Friday, July 30, 2021

Comic Cuts — 30 July 2021

I'm pleased to say that I've had a busy week writing a couple of introductions for a pair of Spanish reprints of British comics (The Spider, The Steel Claw). It was a nice break from writing about wartime comics, as that can be quite frustrating. I'm researching as I go along, often into artists or publishers who have never been written about, and finding information can be hard. If I'm lucky, I might turn up something in family history records or old newspapers. If I'm unlucky... well, it has taken me just as long — and sometimes longer — to find nothing as it would to find something.

A good for instance is Reg Bunn. There seemed to be almost nothing known about his family origins. Even Wikipedia has no mention of his parents. So I spent Wednesday afternoon trying to think of various ways to search family records, and while I managed to turn up the names of his parents, I spent even more time looking for, and failing to find, the family in the 1901 and 1911 census records. They just seem to have been missed entirely.

The census records aren't 100% complete and also the search algorithms at Ancestry and Find My Past aren't infallible, so you often have to approach these things from a dozen different directions: searching for parents and siblings and searching for variations of names. Eventually you end up searching for every "Bunn" in the Birmingham area in the hope that you can spot something in the thousands of results.

Eventually I had to give up — the work day ended, so we went for a memorable walk. Memorable because we got half-way around the block when the skies opened and we were soaked to the skin in a matter of seconds. A little while later, as it wasn't my turn to cook, I spent another hour looking again to see if I could find out what Reg's father's occupation was. With the same amount of joy that I had felt getting doused in a rainstorm.

There are other frustrations. For instance... who was Edward Lowe? As far as I can tell, Lowe drew only two comic strips, the first appearing just after the war in 1946 and running until 1948, and its replacement appearing only briefly in 1948-49. They comprise only three dozen or so pages in total, and then Lowe disappears.

This is not an uncommon story. The years immediately after the war saw a continuing fight for paper supplies for both book and periodical publishers and newspaper proprietors. Towards the end of the 1940s, restrictions began to lift, and magazines and newspapers began to slowly return to their pre-war size; small comic publishers — the pirate publishers, as they were nicknamed — began to fall by the wayside and artists who had established themselves in their pages either had to find other work with the majors (AP, DCT) or newspapers (Ron Embleton, Joe Colquhoun, Ron Turner and Jim Holdaway were among the artists who achieved this) or disappeared to work in other fields.

Could that have been the fate of Edward Lowe? If it was, it was a shame. He shows a real confidence for a first-timer and he could have emerged as a major talent. I have only seen three episodes of his comic strip 'Igor' and they are far superior to 95% of the other strips that were appearing at the time. The figurework isn't brilliant, but it's a style that is quickly forgiven as you are carried along by the story, which is fairly simple, but dynamic in both layout and its cinematic choice of angles.

I'll have to open this up to those of you who know more about American comics than I do... could Edward Lowe have been swiping from someone like Alex Raymond or Burne Hogarth? Below you'll find the complete first episode, plus a couple of spreads from the two other episodes I have. It would be interesting to hear what people think.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 28 July 2021

The spectacular Megatropolis is now available to pre-order from the 2000AD webshop. This visionary ‘Elseworlds‘-style series by writer Kenneth Niemand (Judge Dredd) and artist Dave Taylor (Batman & Superman: World’s Finest) radically reimagines the world of Judge Dredd, creating a stunning retro techno-futurist city inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis.

Disgraced Officer Amy Jarra and Detective Joe ‘Choirboy’ Rico navigate the crime-ridden underbelly of the glamourous Metropolis, attempting to solve the murder of undercover Detective Fisher.

Transforming Mega-City One into an art deco cityscape, Niemand and Taylor spin a tale of futuristic noir with luscious art and jaw-dropping set pieces. This over-sized hardcover collection includes a gallery of cover art and never seen before concept sketches.

Out on 13 October, this collection is now available to pre-order as a standard hardcover collection and webshop-exclusive hardcover with gorgeous design-led cover.

2000AD Prog 2242
Cover: Clint Langley

Judge Dredd: Now That's What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Sinister: Its Own Devices by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, July 23, 2021

Comic Cuts — 23 July 2021

I have spent most of the week beavering away on the next section of my history of wartime comics, concentrating on the 100+ issues published by Arthur Soloway during and just after the Second World War. This week I was concentrating on the three 'F's — Fullerton, Farningham and Fraser. I've written about Len Fullerton before, but there is next to nothing known about Alf Farningham and Alan Fraser outside of a list of their contributions to various comics (which I also had to do myself, as no other bugger has done it before). Hopefully I can shed at least a little light on their lives outside the pages of comic books.

The only bit of excitement this week came on Tuesday when I journeyed into Colchester to have a filling. I'm pleased to say that everyone seems to have treated "Freedom Day" with the same caution that I'm treating it, i.e. ignoring it completely and sticking to the same precautions I have for the past sixteen months — keeping well away from others, wearing a mask on the bus and in any shops I went into, and liberal use of hand sanitizer where shops were offering it.

Here's another mystery artist from the wartime publications of Arthur Soloway. He signed a couple of pages with the initials J.G.H., although poor printing made me wonder whether it might be J.C.A. The signatures are small, but hopefully you'll agree with my conclusion of J.G.H.

Whoever he or she was, J.G.H. worked for the comics only briefly, contributing to four issues of All Fun Comic in 1945-46. The contribution of seven half-page sets featured all-different characters, including 'The Good Ship Mary Ann', 'Jungle Jim', 'Mike and his Magic', 'Spick and Span the Merry Messengers', 'Bully Boy Binks', 'Victor the Vanman' and 'Nick and Ned'.

They seem typical of what was appearing in the Amalgamated Press's in the 1930s, knockabout humour featuring a cast of typical types — sailors, schoolboys, magician, jungle explorer, army messengers — and a cheery end to each six panels where the bully or crook gets his comeuppance.

Please note that these are from 75 years ago and depictions of 'savages' are typical of the racist caricatures that appeared in many comics in that era. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Commando 5455-5458

New Commando issues are out today! With a special anniversary issue for the SAS, sweat-drenched desert truces, Nazi super-weapons, and an unlikely hero called ‘Ratso’… Get your copies this Thursday!

5455: Dare to Die

Commemorating 80 years of the SAS, ‘Dare to Die’ lives up to the motto of ‘Who Dares Wins’ as red-blooded heroes Paul Milton and Derek Connor are as daring as they come. Highly skilled and expertly-trained, they had guts to spare! Especially when an SAS raid on a lonely airstrip in the middle of the desert goes terribly wrong and they’re left behind. With only their wits to rely on, they do the last thing the Nazis expect — go back and ransack the place they just raided!

Mark Harris’s second cover for Commando is just as action-packed as his first, with an Indiana Jones style fist-fight on a racing armoured car in the desert! What’s not to like?

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Mark Harris

5456: Desert Fighter

The Germans had heard plenty about the Eighth Army. They’d heard plenty about the French Foreign Legion too, those tough, devil-may-care adventurers of the desert. Then Captain Dick Bryson of the Eighth Army and Colonel Duclos of the Foreign Legion shook hands in a desert fort in the middle of nowhere and decided to join forces. Wham! The Nazis were soon wondering what had hit them!

This Commando has grit aplenty with ruthless Nazis, subterfuge and betrayal, all under the scorching desert sun!

Story | Spence
Art | Buylla
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 189 (1965).

5457: Die Glocke

Late 1944 — the end of the war is on the horizon and two best friends, Paul Dunne and Thomas Holt, must work together on what will be their last top-secret mission. With years of fighting experience under their belts, the operation was supposed to be simple: parachute into Poland and beat the Russians in an attempt to acquire Wunderwaffe — top-secret German weapon technology. But things go awry, and the duo must play a bigger part in history than they ever imagined as they come face-to-face with Die Glocke!

A rare Commando written AND drawn by the same contributor, Dan Barnfield’s first Commando is meticulously detailed and engagingly written, making him someone to watch out for in future issues!

Story | Dan Barnfield
Art | Dan Barnfield
Cover | Neil Roberts

5458: Ratso and the Sergeant

Ratso and the Sergeant… sounds almost like a music hall comedy turn, doesn’t it? But the Germans definitely weren’t laughing at this duo’s act when they really got down to business, trying to make sure their tank unit came to no harm while attempting to halt the German advance!

With a title like that, who needs more incentive to read on? But there’s so much more to Ratso and the Sergeant than their names suggest as the polar opposites have to learn to work together if they’re going to survive and stop the enemy in this delightful Roger Sanderson romp.

Story | Roger Sanderson
Art | Carmona
Cover | Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No. 1697 (1983).

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 21 July 2021

2000 AD 2241
Cover: Dan Cornwall

Judge Dredd: Now That's What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Sinister: Its Own Devices by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 434
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: Project Providence by Rory McConville (w) Staz Johnson (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Diamond Dogs II by James Peaty (w) Warren Pleece (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Angelic: Restitution by Gordon Rennie (w) Lee Carter (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Returners: Amazonia by Si Spencer (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning by Aleš Kot (w) Mike Dowling (a) Quinton Winter (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Bagged supplement: 2000 AD Encyclopedia, Park 7: O-R
Interviews: writer Roy Preston, writer Ram V
Feature: Rewriting Extinction

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 37 by John Wagner, Gordon Rennie, Robbie Morrison, Ian Edginton, Garth Ennis (w) Cam Kennedy, Paul Marshall, Patrick Goddard, John Burns, Charlie Adlard, Ian Gibson, Simon Fraser, Paul J Holden, Inaki Miranda, Dean Ormston, Steve Pugh, Carlos Ezquerra, Lee Sullivan, Simon Coleby, John Higgins (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108897-5, 22 July 2021, 288pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

He's been a thorn in Dredd's side since the Apocalypse War, but will Orlok the Assassin finally be brought to justice? The latest in the best-selling series of Judge Dredd's adventures sees the future lawman and the Sov killer come face-to-face for what could be the last time. Will justice be served? Or will Orlok escape again Meanwhile, Dredd investigates the twisted machinations of Judge Edgar, the Machiavellian head of the Public Surveillance Unit, and superstar writer Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys) returns to write his final Dredd story, drawn by John Higgins (Watchmen).

The Trigan Empire Volume III by Mike Butterworth & Don Lawrence
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108932-3, 20 July 2021, 256pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The third thrilling omnibus of the lost Sci-Fi classic from the sixties that the New York Times noted had “highly detailed visions of fantastic worlds” This is the epic story of the Trigan Empire’s rise and fall, and of how Trigo, often alone, had to fend off usurpers and monstrous threats to save his people. The lush painted comic art that Don Lawrence produced in this period would solidify him as one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. Collected within are all the Trigan Empire stories published in chronological order including the never before reprinted short stories not illustrated by Don Lawrence, to give you the complete saga of the Trigan Empire.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Comic Cuts — 16 July 2021

I've had another good week on the latest project, which, as I mentioned last week, is taking a look at some of the publishers who appeared during World War Two. I did some work on it at the beginning of the year, thanks to having some access to some of these scarce comics, and I've picked up the baton recently and actually started writing.

I have been working on what it really the second section of the story. I know this because I covered the same ground many years ago, so I know how it all hangs together. I have had to start at part two because I borrowed a ton of comics and, at some point, the owners are going to ask for them back! This part of the story is also a two-parter, of which I've finished the first part. I need to go back in and do a ton of scanning to make sure that I've got everything when I come to start designing these chapters for publication.

In the meantime, I've spent Wednesday and Thursday on a related topic, but a different publisher—Arthur Soloway. He was quite prolific during the war, publishing four different titles, all of them of note thanks to the heavy involvement of the artist Len Fullerton, who was working in his finest Alex Raymond mode on a range of different strips.

What I want to do here is take a brief look at an unknown artist who worked for the same comics. More on that in a second or two.

We've had a maddening time with our phones again. Long-time readers will recall that the phones have been patchy here for some while, culminating in a complete loss of service a few weeks ago. We were told that fixing the problem would potentially involve digging up the road. On Wednesday, the phones stopped working and, a couple of hours later, the internet dropped out. All without warning, I should add.

Then Mel noticed that there was a cherry-picker in the road with a couple of BT engineers fiddling about with the lines. They had disappeared by the time we came back from our evening walk, and both internet and phone lines seemed to be working. However, when I tried to give my Mum a ring on Thursday morning, things got weird. Our line doesn't go 'dead' when we hang up, so anyone who then phones goes through to voicemail, having been told that we are taking or making a call. Just as that happened, we received a text from TalkTalk saying that an engineer had been working on the line and that it might take a few days for things to improve.

So is it fixed or not? As I write this, we cannot call out from the house and anyone calling in gets directed to voicemail. I'm not sure how that will magically improve over the next few days if nobody is actually doing anything. If I asked BT Openreach to replace a lightbulb, would we be told that it might take a few days before the new bulb they've installed lights up? All they've done so far—as far as I can tell—is they've plugged us back into the damaged line again, the one that wasn't working three weeks ago. I can't think of any other reason why we're back to square one and facing precisely the same problem we had before. A giant leap backwards in fixing the problem.

OK, so here are some examples of another little known artist from wartime comics. I don't know the name of this artist, whom Denis Gifford credits as "JRJ". I'm not 100% certain he has it right. I'll post some of the tiny signatures and you can see if you agree with me... I think that maybe the signature is "JR" with a sweeping line afterwards, a bit like a Nike swoosh.

In my favour, the artist only signed a couple of pages of 'Poor Old Pop' that way, and by the time he added 'Nosey Parker' as a little strip along the bottom (very American Sunday papers style) and introduced two other strips, 'Bedtime Stories' and 'Jo the Artful Joker', he had reduced the signature to a tiny glyph linking the initial J and R.

The artist I'm now calling J.R. worked for Soloway during the war and then briefly worked for Swan just after the war, the full extent of his activity beginning and ending between 1943 and 1947. The chances of finding out anything about him (or maybe her, you never know) are slim, but maybe someone will be able to offer up a clue.

(The JR glyph signature can be see on the third pair of images below at the lower right of the title panels.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 14 July 2021

Rebellion has announced its publication plans for the 45th anniversary of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, with creator-led collections and special artist editions across eight months of 2022 to mark its first publication.

Supported with special talent signings, these graphic novels and new editions will not only celebrate the rich legacy of 2000 AD but also honour the creators who have helped it continue to blaze into the new century! These books form just part of Rebellion’s plans to mark this unprecedented anniversary, with more announcements due nearer the time.

First arriving on newsstands in the middle of February 1977, 2000 AD was never expected to outlast all of its stablemates and rivals, but its difference and quality ensured it very quickly it became a cultural force far beyond its pages, its anarchic tone established by Pat Mills, John Wagner and a host of groundbreaking talent. As well as being the home of future lawman Judge Dredd, it has been a proving ground for comic book creators who have gone on to change the industry forever, from Alan Moore to Grant Morrison, from Simon Bisley to Jock.

Jason Kingsley, CEO of Rebellion, said: “Before the turn of the millennium many people had decided that 2000 AD wasn’t worth saving, but over the past two decades it has not only proven them wrong but has gone from strength to strength. It is with no small amount of pride that we are now laying plans for celebrating its 45th birthday, even as it continues to produce comics of fantastic quality - not as an anachronism or museum piece but as truly the galaxy’s greatest comic. All that success is thanks to the hard work, commitment, and talent of everyone involved - from creators to editorial and also the fans - I thank them all and look forward to helping shepherd 2000 AD through its next decades and beyond."

Ben Smith, head of books, comic books, film and TV at Rebellion, said: “Our line-up for spring 2022 is packed with tributes to the people who have helped make 2000 AD what it is. It’s a pleasure to be able to bring such collections and special editions to the fans, which really bring 2000 AD’s rich heritage and characters alive.

“The ongoing uncertainty over the pandemic means we’re not planning a major convention to rival our 40th birthday celebrations, but that doesn’t mean we’re staying silent over this landmark. Far from it - our publishing schedule for both the anniversary and beyond will make 2022 a watershed year for 2000 AD and Rebellion.”

The festivities begin with The 2000 AD Encyclopedia (published in February). The first ever comprehensive and definitive encyclopedia of the worlds of 2000 AD, this weighty tome will bring together synopses and details of every series published in the weekly anthology and its sister comic, the Judge Dredd Megazine, as well as popular and distinctive characters from major series such as Judge Dredd. Written by writer and journalist Scott Montgomery, The 2000 AD Encyclopedia promises to become the definitive, go-to resource for the hundreds of creations that have appeared in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics over the past four decades including comprehensive sections on Sláine, Nemesis the Warlock, A.B.C Warriors and many more.

Alongside this, The Brian Bolland Apex Edition (published in February) will showcase the Judge Dredd work of one of 2000 AD’s greatest creators. This deluxe, over-sized facsimile edition will feature new high-resolution scans of Bolland’s original art from 2000 AD, showing his delicate inking brushwork in unprecedented detail. As one of the first creators in the ‘British Invasion’ of the American comic book industry in the 1980s, Bolland’s work on series such as Camelot 3000 and Batman: The Killing Joke, and covers for Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Batman, and many more, have made him one of the most distinctive and famous artists in comics. This Apex Edition, which will be available in an exclusive edition through the 2000 AD webshop and a standard edition through comic stores via Diamond Distribution, will provide fans with unprecedented insights into his original art in an edition befitting such a landmark talent.

The mainstay of 2000 AD since its second issue, Judge Dredd is one of the world’s most famous comic book characters, not only spawning two major movie adaptations but becoming a cultural icon and  a breeding ground for generations of creators who have helped transform comics as we know them. To mark Dredd’s 45th anniversary, 2000 AD will honour his co-creators, writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, with two collections that bring together some of their best work for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. The Best of John Wagner (published in March) and The Best of Carlos Ezquerra (published in May) will give long-time fans and those new to the work of these two giants of British comics the opportunity to enjoy and savour some of the highlights from two talents that helped seal 2000 AD as a cultural trailblazer, with Wagner’s action-packed, terse, and often blackly comical writing paired with the gritty and dynamic art of Ezquerra, who sadly passed away in 2018.

Also published in March, Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory will showcase the work of one of the best writers of the new generation of Judge Dredd scribes - Al Ewing. Beginning his career at 2000 AD, Ewing quickly established himself as one of comics’ most unique voices. A master of character, plot, and wit, Ewing’s work on Judge Dredd sealed his reputation as one of 2000 AD’s most exciting creators, as he has gone to work extensively for Marvel Comics on critically-acclaimed titles such as Immortal Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy. The Blaze of Glory collection will bring together his best stories of the ‘lawman of the future’ and provide fans with an overview of his energetic and enthralling writing.

The special new editions culminate with 45 Years of 2000 AD (published in May). To mark 2000 AD’s galaxy of characters, forty-five popular artists from the worlds of comics and illustration will give their unique takes on some of 2000 AD’s most famous characters. The brand new collection will feature work by David Aja (Seeds), Michael Allred (X-Statix), Jamie Smart (Bear), Colleen Doran (New York Times bestseller), Annie Wu (Hawkeye), Mick McMahon (Judge Dredd), Kevin O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Rachael Stott (Doctor Who), Chris Weston (The Filth), Henry Flint (Judge Dredd) and many, many more

No conversation about 2000 AD’s first great ‘golden age’ is complete without one name - Gerry Finley-Day. The co-creator of Rogue Trooper as well as the distinctive writer on series such as Blackhawk, The VCs, Fiends of the Eastern Front, Dan Dare, Ant Wars, Harry Twenty on the High Rock and many more, The Best of Gerry Finley-Day (published in August) will delve into this punchy, high-powered writing of one of the comic’s greatest ‘ideas men’. Finley-Day brought both a creative energy and a great sense of character to his work and this volume will pay tribute to the work of one of 2000 AD’s best talents.

Never before reprinted, September 2022 will see the first ever collection of DC Comics’ Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law. Capitalising on the hoped-for success of the Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone and modelled on the Batman series Legends of the Dark Knight, this mid-‘90s series bought in Dredd writers John Wagner and Alan Grant to jettison most of Dredd's established continuity and focus on the lawman’s earliest exploits. This unique collection will finally bring the thirteen-issue series together, with art by Brent Anderson (X-Men) Tommy Lee Edwards (Marvel 1985), John Byrne (Superman), Barb Kaalberg (Planet of the Apes), Gary Martin (Nexus), and Anthony Williams (Judge Dredd).

And, rounding off 2000 AD’s 45th birthday celebrations, October will see the eagerly-anticipated Mick McMahon Apex Edition. Few artists have stamped their signature on Judge Dredd the way McMahon has; the artist on the first published Dredd story in 2000 AD Prog 2, he was initially hired to imitate Ezquerra’s distinctive style but soon developed his own kinetic, visceral style, which evolved into the chunky, powerful ’big boots’ style. Constantly evolving, his work on seminal Dredd stories such as ‘The Cursed Earth’, ‘Block Mania’ and ‘The Judge Child’ was a world away from the almost woodcut-like art on Sláine, and his slick, sci-fi action on The VCs and Ro-Busters. This deluxe, over-sized facsimile edition will feature new high-resolution scans of McMahon’s original art from 2000 AD. It will also be available in an exclusive edition through the 2000 AD webshop and a standard edition through comic stores via Diamond Distribution.

2000 AD 45th anniversary publishing schedule

February 2022

The 2000 AD Encyclopedia
Brian Bolland Apex Edition

March 2022
The Best of John Wagner
Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory

May 2022
The Best of Carlos Ezquerra
45 Years of 2000 AD

August 2022
The Best of Gerry Finley-Day

September 2022
Judge Dredd: Legends of the Law

October 2022
Mick McMahon Apex Edition

And now, back to this week's release...

2000 AD Prog 2240
Cover: Toby Willsmer

Judge Dredd: Now That's What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Chimpsky's Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky by Kenneth Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Comic Cuts — 9 July 2021

I've spent most of the week reading through some of the most curious comic strips I've ever seen.

As many of you will know, I have been a long-time fan of bad SF books from the cheap end of the market because... well, a good analogy might be that a first draft is like a sculptor hacking a block of stone out of a cliff; the skill of the writer (and the sculptor) is what they do with that first draft through reworking and rewriting. At the cheap end of the market there's no time for luxuries like editing and revising, which is why some books are so fantastically bad — some just painfully so, but others are so bad that they're enjoyable. At the cheap end you tend not to get the best writers, just newcomers who might not have developed their skills yet, or hacks who are just doing it for the money.

Well, there are comic equivalents. Looking through issues of Gerald G. Swan's New Funnies and Topical Funnies, I've found some strips that fit into both categories. Swan attracted some talented people, but paid them badly, so they had to churn out pages that were paid at a fraction of the rates paid by Amalgamated Press or D. C. Thomson—and that payment included both art and script.

The only memoirs I've been able to read relating to Swan are from artists who came along after his first issues were published. I rather wish there was some information about where he advertised, because he included the work of six different artists in his first comic and only two had previously experience as strip artists. Four names are unique to Swan and none of them lasted long as other (and if I'm being honest), better artists arrived and squeezed them out of the comics. At the start, Swan's editor (perhaps Swan himself) seemed simply to accept anything, and the end product was a bizarre mish-mash of strips which you wouldn't have expected to satisfy any audience: it wasn't a kids comic, nor a comic for young adults, and it wasn't an American comic book, which it tried to emulate.

Take Richard Philips as a for instance. His drawing style is juvenile, his joke sets simplistic, and most of his strips lasted only a single episode. He produced perhaps two dozen pages for Swan, half a dozen of them pages of jokes, many of them related to the war, amongst them 'Buzzoff the Spy', 'Wendy of the WATS' and 'Willie the A.R.P. Warden'. He also drew a mad inventor, 'Professor Branewave' and a handful of other characters.

The language, too, shows none of the verbal dexterity of other strips published in the same issues. William Ward was notable for his characters using slang (both English and American) and a phonetic form of Americanese for some of his strips ("It's all along of my nat'ral love of law an' order, as I find meself in this desp'rit predickament!" "How come, Pete? Ef you wuz so fond of law an' order, how come yo're our wust bad-man?").

So how did Richard Philips come to learn that Swan was launching a comic book line? If Richard Philips really was a youngster, would he have been reading a newspaper like the Daily Telegraph, which was a popular paper to advertise in? It's not out of the question, as you could leave school aged 14 in 1940 and Philips may have been looking for work in the early months of the war and stumbled across Swan advertising for artists.

Here are some examples of Philips' work (including a readable version of 'Captain Spud') for your delectation and... delight? If I get a chance, I'll post some more examples of some of the lesser-known Swan contributors shortly.

Commando 5451-5454

Commando’s 60th Anniversary caps off with another four very special issues. Voted for by the Commando readers over Thought Bubble Weekend 2020, this set is four never-before reprinted classics from Commando’s golden era of the 1960s all with fantastic brand-new covers!  Each of the eight anniversary issues in the two anniversary sets feature covers by eight different artists showcasing Commando’s diverse back catalogue — including two brand new cover artist making their debut! Get yours when they’re out!

5451: Killers From the Deep

In 1943, the Battle of the North Atlantic had reached its peak. Convoys of British ships braved attacks from U-boat packs and Luftwaffe dive-bombers. Then came the greatest threat of all. German battleships hid in Norwegian fjords, ready to raid the convoys. Among them was the mighty Lindoff, 40,000 tons of fighting steel, whose guns could send a whole convoy to Davy Jones’s locker. Then, one dark night, three midget submarines, each with a crew of three, were towed from a Scottish harbour. They were Britain’s secret weapon — the X-Craft. Their destination: the Alten Fjord, Norway. Their orders: “Sink the Lindoff”.
    Carlos Pino’s aquatic cover shows the brilliance of the artist’s thirty-plus years career at Commando and why he is such a beloved and outstanding artist. The colour and fluidity pay homage to the original while added that quintessential Pino flavour.

Story | Spence
Art | Ros
Cover | Carlos Pino
Originally Commando No. 26 (1962).

5452: Lone Wolf

This is the story of a “lone wolf” — a man who did things his own way. He was a ruthless enemy and a dangerous friend. His name was Steve Lacroix, and he was French-Canadian. His story began during the terrible nine-hour raid on the port of Dieppe in August, 1942, when five thousand Canadians stormed the beaches — and less than two thousand came back…
    A cracking montage cover composed by Graeme Neil Reid himself, along with the meticulous detail he’s known for, Reid sets up the issue perfectly for the explosive content inside!

Story | Eric Hebden
Art | Medrano
Cover | Graeme Neil Reid
Originally Commando No. 40 (1962).

5453: Silent Patrol

They hated each other like poison, Sergeant Dan Cunliffe of the 8th Army, and big Carlo, the trigger-happy Italian freedom fighter. Trouble was, they had a job to do — a job that was vital to the whole Allied invasion of Italy. Their own quarrel would have to wait. But they did have one thing in common — a burning hatred for all things German… which was really tough on the Nazis!
    Known for his work on DC, Marvel and 2000AD, Staz Johnson is revered in British comics and fans will be delighted as he finally lends his hand to Commando with a cover that oozes grit and style in equal measures.

Story | Henderson
Art | Cueto
Cover | Staz Johnson
Originally Commando No. 43 (1962).

5454: The Avengers

They were called “Marine Commandos”. Their job was to hit the enemy with lightning swiftness and fox-like cunning. They operated over land and sea, striking deadly, surprise hammer-blows at the heart of the enemy. They were hardened fighters, every man, and their training was the toughest in the world — especially when there could be a traitor in the mix. Fingers pointed at one such man of German descent, who just happened to be an explosives expert. The rest of the men would have to watch their backs — and the detonator!
    Another new artist joining the Commando ranks, Mark Harris’s debut cover features everything war comic fans could ask for — Jerry kites, Commando heroes, machine-guns rattling and plenty of action to boot!

Story | Barnard
Art | Sostres
Cover | Mark Harris
Originally Commando No. 56 (1963).

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 7 July 2021

2000 AD Prog 2239
Cover: Stewart K. Moore

Judge Dredd: Removal Man by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Len O'Grady (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Chimpsky's Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky by Kenneth Niemand (w) PJ Holden (a) Chris Blythe (c) Simon Bowland (l)

2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2021
Cover: Neil Roberts

This summer, the world of Judge Dredd explodes with the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special!
Do not miss this mega summertime storytelling event as characters from different ‘Dreddworld’ series all crossover into one epic adventure! Plotted by acclaimed writers Michael Carroll and Maura McHugh, this is epic storytelling from the galaxy’s greatest comic!
     Judge Dredd meets up with Cursed Earth Koburn in ‘Biohazard’ by Carroll and Ben Willsher, while over in Oz legendary skysurfer Chopper is a wanted man in ‘Dreamgazer’ by David Baillie and Tom Foster.
     Brit-Cit detective Armitage seeks out vampire exorcist Devlin Waugh in Brit-Cit in ‘Natural Fern Killer’ by Liam Johnson and Robin Smith. Plus Judge Anderson deals with a paranormal threat, by Maura McHugh and Anna Morozova, and Hondo-Cit Judge Inaba has trouble on her turf, courtesy of Karl Stock and Neil Googe!
     This is all wrapped-up in ‘Apotheosis’, by Carroll and McHugh, and drawn by Thought Bubble 2000 AD art competition winner James Newell!

2000 AD Regened Volume 2 by Matt Smith, Mike Carroll, John Reppion, Cavan Scott, Roger Langridge, Rory McConville, Liam Johnson, Paul Cornell, Laura Bailey, Karl Stock (w), Nicolo Assirelli, Luke Horsman, Davide Tinto, Paul Davidson, Brett Parson, Nick Brokenshire, P.J. Holden, Aneke, Anna Readman, Andrea Mutti and Tom Newell.
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108898-2, 6 July 2021, 144pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.

2000 AD Regened is a thrill-powered collection for earthlets of all ages, featuring your favourite 2000 AD characters! Reimagined versions of classic characters like Dredd, Judge Anderson and Johnny Alpha star in action packed adventures alongside brand new characters, specially created for a younger audience. It's a race against time as Cadet Dredd and his clone brother Rico have to defuse a hostage situation in 'Bad Seeds'. When Judge Anderson encounters a malevolent force trying to turn the kids of Mega-City One into swots she has to RESTORE mayhem to the streets. Other characters include Pandora Perfect: futuristic criminal, terrible babysitter and all round bad 'un, teenage mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha and the return of ghostbusting duo Finder and Keeper. All this and more in the second volume of 2000 AD’s celebrated series of all-ages science fiction stories!

Aquila Volume II: The Burning Fields by Gordon Rennie Paul Davidson & Patrick Goddard.
Rebellion ISBN, 7 July 2021 [[DIGITAL RELEASE ONLY]]

In this stunning historical fantasy story, we travel back to Ancient Rome to find slave-turned-gladiator Aquila. Having cried out to the gods for vengeance during his slow and painful death, and was answered by Ammit the Devourer, a deity that gifted him with immortality in return for keeping her fed with evil men’s souls. But Aquila has discovered he is by no means alone in serving Ammit’s thirst for souls, and wants to be released from her hold…

Sunday, July 04, 2021

T. Stanleyan King

After too long, here's another mystery that has me mystified. T. Stanleyan King is an author with a career that may have lasted over 30 years but about whom nothing is known. There is no sign of a Stanleyan King in family records or in any newspapers that I have been able to access, so I have to presume it was a pen-name.

While I've never read a single one of his books, the titles alone made me want to track him down. Hopefully someone, somewhere will have some further information.

T. Stanleyan King's work dates back to Edwardian-era James Henderson’s  boys’ papers Lot-o'-Fun, Sparks and Nugget Library and the Amalgamated Press's Young Britain (stories featuring Staunton School in c.1921).  Collector John Medcraft, briefly discussing a “fine serial” entitled “Laleham’s Feud”—“founded on fact”—in the pages of Lot-o’-Fun, believed that King might be a pen-name of John Nix Pentelow, but Pentelow’s death in 1931 and the continued appearance of King makes it appear unlikely.

Stanleyan King was a regular contributor to various Aldine libraries in the 1920s, and may well have contributed to Aldine’s weekly papers, too. In the 1930s, he was writing novelettes for Mellifont Press, some of them featuring Scarsdale Waring and some with titles that hint at a horror/occult flavour. After that he disappears entirely from human ken.

Novels (series: Dixon Brett; Dick Daring; Scarsdale Waring)
Laleham's Feud. London, James Henderson (Nugget Library 141), 1909.
The Missing Statuette. London, James Henderson (Nugget Library 247), Nov 1912.
The Scarlet Ikon. London, Aldine Detective Tales 10, Jun 1922.
Dick Daring, the Mystery Pro. London, Aldine Football Stories 2, Nov 1922.
Dick Daring Scores Again. London, Aldine Football Stories 5, Jan 1923.
Dick Daring, International. London, Aldine Football Stories 9, May 1923.
Who Killed Stephen Tennant?. London, Aldine Mystery Novels 4, Jan 1926.
The Football Imposter. London, Aldine Football Novels 11, Mar 1926.
The Masked Apollo. London, Aldine Boxing Novels 19, Jul 1926.
The Missing Mayor <Brett>. London, Aldine Dixon Brett Detective Library 2, Oct 1926.
The All-Conquering Game. London, Aldine Football Novels 19, Nov 1926.
The Yellow Wolf <Brett>. London, Aldine Dixon Brett Detective Library 4, Dec 1926.
Comrades of the Canvas. London, Aldine Boxing Novels 27, Mar 1927.
Dandy Dick's Mascot. London, Aldine Boxing Novels 40, Apr 1928.
Diana’s Romance . Dublin, Mellifont Press, c.1932.
Through Flame to Fortune . Dublin, Mellifont Press, c.1932.
The Rosy Death . Dublin, Mellifont Press [4½d Series 10], c.1932.
The Grey Manor Ghost . Dublin, Mellifont Press [4½d Series 13], c.1932.
Viola’s Dilemma . Dublin, Mellifont Press 201, 1932.
The Headless Ghost . Dublin, Mellifont Press 204, 1932; reprinted, Mellifont Press 2319, 1941.
The Kidnapped Prince . Dublin, Mellifont Press 206, 1932.
The Motor Horn Mystery . Dublin, Mellifont Press 213, 1932.
Slayer of Souls . Dublin, Mellifont Press 214, 1932.
The Monk’s Croft Mystery . Dublin, Mellifont Press 227, 1933.
The Mummy’s Curse . Dublin, Mellifont Press 235, 1933.
Black Magic <Waring>. Dublin, Mellifont Press 256, 1934.
The Call of Death <Waring>. Dublin, Mellifont Press 291, 1934.
Vampire City <Waring>. Dublin, Mellifont Press 2116, 1935.
The Fatal Image . Dublin, Mellifont Press 2266, 1940.


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