Friday, January 31, 2014

Comic Cuts - 31 January 2014

A twelfth of the way through the year already!

I'm pleased to announce that the latest title from Bear Alley Books is now out: The Man Who Searched For Fear is officially released today. If you ordered ahead of publication, your copy of the book should be with you next week — unless you're in Europe or Scandinavia, in which case it will probably take a little longer.

I spent the week tidying up a few odd jobs that I'd had sitting around, including backing up some of the files on my computer. I'm edging towards having to buy at least one more enormous external hard drive to replace the 1 tb or 1½ tb drives I have currently. Thankfully, the cost of these things keeps falling and I can probably buy a 3 tb hard drive for the price I paid for my first 250 mb drive.

My first computer, bought way back in April 1989, was a PC with a 30 mb hard drive. The guy who sold it to me told me "It will take you a lifetime to fill that much space!" Well, it didn't! It was rapidly filling up when it was replaced by another PC three years later. The hard drive on the old machine was falling apart even as we were copying files to the new machine. When we felt sure that we'd recovered all we could recover, we reformatted the hard drive on the old PC: it was 35% corrupt . . . so we reformatted it again. This time it was 50% corrupt. I'd paid £750 for it three years earlier and I threw it away.

Nowadays, I'm scanning pictures that are bigger in size than the first PC I had and the latest Bear Alley book wouldn't fit on that first external hard drive, even in PDF form. It's amazing how far we've come in so short a time. When I started working with a publisher back in 1991, we were still dealing with typesetters and sticking strips of printed text onto boards using wax. Twenty years on and I was able to start my own little enterprise writing, designing and publishing books from the comfort of my own office.

And from the comfort of my office I'm slowly releasing the contents of the MeanStreetmaps book onto the Kindle. The book collected together a bunch of essays I was quite proud of (and still am) but the format, while it looked nice — hardback with a gorgeous dustwrapper — was too expensive.

Three of the articles have been available on Kindle since last October. They're not exactly setting the publishing world on fire, only three or four copies sold so far, but I'm pleased that they're available. On Tuesday I uploaded another one, Hard-Boiled, which was originally the title feature of the collection — I've changed it to make sure nobody gets the feature and the book mixed up.  The article is available via, and around the world at other Amazon sites. I'm working on a second article, this one an expansion of a piece about the queen of the gangster writers, Dail Ambler. I've discovered quite a few little tid-bits about her, and added about 30 books to her CV of published work.

Once it registers, I'll post a link on the Mean Streetmaps page at Bear Alley Books. The links take you to the UK version of Amazon, but you should, I hope, be able to link through to different territories from the UK pages.

Next week I'll be knuckling down to Countdown/TV Action again. A little warning: Bear Alley might be a bit patchy while I get up to speed — so if you visit and there's nothing new, you'll know that I'm neck-deep in copies of Countdown.

A member of the Dan Dare Yahoo Group spotted a video of Frank Hampson that I haven't seen before, so I'm pleased to present it here. The video is dated 28 November 1975 and runs for 10m 14s. It dates from shortly after Hampson was awarded the Yellow Kid for Prestigioso Maestro at Lucca and shows Hampson at work at Ewell Technical College and at home at Bayford Lodge in Epsom. There's some fascinating shots of ephemera that Frank kept from his Dan Dare days and, at the end, even an example of Frank's drawing talents as they were twenty-five years after Dan debuted in Eagle. He was still superb.

More scans sent over by Morgan Wallace, although these were tiny, so I've not been able to clean them up to nearly the standard I would like. These are four titles from Brown Watson, whose distribution was poor even at the time, making these titles particularly scarce nowadays. The first cover below (Crime Passionel) is by Rik, a.k.a. John Richards. After that, it's guesswork. Paris Model is probably Len Gard and Don't Sell Me Cheap could also be his. I've no idea who provided the cover for Crooks' Honeymoon.

As mentioned above, Bear Alley might be a bit spotty next week. The only thing I know for sure is that I have a China Mieville cover gallery lined up for the weekend.

Ian Gibson: Bionic Woman part 10

(* Bionic Woman © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Commando issues 4675-4678

Commando issues on sale 30 January 2014.

Commando No 4675 – Grave Secret

Private Titch Mooney, the Convict Commandos’ man-mountain — ex-circus strongman and ferocious fighter — had no problem destroying a V2 rocket site in the face of a hail of lead fired by vengeful Germans as flames licked about his heels.
   But this solid granite character began to shake as he, Guy Tenby, Smiler Dawson, and Spider Mackay made their way through a Dutch graveyard. Was it superstition or was there a grave secret hidden there?

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Benet
Cover: Benet

Commando No 4676 – Death Dive

It’s the moment a pilot dreads most — when he first discovers that he’s lost his nerve.
   Hands that have always been rock-steady now tremble as they touch the joystick. His mouth is dry with fear, a cold sweat breaks out on his brow.
   Flight Lieutenant Ted Ridge knew all the signs. But only he knew he wasn’t fit to fly his Mosquito bomber on any more raids.
   And then the RAF picked him for a specially dangerous flying job — a job that no one else could tackle. Ted Ridge just couldn’t convince them that he wasn’t still the best Mossie pilot they had.


   In today’s enlightened times, post-traumatic stress disorder more accurately describes the phenomenon of service personnel being overwhelmed by the demands of active service in a war zone. In 1964, losing their nerve was the term used. Though this Kenner script deals with that situation but in a typically Commando way, it’s not hard to read a deeper meaning into this story with echoes of the famous Amiens prison raid — Operation Jericho.
   That’s if you don’t get completely distracted by Ken Barr’s movie poster-style cover and Gordon Livingstone’s gritty, angular inside art.
   Read it twice…just to make sure.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Kenner
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 108 (March 1964), re-issued as No 619 (February 1972)

Commando No 4677 – Ludwig’s Luck

It is often said that it is a matter of luck whether or not a soldier survives a war. The luck young German Army corporal Ludwig Richter got ranged from bad to worse as the Second World War brought him repeated injuries and robbed him of so many of his friends.
   Surely it could only be a matter of time before Ludwig’s luck ran out…for good.

Story: George Low
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Jaume Forns

Commando No 4678 – The Man In Black

He was rarely seen, this lone, mysterious figure clad completely in black who powered his way over the snow-covered slopes of the Swiss mountains. He was a sinister apparition bathed in moonlight, his only friends the shadows.
   But there was even stranger thing about him. Why did his tracks lead to the German border?


If you’re looking for a story featuring country music singer Johnny Cash, or even movie star Will Smith, than I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for an action-packed espionage caper then you most definitely will not be disappointed!
   This pacey tale has just about everything: mystery, daring escapes, ski chases, people dangling from cliff edges, nasty villains, plucky heroes…and there’s even a faithful Alsatian!
   Commando means action and adventure — and that’s never truer than here.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Bernard Gregg
Art: Mira
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 952 (July 1975), re-issued as No 2292 (July 1989)

Ian Gibson: Bionic Woman part 9

(* Bionic Woman © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ian Gibson: Bionic Woman part 5

After a break for Christmas and New Year, here are a few highlights of the second Bionic Woman Annual, published in 1978. The artwork throughout was by the fantastic Ian Gibson who had drawn the superb  strips and story illustrations in the previous annual. This volume contained less full colour material, but it's still well worth another airing.

We'll have more over the next few days.

(* Bionic Woman © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Frank Whitford (1941-2014)

Frank Whitford, art critic, teacher and cartoonist, died on 11 January 2014 of a suspected heart attack at the age of 72. He was a leading expert in 20th century German and Austrian art and wrote several books on the subject of art.

Born Francis Peter Whitford in Bishopstoke, Hampshire, on 11 August 1941, the son of Peter Whitford and his wife Katherine Ellen (nee Rowe). He was educated at Peter Symonds School in Winchester and attended Wadham College, Oxford, graduating in 1963 with a third-class honours in English language and literature because he preferred drawing to studying. A self-taught artist, he designed posters and worked as an actor in student films and illustrator for student magazines.

He subsequently studied German art at the Courtauld Institute, earning an academic diploma in the history of art in 1965. He worked as a cartoonist and illustrator on the Sunday Mirror in 1965-66 before switching to drawing pocket cartoons for the Evening Standard in 1966-67. Richard J. Evans, in his obituary for The Guardian (23 January 2014), quotes Whitford as saying: "Almost daily for four years or so, I churned out a pocket cartoon, trying to be funny and politically astute at the same time. I was rarely if ever successful, which explains why my career was so short, only briefly extended by changing papers and editors in midstream."

Whitford did not consider himself a particularly good cartoonist, avoiding drawing feet, which he found particularly tricky, whenever possible. His cartoons covered many areas of British political life at a time when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and some of the major events affecting the UK were centred on apartheid South Africa and the independence of Southern Rhodesia, but he felt that foreign artists like Vicky (Victor Weisz) were able to better recognise the absurdities of British politics.

With the aid of a Ford Foundation scholarship, Whitford attended the Free University of Berlin, graduating with a degree in art history in 1969. The next year he began lecturing on the history of art at University College London before becoming a senior lecturer at Homerton College, Cambridge, in 1974. When the art history department was closed in 1986, Whitford began freelancing and tutored history of art at the Royal College of Art; he was awarded a higher doctorate at the RCA in 1989.

He had continued to contribute cartoons – as Rausch – to the Sunday Mirror in the 1970s, but it was as a an art critic with the Sunday Times and Cambridge Evening News that he returned to newspapers in 1991. Ge was already established as a writer, having worked as a contributing editor to Studio International between 1964 and 1973, and as the author of books on Kandinsky (London, Hamlyn, 1967 [1968]), Expressionism (London, Hamlyn, 1970), Japanese Prints and Western Painters (London, Studio Vista, 1977), Egon Schiele (London, Thames & Hudson, 1981), Bauhaus (London, Thames & Hudson, 1984), George Grosz: The Day of Reckoning (London, Allison & Busby, 1984), Love Above All (London, Allison & Busby, 1985), Oskar Kokoschka: A life (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986), Expressionist Portraits (London, Thames & Hudson, 1987), Trog: Forty graphic years: The art of Wally Fawkes (London, Fourth Estate, 1987), Understanding Abstract Art (London, Barrie & Jenkins, 1987), Gustav Klimt (London, Thames & Hudson, 1990), Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves (London, Conran Octopus, 1992), The Berlin of George Grosz: Drawings, watercolours and prints, 1912-1930 (New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1997), Kandinsky: Watercolours and other works on paper (London, Thames & Hudson, 1999), as well as numerous introductions for exhibitions.

Whitford also appeared as the broadcaster, appearing as a team captain on the Channel 4 gameshow Gallery in the 1980s, presenting two series about cartoonists on Radio 4 in the early 1990s and writing and presenting the video documentary Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century (1994).

He was awarded the federal cross of the Order of Merit in Germany in 2002.

Whitford is survived by his wife, Cecilia (Cici) Dresser, a specialist in Japanese art who worked in the Cambridge University Library, whom he married in 1972.

(* cartoons (c) Associated Newspapers Ltd./Solo Syndication)


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