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Friday, June 18, 2021

Comic Cuts — 18 June 2021

I will be keeping this short for the good reason that I'm trying to finish off an article for the long-time-coming BAM!. I haven't written much over the past few months and was bitten by the bug on Thursday as I began doing a bit of research into the career of a Russian-born, British film producer who turned out to have a connection with comics, and I was planning to use the results here. Unfortunately, my digging led me to a couple of movies that I want to watch before writing up the results, so I'll have to do that over the weekend.

It does leave me with something of a hole for this column as I haven't been up to much. We had such plans for the week, but the heat has made us both lethargic and, in my case, I spent half of Monday afternoon fast asleep after lunch, not waking up until a quarter to four.

On Tuesday we had planned a trip to the beach. A rather stony beach admittedly, as our sights were set on Mersea, which is a 50 minute bus ride from Colchester. It started well: I made sandwiches and we got out for the bus into Colchester on time. Arrived with six minutes to go before the Mersea bus was due, according to the large electronic timetable, so we wandered the fifteen yards down to the correct stop at Colchester bus station and waited. After fifteen minutes I said to Mel: "I'll just go check the time table again," and discovered we had... five minutes to wait.

After another ten minutes, Mel went to check the time table and came back with the news that there was now six minutes to wait. Again.

Finally, after we had waiting over half an hour, I spotted the bus turning the corner. It drove straight past us and parked further up the road, so we ran to catch up. People poured off the bus and, as we went to step on, we were waved off by the driver, who was reaching for his phone to talk to his manager. We, of course, listened in and discovered that the bus was running 50 minutes late — this was, in fact, the bus before the one we were aiming to catch.

The driver was due to switch to another bus and another route, and was explaining that he would not have time to complete the round trip again, so the bus was taken out of service. The bus we planned to be on was half an hour behind this one and almost certain to be caught up in the same problem (something to do with mile-long tailbacks at a gridlocked roundabout) and it looked like the 50 minute trip was probably going to take twice as long. With no idea whether the problem was going to be resolved, and faced with the prospect of potentially spending four hours on buses on the hottest day of the year so far, we decided to cut our losses and wander around Colchester.

That turned out to be a good idea as we were able to go and sit in Castle Park to eat our brunch and enjoy the sun (from the shade), the squirrels (always entertaining) and a saunter around a nearby small lake being eyed up by ASBO Swans (they had ankle tags) and evil-looking gulls. We walked along the river (part of the Colne, which is the river on which Wivenhoe stands as it wends its way to the North Sea) and had one of the most peaceful, enjoyable days we've had in ages. Just getting out was a joy and, even though the day went nothing like we had planned, we both felt we'd snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

So now I'm writing an article when I should be putting stuff up on eBay. I've lined up a few things, including some film books and some issues of Marvel's The Savage Sword of Conan, that will be going up on Sunday. There are still a lot of books to be had at what I think are reasonable prices.

So that was my week. Not quite what I expected, but nice nevertheless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 16 June 2021

A little off-topic this week as far as comics are concerned, but related to Rebellion Publishing, news has just been released that Dave Hutchinson's 'Fractured Europe' series is to be made into a TV series.

Studiocanal have teamed up with the director Tomas Alfredson and writer Peter Straughan of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the 2011 Le Carre movie, to adapt the series of four books, set in the near future in which a deadly pandemic and various economic crisis have splintered the European Union and broken up countries into smaller and smaller nation states. (Incidentally, the first book, Europe in Autumn, was published in 20214, before both the European Referendum and the global Covid 19 pandemic.)

As countries splinter, an organization grows to take advantage of the new borders created: Les Coureurs des Bois is an organization built along the lines of traditional spy organizations that offers to transport information, artefacts and people safely and secretly across state lines. Europe in Autumn introduces Rudi, a cook recruited into the organization, who finds himself involved in high-risk smuggling operations in a world where the map in constantly redrawn.

Deadline's Jake Kanter reports that Straughan and Alfredson "will turn the best-selling novels into an eight-part series, titled Europa, which will be co-produced by Seven Stories, the All3Media-backed production company founded by Girl With A Pearl Earring producer Anand Tucker."

Alfredson has said “Europa is a unique blend of classic spy novel and mind bending science fiction. Set in the not too distant future, in a world that for the most part looks and feels very much like our world today, the story offers a rich and thrilling allegory for our contemporary times.”

2000 AD Prog 2236
Cover: Dylan Teague.

Judge Dredd: Removal Man by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Mechastopholes: The Hunting Party by Gordon Rennie, Laurence Rennie (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Chimpsky's Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky by Kenneth Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe II by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #433
Cover: Nick Percival.

Judge Dredd: Project Providence by Rory McConville (w) Staz Johnson (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning Part 2 by Ales Kot (w) Boo Cook (a) Mike Dowling (a) Quinton Winter (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Diamond Dogs: Book Two Part 3 by James Peaty (w) Warren Pleece (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Returners: Amazonia Part 2 by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva de la Cruz (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Deliverance Part 10 by Dave Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse, Simon Bowland (l)

Features: 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 2021 and Black Beth
Interrogation: Liam Johnson

Bagged with
: Mechastopheles by Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l) Judge Dredd: Black Kiss by T.C. Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Dave Hutchinson's Fractured Europe cover gallery

Europe in Autumn

Solaris ‎ 978-178108195-2, 28 Jan 2014, 384pp, £7.99. Available from Amazon.
Europe as we know it is gone.
Devastated by a flu pandemic and crippled by economic collapse, the continent has fractured into countless tiny nations, a fragile web of shifting alliances seething with espionage and strange new technologies.
    In a small restaurant in Krakow, chef Rudi is drawn into a new career with Les Coureurs des Bois, a shadowy organisation that will move anything across any state line – for a price.
    Soon, Rudi is in a world of high-risk smuggling operations, where kidnappings and double-crosses are as natural as a map that constantly redraws itself.

Europe at Midnight
Solaris 978-178108398-7, 5 Nov 2015, 304pp, £7.99. Available via Amazon.
In a fractured Europe, new nations are springing up everywhere, some literally overnight.
    For an intelligence officer like Jim, it’s a nightmare. Every week or so a friendly power spawns a new and unknown national entity which may or may not be friendly to England’s interests. It’s hard to keep on top of it all. But things are about to get worse for Jim.
   A stabbing on a London bus pitches him into a world where his intelligence service is preparing for war with another universe, and a man has come who may hold the key to unlocking Europe’s most jealously-guarded secret…
   Nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke and British Science Fiction Awards

Europe in Winter
Solaris 978-178108463-2, 3 Nov 2016, 320pp, £7.99. Available via Amazon.
Winner of the 2016 BSFA Award for Best Novella
Fractured Europe. A Parallel World. A Global Threat.
Union has come. The Community is now the largest nation in Europe; trains run there from as far afield as London and Prague. It is an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity.
    So what is the reason for a huge terrorist outrage? Why do the Community and Europe meet in secret, exchanging hostages? And who are Les Coureurs des Bois?
    Along with a motley crew of strays and mafiosi and sleeper agents, Rudi sets out to answer these questions – only to discover that the truth lies both closer to home and farther away than anyone could possibly imagine.

Europe at Dawn
Solaris 978-178108609-4, 1 Nov 2018, 320pp, £7.99. Available via Amazon.
In Tallinn, Alice – a junior Scottish diplomat – is drawn into an incomprehensible plot spanning decades. In the Aegean, young refugee Benno makes a desperate break for freedom and finds himself in a strange new life. On the canals of England, a fleet of narrow boats is gathering. Rudi, now a seasoned Coureur, finds himself drawn away from the kitchen one last time as he sets out with his ally Rupert in pursuit of a dead man.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Nigel Rees cover gallery

Nigel Rees (1944- ) is best known as the creator and host of the Radio 4 panel game Quote... Unquote since 1976, and as the author of over fifty books, mostly on the subject of humour and language.

Graffiti Lives, OK
(also as Graffiti 1)
as Graffiti 1, Unwin

Graffiti 2
Unwin 004827023-7, 1980, 144pp, £1.25. Cover by David Pocknell

Graffiti 3
Unwin 004827030-X, 1981, 144pp, £1.25. Cover by Tony McSweeney

Graffiti 4
Unwin 004827066-0, 1982, 144pp, £1.50. Cover by Eddi Gornall

Graffiti 5

The Graffiti File
George Allen & Unwin h/c
Book Club Associates h/c

"Quote... Unquote"
Unwin 004827020-2, 1980, 144pp, £1.50. Cover by Michael ffolkes

"Quote... Unquote" 2 [originally The "Quote... Unquote" Book of Life, Death and the Universe]
Unwin 004827031-8, 1982, 160pp, £1.50. Cover by Michael ffolkes

Sayings of the Century
Unwin 00444--80-2, 1987, 268pp, £2.95.

Very Interesting... but Stupid!
Unwin 004827021-0, 1980, 160pp, £1.50.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Comic Cuts — 11 June 2021

You'll be pleased/amazed [delete as applicable] that I have had a trouble-free week as far as technology is concerned. We've spent the week enjoying the sunshine and getting in some nice walks in the morning and evening — the same old route but now back up to length as we can now walk along the tow path and back through the woodland trail without drowning in mud, and back through the park.

It's a nice walk and nice to meet some of our old dog-walking friends along the way now that the sun is tempting them out of the house a little earlier. I've even thrown a couple of balls in the park for friendly pooches. It might not sound like much fun, but we've been stuck in the same house, going nowhere, for fifteen months, so the slightest variation is something to celebrate. I'm off to the dentist for a check-up today (Friday), and even that's something to look forward to.

The most excitement I had all week involved some chairs. Mel has two computers, one of which we have used for meeting up with friends on Zoom calls and playing boardgames. If you watched the Lawless convention recently, where I disappeared from one room and reappeared in another at the beginning, that was me switching from my computer to one of Mel's.

While the computers work, the furniture needed replacing. We have been using a busted swivel chair (it won't go up or down anymore) and a hard-as-nails folding chair for our Zoom chats, which leaves us both needing to carefully stretch after use, thanks to the lack of support and slightly stooped posture we both have on these chairs. On Saturday, as bits of us cracked and  clicked when we stood up after two hours, we agreed — not for the first time — that new chairs were needed.

Fast forward to Tuesday and my regular run down to the Post Office after what had proven to be a bit of a slow weekend on eBay (most of my sales end on a Sunday evening when people are often about at home). The queue wasn't too bad, and it was outside in the sun, so that, at least, was a positive to take away. Wandering back home afterwards, I spotted a couple of chairs outside the local library and wandered by... only to turn around when I noticed a note flapping in the breeze. "Free to good home."

Two perfectly good swivel chairs, better padded, better condition than what we currently had. I grabbed one and hauled it back to the house, turned around and went back for the second, fingers crossed that nobody else had spotted it in the meantime. It was still there... for about ten seconds before it was also hauled away back to our lair. I sneaked them into the house quietly so that they were waiting when Mel came down for a cup of tea. Her face was a picture. (Sadly not a picture I caught on camera.)

This is the kind of thing that's getting us excited these days. I was looking forward to the partial eclipse, but it went from sunny, sunny, sunny, to thick cloud cover just in time for us to miss the whole thing.

Our column header this week is the third and final cover reveal for the trio of collections by Andrew Forrester, Jun. First published in 1863-64, these were part of a popular literary sub-genre of the time known as Casebook stories. They began in 1856 with Recollections of a Detective Police-Officer by the pseudonymous 'Waters' — the now-forgotten author William Russell, whose later books included Leaves From the Diary of a Law Clerk (1857), Experiences of a French Detective, adopted from the Mss of Theodore Duhamel (1861), Experiences of a Real Detective by Inspector F., edited by ‘Waters’ (1862), Autobiography of an English Detective Volume 1 (1864), and Leaves From the Journal of a Custom-House Officer (1868).

Russell and others covered a spectrum of working environments, from railways to post offices, in search of subject matter to write books about. They were mostly short story collections, masquerading as true stories. Volumes featuring police detectives was a popular sub-genre, which expanded in 1864 to feature female detectives, with Andrew Forrester, Jun., penning one of two early examples. Did it beat Recollections of a Lady Detective into print? You'll have to read the essay at the back of the book to find out! It should be available in a week or two.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Commando 5443-5446

Brand new Commando issues are out today! Starting the summer celebrations for Commando’s 60th anniversary on the 27th of June, this set features a special reprint of #1 as well as skirmishes on the Eastern Front and North African desert, and a Commando debut from a fantastic new writer.

And don’t miss the next two sets of Commando as the 60th celebration continues with four brand-new stories out on the 24th of June, with exclusive art cards included for subscribers, then four classic issues voted for by fans which have never been reprinted and with brand-new covers, on sale from the 8th of July.

5443: We Are the Winter

Operation Barbarossa — when the Germans betrayed their Soviet allies and invaded Russia. They had the might of the Third Reich behind them and summer on their side. But seasons change quickly in Russia…
     Partisan leader Olga Goncharova was not afraid of the Germans. She stormed her enemies, cold and deadly as ice, swift as arctic winds. She would be the winter. She would be merciless.
     Commemorating 80 years since the infamous Operation Barbarossa, Andrew Knighton’s story focuses not only the Russian soldiers retreating through their homeland, but the civilians who are caught in the path of the changing front lines.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Khato
Cover | Neil Roberts

5444: Walk — or Die!

Kicking off Commando’s 60th anniversary celebrations this summer is a very special issue — Commando #1 but as you’ve never seen it before, with an Ian Kennedy cover! A legend in British comics and synonymous with the Commando brand, Ian Kennedy’s cover breathes new life into the classic issue, making this a sought after comic for any collection.
     The story you know centres on Corporal Tom Gerrard of the Royal Tank Corps, who was just an ordinary bloke, easy‑going and cheerful, and the man who would be his nemesis — Colonel Karl Oberth of the Tenth Panzer Division, a typical Nazi officer, brutal and unforgiving. Somewhere on the limitless, scorching inferno of the Western Desert, Fate decided that their tank tracks should cross — and the rest is history!
     Just make sure you pick up the next set of Commandos out 24th of June which includes the long awaited sequel to #1, ‘Die — Or Walk’, concluding the epic rivalry between Gerrard and Oberth.

Story | Castle
Art | Garcia
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1 (1961).

5445: The Disruptors

Behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany, agents Mary Western and Stephen Mailer must disrupt and, where possible, steal enemy technology. Where any advancement could give their adversaries the edge, this group of heroes known only as “The Disruptors” must use their wits to prevent the Axis from getting the upper hand — even investigating the prototype for the dreaded Me 163!
     EMMY-nominated writer Mike Garley’s premier Commando is subversive and tense, taking its time to build the characters and their dynamics in this tale of subterfuge and sabotage, aided by Muller and Klacik’s gritty interiors and Neil Roberts intriguing cover art.

Story | Mike Garley
Art | Muller and Klacik
Cover | Neil Roberts

5446: SA Fighting Chance

To stay alive in war you’ve got to have an edge over your opponent, something that can swing the odds in your favour. It might be the element of surprise, or a hidden weapon, but it’s always something that puts you one jump ahead and keeps you alive.
     When he was taken prisoner, Lieutenant Neil Bell’s edge seemed to be his ability to navigate the desert, but what he was relying on was a piece of information which gave him a clear advantage over his captors.
     And he wasn’t telling anyone what it was!
    The second Ian Kennedy cover in this set, Kennedy masterfully intertwines blues and greens in his desert cover, offering a tense shot of the action inside.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Cruz
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1683 (1983).

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 9 June 2021

Out on June 10, this brand new collection brings together the stories from Rebellion’s critically-acclaimed Tammy & Jinty specials from 2019 and 2020, showcasing contributions from some of the most exciting creators working in the industry today.

Comics aimed at girls were once a boom industry, supporting dozens of titles and boasting sales of hundreds of thousands of copies a week.

Published in the 1970s and ‘80s, Tammy and Jinty covered almost every facet of girls’ lives – school, sports, friendship, rivalry, romance, the apocalypse, ghosts, witchcraft, parallel universes, aliens and everything in between!

Tammy & Jinty Remixed pays tribute to this history while also blazing a new trail for the future where comics are for everyone, as writers and artists take old comics and characters as their starting point and reimagine them, or create brand new worlds.

The collection features work from established and exciting new voices in comics, including Rachael Ball (Guardian best graphic novelist 2015), Rachael Smith (Quarantine Comix), Ramzee (British Comics Awards Nominee 2016), Lisa Henke, Yishan Li (Swing), Dani (Coffin Bound), V.V. Glass (Doctor Who), and Elkys Nova (Roy of the Rovers).

From sports drama through romance and action, this collection highlights the breadth and depth of British comics for girls’ – dubbed ‘British Manga’ by comics scholars – with strips such as football drama Rocky Race, thriller Boarding School, superhero saga The Return of Cat Girl, and an update of rags-to-fame ballet drama Bella at the Bar.

This collection also includes exclusive new interviews and features, plus reprints of classic strips including the fan favourite Cat Girl.

2000 AD Prog 2235
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (col.)

Judge Dredd: Brief Encounter by Ken Niemand (w) Dylan Teague (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Mechastopholes: The Hunting Party by Gordon Rennie, Laurence Rennie (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe II by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Chimpsky's Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky by Ken Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Tammy & Jinty Remixed
by Rob Williams, Sarah Millman, Rachael Ball, Rachael Smith, Grainne McEntee, Matt Gibbs, Kate Ashwin, Emma Beeby, RAMZEE, Jenny McDade, Lisa Henke, Sarah Millman,  Vanessa Cardinali, Yishan Li, Dani, V.V. Glass, Kel McDonald,  Andy W. Clift, P.J. Holden, Elkys Nova and John Armstrong
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108931-6, 10 June 2021, 112pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.

Collecting the critically-acclaimed Tammy & Jinty specials from 2019 and 2020, this anthology includes contributions from some of the most exciting female creators working in the industry today. From sports drama through romance and action, featuring strips such as Rocky Race, Boarding School, The Return of Cat Girl and Duckface to name but a few, Tammy & Jinty Remixed pays tribute to the past while blazing a trail for girls’ comics of the future! This collection also includes exclusive new interviews and features, plus reprints of classic strips including the fan favourite Cat Girl.

Roy of the Rovers: The Best of the 1980s — Who Shot Roy Race?
by Tom Tully and David Sque
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108896-8, 10 June 2021, 176pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The dawn of this new decade was one that Melchester Rovers would want to forget. The 80/81 season was far from their finest hour with the threat of relegation snapping at their heels all throughout the season and exits from the F.A. Cup and the European Cup leaving the trophy cabinet bare. For star striker Roy Race it couldn't be worse. His obsession with the team had caused a strain on his marriage and fractured his relationship with teammates like the hot-headed Vic Guthrie. And then there was an attempt on his life... After being shot in December 1981, Roy lay in a coma for several weeks while Sir Alf Ramsey stepped into the dugout for Melchester. Life in a lower division beckons, but at least the Rovers will be the most stylish team on the pitch with their new Gola sponsored kits! This book collects the most sensational storyline from Roy of the Rovers history.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Roy of the Rovers: The Best of the 1980s — Who Shot Roy Race?

This truly must be the editorial choice of the best of Roy's adventures from the 1980s. Back in 2008, Titan Books reprinted the same storyline (and more) in their The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s in a now-out-of-print flexiback format volume. It's not surprising, really, that this particular storyline is chosen. One of the strengths of the strip when it appeared in the pages of Tiger and Roy of the Rovers was that a storyline, or series of storylines, would play out over a whole season, and finding a self-contained few episodes to reprint is almost impossible. Storylines would often dramatically reboot the strip, involve the demise of major characters in the best soap-opera tradition of, say, EastEnders. Unlike EastEnders (and American superhero comics), dead characters were never brought back to life in desperate grabs for ratings or sales.

This volume reprints the weekly saga of Melchester Rovers from the pages of Roy of the Rovers between January 1981 and June 1982, picking up the storyline halfway through the 1980-81 season. The 1981-82 season contained one of the most heart-stopping of all Roy stories, as, on 12 December 1981, he was shot by a mysterious gunman. Inspired by the 'who shot JR' publicity that had surrounded Dallas, the identity of the mystery shooter was kept secret for months.

The book opens with an injury-depleted Melchester Rovers struggling to find form as the season opens. There's plenty of action on the pitch and, because a match can last for a month or more, every game has something vital to the plot, whether it's the form of old players, the arrival of a new team-mate or trouble at the top or the bottom of the league table that makes it crucial that Rovers win.

But the action wasn't always on the playing field: there was as much drama off the pitch as team-mates fall out with each other and—as in this volume—Roy has as many problems at home as he does at Melchester Stadium. Roy was one of the few characters in comics aimed at boys where Roy had a home life: he's married, to Penny, and has twin children, and author Tom Tully made sure that Penny was sometimes at the heart of a storyline long before WAGS took on a celebrity all of their own.

Roy's cousin, Arnie Meckiff, is another off-field troublemaker, as is Elton Blake, an actor who is to play Roy in a TV show... the list of people unhappy with Roy Race begins to grow as the new season kicks off, leading to the shocking sight of Roy being shot. Hospitalised and in a coma, Melchester Rovers' directors turn to one of the biggest names in football to take over the team—former England manager Sir Alf Ramsey.

And here we have another soap-opera staple: the strips are played out in a bizarre version of real time where a 90-minute football match can last four weeks but a season lasts a season and real world events are referred to (the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, for instance). Real people were part and parcel of the storylines, making the standard "any resemblance to actual persons is entirely coincidental" notice at the front of the book completely redundant—star guests were always popping up to Melchester to visit the team, some playing key roles in various plots.

Keeping all these elements bubbling along season after season took as much skill as Roy showed on the pitch, so all praise goes to Tom Tully, one of the finest writers British comics ever had. His was the hand behind the twisting plotlines and constant Greek chorus of terrace commentary that kept Roy at the top of the comics' league for twenty years. For eleven of those years he worked with artist David Sque who saw Roy through his mid-1970s to mid-1980s fluffy haircut era.

The Rebellion reprint, although not as generous as the Titan volume — which offered two whole seasons, beginning in September 1980 — benefits from not removing all the yellowing of the newsprint the strip was originally printed on, which makes the colours stand out a little better. As a bonus, they also include a story from the 1982 Roy of the Rovers Annual.

Roy of the Rovers: The Best of the 1980s — Who Shot Roy Race? by Tom Tully and David Sque
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108896-8, 10 June 2021, 176pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Comic Cuts - 4 June 2021

I'm writing this on my tablet as I'm not sure what's up with my PC. It hasn't died, but might be on its last legs.

First thing Thursday morning, I turned on the computer as normal after our walk. It fired up as normal, but the fan started growling immediately. This has been a problem all week and something that needs to be fixed. Annoying, but not (I thought) so bad that I can't keep working. I just turn up the music.

This morning was different. I checked my mail (a new order in from Amazon, couple of group digests), fired up iTunes and started downloading a couple of podcasts I'm subscribed to, went to check on Facebook... and my internet connection disappeared. Not unusual for around here, as friends will testify, having listened to me ranting about it on many occasions. But this was a little different. Trying to get back online caused the screen to start flickering, a series of thin blue lines then thicker lines, then thin again.

After a couple of minutes I switched my computer off. Then waited as it agonizingly slowly rebooted. Which it thankfully did. I have my desktop up and running, but still no internet connection. I'm a little nervous of going into the settings given what happened last time, so I'm doing a full back-up of my files before tackling trying to re-establish the connection. Just in case.

By coincidence, I was planning to do a back-up at the weekend. I spent the Bank Holiday shifting files around on three external hard drives, deep storing some old back-ups so that I had the space for a new one. Copying from one drive to another takes forever on my ancient computer, so I didn't finish until Tuesday evening. 

Wednesday was another hot one, so we took the opportunity for a trip down to the pub for a boozy lunch - two pints is "boozy" for me, these days - and I was trying to sort things out for the upcoming Bear Alley Books' releases, so I delayed doing the back-up until Saturday or Sunday.

Well, you all know how that has worked out. 

The internet connection is definitely working (that's how I'm managing to write this) and I will likely be able to re-establish the connection with my PC. But out of a sense over overcaution, I'll get the back-up done first.

In between the long hours of file copying, I have been finishing off the latest batch of books. I'm still waiting for proof copies to arrive, but I have my sales page ready to go - bar the links - and, as you'll see from our column header, here's the second cover revealed.

(Since starting this column the fan in my PC has been purring like a kitten and not growling like an old bear with a thin in its foot. I'm being trolled by my own computer!)

Friday morning update: I finished the back-up Thursday afternoon and then switched the wi-fi back on in the settings. The screen froze and I had to do another hard re-boot. Again, it was painfully slow, but everything relaunched OK and I was able to sort out my Amazon order without any problems. I had the machine running until around 11 o'clock last night without any incident. It booted up without any problems this morning and — for the moment at least — the fan seems to be working well.

Of course, it wouldn't be me without a battle with technology. Woke up this morning and wanted to copy off a couple of things I had written on the tablet. Damn thing wouldn't fire up... which is when I remembered that I hadn't shut the darn thing down properly and, even in sleep mode, it doesn't take long to flatten the battery. So the tablet's plugged into the mains and that should also be working OK by the time you read this and I will be fully tech enabled.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 2 June 2021

Every so often 2000 AD clears the decks and brings in a raft of new stories so that new readers can jump on board - and Prog 2234 is the next jumping on issue! As well as a Judge Dredd story written and drawn by artist Chris Weston, three new series make their debut:

It is over a year since the Fall, when the demons rose and society collapsed. A band of human survivors have sought refuge in a demonically powered robot called MECHASTOPHELES, and they use this infernal ark as a means to seek sanctuary, searching for a safe haven away from the creatures that now stalk the land. But the demon bound to the mek, Apollyoneth Morga, has enemies in Hell too...

Department K
The Regened series makes it into 2000 AD proper! Justice Dept has many divisions tasked with dealing with the threats that face the metropolis, and the mysterious DEPARTMENT K is a branch of Tek-Div, whose brief is to tackle interdimensional enemies seeking to break through the walls of reality. Headed by Judge Kirby, and comprising of intern Afua, Mechanismo droid Estabon and the alien Blackcurrant, they’ve recently returned to MC-1...

Chimpsky's Law
The fan favourite character gets his one series! Late 21st-century science gave primates the ability to speak and socialise with humans, and there’s an enclave within the metropolis, Apetown, where simian citizens can live and work. Noam Chimpsky is a super-intelligent ape, who has chosen to look after his fellow human civilians in his local sector, ensuring criminality is discouraged — often under the Judges’ noses — and people are cared for...

2000 AD Prog 2234
Cover: P. J. Holden

Judge Dredd: Adios, Rowdy Yates by Chris Weston (w+a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Mechastopholes: The Hunting Party by Gordon Rennie, Laurence Rennie (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe II by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Chimpsky's Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky by Kenneth Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Slaughter Bowl by John Smith & Paul Peart
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108967-5, 2 June 2021, 54pp, £7.99. [DIGITAL EDITION]

Jurassic Park meets Running Man! When mild mannered Stanley Modest is accused of mass murders and convicted, he finds himself in the Slaughter Bowl - a deadly battle royale where criminals on dinosaurs attempt to annihilate each other! This legendary, unforgettable 2000 AD strip was part of the magazine's 1993 Summer Offensive. Written by John Smith (Devlin Waugh) with art by Horrible Histories artist Paul Peart, this new digital-only collection.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Comic Cuts — 28 May 2021

I have been noodling around this week trying to finish off four books that I'll be publishing through Bear Alley Books. These are, for the most part, lockdown projects that I should have had out months ago, but which drifted in the same fashion that other projects have drifted during the past 14 months. My 2020 projects all ran late, with the four Gwyn Evans books arriving in January of this year and the launch of BAM! pushed back due to a mixture of eye strain, the need to earn a bit of money, and work on some other projects getting in the way.

Now that I'm vaccinated and can see what I'm doing (thanks, science!) I'm trying to pick up the threads. A promised French language edition of And The Wheels Went Round — to be titled Les Roues de la Fortune — is now almost finished, with co-author Tony Davis proofing the text as I write this. As some of you will know, the subject of the book is the motorcycle racing career of John Chisnall, or Uncle John as I like to call him.

The other three books are reprints in trade paperback format of a trio of Victorian short story collections. Credited to Andrew Forrester, Jun., the author was, in fact, J. Redding Ware, his identity only revealed in 2008. Only one of the books he wrote as Andrew Forrester, Jun., has been reprinted — The Female Detective, which was one of the early British Library Classic Crime titles, which described its heroine as "the first female detective". Was she? The Bear Alley edition of the book will include a biographical essay on Ware which I believe proves that she wasn't.

There were two earlier Forrester titles, Revelations of a Private Detective and The Secret Service, which will be published in the same format at the same time. If you're reading this on Friday, I'll hopefully be uploading the texts and covers so that I can get proof copies of the three books printed. And they should be available in a few weeks.

After that I'm back onto the comics. There is another little project I want to finish involving some wartime comics, after which I'm going to be working on the magazine. Now that I've had a little time off from it, I can see some faults, so I'm having a rethink about my approach to it. The end results will be better than my original plan, so the delay is for the good.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Commando 5439-5442

Brand new Commando issues are out today. Featuring tenacious tank destroyers, nail-biting navigation through enemy-infested jungle, favourable flak crews, and familial failings — don’t forget to pick up your set!

5439: Thor’s Hammers

Captain Grant Thor has seen his team through the disaster at Kasserine Pass and onto success on the beachhead at Anzio — but as the terrain changes and he finds himself pinned down in a tiny Italian village, the stalwart hero crumbles in the wake of the Nazi Panthers lying in wait.

Imprisoned and replaced by a man with more ego than sense, only Lieutenant Rick Kelly sees that Thor can help them hammer through to victory in their new M18 Hellcats — that is, if he can convince the Colonel to give Thor a second chance!

With gritty heroes aplenty from Brent Towns, the interior and cover art give credence to the smoky tank battles and grim fates that often became of their wielders.

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Muller and Klacik
Cover | Neil Roberts

5440: The Long Trek

His name was Mike Stone. He was a British Army sergeant who’d been stranded in the jungle with four British prisoners — deserters and troublemakers on their way to a military prison in Rangoon.

Normally it would have been just a routine job — but this time their route ran through Japanese territory. And Mike knew that not one of the prisoners was likely to lift a hand to help if the going got rough…

A classic Golden Era issues, with unlikely alliances and very complex characters. This issue will make you question your own morals when faced with the horrors of the war in the east.

Story | Evison
Art | V Fuente
Cover | Penalva
Originally Commando No. 407 (1969).

5441: Flak Crew

For the crew of an 88mm Flak gun on the Eastern Front, life was tough. Not only did they have blistering‑cold Russian winters to contend with — but also wet and muddy autumns, meagre supplies, thin watery soups, deadly Jabos attacks, brutish enemy tanks, along with the endless waves of determined Soviet soldiers. 

What started as a push into the Red Army’s homeland, soon became a retreat back into the Fatherland, losing friends and crew members along the way. For driver turned ammunition carrier Jurgen Stark, all he could do was try to survive his time in the Flak crew.

Another tour-de-force cover from Graeme Neil Reid as he and Jaume Forns bring Ferg Handey’s deep tale to life of Axis soldiers who risk everything questioning the regime they have been made part of.

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Jaume Forns
Cover | Graeme Neil Reid

5438: Heroes are Human

When the German war machine rolled into France, it was the first taste of action for many British troops. Most fought bravely, but some wanted to turn and run, scared by the onslaught of bullets and bombs.

Such a man was Second Lieutenant Hugh Standerline. He had two fears — the fear of battle and the fear that he could not live up to the heroic exploits of his father. Little did he know that things are not always what they seem…

A time old tale of expectations and reality as CG Walker’s heroes learn that war is not the playing board they thought it would be, and as the pieces they must do whatever they can to ensure they don’t lose.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Bevia
Cover | Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No. 185 (1983).