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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Blaise, Batman, Blondie & Co.

From the pages of ABC Film Review, an article about comic strip characters in movies dating from 1966.

As a bonus, I've included a piece on Michael Caine's superb Alfie which was in the same issue.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Kerrang! Komics

Back in 1981, a new rock magazine concentrating on the heavier and thrashier end of the spectrum made its debut. From the makers of Sounds, which had championed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, it rode the metal boom of the early eighties, back in the days before Mick Jagger got his bus pass and Ozzy could still string a sentence together, as long as that sentence was "I need more drugs and booze, Sharon!"

I was there from issue one. I sold a huge stack of them many years ago but, somehow, forty issues (41-80) missed the earlier cull, so I sold them off recently on Ebay. But before they disappeared, I scanned a few covers which had comic connections. The first was the cover for issue #63 which I think is by Jim McCarthy. The second is a Japanese-inspired piece by Steve "Krusher" Joule, Kerrang!'s art director from 1982 on. Joule had previously been a freelancer designing sleeves for Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Gary Moore and Hawkwind, amongst others and would remain with Kerrang! for a decade.

The covers for #68 and #75 were drawn by Jim McCarthy and Ian Gibson, and shortly after the comic strip, 'Pandora Peroxide', started. Drawn by Ray Zell, the first strip appeared in Extra Kerrang! #2 in 1984 and the second episode in Kerrang! #76. The strip was dropped in 1995 but returned in 1996 and, for all I know, is still going today. The strip's creator has written about Pandora's origins on his website.

As a bonus, issue 72 featured a drawing by Jon Howard, later to draw Dan Dare, Thunderbirds and Judge Dredd.



Friday, June 28, 2019

Comic Cuts - 28 June 2019

I seem to have spent the week wading through gore as I stumbled across a few boxes of old horror magazines. I'd forgotten how many of these I used to read. Lots of Hammer related magazines and fanzines celebrating "Hammer glamour" ranging from House of Hammer/Halls of Horror and various issues of The Dark Side and Femme Fatales to fanzines like Dark Terror and The House That Hammer Built.

A lot of the magazines celebrated the gorier side of horror, which I've never been a huge fan of. Ditto for horror in book form. I'm happy to dip into horror occasionally – I'm a lifelong fan of Ramsey Campbell, for instance – but nothing compared to how many I was reading back in the days of The Rats and Night of the Crabs...

I did meet a handful of the women who kick-started puberty for me, including Maddy Smith, Madeline Collinson, but not her twin sister Mary, and Caroline Munroe. I remember interviewing Caroline in a noisy cafe in London back in the Nineties only to later discover that the dictaphone I was using wasn't working properly. But Caroline was delightful and was probably the most famous person I'd interviewed, eventually trumped when I interviewed an Apollo astronaut a few years later.


Spoiler alert... we're talking Killing Eve after the pic.

I've read a few snotty reviews of the second season of Killing Eve which seem to imply that losing Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer has damaged the show beyond repair. I don't think this is the case, but there are one or two problems with the show that made it stumble.

At its heart, the first season of the show was a cat and mouse adventure played out over a kitchen sink drama. Eve Polastri is in a loving yet dull relationship, but works too hard to compensate for the boredom and routine of her home life. Villanelle, the psychopathic assassin whom Eve begins to fixate, is also complaining of boredom in her relationship with her handler, Konstantin, and her unpredictability is becoming a problem for him – the last thing he needs is for her flamboyant outfits and behaviour to attract attention.

The killer and her hunter fascinate each other and the question of what would they do should they ever meet looms quickly over the show. Well, they did meet and it's only half-way through the first series. So that question is answered and the central premise of the show fades away because Villanelle is not going to kill Eve. That, I suspect, is what led to the final scene of season one... resetting the premise that Eve has done something so bad to Villanelle that the assassin will want payback. The title makes sense again.

Season two picks up the plot and Villanelle has survived. But rather than treat her as the great threat she should be, another female assassin is introduced as a rival and antithesis to Villanelle. Eve and Villanelle have to work together to track down The Ghost (as she is known).

While I didn't think the second series deserved the drubbing it got, it suffered from the same problems that I think were generously overlooked in the first series. Cat and mouse stories work better when the cat and the mouse are enemies, one stalking the other, the other smartly evading its stalker. Killing Eve works best when Eve and Villanelle are kept apart, when Villanelle's unpredictable, manipulative nature can lead to surprises. The shocks this season are provided not in the relationship between Eve and Villanelle but by the relationships of Villanelle and her new handler and between Villanelle and Eve's husband, Niko. The ending is attention-grabbing, but give it a second or two and you realise it's just the end of season one in reverse. And the question of whether Eve will die is a moot one. She won't. I mean, it's not the first time Villanelle has left someone for dead who turns out later to be alive as we're averaging one a season (Nadia, Konstantin).

So, high marks, but could still do better. Keep Eve and Villanelle apart in Season three. The jeopardy might not be there (it will be revealed that Villanelle didn't want to kill Eve... either that or she's a lousy shot and unprofessional for not double-tapping Eve) but the characters and dialogue still sparkled in season two and there's no reason to think they can't for a third outing.

One of the best things on the TV at the moment, but sadly about to come to an end (we're watching the last episode tonight), is Brian Cox's five-part series on The Planets, which has been an eye-opener, not only for the gorgeousness of the swirling storms on the gas giants in the outer solar system, but for the latest developments in theories about the formation of the planets. Who knew that Jupiter was such a wanderer? Or that the rings of Saturn are crystal clear because they only formed within the past 100 million years?

Educating as it entertains. Gotta love Auntie Beeb.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Commando 5239-5242

Brand new Commando issues #5239 – 5242 are out now!

5239: The Final Hunt

A body has been found beneath one of the Nissen huts in a Scottish prisoner of war camp — but who is it? Stripped of all identification and with camp records all accounted for, a small list of suspects leads to a mystery that only retired policeman Dick McKay can solve. It’s okay – McKay likes a puzzle and the answer to this particular enigma will take the small town Scottish gardener all the way to Frankfurt.

Story: Colin Watson
Art: Morhain & Defeo
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5240: Fire in the Sky

When bailing out of a failing aircraft the hard and fast rule is that the skipper is the last one out. So imagine an RAF Lancaster crew’s surprise when their Squadron Leader was the first out – not even bothering to tell them to jump! When word gets back to England, Squadron Leader Ricky Lomax’s name is mud – but behind the barbed wire fence of a POW camp in Germany, Ricky has no idea – and no memory of what happened. 

Story: Leach
Art: L Rosell
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 685 (1972).


5241: Steel Inferno

Inspired by the true events of the Soham Rail disaster, our third female writer in 30 years, Hailey Austin, brings readers a high-octane spy thriller! When Nazi agents pinpoint the sleepy town of Uxton as a prime target, two lieutenants must work together to stop them – if they can get along long enough to!

Story: Hailey Austin
Art: Khato
Cover:Keith Burns


5242: One Must Die!

Hate is a strong word – but not strong enough! The intense hatred between John Norton and Eugen Von Hasse was so strong it spanned not one, not two, but three wars! The torrid relationship between the Brit was German is likely to tear apart the lives of the men who serve with them. So, in order for any to survive… one of them – if not both – must die!

Story: Mike Knowles
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet
Originally Commando No. 2839 (1995).


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Releases from Rebellion Publishing for 26 June 2019.

2000AD Prog 2137
Cover: Tula Lotay

JUDGE DREDD: THE SAMARITAN by Kenneth Niemand (w) Staz Johnson (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THISTLEBONE by TC Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIVISION: MARTYRS by Emma Beeby (w) Aneke (a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) Simon Bowland (l)
ABSALOM: TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS by Gordon Rennie (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Tammy & Jinty Special, ed. Lizzie Boyle
Cover: Lisa Henke

Two of Britain’s best-loved girls’ comics are BACK and they’re BETTER THAN EVER! Tammy and Jinty return with the Tammy & Jinty Special 2019!
    These ground-breaking female-led comics covered everything from science fiction and fantasy to romance and domestic drama, and this brand new 48-page special, retooled for the 21st Century, features a host of the finest modern creators pay tribute to this legacy of trail-blazing comics while introducing a new audience to the medium!

JUSTINE, MESSENGER OF JUSTICE: SOME "MINO" TROUBLES by Emma Beeby (w) PJ Holden (a) Dearbhla Kelly (c) Jim Campbell (l)
ROCKY OF THE ROVERS by Rob Williams (w) Lisa Henke (a) john Charles (c) Jim Campbell (l)
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION by Andy W. Clift (w+a) Mike Stock (l)
IN THE COLD DARK by Matt Gibbs (w) VV Glass (a) Mike Stock (l)
MAISIE'S MAGIC EYE by Kate Ashwin (w) Kel McDonald (a) Mike Stock (l)
SPEED DEMONS by Sarah Millman (w+a) Jim Campbell (l)
DUCKFACE by Rachael Smith (w) Yishan Li (a) Jim Campbell (l)
THE ENIGMA VARIATION by Grainne McEntee (w) Dani (a) Jim Campbell (l)
BELLA AT THE BAR by Rachel Ball (w) Vanessa Cardinali (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Counterfeit Girl by Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo & Dom Regan
ISBN 978-1781-08724-4, 26 June 2019, 64pp, £9.99 / $12.99. Available via Amazon.

A dystopian cyberpunk thriller of identity theft, sentient diseases and fake news! In a city ruled by the multinational corporations, identity is crucial — no one can get anywhere without being monitored, logged, and status-checked. Fortunately for some, if a new I.D. is needed, there are ‘simmers’ — backstreet I.D. thieves that can create new personas by stealing the identities of others. Libra Kelly is a simmer with an axe to grind, doing jobs that cause trouble for the corporations free of charge, but soon finds herself stuck with a terminally diseased I.D. and a price on her head. A bright, original graphic novel – one of the most daring new series to emerge from the pages of 2000 AD in recent years - perfect for fans of dystopian grime of pop culture icons Akira, Hackers, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Written by industry legend Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Shade The Changing Man) and illustrated by Rufus Dayglo (Tank Girl, The Last Gang In Town)

Operation: Overlord #2: Omaha Beach by Bruno Flaba, Davide Fabbri & Christian Dalla Vecchia
Cover: Davide Fabbri

The second volume of Editions GlĂ©nat’s best-selling four book D-Day saga! 1944. Normandy. G.I.s from Easy Company are briefed on Operation Overlord and beside them is Robert Capa, a war photographer, who will capture the indiscriminate killing of the day as death will not choose only one side. Germans and Americans endure bullets and mortars as their blood dyes the sand of the infamous Omaha Beach.

Roy of the Rovers 3: Going  Up by Rob Williams & Ben Willsher
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08673-5, 27 June 2019, 56pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.

The third instalment of the all new – and highly anticipated - Roy of the Rovers graphic novel series! Roy and the team have battled through a tough season, but have they got enough left to get promoted? Or will they fall at the final hurdle and see the club sold by its greedy owner? The new era of Roy of the Rovers continues!

Arthur C Clarke predicts the future in 1999

Another few scrapbook pages. This article was from Frontier, a popular science magazine from 1999. This was in the June '99 issue, so twenty years old. It's interesting to see how right/wrong Clarke was even when trying to make predictions only a few years away: clean, safe power by 2002? The last coal mine closed by 2006? If only...

Click the images for a larger, more readable copy.

 
 
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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Christopher Fowler Bryant & May

Bryant & May Novels

Full Dark House
Bantam 978-0553-82466-7, 2004, 411pp, £8.99. Cover by Jake Rickwood


The Water Room (Doubleday, 2004)
Bantam 978-0553-81553-5, 2005, 429pp. Cover by Adam Willis
---- [7th imp.] £9.99. [tpb]

Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
Bantam 978-0553-81719-5, 2006, 476pp. Cover by Adam Willis
---- [8th imp.], £9.99. [tpb]
Bantam 978-0553-82467-4, 2006, 476pp.
---- [6th imp.] £7.99.

Ten Second Staircase
X

White Corridor
Bantam 978-0553-81798-0, 2008, 365pp, £7.99 [tpb]. Cover by David Frankland

The Victoria Vanishes
Bantam 978-0857-50070-0, 2009, 362pp, £7.99. Cover by David Frankland

Bryant & May On the Loose
Bantam 978-0857-50140-0, 2010, 383pp, £7.99. Cover by David Frankland

Bryant & May Off the Rails
Bantam 978-0857-50141-7, 2011, 378pp, £7.99. Cover by David Frankland

Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood
Bantam 978-0857-50142-4, 2012, 352pp, £7.99. Cover by David Frankland

Bryant & May and the Invisible Code
X

Bryant & May: The Bleeding Heart
X

Bryant & May: The Burning Man (London, Doubleday, 2015)
Bantam Books 978-0857-50235-3, 2016, 410pp, £8.99. Cover by Max Schindler

Bryant & May: Strange Tide
X

Bryant & May: Wild Chamber (London, Doubleday, 2017)
Bantam Books 978-0857-50310-7, 2018, 403pp, £8.99. Cover by Max Schindler

Bryant & May: Hall of Mirrors
X

Friday, June 21, 2019

Comic Cuts - 21 June 2019

Last week I posted a couple of pictures taken at the UK Comic Art Convention and the Glasgow Comic Art Convention – the only two I have – along with a scan of some of the convention badges. I managed to find another, for UKCAC97, which I'll post here.

The other thing I've turned up is a broken run of the UKCAC and Glasgow CAC souvenir books dating from between 1987 and 1996. I suspect there are at least another three, which I may have somewhere.

Looking through these old convention books is like finding a looking glass that can open a portal into the past. The "Who's Who at the Convention" page for 1987 contained only two people that I knew – many more that I knew of, but only two that I actually knew. I did my first comics interviews at that convention (Richard Piers Raynor and Vincent Danks, about their comic The Solthenis) for After Image, the ACE Comics fanzine. And who knew that the shy, nervous Grant Morrison (my second interview that year) was about to become a Comics God. That Zenith, I think it's got potential to be popular with 2000AD fans.

Spoilers ahead as I look at Russian Doll, so skip to the end if you don't want to know what happened. There are some nice UKCAC and GLASCAC covers for this week's random scans.

I watched the first episode of Russian Doll not knowing what to expect other than that the premise was a Groundhog Day-style repeating of events for a woman who snaps back to life in front of a mirror in a bathroom. It is her 36h birthday and the frantic knocking on the door helps focus her. Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) talks to her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) as the noisy party continues around them. Soon after, while searching for a missing cat, she is killed in a car accident, only to snap back to life in front of the mirror in the bathroom.

Live, die, repeat, as the tagline for Edge of Forever said, and, as with that and other similarly themed movies such as Happy Death Day, the protagonist decides to explore this changing world and to see if she can break the cycle.

I'd watched two episodes and wasn't sure if I could be bothered with the rest. However, as I had the house to myself on Tuesday, I thought I'd give it another shot. The episodes are only 25 minutes long, after all. Episode three was where it grabbed me and I watched three episodes compulsively. Later that evening, I went back and watched the last three.

It's a byproduct of the plot structure that slows the first couple of episodes. Nadia thinks this is a hallucination or some side-effect of drugs, which is a logical first guess. Once she's explored these options and accepts that her death and resurrection is not drug induced, the show kicks off as Nadia tries to discover why this is happening... and meets a stranger who is also experiencing the same thing and who dies at precisely the same time as Nadia.

It has been pointed out that a lot of the show is about drug addiction: the repetition, the interaction with dealers, bad decision making, the steady loss of everything around you. The sometimes subtle changes mean that this isn't a Lost Weekend descent into hell but a blackly comic unpeeling of an onion-like plot with a pause at every layer.

The show is held together by Lyonne, who wise-cracks her way through some dark situations, ready with a caustic remark but somehow staying on the right side of likeability. Don't be put off by the first  two episodes – they need to happen to establish the situation, the world, the tone and to get some stuff out of the way before the storyline picks up.

While the announcement that there is to be a second (and possibly a third) season doesn't fill me with woe, it's hard to see why it's needed. The first season reaches a very satisfying conclusion and – with all due respect to the show's actors and staff, because none of them put a foot wrong – do we really need to revisit the characters so that Nadia can help out a different person each season? Anyone who has seen Taken will know how the law of diminishing returns works on a single-premise franchise. But maybe, like American Horror or True Detective, season two will have a whole new cast and a whole new situation. If the writing and characters are as good, who's to say a second season wouldn't work.