Saturday, August 06, 2022

Ron Tilling

Following on from last week's discovery of a previously unknown science fiction writer, I continued to dig further and have found another—but this time we can actually identify a couple of his stories. Both appeared under the name Ron Paul in the pages of Authentic Science Fiction Monthly: 'Blue Rose' (little more than a vignette) in issue 56 (April 1955) and 'Lonely Immortal' in issue 67 (March 1956).

In the 25 February 1956 issue of the Louth Standard, above a headline 'Science Fiction Writing. Young Louth author's profitable spare-time occupation', is a photo of Ron Tilling at his typewriter. Sadly, the image in the copy I have available is so poor that he is barely distinguishable from the typewriter. The article reveals much about Tilling's persistence.

Science fiction writing has been turned into a profitable spare-time occupation by 20-year-old Ron Tilling, of 10a Queen Street, Louth. After finishing his day's work in a Louth office, he begins work on his own typewriter—bought out of his spare-time earnings. But instead of accounts and business letters he taps out accounts of life on other planets, space ships, space travel and the like.
    Since he started writing short stories three years ago Ron has had plenty of rejection slips, but has recently sold four stories—two to a science fiction magazine and two to "Midweek Reveille."
    His writing has earned him 36gns., which has almost covered the cost of a new portable typewriter and a correspondence course on fiction writing.
    Of science fiction writing he says "I try to base it on the accepted scientific possibilities. I hate fantasy."
    To give his stories the right authentic backgrounds, he reads all he can in the way of scientific news, and uses his imagination to enlarge on it.
    He took up writing as a hobby when he was at school. Prevented by attacks of asthma and bronchitis from joining in any kind of sport, he found he had more time on his hands than most boys.
    Later, he helped form a concert party among Youth Centre members. It was named the Flying Saucers (even then things from outer space had a fascination for him), and he wrote the scripts for the one act plays which were produced by them.
    The Saucers broke up in July, 1953 and Ron turned his hand to writing short stories. He took a correspondence course, and joined the Penman Club, who criticised his manuscripts and advised him about markets.
    A typewriter was bought out of money he had saved, and by now the machine has almost paid for itself out of earnings.
    His first  effort, 'The Guests of Binham Hall' met with lots of rejection slips, as did the stories which came after.
    Then his father died, and for almost six months Ron did not write a thing.
    Last winter came his first success, a science fiction thriller, 'The Blue Rose,' was accepted by Authentic Science, a monthly magazine.
    It was printed on 15th April—a great day for Ron—and appeared under his pen name Ron Paul. Paul, by the way, is the first part of girl friend Pauline's name.


Since then another of his stories, 'Lonely Immortal,' has been accepted by the magazine, and two humorous stories have been accepted by Reveille.
    "I used to enjoy reading science fiction, and that is how I came to write it," he explained. "There is a better chance of getting it published, too, because there are fewer science fiction writers."
    Although the stories he has sold have taken only a few hours to write, he is not always able to dash them off so quickly.
    One story, 'The Machine,' ran to 1,500 words when it was first written. After it had "done the rounds" of editors, he re-wrote it, this time extending it to 8,000 words and shifting it to another planet!
    He has also tried his hand at dramatic fiction and religious drama, and altogether has completed some 50 short stories.
    Ron is fast discovering the problems facing an up-and-coming writer. For instance, one editor to whom he submitted a story replied that there must be no mention of drink or gambling in the script. One of the scenes had been set in the bar of the "local."
    Ron's mother, Mrs. A. G. Tilling, had an urge to write when she was young. She was Ron's first critic, and is very proud of his success.
    He is a great reader. His favourite authors are Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham and Stephen Lister.

From the evidence in the article, it would appear that Ronald Tilling was born in 1936, his birth registered in Grimsby, not far from Louth in Lincolnshire. He was the younger son of James A. Tilling, a motor mechanic, and Alice Gertrude Johnson, who were married in 1928. A brother, Tony, was born in 1930. James Tilling died in early 1954, aged 51, and Alice married her second husband, David White, in 1957. The marriage did not last, as David died in 1958, aged 66, and Alice married a third time, to Cyril Leonard, in 1959. She died in 2002.

Ronald Tilling married Pauline Smith in early 1958, after which I lose track of him. [He is not the person named Ronald Tilling who died in 1982 (b.1918), 1988 (b.1914) or 2003 (b.1929).]

The Flying Saucers' Revue variety group ran for 14 months at the Louth Youth Centre and first performed in December 1950. The company of eleven was led by Mervyn Edward Cawte (1928-1996) and Miss K. M. Stephenson (warden), and made their first  appearance at the Youth Centre's Christmas party with a half-hour show. The group included comedians, tap dancers, singers, and musicians.

They made their performance debut in March 1951 at the Liberal Club in aid of the Old Age Pensioners' Building Fund. Ron Tilling appeared in a one act comedy play, 'To-day Of All Days', produced by Miss K. M. Stevenson and Mrs. E. Teesdale. A later show in June included a theme song ('Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer'), which opened the show, with Tilling appearing in appearing in comedy sketches.

They disbanded in January 1952 with some of the Saucers deciding to form a new company, the District Amateur Variety Entertainments Company, led by M. E. Cawte, with Ron Tilling as Secretary. I have a feeling that this was a short-lived venture as Cawte was soon after separated from his wife and moved to Southsea.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Comic Cuts — 5 August 2022

I managed to complete work on the Steel Claw book mentioned last week, and I'm now knee deep in giant ape doings... yes, it's Mytek the Mighty!

It has been quite a fun week, in fact. It began with doing a second pass on the Steel Claw artwork on Monday and finishing off the introduction that I started writing last week, this one looking at the influences on a couple of stories, which range from the real historical horrors of Devil's Island to the latest gadgetry of James Bond's Thunderball. I'm thinking of writing something about artist Jesus Blasco for the next one, but we shall see. Talking of artists, I suspect that Eric Bradbury will be the subject for the second Mytek introduction... I'll see how I feel next week when I have the artwork finished.

I'm trying to pull ahead a bit so I can take a couple of weeks off  to do a new Bear Alley book, similar to the biography of John Chisnall and his motorcycling exploits that I published a couple of years ago. A friend of John's saw the book, liked it, and mentioned that he was thinking of writing about his own biking saga. So, hopefully, I can squeeze that in at some point because I'm thinking that I will definitely be needing a new computer in the not-too-distant future. My poor computer has rattled and hummed unhappily during the heatwave and I don't want to risk a meltdown.

It is now 11 years old and struggling to operate at top speed. I think there's a bit of throttling going on to keep things cool, but, also, it now has seven years' worth of Windows 10 updates crammed onto a drive designed for Windows 7. (I've wrote about my previous history with computers back in 2011 when I was trying to get the current computer to work. Incidentally, I still have the same laptop running Windows XP and still use it for watching DVDs.)

Once the new book is confirmed, I might splash out on the computer, so that I get to test run its capabilities as I get into scanning and designing. I'm hoping that the new machine will be faster, but it should also have far better graphics and sound cards. I'm also hoping that I'll see some improvements to the wireless connection to our internet hub.

The alternative is to wait until closer to Christmas and temporarily setting up in the living room rather than in my office. The office is a converted garage with no insulation, so it gets freezing cold in here and any heat quickly disappears through the single brick walls and paper-thin ceiling. I'm thinking that the living room will retain the heat better — and that could be vital when there's talk of the energy cap potentially hitting £3,600—that's up by £2,200 from last year's cap of £1,400, or an extra £183 a month. I'm also hoping that a new computer will be more energy efficient although we're likely to be talking pence rather than pounds.

Lots to think about, although still at least a couple of month's away. In the meantime, I'm planning to keep on scanning.

Incidentally, I picked the header image because I remember that scene vividly. It indirectly got me into comics when I was seven. A near neighbour whose son I went to school with took Richard and I to see a rerun of two Bond movies (Thunderball and From Russia With Love) in 1969. I had then recently had some corrective eye surgery and was reading everything I could lay my hands on, which was mostly what my Dad left laying around. So lots of James Hadley Chase and John Creasey... but also the Ian Fleming James Bond paperbacks.

I described the thrills of these films and books to another pal, who said that they were a favourite of his older brother, who had some of the books. My ears pricked up because I couldn't lay my hands on some of them (they were in the grown ups section of the library and I couldn't borrow them on my library ticket). I took a chance to visit my friend and see what he had... but what I discovered was a small pile of Valiant comics that I started looking at. The stories — and specifically The Steel Claw — blew me away and I started ordering Valiant from my local newsagent.

So I got into comics thanks to James Bond, not knowing that Bond was a heavy influence on that strip in 1966. Years later, when I was able to build up a reasonable collection of older issues, I have to admit that it was my favourite period for the strip and having the opportunity to bring it back into print, albeit in Spain, has been a joy!

But the Thunderball image above (by Frank McCarthy) is memorable to me because I had that image on a jigsaw puzzle. In fact, I had two, one from Thunderball and one from From Russia With Love, still two of my favourite Bond movies. I had a quick dig around the web and found these box images... these are the ones I had, from Arrow, c.1966. I wonder what happened to them? I bet they're worth a fortune now!

What I never knew until now was that there were two others that I never had, a second from Thunderball and one from Goldfinger.


Thursday, August 04, 2022

  • 8 Aug. Neil Gaiman explains why Netflix's The Sandman exists outside the DC Universe, while the graphic novels intersect with it. “We didn’t want a TV show where you felt that you had to have read a whole bunch of comics published in 1988 and 1989 to understand what was going on.”
  • 5 Aug. Rebecca Nicholson reviews The Sandman and claims Neil Gaiman "has created 2022's single greatest hour of TV drama." "It is transportive, playful at times, and certainly grand. But above all, it is dark. Bodies explode, limbs are severed, and demons crawl out of the mouths of professional footballers, fist-first. Nestled in among its more grotesque spectacles, though, is an emotional depth that elevates this far beyond the usual “let’s see what we can blow the CGI budget on” fantasy fodder."
  • 4 Aug. Neil Gaiman interviewed on WTF with Marc Maron (1hr40m). "Marc talks with Neil about how his early work sidestepped the pre-adolescent male power fantasies of most contemporary comic books and helped connect with a broad and enduring fanbase. They also talk about the new adaptation of The Sandman for Netflix and why Neil believes his past experiences in TV led him to make the ideal filmed version of his work."
  • 4 Aug. Neil Gaiman and David S. Goyer talk Sandman adaptation. “I was walking around the props and being shown stuff, and there in front of me was the copy of a Sun newspaper dated September 2022, and ‘Tug of Love Baby Eaten by Cows’ was the headline. I thought, ‘It’s actually happening, and it’s real, and it’s being made by people who care and who love the original.’”
  • While The Sandman is getting a lot of press, there has also been a lot of coverage to the news that the Batgirl movie is being shelved and will not be shown on HBO Max as originally planned, or anywhere else. A number of other cancellations have been lost in the white noise, but they include a ton of comic adaptations: Naomi, Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, The Flash (all The CW) and  Snowpiercer (TNT), which was in production of its fourth and final season. The CW has only two remaining DC shows, Superman & Lois and the upcoming Gotham Knights. Riverdale (based on the old Archie comics) is also coming to an end after seven seasons. I mention this because it throws a harsh light on DC tie-in shows when compared to Marvel's shows on Disney+. They still have some movies coming up (The Flash, Black Adam, Shazam: Fury of the Gods), but I'm with Heidi MacDonald's description that "The DCEU is fine, if by fine you mean a flaming dumpster fire perched on the edge of a volcano full of poison sharks."
  • 4 Aug. Interview: Dave McKean on the Virtual Memories podcast (1hr28m) “For AI, comic storytelling is really difficult, when from panel to panel you need to show specific angles, the same characters doing specific things. So that part of what I do — narrative storytelling — seems to be in a safer place at the moment. But these people seem determined to crack every single problem, so I’m sure they’ll get there somehow.” (There are quite a few interesting interviews in this series — here's an alphabetical list of guests.)
  • 30 Jul. Interview: Neil Gaiman on comics, diversity and casting Death. “In 1986, I pitched a story about what was happening in comics,” he says. “At that point Maus, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were all coming out. One newspaper replied: ‘We’ve written about Desperate Dan’s 50th anniversary this year – we can’t do another comics piece.’”
  • 28 Jul. Neil Gaiman breaks down every shot of The Sandman trailer. (video 17m)
  • 28 Jul. Barry Windsor Smith bagged three Will Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con, with Monster winning Best Graphic Novel, and earning him awards for Best Writer/Artist and Best Lettering.
  • 25 Jul. Interview: Mark Millar. "You know him as the author of Civil War, Old Man Logan, Kickass, Wanted, Kingsman and about a hundred other bestselling comics. Join me as I shoot the breeze with Mark Millar about his career, the MCU, cancel culture and changes afoot in the industry." (Drinker's VIP Lounge, video, 2h27m)
  • 25 Jul. Neil Gaiman was at the San Diego Comic Con to talk about The Sandman TV show.  “What I’m really excited [about] is that in less than two weeks, everyone is going to get to see what we made,” Gaiman told the crowd. “It feels really good.”

Commando 5563-5566

Four stories breaking all the rules in this explosive set of air and land-based action adventures! Commando issues 5563-5566 are in shops and online from today, Thursday, August 4, 2022.

5563: Battleaxe

The retreat from Halfaya pass in June 1941 sees Sister Darcy Jackson picking up stragglers, as she limps behind the main force in her faithful Austin K2Y Ambulance. With a lost sepoy, a charming pilot and an arrogant lieutenant aboard, when their captured German Major turns the tables on our stalwart heroes, they have to break all the rules to survive!

A high-paced and explosive fifth story from R Tate, with dynamic and detailed interiors from Alberto Saichann and an impactful cover from Mark Harris.

Story | R Tate
Art| Alberto Saichann
Cover | Mark Harris

5564: Big Trouble!

Johnny and his Special Forces men love nothing more than sneaking into Norway and harrying the Nazis — but when they inadvertently capture a Dornier flying boat, an unexpected challenge comes their way. Squadron Leader Peter Trill, an expert test pilot, is sent in by the RAF to take charge of a hotch-potch crew borrowed from Coastal Command. In a clash of wills and departments, can these allies pull together to make the best use of an enemy plane?

A dynamic story from Montague is complimented by interiors from ever-popular Gordon C Livingstone with intricate cover art from Tregenza.

Story | R A Montague
Art | Gordon C Livingstone
Cover | Tregenza
Originally Commando No. 1284 (1979).

5565: For Honour!

Edric of Burley and The Green Men are typical mercenaries of the Plantagenet Wars — they’ll do anything for a mug of ale and an old-fashioned sparring match! But, when faced with the evil Godfrey of Tours, the fate of a small village in an English-held region of France hangs in the balance, and so Sir Thomas Mulbarton must remind the motley crew that honour is not just a romantic ideal and that a contract can have more in the balance than a simple bag of coin.

Andrew Knighton’s witty tale features characterful interiors from Khato and a heroic cover from Neil Roberts.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Khato
Cover | Neil Roberts

5566: Top Cover

Tony Norton was a formidable pilot, and in the dense jungles of South East Asia, was providing vital cover and intel for the forces on the ground. But Tony doesn’t need a plane to carry out his duties as he suddenly finds himself amongst the ground troops! As they fight the Japanese and carry out their mission, secrets are unveiled and new light is shed on Tony’s pilot colleagues.

Expressive interiors from Nebot add to the drama of a second story from R A Montague with a classic cover from Commando legend, Ian Kennedy.

Story | R A Montague
Art | Nebot
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1825 (1984)

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Rebellion Releases — 3 August 2022

Saving the planet has never been so violent – the first adventures of the ultimate eco-warrior, Finn, are available to pre-order now from the 2000AD web shop!

Written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, with art by Jim Elston, Kevin Wicks, and Liam Sharp, these stories of the pagan warlock fighting the powerful secret society of the alien Newts are collected in graphic novel form for the first time.

Finn is a cab driver by day and a witch by night, Finn is part of a coven dedicated to protecting humanity from the agents of the old ‘Great Ones’, the ancient intergalactic beings who separated humanity from their beastly nature, and have maintained control ever since. Finn uses arcane magic and high-tech weaponry to take the fight to the Newts as he attempts to undermine their control of the military-industrial complex and free humanity from their shackles.

Out in December, Finn: Origins is available in standard paperback with cover by Jim Elston and webshop exclusive hardcover with cover by Charlie Gillespie (Judge Dredd).

And now, for this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2293
Cover: Paul Marshall / Dylan Teague (cols)

Judge Dredd: Special Relationship by Rob Williams (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Skip Tracer: Valhalla by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon  Bowland (l)
Dexter - Bulletopia: Malice In Plunderland by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Mercury Retrograde by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Jaegir: Ferox by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 40 by John Wagner et al.
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618583-9, 4 August 2022, £21.99. Available via Amazon.

In the nightmare metropolis of the future he is judge, jury and executioner - he is Judge Dredd!
    The best-selling Complete Case Files series continues with the gripping and timely epic Total War. Judge Dredd battles a terrorist organization called Total War, who are determined to democratise Mega-City One - or destroy it. Total War have two hundred thermonuclear devices planted across the city and one will be detonated  each day the Judges remain in power. Total War will have democratization - or they will have mass-death. The choice is the Judges' - and time is running out.
    Drawn by a roster of the greatest artists working on Judge Dredd in the 21st Century - John Higgins (Watchmen), Henry Flint (Zombo), Ian Gibson (The Ballad of Halo Jones) and D'Israeli (Scarlet Traces) - the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files series has sold over half a million copies.

The Best of Cat Girl by Ramzee, Elkys Nova & Giorgio Giogetti
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618783-3, 4 August 2022, 128pp, £16.99 / $18.99. Available via Amazon.

The beloved UK superheroine finally pounces into her own collection! From the pages of classic 1960s girls' comic Sally comes the first ever collection of beloved British superheroine The Cat Girl! Cathy Carter is not your average teen. She can jump further, fight longer and climb higher than anyone she knows – with the aid of a magic suit, she is Cat Girl! Facing off in glamorous, globetrotting adventures against supervillains and master criminals, Cathy often finds the hardest fight comes from her bumbling detective father, who doesn’t believe Cathy can fend for herself. Can Cathy save the world when the person trying to hold her back – is her dad? This collection contains Cat Girl's latest adventure, Cat Girl Returns from the Tammy & Jinty special, as well as a purrfect selection of the best classic Cat Girl stories from Sally, and a brand new cover from Elkys Nova.

Monster Fun Summer Special
Cover: Neil Googe / Len O'Grady (cols)

Kid Kong by Alec Worley (w) Karl Dixon (a+l)
Steel Commando by Ned Hartley (w) Dan Boultwood (a) Leila Jess (l)
Frankie Stein by Cavan Scott (w) John Lucas (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Amber Sea (l)
Draculass by Lizzie Boyle (w) Edward Whatley (a) H.A. O'Millar (l)
Home Invaders by Juni Ba (w+a+l)
Martha's Monster Make Up by David Bulmer (w) Abigail Bulmer (a) SquakeZz (l)
Hire A Horror by Matt Baxter (w+a+l)
The Leopard From Lime Street by Simon Furman (w) Laurent Lefeuvre (a+l)
Hell's Angel by Chris Garbutt (w+a+l)

Friday, July 29, 2022

Comic Cuts — 29 July 2022

Even in the middle of working on the latest task at hand, namely putting together the artwork and an introduction to the fourth book collecting The Steel Claw for a Spanish publisher, I can still be distracted by a mystery. One that came to light this week still has me scratching my head, and I'm hoping that somebody out there — maybe not a regular reader but someone Google searching for someone in their family tree perhaps — will be able to shed some light.

Bert Barton is briefly mentioned in Rob Hansen's Then, the history of British science fiction fandom, where Rob says "Apart from London and Belfast one of the few cities known to have an active fan group at this point was Birmingham. The Birmingham Science Fiction Club was apparently formed in 1949 by Bert Barton and held weekly meetings in a pub somewhere in the Digbeth area of the city, at which between six and twenty members would be present. The group never produced any fanzines, so far as is known, and so there's little we can tell about them but it is known that the group was written up in the Evening Despatch, a local newspaper, and that the really keen members would occasionally organise a trip to London in order to attend the White Horse and get the chance to speak to famous authors.This appears to have been the limit of their contact with fandom nationally." (p.91)

Well, the reference to an appearance in a local Birmingham newspaper turns out to be a report in the Wednesday, October 8, 1952 issue headlined "He starts space society" under a photograph of the mysterious Bert Barton. reading a copy of the February 1950 Amazing Stories.

From the couple of clues in the brief report, it seems likely that Bert was born Herbert Charles Barton, born on November 6, 1919, the son of Charles H. and his wife Flora Alvina Barton (nee Dougherty, 1893-), who were married in Birmingham in 1915. He seems to have been an only child, as his father died young, aged only 37 in 1924.

Barton was still living with his widowed mother in Birmingham just before the war when he was working as an aircraft subcontractor's material control and buying clerk.

Barton married Marjorie Phyllis Allcock in 1942 and had two children, Patricia M. (1942) and Robert K. (1947). In the 1940s, Barton was living at 75 Regent Road, Handsworth. He died in December 1991, aged 72.

What makes Bert Barton of particular interest is the report that he "writes modern space-fiction under various pen-names."

Which begs the question... what did he write and where was it published? The majority of published SF from that period in the pages of New Worlds and Authentic SF and the like are known. Nothing appeared under Barton's own name, and the source of most pseudonyms at that time was the cheap end of the paperback market. Could Barton have been behind still unidentified pen-names in the John Spencer SF magazines, or the author behind Vector Magroon or some such other still to be identified pseudonym.

I'll have to classify this as "a mystery that has me mystified". (There's a phrase that long-time readers will recognise!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Rebellion Releases — 27 July 2022

News arrived last Thursday (21st July) of the death of Alan Grant, one of the main architects of 2000AD. He followed the route of many, working for DC Thomson before leaving for London, eventually being invited by Kelvin Gosnell to join the staff of 2000AD. As AALN-1, he notably encouraged the introduction of new talents, including Alan Moore. He was on staff for less than two years, leaving in 1980.

Having already penned the epic 'Black Hawk' (1979-80), he began collaborating with John Wagner, their first co-written stories including 'The Judge Child', 'Block War', and the introductions of Otto Sump and The Fink. They went on to co-write 'The Apocalypse War', 'A Question of Judgement', 'The Midnight Surfer', 'Oz' and dozens of other classics, before continuing to write solo from 1988.

Wagner/Grant creations included Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking Co., Doomlord, Sam Slade – Robo-Hunter, Invasion 1984!, Anderson Psi Division, The Thirteenth Floor, and often filling half the pages of 2000AD and Eagle with their stories under a multitude of pseudonyms.

They broke into American comics with Outcasts (1987-88) and took over the writing of Batman for a notable run with artist Norm Breyfogle. This led to work on characters as wide ranging as L.E.G.I.O.N., The Demon, RoboCop (based on the movie) and Lobo.

When I moved to Colchester in 1992, it was a hub of comic creativity, with Alan and his wife, Sue, living at The Church House, in nearby Frating (a couple of miles from where I'm now sitting), John Wagner in Bury St Edmonds and Pat Mills living in the same road as I did. Knowing Alan was nearby made him an obvious choice for an interview subject in the very first issue of Comic Collector.

Alan's career encompassed comics, novels, animation, publishing (Wasted, Berserker Comics, Rok of the Reds), convention organization (Moniave Comic Festival) and charity work (including Moniave Fights Back, published to raise money for those hit hard by Covid). You'll find tributes to his work at the 2000AD Website and at Down the Tubes. Here I'll just say that there's an awful lot of his work that I loved, not just in 2000AD, but in Eagle ('The House of Daemon') and independently (my favourite being The Bogie Man).

I'll leave you with two things. Firstly, the thoughts of his long-time collaborator, John Wagner, who said on Facebook, "Alan was a dear friend, a valued collaborator and a man I respected immensely. He was a far better supporter of comics and comic creators than I and always seemed to have time to help people that needed encouragement. In our own work together when my creative juices were flagging he added a new dimension to stories like Dredd and Strontium Dog and by his contributions made them so much better. His time on Batman with Norm Breyfogle will remain forever one of the highlights of the title and character. He was my co-conspirator on many stories that I hold dearest, especially The Bogie Man and more recently Rok of the Reds. He will be sorely missed by all who love comics and indeed, all who love the good guys of this world."

And, lastly, fans gave Grant a one minute standing ovation at this weekend's San Diego Comic Con International.

Here's an interview I did with Alan for Comic World back in 1993. There was a slight glitch on the first column of the second page, but it's readable. (The reference to humping desks was because we moved office the day before I did these interviews and we were literally carrying our desks up the road from East Hill to Castle House.)


2000AD Prog 2292
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: Special Relationship by Rob Williams (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Skip Tracer: Valhalla by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon  Bowland (l)
Dexter - Bulletopia: Malice In Plunderland by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Mercury Retrograde by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Jaegir: Ferox by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)

Friday, July 22, 2022

Comic Cuts — 22 July 2022

Most of the readers of this blog are British, so, of course, we have to talk about the weather.

To understand the weather around here, you need to know a couple of things. Colchester is built on a hill. When the Romans came to Britain and built a capital city, Camulodunum, they built it on the hill, which was already the power centre of local ruler Cunobelin over 2,000 years ago. (A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that the gravel hill on which the town is built dates back to the Middle Pleistocene period, and ancient handtools and weapons have been found that have lain there since the Palaeolithic era.) The town is built around the River Colne, which flows out into the North Sea just down the road from where we live. The river in photos I've posted here over the years is the Colne.

This is a rather roundabout way of introducing our weather. The city (yes, Colchester is a city now) is one of the driest places in the UK, with around 25 inches of rainfall a year. I've always believed that some weather fronts skirt Colchester, maybe because it's on a hill, based on  the definitive scientific evidence of my Mum mentioning it is raining in Chelmsford and it not raining here in Colchester 20 minutes later. I now think this must be wrong, as Chelmsford's annual rainfall averages 1 34 inches less than Colchester; my new theory is that Colchester is getting more rainfall because its climate is affected by Continental weather patterns and its proximity to the North Sea.

What all this means is that we didn't suffer the worst of the recent heatwave, although I do believe we hit a new record temperature. Colchester's previous high was 36.1°C (97°F) back in the summer of 2003.

With weather reports warning us that things were going to get hot, hot, HOT! after the weekend, Mel chose to work from home for a couple of days, so we reverted back to our old pandemic habit of taking a walk down to the river in the early morning. I had a relatively easy job to tackle — the second pass over the scans I had been cleaning up, which doesn't cause anywhere near the tension that was causing problems during the first pass. Thank Dog it didn't,  because the last thing I would have needed was a heat pad when the temperature hit 35°C.

With the doors and windows open throughout the house, curtains closed and plenty of water to drink, the office didn't feel too uncomfortable. The dry heat of the days gave way to a more humid night temperature that had only dropped to 33°C at 7 o'clock and was still in the high twenties when I tried to get to sleep.

Tuesday began at around 22°C and was ten degrees hotter at 10 o'clock that morning. The temperature peaked here at 37°C and hit 38°C in Colchester, smashing the record set almost two decades earlier. The peak in Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, was 40.3°C (104°F), which made it news in the USA, where presenters seemed shocked to learn that most houses don't have air-conditioning. We've never really needed it before, but we're going to in the future — the ten hottest years since measurements began (1884), have all happened since 2002. We do have a large fan that we sat on the floor in front of us so that it blew cooling air onto our bare legs as it swung back and forth. That and the ice creams we treated ourselves to did the trick.

The heat of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was still excessive... we had been promised thunderstorms, but all we got was a few low rumbles and no rain whatsoever. We still haven't had any. Come on rain! We have tomatoes that need you.

The next set of scans is now in the works. I completed the last book on Wednesday when I finished the introduction, and then spent the rest of the day copying files around on my computer and external hard drives in order to make some space for the next book, plus a Windows update that inconveniently arrived just at the wrong time. So I've switched from Spider to Steel Claw. It's cooler, nights  are far more comfortable, the weekend isn't far away... life's good!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Commando 5559-5562

Two debut writers take to the skies, as our classics keep us grounded in the next four action-packed editions of Commando! Issues 5559-5562 are in shops and online from today.

5559: Wild Weasel!

The skies above the Vietnamese Jungle are a terrifying place for American warplanes, as Captain Shannon ‘Vulcan’ Sovndal and Lieutenant Erik ‘Luger’ Colnick can testify. But as the Vietnamese surface-to-air missile sites take their toll and American casualties mount, Luger and Vulcan are out for revenge. Only a new team with their focus on taking down SAM sites can free the skies and the pair from the torment of lost friends and colleagues… and they’re Wild Weasels!

Alberto Saichann’s intense interiors feature in this debut story from Richard Estep, with a characteristically dramatic cover from Keith Burns.

Story | Richard Estep
Art| Alberto Saichann
Cover | Keith Burns

5560: Hitler’s Double

April 30th 1945 and the leader of the Third Reich — Adolf Hitler — has died in his concrete bunker… or has he? Commando Sergeant Joe Dawson certainly doesn’t think so, as he and his men kidnap the Nazi Fuhrer and begin to smuggle him across Poland! But when there seems to be a double in the mix, the chaos of the last days of WW2 mean anything could happen.

A fierce and action-packed story from Allan featuring some of Gordon C Livingstone’s best interiors, as well as a tense and painterly cover.

Story | Allan
Art | Gordon C. Livingstone
Cover | Gordon C. Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 457 (1970).

5561: Hurricane Henry

Henry Chance never wanted for anything growing up. Life was his plaything — and that attitude stayed with him as the Second World War broke out. As his antics in the air become renowned, the Hurricane pilot enjoyed every minute. That is, until he finds himself holed up with a widowed farmer and her children after being shot down. Perhaps war isn’t the game he thought it was, after all?

Frank Buhagiar debuts in this high-speed story, featuring crisp interiors from Jaume Forns and a classic-looking cover from Neil Roberts.

Story | Frank Buhagiar
Art | Jaume Forns
Cover | Neil Roberts

5562: Big Bob and Little Pete

When an ex-boxer and a failed comedian find themselves mixed up with a monastery, sinister activity leads the enigmatic Rocci to hunt them down in the name of revenge! But not all is as it seems, and the odd couple make a strangely dynamic duo, as they uncover the truth and rescue a precious treasure for Rocci and his monastic pals!

A lively tale of twists and turns from C G Walker, with energetic interiors from C T Rigby and a classic cover from Jeff Bevan.

Story | C. G. Walker
Art | C. T. Rigby
Cover | Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No. 1824 (1984)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Rebellion Releases — 20 July 2022

The new 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is out now! Marking 2000 AD‘s 45th birthday, this special has a musical theme as the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic continues to celebrate 45 Revolutions Per Minute with Comic Rock!

Available from comic book stores, newsagents, branches of WHSmiths Travel (and from WHSmiths high street branches from today) and digitally from 2000 AD webshop and app, this 48-page special features stories inspired by each writers’ favourite song – from Kate Bush to Neil Young, from The Beatles to Stealers Wheel!

Judge Dredd is targeted by a disillusioned fellow Judge in a new story by Mike Carroll & Stewart K. Moore, Paul Cornell and Emma Vieceli take Psi-Judge Anderson into the mind of a mysterious psychic perp, Dan Abnett’s hitmen Sinister Dexter encounter a gun with special properties.

Meanwhile, Kek-W & Steven Austin drop Judge Death in the middle of a block war, Karl Stock & Warren Pleece sink their teeth into the Fiends of the West Berlin, and David Baillie & VV Glass take on everyone’s lumpen mutant bounty hunter Middenface McNulty – plus more!

Also out this week...

2000AD Prog 2291
Cover: Cliff Robertson / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: Special Relationship by Rob Williams (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Mercury Retrograde by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Valhalla by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon  Bowland (l)
Dexter - Bulletopia: Malice In Plunderland by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Jaegir: Ferox by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #446
Cover: Jake Lynch.

Judge Dredd: Regicide by Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Death Cap by TC Eglington (w)
Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Tales from the Black Museum by Liam Johnson (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Ballots Over Badrock by Dan Abnett (w), Phil Windslade (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Bagged graphic novel: Hook Jaw by Alec Worley (w) Leigh Gallagher, Staz Johnson, Neil Roberts (a) Simon Bowland Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd: The Citadel by John Wagner, Don Cornwell, Colin MacNeil and John Higgins
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618568-6, 20 July 2022, 128pp, £16.99 / $24.00. Available via Amazon.

The Apocalypse War rages and Judge Dredd leads a squad of Cadet Judges into battle, launching an assault upon The Citadel, where Sov forces have set up base. But now, 40 years later, former Cadet Judge Winterton, on the day of his execution, will tell the truth about what happened during the Apocalypse War, why the mission was subsequently covered up, and the secret that Judge Dredd himself has been hiding for the past 40 years.

Roy of the Rovers: The £100 Million Game by Rob Williams & David Sque
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618397-9, 21 July 2022, 72pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.

The eighth book in the football-tastic Roy of the Rovers graphic novel series. Part of the third season, this exciting series is written by award-winning comics writer Rob Williams. It has been a tumultuous three seasons since Roy Race first joined Melchester Rovers. Through financial difficulties, injuries, the near-loss of their manager, new ownership and the destruction of their old ground, the Rovers have defied all expectations and now find themselves on the brink of promotion into the Premiership, having also secured a place in the cup final. As club captain and top striker, Roy has been instrumental in the Rover’s success. But although he’s found glory on the pitch, behind the scenes he has battled tragedy and heartbreak.
    Now, as the season draws to a close, will Roy be able to lead his team to victory?

Friday, July 15, 2022

Comic Cuts — 15 July 2022

I should have the artwork for the first book of my next batch of titles completed today, if all goes to plan. I have scans for the next two already in hand, although the longer job of cleaning up the artwork is still to be done, and all the books need introductions, so I still have quite a lot to do. I'm hoping to pull ahead to give me time to put together another sideline project — a second motorcycling volume from Bear Alley Books. This is another autobiography, similar to And the Wheels Went Round, the biography of TT racer John Chisnall (or Uncle John, as I call him), that I published back in 2019.

I've yet to confirm the job is actually on; I'm simply designing the book, although I'll also publish it through Bear Alley Books, and make it available via Amazon and the like. But I've nothing to do with the writing of it, and I've no idea how far along the author has got. It might be another year before anything happens... I just want to be ready when the text is finished, because the author is a friend of John's and I promised to do the work a couple of years ago.

To be honest, a small break from comics might be nice. Maybe it's the heat, but I struggled a little with this latest batch of artwork as it required hours of solid concentration. The tension was causing pains in my shoulders and neck. I was working with a heat pack draped around my shoulders to try and ease the pain — and this on the hottest days of the year so far. Having back ache didn't help from doing some gardening on Sunday, weeding and mowing and using muscles that don't often get a work out, as I'm not the keenest gardener in the world.

I don't mean to catalogue every ache and pain here. To be honest, I just have an incredibly dull life!

I'm going to dedicate the rest of this column to plugging a book. I'm not reviewing it because I am hugely biased towards anything drawn by David as we have been pals since meeting back in the 1980s and discovering a shared interest in knowing who did what in British comics. We've worked together on listing contents of comics and identifying creators for many years. But more than that, I have been a fan of his artwork for as long, maybe even longer. The first time I spotted his name was probably 1985, inking Mike Collins on Martin Lock's H.M.S. Conqueror, although he came to prominence in the pages of 2000AD with 'Purity's Story' in Progs 558-566 in early 1988. When I had a chance to edit a comic-centric magazine, David was one of the first people I involved, my interview with him appearing in the very first issue of Comic Collector.

I have always appreciated his talent for realism — learned from the best of British, American and Spanish artists — and his ability to draw women is second to none. This is the focus of Artwork: David A. Roach, published by Richmond Press, which David has been promoting at various convention appearances in the past few weeks. Available in both softback and hardback, its 96 pages are filled with illustrations, some published, some privately commissioned, all beautifully drawn. Judge Cassie Anderson of Psi Division and Vampirella feature heavily, but if you want to see what David could make of Venus Bluegenes or Halo Jones or Death or Zatanna, this is your chance to find out.

It's not all scantily-clad girls. It's only mostly scantily-clad girls. There's some Doctor Who and a superhero or two for a breather, and then it's back to some life class drawings.

You need this book. If you buy only one book this summer... well, make it one of mine, but if you buy two, buy Artwork: David A. Roach. You won't regret it. You can then play the "date the artwork by the signature" game, because David's signature — usually just a stylised 'R' — has evolved over the years. And if you can find David at a convention, you can get it signed in person.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Rebellion Releases — 13 July 2022

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, it’s the return of Andy Clarke with his third cover in the past few months for Tharg, this time with the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2290, out wherever you get your Thrill Power on 13 July.

ANDY CLARKE: Sinister Dexter was my first comics work, so getting the opportunity to come up with a cover for the series again was fantastic. I always had a lot of time for these two – Dex in particular – and even though we’re missing one-half of the partnership as things currently stand, it was nice to have Carrie there on this one.

Dan Abnett was always really great, really generous with support and encouragement. Not being burdened by an abundance of confidence, when he seemed to like what I was doing on the SinDex stories I worked on, it was a real boost.

For this one, Tharg had a very clear brief, so it was fairly straightforward to come up with a sketch that got the point across.

The tricky part was reffing the car and getting the guns to look right – I don’t find them all that easy to draw, and they don’t seem to get any easier the more I do them. I could’ve gone with one of Dex’s guns doing that recoil thing too – where it pulls back and you briefly see the inner barrel (or whatever it’s called) as it’s fired – but it wouldn’t have really added anything . . . and I didn’t have the patience to sit like a lemon trying to get it to look right.

You can read the complete interview and see more of Andy's roughs on the 2000AD website.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2290
Cover: Andy Clarke

Judge Dredd: Special Relationship by Rob Williams (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Skip Tracer: Valhalla by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon  Bowland (l)
Dexter - Bulletopia: Malice In Plunderland by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Mercury Retrograde by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Hawk the Slayer #4 (of 5) by Garth Ennis & Henry Flint
Cover: Greg Staples

The all-new comic-book sequel to the cult sword n' sorcery movie continues as Hawk and his companions battle the nightmarish horrors of the Forest of Weir.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Comic Cuts — 8 July 2022

So here we are: it's Thursday, around noon as I write, and the news is breaking that Boris is to resign. Politics doesn't have a place here and I have tried to keep Bear Alley free of it, but, by the Lord Harry, it's about time. The man is a disgrace and has treated the country like he does his mistresses. The only thing I consider to be worse is that, if he wasn't such a narcissist who will cling on to power as long as he can while the next PM is chosen, Dominic Raab would have been in charge.

After a couple of busy days of scanning, I now have the next three books of reprints scanned, although all the scans still need to be gone over with a fine toothcomb. I finished the third book on Wednesday around 4 o'clock, while BoJo was testifying before a committee, and I had that on in the background. But I ended up watching because, like most people, I can't stop watching car crash TV. It really looked like the greased piglet would be pinned down this time.

My other recent fascination has been the 6th January Commission that has been broadcasts on US TVs, but which I have been watching on YouTube. It has been utterly compulsive viewing with compelling testimony from people who were behind the scenes as the Capital was stormed in 2021. Like many, I watched it happening in real time, but it is only through the testimony of witnesses under oath and with the gathered video evidence that the full story is beginning to emerge.

No more politics. As I mentioned above, I have been able to get a good way into the next phase of the Spanish reprints that I have been working on. For various reasons I ended up scanning quite a lot of material during the last phase that will end up in the latest lot of books. That was why I was running behind schedule back in May. Hopefully that won't be the case this time, although it is still very easy to lose a day to general maintenance — copying files to storage, shifting scans around so I can keep track of what has been done and what hasn't, creating enough space on my hard drive to work, run batch programmes in Photoshop, etc. — even without political distractions.

Trying to pull ahead also means that I have some forewarning of any problems. For instance, I was working on The Spider yesterday and discovered that two issues I have borrowed (thanks, David!) have damaged covers. If you have Lion's from that era (1967/68), you'll know that The Spider begins on the reverse of the cover. I was also four issues missing, of which I was able to buy three on eBay. Also a replacement for one of the damaged copies. That leaves me with two holes to fill: so does anyone have the issues for 21 October 1967 (that's the issue in the column header on the left) and 2 December 1967 (below). I need high res. scans of the first page of The Spider in the former issue, and the whole strip (5 pages) from the latter. If you have those issues and a scanner, drop me a line (my e-mail address can be found below the photo, top left) and I'll talk you through what I need.

And while I'm here... does anyone out there collect Girl? The 1980s photo story version rather than the Hulton Press title from the 1950s. I'm trying to track down some issues especially, at the moment, issue 310 and any holiday specials that might contain Patty's World. (I'll put up a note about these missing issues on Facebook and Twitter, so I apologise if you get swamped with the same begging letters.)

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Commando 5555-5558

Commando issues 5555-5558 are in shops and online from Thursday 7th July, 2022! Featuring stories set in Vietnam war, War in the East, and two deadly D-Day comics!

5555: Dead Men’s Boots

When Lieutenant Chuck Kinley arrives in Vietnam, things get off to a poor start. With rumours of his predecessors being fragged by their own men and NCOs playing by their own rules, it’s a tough battle for survival when you’re standing in Dead Man's Boots!

A gritty Vietnam yarn from JP Bridson is brought to life with equally gritty-looking interiors by Klacik, all topped off with Neil Roberts covers with the unusual focal point on the Vietcong, making for a belter of a  Commando comic!  

Story | JP Bridson
Art| Klacik
Cover | Neil Roberts

5556: Black Zero

Out of the sun it came, a jet black Zero with a large golden dragon on its side. And at the controls sat Captain Jirai Saito, a top ace who’d become king of the Pacific skies. He and his squadron had made their name by shooting down clumsy P-40 fighters, but the time for a showdown was at hand. On their way from Europe was a squadron of sleek Spitfires that had left the Luftwaffe in tatters. The stage was set for the greatest air battles the Eastern skies had ever known!

One of the most requested Commandos to be reprinted – is finally being reprinted! This hotly anticipated classic features not only a rip-roaring story by Newark but also artwork from two legendary Commando artists, Jose Maria Jorge and Ian Kennedy!

Story | Newark
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 456 (1970)

5557: Renegade Raiders

As D-Day approaches, Sergeant Joe Shatner and Second Lieutenant Rick Levitt head the demolition section of a US Airborne company —a rough, tough bunch of renegades with a flair for fighting and no respect for the rules. But Normandy is a long way from training and the comfort of an English pub! Faced with a chaotic landing, lost leaders and waves of German soldiers, can the team pull together and survive?

Ferg Handley strikes again with a group of rough-and-ready raiders who regularly flaunt the rules but get the job done! With art by Muller and Commando cover newcomer Mark Eastbrook, this isn’t an issue to be missed!

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Muller
Cover | Mark Eastbrook

5558: The Strongpoint

The target: three big guns in huge concrete bunkers surrounded by machine guns, barbed wire, and mines. They could cut the Allied invasion forces to shreds on the beaches unless they were spiked. The attackers: a bunch of raw soldiers barely out of school. Could the youngsters do it? You can bet they were going to try!
Seeing the light again after escaping the archives is this classic Commando from the 1980s! With amazing work from Motton, Blasco, and cover by Philpott.

Story | Motton
Art | Blasco
Cover | Philpott
Originally Commando No. 1807 (1984).


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