is a curse upon the name Jago — and all who live there know it. Any who venture out to sea with that name will be dashed against Trevelyan’s Rock, doomed to die… or so goes the tale of a curse made by a drowning man hundreds of year

s ago. But it’s 1944 and the time for superstition is over on this RAF Rescue Launch… until a Jago once again steps aboard!

Written by past Editor Calum Laird, and illustrated by renowned horror artist Vicente Alcazar, this supernatural Commando is full of eerie intrigue.

Story | Calum Laird
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Neil Roberts

5362: Nowhere to Hide

A Silver age reprint from 1981, ‘Nowhere to Hide’ is another great cover from the master, Ian Kennedy, as Bernard Gregg’s story follows Lancaster rear gunner Jack Schofield, who is looking forward to some well-earned leave. But when he finds himself forced to bail out over occupied France, he never expects to wind up entangled in a murder investigation between the Nazis and the French Resistance! With the Mayor dead, Jack is on borrowed time to unveil the dastardly plot of the evil Krantz and Von Kluger, but there is so much more than just one man’s life at stake.

Story | Bernard Gregg
Art | Salmeron
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1557 (1981).