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Friday, August 30, 2019

Nigel Dobbyn (1963-2019)


News has circulated in the last few hours of the death of Nigel Dobbyn, best known for his work on 2000AD, Sonic the Comic and The Beano, at the age of 56. He had posted on Facebook as recently as 15 August and was apparently feeling happy and well, only to suffer a sudden heart attack on Saturday, 24 August.

Dobbyn was a regular at 2000AD for eight years, contributing to 'Tharg's Future Shocks' (1988) before embarking on his first serial, 'Medivac 318' by Hilary Robinson (1989-90). Carrying the news of his death, the 2000AD website noted:
The series ... showcased Dobbyn’s unmistakeable style, his strong storytelling and clear lines giving all of his work a solidity and openness that was often at odds with the prevailing fashions in comic art at the time.
    His colour work was bold and striking but also grounded and earthy – his work on future eco-cop series Trash (Progs 760 to 770), written by Paul Kupperberg, contrasted the greys of urban decay with lush greens and bright flower colours. He also had a skill for action and his work on Red Razors with Mark Millar and Garth Ennis’ Strontium Dogs stories featuring Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer’s furry sidekick Gronk, as well as Peter Hogan’s spell on the strip, demonstrated his ability to draw convincing, involved and energetic action scenes.
Born in Oxford on 9 March 1963, Dobbyn grew up reading the comics of his elder brother, Jeremy, before he and his friend Aidan Potts, also now an author and illustrator, discovered Marvel comics while at primary school.

Dobbyn was educated at Magdelen College School, Oxford, before earning an engineering degree at Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry (1981-84). After contributing to Killing Stroke and 'Three Way Split' to Harrier's Avalon in 1987, he began freelancing in 1988, contributing his first Future Shock to 2000AD Prog 588 (20 August 1988), written by Steve Dillon.

After 'Medivac 318' concluded, Dobbyn joined Paul Kupperberg on the story of eco-policeman, Trashman Trask, Trash (1991-92), and first worked with Paul Hogan on a short 'Tharg's Dragon Tales' serial, in 1992. He took over the artistic chores for Strontium Dog (1993-95), written by Garth Ennis and, later, Peter Hogan. Ennis' run included such fan favourites as 'Return of the Gronk' and 'The Darkest Star'. Dobbyn also took on Mark Millar's 'Red Razors' (1994-95), but a change in editorship brought his run on the title to an end.

Dobbyn also contributed to Deadline and Mindbenders, and his work on 2000AD led to some work for DC Comics, including three issues of Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law and an issue of The Demon.

After a brief period of commercial work for Eagle Star and Polydor Records (comic strips for boy band Ultimate Kaos), Dobbyn found work on Sonic the Comic, edited by former Tharg Richard Burton, making his debut in October 1995 and supplying a regular stream of stories about the super-speedy hedgehog until 1999, often working from scripts by Nigel Kitching and Lew Stringer. He was one of the most popular artists in the comic, contributing heavily to the stories of Knuckles, the red-furred Echidna, and, later, Tails and Amy Rose.

Dobbyn was a notable colourist for artists Roberto Corona, Richard Elson and Carl Flint, and later said, in a 2010 interview, "My favourite work of all was colouring the linework of Roberto Corona, which was more of a pleasure than I could reasonably expect from a paying job. I’m still very proud of the work we produced together and it was a privilege to work with him."

After Sonic, Dobbyn struggled for some while, working briefly on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the BBC's FBX magazine (1999), and in a food factory for several months before being offered work on Dark Horse's Digimon (2000). Although it proved short-lived, it led to work on Panini's UK Digimon comic and a great many other licensed characters, including Panini's Spiderman & Friends, Eaglemoss' Gogos Crazy Bones, Power Rangers for Panini's Fox Kids Wickid, and illustrations for various DeAgostini titles, including Mr. Bean's Amazing A-Z, My Little Pony and Angelina's Fairy Tales and Scooby Doo.

He has also worked on various educational books, illustrations for councils and wildlife trusts, the fanzines Dogbreath and Zarjaz, a strip for Games Workshop's Inferno, and colouring The Chili for Markosia.

Dobbyn also found work drawing (and sometimes writing) 'Billy the Cat' in The Beano (2005) and various Beano Annual, adapting Shakespeare's Macbeth (2008) and The Tempest (2009) for Classical Comics, and adapting Anthony Horowitz's Nightrise (2014). He also drew 'The Adventures of Naut' for Cybernaut Records of Perth, three titles inspired by H.P. Lovecraft for Arcturus, and 'Goblin Princess' for Redan's Sparkle World.

In 2016 he returned to 2000AD to draw 'Ace Trucking Co.' and had most recently been working on the multimedia project Death Ingloria by Galina Rin and Hilary Robinson (2017), lettering for the digital comic Aces Weekly, and contributing '28AR' by Richmond Clements to Brawler, a kickstarter project from Time Bomb Comics.

Dobbyn lived in Guisborough, Yorkshire, and is survived by his wife, Susan, and daughter, Megan.

Tributes to Nigel can be found at Lew Stringer's blog and John Freeman's Down the Tubes.

Comic Cuts - 30 August 2019

We've had a relatively quiet week, starting with a quiet bank holiday. It was so warm that we found ourselves at the pub on Monday afternoon, sat outside under an umbrella on the quay watching boats go by. This was the first time I've felt relaxed in a couple of months.

One reason was due to a ridiculous mistake – or, rather, an imagined mistake –  I thought I'd make on the new book from Bear Alley. With everything finished bar a few typos that will inevitably leap out at us at the last minute, I uploaded a draft to the printers. A big, red warning appeared telling me the book was oversized for the format I wanted it printed in... and not by a smidge that could be easily fixed. This would involve re-doing the whole book.

My stomach sank... all I could think of was that instead of allowing 2.5 millimetres bleed, I'd accidentally allowed 2.5 centimetres. It was the only explanation.

Thankfully, it wasn't the only explanation. I had discussed two different sizes for the book with the authors and I'd clicked on the one we'd decided against rather than the one we eventually chose. Once I realised this, and tried uploading the book with the correct choice of paper size, it went through without any problems. This was on Monday morning, which in part explains my burning desire to have a pint – a mix of stress and relief as well as the 30°+ temperature.

We're now waiting on proof copies of the book, which is the autobiography of John Chisnall, the TT and continental Europe motorcycle and sidecar racer, who also happens to be my uncle. It has been co-written with his pal, Tony Davis, and is packed with stories and anecdotes from his riding days. It's a slightly surreal experience reading a book about a relative because, when we were growing up, we would visit John's motorcycle workshop, or see the trophies at his home, and it didn't really register that he was doing anything special. That was just the way it was.

Now, looking back from a position where I can appreciate it, he had quite an amazing career as a rider. Just goes to show how easy it is to take your family for granted.

Which leads me on to the following, which discusses some rather grisly stuff, so skip to the end if you're a bit squeamish.


Looking for something to watch that was a little different to The Boys—and with Mindhunter not out yet—I saw a recommendation for I Am the Night, a 6-parter based on the story of Patty Allman (India Eisley), raised in Sparks, Nevada, by an alcoholic, black, single mother. After an argument, Patty discovers her birth certificate… but it is in the name of Fauna Hodel. The certificate gives her mother’s name—Tamara Hodel (Jamie Anne Allman)—but her father is only listed as a unknown negro.

Believing herself to be bi-racial, she visits relatives in Los Angeles, her place of birth, and phones every Hodel in the book. This brings her into contact with Corinna Hodel (Connie Nielsen), Tamara’s step-mother, through whom she learns of her grand-father, George Hodel.

Also investigating George Hodel is Jay Singletary (Chris Pine), a photo-journalist and former Korean War veteran who deals with terrifying flashbacks and violent outbursts with drugs and alcohol. Together they discover that Tamara is living in Hawaii surrounded by her younger children, one of them named Fauna.

Already aware that George Hodel was once a suspect in both the murder of his secretary and the infamous Black Dahlia murder, the pieces gradually fit together to paint a picture of a man obsessed with surrealist art and sex, protected by powerful men whose secrets he knows.

I knew the basics of The Black Dahlia murder generally from the novel by James Ellroy and the Brian de Palma movie—or, rather, documentaries on around the time of the release of the movie. It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of America, topped only by “Who killed JFK?” and “Who was the Zodiac Killer?”. The fascination stems from the gruesome detail that her body was cut in half and displayed on a road side. That Elizabeth Short was a 22-year-old dark-haired, green-eyed beauty painted by the tabloids as a woman of questionable morals (she was a “waitress with many boyfriends”), only adds to the story.

Because this is a TV series which conforms to the structure of a TV murder mystery, the initial “Who Am I?” mystery soon giving way to solving a gruesome murder, the horrifying details of the crime are easier to dismiss. Knowing that this is based on a real murder case, that George Hodel was a suspect and that Fauna Hodel did indeed only discover her relationship to the Hodel family when she was a teenager, makes it rather more uncomfortable viewing.

But even more uncomfortable is the real story of the Hodel family, of George, or Tamara and her children—who did not have the happy, smiling and sunny lives depicted in the TV series. The truth takes a strong stomach, which is what you need for Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family, an 8-part podcast dating back to last February but which I’ve only discovered in the wake of the TV series.

It is narrated by Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile, the great grand-daughters of George Hodel and includes interviews with many of the family members, including taped recordings of Fauna and Tamara, whose discussions cover Tamara’s childhood traumas and the hands of her father and his friends. Tamara would eventually take her father to court, accusing him of incest and rape, a case eventually dismissed. The cycle of abuse then continues with her children now the victims.

Against this background, Steve Hodel discusses how he began to piece together the story of his father’s connection to the Black Dahlia murder and explores the connections between the staging of the body and surrealist works by the likes of photographer Man Ray, a friend of George Hodel. The full details of the mutilations performed on Short’s body, both before and after death, are tough to hear.

If you like grisly murder shows, the TV series might be a bit lightweight, although with the added frisson that there is some truth to the events it depicts. I found it a useful stepping stone ahead of listening to Root of Evil, which, because it’s true and horrible, will make your skin crawl.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 28 August 2019.


2000AD Prog 2146
Cover: Paul Williams (& Chris Blythe, col.)

JUDGE DREDD:  THE FALL OF BARBARBARA GRIMM by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Dyer (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SINISTER DEXTER: DOLORES 4 EVER by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME: FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISTA by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: RED ROAD by Andi Ewington (w) Ben Willsher (a) Simon Bowland (l)
JAEGIR: VALKYRIE by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Operation: Overlord #4
Cover: Davide Fabbri

England, 1944. Sergeant Clague films the final preparations for Operation Overlord. Among the forces involved there is a single French commando unit, led by Kieffer. They will land with the British forces and their mission is to clear out Ouistreham, join the 6th Airborne on the bridges of the Orne and then march on the Amfreville. The mission will be difficult and their daredevil commander plans losses of 50%. They will succeed or die in the process.

This fourth issue concludes the first ever English language translation of Editions GlĂ©nat’s bestselling saga covering D-Day!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Eagle Times v.32 no.2 (Summer 2019)

A little on the late side due to problems out of my control, I've had the new issue of Eagle Times for some while but haven't had a chance to write a review.

All you need to know is that Eagle Times is still an essential companion to the original Eagle comic, offering reviews of strips and features from that much-revered publication of the 1950s and (for some) the 1960s. The magazine has been running for over thirty years, but there are always new angles and new ways to approach strips and stories that might have been covered in previous volumes.

This issue, for instance, has the (penultimate) fifth episode of a multi-part look at how Charles Chilton handled the Indian Wars in the Riders of the Range strip. There is also a (concluding) look at the travels of Marco Polo and how the back-page biography by Chad Varah matched the known history of the great explorer.

There are reports on the Eagle gathering in Dundee, along with the text to Steve Winders' talk, given at the annual get-together. Slightly left of field, Eric Fernie offers a detailed introduction to the world of Walt Kelly's Pogo.

The most interesting article this issue is a look at some items from the Dan Dare studio's "Ideas Book", which contained sketches of various craft and machinery relating to the stories Rogue Planet and Reign of the Robots. This first episode looks at a Phant forklift. Although brief, it is another fascinating insight into the effort that went into creating visuals for Dan's epic space stories.

The quarterly magazine is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £29 in the UK, £40 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Wellcroft Cottage, Wellcroft, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9EF; subs can also be submitted via PayPal to membership@eagle-society.org.uk. Back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Comic Scene #6 (September 2019)

The partly masked face of Blake Edmonds, star of Death Wish, dominates the cover of the latest issue of Comic Scene, and inside his scriptwriter Barrie Tomlinson relates how the character became a huge success with readers, who followed Blake's adventures through the pages of Speed (8 months), Tiger (53 months) and Eagle (31 months). 

The earliest episodes were collected in one of Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics collections in July and here Tomlinson lays out the history of the character, part Evel Knievel, part Phantom of the Opera. Edmonds staged some of the most death-defying stunts, and took endless risks following a horrific accident that left him hideously disfigured, but Tomlinson left it to the reader to decide whether Edmonds really did have a death wish. Even he admits that the later stories, which pitched Blake Edmonds into the world of the supernatural, were forgettable in comparison to his earlier adventures.

Tomlinson's article gets the latest Comic Scene off to an interesting start in an issue that is itself quite retro in coverage. Articles in this issue include backward looks at characters Grimly Feendish, Harlem Heroes, Hot-Shot Hamish and the Leopard from Lime St. The brief romp through the characters in Hot-Shot Hamish is again by Barrie Tomlinson, celebrating the classic collaboration between Fred Baker and Julio Schiaffino. Irmantas Povilaika, John Farrelly and Peter Gouldson each give a good account of their subjects in the other articles.

Wrapping up the backwards looking, Phillip Vaughan offers the first of a two-part  history of the 'New' Eagle from the 1980s.

We are shortly to see the return of the Vigilant, the much-anticipated follow-up to last year's team-up of old Fleetway characters. If you read my review, you'll see that my biggest complaint was that too many characters appeared across the 24-page story without being introduced... they simply turned up and readers, especially newcomers, might have felt confused or overwhelmed.

I'm pleased to see the new episode might be addressing this, as editor Keith Richardson agrees tahat "we didn't have enough pages to really introduce – or re-introduce – the characters properly ... that's something we've put right in The Vigilant: Legacy."

A good chunk of the issue is taken up with two comic strips, the second part of Lady Flintlock by Steve Tanner & Anthony Summey, a highwayman adventure set in 1751, and the debut of Milford Cross by Samuel George London & Mikael Hankonen, seemingly about a bicycle race through the prettiest village in the British Empire in 1897, but revealed at the end to be an alien invasion story witnessed by a friend of HG Wells.

The review section is, again, superb.

Details about subscriptions can be obtained from www.comicscene.org. Rates for print issues for the UK are £5.99 for one issue; £35 for 6 issues; £68 for 12 issues.You can get a pdf version for £3.99 (1), £22 (6) or £40 (12).

Payment can be made via PayPal to comicsceneuk@gmail.com. For other options, and for international rates for the print edition, visit the website.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Comic Cuts -23 August 2019

Today's Comic Cuts has a soundtrack. Click on the play button and read on...

Forty years ago today, SeaCon '79 opened at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton. My first ever convention. My memories of those five days are mostly that I was hungry for the last three because I spent almost all my money in the dealer's room on days one and two. And I had a bag of books stolen on the second day.

I attended quite a few talks and at one of them Arthur C. Clarke sat next to me and I didn't notice as the talk had already started and I was concentrating on that. It was only when it ended and people started crowding towards my seat that I realised who was sat next to me. I credit Clarke above all others for getting me into science fiction, his stories appearing in each issue of Speed & Power where I devoured them. I had read SF before—I'd definitely read Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, quite a few of John Creasey's Dr Palfrey novels, and some of the James Blish Star Trek novelisations... I was a fan of the TV show and other SF shows on television, particularly The Champions and Thunderbirds—but discovering Clarke shortly before my 12th birthday, turned me into a rabid SF reader.

I spent the summer of '74 reading everything by Clarke at our local library and the "big" library (as I called it) in Chelmsford, and once I'd run out of Clarke, discovered Asimov and others via Clarks book shop and the second hand bookstall at Chelmsford market. Over the next couple of years I became a member of the British Fantasy Society and the British SF Association, but wasn't particularly active. The World SF Convention, however, was too big an event to miss... my chance to meet some of my favourite authors. Sadly, I don't really remember much about meeting even the people who autographed my convention book. Clarke was gracious but about to be surrounded so had no time to answer questions; Alfred Bester I remember because he found Theodore Sturgeon's odd symbol ("move on to the next question," Sturgeon explained) pretentious, so he made up one of his own. But I met Hal Clement and Larry Niven, two of my favourite authors of hard SF, and I have no recollection at all. Mind you, what sort of conversation could this 17-year-old schoolboy have had with them or, say, John Brunner, who had his first novel published when he was 17, or Robert Silverberg, then celebrating 25 years as a published author.

What I do remember is attending Lionel Fanthorpe's talk on writing for Badger Books, Bob Shaw's serious scientific lecture and watching the American audience members listening for the first time to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was playing in a small room to an overpacked audience on rotation. The cassette tape must have been worn out by the end. I also remember the generosity of people like Gay Haldeman (wife of Joe Haldeman), who kept me fed at one of the parties after I confessed that I hadn't eaten anything all day to preserve what little cash I had left. Every plate of nibbles that came round came to me first!

I mentioned last week that, during our internet blackout, I'd taken the opportunity to finish scanning family photographs that my Mum has. I also kept the scanner busy with a few boxes of old film magazines that had been living in boxes ever since we moved. Unfortunately, because there was no way (at that point) for me to upload new items for sale on Ebay, I very quickly ran out of space to pile them up.

While I was digging around I re-discovered some books that had been missing for a decade. They went onto the wrong shelf when we moved in and had another layer of books stacked in front of them... and that's where they've been ever since. The books are old Digit Books from the early 1960s, including a number of war novels that I believe are all by the same author, namely Macgregor Urquhart. He has quite a distinctive style and a number of tricks to speed up the writing process, including large chunks of dialogue and the use of sound effects.

The sound effects aren't unique to Urquhart as his editor also began using them on occasion, and this had me foxed when I first spotted it some years ago. However, as I had time to study the books a bit harder, it became possible to distinguish between the two and I'm now confident that I've separated out the works of the two authors – at least as far as the books I own go. I need to study a bigger pool of Digit originals before I can be confident that I've found them all.

I also need to find my copies of Combat Library (the text story library rather than the picture library), as Urquhart was a contributor under pseudonyms.

I mention this because I played around with producing a podcast about a week into our blackout, and used Urquhart as a subject. It will probably never see the light of day because it was unplanned, under-rehearsed and would have benefited from having access to the internet so I could check some facts. Still, I had a fun afternoon discovering how long I could talk without going "...er..." or "...um..." (not long) and how often I begin a sentence by saying "So...".

I scanned some of the vast pile of scans I'd accumulated when I was researching The Trials of Hank Janson so that I have them easily accessible on the computer when I come to eventually write my book Caught in the Act (working title) about events that led up to the revamping of the Obscene Publications Act. I did start writing a couple of bits: about the early career of Gerald G. Swan and the story of how American pulps were imported into the UK in the 1920 and 1930s, and what problems this caused.

I also started writing up some notes on Paul Renin, the romance author who had more destruction order issued against his books than any other author in the early 1950s (1,134 orders against 105 different titles) and revised an old essay on the earliest obscene publications trial aimed at a paperback publisher, which dates back to 1931.

I've since been taking a look at the growing popularity of nude photography in the 1930s and at the lives of some famous photographers of the era, from Roye to George Harrison Marks.

Some might have taken the opportunity to sort out the garden. I read some dirty books so old they can barely be classified as raunchy, and looked at "art" photographs of nudes which today wouldn't shock a maiden aunt. Each to their own.

I'm taking a quick look at The Boys below the pic. Look away now if you don't like spoilers.

Based on the Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson comic book, The Boys is an 8-part Amazon Prime serial, already renewed for a second season. It's set in a world where a number of real-life superheroes exist, the most famous of whom have been bought together by Vought International as the group The Seven, led by Homelander, an all-American hero, dressed in red, white and blue and topped off with a stars and stripes cape. He's also arrogant, egotistical and brutal.

His ex, Queen Maeve, despises him and has grown disillusioned with endless rounds of publicity events and corporate schmoozing. Others are just as screwed up: A-Train jacks himself up on Compound-V to keep his edge; The Deep is an ignorant rapist and Translucent a boorish pervert; newcomer Starlight doesn't know what she is letting herself in for when she joins the team following the retirement of Lamplighter.

Hughie Campbell's girlfriend dies when she steps into the path of speedster A-Train, who has been attending a bank robbery. He turns down the $45,000 offered as compensation by Vought and is found by Billy Butcher, who has his own reasons for hating the "Supes", blaming Homelander for the rape of his wife who went missing eight years earlier, her family believing she has committed suicide.

Butcher gathers together a small team—the 'Boys' of the title—to take down the Seven. They capture Translucent, whose invulnerable skin makes him impossible to kill... until they put C-4 up his backside. Translucent reveals to Hughie that A-Train was really with his girlfriend, not on a mission; Hughie detonates the C-4 when Translucent tries to escape.

Within minutes of starting the first episode you'll realise that the series is not fettered by good taste. Turning Hughie's girlfriend into a cloud of blood and meat and leaving him holding her hands... that's the point you either turn off or hunker down for one of the darkest, bloodiest, sweariest, funniest superhero tales ever told. There isn't a single character in the show, bar a few in supporting roles, that you'd call nice. Nearly everyone has their own self-centred agenda, even Hughie who is the "innocent abroad" character caught between a desire for revenge and his romantic interest in Starlight. By the end of the series, you might be seeing a few of them in a (maybe only slightly) different light. Fast-paced, crude and bloody, this won't be for everyone, but given the mood I've been in these past few weeks, it was just the tonic I needed.

(* I don't often post music, but I picked up the new Big Big Train album, Grand Tour, just before the internet went dark on us and it has been the joyous soundtrack to my internet-free days. It's their best album since English Electric and well-worth a listen if you don't know the band. 'Alive' is one of my favourite tracks on the album, although 'Voyager' has it beaten to top spot. If you like what you hear, give English Electric or The Underfall Yard a try.)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Commando 5255-5258

Brand new issues of Commando are out today! Featuring fighting desk clerks, hi-jinks in a Kingfisher seaplane, an undercover Nazi werewolf ring, and the return of Lord Peter Flint!

Last published in 1986, Lord Peter Flint headlined many issues of Warlord, from comics to codes, from letter pages to merchandise and a secret agent club.

His latest interpretation is from prolific Commando writer Iain McLaughlin, who has over 25 Commando issues, including two series, to his name in less than two years. McLaughlin, who was a diehard fan of Flint growing up, tackles the Warlord spy with ease, saying "The first issue of Warlord came out on a week when I was off school with a stinker of a cold. My dad bought me this new comic to cheer me up a bit – and also so he could read it himself. I read that issue of Warlord and I was hooked. After that, I read every issue for the next six or seven years. A huge part of what kept me reading was 'Codename Warlord' with Lord Peter Flint. He was part James Bond, part Scarlet Pimpernel and completely brilliant. The scripts and the art came together to tell wonderful, gripping stories that stick in the memory even to this day. When I was asked to come up with ideas to bring Lord Peter Flint to the pages of Commando, I leaped at the chance. Flint is a fantastic character with so much potential for the kind of fantastic adventure stories Commando is famous for. I hope the readers have as much fun reading Flint's return as I had writing it."

Lord Peter Flint is just the first in a series of characters from the archives to be brought back in the pages of Commando... but who they might be is top secret... coded messages to follow.  A second story featuring Codename Warlord will be appearing in four weeks.

5255: Codename Warlord

Commando presents Codename Warlord, the return of fan favourite character, Lord Peter Flint, to comic pages for the first time in over twenty years! Last published in Warlord in 1986, his latest interpretation is from prolific Commando writer, Iain McLaughlin, and beloved interior artist, Manuel Benet, both of whom were aficionados of the top agent in his Warlord heyday! Plus the issue has a special wraparound cover by Ian Kennedy!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5256: Nightmare Patrol

“I’m sick of it! Sick and tired of the whole flaming set-up!” Sergeant Jeff Ridley cried. He was tired of his desk jockey, pen-pushing job as a chief clerk of the Wessex Rifles and he had decided he didn’t want to sit out the war for a moment longer. Only,when it came down to it, the little man couldn’t find the courage to fight – and things quickly became a nightmare for Jeff.

Story: E Hebden
Art: Franch
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 720 (1973).

5257: Splashdown in the Pacific
Ken Rooney wanted the easy life as a US NAVY pilot flying a Vought OS2U Kingfisher, but that wasn’t meant to be – for very quickly Ken caught the attention of an Australian Group Captain with a nose for trouble. Soon, the odd pair were caught up in a reconnaissance mission that went very wrong – so wrong that only a prosthetic leg could save the day!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino


5258: Werewolf Mission

Some people don’t know when to let things go – and these Nazis could not take the hint. The Nazi werewolf fanatics weren’t going to let a small thing like the war ending stop their mission – even if they had to stay in an underground bunker for three years to await their moment!

Story: Staff
Art: Denis McLoughlin
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2671 (1993).




Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 21–22 August 2019.

Judge Dredd Megazine 411

Cover: Jake Lynch
JUDGE DREDD: RED QUEEN'S GAMBIT by Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, P.I. by Laura Bailey (w) Paul Williams (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DIAMOND DOGS by James Peaty (w) Warren Pleece (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE RETURNERS: CHANDU by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIV by Maura McHugh (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Pippa Mather (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: Interviews with Nick Landau, Doug Braithwaite; New Comics: The Vigilant: Legacy
Bagged reprint: Defoe: The Damned

2000AD Prog 2145

Cover: Chris Weston
JUDGE DREDD:  CONTROL by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME: FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISTA by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
SINISTER DEXTER: DOLORES 4 EVER by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
FUTURE SHOCKS: THE SWITCH by Erica Schultz (w) Liana Kengas (a) Simon Bowland (l)
JAEGIR: VALKYRIE by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Steel Commando by Frank Pepper & Alex Henderson
Rebellion Publishing ISBN 978-1781--8681-0, 22 August 2019, 164pp, £6.99. Available via Amazon.

A new collection of a forgotten 20th Century classic, presented in the popular digest format. With superhuman strength, bulletproof casing and an unstoppable resolve, the Steel Commando is the Allies’ ultimate weapon in the war against the Axis powers. There’s just one bug in his circuits - he’ll only take orders from Ernie Bates, the laziest soldier in the British Army! Watch ‘Ironsides’ and ‘Excused Boots’ Bates carry out thrill-filled missions in dangerous enemy territories! This fun-packed army adventure also includes an early comic strip crossover as the Steel Commando joins forces with the mighty Captain Hurricane!
    A minor glitch in the credits: Vince Wernham is credited as an artist, but was actually a script writer, probably writing only a few fill-ins or stories for annuals/specials.

Roy of the Rovers: Best of the 1960s by Derek Birnage, Joe Colquhoun, Fred T. Holmes
Rebellion Publishing ISBN 978-1781-08718-3, 22 August 2019, 148pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The sixties are a defining decade for Great Britain. London is becoming the cultural mecca of the world, the Beatles are dominating the music charts, and in 1966 England will lift the World Cup for the first time. It’s also a period of great turmoil for Melchester Rovers and their super-striker captain, Roy Race; from a saboteur within the club burning down the dressing room, an obsessed fan trying to ruin their cup run and the Rovers crash-landing on a small South American Island, the team will have to face down problems which threaten their very existence! But with Roy Race at the helm, Melchester Rovers are always equipped to overcome the odds.The skipper’s leadership, experience and all-important left foot keep the Melchester faithful singing, and may just secure the Rovers a place in the 1966 F.A. Cup Final against the mighty Eastoke! The swinging-sixties come to life in this action-packed footballing epic! Experience the highs and lows on and off the pitch with Roy and Melchester Rovers, brought to you by comics’ legend Joe Colquhoun and World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton.
    Reprints material from Tiger (19 Dec 1959-21 Jan 1961, 22 Jan-28 May 1966, and Roy of the Rovers Annual 1969. The opening story–involving fire-raising, a bank robbery, trips to the West Indies, South America and Italy, and a chance for Melchester to become First Division Champions–is drawn in robust style by Fred T. Holmes; the later run, involving a fervent fan named Nick Snarey who had turned against the Rovers, is drawn by Joe Colquhoun.
    It's worth a note that the cover was previously used on Titan's Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers a few years back.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Comic Cuts - 16 August 2019


This is the first comic cuts column for four weeks, the first to be written 30 days after our internet service died.

At mid-day on Wednesday, 17 July, our telephone and broadband provider, Talk Talk, switched us over to a new fibre connection. They sent an e-mail confirming the new service was live (see above). Unfortunately, it wasn't anything of the kind.

Unaware that they had switched because we didn't receive the confirmatory email, I thought it was just a glitch and left it for a few hours. When four o'clock arrived with no return of service, I phoned Talk Talk to find out what was going on, and a month of frustration began... and the problem is still not resolved.

We were initially told that the problem would be fixed within 24 hours, possibly up to 72 hours. When I called on Saturday (20th July) after the 72 hours had elapsed I was told that the time didn't start until the day after my call and weekends were excluded. When I phoned the following Tuesday (23rd July) I was told it would be an additional 48 hours and I would receive a call from Talk Talk.

There was no call back. This was the first of half a dozen calls that have been promised over the past few weeks that Talk Talk have failed to meet. Nobody at the call centre in the Philippines could answer the simple question: Why was the system not working? I heard that the problem was a hydra cable, a problem at the exchange, that there had been an "infrastructure event" at the local cabinet, that BT Openreach had sent out the wrong engineer (a bit of a "wrong kind of snow" excuse if ever there was one), and even, on a couple of occasions, that the case was resolved.

We had a Talk Talk engineer in the house on 1st August, and, as he could not find any faults, he – a nice guy called Phil – said that the various tests that had been done by Talk Talk on the line showed two problems: a problem at the exchange and an "authentication" issue.

A BT Openreach engineer was supposed to come round the next day. Nobody arrived. Apparently he'd been cancelled without anybody bothering to tell us.

This meant that a problem we'd raised about a loose wire at the box outside the house wasn't resolved. During last week they managed to miss three scheduled calls and I finally received a call back on Monday (12th August) to tell me that they were arranging yet another visit from a BT Openreach engineer for the next day. He turned up this time. Another very helpful guy who tested everything that he could between the house and the local cabinet and exchange and finding no fault whatsoever. He fixed the dangly wire, so that's at least something.

When I spoke to Talk Talk on Wednesday, they said they were escalating their response and a Talk Talk software engineer was being assigned to the problem within the next five days.

Whatever the engineer did, he did good, for at around 11.20am yesterday (Thursday, 15th August), after 29 days with our router looking like HAL, the little red dot turned white. Our spanking new unlimited fibre broadband line was live. I'm writing this on Thursday evening and the connection seems stable. One or two things are a little slow, but we've achieved download speeds of up to 2.4 mb/sec. Not the 40 mb/sec promised, but a start.

During the period it was down, we've had to come up with a few alternatives to keep going.

As you'll know, I have been selling stuff on Ebay for a couple of months. Well, that ground to a halt for a few days. I wasn't too worried back in mid-July... 24 hours... even 72 hours. Treat it as a bit of a holiday. I'd been sorting through some old family photographs, so it seemed like a good opportunity to scan the last of the pictures—a total of 163 photos which I also cleaned and tidied up.

I scanned a load of magazines and books in preparation of getting back to Ebay business. I dug out some old boxes and sorted through those, so I have a few dozens of film magazines that will also be making their way to Ebay eventually. There are boxes I've not had a chance to sort through because I simply ran out of space.

As the problem continued, I began to panic. Travelling into Colchester is an expense I couldn't afford, so I had to look locally for somewhere I could get a free connection to the internet. I'd bought a cheap tablet late last year and it has proved invaluable. For three weeks I was spending up to three hours a day working on it, piggybacking off the wifi at a local vegan restaurant for the cost of a cup of coffee.

I've already thanked them, but they earned what little publicity I can give them. So if you're ever in Wivenhoe, The Olive Branch in Station Road deserves your attendance. Pay them a visit. Pay them a few quid. You'll get fantastic service and very nice food in return.

When the restaurant started getting busy, I'd make myself scarce, so it was not the ideal place to work. The only other place I could find with free wifi was a pub, which, again, is not ideal. We needed to get connected at home.

By now July had turned into August. Mel, too, has also been struggling through all this, having to adapt to the lack of internet at home by looking up stuff at work and arranging chats with friends through Whatsapp rather than online. She did the research and we decided that our best bet was a dongle that 02 were offering which had quite a generous data plan.

Unfortunately, the shop was out of them and, when I called their customer store, we discovered that they would not have replacement stocks for over six weeks. Was this a problem?

Yes. Yes it was.

We then spent a fruitless few days with a SIM card, a borrowed smart phone and a newly created giffgaff account, trying to create a wifi hotspot in the house. Didn't work. The phone recognised giffgaff, but we could not get a network connection.

So we decided that we'd get a SIM from 02 and sign up to a pay-as-you-go plan. We went back to the shop we'd visited the week before and spoke to the same guy we'd talked to about the dongle. When we mentioned the six week waiting list, he asked us to hang on, went to the back room and emerged with a small box containing a mobile wifi device. They hadn't had one the previous week but this was just in.

And that's how I'm talking to you today. We signed up with 02 but can quit the contract at any time. We've had to buy the mobile device (about £35) but it's a small price to pay, albeit a price I could do without at the moment.

Our mate Iain had figured out how to get into my e-mail account, which had been inaccessible for some weeks. The account simply said I had 999+ emails, so I spent  a few days deleting what I could. Over 600 deleted messages later, the account still told me I had 999+ emails. The system could only show me so many, so the earliest mails were invisible to me until we fitted the wifi device. A few minutes later, we'd used up about 7% of our monthly allowance downloading 1,106 emails.

A lot of them were Ebay relistings and correspondence I'd managed to deal with on the tablet, but it still took the whole of Sunday and some of Monday to get it down to manageable levels. Amongst the mail was the weekly Commando and 2000AD updates, so I cobbled those together to keep the record of those releases going. I still need to add some cover for the Commando titles, but I'll get to that shortly.

What I've been up during my enforced break I'll come back to in another post. Briefly, I've been noodling around typing up some notes that are meant to be for a book I've been planning. For the moment, however, that will take a back burner while I try to re-establish myself on Ebay and flog a few Bear Alley books, as sales have been pretty bad of late.

It may take a week or two to get back to my normal output, so if I miss a day or two it'll be down to time, not the internet falling over again. I hope. If anything bad happens, I'll let people know via Facebook. It's worth a note that I posted updates on FB rather than here because I was able to access FB without problem. Blogger wanted me to authenticate the device I was using (my tablet) by sending me an e-mail... and, of course, I couldn't at that time read my e-mails. It was only last Friday that I was able to get into my backlogged mail server and prove who I was.

By the way, I'd like to send out a Thank You to the kind folk who got in touch, some via FB, some by e-mail (which I've only now been able to read) wondering what was happening and offering their support when they found out. To all those well-wishers, I offer my thanks.

Let's just hope the broadband doesn't collapse again. As I said on FB: If you believe in God, pray for us. If you believe in dogs, pet your dog for us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 14–15 August 2019.

2000AD Prog 2144
Cover: Cliff Robinson (col. Dylan Teague)

JUDGE DREDD:  CONTROL by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME: FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISTA by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIVISION: MARTYRS by Emma Beeby (w) Aneke (a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE by TC Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
JAEGIR: VALKYRIE by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

The Complete Future Shocks Volume 2
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08683-4, 15 August 2019, 272pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Tharg’s Future Shocks are one-off, twist ending, sci-fi thrills that have introduced many of the biggest names in the comic book industry through the pages of 2000 AD. The complete collection of mind-bending one-off sci-fi stories from The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic continues into the 1980s with the second volume of Tharg’s Futureshocks! Featuring early work by creators that went on to engrave their names into comics history, including Alan Moore, Brett Ewins, Colin Wilson, Dave Gibbons and Mick McMahon.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Whatever has happened to Bear Alley?

You may have noticed a lack of posts since the middle of July. We've had what BT Openreach describe as an "Infrastructure Event" at our ocal exchange, which they have been unable to fix for over three weeks. I'm currently managing my life -- Ebay being my current source of income -- via a local vegan restaurant, who are letting me sit in for a couple of hours a day when it's not busy, piggybacking off their wi-fi, for the price of a cup of coffee.

I had no access to email until earlier this week, so I've a lot to catch up on. Not quite sure how many -- I've deleted 600 mails and it still tells me there are 999+ left.

I'm making occasional updates to Facebook, which is easier to access than the blog which requires aa verification e-mail on a very slow system.

I'll try to post more news when I can. Hopefully we'll be back soon, but -- to give you an idea of the severity of the problem -- BT Openreach are saying they'll have things fixed "by August 29th" which would mean six weeks to resolve a problem.

I'll be back first chance I get.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Commando 5251-5254

Brand new issues are out on Thursday, 8 August! With Brandenburger raids on British soil, ‘Flying Eggs’ of the Luftwaffe, tennis court battles in Kohima, and a matter of life or death in bomb disposal!

5251: Radar Raiders

A German raid on the Isle of Wight… the British government thought they could cover it up, maintained that no jackboots ever set foot on British soil – but they were wrong. Imagine their shame when they found out that not only was the sleepy island raided by elite Brandenburgers, but it was with the help of British Soldiers!

Story: Russell Sheath
Art: Khato
Cover:| Keith Burns

5252: Komet!

The Messerschmitt Me 136 Komet was a formidable aircraft, a fast and agile rocket-powered interceptor. The Allies’ aircraft could barely catch what the German’s called ‘Flying Eggs’. But the Jerries hadn’t reckoned on an attack on their jet’s secret base coming from the ground!

Story: RA Montague
Art|: DS Gomez
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 714 (1973).

5253: Killer Cook

Bert Baker praised himself as a good cook, but when he was given some mega-hot chillies, he thought he’d spice up his sergeant’s meal, much to the sergeant’s dismay! And things were about to get even hotter in Kohima as the Japanese forces engaged the Allied soldiers in what would become a stalemate on the Battle of the Tennis Court!

Story: Richard Davis
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Neil Roberts

5254: One Wrong Move…

Two bomb disposal soldiers; one British, one German — each saving lives from the explosive menaces. You’d never think the two of them would ever meet, but CG Walker’s hand of fate intervenes and soon these two men find themselves needing each other’s expertise to save everyone in the radius!

Story: CG Walker
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2911 (1995).

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion Publishing releases for 7 August 2019.

2000AD Prog 2143
Cover: Tirnen Trevallion
JUDGE DREDD:  CONTROL by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME: FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISTA by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIVISION: MARTYRS by Emma Beeby (w) Aneke (a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE by TC Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ABSALOM: TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS by Gordon Rennie (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Ellie De Ville (l)