Friday, March 24, 2023

Comic Cuts — 24 March 2023

I can finally reveal the title of our next book that we have been trailing for a couple of weeks. I wanted to celebrate the 12th anniversary of Bear Alley Books but knew there wouldn't be time to do anything with the comic projects I have been working on.

For the past couple of years I have put out a handful of novels and short story collections—the four novels featuring Hercules Esq. by Gwyn Evans, and the three Andrew Forrester collections—and when I was casting around for a birthday treat I remembered that I had a proof copy of another novel sitting on my shelves that I had never finished off.

Way back in the mid-noughties I was a member of a group dedicated to penny bloods and dime novels. I was keen to learn more of their history because of my interest in British story papers, especially children's papers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of my discoveries at Chelmsford Library, not far up the road from where I went to school, was the Howard Baker reprints of The Magnet, with its tales of Harry Wharton & Co. I wrote to Howard Baker around the age of 11 or 12 asking about The Gem (was it an old magazine like The Magnet?) and where the rest of George E. Rochester's 'The Sea Spider' could be found (it was partly reprinted in one of the volumes... but where was the rest of it?).

Back came a reply, handwritten in green ink on my original letter. It was years later that I realised this had come from Bill Lofts, with whom I had been corresponding since my late teens. Bill got me interested in Sexton Blake and many other boys' papers, but I knew little about the origins of those papers, the penny dreadfuls of the 1860s. Which brings me back to the bloods and dimes group.

One of its members sent me the text of the novel you can see above, along with scans of the original illustrations. It wasn't long after that the idea of publishing some reprints of comics came to me and I started experimenting with print on demand. I tried a number of different formats that were on offer, one of which was to publish in hardcover with a nice dustjacket. It was only available in one size, known as American Trade, perfect for a reprint novel. So, way back in March 2008, I put together On the Queen's Service and had a proof copy printed off.

For various reasons—including moving house in 2010—it took three years to get the first Bear Alley book out. One of the first was a collection of essays that I published as a hardback with a very short print run. (They're damned expensive to produce.)

The proof of On the Queen's Service has sat on a shelf for fifteen years; I found it when I was putting together the bibliography of my work that was published on new year's day. The fates subsequently played their part, and Mel has found herself with some time on her hands and a need to keep busy in a way that can be put on a CV. So she is currently employed by Bear Alley Books as proof reader in chief. Today she completed proofing On the Queen's Service and with any luck we will have a final proof of the book within the next few days.

And early next month it will finally be available to buy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 22 March 2023

It’s the smash hit 2000 AD multiverse mega-crossover ‘undead event’ – and it’s coming as a complete collection this July!

Published in 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine last summer, this self-contained, multi-part epic sold out from newsagents and comic shops – but is now presented in one collection featuring work by Ken Niemand, Henry Flint, Mike Carroll, Gary Erskine, Emma Beeby, Neil Googe, Karl Stock, Kieran McKeown, Dan Abnett, Russell M. Olson, Ian Edginton, D’Israeli, Arthur Wyatt, Toby Willsmer, Rob Williams, Staz Johnson, Leigh Gallagher, Kei Zama, Honor Vincent, Boo Cook, Gordon Rennie, Dan Cornwell, James Peaty, Nicolo Assirelli, Liam Johnson, Conor Boyle, and Steve Yeowell!

Over thirty years since the end of the world was averted by Judge Dredd and mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha in 1994’s ‘Judgement Day‘ by Garth Ennis, Dean Ormston, Peter Doherty, Chris Halls, and Carlos Ezquerra, The Darkest Judge is a blistering ‘what if?’ that sees the myriad of worlds from 2000 AD’s 45 years converge in an explosion of death and destruction!

Instead of Dredd and Alpha executing Sabbat the Necromagus, they drop dimension-bombs to shift the whole zombie horde into a different reality – this means disaster for all the other characters published in the pages of 2000 AD, as the zombies infect everyone from Rogue Trooper to Sinister Dexter, from Ace Trucking to The V.C.s. There is now a whole multiverse of zombies that need killing, and only a few heroes left to take care of business!

Out on 19 July, Judge Dredd: The Darkest Judge is the epic event you don’t want to miss – order now from your local book or comic book shop, or through one of the retailers listed above!

And now, this week's release...

2000 AD Prog 2324
Cover: Leonardo Manco.

Judge Dredd: Succession by Ken Neimand (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out: Book Three by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Love Birds by Tom Watts (w) Mike Walters (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Order: Heart of Darkness by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Proteus Vex; Crawlspace by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Monday, March 20, 2023

  • 25 Mar. Dave Gibbons was recently asked whether he if he would ever be open to publishing the Watchmen scripts by Alan Moore, which he still has. "Dave Gibbons answered that it was certainly an idea. His art agent, Joseph Melchoir, then asked from the audience, 'who actually had the Watchmen scripts?' Dave Gibbons answered emphatically with a smile, 'ME.'"
  • 21 Mar. Phillip Vaughan takes viewers on a guided tour of the Ian Kennedy Exbibition at the Lamb Gallery, University of Dundee. The exhibition runs until 6 May. (video, 25m)
  • 20 Mar.  "Shaky Kane and The Call of the Kraken": Steve Cook reveals how he decided to make a documentary about Shaky: "Armed with just a very small recording device called a Sony HD Bloggie, we set about making this rather absurd film that we decided to call Shaky Kane Unravelled. There was no script, no lighting equipment other than a torch, and we made the whole thing up as we went along."
  • 13 Mar. Down the Tubes has an interview with Paul Gravett. "Letting go of Escape was not easy for me and Peter. I was very lucky to build a different career still in comics. By 1989, I was already working for the Angoulême Festival on the curation “God Save the Comics!”, still the largest exhibition of original artwork from British comics yet staged anywhere, for the new Centre National de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image."
  • 9 Mar. New Yorker cartoonist Jason Chatfield takes a look back over the career of Ronald Searle.
  • 6 Mar. Sexton Blake is returning in the autumn in a newly expanded edition of Caribbean Crisis, written by Michael Moorcock from an idea by Jim Cawthorn. The revision has been done by Moorcock and Mark Hodder, reversing some editorial changes made to the original and adding 10,000 words to the original 29,000; in addition a second, 42,000-word Moorcock/Hodder collaboration, Voodoo Island, will appear in the same volume, to be published by Rebellion.
  • 6 Mar. Lily Collins and Jennifer Saunders explore the world of Tove Jansson's Moomins in a new podcast,  The Moomin Phenomenon, available from all your usual podcast providers.
  • 6 Mar. Posy Simmonds has received the Sergio Aragones Award at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. In a video message, she said: “I’m very pleased and excited to accept the Award, and I would like to thank the NCS very, very much for this great honour.”
  • 3 Mar. News of the death of Wally Fawkes is making it into a few news sites: Metro, The Daily Cartoonist, The Times (behind a paywall), The Independent, The Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph (behind a paywall), ...
  • 3 Mar. Frank Quitely (Vincent Deighan) recently appeared on the BBC2 The Great British Menu. Rich Johnson describes how "During the show, Frank Quitely talked about his work and career, showed off a few original artwork pages of Sandman, talked about how Desperate Dan influences his version of Superman..."
  • 1 Mar. Michael Molchar's I Am The Law reviewed. "Molcher discusses topics including police violence, unemployment, moral panics and institutional racism via multiple flash points and conflicts of the last several decades, many of them injustices with no shortage of culpability to go around." Molchar is also interviewed at Forbidden Planet TV (video, 39m)
  • 27 Feb. Interview: Al Ewing at Off Panel. "Ewing discusses managing the work, what drives his schedule, where pitches fit in, dealing with external forces, constraints as opportunities, Fury's evolving identity, Immortal Hulk's structure, no longer being the space guy, avoiding repetition, mic drop moments, realizing the potential of characters, the secret to tie-ins, how he works with artists, pushing himself as a writer, and more." (audio, 1h 23m)
  • 26 Feb. Michael Moorcock is the latest interviewee at Mandy Jackson-Beverly's The Bookshop Podcast (audio, 54m) "In this episode, I chat with author Michael Moorcock about growing up in London during WW II, his life as a journalist, writing Gloriana, Or The Unfulfill'd Queen, and his latest music."
  • 24 Feb. The Panel Gallery in Northampton has announced a Jock exhibition showcasing over 40 pieces of art by the Scottish artist. It will run between April 1st and 29th.
  • 20 Feb. Want a free preview to Rebellion's upcoming Battle-Action 5-issue mini-series? Well, you can download a 36-page issue zero here.
  • 18 Feb. François Peneaud takes a look at the history of the double-page spread from the 1940s to the 1960s, including examples by Peter Jackson Patrick Nicolle, Eric Parker, Frank Bellamy and Ron Embleton. The video is in French but has English subtitles. (video, 9m)
  • 13 Feb. The BMJ (British Medical Journal) continues its campaign against fast food advertising on the Beano's website with their latest podcast. "Claire Mulrenan, specialist registrar in public health, and Mark Petticrew, professor of public health evaluation, both working at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine were surprised to see high-fat, high-salt fast food brands being featured heavily on the website of one of the UK's most beloved children's comics." (audio, 18m)
  • 12 Feb. It's awards time: the ComicScene Awards 2023 have been announced and the winners are... too many. Follow the link for the full list.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Comic Cuts — 17 March 2023

We have lived through some interesting times this week, so there's a bit of excitement to alleviate the tranquil work week I usually describe. I'm the first to admit that my life is, on the whole, quite dull. I'm more accountant than lion tamer. Not many rocks are thrown into the pond of my life.

As we first found the tree.
The week was pottering along quite pleasurably. I had the house to myself over the weekend and decided to concentrate on a couple of things for Bear Alley. One was to start another Forgotten Authors essay, for which I managed to pull together 16,000 words of notes—mostly book reviews but some useful biographical information beyond what has been previously known. I also made some corrections to the novel that Mel was proofing for me and revised an afterword taking a look at the career of the author.

On Monday I switched back to work-work (the stuff that pays the rent and bills) on the latest Kelly's Eye volume. I was having some fun reading one of the strips and trying to figure out whether it was the first instance of technological singularity in British comics. That's how I get my fun these days. I had to take a break to run down the road to pick up a prescription from Boots and almost lost my hat thanks to there being a stiff breeze that day—and like any murder-mystery, any incidental comment that sounds oddly out of place will turn out to be significant.

I dozed off after lunch for an hour and woke up around 2:15—not unusual for me, especially as I'd had a couple of late nights—and got back to work. Mel arrived home from her convention about a quarter of an hour later and asked if I knew anything about the tree.

The tree?

At this point we had cleared the road.
We had some gale-strength winds blowing over Sunday night and Monday and it looks like that, plus the rain we'd had soaking and softening the ground, a tree in our front garden had fallen and was now sticking out into the road. It must have only just happened—it's probably what woke me up.

While I was looking at it, I spotted a neighbour and asked (facetiously) whether he had a chainsaw. No, but it turned out he had a really good bow saw and an electric saw. He and a friend, who had just driven back from the convention with Mel, began sawing off the thicker branches, with me lopping off what I could and cutting through the thick stems of ivy that had all but killed off the tree. It was cut back to about a third of its size some eight or nine years ago and had never recovered; it was just a tangle of ivy, almost impossible to get to because it was bounded on two sides by (our) hedge and (next door's) garden, and had another tree in front of it. We just left it alone. It wasn't doing anyone any harm...

We managed to chop everything back so that it was blocking the path but not the road. At that point we gave up because the rest would require a decent-sized chainsaw. Mel, meanwhile, had been on the phone to our landlady and to the local council. We were told that someone would be out to look at it Monday or Tuesday; there were reports of a lot of trees down and even some power lines, so we had no idea when they might arrive.

The pile that we would have been left with.
While we were wondering what to do, they arrived. Two lads chopped up the trunk with chainsaws and shredded the remnants. We had a huge pile that we had cut down ourselves that at four bags a fortnight would have taken us months to get rid of. Thankfully, and with some drinks money exchanging hands, they relented and shredded the whole lot for us.

Amazingly, the whole operation—from learning about the tree at 2:30 to it being completely disposed of—took two hours! We sat down at 4:30 for a cup of tea and thanked our lucky stars.

And it was back to work on Tuesday. Made some final corrections to the upcoming Guardian obit. for Christopher Fowler, finished reading through the Kelly's Eye stories and started putting my notes in some sort of order. Started writing it up on Wednesday and... here's the confession... I'm writing this on Wednesday afternoon because we have some people coming over tomorrow morning to talk about a book that I'm putting out for someone (similar to the And The Wheel Went Round book I did for Tony and John). As if that wasn't enough to keep me busy, I'm also looking to reprint a couple of old out-of-copyright thrillers. Phew!

What I now need is a few boring weeks to try and get that lot out of the way.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Commando 5627-5630

goes all out in this red-hot set of action and adventure! From SAS battle buggies to Royal Navy gunners, secret saboteurs, and the Inferno Bowl at Monte Cassino — Commandos #5627-5630 are out today, Thursday 16th March!

5627: Blitz Buggy

Libya, 1942. Two unlucky blokes in one car were trying to escape the enemy advancing across the desert. Only this car was a converted Ford Station Wagon with Vickers machine guns and a Boys Anti-tank rifle — the enemy had never seen anything like it!
Well, the news of this wild set of wheels started a chain reaction and rumours spread of a general touring the desert in his souped-up supercar. Now the Germans were determined to nail this wretched wagon — much to the woe of the two Brits inside it!

Inspired by true events, Handley’s tale brings history to life with two bickering blockheads stealing the spotlight. Neil Robert’s cracker of a cover is sure to stand out in any collection as well.

Story | Ferg Handley
Art| Salvatore Pezone
Cover | Neil Roberts

5628: Soldiers At Sea

Two Bren gunners who had never been to sea in their lives. They were soldiers, not sailors. Yet they went to sea, fought the enemy at sea, were shipwrecked and taken prisoner at sea, and now found themselves working in the stokehold of a German-held ship, awaiting a bullet in the back from an Oberleutnant of the Kriegsmarine.

A gritty yarn from McLean with Golden Era Commando royalty Fleming and Ian Kennedy on art duties, this 1970s comic is full of nostalgia for many readers.

Story | McLean
Art | Fleming
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 950 (1975).

5629: The Inferno Bowl

Monte Cassino. The bulwark of the Gustav line stopped the Allied Advance in its tracks. The fighting there saw some of the bloodiest clashes of the Second World War. But even in the white heat of battle, some engagements created their own mystique. One such was called “The Inferno Bowl”. This is the story of how three men of the RAF Regiment faced hell in that wretched place.

Following the infamous battle at Monte Cassino’s Inferno Bowl, Hume’s story focuses on friends in the RAF Regiment and the path they forge that leads them to that fateful battleground. What’s more, Venetian artist Paolo Ongaro’s stylish interiors lend themselves to the setting, bringing authenticity to the landscapes of his home.

Story | Stephen Hume
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Mark Harris

5630: War of the Fox

Who was the silent saboteur who struck swiftly and effectively against the German occupiers and proved as much of a headache to the carefully organised French Resistance as he did to the local Nazi officer?
He was known as The Fox, but soon he would be tamed. His one-man war would become very different… and even more dangerous.

A delightful romp from Roger Sanderson, this ‘Fox’ may think he is cunning, but his escapades only lead to misadventures and more action!

Story | Roger Sanderson
Art | Salmeron
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1429 (1980).

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 15 March 2023

Essential Judge Dredd
is the ideal series for those looking to discover the greatest stories of the ultimate lawman of the future!

From the war against democracy to fighting murderous undead superfiends, from the origins of Mega-City One to all-out nuclear war – it’s all here in gorgeous new collections.

Created by John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Carlos Ezquerra (Preacher), Judge Dredd is one of the world’s most famous comic book characters but 45 years of continuous weekly storytelling it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Essential Judge Dredd is specially curated to make it easy to jump on board and catch up with the classics from this groundbreaking, massively-influential comic book series. The series features some of the key storylines and most important mega-epics, including:

  • Essential Judge Dredd: America
  • Essential Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War
  • Essential Judge Dredd: Origins
  • Essential Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death
  • Essential Judge Dredd: Necropolis
  • Essential Judge Dredd: Judgement Day

So pick up the Essential Judge Dredd collections now and dive into the future-shocked world of Mega-City One – available in print from book stores, comic book stores, and online retailers or digitally through 2000 AD‘s webshop and app!

And now it's the turn of his some-time partner Judge Anderson to get the Essential treatment. Essential Judge Anderson kicks off with the new Shamballa collection, collecting some of the key stories of the psychic Judge, including 'Triad', 'Leviathan's Farewell' and the eponymous 'Shamballa' – some absolutely beautiful comics and it's a joy to be able to show them off in a new large-format collection.

Created in 1980 by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Cassandra Anderson of Justice Department's Psi Division is a psychic law enforcer protecting Mega-City One from all manner of threats both man-made and supernatural, from oridinary criminals to the undead superfiends, the Dark Judges!

Quirky, irreverent and headstrong, Anderson's quirks are tolerated by the oppressively strict Judges so long as she does her job – but her sense of justice and morality soon calls her to question the Law of the Judges in these landmark adventures, written by Alan Grant and featuring jaw-dropping art by Arthur Ranson and Mick Austin.

As Anderson battles to save Mega-City, psychic twins, and her friend Judge Corey from psychic attacks and their inner demons, her faith in the systems around her begins to crumble. And when the world is teetering on the brink of an apocalyptic collapse, it will take everything Anderson has to save the world at the ancient temple, Shamballa.

Grant’s run on Anderson, Psi Divison showcased a new depth for both 2000 AD and Anderson, as his stories took in the gamut of human emotion and spirituality. 'Shamballa' is to many, the quintessential Judge Anderson story, and it serves as the perfect opening volume of Rebellion’s new Essential Judge Anderson line.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2323
Cover: Mark Harrison.

Judge Dredd: Succession by Ken Neimand (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out: Book Three by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Volition by Liam Johnson (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Order: Heart of Darkness by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Proteus Vex; Crawlspace by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 454
Cover: Tom Foster.

Judge Dredd: One-Eyed Jacks by Ken Niemand (w) Kieran McKeown (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Storm Warning: Dead & Gone by John Reppion (w) Clint Langley (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dark Judges: Death Metal Planet by David Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Devlin Waugh: Karma Police by Aleš Kot (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Judge Dredd: Year One by Matt Smith (w) Simon Coleby (a) Leonard O'Grady (c) Chris Mowry (l)
Judge Dredd - Mega-City Two: City of Courts by Douglas Wolk (w) Ulises Farinas (a) Ryan Hill (c) Tom B. Long (l)
Treasury Classic: Leopard From Lime Street by Tom Tully (w) Mike Western, Eric Bradbury (a)
Surfer: Book Two by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning by Aleš Kot (w) Mike Dowling and Patrick Goddard (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618776-5, 14 March 2023, 160pp, £18.99. Available via Amazon.

2000 AD's debonair vampire exorcist, Devlin Waugh, is back - and he's more outrageous and dangerous than ever! From writer Aleš Kot (Zero, Secret Avengers) and artists Patrick Goddard (Savage) and Mike Dowling (Unfollow) comes an exciting, shocking, and darkly hilarious new collection of Devlin's latest adventures. The freelance paranormal trouble-shooter and exorcist for the Vatican confronts sinister dark forces and plays the Match of Hades, before defending his demonic dildonic partner, Titivillus, in the court of Hell itself!

Judge Dredd: Regicide by Arthur Wyatt, Rob Williams (w) Jake Lynch, Ian Richardson (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618794-9, 14 March 2023, 144pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

Orlok the Assassin is Back! Judge Dredd thought that Orlok the Assassin, one of his most nefarious enemies - responsible for infecting Mega-City 1's citizens with Block Mania during the Apocalypse War, and the murder of Judge Giant Snr - was dead. But Orlok appears to be back, and responsible for a shocking wave of murders. Even more troubling, Orlok is not alone, and is working with La Reine Rouge, a brutal Crimelord who is trying to take over Europe. Can Dredd stop the Red Queen's sinister plans before its too late? Writers Arthur Wyatt (Dredd/Anderson: The Deep End) and Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Judge Dredd: Control), team up with fan favourite artist Jake Lynch (Proteus Vex) to tell an action-packed adventure that will change Dredd's world - forever!

The Leopard From Lime St. by Tom Tully (w), Mike Western and Eric Bradbury (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618830-4, 16 March 2023, 192pp, £17.99. Available via Amazon.

The third collection of Britain's best-loved homegrown superhero, collects stories published in Buster from 1978 through to 1979. Billy Farmer, AKA the Leopardman continues to juggle his tough home life with his career as Selbridge's premier superhero! As the Leopardman, Billy has managed to thwart countless dastardly villains, but now he faces an all new challenge as The Snow Beast is in town, intent on causing chaos during a cold winter...

Friday, March 10, 2023

Comic Cuts — 10 March 2023

My plan to work on a book that I have planned for Bear Alley Books had to go on hold because I had a commission from The Guardian come in on Friday to write a piece on the late Christopher Fowler. The deadline was Monday morning, but I had arranged a visit to the dentist for a checkup on Monday, so I had to get everything finished Sunday night, preferably Sunday afternoon so I could watch Endevour and not then have to go back out into a cold office — the temperature has been dropping over the past week, and it has been threatening to snow, which it eventually did on Wednesday.

As it turned out, I managed to hustle together all my research notes by Friday evening, got up nice and early on Saturday (5 AM) and was already mapping the whole thing out by the time Mel got up. There's a style that most obituaries are written in, front-loading with the achievements that people will recognise before getting into the bit about how they got to achieve it.

In the case of a writer, that's a discussion about their books and what makes them popular, followed by biographical information (with details on parents, education, early jobs, etc.), a wrap up of who they are survived by and you're done. Sounds a lot easier than it actually is. If all the information isn't already in the public domain you can spend hours hunting down little details, like a mother's maiden name and what a father did for a job, what schools they attended and nailing down dates for when they did various jobs. The easiest thing is writing about the books, but you have to keep in mind that you have limited space, so keep a description of a book down to a sentence (half a sentence if possible) if you're covering a successful novelist.

Space is at a premium these days. Most papers carry fewer obituaries than they used to, and in the case of The Guardian, the change in size has also meant changes in how much they can carry. The one-time broadsheet shrank to Berliner size in 2005 and then to tabloid in 2018, effectively halving the number of obituaries they carry. A shame, as it is the one paper that tries to cover a lot of literary and pop-culture figures. They still do a fantastic job in often difficult circumstances, especially when trying to react quickly to the death of a public figure, but there are still a few people I wish they could have recognised as important figures in British comics. Mike Western passed without any notice and Ian Kennedy was given space in a couple of Scottish titles and The Times, which unfortunately lurks behind a paywall.

So the book was pushed back while I finished off the obituary and sent it in. It still needs to go through the editorial team who might want some editing for length and clarity (length because I always go horribly over length and clarity because sometimes we all say something that is obvious to us but might not be to the general reader) and fact checking (which, touch wood, there isn't usually much of), so I'm not done with it quite yet.

In the meantime, I managed to complete checking the artwork for the next book I'm doing for Dolmen and, at the time of writing, I'm taking a break from doing a second pass. That should leave Friday free to start work on the introduction.

The big question is... will I get around to working on that book this weekend. I have the house to myself (Mel is away at a convention) and I don't have any plans to binge watch any TV shows or movies, so I think this might be my chance to at least start correcting the text. I might even have a proof copy in my hands by the end of the month. (Now watch the whole plan fall on its face. This is why I'm often so vague when I write about what I'm up to, because the one thing I've learned from 16 years of blogging is that if a plan can go wrong, it will go wrong.)

(* In honour of Christopher Fowler, we have a handful of his books on display. He wrote an amazing range of stories that never quite fit into any one category, making him a difficult author to "sell" to the public but a fascinating author to read.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 8 March 2023

2000 AD binders are back with a NEW design!

Store your copies of 2000 AD in style with the new 2000 AD Thrill-Containment Binder

This limited edition Cordex Binder, with full colour litho-printed cover, has been specially designed to hold 28 issues of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. It measures 297x230mm, with a 90mm spine, and is the perfect way to store your Progs.

The design for the edition of the popular binders – which is limited to 500 copies – is the amazing wraparound cover by Judge Dredd and Defoe artist Stewart K Moore.

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2322
Cover: Eoin Coveney / Chris Blyth (col).

Judge Dredd: Succession by Ken Neimand (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out: Book Three by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Joe Pineapples: Tin Man by Pat Mills (w) Simon Bisley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Order: Heart of Darkness by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Proteus Vex; Crawlspace by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, March 03, 2023

Comic Cuts — 3 March 2023

I often forget that March is the birth month of Bear Alley Books' first release, the Hurricane and Champion index, which was released on 21 March 2011. To celebrate this 12th anniversary, I'm going to try and get a new book out by the end of the month. It's a reprint of an old penny dreadful that first appeared in 1875-76, almost 150 years ago, but it a fast-moving and incredibly readable action story about spies, set in part around the action of the Crimean War.

I'll publish all the details shortly.

This project has been hanging around far longer... 15 years, to be exact. Back in March 2008 I put together a number of books that were designed to test the quality of print on demand printers, of which there were three or four at the time. The books were never intended for public sale. Normally there was only one copy made, but as I was paying for each one I thought I'd make myself a few different books so that I could at least benefit from the cost and have a few fun collections on my shelves. I tried out various A4-sized comic reprints in hardback and softback in black & white and even one in colour, some with spines, some slimmer ones stapled like pamphlets.

The results gave me the confidence to try my hand at printing a couple of comic reprints. Well, that didn't turn out so well at the time and I ran into a few problems which proved impossible to resolve immediately. To cover the cost of all that printing, I took on some work on a book, 500 Essential Cult Books, for which I wrote short reviews of everything from Dune and The Illuminatus Trilogy to Chariots of the Gods and A Brief History of Time. I think I ended up writing about a quarter of the book to help it hit a deadline.

At the same time, we were being kicked out of the house that we had lived in for 17 years. That's when we found our current home, much better than the last, and I spent months packing, moving and unpacking. It pushed back the launch of Bear Alley Books to March 2011 when I released the first index and a very limited hardcover collection of essays, Mean Streetmaps. I was also working on The Thriller Libraries index for Book Palace and Bear Alley's first comic strip collection, Eagles Over the Western Front, which I put out in three parts at first because I had to spread the costs.

I was kept busy over the next few years: Bear Alley Books doesn't make enough for me to live on, so I have to do other work to allow me to write and publish books that I want to write and publish rather than worry about hitting the best-sellers charts. It has meant a couple of projects stalling as I run out of money to research and write, but I usually get back to them once things are a bit more stable. I'm in an earning phase at the moment, which isn't filling the coffers as I would like it to, thanks to high energy costs, high food inflation and our rent going up. It might be another year before I can concentrate fully on a big project.

In the meantime, I have the opportunity to look at this old penny dreadful reprint which, thanks to Mel, has now been proofed. I'll try to work on it over the next couple of weekends and we'll see where we are. I think this must be book number 41 or thereabouts, so I must be doing something right!

(* Illustrations for today's column are a few random scans I have picked up from Facebook in the last few days. I have never seen the Dixon of Dock Green before. Those early Mayflowers seem to be particularly scarce.)

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Commando 5623-5626

Commando celebrates International Women’s Day for the fourth year running. To mark it, Commando issues 5623-5626 are all yet again written by women! They go on sale today, Thursday 2nd March 2023!

5623: The Shape-shifter

There's something strange going on in the woods during the Battle of France — and it’s not just the speed of the German Blitzkrieg! For 1940 was about to get a visitor from 3023, a time when there was no such thing as war! Sounds ideal? Well, not to some people as someone has come from the future to the past to bring war back with them! The only thing stopping them? A hapless private named Ron Cope!

Writer Georgia Standen Battle weaves Sci-Fi together with war in her latest Commando comic where she once again works with the masterful artist Vicente Alcazar. Plus, Neil Roberts wields his magic on cover duties with a homage to Ian Kennedy’s cover for Commando #981 ‘The Haunted Woods’!

Story | Georgia Standen Battle
Art| Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Neil Roberts

5624: A Soldier’s Honour

As the German half-track hurtled towards the two men, Captain Peter Brookes grabbed the startled German officer and hauled him to safety. But why did the driver want to kill his own countryman?! It was a mystery that had started in France, continued in North Africa, and was now back in Europe again. Five years after it had begun, Peter was at last finding all the answers!

Mary Feldwick was likely Commando’s first female writer, and she struck gold with her exceptional stories. With art from Enriquez and an outstanding cover by Ian Kennedy — this is a classic Commando!

Story | Feldwick
Art | Enriquez
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1383 (1980).

5625: Foul Play

In the smoking ruins of his latest mission, SAS Major Elliot Slater finds an invitation to an exclusive party with a shady host. But with the SS, secret agents, and free-flowing champagne, what could possibly go wrong? Slater’s new recruit, Lady Margaret Green was about to find out!

A Bond-like story from R Tate with everything a good spy comic needs all brought to life by the impeccable artwork of Manuel Benet!

Story | R Tate
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5626: Man of Honour

According to legend, a knight would aid Toulours whenever the village was in trouble. But when the peaceful village was invaded by German troops with motorcycles, machine guns, and mortars — surely there was nothing the ghost of an ancient knight could do against this sort of enemy? Or was there...

We come to our second reprint written by Mary Feldwick for Commando’s International Women’s Day celebrations — and what a story! With art from the indomitable CT Rigby and an amazing cover from Ian Kennedy, you don’t want to miss this!

Story | Feldwick
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1453 (1980).

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 1 March 2023

Clash By name, clash by nature – a new collection from the pages of the legendary Battle is available to pre-order now in paperback and webshop exclusive hardcover!

Italy, 1943. The United States Army have sent Captain Brad Clash to join a British platoon in order to learn from their experiences of fighting in WWII. A former Hollywood stuntman and speedway driver, Clash is a man of action who likes to tackle the enemy head on. All guts and glory, he uses his superior driving skills and American-made weapons, like the Winchester trench Gun, to keep the German Army at bay.

Out on 26 July – and available in paperback and hardcover editions – this gorgeous collection of Alan Hebden’s ‘Clash of the Guards’ features the art of the legendary Cam Kennedy (Boba Fett, Judge Dredd).

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2321
Cover: Jock.

Judge Dredd: Succession by Ken Neimand (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out: Book Three by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Joe Pineapples: Tin Man by Pat Mills (w) Simon Bisley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Order: Heart of Darkness by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Proteus Vex; Crawlspace by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Heritage Comics presents Love and War!


Commando Presents… War At Sea Volume One: Spitfires of the Sea — available digitally on Kindle and comiXology from Wednesday 1st March.

For this anthology, we’ve sailed over the oceans of comics to bring you some of the best nautical Commandos on the seven seas! This volume is dedicated to Motor Torpedo Boats — the little but vital ships of the Royal Navy during World War Two.  

Fast, sleek, agile — the Spitfires of the Sea— Motor Torpedo Boats were able to race into battle gun’s blazing — taking on the enemy with their torpedoes, deck guns, and sheer speed! These were called the little ships of the Senior Service, and their crews were renowned for their bravery and grit in the face of the enemy.
This special edition collects four of the best Commando comics featuring the toy boats of the Royal Navy during WW2 in stunning black and white art. Collating classic Commandos #1080 ‘Full Speed East’, #1517 ‘Rescue!’, #1758 ‘Find Them, Sink Them!’, and #5195 ‘Spitfires of the Sea’, this volume is perfect for fans of British comics.  

Also included in this digital edition is a cover gallery, featuring the original artwork for each issue.
Look out for new Commando Presents… and Heritage Comics digital releases in the coming months!


From the 1960s until the 1990s, Star Love Stories entertained eager readers with book-length romantic dramas in comic strip form. Delving into these timeless tales — like revisiting long-lost love letters from the past — we bring you a classic STAR selection available digitally on Kindle and comiXology from Wednesday 1st March.

In this volume, intrigue, treachery, mystery, and cold-blooded revenge add a dash of spice to Star's usual blend of passion, heartbreak and romance...

Kelly Mason has big dreams of the big break that will take her to the top in the glamour game. But sometimes a dream come true can become a nightmare in the making!

Alison King had the cunning and determination to get ahead in modelling... whatever the cost! But maybe the cost of her success is a price too high to pay!

When Julie Denton met wealthy David Stockland, she couldn't have guessed that their whirlwind romance would quickly lead to the altar... and then to the graveside!

1815, Somerset... The beautiful Caroline Bennet has eyes only for Jarmyle Hall, her family home until it was lost to the man who shot her father dead in a duel.

Look out for new Commando Presents… and Heritage Comics digital releases in the coming months!

Friday, February 24, 2023

Comic Cuts — 24 February 2023

You won't notice any difference, but I am writing this on my laptop for the first time. While we were getting the various programmes downloaded and working with Windows 11, not always the easiest thing, I have continued to use my PC. But I'm trying to wean myself off the old system, which isn't easy after so many years. I have had the same monitor for at least fifteen years, and the same keyboard for as long... the lettering has worn away on so many keys that it's unusable to anyone but a touch typist.

Just getting used to the new keyboard is taking some time. It's slimmer, doesn't require the same amount of weight and there's no number pad on the side. I can no longer use Alt 0151 to create an em dashone of the finest tools in a writers vocabulary. I use them a lot, probably because I grew up reading British weekly adventure comics and there were a lot of sentences that ended suddenly with a !

I haven't been able to find a keyboard shortcut that will insert one: Microsoft Word will automatically turn two dashes (--) into an em dash (—), but I can't find a method to create them in Thunderbird (which I use for email) nor for Blogger (which is where I'm writing this). I always used Alt 0151 when I needed one.

The situation is only temporary, as my plan is to plug in (or wirelessly link with Bluetooth) a normal keyboard as soon as possible. Once I have that number pad back, it'll be em dashes every other sentence!

You may be thinking that migrating to the laptop is taking forever... it certainly feels like it some days. The problem is that I am limited by my knowledge of computers and needed help to get things started. Now that my email (for instance) is working, I have been able to sort out a few things on my own. On Tuesday I spent the morning trying to get my scanner
I think I got in around October 2005, which means it will be able to legally drink in six months time—to work with an up-to-date Windows 11 operating system.

It took an enquiry to the Epson support team in the States to help with the problem when the preview panel disappeared. Actually, their help didn't... help, that is. But I fumbled towards a solution and have produced some scans that I can use. The one problem I haven't resolved is orientation—the scans are coming out turned 90 degrees clockwise and I'm not sure how I can get them to scan portrait rather than landscape. I'll have another bash at resolving that one later.

Again, if it seems like I'm moving at the speed of a tortoise over solving these problems, it's because I'm still trying to keep up with work. I have finished two books this year so far and have the artwork for another two scanned, both of which need to be finished in the next six weeks. I was also trying to update an old Forgotten Authors essay as I was contacted by a relative who added a lot to my knowledge of an obscure author, including some ghost writing for a once popular writer of secret service thrillers. I'm still trying to figure out who wrote what, but I'll let you know the results as soon as I have everything figured out... I've had to buy a couple of books for reference. I'm trying not to fill up the house again, and one of the two I bought on Kindle. Never bought a Kindle book before. This could be a slippery slope.

I'm hoping that Bear Alley will have another book out soon, a project dating back to 2008
—another example of me moving at glacial speed. At the time I was experimenting with print on demand services and a friend had scanned and OCRd an old penny dreadful. I turned it into a book, which I was very pleased with and thought deserved to be more widely seen. But I've just never had the time to proof the text, which was full of OCR errors. I have roped Mel into helping, so the text should be error free; and I need to revise the author biography I attached to it as I know a bit more than I did 15 years ago... but hopefully we'll have that out in the spring and I can start looking at the next comic reprint.

I have my eyes on reprinting some Jesus Blasco. How's that for a tease?

(* Yes, these are the scans I mentioned... a few books I have picked up around town this week, including a William Gibson I already have, although in a different edition, and a book new to me by an author new to me... apparently HB Lyle's 'irregular' spy thriller features the Baker Street Irregulars, which was enough to intrigue me. The Bradbury I remember having a copy of back in my younger days, but it disappeared when I culled my SF collection in the early 2000s. The Tracing the History of Your House is from the Public Records Office and I sometimes find some useful tools in these kind of books that I can use to discover more about book and comic creators.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 22 February 2023

Battle Action
is back and it’s bigger and better than ever!

Rebellion are proud to announce that following the huge success of 2022’s Battle Action special, bestselling writer Garth Ennis returns to once again reintroduce and reinvigorate the legendary British comics combo in a new series.

He is joined by some of the greatest talents in comics – including John Wagner (Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog), Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy, Warhammer 40k), Torunn Grønbekk (Thor, Punisher: War Journal), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Judge Dredd), John Higgins (Watchmen, Judge Dredd) and Chris Burnham (Batman Incorporated, Unstoppable Doom Patrol) – to bring new life to even more characters from the pages of Battle Picture Weekly and Action!

Launching 31 May in 2000 AD-size magazine format, and available through comic book stores and the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops, the new five-issue miniseries will feature the return of fan favourite World War Two flying ace ‘Johnny Red’ as well as the return of Battle Picture Weekly’s co-creator John Wagner to ‘HMS Nightshade’, the series he co-created with artist Mike Western in 1979, which tells the story of a Royal Navy warship protecting Allied shipping from the U-Boat menace.

Wrapped in stunning covers by award-winning artist Keith Burns, each 32-page issue will feature two incredible stories of daring, courage, and action, such as ‘Crazy Keller’, ‘D-Day Dawson’, ‘Dredger’, ‘Major Eazy’, ‘Hellman of Hammer Force’, and ‘Nina Patrova and The Angels of Death’.

Garth Ennis said: “So it looks like my cunning plan worked, and there will indeed be more Battle Action. I’m delighted to welcome writers Rob Williams, Torunn Grønbekk, Dan Abnett and in particular original Battle creator John Wagner on board for the new series, alongside ten (count them) fantastic artists – some returning from last year’s special, some newcomers to our noble endeavour. Having John produce the first ‘HMS Nightshade’ script in forty years is the icing on the cake.”

Editor Oliver Pickles said: “The Battle Action special last year was a huge success for us, so it’s a delight to be able to return to these classic titles. We have a really first class line-up of creators who don’t just understand the legacy of these characters but how to bring them forward in new and exciting ways.”

Battle Picture Weekly
was where the revolution in British comics began. Created in 1975 by writers and editors Pat Mills and John Wagner, it introduced new grittiness into comics with its cast of anti-heroes and misfits. Its bombast and energy sparked a sea-change in what comics could do, leading to Mills’ creation of the controversial Action and the globally influential 2000 AD.

The new Battle Action mini-series celebrates the merging of this landmark title with its controversial stablemate, Action, a combination that took the two comics to even greater heights. Now, more than forty years after the original, some of the cream of British comics talent are bringing these classic characters back to life.

Battle Action #1 is out on 31 May from comic book stores and will be available for stores to order through Diamond Distribution’s Previews magazine. It will also be available in print and digital from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops and digitally through the 2000 AD app.

Issue 1 on sale: 31 May

  • JOHNNY RED by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns
  • HMS NIGHTSHADE by John Wagner and Dan Cornwell

Issue 2 on sale: 28 June

  • CRAZY KELLER by Garth Ennis and Chris Burnham
  • D-DAY DAWSON by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade

Issue 3 on sale: 26 July

  • DREDGER by Garth Ennis and John Higgins
  • MAJOR EAZY by Rob Williams and Henry Flint

Issue 4 on sale: 30 August

  • COOLEY’S GUN by Garth Ennis and Staz Johnson
  • DEATH SQUAD by Rob Williams and PJ Holden

Issue 5 on sale: 27 September

  • HELLMAN OF HAMMER FORCE by Garth Ennis and Mike Dorey
  • NINA PETROVA AND THE ANGELS OF DEATH by Torunn Grønbekk and Patrick Goddard

And now, this week's birthday issue... Happy 46th, 2000AD!

2000AD 2320
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (col).

Judge Dredd: Taking Doors by Ken Neimand (w) Kieran McKeown (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Out: Book Three by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Joe Pineapples: Tin Man by Pat Mills (w) Simon Bisley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Order: Heart of Darkness by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Proteus Vex; Crawlspace by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)



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