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Friday, November 29, 2019

Comic Cuts - 29 November 2019

I've spent the week almost wholly concentrating on a pitch for a project that I can't really talk about. I will say that it has been fun to work on as I've been looking at a couple of creators that I've never written up before.

Hopefully there will be some interesting news to follow. In the meantime, here's a review of
Stargate Atlantis. There are spoilers, so if you don't like that kind of thing, jump to the end of the column.

Quite some time ago, I spotted a couple of box sets of Stargate Atlantis going cheap and, as I knew Mel had watched and enjoyed the show, I thought I'd grab them for some future date when I would have time to watch them. Well, that time is now. I'm rather enjoying watching a few undemanding older shows (NCIS, Zoo) while Mel and I are trying to catch up on a bunch of shows, including the latest series of Spiral, and the newly adapted His Dark Materials, War of the Worlds, Vienna Blood... and then there were three new Trek Shorts and we're watching a kid's animated show called Hilda (which is delightful) and the comedy Motherland and trying to keep up with Have I Got News For You and QIXL and Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week and that new Dave Gorman show Terms and Conditions Apply... we're trying to cram in way too much tv into not enough time at the moment.

I never really followed the Stargate franchise even tho' I thoroughly enjoyed the original movie. When Stargate SG-1 started, I was editing Model & Collectors Mart, writing for SFX, Crime Time, Fortean Times, Making Money, Total Film,  compiling a news column for Illuminations (local comic shop mag.) and writing and editing a paperback fanzine PBO. I was younger (mid-thirties), fitter and full of enthusiasm. I wrote nearly half a million words that year and that didn't leave much time for watching television.

Stargate Atlantis arrived in 2004. I was no longer editing, but still contributing to Model Mart, writing obituaries for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, and working on The Trigan Empire and Storm reprints. That was the year The Trials of Hank Janson appeared. The old Odeon, which I visited regularly on Wednesday afternoons because you could get in for £2.20, had closed down two years earlier. I could have started watching it at that time, but I had too many other shows that I was enjoying. I'd not long discovered 24 and Spooks was still brilliant, and I was watching all of the CSI and Law and Order franchise shows.

Happy days!

Oh, yes, Stargate Atlantis. I still can't speak for SG-1, but Atlantis is a perfectly entertaining show that doesn't require you to know the mythology of the Stargate Universe. The premise is the discovery of a Stargate—a means of interstellar travel—built by a race known as the Ancients. An exploratory team discover that they have travelled to another galaxy and find themselves in the mythical city of Atlantis, built by the Ancients. However as the city powers up, it depletes the energy supply to the point that a return to Earth is impossible.

A team led by Colonel Sumner (Robert Patrick) use the Stargate to visit closer worlds in search of a power source known as a Zero Point Module (ZPM). They discover that populations on these worlds have been decimated by raids from creatures called the Wraith who harvest the life force from whole races. The mind-reading Wraith learn about Earth after Sumner is captured, the populous planet making it an inviting feeding ground.

A rescue mission to find Sumner is led by Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and Lieut. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks) who had led natives of the planet led by Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell) back through the Stargate. In attempting to rescue Sumner, Sheppard kills a wraith called The Keeper who reveals that their presence has awakened all of the Wraith from their hibernation.

Thus the situation is set up for the first season of stories, a mixture of exploration of nearby planets, discovering new races and reacting to the threat of the Wraith. Atlantis is commanded by Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) who sends out teams of soldiers and scientists (the latter including Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett)) in search of a ZPM that will give them the ability to protect Atlantis and make it back to Earth.

The first season of 20 episodes was enjoyable with a few stand out episodes: 'Childhood's End' sees the team meet a race that sacrifice themselves when they reach the age of 25 in order to keep their numbers below a level they will attract the Wraith; and the 2-part 'The Storm' / 'The Eye' sees the city invaded and captured as a monster storm threatens to destroy everything.

The season ended with Atlantis under attack from the Wraith and I'm looking forward to seeing how that story ends. I get a feeling that, with 100 episodes in total, the show may slip into something of a routine, visiting a planet, something happens, they have to get back to the spaceship/stargate; or the Wraith are coming and the team is racing against time to track down an energy source/weapon; or something has gotten into Atlantis and soldiers with guns at the ready search corridors. However much fun a show might be, custom can definitely stale it.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Commando 5283-5286

Roman Legions of the damned, the walking dead in France, murders in the dawn light, and a great escape from a prisoner of war camp in North Africa, all in brand new issues 5283-5286 — out today!

5283: Legions of the Damned

In 9CE, the Romans forged a path into the wild heart of the Germanian forests to unite the fierce tribes under the banner of the Roman Empire. However, the XVII Legion would not have everything their way as they walked into a ferocious Barbarian ambush. Their numbers annihilated and their Eagle stolen, the Legion’s commander Legionary Primus Pilus Decimus is one of the few survivors. Disgraced and betrayed by a fellow legate, Decimus had a plan to regain his destroyed Legion’s honour, reclaim its stolen eagle and get revenge, all in one fell swoop!

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Khato
Cover: Neil Roberts

5284: Escape from Tobruk

When you’re in the sprawling desert of North Africa, a compass is your best friend. But the compass in a British Matilda tank was off and only the newest recruit to Royal Tank Regiment Corporal Larry Holden knew why. He had to get this information to the top brass — only, he had just been captured by the Italians with his mate, Chunky Brown, and their only hope of escape was with a mysterious, shifty bloke who wouldn’t even tell them his first name.

Story: Lomas
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 786 (1973).

5285: Gaslight

Dead men walk again in Colin Watson’s ‘Gaslight’. They roam the halls of a chateau in Nazi-occupied France seeking revenge on the man who killed them — the ruthless Major Erich Guttman, murderer of British prisoners of war, French Resistance fighters and even his own German soldiers. But all is not what it seems as someone or something may have slipped something into his hot cocoa. With Tom Foster’s creepy second-ever Commando cover, you may want to sleep with the lights on after reading.

Story: Colin Watson
Art: Muller & Klacik
Cover: Tom Foster
 
5286: Shot at Dawn

“An eye for an eye.” That was the motive behind a killing spree that spanned two World Wars and across the high ranks of the British Army. It was a dastardly plot, so evilly conceived that it went undetected for decades until a Dornier bomber, shot down over England, flew straight into the isolated house of a recluse. His diary detailed facts about the murders — which had been ruled suicide, and the events leading up to the avenging spree — and Captain Ben Walsh of the Army’s Special Investigations Branch — was going to track down the murderer before he could kill again.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Phil Gascoine
Cover: Phil Gascoine
Originally Commando No. 2789 (1994).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

This week you can indulge in some wild weirdness and become a gloriously grotesque globe-trotter with Ken Reid's World Wide Weirdies.

This beautiful and bizarre illustration collection from the legendary British cartoonist (ir)responsible for the gloriously grotesque Faceache - released to coincide with the holidays - is filled with the most wonderful weirdness you could possibly hope to encounter - from The Petrifying Pyramid to The Houses of Horrorment, from The Gruesome Gondola to The Chew-EE 2!

World Wide Weirdies collects the almost weekly run of Reid's beautifully bizarre illustrations from IPC's Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake.

Usually displayed in colour on the back cover, they are among the most striking images to have appeared in British comics and represent a major part of this master artist's ouevre.

2000AD Prog 2159
Cover: Rob Davis

JUDGE DREDD: THE HARVEST by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Ken Reid's World Wide Weirdies Volume 1 by Ken Reid
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08692-6, 28 November 2019, 112pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

Glorious grotesques from around the globe! Beautiful and bizarre illustration collection from the legendary British cartoonist (ir)responsible for Faceache released to coincide with the holidays! World Wide Weirdies collects the almost weekly run of Reid's beautifully bizarre illustrations from IPC's Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake. Usually displayed in color on the back cover, they are among the most striking images to have appeared in British comics!

The Dark Judges – The Fall of Deadworld Book 2 by Kek-W (Nigel Long) & Dave Kend
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08693-3, 28 November 2019, 96pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

The terrifying sequel to the best-selling tale of Judge Dredd's greatest villains, Dark Judges! They are the four horsemen of the horror apocalypse, Dark Judges who declared that life itself is a crime. As they continue to turn their world into a necropolis, young Jess Childs rallies a team of survivors to rescue the one person who can help her prevent the death of the world! High body horror for fans of the iconic horror franchises SawDay of The Dead, and The Fly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire limited hardcover

Rebellion has announced a limited pre-order for the hardcover edition of the first volume of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire.

Available to pre-order exclusively through the Treasury of British Comics webshop until 4th December, this individually numbered 304-page special edition hardcover will ship in March 2020.

Featuring stunning artwork taken from crisp scans of Don Lawrence original artwork, this first volume includes a touching introduction from Liam Sharp (Green Lantern), who – along with Judge Dredd artist Chris Weston – was mentored by Lawrence early in his career.

Co-created by Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire merges the movie serials of the 1930s, Flash Gordon, John Carter, and ancient history into a sprawling, classic science-fiction epic. It has been named as a major influence by the likes of writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman), artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd), amongst many others. This special hardcover edition perfectly showcases the remarkable talent of Lawrence, who is rightfully regarded as one of the finest artists in British comics history.

Rebellion is offering this limited-time pre-order to give fans the opportunity to own a slice of history in a sumptuous hardcover that will have pride of place on any shelf.

A paperback collection of volume one will also be available in March from all good retailers and comic book stores – the first time the series has been collected in a mass market edition.

Originally published in the anthology title Ranger from September 1965, and Look and Learn from June 19966 until April 1982, the series told the story of an alien empire on the planet Elekton that was heavily influenced by history, particularly that of the Roman Empire. Created by Mike Butterworth, who died in 1986, and artist Don Lawrence, who died in 2004, the series’ mix of political intrigue and Lawrence’s lush painted artwork won a host of fans worldwide, and proved to be highly influential, inspiring a generation of comic book creators with its depth and beauty.


Although the Trigan Empire has seen only limited English-language release it remains one of the most popular comic series in Holland and Germany, with over two million albums sold.

The limited edition Don Lawrence cover hardcover of volume one of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire is available to order now from www.treasuryofbritishcomics.com, until 4th December.

To the left is Chris Weston's retailer variant cover, which Rebellion described by them thus:

With this special cover - available only from selected comic book stores - the artist on Judge Dredd, The Filth and The Invisibles has paid tribute to the inimitable work of the legendary Don Lawrence, artist on Trigan Empire - one of the finest comics creators in British comics history, and Weston's mentor early in his career.

The retailer variant hardcover with Chris Weston cover will be available to buy from Forbidden Planet, Forbidden Planet International, OK Comics, Book Palace, and other selected stockists.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sticking It to the Man

The latest book from Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, following on from Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats, is a study of countercultural pulp and popular fiction paperbacks of the 1950s,’60s and ’70s. The title, Sticking It to the Man, hides a smorgasbord of revolutionary fiction that sprang from the growth of anti-authoritarianism in the decades after the Second World War, when consumerism pacified the middle-classes but made many aware of the inequalities of life.

The Sixties especially became the decade of dissent with protests rising in campuses and spilling out onto the streets in the form of peace marches against the H-Bomb, against Viet Nam, marches in support of black rights, of gay and lesbian rights, the rise of the Black Panthers and the White Panthers—all of which coincided with the post-War decline of pulp magazines and the growth of paperback publishing as the chief outlet for the pulpier end of the market. At the same time, rulings brought down by courts in a number of obscenity cases offered new protection for the publication on novels about taboo subjects, including prostitution, interracial relationships and homosexuality.

With some publishers happy to push the envelope to make their otherwise niche books stand out, writers found their subjects in the headlines of newspapers—not always the best source of accurate information, but certainly a good guide to what people were talking about and what authors who could turn a book around quickly should be writing about to take advantage of the zeitgeist.

Between them, the 26 contributors to this volume cover a bewildering range of topics. The opening essay looks at the works of Chester Himes, a crime writer who created police officers of colour tackling crime against a structure of white power. This is followed by essays on gay fiction in the days when homosexuality was considered deviant; E. R. Braithwaite’s ground-breaking To Sir, With Love; lesbian pulp novels; a look at John Rechy’s City of Night; and a study of black archetypes in crime novels, which also touches on Chester Himes’s novels.

The book continues to build up a picture by supplying its readers with a jigsaw of articles, features—some on individual authors, others on broader subjects—and interviews with Nathan Heard, M. F. Beal, and Australian publisher Gerry Gold.

As someone who is more familiar with British publishing and British authors of this era, some of the articles have more resonance. ‘Ferment in Fiction’ looks at Britain’s Angry Decade and works by Alan Sillitoe, Simon Raven and a handful of others; and there’s some discussion of Petra Christian and a number of Jim Moffatt’s more female-oriented novels as by J.J. More, Leslie McManus and the Virginia Box series published under his own name.

Other articles covered some novel areas completely new to me: Australian industrial novels; the works of Robert Deane Pharr, Wally Ferris, Donald Goines, Roosevelt Mallory, Jo Nazel, Vern E. Smith, Dambudzo Marechera; and the Dark Angel series, to name a handful. Some were on authors I was aware of but have never read: Iceberg Slim; Joseph Hansen; and Mike Barry (Barry N. Malzberg’s pen-name for the Lone Wolf series).

The breadth and depth of the book should be recommendation enough, but for a collector there’s also the joy of looking at the 350 or so covers that are reproduced, and that it reminds me that I have a handful of Shaft novels by Ernest Tidyman but I’ve never found the right time to read any of them. Having read the lengthy section on Tidyman’s books,  and the article of vigilantes of the seventies, I think I’ll have to dig out my Dirty Harry and Death Wish novels, put them on a pile with the Shafts and make time.

(P.S. The introduction makes clear that there is to be a third volume, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1960 to 1985. Now that's a book I need to read!)

Sticking It to the Man: Revolutions and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 by Andrew Nette & Iain McIntyre. PM Press ISBN 978-1629-63524-8, December 2019, 319pp. Available via Amazon.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Comic Cuts - 22 November 2019

A shorter than usual column today. We've had an electrician working in the house for a couple of days this week, which has meant switching the power off to either my computer, or the hub that connects us to the internet, or both. Since I'm not a smartphone owner and have only the most basic tablet around, I've been cut off from work and have found myself in the days in between playing catch-up.

We do now have a nice, up-to-date and (more importantly) safe electrical system—the house wasn't grounded, for instance, and we now have wiring that will take an electrical surge or lightning strike out of the house to a grounding rod where it can dissipate safely. We've had a couple of lights replaced because they were becoming dangerous, mostly through age where fittings had loosened over the years, which meant that any attempt to put in a new bulb would twist and rub the wires together. This was causing new bulbs to blow in one light, which is what started this whole shenanigan in the first place.

We have a new fuse box. One of the old fuses had at some point had the fuse wire replaced with some other wire the thickness of a coat-hanger, which explains why it never blew and why the master fuse for the house tripped out instead.

In between, I've been trying to dig out old scans, pitch a few book ideas and I'm working up a pitch for an even bigger project. I'll have to leave you with that teaser for now.

The review below contains spoilers, so if that's something you dislike, jump to the end of the column.

Zoo has come and gone without making any great impact on the world, which is a shame. Originally broadcast on CBS in the summer of 2015, it ran for three seasons before being cancelled not long after the last season ended in the autumn of 2017.

Its origin is a 2012 novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, who have collaborated on a dozen novels and a Manga-style comic book, although I have a vague memory of reviewing Ledwidge's first solo novel (The Narrowback) for Crime Time twenty years ago. The review was not brimming with compliments. As I'm no big fan of Patterson, this doesn't bode well.

I can't speak for the novel, but the TV series was recommended to me and I picked it up out of curiosity because the premise sounded interesting. Across the world, animals are starting to act aggressively and attack humans. More, their behaviour appears coordinated: a pride of male lions seems to have developed a long-range communication; bats attack electrical transformers and settle on solar panels; domesticated suburban cats cluster in trees; and birds bring down aircraft.

A small team, made up of Jackson Oz (James Wolk), a zoologist, his friend, safari guide Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anzie), a French intelligence operative Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke), a veterinary pathologist, and investigative journalist Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), begin to piece together clues that lead them into a battle with a huge corporation, Reiden Global.

Jaimie is convinced that something in their pesticides is behind the outbreak of deadly animal behaviour, although she has personal reasons that might be clouding her judgement. She meets Mitch, brought in to investigate an attack on zookeepers at Los Angeles Zoo, and convinces him to help her investigate. Meanwhile, in Botswana, Jackson rescues Chloe but almost loses Abraham in the process. The three are introduced to the other two by a Mr. Delavenne, who tells them that a pandemic has started.

A bizarre turn of events happens in a prison, where guards are attacked by wolves. One prisoner seems to have control over the pack, which allows him to escape.

By this point I was hooked. It's one of those shows that's the TV equivalent of a page-turner novel. Breaking up the group so that multiple investigations can be carried out at once means that the storyline cuts from one team to another, keeping the plot and the pace flowing. Although the whole thing was shot in Canada, the storyline has a global scale and British Columbia stands in for everywhere from Alabama to Africa. The high action quotient also means that you don't get much of a chance to pick the plot apart... you just go along with notions like the "defiant pupil" that make beasts look like coke addicts and the "mother cell" which is the main McGuffin for the 13-part first season.

For sheer entertainment value, you can do a lot worse. Now I have to find season two...

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Purita Campos (1937-2019)

Artist and illustrator Purita Campos, best known for her work on the long-running weekly strip 'Patty's World', which was translated to great acclaim and success abroad, died on Tuesday, 19 November, at the age of 82. She has been described as probably the most popular creator in Spanish comics.

'Patty's World' debuted in Princess Tina on 31 July 1971, in colour from June 1972, and continued in the merged Pink and Tina for  another six and a half years. After a year in Mates and Pink, the strip was relaunched in Girl in 1981 and ran until April 1988.

Its star was Patty Lucas, a frank, honest, shy, sensitive freckle-faced teenager who engaged her audience through first person narrative, allowing them to see her inner thoughts and even speaking directly to them through captions  ("Dunno about you, but I always feel so shy and awkward when I have to face a lot of strangers..."). The outlook of the strip was more modern than the traditional British schoolgirl story. Patty faced many real-life situations, loved fashion, had problems with her school friends and family, especially older sister Carol and her array of ex-boyfriends.

The freedoms that were natural to a teenager in 1970s England were not always available to Spanish readers. Going out to parties and freely mixing with boys would have been unthinkable. "It was not all romance and kisses," Campos explained in a 2014 interview. "Things were also happening on the street. [Spanish readers] liked it a lot as it was a window to a different world than Franco's Spain. Girls went out at night without a second thought. Here they would not leave without their mother. [Patty]'s readers would have loved to live like her"

The stories and characters were allowed to evolve over time. Patty was around 13 when the strip began but grew older as time passed. When first introduced, Patty's mother was already widowed, her husband Bill (a newspaper journalist) having died in an accident, but she is coming to terms with her loss and becomes romantically involved with "uncle" Ted Parsons, a policeman whom she subsequently marries. Cathy and Ted have a daughter, Laurita.

Family problems were a staple of the strip and readers were introduced to Francis, Patty's grandmother, Eddy Lucas, her father's twin brother, the black sheep of the family, Cousin Maggie ("Maggie the Mouse") and adventurous aunt Marga. Sister Carol eventually marries—Kerry, a doctor—but her problems are never over.

The strip proved hugely popular and was translated widely, running in the Netherlands (as 'Peggy' in the best-selling Tina magazine, 1971-86), Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Campos's native Spain, where it appeared as Esther y su mundo ['Esther and her World'] in Bruguera's Lily magazine (1974-81), helping that magazine sell up to 400,000 copies a week, and then in Esther (1981-86).

Although the strip remained popular with girls, sales of comics drifted inevitably downwards, and the teenage girls' market all but vanished by the early 1990s. Campos and her husband established an art gallery, whose success prompted her to set up a small art school in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, which attracted 150 students, but was drawn back into comics when Esther was reprinted and, when they came to an end, new stories were demanded. These featured an older, more mature Esther of around 40, a divorced nurse with her own teenage daughter, in stories written by Carlos Portela. 

This revival brought attention to the lengthy career of Esther's artist, and Purita Campos's work became celebrated. She had won the 2004 Haxtur Award for Autora que Amamos [author we love] at the Saló Internacional del Còmic del Principat d'Astúries Gijón. In February 2010, theMinistry of Culture in Spain awarded Campos the 2009 Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes [Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts]. In 2013, she was awarded the  Gran Premi del Saló Internacional del Còmic de Barcelona. An exhibition of her work was organised in Barcelona in 2014 and further exhibitions have been held in Gijón, La Massana, La Coruña, Madrid, Granada, Ávila, and Huelva. In 2016, the Associació d’Autores de Còmic [Association of Comics' Creators] awarded her the Premi Honorific. 

Born in Barcelona, on 18 August 1937, Purificación Campos Sánchez—usually shortened to Purita or Pura Campos—studied at Barcelona's Escuela de la Llotj for seven years, having developed a love for fashion through the pages of Vogue and Harper's that her mother, a dressmaker, brought home. She first worked as an illustrator and costume designer for various fashion magazines. She also attended the Insitut del Theatre, training under Mario Cabré, the bullfighter and actor who was romantically linked to Ava Gardner. While she did not continue her interest in acting, the training was useful to her in developing movement in her comic strip figurework.

After meeting at a bar, Campos's brother mentioned to cartoonist Manuel Vázquez, a leading figure in Spanish comics, that his sister was an artist. Invited to visit Editorial Bruguera, Campos took her portfolio to the offices the next day but Vázquez was not there. Instead, she met Victor Mora who liked her work and asked her to begin drawing for their magazines immediately, beginning with covers for Can Can, including Dalia (1959), Sissi Novelas Graficas (1961), Blanca (1961), Can Can (1961) and Celia (1963). 

Her work included strips, amongst them "La Historia de May Dunning" ["The Story of May Dunning"] written by Alberto Cuevas and Alicia Romero, illustrations and fashion drawings. Although her work was met with praise, in this very male-dominated world it was tempered with comments such as how good she was "for a woman" ["¡Qué bien lo haces para ser mujer!"]. "Everything was dominated by men," she would later say. "The man was always right because he was a man and the woman had to shut up. And the only way I had to make myself respected was through my work."

She was on the point of giving up comics, unhappy with the endless stream of romantic stories based on sketchy scripts (including material for UK magazines Marty, Mirabelle, Boyfriend, Romeo etc.), when she began producing more substantial artwork for foreign markets through the Bruguera agency Creaciones Editoriales. She began painting covers for Dutch Tina magazine, irregularly from 1970, then every cover between 1973 and 1983.Creaciones director Rafael González asked her to draw samples for a weekly strip for the UK market, which she originally declined, later saying that "I did not feel prepared, but he insisted."

The samples led to her being teamed up with writer Philip Douglas to create 'Patty's World', the two-page strip which would keep her busy for the next two decades. She also occasionally contributed to other British girls' magazines Mirabelle, Valentine ("The Salon of Secrets", 1973) and Melanie ("Life with the Logan's", 1973-74).

In 1974, she also began drawing the title character for Tina magazine in the Netherlands, scripted by Andries Brandt, which she continued until 2007 when it was taken over by Edmond. In 1978 she co-created another teenage character, Gina, with writer Frank Elliot, the pseudonym of Francisco Ortega, whom she later married. Gina was similar in nature to Patty, showing her daily life with family,  friends and youthful first loves, the stories seeing her grow from teenager to womanhood. Gina was collected in 2005.

 In 1989, they created "Dulce Carolina" for TBO magazine (Ediciones B). Around that time, she also worked on a comic strip adaptation of Johnanna Spiry's Heidi.

The New Adventures of Esther revived her comic-drawing career and the first volume, published in 2006, sold 20,000 copies. Collections of the original strip began appearing from Ediciones Glénat in 2007.

In 2011, the City Council of Getafe honored Campos by dedicating a street in the municipality to her.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)


Rebellion recently announced via the Nerdist website that they will be publishing Best of 2000AD from April 2020.

2000 AD today announces it is launching a brand new title in April 2020 – Best of 2000 AD – as a new 12-issue US-format, perfect-bound series featuring a selection of the most incendiary and exciting new science-fiction comics from the legendary UK publisher. Launching in April 2020, Best of 2000 AD is intended as the ultimate 2000 AD mix-tape – an anthology of full-colour stories specially chosen to be accessible to a whole new generation of comic readers who may never have picked up 2000 AD in its traditional format.”

“The first new major monthly title from the British publisher in almost 30 years, the first 100-page issue will be headlined by a self-contained 48-page Judge Dredd adventure and supported by three of the stand-out series from the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’, primarily focusing on the critically-acclaimed Rebellion era. The title boasts brand-new covers from an all-star line-up of New York Times best-selling and Eisner award-winning artists including Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked and The Divine), Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy), Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), and Annie Wu (Hawkeye), with more to be revealed. The entire 12-issue volume will feature design by highly-acclaimed designer Tom Muller (House of X/Powers of X).”

“There are very few comics that have had – and continue to have – the impact of 2000 AD,” said 2000 AD editor Matt Smith. “But we often hear, ‘where do I start reading?’. With Best of 2000 AD that question has a brand new answer – accessible, contemporary, high-quality story-telling, available every month direct from your local comic book store. There’s never been a better way to discover some of the best modern comics.”


Today's releases from Rebellion.

2000AD Prog 2158
Cover: Nick Percival

JUDGE DREDD: THE HARVEST by Michael Carroll (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 414

Cover: Dylan Teague

JUDGE DREDD: FATHER'S DAY by Rory McConville (w)  Ian Richardson (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
TALES OF THE BLACK MUSEUM: BIG MARLYN by Laura Bailey (w) Brian Corcoran (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: THE DEAD RUN by Maura McHugh (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: Interrogation: Steve MacManus; New Books: Red Mosquito, Gothic For Girls; Judge Dredd: The Crime Files game
Bagged reprint: Damnation Station Vol.1

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Comic Scene #10 (January 2020)

The big news for Comic Scene is the introduction of a new comic supplement to its pages. Corker has be trailed for a few issues, so its arrival isn't unexpected. A 24-page all-ages comic is a nice idea, but will live or die on the strength of the strips.

Richard Bruton takes a cold, hard look at whether your comic shop is likely to survive based on a simple test. Bruton reveals some astonishing figures for the sale of graphic novels aimed at children and argues that these need to be available in your shop, or you're cutting off a huge revenue stream.

There follows 10 pages of Rok of the Reds, reprinting the opening episode of the John Wagner / Alan Grant aliens meet football comic drawn by Dan Cornwell. For an independent comic, albeit written by two of our best, it became a surprise hit and a sequel (Rok the God) has just started publication. If you've not seen it before, this is your chance to play catch-up.

There is an extract from Julia Round's new book about Misty and other girls' comics, Gothic For Girls (University Press of Mississippi, 2019), aimed at academics but, from this brief look, very accessible to the everyday reader who has an interest in the subject. The opening extract chiefly deals with "The Cult of the Cat" and I assume that somewhere in the book it will mention that "Homero" is a pen-name and not the artist's real name.

There follows 8 pages of Lady Flintlock (by Steve Tanner and Andy Summey), follow-up to the fine highwayman yarn from previous issues of Comic Scene, and 24 pages of Corker. The latter is made up of three strips: Gallant and Amos by Rob Barnes, about a medieval knight and his dragon; Slash Moron by Bambos Georgiou and the late Jim Hansen, originally published in the digital comic Aces Weekly; and Megatomic Battle Rabbit by Stu Perrins and Israel Huretas, about an alien member of the Intergalactic Clean-Up Corp. who crashlands on Earth. The one-page Whackoman  by Marc Jackson wraps up the comic.

This issue concludes two features started last time with parts two of Steve Ray's interview with Andy Diggle (covering Batman, his work for French publisher Delcourt and ComiXology, and why he likes to control a script) and Russ Sheath's interview with metal musicians Scott Ian and Kirk Hammett.

There follows 6 pages of The Adventures of Captain Cosmic by Andy W Clift, an old-fashioned superhero yarn that wouldn't have looked out of place alongside CC Beck's Captain Marvel. (A review reveals that the series develops in interesting ways over its three (to date) issues.)

Alex Thomas (I believe) overseas what is still one of the best review sections currently around and there's the now regular Euro Scene review section.

Barrie Tomlinson wraps up with a look back at the 65th anniversary of Tiger, talking about some of the famous names that appeared in the paper over the years.

If you're here for the articles, you might feel that too much of the new issue – about 5/8ths – is dedicated to comics. Personally, I enjoyed all of them. 

Print copies can be had in newsagents for £5.99 per issue. Details about subscriptions can be obtained from Get My Comics: £29.94 for 6 issues (save £6 plus free digital copy); £55.20 for 12 issues (save £16.68 plus free digital copy). Digital copies can be had for £2.99, on £30 for 12 issues (save £5.88‬).

For other options, and for international rates for the print edition, visit the website.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Comic Cuts - 15 November 2019

I had a very interesting day out on Wednesday visiting Rebellion over in Oxford. I was there to chat about doing some work and some interesting ideas were floated. Hopefully further discussion will nail down a few things over the coming weeks, so I'll have some actual news for this column rather than my usual ramblings.

More to come.

We went to see Mitch Benn on Sunday, which has become something of a bi-annual event. I can't recall the first time we saw him, but the first time I reviewed one of his gigs here on Bear Alley was back in 2007, and I don't think that was the first time. The shows have evolved over the years, from the days of Mitch Benn and the Distractions, through solo shows that were chiefly built around albums of random songs, to shows that have a definite theme, e.g. 2014's Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle, and this year's Ten Songs to Save the World.

Something always seems to happen. We were there for the gig where black balloons drifted down from the roof during the set – a Goth band had been playing the night before and a few helium-filled balloons had gathered in the roof, slowly leaking; we were there for "Fenton", the instant song created the night that the deer-chasing dog went viral (2013), and, arriving early, stood outside in the hammering rain of Storm Clodagh (2015). This year's gig went off like a charm in comparison, even tho' Mitch was running late and we, again, standing in the queue outside as he pulled up and yelled his apologies.

Most of Monday morning was dedicated to chasing up Talk Talk regarding our compensation for the mess they made of transferring us to fibre optic broadband last July (see columns passim). We were out of action for a month and, despite Talk Talk having signed up to an automatic compensation scheme which is laid out on their website, we still haven't been reimbursed for the bills paid, nor the inconvenience suffered. We had already agreed on a sum that covered the latter half of July way back in August, but this was an all-new eighty minute struggle to agree a sum for the two weeks of August which they, at first, refused to cover. I started reading out what was written on their own website and it proved to be a persuasive argument as they suddenly discovered that, yes, it did need to be covered, came up with an offer that I accepted, and they have subsequently confirmed the arrangement in writing.

In between, in my efforts to sort through a lifetime's worth of collecting, I've dragged out some old boxes that have been living under the stairs for a decade, so I'll be posting a few books I've picked up for reference over the years. Some are like new, so keep your eye on my Ebay sales. There are still some nice Biggles paperbacks that I'm selling cheap.

There are Pennyworth spoilers in the review below, so skip to the end if you hate that kind of thing.

I was one of those people who thought Pennyworth was squeezing a franchise too far. The Gotham spin-off nobody asked for and nobody would want.

How wrong I was. I take it all back.

Set in an alternative England, we meet Alfred Pennyworth, a former SAS soldier now working as a bouncer at a London night club. Alfred (Jack Bannon) has hopes of setting up his own private security firm with SAS pals Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) and of dating one of the dancers, Esme Winikus (Emma Corrin). He meets Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), a billionaire operative of the CIA, and Martha Kane (Emma Paetz), an agent of the No Name League, both avowed enemies of The Raven Society. (That Thomas and Martha are the future parents of Bruce Wayne doesn't actually add anything to the show, and, in fact, hinders the "will they, won't they" of their relationship. They will. I rather wish we didn't know.)

The Raven Society is headed by Lord James Harwood (Jason Flemyng), who has his sights on taking over the country, deposing the government and, if necessary, replacing the Queen (Jessica Ellerby) with the "pretender" King, who was forced to leave the country when he married an American divorcee. The parallels to Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and their sympathies towards the Nazis, and with the rise of a Fascist political party similar to Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts, are plain, but Pennyworth is not simply the 1930s pushed three decades forward. Indeed, things are very different in 1960s London – there are public executions (the last public hanging was in 1868, the last hanging in 1964), armed constables patrol the streets and Jack the Ripper became an East End kingpin whose influence now rests in the hands of John Ripper (Danny Webb).

The battle between The Ravens and the No Name League escalates until Alfred and Dave Boy are independently hired to kill the leaders of the two groups, in what turns into one of the goriest moments in the whole series. It's a bloody show, although thankfully it doesn't dwell too much on the gore bar that one incident.

At the same time the show doesn't pull its punches and is not for kids. Esme is killed in an early episode, driving Alfred's actions for some while in directions you would not expect of a heroic lead character. There are situations that force him to make hard choices between saving his family and saving the nation.

Jack Bannon, a TV regular (Ripper Street, The Loch, Endeavour, Medici, etc.) was clearly asked to put on a Michael Caine accent – more Get Carter than Italian Job – and once you settle in, having Michael Caine in Sixties London again is something to be happy about. The action is dark but there's a certain levity to it, often around the actions of evil Bet Sykes, played with extraordinary relish by Paloma Faith, and her sister Peggy (Polly Walker).

The cast is simply extraordinary, with Anna Chancellor and Sarah Alexander becoming leaders of the two warring factions, Simon Day as a pub landlord, Coronation Street's Ian Puleston-Davies as Alfred's dad, and Felicity Kendall as a jailed mystic.

Although this is an American production, the creator and chief writer, Bruno Heller, is English, as is producer and director Danny Cannon, so there's more than a hint of The Avengers about the show – who else would you accompany to a quiet English village only to find it full of killers if not Steed and Mrs Peel? – and it will be interesting to see where it heads in season two.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Commando 5279-5282

Brand new issues out today!

5279: A Boy Goes To War

In World War One “as many as 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army…” according to the BBC. This Commando is inspired by them as the hero, Tom Cowrie, illegally signs on to do his part. Spurred on by his brother’s heroic letters, Tom runs away from home only to find out that the war is nothing like his brother had described, and in the harsh reality of the trenches he was just a boy who went to war.

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


5280: The Savage Sky

A stunning aerial Ian Kennedy cover sits atop this classic Commando issue from 1973! With amazing artwork by Mira depicting the Commando staple tropes of a reluctant hero and a pilot attached to a bomber squadron when he’d rather be flying fighters. In this case, Pilot Officer Andy Seymour is booted off Hurricanes and onto a mammoth Boeing Fortress – but Seymour will soon learn the flying beasts are equally as dangerous in the sky!

Story: Staff
Art: Mira
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 772 (1973).


5281: On Your Bikes!

Ferg Handley tackles comedy in this World War One story. The Army Cyclist Corps wasn’t Lieutenant Arthur ‘Gormless’ Gormley’s first choice to join, but he was determined to do his bit — even if he did fall off his bike again and again. He had originally wanted to join the cavalry but that’s a different story!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Morhain & Defeo
Cover: Ian Kennedy


5282: The Paras Are Here!

Phil Gascoine’s fiery cover for ‘The Paras Are Here!’ is very emblematic of McDevitt’s tumultuous plot within, which focuses on two sergeants before D-Day who lay the groundwork for the invasion. Sergeant Joe Cougan is already stressed, but when the young, clumsy PIAT gunner, Private Andy Bruce, is around Joe’s stress levels go through the roof! And it’s only made worse when his rival Sergeant Sam Gleeson, tells him to cut the kid a break!

Story: McDevitt
Art: Keith Shone
Cover: Phil Gascoine
Originally Commando No. 2544 (1992).


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

This week's releases from Rebellion.

2000AD Prog 2157
Cover: Cliff Robinson/Dylan Teague (cols)

JUDGE DREDD: GUATEMALA by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEFOE: THE DIVISOR by Pat Mills (w) SK Moore (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
HOPE: UNDER FIRE by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: DOOMED by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Operation Overlord by Michaël Le Galli, Bruno Falba (w) David Fabbri, Christian Dalla Vecchia (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08734-3, 14 November 2019, 78pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

An international bestseller, this stunning graphic novel - translated from French for the first time - tells four extraordinary tales of heroism set during the World War II Normandy landings on D-Day, June 6th 1944. 6th June 1944 D-Day, the allies launch a great offensive in Normandy in order to definitively rid Europe of the Nazi terror. The strategic and human scale of the operation, led by General Eisenhower, is unrivalled. No less than 160,000 men will be parachuted and land on five beaches in the northern France. Thus begins Operation Overlord.

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 34 by  John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Gordon Rennie, Robbie Morrison, Alan Grant (w) Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson, Cam Kennedy, Jock, Henry Flint, Colin MacNeil, Frazer Irving, Cliff Robinson (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08691-9, 14 November 2019, 272pp, £19.99 / $24.99. Available via Amazon.

The latest incendiary volume of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files, collecting the adventures of the iconic British character, presented in chronological order, complete and uncut! Former foes with raw grudges pour out of the woodwork when a dimension jump gets hijacked; an assassin carries out executions under the direct orders of the Chief Judge! Featuring art by comics superstar Jock (The Batman Who Laughs)!

Roy of the Rovers: Transferred by Rob Williams & Lisa Henke
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08750-3, 14 November 2019, 112pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

ROY OF THE...TYNECASTER? Thanks to a mighty team effort, Melchester Rovers have reached the dizzy heights of League One. For Roy Race however, the final had a bittersweet taste to it both he and Paco Diaz have been transferred to Melchester Rover's bitter rivals, Premiership champions, Tynecaster.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sexton Blake

For nearly a century, Sexton Blake was the most written about character in British fiction. He starred in approximately four thousand stories by nearly two hundred authors. A cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones, he was a publishing phenomenon, read by young and old alike.

SEXTON BLAKE AND THE GREAT WAR
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08782-4, 16 April 2020, 430pp, £8.99
This collection is comprised of three stories from Union Jack magazine dating from World War 1 and the lead up to it:

THE CASE OF THE NAVAL MANOEUVRES by Norman Goddard (1908).
Sexton Blake catches the Kaiser spying on British naval manoeuvres, dangles from a Zeppelin, impersonates a German soldier, fights the Kaiser on top of a train, is thrown into the Thames by Anarchists, and forces the German Emperor into a confrontation with the British Prime Minister.

ON WAR SERVICE by Cecil Hayter (1916).
Sexton Blake ventures into occupied Holland to deliver a vital despatch to a secret agent, fights enemy spies, escapes from a burning house, is pursued by the German cavalry, disguises himself as a simple labourer, captures and impersonates enemy agents, faces a firing squad, and makes a daring escape through a secret tunnel.

PRIVATE TINKER — A.S.C. by William Murray Graydon (1915).
Tinker makes a mistake, joins up under an assumed name, is sent to the front line, evades enemy troops, and is blown up. Blake enters a battle zone and gets shot. Tinker flies a reconnaissance mission, crash-lands behind enemy lines, causes an enemy supply train to crash into a German troop carrier, liberates French prisoners, rescues a colonel, foils attempted sabotage, and is declared a hero.

SEXTON BLAKE VERSUS THE MASTER CROOKS
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08789-3, 25 June 2020, 430pp, £8.99
This second collection is comprised of three stories from Union Jack featuring characters from the first wave of master crooks.

THE CASE OF THE MAN IN MOTLEY by Anthony Skene (George N. Philips) (1919).
Sexton Blake literally crosses swords with the most stylish of his enemies; engages in a car chase; discovers a murdered clown; fights on the brink of an incinerator; and recovers a stolen diamond.

PRINCE PRETENCE by Lewis Jackson (Jack Lewis) (1921)
A labour leader is abducted and impersonated by Leon Kestrel; the French lottery is won; Sexton Blake's efforts are sabotaged and he is arrested; an imposter is exposed; a master crook is caught; a grotesque dwarf is visited; Tinker is kidnapped for ransom and threatened with being walled up in the Paris catacombs; Blake comes to the rescue; and the villains, though defeated, escape.

THE WONDER MAN'S CHALLENGE by Edwy Searles Brooks (1921)
Waldo the Wonder-Man robs a bank, climbs a sheer wall, walks a tightrope, steals a biplane and a necklace, and challenges Sexton Blake to catch him. Blake puts Pedro on the trail, spots a deception, and has a confrontation in a pub. Tinker picks a pocket. Waldo climbs up a chimney, swings onto a train, and flees defeated.

SEXTON BLAKE ALLIES
Rebellion ISBN 978-0781-08795-4, 6 August 2020, 280pp, £8.99.
Comprised of three more "Golden Age" stories from Union Jack, in which Sexton Blake discusses the various reporters, adventurers, Scotland Yard men and private detectives with whom he worked.

THE CASE OF THE SEVENTH KEY by W. W. Sayer (1925)
A pocket is picked, Blake is deceived, a murder is committed, the Orient Express is boarded, Secret Service agent Granit Grant enters the fray, crown jewels are at risk, Blake is poisoned and left tied up on a railway track, horses are commandeered, and a chase ends in Prague.

THE PROBLEM OF THE DOUBLE FOUR by Gwyn Evans (1927)
An assassination fails, precious emerald's are stolen, Derek "Splash" Page gets a lead, a revolution brews, the Double Four starts plotting, a female impersonator takes Tinker to a haunted house, Blake falls through a trap door, and a king crook is revealed to be a real king.

TREE OF EVIL by Rex Hardinge (1932)
Sir Richard Losely is taunted by a disembodied voice and succumbs to poison, Lobangu has a prophetic dream, Blake acquires an additional assistant, a native uprising occurs, hungry crocodiles are evaded, battle is engaged, and a malicious spirit is exposed.

SEXTON BLAKE ON THE HOME FRONT
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08802-0, 1 October 2020, 250pp, £8.99
The fourth thrilling collection of classic stories welcoming back the adventuring detective as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes and as daring as James Bond.
    This collection is comprised of two Sexton Blake Library stories from the 1940s, focusing on the Second World War and the changing nature of his investigations in its aftermath.

THE MAN FROM OCCUPIED FRANCE by Anthony Parsons (1941)
A woman is wrongly condemned as a spy, her fiancé takes desperate measures, Sexton Blake detects a frame up, a nest of espionage agents is routed, a mission to occupied France is undertaken, Nazis are evaded, a dying man gives up his secrets, and a spymaster is exposed.

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL by John Drummond (John Newton Chance) (1945)
An unwelcome marriage proposal is made, a man doesn't know whether he's committed a murder, a mysterious house gives up its secrets, suspects are gathered and a theory expounded, Tinker is bound to an infernal mechanism, and shots are fired.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

DC Thomson releases

Fans of Starblazer have spent years asking for reprints of the classic pocket library title that ran between 1979 and 1991. Well, DC Thomson have now released a pair of titles as part of their new range of reprints that has so far included two volumes of Ramsey's Raiders from the pages of Commando. Unlike the Ramsey's volumes, these are not newly coloured, but reprinted in the original black & white.

Here are the details of those two recent releases... and if anyone cares to review them, I'll be happy to publish here on Bear Alley.

Ramsey's Raiders Volume Two
D. C. Thomson Media ISBN ???, 2019, 136pp, £14.99.
Commando presents Ramsey’s Raider’s Graphic Novel – Volume 2 and the return of the Special Raiding Force!
     The ragtag crew of mavericks commanded by the intrepid Captain Jimmy Ramsey are back again in full graphic novel format, its original black-and-white interior artwork reborn with dazzling colour! Plus, the Volume features the first of Ramsey’s Raiders stories by the alternative interior artist, Mike White.
     Published since 1961 by DC Thomson Media, Commando is Britain’s longest running war comic. The graphic novel brings together the third and fourth Raiders issues: #3869 ‘Ramsey’s Island Raiders’ and #3874 ‘The Raider’s Revenge’ reprinted with eruptions of colour by colourist, Scott Dunbar, and lettering by Grant Wood!
     The 136-page collection also includes biographies about the Ramsey’s co-creator and writer, Ferg Handley, interior artists; Mike White and Keith Page, and cover artist Ian Kennedy alongside Kennedy’s original covers.

Starblazer Volume One
D. C. Thomson Media ISBN 978-184535799-3, 2019, 132pp, £12.99.
Originally published between 1979 and 1991 by DC Thomson, Starblazer was the pocket-sized, Science Fiction comic, presenting action and adventure stories set throughout space and time, overflowing with alien alliances, wonderful worlds and tantalising technology. This graphic novel presents issues #45 ‘Operation Overkill’ from 1981 and #71 ‘Jaws of Death’ from 1982, refreshing and rescaling the artwork to full graphic-novel size, whilst retaining the charm of their original black and white format.
     ‘Operation Overkill’ provides a glimpse into some of British comic legend Grant Morrison’s earliest work, where Argentinian illustrator Enrique Alcatena’s artwork brings such imaginations to life in exquisite detail. Likewise, ‘Jaws of Death’ by D Broadbent showcases Mick McMahon’s instantly recognisable, clean and confident draughtsmanship. Together, they present some of the best of British Science Fiction in a highly-collectible and well considered format, appealing to a contemporary audience as well as fans of the original pocket-size publication.
     Supplemented by the original, full-colour cover art by Keith Robson for both issues, a fresh new wraparound cover by Neil Roberts brings these classic stories into a contemporary, yet familiar field.
     Bonus content comes in the form of a brief history of the well-loved cult comic with an Ian Kennedy Easter Egg in the mix, an exclusive interview with artist Neil Roberts, and insights from a conversation with Grant Morrison by Professor Christopher Murray. A must-have for Science Fiction and British comic fans alike.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Comic Cuts - 8 November 2019

David Roach, John Freeman, Jenni Scott and Julia Round talk comics
I don't get out to many conventions these days. If I had the money, I'd go to more, but for the past twenty or so years, I've saved whatever I could while I was working in order to write books that I want to write. I had a good few years in the nineties (editing and managing three magazines at one point, plus freelance work) which has financed quite a few years of not earning much. The noughties have been feast or famine, stockpiling as much as I could during the good years to finance Bear Alley Books. It might not be everyone's idea of a career, but it has allowed me to write about comics and lost authors without having to worry about the size of the audience.

With the UK Comic Art Convention coming to a close in the late Nineties, there were no dedicated national comic conventions for some time. Then others began to pop up, until now there are at least a dozen conventions, some large (Lakes, Think Bubble, the MCM Comic Con) and many more local and smaller scale events. John Freeman's Down the Tubes lists dozens of conventions.

Hiding out in the wilds of north Essex, I do sometimes feel a bit isolated from  the hubbub of comics research happening at various universities around the country (Dundee, Manchester, Brighton, to name just three), but a lot of the research is turning up on the internet first through the Comics UK Forum, and then websites like Misty comic.co.uk and A Resource on Jinty. John Freeman's Down the Tubes has been running since 1999, Lew Stringer's Blimey was established in December 2006 and my own Bear Alley beat it into the world by a few months, my first post appearing on 15 August 2006.

That first post explained the origin of the name – Bear Alley – and that I had spent 25 years trying to reconstruct some of the records that had once been held there. Thirteen years and some 5,000 posts on, we are still making discoveries. I wrote a post about some I and others were involved in back in 2015 which makes the point about how frustrating it can be just missing an opportunity to talk to someone about their work, or the work of a family member. When researching Boy's World I missed talking to its first editor's brother by three weeks. But the research continues and recently a new name, previously unknown, came to light. Although nothing is yet known about girls' artist Don Walker, it may now be possible to credit some of his work, strips like 'Backstage Betty' and 'Chained to her Racket' in Judy, and dozens of other strips in Debbie, Mandy, and Bunty.

This was, in part, what we were talking about last Saturday (well, I was... whether that came across I don't know). Comics Jam was a small gathering of forty or so people who have for the most part been involved in writing about comics, whether from an academic point of view or an obsessively fannish one (guess where I fall on the scale), preserving their memory and preserving them physically.

The symposium was held at the Cartoon Museum in Wells Street (off Oxford Street), London, which I had never visited since it moved. It now has an excellent gallery space to display more material, and I was told that there are plans to expand the amount of comic strip art to bring it up to around 50% of the artwork on display

Steve Marchant, Fanny Lefevre and other staffers worked tirelessly to keep the small but friendly crowd fed and watered. Along with Peter Hansen, who had the thankless task of herding the participants into the correct cat boxes and getting them to London, this little team deserve everyone's thanks for making the day pass so smoothly. I believe Chris Murray, who also had his own small team from the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies (University of Dundee) that included Megan Sinclair, Zu Dominiak and Anya Morozova, was also part of the organizers who did all the heavy lifting along with the Comics Research Hub (University of the Arts, London) – if I've missed anyone, my apologies.

After an introduction from Steve Marchant and an astonishing video trip around Peter Hansen's collection, panel one was chaired by Phillip Vaughan, and included Julia Round, Chris Murray, Jenni Scott, John Freeman and David Roach. The format was far chattier than I had expected (who knew academics would ignore the strict timetable laid out which included time for questions at the end 😀) and soon drifted into areas that I'd hoped to cover myself in the second round-table.

Typically, I had overprepared and had written an opening statement, introductions, and questions for various panel members. I should have known that panels can turn into a free-for-all and the topics were so broad (The Story of British Comics, Celebrating and Preserving British Comics) that they would allow a lot of topic-drift and could go anywhere. I think this actually turned out to be a good thing, and after a brief attempt to get it off to a (slightly) structured start to get us going, I tried to keep up the momentum of the first panel with the second.

With both panels overrunning, the schedule tightened towards the end of  the afternoon as Phillip Vaughan spoke to Dave Gibbons, Julia Round quizzed Posy Simmons and Peter Hansen managed a question or three aimed at Jonathan Ross, who came to the conversation live from Belfast via Skype as he had had a last minute change of plans.

The good news: the panels were recorded by Alex Fitch for Resonance FM and will be available at some point through the Panel Borders podcast. There's also a chance that Phillip Vaughan recorded some material for the Comics Scene podcast... I'm guessing that the best place for any news in that direction will be the Facebook page.

I'll leave you with some photos taken at the event. Was anything achieved? I think so... the very act of opening a dialogue between people of the same mind is always a good first step. There are ideas and notions floating about that might become reality in the not-too-distant future. Discovering what exists is, again, a vital first step to making it available to a wider audience, whether it is what's in these old comics and storypapers that could be reprinted or what artwork has survived and how and where it can be displayed.

This is a topic we will come back to, I'm sure.

Peter Hansen and Chris Murray introduce the event
Guy Lawley signs the register...
Alex Fitch scratches his head...
David Roach on the phone, Richard Sheaf looks on...
Hannah Berry, Rob Power and Jenni Scott
Phillip Vaughan interviews Dave Gibbons
Julia Round interviews Posy Simmons
Jonathan Ross: Live from Belfast via Skype
.