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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 2 December 2020


From the archives of the Treasury of British Comics, the world's largest archive of English-language comics, Rebellion Unplugged is proud to present this limited edition screen print of art by the legendary artist Joe Colquhoun from Charley’s War episode #230.

This stunning replica screen print is available on both paper and Bristol Board from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.

This scale replica is taken from new high-resolution scans of Colquhoun’s breath-taking original art. Five layers of hand-pressed screen printing captures the creative process of the original page, through pencils, inks, hand lettering, and art fixes, to produce an artefact that is faithful both to its creator's vision and to the lost art of making comic books.

This limited edition screen print is hand-numbered, and printed on archival quality acid-free Somerset satin 410gsm white paper, with a variant edition of 25 copies printed on artists’ Bristol Board to match the original. It reproduces the artwork in its original size of 400 x 470mm.

Originally printed in Battle Picture Weekly in August 1979 the page opens the strip’s dramatic portrayal of the blitz on London, and showcases Colquhoun’s incredible linework and storytelling.

Written by British comics legend Pat Mills and illustrated by Colquhoun, Charley’s War tells the story of underage British soldier called Charley Bourne, who enlists at the outbreak of World War One and goes on to experience the horror of the trenches and witness the brutal treatment ordinary soldiers received to serve the selfish interests of those in power.

Considered by many to be the greatest war comic of all time, and this new print is a testament to the extraordinary and under-appreciated talent of the artist who brought it to life.


2000 AD Prog 2210
Cover: Dave Kendall.

Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Visions of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dexter: The Funt Outta Town by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)


Misty Winter Special
Cover: Simon Davis.

The Misty Winter Special contains two new chilling tales to make you shiver in the winter months. Infection, is a disturbing tale about how far people are expected to conform to societal standards no matter how warped the rules become, is written by Anna Savory & V.V. Glass, and illustrated by V.V. Glass. Home for Christmas, a harrowing ghostly home-invasion story dealing with the sins of the past, is written by Lizzy Boyle and drawn by David Roach. Cover by Simon Davis.

Infection by V.V. Glass & Anna Savory (w), V.V. Glass (a), Simon Bowland (l)
Home For Christmas by Lizzie Boyle (w), David Roach / Dylan Teague (a), Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Comic Cuts - 27 November 2020


I'm over the 100-page mark with BAM! and we might be finishing at around the 128 pages mark, as long as I don't go mad with the last of the big articles. I've had to bump one piece over to issue two as it would have added more cost on what is already going to be a bit of a pricey print bill.

I was busy with some work on Sunday, which has become my day for posting comics to eBay. I should be back to normal next week unless some paying work comes along again. I spent Monday and Tuesday working on the mag. including a chunk of time transcribing an interview that I thought was sounding awfully familiar... I'd brushed off the feeling because, well, I had done the interview after all. But the nagging feeling persisted that I'd typed these words before, so I did a search of my hard drive for the text and promptly discovered that I'd transcribed the same recording back in October. D'oh!

Above is the first look at an actual pair of pages from the first issue. This from a lengthy history of British pocket libraries, which  celebrate their 70th anniversary this year. I don't want to blow the full line-up of contents, but the issue should start with a look at an old DCT character, continue with the pocket library history, a look at a video with a popular pocket library cover artist, an interview with a current scriptwriter for Commando, and a look at a classic pocket library character. Then a big interview. There's a comic strip by a very well known artist, a bio of an old AP editor, a look at a movie with comic connections, a feature about Frank Bellamy and then an reprint of what was almost certainly the first serious SF newspaper strip. There's an 'In Memoriam' section, plus reviews. There's a short interview within the reviews and I might add another article as it relates to a book that has just come out and this seems the apt moment to use it.


I'll do a proper contents list once everything is firmed up. I'm still going to be busy rewriting and laying out pages for at least another week, probably two. I'm not the fastest designer in the world, slowed further by the fact that I have to clean up every image. Back in the days of Comic World we were almost always dealing with new comics and could rely on DC or Marvel to send over nice bromides or transparencies shot off original artwork which could be dropped straight into the magazine. I can't do the same with BAM! as old comic pages tend to go a nasty smoky colour and covers get scuffed, stained and creased. I want them to look like they've just come off the printing press for the first time. It's a bit OCD, but hopefully you'll appreciate the effort when you see the results.

The second sample above blows the surprise about which "classic pocket book character" I'm looking at. Ah, what the hell... it's John Steel from the pages of Thriller Picture Library. I love those stories. I'm hoping to write something about artist Luis Bermejo for issue two or issue three.

We're still managing to get out for our regular walks even under lockdown. We're trying to be supportive of local businesses and have treated ourselves to fish & chips from the local chippie and buns from a local bakery. I haven't entirely abandoned my efforts to lose some weight, but with the nights drawing in, we're not walking quite so far in the evening. It's cold and sometimes its miserable. Thankfully I discovered a year ago, almost to the day, that I can make an awesome chicken stew, and we've been having that, piping hot, for lunch a couple of times a week.

We've also been regularly "meeting up" with friends (via Zoom) to play board games. I can heartily recommend Board Game Arena for a huge variety of games for people of all skill levels. Some games are only possible if you have a group of players, but it doesn't cost anything (although some games are available only to premiere members) and I'm sure you'll find something to your tastes.

There are spoilers ahead in my look at The Alienist, so hop to the end of the column if that's something you dislike.


Based on the novel by Caleb Carr, The Alienist was (well, still is...) a ten-part series that was originally broadcast in 2018, so I'm only two years late getting to it. Set in the 1890s it concerns a group centred around the 'alienist' doctor Laszlo Kreizler. An introductory text reveals that the insane were thought to be alienated from societal norms, and thus psychologists were known as alienists. Kreizler is taking his studies a step further, and believes that psychology can be applied to criminal cases in order to create a picture of the criminal.

The gruesome murder of a boy prostitute makes headlines in New York City and Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) is asked by newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty), a former Harvard classmate, to help the investigation. Another classmate, John Moore (Luke Evans), now a cartoonist and illustrator on the New York Times, is also brought in. Moore and Roosevelt have a mutual friend in Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), who has recently become the first female employee of the New York Police Department. As Roosevelt's secretary, she becomes his link to the parallel investigation taken on by Kreizler, Moore, and two brothers from the NYPD, Marcus and Lucius Isaacson (Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear).

The investigation is hampered by retired police chief Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine) and Captain Connor (David Wilmot), who are intent on protecting the interests of their wealthy benefactors, these including banker J.P. Morgan (Michael Ironside) and the rich matriarch of the Van Bergen family (Sean Young) whose son, Willem (Josef Altin), is known to prey on young boys.

Kreizler is a complex character himself, born of a well-to-do family, a piano prodigy but who has lost the use of one of his arms. He surrounds himself with some of the people he has helped, including Cyrus, his valet, Mary, his housekeeper, and Stevie, a house boy. He strongly believes that, by seeking the insight of other murderers and psychopaths, he can discover the identity of the murderer -- soon confirmed to be behind a string of murders that have been ignored by the NYPD.

As soon as I realised that the cast was led by Daniel Brühl I knew we weren't going to get many laughs. He brings an intensity to even the dumbest movie -- and I do mean The Cloverfield Paradox. But he's also been brilliant in Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Fifth Estate, Rush, A Most Wanted Man and Captain America: Civil War, and so he is here. Kreizler is the sort of brooding, impassioned character you watch for five seconds and think: "At some point in the narrative he's going to either scream at his own reflection or punch the mirror."

The story explores a number of ways society is riven: the gaping chasm between wealth and poverty; the casual sexism endlessly endured by Sara; the racism endured by the Isaacson brothers; and the invisibility of the disabled. These things do not overwhelm the central story, which is occasionally gory (the killer removes eyes, which are later found, so be warned) and sometimes distressing (children surviving by prostitution), but also compelling as they cannot rely on the usual methods of the police procedural: gathering fingerprints, casts of footprints, forensic testing. Some of these methods were in their infancy, but that means The Alienist is more Sherlock Holmes than CSI.

A second storyline The Alienist: Angel of Darkness was released earlier this year. That sounds like a barrel of laughs, eh? I'm looking forward to catching up with it in... oh, 2022 or thereabouts.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Commando 5387-5390


Commando issues once again tackle air, land, and sea in these varied and dynamic stories — out today!



5387: A-Force — Anarchy

The Grandson of Jimmy Ramsey and his team are back in another contemporary mission — this time chasing down pirates and mercenaries operating in the Caspian Sea! There’s no doubt the Sarovians are part of this trouble, but not all is well within the ranks of A-Force when Sonic hears a little more than she is supposed to. Can the team overcome their paranoia and stick together for the cause?

Ferg Handley’s next generation series continues with lively interiors and an action-packed cover from Carlos Pino.

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Carlos Pino
Cover | Carlos Pino
 


5388: Yellow Hero

After fighting Jerry under extreme circumstances in the desert, rumours of treachery haunt Jim Tulley as he tries to piece together what really happened at the fortress of El Habid. In an action-packed thriller of a Commando, Tulley fights to keep ahead of enemies behind his own lines and the firing squad that follow, all whilst taking on the Germans and waging a private war with the sinister Ned Regan!

Bielsa’s superb interiors bring Frost’s exciting story to life in this issue with an unusual and striking cover from Ken Barr.

Story | Frost
Art | Bielsa
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 319 (1968).
 


5389: Code Drop!

The death of Penny and Oliver Chevalier’s father has done little to mend bridges between the warring siblings. As they go their separate ways to support the war effort, the pair end up on opposite sides of the world. But fate inextricably winds them back together as Penny’s SOE activities and an irrepressible Nazi stitch out Oliver’s fate, as the tides turn on D-Day!

Paolo Ongaro’s high-contrast interiors add drama and suspense to Hailey Austin’s latest script for Commando, featuring a spirited cover from Ian Kennedy.

Story | Hailey Austin
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Ian Kennedy
 


5390: The Jets from Nowhere!

Hawker Typhoons try their utmost to defend RAF bases against a marauding group of Heinkel 162s in this dramatic airborne adventure. Whilst Don and Dick think about their upwardly mobile careers, the Luftwaffe are bearing down on HQ — but as the RAF pilots frantically hunt down the elusive Nazi planes, it seems there’s nothing to stop these jets from nowhere!

Jose Maria Jorge’s airy realism lends spaciousness to RA Montague’s intense story, wrapped in a classic Ian Kennedy cover.

Story | RA Montague
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1609 (1982).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 25 November 2020


Rebellion is delighted to announce that the all-ages 2000 AD Regened will be back in 2021 - with four more mind-bending issues!

The all-ages issues continue to be among the best-selling issues of 2000 AD of the year and Rebellion is looking to build on their success with another quartet of bumper all-ages issues.

Drawing on four decades of genre-defining characters while encouraging new readers to pick up the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 2000 AD Regened has something for everyone. These 48-page issues, retailing at £4.99 for print and £3.99 for digital, feature new takes on some of 2000 AD’s biggest characters, as well as brand new series.

2021 will see the return of hit new series Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show) and Brett Parson (Tank Girl), and the Judge Dredd-world series Department K by Rory McConville (Judge Dredd) and PJ Holden (Judge Dredd).

Plus there'll be even more new stories making their debut, such as Action Pact by Michael Carroll (Judge Dredd) and Luke Horsman (Cadet Dredd), and Lowborn High by David Barnett (Gideon Smith series) and Philip Bond (Kill Your Boyfriend, Tank Girl)

The first Regened issue of 2020 will be 2000 AD Prog 2220 – a bumper special issue with a roster of complete stories, on sale from newsagents, comic book stores, and online on 24 February 2021.

The subsequent Regened issues will be 2000 AD Prog 2233 on 26 May, 2000 AD Prog 2246 on 25 August, and 2000 AD Prog 2256 on 3 November.

2000 AD editor Matt Smith said: “It’s been fantastic to see that the amazing response to 2000 AD Regened has continued in 2020 as we increased it to four issues a year. Both sales and reader feedback have shown us there’s a real appetite for Regened and that’s been reflected in the enthusiasm for new series that have debuted in Regened, such as Full Tilt Boogie by Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña - which spun off into its own series - and Pandora Perfect and Department K. There’s lots more to come from Regened in 2021 - we can’t wait to explore strange new worlds with readers of all ages!”


2000 AD Prog 2209

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)


Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108864-7, 24 November 2020, 96pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.

Britain's golden age of humour comics returns for the 21st century, with brand new stories by today’s top talents. Featuring characters like Kid Kong, Grimly Feendish, Faceache, and Frankie Stein are given new life in this compendium of hilarity by Neil Googe (The Flash), Cavan Scott (Doctor Who), Tom Paterson (The Beano, The Dandy), Shelli Paroline (Adventure Time) and Hilary Barta (DC Comics Plastic Man)!
    Collects material previously published in The Cor!! Buster Humour Special and The Cor!! Buster Easter Special.
    Creators include: John Freeman, Lew Stringer, Tom Paterson, Leila O'millar, Alec Worley, Tiernen Trevallion, Ned Hartley, Steve Mannion, Lizzie Boyle, Abigail Bulmer, Simon Bowland, Gráinne Mcentee, Sammy Borras, Paul Goodenough, Neil Googe, Matt Smith, Tanya Roberts, Robin Etherington, David Follett, Keith Richardson, Pye Parr, Cavan Scott, Mike Hoffman, Karl Stock, Andy W. Clift, Lee Langford, Edward Whatley, Ken Reid, Hilary Barta, Wesley Wong, John Lucas, Mick Cassidy, Rositsa Vangelova, Edward Whatley, Olivia Hicks, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Brett Parson


The Best of Sugar Jones by Pat Mills & Rafael Busom Clua
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108770-1, 25 November 2020, 112pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.

Sugar Jones is seen by the world as a charming twenty-something host of her own late-night variety show, beloved by viewers up and down the nation. Only her overworked and underappreciated assistant, Susie Ford, knows her secret – that Sugar is really a selfish, sour, old schemer who'll do anything to look good on television! – and though Sugar’s own ambition and vanity frequently rebounds on her, Susie continues to do her best to protect Sugar.


Death Squad by Alan Hebden, Eric Bradbury & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108768-8, 24 November 2020, 128pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

An all-out all-action, complete-in-one brutal war story from the pages of the classic war comic, Battle, hugely influential on Preacher and The Boys creator Garth Ennis. Meet the deadliest band of fighters on the Eastern Front! During world War Two the Eastern Front was hell on Earth. German Punishment Battalions were thrown into the thick of the conflict where they were expected to fight well and die hard. In these harshest of conditions only the strongest warriors survived. Enter the Death Squad - Grandad, Swede, Licker, Gus and Frankie. Alone they were failures and outcasts, but together they were one of the most formidable combat units the Russians ever faced!


The Return of Sexton Blake
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108950-7, 25 November 2020, 96pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.

As brilliant as Sherlock Holmes, as daring as James Bond, he was the Jack Reacher of his day and now Sexton Blake is back!
    Created in 1893 - six years after rival Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print - Sexton Blake went on to become a publishing phenomenon, appearing in 4,000 stories told written and drawn by over 200 different writers and artists and syndicated around the world. And now he is reborn!
     Written by Chris Lowder (Dan Dare, Judge Dredd) and illustrated by Mike Dorey (Hellman of Hammerforce), presented in this 100-page special for the very first time in its full glory is the last Sexton Blake comic strip, originally published under the title "Victor Drago."
     Then the adventure detective is back in action as George Mann (Doctor Who, Star Wars Adventures) and Jimmy Broxton (Hope, Doctor Who) brings us the first new Sexton Blake comic in decades!  Meanwhile, Philip K. Dick Award winning writer Mark Hodder (The Burton & Swinburne Adventures) introduces Blake to a new audience and Karl Stock (Thrill-power Overload: Forty Years of 2000 AD) interviews the writers and artists. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Comic Cuts - 20 November 2020


I'm now over 80 pages into the first issue of BAM! and still going strong. I spent part of the week writing a couple of reviews and trying to finish off the feature on the history of pocket libraries, which has proven to be a bit of a marathon as there are over 60 illustrations on that one feature alone.

It doesn't feel like a week since I was last writing this column. The days seem to fly by without any great variation, which is why I welcomed the chance to take a short break from doing layouts to write some reviews; I also managed to read a book on Saturday (Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books, reviewed below if you scroll down) and put some copies of Heavy Metal up on eBay on Sunday. All in the name of just doing something a bit different.

We are still able to get out of the house for exercise, but the hour gained by putting the clocks back is disappearing. We're up in the dark and usually starting our walks before dawn in the morning and in the dark in the evening. This may be why the month is slipping away — we're not getting to see the sunshine that we did in the summer and we're barreling towards Christmas and the New Year with no signs that we will be able to celebrate either in any normal way.

Getting out early does mean that we've been catching some spectacular sunrises. Other that that, I've not been taking too many photos of late, except when we saw a ginger cat wearing a bow tie... I mean, you've just got to take a photo, haven't you? Ditto if people have spray-painted large cartoon cocks on the road around potholes in the style of "Wanksy", the anonymous artist who began embarrassing Greater Manchester council into doing some repairs back in 2015. "Wivenhoe Wanksy" has been cocking a snook at authority for a few years now, although it hasn't always worked. The photo below (I'll put it at the end of the column to save some blushes if you're easily offended) is of a large hole in the bridge over the railway line, deep enough for some of the structure of the bridge to be visible. Eek!

Although I'd say the review below is relatively spoiler free, it does contain some details of events up to the half-way mark, so hop over the rest of the column if you prefer your TV to remain full of surprises.


This was recommended by a friend who considered it daft but fun. That pretty much sums it up. It's a subtitled Belgian TV series based on a Polish science fiction novel (The Old Axolotl by Jacek Dukaj), although it must be said that the series takes almost nothing from the novel outside of a global catastrophe wiping out the vast majority of people.

As the first episode opens, a nervous man — Terenzio — tries to book a flight at Brussels Airport. As broadcasters collapse in the middle of reports, he grabs a gun from a security man and boards a passenger flight for Moscow. He shoots the co-pilot, Mathieu, injuring his hand, and the plane can then only take off with the assistance of Sylvie, a one-time military helicopter pilot. Terenzio tries to explain that he is a NATO officer and he has overheard talk that the population is being wiped out as daylight arrives and that the only solution is to keep flying west ahead of dawn.

Daft but fun, remember?

Terenzio is disarmed by some of the passengers, but flying over an airport in Iceland they see chaos. Unable to land, they turn and fly to an RAF base in Scotland to refuel. There, three RAF servicemen are found alive who confirm Terenzio's claim. We begin to learn more about the passengers as they head for Canada — Sylvie confides to Jakub, a ground mechanic, that she has lost her boyfriend and wants to commit suicide; Zara is taking her son, Dominik, to Moscow for a life-saving operation; one of the passengers dies and another passenger, Turkish "businessman", Ayaz, is particularly disturbed by this turn of events.

We are, by now, about an episode and a half in. As you can see, the plot is fast-moving, with enough thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat and pace enough to cover up the cracks in the science. Is the problem a burst of gamma radiation from the sun? What is causing the food they find to taste of ashes? Can they continue their flight when their fuel starts to congeal? The story whooshes past flawed logic and barrels over gaps in credibility in an entertaining and, yes, daft way that is occasionally gripping, sometimes absurd, but always fun.

There is to be a second season, which makes me wonder whether the show will follow the storyline of the novel, which sees survivors of the cosmic catastrophe digitize and upload themselves into industrial robots, mechs and sexbots.



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lethbridge-Stewart Colouring Book


Candy Jar Books has announced that they will be publishing The Lethbridge-Stewart Colouring Book in time for Christmas. This fantastic collection of artwork is a must for all Doctor Who fans, As well as collectors of adult colouring books. It features twenty brand new pieces of art by Thunderbirds, Danger Mouse and Doctor Who artist Martin Baines.

The artwork concentrates on the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels and features the Dominators, Quarks, Yeti, Anne Travers, Bandrils and much more. Added to this, the book also explores the UNIT era of Doctor Who.

Shaun Russell, head of publishing at Candy Jar Books, says: “2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. Lockdown has taken it’s toll, and it is quite likely that we still haven’t seen the end of COVID-19. Normally we do something special for Christmas. For instance, in 2016 we released The Xmas Files – a collection of Lethbridge-Stewart-inspired Christmas stories, in 2018 our online advent calendar (still available on the Candy jar Books website), and last year The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Christmas Crackers collection of stories. Sadly, due other commitments, this has not been possible this year. So, when Martin approached me to do the colouring book, I thought why not. This is not strictly a Christmas project, but it certainly is a great stocking filler.”

In 2020 Martin created some of Candy Jar’s most popular covers, including the Downtime sequel Child of the New World (released this summer), as well as Kiss of the Ice Maiden and 100 Objects of Doctor Who, both of which are due out in a couple of months. Martin says: “Shaun and I chat regularly about future projects. The conversations are always great fun, particularly when it’s about Lethbridge Stewart and Doctor Who. Don’t tell anyone, but we are currently developing an epic comic strip starring the Brig (which will hopefully be released 2021). So, having worked on this artwork, I thought a Lethbridge-Stewart colouring book would be something special to end the year. I was so glad when Shaun agreed.”

The Lethbridge-Stewart Colouring Book is the celebration of the Brigadier and classic Who in general. If you like the Brigadier, UNIT, Quarks, Yetis and even the Bandrils this is the book for you!

Martin continues: “Early Doctor Who has for me been a real discovery and I hope this book adds to the legend. I have put in a lot of research and fleshed out certain elements. The Bandrils were particularly interesting to draw and fleshing out the Lucy Wilson characters was quite fun. I also loved drawing Professor Travers and Sergeant Benton.”

Shaun concludes: “I suspect some people will prefer not to colour Martin’s images, but instead keep them as a lockdown memento. I’m certainly considering framing one or two of his striking pieces myself.”

Available from the publisher, with guaranteed delivery before Christmas if ordered before the 16th of December 2020.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 18 November 2020


Following last month's sold-out issue, the Judge Dredd Megazine continues its fantastic run of stories - check out the gorgeous art on Megatropolis if you haven't already - as well as the next installment of the 2000 AD Encyclopedia.


2000 AD Prog 2208
Cover: D'Israeli.

Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)


Judge Dredd Megazine 426
Cover: Tim Napper.

Judge Dredd: The Victims of Bennett Beeny by John Wagner (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Megatropolis by Kenneth Neimand (w) Dave Taylor (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l) 
The Returners: Heartswood by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c)
Deliverance by David Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: New Books: Judge Fear’s Big Day Out And Other Stories, Duncan Jones & Alex de Campi interview
Bagged collection: The 2000 AD Encyclopedia C-E

Monday, November 16, 2020

Frederick Harnack

Reviewing Colin Larkin's Cover Me (scroll down if you've not seen it), I came across a couple of names that were new to me. One was as unknown to Colin, who mentions the rather bland cover for The Voyage of the Cap Pilar by Adrian Seligman, describing it as badly composed and poorly executed. He also mentions the unsigned board has a name on the back. F. Harnack.

This would be Frederick Bertrand Harnack, born in Manor Park, Essex, on 22 July 1897, the son of Ernest Henry Harnack (1868-1942), a doctor and pioneer of X-ray radiology, who later became incapacitated, and his wife Frances Elizabeth (Fanny) Harnack (1867-1936). Raised in the East End of London, the family (which included older siblings Edwin Percy [1893-1976] and Nellie Maud Mary [later Lussignea, 1894-1978]) lived in East Ham and Forest Gate before moving to West Mersea in 1922, where Frederick would live for the rest of his life.

He served with the London Rifle Brigade from June 1915 and subsequently transferred to the 5th Battalion City of London Regiment in August 1916. He was hospitalised in 1916 (with impetigo) and 1917 and was later wounded in action at Passchendale, although it was described as superficial. He returned to France in 1918 as a clerk with the Army Service Corps.

Harnack was fond of drawing and painting from an early age but received no formal training. In the early 1920s, he studied art and began providing black & white illustrations to several magazines and newspapers. Living at Mersea, he and his brother often hired boats to go sailing and he also sailed with Arthur Briscoe, a well-known marine artist and illustrator who became an influence on Harnack and his work. When his brother obtained a boat of his own, the Ben Gunn, the Harnacks became a familiar sight in Essex and Suffolk waters.

Harnack was a regular illustrator for Yachting Monthly in the late 1920s and in 1930 he sailed in the Finnish barque Alastor from the East India Dock to the Gulf of Bothaia, which provided more inspiration for his brush. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Harnack joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was made a gunnery officer—ironic, given his revulsion towards guns since his service in the previous war—and served in the West of Scotland, where he was able to find time to paint in his spare time.

In 1942, in Colchester, he married Edna May Ewbank (1902-1993), who had been married to Frank D. Smith in 1926, but was living with the Harnack family as an unpaid domestic by 1939.

Lieutenant Harnack returned to Mersea in 1946 and exhibited at the Society of Marine Artists of which he became a member in 1950. Known locally as 'Fid', he lived at Greenwood, 84 High Street North, and continued to paint mostly marine subjects for over thirty years.

He died on 24 March 1983, at the age of 85, survived by his wife and a stepdaughter. His funeral took place at West Mersea Church on 5 April 1983.


Writing for a local paper, Hervey Benham wrote:
Fid ... spent a lifetime sailing around the creeks in his little yacht Ben Gunn, absorbing every nuance of the saltings and marshlands and interpeting them with rare skill and sensitivity in his water colours.
    He was a modest man, concerned more with creating works of art than with publicising them. Certainly he never received the popular acclaim or the financial rewards which he deserved and which he would probably have enjoyed had he been working today. Nevertheless his paintings are greatly loved and highly valued by many islanders and by still more visiting yachtsmen from all over the country and Harnack is treasured as a precious memento of Mersea. In particular that dazzling glare of sunshine on salt water which is so characteristic of the Blackwater and which appears so often in his pictures.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books 1950-1965


When it comes to collecting paperbacks, Pan Books are high on many wants lists. While Penguin has a neatly numbered system that just begs for shelf space, anyone who prefers their covers a little more colourful, will probably tell you that Pan is their shelf-filler of choice.

Colin Larkin's Cover Me is filled with some of the cream of Pan's pictorial output. As revealed in his introduction, Larkin had the good fortune to be offered a significant number of original art boards in 1990 when Pan were having a clear-out. This came to light in 1991 when he was forced to sell a number of boards at Bonhams and discussion about whether artwork should be returned to artists made some small headlines in newspapers. It coincided with the first paperback book fairs where artists like Sam Peffer and Roger Hall began meeting fans of their work for the first time.

Peffer and Hall are just two of the artists celebrated in these pages. Pan Books was founded during the war and published a handful of books before being relaunched in 1947 as a mass-market paperback publisher with deals in place with Collins, Macmillan and Hodder & Stoughton, with Heinemann coming on board in 1952.

By publishing popular romance, crime and adventure novels and collections from some of the biggest names on the books of these various companies, Pan was able to sell two million of their first dozen titles in their first six months. As a new company, getting hold of paper was a problem, resolved by having the books printed in France and shipped over on an especially-purchased ex-Royal Navy motor launch to keep transport costs down.


Pan Books adopted the tactics of the cheap paperback market, who knew the strength of a good cover. Their crime novels often featured quality covers by the likes of Reginald Heade and John Pollack, upon which often indifferent or lousy short novels could be sold. Pan used many of the same artists, coupled with named authors like Leslie Charteris, Peter Cheyney and John Buchan. By 1964, Pan was responsible for ten of the twelve paperbacks to have sold over a million copies in the UK (seven of them by Ian Fleming).

After discussing the process of preparing the artwork for printing, including the meticulous hand-lettering process, Larkin gets to the meat of the book, discussing the artists who made Pan so attractive to book collectors. Illustrated with plenty of examples of their works taken from original artwork, this is where the book really fulfills its promise.


A must for Pan collectors, this is the kind of book that will hopefully lead the many artists dismissed out of hand as hacks working for the commercial market to be reassessed. Penguin, with its "literature for the price of ten cigarettes" attitude and simple colour-coded covers, have one of the strongest brands in the UK, and have been the star of a number of books (Penguin By Design, Puffin By Design, Seven Hundred Penguins, Cover to Cover). Now, Colin Larkin has given Pan Books the same considered treatment, and hopefully it might lead to books covering the remarkable output of other publishers in the golden era of paperback covers in the two decades after the Second World War.

Cover Story: The Vintage Art of Pan Books, 1950-1965 by Colin Larkin
Telos Publishing ISBN 978-184583988-8, November 2020, 264pp, £34.99. Available from the publisher and via Amazon.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Comic Cuts - 13 November 2020


Coming off the back of last week's slow progress, I've added another dozen or so pages of layouts to the debut issue of BAM! bringing the total so far up to 79 pages. As I still have a couple of fairly extensive articles that I want to include, I may have to do a bit of juggling with the contents and shift one of the longer articles over to issue two. The good news, of course, is that issue two is filling up quite nicely and shouldn't take me quite so long to do... I already have some nice pieces lined up.

I've had quite a varied week of work. I usually consider Saturday my day off, although I will spend some time here at the computer, usually catching up with emails that I haven't answered during the week. I had an enquiry about an author I'd not heard of, but, after a bit of head scratching, figured out that I'd briefly mentioned this author in passing four years ago in a note accompanying a cover gallery of books by Brett Halliday. The writer, David Mazroff, turned out to have been what contemporary newspapers described as "a hoodlum", possibly involved with the Purple Gang of bootleggers and hijackers.


So I spent Saturday afternoon writing up what I'd found, and have since had the good fortune to be contacted by family members, who have filled in a couple of blanks. I've still no idea why he claimed to have written so many Brett Halliday stories -- he didn't -- but I do wonder what else he wrote and whether he wrote under other pseudonyms.

I posted some more bits 'n' bobs on eBay on Sunday, cracked on with layouts on Monday and Tuesday, spent a chunk of Wednesday scanning and sorting out some old scans, and Thursday... well, that's now. I've had a bit of a tidy-up because I was finding it difficult to move around the office and turned up some old correspondence, photocopies and a couple of old newspapers. These have been tucked away in a corner since late last year, with books and comics gradually being piled on top. Sifting through the pages, I came across an old interview with Frank Richards, some correspondence by Bill Lofts with various people (including a rather curt response from D. C. Thomson to a request to use images, possibly for his Men Behind Boys Fiction book cover), and a response from a sub-editor on Girls' Crystal responding to an enquiry from Derek Adley for information.

Sometimes I'm amazed at what turns up in my own office! Maybe I should be thinking of making BAM! issue three a miscellany and just scan all the loose paper piled up in various corners.

Normally I'd warn about spoilers, but at last I've found a show that I can review without worrying. You know the plot already...


With all the stress and suffering that the world is going through, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed there has been a bit of a surge in what you might think of as gentler programming from TV companies. Of course, it started before the pandemic took hold with the arrival of popular shows like Bake Off, The Great Sewing Bee, etc., reaching its peak in The Repair Shop that has been on an endless loop since it debuted in March 2017 on BBC2. Even drama has settled into a more relaxing pace: Death in Paradise doesn't involve car chases, The Durrell's is a family drama minus the histrionics, and the latest show along the same lines is a remake of All Creatures Great and Small.

I remember reading and enjoying the James Herriot novels back in the early 1970s and going to see the movie in 1975, although I'd forgotten until I just looked it up now that Anthony Hopkins played Siegfried Farnon in the first movie, replaced in the 1976 sequel (All Creatures Great and Small) by Colin Blakely. John Alderton (from Please, Sir!) replaced Simon Ward as Herriot in the latter movie, so there was already a tradition of multiple actors taking on roles in adaptations. Herriot's wife, Helen, was famously played by Carol Drinkwater and by Lynda Bellingham in the TV series.

Of course, Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy and Peter Davison are a hard act to follow, but I think the new trio of Nicholas Ralph, Samuel West and Callum Woodhouse (a Durrels alumnus) have made the series their own. The first episode was the most popular show ever broadcast on Channel 5 and was immediately renewed for a second season.

The show is just the right mixture of stunning landscapes (explored in swooping drone shots), cute animals, excellent acting from both the human and creature cast, expectations met (I was nervously anticipating the arrival of Diana Rigg and Tricki Woo), romance, humour and drama without tension (this certainly isn't Line of Duty)... all perfectly tied together with a score that's reminiscent of the BBC TV version but isn't quite the same. I'm looking forward to the Christmas Special, although if it's show after I've had to stuff a chicken, I'm not sure I'll be able to take feeling around the back end of cow seriously on Christmas Day.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Commando 5383-5386


Brand new Commando comics coming your way! With Aussie pilots in World War One, danger in 1945 Berlin, mad Mosquito pilots, and a special issue commemorating 80 years since the Coventry Blitz! All this and more in Commando issues 5383-5386— out today!


5383: Coventry Blitz

14th November, 1940, was a day that the city of Coventry in England would never forget. That night, over 500 Luftwaffe bombers raided the city with the intention of wiping it off the map, its worst attack of the war thus far. The fires that tore through the city were out of control and the firefighters of the Auxiliary Fire Service were spread thin. The people of Coventry are a tough bunch and they weren’t going to let a little blitz bring their spirits down! But a rogue Jerry airman causing havoc among the fires already raging in the city sure was a lot to handle!

Story | Jason Cobley
Art | Muller & Klacik
Cover | Ian Kennedy



5384: Mosquito Strike

A classic Commando comic from 1967! In Issue 5384 ‘Mosquito Strike’ , no-one and we mean no-one wanted to fly as navigator with Mad Marston — a pilot who didn’t seem to care how low he flew or if he even made it back from an operation. Only one man dared to fly with that menace — and he was going to teach Marston a lesson he wouldn’t forget!

With a masterful Ken Barr cover, amazing interiors from Arias and a gritty story by Brunt — well, don’t miss it!

Story | Brunt
Art | Arias
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 290 (1967).
 


5385: The Flying Emu

Aussie twins Ernie and Teddy Sharp were determined to do their bit in the war raging in Europe — the one they called The Great War. Both twins had their eyes set on the sky and the Australian Flying Corps, but only one of them would make it. Bitter and resentful, Ernie was prepared to risk it all and become flightless like an emu, joining the infantry and heading for the trenches, ready to fight on the ground. But one chance meeting on the battlefield was about to change Ernie’s war forever, and this emu was about to the skies after all!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Morhain and Defeo
Cover | Keith Burns
 


5386: Danger All Around

Berlin, 1945, is about the last place you'd want to be. The city was in turmoil as the Allies attacked from all sides. The Germans were like cornered rats and there was danger all around. So not the place you’d want to visit for a day trip… especially as a British secret agent wearing a German uniform!

With stellar art from Philpott and a striking cover from Miller — you won’t want to miss this classic silver Commando!

Story | McDevitt
Art | Philpott
Cover | Miller
Originally Commando No. 1593 (1982).

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 11 November 2020


Sharper than Bond, cooler than The Saint – the indefatigable British spy John Steel is back!
    Rebellion is calling this classic character from the golden age of spy fiction back into action for a comic book special in November 2020. The John Steel Files collects two Steel stories featuring stunning art from legendary artist Luis Bermejo (Creepy, Vampirella)!
   Re-presented for a modern audience, these never-before-reprinted comics have been coloured by breakout colourist Pippa Bowland (2000 AD) and will feature a brand new cover by V. V. Glass (The Last Witch).
   
Originally a secret service agent during World War II, Steel first appeared in Super Detective Picture Library #157 in September 1959 and became a regular in the pages of the publisher Fleetway’s popular Thriller Picture Library from November 1960, a line of 64-page digest-sized black and white comic books that ran serialized stories, usually consisting of two comic panels per page.
    Steel’s exploits helped make Thriller Picture Library one of the best-selling titles on the newsstand and it featured a variety of war, spy, and detective heroes such as ‘Battler Britton’, ‘Spy 13’, and ‘Dogfight Dixon’.
    Bermejo took over the series in 1960 and may have influenced the decision in early 1961 to transplant Steel from World War Two into the Jazz Age. Gone were his spying exploits in favour of life as a private detective.
    Influenced by the contemporary sophistication of the early James Bond novels, Steel found himself in a world of jazz cafes and shady deals. This switch was reflected in the title of Steel’s stories too – this collection will feature the classics ‘Play it Cool’ and ‘Bullets in the Sun’.    
    Luis Bermejo Royo’s diverse career spanned Spanish, British, and American comic book industries and his style is instantly recognisable on series such as Adventures of the FBI, Apache, Tarzan, John Steel, Johnny Future, Vampirella, Captain Thunder, and his adaptations of Lord of the Rings and books by Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler. He passed away on 12 December 2015.



2000 AD Prog 2207
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (col).

Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)


The John Steel Files by Luis Bermejo
Rebellion ISBN XX, 11 November 2020, £6.99 / $15.99. Cover by V.V. Glass.

Two classic secret agent stories from the golden age of spy fiction! John Steel is a secret service agent during World War II, but by the Sixties he works as a private detective and haunts jazz cafes. Inevitably he is drawn back into the international world of espionage as he hunts down fugitive Nazi war criminals. Re-presented for a modern audience these never-before-reprinted comics are stunningly drawn by Luis Bermejo with contemporary coloring by Pippa Bowland and a new cover by V. V. Glass.


Faceache Vol.1 by Ken Reid
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781088650-4, 12 November 2020, 118pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.

Now in paperback - the sold out first volume of the hilarious face-changing adventures by one of the greats of British comics! Ken Reid is consistently name-checked by the greats of comics - from Alan Moore to Kevin O'Neill, John Wagner to Pat Mills - for his unique art that is matched only by his enduring sense of humor. 'Faceache' is the humorous adventures of Ricky Rubberneck, the boy with a "bendable bonce" whose skin stretches like rubber. At will, he could scrunge his face into anything, whether it's mimicking others or turning into grotesque creatures, but always coming a cropper! This is the first collection of this long lost classic from the hugely popular and long-running Buster comic.