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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hot Lead #2 (June 2018)

Justin Marriott runs a number of different magazines based around the collecting of old paperbacks, amongst them Paperback Fanatic, The Sleazy Reader, Men of Violence, Pulp Horror and now, Hot Lead, the first issue of which came out in March.

Here he celebrates the western in a 68-page colour paperback format, the latest issue containing five diverse features written by Steve Myall, Jim O'Brien, Andreas Decker and two from "ghost editor" Paul Bishop, who bookends the issue with articles on Charro!, Harry Whittington's novelisation of the financially successful but critically mauled Elvis Presley movie, and a high-speed look at the history of westerns in comic books in the 1930s to 1950s.

The main meat of the issue is an interview with artist Tony Masero, who painted most of the covers for the Edge and Steele books in the 1970s and 1980s and who continues his association with the Piccadilly Cowboys to this day, still producing covers for reprints of novels that originally appeared forty years ago. He discusses working for New English Library, taking over from Dick Clifton Dey who had set a high standard for the design of these best-selling, post-Spaghetti Western/Clint Eastwood titles, noted for their violence.

It was interesting to learn that Masero is still also writing... I knew he had penned a couple of westerns for Black Horse (Robert Hale) some years ago but had no idea he had also written a couple of thrillers under a pen-name (Michael D'Asti).

"Hombre in Suede Skin" is a lengthy look at the western strips drawn by Frank Bellamy. Bellamy's love of the western is well known to Bellamy fans – he loved Spaghetti Westerns and wanted to draw strip versions of the Dollar movies, he told Dez Skinn in 1973 – and his best work in the genre is probably the trio of western-based strips he drew for 'Garth', a couple of which were reprinted in the Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1975. The article also covers a number of other Bellamy's more personal strips, ranging from 'A Cowboy Story' (1974) to 'Swade' (1976).

The delight of Marriott's various magazines is to discover something new that you wouldn't otherwise come across. In this issue it's a look at the German western series Ronco the Outlaw, which was a western from the publishers of Perry Rhodan, written by a rotating cast of authors for weekly publication. Launched in April 1972, the series went through various alterations and changes over the years but eventually came to an end in 1981 after 493 issues (plus 253 issues of a companion series, Lobo the Loner).

For western fans, this will be a must-have.

Hot Lead #2, June 2018, 68pp, £6.50. Available via Amazon.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Frank Insall

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Frank Insall was a minor illustrator of children’s fiction in the 1930s, largely associated with Blackie & Son and the Oxford University Press.

He was born on 2 February 1882 in Bristol, the last-but-one of ten children, and christened Ernest Frank Insall. His father, John (1829-1917) was a grocer and a commercial traveller; his mother was Mary Elizabeth (neé Cave – 1842-1902).  As a child, he sang at local concerts and in church choirs, and his name often appeared in local (Bristol) newspapers between 1889 and 1895. After leaving school he became an apprentice at Mardon, Son & Hall, a Bristol printing and packaging business (later acquired by the Imperial Tobacco Company, becoming responsible for the production of most its cigarette cards). At the time of the 1901 census, living at 38 Longfield Road, Bristol, with his parents and four od his siblings, he described himself as an artist, although he was still an apprentice, albeit a senior one.

On 4 September 1909 he married Eva Mary Lewis (born in Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1883), the daughter of John Lewis, a cabinet maker and upholsterer, at St. Martin’s Church, Newport. They went on to have one child, Valerie Joan, born on 6 November 1910. Frank appears to have been living in Kensington, London, at the time of his marriage, but he and his wife almost immediately settled at “Imvari”, Water Lane, Brislington, Bristol (1911 census).

On 15 November 1915 Frank (recorded as 5 ft. 6 ins. tall) enlisted in the Army Reserve, and on 23 May he joined the 1st S. Midland Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, as a gunner. He was posted to France on 14 September 1917, returning to England in February 1918 before going back to France a month later. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 5 March 1919, and he left the army in March 1920.

Throughout the war he maintained his membership of the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers, which he had joined in January 1907, giving his craft as a designer. However, he resigned from the Society in July 1920.

In the late 1920s he was living at 9 Edith Villas, Fulham, and had begun his brief career as a children’s illustrator. He had already, in the early/mid 1920s, contributed a few illustrations to The Strand Magazine and Cassell’s Magazine, and he now began working for the Oxford University Press, illustrating a handful of boys’ school stories by Richard Bird, Gunby Hadath and Charles Turley. He also supplied black and white drawings for some of the O.U.P.’s annuals, such as The Big Book of School Stories for Boys (1930-1935), The Great Book of School Stories for Boys, and The Oxford Annual for Boys. He then turned to Blackie & Son and again provided black and white line drawings and the occasional cover for some of its annuals, including A Real Girl’s Book, My Favourite Book, My Own Big Book, The Big Budget for Girls, and Blackie’s Girls’ Annual.

He also supplied illustrations for a handful of books published by Hutchinson & Co. (including Hutchinson’s Girls’ Annual and Hutchinson’s Children’s Annual) and Cassell & Co. In the late 1920s and 1930s he illustrated the occasional story in The Windsor Magazine and The Novel Magazine, and supplied the odd illustration to The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Boy’s Own Paper, as well as the occasional colour plate and black and white illustration for Chums.

His career after the 1930s is a mystery. In 1930 he was living at 36 Hayne Road, Beckenham, Kent. His wife Eva died in September 1936, and he re-married very shortly after this, his second wife being Florence Dorothy Josephine Hugill, who lived in Brentford, Middlesex. Three years later, when the 1939 Register was taken on the outbreak of the Second World War, Frank was recorded (with his wife) as an “artist, commercial and illustrating,” living at 45 Forster Road, Beckenham.

There are no records of any illustrations or pictures by him after 1940, so if he continued his career as an artist he worked anonymously, possibly in advertising, packaging, or design. He did produce the occasional painting, mainly it seems in watercolour, although whether he exhibited any of these is not known.

As far as can be ascertained, he died in Honiton, Devon, in 1965. His wife Florence died in Brentford, Hounslow, in 1978.


Books illustrated by Frank Insall
School House v The Rest by Richard Bird, O.U.P., 1928
Carey of Cobhouse by Gunby Hadath, O.U.P., 1928
The Wharton Medal by Richard Bird, O.U.P., 1929
The Left-Hander by Charles Turley, O.U.P., 1930
Happy Pictures by (Anon.), T. Nelson & Sons, 1930
Biddy’s For Ever by Michael Poole, Cassell & Co., 1931
The Quest of the Sleuth Patrol by Vera Marshall, Cassell & Co., 1931
Madcap Petrina by Pat Gordon, Hutchinson & Co., 1934
Betty of Turner House by Joanna Lloyd, Hutchinson & Co., 1935
Jane of the Crow’s Nest by Ierne Orsmby, Hutchinson & Co., 1936
The School in the South by Angela Brazil, Blackie (re-issue)
Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson, William Clowes, (re-issue)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Comic Cuts - 15 June 2018

Rather by surprise, I seem to have another volume of Forgotten Authors almost completed. Having spent so much time on writing up W. N. Willis and then following that with a related piece, I discovered that I had the bulk of another collection completed as I had already written a few other (shorter) essays and they totted up almost to a full book's worth. One piece I had, which was almost completed, just needed the bibliography tidying up (which I did on Monday) and I then jumped straight into another piece that I've wanted to expand upon for some while as new information has come to light since I wrote the original piece in 2008.

Add them all together and I think I have about 65,000 words already, to which I need to add a couple of shorter pieces and an introduction. And I need to do rewrites on all the essays, check spellings, footnotes and links. And lay out the book and write an index. Oh, and I have to design the cover.

Maybe I'm not so close to finishing after all...

I was pleased to see that the IndieGoGo project being run by Irmantas Povilaika jumped following the interview we ran last weekend. When I checked the numbers just now (it's Thursday afternoon as I write) he had raised 95% of his total. This is for the boxed-set of two volumes of Ken Reid reprints entitled The Power Pack and if you haven't backed the project yet, you can get a 23% discount against the final cost of the books by backing the project now rather than waiting until the books are printed.

I haven't much else to add. My trip to dentist (dental hygienist) went fine on Friday. We watched Tomb Raider – the one with Alicia Vikander – on Saturday, which was all the better for being a dialed down version of the Angelina Jolie films from nearly two decades ago, themselves sub-par Indiana Jones adventures with Jolie treating everything from stone statues coming to life to time travel as if it was just another day in the office. The new one is hamstrung by being a re-packaged origin story with endless flashbacks and having a plot that echoes Temple of Doom. Still, it was better than the previous two and if there's a sequel I'll be happy to give it a try.

I've also just finished the 10-episode SyFy series Krypton, set 200 years before the birth of Kal-El (Superman). It's another series where supposedly brilliant people and military leaders react to everything as if they were teenagers so that the teenage audience can understand their actions. Krypton is home to a lot of good-looking British and Irish actors and has a lot of winding corridors and winding streets and winding tunnels. Also, everyone loves Seg-El, grandfather-to-be of Superman: Daron-Vex (who crushed the El family) wants him to marry his daughter; top Kryptonian military warrior Lyta-Zod wants to marry him; Nyssa Vex wants his baby; others fall in line whenever he has a plan. Mind you, I think at some point or other, every one of his friends has either pulled a gun on him or somehow betrayed him.

Random scans... a couple of books relating to tombs, a couple of Tomb Raider ties, and a pair of raiders. It's not so random, these days...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Commando 5131-5134

Brand new Commando issues are out today! Evade fate and fatalities with Captain Valentine as The Phantom returns, beat the Nazis at their own game in Operation Midnight Sun, solve a series of nefarious murders on the Home Front, and take part in the St Nazaire Raid with plucky Corporal Sam Wilson!

5131: The Phantom’s Revenge
The Phantom is back! But doom is foretold for all those who sail on her. Hunting down a notorious French vessel which is sinking British ships in the Mediterranean, Captain Valentine has more to worry about than the dreaded Captain Ricordeau. Paying five silver coins for his fortune to be read, Valentine never expected that each coin would prophesise a different death in his crew… or that the last one would read destruction for them all!
    Returning to the ‘Phantom’ series, Teague ups the stakes as the story build to its glorious climax when Ricordeau and the final prophecy come together in a dramatic crescendo. Alcazar’s bold lines prove perfect for the ornate but hard-wearing ships.

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Vicente Alcazar
Cover: Janek Matysiak

5132: Midnight Menace
Surrounded by advancing German troops, Second Lieutenant Matt Rogers and his batman Private Don Arle were isolated from the rest of their squadron. To make matters worse, Rogers gun wasn’t loaded — and Arlen was just waiting to put a bullet in his back. But the pair would have to work together if they were going to uncover what the Nazis were calling “Operation Midnight Sun” and stop them before they could execute it!
    Allan’s classic tale of enemies turned friends is immediately spun on its head, the opening panel offering a glimpse into the story ahead, as Arlen holds his gun aimed at hero Rogers — the turning point of the entire issue.

Story: Allan
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 463 (March 1970). Reprinted No. 1323 (June 1979).

5133: The Home Front
Wilhelmina Home of the WAAC had travelled around. She knew a thing or two about car engines and mystery novels, but after her friend is found dead in his factory and his livestock look to be poisoned, Wilhelmina would have to gather all her wits to unravel the strange events unfolding. Little did she know that she would soon be caught up in a plot involving German spies that threatened the population of Britain!
    Accompanying Shane Filer’s twisting story is endearing interior and cover artwork by Carlos Pino. Perfectly pairing the noir themes, Pino’s Wilhelmina is drawn as a feisty Louise Brooks, her hair and outfit always impeccable.

Story: Shane Filer
Art |Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

5134: Deadly Convoy
Plucky Corporal Sam Wilson didn’t always go looking for trouble, but trouble soon found him. He was the kind of guy who’d rather be in the thick of it than on the side-lines, much to the grievances of his squadron. But, when Wilson gets the chance to join the Commandos he signs up immediately, hungry for action!
    Phil Gascoine’s stunning acrylic cover showcases CG Walker’s Tommie hero as the archetypal Commando cover star, his oerlikon machine-gun blazing against the diving stukas, the yellow and red burning on the muted blue of the waves.

Story: CG Walker
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Phil Gascoine
Originally Commando No. 2760 (May 1994).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD) - 13-14 June 2018

Rebellion releases for 13-14 June 2018.

2000AD Prog 2085
Cover: Cliff Robinson (colours by Dylan Teague)
JUDGE DREDD: THE PARADIGM SHIFT by Michael Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: HEAVY IS THE HEAD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: GEEK-CON by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DURHAM RED: BORN BAD by Alec Worley (w) Ben Willsher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Charley's War: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08621-6, 14 June 2018, 370pp, £19.99 /  $26.99. Available via Amazon.
After killing former comrades as part of a firing squad, Charley has joined the Stretcher Bearers in an attempt to save lives rather than take them. But he soon fi nds himself back behind a rifl e reunited with ‘The Scholar’ as his new offi cer, while an entrenched group of German soldiers engage them in a sniper stand-off! Meanwhile Charley’s younger brother Wilf has his own struggles in the skies, as an observer with the Royal Flying Corps. Charley’s adventures take him through the fi nal months of the War in Europe to the cold land of Russia, under the orders of his unjust superiors and their corrupt interests… This final volume concludes Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s anti-war epic, a monument to the power of comics.

The Complete Future Shocks Volume 1
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08559-2, 14 June 2018, 322pp, £19.99 / $25.99. Available via Amazon.
Tharg’s Future Shocks are one-off, twist ending, sci-fi thrills that have introduced many of the biggest names in the comic book industry through the pages of 2000 AD. From Alan Moore to Al Ewing, Kevin O’Neill to Jon Davis-Hunt, Future Shocks have been a staple of the UK's best-selling comic 2000 AD! This exciting first volume takes us back to the earliest days of the strip and showcases the burgeoning, immense talents of such luminaries as Steve Moore, Alan Moore, Brett Ewins, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, John Cooper, Carlos Pino, Jesus Redondo, Steve Dillon, Peter Milligan and many, many more.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Power Behind the Power Pack

As some of you will have heard, a plot has been hatched to bring back into print the whole of Ken Reid's Odhams output. Reid, one of the most popular and collectable of British comic artists, was active for fifty years as an artist, firstly in newspapers (his "Adventures of Fudge the Elf" running in the Manchester Evening News from 1938-40 and revived post-war in 1946-61, some adventures being reprinted in book form) and then in comics. He arrived in The Beano with a bang, drawing Roger the Dodger and Grandpa before creating the incomparable Jonah (1958-63).

Reid was then tempted by Leo Baxendale to work for what Baxendale described as a Super-Beano. Many of the artists he hoped to attract preferred the safety net of the decades old comics at D C Thomsons; Reid took the plunge, creating Frankie Stein, Jasper the Grasper, Queen of the Seas, Dare-a-Day Davy and The Nerves between 1964-69.

These make up the contents of The Power Pack, a two-volume set to be published shortly. The project is fan-led and fan-financed, the subject of a highly successful IndieGoGo project that just needs a little more of your help to get the printing of the book fully financed.

The brains behind the project is Irmantas Povilaika, a 51-year-old former cartoonist who nowadays works in the tourism sector. Married with two adult children, he lives in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and has been actively collecting British comics for over a decade, having been introduced to them as a boy. Fans of British humour comics will know his Kazoop!! blog, but may know little about the man behind the blog, or the upcoming books. Well, here's your chance to meet...

Irmantas Povilaika:
The Power Behind the Power Pack

People will be interested to learn more about your early cartooning career -- I'm one of... well, probably everybody, who knows nothing about what Lithuania, so perhaps you could tell us something about the kind of comics or cartoons that were available when you were a boy. Were there any? Were they an influence on your desire to draw cartoons? Were cartoons a regular part of newspapers or magazines as they are (or at least were) here in the UK?

My comics reading era was in the ‘70s, and we had next to nothing in terms of comics as kids – we were part of the Soviet Union, and Russians didn’t like comics. They liked caricatures, but not comics, so that were very scarce. I remember there used to be a comic strip (without speech balloons) about a piglet in the children’s monthly magazine, and an occasional page or short series in the national bi-weekly humour magazine, mostly mocking greedy capitalists and evil army generals, etc., with two smart unemployed chaps as central characters. These were quite good, actually, and had every feature of a comic strip. I recently found out that the artist is still alive and has published a tiny run of a semi-complete collection of his comic work from that period, which I eagerly acquired for my archive.

Cartoon by Herluf Bidstrup
There was also a hard-cover book of strips by the Danish cartoonist Herluf Bidstrup. He was a devout communist, so the Soviets published a collection of his works, and it is still well-remembered by people who used to like cartoons back in the day. I also read some Disney comic books that I borrowed from a friend – he had an Aunt in the US and she’d sometimes send him a copy or two. And finally there was that issue of Whoopee! that I have mentioned in  other interviews. These were my only exposures to comics and cartoons, but they were enough to kindle my desire to try my hand at the genre. I used to draw after school for my own pleasure (mostly humorous cowboy and space adventure stuff) and my mates used to come to our place and read those hand-drawn comic pages quite frequently… I still have many of them.

My first experience with published comics work was rather unfortunate – I drew a page about classroom mayhem that usually took place when our biology teacher showed us educational films. She used a projector and screen, so it had to be dark in the classroom, and we did all sorts of naughty kids stuff when she turned off the lights. The reason why that first experience was unfortunate was because I made two mistakes in the strip: first was that I actually mentioned a biology lesson in one of the speech balloons, second – the drawing of the teacher looked a lot like the lady who taught us biology. When the page was published in the national school-children’s magazine, my name and the name of my school was printed underneath, so the poor lady’s colleagues from all over Lithuania called her to tell her she was now famous… The teacher got very upset and ignored me for few years afterwards. I felt bad about unintentionally offending the teacher who was a really nice lady.

Comic strip by Irmantas from 1991.
This taught me a lesson or two for my future life, but didn’t discourage me from drawing. More than a decade later when I was in university I started freelancing for the national humour magazine. Perestroika thing was in full swing. Lithuania was making noises about independence, and suddenly there was a demand for western things, comics among them, so I approached the magazine and they enthusiastically agreed to publish my work. I did a few series – the first one was about three blunderous wannabee gangsters, written by me.

Then I started working with a Lithuanian writer, transforming his humorous short stories and even a short novel into serialized comics for the magazine. The work was fun, but then other things took priority. I gave up drawing comics, and my interest in the genre evaporated. The humour magazine went out of business a few years later but I know there were some independent publishers releasing their own work or reprinting foreign comics – mostly American and French strips. I don’t know much about the current state of Lithuanian comics – I know there are some young artists who do “artsy” intellectual comics, but they are not my favourite type – I prefer humour.

You have mentioned having a pen-pal who sent you copies of British comics. Firstly, how did you hook up with a pen-pal from the UK? And how much of an eye-opener was it to receive a copy of Whoopee! What were your early favourites among the strips you saw?

Whoopee! Xmas number for 1976
It was quite unusual to have a pen friend in Britain in those days. However, we had a brilliant English teacher and she had a friend in Leeds who taught at Shakespeare Middle School. The two of them got an idea that their pupils could become pen friends. Mine was an Andrew Green, and we exchanged letters for quite a few years. I must have mentioned my interest in comics to Andrew, so he mailed me a few. The issue of Whoopee! was an eye-opener. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of the same characters appearing on a weekly basis. Scream Inn, Frankie Stein (by Robert Nixon), Scared-Stiff Sam, Bumpkin Billionaires, Fun Fear, Spy School, Lolly Pop, World-Wide Weirdies  – I thought they were all hilarious. As a matter of fact, I still do today - Whoopee! had a fantastic team of artists then.

I don’t recall the exact timeline, but it is quite possible that my first ever published work was in the UK! The school in Leeds that I mentioned had their own magazine – it was called “As We Put It” or something along these lines, and contained pupils’ contributions – stories, letters, drawings, short articles, puzzles, quizzes, etc. At some point I wrote a fairy tale and made it into a small colour book with a drawing in the top half of every page and my hand-written text (in English) underneath. I sent it to Andrew with one of my letters. He showed it to his teacher, and she shared it with the editor, who reprinted my whole book in the school magazine! I was thrilled!  I must have been 10 or 11 at that time…

Sweeny Toddler, art by Leo Baxendale
Did you like the work of other Whoopee! artists? Reg Parlett, Terry Bave, Arthur Martin were producing rather more traditional British humour strips, but Whoopee! also the likes of Brian Walker on The Ghost Train and Tom Patterson's Sweeny Toddler.

I did, indeed. Brian Walker, Robert Nixon, Mike Lacey, Reg Parlett and Ken Reid were my favourite artists (I didn’t know their names then, of course). I also liked Terry Bave, and I can see traces of his influence in my comic work, alongside with those of Robert Nixon and Mike Lacey, although the latter two were a lot more difficult to imitate than Terry Bave.

You obviously became a fan of British comics, but when did you start collecting them seriously. What kind of collection have you been able to build and what do your family think of your obsession with what most people (even here in the UK) think of as ephemeral and maybe a little childish?

It all started when the name of Whoopee! comic accidentally popped up in my mind and I looked it up on eBay in the Spring of 2007. My collection is now rather big. Apart from all Power Comics, I also own complete runs of most IPC titles – Whoopee!, Cor!!, Shiver and Shake, Monster Fun, Cheeky Weekly, Krazy, Jackpot, School Fun, Wow!, Jackpot, Smash! (the IPC run), Jet, Jag, Scorcher, Misty, Valiant... My collection of Buster is now just 3 issues short of the complete 40-year run! Although I prefer IPC to DC Thomson, I also have quite a large collection of the Beano and the Dandy from the ‘50s and the ‘60s, and the complete collection of the two titles from 1970 until the last newsprint editions in the late ‘80s which proudly sits on my shelf in the form of bound volumes – with colour covers and dustjackets! I am still looking for just 2 more issues of Sparky to complete the set of my favourite DCT title… My family respect my hobby (I wouldn’t refer to it an obsession :) ) but we don’t discuss it at home.  I keep my collection neatly organized – all comics are bagged and boarded, with two comics per bag (one on each side of the board), all in boxes, so although it is rather big, it doesn’t take up much space or interfere with home life.

Do you have any particular favourite comics - either titles or maybe even individual issues -- in your collection? 

As you can probably see from the list of the titles that I collect, those published by IPC in the 70s and later on are my favourite ones.

Whoopee! celebrates 500 issues with issue 494!
Can you recall your first contact with other comics fans? Was it through the internet? What inspired you to launch Kazoop!! in 2012? Your love of the various comics and their strips comes through very strongly across the whole site, but also a very high level of knowledge. Has contact with other collectors helped build your knowledge about artists and the history of the various comics. Have you had any contact with artists who worked on the comics themselves?

My first contact with other comic fans was through the internet. I follow ComicsUK Forum and occasionally post there too. I found out a lot about British comics by reading various blogs, and they were my inspiration to start Kazoop!! blog in 2012. The original idea was to take one title at a time and cover it in detail in a series of posts – the general overview, yearly overviews, a separate post for every strip and feature, followed by separate posts for every Holiday Special and Annual of the title. I have covered three titles so far, and they are Cor!!, Shiver & Shake and Monster Fun Comic. One day I will get round to starting a similar exercise involving all 11 years of Whoopee! – the comic that I blame for starting it all for me.

As for the source of my knowledge – it all comes from reading things online and in books, and of course the comics themselves :-)

I have indeed had a few brief contacts with some of the artists, including  Trevor Metcalfe (now a follower of my blog) and Tom Patterson. I am in touch with Ken’s son Antony J. Reid, who was very helpful when I was preparing the reprint books – THE POWER PACK OF KEN REID.

That brings us neatly to the Power Pack books. What inspired you to try and put together this collection? What barriers did you find yourself facing as you worked towards putting the books together?

My inspiration was my passion for Ken’s work and the desire to bring it back into the spotlight.  Rebellion have started their Treasury line, the number of smaller publishers of archive material is slowly increasing so the tradition seems to be emerging, and I hope my project will help turn it into a long-standing and good one. British comics have a long history and a rich heritage of first rate material that deserves to be collected, and the interest appears to be there.

The biggest obstacle was tracking down the copyright holder. I was banging on the wrong doors for a while but then thanks to you I got in touch with Time Inc. (UK) Ltd, and things developed smoothly from that point. There were also certain “technical” issues that had to be addressed – the pages that will go into the books have been scanned from original paper comics. Printing quality wasn’t perfect back in the day, so remastering involved quite a bit of time and effort.

What made you think of gathering together Ken Reid's Odhams strips? This could be something of a golden age for Ken Reid collectors as Rebellion have just released a volume of Faceache... are there other Reid strips that you would like to see reprinted?

The reason I thought that gathering all of Ken’s Odhams strips together might be a good idea was because I believe it is one of the most interesting periods of his work. Talking to fans I realized that such an edition was something many people would like to own.

I am glad Rebellion released the Faceache book, and I hope that ‘Vol 1’ on the cover implies we’ll be seeing more of Ricky Rubberneck’s adventures in the future. I hope Rebellion’s next Ken Reid book collecting his Creepy Creations will be successful enough to make them consider releasing the complete edition of Wanted Posters and World-Wide Weirdies. As for his other strips - like many fans, I would definitely like to see Jonah collected together. A collection of Big Bang Benny, Ali-Ha-Ha and Big Head & Thick Head from The Dandy would also be something to look forward to.

This volume will include background material on Reid's days working for Odhams by yourself and by Ken's son, Antony. How important has Antony's support been in putting together the books? Have you been able to access lost or otherwise unknown illustrations by Ken? Are you including the banned Dare-a-Day Davy "Frankenstein" strip in the collection?

Antony has been very helpful. He wrote separate intros for both volumes and gave me access to his dad’s archive material – my ultimate resource when researching and writing the account of Ken’s life during his Odhams period (1964-69) that will be presented in the books. It will cover not just the strips featured in the collection but also many other projects that Ken pitched to his publisher during those years. Some previously unseen sketches and illustrations will be included as well, alongside with the ‘banned’ episode that you mentioned.

Tell us about the crowdfunding campaign that you have running to finance the printing of the book. What made you take this route and how has it been received?

Full details can be found in campaign description, but I will briefly mention that the Power Pack of Ken Reid consists of two hard-cover 200 page books. Volume One features Frankie Stein and Jasper the Grasper, with introductions by yourself and Antony J. Reid, plus Chapter One of The Odhams Years of Ken Reid – illustrated biography, written by me. It has a bonus section with reproductions of Ken’s hand-written scripts of the Frankie Stein episodes in Wham! Annuals 1966 and 1967 and some funny pencil sketches of Frankie and Micky. Volume Two features Queen of the Seas, Dare-A-Day Davy and The Nervs. It has introductions by Nigel Parkinson and Antony, and includes Part Two of the Odhams Years bio. Supporters of the campaign are offered the privilege of the slipcase edition and the free prints of original artwork. The books can be pre-ordered both individually and as a set, and I will post them to anywhere in the World.

Snapshot of the IndieGoGo page on Thursday.
The campaign is on IndieGoGo platform and the idea is to raise funds to cover production costs. The campaign was well received – supporters contributed more than 75 per cent in less than a week, so I am confident the goal will be achieved as there is still a month to go. The good initial response shows that there is a lot of affection for those strips, and looking at the geography of the supporters I can see it extends far beyond the UK – there are backers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Greece and Germany! I think the crowdfunding model is a good way to reach potential audience. The enthusiastic response has substantiated my faith in the project and I will do my utmost to ensure that the final product is as good as it can be!

Is there any news of the biography you have been working with Antony Reid on a biography of his father's life and career?

The biography is work in progress and full details will be revealed in due course. I can say that it will be a detailed account of Ken’s life and work covering his entire career, with lots of previously unseen illustrations that we are sure fans will be delighted to see. Cartoonists of the yesteryear have been kept away from the spotlight by various publishers and little is known about their lives. The Complete Biography project will surely fill the gap for Ken Reid.

What have you planned for the future?  Any further collections if this one is a success? What would you like to see collected, whether by yourself or from another publisher.

I will take one step at a time. The plan for the immediate future is to make sure the fans of Ken’s work are happy with The Power Pack and the project is a general success. Apart from Ken’s strips that I mentioned previously, I would certainly like to see collections of Leo Baxendale’s strips from the Beano, and I am sure I am not alone here.  Scream Inn by Brian Walker is another big personal favourite of mine, and I hope Rebellion will find it worth their while to release it at some point.

My thanks to Irmantas for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you'll support the campaign to get these books printed.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Comic Cuts - 8 June 2018

Friends, there's no sugar coating this... I've had a foul week. Between writing the last episode of this column on Thursday and it posting early on Friday morning, I'd spent half the night running to the loo and the other half nervously wondering whether I might be better off waiting in the loo, just in case.

At first I thought it might have been a touch of food poisoning, but the only thing I'd eaten that Mel hadn't was some eggs I had on Thursday lunchtime, and I'd fried those solid. Only the kind of virus that lives on molten volcanic rock could have survived the frying I gave those eggs. So that leaves a mild dose of gastroenteritis, which (I was later told) has been making the rounds locally.

Friday and Saturday were a complete write-off. I had hoped to go and see Solo on Saturday evening, but didn't feel up to it. And they probably wouldn't have let me wheel a commode into the theatre. Even on Sunday it felt like my stomach was a balled fist. We went for a walk anyway, working on the theory that if walking was good for back pain, maybe it was good for front pain, too. Monday and Tuesday saw the fist starting to loosen, from "dynamic tension" (remember those ads?) to the sort of fist you might wave at a cat who has just done a whoopsie on your lawn.

Wednesday I felt fine... just in time for my dental check up! My teeth are fine, apparently, but I signed up for the dental hygienist just to make sure everything is nice and clean. Usually they're really busy and I thought I'd have a few months to mentally prepare myself as I'm naturally averse to having people scrape around my teeth and gums with needles, sandpaper and power saws. Well, that's what it feels like. Unfortunately, they'd had a cancellation, so I'm seeing them on Friday... TODAY! Oh, hell.

Marcella starring five grim new dwarfs: Pushy, Insecurity, Misery, Pervy and Horny.
– putting the "er" in thriller.
Adding to my misery, although admittedly this has been self-inflicted, we've been watching Marcella, which has been on the box since February/March. We should have known what to expect, having seen the first series, but I'd forgotten just how miserable the show was, each character trying to be more ghastly than the last. I don't mind flawed characters as sometimes that makes for interesting TV, but this lot were just joyless, awful human beings with not an ounce of empathy to share between them. There will probably be a third series, but you can count us out.

Also, I've just finished Munich by Robert Harris which has to be the least thrilling thriller I've ever read. Who would have thought the lead-up to the signing of the Munich Agreement was so boring. The whole book is an insomniacs dream because it's so completely free of any action that you'll be asleep in no time. There are one or two hints that something might happen – a plot to overthrow Hitler is mentioned early, for instance – but then it doesn't happen and is never mentioned again. It's a form of literary clickbait and, as with most clickbait, you'll only end up disappointed.

I've also been trying to deal with a parcel of two books that doesn't want to be delivered. It went out on 27 May and hadn't arrived by 5 June, so I thought it lost. It wasn't... the Royal Mail had it and I was told the address was wrong. It wasn't. The business it was addressed to has been going for over 40 years and I've had packages to them delivered regularly for the past seven years. So we tried a courier, who found they (surprise, surprise) couldn't get a response at 6.40 this morning, so the package is now at a depot at Feltham. I've now supplied them with an alternate address... This one could run and run.

I have some random scans for you this week. Just a round-up of recent purchases... the charity shops of Colchester continue to turn up occasional treasures.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 6 June 2018.

2000AD Prog 2084
Cover: Michael Dowling
JUDGE DREDD: THE PARADIGM SHIFT by Michael Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: HEAVY IS THE HEAD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: GEEK-CON by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DURHAM RED: BORN BAD by Alec Worley (w) Ben Willsher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

D L Mays

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

D.L. Mays was perhaps best-known for his dustwrappers and illustrations for many of Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books in the 1950s and 1960s. These appeared towards the end of a long and financially-rewarding career as a cartoonist, illustrator, poster and advertising designer and artist.

Mays was born on 4 August 1900 at 83 Hawks Road, Norbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, and baptized as Douglas Lionel Mays in the local St. Peter’s Church on 10 October 1900. His father, Adam Mays (born in 1874) was an upholsterer, who had married Violet Maud Gray (born in 1877) in Kingston in 1899. They went on to have one further child, Hilda, born in 1903.

At the time of the 1911 census, the family was living at 1 Clifton Villas, Oil Mill Lane, Kingston. Douglas was subsequently educated at Tiffin School, Kingston, and after leaving he enrolled in the 20th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, serving as a Rifleman in the Army of Occupation in the Rhineland until his discharge in February 1920. He then spent three years at Goldsmith’s College, London, studying drawing and illustration under Edmund J. Sullivan and Harold Speed. At that time, he was living at 11 Ladywell Park Road, Lewisham, and between 1922 and 1925 he also had a studio at 5 New Court, Carey Street, Holborn. (He later moved to 11 and then 2 New Court).

As a professional artist, his early career appears to have been rather diverse. He worked on comics such as D.C. Thomson’s Beano and Dandy; he did covers for several issues of Aldine’s Boxing Novels in 1925 and 1926; and he worked for magazines such as The Windsor Magazine. Many sources say that he also contributed to Big Budget  –  however, as this ceased publication in 1909 this could not have been the case.

In 1928, in Birkenhead, Cheshire, he married Janet Walker Duff, born locally on 3 January 1903 and the daughter of Andrew Nelson Duff, a Scottish engineer. She was a graduate (BA Hons. French) from Liverpool University who had subsequently studied at Strasbourg University, and on returning to England had become Superintendent of the Birkenhead Unemployment Centre, and living at 31 Kings Road, Birkenhead.

In October 1929 Mays and his wife sailed from Liverpool to Montreal, Canada, where Mays took up a post as chief artist for an engraving firm. They returned to England in May 1931, along with a daughter, Mary Madelene, aged 5 months. They went on to have three more daughters: Janet (born in Westminster in 1936), Anna (born in Buckinghamshire in 1938), and Elizabeth (born in Buckinghamshire in 1940).

By then the Mays had settled at “Stannings”, Cokes Lane, Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, while Douglas also acquired a studio at Museum Station Buildings, 139 High Holborn, which he maintained for much of the 1930s.

In June 1932 he achieved what he later admitted was his earliest ambition, when his first cartoon was published in Punch. He went on to become a prolific cartoonist for the magazine up until 1954.

His earliest known book illustrations appeared in 1938, when he began a long association with Blackie & Son. Amongst the Blackie authors he worked with was Percy F. Westerman, for whom he illustrated 10 books between 1933 and 1940. He worked in a range of genres – naval and air stories, overseas and domestic adventure stories, girls’ school stories – with two of his best-known sets of illustrations being for Noel Streatfeild’s Tennis Shoes in 1937 and Curtain Up in 1944.

He also worked for John Murray, J.M. Dent & Sons, the Lutterworth Press, Collins, the Oxford University Press, A.R. Mowbray & Co., George Newnes & Co., Macmillan & Co., and Thomas Nelson & Sons. According to the 1968 edition of Who’s Who in Art, he also worked for Odhams, William Heinemann & Co., and Hurst & Blackett, although his work for these publishers has yet to be identified.

His illustrations also appeared in several children’s annuals, such as the Amalgamated Press’s Holiday Annual, Blackie’s The Boy’s Budget and Blackie’s Boys’ Annual, the Daily Mail Annual, the Oxford University Press’s Big Book of School Stories for Boys, Great Book of School Stories for Boys, and The Oxford Annual for Girls, and Hodder & Stoughton’s Green Book for Girls.

He also continued contributing to periodicals, such as John Bull (for which he produced numerous full-colour covers), The Girl’s Own Paper (for which he illustrated several of W.E. Johns’ “Worrals” stories), The Bystander, The Tatler, The Passing Show, Brittania and Eve, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and, of course, Punch.

In addition to his work as a cartoonist and illustrator, he was also in demand as an advertising and poster artist, for example producing posters for British Railways, and Christmas cards for W.R. Royle & Son Ltd. But it was his humorous drawings and paintings of children and their parents which were generally regarded as his forte. As an obituary in The Times (27 May, 1991) put it:
Mays specialized in depicting the world of the family and of children. As the father of four attractive daughters he was never short of models, turning them on occasion into schoolboys with deft strokes of the pen when the situation required it. He was an immensely hard worker, preferring is house and garden to all distractions, and firmly turning his back on every kind of social ritual. He was therefore able to undertake an astonishing number of commissions, including many witty paintings of family situations for the covers of popular magazines like John Bull. He also illustrated many children’s books. Even with such a workload, his pictures were always superbly drawn, with an in-built elegance that became his hallmark.
Mays remained at “Stannings” in Chalfont St. Giles until the late 1940s, when he bought The Manor House, Church Street, Buckingham. He later also acquired “High and Over”, a modernist white concrete house in Amersham, built in 1931, and which he owned until around 1962. He then moved to 112 Hook Road, Epsom, and at around the same time bought “Mount Whistle”, Ashton, Cornwall, which he owned until around 1976. As The Times put it, “He liked living in country houses that had plenty of space for his studio and his family…..”

Mays left Punch in 1955 after the magazine’s editorship passed to Malcolm Muggeridge. He immediately found a rewarding outlet with Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books, beginning with Our Friend Jennings in 1955. (The previous six books had been illustrated by S. van Abbé and Reginald Heade). He went on to provide the dustwrappers and internal illustrations for a further 12 Jennings books, ending with The Jennings Report in 1970, plus a new dustwrapper for a re-issue of Jennings Goes to School in 1962, and the dustwrapper for the compilation volume A Bookful of Jennings in 1966. (Note that most other sources state that he illustrated just 11 Jennings books).

He appears to have done little other illustration work after 1960, and turned instead to oil painting, regularly exhibiting at the Royal Academy. He had previously exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists and the Society of Graphic Artists, and he was appointed a Brother of the Art Workers’ Guild in 1951.

In around 1980 he moved to 26 Norbiton Avenue, Kingston, not far from his birthplace. His wife, who had had a busy life as a county councillor and J.P., died on 26 April 1985. Mays himself died at Norbiton Avenue on 4 November 1991, leaving an estate valued at just under £450,000 (around £750,000 in today’s terms).

Compiling a checklist of books illustrated by May is extremely difficult. He generally signed his work simple “Mays”, and searching “Mays” in library and bookseller catalogues turns up thousands of entries. The following checklist should therefore be regarded as very incomplete.

Wandy, The Wild Pony by Allen Chaffee, John Murray, 1933
The Disappearing Dhow by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1933
Rocks Ahead! By Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1933
A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood, Blackie & Son, 1933 (re-issue)
Andy-All-Alone by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1934
Melka: The Story of an Arab Pony by Joan Penney, Methuen & Co., 1934
The Queer Island by Violet M Methley, Blackie & Son, 1934
The Call of the Sea by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1935
Melka in England by Joan Penney, Methuen & Co., 1935
Up in the Air by Geoffrey Eyles, Oxford University Press, 1935
His First Ship by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1936
Jaggers, Air Detective by John Templar, Oxford University Press, 1936
John and Marytary by Harry Bulkeley Creswell, Faber & Faber, 1936
Midshipman Webb’s Treasure by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1937
His Unfinished Voyage by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1937
Tennis Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1937
Jaggers Swoops Again by John Templar, Oxford University Press, 1937
At The Circus: A Picture Book, Blackie & Son, 1937
Cadet Alan Carr by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1938
Jaggers at Bay by John Templar, Oxford University Press, 1938
Wandy Wins! More Adventures of Wandy, the Wild Pony by Allen Chaffee, John Murray, 1938
Come for a Drive (A Picture Book), Oxford University Press, 1938
On the Road (A Picture Book), Oxford University Press, 1938
Motors, Oxford University Press, 1938 (re-issue of Come for a Drive and On the Road)
In Eastern Seas by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1939
Wings in Revolt by Dorothy Carter, Lutterworth Press, 1939
Mistress of the Air by Dorothy Carter, Lutterworth Press, 1939
Along the Road by John Anderson, Oxford University Press, 1939
In Dangerous Waters by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1940
The House in Cornwall by Noel Streatfield, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1940
Chloe Takes Control by Phyllis Matthewman, Lutterworth Press, 1940
The One-Eyed Trapper by John Morgan Gray, Blackie & Son, 1941
Sword of the Air by Dorothy Carter, Collins, 1941
The Lost World of Everest by Berkeley Gray, Collins, 1941 (dustwrapper)
Sinister Island by C. Bernard Rutley, Blackie & Son, 1942
Josie Moves Up by Phyllis Matthewman, Lutterworth Press, 1943
Percy’s Progress, Oxford University Press, 1944
Hilda, Fifteen by Phillia Garrard, Blackie & Son, 1944
Curtain Up by Noel Streatfeild, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1944 (later re-issued as Theatre Shoes)
Three Terms at Uplands by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1945
Tubby of Maryland Manor by Olive Dougan, Blackie & Son, 1945
Junior Captain by Nancy Breary, Blackie & Son, 1946
Christmas Thoughts by Wallace Harold Elliott, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1946
New Year Thoughts by Wallace Harold Elliott, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1946
The Holiday That Wasn’t by Freda Constance Bond, George Newnes & Co., 1947
The Templeton Twins by Judith Carr, Blackie & Son, 1947
The Green Bracelet by Anne Mountain, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1947
Secret Passages by Maurice Wilson, Blackie & Son, 1947
The Ghost of Aston Abbey by Anne Mountain, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1948
Spindle’s Partner by Howard L. Apps, Blackie & Son, 1948
Gabriel was a Troubador: Poems of the Nativity by Pádraig O’Horan, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1948
Rachel Changes Schools by Nancy Breary, Blackie & Son, 1948
The Adventurous Nine by Heather Prime, Blackie & Son, 1949
The Carols Explore by Freda Constance Bond, George Newnes & Co., 1949
The Queer Island by Violet M. Methley, Blackie & Son, 1949 (re-issue)
The Making of Jerry Dickson by Howard L. Apps, Blackie & Son, 1950
Why Pain and Evil? by Julian Casserley, A. & R. Mowbray, 1950 (dustwrapper)
In the Country by E.R. Boyce, Macmillan & Co., 1952
On the Farm by E.R. Boyce, Macmillan & Co., 1952
Which Religion? Is Christianity Unique? By E.O. James, A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1952 (cover)
Clare, The Younger Sister by Margaret Love, Blackie & Son, 1954
My Book of Elves and Fairies, Collins, 1956 (with other artists)
A Man Called Hughes by Kenneth Lillington, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1962
The Treleon Emeralds by Yvonne Jane Curry, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1962
Oystercatcher Bay by Conon Fraser, Blackie & Son, 1962
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Collins, 1963 (re-issue)

JENNINGS BOOKS by Anthony Buckeridge, published by Collins (dustwrappers and internal illustrations):
Our Friend Jennings, 1955
Thanks to Jennings, 1957
Take Jennings for Instance, 1958
Jennings as Usual, 1959
The Trouble with Jennings, 1960
Just Like Jennings, 1961
Jennings Goes to School, 1962 (re-issue – dustwrapper)
Leave it to Jennings, 1963
Jennings, of Course!, 1964
Especially Jennings!, 1965
A Bookful of Jennings, 1966, (dustwrapper)
Jennings Abounding, 1967
Jennings in Particular, 1968
Trust Jennings!, 1969
The Jennings Report, 1970

Friday, June 01, 2018

Comic Cuts - 1 June 2018

Long-time readers of Bear Alley will know that posts to this blog usually pop up at around 5:03 am. Why that time of the morning? Well, sometimes I needed to line up posts and I'd check to see if they had posted the following day. I used to get up really early, so I might be checking the posts at around 6 in the morning, so I wanted a time that would allow the post to appear, to be picked up by the syndication feed I was using (NetworkedBlogs) and for it to be posted to Facebook.

That meant that, when I woke up, I could quickly check to see that it had appeared correctly (Facebook occasionally needed a tweak to get the right picture) and then push on with the day's work.

So an hour was enough to make sure the feed was working, hence the posts going up around five so I could see them at six. Why 5:03 specifically? That was a somewhat random choice, but it was partly because 5:03 is just quirky enough for me to remember. If I want something to appear below the main daily post, I have plenty of options (5:00, 5:01, 5:02) and I can look at a date and instantly know when each of them will appear.

Choosing for them to go up around 5 o'clock also means that if there are any mistakes, I'll hopefully pick them up when I take a look to check that they've posted and it minimizes the number of readers who might have already spotted the mistake, as most of the readers of BA are in the UK and US.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the site that feeds Bear Alley over to Facebook is shutting down in the next couple of days. NetworkedBlogs made the announcement on Thursday. Apparently, they've been slowly shutting down for the past three years, turning off various features, of which the syndication feature is the last one. As that's the only one I use, I hadn't noticed. The first I knew was an e-mail saying I had a week before it was shut down for good.

It's a shame. I remember it being easy to set up and there have only been one or two occasions where it hasn't worked properly in the... well, I can't remember how many years it has been. Quite a few.

This is their website home page as of today – no mention that they're shutting down in a few days!
I'm trying to find another good "feed" that will allow automatic posts to Facebook, but at the time of writing there doesn't seem to be one. A lot of information on the web is out of date. For instance, one recommended method was RSSGraffiti, which I checked out only to find that it doesn't exist any more. A lot of posts date from around 2010-12, which makes them upwards of eight years out of date. None of the advice published by Facebook helps.

What I think is happening is that Facebook and Google are at war. I noticed Blogger doesn't allow third-party widgets any more. That's why the Amazon search box that I used to have on the blog has disappeared. They're trying to push Google+ (launched in 2011 and relaunched in 2015 – did anyone notice?) as an alternative to Facebook but, frankly, they never had a hope in hell.

I've linked up to, which feeds through to Facebook in roughly the same way. It doesn't seem to post images, but at least the link will be available even if I'm not around to add a pic. by hand when I check the posts. The dashboard isn't as easy as NetworkedBlogs. For some hours I thought I had it set up correctly only to receive a message saying that it wasn't. Now, this was a bit sneaky because it had given me the option of letting the site have data on myself and friends, which I had declined.

When I agreed, the site worked fine. But if you're a "Facebook friend," don't panic. I went to the security page at Facebook and made sure the app cannot collect data on friends. Of course, this might mean it will stop working, in which case I will find another delivery service.

We had a gorgeous bank holiday weekend. We were anticipating thunderstorms and downpours, but had barely any – the bad weather skirting Colchester. Probably because it's on a hill. I'm not quite sure how that works, but it seems to be true.

We were out Saturday night with friends to watch Deadpool 2, which we loved. Some seem to think it was not as good as the first Deadpool, but I'd put it on a par. The audience were howling with laughter for most of the film. It might have lacked that initial jaw-drop when we realised, watching the first Deadpool, that this really was an R-rated comedy, and anticipation levels were exponentially higher this time around, making disappointment that much easier, but I loved it and can't wait to see it again.

The only other new film I've seen this week (via Sky Cinema) is Anon, a science fiction police procedural set in a world where police have access to every piece of data on every single citizen, the information displayed in real time as you look at them. A few people – although the number is growing – have managed to delete their data from the system.

The plot revolves around a series of murders which are linked by the fact that each victim has been "hacked" so that he cannot see his killer. Sal Frieland (Clive Owen), already troubled by the number of people disappearing from the Ether database, is contacted by a data hacker (Amanda Seyfried) who gives her name only as "Anon." She links the victims but persuades Sal that she is not the killer.

Unfortunately, by the time you get that lot set-up, there isn't much time left for anything else to happen. Clive Owen was probably aiming for strong and silent but comes across as emotionless and unengaging, while Seyfried is not much better. The viewer is likely to be equally disengaged.

Is it the Scandi-Noir influence that is making characters so unsympathetic? If so, directors have wildly misunderstood what makes the likes of The Killing and The Bridge so popular. When the characters are bleaker than the landscapes they inhabit, that's when you've gone too far. I'm looking at you, Marcella. Kurt Wallander might have been a bit of a misery, but there was light and shade in those stories, not unremitting misery.

If you can't guess, we've kind of gone off UK police dramas. Currently on our viewing schedule we have Marcella (but for how much longer?), The Gifted, which is an X-Men spin-off originally broadcast on 20th Century Fox Television in the US, and Missions, which is a French SF drama about a flight to (and landing on) Mars, currently appearing (with subtitles) on BBC Four. And, I just found out, renewed for a second season.

For fun, we've also been watching Taskmaster (still the best thing on TV), Jon Richardson's Ultimate Worrier (didn't know quite what to expect; found it hilarious) and, a one-off, The Horne Section Television Programme (basically the last tour show with some additional guests). What connects them is Dave. A few years ago they had one original programme on their schedule, Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish; now they're coming up with more watchable comedy than most of the other channels combined. And most of it is utterly unexpected. Marcus Brigstocke talked about his hatred of technology for six shows. Nick Helm had a cookery programme, for dog's sake. But it worked!

Monday we went for a long walk in the woods and then in the afternoon went to a barbecue. My pale legs were catnip to every twig and insect in Essex and I was scratched and bitten so much I've had to cover myself with antihistamine cream for three days. I still have huge red blotches but at least they're not itching.

The last thing I need at the moment is distractions from work. I've been reading some old (1919-21) romance novels for the essay I'm writing for the next Forgotten Authors collection. Not my usual cup of tea. I have a couple of really bad SF novels lined up to read for fun. (Yes, I do have a strange idea of what fun is.)

Random scans. Actually, this is a cheat. I had a post ready to go covering the recently launched British Library SF Classics line and that was meant to be posted today. But with all the mucking about I had to do to get my news feed working again, I posted it yesterday, so some of you may have already seen it. Scroll down if you haven't as the covers are by the remarkable Chesley Bonestell.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

British Library SF Classics

Lost Mars. The Golden Age of the Red Planet, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35240-6, April 2018, 224pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
These ten short stories from the golden age of science fiction feature classic SF writers including H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and J.G. Ballard, as well as lesser-known writers from the genre. An antique shop owner gets a glimpse of the red planet through an intriguing artefact. A Martian's wife contemplates the possibility of life on Earth. A resident of Venus describes his travels across the two alien planets. From an arid desert to an advanced society far superior to that of Earth, portrayals of Mars have differed radically in their attempt to uncover the truth about our neighbouring planet. Since the 1880s, writers of science fiction have delighted in speculating on what life on Mars might look like and what might happen should we make contact with the planet's inhabitants. In these stories, they reveal much about how we understand our place in the universe. Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet is the first volume in the British Library Science Fiction Classics series.

Moonrise. The Golden age of Lunar Adventures, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35275-8, April 2018, 224pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
Featuring twelve stories by a roster of classic SF authors including Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. Before the Apollo 11 mission succeeded in landing on the Moon in 1969, writers and visionaries were fascinated by how we might get there and what we might find. The Greeks and Romans speculated about the Moon almost two thousand years before H.G. Wells or Jules Verne wrote about it, but interest peaked from the late 1800s when the prospect of lunar travel became more viable. This anthology presents twelve short stories from the most popular magazines of the golden age of SF including The Strand Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories and features classic SF writers as well as lesser-known writers for dedicated fans of the genre to discover. Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Exploration is the second volume in the British Library Science Fiction Classics series.

Four-Sided Triangle by William F. Temple
British Library 978-0712-35231-4, July 2018, 256pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
''The idea was too big for the mind to grasp in all its implications at the first attempt. But when you did get a grip on it, just to let the imagination rove with the possibilities!'' Science is on the verge of a revolution. A cutting-edge new replication process is invented, and any matter can be reproduced-Shakespeare's signature, works of art, even . . . a human being? When a brilliant scientist believes that this perfect replication process offers the solution to an excruciating love triangle, the limits of the new technology are tested and impossible questions of identity and originality threaten to tear apart the best-laid plans of paradise.

Shoot at the Moon by William F. Temple
British Library 978-0712-35256-7, September 2018, 240pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
The Endeavour has made rocket ship history. With its automatic pilot and artificial gravity, anyone is qualified to fly to the moon. But the scientists who designed it did not envision the hidden dangers of lunar exploration. Nor did they foresee the kind of violence that could erupt among the five mismatched crew members in a lonely space capsule. The Endeavours captain, Franz Brunel of the British Space Service, has to contend with the many perils that await him on the surface of the moon. Soon a murderer is among them. This unjustly neglected novel from 1966 has not been reprinted in over fifty years. With its appearance as a British Library Science Fiction Classic, contemporary readers have the chance to enjoy Temples unusual blend of traditional SF with a darkly ironic tone. Featuring cover art by the legendary Science Fiction artist Chesley Bonestell.

From Unknown Depths, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library (forthcoming)

Glimpses of the Unknown, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library (forthcoming)

Commando 5127-5130

Brand new Commando issues are out today! Evade Blitzkrieging Panzers in Belgium, lead a squad of Polish criminals straight against bloodthirsty Gestapo soldiers, dodge desert dunes in a Citroen P21 Kegresse, and think fast when you find a cobra in your cockpit with our Yank pilot.

5127: Last Boat Home
Stranded east of the border in Blitzkrieged Belgium, Lieutenant Jack Dodds was going to get his men home at any cost — but with no hope of reaching Dunkirk, survival looked slim. However, with home just across the Channel, Jack’s family would face the treacherous, mine-filled waters and Panzer shells that awaited them just to try and bring Jack home!
    A Dunkirk story set outwith Dunkirk, Richard Davis’ latest issue of Commando is a microcosm of the event, centring on family and how the people of Britain did whatever they could to save the ones they loved. Beautifully illustrated by Paolo Ongaro, and with a moody over by Neil Roberts, this Commando will stand out on any shelf.

Story: Richard Davis
Art: Paolo Ongaro
Cover: Neil Roberts

5128: Terror Drop
Parachuting straight into Nazi-occupied Poland, Lieutenant Ron Barclay had read his orders and burned them. This was a top secret mission and even he didn’t know all the details. He had been told only that they were to infiltrate the Gestapo HQ and capture the reviled SS officer, Schafer. But, when they found him, Ron couldn’t believe what he saw…
    Allan’s gritty story starts in a rain of fire and does not relent! Meanwhile, award-winning interior and cover artists Victor de la Fuente and Jordi Bosch Penalva enhance the action with striking artwork.

Story: Allan
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 433 (December 1969). Reprinted No. 1247 (August 1978).

5129: Desert Deception
Sipping Spatburgunder and listening to classical music on their gramophone in the middle of the North African desert, Swiss cousins Theo and Lena Zug seemed completely out of place in a war zone. But with SPA-Viberti AS.42 Saharianas patrolling the dunes, and Kittyhawks and Macchi C.202s duelling in the skies above, it was difficult to know just who this eccentric pair were and what deceptions they might be hiding.
    Possibly the most ‘Commando’ issue ever, ‘Desert Deception’ features a stunning aerial cover from Ian Kennedy, story by former editor George Low and chunky interior art by Morhain.

Story: George Low
Art: Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5130: Air Pirates
He glided over the murky jungle, hunting the North Vietnamese troops who lurked beneath the treetops, but Roy Armour had more than Charlie to worry about. With commie spies and drug dealers among the ranks, Roy had to watch his back every second at base — and in the air!
    With an unforgettable cover by Jose Maria Jorge, we see Ian Clark’s steely Roy Armour up-close, fire blistering the Vietnamese jungle behind him — it doesn’t get much more macho than that!

Story: Ian Clark
Art: Jose Maria Jorge
Cover: Jose Maria Jorge
Originally Commando No. 2753 (April 1994).