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Friday, April 03, 2020

Comic Cuts - 3 April 2020

Week two of Goatmageddon – they're coming! Look to Llandudno if you don't believe me – and I'm pleased to be able to share a bit of good news. After a fairly lazy, laid back weekend, I began prepping for the next book I'm going to work on when, for the first time in a fortnight, the door bell rang.

Proof copies of the three books I have been waiting on. Finally.

The crowd, both of us, went wild. All three looked pretty good and Bear Alley Books was back in business, which, I don't mind telling you, is a huge relief. As if to let us know everything was going to be OK, when we stepped out for a walk on Monday we saw a rainbow arcing over the whole of the neighbourhood.

I've spent the past couple of days going through the books with a fine tooth comb. Except I had to go pick up a prescription on Tuesday, so trekked off to the local pharmacy, twenty minutes walk away. The streets were as quiet as they have been for the past couple of weeks, with little traffic and almost as little footfall from passers by. Approaching the pharmacy, I could see a queue extending back to the junction and as I approached on the other side of the road, I began to realise that it extended around the corner and down the road. I joined the queue around 9.45 and eventually got back home at 11.45, having queued for an hour and a half.

Not that it was a chore. Everyone was very friendly and we were chatting like old friends within a few minutes. The only point where the conversation dried was when I dared to suggest: What if we discover that football is irrelevant during this lockdown? What if everyone discovers that there are enough football matches already recorded that they can rebroadcast? You could have channels dedicated to your favourite team only ever winning..." This was met with stony silence and then a guy standing a couple of people down just said: "No... I love football, me," and we all carried on discussing whatever the next topic was.

When it came to picking up her prescription, the woman next to me said she didn't really want to leave. "It's the first adult conversation I've had for a week," she told us, explaining that she has been stuck in the house with two young children.

Albert Uderzo obit, as it appeared in Saturday's Guardian
At the pharmacy we discovered that my new medical card had been sent to me with the wrong name printed on it – Molland instead of Holland – which meant I had to pay for my prescription rather than getting it for free. That meant a chunk of the afternoon was wasted on the phone as I tried to get a new card sent. I did get through to talk to the right people and hopefully that will be sorted out and the card delivered before I need to go to the pharmacy again.

Back at home, I've been reading through the three new books that will be available shortly from Bear Alley Books. The best news is that the Hurricane and Champion update requires no more work and  came out perfectly. The other two will require a little bit of tinkering, but not much. As of me writing this (Thursday afternoon) I've sorted out the text of Rocket and need to slightly adjust the cover so that the text rests on the spine more centrally (it was about 1mm out); the Eagles book requires a short piece of text to be reset as, for some reason unknown, it came out a bit mangled. It's fine on the PDF I sent in, mangled on the printed proof. Should be easily fixed even if I've no idea what caused the problem.

Next step: finish tidying up the last bits of the books, resend them to the printers over the weekend, get payment pages set up at Bear Alley Books, cobble together a few little adverts to go up on Facebook and on the Bear Alley blog, and then, Goat-willing, people can start ordering copies. I'm not letting this goat thing go! Personally, I welcome our new overlords and the dawning of the age of Capricorn.

I'm taking a look at The Mandalorian below the pic, so skip to the end if you don't like spoilers.

I've been wanting to see what all the fuss was about for some while and I have to say that it was worth the wait and worth the watching.

At only eight episodes, the show doesn't outstay its welcome. Its the show that Solo should have been, but the movie blew its chance. Unlike some, I don't mind the movie as it stands, but it's no more than a reasonably made (it's Ron Howard, after all) sci-fi actioner with money thrown at it to make the special effects effective. What I wanted was the film that it could have been: if you're going to make a science fiction comedy western, make Maverick rather than Wild Wild West. We're unlikely ever to see the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the original directors) version of Solo as (I think) they were taken off the movie before they finished shooting, but it would certainly have been interesting.

(I'm thinking here of the Brian Helgeland-directed Payback, which was taken out of his hands and re-shot and re-edited to make the lead (played by Mel Gibson) more viewer-friendly. This was based on one of Richard Stark's (Donald E. Westlake's) Parker novels (the same one that was made into the classic Point Blank) and was a disaster when originally released. Subsequently there has been a Helgeland "Director's Cut" made available, which is vastly better than the version that reached cinemas.)

Mind you, the script for Solo didn't exactly offer any surprises – did we really need the origin movie that showed how Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon and how he did the Kessel run in twelve parsecs? Something with Han and Chewie at their peak would have been nicer. The original Star Wars dropped everyone into the middle of a story and succeeded. We don't need everything to begin with an origin story.

The Mandalorian proves my point. We know nothing of his origins as the show opens, nor do we get any clues to his identity or origins as we progress through the story.

And, more good news, turns out you can make a light-hearted action western set in the Star Wars universe, as Disney+ have now found out to their advantage. It would be wrong to say the new streaming service was launched off the back of this – they're Disney, after all, and they also own Fox and the Marvel movies as well as Star Wars – but I think it would be fair to say The Mandalorian was the most anticipated new show.

And it certainly lives up to that anticipation. A bounty hunter is hired on a frontier planet to capture an unnamed asset – fifty years old, but otherwise unidentified – to be found on the outpost world. The client (played by Werner Herzog) is clearly Imperial and protected by Stormtroopers. Despite this, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) accepts the off-the-books commission.

On the planet, the Mandalorian is led to the asset's location by a farmer, Kuill, tired of the chaos that bounty hunters have brought to the area in search of the target. Overlooking a heavily defended encampment, the Mandalorian spies a robot bounty hunter, also on the same mission; they work together to rescue... a tiny Yoda-like baby. When the droid tries to take the child's life, the Mandalorian blows a hole in it's circuits and returns to his ship with the child.

There are encounters with Jawas and a battle with a monstrous Mudhorn before the Mandalorian returns to Nevarro and delivers the child and receives his generous payment. However – there had to be a "however" or you wouldn't have a story – he returns and saves the child, only to have every other bounty hunter in the city hired to prevent him escaping.

I loved it. Maybe it's the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment, but this is comfort TV, like settling down in front of a John Wayne western you've seen twenty times already but, you know, if that's what you're in the mood for, you can do no better. The Mandalorian is a pair of space opera slippers, well-worn as far as the plot goes, but a snug, comfortable fit for these trying times.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Commando 5319 - 5322

Brand new Commando issues are out today! All the latest action and adventure, featuring two World War One forays, a stint in a Spitfire, and a weird romp in the North African desert!

You don’t even have to leave your house to get Commandos! DC Thomson are finalising one of their best print subscriptions deals yet — and you can buy the latest copies digitally through Amazon Kindle, Comixology, or directly on the DCT Shop.


5319: Out of the Woods

Canadian twins Tom and Harry McDonald were as different as they come — Tom a burly lumberjack and Harry a weedy schoolteacher — but Tom would always look after his brother no matter what. As World War One broke out, they both volunteered to do their bit. Harry struggled to fit into the fighting life but Tom thrived. Then in 1915, when the Germans unleashed their first horrific gas attack, Harry found himself in Kitcheners’ Wood among the men choking on the deadly fumes. Tom came to find Harry but he too began to gag on the gas as the Germans surrounded him. Tom had always had Harry’s back – but would Harry have Tom’s now that he needed him?

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Klacik & Muller
Cover: Tom Foster


5320:  The Silver Spitfire

A classic Commando from 1966, ‘The Silver Spitfire’ has it all — a vibrant cover by Ken Barr, stunning interiors by Gordon C Livingstone, and a gripping plot by Ken McOwan which spans the jungles of Burma, the island of Malta, and the skies over Italy before heading back to the Far East again — all in just the one Commando! And that’s not even mentioning that the Spitfire’s pilot carries with him a special talisman and the weight of a prophecy all about him and his silver Spitfire!

Story: McOwan
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 199 (1966).

5321: Conchie!

The second Commando in this set about The Great War, Issue 5321 ‘Conchie!’ is one of, if not the only, Commando about a part of that war often overlooked and looked down on. Conscientious objectors in the First World War were brave men who chose not to fight. Berated and the source of contempt, the conchies were courageous enough to stand up for their own beliefs — but that didn’t mean they didn’t do their part. Men like Will Miller joined the Non-Combatant Corps who were on the front line but unarmed when they came face-to-face with the enemy!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Morhain & Defeo
Cover: Ian Kennedy
 
5322: Man of Mystery

Get ready for a Commando that will blow your socks off! Writer Brenchley weaves a tale of intrigue in the North African desert the like of which is seldom seen in a Commando. When Sergeant Dave Wilson’s squadron is wiped out, he and Corporal Neil Rudkin are forced to wonder the desert to get back to their camp. Then things get really weird as a man who calls himself Corporal Kenneth Kane approaches them in the middle of nowhere. Only, when they get back, Dave soon discovers that Kenneth Kane is dead and has been for some time. Then who was that Man of Mystery?

Story: Brenchley
Art: Enriquez
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1511 (1981).

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)


Death is the longest walk - but for Judge Barbara Hershey, it’s only the first step!

HERSHEY: DISEASE by Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Unfollow) and Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Kingsman) begins in 2000 AD Prog 2175 and sees Judge Dredd’s long-time ally using the cover of her faked funeral to head out into the world and right the wrongs committed by Judge Smiley!

Readers were saddened last year when a microbial virus first forced Hershey to resign her position as Chief Judge of Mega-City One and then apparently took her life in John Wagner and Colin MacNeil’s Guatemala (2000 AD Progs 2150-2157). But all was not as it seemed - Judge Hershey was alive all along and she’s now on a mission of revenge that will take her far beyond the walls of Mega-City One!

Williams and Fraser have crafted a tense, moving new series that gives one of the Dredd world’s longest-standing characters a brand new lease of life - or is it merely borrowed time?

2000 AD Prog 2175 is out on 1 April 2020 and is available in print from some newsagents and comic book stores, as well as digitally from 2000 AD’s webshop and apps.

Created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland in 1980, Judge Barbara Hershey was one of Justice Department’s most respected and capable young officers before she became Chief Judge. But it was during the critically-acclaimed The Small House storyline (2000 AD Progs 2100-2109) that her bond with long-time colleague Judge Dredd was near fatally damaged, following the revelation that there was a vast clandestine operation at the heart of Justice Department run by Judge Smiley, a Machiavellian manipulator who had controlled world events for decades. During last year’s Guatemala storyline, and after Hershey’s apparent death, the new Chief Judge was seen talking to an anonymous voice by radio - the identity of that voice remained unknown … until now!

Editor of 2000 AD, Matt Smith, said: "When Hershey stood down as Chief Judge, Rob came to me with the idea of a solo series, with her repairing Smiley's legacy in the wake of The Small House storyline. John said he had no plans for Hershey, and was happy for us to use her as we saw fit. When John wrote the first episode of Guatemala, he came up with a cover story that would take Hershey out of the game, with no one but Logan, Dredd and a select few others knowing the truth - and Rob worked his scripts in tandem with that. Hershey is still dying - she's taking medication to stave off whatever microbe she's been infected with - but she's going out with the intention of righting wrongs that were done on her watch. Rob and Si's series is a redemptive, violent, propulsive new arc for Hershey, with lots more surprises still in store."

Co-creator of Judge Hershey, John Wagner, said: "When discussing the new series with Matt Smith and how it might fit in with Guatemala, I suggested Hershey's death could just be a subterfuge - I had no plans for Hershey and am happy to see others take her in new directions, so there's a little clue in Guatemala, that I don't think anyone spotted, that things were not as they seemed! And who doesn't love a good old story of revenge?"

Rob Williams said: ”The idea for the series came off the back of The Small House. I felt the "I no longer recognise your authority" line had been building for years, and was organic and justified, but it also didn't really let Hershey tell her side of things. I felt we'd undersold her a bit. And even in the scene that followed it that John wrote, when Hershey and Dredd meet on their bikes - that we play on in Hershey episode one - that was still written from Dredd's point of view. I felt, after how long she'd been in the strip, she deserved a version that told her side of the story. A Long Walk for someone who's deserved a journey that isn't just going into The Cursed Earth. A Long Walk for someone burnt out and dying, who is asking herself the question - my life's run its purpose. So, what's left? Can she find that?

"Simon and I have worked together a bunch of times and he's a good friend. I thought he'd be great for this. He said he wanted to draw her looking her age. Which was tonally exactly the themes of the story needed.

"John agreeing we could tell this story, and to fit it in around Hershey's 'death' in his story was important. Ultimately, she's his character. Boorman's Point Blank was one of the big inspirations behind this series. A revenge thriller, with Hershey as this unstoppable, grim force. There's a school of reading Point Blank as how Lee Marvin's character dies in the opening scene, and everything that follows is his fantasy just before he dies. Maybe this is Hershey's fantasy just as she dies. Or maybe not..."

Simon Fraser said: "The planning process was, and I'm paraphrasing, "Hey Si , you want to do a hard as nails revenge thriller, kind of like Point Blank , but with Judge Hershey?" My reply, also paraphrasing, was " Yes!" or maybe "**** Yes!", which is my usual response when Rob suggests things.

"I was looking for a story to stretch my new digital drawing tools. Lots of world building , which I love, but not much dialog ... which I also love. I'm also very happy to be drawing a lady of advancing years being very angry and violent.

"Hershey has been the good and dutiful public servant for a long time, she's taken a lot of crap, stoically and responsibly, now let’s see how she chooses to close her account! I know that people get upset because we're bringing a character 'back from the dead', but I think we're giving an amazing woman the ending she deserves."


2000AD Prog 2175
Cover: Brett Parson

JUDGE DREDD: HAIR OF THE DOG by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: NIMROD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: CRISIS OF INFINITE NERDS by Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
AQUILA: THE BURNING FIELDS by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Jim Campbell (l)
HERSHEY: DISEASE by Rob Williams (w) Simon Fraser (a)


Masters of British Comic Art by David Roach
Rebellion ISBN978-1781-08759-6, 2 April 2020, 384pp, £39.99 / $50 (hardcover, cover by Brian Bolland) Available via Amazon.

This wildly entertaining and educational tome is a journey through the history of British comics – from the birth of the 20th century to the ‘80s invasion of American comics and through to today’s best contemporary artists! A high-production hardcover compendium perfect as a coffee table book or academic encyclopedia, Masters of British Comics is painstakingly researched. Behind a brand new cover by superstar artist Brian Bolland, and featuring artwork from a vast number highly-acclaimed artists carefully scanned from original artwork, Masters of British Comic Art is the definitive study and celebration of a beloved industry! Featuring a Who’s Who of talent, including Brian Bolland, Yvonne Hutton, Dave Gibbons, celebrated greats such as Don Lawrence and lost masters like Reg Bunn and Shirley Bellwood. Author and 2000 AD artist David Roach takes us on a journey through time detailing the surprising and fascinating evolution of the art from its humble beginnings to its current world-conquering status.

Kingmaker: A World Lost by Ian Edginton & Leigh Gallagher
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08757-2, 2 April 2020, 144pp, £14.99 / $19.99. Available via Amazon.

‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘Independence Day’ in this brand-new fantasy epic from the pages of 2000 AD! The inhabitants of the Nine Kingdoms fought hard to liberate their world from the tyranny of Ichnar the Wraith King. Little did they suspect that a greater threat would soon fall upon them in the form of the Thorn – a race of aliens intent on strip-mining all of the magic from the world. Now old enemies have formed an alliance - Wizard Ablard, ork Crixus and the dryad Princess Yarrow have set aside their differences and are seeking to use the Ebora world spirit against the invaders… Perfect
for fans of deconstructed fantasy stories like ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Coda’!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Masters of British Comic Art by David Roach


David Roach, one of the foremost researchers of British comics, has dialed it up to fivemost with his new book. The first third of the book is a comprehensive history of UK comics that will introduce readers to the creators behind the scenes who filled the British weekly anthologies and monthly pocket libraries. The bulk of the book is then dedicated to showing off some of the stunning artwork that has appeared over the years by 127 different artists, much of it reproduced from original boards and ranging from Tom Browne to Anna Mill. David takes in the "usual suspects" (Hampson, Embleton, Lawrence) but casts his net wide to show off artwork by more obscure names like Leslie Otway, Norman Lee and Doris Kinnear. There may be the odd name missing, but some missing from the gallery (Philip Mendoza, for instance) are covered in the opening history.

Why have I been rather reticent about discussing Masters of British Comic Art previously? Well, it's because David kindly dedicated the book to me. I've had my name in a lot of books (often on the title page and cover!), but it was a real shock and an absolute delight to spot it here.

If you have even a passing interest in comics history and comic art, this is the book for you. You will not be disappointed.

Masters of British Comic Art by David Roach
Rebellion ISBN978-1781-08759-6, 2 April 2020, 384pp, £39.99 / $50 (hardcover, cover by Brian Bolland) Available via Amazon.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

ComicScene #13 update: order your print copy now

70 years ago, on 14 April 1950, the first issue of Eagle sold an amazing 900,000 copies.‬ It was a colourful escape for everyone after the war and during rationing.

On 14 April 2020, ComicScene will be celebrating 70 years of Eagle and Dan Dare in digital form and by post as close to that date as possible, depending on what is happening with the post at that time. If you want a print copy please order at the ComicScene store by 31st March.

Anyone ordering the regular 80-page digital or print copy will receive an enhanced digital issue with an extra 30 pages of content. ComicScene 13 has articles on the original Eagle and Dan Dare, Dan Dare in 2000AD, '80s Eagle, Dan Dare by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes from Revolver, Dare in Virgin, Titan Comics and B7 audio adventures and a look at the work of Frank Hampson. There are also strips including Rok of the Reds, Whackoman!, the final episodes of Flintlock and Captain Cosmic and a free 16 page 'Spaceship Away' supplement with three strips in the style of 50's Dan Dare.

ComicScene #13 print edition will be available by post only. Tony Foster says this is due to advice that many specialist magazines are leaving their current issue—in the case of ComicScene that's issue 12mdash;on newsstands for an extended series. This means that #12 will be on sale until at least 21 May, and may well remain on sale until July, depending on the situation at the time.
"We are ready to go to print with Issue 13, (our second birthday issue celebrating 70 Years of Comics, Eagle and Dare) and will do so to meet subscribers, library/school/special offer packs and those comic fans wanting a copy of this very special celebratory issue.  Support the magazine and make your order online by 31st March and you will receive your magazine in April as expected by post."
    "Let Dan Dare help battle the Virus from Venus and celebrate comics together on the 14th April 2020!
    "‪Please order your copy by 31 March for print/digital issue so we can get in post to you (our enhanced digital issue can be ordered up to and beyond the date!). Only £5.99 in print and digital (£2 added for postal copies)."
You can get the magazine in print or digital at www.getmycomics.com/ComicScene or get one of our special offer packs at https://comicscene.org/comicscene-online-store/.

ComicScene are also offering a variety of packages which includes the latest issue plus digital copies of back issues and issues of various comics can also be found at the ComicScene online store.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Comic Cuts - 27 March 2020

Like everyone, I've had a week of ups and downs. Today we're sitting here looking back on last week like it was a different age.

We were expecting changes: plans were already afoot when I last wrote for Mel's workplace – and my old stomping ground, Aceville – to be shut down and for all staff to work from home. For security reasons, she had to bring her work computer home and this took some setting up as our first attempt failed because the (ancient) computer couldn't be connected to her (almost new) monitor. A trip into the office was required to get some cabling, after which everything was relatively easy to set up.

As I type, she's in her little office, working on the latest issue of one of her magazines.

On Monday, it looked like I was sunk as far as Bear Alley Books was concerned, and posted a note on Tuesday to say that the lockdown was likely to stop all my publishing activities dead in their tracks from 12 midnight Monday/Tuesday. It was unlikely that I would even be seeing the proof copies that I had sent off some days earlier, let alone be able to get new orders printed and delivered.

I posted this about 11am and was settling in to think of some ways I could generate money – it's almost impossible for a freelance writer to prove that he's unemployed and not working! – when I received a message from The Guardian asking if I was available to write a piece for them. Yes. Yes I was. It wasn't all raising glasses and party poppers as we cheered in a new dawn of financial security... the commission was for an obituary for Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix the Gaul. He had died that morning from a heart attack, aged 92.

Thankfully his death was not related to the coronavirus or I would have been feeling a little ghoulish.

That kept me busy Monday afternoon collecting information that I wrote up yesterday, a slightly sprawling 2,500 words that I sent in this (Thursday) morning. If you heard a yelp of annoyance around 10 am this morning, that was the folk at the obits desk opening my e-mail and seeing a long, long day of checking ahead of them. (I will just say that my pieces are often edited for length, as they have to fit in with other pieces on what is nowadays a single page. A lot of newspapers have slimmed down the number of pages they dedicate to obits, not just The Guardian.)

I decided just now to see whether any of the other UK broadsheets had carried an obituary. The Times and The Telegraph are both behind paywalls, but sometimes you get a free look at a few pages. So I spied the obituary in The Times and went to have a look. A notice popped up asking me to consent to having various "partners" storing and retrieving information from my browser... the usual cookie consent form.
We use the following partners to help it deliver the best content and services to you. You can consent to the companies listed by clicking the link below. You can change your mind and revisit your consent choices at any time by returning to this site via the cookies link in the header or footer of every page.
I had a look at the list of "partners" and there were 197 of them. That's 197. I didn't mistype. Out of curiosity, I randomly picked one to see what they did and chose ZighZag, the last name on the list, which took me to a security warning about potential threats of the site allowing attackers to steal passwords and credit card details. Way to go, The Times.

The good news—and there is good news even in these dark times—is that I have a paying project that I'll be starting next week. I'll hopefully have some more details for you shortly but for now all I'll say is that it ties in with a recent Rebellion release.

I had that good bit of news on Wednesday, and later the same day I received a notification that my proofs for the Rocket index and two other books had been printed and were in the post. No sign of them yet, but I expect the post office is at full stretch at the moment, with at least some staff in isolation and some routes perhaps not being covered every day. However, I'm risking taking orders again... had one today and we shall see what happens over the coming days and weeks.

The new work doesn't mean I'm out of the woods financially. Between them the two jobs will keep me going for maybe five or six weeks at best, and everything is costing a little more as cheap options are often the ones that disappear first from shop shelves.  At least we have enough toilet paper!

Of course, just to put a dampner on the good news, I have developed a wobbly tooth. My dentist's advice: "Take some paracetamol and don't chew on that side of your mouth." Over the past couple of days, the wobble has become more pronounced and the gum aches constantly. "Let us know if there is bleeding that won't stop," says the dentist, "otherwise we can make an appointment when things are back to normal."

Last night I had a quadruple whisky and that seemed to numb the pain. I've had a bottle of 12-year-old scotch in the cupboard for quite a while and now seems as good a time as any to make the best of it.

Cheers!

Spoilers below as we take a look at Locke and Key. Jump to the end if you don't like them.

I'm not averse to the occasional horror show on TV, and Locke and Key has the advantage of being based on a comic strip that has been generally well received – it has won the British Fantasy Award twice and writer Joe Hill picked up an Eisner Award.

The TV series takes elements from the first five graphic novels, which collected together five 6-issue mini-series published in 2008-12. Although it retains the key elements (no pun intended), the TV show is generally softer on the horror side of things than the comic, but it still has its creepy moments.

The  murder of school teacher Rendell Locke by one of his students leads his surviving family to relocate from Seattle. Widowed Nina Locke drives her three children – Tyler, Kinsey and Bode – to their father's old family home in Matheson, Massachusetts, a sprawling residence called the Keyhouse. The youngest son, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), excitedly explores their new home, while Tyler (Connor Jessup) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones) are unhappily facing the prospect of entering a new school.

Following whispered voices, Bode discovers that a number of keys are hidden around the house... and there's a woman at the bottom of a well in the well house. Meanwhile, Tyler and Kinsey are making friends and enemies at their new school. Kinsey meets Scot (Petrice Jones) and his friends, amateur filmmakers nicknamed the Savini Squad.

After two episodes I have to confess that I was beginning to think that the show was going to be chiefly a teenage romance drama... which I wasn't particularly interested in. However, that soon dies down, bubbling along in the background, as the story gets going. Bode discovers the keys do magical things: one allows him to open a door to anywhere he can picture, another to step into a mirror universe, while a third lets them access their minds and memories in a representative world (Kinsey's, for instance, is a mall).

Bode is being tormented by the well lady, who calls herself Echo but is revealed to be Dodge, who knew the Locke's father. There are more twists to be learned about her background as the story progresses. She visits in prison and then frees Sam Lesser (Thomas Mitchell Barnet), the student who killed Randell, who now makes his way to the Keyhouse.

The storyline concentrates chiefly on the Locke children as mother Nina (Darby Stanchfield) at first seems unable to recall things that happen to her in the Keyhouse, even after being trapped in the mirror dimension. However, she starts to become suspicious of seemingly friendly Ellie, who attended school with her late husband and is now a teacher. It is Nina who discovers the grisly end of one of the nicer inhabitants of Matheson.

At that point, the end of episode five, I became quite hooked into the series and the excitement carried me through the latter half of the show.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rebellion distribution news

As the UK government brings in restrictions on movement in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebellion has assured readers that 2000 AD will continue to be published. They have been working closely with printers and distributors to ensure that the supply of Thrill-power continues through this difficult time.

"This is a rapidly-changing situation so please bear with us," says Mike Molcher. "Our top priority is the safety of all our staff, as well as those at our printers and distributors, and delivery staff. We are constantly monitoring developments and reappraise our operations on a daily basis, taking both government advice and common sense into account when making decisions.

"It is important to us that comics, which can provide distraction and entertainment at a time when people are unable to leave their homes, continue to reach those who need them.

"As things stand at 12 noon on Tuesday 24 March, 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine will continue to be printed and sent to subscribers. Non-subscribers can order physical copies of both titles from the 2000 AD webshop. Newsagents and retailers will receive comics as well, with some exceptions outlined below.

"Physical copies of our specials, such as this week’s Action 2020 Special and the forthcoming Cor!! Buster Easter Special, will still go out to customers and stockists, and will be available to buy from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.

"While newsagent chains such as WH Smiths are closing selected stores, we will continue to support independent newsagents, comic book stores, and supermarkets that remain open and which stock our titles. Comic book stores especially face a huge challenge as Diamond Distribution is ceasing all deliveries of new titles, please support them through this difficult time where you can with mail order custom or the purchase of gift certificates etc.

"Due to the closure of Diamond’s distribution network, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the publication of Best of 2000 AD #1, which was due to go on sale on 29 April. This title is postponed until further notice.

"All titles will be available digitally on their existing publication dates from 2000 AD and the Treasury of British Comic’s webshop. All pre-orders of physical paperback and hardback editions will also be supplied.

"Our huge backlist of titles will continue to be available to order from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshop. There will be unfortunate but understandable delays to overseas deliveries. Please consult your government’s advice on postal services for information about local deliveries and border closures.

"The 2000 AD webshop and apps will continue to be updated with our latest titles. Go to https://2000ad.com/get-the-app/ to download our apps for Apple, Android, and Windows 10 devices.

"Please stay safe, Earthlets: follow the advice to stay home where possible, wash your hands regularly, and maintain social distancing, but ensure you help vulnerable members of your community as much as you safely can.

"We may often deal in dystopias, but if our 43 years of stories have taught us anything it’s to work together and look out for one another."

This week's 2000AD release from Rebellion.

2000AD Prog 2174
Cover: Will Simpson

Judge Dredd: Hair of the Dog (part 1) writer: Ian Edginton; art: D'israeli; letters: Annie Parkhouse
Aquila: The Burning Fields (part 1) writer: Gordon Rennie; art: Patrick Goddards; colours: Pippa Bowland; letters; Jim Campbell
Sinister Dexter: The Frighteners (part 3/final) writer Dan Abnett; art: Steve Yeowell; colours: John Charles; letters: Simon Bowland
Skip Tracer: Nimrod (part 4) writer James Peatty; art: Paul Marshall; colours: Dylan Teague; letters: Simon Bowland
Feral & Foe (part 12/final) writer: Dan Abnett; art: Richard Elson; colours: Richard & Joe Elson; letters: Annie Parkhouse

Bear Alley Books and the current situation


It looks unlikely that I will be able to release any of the new and updated titles I had planned for the end of the month, and being a boutique publisher that carries almost no stock – each book is printed to order as and when those orders come in – and with our printers closed down, it seems very unlikely that I will be able to fulfil any orders for the foreseeable future.

I do have some titles in stock, but in very low numbers (the links will take you to the relevant page at Bear Alley Books). These include the Peter Jackson reprint London is Stranger Than Fiction, the Sexton Blake Annuals for 1938, 1940, 1941 and 1942, Lion: King of Picture Story Papers, Ranger: The National Boys' Magazine, Boy's World: Ticket to Adventure, Treasure Island by Millar-Watt and King Solomon's Mines by Mike Hubbard.

Most of these I have only one copy of, so I guess the best thing to do is drop me a line (my e-mail address is top left, just below the photo) and find out if they're still available. The post office is still open, and we're allowed out for exercise, so it's a good excuse to get out in the sunshine.

I'm trying to think of ways to mitigate the worst of this situation and will hopefully have some news for you soon.

Rebellion & Penguin Random House graphic novel audiobook deal

Increasing demand for science fiction audio has led to Penguin Random House partnering up with leading comics, fiction, and video game publisher Rebellion to create graphic novels and fiction audiobooks. The partnership will see Penguin Random House produce and distribute audio versions of their latest fiction titles alongside classic graphic novels from the #1 bestselling 2000 AD imprint.

New research from Harris Interactive indicates that science fiction is one of the leading audiobook genres, with 30% of those surveyed listening to science fiction in the last 12 months. However, the latest research from Bookstat, revealed at the recent Futurebook conference, has indicated that traditional publishers are only capturing half of the overall demand, which supported Penguin Random House’s decision to invest in this area.

Richard Lennon, Audio Publisher at Penguin Random House, said: “This is a really exciting new partnership which helps us reach even more listeners in this hugely popular and ever-growing section of the audiobook market. We’re looking forward to helping tell some of Rebellion’s incredible stories and to creating some truly groundbreaking recordings, particularly as we explore turning some of British comic book history’s true greats – Judge Dredd, Slaine and Rogue Trooper, to name but a few - into audiobooks for the first time.”

Ben Smith, Rebellion’s Head of Film, TV & Publishing, said: “Rebellion is the UK’s leading comic book publisher and home to Hugo and Nebula award-winning fiction from our Solaris and Abaddon imprints, and as such we’re delighted to partner with Penguin’s forward-looking audio team. Their appetite to bring both our fiction and our landmark graphic novels to the audiobook market is tremendously exciting. We can’t wait for the public to listen to the incredible stories in the works.”

Penguin Random House will produce and distribute audio versions of around 30 titles a year from the Rebellion frontlist, which covers genres including science fiction, fantasy and horror, and will include works from authors such as Chuck Wendig, Katherine Addison, Derek Künsken and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The audiobooks, published from March 2020, will draw on Penguin Random House’s roster of top narrator talent. They regularly top the bestseller charts with titles such as The Handmaid’s Tale narrated by Elisabeth Moss, The Secret Commonwealth narrated by Michael Sheen, and Becoming narrated by Michelle Obama.

The partnership also sees Penguin Random House record and produce adaptations of 5 new graphic novels in the 2000 AD series, which will feature multi-voice narration, sound design and original music to bring the stories to life. This is not the first time Penguin Random House has embarked on ambitious recordings of science fiction audiobooks: last year it brought together a groundbreaking ensemble of 50 different voices for a completely immersive full-cast recording of Sylvain Neuvel’s Only Human, which was nominated for several awards including the New York Festival Radio Awards.

Available from today, the first title to be published will be Chuck Wendig’s apocalyptic epic, Wanderers, read by Dominic Hoffman and Xe Sand (Audio Download ISBN: 9781781088319, 19 March 2020). Available via Amazon.

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world's last hope. From the mind of Chuck Wendig comes an astonishing tapestry of humanity.
    Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And, like Shana, there are other 'shepherds' who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
    For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them, the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unravelling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

The 32 hour 21 minute audiobook is available for free if you sign up for a trial with Audible.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Comic Cuts - 20 March 2019

While the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, I've hunkered down at home and had my nose to the grindstone working on the latest books from Bear Alley.

The two indexes were finished and proofed as best as possible visually by the tail end of last week and I spent the weekend working on the omnibus volume of Eagle Over the Western Front, which contains everything from the three volumes published back in 2011. Sales have slowed to almost zero these past two years, so I'm hoping that a single volume will give the series a boost – it's a fantastic strip written by Mike Butterworth and drawn by Bill Lacey that's well worth a look if you've not picked up a copy.

I took Sunday off to write a little essay. Not the little essay that I was planning to write – I'm easily distracted – but a nice break none-the-less. I haven't written any 'Forgotten Authors' essays for six or seven months, and that previous one was written after a break of probably ten months.

I then spent a couple of days finishing off the text of  the four Gwyn Evans books that I'm planning to reprint. We have a cover artist, so what I'm calling phase two is also coming together. I'm wondering whether to update the Gwyn Evans book (The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet) as I've discovered half-a-dozen more stories. That said, it seems an awful lot of work when I know there will be almost no reward.

Over the last few days I've been slowly putting together a brochure that I will be able to send out to people who order books. I thought of this as a little job I could knock off in no time at all... wrong! I find myself writing a few dozen little bits of text, digging around for images I haven't seen for up to a decade, and generally spending a lot longer on each page than I anticipated. That said, I think it will look a lot better than what I was originally planning. And being a PDF brochure means I can have a little colour in it for a change.

While I was looking for an image for the Hurricane & Champion index, I stumbled across an image labelled "cover" that wasn't the cover that eventually ended up on the book. I'd decided on a particular image that I was going to use and started roughing out a version of the cover (hence giving it that file name), when I had a conversation with fellow-collector Phil Rushton. Phil told me he had some original artwork from one of the covers and would that be any use to me?

Yes. Yes it would. And his 'Crusaders' artwork, beautifully painted by Alessandro Biffignandi, was used on the cover of the first edition. For the second edition, however, I've decided to go back to my original version, which uses a piece of artwork by Jordi Penalva – and, as can be seen from our column header, it makes for a fantastic cover.

I've ordered physical proof copies of the three phase one books now that the files have been uploaded to the printer, and can now get on with a couple of other things, namely the proofing of the phase two books and writing the little essay that I was supposed to write last weekend. I'll have more news on all this next week.

For those of you interested, you'll see from the above that I'm keeping busy, which keeps me isolated in my office. Mel will be working from home from Monday, so that reduces any chances of bringing in the coronavirus almost to zero. We will have to pop out to the Co-op for bread and milk, but I'm thinking of moving my usual "big shop" day from Saturday to a week day to avoid any crowds. Not that there have been crowds on Colchester high street for months. I went in on Wednesday a week or two back and the town was deserted (photo below).

I'm also beginning to wonder if it will be worth going into town anyway... my usual Saturday route takes in all the charity shops and a couple of places that sell second hand DVDs. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they're all closing down for the duration, which means I'd be going in just to shop at Sainbury's. There's a Tesco superstore closer and we have the Co-op just around the corner, so it might make more sense to put Colchester off-limits for a while. It's not like I'm running out of books to read or DVDs to watch...

Wivenhoe is suffering from the same panic buying and closures as everywhere. The first thing to disappear was soap, tissues and toilet paper. We haven't had any new supplies for a week. They're now talking about possibly shutting down the little bakery at the Co-op. As I love my fresh rolls, this is potentially the first casualty that affects me. If they run out of cheese or sausages, I'm not sure I'll want to go on.

There are simple precautions you can all take, the easiest of which is: keep your distance from people, don't go anywhere unnecessary, and wash your hands with soap in hot water regularly. Other than that, keep walking your pets, make sure you're getting some exercise and phone your elderly relatives – you might know what's going on, but they may be Daily Mail readers and under the impression that by not eating bats or Chinese food they're safe.

More news next week. Stay safe, everyone, and we'll all get through this.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Commando 5315-5318

Commando keeps trooping on with two tanks, a Catalina and some Motor Torpedo Boats! All in  Issues 5315-5318 — out soon!

You don’t even have to leave your house to get Commandos! Order them direct to your door by emailing shop@dctmedia.co.uk with the issue number and title you’d like to purchase.

5315: Ironhide

Alf Hubbert was a country boy with a knack for working on machines. And so, in 1917, he was thrust into a Mark IV “Male” configuration tank named “Lydia”. In the hot, noisy landship, Alf had to learn the hard way that he may be able to fix machines with ease but he couldn’t replace his friends as easily. But when he’s finally forced to choose, will he pick Lydia or his mates?

Story: Heath Ackley
Art: Vicente Alcazar
Cover: Keith Burns


5316: Secret of the Sands

‘Secret of the Sands’ is a classic Commando, and make no mistake! Lieutenant Luke Cope could cope with everything and anything as he traversed the desert sands of North Africa! Or at least he could until he met bookworm Trooper, “Steinie” Wallace, who had read more books than he had sense! But when these two characters joined forces it was as if the legendary General Hannibal lived again!

Story: Lomas
Art: Watson
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 945 (1975).


5317: Catalina Sunrise

Hot-headed Australian cattle-herder-turned-pilot Flight Lieutenant Bill Mitchell thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. Only that meant he was reckless and had trouble following orders. Booted out of flying Hurricanes in North Africa, Bill was returned to Australia then sent to New Guinea to fly Kittyhawks, then Beaufighters until his disregard of orders got so bad that the only squadron that would have him was flying Catalinas. Let’s just say, Bill was less than pleased!

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Paolo Ongaro
Cover: Ian Kennedy
 

5318: Rescue!

Two Motor Torpedo Boats had skippers whose friendly rivalry was less than friendly at the best of times! Like chalk and cheese, Lieutenant Dave Hopkirk was easy-going while Lieutenant George Stone was strictly business by the book. But when someone was needed to rescue some blokes from a castle in Greece — these men were the ones for the job! If they could work together for five minutes that is…

Story: Staff
Art: Salmeron
Cover: John Ridgway
Originally Commando No. 1517 (1981).

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases this week include a classic from British comics—The Trigan Empire!

The new Rebellion release comes in a couple of variants, with the main release being the softcover below. However, between 1st November and 4th December 2019, the Treasury of British Comics webshop was taking pre-orders for an exclusive, individually numbered 304-page special edition hardcover will ship in March 2020.

Chris Weston – the artist on Judge Dredd, The Filth and The Invisibles has paid tribute to the inimitable work of the legendary Don Lawrence, artist on Trigan Empire – one of the finest comics creators in British comics history, and Weston’s mentor early in his career.

This retailer variant hardcover is also available to buy from Forbidden Planet, Forbidden Planet International, OK Comics, Book Palace, and other selected stockists.

Featuring stunning artwork taken from crisp scans of Lawrence’s original artwork, this 304-page volume includes a touching introduction from Liam Sharp (Green Lantern), who was also mentored by Lawrence, and marks the first time the series is being collected in a mass market edition.

Co-created by Lawrence with writer Mike Butterworth, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire merges the movie serials of the 1930s, Flash Gordon, John Carter, and ancient history into a sprawling, classic science-fiction epic. It has been named as a major influence by the likes of writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman), artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd), amongst many others.

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

Lawrence, who started out as a comics creator in the Gower Street Studios in London, first working on Marvelman before moving on to Karl the Viking for Lion. Other artists who worked on the strip include Ron Embleton, Miguel Quesada, Philip Corke, Oliver Frey and Gerry Wood. Although the strip has seen only limited English-language release it remains one of the most popular comic series in Holland and Germany, with over two million albums sold.

2000AD 2173
Cover: Cliff Robinson (colours by Dylan Teague)

JUDGE DREDD: THE RELIC by Kenneth Niemand (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ZAUCER OF ZILK: A ZAUCERFUL OF SECRETS by Peter Hogan (w) Brendan McCarthy (a+c) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
SINISTER DEXTER: THE FRIGHTENERS by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
SKIPER TRACER: NIMROAD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
FERAL & FOE by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a+c) Joe Elson (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)


Judge Dredd Megazine 418
Cover: Phil Winslade

JUDGE DREDD: BAD SECTOR by Arthur Wyatt (w) PJ Holden (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEVLIN WAUGH: A VERY LARGE SPLASH by Ales Kot (w) Mike Dowling (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BLUNT III by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ZOMBIE ARMY: LAST RITES by Chris Roberson (w) Andrea Mutti (a) Matt Soffe (c) Simon Bowland (l)
LAWLESS: BOOM TOWN by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Features: New Comics: Action 2020 Special, New Books: Trigan Empire, New Comics: Judge Dredd - False Witness
Bagged reprint: Black Shuck

The Trigan Empire Volume 1 by Mike Butterworth & Don Lawrence
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08755-8, 17 March 2020, 304pp, £19.99 / $24.99 (US). Available via Amazon.

The first of a four-volume series reprinting The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire - a landmark 1960s science fiction series which rivalled Game of Thrones in popularity and was the precursor to every mythic sci-fi adventure to come!
    Under the leadership of Trigo the Vorg tribesmen band together to resist the Lokan Empire, forming an empire of their own: The Trigan Empire. And this is the story of its rise and fall.
    Originally published in the educational Ranger magazine in 1965, and continuing in the similarly themed Look and Learn. The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire uses elements of the Roman Empire and ancient Greece to tell a fascinating sci-fi story. The first in a series of four books collecting all the stories beautifully painted by Don Lawrence in their originally published order.