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Friday, March 31, 2017

Comic Cuts - 31 March 2017

LAST DAY OF OUR 25% OFF SALE! 
THESE BOOKS WILL BE OFFICIALLY
OUT OF PRINT AS OF TOMORROW!

Having resolved some of the problems I was facing last week I managed to put in a few days on the Valiant index, adding another couple of thousand words to the introduction. Although some of the material is still in note form rather than how it will be in the final book, I'm running to around 23,000 words at the moment. And I've only got as far as 1966.

I'm describing some of the most popular strips' storylines at length – Kelly's Eye, Steel Claw, Wild Wonders, for instance; others will still be covered in detail but not at such length. Trying to achieve a balance between the two isn't going to be easy, so while I'm compiling notes I'm rather overdoing the amount of detail, hence the word count. Hopefully I'll tighten this up as I begin finalising the text.

Rebellion will be publishing The Leopard from Lime Street Volume 1 in July in a regular softcover edition with a limited hardcover from Rebellion Publishing. This is the second book in the Treasury of British Comics line following on from the release of One-Eyed Jack in June.

'The Leopard from Lime Street' is essentially the British Spider-man – a hugely popular home-grown teenage superhero called Billy Farmer, who lives with his Aunt Joan and Uncle Charlie when he is scratched by a radioactive leopard at the local zoo.

Gaining leopard-like strength, speed, reflexes, and tree-climbing abilities, when he’s not fighting crime, Billy sells photographs of himself to the local paper, using the money to support his frail aunt while contending with his violent, greedy and lazy uncle.

With the recent announcement that Titan are reprinting Hook Jaw, it looks like we're enjoying another little wave of reprints for classic British comics (and with 'Leopard' being forty years old, that counts as 'classic' nowadays). The last one began in 2005 with the publication of The Dirty Dozen by Prion, reprinting a dozen issues of Commando, and Titan's reprinting of The Steel Claw: The Invisible Man, the same month. After writing introductions for the latter and the reprint of The Spider which followed shortly after, I became involved in the Carlton/Prion reprints in 2007, writing introductions for a couple of books that were edited in house and then editing a run of War, Battle and Air Ace picture libraries.

Beyond the picture library books,  I didn't have any input into the choices made by Carlton about what to reprint. I'd suggested Lion and Boys' World as possibles; they published June & School Friend and Love on Ward B, selecting stories from Hospital Romance Library. The only book I had any control over was The Best of Boyfriend due to the editor assigned to the book suddenly finding himself writing an "instant biography" of Catherine Tate. While he was writing that, I found myself offered the task of planning the Boyfriend reprint, not only selecting the content but how it was to be presented. This meant I could include a complete comic serial and a complete text serial – rather than what was happening in titles like The Best of 2000AD where you would get three episodes of a strip and have it end on a cliffhanger. I even reproduced the format of the comic by having a comic strip begin on the front cover and continue on the front end papers.

 
There was another strip that ran onto the rear end papers – I didn't want to waste any space! The book was printed on glossy, slightly off-white paper, which meant that the photos of models and pop stars reproduced well. Overall, it was one of my favourites of all the books I did for Carlton and I hoped that it would show the publisher what could be done with their reprint line rather than what was actually being done, with in-house editors throwing together the contents with no great thought to what they were doing as long as it fitted the right number of pages. I was still hoping that they would take a risk on reprinting some of the boys' and humour papers.

The boom quickly fizzled out and the last few books crept out in 2011. There were two problems. The war reprints were designed to be big, thick, cheap volumes. Unfortunately, that didn't fit in with WH Smith's policy of making the most out of every inch of their shelving. So the books were slimmed down from 12 to 10 to 6 issues per book. By the end, the Commando books were reprinting three issues at a price (£4.99) greater than buying three new issues (£1.50 each).

Now that Rebellion have a chance to reprint a ton of material, let's hope they make the books the best they can. But whatever the outcome, after a six-year break, it will be nice to see some of these old strips back in print.

This week's random scans... definitely more random than the last few. Here are a few books that I've picked up over the past few weeks.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hook Jaw

Titan Books are following up their Hook Jaw mini-series revival by Si Spurier & Conor Boyle with a reprint of the original strip from the pages of Action. The strip has been a popular choice for revival over the years: in 2007, Spitfire Comics reprinted the bulk of the original Action strip from the period before it was pulled from the newsstands. The Spitfire Comics book went to a second edition in 2009—although both editions were short print runs.

The new Titan edition, at 136 pages in hardback compared to Spitfire's 96-page softcover, will presumably reprint more of the story as it appeared in the revived Action and, one hopes, some introductory material. The cover credit to writers Pat Mills and Ken Armstrong and artist Ramon Sola, seems to ignore the work of the strip's other artists, as did the Spitfire edition.

A colour version of the strip appeared in the 2011 John Freeman-edited Strip which ran only a handful of issues, although the coloured strip was also published digitally by Egmont and via Sequential. However, Hook Jaw was not part of the relaunched Strip in 2013.

Hook Jaw by Pat Mills, Ken Armstrong & Ramon Sola.
Titan Books ISBN 978-1782-76804-3, 12 September 2017, 136pp, £20.00 / $34.99. Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 29 March 2017.

2000AD Prog 2024
Cover: John McCrea & Mike Spicer
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Family Time by Rory McConville (w) Nick Dyer (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Last chance to buy: Frontline UK

(* As this is the final week of our 25% off Sale of Frontline UK here at Bear Alley Books, here's a taster of the introduction which takes a look at the history of the strip...)

Introduction

The comic strip ‘Frontline UK’ owes its origins to the youthful reading of one of D.C. Thomson’s editorial staff. At the age of nine, Bill Graham was a keen reader of The Wizard, with its regular cocktail of sport, western, war and adventure stories and where Wilson the wonder athlete, roughneck footballer Bernard Briggs and secret agent Bill Samson, the Wolf of Kabul, were among the paper’s most popular characters.

In the constant churn of stories and serials there was room for a little of everything and in the 1950s, science fiction was gaining a foothold in the pages of The Wizard: ‘The Crimson Comet’ had almost destroyed the Earth as early as 1946, and when ‘The Sun Turned Blue’ in 1950, it heralded an invasion of flying saucers.

While the creatures and plants of ‘The Purple Killers From Below’ and ‘The Monster in Hyde Park’ might be seen as typical of the science fiction in children’s papers, The Wizard also tackled more apocalyptic themes in ‘I Saw the End of the World’, which opens with a vivid flash in the sky when lightning detonates a cargo of hydrogen bombs off the coast of America, causing a five-mile-high wall of fire to sweep across the globe; and ‘Lost Men in Space’, in which the earth is suffering from the Great Blight, which stops crops from growing in earth’s soil—sixty years before this became a key ingredient of Christopher Nolan’s movie Interstellar. When a meteorite crashes onto a farm and plants begin to sprout again, an expedition is sent into space in search of the planet from which the meteor came.

In issue 1550 (29 October 1955), one of The Wizard’s regular authors, Gilbert Dalton, penned ‘The Yellow Sword’, a story that took as its premise an invasion of Britain. It was not a new idea: Sir George Chesney had imagined a German incursion reaching the heart of Surrey in his story ‘The Battle of Dorking’ in 1871, and many other foreign armies, usually German, marched through England’s green and pleasant lands, especially after the 1906 serialisation of William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910 in the Daily Mail.

Such stories became a staple of boys’ papers as early as 1897 when Hamilton Edwards’ penned ‘Britain in Arms’ and its immediate sequel ‘The Russian Foe’, which ran for 70 weeks in The Boys’ Friend. Even longer was the 100-episode epic trilogy ‘Britain Invaded’, ‘Britain at Bay” and ‘Britain’s Revenge’ that appeared in the same paper in 1906-08. Even after a staggering 700,000 words, author Sidney Gowing (writing as John Tregellis) would return to the theme again in 1912 with ‘Kaiser or King’ and its sequel ‘The Flying Armada’ and yet again with ‘The Legions of the Kaiser’ (and sequel ‘The Mailed Fist’), which was running when the Great War broke out in 1914.

‘Yellow Sword’ author Gilbert Dalton was certainly well aware of the history of this kind of literature, even naming a major character Major Chesney. Unlike many of his predecessors, however, the enemy was a fictional Asiatic country and two World Wars had already been fought. Dalton was well aware that an enemy blitzkrieg would put most of Europe under the control of Britain’s foes.

The year was 1968 and the story’s hero was John Maitland, who had joined the Royal Warwickshires in order to fight the invading Kushantis. However, after only a few months he is a broken man, trudging in his torn and dirty uniform back towards Hopebridge village in the Midlands where he was formerly a schoolmaster.

The Kushantis have landed at Dover, Folkestone and around Southampton. Maitland, grimy, nervous and injured, his left arm in a sling, believes he is the sole survivor of a battalion scourged by low-flying planes. Britain’s Navy has been reduced to sunken hulks, her aircraft shot down and her soldiers dead or captured, swamped by the sheer weight of numbers arriving from the East.

The British government has surrendered to the Imperial Kushanti Oligarchy and an occupying army arrives in Hopebridge, led by the ruthless Lieutenant Fang, who raises the black flag with its emblem of a yellow sword over the village.

Over the course of fifteen episodes, Maitland was able to pull together a small group from the villagers and his school’s pupils to help him defy the enemy and then to link up with the larger resistance forces in the surrounding area.

‘The Yellow Sword’—and its 18-episode, 1957 sequel, ‘Will o’ the Whistle’, in which, 25 years on, the Kushantis use gas to execute a bloodless coup—made a strong impression on young Bill Graham, who would grow up to join The Wizard’s publisher, Dundee-based D. C. Thomson.

(* You can read the rest of the introduction in Frontline UK, available from Bear Alley Books.)

(* Frontline UK © DC Thomson.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Last chance to buy: Arena

(* We're in the last week of our 25% off Sale of Arena here at Bear Alley Books as our two-year license is about to run out. Here's a taster of the introduction which takes a look at the SF notion of gladiatorial fighting...)

Blood and Circuses
    Welcome to the twenty-first century and the greatest, most exciting sport ever. The ultimate conflict… a fight to the death… men locked in mortal combat employing the most ingenious weapons of the day.
    Welcome to the Arena.
From our lofty position in the teens of 21st century, looking back at the predictions of past scholars can be an amusing pastime. On 14 August 2014, The Independent carried a list of “Visions of a future that didn’t exactly pan out,” featuring six writers ranging from Nostradamus to Isaac Asimov. The author of the list was surprisingly dismissive of an elderly Nikola Tesla’s prediction that we could expect—to quote the Independent—“robots working as labourers, and that milk, honey and wheat would suffice everyone’s appetites. Both are yet to prove accurate.” But, of course, automated production lines do exist just as Tesla predicted in his 1935 Liberty interview: “Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons.” Chalk up a point to Tesla.

Science fiction has predicted many of the great inventions and social trends of the past century, from mobile phones to ready meals. We should perhaps be grateful that not all its predictions have come to pass. In New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis wrote, “Several writers devise a socially approved system of murder committed as therapy for the murderer or simply for fun, and the correlation between a regularised society and the incidence of uncontrollable destructive urges is even more widely explored.”

Welcome to the Arena. Written in 1978 and set in the then distant 21st century, “Arena” was one of six stories that debuted in D. C. Thomson’s The Crunch, a “sensational NEW paper with the most DYNAMIC bunch of stories ever!” A whole new experience in boys’ papers, boasted the editor. “It’s for the boy of TODAY—packed with never-before-told stories with true-life features on the men who have faced the crunch in their lives.”

The heroes of The Crunch included a bounty hunter, a footballer investigating a weird medical experiment, a German soldier who discovers that Hitler survived the war and a traffic cop attempting to uncover the plot behind the assassination of the President of the United States.

The story that led most issues from the very first was “Arena”. The hero, Mark Sabor, was not a  soldier or lawman, but a reporter accused of writing seditious material. The story has a long pedigree in dystopian fiction: like Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Winston Smith, Sabor is a journalist; like Kafka’s K, he is arrested and secretly tried in a future controlled by an oligarchy akin to that of Jack London’s The Iron Heel. The world is heavily state controlled and—per Orwell’s Big Brother or the Bureau of Guardians in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We—the ruling elite are quick to act when the status quo is threatened.

Following his trial, the defiant journalist has his rights of citizenship revoked. Believing he will be imprisoned and able to appeal against the sentence, Sabor is curtly informed that, as a non-citizen, his future lies in the Arena.

The Arena is a gladiatorial gameshow, televised to keep the masses distracted and pacified, although they also hold a far more important role central to the commercial interests of countries around the world. Country borders exist in this version of the 21st century, but control seems to be in the hand of corporations—only later will we discover that there is an even higher power—who will hire a company of gladiators and use their champion to battle on their behalf. Disputes over trade rights can be settled this way, echoing the premise of Mack Reynolds’ 1962 tale “Mercenary”, which featured mercenaries and brawlers who sign up for battles (known as fracas) between businesses. These fracas are fought using pre-1900 weaponry that does not violate a Universal Disarmament Pact and successful fighters can raise their status in the caste-riven society of the story. A loss can mean the death of thousands of mercenaries, the destruction of millions of dollars of military equipment and financial ruin for the company.

These fracas are televised for the entertainment of the lower castes. As one the characters explains: “Automation, the second industrial revolution, has eliminated for all practical purposes the need for their labor. So we give them bread and circuses. And every year that goes by the circuses must be increasingly sadistic, death on an increasing scale, or they aren’t satisfied.”

Battles in “Mercenary” are held on natural terrain. A later story in the same sequence, Time Gladiator, has a more specific setting: “The amphitheater covered an area of some six or seven acres. Overall it measured slightly more than six hundred feet by five hundred feet, but the arena itself, the fighting arena, was two hundred eighty feet by one hundred seventy. There were comfortable seating facilities for approximately fifty thousand persons, but on an occasion such as this—national games—they could, and did, pack in as many as seventy-five thousand spectators.”

This gladiatorial combat was, again, a way of turning large-scale arguments into manageable contests, the results binding—in this case a potential war between three major powers is to be decided by nine men who have been chosen to fight by the World Court.

(* Continued in Arena... available from Bear Alley Books.)

(* Arena © DC Thomson.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Colin Dexter cover gallery

Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
Pan Books 0330-24896-0, 1977.
---- [8th imp.] n.d., 205pp, £3.99. Cover photo by Stephen Morley. TV tie-in.
---- [32nd imp.] n.d., 309pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

 
Last Seen Wearing (1976)
Pan Books 0330-25148-1, 1977.
---- [5th imp.] n.d., 221pp, £2.50. Cover photo by Stephen Morley. TV tie-in.
---- [28th imp.] n.d., 352pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

 
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
Pan Books 0330-25424-3, 1978.
---- [19th imp.] n.d., 205pp, £4.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion
---- [35th imp.] n.d., 294pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

Service of All the Dead (1979)
Pan Books 0330-26148-7, 1980.
---- [7th imp.] n.d., 255pp, £3.99. Cover photo by Tom Hilton. TV tie-in.

 
The Dead of Jericho (1981)
Pan Books 0330-26693-4, 1983.
---- [10th imp.] n.d., 223pp, £3.99. Cover photo by Tom Hilton. TV tie-in.
---- [23rd imp.] n.d., 223pp, £5.99. Cover by Michael Trevillion

The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
Pan Books
Pan Books 978-1509-85328-1, 2016, 276pp, £8.99. Cover photo by Mark Owen/Arcangel Images

 
The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
Pan Books 0330-29976-x, 1987.
---- [5th imp.] n.d., 218pp, £2.99. Cover photo by Colin Thomas
---- [31st imp.] n.d., 301pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

The Wench is Dead (1989)
Pan Books 0330-31336-3, 1990.
---- [4th imp.] n.d., 200pp, £3.99. Cover photo by James Jackson

The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
Pan Books 0330-32419-5, 1992.
---- [12th imp.] n.d., 275pp, £4.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

 
The Way Through the Woods (1992)
Pan Books 0330-32838-7, 1993.
---- [13th imp.] n.d., 296pp, £4.99. Cover photo by Alain Choisnet
---- [21st imp.] n.d., 412pp, £5.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

Morse's Greatest Mystery (collection; 1993; also published as As Good as Gold)
Pan Books in association with Kodak, 1994, 282pp, no/pr. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion
Pan Books 0330-34025-5, 1995, 282pp, £4.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

 
The Daughters of Cain (1994)
Pan Books 0330-34163-4
---- [2nd imp.] n.d., 387pp, £4.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion
Pan Books 0330-35217-2, 1996, 387pp, £5.99. Cover photo by Tony Nutley. TV tie-in.

Death is Now My Neighbour (1996)
Pan Books 0330-35034-x, 1997, 413pp, £5.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

The Remorseful Day (1999)
Pan Books 0330-37639-x, 2000.
---- [5th imp.] n.d., 448pp, £5.99. Cover photo by Michael Trevillion

Friday, March 24, 2017

Comic Cuts - 24 March 2017

We're entering the final week in which Frontline UK and Arena can be sold by Bear Alley Books, so if you want copies at 25% off the cover price, now is the time to put in your order. Click on the links under the cover photos in the right hand column.

I've had a somewhat frustrating week. The idea was to put aside the Valiant index and get on with some work for a magazine. I put together a bunch of questions but my contact needed confirmation that I was working for the mag. An e-mail didn't get any response, so I spent Wednesday trying to phone the editor... and Thursday... Every call has gone through to voicemail. I'm beginning to wonder if the magazine still exists!

I switched back to Valiant and doing some other bits 'n' bobs that needed doing. I'm trying to index some old annuals and summer specials, and to try and make sure the work gets done, I'm trying to do one every morning. (The same principal has worked quite well before. Long-time readers might remember the "daily annual" I used to compile for the CB&M group probably ten years ago now, maybe longer.) The information will eventually appear in future indexes.

The same idea means that we have our random scans every week. Sometimes they're very random indeed, based on what I've managed to rescue from charity shops, but some weeks have a theme, and given the frustration I've had this week, the theme is waiting.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Commando issues 5003 - 5006

Commando issues on sale 23rd March 2017.

From the skies of northern France to ruined towns and the sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy Mediterranean, our heroes brave it all in the next few issues of Commando. All set during the turbulence of WWII, each issue tackles different conflicts in Europe – and it’s not always clear who the enemy is…

Commando 5003 – American Eagles
Kicking it off, with story by Steven Taylor, issue 5003: American Eagles features Spitfires and Thunderbolts fighting against German ME 109s in the skies over northern France. American Lieutenant Eddie ‘Mac’ MacDonald was one of the first to travel across the Atlantic and join the Brits in their Eagle Squadrons. But then, after the bombs fell on Pearl Harbour, his homeland ventured into the war and Mac couldn’t wait to share his experience with his fellow Yanks. But not everyone wanted to learn… Bullets are fired straight at the reader from ME 109s in Janek Matysiak’s cover, preparing adventure seekers for the perils within!

Story – Steven Taylor
Art – Jaume Forns
Cover – Janek Matysiak

Commando 5004 – Trouble Squadron
Then, from one squadron to another, we find out that not everyone is as friendly as Mac, and your wingmen don’t always have your best interest at heart. Story by Boothby, issue 5004: Trouble Squadron follows Michael ‘Scatty’ Wilson, who is the only surviving pilot of his unit. Bitter and twisted, he’s ready to take revenge on the Nazis – even at the cost of his new squadron. Emotionless, he’s a zombie among his new men. His chief objective is to hit his targets - his men’s survival no longer a priority. Framed in cover art by prestigious veteran Commando artist, Ken Barr, who designed the first ever cover of Commando, Trouble Squadron’s cover contrasts serene sky blues against a trail of fire spurting from the engine of a Spitfire…

Story – Boothby
Art – Auraleon
Cover – Ken Barr

Commando 5005 – Urban Gunners
Then, from the tight American formations of the Eagle Squadron and the perilously low altitude flights of Scatty Wilson’s Blenheims, issue 5005: Urban Gunners shows our heroes in the claustrophobia of the American infantry after the D-Day landings. Bored and eager to see the action of the front, American Private Brad Lynch had no idea of the fear he would soon know all too well. Part of the anti-tank division tasked with covering infantry under German machine gun fire at Aachen, Lynch’s nerves are shaken. His friends are dying – shot down by enemy snipers. His aim is off; he’s tormented by nightmares. Will he ever regain control of himself as he deals with the horrors of war? With interior and cover art by Manuel Benet, the blackness of Aachen’s crumbling streets compresses the panels, showcasing the confined paranoia of Lynch, as the tight buildings offer no escape from the pressure of the front.

Story – Ferg Handley
Art – Manuel Benet
Cover – Manuel Benet

Commando 5006 – Go Down Fighting!
And finally, with cover art by another veteran, Jeff Bevan, issue 5006: Go Down Fighting follows two heroes in their battle for the Mediterranean. On one side, Italian navy Lieutenant Ricardo Brazzo fondly remembers his youth, working on his father’s fishing boat. He had wanted to see the world, so joined the navy. He was good, eager to chase The Royal Navy out of the Med – to make it Mussolini’s Lake. But he had no idea how good the British navy was. Still he fought on. On the other side, British navy Lieutenant Norman Ryan commanded a Fairmile launch. He easily tore through Italian convoys and tankards. Then a storm hit, damaging Ryan’s engines. Both men’s paths will cross, but both will fight on against all odds. Ian Clark’s captivating story of the war at sea shows a side not often seen, blurring the line between hero and villain, friend and foe.

Story – Ian Clark
Art – Peter Foster
Cover – Jeff Bevan

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 22 March 2017.

2000AD Prog 2023
Cover: Cliff Robinson
Judge Dredd: Get Jerry Sing by John Wagner (w) Carlos Ezquerra (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett 9w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: The Best Brain In The Galaxy by Andrew Williamson (w) Tilen Javornik (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS - LAST CHANCE TO BUY

ON SPECIAL OFFER AT BEAR ALLEY BOOKS


If you look over to the right hand column, you'll see that we have a special offer on two of our latest books from Bear Alley. You can save 25% off the cover price for the next few weeks. This will be your last chance to buy Frontline UK and Arena as our license for these titles runs out shortly and both books will be officially OUT OF PRINT after March 31st.

So if you want copies, grab 'em now. After the end of the month, they'll be disappearing for good.

Frontline UK by William Corderoy, Ian Kennedy & Clemente Rezzonico.
Arena by David H. Taylor & Enrique Alcatena.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Illustrators Special #1: Warren Magazines - The Spanish Artists

A bumper, 144-page issue of Illustrators has been releases alongside the regular issue 17 featuring some of the most stunningly gorgeous artwork from some of Spain's finest artists. The thread running through the whole book is Vampirella, who stars on the cover. In the late 1960s, Josep Toutein the founder of the Selecciones Illustrades artists' agency in Spain, went to New York to offer his services to James Warren.

Warren saw him out of courtesy rather than any desire to do business; his comics were struggling in an overcrowded market and hiring new talent was low on his priorities. Depending on who tells the story, Warren saw the samples Toutain had brought with him and immediately / a week later offered his artists work, most notably putting Jose "Pepe" Gonzalez to work on Vampirella. Over the next few years, Toutain became integral to Warren's success – the science fiction comic 1984 was his suggestion, for instance – and the artists of the S.I. agency produced some of their most memorable work for the company.

This special issue looks at the work of six artists in particular, with an introductory piece on Toutain setting the scene. Both Enric Torres-Prat and Sanjulian (Manuel Perez-Sanjulian Clemente), the first two subjects of this volume, never tackled comic strips (Enric was too slow, Sanjulian was too awful) but became famous as cover artists, using their skills as illustrators to create a formidable body of work. Enric produced 52 covers for Vampirella alone, and Sanjulian produced 60 for Warren, mostly for Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella.

 
Both artists eventually left Toutain as the latter concentrated on publishing and found employment doing book covers; Enric became notably associated with Harlequin where his beautiful women in long, flowing white dresses and virile young men were perfect for the romantic market; Sanjulian drew dozens of covers for the German western market and film posters.

Inside the covers of Vampirella, Pepe Gonzalez revolutionised the look of the strip. A precocious talent, Gonzalez bored easily and, having made Vampirella his own, he all but abandoned her, disappearing for days rather than working, leaving strips half finished. He could not paint: the iconic Vampirella poster published by Warren signed by Jose Gonzalez was only pencilled by him; the actual painting was done by Enric.

In later life, Gonzalez let himself go completely and was unable to look after himself, let alone work in any coherent way. It was Toutain and, after Josep died, his widow and family who tried to keep Gonzalez working and healthy until his death in 2009.

Luis Garcia was considered the new Pepe Gonzalez when he found his way to S.I. in 1961, aged only 15. He learned technique from those around him in the S.I. studio and soon became a prolific artist of romantic stories for Britain's comics for teenage girls. Visiting the UK a number of times during the Sixties, he embraced the hippy spirit, having then recently experienced life at an artist's commune a few miles outside Barcelona.

 
His London experience ended thanks to bad LSD and chronic flu, but his desire to not draw any more romances set him on the path to Warren's horror magazines where his ultra-realistic artwork soon became a favourite amongst fans. Garcia soon found work in Pilote, which maintained his Warren connections, as his French strips were reprinted in Vampirella. Garcia subsequently had a varied career as a comic artist (still recognised for his graphic novel Nova-2), as an advertising artist and as an illustrator and painter.

Garcia was a member of El Grupo de la Floresta, where artists would help out each other. One of his fellow artists was Esteban Maroto, four years older and another teenage prodigy. By the mid-Sixties, Maroto was experimenting with radical layouts for his strip 5 x Infinity and Wolff, and he would draw over 100 stories for various Warren magazines in the 1970s and 1980s. Maroto would also draw for DC in America and DC Thomson here in the UK.

Another prodigious artist, Jordi Bernet, is the subject of the final feature. Born into a family of cartoonists and scriptwriters, Bernet gained vital experience assisting Jordi Buxade before approaching Bardon Art, who put him to work on westerns and adventure stories for the British market, mostly for Victor, although also including work for Hornet, Smash!, Tiger and Lion.

 
He was introduced to Spirou in the 1960s and notably drew 'Paul Foran' for almost a decade. He went on to work for the American, German and Italian markets. When Josep Toutain began publishing magazines rather than agenting artists, Bernet created 'Torpedo' with writer Enrique Sanchez Abuli, which was a success around the world. Bernet has also worked successfully with Antonio Segura (Sarvane, Kraken) and Carlos Trillo (Cicca Dum-Dum, Calra de Noche) and has worked occasionally for DC Comics, most notably on Jonah Hex. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he continues to draw comics to this day.

The production on this special edition cannot be faulted. The artwork on show is spectacular, representing some of the best work of these immensely talented artists. Each essay gives context to characters and comics you may not have seen before and it is this discovery of whole new worlds of comics that makes the book so easy to recommend.

The Illustrators Special Edition is available directly from Book Palace, as are current and back issues of the regular Illustrators magazine.