Friday, June 14, 2024

Comic Cuts — 14 June 2024

I'm trying to juggle two projects at the moment but ran into a slight problem with one that I'm working on for another researcher/collector. What was meant to be a little help with printing ran into the buffers, just as I thought I had everything organized to print off a handful of books in order to spread the cost of postage (mentioned in last week's column).

So I'm back onto the other book which is tantalizingly close to being finished. Three introductory features written, of which two are designed, plus the artwork pages are all in place with just the page numbers to sort out. One of the sticking points was the title of the third feature and I woke up this (Thursday) morning and thought: "Pastmaster".  The perfect title. Amazing how the mind works.

I should have it finished by the end of the weekend: there's some PDF proofing to do before it goes to the printers to get a printed proof. Believe it or not, given the occasional typo that creeps in, I do try to keep errors out of my books. Sometimes I'm responsible for perpetuating mistakes, despite doing my best to double-check everything (this is why I'm so darn slow these days). Spelling is my curse and spell-checkers are only so good; worse, I'm a constant tinkerer, and shift things around as I write, so an explanation can sometimes end up appearing long after the thing that needs explaining. You hope to pick these things up when you read through, but the occasional brain glitch means that you see what you meant to write rather than what you've actually written.

I'm also prone to rambling off the topic.

The new book, HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES, features three stories drawn by Jesus Blasco, who has been my favourite artist since childhood. My first experience of Blasco was an episode of 'The Steel Claw' from 1968, but the artist had changed by the time I began buying Valiant regularly in the Boulderman era of the strip in late 1969. Blasco drew the last of the original run of the Claw strip, a little 3-parter, in May 1970 before switching over to 'Slave of the Screamer', which was the first full-length strip drawn by Blasco that I experienced. (Worth noting that it will shortly be released by Hibernia with an introduction by yours truly.)

Fans of Valiant from that time will remember the horror... not just of the strip but the fact that industrial action took the comic off the shelves for almost three months between November 1970 and February 1971. A number of strips, including 'Screamer' were wrapped up rather too quickly.

However, it did mean that Blasco went on to draw one of my favourite strips of all time: 'The Return of the Claw'. This had the right mix of science fiction and nightmare that (I guess) the nine-year-old me wanted. It was during this period (1971-73) that the infamous incident of the forgotten dog occurred, where, between the counter and the door of the newsagent, I was already so engrossed in the latest episode that I had walked half-way home before a passing neighbour asked about our dog, and I realised he was still tied to a post outside the newsagent.

My next Blasco sighting would have been probably in Action and 2000 AD before he headed off into the sunset as far as British comics were concerned. During that period he had a sideline in nursery comics (in fact, had drawn fairy tale stories for the UK as early as 1957); it was only when I started collecting comics and seeing the collections of friends that I became aware of all the westerns he had drawn in the 1950s, and  1960s adventure strips like Val Venture, Danger Man (based on the TV series) and The Indestructible Man.

Every time I found something new, it just reaffirmed my belief that Blasco – and one must include his family, who all worked together – was the finest comic strip artist ever. And shortly there's going to be a collection of three of of his strips, although I suspect that next week's column will begin with "I'm still waiting on proofs." See you back here in a week to see whether Mystic Steve has the power of prediction or his printers have pulled out all the stops just to prove him wrong.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 12 June 2024

One minute he’s driving a bus, the next he’s getting an email from Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner – on this episode we talk to artist Dan Cornwell!

From self-published sci-fi sports strip Rok of the Reds (coming to the Judge Dredd Megazine soon!) to Judge Dredd and Spector, Dan has quickly cemented his reputation as a fan favourite at 2000 AD. Molch-R chats to him about his career so far, his craft, and what happened when his mum threatened to phone Tharg…

The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast is the award-winning podcast that takes you behind-the-scenes at the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic with creator interviews, panels, and more! You can subscribe to the Thrill-Cast on your favourite podcast app, whether that is Apple, Google, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can also listen now at or you can watch at

And now, this week's bumper-sized release...

2000AD Prog 2386
Cover: John McCrea & Jack Davies.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
New! THE LORD PROVIDES by Gemma Sheldrake (w) Petite Creme (a) Jim Campbell (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
New! ROGUE TROOPER // SOUTHER BELLE by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
New! FUTURE SHOCKS // HAPPY WIFE by Laura Bailey (w) Stewart K. Moore (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

  • 13 Jun. Garth Ennis talks Battle Action with Nick Fausti of Previews. "What I always liked about the classic Rogue Trooper was the sense of tragedy hanging in the background - the godawful massacre of his entire regiment that drove his quest for revenge, his only comrades now dead men encoded on microchips in his equipment. You always knew that Gunnar, Bagman and Helm were that bit more determined to find the Traitor General than Rogue."
  • ... Talking of Garth, Eric Kripke has announced that Prime Video's adaptation of The Boys will end with season five, tweeting "Seaon 4 Premiere Week is a good time to announce: Season 5 will be the Final Season. Always my plan. I just had to be cagey till I got the final OK from Vought."
  • 8 Jun. Rich Johnston's Bleeding Cool  news website is fifteen years old this month.
  • 6 Jun. An interview with Andy Diggle at Word Balloon. (video, 1h 2m)
  • 4 Jun. Pat Mills reveals how a rejected story from 2000 AD turned into international best-seller Requiem Vampire Knight. "All the core ideas of Requiem are in my story treatments from 1997 and 1998, featuring  a world where time runs backwards."
  • 1 Jun. Dundee University has scrapped five masters degree courses in including courses in comics and graphic novels, drawing, and arts and humanities, all taught at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. A spokesperson for Dundee University said that some courses were withdrawn "partly due to low applicant numbers at this point in the recruitment cycle."
  • 1 Jun. Charlie Hunnam is to star in Amazon's adaptation of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Criminal, described as "an interlocking universe of crime stories" which Brubaker is working on as co-showrunner with Jordan Harper. (Brubaker and Phillips are exec. producers.)
  • 1 Jun. Scott Cederlund at From Cover to Cover looks at Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's Miracleman: The Silver Age. "After 30 years between issues, Buckingham and Gaiman return to explore “The Golden Age,'' but this time they narrow their point of view to one person – the resurrected Dickie Dauntless, aka Young Miracleman ... This is a superman seeing the world molded by the vision of a superman for the first time. And as he finds out, this was not the future that he was fighting for all those decades ago."
  • 31 May. Representatives of Bedford School, where Post Office scandal-hit Paula Vennells was a governor until 2021, have cancelled an appearance of Kev F. Sutherland's Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, who were due to perform Post Office Scandal: The Musical at Bedfringe, a comedy festival at the Quarry Theatre (owned by Bedford School), in July. Bleeding Cool quotes Sutherland as saying: "Obviously having a comedy show all about the Post Office Scandal performed at a school whose governor was a key player in the Post Office Scandal would be embarrassing to the school. Luckily, having nipped it in the bud and, to all intents and purposes, covered it up, there's no danger of anyone making any association between the Post Office Scandal and Bedford School. Phew."

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Charles T. Podmore — Writer and Decorator


By Robert J. Kirkpatrick

The name of Charles T. Podmore (or C.T. Podmore) may be familiar to some students of 19th century boy’s story papers – he contributed several stories to papers published by Samuel Dacre Clarke, alias Guy Rayner). He also wrote at least four novels, three stage plays, and was a local journalist for several years. Yet he spent his entire life living in Manchester and working full-time as a painter and decorator.

He was born on 3 April 1870 and baptised, as Thomas Podmore, at St. Jude’s, Ancoates, Manchester, on 26 February 1871. His father, Joseph Podmore (1818-1894) was a paper hanger and decorator, who had married Eliza Pickford (1834-1890) in Macclesfield, Cheshire, in 1858. Charles was the last of five children.

In the 1871 census the Podmore family was recorded at 11 Grosvenor Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester; ten years later, they were living at 26 Legh Grove, Ardwick, Manchester; and in 1891 they were living as boarders at 32 Clifford Street, Chorlton on Medlock, when Joseph was described as a decorator and Thomas was described as a journalist and author.

His first venture as a writer appears to have been the short-lived The Young Author’s Journal, edited in partnership (as C.T. Podmore) with W.J.R. Carey, which was launched in Manchester on 1 May 1887 when Podmore was only 17. A year later he began contributing to some of the story papers published by Samuel Dacre Clarke (under his pen-name of Guy Rayner). Amongst his contributions to The Young Briton’s Journal were The Golden Dragoon; The Story of an Outcast; Dick Arden’s Quest; and Sylvester Strood. For The Boys’ Popular Weekly he wrote St. Bartholomew; and for Guy Rayner’s Boy’s Novelette he contributed A Man of Mystery – A Tale of the Pressgang Days; and Porlock the Jew, or The Spectre of the Abbey. His stories appeared under the names of Chas. T. Podmore and C.T. Podmore. Why he added “Charles” to his name is a mystery.

He appears to have published nothing in the years immediately following 1890. He went on to marry Blanche Sarah Roberts, born on 29 April 1874 in Tipton, Staffordshire, at St. Thomas’s Church, Ardwick, on 20 April 1898. Blanche was the daughter of Edward Roberts, a railway station master, and his wife Sarah. The marriage certificate gave Podmore’s name as Charles Thomas Podmore, and his profession that of a decorator, having belatedly, perhaps, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. They went on to have three children: Cecilia Florence (1900-1987), Thomas Edward (1901-1972), and Charles Arthur (1904-1923).

His first novel, A Cynic’s Conscience, which portrayed the tragic consequences of an affair between a married man who has left his wife and another woman, was published by Edward Arnold in 1900, under the name of C.T. Podmore. This was followed by A Trombone and a Star, also issued by Edward Arnold, in 1905; and The Fault, published by John Long in 1909. A review of The Fault in the London-based newspaper The Era described Podmore as “a well-known Manchester journalist,” although what publications he wrote for has yet to be determined.

At the time of the 1901 census, he was living at 22 Albert Place, Ardwick. He was recorded as Charles T. Podmore, and was described as house decorator. By 1909, he had moved his family to 14 Meade Grove, Longsight, Manchester (where he was listed in a local trade directory as a decorator), and where he remained for the rest of his life.

In the 1921 census, he was described as a house decorator, with his sons Thomas Edward working as a house painter (continuing the family tradition), and Charles as an apprentice fitter.

As was the case before, there was a long gap between his last novel and his next work, which was a stage play, The Real Jeff Carbury, performed in Manchester in 1926, along with Labour on Top, also first performed in 1926. A year later came Put It There.

In 1932 he began writing for The Era, mainly contributing pieces on the theatre, music, and reviews. Another novel, Three Strange Men, was subsequently serialised, in 1938, in several local newspapers in the UK and in Australia. But he continued in his trade as a decorator, being recorded in the 1939 Register as a “grainer painting trade”. (A grainer was a painter who painted imitation of wood or marble grain).

Charles T. Podmore died on 27 March 1952, aged 82, at his home in Meade Grove, and was buried in the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, on 1 April 1952. He did not leave a will. His wife died just five weeks later, on 8 June 1952, being buried four days later alongside her husband, leaving an estate valued at £223 1s. 5d. (just over £7,000 in today’s terms), with administration granted to her daughter Cecilia.

It is widely known that writing can be a very precarious occupation, and many authors supplement their income from writing by working in other jobs. This is as true today as it was in the 19th and early 20th century, although many writers were so wedded to their craft, and spent so long on it, even if for very little reward, that a second job was out of the question, and they were content to live in poverty. Podmore clearly had ambitions to be a writer even at the early age of 18 – witness his boys’ stories. Why he stopped writing them can only guessed at. Was he disappointed with the fees he received, or did he run out of ideas, or were his stories not well-received?

His novels received mixed reviews. The Leeds Mercury, while praising Podmore’s style, said “A Cynic’s Conscience is a disagreeable and entirely unattractive book,” and The St. James’s Gazette found it “loosely constructed and slovenly written; while The Athanaeum called it “a remarkable piece of writing,” with The Sphere declaring it “an excellent story, full of truth and insight, full of beautiful human touches…..thoroughly convincing.”

A Trombone and a Star, the story of a musician and his only daughter, was described by The Daily Telegraph as “a distinctly clever book without being remarkable,” and by The East Anglian Daily Times as “an extremely clever and unconventional novel, marred only be certain affectations of style which prevent entire enjoyment.” And The Fault, a novel about the romantic entanglements of two young men, was either “a forcible and dramatic one” (The Bookseller), or “rather pompous, and lacks verisimilitude in some of its details.”

Perhaps these assorted opinions convinced Podmore that he could never become a major novelist, and, after his brief foray into writing for the stage, he focused on local journalism, while relying largely on his income from his job as a painter and decorator.

Friday, June 07, 2024

Comic Cuts — 7 June 2024

I've had a bit of a low energy week, despite receiving a proof copy of the next Bear Alley book.I'm working on another (secret) project before I get a second proof, but hopefully that one will fix a couple of very minor problems – although the spine lettering was fine  on the proof copy, some of the lettering rather filled the whole spine and if future printings slip by a millimeter, the lettering would have wrapped around onto the cover or back cover.

A minor problem, easily fixed, but I'm not going to the expense of ordering just one book. So I'm working on a couple of other things that I can get finished promptly and the cost of postage can be spread over a few books rather than just the one. I'll also do a mini re-stock to bring the costs down even more: getting copies posted to me can add £1.50 and more to my costs per book, but I have to ship books to the house because it's the only way I can fill Amazon and Ebay orders in the time they allow.

The original model for Bear Alley Books was to use print on demand so that I didn't have to carry stock, but changing buying habits mean I've had to adapt – where I used to have maybe £50 worth of books in a box, as Bear Alley Books has added more titles and had to carry more copies, I now have at least £1,500 tied up in stock in boxes and on shelves.

And I'll soon have more once the new book is out. So here's the lowdown: HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES reprints three stories drawn by Jesus Blasco: two based on Jeffery Farnol's pirate novels Black Bartlemy's Treasure and Martin Conisby's Vengeance and one based on H. Rider Haggard's Montezuma's Daughter. I should note that the comic strip of Martin Conisby's Vengeance was renamed 'Martin Conisby's Revenge', just in case you think I've made an awful error on the cover.

The book is 134 pages – about the same as the two Longbow volumes I published a few years ago. There are the usual bunch of essays that I like to cram into these books, so you'll find an introduction, plus biographical pieces on Farnol, Haggard and Blasco. I've slipped them between the comic strips so you can have a breather between them.

More news once I've got my second proof. I'll post some examples of the strips next week.

I've managed to attack the garden once again and have finally started putting down grass seed and also some wild flower seeds at the far end of the back garden. The photo above is what the garden looked like a year ago, covered with Alkanet and ivy. Below is a picture of how it looked yesterday; there's grass in most places and the ivy has (for the most part) gone.

I've put a mixture of grass seed and wild flowers at the far back in the hope that they will help keep the weeds at bay. I'm going to be mowing the lawn more regularly (rain allowing) to help out (sorry No Mow May – I had too mow twice!) and with luck between that and digging out the Alkanet wherever I see it we will eventually have a regular lawn again.

That's enough gardening. More book news next week.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Commando 5755-5758

Commando D-Day special issues 5755-5758 are on sale from today, Thursday 6th June, 2024! Commemorating the stories of those who valiantly stormed the beaches, flew above them, or parachuted inland is this special 80th Anniversary set.

5755: D-Day Pilot

1944, D-Day. While the men valiantly stormed the Normandy beaches, above them RAF Tempests took the fight to the skies. Among them, was pilot Ryan Casey whose cocky attitude could put a lot of men in danger!
    Ferg Handley’s story of heroism in the skies over the D-Day beaches is a classic in the making. With magnificent artwork accompanying the story from Esteve Polls and Keith Burns’ stunning Normandy cover!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Esteve Polls
Cover: Keith Burns

5756: Operation Bulldog

As the Allies poured men and equipment onto the Normandy beaches in an attempt to smash their way into Hitler’s Europe, many weird and secret weapons were used in action for the very first time.
Yet none of these secret weapons were anything like that of Private “Knuckles” MacNeil... the hero who stormed ashore with the strangest fighting companion ever — a bulldog.
    A well-loved and remembered classic Commando is Issue 5756 ‘Operation Bulldog’, featuring not one but two of man’s best friends! Yes, it’s the British bulldog versus the German Dachshund, and the arena is the beaches during D-Day!

Story: Allan
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Penalva
First Published 1969 as Issue 413

5757: Operation Dummy!

The German soldiers looked up with terror in their hearts as hundreds upon hundreds of parachutes filled the sky. Finally, the Allied invasion of Occupied France had begun… or had it?
Yes, there were hundreds of parachutes but only a few of them contained real, flesh‑and‑blood British soldiers, the others were paradummies designed to fool the Germans on the ground. For the real invasion hadn’t started yet — and this misdirection was vital to keep the Nazis off the beaches!
    Dominic Teague’s story is inspired by the true events of Operation Titanic, one of many diversion attempts by the Allies to confuse the Germans. Yes, their mission: Fool the Nazi’s before D-Day! With artwork from two relative newcomers to Commando named Alejandro! Alejandro García Mangana on interiors and Alejandro Perez Mesa on cover duty!

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Alejandro García Mangana
Cover: Alejandro Perez Mesa

5758: D-Day Drop

Private Steve Shields was really looking for a fight. Cheated out of his opportunity to hammer German boxer Horst Hartmann into the canvas by the outbreak of war, Steve had been trailing the Nazi ever since.
    Now, deep behind enemy lines, he was squaring up to his old enemy — not with a gun, but with bare, clenched fists.
    The second of Commando’s D-Day reprints incoming and it’s one written by Gentry about British Paratroopers! Victor de la Fuente is on interior artwork and there’s a bold cover by Fernando to top it off!

Story: Gentry
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Fernando
First Published 1970 as Issue 511

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 5 June 2024

Rebellion presents three action-packed stories from the legendary Lion comic, all featuring the work master of chiaroscuro-style black-and-white art – José Antonio Muñoz.

In 1973, Muñoz worked on three short-lived strips in Lion. A Stitch in Time follows the adventures of a young boy named Stitch Cotton and his alien friend, Varl, after they steal a time machine from the sinister space-master, Mr. Universe. Lost in Limbo Land(written by 2000 AD regular, Chris Lowder), follows Barry Smith – a studious bookworm who is struck by lightning and flung into a world of Norse myth and legend. The final strip, Sark the Sleeper, sees a starship commander accidently woken from hypersleep by two boys who are completely unaware that they passengers flying through deep space in search of a new home.

You can pre-order the Standard edition or the hardcover Webshop Exclusive edition.


A Stitch In Time – Writer unknown , Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 24th March 1973 – 18th August 1973)

Lost In Limbo Land – Writer Chris Lowder, Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 13th October 1973 – 8th December 1973)

Sark The Sleeper – Writer Frank S. Pepper, Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 15th December 1973 – 18th May 1974)

And now, this week's releases...

2000 AD Prog 2385
Cover: PJ Holden & Pye Parr.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS // BLUE SKIES OVER DEADWICK by David Baillie (w) Nick Brokenshire (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
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)

Best of 2000 AD Volume 6
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786203-0, 4 June 2024, 192pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

Best of 2000 AD is a landmark series from the cult comic, bursting with our greatest stories for a new generation of readers.
    Every Best of 2000 AD contains a mix of modern classics and gems from the vault. In each edition you'll find an explosive new Judge Dredd adventure, fresh essays by prominent popular culture writers, a graphic novel-length feature presentation by global legends and a vintage Dredd case.
    In this volume Judge Dredd makes a Tempus Fugitive of literature’s most famous time-travel enthusiast; tremble as Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint deliver galaxy-wide carnage at the hands of the retribution of a dead race, Shakara The Avenger; during a long, hot summer something rots at the heart of a council estate in John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s Cradlegrave; Dredd sends his cadets into the Cursed Earth to face The Hotdog Run; The government agents of Ice Station Delta find their problems snowball when they tangle with Shako, the only polar bear on the CIA death list!

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Lilliput Magazine: A History and Bibliography

Chris Harte has published yet another huge volume dedicated to a single magazine, as he has done with various sports titles over the past few years. This latest, dedicated to a tiny magazine, clocks in at 362 A4 pages, and lists the contents of every issue and spin-off, along with indexes of authors, illustrators, photo-journalists, and an astonishing number of photos of authors, artists and editorial staff scattered throughout.

While the indexes may prove invaluable in years to come (as have those in Harte's The Captain which I've grabbed from the shelf on several occasions), the best part of the book is the 40-or-so-page introduction covering the history of Lilliput.

The story begins in Hungary when 13-year-old Istvan Reich buys a camera. A chance snap of a former foreign secretary was used in the Budapest weekly Erdekes Usag, and the young boy decides he wants to be a photo-journalist. During the Great War, Reich works with Sandor Kellner on the trade journal Szinhazi Elet—Kellner would later change his name to Alexander Korda, a huge name in the film industry. Reich also involves himself in films as a photographer, screenwriter and cameraman in Germany.

In 1923 he changes his name to Stefan Lorant and edits various German picture magazines. In 1933 Hitler comes to power and Lorant is arrested and held in jail for six months. Freed after months of effort by the Hungarian Consulate General, he is released, returns to Budapest but soon makes his way to Paris and then London.

There he becomes the founding editor of the influential Weekly Illustrated, but leaves after only five months, citing a lack of appreciation by management. While freelancing, he was introduced to Alison Hooper; a year later Lorant invited her to holiday with him in the south of France. There, with other refugees, the discussion turned to producing a pocket magazine along the lines of the American Coronet.

With financial backing from Alison (who under her maiden name of Blair was assistant editor) Lilliput became a reality, albeit a loss-maker until it established itself and began taking advertising. Before long, Lorant was able to sell the magazine to Hulton Press for £20,000. Hulton was able to grow the magazine's circulation even during the war, doubling from 250,000 in 1940 to 500,000 in 1947. Lorant also created Picture Post for Hulton, which was selling over a million copies by its third issue.

Lorant's personal life included a number of acknowledged and unacknowledged children. Alison had his daughter and, with her other two daughters, moved to America. Lorant was classified as an enemy alien and he, too, fled to America, where he remained the rest of his life.

Much of the introduction is dedicated to a survey of the history of the magazine, its contents and the problems Lorant faced behind the scenes from Edward Hulton, with whom he disagreed on many things. Tom Hopkinson took over as editor in 1940 with Kaye Webb his assistant editor. Its easy style and mix of articles, stories, photos and cartoons made it entertaining reading during the blackout and increasing sales offset the increased costs of wartime production. Big name writers from George Bernard Shaw to Ernest Hemingway contributed and the occasional nude helped sales along.

Richard Bennett became editor in 1946 and Kaye Webb was let go in 1947, the contents began to change; there was greater interference from Edward Hulton, who thought the paper was publishing too much from left wing writers. At the same time, fewer writers from across Europe were appearing, changing the tone and removing one of the magazine's unique aspects.

Bennett was replaced by Jack Hargreaves in 1951 and dropped many of its contributors in a desperate attempt to modernise. Hargreaves was promoted to managing editor within months, and Colin Willock briefly installed as editor. Sales continued to fall, and Hulton took the unusual move of trying to tempt Stefan Lorant back from the USA. Lorant, however, owed money to the taxman and decided to stay in America.

New editor Michael Middleton didn't last long; Lilliput was enlarged in size at the suggestion of advertising management and Willock returned with plans to reverse many changes made by his recent predecessors. Advertorials, puff pieces and, in 1955, photographic covers of models. Mark Boxer and William Richardson occupied the editorial chair, the latter drawing heavily on American reprints from Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and Playboy. Richardson was promoted out of harm's way in 1958, and the magazine given a makeover... and another makeover six months later, these masterminded by executive editor Willock and assistant editor Denis Pitts, who became editor in 1959.

Pitts made some bold choices as editor, but it was too late, and Lilliput was merged with Men Only in August 1960, after 277 issues.

This, of course, is a brief precis of Lilliput's history, which is much expanded upon by Chris Harte. Along with checklists, indexes and an absolutely astonishing number of photographs of Lilliput's contributors (I haven't counted how many, but there are pages of them!), this is the ultimate trip through the history of this fascinating magazine.

Lilliput Magazine: A History and Bibliography by Chris Harte
Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801018-0, 3 June 2024, 362pp, £29.95. Available via Amazon.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Comic Cuts — 31 May 2024

Back to the grindstone after a nice few days off, with Monday and Tuesday taken up chiefly with writing an introduction to a German collection of various Don Lawrence strips. It should be quite a book as it includes Don's run on Olac the Gladiator and Maroc the Mighty as well as various fill-ins and illustrations. There's a third volume in the works, so I'm hoping that I'll get involved in that one, too.

They're particularly nice volumes, hardback, and a nice hefty size. The first one was an expanded version of the Don Lawrence Scrapbook, which came out in a slightly abridged version as an Illustrators Special a few years back. I think it's near to selling out, at which point I'll recover my copyright on the material and put out a version under the Bear Alley Books imprint.

Wednesday involved scanning some artwork, doing some clean-up so that my introduction had some illustrations; catching up on some e-mails; reading a bit of a new book that I've got myself involved in; packing up two boxes with some old books that we no longer want; going for two walks; chatting to my Mum for an hour; catching up on Red Eye, the ITV thriller that isn't quite as good as Hijack but still has me hooked; watch half an episode of Columbo; and read another chapter of the book I've been enjoying for the  past few weeks, Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which Mel recommended to me.

I don't get much of a chance to read novels these days, but I'm trying to make sure I read a little bit each evening before bed so that I can get through more books this year than I did last year — I think I only read half a dozen books for pleasure last year; this year I'm already on my fifth book (plus another five or six for work), so I've definitely upped the pace. I'm nowhere near what I used to read when I was 12 or 13 and borrowing books from our local library on Tuesday evening, reading them Wednesday / Thursday and replacing them Thursday evening, reading those on Friday / Saturday and visiting the library again Saturday afternoon to borrow more! I think I must have read 90% of the total works of Arthur C. Clarke during the summer holiday of 1974 along with dozens of other books.

Back in those days I had access to two libraries: the little local library at Broomfield and the much larger Chelmsford Library. At Broomfield Library you were allowed two books out at a time on your children's ticket; thankfully — and I suspect because the staff saw me struggling to find new books to read in the children's section — I was given an adult ticket which opened up the whole of the library to me and I could now take out four books at a time.

I also had a ticket for Chelmsford Library at the Civic Centre, a neo-Georgian building built in 1935, which was a warren of book shelves, wonderful to explore. There was a whole room (first floor, left) dedicated to children's books where I discovered The Magnet and Billy Bunter through the Howard Baker reprints at age 12. I mention this because it led to my first bit of "literary" research when I wrote to the publisher trying to track down a volume missing from the library (it contained part of a serial by George E. Rochester that I had only partly read thanks to it being split over a couple of volumes); I also took the opportunity to ask such searching questions as "Is The Gem like The Magnet?" and one or two others.

And I got a reply, scrawled over my letter in green ink. It was a few years before I started corresponding with W. O. G. Lofts, the story paper researcher, and realised that he had replied on Baker's behalf. You couldn't mistake Bill's terrible handwriting for anyone else's.

Baker wasn't the first author I wrote to. I was already a member of the Lone Pine Club, which I must have joined at either 9 or 10. It was for fans of Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine adventures. I know it must have been around that age because the newsletters were full of news about a new book, Where's my Girl?, and that came out in 1972. Indeed, I had a hardback copy of the book, probably for Christmas that year.

I still have a copy, although it's the Girls Gone By paperback reprint from a few years ago... I've just checked the date and it was 2005 — nearly twenty years ago! Time flies, eh?

I used to head into Chelmsford Library almost daily as it was a short walk up the road from school and you could look out of the windows onto the bus station to see when your bus arrived on cold or rainy days. There was plenty of space to park a bike during the summer.

No more... the bus station has shrunk and is now dominated by flats, and the Civic Centre stopped being a library in the 1980s. We were promised the building would become an art gallery, a restaurant and be filled with artistic and creative endeavors. But actually the council used it for council tax payments when they opened Chelmsford Central Library in 1988. Admittedly it was a nice, modern building, airy compared to the old building, but what it gained in light and space, it lost in atmosphere. The old library still had a card filing system that you could use to track down reference books in obscure corners of the Dewey Decimal system.

The new place was all white shelves and some of the reference books I used regularly had disappeared. (I was doing publisher indexes for Dragonby Press and used Whitaker's Cumulative Book Index and the English Catalogue of Books constantly.) And I was now living just around the corner from the old library, which meant I could just run round and look something up as necessary. The new library was just far enough away that you had to plan a trip, lock up the flat, and trudge the quarter of a mile or so to get there.

(This is turning into an "And another thing..." column.)

And, when I worked at Hoffmans (also just around the corner), I could nip into the library at lunchtime, which I couldn't do later on because we only had half an hour.

(I'm going to stop now before I become too emotional.)

I'm waiting on a proof of the next Bear Alley book, so hopefully I'll have some actual news next week.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 29 May 2024

Get ready for action! Garth Ennis, Brian K Vaughan, John Wagner, Torunn Gronbekk and more head up the powerhouse creative team for the new Battle Action series – coming this summer!

Launching in August, the new ten-issue series will bring readers death-defying heroics and incredible action, delivered by a crack team of top comics creators, including a brand new revival of the controversial series ‘Kids Rule OK’ from Brian K Vaughan (Saga) and Chris Burnham (Batman), and the final story of WWII aerial ace ‘Johnny Red’ by Garth Ennis (The Boys) and Keith Burns (Out of the Blue)!

Combining stories and characters from 1970s classic comics Battle and Action, Ennis said Battle Action will deliver all the thrills that earned the original comics their hard-bitten, action-packed reputations…

“This time we’ve got more stories,” he said, “more brilliant writers and artists – some from last time, some new – and more of an emphasis on Action, with half the ten stories featuring its characters.”

Ennis and Burns will be joined on Battle Action by an all-star lineup of creators including John Wagner (Judge Dredd), Torunn Grønbekk (Thor), Dan Abnett (Warhammer), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), John Higgins (Watchmen), Henry Flint (Judge Dredd), John McCrea (Hitman), Steve White (Rogue Trooper) and Tom Foster (Judge Dredd).

‘Kids Rule OK’ was the controversial and violent story that led to an issue of Action being pulled from shelves in 1976, now Vaughan and Burnham revisit this landmark series with a story set in a hostile future London where a young American boy runs for his life from a mob of xenophobic British Punks – but he has a secret weapon they aren’t expecting…

“Getting Brian on ‘Kids Rule OK’ is a particular coup,” says Ennis. “I personally think he’s the best writer to get into the business in the last thirty years, and his love of British comics gives this a nice sense of things coming full circle. I secured his involvement at great personal cost, namely a cheeseburger. I think it may have cost Rebellion a bit more.”

One of the most beloved characters in British comics history, Johnny Red is a fighter pilot in World War II who fights for peace and liberation. But this new story will cover a moment in his history which has never been seen before: the final days of World War II. Ennis reveals: “‘A Couple Of Heroes’ sees Johnny and the Falcons battling the retreating Germans at the beginning of 1945. The war has a way to go yet, but for Johnny it can’t end too soon – his friends are nearly all dead, the woman he loves is missing in action, he’s not far off approaching burnout. But a figure from the very beginnings of the strip reappears with an offer of work, one that sees our hero flung back into the maelstrom on the deadliest mission of his life…”

Alongside Johnny and returning heroes ‘Nina Petrova’, ‘Major Eazy’, ‘HMS Nightshade’, ‘Dredger’ and ‘Hellman of Hammer Force’, the series will expand to welcome in new takes on several other classic comics characters and stories – including killer shark ‘Hookjaw’, former-enslaved-man-turned-outlaw ‘El Mestizo’, and violent future sports series ‘Death Game’ – making Battle Action the most furiously action-packed comic on the stands!

The ten-issue series in magazine format kicks off in August with Battle Action #1, which will be available through all good comic book stores through Diamond Distribution.

You can also pre-order the series through the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webstores – including an incredible bundle deal, with each issue delivered straight to your door every month!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2384

Cover: Nick Percival.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS // BLUE SKIES OVER DEADWICK by David Baillie (w) Nick Brokenshire (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
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)

War Picture Library: The Iron Fist by V.A.L. Holding, W. Howard Baker & A. Carney Allan (w) Hugo Pratt (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786200-9, 29 May 2024, 208pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The title story of this collection, The Iron Fist, focuses on the lives of the crew manning the Goliath and the battles they fight, ranging from El Alamein to the D-Day landings - the tank crew rely on each other to get through the hellish situations. Also included in this collection are The Big Arena featuring Australian soldiers fighting in Egypt, and Strongpoint featuring sappers in Italy - each of the three stories in this compilation is stunningly drawn by the Italian comics maestro Hugo Pratt just a few years before he created Corto Maltese.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Comic Cuts — 24 May 2024

With Mel off for the week, I've also taken a bit of a holiday. Not that we haven't had plenty to do, but it has been nice to get some troublesome jobs put behind us. We emptied out a small shed a few months ago when we got a new (to us) lawnmower, and all the junk — a couple of old chairs, one of them clearly targeted by rats or mice for bedding, an old circular washing line, rusty gardening equipment, old paint pots, old plant posts, etc. — went down the  side of the house into the space made by our previous run to the council rubbish tip.

There were some fairly substantial tree branches, some wood that has been there since we moved in, and various other bits of accumulated crap.

We also took the opportunity to empty a couple of boxes of electrical bits 'n' bobs that have sat in the living room, again for years... bits of old cable, an old razor, an old electric toothbrush, and other doodads no longer working. I had some old hard drives that had come out of old computers that might have had passwords or account details on them, so I spent a happy hour in the sun on Monday smashing them to bits with a crowbar, two screwdrivers and a hammer. Everyone tells you to be so-oo-ooo careful not to damaged a hard drive — it's almost as if the slightest breeze could wipe your information — but try to actually do them some damage and you soon realise how resilient the cases are. Four hard drives, fifteen minutes each just to wreck the circuit boards, break through the casing and damage the drive beyond repair.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so we managed to get out for a walk down to the river and a second walk around the local area like we used to during the Covid lockdown. We used to walk along the river most Sundays, but, for various reasons, that hasn't been possible over the past year or so. So we finally manage to get a nice walk in along the tow path and I would have snapped a picture to commemorate the day and celebrate the views but I forgot my camera.

So on Tuesday, we had arranged with a friend to load up his van and take all the rubbish to the dump. Nice sunny day? Not on your Nelly! It was tipping it down. We missed the very worst of the weather while we were loading, but it started raining quite heavily as we were driving towards the dump. I was thinking that I should have taken a photo of the junk before we loaded it all up, but I hadn't. Never mind, take one before we unload.

The unloading went smoothly. We could finally say goodbye to our old kettle and a toaster that, when you used it, there was a 50-50 chance it would trip out the power to the whole house. Farewell! We had twenty minutes to hump all the wood, the electrical junk, the household waste and toxic paint into various different skips, while everyone else ran around trying to do the same and not get too wet.

Wednesday was a bit more relaxing as it was my Mum's birthday this week, so we'd arranged for her to travel over and took her out for a meal. Did I take any pictures, readers? Yes... of the cat that lives at the pub who visited our table and sat on Mel's lap. Sorry, Mum. We did have a very nice bit of coffee and walnut birthday cake.

Thursday, we've had people around to repair the fence, clear out the gutters and put a cap on a pipe up on the roof, done the shopping, and I've started writing this... so a pretty easy day.

Not a bad week off. Very lazy. We watched Shardlake, which is like Wolf Hall with a murder mystery, and I've been watching House of the Dragon, which is a historical Succession with dragons. I've also been watching old episodes of Nero Wolfe, based on the Rex Stout detective character, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Commando 5751-5754

issues 5751-5754 are on sale from today, Thursday 23rd May, 2024! Featuring World War I dispatch riders in peril, a mad RAF pilot in a low-flying Lanc, RAF Rescue action at seas, and Ramsey’s Raiders in a Flakpanzer!

5751: Ride For Your Life!

It was a dangerous job being a dispatch rider during World War I — and didn’t Corporal Gareth Batley know it! He and his partner were delivering messages when they found themselves caught up in a massive German offensive on the British line. Well, if Batley wants to survive, he better move fast and ride for his life!

Motorcycle chases, marauding Stormtroopers, and a race against death itself — all in Andrew Knighton’s rip-roaring World War I Issue 5751 ‘Ride For Your Life’! With gritty interiors from Vicente Alcazar and an exciting cover from newcomer cover artist Marco Bianchini!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Vicente Alcazar
Cover: Marco Bianchini

5752: Hail of Steel

They said that Lancaster pilot Geoff Shaw didn’t need a navigator. He flew so low that his scared crew could see the road signs. You see, Geoff had wanted a sleek Spitfire, but he’d got a lumbering bomber instead. So now he worked off his rage by handling the Lanc like a fast fighter — hitting the Nazis hard and scaring the crew rigid.
Geoff just grinned when they warned him he was heading for a crash — until the night he had to fly back over the Alps in his badly shot-up Lanc...

Issue 5752 is a classic Commando if there ever was one! Featuring Brunt’s RAF maverick pilot who learns the error of his ways, brought to life by Mira’s amazing interiors and a stunning Ian Kennedy cover!

Story: Brunt
Art: Mira
Cover: Ian Kennedy
First Published 1970 as Issue 459

5753: Ramsey’s Raiders: Flakpanzer!

September 1944. Captain Jimmy Ramsey and his special band of elite raiders were on recce patrol when they stumbled across a new German toy — an unusual kind of Flakpanzer that could pack a heck of wallop to the advancing British! After seeing the beast of a machine in action, the SERF team reckoned this was one prize worth keeping for the boffins back at HQ!
But the Raiders were going to have a tough time keeping it because the SS wanted their Flakpanzer back, and they were going to fight to get it!

Ferg Handley’s rag-tag group of raiders is back for an adventure like no other. In this story, Handley has Carlos Pino illustrating Captain Jimmy Ramsey ditching the jeep for an enemy vehicle and who’s driving it may surprise you!

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

5754: Rescue Patrol

Life for Bob Wallis, a sailor aboard one of the many rescue launches that scoured the seas searching for ditched airmen, was never easy. And now, as the vessel approached one of the special rescue floats, the crew tensed, for they had no idea who would be sheltering inside it — British or German.
But one thing was for certain, the war was going to change dramatically for Bob over the next few minutes!

Silver-era Commando incoming! Bill Fear’s tale of heroism is masterfully illustrated by Salmeron, with Jeff Bevan’s naval cover showing us why he was famous for them!

Story: Bill Fear
Art: Salmeron
Cover: Jeff Bevan
First Published 1982 as Issue 1597

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 22 May 2024

The 2000 AD adaptation of Harry Harrison’s classic science-fiction novels by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra returns in a new full color omnibus!

James Bolivar DiGriz aka ‘The Stainless Steel Rat’ is many things – a con man, a thief, and a member of an elite law-enforcement agency known as the Special Corps. After escaping the corps, DiGriz crosses paths with the beautiful but deadly Angelina who, like Jim DiGriz, is also a master criminal, albeit a lot more ruthless. They must travel through time to stop a master criminal meddling with the past, and help to overthrow an evil President by having The Rat become a candidate for the job himself!

A classic from 2000 AD‘s first ‘golden age’, Stainless Steel Rat is a must-read for fans of Harrison or old school sci-fi action with bold characters and a wry twist of humour, complemented by Ezquerra’s dynamic and inimitable artwork.

The Stainless Steel Rat Colour Omnibus Edition: Pre-Order yours today!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2383

Cover: INJ Culbard.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
New! THARG'S 3RILLERS // BLUE SKIES OVER DEADWICK by David Baillie (w) Nick Brokenshire (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
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)

40 Years of Scream

Rebellion ISBN 978-183786107-1, 22 May 2024, 464pp, £45.00. Available via Amazon.

Celebrating 40 years since IPC launched the UK's most iconic 'horror' anthology, this single volume collects all of the strips included in the 15-issue run of Scream!

Produced 'from the depths' of King's Reach Tower by the mysterious 'undead' editor Ghastly McNasty, the first issue of Scream! was unleashed on 24th March 1984. More tongue-in-cheek than horrific, the comic was an immediate hit with younger fans as it included a pair of fake vampire fangs attached to the cover and a number of fantastic new strips from some of the industry's top talents!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Comic Cuts — 17 May 2024

Finally, I've managed to get FORGOTTEN AUTHORS VOLUME 5 finished and published. I was writing the last few essays for this while I was finishing off BEYOND THE VOID: The Remarkable History of Badger Books, thinking that it was something I'd simply dip into and then out of. As it turned out, I had various problems with proofs, as regular readers will remember, and although BEYOND THE VOID was finished in November, I wasn't able to get copies that I was happy with until March.

The idea of doing another FORGOTTEN AUTHORS volume wasn't especially high on my mind, but I had written a lengthy piece about crime writer John G. Brandon in April 2023 and I already had a nice couple of essays on Alfred Duggan and Donald Cresswell, both penned a couple of years ago between projects, added to which I found a long piece about the writers of early books about highwaymen and pirates that I'd written back in the early 2000s for the Bloods & Dimes chat group, but which I don't recall actually posting.

I had a more recent essay to hand that was intended for the Badger book, but at some point I realised that there had to be some limit to that book to make it anywhere near affordable. So Bryan Haven was added to the contents list I was building up. I had put together a biography of James Skipp Borlase for the reprint of On the Queen's Service, but it has sold only a handful of copies, so this volume would make it more accessible and I was able to add a few interesting details that had come to light in the meantime.

The same could be said for the article on T. Lobsang Rampa, which was available on Kindle but not in print. I also took the opportunity to expand it with a great deal more detail about the too-ing and fro-ing that occurred ahead of the publication of The Third Eye.

I still needed three more pieces. One I had already written was pushed back to the next volume as it was similar to one I already planned to include, so I wrote a piece on SF author H. J. Campbell to fill the hole. I had some of his books, but not all, so I bought, I think, all five of his missing novels and read them ahead of writing the piece.

I was a bit shocked to find that there were no female authors included in the book, so I dug out another lost piece written twenty years ago but only published on a CD. It required a thorough overhaul but added some diversity to the contents, as did the last essay I wrote, about Michael Butterworth. I wanted to include a comic strip writer and was originally going to write up someone else, but Butterworth had a notable career as a novelist and I thought that would be fun to explore.

I was originally going to include some pieces on pen-names that still had us all mystified, but in the end I included only one about Anthony Dyllington as I did at least have one or two very speculative ideas about the person behind the name. Shots in the dark, admittedly, but that's often how resolutions to these pen-name mysteries are eventually found.

The previous four volumes are still available. I have considered putting together an omnibus version under the project's original title: FIFTY FORGOTTEN AUTHORS, but with a wordage of around 280,000 it would be an incredibly expensive book to print and the price I'd have to charge might be prohibitive, although I'll continue to explore ways of making that happen one day. For now, you have the original volumes, plus the first of what I might eventually call FIFTY MORE FORGOTTEN AUTHORS, although it may be a while before you see volume six and how busy the desk has become in the meantime.

Back in March I was considering changing the cover style completely, and here's a shot of a potential cover I did at the time...


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