Friday, August 27, 2021

Comic Cuts — 27 August 2021

I'm still piecing together the Action project, with most of the week taken up with adding various quotes to the patchwork that I'm slowly quilting. I also took a bit of time out to relive a bit of punk history, watching the utterly dreadful The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980) directed by Julian Temple and the utterly fascinating The Filth and the Fury (2000) directed by the selfsame Julian Temple.

I was not a punk. I didn't particularly like everything that circled around the music. I did like a lot of the music that came out of the scene. I bought my first single aged 11. It was a choice between 'Tiger Feet' by Mud and 'Teenage Rampage' by The Sweet and I chose the latter because I loved the choppy, wailing guitar and changing tempo and vocal styles between Steve Priest and Brian Connolly. By comparison, 'Tiger Feet' bumped along like a metronome designed for square dancing. (The Sweet also released a song called Action, so I have been thinking about them a lot this past week.)

Anyway, I liked guitar-led music which could be cranked up, so punk was perfect. I was 14 by the time the Sex Pistols released "Anarchy In The U.K." (November 1976) and, while I didn't buy it, my neighbour, Eddie, did. So I was able to borrow the single, and later borrowed the album (Never Mind The Bollocks) and others by The Damned, X-Ray Specs and The Clash. The only albums I bought were by The Stranglers (No More Heroes, Black & White), who were more melodic. I think even then I was making a slow but steady move into rock and especially prog rock that is still my favourite musical genre.

During my digging, I discovered that the Sex Pistols played Chelmsford Prison in September 1976, only a few weeks before Action was cancelled. The Stranglers had played there six weeks earlier. Not that I was going to live gigs. I think my first live gig was the Hawklords at Ipswich Gaumont in October 1978. My first festival was Knebworth on 4 August 1979 to see Led Zeppelin. Happy days. Nowadays, the only gigs we go to are comedy shows, of which we have a couple lined up — the first in two years! — namely Lou Sanders (much delayed from March 2020) and Simon Evans.

You'll be pleased to hear that the world is safe from AIs and they won't be taking over any time soon. As I mentioned last week, I have been using them to help me transcribe old interviews and radio shows, and the results are mixed. Among my favourite mistakes so far has been "most mobile order Nelli" for Massimo Belardinelli and "than their 2018" for Dan Dare in 2000AD. It really struggles with 2000AD with 2080 being a favourite. 2018 and 2008D crop up quite a lot. These machines are not a threat.

Yesterday I had my regular blood test  (I'm borderline diabetic) and had the usual problem of getting the needle into a vein. The nurse exclaims, "You have thin veins and they're wiggly," to which I replied, "That's why I would have made a terrible heroin addict." Thankfully she laughed. Bizarrely, we then got into a conversation about transcribing interviews, which she hated doing when she was working on her thesis at Uni. Not just me, then. (Also, she has Windows 365 and was aware of the voice tool it included, but hasn't used it.)

I feel very fortunate that my blood test went ahead — although delayed a fortnight due to the nurse being ill — as there is news that tests are being rationed due to a shortage of blood tubes, the plastic sample bottles that are filled and sent to the analyst's laboratory. The shortage is due to increased demand due to Covid testing.

Also this week I finally, finally got around to sorting out some corrections on a couple of Bear Alley book projects, so there will shortly be available the three Andrew Forrester Jun. titles The Private Detective, Secret Service and The Female Detective, and a French language edition of And the Wheels Went Round (Les roues de la fortune). I'm waiting on proofs, but I should have links posted in the next week or so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 25 August 2021

The latest 2000 AD Regened issue designed for all-ages - these quarterly Progs continue to be our best-selling issues of the year and this promises to be no different, with new 'Splorers spinning off from the popular 2000 AD series Survival Geeks and the hit Rogue Trooper spin-off Mayflies returning!

2000AD Prog 2246
Cover: Steve Roberts

Cadet Dredd: The Block With No Name by Liam Johnson (w) Duane Redhead (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Mayflies: The Way Forward by Michael Carroll (w) Simon Coleby (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
'Splorers by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Trash Culture by Karl Stock (w) Steve Roberts (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Chopper: Chopper Don't Surf by David Barnett (w) Nick Roche (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Jim Campbell (l)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Eagle Times v34 no2 (Summer 2021)

Eagle Times continues to find fascinating facts about the original Eagle comic, even in its 34th year. This is rather a sad issue, as can be seen from the cover, but it nevertheless celebrates as it commiserates.

My favourite feature is, again, Ernest Reed's look back at 'The Phantom Fleet'. With access to the original script and editorial notes from the Eagle office (chiefly Ellen Vincent), the article dissects Alan Stranks's story and how it was guided and influenced by Frank Hampson, whose own notes could be caustic, viewing one of Stranks's scripts as a "rather woolly" interpretation of his (Frank's) story outline and wanting the storyline wrapped up as soon as possible.

More peeks behind the scenes come in the latest look at what remains of the Dan Dare Studio 'Ideas Book' — a sketch pad of spaceships and other vehicles, some of which made it into the 'Rogue Planet' storyline.

There are two tributes in this issue. The first is to Don Harley, the quiet, modest artist who died earlier this year. David Britton's tribute discusses Harley's background and his time working with Frank Hampson, where he was considered the studio's finest Dan Dare artist, second only to Hampson. Harley eventually became bored of the studio system, working briefly on the Frank Bellamy era Dare before finding work elsewhere, most notably various Gerry Anderson strips (Thunderbirds, Lady Penelope and Captain Scarlet) and a range of stories for D. C. Thomson, including work for Wizard, Hotspur, Magic, Emma and the long-running 'Sammy the Sheepdog' for Twinkle.

The second tribute is to the late Prince Philip, who appeared more than once in the pages of Eagle, in the special Coronation number of 1953 and, a decade later, a feature about Prince Philip as a role model.

Now, if you watched Philip's funeral, you'll remember it  featured a bespoke Land Rover Defender designed by Philip himself to carry his coffin. The Land-Rover was a post-war utility vehicle inspired by the American Jeep, and a rebuilt Jeep is central to a feature by Bob Corn about how the Eagle Book of Cars and Motorsport inspired the purchase of a fixer-upper and a trip to Europe.

We have a couple of continuations of articles from previous issues, including the latest episode of David Gould's look at 'Riders of the Range', this time their trip to London in 'The Heir of Duncrieff' (1954-55), and Steve Winder's exploration of 'The Golden Man', the last of Eagle's back-page biographies. Winders also provides the latest episode in an adaptation of P.C.49's radio adventures concluding 'The Case of the Plastic Cowboys'.

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

Comic Cuts — 20 August 2021

I've had a bit of a breakthrough this week. For ages I have been looking for a way to transcribe interviews that doesn't involve me sitting here listening to a sentence, typing that sentence, listening to a sentence, missing a bit, rewinding the tape, listening to the sentence again and typing it. A full transcript of an hour-long interview can take all morning to type up.

For the Action project, I have been doing partial transcripts of various interviews and podcasts that I have been able to download over the years. I have quite a collection, including shows recorded off the radio years ago that I converted to mp3s, and interviews I have done but not transcribed. To give you an idea, I reckon I have about twenty-one hours of podcasts to listen to and another fifteen of interviews. I don't like to fast forward through them since there might be discussions about other bits of comics history I'm interested in (I have, for instance, been transcribing anything to do with Crisis, as that's another title I want to tackle).

I've looked around several times over the past two or three years for something that might be used to convert audio to text. As I don't have the funds to pay for any professional transcribing programmes, and Windows only has one tied in with an Office 365 subscription, I was looking at various options, most of them costly. The freeware options were usually not that good or very limited. Some that seemed to be worth a look, I found impossible to use.

Until Tuesday, when I discovered that one of the things holding me back was having Mozilla as my browser. Good as it is (and it is good), there are a number of things I need to do that Mozilla struggles with. For instance, I use We Transfer to fire off large folders to people. Not in Mozilla. And I'm pretty sure my problems with Zoom during Lawless might have been caused by Mozilla. And now I find that Mozilla was blocking my ability to use Google Docs' voice recognition programme. It looked like the only way around it was going to be to install Chrome, but Microsoft Edge works just as well... and I already have that!

The results are like a stream of consciousness, with every half sentence and stumble that are a natural part of normal talk transcribed and the AI mishearing 25% of the words. Here's an example:
Jordan oxygen to Jordan with the other artists and it will never turn up. He didn't go, but he was the other one. But I've got a book called in Italian which has got articles about me and about him in which I can't read there in Italian.Yeah.Yes, yes, I see it every now and again. Do you? Yeah oh wow. Yeah he's still right right? Alright, well yes we did that here. The science fiction that's right. Yeah take care hope yes. Well that's why I was asked. That's what this article about this when I was asked out to the Italian thing. But then it just said to me I'm not sure if he's going to turn up.I don't know he like this all things much and and they never did. So yeah, this is all better of it.Yes, so let's say I got to know if I've got movie filmed at the full video. I still love movie film and I took that movie camera at all too when I was at Florence. So yes, I think that sometimes still got. I've got a lot of film with Dennis as well.Yes, that was always say this.
What I need to do now is listen through the recording again and turn that lot into a transcript of what was actually said.

Since most of it is gibberish, you might be asking 'Why bother?' Well, I can do a couple of these gibberish transcripts a day while we're out for our walks, and they're good enough for me to be able to do a search through the text for certain key words. If they appear, and they're two-thirds of the way through the transcript of what was a 45 minute cassette tape, I know I need to listen back to the recording at about the thirty-minute mark. And it will make the interviews searchable when I need information for future articles, or give me a starting point for full transcripts should I want to run the full interview in BAM! or in an index.

I still have a lot of listening to do, but I'm also piecing together what I hope will be a comprehensive history of Action. I wrote an article about Action way back in 1991 that gives me a good starting point. Any useful quotes I've stumbled upon I've dropped into that article roughly where I expect them to be useful.
It's a bit of a mess at the moment — the best I can describe it is like a skeleton with little chunks of muscle and flesh hanging from it — but eventually you'll see it dressed up to the nines with history and facts, sparkling with citations and leaning seductively on a solid bibliography.

It's late. Definitely time to bring this to a close.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Commando 5463-5466

Commando issues 5463-5466 are out today with duelling F-14 Tomcats, tenacious tank terrors, harrowing Horse Artillery, and defying inner demons — get yours soon!

5463: Target Tomcat

Adversary pilots Shane Whitman and Ghazi Khadem will stop at nothing to achieve air superiority over the other — proving once and for all who the best top gun flyer is! What started out as an arrogant competition between rivals has turned into a quest for revenge and neither will stop until the other is dead. But with both men piloting the iconic F-14 Tomcat swing-wing, this is a duel that only the swiftest will survive…

An unusual setting for Commando, this high-octane issue from James Swallow sees death-defying dogfights above the Persian Gulf with Cold War tensions.

Story | James Swallow
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Keith Burns

5464: Tank Tamer

The British troops crouched low in their trenches as the machine gun bullets and shells erupted all around them on that bare Italian mountain. And nearer and nearer came the massive Nazi tank that was doing all the damage. So the word went out —“Find Sergeant Dave Taylor. He’ll fix ‘em.”
For Dave was the man they called Tank Tamer. And if he didn’t live up to his name now, a lot of men were going to die…

A typically stunning cover from Ken Barr, the heat of the Italian campaign can almost be felt in his oil strokes, with the machine-gun fire mixing with the white-hot sky.

Story | Allan
Art | J Fuente
Cover | Ken Barr
Originally Commando No. 415 (1969).

5465: Too Stubborn to Die

British Army Royal Horse Artillery Bombardier Billy Elder is a team master for the horses and mules that pull the 13-pounder guns on the Western front. It’s hard work, but before long Billy befriends a tenacious mule named Broonie who goes above and beyond the call of duty in the Battle of Somme, saving countless lives through persistence alone. Despite gas attacks, shelling and aerial artillery, it seems Broonie is too stubborn to die and inspires those around him to be the same!

Austin’s classically sombre tale is about those who served in the horrors of the trenches in the First World War, focusing not just the men of the Royal Horse Artillery, but the animals who guided them too.

Story | Hailey Austin
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5466: The Enemy Within

In war, most men know who their enemy is —the sailor in the other warship, the pilot in the other plane, the soldiers in the other trench. But some men have a different kind of enemy. It’s something inside themselves, it could be a numbing fear or a blinding hatred. Whatever it is, it’s an opponent that must be fought.

A triple threat from CG Walker, Ruiz and Ron Brown, this classic tale about honour and bravery on all sides through generations at war is pure Commando gold.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Ruiz
Cover | Ron Brown
Originally Commando No. 1713 (1983).

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 18 August 2021

"I am Sláine Mac Roth. I am Sláine Mac Macha. I am Sláine Mac Duban. And the ancestors are with me!"

With incredible artwork retooled and remastered for collection, Sláine: Dragontamer is the stunning new adventure for Pat Mills and Angie Kincaid's legendary Celtic warrior, Sláine!
Originally serialised in the pages of 2000 AD, this incredible hardcover sees Sláine lead a rebellion against the tyrannical reign of the Emperor Brutus and his Trojan army, and features jaw-dropping art by standout talent Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer, Avengers). As Brutus uses dragons to bolster his despotic reign and spread terror across the land, Sláine takes the fight all the way to New Troy - and discovers the secrets that lie in Brutus's dungeons.

Out on 28 September in standard hardcover from all good book and comic book retailers, as well as an exclusive hardcover from the 2000 AD webshop, Dragontamer features multiple pages that have been remastered specifically for this collection by Manco, enhancing the storytelling and impact of his critically-acclaimed work on the series, and transforming the original serialised story into a career-defining work of art.

The collection is rounded off by back-up stories featuring the art of Chris Weston (Judge Dredd, The Filth) and Kyle Hotz (Carnage, Captain Marvel)

The signed limited edition hardcover, available exclusively from 2000 AD's webshop, also features a stunning new cover by Manco.

Out this week...

2000AD Prog 2245
Cover: Mark Harrison

Judge Dredd: Now That's What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Dexter: Somewhere, Beyond The Sea by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Terror Tales: The Torturer's Apprentice by Paul Starkey (w) James Newell (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 435
Cover: Alex Ronald

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 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) Simon Bowland (l)
Features: Interviews: Steve Roberts, Lee Sullivan
Bagged collection: 2000 AD Encyclopedia

Hershey: Disease by Rob Williams & Simon Fraser
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108901-9, 17 August 2021, 112pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.

Hell hath no fury like Barbara Hershey! You think you know her story. Chief Judge of Mega-City One, Barbara Hershey had been a powerful ally to Judge Dredd, until she became infected with an alien pathogen and – supposedly - died. But little do the citizens and judges of Mega-City One suspect that Hershey’s death was faked. Now, join fan favourite character Judge Hershey as she embarks on a new adventure beyond the grave and beyond the walls of Mega-City One, to right the wrongs of her past and dispense justice! Critically acclaimed creative team Rob Williams (Judge Dredd, Doctor Who) and Simon Fraser (Judge Dredd, Doctor Who) tell a globe-spanning, gritty story of retribution.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Kelvin Gosnell & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108899-9, 19 August 2021, 208pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Long out of print, the adaptation of Harry Harrison's science-fiction classic by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra is back in a gorgeous new edition! James Bolivar diGriz aka 'The Stainless Steel Rat' is many things, including a con man, a thief and a member of an elite law-enforcement agency known as the Special Corps. After escaping the corps, the Rat crosses paths with the beautiful but deadly Angelina. Like Jim diGriz she is also a master criminal, albeit a lot more ruthless. They are a match made in hell! After marrying Angelina, the Rat has to travel through time to stop a master criminal meddling with the past and then later help overthrown an evil President by running for the job himself! A classic from 2000 AD's first 'golden age', Stainless Steel Rat is a must-read for fans of Harrison or old school sci-fi action with bold characters and a wry twist of humour, complemented by Ezquerra's dynamic and inimitable artwork. This brand new edition includes, for the first time, the stunning colour centre spreads as they originally appeared in 2000 AD.”

Friday, August 13, 2021

Comic Cuts — 13 August 2021

With Mel on holiday, we've been taking things easy as far as early morning walks go, wandering out of the house at the unprecedented lateness of 8:00 one morning. Normally we would be out of the house by quarter to seven and back by eight. My normal morning routine would see me turn the computer on, check Bear Alley to make sure any scheduled posts have gone up, cross-post them to Twitter and Facebook, check my mail, check the newspaper while my podcast feed is updating, and I'm usually "at work", so to speak, before 9:00.

This week, I've had a couple of days when I have been working by 6:30, but then taking a break to get some exercise, which splits up the morning quite nicely, as we can then fit in a break at 10:30 before lunch at 12:00. Having a regular schedule, I think, helps keep you focused. Knowing that we have a scheduled break means that I'm not slacking off wondering whether to go and make coffee and maybe have a biscuit or bit of cake (yes, there's usually a treat involved!), or sneaking off to lunch early.

Being quite strict has meant I've managed to get quite a lot done. I'm working on a piece about the old Action comic, which was my post-Valiant gateway back into comics after I'd taken 18 months off reading Speed & Power. Mind you, I was also buying Vulcan, and before that I was a fan of Top Secret Picture Library, so I never really got away from comics. But Action convinced me that I should keep reading comics. I remember some of the fuss in the newspapers and it disappearing; I remember it coming back as a sort of botched plastic surgery version of the Action I loved; I remember giving up on it.

So researching it is going to take a few weeks. I'm listening to lots of interviews at the moment, transcribing parts that I think will be useful; I've also recovered a lot of print interviews from various boxes (I'm currently reading a 1988 interview with John Wagner in The Comics Journal), and dug out various notes and correspondence I've had with people involved. To be honest, doing the research is probably my favourite part of writing these histories; that and marshaling all the facts together into some sort of order. The actual writing can be a slog after that. Not nearly as much fun as, say, putting together a timeline of how things played out, which I was doing on Wednesday night.

As well as the interviews, I have a big pile of books that I need to read, or re-read, including biographies by Pat Mills and Steve MacManus, a book by John Sutherland on moral panics, two books about hooliganism, a book about violence in media and everything I can find on the creation of Battle, Action and 2000AD.

That should keep me busy.

We had a nice break on Tuesday when my Mum came over the for the first time in a year. We had the good fortune to have the nicest day in what feels like months. Clear skies, beautiful sunshine... what better way to celebrate than a trip down to the pub for lunch? We couldn't think of any, so that's what we did.

One very noticeable thing was the difference in the tide level in only a few hours; I had taken a couple of photos of the river that morning from the boardwalk to show Mum how low the river was; six hours later, making our way home by a nicely circuitous route that took us back to the boardwalk, I took another photo to show the contrast.

Hopefully, now that things are starting to get even the slightest bit back to normal, it won't be a year until our next get-together.

Now... where am I on the latest transcript?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 11 August 2021

The ’70s T-shirt Collection – wear your favourite classic British comic book logo!

It was the golden age of kids’ comics – and classic comic book logos from the 1970s are now available on quality T-shirts!

Available in multiple sizes and colours, these carefully recreated designs recreate the classic masthead logos from some of IPC’s most popular titles, whether it’s humour titles such as Krazy, Whoopee!, Corr!!, or Whizzer and Chips; adventure and action with Fantastic; humour horror with Shiver & Shake and Monster Fun; or girls’ comic magazine Pink.

You can order from the Treasury of British Comics website.

And now, this week's releases...

2000 AD Prog 2244
Cover: Patrick Goddard / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: Now That's What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Dexter: Somewhere, Beyond The Sea by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: The Way of the World by John Tomlinson (w) Smudge (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, August 06, 2021

Comic Cuts — 6 August 2021

You'll probably have noticed that I made a couple of minor changes to the look of Bear Alley earlier this week. It was forced on me rather than done by choice. Without making any sort of announcement, Blogger dropped the quick edit gadget that has been a feature of the blog since it began. It meant that I could edit each element of the blog from the front page. I can't do that any more.

One unfortunate side effect was that the Rolling News column that has lived on the left of the Blog since 2008 has had to become a blog post and has migrated into the centre column, replacing the (admittedly very out of date) advert for Bear Alley Books. The reason was that, while the widget that I used for the Rolling News could be updated from the layout page within this blog, new text was placed at the bottom of the list. That meant manually moving the text up the list one step at a time, while each time the list re-set to the top. I had the view set to 50 news items, so that meant moving the new text from line 50 to line 49, scroll down from the top, move the text from line 49 to 48, scroll down from the top, move the text from line 48 to line 47, scroll down from the top... and so on. Even typing this explanation is maddening. Imagine finding three or four items of news worth noting, and having to do that for each of the new posts.

Something that used to be quick and easy with Blogger has become a pain in the arse to do, which seems to be Blogger's rationale for every change they make. Having been around Blogger for fifteen years, I remember how easy it was at the beginning, simple things like being able to upload more than one picture at a time and having fewer problems with positioning them and making changes on the page rather than having to deal with the whole thing as html. I'm swear they're trying to drive people towards using other services, since I can't imagine they make much money from Blogger compared to other elements of the Google empire.

The current solution I've come up with for Rolling News isn't ideal, but it's the best I can manage for the moment. I might take this opportunity to tinker with the look of the blog, which hasn't changed much since 2006.

Last Friday I managed to get to the end of the piece I was writing on the wartime comics of A. Soloway, so this week I took off a couple of days in order to get some magazines and books read and one or two reviews written. Monday is also packaging day as I scramble around the mess of cardboard and old envelopes trying to find something suitably strong enough to send out anything that has sold on eBay at the weekend. Six books and one magazine this week for a grand total of about £12, so I'm not exactly coining it in, and damned fiddly to wrap up safely for delivery down at the Post Office.

On Wednesday I started work on something that will be a hefty part of the BAM! magazine — see, I haven't forgotten it. It just needs to be rejigged to get the balance right. When I was doing the colour tests earlier this year and looking at the results I realised that I was concentrating too much on the eras that interest me, namely the Fifties and Sixties. So I'm now writing about something that played a major role in the history of Seventies comics to redress the balance.

Not that I intend dropping any of the other material already written, just spreading it out over a couple of issues.

To finish up this week's column, let's go back to something I haven't done for quite some time: a few random scans. I used to do these back in the day when I was trawling charity shops for books every weekend. The pandemic put a stop to that, but I was in town a couple of weeks ago to have a filling, so I managed to get into a couple of shops for the first time and picked up some choice items, including a couple of SF novels and a couple of non-fiction books, the latter including a huge biography of John Le Carre and a study of thrillers by Mike Ripley that I've since dipped into to read the fascinating story of how thrillers developed in the post-Bond era. I love a good thriller, so I'm looking forward to finding some of the titles that Mike recommends.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Commando 5459-5462

Commando issues are out today! Inter-dimensional space adventures, Hawker Typhoons, desert duels, and deadly SS hounds abound in these issues — don’t miss ‘em!

5459: The Hounds

Have you ever been caught in a deadly game of tag where if you get caught, you’re dead?! Well that’s exactly what happened to Corporal Richard Fuller and Lieutenant James Whelan in 1944! Only they weren’t being chased by schoolyard bullies — the ruthless SS were in hot pursuit! Together with a ragtag group of prisoners of war, the pair try to survive being hunted by the Hounds in a bout of cat and mouse the likes of which you’ve never seen before!

Heath Ackley’s nail-biting story is brought to tension-filled life by veteran artists Muller and Klacik, plus the issue is topped off with a moody Ian Kennedy cover — that’ll do for us!

Story | Heath Ackley
Art | Muller & Klacik
Cover | Ian Kennedy

5460: Desert Dog-Fight

The pilots of the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe duelled it out in the burning skies above the scorching desert. Their wings glinting in the sun, they would do anything to destroy their enemy — no mercy nor quarter given! But on the ground, two British pilots are forced to team up with their arch-nemesis ‘Happy Herman’ to survive against everything the merciless desert throws at them!

An early example of the master artist Jorge Maria Jorge at work in this classic 1960s Commando penned by the incomparable C G Walker!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Sanfeliz
Originally Commando No. 411 (1969).

5461: Into the Vortex

Stephen Walsh’s time-travelling, portal-hopping raucous extravaganza returns for its sequel — Issue 5461 Into the Vortex! US Army Nurse Emma Wade has gone missing in Anzio and her best friend, Nancy Lewis, is determined to find her. What Nancy doesn’t know is that Emma isn’t in Italy any more — she’s in another dimension fighting alien warrior bugmen to survive! Can Emma escape the vortex? You’ll have to read to find out!

Story | Stephen Walsh
Art | Jaume Forns
Cover | Neil Roberts

5462: The Roar of the Typhoon

The Hawker Typhoon was one of the RAF’s finest flying machines. Armed with twenty-millimetre cannon and eight rockets, their mighty Napier Sabre engines roaring like majestic lions, these beasts of the sky were formidable indeed! And so were their pilots, for if they weren’t as powerful as their machines, then they’d be chewed up and spat out like yesterday’s leftovers. Flight Lieutenants Jan Bakker and Bill Simpson didn’t have anything to worry about though — as long as they could get along they would be fine!

Story | McDevitt
Art | Gordon C Livingstone
Cover | Philpott
Originally Commando No. 1709 (1983).

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 4 August 2021

This isn’t your grandad’s war comic – never had there been an anti-hero quite like Hellman of Hammer Force!

Collected for the first time, and from the very beginning, the legendary strip from the pages of the controversial 1970s comic, Action, is available in a standard paperback and never-to-be-reprinted hardcover website exclusive edition!

Major Kurt Hellman is a Panzer commander during the 1940 German invasion of Belgium. But this man is no Nazi – he avoids taking life wherever possible, all while facing foes without and treachery within!

This groundbreaking series of thrilling combat is written by Gerry Finley-Day (Rogue Trooper) and drawn by Mike Dorey (Ro-Busters). To be published in December, Hellman will be available as a limited (to 200 copies) edition hardcover, priced £20.00. There is also a mass market softcover edition, priced £12.99. Both are available to pre-order now from the Treasury of British Comics web shop.

2000AD Prog 2243
Cover: Luke Preece.

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)
Dexter: Somewhere, Beyond The Sea by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Bad City Blue by Alan Grant & Robin Smith
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108970-5, 4 August 2021, 58pp, £7.99. [DIGITAL RELEASE ONLY]

The city was dying. It was dying hard and dying ugly. Armed gangs ruled, and even the cops didn’t dare go in – ‘cept for guys like Blue. Beneath a vast glass dome, the totally self-contained floating conurbation of Bader City has been built into an asteroid – but life is hard for those in the ‘darkside’. Ninety per cent of the city is now slum, now dubbed ‘Bad City’ – a crumbling, decaying ghetto cursed by power cuts, burst water mains, and grinding poverty. Far away from the health and wealth of the topside, armed gangs control the darkside and only guys like Blue - a trouble-shooting ‘button man’ who enforces order at the behest of the top-siders – dare patrol its streets. Anyone starts trouble and Blue starts shooting. He’s saving the city for 'decent folk' … or is he? Blue discovers that not all is at it seems in Bader City and the intentions of the elite are not as benevolent as he once though. Created by writer Alan Grant and artist Robin Smith, Bad City Blue combines Escape From New York with Silent Running and a strong class message that’s trademark Grant, along with probably the bleakest ending you could imagine!

Lawless Vol.3: Ashes to Ashes by Dan Abnett & Phil Winslade
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108900-2, 5 August 2021, 112pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

The third thrilling volume of the Sci-Fi Western epic from comics superstar writer Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy) Judge Lawson and her small band of Judges are back, protecting the innocent against outlaws who think that just because they are on an alien planet they are beyond the reach of the Law! Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson was appointed to the frontier township of Badrock on the planet 43 Rega, intent on stamping her authority on the colony. But in doing so, Lawson made many enemies, including Munce, Inc., the mega-corporation that funds Badrock. Now, Munce is planning to dispose of Badrock once and for all…

Ken Reid's Football Funnies: The First Half by Ken Reid
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108883-8, 5 August 2021, 144pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Go football crazy with comics' comedy master, Ken Reid! The first time that many of these uproarious strips have been reprinted, Football Funnies collects silly scores and chucklesome kick-offs from the imagination of one of Britain's greatest cartoonists. Drawn for Scorcher and Score between 1970 and 1972, this collection includes strips such as Sub, Manager Matt, Hugh Fowler and the Football Forum pundits.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Illustrators #34 (Summer 2021)

In this latest issue, Illustrators brings together features on four artists, two Spanish, one Italian and one Argentinean. Three are well known names to fans of comics in the UK, while one, although also a comic artist, will probably be unfamiliar.

The issue leads off with a look at the work of Jesus Blasco, of whom I am an unashamed fan and have been since childhood when I discovered a tiny signature in the corner of a panel of The Steel Claw, which I mistakenly read as Blascot.

For over twenty years, Blasco helped fill British comics with his masterfully suspenseful images when drawing Dick Turpin, The Steel Claw, The Indestructible Man or Invasion, or with whimsy in a series of delightful fairy tales and series like Edward and the Jumblies and The Wombles.

When Blasco's artwork began appearing in the UK, he was one of only a handful of foreign artists introduced into British comics as expansion meant that more artists were required to fill the pages of a wider range of titles. Although only arriving six years later, F. Solano Lopez debuted in a very different field.

After making his debut in comics in his mid twenties, Lopez had worked with Hector Oesterheld drawing for Hora Cero and Frontera, most famously on the science fiction epic 'El Eternauta'. When Oesterheld's publishing company collapsed in 1959, Lopez travelled to London and established himself with Fleetway, drawing war pocket libraries. His first was chosen as the launch issue of Air Ace.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Lopez was kept incredibly busy, clocking up a number of strips that would run to hundreds of episodes, including 'Kelly's Eye', 'Galaxus', 'Raven on the Wing', 'Nipper' and 'Adam Eterno'. His artwork is unmistakable.

Eugenio Sicomoro is well known in Italy and France, but unknown in the UK. Bruno Brunetti began using the pen-name Sicomoro because his break came with a rival to the publisher he was unhappily working for. Sicomoro is known for his realistic painted illustrations, using ecoline (liquid watercolour) to create the impression of airbrush. He was the co-founder of the Scolo Sperimentale del Fumetto in Rome where he also taught for a while.

Sicomoro's most notable works include the series Rouletabille (later Marc Jourdan), with Claude Moliterni for Dargaud, SIDA Connection for Bagheera and Lumière Froide with Pierre Makyo for Glenet. The examples of his illustrations and covers displayed here makes me wish that his books were available over here in translation.

The fourth and final artist this issue is another whose best work appeared in the UK for many years. Victor de la Fuente was almost unknown in Spain until he began drawing 'Haxtur' in 1971 after a decade of drawing mostly war stories in the UK. After another thirty-five years working for Spain, France and the US (the Warren magazines), Fuente gave up comics in favour of painting. Thankfully, some of his comics remain in print, and he will be featured in a Rebellion Treasury of British Comics some point in the future.

A brief interview with fantasy artist Arantzazu Martinez wraps up another superb issue.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 35 will have features on Alex Raymond, Bob Eggleton and Jacques Terpant.

Monday, August 02, 2021


I'm a newcomer to Sequential, although it has already published four issues and has a fifth due shortly. I'm a fan of fanzines (I was a regular back in the days of A.C.E. Newsletter, Illustrated Comics Journal and various others; published my own, too, although P.B.O. was about books) and it's good see that comics still generate enough passion in people that they want to write about and share their experiences with them.

Sequential is chiefly an interview magazine, with interviews with both US and UK creators — although most of the UK creators are known for working in the US. John Higgins, David Lloyd and Sean Phillips fall into the latter category, although all three look back at past work for British publications (and his current digital publication in the case of Lloyd's Aces Weekly).

The four issues to hand include interviews / features with/on — #1: John Higgins, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, John-Michel Basquiat, Chip Kidd; #2: Ron Marz, Howard Chaykin, Milt Glaser; #3: David Lloyd, Sean Phillips; #4: Dan Mora.

There are supporting articles by Stephen Montgomery and Ron Harris that are interesting and fun in equal parts. Subjects range from Batman and "what I read during the Covid lockdown" to pocket libraries and Italian comic classic 'Saturno Contra la Terra'.

My only criticism is that they share a title with a magazine about independent Canadian comics, and finding information online just brings up a slew of links to that magazine and its website.

For more information there's a twitter page (@Sequentialzine) and an e-mail address ( You can buy copies via eBay with issues 2 and 3 still available in print editions.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Fun Factory of Farringdon Street

The latest book from Alan Clark is his best and biggest yet. Clocking in at 262 pages, it covers the history of the Amalgamated Press from its inception to now. The main focus is comics, although story papers are also given plenty of coverage.

Given that it has such a broad canvas to cover — 130 years of comic publishing — and tries not to miss anything, there are some areas covered in quick brush strokes while others have more depth and detail. There is a lot here, but it is a relatively easy story to follow as it traces one company through its various iterations rather than darting off into the histories of other companies and other distractions. So, while  Fleetway Publications and I.P.C. Magazines were very different to the original Amalgamated Press, it is easy to follow the through-line of company buyouts and mergers that changed both the comics and the company that published them.

This is the first time a book has taken the Amalgamated Press as its sole subject, so while the overall history of British comics has been told and retold (most successfully in Paul Gravett's Great British Comics and David Roach's Masters of British Comic Art), writing a solo history means that Alan can bring detail to his tale that space has precluded from the two books mentioned.

As someone who likes the nuts and bolts of comic history, I'm quietly in awe of Alan for marshaling all this information together into an easy to follow story, thorough but still compact — I'm talking as someone who wrote a 262-page book about a single comic (Lion: King of Picture Story Papers), so you can imagine how long my history of British comics is going to be!

The book is richly illustrated in colour with many rare covers on show as well as photographs of some of the major players in the history retold here. If you have not already picked up a copy (and I'm aware that I'm reviewing this late — I didn't want to skip read it!), I can heartily recommend grabbing a copy.

You can buy the book on eBay, £20.00 including p&p.

The Fun Factory of Farringdon Street by Alan Clark
Alan Clark, June 2021, 262pp (A5), £20.00. Available via eBay.


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