Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comics Britannia

Here's the full transmission details for Comics Britannia which is to be broadcast as three hour-long episodes in September on BBC4. More details can be found at the BBC site for the show.


How we grew up with comics and how comics grew up with us...

From the Beano to Bunty, Commando to Viz, the Eagle to 2000AD, British comics have captivated generations from the Thirties to the present day.

Now BBC Four delves into the world of the British comic, exploring the art and craft of the industry in a celebration of this British comics tradition.

The series features those who wrote and drew the original strips, comics experts and a range of fans whose lives have been shaped by reading ‘classic strips.’

Comics Britannia is a rich mix of interviews, strips and archive illuminated by a unique graphics style which literally allows you to step into the comics world.

Comics Britannia forms the centrepiece of BBC Four’s Comics Season, which also includes Jonathan Ross in search of comic legend Steve Ditko, Adam West Batman series, The Batman Story and Modesty Blaise.

PROGRAMME ONE: The Fun Factory (10th September)

COMICS BRITANNIA explores the world of the children’s humour comic and the revolution which began with the first publication of the Dandy in 1937.

The series explains why colourful, cheap publications like the Dandy, and then the Beano enchanted a generation living through the effects of the Depression, WW2 and post-war Austerity.

Comics Britannia revisits the golden age of comics in the Fifties and early Sixties and looks at the work of great comics artists Dudley Watkins, Davey Law, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, revealing how a new subversive and anarchic humour emerged from the pages of the Beano and the Dandy.

Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, writer Jacqueline Wilson, Oscar winning animator Nick Park and Cartoonist Steve Bell discuss their passion for comics, with some surprising revelations!

PROGRAMME TWO: Boys & Girls (17th September)

Following the Second World War boys and girls adventure comics emerged to capture the imaginations of the growing baby boomer generation.

Comics Britannia tells the extraordinary story of the bohemian vicar who founded the most ground-breaking comic to emerge in the immediate post- war era – The Eagle, complete with its very own super hero, Dan Dare.

The programme looks at attempts to create the equivalent for girls —comics featuring ballet and boarding schools, such as School Friend, Girl and Bunty.

Meanwhile, the boys grew up with their comic book heroes achieving impossible feats of courage and endeavour on the fields of sport and battle, with the larger than life exploits of Captain Hurricane and Roy of the Rovers.

But comics would soon have to reinvent themselves and follow their readers as they grew older. Titles such as Mirabelle and Romeo were introduced to appeal to older girls who had once loved Bunty & Girl.

Into the Sixties and Seventies the industry responded to a changing Britain with a new generation of comics such as Jackie, Tammy and Battle aimed at meeting the new demands of teenage readers.

Fans of comics in this episode include comedian Frank Skinner, ex footballer and pundit Mark Lawrenson, cartoonists Posy Simmonds and Gerald Scarfe, and writer Jacqueline Wilson, who all reveal their childhood favourites.

PROGRAMME THREE: X-Rated : Anarchy in the UK (24 September)

COMICS BRITANNIA X –RATED reveals how during the Seventies and Eighties a generation grew up reading a new kind of comic. Directed at older, adult readers, these comics had strips with darker, more satirical and sexual material. There was a new sophistication in the writing and artwork which began to see comic books evolve into a new phenomenon – the graphic novel.

From the bedroom of brothers Chris and Simon Donald in Newcastle came the outrageous Viz which by the Eighties was selling a million copies nationwide and was responsible for inventing the Fat Slags, Roger Mellie, Johnny Fartpants and Sid the Sexist.

At the same time in the late Seventies, 2000 AD was published, sending Punks into Space and creating the iconic anti-hero Judge Dredd.

Out of this comics ‘new wave’ emerged a major talent, writer Alan Moore. Working with leading artists, he created ground-breaking work such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The programme interviews Moore and the group of other writers and artists who spearheaded the adult-oriented revolution in British comics: Simon and Chris Donald, Dave Gibbons, Carlos Ezquerra, Kevin O’Neill, Alan Grant and David Lloyd.

Super comics fans Frank Skinner, Stewart Lee, Andrew Collins and Charles Shaar Murray are also on hand to offer their take.

IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO (Tuesday 18 September, 9.30pm)

Jonathan Ross goes in search of his hero Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spiderman.

Steve Ditko is virtually unknown to all but a handful of comic book enthusiasts. In a one off film for BBC Four, Ross, a noted comic book enthusiast and obsessive Ditko fan, goes in search of the comic book legend, co -creator of Spiderman, who lives his life as a recluse.

Steve Ditko should, and could quite easily have become a multi millionaire. Many times he has been offered vast sums of cash in return for explaining why he left Marvel and of course, Spiderman, the character he co-created with Stan Lee back in 1961.

Steve Ditko and Stan Lee worked together at Marvel for five years and with Spiderman on the verge of becoming the best selling comic book in the world, Ditko left the book and the company. While at Marvel, he had designed all of the characters, illustrated and inked each issue and provided Spiderman with his unique look. He'd also plotted every story, leaving Stan Lee to write the dialogue.

In the years that followed he continued creating many new and wonderful characters for the biggest comic companies, as well as expressing his own political and personal views in independently published books. He has never explained why he left Spiderman when he did, or why he has never returned to draw his most famous character again. It’s a question that intrigues and perplexes comic fans all over the world. Meanwhile, Stan Lee's contribution to the Spiderman phenomenon has left him well known and wealthy.

To discover what led to Ditko’s strange career path, and in an effort to ensure this reclusive genius receives the credit that is his due – Ross heads off in search of both the man and, hopefully, the truth.

Ross’s search takes him from the UK to Los Angeles. On his journey, he talks to those who met and worked with Ditko, including Stan Lee, co-creator of the web-slinging Spider-Man and another comic book legend, Northampton based Alan Moore.

Rich Johnston has a review of this last programme in his latest Lying in the Gutters column.

1 comment:

  1. Steve Ditko, eh? Now that name conjures up some memories, but I don't know that they fit in with my experience of Comics Britannia.

    Ditko drew several of the scripts I wrote for the Charlton Comics Group, of Derby, Connecticut, in the 1970s. They were supernatural/ghost stuff.

    Living in New Zealand now, I doubt I'll get to see the BBC4 series. Shame that!



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