Thursday, December 24, 2020

Commando 5395-5398

Happy Christmas with Commando issues out today! Issues 5395-5398 have everything from patrol boats to glider pilots, from Blitz to telepathic links with eagles! It’s a pre-Christmas miracle!  

5395: HMAS Expendable

There’s something fishy going on in the Coral Sea — and it’s not the fish! A new kind of terror is lurking there and reports coming out of the area are shocking to say the least. According to the survivors, American Patrols Boats are attacking their own allies! Well, leave it to the crews of the HMAS Wombat and HMAS Tiger to get to the bottom of it!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Morhain & Defeo
Cover | Keith Roberts

5396: War Eagle

A Commando whose pre-published title was ‘Spy in the Sky’, Issue 5396 ‘War Eagle’ is a yarn you won’t want to fly by! When Sergeant Bill Drake takes a whack to the noggin, he soon finds that he is connected to an injured eagle he helped. The bird of prey seems to listen to his very will — his will to prey on the nasty Nazis on a mountain!

Skentleberry’s penchant for oddball Commandos is marvellously brought to life by Victor de la Fuente’s interior artwork with a Penalva cover perched on top!

Story | Skentleberry
Art | V. Fuente
Cover | Penalva
Originally Commando No. 371 (1968).

5397: Cardiff Blitz

For the people of Cardiff, the evening of the 2nd of January, 1941, was just another night and another raid from the German Luftwaffe. Except this night, the Jerry bombers were determined to blitz the Welsh capital to ruins. On the ground, the Martin family was determined to do their bit, Charlie Martin as a firefighter in the AFS and his daughter, Freda, as an Air Raid Warden. Their paths didn’t often cross while they were at work, but fate had plans for the pair — whether they knew it or not!

Story | Gary Dobbs
Art | Khato
Cover | Neil Roberts

5398: On Silent Wings

Being a glider pilot was a tough gig in World War Two but imagine having the guts to do a loop the loop with a glider packed to the brim with troops while under attack by German fighters! That’s exactly what Sergeant Hugh Miller, co-pilot of the glider in question, was about to do. He had little other choice — what with his pilot injured and the men in the back depending on him — he had to do something!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Gordon C Livingstone
Cover | Cox
Originally Commando No. 1624 (1982).

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 24 December 2020

This week's  Rebellion release is of a keystone in British comics. The second volume of The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire brings together another huge chunk of the famous Look and Learn strip by Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence, and includes, as a bonus, a fill-in episode painted by Ron Embleton that was not included in the 12-volume DLC collection of Don's run of the strip.

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire Volume II by Mike Butterworth, Don Lawrence & Ron Embleton
Rebellion ISBN 978-178198775-6, 24 December 2020, 288pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The second thrilling omnibus lost Sci-Fi classic from the sixties the New York Times called "highly detailed visions of fantastic worlds". Among the distant stars, fractious tribes come together to found a mighty empire that will wage war against aggressive kingdoms, battle alien invaders, and conceive of incredible new technologies. This extraordinary volume continues to chart the glorious Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire!
    A landmark in British comics history, painted by the legendary Don Lawrence in stunning, classic style, and springing from the grandiose pen of Mike Butterworth, this is an epic tale that creates a new far-future science fiction mythos that captured the imagination of a generation.

Monday, December 21, 2020

David Ashford (1941-2020)

David Ashford, actor, radio presenter, teacher and writer, died on 17 December 2020, aged 79. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer some months earlier and was being cared for by his sister, but succumbed in the end to pneumonia. He was hospitalised on Sunday, 6 December, and at first seemed to be responding well to antibiotics, but the cancer had taken its toll and he was already quite frail. He remained positive throughout his illness and had not been in pain.

David was well-known in the comics community for his articles in the pages of Golden Fun, Illustrated Comics Journal and Antiquarian Book Monthly. His magnum opus was The Art of Denis McLoughlin (2012), a stunning, 270-page journey through the art of one of his favourite artists, whom he had first encountered at the age of seven or eight at Woolworth’s in his home town of Torquay. Already a reader of comics and a fan of Saturday morning serials at the local cinema, David’s favourites were the swashbuckling adventures to be found in Thriller Picture Library, Knockout, Sun and Comet, where he fell in love with the work of H. M. Brock, D. C. Eyles, John Millar Watt, Sep. E. Scott, and Patrick Nicolle.

He was born David John Ashford in Torquay on 16 October 1941, the son of John James Stanton Ashford, who was serving with the Royal Artillery when he married Charlotte Elsie Stigings, a photographer’s assistant in 1941. David was the eldest of four children—younger siblings were Charlotte, Peter and Susan—who grew up in Torquay. He was educated at Torquay Grammar School and Reading University where he earned an honours degree in Fine Art.

He began appearing in television dramas in the mid-1960s, his earliest known role an episode (‘The Vanishing Trick’) of Drama ’65 in February 1965. His various credits include No Hiding Place, Strange Report, The Wednesday Play, Sunday Night Theatre, Mistress of Hardwick, The Pathfinders, The Edwardians, The Brontes of Howarth, Dickens of London, Cottage to Let, Agony, Mystery! Malice Aforethought, Screenplay, Crossroads, ffolkes, Cribb, Rings On Their Fingers, The Dick Emery Show, BBC2 Playhouse, The Gentle Touch, on the Line, Angels, Juliet Bravo, Moving, C.A.T.S. Eyes, Casualty, Howards’ Way, The House of Eliott, Lovejoy, Keeping Up Appearances, The Final Cut, The Bill and Down to Earth. He appeared in two made-for-TV movies All’s Well That Ends Well (1968) and Indiscrete (1988).

Tall (he was a half inch off six foot) and well-spoken, he was often cast as official figures – lawyers, officers of the military or law – and his most  regular appearance was as solicitor Charles Lottery in 126 episodes of ITV’s courtroom drama Crown Court in 1972-78. He also played lawyer Gordon in the short-lived John Sullivan comedy Sitting Pretty in the early 1990s.

David also made a number of appearances in cult TV shows, including Quatermass and Doctor Who, playing a father in the 1988-89 serial ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’, and had previously appeared in the London stage play The Curse of the Daleks (1965).

He also wrote and broadcast on radio, his Turpin Hero (1989), investigating the life and legend of the famous highwayman, although he was more regularly to be found reading stories on Morning Story and Woman's Hour.

David taught English and Drama at Park High School, Harrow in the early 1990s.

In the early 1980s he scripted a number of adaptations of classic novels for Look and Learn, including ‘Rookwood’ (1980), ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1980) and ‘Lorna Doone’ (1981). In the mid-1980s he was one of the stalwarts of Golden Fun, where he put his pen to use as an artist as well as a feature writer, adapting ‘Horseman in the Sky’ from a story by Ambrose Bierce. With Golden Fun’s editor, David co-wrote The Art of Roy Wilson (1983).

In 1990, he wrote introductions for two classic reprint series from Eagle, Riders of the Range and Harris Tweed, both published by Hawk Books and, in collaboration with Steve Holland, helped compile indexes of Thriller Comics Library (1991-92), Comet (1992), Super Detective (1992), Sun (1992), Cowboy comics Library (1993) and Knockout (1997). Some of these were combined and expanded as The Thriller Libraries (2010).

For much of his writing he teamed up with Norman Wright, a long-time friend and dealer, with whom David could often be found at comic marts, selling comics and original artwork. Their books included Sexton Blake A Celebration of the Great Detective (1994), Lightning Swords! Smoking Pistols! (1995), The Thriller Comics Companion (2001), Masters of Fun & Thrills (2008) and a great many articles for Book and Magazine Collector and Rare Book Review.

David was a regular contributor to the art magazine Illustrators, most recently working on the recently published Pirates special issue. A number of articles written by David have still to see print, including features on British western artists and highwaymen.

David lived for many years in Harrow with his wife Monika-Mathilde (née Faasch), whom he married in 1966. She died in 2017. He is survived by his son, Luke.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Comic Cuts - 18 December 2020

I've just realised that this will be the final Comic Cuts column of the year. What a weird one, eh? I spent the first couple of months putting together The Rocket book and revamping a couple of earlier Bear Alley titles to give them a bit of a boost. Then we went into lockdown. Remember when they told us it could last as long as eight weeks? Oh, boy... we were so innocent.

Bear Alley Books did quite well over April and May, although things slowed considerably in the months following. The government's assistance for freelancers is pretty poor, especially for those of us whose incomes are patchy. The Longbow books didn't do as well as I'd hoped, but perhaps that, too, is only to be expected. Launching a book while everyone is reigning in their spending and possibly facing redundancy is not the best idea. It is going to be years before the books pay their way.

Here's my Top 10 sellers at Bear Alley Books for 2020:

1  Rocket
2  Longbow Vol.1
3  Longbow Vol.2
4  Complete Eagles Over the Western Front
5  Countdown to TV Action
6  Hurricane & Champion (revised)
7  Lion
8  Ranger
9  Boys World
10 The Man Who Searched for Fear

I should be pleased that I had my best sales since 2014, but it's still not enough to make a living from. Hence a few changes I'll be making as Bear Alley Books celebrates its tenth birthday—the first book appeared in March 2011.

First, and most obviously, we will be launching BAM! on the world. This will be available both in print as digitally.

Next up is probably how the books are ordered. Because I'm working with no budget, I've used Blogger as a default website and relied on PayPal for payments. I'm now thinking that I may use Lulu as a selling platform or set up an or eBay store. This will save all the hassle of processing orders myself, and hopefully means that I won't have the problem I faced with the Longbow books of links to payment buttons not working. The Bear Alley Books blog will still exist, but buttons will point to the sales platform rather than PayPal.

I was mulling this over a couple of weeks ago just as eBay changed their policy of paying into PayPal and, instead, wanted to pay into a bank account. Fine by me, as it means PayPal doesn't take a fee on top of eBay's fees. Followers of my weekly exploits will know that this turned into a nightmare, and payments started bouncing around the ether and not landing where they should have.  It had reached £60 before it was finally sorted out.

I'm also thinking of relaunching a couple of titles if I can and finally getting the Hercules Esq. books back in print. These have been delayed for months through nobody's fault. They won't sell more than a half dozen copies, probably, but I'm really keen to get them out in time for our birthday.

All this depends on how much energy I've got. I'm spending the week scanning and indexing a huge pile of material sent to me by a collecting pal. Three huge boxes arrived a couple of months ago and I'd only managed to get through one of them, so I've decided to attack the second box, which is full of magazines and annuals that I'm indexing and taking sample scans from. I may end up working my way through more over Christmas as I'm waiting on some artwork to come through before I can finish off doing layouts for BAM!. Some arrived this week, but the pandemic has meant that someone else hasn't been able to get into the office, so I'm still waiting on some goodies. It makes sense (to me, at least) to keep going with the scanning and indexing while I have no distractions.

There are, of course, plenty of other interruptions at this time of year—everything from wrapping presents to putting up our tree. It might be small, but it has done us proud for... it might be twenty years... definitely more than ten. We don't go in for extravagant decorations, but we do like our tree!

(Mel thinks the tree might be 18 years old, not bad for something picked up cheaply at the local Tesco. Also, we've been putting a Dalek on the tree for the last decade.)

Well, I think that's my lot for this column. There may be more posts before Christmas, but if I don't get a chance to post, or you don't get a chance to drop by to have a read, I'll wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hope that 2021 is a better year than the one we've just had. Merry Christmas y'all. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 16 December 2020

It's the bumper 100-page end-of-year issue of 2000 AD and this one is PACKED with stories - including Rob Williams (Suicide Squad) and Laurence Campbell (Hellboy) on Strontium Dog, new series of Durham Red, Proteus Vex, and Hershey, as well as the touching epilogue to Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, and Neil Googe's Survival Geeks.

But you absolutely, positively, definitely do not want to miss Leonardo Manco's art on Sláine: Dragontamer. Do yourself a favour and check it out - it will blow your socks off!

2000 AD Prog 2212
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (col).

Judge Dredd: Three Kings by Kenneth Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Strontium Dog: Once Upon a Time in Der Vest by Rob Williams (w) Laurence Campbell (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Survival Geeks: A Quiet Night In by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Visions of Deadworld: A Girl's Gotta Eat by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Proteus Vex: The Shadow Chancellor by Michael Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Sláine: Dragontamer by Pat Mills (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hershey: The Brutal by Rob Williams (w) Simon Fraser (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Time Twisters: Time Hygiene by T.C. Eglington (w) Warren Pleece (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Durham Red: Served Cold by Alec Worley (w) Ben Willsher (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 427
Cover: Nick Percival.

Judge Dredd: He Sees You When You're Sleeping by Rory McConville (w) Agustin Padilla (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Megatropolis by Kenneth Neimand (w) Dave Taylor (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l) 
The Returners: Heartswood by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c)
Deliverance by David Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: Misty Winter Special, Wayne Reynolds interview
Bagged collection: The Alienist by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, Eoin Coveney

Friday, December 11, 2020

Comic Cuts - 11 December 2020

I've had a week away from BAM! issue 1 because I've been dipping my toes into issue 2. There were a couple of obits I needed to write, both of which involved quite a lot of research — I may have been writing about comics for forty years but there are still vast gaps in my knowledge that I have to fill to write anything — and a couple of features I'm either writing or helping with needed some attention.

It all added up to a busy but enjoyable week. I find it harder to multitask these days. Mind you, in the days of Comic World I was rarely dealing with features longer than a couple of thousands words, whereas some of the material I'm writing for BAM! is three times that length. And you know me: the information density is almost at saturation point in everything I write. Except here at Comic Cuts.

Thankfully, one thing that has come to a close is the long-running saga of my eBay problems. When I set up eBay, it required sellers to register a bank account, which I did. But I must have screwed up something, which was never discovered because I had any payments paid into, and paid any fees from, my PayPal account. Now eBay wants to move everyone to direct payment into bank accounts and I've had nothing but trouble.

They tried to pay for a sale on November 25th, which bounced. Over the next few days I made a number of attempts to set up the link manually, and, when that didn't work, set up internet banking so that I could go through the automated set-up. When that didn't work I contacted eBay to figure out the problem. One was that their partner firm in things financial doesn't like Mozilla Firefox, which is my preferred browser. Thankfully, I have more than one, so I was able to walk the guy on the end of the phone through the automated set-up as I was doing it... eventually reaching a point where I had to manually type in the old bank account number, which it rejected.

It's likely that I mistyped the number during the original set-up of my account, but without knowing what the mistake was — and the guy in the call centre helping me couldn't see that deeply into my account — there was no way to fix the problem. It required the tech team to delete that account so I could set it up again correctly. It took a couple of phone calls, the last of which got some results. I think it's OK and finally I'll get paid the £1.22 that they tried paying me on the 25th and which they've tried to pay every two or three days since. The total is nearer £50, so a handy sum to have just before Christmas.

Another bit of good news. I did a colour test for BAM! and it came back looking good. In fact, I did three tests on various weights of paper and they all came back looking good. I've picked one — not the cheapest, but not the most expensive — and that should put the magazine in a price range that's affordable. I was also asked during the week whether the mag. would be available in other formats, and the answer is yes. I'm still working out how to do this. Sometimes being a one-man band can be a pain in the backside: the mechanics and logistics of putting this together isn't nearly as much fun as writing it!

I'm reviewing The Boys below the pic. There are spoilers for season two, so jump to the end if you don't want to know what happens when you hit a whale with a speed boat.

Based on the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, The Boys debuted on Amazon Prime in 2019 and earned some stellar reviews for its irreverent, cynical take on the superhero genre. Another Ennis strip was also running at the time, Preacher, noted for its bloody violence. The Boys promised to out-Preacher Preacher on that count and set out its stall in the opening moments of episode one when super speedster A-Train collides at super-high speed with a girl on a street, leaving her boyfriend holding her disembodied hands and covered in her exploded innards.

Offered $45,000 compensation, Hughie (the boyfriend) instead teams up with Billy Butcher to expose the corrupt world of superheroes. Butcher's aim is to bring down the leader of the Seven, the golden boy of superheros, Homelander. Surrounded by PR people and advisors and protected by a vast corporate entity that has been built around the Seven, Homelander is a narcissist, showing little sympathy for the people he is meant to be protecting. Other members of the Seven have their own problems with jealousy, drug dependency, corruption and addiction to sadism.

The Boys (the small team led by Butcher) have been framed for the murder of Madelyn Stillwell, who manages the superheroes at Vought International, but are still determined to prove that heroes are made, not born, thanks to a drug named Compound V. They obtain a sample thanks to Annie (aka the superheroine Starlight, recently inducted into the Seven) and soon it is being reported across the media. A PR disaster in the making, it coincides with a film of Homelander scything through a terrorist with his laser eyes and accidentally also killing a nearby citizen.

Butcher discovers that his wife Becca, whom he thought dead at the hands of Homelander, is alive and now has a son by the hero. Held in a secure location, he tries to free her, but she refuses to leave. As he begins to show some powers, Homelander wants to raise his son as a hero. Frustrated at every turn, his lashing out aggravates Maeve, his supposed closest ally amongst the Seven, whom he outs as a lesbian. It also attracts the newest member, Stormfront, who helps manipulate and raise his media profile. Flattered by her attention, the two begin an affair.

Annie, meanwhile, discovers that Stormfront is, in fact, Liberty, a former hero who committed a racist murder years before and is now emerging with a new identity.

Even this brief summary reveals that the show is becoming more openly critical of its central characters, both corporate and individual, and the political parallels with what is happening in the US at the moment aren't being disguised. Having the racist Stormfront (who shares her name with the white supremacist website) teaming up with the all-white Homelander isn't a coincidence. That Vougt has parallels with Disney (who produce all the Marvel movies) isn't a coincidence. That the show was broadcast in the  run up to the US election probably wasn't a coincidence either.

The show still has moments that are over the top (a whale meets a motorboat in one scene and the results are unpleasant) but I would say that a strong stomach isn't now the prerequisite it was for the first season of The Boys. A very deep black sense of humour is what you need and a deep cynicism about the American obsession with superheroes.

In the wake of Watchmen, which used its complex plot to explore themes of racial inequality and conflict, and now having The Boys shine a light on current politics, maybe it's time for someone to look seriously at bringing Marshal Law to our screens. If anyone could out-Boys The Boys, it's Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neills' superhero hating "cape killer".

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Commando 5391-5394

Commando issues 5391-5394 explore the unusual in settings, storylines, and tactics, in this thrilling set — out today!

5391: Desert Vultures

Lieutenant Bernard Heaviside and his Long Range Desert Group team are as tough and devious as vultures, making do with what they have and abandoning the book. But when paired with straight-laced, upright Free French Lieutenant Gaston Verdier, sparks are bound to fly as they must work together to destroy a unit of Italians intent on interrupting vital supply columns.

Andrew Knighton’s witty daring-do is complemented by Vicente’s flowing, desert-bound interiors, wrapped up in a dynamic cover by Neil Roberts.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Neil Roberts

5392: Iron Cross Tommy

Dick Clarke is trapped behind enemy lines, a decorated war hero… and in German uniform! After his mates are wiped out in a raid by an evil German officer, Clarke disguises himself as a German soldier to wreak havoc in revenge. But this winding tale of heroism and loyalty sees Clarke unwittingly rise to great heights in the German army as the Commando makes desperate attempts to return home.

Newark’s imaginative story is portrayed in J. Fuente’s detailed interiors, with a dramatic cover from Lopez Espi.

Story | Newark
Art | J. Fuente
Cover | Lopez Espi
Originally Commando No. 351 (1968).

5393: Hand of Tyr

In the closing days of the war, Major Slater, Captain Williams and their select team will do whatever it takes to finally defeat the Reich — even if they must team up with a morally bankrupt chaplain and drag him to Hell and back to get it done! As they travel into the heart of the Fatherland, priorities and passions are reconsidered, as the team hunt down an elusive relic to smash the Nazi’s hopes of victory.

This fast-paced action-adventure is the second story from new writer R Tate, with intricate interiors and a striking cover from Manuel Benet.

Story | R Tate
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5394: The Commando and the Pilot

Tom Picalli is a boastful American who claims to be able to fly any plane. But his confidence is shaken and his ego bruised when he folds under pressure and has to be threatened by a British Commando to get the job done! Finding themselves stranded in Italy, this tale explores Allied tensions in the face of the Axis powers.

Roger Sanderson’s insightful story is brought to life in Ibanez’s powerful interiors, with a classic cover from Ian Kennedy.

Story | Roger Sanderson
Art | Ibanez
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1610 (1982).

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 9 December 2020

The hit game of the ‘80s - Block Mania - is back with a brand new edition from Rebellion Unplugged!

Rebellion is delighted to announce a limited edition re-issue of the classic board game based on the world of Judge Dredd - as well as the Mega-Mania expansion set, featuring the Happy Hour expansion!

Block Mania is the classic two-player game of manic destruction in Mega-City. Each player controls the citizens of an entire Mega-City block, as they attempt to destroy the block next door - or at least do it a lot of damage before the Judges arrive!

This limited-edition replica printing will be available from from 12noon on Friday 27 November and to retail from Asmodee UK.

It brings the classic work of Space Hulk designer Richard Halliwell back to print for the first time in decades.

Relive the chaos of hives soaring in bat-suits; hungry alien Kleggs commandeering Sky-Rail cars; and City-Def forces infiltrating the neighbouring block to blow it to smithereens, before the Judges unleash the riot foam to shut you down!

Each box contains:

  • Two different, full-colour game boards - each depicting an entire Mega-City block.
  •  180 counters representing the Citizens, weapons and equipment of the blocks, as well as damage, collapse and fire markers.
  • A deck of 54 full-colour, double-sided playing cards, used to play numerous dirty tricks during the game. When the last card is played the quick fire endgame begins as the Judges arrive.
  • A detailed, comprehensive rulebook with extensive diagrams, examples of play and players' notes giving tips on strategy and tactics.
  • A handy Blockers' Manual telling players all about how to use the multitude of citizens, weapons, hardware and instruments of total destruction in the game.
  • And, of course, two six-sided dice!

Mega-Mania expands Block Mania with additional counters and two new boards, allowing up to four players to join in the chaos at once.

And for the first time the Happy Hour expansion is also included, adding Robo-Dogs, Sucker Guns and Trip Mines to the fray!

2000 AD Prog 2211
Cover: Steven Austin / Chris Blythe.

Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Visions of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Dexter: The Funt Outta Town by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Indistinguishable From... by Joseph Elliott-Coleman (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd: Control by Rob Williams & Chris Weston
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108777-0, 10 December 2020, 128pp, £14.99 / $19.99. Available via Amazon.

Writer Rob Williams follows up his smash hit Judge Dredd: Small House with a brand new collection that sees him at the mercy of Judge Pin – his most sinister opponent since Judge Death! The psychopathic SJS Judge murders officers that fall short of her standards, and Judge Dredd is in her sights in this collection of stories featuring flesh-eating Kleggs, hijacking ape gangs and out of control war robots reprogrammed by insane accountants in tales ranging from deathly serious to outrageously funny, all from one of the most popular contemporary Dredd creative teams – Rob Williams and Chris Weston. Entirely drawn by Weston, the talented artist for DC Comics (The Filth), Image (Ministry of Space) and Marvel Comics (The Twelve), this storyline is a game changer for the Dredd universe.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Comic Cuts - 4 December 2020

The first issue of BAM!, the new magazine from Bear Alley, took a bit of a leap forward this weekend when I sent off some pages to test the colour from our printers. I haven't finished the full contents, so I had to drop in some images that I was planning to use for one of the articles and a couple of pages had a bit of placeholder text ("CONTENTS", "REVIEWS") and there's a section on forthcoming books at the back end that I'm thinking of cutting as it would work on a monthly but is less useful in a quarterly, especially at this time when publishing schedules can be a bit fluid.

I normally try to relax a bit over the weekend, and we made the best of the good weather on Saturday with a nice long walk in the glorious sunshine. We went out to buy some buns from a local baker who has set up shop in the local business centre. While I'm still trying to lose a bit of weight, I'm not sticking to a strict diet -- you've got to have something to look forward to in these dark times -- and our weekend buns have recently become a regular treat. We're slowly working our way through all the different variations the bakery produces, but I have to admit that chocolate & orange and mince swirls are particular favourites. Yum!

I spent all Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning putting together a cover, which I think you're going to like. Let's make sure it works before I reveal all. I then had to upload the whole lot to the printers and, fingers crossed, I'll have the samples (printed on various qualities of paper) in a week or two.

Since then I've been distracted by a number of things. One is eBay -- not listing items, which I would normally do on a Sunday, but with their payment system. I'm a slow mover when it comes to pretty much any new advances, and that includes internet banking. I don't want to make myself out to be a Luddite, but most of our bills are paid by direct debit and I write out cheques for any others. I still like to get bills on paper, I don't have a mobile phone (I'm sitting here right next to a land line), and I've managed to get through life quite happily without internet banking.

The problem I have now is that eBay, who previously paid into my PayPal account, want to now pay into my bank account, and I've had a ton of problems setting it up. One is the "simple" problem that one of eBay's partners in their payment operation doesn't like Mozilla. I use Firefox as a browser because it's one of the safer options. But there are a couple of websites that don't like it, and eBay's payment operators is one. However, even with that angle sidestepped (I'm using Edge, the browser that comes with Windows 10, which seems to work), I still can't link eBay to the account. I'm now waiting on a phone call from someone at eBay to see how this can be fixed. I'm the meantime, I'm not receiving any payments from them for items that are selling. We're not talking vast sums of money -- maybe £30 at the moment -- but I'd rather have this sorted out quickly so I can get on with the rest of my life.

I've now had a couple of days break from the first issue as I've been working on a couple of things for issue two and one that probably will have to wait until issue three. There's confidence for you!

I posted a couple of pages last week which, I'm pleased to say, generated some solid interest. Also a couple of people offered advice, which is always welcome. One was none other than former Tharg, Steve MacManus, who suggested right justifying the text. This is where a little extra space is placed between words so that the lines all match up along the right border. Well, I've given it a try, and, while I'm a fan of the ragged edge, I think I might go with it. I've also put in a divider between the columns. And here's the same page for comparison.

Comments welcome. This column's header also has the columns right justified. The page numbers are temporary and will be moved by the time the mag. goes to press.

No review this week as there was no time to watch anything. I did catch a rather terrible action movie, Rogue, which stars Megan Fox as a leader of a band of mercenaries tasked with saving the daughter of an official from terrorists. The terrorists are also trafficking two other women, who (against Megan's better judgement) they also take with them.

It isn't that the movie is that bad, and the acting is good for the most part; no, what's wrong is that it's all so utterly predictable and by the numbers. There's a rogue lion that breaks out from a lion farm -- where lions and other big cats are held so that rich Americans can pay to shoot game. So you know that some of the mercenary team are going to get taken down by the lion and, at the end, Megan Fox will lead the top bad guy into the jaws of the lion. Why have the lion at all if that wasn't the case?

And so it plays out.

Our weekly highlights are probably Taskmaster -- still as off the wall and gut-wrenchingly funny in its tenth series as it was in series one -- and The Last Leg, which has improved over the last batch of shows thanks to the team being reunited. Zoom is all well and good, but the interplay between the hosts relies of their instant reactions, and you can't do that on Zoom.

We're currently watching the last season of The Good Place and a kids' series based on Ronja the Robber's Daughter, with animation directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki). Both are a delight that have been around for some while. If there's a silver lining to this pandemic, it's that we've been able to catch up on quite a few shows, thanks to Mel working from home. You've got to find the good in everything.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 2 December 2020

From the archives of the Treasury of British Comics, the world's largest archive of English-language comics, Rebellion Unplugged is proud to present this limited edition screen print of art by the legendary artist Joe Colquhoun from Charley’s War episode #230.

This stunning replica screen print is available on both paper and Bristol Board from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.

This scale replica is taken from new high-resolution scans of Colquhoun’s breath-taking original art. Five layers of hand-pressed screen printing captures the creative process of the original page, through pencils, inks, hand lettering, and art fixes, to produce an artefact that is faithful both to its creator's vision and to the lost art of making comic books.

This limited edition screen print is hand-numbered, and printed on archival quality acid-free Somerset satin 410gsm white paper, with a variant edition of 25 copies printed on artists’ Bristol Board to match the original. It reproduces the artwork in its original size of 400 x 470mm.

Originally printed in Battle Picture Weekly in August 1979 the page opens the strip’s dramatic portrayal of the blitz on London, and showcases Colquhoun’s incredible linework and storytelling.

Written by British comics legend Pat Mills and illustrated by Colquhoun, Charley’s War tells the story of underage British soldier called Charley Bourne, who enlists at the outbreak of World War One and goes on to experience the horror of the trenches and witness the brutal treatment ordinary soldiers received to serve the selfish interests of those in power.

Considered by many to be the greatest war comic of all time, and this new print is a testament to the extraordinary and under-appreciated talent of the artist who brought it to life.

2000 AD Prog 2210
Cover: Dave Kendall.

Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Visions of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Dexter: The Funt Outta Town by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Misty Winter Special
Cover: Simon Davis.

The Misty Winter Special contains two new chilling tales to make you shiver in the winter months. Infection, is a disturbing tale about how far people are expected to conform to societal standards no matter how warped the rules become, is written by Anna Savory & V.V. Glass, and illustrated by V.V. Glass. Home for Christmas, a harrowing ghostly home-invasion story dealing with the sins of the past, is written by Lizzy Boyle and drawn by David Roach. Cover by Simon Davis.

Infection by V.V. Glass & Anna Savory (w), V.V. Glass (a), Simon Bowland (l)
Home For Christmas by Lizzie Boyle (w), David Roach / Dylan Teague (a), Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Comic Cuts - 27 November 2020

I'm over the 100-page mark with BAM! and we might be finishing at around the 128 pages mark, as long as I don't go mad with the last of the big articles. I've had to bump one piece over to issue two as it would have added more cost on what is already going to be a bit of a pricey print bill.

I was busy with some work on Sunday, which has become my day for posting comics to eBay. I should be back to normal next week unless some paying work comes along again. I spent Monday and Tuesday working on the mag. including a chunk of time transcribing an interview that I thought was sounding awfully familiar... I'd brushed off the feeling because, well, I had done the interview after all. But the nagging feeling persisted that I'd typed these words before, so I did a search of my hard drive for the text and promptly discovered that I'd transcribed the same recording back in October. D'oh!

Above is the first look at an actual pair of pages from the first issue. This from a lengthy history of British pocket libraries, which  celebrate their 70th anniversary this year. I don't want to blow the full line-up of contents, but the issue should start with a look at an old DCT character, continue with the pocket library history, a look at a video with a popular pocket library cover artist, an interview with a current scriptwriter for Commando, and a look at a classic pocket library character. Then a big interview. There's a comic strip by a very well known artist, a bio of an old AP editor, a look at a movie with comic connections, a feature about Frank Bellamy and then an reprint of what was almost certainly the first serious SF newspaper strip. There's an 'In Memoriam' section, plus reviews. There's a short interview within the reviews and I might add another article as it relates to a book that has just come out and this seems the apt moment to use it.

I'll do a proper contents list once everything is firmed up. I'm still going to be busy rewriting and laying out pages for at least another week, probably two. I'm not the fastest designer in the world, slowed further by the fact that I have to clean up every image. Back in the days of Comic World we were almost always dealing with new comics and could rely on DC or Marvel to send over nice bromides or transparencies shot off original artwork which could be dropped straight into the magazine. I can't do the same with BAM! as old comic pages tend to go a nasty smoky colour and covers get scuffed, stained and creased. I want them to look like they've just come off the printing press for the first time. It's a bit OCD, but hopefully you'll appreciate the effort when you see the results.

The second sample above blows the surprise about which "classic pocket book character" I'm looking at. Ah, what the hell... it's John Steel from the pages of Thriller Picture Library. I love those stories. I'm hoping to write something about artist Luis Bermejo for issue two or issue three.

We're still managing to get out for our regular walks even under lockdown. We're trying to be supportive of local businesses and have treated ourselves to fish & chips from the local chippie and buns from a local bakery. I haven't entirely abandoned my efforts to lose some weight, but with the nights drawing in, we're not walking quite so far in the evening. It's cold and sometimes its miserable. Thankfully I discovered a year ago, almost to the day, that I can make an awesome chicken stew, and we've been having that, piping hot, for lunch a couple of times a week.

We've also been regularly "meeting up" with friends (via Zoom) to play board games. I can heartily recommend Board Game Arena for a huge variety of games for people of all skill levels. Some games are only possible if you have a group of players, but it doesn't cost anything (although some games are available only to premiere members) and I'm sure you'll find something to your tastes.

There are spoilers ahead in my look at The Alienist, so hop to the end of the column if that's something you dislike.

Based on the novel by Caleb Carr, The Alienist was (well, still is...) a ten-part series that was originally broadcast in 2018, so I'm only two years late getting to it. Set in the 1890s it concerns a group centred around the 'alienist' doctor Laszlo Kreizler. An introductory text reveals that the insane were thought to be alienated from societal norms, and thus psychologists were known as alienists. Kreizler is taking his studies a step further, and believes that psychology can be applied to criminal cases in order to create a picture of the criminal.

The gruesome murder of a boy prostitute makes headlines in New York City and Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) is asked by newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty), a former Harvard classmate, to help the investigation. Another classmate, John Moore (Luke Evans), now a cartoonist and illustrator on the New York Times, is also brought in. Moore and Roosevelt have a mutual friend in Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), who has recently become the first female employee of the New York Police Department. As Roosevelt's secretary, she becomes his link to the parallel investigation taken on by Kreizler, Moore, and two brothers from the NYPD, Marcus and Lucius Isaacson (Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear).

The investigation is hampered by retired police chief Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine) and Captain Connor (David Wilmot), who are intent on protecting the interests of their wealthy benefactors, these including banker J.P. Morgan (Michael Ironside) and the rich matriarch of the Van Bergen family (Sean Young) whose son, Willem (Josef Altin), is known to prey on young boys.

Kreizler is a complex character himself, born of a well-to-do family, a piano prodigy but who has lost the use of one of his arms. He surrounds himself with some of the people he has helped, including Cyrus, his valet, Mary, his housekeeper, and Stevie, a house boy. He strongly believes that, by seeking the insight of other murderers and psychopaths, he can discover the identity of the murderer -- soon confirmed to be behind a string of murders that have been ignored by the NYPD.

As soon as I realised that the cast was led by Daniel Brühl I knew we weren't going to get many laughs. He brings an intensity to even the dumbest movie -- and I do mean The Cloverfield Paradox. But he's also been brilliant in Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Fifth Estate, Rush, A Most Wanted Man and Captain America: Civil War, and so he is here. Kreizler is the sort of brooding, impassioned character you watch for five seconds and think: "At some point in the narrative he's going to either scream at his own reflection or punch the mirror."

The story explores a number of ways society is riven: the gaping chasm between wealth and poverty; the casual sexism endlessly endured by Sara; the racism endured by the Isaacson brothers; and the invisibility of the disabled. These things do not overwhelm the central story, which is occasionally gory (the killer removes eyes, which are later found, so be warned) and sometimes distressing (children surviving by prostitution), but also compelling as they cannot rely on the usual methods of the police procedural: gathering fingerprints, casts of footprints, forensic testing. Some of these methods were in their infancy, but that means The Alienist is more Sherlock Holmes than CSI.

A second storyline The Alienist: Angel of Darkness was released earlier this year. That sounds like a barrel of laughs, eh? I'm looking forward to catching up with it in... oh, 2022 or thereabouts.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Commando 5387-5390

Commando issues once again tackle air, land, and sea in these varied and dynamic stories — out today!

5387: A-Force — Anarchy

The Grandson of Jimmy Ramsey and his team are back in another contemporary mission — this time chasing down pirates and mercenaries operating in the Caspian Sea! There’s no doubt the Sarovians are part of this trouble, but not all is well within the ranks of A-Force when Sonic hears a little more than she is supposed to. Can the team overcome their paranoia and stick together for the cause?

Ferg Handley’s next generation series continues with lively interiors and an action-packed cover from Carlos Pino.

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Carlos Pino
Cover | Carlos Pino

5388: Yellow Hero

After fighting Jerry under extreme circumstances in the desert, rumours of treachery haunt Jim Tulley as he tries to piece together what really happened at the fortress of El Habid. In an action-packed thriller of a Commando, Tulley fights to keep ahead of enemies behind his own lines and the firing squad that follow, all whilst taking on the Germans and waging a private war with the sinister Ned Regan!

Bielsa’s superb interiors bring Frost’s exciting story to life in this issue with an unusual and striking cover from Ken Barr.

Story | Frost
Art | Bielsa
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 319 (1968).

5389: Code Drop!

The death of Penny and Oliver Chevalier’s father has done little to mend bridges between the warring siblings. As they go their separate ways to support the war effort, the pair end up on opposite sides of the world. But fate inextricably winds them back together as Penny’s SOE activities and an irrepressible Nazi stitch out Oliver’s fate, as the tides turn on D-Day!

Paolo Ongaro’s high-contrast interiors add drama and suspense to Hailey Austin’s latest script for Commando, featuring a spirited cover from Ian Kennedy.

Story | Hailey Austin
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Ian Kennedy

5390: The Jets from Nowhere!

Hawker Typhoons try their utmost to defend RAF bases against a marauding group of Heinkel 162s in this dramatic airborne adventure. Whilst Don and Dick think about their upwardly mobile careers, the Luftwaffe are bearing down on HQ — but as the RAF pilots frantically hunt down the elusive Nazi planes, it seems there’s nothing to stop these jets from nowhere!

Jose Maria Jorge’s airy realism lends spaciousness to RA Montague’s intense story, wrapped in a classic Ian Kennedy cover.

Story | RA Montague
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1609 (1982).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Rebellion Releases - 25 November 2020

Rebellion is delighted to announce that the all-ages 2000 AD Regened will be back in 2021 - with four more mind-bending issues!

The all-ages issues continue to be among the best-selling issues of 2000 AD of the year and Rebellion is looking to build on their success with another quartet of bumper all-ages issues.

Drawing on four decades of genre-defining characters while encouraging new readers to pick up the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 2000 AD Regened has something for everyone. These 48-page issues, retailing at £4.99 for print and £3.99 for digital, feature new takes on some of 2000 AD’s biggest characters, as well as brand new series.

2021 will see the return of hit new series Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show) and Brett Parson (Tank Girl), and the Judge Dredd-world series Department K by Rory McConville (Judge Dredd) and PJ Holden (Judge Dredd).

Plus there'll be even more new stories making their debut, such as Action Pact by Michael Carroll (Judge Dredd) and Luke Horsman (Cadet Dredd), and Lowborn High by David Barnett (Gideon Smith series) and Philip Bond (Kill Your Boyfriend, Tank Girl)

The first Regened issue of 2020 will be 2000 AD Prog 2220 – a bumper special issue with a roster of complete stories, on sale from newsagents, comic book stores, and online on 24 February 2021.

The subsequent Regened issues will be 2000 AD Prog 2233 on 26 May, 2000 AD Prog 2246 on 25 August, and 2000 AD Prog 2256 on 3 November.

2000 AD editor Matt Smith said: “It’s been fantastic to see that the amazing response to 2000 AD Regened has continued in 2020 as we increased it to four issues a year. Both sales and reader feedback have shown us there’s a real appetite for Regened and that’s been reflected in the enthusiasm for new series that have debuted in Regened, such as Full Tilt Boogie by Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña - which spun off into its own series - and Pandora Perfect and Department K. There’s lots more to come from Regened in 2021 - we can’t wait to explore strange new worlds with readers of all ages!”

2000 AD Prog 2209

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: Simply Normal by Kenneth Niemand (w) Steven Austin (a) Chris Blyth (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Stickleback: New Jerusalem by Ian Edginton (w) D’Israeli (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hook-Jaw by Alec Worley (a) Leigh Gallagher (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108864-7, 24 November 2020, 96pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.

Britain's golden age of humour comics returns for the 21st century, with brand new stories by today’s top talents. Featuring characters like Kid Kong, Grimly Feendish, Faceache, and Frankie Stein are given new life in this compendium of hilarity by Neil Googe (The Flash), Cavan Scott (Doctor Who), Tom Paterson (The Beano, The Dandy), Shelli Paroline (Adventure Time) and Hilary Barta (DC Comics Plastic Man)!
    Collects material previously published in The Cor!! Buster Humour Special and The Cor!! Buster Easter Special.
    Creators include: John Freeman, Lew Stringer, Tom Paterson, Leila O'millar, Alec Worley, Tiernen Trevallion, Ned Hartley, Steve Mannion, Lizzie Boyle, Abigail Bulmer, Simon Bowland, Gráinne Mcentee, Sammy Borras, Paul Goodenough, Neil Googe, Matt Smith, Tanya Roberts, Robin Etherington, David Follett, Keith Richardson, Pye Parr, Cavan Scott, Mike Hoffman, Karl Stock, Andy W. Clift, Lee Langford, Edward Whatley, Ken Reid, Hilary Barta, Wesley Wong, John Lucas, Mick Cassidy, Rositsa Vangelova, Edward Whatley, Olivia Hicks, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Brett Parson

The Best of Sugar Jones by Pat Mills & Rafael Busom Clua
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108770-1, 25 November 2020, 112pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.

Sugar Jones is seen by the world as a charming twenty-something host of her own late-night variety show, beloved by viewers up and down the nation. Only her overworked and underappreciated assistant, Susie Ford, knows her secret – that Sugar is really a selfish, sour, old schemer who'll do anything to look good on television! – and though Sugar’s own ambition and vanity frequently rebounds on her, Susie continues to do her best to protect Sugar.

Death Squad by Alan Hebden, Eric Bradbury & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108768-8, 24 November 2020, 128pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

An all-out all-action, complete-in-one brutal war story from the pages of the classic war comic, Battle, hugely influential on Preacher and The Boys creator Garth Ennis. Meet the deadliest band of fighters on the Eastern Front! During world War Two the Eastern Front was hell on Earth. German Punishment Battalions were thrown into the thick of the conflict where they were expected to fight well and die hard. In these harshest of conditions only the strongest warriors survived. Enter the Death Squad - Grandad, Swede, Licker, Gus and Frankie. Alone they were failures and outcasts, but together they were one of the most formidable combat units the Russians ever faced!

The Return of Sexton Blake
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108950-7, 25 November 2020, 96pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.

As brilliant as Sherlock Holmes, as daring as James Bond, he was the Jack Reacher of his day and now Sexton Blake is back!
    Created in 1893 - six years after rival Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print - Sexton Blake went on to become a publishing phenomenon, appearing in 4,000 stories told written and drawn by over 200 different writers and artists and syndicated around the world. And now he is reborn!
     Written by Chris Lowder (Dan Dare, Judge Dredd) and illustrated by Mike Dorey (Hellman of Hammerforce), presented in this 100-page special for the very first time in its full glory is the last Sexton Blake comic strip, originally published under the title "Victor Drago."
     Then the adventure detective is back in action as George Mann (Doctor Who, Star Wars Adventures) and Jimmy Broxton (Hope, Doctor Who) brings us the first new Sexton Blake comic in decades!  Meanwhile, Philip K. Dick Award winning writer Mark Hodder (The Burton & Swinburne Adventures) introduces Blake to a new audience and Karl Stock (Thrill-power Overload: Forty Years of 2000 AD) interviews the writers and artists. 


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