Friday, February 28, 2020

Comic Cuts - 28 February 2020

I've had a good week on the new book, Rocket: The First Space-Age Weekly. I have some 60 pages completed and should have the rest of the book finished in a few days. There's some proofing needed, but I can at least get a printed proof at the same time to make sure all the images work.

There were a couple of things niggling at the back of my mind early in the week – a couple of pages that I wasn't happy with and a bit of additional text that I'd slipped in at the end of the book that didn't sit right. The latter was resolved in conversation with David Slinn who confirmed my suspicions that the late section needed to be moved. This was done on Wednesday and I'm much happier with the results. It did mean that I had to reflow the new text into the layouts. As I use InDesign, all the text boxes are linked, so you pop the text into the first box and it automatically flows through the other text boxes. What it doesn't do is take into account any tinkering you've done to make sure text flows properly around images, for instance. Thankfully it didn't take too long to check everything was working OK.

At the time of writing I'm on the last chapter of the introduction. I still have the actual index and other index material (index of creators, index of titles) to do, but Rocket only lasted 32 issues, so they won't take long. I'm hoping that I'll have everything wrapped up by the time I'm writing next week's column.

I promised last week that I'd have the cover finished and... well, you can see it above. In keeping with Bear Alley's other history/index books about comics, I've used Rocket itself as a template, so this is based on an early issue when the first page of the 'Captain Falcon' strip was just a big panel on the front cover. Because the shape of the book is taller and slimmer than the original comic, I redid the logo; I also brought the rocket itself into the foreground (in the comic itself, it disappears behind the logo). The full title of the book is Rocket: The Fist Space-Age Weekly, but, again, I've mirrored the comic so that the subtitle is in the band across the top.

I'm reviewing the second season of Titans below the pic. There are spoilers, so jump to the end of the column if that's something you don't like.

I approached the first season of Titans with a little apprehension. Coming to it late, I'd seen a lot of negative reviews, but felt that it wasn't quite as bad as it had been presented. I said at the time "Wonder Girl shows promise, and Hawk and Dove, introduced in episode two, have potential. They have problems founded in their troubled relationship and troubled pasts, but they have genuine affection for each other."

Troubled relationships and troubled pasts are the driving force of season two. The climax of the first season (Rachel Roth is trapped in a house behind a force field by her father, Trigon; the Titans gather outside) is dealt with in half an hour and Dick Grayson sets up the group at Titan Towers in San Francisco.

Three months later: some of the Titans (Rachel, Jason Todd, Gar Logan) are getting bored of constant training, especially when they are left out of any action that does come along. Dick rescues a young girl and introduces her to the team, but Rose is, in fact, the daughter of Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke. The Titans have a history with Deathstroke and some are still looking to avenge the death of Aqualad five years earlier. Deathstroke, meanwhile, blames the Titans for the death of his son Jericho.

Meanwhile, Cadmus Industries has lost two of its test subjects: Subject 13, also known as Connor, is a genetic splicing of Superman and Lex Luthor in a super-strong teen body with plenty of extras (heat-vision, super breath, etc.) but no experience of the world; and his dog, Krypto. They, too, end up at Titan Towers.

The one thing that everyone can agree on, including the cast and anyone watching the show, is that Dick lives up to his name. He manages to bring the Titans together and drive them apart with his attitude of "I know better than you" and "my rules apply to you, not to me". His heart might be in the right place but it's choked by a layer of overwhelming anger and a thick coating of egocentric twattery. That and he's hallucinating conversations with Bruce Wayne.

That said, the show is a vast improvement over some other superhero dramas in its emotional depth. OK, so some of the characters (notably Jason Todd) still act like horny, angry teenagers but there's a good reason—he's a horny, angry teenager. There's a lot of self-righteous angst and arguments between the characters, and even the closest of friends are driven apart. Some are still trying to find their path, or trying to avoid the path they have found themselves on. For the most part, the balance between action and angst worked well, although I will just say that, if you go out into the world to find yourself and when you do you're a coke-snorting wrestler, you might want to look a little further.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

The 2000 AD for all ages is back - and it's better than ever! 2000 AD Regened is a bumper issue of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, featuring all-new stories for all ages from creators such as Leah Moore and John Reppion (Albion, Dracula), Cavan Scott (Doctor Who, Star Wars), Nick Roche (Transformers), and Ilias Kyriazis (Collider). This is the first of FOUR issues of 2000 AD Regened for 2020, a concerted push by Rebellion to bring new readers of both comic books and 2000 AD itself!

2000AD Prog 2170
Cover: Mark Sexton

JUDGE DREDD: SCHOOL TRIP by Rory McConville (w) Ilias Kyriazis (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
FINDER & KEEPER: DEAD SIGNAL by Leah Moore, Jogn Reppion (w) Davide Tinto (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
FUTURE SHOCKS by Karl Stock (w) Luke Horsman (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE GRONK: THE TROUBLE WITH GRONKSES by David Baillie (w) Rob Davis (a) Jim Campbell (l)
ROGUE TROOPER: SAVAGE SWAMP by Cavan Scott (w) Nick Roche (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bruce Sterling cover gallery


Involution Ocean (New York, Jove/HBJ, 1977; London, New English Library, 1980)
New English Library 0450-04545-5, (Jan) 1980, 172pp, 80p. Cover by Tim White
Legend 0099-58920-6, (Sep) 1988, 175pp, £2.50.

The Artificial Kid (New York, Harper and Row, 1980)
Penguin 0140-07335-3, 1985, 245pp, £2.50. Cover by Peter Jones
Roc UK 0140-17863-5, (Jan) 1993, 245pp, £4.99. Cover by Peter Jones
HardWired 1888-86916-X, (Sep) 1997, 309pp, £8.99. *distributed in UK by Penguin

Schismatrix (New York, Arbor House, 1985; Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1986)
Penguin 0140-08135-6, (Feb) 1986, 288pp, £2.50. Cover by John Harris

Islands in the Net (New York, Arbor House/William Morrow, 1988; London, Legend, 1988)
Legend/Century 0712-61667-5, (Oct) 1988, 448pp, £5.95 [tpb]. Cover by Chris Moore
Legend 0099-55200-0, (Oct) 1989, 448pp, £4.50.

The Difference Engine, with Bruce Sterling (London, Victor Gollancz, 1990; New York, Bantam Spectra, 1991)
VGSF 0575-05073-X, (Jul) 1991, 256pp, 383pp, £7.99 [tpb]. Cover by Ian Miller
VGSF/Gollancz 0575-05297-X, (Jul) 1992, ,383pp, £4.99. Cover by Ian Miller
Vista 0575-60029-2, (May) 1996, 383pp, £5.99. Cover by Ian Miller
---- [?2nd imp.] 1997, £5.99. *as 1st imp.
Gollancz/Orion 0575-50029-2, (May) 2003, 383pp, £6.99.
Gollancz (SF Masterworks) 978-0575-09940-1, (Jan) 2011, 384pp, £7.99. Cover by Christopher Gibbs/Arena
---- [2nd imp.] n.d., 384pp, £7.99. Cover based on an image by Christopher Gibbs/Arena

Heavy Weather (New York, Bantam Spectra, 1994; London, Millennium, 1994)
Millennium 1857-98193-6, (Oct) 1994, 280pp, £8.99. Cover by Chris Moore
Phoenix 1857-99299-7, 1995, 280pp, £5.99. Cover photo by Science Photo Library
Millennium 1857-99299-7, 1999, 280pp, £6.99.

Holy Fire (London, Orion/Millennium, 1996; New York, Bantam Spectra, 1996)
Phoenix 1857-99884-7, 1997, 296pp, £5.99. Cover by Holly Warburton

Distraction (New York, Bantam Spectra, 1998; London, Millennium, 1999)
Millennium/Orion 1857-98831-0, (Aug) 1999, 439pp, £9.99 [tpb].
Millennium/Orion 1857-98928-7, (Sep) 2000, 489pp, £6.99. Cover by Trevor Scobie

Zeitgeist (New York, Bantam Spectra, 2000)
(no UK paperback)

The Zenith Angle (New York, Ballantine/Del Rey, 2004)
(no UK paperback)

The Caryatids (New York, Ballantine/Del Rey, 2009)
(no UK paperback)

Love Is Strange: A Paranormal Romance (n/p, 40K, 2012)
(e-book, no UK paperback)

Pirate Utopia (San Francisco, CA, Tachyon Publications, 2016)
(no UK paperback)


Crystal Express (Sauk City, Wisconsin, Arkham House, 1989; London, Legend, 1990)
Legend 0712-63698-6, (Jun) 1990, 317pp, £6.99 [tpb]. Cover by Keith Scaife
Legend 9988-72250-X, 1991, 317pp, £4.99. Cover by Keith Scaife

Globalhead (Shingletown, CA, Mark V. Ziesing, 1992; London, Millennium, 1994)
Millennium 1857-98153-7, 1994, 301pp, £4.99. Cover by Peter Gudynas
Phoenix 1857-99444-2, (Jun) 1996, 301pp, £5.99. Cover by Peter Gudynas

A Good Old-Fashioned Future (New York, Bantam Spectra, 1999; London, Gollancz, 2001)
Gollancz 1857-98710-1, (Apr) 2001, 279pp, £6.99. Cover by Blacksheep

Visionary in Residence (New York, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006)
(no UK paperback)

Ascendencies: The Best of Bruce Sterling (Burton, Michigan, Subterranean Press, 2007)
(no UK paperback)

Gothic High-Tech (Burton, Michigan, Subterranean Press, 2011)
(no UK paperback)

Transreel Cyberpunk, with Rudy Rucker (Los Gatos, CA, Transreal Books, 2016)
(no UK paperback)


Schismatrix Plus (contains Crystal Express, Schismatrix) (New York, Ace Books, 1996)
(no UK paperback)


The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (New York, Bantam, 1992; London, Viking, 1993)
Penguin 0140-17734-5, (Jan) 1994, 328pp, £6.99. Cover by Gary Marsh

Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years (New York, Random House, 2002)
(no UK paperback)

Shaping Things (Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 2005)
(no UK paperback)


Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (New York, Arbor House, 1986; London, Paladin, 1988)
Paladin 0586-08782-6, (Nov) 1988, 239pp, £4.95 [tpb].
HarperCollins 0586-08782-6 (Nov) 1994, xiv+239pp, £4.99.

Twelve Tomorrows (Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Technology Review, 2014)
(no UK paperback)

Twelve Tomorrows (Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Technology Review, 2015)
(no UK paperback)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Comic Cuts - 21 February 2020

Things are ramping up on the Rocket index front. I'm now in the design phase of the book, which will take a little while because it's not something I'm trained in and I've put out so few books these past three or four years that I've forgotten most of the short-cuts.

I was never trained in design, but learned through osmosis. Back in the days of Comic World, we worked closely with our designers, and in my case that was Graham Baldock, who was an incredibly experienced designer who worked from a studio in London, but lived in Colchester. I believe the work he did for Aceville was something of a sideline at first, but then grew to the point where he gave up his London studio and worked from home before finding office space in town as the work expanded into a family business, his son and daughter-in-law both working alongside him.

I've sung Graham's praises before. The one thing I cannot begin to mimic is how fast he worked. Admittedly he was handed the text and images (often already scanned), so he knew exactly what he had to work with, and most of the articles were two to four pages. I'm facing an open-ended book and have to source, scan, clean up, resize and caption all my own images, of which there are a vast number (Rocket may have only been 16 pages and run for 32 issues, but that's still over 500 pages with usually more than one image to choose from).

The big decision to make is the basic layout. I'm sticking with the layout that I used for Countdown, which is a wide text column, plus a second, smaller column for captions. That means image sizes can vary between the width of the caption column, the main text column, a widescreen pic over both columns, two pictures split between the same width, and full bleed images that will stretch across the whole page from edge to gutter. I'm also using a couple of images across whole spreads and occasionally dropping in an image behind the text so that there's some variety in the pages.

I have an idea what I'm doing for the front cover, but I still have a bit of work to do on the cover image (in the long-time tradition of Bear Alley Books, it will be based on a cover from one of the issues) and at the moment I don't have a back cover. Hopefully I'll have something to reveal by next week.In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the episode of 'Captain Falcon' at the head of this column.

Spring has sprung around the streets of Wivenhoe. I've seen signs of it for the last two weeks, but the trees are in blossom and the daffs are waving proudly in the stormy breeze. Apart from some intense rain, Storm Dennis didn't create any problems (no fallen trees, no more broken fence panels). In fact, I've managed to get out in the garden most days to chop up the branches we cut out of the tangle that purports to be a hedge in the front garden. It's not – it's simply the mess that results in decades of nobody looking after the garden (and I'm talking about the decades before we arrived).

It's unfortunate that the local council no longer allows eight bags of garden waste to be put out over the winter months. The cuttings have filled twelve bags (four that were emptied last week, and those same four bags plus another four that are falling apart), but we won't be able to get rid of the last of them for a month (We cut the hedge on Saturday, 8th... the last of the bags will be picked up on 10th March). That's a month where everything is starting to bloom and grow; by the time we get back to finishing the job, it'll be twice the job it would have been in mid-February.

I've nothing from the TV to review this week, being mid-season on a couple of shows, so let's take a look at a couple of podcasts. Being a grumpy old man nowadays, I'm finding that a lot of shows I have been listening to for years have steadily grown longer, so finding the time to listen to them properly is becoming trickier. Some fine shows that originally ran for maybe 45 minutes now run for 75 minutes and very few interview shows now run for less than an hour.

There are a couple of short, funny shows that I like to listen to that have appeared recently: Alice Fraser is a fabulous Aussie comedian who has appeared on The Bugle for some while now; she also does an interview podcast under the title Tea with Alice which tackles some tough subjects. Her conversations with Tiff Stevenson about safety and consent should be required listening, and if that's not your thing, there's also interviews with Neil Gaiman, Al Murray, Ed Byrne, Richard Herring and others.

I mention Alice because she has a new, short, wonderfully bizarre podcast called The Last Post, containing news from a slightly off-kilter version of our world. In the episodes I'm listening to at the moment, a race of Picts have been discovered living under London. Will there be a solution to the Pict crisis, or is the only solution available half a glass of water? You'll have to listen to find out.

The Onion, the satirical website, now has its own short 'n' sweet satirical look at the news podcast, The Topical, which has covered such controversial headlines as "FBI Warns Against American Dream Scam", "Tyson Foods Orders Trump to Cease and Desist" and "Australian Officials Touting Bushfire as Huge Success". Not for those with a sensitive disposition.

A fun 30 minute show is Richard Osman's The Birthday Game, which has a surprisingly simple premise. Three guests have to guess the age of someone whose birthday it is on the week of broadcast. It sounds unpromising, but it's actually a lot of fun. There are 16 episodes to date, the last broadcast in December. Hopefully there will be another batch along soon.

The other half-hour podcast is Inside the Comedian, which has been around for some while now. David Reed interviews comedians about their process. It's improvised and off the wall as the respondents spin outrageous claims for themselves and their talents. There are 36 episodes to date, so I'm sure you can find one to dip into to see if you like it.

That should keep you busy.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Commando 5307-5310

From the desert dunes to soviet snow, with a shortcut through the Ardennes! Brand-new Commando issues — out today!

5307: Stealing Stukas

It’s all fun and games in the desert of North Africa for an odd trio in ‘Stealing Stukas’! Andrew Knighton’s story throws an RAF Intelligence officer with a chip on his shoulder, a posh RAF pilot, and a Luftwaffe pilot who’s also an artist, all into the same melting pot! Their mission: to capture and return with a Junkers 87 for the boffins at HQ to dissect. But when you’re working with an enemy pilot in the scorching desert, without authorisation… well what could go wrong?

Story : Andrew Knighton
Art : Klacik & Muller
Cover : Keith Burns

5308: Enemy in Disguise

The Nazis are up to their old tricks in the Ardennes in CG Walker’s ‘Enemy in Disguise’! Kitted up in British and American uniforms, with American aircraft to boot — their goal is to sow confusion and mistrust between the allies and to cause some mayhem in the process. But the Germans and their nefarious plan hadn’t counted on Captain John Dixon’s dislike of Americans, along with a little help from a mysterious Cornishman called Longstraw and his pet crow!

Story : CG Walker
Art : Gordon C Livingstone
Cover : Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 680 (1972).

5309: Red Snow

For the German soldiers advancing towards Stalingrad, they thought the cold and the biting hunger were the only things they had to worry about. But trapped in the howling blizzard, they felt as if they were being hunted, picked off one by one — the only clue to their missing comrades whereabouts a patch of red snow and trail of bloody pawprints. They were not alone in the dark wasteland, and their survival depended on their wits.

Story : Jason Cobley
Art : Morhain & Defo
Cover : Neil Roberts
5310: The Face of Courage

Following on from ‘Enemy in Disguise’, ‘The Face of Courage’ is the second Commando reprint this release week from the powerhouses of CG Walker, Gordon C Livingstone, and Ian Kennedy. And what a classic Commando the unshakeable trio produced! Set in North Africa, the yarn involves an archaeologist, some British soldiers and a young tribesman teaming up to quell a big Nazi push!

Story : CG Walker
Art : Gordon C Livingstone
Cover : Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1505 (1981).

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases this week include the first in a line of War Picture Library reprints, this debut episode featuring the work of Hugo Pratt.

2000AD Prog 2169
Cover: Cliff Robinson (Dylan Teague cols.)
JUDGE DREDD: COLD CASE by Kenneth Niemand (w) Tom Foster (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE ZAUCER OF ZILK: A ZAUCERFUL OF SECRETS by Peter Hogan (w) Brendan McCarthy (a+c) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
PROTEUS VEX: ANOTHER DAWN by Michael Carroll (w) Henry Flint (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FERAL & FOE by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a+c) Joe Elson (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 417
Cover: Karl Richardson
JUDGE DREDD: PLUNDER by Michael Carroll (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEVLIN WAUGH: A VERY LARGE SPLASH by Ales Kot (w) Mike Dowling (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BLUNT III by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ZOMBIE ARMY: LAST RITES by Chris Roberson (w) Andrea Mutti (a) Matt Soffe (c) Simon Bowland (l)
LAWLESS: BOOM TOWN by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Features: Ellie De Ville obituary, Interrogation: Martin Simmonds, New Books: Battle Stations
Bagged reprint: The Nightcomers

Battle Stations by Donne Avenell & Hugo Pratt
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08752-7, 20 February 2020, 65pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

Hugo Pratt is one of the greatest comics artists of all time. The Italian master’s distinctive lines and storytelling finesse made him a legend, and yet his work on British war comics has largely been forgotten. No longer. Here, restored and presented in a stunning new edition, is Battle Stations - a tale of stark terror and war at sea that first appeared in War Picture Library in 1963. It follows three survivors of a Nazi naval attack as they seek their revenge on a deadly U-Boat – no matter the cost. Brutal, bloody and grimly heroic, Battle Stations could only be the work of the maestro himself, and marks the beginning of the Treasury of British Comics’ mission to return Pratt’s magnificent UK work to print.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Comic Cuts - 14 February 2020

We survived Storm Ciara with only an overturned bin and a loose fence panel to show for gusts of wind that I'm told reached 60-70 mph. In fact, the weather was so reasonable on Saturday that we spent the afternoon in the garden attacking the tangle of trees that have formed an impenetrable barrier between the garden (a mossy/grassy square with ivy growing rampant) and the road.

There are two pluses to this: it's a formidable sanctuary for nesting birds during the spring/summer months, as it is too tangled for local cats to have any chance of sneaking in; and it cuts down the noise of traffic, especially that deep, low bass rumble of buses and trucks as they slow to take the blind corner that we're on.

We've let it grow out of control for a couple of years, but it's desperately in need of a pruning and now is the time to do it, while some of the branches are bare of leaves and we don't have anything else requiring disposal. It's unfortunate that the local council has cut the number of garden waste bags that we can put out over the winter months. It used to be eight, but now it's only four a fortnight.

Well, we filled four bags easily on Saturday and had to drag the rest of the branches we'd cut down into a slightly sheltered cove between the front porch and the house next door. Having disposed of those bags during the week's 'green' collection, I'm filling a bag a day just to get rid of the tangle that's blocking the view out the front window. We have some spare bags, but it might be a month before we can tackle the rest of the pruning.

Incidentally, the fallen tree in the pic above is just one that I came across when I was out for my morning walk on Monday. It just goes to show what strength the storm had. I'm thinking we were lucky to get away with only that one bit of minor damage.

The next book from Bear Alley Books will be the Rocket index. The full title will be Rocket: The Space-Age Weekly, it will have a long, detailed introduction – as usual – with plenty of biographical info. on the various folks involved in its production.I had the first run-through finished on Tuesday evening, and I've spent the last two days (it's Thursday evening) rewriting and doing some tidying up of a couple of chapters I still had in note form. I should finish the rewrites Sunday, and I'll be doing some scanning and thinking about layouts from Monday. Fingers crossed!

Below the pic I'm reviewing Treadstone. There are spoilers, so don't look if you don't like that kind of thing.

It took two attempts to watch Treadstone. I made the mistake of watching the first episode at a time when I had a ton of other things to watch. By the time I got to the second episode, all I could remember was that Kerry Godliman had suddenly turned up and sung Frere Jacques to an oil rig roughneck. I then watched the second episode thinking, "It'll be fine, I'll pick up the various plot lines without too much trouble."

No. No I didn't.

So I've deliberately left it a while, watched a couple of palate cleanser series and taken a new run at it. It made more sense, but jumping into about over half a dozen different storylines isn't going to earn it any fans.

The show is a spin-off from the first Jason Bourne movies, Treadstone being a  CIA black ops programme to create soldiers and assassins who will obey orders without question. To do this, they are broken physically and psychologically and rebuilt with new identities. The programme was said to have been shut down at the end of The Bourne Identity, but another successor programme (Blackbriar) was still running.

In the TV series, similar programming methods are being used to create sleeper agents known as cicadas in the early 1970s. In 1973, a CIA agent, John Randolph Bentley, whilst investigating the programme has been captured by Russians involved in it. Unaware that nine months have passed, he breaks free of his captives, evades the clutches of Petra Andropov, who has been bonding with him even as she breaks him, and returns to the CIA. Fearing they believe he has been turned, Bentley goes on the run, returning to his place of captivity to look for clues that eventually lead him to Budapest.

In the present, journalist Tara Coleman, who was fired for writing articles about a nuclear programme known as Stiletto Six, is contacted by the CIA. A senior North Korean wants to meet her, warning her that cicadas are being activated and there is a connection to Treadstone. He asks Coleman to protect his daughter and, soon after, he is killed by a SoYun Pak, the wife of a young Korean named Dae who is rising through the ranks at his job.

Doug McKenna is sacked from his job on an oil rig; discovers he has fighting skills he was unaware of. His cicada programming is on the fritz and he flies back to his home and his wife, Samantha, only to have a Treadstone "cleaner" attack him. Samantha admits she is a former Treadstone programmer.

At the CIA, Ellen Becker is following up a bizarre shooting that takes place in a convenience store. The shooter, Stephen Haynes, appears to be highly trained and highly effective. She sends agent Matt Edwards to investigate and Edwards finds himself in a situation where teaming up with Haynes might get him the answers he is seeking.

Meanwhile, a much older Petra Andropov has been looking after Stiletto Six for decades. When her husband discovers the nuclear missile hidden under their farmyard barn, she kills him and tries to reconnect with her handler Yuri, only to find she has been forgotten.

OK, so I've simplified the plot so that you can follow it. There are seven main plot threads, with each episode weaving drunkenly between all seven. Creator and Executive Producer Tim Kring is no stranger to multiple storylines, having been the creator of Heroes, which stitched together an amazing and critically acclaimed first season from the character arcs of its ensemble cast. That worked because each thread was very different to the others.

Here, I fear, it didn't work. While the individual characters may be engaging, they're all going through the same thing – the breakdown of their cicada training. By the third or fourth episode, I'd already decided that the show needed to simplify and concentrate on fewer characters: kickass Korean housewife SoYun, ex-journalist Tara, old Petra and CIA operative Matt, perhaps. I'm pretty sure you can take out the whole 1973 storyline and Doug McKenna's storyline without damaging the plot and get the show down to a tighter, less confusing eight episodes.

No news if this is going to get a second season. There are dangling threads that need to be picked up and some characters who I would be happy to see again.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

This week's release from Rebellion Publishing is the latest Prog of 2000AD... things hot up a little next week with a Megazine and a Treasury collection featuring Hugo Pratt, so keep an eye out for next week's column.

2000AD Prog 2168
Cover: Joel Carpenter

JUDGE DREDD: FUTURE CRIMES UNIT by Rory McConville (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE ZAUCER OF ZILK: A ZAUCERFUL OF SECRETS by Peter Hogan (w) Brendan McCarthy (a+c) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
PROTEUS VEX: ANOTHER DAWN by Michael Carroll (w) Henry Flint (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FERAL & FOE by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a+c) Joe Elson (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, February 07, 2020

Comic Cuts - 7 February 2020

Today's column has a soundtrack, which you're welcome to play as you read.

We went out to the first gig of the year this week – a nice surprise as tickets had sold out almost the moment they were announced. We put our names on the returns list and some tickets became available late last week, which is how we came to be watching Phil Wang at the Colchester Arts Centre on Tuesday.

I can't remember where we might have first seen him. I remember him being a regular on Matt Forde's Unspun series on Dave, and appearances on Live at the Apollo, Would I Lie to You, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and elsewhere. I think he was forever cemented in our memories wearing a very revealing yellow tracksuit as a tribute to Bruce Lee on Taskmaster.

By co-incidence, we missed the repeat on his show on Radio 4 because we were out seeing him live. Wangsplaining was a pilot that came out about nine months ago. If you missed it, it's on the iPlayer if you want to give him a try.

This was only the second date of the tour, which means he had plenty of energy and seemed to be enjoying himself. The first half of the show was a little looser than one might expect as Wang was running in some material and being generally chatty and friendly, notably with a young lad in the front row who had a badge the size of a dinner plate announcing that it was his birthday. He's genial and self-effacing and had the audience on side from the start.

The second half was tighter, as this was the show proper – the hour from Edinburgh, so it was run in and didn't have the quite obvious jumps of the first half. That part of the set ended on a random notion that even Wang admitted he had no way to get into or out of as part of a routine. The latter half all slotted together nicely with a smart, dry wit that kept the show bubbling along.

Wang turned 30 in January, and jokes about his aches and pains don't really land when the audience is skewed old (I'm almost twice his age!) and sitting tightly packed on uncomfortable seats. I'm more on side with his talk of waking up with one inexplicably aching ball. Why? And why just one?

If you get a chance, go see Phil Wang. You might not learn the reason behind his one-sided ache but you will discover a few things about his desire for corks below the beltline.

I've become slightly obsessed with a band called Thank You Scientist. They're an American jazz-prog band that I discovered a few weeks ago. When I was doing the initial research for the Rocket index, I decided to check out some podcasts about the best prog of 2019 and Thank You Scientist's Terraformer album was mentioned on a show. I found the title track on Youtube and thought it was superb – lots of complex time changes, guitar shredding and a big band vibe at the same time. Plus, Salvatore Marrano has the most distinctive vocals since Geddy Lee. And the track features some storming fretless guitar work from Tom Monda. And there should be more electric violins in rock music – back in the 1970s we had Eddie Jobson in UK and Simon House in Hawkwind.

I was hooked enough to pick up the album, and I've now also found their previous two albums (Maps of Non-Existent Places and Stranger Heads Prevail); these three LPs have been the soundtrack to the writing of the new book.

Speaking of which, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the writing of the Rocket index. Most of the introduction is written, the index itself is done and I've started thinking about what I need as far as illustrations. There's still some way to go, but I'm hoping to have the book out in time for Bear Alley Books' ninth anniversary in March. It'll be our 32nd book! Blimey!

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Commando 5303-5306

Brand-new Commando issues 5303-5306 — out today! Featuring a triple bill of Ian Kennedy covers alongside a supersized Neil Roberts offering!

5303: Stan’s War

Former Commander Editor Calum Laird returns for his first credited, rip-roaring Commando yarn! Stanislaw Kowalski was fighting when the Nazis invaded his Polish homeland. Determined to get back into the fight, he joined the British Army only to be caught up in training. Luckily for the Polish fighting fury, Churchill ordered the formation of a new fearsome unit we know as the Commandos! Now if only Stan could keep his temper in check!

Story: Calum Laird
Art: Morhain & Defeo
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5304: Action Stations!

Everybody’s favourite two Kennedy’s join force in issue 5304 ‘Action Stations!’ With Ian Kennedy’s dark yet vibrant cover encompassing Cam Kennedy’s stunning interiors of RA Montague’s naval narrative. Sub-Lieutenant Ned Black was fresh to the Corvette named Nimbus, but the North Atlantic ocean during World War Two was no place for greenhorns and weaklings as the roving wolf packs of U-boats where about to teach him!

Story: RA Montague
Art: AC Kennedy
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 676 (1972).

5305: Supertank

They said the Landkreuzer P.1000 Ratte was never built, it was just blueprints, not even a prototype. But British tankies, Lieutenant Joseph “Bull” Bulloch, Sergeant Matt Evans and Trooper Euan McIntosh knew better! For they hadn’t just seen it, they had been inside it — and driven the monster tank into battle!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Khato
Cover: Neil Roberts
5306: The Unknown Enemy

Lieutenant Tom Gifford was tasked with aiding and protecting Colonel Vincent Vardon, a commander vital to the war effort. But when they’re driving through war-torn Italy a sudden rockslide strands them in enemy territory, Tom knows he’s in trouble! Then when a friendly half-track of America troops turn up, Tom thinks his luck as finally turned — or at least he did before he realises there’s something fishy going on.

Story: Staff
Art: Philpott
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1496 (1981).

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

This week's releases from Rebellion Publishing.

2000AD Prog 2167
Cover: Brendan McCarthy (Len O'Grady colours)
JUDGE DREDD: FUTURE CRIMES UNIT by Rory McConville (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HATE BOX by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX: ANOTHER DAWN by Michael Carroll (w) Henry Flint (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE ZAUCER OF ZILK: A ZAUCERFUL OF SECRETS by Peter Hogan (w) Brendan McCarthy (a+c) Len O'Grady (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FERAL & FOE by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a+c) Joe Elson (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Kingdom: Alpha and Omega by Dan Abnett & Richard Elson
Rebellion 978-1781-08753-4, 6 February 2020, 144pp, £15.99. Available via Amazon.

The latest collection of 2000 AD’s latest breakout success from the mind of NYP bestselling SF and Warhammer author Dan Abnett! After dragging Gene to their faltering cryogenic space station and abandoning his pack to the swarming insect “Them”, the masters are how holding Gene in idyllic V.R. suspension. Rescued before execution by an old friend, and joined by a terrorist working to undermine the master’s grip on the world below, Gene forms a tenuous alliance.  The three must work together to infiltrate the master’s security systems and steal the codes to their massively destructive arsenal. But Gene might not be prepared for what else he finds…

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Eric Frank Russell cover gallery

The first science fiction story that really had an impact on me was Eric Frank Russell's 'Alamagoosa' which I remember reading when I was about 12 years old, a fabulous and hilarious story that looses nothing however many times I read it.

I was inspired to revamp this old gallery (from 2008) after reading Into Your Tent by John L. Ingham, a highly detailed biography of Russell, which I heavily recommend to anyone who likes his work. It takes a little while to get into the meat of Russell's life – there's a lot of family background in the first 50 or so pages and Ingham has gone into it in overly meticulous detail (and, yes, that's coming from me, a man who is not known for his brevity) – but I've found learning about his life and discovering / re-discovering his stories a real joy. If you can find a copy (it was published by Plantech (UK) in 2010 as a paperback original at the cheap price of  £9.99), grab it.

When I wrote a little introduction to this gallery back in 2008, I said "Russell published far too little and there's a fair amount of work that remains uncollected—I'd love to do a volume of 'The Early Eric Frank Russell', for instance, to rescue a few of his pre-1950s tales that have never reappeared. They're mostly of archaeological interest only, but I still think it would make a nice collection. Indeed, he's one author I'd love to have a set of 'Complete Stories of...' volumes for on my shelves. Maybe... one day..."I think that still holds true.

One thing I learned from Ingham's book was that some of the paperbacks I had on my shelf were not the definitive versions of the texts, e.g. the latest printings of Wasp are based on the cut text of the American hardback, rather than the complete text of the British hardback. So my old Panther paperbacks have the complete text while the later Methuen and Gollancz editions are abridged. Something to watch out for and a good excuse for me to update my gallery, I thought.


Sinister Barrier (in Unknown Worlds, 1939). Kingswood, Surrey, World’s Work, 1943; revised, Reading, Penn., Fantasy Press, 1948; London, Dobson, 1967.
Cherry Tree Book 407, nd (1952), 190pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney 
Methuen 0413-58870-X, (Feb) 1986, 201pp, £2.50. Cover by Terry Oakes

Dreadful Sanctuary (serial: Astounding, Jun-Aug 1948). Reading, Penn., Fantasy Press, 1948; London, Museum Press, 1953; revised & abridged [by Russell], New York, Paperback Library, 1963; revised [updating Fantasy Press text] London, New English Library, 1967.
Four Square 1719, 1967, 255pp, 5/-. 
Mandarin 0749-30073-6, (Jul) 1989, 255pp, £3.50.

Sentinels From Space (as The Star Watchers, in Startling Stories, 1951). New York, Bouregy Curl, 1953; London, Museum, 1954; as Sentinels of Space, New York, Ace, 1954.
Methuen 0413-15640-0, (Nov) 1987, vii+227pp, £2.95. Cover by Alan Craddock

Three to Conquer (as Call Him Dead in Astounding Science Fiction, 1955). New York, Avalon, 1956; London, Dobson, 1957. [Note: all book editions follow Avalon text, cut by  c.5,000 words from serial version]
Corgi S596, 1958, 224pp, 2/6. Cover by John Richards
Penguin 2005, 1963, 202pp, 3/6. Cover: 'Orange Blossom' by Max Ernst (1930)
Methuen 0413-15650-9, (Nov) 1987, 211pp, £2.95. Cover by Alan Craddock

Wasp. (abridged) New York, Avalon, 1957; (unabridged), London, Dobson, 1958.
Panther 1487, 1963, 143pp, 2/6. Cover by Richard Powers
Panther 1487-X, 1968, 143pp, 3/6. Cover: photo
Methuen 0413-48850-2, (Feb) 1986, 175pp, £2.50. Cover by Terry Oakes [Avalon text]
Gollancz 0575-07095-1, (Apr) 2000, 175pp, £9.99. Cover: design [Avalon text]
---- [imp.], (Jan) 2001, 175pp, £9.99. Cover by Jim Burns [Avalon text]

The Space Willies (based on the story Plus X). (abridged) New York, Ace, 1958; (unabridged) as Next of Kin, London, Dobson, 1959; edited & abridged, University of London Press (Pilot Books 44), 1964.
Mayflower A14, (Jan) 1962, 160ppm 2/6.
Sphere [SF Classic 13] 0722-17542-6, 1973, 160pp, 30p. Cover by Chris Foss
Mandarin 9743-30072-8, (Jul) 1989, 181pp, £2.99. Cover by Angus McKie
Gollancz 0575-07240-7, (Jun) 2001, 181pp, £9.99. Cover: design
---- [imp.], 2002, 181pp, £9.99. Cover by Chris Moore

The Great Explosion (incorporates the story ...And Then There Were None). London, Dobson, 1962; New York, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1962.
Panther 1625, (Jan) 1964, 144pp, 2/6.
?? Gollancz, 2010

With a Strange Device. London, Dobson, 1964; as The Mind Warpers, New York, Lancer, 1965.
Penguin 2358, (Oct) 1965, 155pp, 3/6. Cover by Allbert Gleizes
Mandarin 0749-30102-3, (Oct) 1989, 154pp, £2.99. Cover by Peter Elson

Design for Great-Day, with Alan Dean Foster. New York, Tor Books, 1995.
(no UK paperback)


Entities: The Selected Short Novels of Eric Frank Russell (contains, Wasp; Sentinels from Space; Call Him Dead; Next of Kin; Sinister Barrier; Legwork; Mana; The Mechanical Mice). NESFA Press, Sep 2001.


Deep Space. New York, Fantasy Press, 1954; London, Eyre Spottiswoode, 1956; also with one story omitted, New York, Bantam, 1955
(contains: First Person—Singular; The Witness; Last Blast; Homo Saps; The Timid Tiger; A Little Oil; Rainbows End; The Undecided; Second Genesis. NOTE: First Person—Singular omitted from some editions)
Mandarin 0749-30103-1, (Oct) 1989, 249pp, £3.50. Cover by Peter Elson

Men, Martians and Machines. London, Dobson, 1955; New York, Roy, 1956
(contains: Jay Score; Mechanistra; Symbiotica; Mesmerica)
Corgi S424, 1957, 190pp, 2/6. Cover by John Richards
Panther 1890, Jul 1965, 191pp, 3/6. Cover by Josh Kirby
---- 1890-5, 1968, 191pp, 5/-. Cover by ?

Six Worlds Yonder. New York, Ace, 1958
(contains: The Waitabits; Tieline; Top Secret; Nothing New; Into Your Tent I’ll Creep; Diabologic)
(no UK paperback)

Far Stars. London, Dobson, 1961
(contains: The Waitabits; P.S.; Allamagoosa; Legwork; Diabologic; The Timeless Ones)
Panther 1691, Jun 1964, 128pp, 2/6. 

Dark Tides. London, Dobson, 1962
(contains: The Sin of Hyacinth Peuch; With a Blunt Instrument; A Matter of Instinct; I’m a Stranger Here Myself; This Ones On Me; I Hear You Calling; Wisel The Ponderer; Sole Solution; Rhythm of the Rats; Me and My Shadow; Bitter End)
Panther 1599, Nov 1963, 128pp, 2/6. 
----, (Dec) 1964, 128pp, 2/6.

Somewhere a Voice. London, Dobson, 1965; New York, Ace, 1966
(contains: Somewhere A Voice; U-Turn; Seat of Oblivion; Tieline; Displaced Person; Dear Devil; I Am Nothing)
Penguin 2722, 1968, 188pp, 4/-. Cover by Carl Strüwe

Like Nothing On Earth. London, Dobson, 1975; expanded, London, Methuen, 1986.
(contains: Allamagoosa; Hobbyist; The Mechanical Mice; Into Your Tent Ill Creep; Nothing New; Exposure; Ultima Thule)
Methuen 0413-60010-6, 1986, 159pp, £1.95. Cover by Terry Oakes [adds Allamagoosa]

The Best of Eric Frank Russell, introduced by Alan Dean Foster. New York, Ballentine, 1978.
(contains: Mana; Jay Score; Homo Saps; Metamorphosite; Hobbyist; Late Night Final; Dear Devil; Fast Falls the Eventide; I Am Nothing; Weak Spot; Alamagoosa; Into Your Tent Ill Creep; Study In Still Life (n-f))
(no UK paperback)

Major Ingredients, ed. Rick Katze. Framingham, MA, NESFA Press, Sep 2000.
(contains: Editor’s Introduction (by Rick Katze); Eric Frank Russell (by Jack L. Chalker); Allamagoosa; …And Then There Were None; The Army Comes to Venus; Basic Right; Dear Devil; Diabologic; Fast Falls the Eventide; Hobbyist; Homo Saps; I Am Nothing; Into Your Tent I’ll Creep; Jay Score; Last Blast; Late Night Final; A Little Oil; Meeting on Kangshan; Metamorphosite; Minor Ingredient; Now Inhale; Nuisance Value; Panic Button; Plus X; Study in Still Life; Tieline; The Timid Tiger; Top Secret; The Ultimate Invader; The Undecided; U-Turn; The Waitabits; The Man Who (Almost) Never Was (by Mike Resnick))
(no UK paperback) 

Darker Tides: The Weird Tales of Eric Frank Russell, ed. John Pelan & Phil Stephensen-Payne. Seattle, Midnight House, Jul 2006.
(contains: The Sin of Hyacinth Peuch; With a Blunt Instrument; The Ponderer; Rhythm of the Rats; Me and My Shadow; Displaced Person; Vampire from the Void; Hell's Bells; The Big Shot; Appointment at Noon; Take a Seat; Bitter End; Down, Rover, Down; A Divvil with the Women; I Hear You Calling; I'm a Stranger Here Myself; A Matter of Instinct; It's in the Blood; Poor Dead Fool; Seat of Oblivion; Sole Solution; Storm Warning; This One's on Me; Wisel)
(no UK paperback)


Great World Mysteries
. London: Dobson, 1957; New York: Roy, 1957
Mayflower, 1962, 160pp.
Mayflower-Dell, 1967, 160pp, 3/6. Cover by Victor Kalin

The Rabble Rousers. Evanstown, Ill.: Regency, 1963.
(no UK paperback)

The ABZ of Scouse: How to Talk Proper in Liverpool Vol. 2 (as Linacre Lane). Liverpool, Scouse Press, 1966; also as Lern Yerself Scouse Volume 2: The ABZ of Scouse, Liverpool, Scouse Press, n.d..
Scouse Press, 1966. 
---- [later ed.], n.d., 121pp, £1.95. Cover: design

(* That last one really is Eric Frank Russell writing in the guise of Linacre Lane, Bachelor of Scouse; I believe it only came to light when some of Russell's papers were donated to the Science Fiction Foundation by his daughter in 1994.)

(* Originally published 20 July 2008.)


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