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Friday, December 06, 2019

Comic Cuts - 6 December 2019

I mentioned last week that I was putting together a pitch for a project and that has been my focus for most of the week, with a small sideways step to do some paying research elsewhere.

The latter involved a photographer active shortly before the war, known only by his initials: S.W. Colyer. I'm happy to say that, with only the name to go on, I managed to track down a relative and had a very pleasant conversation about Colyer's career, which might see some of his work back in the public eye.

If you scroll down a bit, you'll find a review of one of the latest Illustrators specials, with articles relating to Commando library. There's a second volume out now, about Brian Bolland, which I read at the weekend. I'll be posting the review tomorrow, but I wanted to mention that the latest regular issue of Illustrators, issue #28 with a lead article on Frank Kelly Freas, is also out. I've only just received a copy, but may not be able to review it for a week or so. If you can't wait, you can find some preview pages at the Book Palace website.

Looking at the website, Book Palace have a busy schedule ahead of them in 2020. The one I'm really looking forward to is The Art of John M. Burns, as he has been one of my favourite artists since the Seventies when I first spotted his work in TV Action and Look-In. Back in the early Nineties, when I was compiling the British section of The Comic Book Price Guide for Great Britain, I often listed my favourite strips of the year in the introduction, and Burns usually got a mention (he was working for 2000AD at the time).

I'm reviewing the second season of Jack Ryan below. This is your spoiler break... if you don't like spoilers, hop to the end of the column. (Quick review: this season he's rougher, he's tougher, he can't be arsed to shave.)

The second season of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan picks up on certain elements of the first season and drops some others. One of the oddest omissions is Cathy Muller, played by Abbie Cornish. Readers of the novels will know she is Jack's long-suffering girlfriend, later wife, later First Lady. Not here. Jack is avowedly single for this series and picking up girls in hotel bars.

Mind you, it would be a thankless job for an actress, as Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) spends the show in Venezuela, with a mid-season sojourn to London. The pace never lets up, so having the action pause so Jack could phone home would not be ideal; at the same time it stands up the argument I made last time I looked at Jack Ryan that "character moments are usually the first to be dropped if a show is overrunning."

At the end of the first season, Ryan was offered a post with Jim Greer in Moscow, but has turned it down. Instead, he is sent to the politically unstable Venezuela after tracking suspicious arms movements. There he is introduced to the country's corrupt President Reyes, with whom he instantly develops an openly hostile relationship. An attack on a convoy leaves American Senator Moreno dead and Jack trying to figure out the connections between a German (former BND) assassin and the shell company importing arms into the country.

He is joined by Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce), who authorises a small team of US Special Forces to investigate a camp in the jungle. Tensions mount as one of the team's number is left behind as they scramble to escape, and President Reyes accuses the U.S. of corruptly supporting his rival, Gloria Bonalde, and landing soldiers on sovereign soil.

Jack Ryan himself is a tougher character than he was in the first season, more confident, less compassionate. Confidence does spill over into arrogant stupidity sometimes and karma is often there to kick them in the butt. When you and your team have successfully carried out a dangerous mission, killing dozens in the process, you use your exit strategy and get everyone away safely. Not Jack. He'll cheerfully put everyone's lives at risk because he can't keep a lid on his anger. Perhaps that's why he was dumped by his girlfriend? 

Overall, season two was fast-paced, action-fuelled and highly watchable. However, I worry that season three is just going to be eight episodes of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings as they investigate every single decision made by Ryan, Greer and Station Chief Mike November (Michael Kelly) that led to the death and injury of American soldiers in Venezuela and an assault on the Presidential Palace.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Today's release from 2000AD's Rebellion Publishing.

2000AD Prog 2160
Cover: Stewart Kenneth Moore

JUDGE DREDD: THE HARVEST by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Rebellion have been expanding of late and have launched a new board games division under the title Rebellion Unplugged. The first release will be a board game based on the tactical shooter video game series Sniper Elite.

Headed up by Duncan Molloy, previously the Founder and Creative Lead of the board game line at Osprey Games, Rebellion Unplugged will release new physical games and collectables based on the company’s diverse and extensive collection of properties. Several games are already in the works.

An early version of Sniper Elite the Board Game will be playable at PAX Unplugged this December. More details will be unveiled before it launches on Kickstarter early next year, and more games are due to be unveiled throughout 2020.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Illustrators Special #5: Daggers Drawn!

Peter Richardson's long-awaited look at the history of the Commando pocket library has finally arrived in the shape of an Illustrators special entitled Daggers Drawn!, named (I presume) after the famous Sykes Fairbairn dagger in the Commando logo. "The Art of Commando" is an alternate title that sums up the contents pretty well.

Commando has been running for almost 60 years—it will hit its sixth decade in June 2021—and has achieved some astonishing milestones along the way, not least of which is the incredible number of issues. As recently as August 2019, Beano recently celebrated its 4,000th issue, the longest-running comic in the UK, having launched in 1938.

Commando passed the 4,000 issue mark way back in April 2007 and raced past issue 5,000 in March 2017. Four new issues appear without fail every fortnight and recently there have been a few interesting developments with the title, introducing some new cover artists, some new writers, including a number of female writers, re-introducing some old favourite characters, and experimenting in both story and artwork.

With such an extensive legacy, it was always going to be impossible to cram everything you would want even with 144 pages to play with. Daggers Drawn! makes a valiant effort and tells the story of Commando through a few key individuals whose names are inextricably linked to the title, with the larger portion of the book dedicated to Ken Barr, Gordon Livingstone and Ian Kennedy.

After an overview of the title's history by Peter Richardson, the meat of the issue, with an incredible selection of Ken Barr's covers reproduced from original art and looking astonishing. The difference between the artwork and how it was printed on its initial appearance makes you wish  that Thomsons would open up their archive and publish a whole book of cover art by Barr, Jordi Penalva and others in the style of their recent celebration of The Art of Ian Kennedy.

Barr's covers set the tone for Commando for years to come, his tough, rugged Second World War warriors in the foreground of the picture, snarling in anger, or grim-faced in the jaws of peril. He was a master of all three fighting arms of the military—Army, Navy and Air Force—and was key to the pocket library's early success.

Ian Kennedy painted his first Commando cover in 1970 and is about to celebrate 50 years associated with the title, a far longer association than Barr's (who left for the USA in 1967). While Barr set the tone, Kennedy took up the baton and ran with it and has now produced over 1,000 covers. Calum Laird introduces him as not only a masterful painter, but also as a thoroughly decent person whose company he has enjoyed many times.

Gordon Livingstone spent almost his whole career as a Commando artist. If you don't know the name, you will easily recognise his work, which graced about 370 issues, of which over 200 have been reprinted. Peter Richardson's insightful interview finally gives Livingstone some of the credit he deserves for making Commando the vibrant, action-filled title it remains as today.

This latter is reflected in a gallery of work by some of the paper's leading artists, from fab favourites like Victor de la Fuente to almost unknowns like Cecil Rigby. Newcomers are represented by interviews with Neil Roberts, Keith  Burns and Graeme Neil Reid, who are keeping the legacy of Commando's action-packed covers alive, while Sean Blair offers some insight into what it's like to write for the series.

As with all these special editions, Daggers Drawn! is a feast for the eyes, offering a unique opportunity to see dozens of pieces of arwork as they were painted rather than as they were (often badly) printed. Modern digital printing is something we should all be grateful for.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues of the regular quarterly title, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. There is another new special issue available, The Art of Brian Bolland, which I'll take a look at next week.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Joe R. Lansdale cover gallery

This one is a bit patchy as Lansdale has been badly served by British publishers, with only a fifth of his books published in paperback over here. I met and interviewed him in 1995, having already been a fan of his horror short stories. He was in the UK  promoting Mucho Mojo and we had drinks and a long chat about his work. If I can find a copy of the interview – it appeared in Crime Time – I'll post it here on Bear Alley.

Act of Love (Zebra Books, 1981)
(no UK paperback)

Molly's Sexual Follies [with Brad W. Foster under joint pseudonym Mark Simmons] (Beeline Classics, 1982)
(no UK paperback)

Hanoi Deathgrip [as Jack Buchanan] (Jove, Jul 1985)
(no UK paperback)

Mountain Massacre [as Jack Buchanan] (Jove, Oct 1985)
(no UK paperback)

Cody's Army [with Chet Cunningham under joint pseudonym Jim Case] (Warner, 1986)
(no UK paperback)

The Magic Wagon (Doubleday, Oct 1986)
(no UK paperback)

Dead in the West (Space & Time, 1986)
(no UK paperback)

Saigon Slaughter [as Jack Buchanan] (Jove, Oct 1985 [1987])
(no UK paperback)

The Nightrunners (Dark Harvest, Aug 1987)
(no UK paperback)

The Drive-In (Bantam Spectra, Aug 1988)
New English Library 0450-51570-2, 1989, 158pp, £2.99.

Cold in July (Bantam Books, Mar 1989)
Indigo 0575-40059-5, (Nov) 1996, 234pp, £5.99.
Phoenix 0753-81437-4, (Jul) 2001, 240pp, £6.99.
Head of Zeus 978-1784-08196-6, (Jun) 2014, 288pp, £7.99.

The Drive-In 2 (Bantam Spectra, Jul 1989)
New English Library 0450-53219-4, (Sep) 1990, 179pp, £3.50. Cover by E. T. Steadman

Savage Season (Mark V. Ziesing, Jul 1990)
New English Library 0450-56798-2, (Aug) 1992, 210pp, £4.99.
Indigo 0575-40060-9, (Nov) 1996, 178pp, £5.99.
Phoenix 0753-81438-2, (Jul) 2001, 192pp, £6.99.

Batman: Captured by the Engines (Warner Books, Jul 1991)
(no UK paperback)

Batman: Terror on the High Skies (Little, Brown, Dec 1992)
Fantail 0140-90383-6, 1993, 96pp.

Mucho Mojo (Mysterious Press, Aug 1994)
Indigo 0575-40001-3, (Apr) 1996, 308pp, £5.99. Cover by Baskerville Studios
Phoenix 0753-81669-5, (Apr) 2003, 308pp, £6.99.

The Two-Bear Mambo (Mysterious Press, Sep 1995)
Indigo 0575-40037-4, (Mar) 1997, 273pp, £5.99.
Phoenix 0575-40037-4, 2002, 273pp, £6.99.

Tarzan: The Lost Adventure, with Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dark Horse Books, Dec 1995)
(no UK paperback)

Texas Night Riders [as by Ray Slater] (Subterranean Press, Apr 1997)
(no UK paperback)

Bad Chili (Mojo Press, Jun 1997)
Indigo 0575-40134-6, 1998, 292pp, £9.99 [tpb]. Cover by Gary Day-Ellison
Indigo 0575-40134-6, (Sep) 2000, 292pp, £6.99. Cover by Gary Day-Ellison

Rumble Tumble (Subterranean Press, Jul 1998)
Gollancz 0575-06661-x, (Sep) 1998, 242pp, £9.99 [tpb].
Phoenix 0753-80844-7, (Sep) 1999, 242pp, £6.99.
---- [2nd imp.?], (Apr) 2003, 242pp, £6.99.
---- [3rd imp.] n.d., 242pp, 99p. Cover photo by Imagebank

The Boar (Subterranean Press, Nov 1998)
(no UK paperback)

Freezer Burn (Crossroads Press, Jul 1999)
Gollancz/Orion 0575-05792-6, (Sep) 1999, 245pp, £9.99 [tpb]. Cover by Gary Day-Ellison
Indigo 0575-40252-0, (Sep) 2000, 245pp, £6.99. Cover by Gary Day-Ellison

Waltz of Shadows (Subterranean Press, Sep 1999)
(no UK paperback)

Something Lumber This Way Comes (Subterranean Press, Oct 1999) [novella for children]
(no UK paperback)

Blood Dance (Subterranean Press, Mar 2000)
(no UK paperback)

The Bottoms (Subterranean Press, May 2000)
Phoenix 0753-81436-6, (Jul) 2001, 327pp, £6.99.

The Big Blow (Subterranean Press, Sep 2000)
(no UK paperback)

Captains Outrageous (Subterranean Press, Apr 2001)
Phoenix 0753-81674-1, (Apr) 2003, 319pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Getty Images

Zeppelins West (Subterranean Press, Jun 2001)
(no UK paperback)

A Fine Dark Line (Subterranean Press, Jun 2002)
Phoenix 978-0753-82191-6, (Mar) 2007, 320pp, £6.99.

Bubba Ho-Tep, with Don Coscarelli (Night Shade Books, Mar 2004)
(no UK paperback)

Sunset and Sawdust (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004)
Phoenix 0753-81993-7, 2005, 392pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Imagebank

The Drive-In: The Bus Tour (Subterranean Press, Oct 2005)
(no UK paperback)

Flaming London (Subterranean Press, Aug 2005)
(no UK paperback)

Lost Echoes (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Feb 2007)
(no UK paperback, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard edition shown)

Leather Maiden (Alfred A. Knopf, Aug 2008)
(no UK paperback)

Vanilla Ride (Alfred A. Knopf, Jun 2009)
(no UK paperback)

Hyenas (Subterranean Press, Jan 2011) [novella]
(no UK paperback)

Devil Red (Alfred A. Knopf, Mar 2011)
(no UK paperback)

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky (Delacort, 2011) [for children]
(no UK paperback)

Edge of Dark Water (Mullholland Books/Hodder, Mar 2012)
Mullholland Books 978-1444-73686-1, (Mar) 2012, 304pp, £12.99 [tpb].
Mullholland Books 978-1444-73688-5, (Feb) 2013, 310pp, £7.99.

In Waders from Mars, with Keither and Karen Lansdale (Subterranean Press, 2012) [novella for children]
(no UK paperback)

Dead Aim (Subterranean Press, Feb 2013) [novella]
(no UK paperback)

The Thicket (Mulholland Books, Sep 2013)
Mulholland Books 978-1444-73691-5, 2013, £8.99.

Hot in December (Dark Regions Press, Dec 2013) [novella]
(no UK paperback)

The Ape Man's Brother (Subterranean Press, Jan 2014) [novella, previously released in 2012 as e-book]
(no UK paperback)

Black Hat Jack: The True Life Adventures of Deadwood Dick as told by His Ownself (Subterranean Press, 2014) [novella]
(no UK paperback)

Prisoner 489 (Dark Regions Press, Oct 2014) [novella]
(no UK paperback)

Paradise Sky (Mulholland Press, 2015)
Mulholland Press 978-1444-78718-4, 2015, £8.99.

Fender Lizards (Subterranean Press, Nov 2015)
(no UK paperback)

Hell's Bounty, with John L. Lansdale (Subterranean Press, Feb 2016)
(no UK paperback)

Honky Tonk Samurai (Mulholland Press, 2016)
Mulholland Press 978-1444-78721-4, 2016.

Rusty Puppy (Mulholland Press, Feb 2017)
(no UK paperback)

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade (Tachyon  Publications, 2017)
(no UK paperback)

Bubba and the Cosmic Bloodsuckers (Subterranean Press, Oct 2017)
(no UK paperback)


By Bizarre Hands (Mark V. Ziesing, Dec 1989; expanded as By Bizarre Hands Rides Again, Bloodletting Press/Morning Star Press, Sep 2010)
New English Library 0450-55417-1, (Feb) 1992, 242pp, £4.99

Stories by Mama Lansdale's Youngest Boy (Pulphouse Publishing, Mar 1991)
(no UK paperback)

Bestsellers Guaranteed (Ace Books, May 1993)
(no UK paperback)

Electric Gumbo: A Lansdale Reader (Quality Ppaerback Book Club, 1994)
(no UK paperback)

Writer of the Purple Rage (Cemetery Dance Publications, Sep 1994)
(no UK paperback)

A Fist Full of Stories (and Articles) (Cemetery Dance Publications, Dec 1996)
(no UK paperback)

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent: Early Stories and Commentary (Subterranean Press, 1997)
(no UK paperback)

Private Eye Action As You Like It, with Lewis Shiner (Crossroads Press, Oct 1998)
(no UK paperback)

Veil's Visit: A Taste of Hap and Leonard (Subterranean Press, May 1999)
(no UK paperback)

The Long Ones (Necro Publications, 1999 [Jan 2000])
(no UK paperback)

High Cotton: Selected Stories of Joe R. Lansdale (Golden Gryphon Press, Sep 2000)
(no UK paperback)

For a Few Stories More (Subterranean Press, Feb 2002)
(no UK paperback)

A Little Green Book of Monster Stories (Borderlands Press, Oct 2003)
(no UK paperback)

Bumper Crop (Golden Gryphon Press, Apr 2004)
(no UK paperback, Golden Gryphon (US) paperback shown)

Mad Dog Summer and other stories (Subterranean Press, Sep 2004)
(no UK paperback, Golden Gryphon (US) paperback shown)

The King and other stories (Subterranean Press, May 2005)
(no UK paperback)

The Shadows, Kith and Kin (Subterranean Press, Apr 2007)
(no UK paperback)

The God of the Razor (Subterranean Press, Nov 2007)
(no UK paperback)

Sanctified and Chicken-Fried: The Portable Lansdale (University of Texas Press, Mar 2009)
(no UK paperback)

Unchained and Unhinged (Subterranean Press, Oct 2009)
(no UK paperback)

The Best of Joe R. Lansdale (Tachyon Publications, Jan 2010)
(no UK paperback)

Shadows West, with John L. Lansdale (Subterranean Press, Jan 2012)
(no UK paperback)

Trapped in the Saturday Matinee (PS Publishing, Oct 2012)
(no UK paperback)

Deadman's Road (Tachyon Publications, Aug 2013)
(no UK paperback)

Bleeding Shadows (Subterranean Press, Nov 2013)
(no UK paperback)

Hap and Leonard (Tachyon Publications, Mar 2016)
(no UK paperback)

Hap and Leonard Ride Again (Tachyon Publications / Kindle e-book, Feb 2016)
(no UK paperback)

Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire (Subterranean Press, Nov 2016)
(no UK paperback)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Comic Cuts - 29 November 2019

I've spent the week almost wholly concentrating on a pitch for a project that I can't really talk about. I will say that it has been fun to work on as I've been looking at a couple of creators that I've never written up before.

Hopefully there will be some interesting news to follow. In the meantime, here's a review of
Stargate Atlantis. There are spoilers, so if you don't like that kind of thing, jump to the end of the column.

Quite some time ago, I spotted a couple of box sets of Stargate Atlantis going cheap and, as I knew Mel had watched and enjoyed the show, I thought I'd grab them for some future date when I would have time to watch them. Well, that time is now. I'm rather enjoying watching a few undemanding older shows (NCIS, Zoo) while Mel and I are trying to catch up on a bunch of shows, including the latest series of Spiral, and the newly adapted His Dark Materials, War of the Worlds, Vienna Blood... and then there were three new Trek Shorts and we're watching a kid's animated show called Hilda (which is delightful) and the comedy Motherland and trying to keep up with Have I Got News For You and QIXL and Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week and that new Dave Gorman show Terms and Conditions Apply... we're trying to cram in way too much tv into not enough time at the moment.

I never really followed the Stargate franchise even tho' I thoroughly enjoyed the original movie. When Stargate SG-1 started, I was editing Model & Collectors Mart, writing for SFX, Crime Time, Fortean Times, Making Money, Total Film,  compiling a news column for Illuminations (local comic shop mag.) and writing and editing a paperback fanzine PBO. I was younger (mid-thirties), fitter and full of enthusiasm. I wrote nearly half a million words that year and that didn't leave much time for watching television.

Stargate Atlantis arrived in 2004. I was no longer editing, but still contributing to Model Mart, writing obituaries for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, and working on The Trigan Empire and Storm reprints. That was the year The Trials of Hank Janson appeared. The old Odeon, which I visited regularly on Wednesday afternoons because you could get in for £2.20, had closed down two years earlier. I could have started watching it at that time, but I had too many other shows that I was enjoying. I'd not long discovered 24 and Spooks was still brilliant, and I was watching all of the CSI and Law and Order franchise shows.

Happy days!

Oh, yes, Stargate Atlantis. I still can't speak for SG-1, but Atlantis is a perfectly entertaining show that doesn't require you to know the mythology of the Stargate Universe. The premise is the discovery of a Stargate—a means of interstellar travel—built by a race known as the Ancients. An exploratory team discover that they have travelled to another galaxy and find themselves in the mythical city of Atlantis, built by the Ancients. However as the city powers up, it depletes the energy supply to the point that a return to Earth is impossible.

A team led by Colonel Sumner (Robert Patrick) use the Stargate to visit closer worlds in search of a power source known as a Zero Point Module (ZPM). They discover that populations on these worlds have been decimated by raids from creatures called the Wraith who harvest the life force from whole races. The mind-reading Wraith learn about Earth after Sumner is captured, the populous planet making it an inviting feeding ground.

A rescue mission to find Sumner is led by Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and Lieut. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks) who had led natives of the planet led by Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell) back through the Stargate. In attempting to rescue Sumner, Sheppard kills a wraith called The Keeper who reveals that their presence has awakened all of the Wraith from their hibernation.

Thus the situation is set up for the first season of stories, a mixture of exploration of nearby planets, discovering new races and reacting to the threat of the Wraith. Atlantis is commanded by Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) who sends out teams of soldiers and scientists (the latter including Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett)) in search of a ZPM that will give them the ability to protect Atlantis and make it back to Earth.

The first season of 20 episodes was enjoyable with a few stand out episodes: 'Childhood's End' sees the team meet a race that sacrifice themselves when they reach the age of 25 in order to keep their numbers below a level they will attract the Wraith; and the 2-part 'The Storm' / 'The Eye' sees the city invaded and captured as a monster storm threatens to destroy everything.

The season ended with Atlantis under attack from the Wraith and I'm looking forward to seeing how that story ends. I get a feeling that, with 100 episodes in total, the show may slip into something of a routine, visiting a planet, something happens, they have to get back to the spaceship/stargate; or the Wraith are coming and the team is racing against time to track down an energy source/weapon; or something has gotten into Atlantis and soldiers with guns at the ready search corridors. However much fun a show might be, custom can definitely stale it.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Commando 5283-5286

Roman Legions of the damned, the walking dead in France, murders in the dawn light, and a great escape from a prisoner of war camp in North Africa, all in brand new issues 5283-5286 — out today!

5283: Legions of the Damned

In 9CE, the Romans forged a path into the wild heart of the Germanian forests to unite the fierce tribes under the banner of the Roman Empire. However, the XVII Legion would not have everything their way as they walked into a ferocious Barbarian ambush. Their numbers annihilated and their Eagle stolen, the Legion’s commander Legionary Primus Pilus Decimus is one of the few survivors. Disgraced and betrayed by a fellow legate, Decimus had a plan to regain his destroyed Legion’s honour, reclaim its stolen eagle and get revenge, all in one fell swoop!

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Khato
Cover: Neil Roberts

5284: Escape from Tobruk

When you’re in the sprawling desert of North Africa, a compass is your best friend. But the compass in a British Matilda tank was off and only the newest recruit to Royal Tank Regiment Corporal Larry Holden knew why. He had to get this information to the top brass — only, he had just been captured by the Italians with his mate, Chunky Brown, and their only hope of escape was with a mysterious, shifty bloke who wouldn’t even tell them his first name.

Story: Lomas
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 786 (1973).

5285: Gaslight

Dead men walk again in Colin Watson’s ‘Gaslight’. They roam the halls of a chateau in Nazi-occupied France seeking revenge on the man who killed them — the ruthless Major Erich Guttman, murderer of British prisoners of war, French Resistance fighters and even his own German soldiers. But all is not what it seems as someone or something may have slipped something into his hot cocoa. With Tom Foster’s creepy second-ever Commando cover, you may want to sleep with the lights on after reading.

Story: Colin Watson
Art: Muller & Klacik
Cover: Tom Foster
5286: Shot at Dawn

“An eye for an eye.” That was the motive behind a killing spree that spanned two World Wars and across the high ranks of the British Army. It was a dastardly plot, so evilly conceived that it went undetected for decades until a Dornier bomber, shot down over England, flew straight into the isolated house of a recluse. His diary detailed facts about the murders — which had been ruled suicide, and the events leading up to the avenging spree — and Captain Ben Walsh of the Army’s Special Investigations Branch — was going to track down the murderer before he could kill again.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Phil Gascoine
Cover: Phil Gascoine
Originally Commando No. 2789 (1994).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

This week you can indulge in some wild weirdness and become a gloriously grotesque globe-trotter with Ken Reid's World Wide Weirdies.

This beautiful and bizarre illustration collection from the legendary British cartoonist (ir)responsible for the gloriously grotesque Faceache - released to coincide with the holidays - is filled with the most wonderful weirdness you could possibly hope to encounter - from The Petrifying Pyramid to The Houses of Horrorment, from The Gruesome Gondola to The Chew-EE 2!

World Wide Weirdies collects the almost weekly run of Reid's beautifully bizarre illustrations from IPC's Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake.

Usually displayed in colour on the back cover, they are among the most striking images to have appeared in British comics and represent a major part of this master artist's ouevre.

2000AD Prog 2159
Cover: Rob Davis

JUDGE DREDD: THE HARVEST by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Ken Reid's World Wide Weirdies Volume 1 by Ken Reid
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08692-6, 28 November 2019, 112pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

Glorious grotesques from around the globe! Beautiful and bizarre illustration collection from the legendary British cartoonist (ir)responsible for Faceache released to coincide with the holidays! World Wide Weirdies collects the almost weekly run of Reid's beautifully bizarre illustrations from IPC's Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake. Usually displayed in color on the back cover, they are among the most striking images to have appeared in British comics!

The Dark Judges – The Fall of Deadworld Book 2 by Kek-W (Nigel Long) & Dave Kend
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08693-3, 28 November 2019, 96pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

The terrifying sequel to the best-selling tale of Judge Dredd's greatest villains, Dark Judges! They are the four horsemen of the horror apocalypse, Dark Judges who declared that life itself is a crime. As they continue to turn their world into a necropolis, young Jess Childs rallies a team of survivors to rescue the one person who can help her prevent the death of the world! High body horror for fans of the iconic horror franchises SawDay of The Dead, and The Fly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire limited hardcover

Rebellion has announced a limited pre-order for the hardcover edition of the first volume of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire.

Available to pre-order exclusively through the Treasury of British Comics webshop until 4th December, this individually numbered 304-page special edition hardcover will ship in March 2020.

Featuring stunning artwork taken from crisp scans of Don Lawrence original artwork, this first volume includes a touching introduction from Liam Sharp (Green Lantern), who – along with Judge Dredd artist Chris Weston – was mentored by Lawrence early in his career.

Co-created by Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire merges the movie serials of the 1930s, Flash Gordon, John Carter, and ancient history into a sprawling, classic science-fiction epic. It has been named as a major influence by the likes of writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman), artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd), amongst many others. This special hardcover edition perfectly showcases the remarkable talent of Lawrence, who is rightfully regarded as one of the finest artists in British comics history.

Rebellion is offering this limited-time pre-order to give fans the opportunity to own a slice of history in a sumptuous hardcover that will have pride of place on any shelf.

A paperback collection of volume one will also be available in March from all good retailers and comic book stores – the first time the series has been collected in a mass market edition.

Originally published in the anthology title Ranger from September 1965, and Look and Learn from June 19966 until April 1982, the series told the story of an alien empire on the planet Elekton that was heavily influenced by history, particularly that of the Roman Empire. Created by Mike Butterworth, who died in 1986, and artist Don Lawrence, who died in 2004, the series’ mix of political intrigue and Lawrence’s lush painted artwork won a host of fans worldwide, and proved to be highly influential, inspiring a generation of comic book creators with its depth and beauty.

Although the Trigan Empire has seen only limited English-language release it remains one of the most popular comic series in Holland and Germany, with over two million albums sold.

The limited edition Don Lawrence cover hardcover of volume one of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire is available to order now from, until 4th December.

To the left is Chris Weston's retailer variant cover, which Rebellion described by them thus:

With this special cover - available only from selected comic book stores - the artist on Judge Dredd, The Filth and The Invisibles has paid tribute to the inimitable work of the legendary Don Lawrence, artist on Trigan Empire - one of the finest comics creators in British comics history, and Weston's mentor early in his career.

The retailer variant hardcover with Chris Weston cover will be available to buy from Forbidden Planet, Forbidden Planet International, OK Comics, Book Palace, and other selected stockists.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sticking It to the Man

The latest book from Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, following on from Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats, is a study of countercultural pulp and popular fiction paperbacks of the 1950s,’60s and ’70s. The title, Sticking It to the Man, hides a smorgasbord of revolutionary fiction that sprang from the growth of anti-authoritarianism in the decades after the Second World War, when consumerism pacified the middle-classes but made many aware of the inequalities of life.

The Sixties especially became the decade of dissent with protests rising in campuses and spilling out onto the streets in the form of peace marches against the H-Bomb, against Viet Nam, marches in support of black rights, of gay and lesbian rights, the rise of the Black Panthers and the White Panthers—all of which coincided with the post-War decline of pulp magazines and the growth of paperback publishing as the chief outlet for the pulpier end of the market. At the same time, rulings brought down by courts in a number of obscenity cases offered new protection for the publication on novels about taboo subjects, including prostitution, interracial relationships and homosexuality.

With some publishers happy to push the envelope to make their otherwise niche books stand out, writers found their subjects in the headlines of newspapers—not always the best source of accurate information, but certainly a good guide to what people were talking about and what authors who could turn a book around quickly should be writing about to take advantage of the zeitgeist.

Between them, the 26 contributors to this volume cover a bewildering range of topics. The opening essay looks at the works of Chester Himes, a crime writer who created police officers of colour tackling crime against a structure of white power. This is followed by essays on gay fiction in the days when homosexuality was considered deviant; E. R. Braithwaite’s ground-breaking To Sir, With Love; lesbian pulp novels; a look at John Rechy’s City of Night; and a study of black archetypes in crime novels, which also touches on Chester Himes’s novels.

The book continues to build up a picture by supplying its readers with a jigsaw of articles, features—some on individual authors, others on broader subjects—and interviews with Nathan Heard, M. F. Beal, and Australian publisher Gerry Gold.

As someone who is more familiar with British publishing and British authors of this era, some of the articles have more resonance. ‘Ferment in Fiction’ looks at Britain’s Angry Decade and works by Alan Sillitoe, Simon Raven and a handful of others; and there’s some discussion of Petra Christian and a number of Jim Moffatt’s more female-oriented novels as by J.J. More, Leslie McManus and the Virginia Box series published under his own name.

Other articles covered some novel areas completely new to me: Australian industrial novels; the works of Robert Deane Pharr, Wally Ferris, Donald Goines, Roosevelt Mallory, Jo Nazel, Vern E. Smith, Dambudzo Marechera; and the Dark Angel series, to name a handful. Some were on authors I was aware of but have never read: Iceberg Slim; Joseph Hansen; and Mike Barry (Barry N. Malzberg’s pen-name for the Lone Wolf series).

The breadth and depth of the book should be recommendation enough, but for a collector there’s also the joy of looking at the 350 or so covers that are reproduced, and that it reminds me that I have a handful of Shaft novels by Ernest Tidyman but I’ve never found the right time to read any of them. Having read the lengthy section on Tidyman’s books,  and the article of vigilantes of the seventies, I think I’ll have to dig out my Dirty Harry and Death Wish novels, put them on a pile with the Shafts and make time.

(P.S. The introduction makes clear that there is to be a third volume, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1960 to 1985. Now that's a book I need to read!)

Sticking It to the Man: Revolutions and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 by Andrew Nette & Iain McIntyre. PM Press ISBN 978-1629-63524-8, December 2019, 319pp. Available via Amazon.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Comic Cuts - 22 November 2019

A shorter than usual column today. We've had an electrician working in the house for a couple of days this week, which has meant switching the power off to either my computer, or the hub that connects us to the internet, or both. Since I'm not a smartphone owner and have only the most basic tablet around, I've been cut off from work and have found myself in the days in between playing catch-up.

We do now have a nice, up-to-date and (more importantly) safe electrical system—the house wasn't grounded, for instance, and we now have wiring that will take an electrical surge or lightning strike out of the house to a grounding rod where it can dissipate safely. We've had a couple of lights replaced because they were becoming dangerous, mostly through age where fittings had loosened over the years, which meant that any attempt to put in a new bulb would twist and rub the wires together. This was causing new bulbs to blow in one light, which is what started this whole shenanigan in the first place.

We have a new fuse box. One of the old fuses had at some point had the fuse wire replaced with some other wire the thickness of a coat-hanger, which explains why it never blew and why the master fuse for the house tripped out instead.

In between, I've been trying to dig out old scans, pitch a few book ideas and I'm working up a pitch for an even bigger project. I'll have to leave you with that teaser for now.

The review below contains spoilers, so if that's something you dislike, jump to the end of the column.

Zoo has come and gone without making any great impact on the world, which is a shame. Originally broadcast on CBS in the summer of 2015, it ran for three seasons before being cancelled not long after the last season ended in the autumn of 2017.

Its origin is a 2012 novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, who have collaborated on a dozen novels and a Manga-style comic book, although I have a vague memory of reviewing Ledwidge's first solo novel (The Narrowback) for Crime Time twenty years ago. The review was not brimming with compliments. As I'm no big fan of Patterson, this doesn't bode well.

I can't speak for the novel, but the TV series was recommended to me and I picked it up out of curiosity because the premise sounded interesting. Across the world, animals are starting to act aggressively and attack humans. More, their behaviour appears coordinated: a pride of male lions seems to have developed a long-range communication; bats attack electrical transformers and settle on solar panels; domesticated suburban cats cluster in trees; and birds bring down aircraft.

A small team, made up of Jackson Oz (James Wolk), a zoologist, his friend, safari guide Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anzie), a French intelligence operative Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke), a veterinary pathologist, and investigative journalist Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), begin to piece together clues that lead them into a battle with a huge corporation, Reiden Global.

Jaimie is convinced that something in their pesticides is behind the outbreak of deadly animal behaviour, although she has personal reasons that might be clouding her judgement. She meets Mitch, brought in to investigate an attack on zookeepers at Los Angeles Zoo, and convinces him to help her investigate. Meanwhile, in Botswana, Jackson rescues Chloe but almost loses Abraham in the process. The three are introduced to the other two by a Mr. Delavenne, who tells them that a pandemic has started.

A bizarre turn of events happens in a prison, where guards are attacked by wolves. One prisoner seems to have control over the pack, which allows him to escape.

By this point I was hooked. It's one of those shows that's the TV equivalent of a page-turner novel. Breaking up the group so that multiple investigations can be carried out at once means that the storyline cuts from one team to another, keeping the plot and the pace flowing. Although the whole thing was shot in Canada, the storyline has a global scale and British Columbia stands in for everywhere from Alabama to Africa. The high action quotient also means that you don't get much of a chance to pick the plot apart... you just go along with notions like the "defiant pupil" that make beasts look like coke addicts and the "mother cell" which is the main McGuffin for the 13-part first season.

For sheer entertainment value, you can do a lot worse. Now I have to find season two...

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Purita Campos (1937-2019)

Artist and illustrator Purita Campos, best known for her work on the long-running weekly strip 'Patty's World', which was translated to great acclaim and success abroad, died on Tuesday, 19 November, at the age of 82. She has been described as probably the most popular creator in Spanish comics.

'Patty's World' debuted in Princess Tina on 31 July 1971, in colour from June 1972, and continued in the merged Pink and Tina for  another six and a half years. After a year in Mates and Pink, the strip was relaunched in Girl in 1981 and ran until April 1988.

Its star was Patty Lucas, a frank, honest, shy, sensitive freckle-faced teenager who engaged her audience through first person narrative, allowing them to see her inner thoughts and even speaking directly to them through captions  ("Dunno about you, but I always feel so shy and awkward when I have to face a lot of strangers..."). The outlook of the strip was more modern than the traditional British schoolgirl story. Patty faced many real-life situations, loved fashion, had problems with her school friends and family, especially older sister Carol and her array of ex-boyfriends.

The freedoms that were natural to a teenager in 1970s England were not always available to Spanish readers. Going out to parties and freely mixing with boys would have been unthinkable. "It was not all romance and kisses," Campos explained in a 2014 interview. "Things were also happening on the street. [Spanish readers] liked it a lot as it was a window to a different world than Franco's Spain. Girls went out at night without a second thought. Here they would not leave without their mother. [Patty]'s readers would have loved to live like her"

The stories and characters were allowed to evolve over time. Patty was around 13 when the strip began but grew older as time passed. When first introduced, Patty's mother was already widowed, her husband Bill (a newspaper journalist) having died in an accident, but she is coming to terms with her loss and becomes romantically involved with "uncle" Ted Parsons, a policeman whom she subsequently marries. Cathy and Ted have a daughter, Laurita.

Family problems were a staple of the strip and readers were introduced to Francis, Patty's grandmother, Eddy Lucas, her father's twin brother, the black sheep of the family, Cousin Maggie ("Maggie the Mouse") and adventurous aunt Marga. Sister Carol eventually marries—Kerry, a doctor—but her problems are never over.

The strip proved hugely popular and was translated widely, running in the Netherlands (as 'Peggy' in the best-selling Tina magazine, 1971-86), Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Campos's native Spain, where it appeared as Esther y su mundo ['Esther and her World'] in Bruguera's Lily magazine (1974-81), helping that magazine sell up to 400,000 copies a week, and then in Esther (1981-86).

Although the strip remained popular with girls, sales of comics drifted inevitably downwards, and the teenage girls' market all but vanished by the early 1990s. Campos and her husband established an art gallery, whose success prompted her to set up a small art school in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, which attracted 150 students, but was drawn back into comics when Esther was reprinted and, when they came to an end, new stories were demanded. These featured an older, more mature Esther of around 40, a divorced nurse with her own teenage daughter, in stories written by Carlos Portela. 

This revival brought attention to the lengthy career of Esther's artist, and Purita Campos's work became celebrated. She had won the 2004 Haxtur Award for Autora que Amamos [author we love] at the Saló Internacional del Còmic del Principat d'Astúries Gijón. In February 2010, theMinistry of Culture in Spain awarded Campos the 2009 Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes [Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts]. In 2013, she was awarded the  Gran Premi del Saló Internacional del Còmic de Barcelona. An exhibition of her work was organised in Barcelona in 2014 and further exhibitions have been held in Gijón, La Massana, La Coruña, Madrid, Granada, Ávila, and Huelva. In 2016, the Associació d’Autores de Còmic [Association of Comics' Creators] awarded her the Premi Honorific. 

Born in Barcelona, on 18 August 1937, Purificación Campos Sánchez—usually shortened to Purita or Pura Campos—studied at Barcelona's Escuela de la Llotj for seven years, having developed a love for fashion through the pages of Vogue and Harper's that her mother, a dressmaker, brought home. She first worked as an illustrator and costume designer for various fashion magazines. She also attended the Insitut del Theatre, training under Mario Cabré, the bullfighter and actor who was romantically linked to Ava Gardner. While she did not continue her interest in acting, the training was useful to her in developing movement in her comic strip figurework.

After meeting at a bar, Campos's brother mentioned to cartoonist Manuel Vázquez, a leading figure in Spanish comics, that his sister was an artist. Invited to visit Editorial Bruguera, Campos took her portfolio to the offices the next day but Vázquez was not there. Instead, she met Victor Mora who liked her work and asked her to begin drawing for their magazines immediately, beginning with covers for Can Can, including Dalia (1959), Sissi Novelas Graficas (1961), Blanca (1961), Can Can (1961) and Celia (1963). 

Her work included strips, amongst them "La Historia de May Dunning" ["The Story of May Dunning"] written by Alberto Cuevas and Alicia Romero, illustrations and fashion drawings. Although her work was met with praise, in this very male-dominated world it was tempered with comments such as how good she was "for a woman" ["¡Qué bien lo haces para ser mujer!"]. "Everything was dominated by men," she would later say. "The man was always right because he was a man and the woman had to shut up. And the only way I had to make myself respected was through my work."

She was on the point of giving up comics, unhappy with the endless stream of romantic stories based on sketchy scripts (including material for UK magazines Marty, Mirabelle, Boyfriend, Romeo etc.), when she began producing more substantial artwork for foreign markets through the Bruguera agency Creaciones Editoriales. She began painting covers for Dutch Tina magazine, irregularly from 1970, then every cover between 1973 and 1983.Creaciones director Rafael González asked her to draw samples for a weekly strip for the UK market, which she originally declined, later saying that "I did not feel prepared, but he insisted."

The samples led to her being teamed up with writer Philip Douglas to create 'Patty's World', the two-page strip which would keep her busy for the next two decades. She also occasionally contributed to other British girls' magazines Mirabelle, Valentine ("The Salon of Secrets", 1973) and Melanie ("Life with the Logan's", 1973-74).

In 1974, she also began drawing the title character for Tina magazine in the Netherlands, scripted by Andries Brandt, which she continued until 2007 when it was taken over by Edmond. In 1978 she co-created another teenage character, Gina, with writer Frank Elliot, the pseudonym of Francisco Ortega, whom she later married. Gina was similar in nature to Patty, showing her daily life with family,  friends and youthful first loves, the stories seeing her grow from teenager to womanhood. Gina was collected in 2005.

 In 1989, they created "Dulce Carolina" for TBO magazine (Ediciones B). Around that time, she also worked on a comic strip adaptation of Johnanna Spiry's Heidi.

The New Adventures of Esther revived her comic-drawing career and the first volume, published in 2006, sold 20,000 copies. Collections of the original strip began appearing from Ediciones Glénat in 2007.

In 2011, the City Council of Getafe honored Campos by dedicating a street in the municipality to her.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion recently announced via the Nerdist website that they will be publishing Best of 2000AD from April 2020.

2000 AD today announces it is launching a brand new title in April 2020 – Best of 2000 AD – as a new 12-issue US-format, perfect-bound series featuring a selection of the most incendiary and exciting new science-fiction comics from the legendary UK publisher. Launching in April 2020, Best of 2000 AD is intended as the ultimate 2000 AD mix-tape – an anthology of full-colour stories specially chosen to be accessible to a whole new generation of comic readers who may never have picked up 2000 AD in its traditional format.”

“The first new major monthly title from the British publisher in almost 30 years, the first 100-page issue will be headlined by a self-contained 48-page Judge Dredd adventure and supported by three of the stand-out series from the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’, primarily focusing on the critically-acclaimed Rebellion era. The title boasts brand-new covers from an all-star line-up of New York Times best-selling and Eisner award-winning artists including Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked and The Divine), Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy), Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), and Annie Wu (Hawkeye), with more to be revealed. The entire 12-issue volume will feature design by highly-acclaimed designer Tom Muller (House of X/Powers of X).”

“There are very few comics that have had – and continue to have – the impact of 2000 AD,” said 2000 AD editor Matt Smith. “But we often hear, ‘where do I start reading?’. With Best of 2000 AD that question has a brand new answer – accessible, contemporary, high-quality story-telling, available every month direct from your local comic book store. There’s never been a better way to discover some of the best modern comics.”

Today's releases from Rebellion.

2000AD Prog 2158
Cover: Nick Percival

JUDGE DREDD: THE HARVEST by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 414

Cover: Dylan Teague

JUDGE DREDD: FATHER'S DAY by Rory McConville (w)  Ian Richardson (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
TALES OF THE BLACK MUSEUM: BIG MARLYN by Laura Bailey (w) Brian Corcoran (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DIAMOND DOGS by James Peaty (w) Warren Pleece (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE RETURNERS: CHANDU by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIV: THE DEAD RUN by Maura McHugh (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: Interrogation: Steve MacManus; New Books: Red Mosquito, Gothic For Girls; Judge Dredd: The Crime Files game
Bagged reprint: Damnation Station Vol.1