Friday, May 17, 2024

Comic Cuts — 17 May 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 15 May 2024

From the means streets to far space, writer Michael Carroll has his feet in different 2000 AD worlds with his current work – with one series returning after a long hiatus and another drawing to a close.

The new series of Dreadnoughts begins in Judge Dredd Megazine #468 this month. While the new Justice Department is still in its early years, many citizens – and more than a few cops – are unhappy as the Judges’ influence spreads wider, so Carroll talks about both the prescience of Judge Dredd and unreliable narrators…

And over in 2000 AD, the fifth series of Proteus Vex, ‘Devious’, is set to close the curtain on the super spy space opera, and Carroll discusses the influences on the series, world-building and preparing to stick the landing on the long-running series.

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

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2382
Cover: Nick Percival.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
New! INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #468
Cover: John Higgins.

JUDGE DREDD: BODY SHOTS by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, PI: NO SMOKE by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ARMITAGE: BULLETS FOR AN OLD MAN by Liam Johnson (w) Warren Pleece (a) Jim Campbell (l)
ROBOT ARCHIE'S TIME MACHINE by E. George Cowan (w) Ted Kearon (a)
HOOKJAW by Si Spurrier (w) Conor Boyle (a) Giulia Brusco (c) Rob Steen (l)
JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC by Paul Jenkins (w) Marco Castiello (a) Jason Millet (c) Shawn Lee (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: URBAN ROTATION by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
New! DREADNOUGHTS: NOTHING TO FEAR by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, May 10, 2024

Comic Cuts — 10 May 2024

The big news this week is that I've started on the layouts for my next book – a collection of strips by Jesus Blasco based on novels by Jeffery Farnol and H. Rider Haggard. I'm only two pages in, but I'm happy with it so far.

Most of the week was spent tidying up and shortening all the introductory material. There will be a general introduction plus sketches of Farnol, Haggard and Blasco. Some of these I've written about previously, but a couple are all new. The Farnol was the one that took a lot of research as there seems to be a lot of misinformation – niggling things like when he married, how old his wife was, when his daughter was born – all of which has to be checked and double-checked. I also deliberately wrote a longer essay than I needed to make sure I didn't miss anything important; it'll make the basis of a good 'Forgotten Authors' essay at some point, although I will need to write more about his novels rather than concentrate on his life story.

I'm thinking of spreading them throughout the book, between the three stories, rather than putting them all at the front or back; that said, I'm not entirely wedded to the idea. We'll see what happens as I put the book together.

To get to the design stage, I managed to wrap up a number of other little jobs that needed doing: some re-lettering on one of the strips, straightening and cleaning where necessary, and then cropping and resizing the artwork to leave the correct margin so that the artwork isn't accidentally trimmed off during printing. It all takes time.

So that was the big news. I'm struggling to think of any little news. We voted on Thursday and followed it up with Election Fish 'n' Chips – a custom we started 13 or 14 years ago when it came to vote for the first time after we moved. The Polling Station was half-way down the hill on the High Street, so we would continue the walk down the hill to the local fish 'n' chip shop. Unfortunately, Tollgate Fisheriees closed after an eventful history in June 2022. It was announced that it would become The Fish Hoose, and a company was set up by David Henley to run the business as a fish restaurant, but nothing came of the idea except a sign.

We don't walk past as often, but the sign came down, and you can now see that all the friers and counters have gone, so it's unlikely to ever reopen as a chippie.

We still have one – and an award-winning one at that, also run by David Henley – but it's further to walk... and we're lazy... so it takes a 13/14 year custom to get us to drag ourselves up the road. It's worth the effort, but we probably won't go again until the Election.

Back in 2014, the shop was almost the scene of a murder: a bailiff had tried to evict the man renting the shop, who was a debt to the owner of the shop. When the owner arrived, he was attacked with a large kabab knife and hospitalised with a serious injury where the knife had slashed his arm. The attacker was eventually jailed for grievous bodily harm with intent and assault.

All I'll say is that I'm glad we don't have news like that to cover every week.

The header is a rather interesting SF novel published by Penguin/Roc in 1992 with an introduction by Brian W. Aldiss. The Death Guard originally appeared in 1939 and offered a terrifying glimpse at a future war, with added plant-based humanoids. Recommended by the likes of Karl Edward Wagner and Ramsey Campbell, how could I resist it when I spotted a copy in a charity shop for £1.50. Dog knows when I'll get around to reading it, but I'm happy to have it on my shelves.

The other pics are some of my other recent finds. The Power was the basis for an Amazon Prime TV show in which girls suddenly get the power to electrocute people; the novel tells of a developing matriarchal society but I've yet to see the TV series.

Deluge is an interesting one. Richard Doyle used exactly the same premise in his later novel Flood: London is flooded due to a storm surge in the North Sea... and this was published in 1976, making it an early example of "climate fiction", this one in the guise of a disaster thriller.

Purgatory Mount is described on the back cover as a combination of "wry space opera and a fast-paced thriller". "I like space opera," I thought, "and I like fast-paced thrillers." How could I resist? (I couldn't... that's why the book is now on a shelf here in the house.)

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Commando 5747-5750

issues 5747-5750 are on sale from today, Thursday 9th May, 2024! With World War I aircraft action, RAF mavericks, MPs herding criminals in World War Two, and a foray into the Napoleonic War!

5747: The Deadly Sun

Ever since Martin Connors was a boy, he had admired the sun. Now, in 1918, as its burning rays shone down on him flying high over the desert in his Sopwith Camel, his admiration turned to hatred. For the deadly sun blinded him, and out of its light, coming directly at Martin, was a German plane flown by an ace who had already killed three other British pilots!
    Dominic Teague’s scorching-hot Commando story is about racing against the sun — and the odds to survive in the desert! Esteve Polls’ artwork beams even in black and white, and Keith Burns’ artwork shines!

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Esteve Polls
Cover: Keith Burns

5748: Dawn Strike

What do you do when you want a Spitfire as badly as Pilot Officer Tim Mitcham?
    A short and sweet blurb to a red-hot classic commando issue from the end of the 1960s! With Clegg on story, Amador on interiors and Sanfeliz on cover — there nothing more to say!

Story: Clegg
Art: Amador
Cover: Sanfeliz
First Published 1969 as Issue 433

5749: Treachery and Treasure

Wellington’s Riflemen are back in another adventure, this time in September 1813, in the Spanish Pyrenees. After their courage at the Siege of Badajoz, the newly-dubbed “Valiant Stormers” are sent on a mission to retrieve treasure stolen by the French! In their pursuit of the purloined fortunes, our heroes Tom Hopper, Samuel Jones and Maria Vitoria will have to work with an old enemy!
But they will have to watch their backs, for when you work with turncoats there is danger around every corner!
    Writer Andrew Knighton’s Napoleonic series returns in its fifth issue! With remarkable artwork from Manuel Benet on interiors and cover, you’ll TREASURE this issue!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

5750: The Fighting Fugitives

They were twelve convicted criminals destined for the glasshouse, with only one military police sergeant and a naval petty officer to look after them on the dangerous trek through enemy territory.
Some hoped they could make a break for it and escape their punishment, others realised it could be their chance to show that they were first-class fighting men. And one even hoped that it might in some way prove their innocence!
    Issue 5750 ‘The Fighting Fugitives’ features the unmistakable art from two legendary Commando artists, Philpott and Jeff Bevan — what an issue!

Story: Staff
Art: Philpott
Cover: Jeff Bevan
First Published 1982 as Issue 1581

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 8 May 2024

It’s truly going to be the summer of love – Rebellion is delighted to announce its forthcoming brand new romance comic, Roxy!Launching on Kickstarter on Monday 3 June with a host of exclusive rewards, merch, and surprises for backers, Roxy is guaranteed to leave you gasping for air! Available in digital, paperback or hardback editions, with covers from superstar artists Tula Lotay, Hannah Templer and Marguerite Sauvage, Roxy will feature four unexpected and dynamic stories of fun and flirty love and lust from some of the best storytellers in comics today:

Shipping for fans old and new worldwide. Whatever your level of spice, Roxy has something for you as it revives the spirit of classic British romance comics for the 21st century.

Originally launched in 1958, the original Roxy ran for 288 weekly issues which caught the imagination of young readers across Britain. Now, the title returns for an all-new anthology featuring four modern romance stories bound to inspire a whole new generation.To get onboard the Roxy revolution, sign up to our Pre-Campaign now! You'll be the first to get notified when the Kickstarter Campaign begins, and get hold of our exclusive Day One Backer Rewards - they'll get your heart racing!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2381
Cover: R. M. Guera.

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Essential Judge Anderson: Satan by Alan Grant (w) Arthur Ranson, Mick Austin (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786185-9, 8 May 2024, 144pp, £21.99. Available via Amazon.

Judge Cassandra Anderson of Psi Division is one of the greatest minds on the Judges' roster. As a precognitive telepath and empath, her quirks, such as her sense of humour, are tolerated by the otherwise oppressively strict Justice Department.
    In the second volume of her Essential line, Anderson grapples with matters of faith and damnation, as a chance at eternal life comes at the cost of losing her mind forever, while her pursuit of a just system leads her to investigate a religious cult, and ultimately to engage in a battle of the minds with the most formidable of foes: Satan himself!

Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 44 by John Wagner, Gordon Rennie, Rob Williams, Ian Edginton, Robbie Morrison (w) Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson, Colin MacNeil, Mike McMahon, Jock, Henry Flint, Rufus Dayglo, Vince Locke, PJ Holden, Patrick Goddard, Boo Cook, Richard Elson, Paul Marshall, Cliff Robinson, Len O'Grady, D'Israeli, Lee Garbett, Anthony Williams, Peter Doherty (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786167-5, 8 May 2024, 304pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

The best-selling series collecting The Law in order continues. This action-packed volume contains the finale of the epic Origins saga, which sets Dredd on a new quest for justice as he begins to question Mega-City One’s treatment of the mutant population and the laws that keep them down. But what happens when the man upholding the law no longer believes in it?

Sunday, May 05, 2024

  • 17 May. The Will Eisner Awards nominees have been announced with quite a few British contributors recognised. Best Comics-Related Book is dominated by Brits: Bryan Talbot: Father of the British Graphic Novel by J. D. Harlock & Bryan Talbot, Confabulation: An Anecdotal Autobiography by Dave Gibbons, I Am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future by Michael Molchar and Thalamus: The Art by David McKean by Dave McKean – four out of six entries. Liam Sharp is in the running in the Best Painter/Multimedia artist (Interior Art) category, while The Ballad of Halo Jones Full Colour Omnibus by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson is up for Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books.
  • 16 May. The Guardian reviews Kathryn Hughes' Catland, which weaves in the life of Louis Wain, the Victorian artist, to a study of our attitudes to cats. "For much of human history, cats were nameless creatures who lived on scraps, caught mice and unsightly diseases, yowled in streets, were familiars of witches and had fireworks stuffed up their bums by cruel children. Now, flesh-and-blood cats are beloved family pets..."
  • 12 May. Researcher Leo de Sa notes that the Sunday Express has finally finished serialising 'Casino Royale', having begun this James Bond reprint back on 26 September 2021. The 138 strips originally appeared in the Daily Mail and has taken over 2 1/2 years, one strip at a time, to run in its Sunday counterpart.
  • 7 May. There have been a couple—here and here—of articles lately asking why nobody seems to be excited by the arrival, thirty years late, of the conclusion to the Miracleman story 'The Silver Age' by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham and the announcement of a new upcoming series, 'The Dark Age'.
  • 7 May. The Beano is launching its first ever comic strip supporting visually impaired children featuring a guide dog named Chance in a special edition to be published tomorrow (Wednesday, 8th May). 'A Buddy for Life' was created in partnership with the Guide Dog charity to highlight the role guide dogs can play in people's lives. The article quotes Beano Studios' Editorial Director, Craig Grham (sic), presumably pronounced "Grrrr"ham.
  • 5 May. The touring Raymond Briggs exhibition has reached the end of its journey and will now rest for five months at Ditchling Museum, two miles from Briggs's home in East Sussex. Because of its proximity, the estate has allowed some personal items to be shown that haven't appeared elsewhere. Roughly a third of the exhibits are new for Ditchling. You can see a little of the exhibition in this ITV news report.
  • 14 Apr. Mark Millar has said that he intends writing Superman stories that he will then publish when Superman enters the public domain in 2033. As Rich Johnson points out, Millar is well known for headline-grabbing announcements and this might just be one more. "In a decade, DC Comics will lose the copyright on those first issues of Action Comics which established so much about the character. So yes, Mark Millar could absolutely publish Superman comics, though it would have to be under a different name, as DC/Warner Bros still owns the trademark."
  • 7 Apr. The BBC celebrates the work of Bryan Talbot. "Making up the story is the fun bit, the best bit really," Bryan says, adding: "Drawing it is the hard part."
  • 5 Apr. Steve Bell discusses getting fired from The Guardian in epsiode 41 of Caglecast with Daryl Cagle. "We get the whole story from Steve, at a time when more cartoonists who are critical of Israel or Netanyahu are being accused of drawing anti-Semitic cartoons. We also have two of Israel's top editorial cartoonists to discuss Steve's cartoon." (video, 20m)

Friday, May 03, 2024

Comic Cuts — 3 May 2024

Look behind you!
First up, no blathering on about the garden this week. We've had too much rain, so I have only been tinkering around the edges of the patio and stripped some ivy that was growing over the back garden gate, which we have never used as it simply leads into the estate beyond out fence which hasn't anything useful like a second-hand bookshop or a chippie.

So how have I been keeping myself busy? Well, I've somehow managed to sign myself up to write a bunch of introductions, so I thought I'd get some of the preparatory work out of the way. I already had quite a few notes for a piece on Jeffery Farnol, plus a full-length biography to read; I split my time between that and a shorter piece on a comic strip which I see has now been announced. It's 'Slave of the Screamer' by Tom Tully with artwork by Jesus Blasco, which just happens to have been a favourite of mine when I was reading Valiant at the tender age of eight. I was still eight when it finished, and I only kept reading because Janus Stark and Simon Test joined, thanks to a merger with Smash!.

Anyway, I'll leave any other reminiscences to the introduction, which is now done. So is the first draft of the Jeffery Farnol, although the idea is to cut it back and run it alongside a biographical piece about H. Rider Haggard at the back of the upcoming Blasco collection. I'll probably write an introduction to the book, too, as I like to offer plenty of value for money in my collections (I think the Frontline UK book had four articles: an introduction and biographical sketches of Bill Corderoy, Ian Kennedy and Clemente Rezzonico, the writer and artists).

The other introduction is to a German Don Lawrence collection, although I've only started jotting down notes at the moment. I did spot a historical blunder in the opening panel, and our column header, which made me grin, so I thought I'd share it, so I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the strip.

Another thing that made me grin... we have a lot of roadworks going on at the moment, so there are loads of road signs popping up everywhere. I liked this one because, in order, they tell you the diversion has ended, then they divert traffic to the left, and finally, reveal that the road ahead is closed, and wants to send traffic to the right.

Like many, we have our local election today (I'm writing  this Thursday afternoon so we can get out this evening to vote and get our traditional Election Fish 'n' Chips) and I do have one question. We're expected to vote for a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) for the Essex area, and the four choices each have a named political affiliation. Surely a person who oversees the fire and police services MUST be independent of any politics to have a fair and unbiased view of the services? I don't want someone in charge whose politics may sway any decision they make.

I seem to have had a bit of a political week, having brought up a long-standing annoyance to one of our local councilors the other day. The drain just down the road has collapsed and doesn't drain away any water. So when it rains, we end up with a lake across the the road that blocks off the pathway, fills our opposite neighbour's driveway, and – after heavy rain – washes across the road and down our driveway whenever a car drives through it.

There are also other dangers: I mentioned above the estate at the back of us.... well, it's full of kids trying to get to school every morning and they either cross and re-cross the road or walk down the road to avoid getting their shoes soaked. And in full flood, drivers cannot see there are double yellow lines on the blind corner and they will park.

I've mentioned this previously to council members but nothing has been done. So this time I went public and posted photos on a local Facebook group asking specifically who needed to be contacted to get something done. Within 24 hours, we had not only had a response from our councilor, but he had contacted the relevant section of Essex County Council and reported the problem to Essex Highways and we now have a case number so we can follow any progress.

I'm not expecting anything to happen soon as there are so many traffic diversions around at the moment, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on things.

That's enough politics. I'm off to read a comic strip!

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 1 May 2024


It's the summer of true nuclear fusion as 2000 AD mashes and smashes its most popular strips together in the return of its pulsating Sci-Fi Special!
Exploding into shelves on 3 July in a 48-page supernova, the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special will feature an all-thriller AND killer line-up of creators including Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett, Ben Willsher, Nicolò Assirelli... and the return to 2000 AD of the mighty Al Ewing!
This all-new Sci-Fi Special comes beamed from an alternate dimension – one in which familiar characters from the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic have been given a different twist. The Thrill-powered characters you thought you knew have been amalgamated into one other in strange and unpredictable ways, creating an all new version of the Galaxy's Greatest!
In this sideways universe there is only one person who has the strength to enforce the law in Mega-City One... and he's a high-powered mutant! With eyes which can emit piercing Alpha waves, JUDGE ALPHA makes sure that nobody messes with the Justice Department!
When robots go rogue and start causing chaos in the neighbourhood, who're you gonna call? Sinister and Dexter, of course, the ROBO-SHARKS! Hired to track down and terminate troublesome droids, this pair of robo... hunters? never miss their targets!
The Search/Destroy Agency have a number of highly-trained bounty hunters on their intergalactic roster: but none were as skilled as Friday! Framed for a crime he didn't commit, this ROGUE/DOG is now being hunted by his fellow bounty hunters!
Ahoy! When you're out on the wild seas of the world, flag flying in the wind and your team of scurvy dogs on deck, no bounty goes unclaimed! But the Red Wench's captain is a rather strange chap: who is STICKLEBACK?
And if you're a fan of high-octane thrill-sports, there's only one place to enjoy extreme and enervating combat! The most violent sport of the future features undead, flesh-eating teams... welcome THE HARLEM ZOMBOS to 2000 AD!
Priced at £4.99 for 48 pages of interstellar action, the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2024 is out on 3 July from all good newsagents and comic book stores, as well as the 2000 AD app and webshop!

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2380
Cover: John McCrea

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, April 26, 2024

Comic Cuts — 26 April 2024

I have been slacking on the Bear Alley Books front for a few weeks following the release of BEYOND THE VOID: THE REMARKABLE HISTORY OF BADGER BOOKS, which is selling reasonably well. It's the eternal frustration of all small publishers that they can never get reviewed in any major media: I've sent books to newspapers and magazines in the past and its like throwing books into a black hole.

Privately and in person—at the recent Paperback & Pulp Book Fair, for instance—I hear from people who enjoy my books; I even get repeat customers. But that doesn't translate into reviews. No wonder a lot of self-published authors can be tempted into paying dodgy operations to post positive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and elsewhere.

Bear Alley Books doesn't earn me a living. If I could get more books out I might get closer to it being a full-time job, but I also have to pay the rent. And that means taking on other jobs (a recent short run of writing for The Guardian, for instance), which pushes back book projects that I'd be happy to be working on. For a change of pace, I managed to write something for what will hopefully be the follow-up to the above mentioned Badger book; but now I'm back to work.

At the Book Fair I had a chat with someone about doing a new comic strip reprint and I'm pleased to say that it is now in the works—a collection of three historical strips by Jesus Blasco from the pages of Look and Learn. I have been wanting to reprint two of them for donkey's years, but had to wait until the original books they were based came out of copyright. That happened on January 1st last year, so I'm already a year late getting this together. (See my comment above about Bear Alley Books not earning me a living!)

It will take me a couple of weeks to put the whole thing together. I need to re-letter some of the artwork and there are introductions to be written, but it's in active production—I did a whole lot of scanning this week and reminded myself how tedious it is cleaning up artwork, however much you love the artist.

I've also committed myself to writing the introduction to another comic strip reprint. Not sure I should say what it is as I don't think it has been announced yet. But it's amazing!

The rest of my life is pretty dull by comparison. The brighter weather (I won't say warmer, 'cos it hasn't been) has meant I've had a chance to attack the garden; I'm on phase two of my efforts to re-seed areas of the lawn that were left to their own devices by a previous tenant and which, frankly, I didn't do anything about for some years when maybe I should. We try to be bee-friendly, so leaving weeds to grow at the far end of the back garden we thought was a positive thing. Unfortunately, it allowed a plant called green alkanet to run riot. Yes, the bees love it's tiny blue flowers, but it has these large spreading leaves that mean nothing else survives where it has taken root.

I started uprooting this menace last year and put grass seed down in a number of areas, and I'm pleased to say that it has worked, to a degree. Back of a fag-packet maths tells me I've reclaimed about twelve square feet of lawn, so this year I'm starting earlier (although delayed by the constant rain we've been having), and taking on the bottom end of the garden, which is stonier ground surrounding a pond, partly covered in ivy. The plan is to dig out the alkanet, clear a lot of the stones, strip away the ivy and put down a mix of grass seeds and wild flowers.

Let's hope that the garden doesn't suffer the same fate as one or two of my Bear Alley Books' projects, which are years late. I don't want to be discussing alkanet in the year 2030. Back to my re-lettering!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Commando 5743-5746

Tanks, Mosquitos, Legionnaires and a grenade-wielding British Officer, all in Commando issues 5743-5746! On sale from today, Thursday 25th April, 2024.

5743: Frank the Tank

The M4 Sherman Firefly named Frank was a beast of a machine. Tough, stubborn, and a heck of a thing to drive. Corporal Ken Roberts, Frank’s driver, soon found out that if you upset Frank he would go nowhere and you would end up a sitting duck for the Germans!
    But there was a secret inside Frank, one that would save the lives of his entire crew — if you showed him some respect!
    The first of Brent Towns issues this Commando set, and it’s a super-supernatural issue featuring a ghost in the tank machine! With artwork by veteran Jaume Forns and newcomer Marco Bianchini.

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Marco Bianchini

5744: Valley of Flame

Sergeant Bull Moore, a tough veteran who’d been in more tight corners than he could remember, had never met an officer like Lieutenant Stephen Wylie before. Stephen wore glasses, was timid as a mouse, and wasn’t even sure how to fire his own revolver! He’d even been known to chuck grenades at Nazis without taking the pin out! Bull could never have imagined a guy like that would save a whole battalion from total disaster!
    Gentry weaves together all the elements that make up a fantastic classic Commando in issue #5744 ‘Valley of Flame’: a hapless officer turned hero with a capable sergeant by his side! With art by Franch and Penalva, what more could you want?

Story: Gentry
Art: Franch
Cover: Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 548

5745: Recon Hoodoo!

Pilot Officer Bob Carter had a hoodoo on him — that’s what everyone said. Any navigator that climbed into the unarmed De Havilland Mosquito reconnaissance plane with that jinxed pilot was marked for death! First, it had been Flight Sergeant Jim Morris, then Riley Nash, and by Mike Croft, it was confirmed. Bob had a hoodoo — one that was deadly for anyone who flew with him!
    What’s more classic in a Commando than a hoodoo on the main character? Well, that’s exactly what Brent Town evokes in his story about the jinxed Aussie pilot of an unarmed recon plane during World War Two. With moody interiors by Alberto Saichann, with a lush cover by Neil Roberts.
Story: Brent Towns
Art: Alberto Saichann
Cover: Neil Roberts

5746: Legion Vendetta

A first-class soldier in the French Foreign Legion and a crack pilot in the RAF – Jeff Daly had been both during his exciting, hectic life. He’d been to many places and met many people, but the one man he would never forget was his brutal Legion sergeant. If their paths crossed ever again, one of them would die!
    Issue 5746 features everything that makes a really good Commando — an Ian Kennedy cover, Gordon C Livingstone interior artwork, and a tale of revenge written by Gentry!

Story: Gentry
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy
First Published 1981 as Issue 1573

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 24 April 2024

Constanza’s Vampiric War Continues! Pre-Order Fiends of the Eastern Front Vol 2 Today!

The second omnibus in the Fiends of the Eastern Front series, collecting Ian Edginton and Tiernen Trevallion’s thrilling horror tales into a new, definitive edition!

Fiends of the Eastern Front is one of the bloodthirsty crowns in 2000 AD history, a vampiric epic which spans multiple eras and travels across bloody battlefields as it follows the enigmatic Captain Constanza: vampire, leader, and warrior! Created by Gerry Finley-Day and Carlos Ezquerra, the acclaimed series continues on into a second volume which brings the Fiends into the modern era of The Galaxy’s Greatest!

In 1970, Lieutenant Tim Wilson is haunted by the memories of war – not just the bloodshed of the battlefield, but the horrors witnessed at the hand of Captain Constanta, who rescued him after a gruesome encounter with the King-Bats of Maximilian Von Klorr – the Black Max himself!

Years later, Lt. Wilson sets on a journey to hunt down Constanta in his native Romania, and uncovers his origins among beasts and creatures of magic. Who is Constanza really, and what is the long game he’s playing?

Collecting the work of Ian Edginton and Tiernen Trevallion, the second omnibus of Fiends of the Eastern Front follows Constanta’s bloody trail across history, and brings monstrous terror from the skies of wartime France to the streets of 1960s London. Pre-order either the Standard Edition or Webshop-Exclusive cover from superstar artist DaNi today!

2000AD Prog 2379
Cover: INJ Culbard

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Lowborn High by David Barnett (w), Anna Morozova, Mike Walters (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786109-5, 24 April 2024, 112pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.

For as long as anyone can remember, Wychdusk Manor has been the school to which all the top magical novices are sent, where they are trained to become the world’s greatest wizards. Androgeus Frost, part of one of the wizarding worlds’ most esteemed families, always thought it was a sure thing he’d get in, but somehow finds himself dumped at Lowborn High.
    A struggling inner-city comprehensive school for those with mediocre magical talent, Androgeus finds himself with all the other duds, drop-outs, and those who don’t have the upper-class wizarding family background. Making friends with Maisy, Ali and Dril, soon the group of friends find there are mysteries to solve and the pupils of Lowborn High can still be capable of some truly amazing feats!

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Eagle Times v37 no1 (Spring 2024)

Another year, another volume of Eagle Times, the remarkable magazine dedicated to the original Eagle.  Remarkable because the original lasted 19 years (1950-69) and ET is heading towards double that in 2025 but still has new things to say about the paper that inspired its launch back in 1988.

Truth be told, much of this issue is only related to Eagle glancingly, although there are enough features that tie directly to the classic comic for hardcore fans who want their Fifties fix. Things kick off with a look at the copyright battles of Captain Marvel and how this affected the British reprints by Len Miller – famously the origin of our own Marvelman, who became entangled with his own lengthy series of legal battles forty years later that dragged on for another 25 years.

David Britton covers another American comic named Eagle (having covered one last issue), this one featuring a character named Richard Eagle whose adventures Britton found difficult to follow. Hopefully he took solace in writing about Lily Renée, an artist I coincidentally discovered two days before Eagle Times dropped through my letterbox. She had a fascinating story: born in Vienna to a privileged Jewish family, who escaped the Nazis via the Kindertransport that brought her to England in 1939., working as a nursing assistant during the Blitz.

Her parents had escaped to America and Lily joined them in New York. She found work with an advertising agency and then in comics, at Fiction House, where she drew for Wings Comics, Rangers Comics, Planet Comics, Fight Comics and others, and later for St Johns Publications. Later she wrote children's books and plays and lived to 101, dying on 22 August 2022.

I learned of Lily while writing about Trina Robbins, who wrote a graphic novel biography of her exploits in 2011.

Lily is the second artist associated with American comics covered this issue, following part 2 of Adam Goodman's look at Milton Caniff. This episode covers the end of his time on 'Terry and the Pirates' and his creation of 'Steve Canyon'.

Other features that glance on Eagle include Eric Fernie's thoughts on thinking in comics and an obituary for Margaret Walker, Frank Hampson's youger sister, who attended various Eagle-related events.

Definitely centred on Eagle are articles by Jim Duckett on the 1960s strip 'Knights of the Road', Alan J. Palmer's discussing his favourite Dan Dare story, and a P.C.49 tale by Steve Winders.

The year is off to a good start.

The quarterly Eagle Times is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £30 in the UK, £45 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Mayfield Lodge, Llanbadoc, Usk, Monmouthshire NP15 1SY; subs can also be submitted via PayPal to Back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Comic Cuts – 19 April 2024

I have been keeping busy with a third commission from The Guardian, this one on the late Trina Robbins, which took me four days to complete: Sunday gathering information, Monday listening to some audio interviews and making notes, Tuesday reading her autobiography and various interviews. During this period of information gathering, I was also writing notes that I eventually pulled together into something I hoped was coherent.

On Tuesday night I had a draft that was 1,900 words. The commission  was for 900 or so, which meant Wednesday was spent slashing, rewriting and rewording until I had something I could submit.

Thursday was definitely more relaxing: I read Eagle Times (a review will appear on Saturday), got started on a little essay about Joan the Wad (the lucky Cornish Piskey) and... well, if you're reading this, I must have written it.

It hasn't been a mad rush all week: we managed to get a little gardening done on Sunday morning and I've started on a new book (The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award a few years ago; and was the first in a 4-book series that won a Hugo in 2019. Mel has already read them and recommended them and what I've read so far has been enjoyable. I'm still being introduced to the mixed-species crew of the Waylander, which made me think not of Star Trek as most people would, but of Eric Frank Russell's Jay Score stories, with its human / Martian crew.

It's a very popular series and, digging around, I discovered that it has its own Wayfarers Wiki website. That's where the cartoon of the crew is from, drawn by Elsa Varland; there are plenty of other images of aliens, of the Wayfarer ship... I'm a little wary of exploring too far, just in case the site begins to infect how I see the characters, but it's certainly something I'll explore once I've read the book(s).

We watched 3 Body Problem, which ended too quickly and there will now be a long wait until the next tiny batch of episodes. Apple have done one series right: Slow Horses has had seasons filmed one after the other in pairs, so release dates have been relatively close together: three seasons broadcast in two years, season four already filmed and the fifth already commissioned.

I appreciate it would be impossible to do this with all shows, but I do find the waits between seasons frustrating, especially as I have a lousy memory for faces and plots. Great for rewatching Poirot and other detective shows, but not so for Foundation where it was twenty months between seasons. (And as I like to save up a show until we have all the episodes, it was another three months waiting for the finale before we got started.) I think our longest wait was for the second season of Carnival Row, which we watched 43 months after season 1.

Of course, my other frustration is shows that end without a proper ending... so good news that Snowpiercer season 4, its last, which was filmed and ready for broadcast by TNT, has been picked up by another channel and will be available from early next year. Now I can watch season 3, which I have been sitting on for a year or two, safe in the knowledge that at some point I'll have the opportunity to try and figure out how to watch season 4 as it's gone to AMC, which was on Sky until 2019 when it became a BT TV exclusive before disappearing from there last year. Didn't bother me at the time (I'm not a Walking Dead fan), but now...

Now I need a lucky Cornish piskey...

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rebellion Releases – 17 April 2024

The latest episode of the 2000AD Thrill-Cast is not for the nervous! At least that’s what Ghastly McNasty, the editor of Scream! might claim! With a brand new hardcover collection publishing all the stories from the 1980s horror comic in order out in May, the Thrill-Cast talkes to its editor Ian Rimmer, sub-editor and writer Simon Furman, and SFX editor and Scream! reader Darren Scott about the history of the short-lived title and its enduring influence.

And if Hogwarts is the posh magical school, where do the comprehensive pupils go? We gain an education in conjuration with Lowborn High writer David Barnett and artist Mike Walters, talking about the all-ages series that’s getting its first collection.

You can find the 2000AD Thrill-Cast at your regular podcast provider and is also available on Soundcloud.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2378

Cover: Patrick Goddard / Dylan Teague (cols).

JUDGE DREDD // REND & TEAR WITH TOOTH & CLAW by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Julia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
AQUILA // THE RIVERS OF HADES by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
New! BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #467
Cover: John McCrea / Mike Spicer.

JUDGE DREDD: ESCALATION by Mike Carroll (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, PI: NO SMOKE by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
New! ARMITAGE: BULLETS FOR AN OLD MAN by Liam Johnson (w) Warren Pleece (a) Jim Campbell (l)
SCREAM: LIBRARY OF DEATH by Barrie Tomlinson (w) Cam Kennedy (a) Mike Peters (l)
HOOKJAW by Si Spurrier (w) Conor Boyle (a) Giulia Brusco (c) Rob Steen (l)
JUDGE DREDD: UNDER SIEGE by Mark Russell (w) Max Dunbar (a) Jose Luis Rio (c) Simon Bowland (l)
DEVLIN WAUGH: HOME AWAY FROM HOME by Aleš Kot (w) PJ Holden (a) Jack Davies (c) Simon Bowland (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: CALHAB COUNTRY by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)


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