Saturday, November 30, 2013

Not the Michael Moorcock cover gallery

To say I'm pissed off at the moment is an understatement. A post I have been working on for the past couple of weeks covering Mike Moorcock's extensive output disappeared as I was putting the final touches to it. Vanished into thin air. A couple of week's worth of research and over 100 cover scans gone for no apparent reason.

The second—and rather less complete—part was saved and will appear tomorrow. But the first part will have to wait as I'll have to reconstruct it from scratch. Aaaaaghhh!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Comic Cuts - 29 November 2013

"Superb production and a treasured addition to the groaning bookshelf!"—Dave Gibbons.

Follow the link above to the Bear Alley Books website for payment details.

Copies of Worlds of Adventure have shipped out and I'm getting some very nice comments on its quality. After a week slogging through artwork that needed cleaning up and continuing my quest to nail down accurate information for the next comic index, it has been great to hear from people and a simple "Many thanks for this great book" really lifts the spirits.

I'm working on the next two books concurrently. It's too close to Christmas to try and get another one out—and, frankly, nobody is likely to have any spare cash, I'd be wasting my energy. Working this way, I'm hoping to have two books finished reasonably early next year. After that ... well, we shall see.

I don't really have any other news so I guess I'll just quickly update you on my weight. I was hoping to lose a stone over the summer but I'm slightly off - at the last weigh-in I had lost 12 pounds, which means that I'm currently losing a pound a month. Due to my love of roast potatoes and Christmas pudding, I'm reasonably sure I'm not going to be losing those vital two pounds over Christmas.

What I find frustrating is that I'm not flagging in my exercise regime. I've been good, but the rewards have been tiny. I've done about 900 miles on that sodding exercise bike in order to lose about three pounds. That's a pound for every 300 miles—and I'm still going for walks, too! As Mel says, I may have to face up to the truth before long and actually go on a diet rather than try to exercise the weight off. If only food didn't taste so yummy!

I'm going to cut this short because I want to try and finish off a Mike Moorcock cover gallery for the weekend and there's about 100 covers to sort out. Next week we should have the recent and upcoming releases columns plus whatever else I can think of.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Comic Cuts - 22 November 2013


The latest Bear Alley Books book is on sale now!
Follow the link above to the Bear Alley Books website for payment details.

The second proof for Worlds of Adventure arrived during the week and looks perfect – I like to get two proofs just to make sure the printing is consistent – so copies already ordered should ship out soon. [Update: Orders have now been processed and copies should go out some time next week.]

I spent last weekend scanning up pages for another collection of strips which I'll announce shortly. This week has been a rather pleasant one as far as work was concerned as I was able to split the day between two projects. So I've been writing in the morning and cleaning up pages of artwork in the afternoons/evenings. It's a good way to stop boredom creeping in. If that happens, I can lose half a day to forever checking the newspapers or checking my e-mail... or looking at other people's websites... or Facebook... or YouTube...

Ah, so many distractions, so little willpower...

On Monday Mel and I headed into town to watch Frankenstein at the National Theatre, although thankfully we only had to make it as far as Colchester Odeon as it was being broadcast live as part of the theatre's 50th Anniversary celebrations. Here's the trailer...

The version we saw was with Jonny Lee Miller as the monster and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein; during the original run the two actors would swap roles, so you'll see both as the monster in the above trailer. The whole production was superb but Jonny Lee Miller was awesome. This wasn't the book – it was Nick Dear's Frankenstein – but here the creature was at least the cultured, misunderstood monster of Mary Shelley's original novel, not the shambling horror he is often portrayed as.

We haven't been to the theatre for years – call me a philistine but I prefer films to plays and most of the time I'd prefer to watch the TV rather than go to the cinema. But this was a terrific way to spend two hours and we're hoping to see another live broadcast. Maybe Coriolanus with Tom (Loki) Hiddleston next year. (And if you haven't seen Hiddleston, as Loki, arguing with some kids about Thor, follow this link. It's only short.)

Family and friends of Roger Perry were over the moon to receive word from him on Thursday morning, thirteen days after Typhoon Haiyan that swept across the Philippines, where he has lived for the past two decades. I'm sure we'll hear more about his adventures later, but for now were glad to hear that Roger is alive and kicking.

As we haven't had any random scans for a while, here's a quartet of Panther war covers for you.

Our Paul Temple strip is rapidly approaching its climax, so make sure you come back over the weekend and next week.

Paul Temple in Death Sitting Down part 12

(* © Evening News)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Commando 4655-4658

Commando issues on sale 21st November 2013

Commando No 4655 – Eagles In Battle

It’s true that after 1066, no foreign power has successfully invaded Britain. Before that, though, things were different, as waves of foreign invaders rolled in over the seas.
   The Romans were amongst the first to arrive, their legions and their War Eagles sweeping all before them. Well, almost all, for in a small corner of the south west of England resistance was brewing — and that meant battle could not be far away.


With only a few notable exceptions — step forward Ramsey’s Raiders — recurring characters have been rare on the pages of Commando over the last 50-odd years. However we were of the opinion that you, our readers, might like a series which carried the story over more than one issue. With the pen of Ferg Handley recruited to do the writing, we decided that a historical saga spanning many generations would hit the spot.
   So, here it is, the first episode of a series which will follow the inter-linked fates of several families from the South West of these isles — from the days of the Romans to the Second World War.
   I hope you enjoy the journey.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: John Ridgway
Cover: John Ridgway
The series continues with The Eagles Return, Commando No 4663

Commando No 4656 – Dice With Death

They called him “The Misfit” — and with good reason. For young Tony Stacey was such a blundering fool he had been kicked out of every branch of the British Forces.
   Why then did the Germans move heaven and earth to kidnap Stacey — why did the Germans whip him away to Tripoli as a vitally important prisoner?
   What was so special about this dopey, meek-and-mild ex-RAF tail-gunner that they kept half the desert Luftwaffe on the ground until he arrived?
   Here is the astounding story of one of the most fantastic bluffs of the war…


I think it was Edmund Blackadder who used the expression, “more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing.” Even if it wasn’t him, it fits this Clegg story well, very well. I’ve read a fair few Commandos in my time and I had no idea where this was going half of the time. I just trusted Commando Editor Chick Checkley’s judgement and went along for the ride. A ride with some excellent early Gordon Livingstone black and whites and a typically action-packed, Ju 88-trashing Ken Barr cover.
   I trusted that team and wasn’t disappointed. I hope you’ll do the same

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Clegg
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 91 (Nov 1963), re-issued as No 575 (August 1971)

Commando No 4657 – The Hostile Jungle

Sergeant Mick Flanagan of the Royal Australian Air Force had his hands full. Not only was his underpowered Brewster Buffalo running rough, but there was a Nakajima Oscar all but stapled to his tailplane, its guns spitting lead.
   And all the while below him, its green tendrils snaking upwards, lay the jungle…the hostile jungle.

Story: Mac MacDonald
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4658 – Riley’s Raiders

Led by Lieutenant Ted Riley, his Raiders were an elite group of Australian soldiers who had been specially picked for the task of beating the Japanese at their own game — fast-moving jungle warfare. But now the Raiders were about to face their toughest battle, for the Japanese had decided something must be done about them — something very special, and very deadly!


After reading the first few pages, this story seems to be about a golden artefact sacred to a Burmese village and what will happen next as a distinctly dodgy character tries to get his grubby mitts on it.
   However, this soon changes and we’re suddenly thrust into a typically tough Commando jungle tale — one which is certainly hinted at by Jeff Bevan’s moody cover, depicting a misty, menacing jungle landscape lit by a full moon. There’s plenty of gritty action here, courtesy of Cyril Walker’s winning script and Ibanez’s sterling, pitch-black artwork.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Cyril Walker
Art: Ibanez
Cover: Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No 2238 (December 1988), re-issued as No 3732 (July 2004)


Paul Temple in Death Sitting Down part 11

(* © Evening News)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Comic Cuts - 15 November 2013


The latest Bear Alley Books book is on sale now!
Follow the link above to the Bear Alley Books website for payment details. 

As promised last week, Worlds of Adventure, a collection of four full-colour stories by Gino D'Antonio, is now available. The proof arrived mid-week and I'm extremely pleased with the way the book has turned out. The colour is outstanding and the artwork superb, as you would expect from someone of D'Antonio's talent.

These stories have never been reprinted in the UK – although I did run a couple of them on Bear Alley a while back. I believe the strips were published in Holland and in France, although I only have details of the latter. Because Tell Me Why had been running for eight months already, only 'Quo Vadis?' and 'Un conte de deux villes' (A Tale of Two Cities) appeared in the pages of Je Sais Tout, so French fans still have 'The Wanderings of Ulysses' and 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' to look forward to.

For those of you who take advantage of the discount usually offered ahead of publication, my apologies. The margins on this one are so tight they don't allow for discounts. However, everyone can head here for a bonus strip by D'Antonio from the pages of Top Spot.

Roger Perry, who has contributed a couple of recent columns to Bear Alley, has been caught up in the recent typhoon Haiyan that swept across the Pacific last week. The category five super-typhoon, known locally as Yolanda, made landfall at the town of Guiuan at 4:40 am, wiping out the homes of 50,000 islanders. With winds of 195mph gusting up to 235mph, this is the biggest typhoon to hit the Philippines since 1969.

The typhoon hit Tacloban City on the island of Leyte, where Roger lives, on the morning of Friday, 8 November, the winds driving a storm surge of 8 metres (25 feet) smashing down on the houses and streets if the city. I last heard from Roger on Thursday when he got in touch after a few days absence, reporting that on 27 October, during a short electrical storm, "a lightning bolt ... travelled down my internet cable, totalled my modem, and f**ked up much of the motherboard, with the result that, despite having replaced the damn thing only seven months ago, I had to buy a new one." Roger had been out of action for nine days.

With typical humour, he included a picture with his last message, of the path of Typhoon Yolanda across the map of the Philippine islands. In large red letters he had added "This is where I live!", an arrow pointing to the precise path of the typhoon through Leyte island;, across the whole message was the word "Oooooops!"

"I've lived through them before so I dare say this one will be no different," he said  in his message on Thursday. "I dare say that I shall be uncontactable for at least 48 hours." He has not been heard from since.

If you have been following the news, you will know that the typhoon has utterly devastated Tacloban City and displaced most of its quarter of a million inhabitants. You can see a few before and after photographs at the BBC website.  A week later, the situation is still utterly chaotic, with aid arriving in dribs and drabs. There has been talk of "bodies in the street" and 10,000 dead. Thankfully, this figure has been scaled back, although the latest numbers involve 4,000 dead in Tacloban City. Not good by any means, but better than 10,000.

I found a contact number for the Foreign Office and phoned on Wednesday to see if there was any way of obtaining news of survivors, but was only able to leave a voice message. A close friend of Roger's, Brian Woodford, has also been trying to discover what news he can but has hit the same brick wall (voicemail, automated email responses) as I have. We're still hopeful and will continue our efforts to get some news from official sources if we can.

As soon as we hear anything, I'll let you know here or via my Facebook page. Mention of the latter reminds me that some folk are putting together a Haiyan Benefit anthology via a Facebook group. They are looking for contributions and have put together a trailer on YouTube. Phil Woodward of INDI Comics has said that a crowdfunding page will go live at IndieGogo on Sunday, 17 November. I hope you'll give it your support.

UPDATE: On Friday, Brian heard back from a Foreign Office source who said that, in contacts with the Philippines government, they have had no reports of injuries to British nationals. "Roger is a tough old bird and I am hopeful he is somehow weathering the aftermath." Don't uncross your fingers, folks, but at this is the first positive news we've received.

Finishing up the D'Antonio book and getting the next two started hasn't left me any time for random scans these past couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll get my act together by next week. In the meantime, we'll be continuing the adventures of Paul Temple.

Paul Temple in Death Sitting Down part 5

(* © Evening News)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Heros the Spartan

There's a temptation just to type "WOW!" and leave it at that.

This has been in the works since 2009. I remember cleaning-up a sample page just before Christmas of that year. However, it was only in 2011 that things really started moving. The fiftieth anniversary of the strip's debut came and went in October 2012 but its reappearance crawled ever closer. And, finally, one of the greatest of all British comic strips is here. And it has been worth the wait.

As one of the baby boomers of the early 1960s, I was too young to see Heros the Spartan first time around. Flicking through copies of Eagle at Westminster Comic Mart in the early 1980s was my first sight of the strip and looking through the Eagle's in the collection of my mate John Clarke the first time I had a chance to study the strip in any depth. For the last thirty years, if anyone has asked me what comic strip I'd love to see reprinted, I've always said Heros the Spartan.

And here it is, in all its finely imagined, beautifully executed, full colour glory. Although it contains only the stories drawn by Frank Bellamy – the brilliant Luis Bermejo is, sadly, reduced to a footnote in the history of Heros – fans who have been waiting as long as I have will not be disappointed. This is a big book, about 11 x 14 inches (28 x 36 cm), which is slightly larger than the original Eagle comic. The strips themselves, which were originally published across the centre pages of Eagle, are reprinted their original size, taken from original art boards wherever possible and with the artwork cleaned-up and colour corrected.

The major problem with Heros – and the usual reason given over the years for why the strip has never been previously reprinted – is that books are published in signatures and Bellamy's spreads have to be split into two. Most books have a gutter into which vital artwork or balloon lettering would normally disappear. Book Palace have gone the extra mile (and to the extra cost) of having the book properly stitched, so that this problem is reduced to a minimum as the pages can be held flat without breaking the spine of the book. There is a little loss of lettering on some pages, but not enough to spoil your enjoyment.

So what of the story? Heros begins with a brief explanation about how, as a young boy, Sparta falls to the Roman advance through Greece (around 145 BC). Arcus, commander of a Roman legion, admires his enemies even as he slays them and when a child survivor is brought to him, he adopts the boy whom he names Heros.

Heros grows up and is put in charge of his late stepfather's legion on the agreement that he conquers the Island of Darkness, a task other commanders have failed to fulfil. After his ships are destroyed, the survivors of the Roman legion are attacked by animal-like people and subsequently captured. Heros learns that a slave race is held in the thrall of priests of the Magus, fearing the anger of the god Dios whose sword they have lost. Heros decides to travel to the land of the Magus – a nearby island – and there discovers that the priests have the sword hidden in their temple. Heros realises that if he revealed to the slaves that the sword was not lost but held by the priests, they would revolt; by doing so, he might also save the remaining soldiers of his legion, also captives of the priests of Magus.

The dark fantasy elements of the story allowed artist Frank Bellamy full reign to his imagination, which really took off with the second story, which began as Heros returned home to Rome. Whilst he has been battling on the Island of Darkness, a new Caesar has been crowned – one who has chosen to remove all those who admired and befriended the previous Caesar. Almost as soon as his sandal touches the ground, Heros is kidnapped and thrown into the gladiatorial ring, masked in such a way that he cannot speak or be recognised.

Escaping, he is put in charge of the Fifth Legion, a rag-tag army of mercenaries and former prisoners, and sent to Gaul. The Fifth is destroyed to its last man, only Heros and the villainous Crassus, Caesar's close aide, escaping. Heros is forced to flee back to Gaul when Crassus condemns him as a coward who allowed the Standard of the Fifth to be destroyed. Heros knows that the Eagle Standard was stolen and promises to get it back, thus proving that Crassus is a liar. Aided by a former gladiator, Berbrix, Heros must face a sinister race of jackal-men who are pillaging villages for fighting men to create a barbarian army great enough to take on Rome.

This 34-part story was a triumph for Bellamy and author Tom Tully. The pace never lets up and Bellamy was able to craft some of the most memorable artwork of his career. One page, almost a Holy Grail among fans, saw the destruction of the Fifth Legion detailed across almost the full width of a centre-spread. This piece was once displayed at New York's Academy of Comic Book Arts and helped win Bellamy the Academy's Best Foreign Artist award in 1972.

After a year on the strip, Bellamy took a break during which he drew 'The Ghost World' for Boys' World. He returned to Heros in 1964 with renewed vigour and illustrated another supernatural masterpiece in which Heros is sent to Ireland to deliver an axe to the Valley of the Dead. After a second break, he returned for one final story, its setting the deserts of North Africa where Heros finds himself at the head of a slave army after gold miners revolt against their cruel master.

The quality of Bellamy's artwork never slipped. Even his work for the 1966 Eagle Annual – also reprinted here – was as high in quality as his work for the weekly. Indeed, the quality of his work from his very earliest to his later work can also be seen accompanying the extensive and fascinating interview that Bellamy did with Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons in 1973, reprinted here in full, accompanied by a superb selection of Bellamy's artwork from across his career.

With an introduction by Norman Boyd and tributes from Dave Gibbons, John Byrne, Walt Simonson and others, this is a monumental reprint of a classic strip that deserves this kind of treatment.

Heros the Spartan by Tom Tully and Frank Bellamy. Book Palace Books ISBN 978-190708119-4, October 2013, 271pp, £95.00.  Limited edition of 600 copies.

Also available in a leatherbound, limited slipcase edition ISBN 978-190708120-0, 296pp, £265.00. Limited edition of 120 copies. Includes 24 pages of scans from original artwork.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Lost World

The latest book in Book Palace's series of Illustrated British Classics features four stories from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including two Sherlock Holmes yarns and a Professor Challenger, as well as one of his finest historical novels.

Doyle is today best known for his creation of Sherlock Holmes. As I write, Holmes has just been voted the best ever crime series by the Crime Writers' Association in a poll celebrating the CWA's 60th anniversary. Holmes kick-started detective fiction as a genre and the genius of the character is shown by his mutability. Holmes is the star of two TV shows that have brought him to the 21st century (the BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary) and he must surely be the star of more non-canonical fiction than any other character, with writers from Adrian Conan Doyle to Anthony Horowitz creating new mysteries for the sleuth to solve.

Good as these were, Doyle was also an excellent adventure writer, notably writing the Professor Challenger series of three novels (The Lost World, The Poison Belt and The Land of Mist) and short stories as well as novels set in historical wars such as Micah Clarke, The White Company and Sir Nigel.

Of the four stories presented here, my favourite is Sir Nigel, superbly drawn by Pat Nicolle in 1966-67, originally in colour. There's a richness to the illustrations that can still be seen in black & white – and the strip reduces to black & white very well – and Nicolle's accurate depiction of history is always a bonus. You can almost feel the cobbles under your horses's hooves or the waves pounding against the hull of your ship.

The two Holmes stories are drawn by Robert Forrest, who is something of an acquired taste. Introduction-writer Norman Wright considers Forrest's 'The Sign of Four', the definitive comic strip version and whilst his characters can look a little stiff, his fog-shrouded London and mist-shrouded Dartmoor – in his adaptation of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' – has rarely been equalled.

Gerry Embleton's adaptation of The Lost World from 1972-73 is equally superb, as you would expect from an artist whose draughtsmanship is beyond doubt. The Look and Learn adaptations tried to use original text where possible, so both Sir Nigel and The Lost World are told through panels of text rather than word balloons, which give these adaptations a more authentic voice than many others.

If I'm to find fault with anything, it would have to be the reproduction which is less black & white and more fifty shades of grey. Believe me when I say I know it isn't easy to get a decent image off a yellowing comic, but it can be done. Printing on a (5%? 10%?) grey background means that nothing is white and the lack of contrast means that nothing is black; it's like looking through one of Robert Forrest's Dartmoor mists.

A quick word of praise for Norman Wright, who provides an informative look at Doyle and his works in his introduction.

The Lost World. Book Palace Books ISBN 978-190708107-1, November 2013, 137pp, £15.99. Available from Amazon.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Comic Cuts - 8 November 2013

I'm pleased to announce that the latest title from Bear Alley Books, Worlds of Adventure, should be released within the next couple of weeks. I'm very pleased with the way it has turned out and I'm just waiting on a proof before confirming the release date. However, as I'm not anticipating any problems, I'll be setting up a page for orders shortly.

This is a collection of four strips illustrated in full colour by Gino D'Antonio from the pages of Tell Me Why. In the late 1960s, while he was writing the epic Storia del West in his native Italy, D'Antonio was collaborating with Mike Butterworth to adapt some of literature's classic adventure stories: 'The Wanderings of Ulysses', 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea', 'Quo Vadis' and 'A Tale of Two Cities'. These tales span history from Greek myth and the gladiatorial circus's of Rome to the French Revolution and a French tale that describes the adventures of Nemo, a 19th century Ulysses wandering the oceans in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

And that's about all the news I have unless you want to hear how the strap on the peddle of my exercise bike broke while I was cycling on Tuesday. (It just broke, that's how.) Or that I'm developing an obsession for watching really bad sci-fi films while I'm on the bike. It all started with a film called Ring of Fire. I only caught the end but from what I could gather a ring of volcanoes had developed in the earth's crust somewhere in America and the only solution was to drop a bomb into an underground fissure. So a bathysphere-type vehicle is being lowered into the ground and someone is kindly reading off a measurement: "Hull integrity 75% . . . hull integrity 60% . . . hull integrity 40% . . ." They reached 4% before the bomb is dropped.

So, 96% of the hull has gone, according to the girl reading off her screen. What we're watching on our screen is a perfectly undamaged hull from which a tile of something has fallen away. It isn't leaking. What you've got there is 100% hull integrity, maybe 99.9% if that tile was part of the hull.

Thankfully there was an equally disastrous movie soon after entitled Eve of Destruction, which was as dumb as the flock of a Southern Baptist minister. It scores a massive 3.7 on IMDb, even less than the 4.2 scored by Ring of Fire. The next one concerned a spaceship equipped with a (scalar?) drive that will take passengers on a jaunt to the moon in a matter of hours. The trip goes wrong and the spaceship plunges into the sun causing it to flare up. It was called Exploding Sun and it scores 3.2 on IMDb.

I'm watching these in 15 minute bursts because the science is so bad that I might burst a blood vessel if I watch more in any one sitting. The latest, Delete, was actually pretty good and certainly a bit more stylish than the others that have been on in the same slot. This one had an AI developing on the internet which starts to protect itself with deadly force, blowing up missiles and oil ships and threatening the world with nuclear holocaust. It was directed by the guy who directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Steve Barron.

This week's disaster is Impact which has started off well, with a meteor striking the Moon and carving off a piece. Meteorites have showered the planet making massive craters but not disturbing a leaf on trees only a yard or two away. The usual set of characters are being lined up to do their thing: a scientist whose wife has died is about to team up with an old flame; another scientist's wife is trying to tell him she's pregnant but he's too caught up with his work; James Cromwell – yes, that James Cromwell – is suffering from some sort of agoraphobia but will no doubt be required to take a trip away from home with his son's children; you know this because he's just refused to attend his grandson's baseball game and nothing happens in these films/TV mini-series that isn't a set-up for something that will happen later. I haven't read the IMDb synopsis, but if I'm honest there aren't likely to be any surprises at all.

Update: They've just explained that the Moon was hit by a remnant of a brown dwarf star which is so dense that it has a mass twice that of Earth. Yet the Moon, which now contains this fragment, is still orbiting Earth. If that's not enough, they're not worried about the tides but by the fact that the brown dwarf remnants seem to be very magnetic and somehow causing enough static electricity to explode gas stations.

Talk about disaster movies! These really are . . . I've really got to wean myself off them! If only they weren't so hysterically funny!

One rather sad bit of local news is that on Saturday I bought my last couple of books at Castle Books, which I've visited regularly for the past twenty years. One of Colchester's finest secondhand bookshops, I remember when it was located down North Hill and was in a tiny little shop and you had to walk out of the shop and cross a driveway to get to the rooms where they had their fiction. That's the second secondhand bookshop – not counting charity shops – we've lost over the years . . . there's only Greyfriars left.

No books today. I need to get on with a couple of reviews which you'll be able to read over the weekend.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Commando Issues 4651-4654

Commando issues on sale 7th November 2013

Commando No 4651 – Battle On The Beach

In 1941, Jim, Alec and Rick are three young members of the Home Guard on the south coast of England who dream of doing their bit to help in the war. Constantly overlooked by their CO because of their youth, though, they seem destined to sit out the action.
   However, a wild storm is destined to send the three friends into action alongside a crack Commando unit…and into a deadly personal battle with three fanatical members of the Hitler Youth.

Story: Mac MacDonald
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Commando No 4652 – The Tiger Is Loose

They called him “The Tiger”…
   He was a tattered, gaunt giant of a soldier, the lone survivor of a blazing wreck in the desert — and the shock had robbed him of his memory. He knew two things only, his name — O’Leary — and that he had a grim hatred of Germans. But if O’Leary was a man of mystery, he was also a man of many talents. He could shoot like a sniper, command an armoured car, lay field guns, and he could fight — like a tiger!
   When advancing German troops over-ran the desert like jackals, preying on helpless cut-off British patrols, herding the brave, beaten men into prison cages, someone should have warned the Germans…someone should have told them…that “The Tiger” was loose!


There’s a little bit of licence in the title and on the cover of this Commando. Despite what’s indicated, there aren’t actually and real furry tigers in the story. The tiger in the title is the fighting fury holding the gun. Fury is a good word to use for the whole story charges along at a furious rate — something which suits inside artist Sio’s style beautifully — leaving you breathless by the ending.
   Ken Barr’s cover, by contrast, seems a little understated…until you realise that both figures are ready to strike, and strike hard.
   You might need a lie down after this one.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Eric Castle
Art: Sio
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 52 (Jan 1963)

Commando No 4653 – Wings Of Justice

In 1928, former Royal Flying Corps pilot Teddy Morgan was making a comfortable living as part of a daredevil wing-walking act in a flying circus.
   Then a former comrade-in-arms turned up with a job offer that Teddy simply couldn’t refuse — the chance to take to the skies in combat once more.
   Teddy’s new employer was a ruthless Central American dictator. Not only that, he had to work alongside his old enemies, the Germans.
   Before long, Teddy was wondering if he was fighting on the right side…

Story: Steve Coombs
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Commando No 4654 – Loyalty!

When he first met Sergeant Khan, Captain Peter Wade wondered whether he could trust the Indian. But he had no time to worry about it, for the Japs were on the offensive and pretty soon all his attention would be focussed on them. Then came the day when he was hit by a bullet — fired by one of his own men!


With its clashing characters and unrelenting action, this is an explosive Commando story — but my main reason for saying this is that there an awful lot of explosions contained within its pages!
   In the future — with The Ed travelling to Commando HQ each day via jetpack or flying car — if we managed to produce interactive Commandos with 3D CGI characters and sound effects (or something), then this booming tale would be in danger of causing shell shock amongst its readers. Back here in the present we hope you enjoy it just as much (ear plugs not required).

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Ibanez
Cover: Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No 2194 (June 1988), re-issued as No 3668 (November 2003)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Margot Bland

Margot Bland was the authoress of Julia, about an American GI who meets an English woman while on holiday with his wife in Austria. The book was banned in Australia in July 1953 by the Literature Censorship Board.

On 4 August 1953, Police Constable Alan Killip became a member of Boots Library in Victoria Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, and selected The Philanderer by Stanley Kauffman and Julia by Margot Bland from their lending library. He told the manager, Kenneth John Brown, that he believed the books contained obscene passages and two charges of unlawfully keeping an obscene book for the purpose of lending upon hire were brought against Boots Cash Chemists (Lancashire) Ltd.of Douglas.

Boots had 400 branches of its Boots Booklovers Library throughout the UK and this was the first time any complaint had been made against them.

The case against Boots came to court on 11 August 1953 but was adjourned after extracts had been read out, the High Bailiff, Mr Howard D. Lay, saying that he wished to read the two books in full to gauge the context from which the extracts were taken. When the case resumed on 4 September, John James Ray, who was assistant head librarian for Boots, said he was responsible for purchasing the books on behalf of the libraries and had read both titles which, in his opinion, were serious literature. Inspector Cringle, prosecuting, objected to this comment but it was allowed because Ray had been bought on as an expert witness, having been a buyer for Boots for 30 years.

The High Bailiff found himself in a tricky position when passing judgement on 18 September. The dictionary definition described obscene as "offensive to modesty, expressing or suggesting unchaste or lustful ideas, impure, indecent, lewd."  If the books came within that definition, the only defence was that the books were written for the public good. Inspector Cringle had earlier been quoted as saying: "How anyone can say that the two book 'Julia' and 'The Philanderer' are for the public good is beyond me."

To the High Bailiff, the two titles were "ordinary novels written only to afford the ordinary enjoyment of reading to whoever might peruse them and to provide financial remuneration for their authors." Neither of them, in his opinion, was published "as being necessary or advantageous to religion or morality, to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, or art, or other objects of general interest." He had come to the conclusion that both books were obscene within the meaning of the [Obscene Publications ] Act. He did so with reluctance because he was satisfied that the defendant company had acted in perfectly good faith throughout. He was also satisfied that the representatives of the defendant company had no improper motive in buying and hiring out these books.

He imposed a nominal fine of £1 in each case.

Julia was subsequently prosecuted as an obscene libel at Clerkenwell Court on 18 May 1954. Authoress Mrs Kathryn Dyson-Taylor, the publisher T. Werner Laurie and the printer Northumberland Press Ltd., all pleaded guilty.

George Charles Greenfield, a former director of T. Werner Laurie and the editor who chose to publish the book and who signed a contract with Mrs Dyson-Taylor for her novel, and Alan Palmer Caldicott, who was managing director of Northumberland Press, both pleaded not guilty.

The book had sold 2,450 copies between March and September 1953 of its 3,500 print run; following the Isle of Man case in September 1953, a further 3,500 copies were printed and in the three months between October and December 1953, a further 1,297 copies had been sold.

Greenfield and Caldicott were found guilty but Greenfield was discharged absolutely on payment of five guineas costs and Caldicott was fined £5. Kathryn Dyson-Taylor was fined £25 plus five guineas costs, T. Werner Laurie was fined £30 plus 10 guineas costs and Northumberland were fined £15 plus five guineas costs.

Following the court case, Margot Bland published no more novels for a decade. She was born Kathryn Macauley Owen, on 27 November 1914, the daughter of Ernest W. and Jessie Macauley Owen and granddaughter of Mr. T. B. Macaulay of Montreal. Ernest was born in Wales and later lived in Canada where he married and had a daughter, Henrietta. After moving his family from Calgary to Detroit, Michigan, in 1912, Ernest became a district manager for the Sun Life Insurance Company. It was here that daughter Kathryn was born.

The family retained its links with England and are known to have visited in 1926 and 1932; they also travelled to Canada in at least 1926, 1932 and 1936. Jessie and Kathryn were listed as living in Canada when they arrived in London in October 1926.

Kathryn was married to John Dyson-Taylor, an insurance broker, in Chelsea on 29 July 1937.

She lived at 1 Chesterfield Gardens, Westminster, London [fl.1939], The Oast Ho., Hale, Farnham, near Guildford [fl. 1941/42], 30 Bourdon Street, Berkley Square, London [fl. 1944/58]. It was during this period that she wrote her first known novel, Festered Lillies (1950) as K. Dyson-Taylor and also penned Julia.

She subsequently married Frank Seay Greenlee (1913-1986), a divorced American insurance broker, in Westminster in 1955. The couple travelled separately to America – both giving as their home address 30 Bourdon Street. They returned to the UK separately in 1957, Kathryn arriving from New York on 21 September 1957. Frank S. Greenlee is subsequently listed in the telephone book at Porch House, High Street, East Grinstead [1960/62]; he later lived at La Casa Del. Porche, Carretera, Panoramica, Benalmadena, Malaga, Spain; he died on 12 July 1986, aged 73.

Kathryn Greenlee remained better know under the pen-name Margot Bland under which name she wrote Business and Desire (1964), Brandy for Breakfast (1966) and Madame of Marrekech (1968) during the 1960s.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Comic Cuts - 1 November 2013

I was going to start today's column with a picture of our food bin, which was blown over by the storm that hit the UK on Monday. We survived intact, as I believe did most people. The fence panels shuddered and slammed against their moorings but didn't escape (unlike the last time we had some windy weather). The trees blew around a bit but weren't threatening. We certainly didn't wake up to find a stray trees in our garden as we did back in January 2007.

However, when I was taking a walk that morning, I noticed that our neighbours on both sides had lost fence panels and a tree had fallen into the driveway of someone's house just around the corner from where we live.

I thought my sarcastic little joke might not seem so funny to some readers; and as I'm writing this days later the joke has lost any impact it might have had first thing Monday morning. So that's why you're getting a picture of a fallen tree, not a fallen bin.

In a little coda to Saturday's review of the new Egmont Thunderbirds book, I want to mention that they are also publishing sets of postcards based on Battle and various girls' comics as well as a set of Thunderbirds cards with stills from the original TV show. I've only seen the latter, but I had a great time going through the postcards remembering all the different episodes that they came from.

I should also mention that Egmont have released a limited edition, signed and numbered print of Graham Bleathman's FAB-1 cut-away drawing. I can't find it on their Classic Comics website, but you can get the postcards from Amazon at a knockdown price; the Battle and Girls' Comics postcards are also available.

I've spent part of this week finishing off the Gino D'Antonio book, which I'm calling Worlds of Adventure after the sub-title on the debut issue of Tell Me Why magazine, which read "The World of Adventure—In Living Colour. The bulk of the pages are laid out – namely the 77 pages of stories – and I'm working on the introduction and cover.

The book is going to be quite expensive because it's full colour, but it'll look beautiful. It'll make a nice Christmas present for someone.

Random scans. Just before I started writing this column, I heard that William Harrison, author of Rollerball, died at his home in Fayetteville, Arkensas, on 22 October at the age of 79. He died of renal failure. He was born in Dallas, Texas, on 29 October 1933, and adopted by Samuel Scott Harrison and his wife Mary Etta Cook Harrison. He was named William Neal Harrison and educated at Texas Christian and Vanderbilt Universities before attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1961.

He was married to Merlee Portman in 1958 and moved to Fayetteville in 1964 where he began teaching. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973 and remained at the University of Arkasas until retiring in 1998.

Harrison published dozens of short stories and  nine novels, several of them set in Africa  where Harrison travelled widely. His most famous story, "Roller Ball Murder", was originally published in Esquire in 1973. Harrison adapted it into the dystopian classic Rollerball (1975), directed by Norman Jewison and starring James Caan as Jonathan E., whose fight for control over his personal freedom threatens the corporations that control the world. The quality of the original film was not always recognised until it was remade by John McTiernan in 2002. Harrison also adapted his novel Burton and Speke, about the 19th-century exploration of the Nile, as the 1990 movie Mountains of the Moon.

And one more for good luck. As it was Halloween last night, here's a Roger Hall cover from Corgi Books from the movie tie-in The Flesh and the Fiends.

I'll be finishing off the Flying Saucer Review series over the weekend and next week – a little late – we'll have our monthly upcoming and recent releases columns, plus whatever else I can squeeze in. And I should have more news about the Gino D'Antonio book next week.


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