Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Spider by Grant Stockbridge

"He moves in the shadows, strong and deadly. A man of courage and cunning. A man unafraid of the dark powers of this world – or any other. THE SPIDER."

Grant Stockbridge was a house name created to disguise the work of a number of authors who penned the adventures of The Spider in his eponymous pulp magazine. "Over 20 million copies of this series have been sold," claimed the back covers of the Mews reprints. That sounds like a low total for the original pulp, which ran for 118 issues. An attempt by Berkley to reprint the books in 1969-70 fizzled out after only four titles. The Pocket Books series in the mid-1970s also reprinted four titles, in turn reprinted by Mews. All four were penned by Norvell W. Page, an extremely prolific pulp writer who wrote all but a handful of the Spider's adventures.

There have been many other attempts to reprint the series since then, including a facsimile series by Girasol.

Spider No.1: Death Reign of the Vampire King (Nov 1935)
Mews Books 0452-00002-5, Apr 1976, 128pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masero.
All his resources are required against this hideous new menace. For Battalions of trained vampire bats, starved so that they would attack any living thing, their teeth anointed with deadly poison, are being set loose in dozens of cities. Thousands have succumbed to their lethal kisses. No one knows where they will strike next...
__Only The Spider could discover their hideout and stop the man who controlled them and was bent upon total domination of mankind. But would he be in time before the deadly kisses of the vampire legions brought a whole nation to its knees?
Spider No.2: Hordes of the Red Butcher (Jun 1935)
Mews Books 0452-00009-2, May 1976, 144pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masero
The Spider was the only survivor of a horrifying slaughter – as beast men from nowhere had turned the train he was on into a gory shambles. He himself had grappled with these subhuman killers with their amazing strength and deadly primitive weapons.
__Somewhere, he knew, there must be a criminal genius controlling these dreadful creatures as they rampaged across the country like the hordes of Attila the Hun. But how long had he got to find the master-mind before the nation lay in ruins?
The Spider No.3: The City Destroyer (Jan 1935)
Mews Books 0452-00015-7, Jun 1976, 143pp, 40p. Cover by Tony Masero
A group of merciless killers have stolen the formula for a chemical that erodes steel – destroying skyscrapers, roadways and bridges without warning. Wherever they struck, hundreds of innocent people were pulverised as steel girders crumbled into powdery fragments and death rained from the skies.
__Desperately, The Spider scoured the city for the mad genius behind this plan – known only to his henchmen as 'The Master'. But could he find the maniac before thousands more lay dead?
The Spider No.4: Death and The Spider (Jan 1942)
Mews Books 0452-00037-8, Sep 1976, 126pp, 45p. Cover by Tony Masero
The terror began with just a few isolated, brutal crimes – nothing to signal what was to come. Then ordinary people, usually devoid of criminality, began perpetrating hideous acts of violence, often culminating in suicide.
__Spider, following a devious, dangerous trail, found the source of this senseless slaughter – a mystical organisation led by a man called Death. But how could he fight an enemy who knew how to enter and control the minds of his victims when he was nowhere near them?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Joe Hunter - Attack Force

Joe Hunter was the pen-name of Wilfred McNeilly. There's not much I can add to that except that I seem to recall this was an OK series when I read it thirty years ago, although the fact that I don't recall a single thing about it probably says volumes.

Attack Force No.1: French Assignment
New English Library 0450-02572-1, Feb 1976, 159pp, 40p.
The mission was to penetrate deepest enemy occupied France and bring back a coffin. A coffin that contained a deadly secret, one which British Intelligence dared not allow to fall into German hands.
__What was needed was a small band of tough fighting men trained to perfection into a cohesive fighting unit. And so Attack Force was born, six ruthless men and one deadly woman led by the callous Major Harrison, who were to tackle the most dangerous and baffling assignments of the war—the ones that no one else would or could take on.
Attack Force No.2: Mission to the Gods
New English Library 0450-02670-1, Feb 1976, 158pp, 40p.
In occupied Greece small pockets of resistance fighters still maintained their defiant harrying of the enemy, constantly sapping their strength by guerilla warfare. Britain urgently needed to tie up as many German troops as possible in Greece, to relieve the pressure exerted on the British in the Western Desert by Rommel.
__Attack Force was ordered to be dropped into Greece to deliver essential supplies, maintain morale and organise raids against the Germans. Against all odds they managed to survive the initial drop, but then things started to go drastically wrong. With disaster staring them in the face, only Major Harrison's ingenuity could save them...
Attack Force No.3: Roman Holiday
New English Library 0450-02863-1, May 1976,159pp, 40p.
The twin brothers were identical. One was a Marshal of the Italian Army. The other supported the Allies. The task facing Major Harrison and his ferocious Attack Force was to substitute one for the other. It was a task destined to lead them into perils and intrigues as outrageous as any they had yet faced in their mission to make life hell for Hitler and his pals. It was a task fated to lead them into ancient Rome, the horrors of the arena and the machinations of the Mafia. It was a task that would lead them into the lion's den.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Comic Cuts - 28 September 2012

I finally managed to get Not Forgotten off to the printer. Tuesday and Wednesday I spent proofing the book and every time I thought I was finished I'd remember something that needed doing. Eleven-thirty on Wednesday night I'd almost managed to upload the file to the printer when I realised I'd left something out. Grrrrr!

But I've now managed to get the files uploaded and ordered a proof copy, so I'm now offering the book for pre-publication order at a 10% discount. This is for a limited time only – orders must be in before the 8th of October to qualify. The turnaround is a bit tight because the next (1941) Sexton Blake Annual will be coming out on the 15th. I'll post details of that one next week.

Our random scans this week begin with the tale of Tereska Torrès, a French refugee during the war who became a member of Charles de Gaulle's Free French forces in London in 1940. Born Tereska Szwarc (her parents being emigre Polish Jews), she married Georges Torrès in 1944, shortly before D-Day. Her husband was killed only a few months later fighting with the French forces in Alsace.

Torrès later married Meyer Levin, who acted as her translator when she began writing. Her first novel, begun when she was aged 17, was published in 1946. She then wrote Women's Barracks, which was published by Gold Medal in 1950 but was not published in her home country until over 50 years later. It became something of a lesbian classic and, in 1953, Harry Fredcove, a salesman, was charged with selling indecent and lewd literature in St. Paul, Minnesota. The court found that the "salacious effect" of the book did not outweigh its literary merit.

Tereska Torrès wrote 16 books in all. She died in Paris on 20 September having recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.

One of my favourite comedians, Jeremy Hardy, has published a couple of books over the years, including When Did You Last See Your Father? and My Family. I have the latter and I'm keeping an eye open for the former. However, I did manage to pick this up on Saturday: a collection of scripts from the first series of Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation (Methuen, 1993; this paperback edition 1994). In it, Hardy tackles the thorny questions of the day: how to stay alive for as long as you possibly can, how to earn your place in heaven, how to have sex and how to be adult in thought, word and deed.

Now, it might be my imagination, but I'm sure that when 7 (now Radio 4 Extra) repeated these, one of the first series (episode 3?) has always been missing. A mystery that has me mystified! Maybe the book will help me understand why.

And lastly (but not leastly), a contribution from Morgan Wallace which needed quite a bit of cleaning up but which turned out quite nicely.

Next week. Not sure about tomorrow but there should be a little gallery featuring the Mews editions of The Spider, reprints from the old American pulp mags. Beyond that depends on what I can manage over the weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Dandy: Special Collector's Edition

I'm still waiting on a copy of Morris Heggie's 75th Anniversary book detailing the history of The DandyThe Art and History of The Dandy – so this magazine-format special, exclusive to W. H. Smith, is here to tide me over. It's a nostalgic roller-coaster ride through some of the most fondly remembered of the Dandy's heritage of strips and stories and wraps up with a reprint of the very first issue.

With the book readily available, there has been little attempt to cover the history of the comic again, so this is more of a pick 'n' mix selection. I'm not quite sure why the first few pages reprint strips from the first issue as they reappear again at the back of the book but I'm sure there are plenty of other pages that will please even the most jaded reader, whether you prefer slapstick humour or edge-of-the-seat adventure.

Now, I was not a Dandy reader when I was a kid, although I've seen plenty of issues since – I'm loath to say "since I grew up" because the jury's still out on that. My point is that while I don't have the same nostalgia for the strips that a former reader may have (and I suspect there won't be many who remember Addie and Hermy from their first appearances in the 1940s), I can still appreciate the talents that combined to create the strips and stories on display. Can you really go wrong when you have Ken Reid putting out top quality strips like "Big Head and Thick Head".

The only oddity of real note is that the reprint of the first issue doesn't reprint it in full. It has been reprinted on coarser paper which has been bound in with the glossier, 64-page front section. The original Dandy number one ran to 28 pages, whereas this version runs to only 24 – pages 16-17 (a text story entitled "The Brave Runaways") and pages 20-21 (jokes and three short strips) are missing.

There has been some speculation of censorship over on Lew Stringer's Blimey! blog, but the explanation (as the later comments suggest) is more likely to be down to the way the new version has been printed: the original from 1937 was probably printed as a 24 page inner plus 4 page "cover" as the front was printed in full colour (well, four colour). Most presses nowadays print colour and an additional four page section would have meant piecing together four elements – the cover, the front section, the 4-page section and the 24-page section – to create a cheap, nostalgic, magazine-format reprint book. The increased production costs would perhaps have raised the price to £6.99 rather than the £5.99 it set me back. And I don't regret a single penny.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doctor Who: The Comic Strip Companion

The latest Doctor Who tie-in – unofficial and unauthorized – from Telos Publishing is the story of the first fifteen years of The Doctor's appearance in comic strip form. The strip made its debut in TV Comic in November 1964, drawn by Neville Main, the strip replacing "Fireball XL5" but owing more to to the earlier (1953-60) science fiction yarn featuring the alien "Red Ray – Space Raynger" and his two Earth-born companions, Philip and Anne.

Doctor Who was given two young companions rather than the adult companions he had on the TV show. The desire to have children in the strip was a request of Arthur Thorn of TV Comic, to give the readers of the comic somebody to relate to ... or perhaps simply to save a little money as the paper was already paying the BBC for the rights and William Hartnell for using his likeness. Using the two companions and other characters and creations from the TV series would have incurred more fees and a great deal of additional negotiation.

Such are the revelations to be found in The Comic Strip Companion by Paul Scoones. Scoones has dug out some remarkable stories from the BBC's archives and reveals the inner workings of how the BBC helped shape the scripts. To take just the first few appearances of The Doctor in TV Comic: the original draft of the first story featured the Daleks; giant insects had to be removed from the second story because a similar notion was being developed for the TV series; a storyline was approved for the third story but was never used; and objections were raised by TV Comic when it was learned that not only could they not use the Daleks, but that the Daleks were to appear in a rival paper.

I find this kind of detail endlessly fascinating – and this from someone who wasn't really exposed to the TV Comic Doctor until episodes were reprinted in Doctor Who Classic Comics in the early 1990s.

Wearing my bibliographers hat, it is great to discover that vague attributions for writers  like David Motton and Roger Noel Cook have been nailed down – Motton writing stories in 1965 and Cook taking over in 1966 and continuing to write the scripts until 1970 when Alan Fennell took over. I'm not convinced that Tom Tully was one of the writers in 1965-66, as posited by Scoones (p.79):
Roger Noel Cook recalls that he took over writing the Doctor Who strip from "... a freelance scriptwriter called Tom – I can't for the life of me remember his last name. Tom was a good friend of Arthur Thorn's, in his late '60s."

Well, Tully had only just begun his career as a scriptwriter around 1960 and was certainly not in his sixties. "When Tom retired, editor Dick Millington decided that Cook should take over writing the strip." Tully certainly didn't retire and was still writing Roy of the Rovers into the 1990s.

Instead, the writer would seem to have been born in the 1890s and was a regular at TV Comic during the era of editor Arthur "Mike" Thorn in the 1950s and 1960s. Tom isn't that common a name and the only other scriptwriter who immediately springs to mind is Tom Vincent, who wrote scripts and stories for Girl, but I know nothing about him beyond the name. I'm not saying that it is Tom Vincent who wrote those scripts ... I'm just saying Tully wasn't the only Tom in comics at that time.

But this is a minor, minuscule point in a magnificently researched volume. 600 pages of solid factual material relating to not only TV Comic, but also the Dalek strips in TV Century 21, the Doctor Who Annuals from World Distributors and the various Dalek Books.

The Comic Strip Companion. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who in Comics: 1964-1979 by Paul Scoones. Telos Publishing ISBN 978-1845830700, 30 September 2012, 608pp, £16.99 [£16.14 from Amazon]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Volsted Gridban / Ted Tubb cover gallery

Back in the early days of his career, Ted Tubb wrote 30 or so original paperbacks for the cheapest end of the market here in the UK. Tubb learned how to write by writing, so these are perhaps not the greatest SF novels ever published. Tubb was paid at a rate of £1 a thousand words, the books were rushed out and published, for the most part, under pen-names.

However, before you dismiss them, he was a serious writer of science fiction, and even the novice Tubb was ten times better than most of the writers who foisted SF on the public at that time. He was one of only a tiny handful – John Brunner, Edmund Cooper, John Rackham, Ken Bulmer, Syd Bounds – who survived that post-WWII boom in SF in the UK and continued to write SF.

When Scion Ltd. ran into financial problems in 1952, Tubb switched to Milestone Publications. Scion, however, had created the Volsted Gridban pen-name and were able to recover the name, which they promptly handed over to John Russell Fearn. But that's another story and another gallery.

Alien Universe
Scion, (Nov) 1952, [96pp], 1/6. Cover by George Ratcliff
revised as The Green Helix by E. C. Tubb, Linford, Mar 2009.

Reverse Universe
Scion, (Dec) 1952, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by John Richards

Planetoid Disposals Ltd.
Milestone 1019, (Jan) 1953, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ron Turner

DeBracy's Drug
Scion, (Feb) 1953, 127pp, 1/6. Cover by John Richards
as by E. C. Tubb, 2004.
revised as The Freedom Army by E. C. Tubb, Linford, Apr 2009.

Fugitive of Time
Milestone, (Feb) 1953, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ron Turner

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Commando Interviews Part 4 - Calum Laird

A brief introduction. 

The following interview with Calum Laird, editor-in-chief of Commando, was conducted by Michael Eriksson in March 2008. 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. 

When George Low left his job as editor in chief of Commando back in September 2007, he made sure that the next guy in line and Where Eagles Dare got in touch. At that point we decided that a first interview would be appropriate after a six month period, and true to his word, Calum got in touch and offered us his time. So we sent him a batch of questions, and a few days later (on march 21) we got the answers in our mailbox. Enjoy - Michael Eriksson.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been involved in Commando?

Just over 50, married, three children. Worked in DCT since I left university, starting on Jackie magazine and ending up here on Commando. I've done three stints on Commando before now, the first one starting in 1981 when the title was just 20 years old and Ian Forbes was the editor. I started reading Commando in the 60s and 70s, worked on the title in the 80s and 90s, now in the 00s I'm trying to keep it up to the standard it's already set.

At what point did you realise that it would be you that would take over as editor maestro after George Low one day?

Not that long before it happened. maybe a few months. At the time I was working on The Dandy and the suggestion came slightly out of the blue. As you've no doubt guessed, the suggestion was warmly received.

George left in September and you have had your first six months or so at the job now, how has it been?

Very, very busy. I know everybody would expect me to say that but I really do mean it. Commando produces eight 63-page books per month plus their covers and inside cover features. That's a lot of sub-editing, proof-reading and organisation every week. Especially when there's only myself and my colleague Scott Montgomery to do it all. (Scott and I have worked together before when he was a scriptwriter on The Dandy). In addition to that there was learning the job that George has done so well for the last 19 years with all its ins and outs. Let's just say that my admiration for George has doubled (at least) now that I fully realise what he had to do.

I have noted that George is still involved in the 700 page Commando specials, will that continue as it has so far?

George was fully involved with the newest volume which is out in May, Rumble In The Jungle. For the next one (hush-hush for now) we collaborated on the initial selection for Carlton. It's up to them who they'd like to write the introduction. I'm happy to do it but they may feel they'd like to stick with George. As it's their project, and one they've done very well, I'll leave it up to them.

Looking back to your first period, what issues were the first that you nursed into action in 2007?

I'm still working on the stories that George set in motion before he left. Because the Commando production process is very long, I don't think there's anything out yet that I can claim responsibility for. My aim would be that no-one will notice any change because we're striving to keep things up to the mark.

Can you mention a couple of stories that are in the pipeline as we speak and how they have evolved?

There's a story about a Spitfire operating in the Aegean theatre which was prompted by a few lines in a new Haynes book on Spitfires. I passed it on to one of our regulars, Ferg Handley, as just those few lines. He had pretty swiftly woven a narrative around it and, with a few nudges and tweaks, we've come up with a good story. Illustration will be starting shortly and it'll be issued later this year. I'll be interested to know what readers make of it. Sorry, can't tell you the title yet as I haven't made up my mind yet - Editor's perk. By the way, I'd like to say thank you to all the Commando contributors who have welcomed me aboard and continued the same friendly relationship they had with George. And in some cases beyond that.

How would you describe the current interest in Commando? I keep hearing from people that say that they have just discovered it and that they are going to start up a collection or take out a subscription.

There is a great deal of interest in Commando at the moment which is very heartening for us. As we approach our 50th birthday in 2011 we're hoping this will increase still further. At the moment we're in the middle of our biggest-ever reader survey. When the results come through we think we may be able to make our books even more appealing to our audience. We have a very high percentage of readers who buy by subscription and they are scattered throughout the world. We're always happy to sign up more though!

The title has had quite a bit of press in the last few months, and what I have seen has been very positive. Have you had any bad press as well from somebody that does not appreciate war comics the way we do?

One of the stories which was included in one of the recent Carlton collections did generate a little bit of bad feeling. I always regret when this happens because it is never our intention to cause any offence. In general it's only if our stories are read with a pre-conceived notion in mind, or parts are taken out of context, that this happens. We try to make sure that it's plain that, although our characters may hold unacceptable views, we don't agree with those views; these are simply the character's traits. Sometimes "experts" are asked to comment on our stories and we have the distinct feeling that they've never read a Commando in their lives, they simply report what they think we're like.

We noted recently that a title in India was being launched over there and that it was inspired by Commando. Were they in touch with you or can we view this as just another example of the impact that Commando has had over the years?

Our Licensing department set all this up with the publishers Eurokids in India. (If you're reading this in India and want more details get on to them, they'll help you out.) Commando, being readily identifiable, continues to attract interest from publishers around the world. Long may it continue.

Has Commando been for sale in India at some point of its long history?

I'm not 100% certain when but, yes it has. The new product is of high quality and we hope it will be a big success.  

How many of the adventures are brand new at this point and how many are re-runs?

We're doing four of each in every eight at the moment. The reprints are currently from 1991 and are as popular as the non-reprint generally. We have thought about going further back into the archive but that would mean we might reprint something that had already been run twice so I'm not sure how well that would go down. Also, the condition of some of the early original artwork would mean that much extra work would be involved to get the stories ready to print so it might not be worth it.

Could the readership get involved in actually deciding which ones that should be up for a re-print, maybe through your homepage or something?

As I said above (and should have waited until now), if anyone has a strong view, I'm happy for them to let me know, although I can't promise anything for various practical reasons. The results of the reader survey will also inform any decisions in that area too. By the way, requests that begin, "I remember a story about ..." and end with, "...I don't know the title or the number of it but it was about twenty years ago..." will be put to the bottom of the pile!

Has any new writers or artists joined up in the last six months and how often are you contacted by people that want to work for Commando?

We have plenty of artists working for us at the moment – who would all like more work! – so we haven't recruited anyone new. Two new writers have had scripts accepted. Once their stories have been through the production process we'll see if the readers share my opinion that they are valuable members of the Commando team. I'll come back to you with their names then.

Have you considered having a MySpace Commando Appreciation Society type page going?

I'm not sure that that is something we should organise; it might be seen as bragging about how great we are! If anyone else wanted to start one to say how great we are, however...

Every now and then we see an adventure that is set in Roman times or back when the Vikings roamed the waterfronts of Europe, how does these fare compared to the WWII adventures?

We get a lot of mail about them (99% positive) but there doesn't seem to be a significant change in the sales figures for them compared with the rest. Commando readers just like good stories, I guess. I  compliment them on their excellent taste.

I think compilations of your Roman/Viking adventures could be a nice idea, if you think it could work. Speaking as a swede, I think that especially a Viking title could find a Scandinavian audience on export.

That's something I'll definitely keep in mind. The last thing I want is a horde of disappointed Vikings sailing across the North Sea to keep me in line!

Do you want to add something to this interview?

Most people will know that we have a website with updates on the stories coming up, feature material with illustrations, downloadable desktops and a hundred and one other things. It's a new venture for us and experimental too. I'd like to know what people think of it, particularly our serialised story "Wall of Death" which is only available there. Please e-mail me with any comments. And what about our merchandise? Do you like it? Is there anything you'd like to see? In general, if you'd like to talk Commando, send me a mail.

Thank you for your time and all the best.

It's me who should be thanking you, Michael, for running this website and keeping titles like Commando in the public eye. All fans of Commando (and I include myself in that group) should be very grateful to you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Comic Cuts - 21 September 2012

The Not Forgotten book is almost done. I was working on the layouts during the week – with a day off on Tuesday because my Mum came over to visit.A little break like that makes you realise that you need a little break every now and then. At the time of writing, all the pages are laid out bar two as I need to clean up some pics to slot into the bibliography section at the back of the book. Otherwise it's just unrelenting text.

I also managed to do the front matter (copyright/contents pages) and that just leaves me the cover and the whole thing is done – three weeks to produce a 96 page book. Not quite so impressive when you remember how I admitted last week that a lot of the text was already written, but still not bad... there was still quite a bit of writing to do, a lot to double-check and many images to scan and clean up.

The 35 people covered – at lengths ranging from a few hundred words to 2,500 words – are: Alan Hemus, Tony Hart, Robert Peacock, Jose 'Pepe' Gonzalez, Jose Casanovas Sr., Ron 'Nobby' Clark, Malcolm Douglas, Bernet Toledano, John Donegan, Adrian Kermode, Giorgio Bellavitis, John Ryan, Francisco Hidalgo, Roy Raymonde, Carlos Roume, Ricardo Garijo, Terry Challis, Xavier Musquera, Francis 'Smilby' Wilford-Smith, Geoffrey Bond, Richard Hook, Ian Scott, Bill Ritchie, Virgilio Muzzi, John Hicklenton, Peter O'Donnell, Roy Mitchell, Victor de la Fuente, Ted Rawlings, Fernando Fernandez, E. C. Tubb, Jose Maria Jorge, Les Gibbard and Paddy Morris.

The whole thing clocks in at around 35,000 words for 96 pages. I should be able to do it for £12.99 or thereabouts but I'll have to double-check the costs. I'll also have to see if I can put this up on Kindle – the text only, of course. No pics.

My Kindle experimentation hasn't gone very far; I had planned to assault the e-book platform last spring, but never managed to get around to it. I did put up an article on Sexton Blake's origins in June which has been downloaded a total of 6 (!) times, twice at and four times from My royalties amount to $0.70 + £1.04, which is about enough to buy some milk and a bag of crisps. Not a good return for two days work. The few of you who have looked into this kind of thing will know that you don't get paid by until you hit $100 – and even then they take $30 back in tax unless you fill in a ton of forms. At this rate (70 cents in 3 months) it will be 2023 or 2024 before they send me my 70 dollars.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the troubles that Strip Magazine was having with its distribution. Well, the good news is that issue 5 has arrived in the UK and made its way through customs. This is a bumper issue and wraps up a number of stories and storylines in order to make way for a relaunch.

The additional material has now been released in the digital edition of the magazine as a unique issue 6, which has its own cover (above)... and which is going to confuse the hell out of collectors in the future!

Random scans. Following the death of film producer Stanley Long on 10 September, I dug out the novelisations of his three Adventure films which I recall with great nostalgia. From their days on video, I might add, as I'm not that old.

A nice little Denis McLoughlin cover from a Boardman pocket magazine. The Art of Denis McLoughlin is reviewed here.

I'm not sure what I'm doing next week. At some point there will be the regular updates for the Upcoming Releases and Recent Releases columns. I'm planning a Volsted Gridban/Ted Tubb gallery for Sunday. That's as far as my planning goes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Commando Interviews Part 3 - Peter Richardson

A brief introduction. 

The following interview with Peter Richardson, publisher of Achtung! Commando, was conducted by Michael Eriksson in August 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.

Can you describe your Achtung! Commando fan magazine in your own words and how it all started?

Well labour of love probably best describes the approach to Achtung! Commando and with a lot of these projects it happened almost by accident. I got back into collecting Commando about seven years ago, having had many previous abortive attempts since boyhood days. Now the only way to get hold of the ridiculously rare early issues I could think of was to go out on a limb and offer serious dosh for them. So I plastered ads offering what was regarded as loony money for issues 1-300 in excellent condition, condition being king as always in collecting. I think I offered something like £150.00 (€220.00) for issue 1 and I had a  certain amount of flak from collectors who had devoted their lives to in some cases literally piecing together a collection of these impossibly rare comics. Their concern was that I was ruining the market by offering inflated prices for comics that they were still trying to locate in some cases after twenty plus years collecting.

Anyway, as happens when you're trying to amass a collection I acquired a lot of duplicates including high-grade runs of some of the early issues. There were two dealers in the South West of England who had unbeknownst to each other stumbled over multiple mint copies of issues 25-30. So of course I was in the enviable position of having a lot of fabulously rare comics to find good homes for.

The best and most efficient way of doing this was to produce catalogues of the comics I had for sale in colour with reproductions of the covers as a major enticement for people to take the plunge and part with the admittedly, for those times, quite high prices I was asking. It worked really well and I thought, "Well these catalogues look great, how about doing a fanzine?"

The first issue was in a way the most difficult to produce as I really didn't know what I was doing and wasn't using a proper desk top publishing program, which made it a lot more laborious than it needed to be. However with the enthusiastic help of Commando writer Dave Whitehead and encouragement from the likes of David Roach (2000AD artist and noted comics historian) it finally came together. It was this issue that really helped open doors for me as I could send copies to prospective interviewees and other interested parties such as George Low and the Commando editorial team in general.

How many issues are out so far and how many copies do you print of each?

Four thus far, a fifth is in production and in  many ways is the most important of the lot as it really is entirely devoted to Gordon Livingstone who is a brilliant artist and was with the series since it's inception. The magazine is printed at enormous expense on a desk-top printer and there are about a couple of hundred of each issue out in circulation, they are a steady seller and are available from my UK distributor: Book Palace.

What is the content and how has the feedback been from the guys at Commando?

Content includes the ongoing index – really just a chance to reprise all those fabulously rare covers and fill in some information gaps, editorials by yours truly which is a way of updating people on developments with Commando, articles and interviews with  the Commando creatives which is really the meat of the project. Feedback is always very, very positive, George Low and the rest of the gang have been very generous in their help and information.

What type of general feedback have you had?

Always very positive, I have had a few comments as to the likelihood (or not) of my ever completing the Commando index as at 30 issues a year it's going to take us well into the next century before it's completed.

Have you detected any particular age group among the connoisseurs?

I think a lot are in the fifty-something area, although there are some thirty-somethings too. Younger than that and you really are talking a different culture with computer games being the natural successor to kid's leisure fantasies.

Is it possible that men pass the interest down to the next generation?

Not really, you certainly can't brow-beat your kids into following your tastes and I really do think that the war had a real resonance for boys growing up in the fifties and sixties which made them a natural audience for those kind of comics, plus the fact that comics still held a real attraction for children that they just don't anymore.

Will there be more issues coming up?

Yup! As I said we're working on issue 5 – apologies for the delay but it will be worth the wait – promise!

There are thousands of issues of Commando out now, how many do you have in your collection?

God! More than enough – sad really but I think over 3000.

When did you start to collect Commando?

In 1963 first failed attempt, they were really hard to get hold of even then! 1968 second failed attempt – even taking adverts out Exchange and Mart (a weekly UK ad-paper) couldn't unearth them. I gave up on the project, grew up (sort of), and then tried again in 1992 but for some reason only got so far with the early issues and then let them go again. I finally got back on the case in 1997, my eldest son was quite into militaria at the time and was getting the comic every fortnight. I think I must have said something like "... these are good but you should have seen the original ones my boy". You know the argument, music was better, women were fitter, skies were bluer when I were a lad...

Can you still recall the first time that you saw the magazine?

Yes it was an advert in The Victor which was a boy's comic published unsuprisingly by DC Thomson, and even in murky newsprint the covers looked sensational.

Did you buy the other war comics that used to be around as well? Name another title that was decent in your book.

Well yes I did – of course! The first comic I got was War Picture Library starting with issue 59 "Tough as They Come" which featured a great cover and artwork by someone who became one of my favourite ever Italian picture-strip artists – Renzo Caligari. The start of an ongoing love affair with these things. Battle Picture Library followed and my brother was reading Air Ace Picture Library and Combat Picture Libary, the first three were Fleetway publications and all well written and illustrated. Combat Picture Library in contrast was pure crap with artwork rendered by twelve year olds and storylines equally dire. Micron the publishers were probably where you'd go after being rejected by every other publisher in town although there was worse – Pearson's Libraries being the worst thing ever, distinguished (if such a word can be breathed in the same context as these ghastly comics) by the checkerboard pattern on the top of the cover. They were admirably commited to their pursuit of shite insofar as everything about them was dire, the printing, the paper everything. The kind of comic that an aged female relative would give you if they had some vague inkling that you liked war comics. As you can gather I really didn't care for Pearson's Libraries all that much.

How big is your collection if you count every issue that you have of all the titles?

I have all the key issues of War, Battle, Air Ace, Commando. We're talking here 1-300 as a minimum on each title in mint condition. I also have a run of Combat Picture Library as the covers are almost OK. But look I'm a guy with a life and I haven't stooped as low as actually counting them up or getting them all on the carpet and rolling over them. Christ! Apart from anything else they're way too valuable for that kind of thing.

What was it that made Commando stand up above the rest?

Like all great comic endeavours it's down to the editor. Their first editor Chick Checkley was an undoubted genius. He had an editorial vision and he stuck to it. Which is very impressive as he was working out of the very staid and very conservative environment of DC Thomson, who are a very insular and anachronistic Scottish publisher, who, it should be said, are also highly successful in the field of periodical and newspaper publication. Anyway it was Checkley's idea not to try and beat Fleetway at their own game vis a vis the quality of the content for boy's war comics but to go one further and make his comic even more lurid than War Picture Library. Smart move! He could have wasted a lot of time trying to make his comics better drawn and better written than his London rivals. But the reality is his comics could never be better in those terms, Fleetway probably had the biggest budgets, they undoubtedly had accesss to the best studios in Italy, Spain and South America and outside of staff writers and artists Thomson's would be resourcing the same free-lancers as Fleetway, which is precisely what happened. Checkley's approach was to think of the first point of sale of any comic, namely the cover, and it was this that he really radicalised. He did this in four ways: 

Firstly he upped the lurid tone by hiring one of the brightest talents to paint the covers, Ken Barr was the nearest thing this country had to the true grit style American Pulp Art cover artists that had been outraging the nation's morals for the previous decade. His Nazis wore the blackest shiniest jack boots ever, all his characters had gritted teeth, bugging eyeballs and enough tungsten back lighting to sear your retinas. His covers were a sea of swastikas, SS runes, black uniforms, deranged Huns, nasty Nips and sweatsoaked tunics with enough rips and tears to see the bulging biceps and attendant sweat droplets bursting through. Totally non-PC and made the Fleetway product and everybody else's seem staid and boring in comparison.

Secondly to really punch through the message he commissioned Barr to produce the covers in such a way that although they worked in "portrait" dimensions, in reality the paintings were done to a "landscape" format to produce a wrap-around effect. The birth of the panoramic cover.

Thirdly he took the title Commando, which at first consideration seemed a bit daft because there are only so many stories you can do with commando's before the reader gets a mite bored with raids on Nazi cliff top secret weapons centres. But the beauty of Checkley's choice of title was that it got away from all the titles that had alrady been taken, I mean people were actually launching titles such as "Fight", "Conflict" etc. With Commando as a title Checkley summed up his editorial vision and to undeline it got Barr to design the banner header and paint the famous Sykes Fairburn dagger to double underline where the title was coming from.

Fourthly and again bearing in mind that he couldn't really better the actual writing and drawing of the Fleetway competition he went for stories that were strong on concept so that you'd have a cover which would arouse the kind of insatiable curiosity that could only be alleviated by actually buying the thing.

It was undoubtedly Checkley that made the thing work, that plus a degree of senendipitous good fortune insofar as key artists such as Barr and Gordon Livingstone were literally living down the road, working as staff artists and gave him a very strong core team to work with.

Have you met any of the creators in person?

No. Obviously I've spoken to a lot of them, but I've never met any of the artists or writers, again it's really down to geography as they're by and large living up in Scotland and I'm right down near the south coast.

Who is your favourite cover artist of all time and why?

Ken Barr – has to be. Really for all the previously stated reasons, I've never spoken to him, he really isn't up for interviews at all these days and I can respect that.

Do you have a favourite period of the title?

Yes, it really has to be 1961—1970. You pretty much get all the Barr covers, sadly Checkley succombed to emphacema fairly early on in the titles run, but his legacy continued under the able stewardship of Ian Forbes. The writing and artwork were improving, there was some really fantabulous artwork being generated by the Spanish artists with the Bermejo studio and Mathias Alonso producing some really superb artwork and Gordon Livingstone's artwork was just getting better and better. The writing was always strong on those early issues too and refreshingly free from that awful poltical correctness that is the bane of creativity in this field. You know, "You kan only zee zer uniform undt net zer menn" kind of shite.

Is Commando easy to find for the tourist that comes along and have a few days in your country?

Lord No! You'd need an experienced guide and a return ticket to Dundee. Seriously though if you look carefully and search through branches of W.H. Smith's you might be lucky, but as regards local newsagents not very likely.

How common are older issues today at second hand stores?

Sometimes you'll come across a run of issues from the eighties or nineties. But no, they're not that common.

There has been a few Commando annuals, do you wish that it could be a recurring event and what could be done to make them a little more attractive from the fans point of view?

The format was wrong unfortunately, and really what's the point? The comics succeed if at all by the nature of their size, page count, publishing frequency, all of which is thrown out the window when put into an annual.

In Finland they have a title called Korkeajännitys which is partly (or mostly) imported Commando stories, but they jam four issues together in 260 page issues and ship them out as little books. Would you like to see something similar in your country?

No ... for the reasons above.

96 issues annually is amazing and it could mean that Commando could enter The Guinness Book of Records if they had a go at it. Did the title always come out with 96 issues per year or has it varied over the years?

Well here lies the reason for Commando's rarity as regards those early issues. Commando really was Chick Checkley's baby amd the people with the purse strings at Thomson's were not going to take any unwarranted risks with filling the shelves with loads of potential returns so initial print runs I suspect were quite limited and it really was two issues per month for the first year, and then come issue 25 the publishing frequency was upped to three issues a month until issue 30 when they took the plunge and matched the Fleetway norm of four issues a month. Come Spring 1967 and they actually steal a march on Fleetway and push to three issues a fortnight, effectively six issues a month and all original material, although they did start to rehash some of the early scripts. Fleetway followed suit and upped it's publishing schedule to six issues a month in January 1968 although they did this by sourcing the extra two comics from the stories already published with new covers. Effectively the start of the reprints.

American comics are often presented with credits for the writers and artists, isn´t that one area were Commando could update its style and include that information in each issue? How do you feel about this as a fan?

Well, it's the secretive and at times somewhat condescending policy of DC Thomson and for that matter Fleetway as it was then. Ian Kennedy did manage to get this signature throughout one of his very early Air Ace comics, but the editorial department wised-up to this and with the subsequent issue they got some lad with a bucket of white-out and a bottle of ink to obscure all his name checks. From a fan standpoint I suppose it adds to the thrill of the chase if you have to dig out the information on these unnamed creators, but it's a little sad to think of so much of this information getting lost.

I have seen books that presents classic covers of titles like Superman and Batman, do you think that a book with Commando covers could generate a big enough interest for someone to publish such a title?

Yes I do, if and it's a big, big if... it was done well. I'm afraid most people don't have the first idea on how to put books like this together and I don't really think that the books you are alluding to are that great, the only thing they have going for them apart from the quality of their not very well presented source material is that there are still a lot of people out there into collecting every last Batman and Superman artefact going. An example of how it should be done is Robert Lessor's fabulous publication, Pulp Art. That's how books like this should be looking.

Have you tried to interest a publisher to release something related to Commando?

No. It's a possibility but I'm looking to self-publish an index of the early issues which might be a better initial step. You cannot conceive how cautious a lot of publishers will be over a project like this and after all with some justification. There are endless publishing ventures on the wonderful world of comics which fail to shift themselves out of the remainder bin and end up being re-pulped or lost in some warehouse somewhere.

How about a book with Ian Kennedy covers complete with detailed interviews?

That would be great but again with the provisos I've just outlined.

Do you have any current favourite artists and writers?

Not really, John Ridgeway is good, Ian Kennedy of course, theres a newish cover artist by name of Nick Forder (I think), there are some good writers, Ferg Handley and Dave Whitehead spring to mind.

The adventures are set in different times, what are your favourite adventures and do you miss any at all?

To me, Mister nostalgia, I like the early non PC Commando comics the best, that being said some of the later scripts, "Operation Manhunt" springs to mind with artwork by the late and very great Denis McLoughlin entirely sympathetic to the script still rank as high points in the titles run.

If you look back at the issues that have been coming out so far in 2004, which ones are your favourites?

Spoken in barely a whisper – I haven't read any – sorry. To be brutally honest I really felt that the life had gone out of the series a few years ago. You really do need a private income to consider working on the Commando comic, the last I heard the page rate was around £15.00 (or 22.00 euros) and even if you can work two handed with fire-proof wrists it's still going to take a month to six weeks to complete an issue, so really there is no way anyone could support themselves let alone any dependants on those kind of wages. As a consequence it's really difficult to see much of a future for the comic.

Would you enjoy a specific personality coming along, someone that would appear a few times each year?

Not really for the reasons above.

Have you considered creating a homepage for the fans? I think that would be a great thing for a classic title like this for guys all over the world.

Yes and No. It takes enough of my time doing the fanzine but I do consider that a well designed web-site entirely devoted to Commando would be fun.

Commando lives on, do you sometimes wish that some of the other classic stuff could be published again in one form or another? Like Battler Britton and such titles of years gone by.

Definitely not! The whole thing about comics is like any other valid art form, they are a reflection of the society that spawns them. Battler Britton worked in the late fifties and early sixties but a lot has happened since and unlike heroes like Superman and Batman whose historical references are less obvious, poor old Battler Britton, Captain Hurricane et al. are going to look a tad anachronistic these days.

Few titles exist today. Have you seen any title from the States? Like perhaps some of Garth Ennis work which is pretty good as well?

Not really and I can't really comment on Garth Ennis's work as I haven't seen that much of it.

The second world war was missing for a long time in cinema (and television), but has re-emerged in a big way the last six years or so. Do you think that the kids of today can find a title like Commando appealing once they have seen Tom Hanks storm the beach in Normandy, and that this could all be good news for Commando?

Well not really. I think what's happened is that all those kids who are into computer games rather than comics have played Medal of Honour, which was the logical outlet for Saving Private Ryan rather than putting it into comics. The Americans did make one or two half-arsed attempts to transmogrify the thing into comics and failed lamentably. The other consideration and it is very important is that the impact that Saving Private Ryan had was undoubtedly on it's harrowing depiction of the Omaha landings, there is not a cat in hell's chance that Commando would sanction that kind of realism in their comics. The nearest you can get to that kind of approach in comics is Jacques Tardi superb C'etait La Guerre Des Tranchees and there is no way that anything like that is going to pass the Commando editorial remit that the comics they produce should be suitable reading material for an eight year old boy, none of whom read comics these days anyway.

Also, games produced by PlayStation and other companies are doing good business with titles staged in WW2. To me, this indicates that the interest in this era will never go away and that some of the experts in the publishing world may have been wrong in the past. What do you think?

Oh yes! It's a part of recent history which still has a lot of resonance and it was the last war of such epic dimensions. As Steven Ambrose so adroitly put it, "the last good war", with a clearly defined evil that had to be overcome.

Do you want to add something to this interview?

I feel a bit talked, or perhaps typed out. So perhaps a thank you to you Michael for so kindly inviting me to do this interview and creating such a wonderful web-site and a thank you to all the dear readers that have made it thus far.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recent Releases: May - August 2012

MAY 2012 

The Broons Notebook.
Waverley Books ISBN  978-1849342346, 7 May 2012, 144pp, £6.99 [£5.17 from Amazon].
A 144-page stationery item notebook from Scotland's favourite family, with illustrations, sayings and moments captured from The Sunday Post's long-running (75 years) comic strip. Notebook pages are printed pale cream with light blue lines. Details from cells from the comic strip appear on corners and tail edges of the pages. A must-have item for every Broons fan. 'The Broons' comic strip was launched in 1936 in The Sunday Post in Scotland, and is still going strong with a readership covering all generations. The Broons are undoubtedly Scotland's 'First Family' and the 'Nation's Favourites
Order from Amazon.

Doctor Who: The Crimson Hand by Dan McDaild, Martin Geraghty, Mike Collins, Rob Davis, Sean Longcroft, David A Roach and Paul Grist.
Panini UK ISBN 978-1846534515, 7 May 2012, 260pp, £15.99.
In this third and final volume of comic strips collecting the Tenth Doctor's complete adventures as seen in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine, the famous Time Lord joins forces with Ms Majenta Pryce and embarks on his most remarkable series of journeys yet - travels that ultimately lead him to a terrifying encounter with The Crimson Hand!
__Note: Originally announced for 4 May 2010, Crimson Hand was cancelled due to "contractual difficulties" and subsequently re-listed for publication on 6 October 2011, then November 2011, then late Spring 2012.
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Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis.
Blank Slate ISBN 978-1906653262, May 2012, 192pp, £13.99. [£9.09 from Amazon]
After 15 years of clamouring from fans, the Hugo Tate series is finally collected in a single volume. Beginning his life in print as a stick-man in a figuratively drawn world, readers witness the eponymous Hugo visually develop alongside the comic itself. Originally conceived as an acerbic humour strip, Hugo rapidly developed into a British equivalent to Love & Rockets — filled with a richly developed cast and a branching web of stories of life in London. Includes commentary from Nick Abadzis and a foreword by Gareth Ennis.
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Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files Vol.19 by Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, Carlos Ezquerra et al.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1907992964, 10 May 2012, 320pp, £21.99. [£14.29 from Amazon]
Mega-City One: the future metropolis bustling with life and every crime imaginable. Keeping order are the Judges, a stern police force acting as judge, jury and executioner. Toughest of all is Judge Dredd. He is the law and these are his stories. Volume 19 in this best-selling series collects together more old school Dredd from the pages of 2000 AD and The Judge Dredd Megazine, including legendary comic writer, Grant Morrison’s first Judge Dredd story, Inferno.
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Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died by John Wagner, Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon and Dave Gibbons.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080092, 11 May 2012, 160pp, £6.99. [£5.17 from Amazon]
It is a dark time in the history of Mega-City One. Having employed blackmail and coercion in order to topple the balance of power within the Justice Department, the tyrannical head of the Special Judicial Squad – Judge Cal – has managed to secure the position of Chief Judge. The crazed Cal has enlisted the help of an army of reptilian alien mercenaries known as the Kleggs, appointed his pet goldfish as deputy Chief Judge and framed Judge Dredd for murder in order to maintain power.
__But Dredd is the kind of Judge who doesn’t go down too easily and together with a rebel army made up of other Judges and citizens, prepares to fight back. Can Judge Dredd succeed against all odds and defeat Judge Cal before he destroys the entire population of Mega-City One?
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The Oor Wullie Funbooks: Rare!.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849341066, 6 May 2012, 96pp, £3.99. [£2.99 from Amazon]
A follow-up series of four books to the best-selling first four Oor Wullie Funbooks. Oor Wullie, Scotland's best-known comic character, is at large in this accessible, easy-to-read series. A set of four books, available as individual titles, full of puzzles, cartoons, games and jokes aimed at the 8+ age group. Oor Wullie is joined by his pals Fat Bob, Wee Eck, and Soapy Soutar. Each book has 96 pages of facts, anagrams, colouring-in pictures, jokes, join the dots, knockknock jokes, word games and spot the difference.
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The Oor Wullie Funbooks: Smashin'!.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849341080, 6 May 2012, 96pp, £3.99. [£2.99 from Amazon]
See above.
Order from Amazon.

The Oor Wullie Funbooks: Michty Me!.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849341073, 6 May 2012, 96pp, £3.99.
See above.
Order from Amazon.

The Oor Wullie Funbooks: The Very Dab!.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849341097, 6 May 2012, 96pp, £3.99.
See above.
Order from Amazon.
JUNE 2012

Absalom: Ghosts of London by Gordon Rennie & Tiernan Trevallion.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080429, 21 June 2012, 96pp, £10.99. [£8.35 on Amazon]
Veteran copper, Inspector Harry absalom, heads a special squad that enforces The Accord - a diplomatic treaty made in the sixteenth century between the throne of England and Hell. If any demonic entities step out of line, Harry and his team will track the infernal offenders down and sort them out for good. A miserable old bastard with a knack for finding trouble, Harry was the perfect man for the job. But years of strife are starting to catch up with him, and now Harry also has to contend with the fact that he is dying of terminal cancer...
Order from Amazon.

The Complete D.R. & Quinch by Alan Moore & Alan Davis.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1906735883, 21 June 2012, 128pp, £11.99.
By the most successful comics writer of the past twenty-five years, Alan Moore, comes his funniest and most endearing anti-heroes, D.R & Quinch. There’s nothing like them.
__Ernest Errol Quinch and Waldo ‘D.R.’ Dobbs (the ‘D.R.’ stands for ‘Diminished Responsibility’) are a pair of psychotic alien students, less interested in their college work than in the sort of thing young people like to get up to – you know, military ordnance, picking fights, destroying entire star systems...
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Major Eazy Vol. 1: Heart of Iron by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1848564411, 15 June 2012,  128pp, £14.99. [£8.79 from Amazon]
Major Eazy is a maverick soldier in a dirty war, caught up in the Allies’ invasion of Italy in 1944 and determined to see justice done. Even when that means taking on villains on his own side, he doesn’t pull any punches! More movie star than military, Eazy was the most laconic and indeed British officer ever to grace the pages of a comic. This volume starts from the very beginning of Eazy’s story.
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Mean Machine: Real Mean by John Wagner, Greg Staples & Steve Dillon.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1907519758, 21 June 2012, 176pp, £14.99. [£11.30 from Amazon]
Born and raised in the Cursed Earth as a member of the notorious Angel gang, “Mean Angel” (aka the Mean Machine) is one of the most dangerous criminals to ever plague Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One.
With his mechanical claw and head dial, which amps up his anger and aggression from Mean to Brutal, Mean Angel is one of Judge Dredd’s toughest adversaries – a headbutting psychopath with a penchant for destruction!
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Slaine: The Horned God by Pat Mills & Simon Bisley.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1907519741, 21 June 2012, 208pp, £24.99.
Sláine The warrior barbarian Sláine, master of the warp spasm, wielder of the mighty axe Brainbiter, Celtic warrior king - faces his greatest challenge: the existence of his world is at stake as he prepares to follow the ways of the Horned God. It is a path that can give him control over nature itself or unleash a new age of witchcraft and dark forces. A premium hardcover edition, with dust-jacket, of the classic book.
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Slaine: Treasures of Britain by Pat Mills, Dermot Power & Steve Tappin.
Rebellion ISBN, 21 June 2012, 128pp, £14.99. [£9.74 from Amazon]
Slaine MacRoth - Celtic warrior and High King of the tribes of the Earth Goddess Danu, has been summoned through time to the age of Camelot. King Arthur has fallen in battle and a curse has caused darkness to fall upon the kingdom. In order to heal the land, Merlin and Morgaine la Fee need Sláine (accompanied by his unfaithful sidekick Ukko the dwarf) to retrieve the lost 'Treasures of Britain' — magical artefacts also being sought out by the Saxon plunderer Hengwulf. These powerful items are defended by the demon-like Cyth who harvest human misery in order to revive their masters — the Dark Gods of Cythrawl!
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JULY 2012

Peter Jackson's London Is Stranger Than Fiction by Peter Jackson, compiled by Steve Holland.
Look and Learn ISBN 978-095507721-0, 4 July 2012, 92pp, £14.99.
‘London is Stranger Than Fiction’ inspired artist Peter Jackson's life-long fascination with London, its history and its people. The strip, originally published in The Evening News, revelled in obscure facts about the city, its eccentric inhabitants and forgotten byways. Jackson used his talents as an artist to bring these subjects to life for the entertainment of his readers.
__Peter Jackson's London is Stranger Than Fiction reprints all the strips from two of Jackson's now-hard-to-find books, London is Stranger Than Fiction and London Explorer, in which Jackson looked at curiosities associated with certain areas of London, from Aldwych to Westminster. 
Order from Bear Alley Books

Savage: The Guv'nor by Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080405, 19 July 2012, 224pp, £14.99. [£11.30 from Amazon]
In 1999, Britain was successfully invaded by the Volgs. When London lorry driver Bill Savage learnt that his family had been killed by the Volgs, he became a one-man war machine - a persistant thorn in the side of the occupying army. Having adopted the identity of his dead brother, Savage operates out of a bombed-out london, leading the resistance against his hated enemy. Now, business brain Howard Quartz - the CEO of Ro-Busters - has launched an attack on the Volgan forces with his Mark-One War Droids, but the Volgs have some technological tricks of their own, including a functional teleportation device....
Order from Amazon.

Strontium Dog: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781080436, 19 July 2012, 144pp, £14.99. [£11.30 on Amazon]
Earth, the late 22nd century. Many survivors of the devastating Atomic Wars were mutated by Strontium 90 fallout. These mutants became an underclass – hated by the ruling 'norms', the only job left for them was bounty-hunting. The best of the Search/Destroy agents (also known as Strontium Dogs) was a man called Johnny Alpha. He became famous for fighting for mutant rights and died defending his kind from ultimate destruction. But it seems that even death can't keep a good dog down and rumours are circulating about Alpha's return...
Order from Amazon.


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'.
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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.
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The Broons and Oor Wullie: Classic Strips from the 70's.
D. C. Thomson ISBN 978-1845354947, 31 August 2012, 144pp, £12.99. [£10.39 from Amazon]
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The Broons: The Nicht Afore Christmas by Morris Heggie.
Waverley Books ISBN 978-1849342735, 1 August 2012, 8pp, £2.99.
A poem written specially for Christmas by Morris Heggie, scriptwriter of The Broons. It's Christmas Eve at Glebe Street and the Broons are fu' o' Christmas spirit. But Granpaw's no' happy. The Bairn has gied him a tricky request. He disnae ken it yet, but he's going on quite an adventure. There's no chance of any piece an' quiet in Glebe Street with Santa around. This Christmas poem is set in the world of the Broons of No. 10 Glebe Street – Scotland's best loved family who have appeared in The Sunday Post every week since 1936.
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Classic Beano & Dandy: Panto Time.
D. C. Thomson ISBN 978-1845354978, 31 August 2012, 144pp, £12.99. [£10.39 from Amazon]
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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.
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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.'
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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.
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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!
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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!'
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