Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 21 February 2024

The official 2000 AD podcast is back! We switched Molch-R on and off again, and it did the trick – the Thrill-Cast again takes you behind-the-scenes on the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics!

We launch the first episode of 2024 with a special chat for readers new or unfamiliar to 2000 AD – newly minted droid Steve Morris talks to comics critics Rachel Bellwoar and Zack Quaintance about the best ways to get into reading the legendary weekly.

Then we welcome Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt and Henry Flint, the creative powerhouse behind ‘A Better World’, the current Judge Dredd story running in 2000 AD which sees an experiment diverting resources from the Judges and into education and welfare threatens the very existence of Justice Department. How will the Judges react? We dive into the processes and ideas behind this groundbreaking story, and ask whether this is it for Judge Dredd!

The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast
is the award-winnng 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, iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. You can also listen now at or you can watch at

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2370
Cover: Clint Langley

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // CRACKED ACTORS by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Judge Dredd Megazine #564

Judge Dredd Megazine #465

Cover: Mike Dowling

JUDGE DREDD: RAVENOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Anthony Williams (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, PI: NO SMOKE by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
MEGA-CITY 2099: INSIDE MAN by Ken Niemand (w) Conor Boyle (a) Jim Campbell (l)
THE CRIMSON SEA by Fred Baker (w) Hugo Pratt (a)
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: NIGHTCLUBBING by Aleš Kot (w) Steven Austin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Simon Bowland (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: CALHAB COUNTRY by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

  • 21 Feb. Dave McKean is interviewed at The Comics Journal. "I don’t dream very much, certainly nothing I remember very clearly. I used to dream a lot more, and I tend to link dreams to anxiety - I’m just not that anxious these days."
  • 19 Feb. Knockabout and Top Shelf have announced the upcoming release – in October 2024 – of  the long, long-awaited The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic by Alan Moore and Steve Moore. Chris Staros, editor-in-chief at Top Shelf, says the books "represents an amazing capstone, created by Alan and Steve, and brilliantly brought to life by five unforgettable artists. It’s been a privilege to watch those magical minds spend years building this grimoire, and I’m proud to join Knockabout in finally sharing it with the world." The five artists include the late Kevin O'Neill, John Coulthart, Steve Parkhouse, Rick Veitch and Ben Wickey.
  • 13 Feb. Tripwire interviews Doctor Who artist Lee Sullivan. "I embraced digital art as soon as I saw Dave Gibbons demonstrating a high-definition Wacom tablet, and since Doctor Who – Prisoners in Time for IDW, I have been drawing fully digital finished art for comics and latterly have learned to paint and colour in Photoshop. I saw straight away how much more streamlined and flexible digital could be."
  • 9 Feb. Brian Bolland is looking for his original artwork from The Killing Joke for a new Artists Edition-style reprinting of the famous Alan Moore-penned Batman story from Graphitti's Gallery Editions, to be published this autumn.
  • 8 Feb. Paul Cornell is interviewed at Word Balloon about Saucer Country, Dr Who, Hammer Holmes and more. (video, 1h 15m)
  • 7 Feb. Tony Foster has announced the 2023 ComicScene Award winners. You can find a full breakdown here. The winners include 2000AD (Best UK Comic), The 77 (Best Indie Comic), The Daleks (Best Comic Collection UK), Garth Ennis (Comic Creator of 2023), Neil Gaiman (Best Writer of All Time)... plenty more at the link. Congratulations to all winners and runners-up... and, yes, I spotted Bear Alley nestling in the lower regions of the Best Comic Media category. Your vote(s) are very welcome.
  • 6 Feb. Cartoon historian Mark Bryant is campaigning to have a Blue Plaque recognised by Southwark Heritage for James Henderson, publisher of numerous comic weeklies in the 19th century, including Funny Folksand Lot-o'-Fun. Henderson is one of eight nominees, the list including missionary John Davis, Francis Rossi of Status Quo, songwriters Stock, Aitken & Waterman, and artist Brian Catling.
  • 3 Feb. Jamie Smart, The Phoenix and other young creators of graphic novels all get a positive mention in an article about David Walliams writing a graphic novel for children. "I think it’s a shame that we live in a world where, in order to get a break in publishing, people from under-represented backgrounds have to first go to all the trouble of winning a TV cooking show, developing a successful pop career or becoming an international footballer."
  • 1 Feb. The Top 20 Superhero graphic novels list compiled by Circana BookScan, is dominated by two British writers. Although not holding the top spot (which went to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (hc) by Kevin Eastman (IDW Publishing), Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman filled a significant number -- almost a third -- of places: 3) Watchmen (2019 edition, DC Comics); 4) The Sandman Book One (DC Comics); 8) Batman: The Killing Joke (deluxe hc ed., DC Comics); 11) Watchmen (Deluxe edition hc, DC Comics); 12) V For Vendetta (DC Comics); 19) The Sandman Book Two (DC Comics).

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Comic Cuts - 18 February 2024 -- Laptop Update

A quick update on the laptop. I eventually pressed the button on the nuclear option and downloaded a new operating system -- or, rather, a new version of the old operating system (Windows 11). In so doing, every file, programme and preference stored on the laptop was utterly wiped. 

There was, before the button was pressed, a recovery option for me to clone the contents of the hard drive before eradicating it. Which I took. But which doesn't appear to have worked... but I didn't know that.

OK, so the download took ages, and was chuntering along during our weekly Zoom games, which meant I signed in on a back-up laptop while Mel used her office PC. When it completed, I was able to sign in, which got me as far as the very basic Dell desktop image. At which point I gave up and went to play games for an hour. We won one game of the three we played, so not too shabby.

Later, I was able to switch from the admin screen to a user screen (in this case Steve) and set up facial recognition; I also now need a pin number rather than the old password, apparently.

Now, the retrieval from the external hard drive didn't seem to go too well -- it was rather quick and when I checked, there was a limited number of folders retrieved. Not sure why, but it certainly wasn't the full "clone" that I was expecting. The second drive where I had also "cloned" the laptop hard drive just won't open. I have no idea why.

However, in my panic during last week, I had copied all my files onto a third hard drive, and these I have managed to restore to the laptop. Of course, I don't have Word for Windows 11 on the laptop at the moment, so the files are unreadable, but I can see them! I just opened up a file that was saved as a rich text file, and it is definitely the latest version of that essay.

I will have to reinstall all the various programmes I use, such as a programme for recording and editing me, a video editor which I used for the 'Ask Steve' videos I did for f Trials of Hank Janson and about a dozen more that I normally have pinned to the task bar. At the moment I'm installing Windows updates, so I thought I'd update everyone on how things were going. It will take me a while still to sort everything out -- I had hoped that everything would magically appear as it was, but that hasn't been the case; it took me a year to get everything just so

All I can say is, make sure you do regular back ups.

Oh, and if you're trying to prove who you are to Microsoft, make sure you're sitting next to where they're sending the security code. I had the laptop (and was under strict instructions NOT to turn it off) in the living room; so I pressed the link so they would email me a security code; ran around to the office where my PC is, waited for the email, opened it, wrote down the security code and then ran back into the living room; looked at the blank screen; waggled the mouse and was returned to the screen asking if I wanted them to email me a security code. 

I did this three times before interrupting Mel's gameplaying to have her waggle the mouse to stop the screen where I needed to type in the security code from disappearing. We managed it on that -- my fourth -- attempt. I'm guessing they're expecting you to read your emails on your phone, sat in front of the laptop and it just didn't occur to them that some people might still have landlines that can't receive emails.

OK, that's all the news that's fit to print. The Windows update seems to be stalled at 25% but I'll wait and see what happens. Hopefully I'll be back to somewhere near normal by the next Comic Cuts.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Comic Cuts – 16 February 2024

my laptop... and I'm rather fearful that I might also be saying vale to my new laptop – the one I bought last January (pictured above), so I've only had it for a year. It took me that long to get it all set-up the way I wanted, and now it looks like I might have to go through the whole process again.

The laptop that died was an old Dell Inspiron that I've had for twenty years. I used to watch films on it as I could plug in an external DVD player. It worked fine until a couple of weeks ago and then the screen just went black when I turned it on. It has now retired to the floor.

But it was twenty years old and still running Windows XP. I'm surprised it was usable for as long as it lasted.

The new one, on the other hand... I've no idea what has gone wrong. It was working one minute – I was having a break and playing an audiobook on it – but when I went to get back to work, I couldn't get into the files on the desktop. I didn't panic, just turned it off and on again. Nothing happened. The little set of circling dots didn't appear.  Windows didn't launch. Tried again. Nothing happened. The little set of circling dots didn't appear.

I managed to open the help screen, but I have no idea if there's a way to open Windows in a safe mode. I ran various diagnostic tools and they all seem to think that the machine is OK. There's an option to restore the system to a previous working configuration, which I've clicked on, and it tells me it has done it. But still no joy. Windows doesn't launch.

No, it isn't!

Because the memory of the machine is fine, I have managed to rescue and dump my two main areas of work (the desktop and documents folders) onto an external hard drive. At the moment everything else is, as far as I can make out, still on laptop, just inaccessible to the laptop.

This morning I found another another way to diagnose problems, so that's currently running, with another 72 minutes to go.

As you can imagine, this has been a most frustrating week. I'm back on my old PC which, over the past couple of months, I've only used for scanning and working on Beyond the Void. That, incidentally, is safe. I have a handful of copies on order and hopefully I'll be in a position to plan the release of the book shortly. The files for the Forgotten Authors book have been rescued and I'll be getting back to that next week, hopefully.

Two things I'm thankful for... any orders I'd had for Bear Alley Books were processed and in the post that morning; I didn't have access to my spreadsheet where I record sales, but thankfully I had a back-up only a few days old, so I can update that one. New orders I can see coming in.

The second thing is that I'd just that morning finished writing an article that I'd been asked to write; I'd posted it off around 11am and then did some scanning so there were some illustrations. I sent off some sample illustrations via We Transfer, and then decided to have a break... and you know the rest. Those scans are on this PC, so not affected by the crash.

Copying files for Bear Alley's Rocket index... wonder how long it'll take...
Oh... bother!

Unfortunately, at the moment, I've lost access to a year's worth of stored e-mails, because I move a lot of them to "local" (i.e. on my hard drive) folders which I can't access via my e-mail provider. I might be able to get them back – they are stored, after all, but I don't know how or when. Also things like recently bookmarked pages, settings for various programmes, cookies for a lot of websites that I'm going to have to go through all over again (I'm pathological about turning off as many as I can), and a whole lot of etceteras that will slow me down over the coming however long it takes to fix the laptop.

OK, so the diagnostic has run and it found no problems. But a reboot hasn't opened Windows. All I can do is go back to square one and see if there's anything I missed.

When this all happened, I couldn't get to the most recent updates of the Forgotten Authors documents, and rather than end up with different revised versions on different machines, I started writing something entirely new – a piece about something I've been meaning to write about for years but never got around to. Yes, it's the history of Joan the Wad!

If you collect Fifties paperbacks you'll have seen the adverts for this lucky Cornish piskie. It turns out that the people involved have an interesting history and, as I dug deeper, I discovered that they even have a connection to Wivenhoe, where I live. I'll try to write some of this up shortly, although I'm still digging at the moment.

So there's an option to download the operating system for the laptop, although that will wipe everything. However, there's also an option to 'clone' the hard drive on the laptop, so I've cleared an external hard drive and, fingers crossed, the the cloning process is now under way. This is terrifying!

OK, I've chickened out of downloading the new operating system. I need to check that the hard drive has copied everything and I really should get some advice about this before I go for the nuclear option.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Commando 5723-5726

Commando's latest issues are on sale from today, Thursday 15th February, 2024, with new contributors joining the Commando ranks – including Commando’s first female artist!

5723: Tomasz and the Top-Secret Engine

Tomasz Zielinski had escaped Poland and the German Blitzkrieg in 1939 by hopping aboard a Polish armoured train headed for safety. That was then, and now, in 1940, he was itching for action, but he and his division were in reserve in the west of France away from the fighting. That was until he was approached by a familiar face with a top-secret mission to head straight into danger to steal an engine right from under the Nazis’ noses! Tomasz was about to ride that train once again!
    Colin Maxwell’s intrepid Polish protagonist returns in another train-filled tale of derring-do! With outstanding artwork on both interiors and cover by Manuel Benet, you’d better get your copy before this train leaves the station!

Story | Colin Maxwell
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5724: Operation Caveman

Like almost everybody else, Corporal Barney Newman didn’t know whether a stalactite grew up or if a stalagmite hung down. And to him, it didn’t seem very important... until he found himself dodging about in an underground cavern with only stalactites and stalagmites between him and hot Nazi lead.
    But what was Barney, a tank driver, doing in this grotto? It was all part of Operation Caveman!
    Classic Commando from 1970 incoming! In Allan’s thrilling story, a tank crew take shelter from a storm in a cave only to find the Nazis rolling in behind them. Can they keep hidden before they’re found, or will the cave be their grave?! Find out in Issue 5724!

Story | Allan
Art | LS Lucas
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 517

5725: Madame Revenger!

The Nazis kicked the hornets’ nest the day they rolled into Collette Sauvage’s farm in France. Then they had really gone and done it when they strong-armed her off of her land, using her barn to store their ill-gotten goods. But with a little help from a downed RAF Airman, the Germans would rue the day they messed with the woman known as Madame Revenger!
     Commando 5725 is an issue of firsts – with two brand-new artists making their debuts! Commando is delighted to welcome Alberto Navajo on interior artwork and 2000 AD’s Anna Morozova on cover duty. What’s more, Morozova joining the ranks makes her Commando’s first-ever female cover artist!

Story | Heath Ackley
Art | Alberto Navajo
Cover | Anna Morozova

5726: Desert of No Return

Off they went on another mission, heading steadily into the burning wilderness of the North African desert. They had made many trips like this... but today was different because this time they had a spy in their midst, reporting their every move to the enemy.
    Hardly any of these brave men were going to come back again.
    A classic Commando from the 1980s returns to bring you action and excitement! Bernard Gregg’s intricately woven yarn is brought to life by excellent artwork from Carmona and a burning-hot cover by Ian Kennedy!

Story | Bernard Gregg
Art | Carmona
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1981 as Issue 1561

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 14 February 2024

Reprinting the immediately sold-out Judge Dredd by Brian Bolland Apex Edition this Masterpiece Edition is expanded and reformated for a wider audience

Acclaimed as one of the greatest artists of his generation for his work on such titles as Camelot 3000 and Batman: The Killing Joke, Brian Bolland’s work on Judge Dredd helped catapult both the series and Bolland himself to international acclaim.

This book will include high resolution scans of original art pages from Judge Dredd epics such as ‘The Cursed Earth’, ‘The Day the Law Died’ and ‘The Judge Child Quest’, as well as Bolland’s masterpiece, ‘Judge Death Lives’. Also included is a gallery of covers ranging from 2000 AD to the 1980s Judge Dredd reprints published by Eagle Comics, which brought Bolland to the attention of American readers and show off his inventiveness and sardonic humour.

This new paperback collection, measuring 307 × 231 mm, follows 2022’s sold out Judge Dredd by Brian Bolland Apex Edition and reformats the stunning oversized collection into an affordable and shelf-friendly paperback edition.

This new Masterpiece edition features the same original art pages as The 2000 AD Art of Brian Bolland Apex Edition, plus the following extra pages: Starlord Annual cover; Prog 77 page 1; Prog 86 Page 6; Prog 96 page 2; Prog 120 page 3; Prog 225 cover; Prog 225 Page 3; Cursed Earth Book One Illustration; Judge Child Quest (Eagle Comics reprint) issue 2 cover; Revolver Romance Special cover; Prog 2000 Tharg page; Prog 2270 cover.

Available to pre-order now. Due to be released 18 June 2024.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2369
Cover: Luke Horsman

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ENGLISH ASTRONAUT by Paul Cornell (w) Laura Helsby (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)

The Best of 2000AD Volume 5
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786092-0, 13 February 2024, 192pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

In this volume: Judge Dredd raises only the law when Mega City One's super-rich consider themselves above it all in Elevator Pitch; crash-land on a Death Planet as Al Ewing (The Immortal Hulk) and Henry Flint (Eerie) introduce the monstrous, weaponized (but dead polite) Zombo; go Swimming in Blood with occult detective Devlin Waugh as he investigates a vampire outbreak in an underwater prison by John Smith (Hellblazer) and Sean Phillips (Reckless, Night Fever); ride out into the Godless wasteland of the Cursed Earth and witness Gordon Rennie (Doctor Who) and Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman) preach faith through firepower in Missionary Man.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Comic Cuts - 9 February 2024

I have been cracking on with the Forgotten Authors book, having now completed the last essay... I hope it's the last essay, anyway. I then spent a day double-checking information in another one and attempting to cut it down. I snipped out about 400 words that I thought were wandering off-topic, and then added about 600 as I checked sources that expanded on some of the story I was trying to tell.

I find it very difficult to keep these essays lean; in truth, they're an indulgence. I write them and publish them with no other editorial hand involved, so I not only throw in the kitchen sink, but a few utensils as well. I don't want any of the research I do to go to waste. It was one of the reasons I started Bear Alley in the first place.

I'm also an obsessive hoarder of odds and ends. I'm trying to sort out some stuff so that I can move my desk and one tiny pile that I moved this morning had three random issues of Fortean Times, some old Christmas cards, flyers for comedy gigs, a book by Ronnie Barker about postcards, some blank sheets of A4, two folders, random issues of film mags Premiere and Empire, some comics, a local newsletter from three years ago, a John Bolton vampire trading card, and more. Much more.

I hope I'm not quite as obsessive as Sid Birchby. He was a long-time science fiction fan and with an interest in Fortean phenomena. The story goes that Birchby's home was destroyed when a bomb made a direct hit on his house iand he spent three days scouring the neighbourhood for the fragments of his Weird Tales collection. An example of the fannish lore about the incident can be found here, where the author notes: "A powerful sense of the fans priorities comes from the fact that the possibility of Birchby’s mother dying in the attack was an aside. (I don’t know if she was killed or not; one source mentions it.)"

The "aside" possibly references J. Michael Rosenblum in Futurian War Digest, who offered the sympathy of all fans both home and abroad to Birchby over the death of his mother when a direct hit was sustained during a day raid. The house was reduced to rubble, and Rosenblum then quotes Birchby as saying...

Imagine my horror! The land’s premier collection of Weird Tales scattered over the entire neighbourhood! A Brundage cover in every back garden! Can you wonder that I was forced to flee the vicinity when my dreadful secret became known? Three days of frantic grubbing under the ruins led to the salvage of about 30% of the collection. Much of it was the worst 30%; stuff by the cheapjacks of s-f; while Lo! and the best Astoundings went to feed the earthworms.
I think Birchby has been hard done by; after all, who knows what else he had written in his letter to Rosenblum. People grieve in different ways and it was mentioned in passing, he may simply have been trying to work through the death of his mother in his own way and he kept his letters to his friends on topic while he was processing his loss.

There was also a question mark about the truth of the story...

A little digging later, I discovered that Sidney Leonard Birchby was born on 4 May 1919, the son of Leonard Birchby and his wife Ethel Emily (nee Goode), who were married a few months earlier (registered in 1Q 1919). Now, sadly, Ethel died in 1922, aged only 24. So it looked like the story was not true.

However, Leonard married again, to Christabel Beatrice Beeston in 1929 and in 1939 the family, including Sidney, who was working at a local chemist's shop, was living at 38 Nightingale Avenue, Waltham Forest. Waltham Forest was peppered with high explosive bombs during and after the Blitz (see here for some statistics). Christabel, a BRCS (British Red Cross Society) nurse, was killed in the bombing raid of 16 December 1940, aged 43.

Writing in Futurian War Digest, Birchby said:

It was only a little one. Just about the smallest H.E. that is made, no doubt. But of its efficacy one could not doubt.
    It arrived at a most inopportune time, at 12 a.m. on a Monday morning before I had completed my ARP for stf. The plan was grand. Everything in one room and in that room, everything into drawers and trunks with the most valued possessions in the safest containers.
    Unfortunately, I had only got as far as having everything in one room, and the bomb had to choose that room to fall in. Result: some valuables survived but much more basically useful stuff perished – instead of lots of relative rubbish that remained intact.

What a sad tale. I don't want to get all maudlin, but I'd hate to see my collection go up in smoke, and I'm of an age where I do need to start thinking about what will become of my library of books. A lot of it is second hand paperbacks of questionable worth; but there's some stuff I have that I think I need to offer to our local university... as long as I can still have access to it!

Something to think about.

In the meantime, I'm reading through the last few of the essays for the book and I'll hopefully see the back of them by next week. Then I can think seriously about Beyond the Void and how best to get some publicity for it. So, something else to think about.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 7 February 2024

Collected in its entirety for the first time since it originally appeared in Wham! sixty years ago, Kelpie the Boy Wizard is an exciting, magical adventure illustrated by British Comics’ legend, John Burns.

In days of old, when King Arthur reigned over Britain, there was at royal Camelot an apprentice sorcerer by the name of Kelpie.

Together with his venerable master, the great and powerful Merlin, Kelpie uses his magic to protect the kingdom from evil doers including The Raven and the Weird Sisters of Doon!

First published sixty years ago by Odhams press in Wham!, the complete saga of Kelpie the Boy Wizard channels Arthurian legend through a Harry Potter filter, written by Ken Mennell and featuring the gorgeous black and white artwork of legendary British artist John Burns.

Stories included: 

  • Kelpie the Boy Wizard, originally printed in Wham!, 20th June 1964 – 29th June 1964 – 5th September 1964
  • The Beast with Seven Heads, originally printed in Wham!, 12th September 1964 – 20th February 1965
  • Kelpie strip, originally printed in Wham! Annual 1966

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2368

Cover: Simon Davis

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ENGLISH ASTRONAUT by Paul Cornell (w) Laura Helsby (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, February 02, 2024

Comic Cuts - 2 February 2024

February hasn't been a good month so far, and we're only one day in. On Wednesday we noticed a leak under the kitchen sink, so I have spent this morning (I'm writing this Thursday afternoon) trying to fix it. Unfortunately, it isn't a blockage, as I'd hoped (because that means unblocking it makes the problem go away). Rather, the seal has perished, so now, if you pour a bowl of water into the sink, it weighs the (horizontal) plastic pipe down just enough for water to leak from where it joins the other (vertical) plastic pipe. No amount of tightening has resolved the problem.

This means we'll be seeing the useless plumber our landlady uses, who took four attempts in recent months to fit a new bath tap. It's working OK (as of this moment) but still needs a part fitted... and he busted the panel at the side of the bath, which hasn't been addressed. I'm filled with dread about letting him loose on the kitchen sink!

And today saw my proofs arrive with one slight flaw: there was a sticky mess on the back cover of one of them. It looks like somone accidentally stuck some packaging tape on the book and tried to peel it off, but left the sticky bit of the tape behind. But it can't be that because there's some stickiness to the front cover as well. To damage both covers you'd need to be Frank Spencer, wallowing in a big tub of packaging tapes, or maybe having a gun fight using packaging tape dispensers.

It makes the book unsaleable. I can't even send it out to a reviewer, so it will have to be replaced... causing more work... pushing back my schedule... delaying work on other things...

You can understand why I'm frustrated. I'd had quite a fun week up until then I spent two and a half days recording something for release in the coming weeks (it's part of a little promotion package I'm trying to put together for when Beyond the Void comes out). I had to work around the roadworks outside. The gas pipe fitters have returned after disappearing last year before they reached us. It had something to do with shutting down the junction and needing traffic lights and I'm still not sure whether we'll be getting new gas pipes this time around or whether we'll have to wait for a third visit from the same company just to do the last two or three houses along our road.

I'm also looking forward to this (Thursday) evening as we're going out to a book launch for the new James Henry novel, The Winter Visitor, a spin-off from the Nick Lowry series set in and around Colchester. This one is set in February 1991, a year or so before I moved to Colchester to make editing Comic World easier.

I'm rattling through a bunch of novels so that I can write up the author for my next Forgotten Authors collection. So far I've read four of five that I intend to read in full; I'll skip-read a couple of others that I read forty-or-so years ago in an effort to speed things up. I'm amazed at how much I read in January, I finished one book that I was reading for pleasure (rather than work) and started another, which I'm a third of the way through already. My for pleasure reading has been very limited in recent years, sometimes as few as four or five books a year.

Not like my younger days when I could race through a book in half a day, leaving time to read another. Dhalgren (an unheard of 879 pages) took three days, and that was only because we were child-minding during the summer holidays. Nowadays, I'm actually put off by the length of some novels, because 500-600 pages means a committment of many months, and I doubt I'd get twice the pleasure compared to reading a 300 pager. No, I'm happy to read two shorter books and leave the likes of Peter F. Hamilton and Neal Stephenson -- two authors whose early novels I very much enjoyed -- for my retirement.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Commando 5719-5722

Globetrotting action and adventure in Commando Issues 5719-5722 — on sale from today, Thursday 1st February, 2024!

5719: The Spy of Sweslik Castle

In the Bavarian mountains perched Sweslik castle. In times past, the castle had been a monastery, but in 1943 it was an impregnable fortress which housed Allied prisoners of war. Its German guards claimed that any and all escape was impossible, and they were determined to keep it that way. For there was a spy among the POWs imprisoned at Sweslik Castle… and no-one would escape until he was exposed!
    Newbie writer Rossa McPhillips returns in his third Commando issue which harks back to Escape Colditz and The Great Escape! With gritty interiors from Vicente Alcazar and an outstanding cover by brand-new Commando artist Marco Bianchini! Get your hands on this issue before it escapes!

Story | Rossa McPhillips
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Marco Bianchini

5720: Arctic Ace

The Fairey Swordfish wasn’t much to look at. Not many men would have chosen to risk their lives in these slow, obsolete kites that looked as if a sparrow could knock them out of the sky. But the Swordfish could carry a torpedo — evil, menacing, packed with high-explosive. And with an ace like Sub Lieutenant Duncan Payne at the controls, the Swordfish could even become a match for a mighty German cruiser...
   Issue 5720 ‘Arctic Ace’ is everything you’d want in a classic Commando: an eye-catching Ian Kennedy cover, a snappy story from RA Montague and outstanding Jose Maria Jorge interiors!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1970 as Issue 510

5721: Roll Depth Charges!

The HMAS Hibiscus had to be the worst Bathurst-class Corvette in the whole Royal Australian Navy. Its crew was slow and lacked discipline, and its officers weren’t much better. But they were in for a shock, for Commander Bill Turner had been sent in to straighten them out — and he didn’t care how many backs he had to break to do it!
    Resident Aussie writer Brent Towns is back again with another Royal Australian Navy yarn! This time the boys from down under are depicted by Alejandro Perez Mesa in his debut on Commando interior artwork! With a bright and bubbly cover by Neil Roberts!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Alejandro Perez Mesa
Cover | Neil Roberts

5722: Behind Enemy Lines

How do invasions begin? Most people reckon they begin with a naval bombardment, massive air raids and soldiers wading ashore onto shell-torn beaches.
    But the truth is that before these things happen there are certain people — heroes — risking their lives behind enemy lines, secretly paving the way for the armies that will follow them...
    Issue 5722 is a rip-roaring yarn from 1981, featuring more action than you can fill your pockets with –—for there’s a spy among the ranks of the British and they have to find out who before he destroys this vital mission!

Story | Staff
Art | Ruiz
Cover | KCG Walker
First Published 1981 as Issue 1552

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 31 January 2024

Duncan Jones wraps principal photography on Rogue Trooper movie

Duncan Jones’ (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft, Mute) eagerly anticipated movie adaptation of classic British comic Rogue Trooper has wrapped principal photography in the UK. Written and directed by Jones, Rogue Trooper  is an animated science fiction feature from Rebellion and Liberty Films.

Shot at Rebellion Film Studios in Oxfordshire, breakout talent Aneurin Barnard (The Goldfinch, Dunkirk) stars as the eponymous Rogue Trooper, alongside Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One), Jack Lowden (Slow Horses, Dunkirk), Daryl McCormack (Bad Sisters, Good Luck To You Leo Grande), and Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9, Saltburn). Rounding out the cast is an incredible ensemble, which includes Jemaine Clement (Avatar 2: The Way of Water), Matt Berry (What We Do in the Shadows), Diane Morgan (Cunk on Earth), Alice Lowe (Black Mirror), Asa Butterfield (Sex Education, Hugo) and Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings).

Rogue Trooper tells the story of 19, a ‘Genetic Infantryman’, who finds himself the sole-survivor of an invasion force. Desperate to track down the traitor who sold him and his comrades out, the super soldier is accompanied by three killed-in-action squad mates, whose personalities have been stored in his gun, helmet and rucksack.

Filmmaker Duncan Jones said: “2000 AD offers a very different flavour of comic action: Political and brutal at times, but always with a Pythonesque twinkle in the eye. Dredd (2012) was a taste of what 2000 AD has to offer and now we get to show the world another side of the beast. It is a genuine privilege to be given the opportunity to make Rogue Trooper.”

Treehouse Digital (The Well) is creating all imagery and animation for the film, working with Jones to bring to life the world of Rogue Trooper from concept art to final pixel in Unreal Engine 5.

Producer Stuart Fenegan commented: “The advancements in Unreal Engine 5 and the inclusion of MetaHuman rigs mean that it is now possible to achieve a very high standard of animation within an indie budget. Working with our amazing partners at Rebellion, Epic and Treehouse Digital we are pioneering and developing a new creative pipeline that will enable independent production of CG animated films.”

Unreal Engine from Epic is a development platform that enables creators across numerous industries to realise real-time 3D content and experiences.

Rebellion CEO, Jason Kingsley CBE, who is a Producer on Rogue Trooper, added: “We are thrilled to be working with Duncan Jones, who is a fellow British creative visionary and 2000 AD fan with global reach. Rogue Trooper highlights Rebellion’s leading position within the entertainment industries. It has been filmed at our dedicated Oxfordshire film studios and combines beautiful storytelling from our iconic 2000 AD comic book universe with animation and production technology from the video game industry. We cannot wait for everyone to see these incredible stories bought to life on screen.”

The Rogue Trooper comic was created by legendary artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Kingsman) and writer Gerry Finley-Day (Dan Dare) and released by British publishers 2000 AD, home to Judge Dredd, Halo Jones and Sláine.

Rogue Trooper is produced by Stuart Fenegan (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft, Mute) alongside Jason Kingsley (Dredd, School’s Out Forever), Chris Kingsley (Dredd, School’s Out Forever) and Duncan Jones. The film is set to complete in 2025.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2367
Cover: Alex Ronald

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ENGLISH ASTRONAUT by Paul Cornell (w) Laura Helsby (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)

War Picture Library: The Crimson Sea by Fred Baker, E. Evans, Donne Avenell (w), Hugo Pratt (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786199-6, 31 January 2024, 272pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The title story of this collection, The Crimson Sea, tells the tale of a younger brother of an officer, both survivors of the sunken HMS Grapnel, who feels he must step out of his brother's shadow with astonishing acts of bravery. There are three other stories in this collection; Pathfinder focuses on an Australian pilot joining the RAF, Up the Marines features tales of Royal Marine Commandos being sent on daring missions behind enemy lines, and in Dark Judgment two rescued POWs are suspected of not being who they claim to be - each of these four stories is stunningly drawn by the Italian comics maestro Hugo Pratt just a few years before he created Corto Maltese!

Strontium Dog Search and Destroy Volume 3: The 2000AD Years by Alan Grant, John Wagner (a), Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-187386103-3, 1 February 2024, 192pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

In 2150 a catastrophic war led to 70% of Britain's population being wiped out. Strontium 90 fallout led to an increase of children being born with strange mutations. Hated by average humans, the mutants faced terrible oppression when politician, Nelson Kreelman, introduced a series of anti-mutant laws enforced by a brutal police force.
    In 2167 the mutants decided to fight back. Amongst their ranks was a young boy with named Johnny Alpha with white blank eyes and a mutant power that grants him a series of powers, including the ability to see through many surfaces. Driven by tragedy, Johnny has a very personal reason wanting to topple the regime and bring Kreeler down.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Comic Cuts - 26 January 2024

This month seems to have flown by and I'm frustrated at not having Beyond the Void out already. This is what comes of trying to cut costs... 

My idea was to try and get the next Forgotten Authors book in a position where I could order a proof copy alongside some restocks of other books, plus the proof of Beyond the Void to spread the cost of postage. Unfortunately, one of the new essays has required quite a lot of reading, fun but time consuming, and I still haven't managed to get it finished. And then everything had to come to a grinding halt while I did my tax returns and sorted out payments that need to be in by the end of the month.

Hopefully everything that needed doing was done, but the actual numbers were a bit depressing, working out how little income Bear Alley Books had generated for the past couple of years. I've only had a couple of new books out, and I know I need to get more books out on a more regular basis. Hopefully the delays to Beyond the Void won't be a sign of things to come! I do have a couple of new books planned that will hopefully get me back on track.

Talking of sales, I though I'd share the Top Five best-sellers from Bear Alley in 2023:

1) The Trials of Hank Janson
2 =) Eagles Over the Western Front and Countdown to TV Action
4) Longbow volume 2
5) The Men Behind Flying Saucer Review

The latter keeps surprising me. It's only a slim volume available through Amazon, but it sells with reasonable regularity and has now topped 100 copies. Countdown to TV Action remains my all-time best-seller, and I should hit 450 copies some time this year. The Lion index is second best, but has sold only half that number.

But back to Beyond the Void. The (final????, I really hope so!) proofs have been ordered, but won't be here until early February. Meanwhile, I'll try to get Forgotten Authors volume five finished and then get I'm planning to get together a comic strip reprint before cracking on with Action. That's the plan as of today... things may change!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 24 January 2024

Best of 2000 AD
 is a landmark series from the cult comic, bursting with our greatest stories for a new generation of readers.

Every Best of 2000 AD contains a mix of modern classics and gems from the vault. In each edition you’ll find an explosive new Judge Dredd adventure, fresh essays by prominent popular culture writers, a graphic novel-length feature presentation by global legends and a vintage Dredd case.

In this volume: Judge Dredd makes a Tempus Fugitive of literature’s most famous time-travel enthusiast; tremble as Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint deliver galaxy-wide carnage at the hands of the retribution of a dead race, Shakara The Avenger; during a long, hot summer something rots at the heart of a council estate in John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s Cradlegrave; Dredd sends his cadets into the Cursed Earth to face The Hotdog Run; The government agents of Ice Station Delta find their problems snowball when they tangle with Shako, the only polar bear on the CIA death list!

Boasting brand new covers from an all-star line-up of artists including Star Wars concept designer Ian McQue and Eisner-award winner Anand Radhakrishnan (Blue in Green) with designer Tom Muller (X-Men), Best of 2000 AD is the essential gateway into the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic!

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2366

Cover: Rufus Dayglo.

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THISTLEBONE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE DEVIL’S RAILROAD by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FERAL & FOE // BAD GODESBERG by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)


Friday, January 19, 2024

Comic Cuts - 19 January 2024

The release of Beyond the Void creeps closer. I felt I should delay getting a final proof until I had sorted out the problems with the previous printing errors. The copy corrected has now landed and I'm doing a quick stock take to make sure the latest proof benefits from the shared postage, as the various proofs have so far cost me about £70 in printing and postage. Obviously I want to get everything just so before I offer it to paying customers, but it has been a rather frustrating time as I had hoped to have the book out already.

Still, I'm very pleased with it and the delays have meants I've been able to add a couple of things that I've come across in the past week or two -- some additional books added to one of the bibliographies, for instance. The research for all of my books is ongoing and I stumble upon information all the time. It's usually quite minor, adding the name of an artist or a date. Then, once in a while, I come across some information that means revising an old piece quite heavily.

That happened to me this week with one of the essays for the next Forgotten Authors volume. I wrote a little biographical sketch of James Skipp Borlase back in 2009 or thereabouts that I gave a once-over when I included it in the reprint of On the Queen's Service, published early last year.

I thought Borlase was the perfect author for for the Forgotten Authors series, but I didn't want to do a straight reprint of something already available. So I did some digging and managed to open up a bit of a can of worms. Borlase was a prolific writer of newspaper serials and they included a lot of "by the author of" credits which I had never really followed up due, originally, to a lack of resources, and, last year, a lack of time... and, I might add, I wasn't expecting to learn anything more as the title chains I had seen repeated many of the same serial titles.

But for this revision I wanted to chase up all those titles and see if I could put dates to the serials... and there were some big surprises. I turned up three or four pen-names that he used, one in Australian newspapers and a couple used in British boys' story papers, and also found that he had written a boys' serial prior to the story I had thought his first.

I have to say that making discoveries like that are what I live for!

However, most of the work I have been doing has been tinkering around the edges of essays. There are a couple that were written a couple of years ago for fun (and, I admit, with an eye to putting together another FA volume) where I'd been very careful to note sources, most of which were newspapers and magazines, but what I hadn't done was note the page numbers on which information was taken. So I spent the whole of Wednesday retracing my every step that I'd taken to write an essay about Alfred Duggan, which has 90 footnotes. I'm probably going to spend all of Friday doing the same to other essays.

That said, I'm about 45,000 words into what is likely to be a 70,000 word book. So I'm getting there.

I don't have much else to say; the Forgotten Authors book has kept me busy to the point that I'm doing nothing else. So our illustrations this week are a few random scans (older readers might remember them from the pre-pandemic years when I was scouring the charity shops a little more regularly).


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