Friday, August 31, 2012

Comic Cuts - 31 August 2012

I've spent the whole of this week working on the next Sexton Blake Annual. Not the one that's just about to come out – that's the 1938 Annual, which you can see above – but the 1941 Annual, which will be released in October. With luck I'll have it finished Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, although I won't be doing anything with it until I have a second project completed as I want to do two sets of proofs in one go as it helps lower the postage costs. These books don't make huge amounts of money – not enough to live on, that's for sure, but if I can keep my costs as close to zero as possible and they won't cost me the shirt off my back, I should be able to keep going.

Zero costs also means no publicity budget, so it's nice to get as positive a review as London Is Stranger Than Fiction did from author Christopher Fowler on his blog. The review ends "The original books have been highly collectable for many years now, but finally they’ve been republished in a single volume from Bear Alley Books here for the ridiculously reasonable price of £14.99. Do yourself a favour. Find out where you can see 11 clocks by standing in one position on a London street – they’re great reads."

I couldn't agree more.

And if you don't yet have a copy, check out this link and take a look.

Once I've finished with the 1941 Sexton Blake Annual, I may move straight onto the 1942 Annual just to get it out of the way, although I'm not planning to release that one until the end of November.

I've also got to get back to the Mike Western book... I'm determined that it'll be out this year!

Just to step back to the 1938 Sexton Blake Annual for a second, I'm waiting on a final proof from the printers before I press the green button, but I'm not anticipating problems and copies should start going out next week.

Talking about delays... Print Media Publications have stated that they are planning to make alternative arrangements when it comes to distributing the relaunched Strip Magazine.

We've been assured of an update from the couriers again this week: what we have been told previously, as I've said before, has been at odds with the reality of a continued lack of delivery.
__Unfortunately, as I have also stated before, what we have been told has not proven definitive enough to inform subscribers and Diamond of a confirm
ed release date we can guarantee - that remains in the hands of the couriers.
__We're painfully aware that unless delivery issues are resolved this impacts on our news stand plans, so we're lining up an alternative that will kick in when Volume Two goes into production.
__I realize this whole matter is deeply frustrating for our readership, subscribers, the many creators involved -- and it is definitely very frustrating for us.
Issue 5 still hasn't a release date as far as the print edition is concerned, but it is available digitally on the iPad. See the Strip Magazine blog for more information.

Mind you, all this talk of issue 5 reminds me that issue 4 hasn't made it as far as Ace Comics in Colchester. Did the print edition actually appear?

Random scans: I finally got around to watching John Carter [of Mars], based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoon series. And it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Not good by a long stretch – I didn't care much for John Carter or what happened to him, nor the two combatant races. So it was an emotionally empty film full of spectacle – no surprises there as this is the way films are these days ... just watch Battleship or This Means War for examples of films where you couldn't give a toss for the central characters. And the latter is supposed to be a romantic comedy!

What saved John Carter was the fact that my introduction to science fiction was through pulp SF – both Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov (two of the earliest SF authors I read) were high on ideas and poor on characterisation. Ditto many of the hard-SF authors I liked (Larry Niven, Hal Clement) whose aliens were more interesting than their human contacts. So watching John Carter was just like stepping back to when I was twelve or thirteen when my experience of SF was stories of spectacle... films have finally caught up with the books covers I was seeing in the 1970s. I tend to think along the lines that movie SF is to science fiction what pulp SF is to modern SF.

Anyway, it's an excuse to run Bruce Pennington's wonderful cover for A Princess of Mars. And that made me think of the old Pinnacle cover for Thuvia Maid of Mars, which is just terrific.

Rounding out this week's selection are Joe Haldeman's Marsbound (just to keep up the theme of Mars) and a stray Harry Harrison I turned up since I posted the Harry Harrison cover gallery the other day.

Coming Soon. We have another Commando interview rescued from the late Where Eagles Dare website appearing tomorrow, this one an interview from 2004 with Commando regular Ferg Handley. And for Sunday we have a Gregory Kern (F.A.T.E.) cover gallery. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Depends what I get up to on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recent Releases: August 2012


The Art and History of The Dandy by Morris Heggie.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849342414, 6 August 2012, 288pp, £20.00. [£14.00 from Amazon]
A chronicle of 75 years of the world's longest-running comic, The Art and History of The Dandy is a beautiful gift book and treasury of everything that has made The Dandy so anarchic and special. The Dandy is king of the comics! The Dandy is a record breaker: in 1999 it became the world's longest running comic. The Art and History of the Dandy is a chronicle of 75 years of comic violence and madcap antics from the likes of Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat, Beryl the Peril, Keyhole Kate and other intrepid figures who have long since left the comic. The Dandy first hit the streets on December 3, 1937, six months before its sister comic The Beano. By the 1980s, it was the world's largest-selling comic with a circulation of around 2 million. The late Albert Barnes, who edited the comic from 1937 to 1980, summed up its philosophy: 'There is never any real violence, only the cartoon kind to be found in Tom and Jerry where the victim always springs back unharmed. It gives children a chance to cock a harmless snook at authority, and sublimate their desires to kick against the traces.' Barnes was also behind Desperate Dan, who became The Dandy's biggest star. Talking about his cowboy creation, Barnes said: 'He is to be the roughest, toughest cowboy. He has to be the strongest man in the world: a man who can chew iron and spit rust.' Desperate Dan was never happier than when confronted by his daily diet of cow pie, a species of dish which involved the entire animal, including horns and tail, protruding through the pastry. Dan was eventually stopped from eating his favourite dish because of the emergence of BSE (or mad cow disease). There was a similar crisis in 1997 when Desperate Dan sailed off with the Spice Girls after striking oil and temporarily retired from the pages of The Dandy. There was such an outcry, including a Bring Dan Back campaign, threats of boycott, and protests from as far away as Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States, that the hero was swiftly restored. Changing values caused Morris Heggie, editor in the 1990s and now scriptwriter for The Broons and Oor Wullie, to say: 'Desperate Dan is not now quite the same old desperado that he was. He is now quite laid-back in comparison with the old days. At one time he used to smoke a dustbin full of rubbish through a drainpipe ...What is important though, is that, unlike in real life, the kids always win in The Dandy. That's our recipe for anarchy.' An eight-foot tall bronze statue of Desperate Dan has stood in the centre of Dundee since 2001. Desperate Dan is one of Britain's favourite characters, and has appeared in nearly every issue of The Dandy since 1937. * 288 pp gift book chronicling the world's longest-running comic. * Fully illustrated, colour throughout. * A must for every comic fan. * Extensive endmatter, with detailed archive history of each comic with notes on artists and writers. * Notes on what happened each year; changes to characters and how they appeared. * Produced by the same team as 'The History of the Beano'.
Order from Amazon.

The Art of Denis McLoughlin by David Ashford.
Book Palace Books ISBN 978-1907081088, August 2012, 272pp, £45.00.
Written by David Ashford, one of McLoughlin's close friends, the book celebrates every aspect of the artist's career, from examples of his earliest work whilst still in uniform to his lengthy association with T.V. Boardman, for whom he produced hundreds of dust jackets for their Bloodhound crime series and their yearly best-selling Buffalo Bill Annual.
__The Boardman covers are almost unique in British publishing history as no major publisher relied on a single artist to produce so many of their jackets. But tracking down useable examples has proved to be a long and gruelling process. As Peter says: "We needed high quality scans of all the covers we sought and the logistics of having to carry a scanner and computer to spend a day getting under the feet of a McLoughlin devotee, which would have secured us a reasonable number of scans but by no means all the ones I craved gave us pause for thought. Photographing the books would have been quicker, but the results are light years away from a scan. It simply wasn't an option.".
__Hooking up with San Francisco-based collector Mark Terry gave fresh impetus to the book as Mark already had a network of contacts with collectors through his facsimile dustjacket business; the finished book will now contain dozens of examples, carefully restored.
__The book contains many examples of McLoughlin's comic strips and a biography by David Ashford, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and examples of his original artwork.
__The definitive book and biography of Denis McLouglin, packed with full colour images of his art and a complete bibliography.
__The book features reproductions from the surviving original artwork, "pulls" in high quality print, never-before-seen photos chronicling the artist's life and page after page of some of the most stunning artwork ever to see print in the 20th century.
Order from Amazon.

Harker: The Book of Solomon by Roger Gibson & Vince Danks.
Titan Books ISBN 978-0857689740, 17 August 2012, 144pp, £14.99. [£7.94 from Amazon]
When a series of gruesome cult killings take place near the British Museum, DCI Harker and his assistant DS Critchley are called to London to solve the case. Middle class satanists, dusty old bookshops, a labyrinth under the museum, a frantic car chase and wry, cutting humour all combine in this graphic novel love letter from creators Roger Gibson and Vince Danks to classic British detective television series.
Order from Amazon.

Judge Dredd: Restricted Files 04
by John Wagner, Mark Millar, Bryan Talbot, Henry Flint, et al.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080467, 16 August 2012, 272pp, £19.99. [£13.99 from Amazon]
Mega-City one: an especially violent city of the future that requires a special kind of police force - the Judges - to maintain law and order. toughest of them all is Judge Dredd. He is the law! Featuring rare thrills from 2000 AD annuals and specials released through the mid-'nineties into the new millennium. Experience some of the most outrageous Dredd stories ever published, including the rib-tickling 'Mr Bennet joins the Judges,' by Mark Milar (Kick-Ass), and the very english 'Dredd of Drokk Green.'
Order from Amazon.

Rat Pack Vol. 1: Guns, Guts and Glory by Gerry Finley-Day et al.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1848560352, August 2012, 160pp, £14.99. [£11.40 from Amazon]
War is a dirty business... so who better than criminals to fight it? When Major Taggart breaks four military convicts out of jail, they think they’re headed for Easy Street... but they couldn’t be more wrong. Before, they were scum — now, they’re the Rat Pack! A collection of classic strips from the British boys’ comic, Battle.
Order from Amazon

Shakara: The Destroyer by Robbie Morrison & Henry Flint.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080382, 16 August 2012, 160pp, £14.99. [£10.49 from Amazon]
The Shakaran warrior known as Cinnibar Brennekka has activated a terrifying weapon called the God Machine, and once it destroys everything he will be the ultimate master of a new universe created in his image. Only one thing can stop Brennekka from succeeding... a vengeance-fuelled being called Shakara - he living embodiment of a murdered species - is out to kill the last of his kind, and there isn't another creature in the whole of existence that will get in its way! Be prepared for a tale of monumental carnage and devastation!
Order from Amazon.

Whaur's Oor Wullie?.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849342551, 1 August 2012, 48pp, £8.99. [£6.74 from Amazon]

'Whaur's Oor Wullie?' or 'Where's Oor Wullie?' for our non-Scots friends, is a fun puzzle book that features Oor Wullie, the comic strip character as he adventures all over Scotland with his pals. Oor Wullie is Scotland's favourite boy, with his trademark spiky hair, dungarees and upturned bucket as a seat. In Whaur's Oor Wullie? Oor Wullie travels around Scotland's most famous and popular places with some of the familiar characters who appear in his Sunday Post weekly comic strip. The challenge is to spot them in the crowd! Each spread is illustrated in full colour with a list of items and characters to spot. The 'Oor Wullie' comic strip was originally created by D C Thomson editor, R D Low, and drawn by cartoonist, Dudley D Watkins. Whaur's Oor Wullie? is illustrated by Jimmy Glen. Find Oor Wullie and his pals at the following places among others: *the Edinburgh Military Tattoo *The Open Golf Championship at St Andrews *Stirling Castle *Kelvingrove Museum *Hogmanay *Braemar Highland Games *Dundee's Comic Characters' Convention *The biggest-ever Burns Supper *Largs Viking Festival *'T' In the Park *The Royal Highland Show *Falkirk's re-enactment of the Romans being fought back by the Picts. 'Oor Wullie' was launched in 1936 in The Sunday Post in Scotland, and is still going strong. The frequent tagline on the strip is 'Oor Wullie! Your Wullie! A'body's Wullie!'
Order from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peter Cave cover gallery 2

This is the second part of the Peter Cave cover gallery, covering Peter's novels published anonymously and under pseudonyms. There are also some non-fiction books under his own name and the pen-name J. D. Sheffield (a name you might recognise from some of his NEL novels). This is a bit patchy because some of the books have disappeared from sight since we moved house

Novels as Petra Christian (house name shared with Christopher Priest)

Hitch-Hiker (with Christopher Priest)
New English Library 0450-0068607, Jul 1971.
---- [2nd imp.] Jul 1971
---- [3rd imp.] Nov 1972
New English Library 0450-01476-2 [4th imp.] May 1973
New English Library 0450-02709-0 [5th imp.] May 1975, 127pp, 35p. Cover photo by James Tormey
The New Drifters (with Christopher Priest)
New English Library 0450-01081-3, May 1972.
---- [2nd imp.] Jul 1972.
---- [3rd imp.] Feb 1973
New English Library 0450-02281-1 [4th imp.] Dec 1974, 128pp, 35p. Cover photo
The Sexploiters (with Christopher Priest)
New English Library 0450-02398-2, Nov 1973, 128pp.
---- [2nd imp.] Mar 1974.
New English Library 02398 [3rd imp.] Apr 1975, 128pp, 35p. Cover: photo
From the start of her new assignment for 'Freedom Girl', Sally Deenes was strangely fascinated by Peter Warning. His agency offered 'unusual positions' to girls looking for more than a routine office job. She was determined to find out more about this sexy, but dangerous man.
__Sally's investigations led her to a nudist colony run by a weird family called Whancus; a pornography shop in Soho; and industrial espionage.
__One again Sally proves her worth and produces a scoop story. This is yet another of her successful adventures following Hitch Hiker and The New Drifters.
The Bust-Up
New English Library 0450-01829-6, Jun 1974, 127pp, 30p. Cover photo by John Benton-Harris
In the Club
New English Library 0450-02628-0, Dec 1975, 128pp, 40p. Cover photo
Sally Denes has never turned down a worthwhile proposition in all her chequered career. When she is asked to pose as a businessman's wife, and help him run a country club, she is only too happy to oblige – in every way.
__Situated in a delightful old manor house, the club offers every sort of sporting facility: huntin', shootin', fishin' and golf. But it is the indoor sport that attracts the visitors, and Sally is soon busily engaged in ensuring that the guests enjoy every dish on the menu.

Novels as John Delaney (house name)
Note: #4 of the series was written by Donald S. Rowland.

James Gunn 1: The Deadly Stranger
Mews 0452-00004-1, Apr 1976, 125pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masaro
James Gunn – a hard man...on the run from the Old World.
__James Gunn – Horseman, Gun Slinger and Bullwhip expert carved a violent place for himself in the Wild West.
__James Gunn – Leader of a pioneer train to the gold fields of California and betrayed by ruthless con-men.
__James Gunn is the most exciting and unusual new Western Hero since Buffalo Bill.
James Gunn 2: Silver for a Bullet
Mews 0452-00017-3, Jun 1976, 128pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masaro
James Gunn – a hard man for the New World...on the run from the Old.
__James Gunn – Horseman, Gunslinger, Bullwhip expert – runs a wagon full of blasting dynamite across teh hostile Indian country of the Rocky Mountains.
__James Gunn is the most exciting and unusual new Western Hero since Buffalo Bill.
James Gunn 3: Hard County
Mews 0452-00045-9, Oct 1976, 124pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masaro
James Gunn – a hard man for the New World...on the run from the Old.
__James Gunn – Horseman, Gunslinger, Bullwhip expert – turned Bounty Hunter to track down the murderous killer who has taken innovent lives and humiliated Gunn himself.
__James Gunn is the most exciting and unusual new Western Hero since Buffalo Bill.
James Gunn: Oregon Outrage
New English Library 0450-03414-3, Oct 1977, 123pp, 60p. Cover by Tony Masaro
James Gunn – a hard man for the New World...on the run from the Old.
__James Gunn – Horseman, Gunslinger, Bullwhip expert – determined to seek justice in a lawless new land.
__James Gunn meets up with an Indian, Charlie Two-Dollar, to chase a thieving band of renegade soldiers.
James Gunn 6: Lawless Land
New English Library 0450-03419-4, 1978

Novels as Peter Maxwell

The Insanity Machine
Hamlyn, Jul 1978.
Killfactor Five
Hamlyn 0600-35343-5, (Jun) 1979, 183pp, 85p. Cover by Chris Moore
Grenade attack at Munich Airport... three burned to death in Sorbonne riot... hijack hostages murdered in Holland... Europe is seething with extremes of violence.
__Industrail-espionage expert Ralph Ledermann is taking a ski holiday in the Italian Alps when he narrowly escapes death by sabotage. As screaming bodies plummet thousands of feet down an icy mountain, he finds himself challenged to discover why.
__The answer is Killfactor Five, a new mystery drug with hideous effects. Given to rats in a laboratory, it raises their aggression levels by a factor of 500 per cent – till they literally tear each other to pieces.
__And now a large consignment is on its way to Britain... destined for human consumption.

Novels as Anonymous, et al

Confessions of a Peeping Tom. Gold Star, 1970?
Passion in Paradise. Headline, Oct 1993.
Scandal in Paradise. Headline, Apr 1994.
O.R.G.I.E.S. Unlimited (by Eve Adam). Headline, Oct 1994.
Naked in Paradise. Headline, Mar 1996.
Exposure in Paradise. Headline, Aug 1996.
Climax in Paradise. Headline, Jul 1997.
Sex Files 3: Unnatural Blonde (by John Desoto). Headline, Sep 1997.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Signals: The Day Comics Grew Up (1989)

Signals: The Day Comics Grew Up. Originally broadcast on Channel 4 on 18 January 1989. Note: the main programme follows a trailer; the second part of the programme (about video games and manga) has been left off. Features Alan Moore, John Smith, Jim Baiklie, Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy, et al. Presented by Morwenna Banks.

Thanks to AeroVidTube, who posted this at You Tube.

The Commando Interviews Part 1: George Low (2004)

A brief introduction

The following interview with George Low, one time editor of the British comic book Commando, was conducted by Michael Eriksson in July 2004. This was originally published on Mike's late and much lamented website Where Eagles Dare and is one of a number of interviews that will be appearing here with Mike's permission. I have made a number of very minor visual and editorial changes for clarity but I have otherwise made no alterations; Mike is Swedish – his English is near perfect and I'm sure you'll forgive the occasional verbal stumble.

Michael Eriksson: I understand that Commando is the most important UK war comic and the longest survivor as well. How is it doing these days and do you have a grasp of the readership and who is actually buying it?

George Low: Commando is doing okay. Our readers are mostly 10-16 years, but we do have many older readers.

How many issues do you publish per year and how many of these are re-runs?

96 per year; 24 are reprints.

How many writers and artists do you have for the publication and how long have they been aboard?

The numbers and their lengths of service fluctuate quite a bit.

How long does it take to write and draw a 60 page tale and does the cover artist see this before he works out the actual cover?

Four days is quite fast for the script; six to eight weeks for the artwork. We usually choose the cover from a scene in the the artwork.

You have had some of the best cover artists ever in comics, why is it that the public seems to know virtually nothing at all about these masters? Or have you published information in the UK of a kind that we never got here in Sweden?

Most of our covers are done by Ian Kennedy, a well-known Scottish artist who lives locally.

The covers are, as I said, brilliant. In the US some companies have printed books with classic covers (for example, DC comics have done this for Superman and Batman) for the avid collectors to buy. Has anything like that been published about the Commando books or has it been up for discussion?

No and it hasn’t been discussed either yet.

Is Commando exported to places like New Zealand and other English speaking territories or is the sole market the UK in itself?

Yes. Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.

I understand that a war comic that was titled "Action" was actually banned at one point, did the heat that war comics was under at that time in England effect Commando in any way?

No. We never got caught up in that.

How many issues has been published today?

3730 by June 2004.

Was Commando the first war comic in England and when did it first get published? Did war comics exist in some form even during the war?

There were none during the war because of the shortage of paper. Other war comics came out before Commando which appeared in 1961.

Have you had stories placed in later wars as well, like the Falklands conflict or the Gulf wars to name a few, and if so how has these been met by your audience and the public?

Yes. Both modern and ancient - from ancient Persia to Science Fiction with a war link. There have been some Viking "sagas" too and all were enjoyed by many of our readers.

Would it be accurate to say that stories that are placed in WW2 are easier to print simply because that was a conflict that had to be won for the sake of democracy and human dignity, and that some of the later wars have been much more debated and questioned? How do you deal with that reality?

Yes. Later conflicts have to be "simplified", if you like, to maintain a balanced view of them.

As a reader of imported issues (some was published in Norway in a title called "Kamp" at one time), I did notice that there were virtually no stories at all about the struggle on the eastern front. Was that a result of the cold war at that time or did the audience simply want to read about British heroes?

British heroes were popular, but we have featured many German, Italian, Japanese heroes. If a story is strong enough, we will use whatever nationality it requires.

What is your job as editor of Commando? Describe a typical day at the office.

Working on ideas with writers on artists by telephone and email … and normal post. Liaising with our production departments to ensue we do go to press.

Have you worked on other titles as well and when did you get involved in this title? 

I have worked on Commando since 1963, but we also did romance libraries then … War and Peace.

Did you predecessor give you any advice that was smart to take to heart when you stepped in?

Get the story right and the rest will follow.

Have you published any "Commando Annuals" or has it been discussed at the office at all?

Yes, three in the 80s/90s, but they were not a great success.

How is the market in the UK for classic comics, counting other types of stories (football, detective and so on) as well?

Not so good as it used to be … like everywhere else.

In Sweden we have not seen a war comic in print since 1988, and if you look at Scandinavia it looks like the "Korkeajännitys" title (which consists largely of your comics) in Finland is the only one left here. Do you still export the Commando title to any other countries except Finland?

Occasionally to Norway, France, Greece etc, but nothing regular.

Every title has a "golden era", at what time was Commando at the very peak of its run?


How long has Commando been the last standing war comic in the UK?

About ten years.

Has it been under threat of being cancelled at any point?


The version they have going in Finland is brilliant, 4 stories jammed into 260 pages. This is a concept that I´ll try to get the Swedish publishing houses interested in. Has Commando ever been issued like that in the UK or did the editor in Finland come up with this idea?

Not in the UK. It is a concept of the Finns.

I know that they have produced some issues in Finland locally, that deals with the conflicts between Finland and the Soviet Union during the war. Has these been published in England as well?

Yes, and they were popular.

What artists and writers have been working for Commando the longest?

Ian Kennedy is our longest serving artist. The writers come and go more.

Any new talents that has come in lately?

Not at this precise moment.

Do you have any idea what a copy of an early Commando could be worth these days?

About £300.

Are you in touch with any collectors and what kind of requests do you usually get from your audience?

They want to know about artists and writers and collect missing issues to complete their collection.

Do you foresee that Commando will be around in 2010 as well?

I hope so!

Interview: Asko Alanen, editor of Korkeajännitys

A brief introduction

The following interview with Asko Alanen, editor of the Finnish war comic Korkeajännitys, was conducted by Michael Eriksson in June 2004. This was originally published on Mike's late and much lamented website Where Eagles Dare and is one of a number of interviews that will be appearing here with Mike's permission. I have made a number of very minor visual and editorial changes for clarity but I have otherwise made no alterations; Mike is Swedish – his English is near perfect and I'm sure you'll forgive the occasional glitch.

This interview was done by e-mail in June 2004 and it deals with the war comics' scene in Finland. We fired off a few questions to Korkeajännitys editor Asko Alanen on his publication and got some interesting answers. Enjoy. - Michael Eriksson.

Michael Eriksson: Is Korkeajännitys a comic that presents World War 2 comics only?

Asko Alanen: Korkeajännitys (sarja) started in 1953 with English Fleetway material: Super Detective Comics and Thriller Picture Library, which were mostly adventures and mystery stories including famous book and pulp characters like Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, Fu Manchu, Lesley Shayne, Black Shirt, John Steel and space ace Rick Random. In the sixties the World War II stories took over Battler Britton being the leading figure. Stories were provided by "War Picture Library" and "Battle Picture Library". Possibly also "Combat Picture Library", "Lion Picture Library," "War At Sea Picture Library" were used and "Air Ace Picture Library" was published as a special Siivet ("Wings") magazine. In the seventies Korkeajännitys was owned by Williams and then Semic and D. C. Thomson's Commando magazine became the main source. With Egmont Kustannus, World War II is still the main battleground, but every fourth or fifth story either returns to World War I or even older wars or fights in Korea, Vietnam or modern Special Assignments — including the previous Gulf War. Cover galleries of the British magazines can be found here.

How often is it published?

From 1954 to 1995 Korkeajännitys was published yearly 24 issues in pocket book size, nowadays 185 x 125 mm pages. During seventies and eighties there were numerous sidelines, usually 12 issues a year, like Air Ace KJ, Desert KJ, Jungle KJ, Sea War KJ, Space KJ, Western KJ and Agent KJ. They lasted from one year to twenty years tops. In 1996 we started to pack the 63-page stories in quartets and pocket book format, which were published 6 times a year at first, but soon 8 times a year. The sideline magazines were returned in their own selected 4-story books. like Air Aces, Panzers, Germans, Special Forces, Americans, Paranormal adventures, War History, Resistance Fighters and Motorized Forces. There were even a couple of Football KJ's from the same Thomson-material your Buster seems to use nowadays. Special issues include some A4-albums and very popular Finnish series about two men fighting each other in the civil war and against a common enemy in winter war, World War II, and the so called "danger years" after the wars.

Is it the only comic book of its kind in Finland?

Nowadays it is the only regular comic book with war stories. There have been some one off albums and war comics especially after Korkeajännitys started making Finnish special issues about winter war, civil war and other thrilling times. But the last actual competitor left the field almost 30 years ago.

Are the comics produced in Finland or imported from England or elsewhere?

Very few are produced in Finland, only one or two special issues a year. Otherwise all comes from D. C. Thomson's offices in Dundee, Scotland, who put out over 90 issues per year every fourth of which is a reprint. To my knowledge the Brits write the scripts, some do draw the comics too, but many of the anonymous artists are from the Southern Europe (Spanish and Italian) and as far as from Argentina.

What is the format of the comic in centimeters?

Nowadays 256+4 pages, 185 mm high and 125 mm wide.

When was it first published?

First issue came out in the summer of 1953.

Can you tell us a little bit about the readership that the magazine has and how the popularity has been?

It was fading away in its small format in the beginning of the Nineties, when I got on board. It didn't sell, because it tended to get lost somewhere in the diminishing comics section in the newsstands and markets. The idea was then to launch one more attack on the publicity front with first ever press releases. The mag got new looks on the covers (actually the old red & yellow design of the Sixties' Korkeajännityssarja), "versatile war hero"-columnist alias Kersantti Kivi (shameless translation of "Sgt. Rock") and some prize contests and silly publicity stunts involving the presidental candidates (one of them the future high commander of the armed forces) at that time. And SHAZAM, after the unavoidable public outcry "is Korkeajännitys really still around?" the sales and subscriptions took a healthy turn. The real jokers were the first quartet books 10 years ago: one for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day and after that the V-Day books (in Europe and over Japan), which sold much more than the mini mags. 

It was an easy decision to change to pocket books all together, because even the subscribers got the same amount of stories for a much cheaper price. Nowadays Korkeajännitys is a strong publication with a circulation of 6000-8000 and Finnish specials reaching even 10,000 to over 40,000 – the last figure belonging to the Civil War double issue (2000), where the same story was told separately from the "white" and "red" angle following the two heroes destinies that collided in their home village and later in bloody battles around Tampere. The yearly specials more than double the amount of Korkeajännitys. This year they are: three special pocket books starring Air Aces, Germans and Motorized Vehicles, one big album, one nostalgia trip with SF-heroes Rick Random & Jet-Ace Logan and two Finnish specials: historical Fänrik Ståhl and a sixties cold war thriller with our ageing heroes from the Civil War. Then there's a side order of "The Light Brigade", a modern American war comic with religious and supernatural tones. No money losers so far in that varying field, which tells all about the interest here. 

The core audience is separated: the teenagers interested in World War II or straight adventures in general and the veteran readers of Korkeajännitys aged 40 to 70. There is a peculiar interest among the rock groups too, who have always included "Korkkari"-publications in their tour bus libraries. There have been three bands so far using our moniker (translation of "high voltage" can also be a nod towards AC/DC, but the first impression is always our legendary mag) and quite many songs inspired by KJ.

End of interview

Sunday, August 26, 2012

John Eagle Expeditor

"An expeditor is someone who facilitates a process. It is a position or role found within project management, construction, purchasing and production control." And killing people, although the Wikipedia entry for Expeditor doesn't mention that."The key metrics which an expeditor influences may be - Ontime Delivery, Cash Flow Cycle and Inventory Management. An expeditor needs to be assertive and needs to know the business at high contextual levels."

You could definitely describe John Eagle as assertive. He's half-Scot, half-Apache, which ought to make him about as grouchy a person as you've ever met. And drunk! While I'm trotting out the cliches, let's not forget drunk.

This was a Lyle Kenyon Engel series which ran to 14 novels in the USA. Only the first five appeared from Mews, published in a slightly different order.

1 Needles of Death (by Manning Lee Stokes) (1973)
2 The Brain Scavengers (by Manning Lee Stokes) (1973)
3 The Laughing Death (by Robert Lory) (1973)
4 The Fist of Fatima (by Robert Lory) (1973)
5 Valley of Vultures (by Manning Lee Stokes) (1973)
6 The Glyphs of Gold (by Robert Lory) (1974)
7 The Ice Goddess (by Paul Eiden) (1974)
8 The Death Devils (by Robert Lory) (1974)
9 The Deadly Cyborgs (by Paul Eiden) (1975)
10 The Holocaust Auction (by Robert Lory) (1975)
11 Poppies of Death (by Paul Eiden) (1975)
12 The Green Goddess (by Manning Lee Stokes) (1975)
13 Operation Weatherkill (by Paul Eiden) (1975)
14 Silverskull (by Manning Lee Stokes) (1975)

Needles of Death (New York, Pyramid, Mar 1973)
Mews 0452-00000-9, Apr 1976, 175pp, 40p.
John Eagle has the blood of the Scottish border fighters in his veins. To this has been added a very special education in death dealing equipment and the disciplined training of an Apache warrior – to make him a unique and deadly kind of modern special agent: The Expeditor.
__His first mission – to cripple the secret weapon of the Chinese Communists. Alone, he penetrates the savage lands of Mongolia – alone until he rescues a lovely native girl from being raped by bandits. But would even she betray him?
__'Needles of Death' is a gripping, exciting tale of personal audacity and animal courage, one man against impossible odds in his effort to save the Western World!
The Brain Scavengers (New York, Pyramid, 1973)
Mews 0452-
The Fist of Fatima (New York, Pyramid, Sep 1973)
Mews 0452-00020-3, Jul 1976, 156pp, 40p.
John Eagle: The Expeditor – a super trained agent, half Scottish, half Apache Indian – and all action! Fantastically equipped and ready to go anywhere in the world and take on any enemy of the Free World.
__In a sandy wasteland in  Libya, terrorists, under the mysterious banner of The Fist of Fatima, are threatening international security.
__Even with the aid of these great desert fighters, the Tuaregs and the sensuous sisters who share his bed, John Eagle finds the man who calls himself the Black Death almost too much for him.
__And so, a bloody fight to the death begins under the cruel desert sun.
Valley of Vultures (New York, Pyramid, Dec 1973)
Mews 0452-00035-1, Sep 1976, 192pp, 50p. Cover by John Hunt?
John Eagle: The Expeditor – a super trained agent, half Scottish, half Apache Indian – and all action! Fantastically equipped and ready to go anywhere in the world and take on any enemy of the Free World.
__It was the most bizarre and dangerous assignment John Eagle had undertaken – to discover the truth about the mysterious Isla de Pelo in Ecuador where rich old men exchanged their millions for renewed youth.
__And why had so many ODESSA agents been lured to their death in South America? Was it part of a monstrous new Nazi plot to rule the world?
__To get at the truth, John Eagle must travel through three hundred miles of the worst jungle on earth – and if he reaches the tiny German enclave, he alone must decide how to expedite a matter of fantastic concern for the entire world!
The Laughing Death (New York, Pyramid, Jul 1973)
Mews 0452-00041-6, Oct 1976, 142pp, 50p. Cover by John Hunt
John Eagle, the supertrained agent with the blood of the Scottish border fighters in his veins, is pitched into the primeval jungles of Indochina to find an impregnable fortress where a secret arsenal of murderous gas is hidden.
__Inside the fortress a homicidal Chinaman plotted mass destruction as he dreamed of Imperial glory. And to defeat him it would take all of John Eagle's savage courage and magnificent physique for there also lay in wait:
__An ingenious and horrendous torture box.
__And a sex-starved nymphomaniacs waiting to embrace him with . . . The Laughing Death!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Satan Sleuth

The first in a series of cover galleries featuring series characters published by Mews, an imprint of New English Library. The stories were mostly reprints of American series from the likes of Lyle Kenyon Engel, who often used house names to cover the work of multiple authors contributing to a single series. I'll try to identify these where I can.

First up, tho', we have Michael Avallone's Satan Sleuth, who did what it says on the tin. Having the opening bit of the blurb – "The most powerful series since Dennis Wheatley's black magic novels" – in quotes makes it appear to be . . . a quote. But who from? And where? Well, actually, it was probably a quote from the guy writing the blurb. If it came to a demonic battle between Wheatley and Avallone, I'd put my money on Wheatley every time.

There was a third Satan Sleuth novel published in the US: The Werewolf Walks Tonight (1974). It didn't appear from Mews, so I have to presume that others felt that Avallone's take on Satanic sleuthing wasn't up to much either.

Fallen Angel (New York, Warner, Nov 1974)
Mews 0452-00001-7, Apr 1976, 144pp, 40p.
"The most powerful new series since Dennis Wheatley's black magic novels"
From the moment Philip St. George saw the butchered and mangled corpse that had once been his beautiful wife, Dorothy, he became a man with a terrible mission.
__For the bloody handiwork was that of an obscene and blasphemous cult of Devil Worshippers – and so Philip St. George dedicated himself to destroying all those who followed the way of Satan.
__He became a crusader against The Evil One and all his minions on Earth – THE SATAN SLEUTH!
Devil, Devil... (New York, Warner, Jan 1975)
Mews 0452-00014-9, Jun 1976, 159pp, 40p.
Philip St. George is The Satan Sleuth, a man who through terrible personal knowledge of the evils and debauchery of Black Magic becomes a lone fighter against Satanism.
__Now he is matched against Sister Sorrow, the Bride of Lucifer, who leads a coven of witches practising in the heart of New York, A she-devil whose hypnotic black eyes could change a man into a beast and command her subjects to commit murder.
__Five beautiful girls have already met their death at her command – five beheaded corpses, their severed bodies scarred with the Devil's markings. But The Satan Sleuth has vowed his own kind of magic and dedication that there will be no more!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Comic Cuts - 24 August 2012

OK, first item on the agenda is the second in our series reprinting the Sexton Blake Annuals of the 1940s. Actually, this one is the very first one and dates from 1938. Now, I know I've already published the 1940 annual and said that it was the second, so what happened to 1939?

Frankly I don't know. I've got a feeling that falling sales of Detective Weekly, in which Blake novellettes had been appearing each week, may have had an impact. Blake had earlier been dropped as the main lead character in favour of more generic detective tales, but was back to full-time lead status as of January 1939, shortly after the appearance of the first Sexton Blake Annual.

Now, this to me seems to say that the Annual was a success when it was launched in September and promoting Blake back to lead Detective Weekly reflected that success. However, it should be noted that these stories were reprints from Union Jack and the Sexton Blake Library... so maybe it was just reflecting falling sales and cost-cutting at Detective Weekly.

Add to this the problems faced by the Amalgamated Press due to the Second World War. In February 1940 it was decreed that no knew periodicals could be launched and a number of annuals may have been slashed due to both the paper shortage and the disappearance of the magazine they were based on. By a stroke of luck, the Blake annual had appeared in 1938, so it wasn't new and could be safely relaunched without contravening any laws. And it was tied in with an ongoing series, the Sexton Blake Library, which survived the war, unlike Detective Weekly, which was shut down in May 1940.

Somewhere in that hazy mess of information might be something approaching the truth.

Whatever the reason, this is one Annual that you'll want to get. There are some cracking yarns in the book, including a long novella in whch Sexton Blake crosses swords with Raffles the gentleman thief as written by Barry Perowne. Other authors include some of the best Blake writers of the era: Gwyn Evans, G. H. Teed, Rex Hardinge and John G. Brandon. Illustrators include Arthur Jones, Eric Parker and R. J. Macdonald.

I've had a busy week mostly concerned with writing up biographies of dead folks. I sent in a file piece to The Guardian and haven't had anyone screaming down the phone at me, so that's good news. Not that they do that kind of thing at the obituaries desk. They're lovely! Since then I've been writing up a piece for Geoff West's new Illustrators magazine, which should make it into issue 3.

The first issue is out today! When I spoke to Geoff on Wednesday, he was expecting delivery Friday morning and I'm hoping to have a copy in my sweaty paws next week along with a copy of the Denis McLoughlin book that has been put together by Peter Richardson and David Ashford. I love McLoughlin's crime noir artwork and this promises to be the ultimate collection.

As this is looking like a black & white special, my random scans today are illustrations rather than covers. I'm celebrating the work of the late Nina Bawden, who died on Wednesday. She's probably best remembered for Carrie's War, about two children evacuated to Wales, published in the 1970s. Her first novel, Who Calls the Tune, was a crime novel for adults published in 1953. Gollancz published her first children's book, The Secret Passage, in 1963. The following year they published On the Run, which was serialised in the pages of Look and Learn in 1965 with some terrific illustrations by Gerry Haylock.

Coming soon: Mike Eriksson, a Swedish fan, has been running a website dedicated to the Commando pocket library books for years. Unfortunately, the site is now closed. To quote Mike: "the reason for me giving up the Where Eagles Dare site was that it was hacked. Took the fun right out of it."

Mike was also a hugely prolific fanzine producer - he did some pretty good rock fanzines, including one dedicated to Deep Purple - and you can't keep a good man down... so he continues to write a blog and has recently published his 100th magazine.

Mike told me that he had no intention of reconstructing the Where Eagles Dare site, so I have offered to host some of the interviews, which I'll be posting in the coming weeks. The first will be a 2004 interview with former Commando editor George Low. We should also have the latest update to the regular Recent Releases and Upcoming Releases columns.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

World of Wonder part 67

Ron Embleton

C. L. Doughty

(* World of Wonder © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

World of Wonder part 66

Ron Embleton

Neville Dear

(* World of Wonder © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

World of Wonder part 65

Ron Embleton

Wilf Hardy

Jack Keay

(* World of Wonder © Look and Learn Ltd.)


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