Sunday, October 31, 2021

Illustrators #35 (Fall 2021)

Alex Raymond was one of the most influential comic strip artists of the 20th century, a fact I don't think many would deny; he was certainly the most regularly named talent amongst the artists I especially like, from Mike Western to Jesus Blasco. His 'Flash Gordon' had first appeared in the UK, I believe, in the pages of Modern Wonder, a beautifully produced boys' paper, in 1939-40. Post-War, the Daily Mail began printing the syndicated adventures of 'Rip Kirby', admired by many young artists such as Ron Embleton and Ron Turner, who were just seeing their earliest efforts appear in print.

In a way, Raymond influenced my own preference as a boy for more realistically drawn and painted strips. When I first encountered American comics I wasn't impressed by over-muscled figures, the lack of depth offered by shadows and cross-hatching, and the awful flat colours. I much preferred Don Lawrence.

All of which rambling brings me to the opening essay in the latest issue of Illustrators, a lengthy look at the artist who co-created 'Flash', 'Rip' and 'Jungle Jim', a strip I'm less familiar with. Raymond began his career assisting Russ Westover ('Tillie the Toiler'), Chic Young ('Blondie') and Lyman Young ('Tim Tyler's Luck'). Raymond struck out on his own with the Sunday Page that combined 'Jungle Jim' and 'Flash Gordon' before adding 'Secret Agent X-9', written by Dashiell Hammett. Hammett's huge fee ($500 a week) dwarfed the $20 earned by Raymond for six daily panels.

Eventually he bailed and continued with Jim and Flash until World War 2, in which he served as a marine. Returning to King Features in 1946, he was offered a large incentive to create a new strip, out of which came bespectacled, pipe-smoking Rip Kirby, the antithesis of the usual hardboiled private eye characters. Raymond's beautiful artwork was enhanced by his ability to tell a story in the daily 3-panel format (a skill Hammett lacked on X-9).

Sadly, Raymond was killed in 1956 when the car he was driving left the road at high speed and smashed into a tree. His passenger, Stan Drake ('The Heart of Juliet Jones') was severely injured and spent months in hospital. Raymond was killed outright.

Peter Richardson's look back over Raymond's all-too-short career is enhanced by numerous illustrations of original artwork. You can really see how skillfully Raymond wielded a brush.

Bob Eggleton grew up reading science fiction and watching monster movies in the 1960s and 1970s. These were also the days of NASA and the early space missions that culminated with man's first steps on the Moon... but even the Saturn V rocket was disappointing compared to the spaceships Eggleton could see on book and magazine covers.

Artists like Frank Kelly Freas, John Schoenherr and Ed Emsh inspired him to enroll in art college. A desire to find work caused him to leave early and before long he was painting book covers. Since then he has also worked on character design and concept art for movies, won eight Hugo Awards and nearly a dozen Chesley Awards. There is also a fantastic book of his work, Greetings From Earth, if this article inspires you to find more of his paintings.

Jacques Terpent is a comic strip artist and illustrator who arrived alongside a group of young new talents who brought their schooling in figurative art at Saint-Etienne Fine Arts School to the pages of Metal Hurlant in the late 1970s. When the magazine folded in the late 1980s, most artists moved away from comics, but Terpent was able to subsidise his comics through advertising work.

A fascination with the historical novelist Jean Raspail led to a six-volume series adapting Sept Cavaliers (2008-10) and Le Royaume de Boree (2011-14). He has recently been working with Jean Dufaux on further literary adaptations.

The winner of the Prix Saint-Michel in 2011, Terpent is an artist I knew nothing about, so Diego Cordoba's article is especially interesting. Illustrators is a great place to discover new artists and this issue will hopefully inspire its readers to explore the works of this trio of incredibly talented pen- and brush-men.

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 36 will have features on Thomas Fluharty, Arantza Sestayo, Caran d'Ache and Jose Luis Salinas.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Comic Cuts — 29 October 2021

I hit the 10,000 word mark on Action this weekend and then powered through to 15,000 by Wednesday. I'm writing this Thursday morning and thinking about the critical reaction to the comic that began almost the moment it was published, with the first big article appearing on 23 February 1976, only two weeks after the first issue hit the newsstands.

As I write, I'm including a few personal thoughts as I was a 13-year-old reader of the paper when it came out, so I know what it was like to know about the movie Jaws, which was big news around New Year of 1976, and being unable to see it... and then along came 'Hook Jaw'! I was already a reader of crime thrillers by the  likes of Ian Fleming and James Hadley Chase, but I was surprised to discover that I hadn't even seen all of the Bond movies prior to Action coming out. I saw a double bill of Thunderball and From Russia With Love in, I think, 1969, when I was 7 (I went with my school friend Richard Wood, who lived just up the road, and his Dad); then I saw Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun when they came out in 1973 and 1974. But the other Sean Connerys I didn't see until they began broadcasting them on the TV, which wasn't until 1975.

Now, that makes me wonder how long it took before other films reached the small screen. I remember being a big fan of the Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) films. I'm pretty sure that the first one I saw was Billion Dollar Brain (much derided by some, but I love it!), then The IPCRESS File... but when would they have first appeared? What about other thrillers like Bullitt, Dirty Harry and The French Connection?

I must have seen these on TV, same as I saw all the Hammer movies on television. I have a vague memory of horror films appearing late at night on BBC2 and watching them on a little black & white portable in my bedroom. Mind you, my memory is terrible and badly jumbled, and that little portable TV wasn't disposed of until I was in my thirties! I moved to Colchester in 1992 and one of the first things I did was buy a colour TV and a video player so I could catch up on hundreds of movies I'd missed. This might sound bizarre in today's world of multiplexes, but when I moved away from Chelmsford, there wasn't a single cinema in the town. There used to be five; when I was visiting cinemas in my twenties the number was down to three until the Regent turned into a bingo hall; then the Pavilion became a used car lot, and finally the Odeon shut down. An old bingo hall, the Empire, was reconverted into a cinema, but didn't last long. And it was a year or two after I left that the Odeon opened a new multi-screen cinema.

I loved the old Odeon, which was also a music venue where I saw Wishbone Ash and XTC. It was a 1,000-seater with a balcony. Back in the days of support features, you could buy a ticket and watch a film through twice without anyone kicking you out. I remember being one of only a handful of people sitting in this vast auditorium watching Alien for the first time, and then watching it all the way through again!

The Odeon tended to have the bigger films and our Nan would take me and my sister to the cinema during the summer holidays. I remember one year we went to the Odeon and watched Herbie Rides Again, or some such nonsense, much to my disappointment, because I wanted to see Swallows and Amazons at the Regent. I was 12 and outvoted and very grumpy. I still have no love for that damn love bug.

The Pavilion had more adult films. My strongest memory is that I took Kate Jackson on a date to see Death Wish II. My reasoning was that it had a soundtrack by Jimmy Page and she was into Led Zeppelin. I still cannot think of a more inappropriate film to take a girl to on a date. I was mortified.

I have since made better choices. Mel and I saw Dune on Sunday and it was as good as I hoped it would be. I have been slightly obsessing over it for a couple of months, nervous that it would be delayed yet again and that if it failed to perform even slightly a sequel would be canned for the most stupid of reasons — it would struggle to find a slot in the schedule. All the Marvel movies have been pushed back again and there are a number of big ticket films in the works that will dominate the multiplexes — the Avatar sequels, for instance — and you can't tell me that Disney will keep Star Wars spin-offs out of the cinema for too long, not after spending $4bn to buy the franchise. The well-deserved buzz around The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett (which I'm really looking forward to) surely means that there's someone at Disney sharpening a pencil and jotting down potential release dates. If they can fit one in while Marvel Phase IV is going on, they will.

(I just took a quick look to see if anything was scheduled and it looks like Patty Jenkins is directing Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for release on 22 December 2023. So I was right!)

Anyway, the good news as that Dune part 2 has been greenlit and is due out on 23 October 2023. What a relief.

Just going back to James Bond for a second... that Thunderball image from the 1965 poster (see the column header above), I had a jigsaw puzzle with that image on, or a similar scene from that underwater sequence. And I had a second Bond puzzle with Sean Connery hiding behind a rock with a rifle from a menacing helicopter. This must be from when I was nine or ten, which goes to show that while I might struggle to remember my pin number at the cash machine, my memory for trivia seems fine.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Commando 5483-5486

Something spooky this way comes as Commando Halloween horror specials are out today! Issues 5483-5486 are sure to send a shiver down your spine! Make sure you grab them — before they grab you!

5483: The Ghoul Squad

Feast your eyes on the first of our Halloween Commando specials! In Issue 5386 ‘The Ghoul Squad’, there’s rumours of gruesome goings-on in Transylvania of all places! So when a British squad disguised as peasants come a-knocking, you know there’s going to be hell to pay for some coffin dodgers!

A devilish delight of a story from gnarly Mike Garley for his second-ever Commando, which is brought back from the dead by the mysterious master himself, Manuel Benet. Make sure to pick up what is the first issue in a brand-new series — we hope it doesn’t drain the blood from your face while you read it!

Story | Mike Garley
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5484: Swamp of Terror
A creepy classic Commando crawling out from the archive dungeons… Issue 5484 ‘Swamp of Terror’ is coming your way very, very soon! And no, it’s not about a teenager’s bedroom, but a gloomy swamp in the heart of Germany — treacherous to anyone who doesn’t know the area! But luckily, Corporal Alec Tracy did — only he was going to have to employ the help of a Nazi to get through!

In this chilling Commando from 1972, the brain of Allan, pen of Galindo, and paintbrush of Penalva will be sure to haunt you if you miss it!

Story | Allan
Art | Galindo
Cover | Penalva
Originally Commando No. 617 (1972).

5485: Escape No Man’s Land

Issue 5485 is not for the faint of heart! ‘Escape No Man’s Land’ is the closest Commando has ever come to all-out horror as writer Georgia Battle tackles what terror lies in wait in the desolation in no man’s land. For no men are out there in the wastes — only monsters! A warning though, this Commando may give little children nightmares so only read if you’re brave enough!

This one-off Halloween special is from the deranged mind of Georgia Battle who teams up with the vilely-good Vicente Alcazar on interior artwork! All this topped off with another eerie and excellent cover by Staz Johnson!

Story | Georgia Standen Battle
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Staz Johnson

5486: Face the Demon!

Beware! Beware… Issue 5486 has slithered its way out of the Commando archive for a hair-raising reprint! We all have inner demons we need to face, but Clive Harrison’s demon was bigger, scarier and worse than anyone else’s – or so Clive thought! Could he bear to do his duty and stand by his mates with this horrible thing looming over him? Or would he crumble under the pressure?!

Amazing work from the deadly duo of CG Walker and CT Rigby is rounded off by a stellar cover by Ron Brown!

Story | CG Walker
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Ron Brown
Originally Commando No. 1746 (1983).

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 27 October 2021

A quiet week for Rebellion, so here are some highlights from today's 2000AD Prog 2255.

2000AD Prog 2255

Cover: Alex Ronald.

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, October 22, 2021

Comic Cuts 22 October 2021

Although I prefer a week where I can get my head down and get my teeth into whatever project I'm working on, there's also something to be said for weeks where you can mix things up. I'm not talking about anything radically different, but just a slight shift of focus for a couple of days.

One little project was finally signed off. A couple of years ago I published a book by motorcycling legend John Chisnall — or Uncle John, as I call him. He had been working on a memoir with a friend of his, Tony Davis, and had looked around at various options for publishing the book. They also asked me for some advice.

When I saw some of the prices quoted, it was clear that almost all these publishers were for vanity projects, and for a quite hefty sum they were offering little more than an expensive design service — and a slow one at that, judging from the complaints I saw — and all the author received was a dozen copies of their book at the end of the process. They then received a small royalty on any further copies sold. There didn't seem to be any attempt at promotion, other than being listed on a website — fine if you know what you're looking for and where you might find it, but no use for casual browsing.

I argued that they might as well self-publish the book. It would still involve them doing all the publicity for it, but at least this way they would receive the publishers' profit rather than a meagre royalty payment (which I believe was about 10% of the cover price). Also, I blithely said, I could do the design and printing for less than half what the other firm was charging... I may even have said a third of the price, which is what it turned out to be.

Which is how Bear Alley Books came to publish And the Wheels Went Round for John and Tony. And while it hasn't been a best-seller, it has sold in the region of 150 copies, which means it has wiped its face, rather than plunging the authors into debt to the tune of about three and a half grand. 

As Tony now lives in France, he thought it a fun idea to do a French language edition. So, earlier this week, I finally green-lit a small print-run of Les Roues de la Fortune. Not the first foreign translation of one of our books — there was a French edition of Eagles Over the Western Front some years ago — but certainly the first I have published under the Bear Alley Books banner.

With copies of the book heading over to France, I was able to turn my attention to an article that someone asked me to write. For once I'm way ahead of deadline, although I'm giving it a couple of days distance so I can read it afresh before sending it in. The subject is Ranger, which is one of the papers that I have written about and indexed in the past. A fascinating story for a fairly short-lived title and, of course, it gave us one of the finest strips ever published in a British comic, 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire'.

The little utility room next to my office has a plastic roof, and on Wednesday morning it sounded like the sky had burst, the rain hammering against the plastic. It was clear that our morning walk down to the river wasn't going to happen, so I thought I'd tackle something that I need to do for the Action project and have been putting off while I was concentrating on other aspects of the comic. It took me the whole day, but I now have every single feature indexed, with lists of the various stunts performed by Action Man Steve MacManus (and the ones that were actually someone else!), the young sports stars that were interviewed (including one whose name wasn't anywhere in the interview... that one took a bit of tracking down), and, everyone's favourite, the 'Twit of the Week'.

I'm now back to work on the main feature, reading a couple of interviews with Mike Dorey, including a brief one I did way back in August 1992 around the time that Victor folded. I've always thought Dorey was a bit of an unsung hero of British comics, drawing anonymously for Thomsons for many years, including a long run on 'Cadman the Fighting Coward' that lasted something like 16 series over 17 years. I think I probably first saw his work on 'Death Wish' in Valiant in 1975-76 and 'Invasion' in 1977. Rebellion recently reprinted some stunning work he did on 'Victor Drago' in Tornado. I know he's better known for his war strips, but if it was up to me I'd have Mike draw a new Victor Drago, and give him back his real name: Sexton Blake. Just look at our column header to see how good it was.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 20 October 2021

This is the world of Judge Dredd as you’ve never seen it before – the spectacular Megatropolis is out now!

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 hardcover collection includes a gallery of cover art and never seen before concept sketches.

And out this week...

2000AD Prog 2254
Cover: Mark Harrison.

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #437
Cover: Colin Macneil

Judge Dredd: A Dream of a Thousand Flowers by Kenneth Niemand (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Returners: Amazonia by Si Spencer (w) Niccolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Angelic: Restitution by Gordon Rennie (w) Lee Carter (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Tales From The Black Museum: The Electrocist by David Barnett (w) Stewart K Moore (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning by AleŇ° Kot (w) Mike Dowling (a) Quinton Winter (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Bagged supplement: The 2000 AD Encyclopedia

Friday, October 15, 2021

Comic Cuts — 15 October 2021

Another good week on Action, with the first draft reaching 8,000 words so far. I'm into the stories now, discussing Hook Jaw, Dredger and Hellman, adding to my notes by reading 'Hell's Highway' yesterday, with 'Kids Rule OK' lined up to be read next. My notes have reached 30,000 words and I have no idea how long the final piece will be — not all these quotes and notes will reach the final draft, but I'm still writing a lot of inter-connective material.

There have been one or two frustrations along the way. I have been trying to get in touch with a number of people who were involved in the comic who have not been interviewed in the past and it would be nice to get their perspective on the comic. I'm thinking of Probationer! artist Tom Hirst as an example. I know he drew for Action and he was involved in a fanzine put together by Fleetway employee Milton Finesilver, but I know nothing else about him. This was one of the strips that disappeared from Action during its "re-appraisal" period, so it deserves to be looked at closely.

Similarly, the strip's author, Stewart Wales, also seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet. He was a sub-editor of Look-In and Valiant who later worked with Dez Skinn on Junior Quizzer, went on to work for Byblos, Marvel UK (Blake's 7), and Attic Books. He often worked with Geoff Kemp when it came to writing.

Any clues to his whereabouts would be welcome.

It is a shame that so many people have slipped through the net and disappear before some record of their career in comics can be recorded. One such is Tony Jozwiak who was an art assistant at IPC who contributed a few strips to 2000AD. I went searching for him yesterday and I believe he died last year without any mention of his passing appearing. I'm convinced that I met Tony once at the Cheshire Cheese, but the memory is vague and nebulous and I might be misremembering.

With only 40 or so days to go before Christmas, our walks in the morning are starting mostly in the dark or under overcast skies. Earlier this week we were treated to a couple of mornings with spectacular sunrises and views of low mist over the Colne and the fields on the far side of the river.

There have been a couple of exciting moments when we have seen the seal that (so it's said) is a regular visitor to the river. We have known about the seal for some years — Mel even saw it once when she was having a pub lunch at The Anchor in Rowhedge (the village across the river). I said earlier this year that I hoped to see otters and the seal during our walks. Well, I can cross the latter off the list.

Last Sunday week (the 3rd) we were walking along the road that runs parallel to the river because the footpath along the river was muddy when we bumped into an acquaintance who said she had just seen the seal. We rushed down the road to see if we could see anything and, sure enough, a head ducked back under the water as we arrived. I had the camera out and snapped a picture, but all you can see is a blurry, grey river with the slightest hint of a ripple.

Fast forward to Thursday morning (the 14th): as we made our way along the quay, we thought we saw something bob back into the water. A couple of minutes later a snout appeared and disappeared. A definite sighting, which we mentioned to a couple who were walking towards us giving us quizzical looks (we both had our cameras out, aimed at what was by then a still, mucky-looking river). All four of us waited patiently until we had a second snout sighting about 30 yards further up the river. It lasted so briefly that I didn't get a chance to focus the camera.

So you'll just have to believe me when I say we've now seen the seal twice. But I'll post some pics of the sunrise and mist. That I can prove... and I hope you approve.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Commando 5479-5482

Brand new Commando issues are out today!

5479: Judas in Jersey

As the people of Jersey anxiously await the expected invasion of the island by the Germans, a number of young Jerseymen plan to escape to England and join the British Army — including Billy Cooper. The only problem is Billy’s mum won’t let him! She wants her boy safe at home and will do anything to keep him out of harm’s way. But when Billy helps an injured Commando who is later betrayed by one of the islanders, he can’t take it any more and sneaks off to join the Royal Marines. Littles does he know that the war will bring him back to his sleepy island and the traitor from years ago…

A classic boys’ adventure from Steve Taylor, perfectly complimented by Paolo Ongaro’s skilful art and Carlos Pino’s enticing cover!

Story | Steve Taylor
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Carlos Pino

5480: The Long Walk

Dusty Rhodes was a lance-corporal and a tough reliable soldier. Yup, he was an ordinary enough bloke — until the day he found himself in command of a squad of brigadiers and generals! Only he could navigate them across the enemy-filled North African desert safely — and they were more than happy to obey his every command!

A thick and fiery cover from Penalva, the texture of the paint is beautifully rendered in this reprint, adding to the grit of this white-knuckle tale!

Story | Allan
Art | R Fuente
Cover | Penalva
Originally Commando No. 428 (1969).

5481: Vengeance

Peter Ford and Rahul Bose were masters of the skies in their Hurricanes. Meeting during the Battle of Britain, then flying raids together over France, there were no wingmen like them. But sadly, the war had different fates for each, sending Peter to North Africa and Rahul back to India. However, it wouldn’t take long for the two to cross paths again as the pair must face off against the Japanese and the impending Operation U-Go — all they need is a little Hart and a lot of Vengeance!

A debut Commando by Suresh Ramasubramanian, this issue has everything you could ever want — globetrotting through famous events and theatres of war before culminating in the skies over India.

Story | Suresh
Art |Carlos Pino
Cover | Keith Burns

5482: The Hawk and the Dove

The facts speak for themselves — from a speed of just over a hundred miles per hour to over four hundred, then one or two machine guns to many more and better ones with some cannon thrown in too — there was certainly a massive difference between the fighters of the First and Second World War. One thing they had in common though, was that to make the most of the machines called on men of great skill and courage to take them into the thick of the action — men like The Hawk and The Dove!

When Commando reprints a classic aviation issue, you know exactly the legend whose art graces the cover — and this Ian Kennedy number does not disappoint! Stripping back the cover to focus on both flying machines, the meticulous level of detail is unmistakable.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Denis McLoughlin
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1741 (1983).

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 13 October 2021

Wondering what the essential Judge Dredd stories are? Need to find out The Ballad of Halo Jones ran? Well look no further, Earthlets - the 2000 AD Encyclopedia hits stores next February!

Timed to coincide with 2000 AD's landmark 45th anniversary, this 336-page hardcover, with explosive brand new cover by artist Stewart K Moore, is a must have for comic book fans.

For the first time, the 2000 AD Encyclopedia celebrates 45 years of cutting edge sci-fi, biting dystopian satire and glorious fantasy by giving readers chapter and verse on this enthralling universe of Thrills, detailing the characters and stories that have helped make 2000 AD a groundbreaking comic book and major cultural force.

With jaw-dropping illustrations by some of the world’s top artists alongside detailed profiles on the stories and characters from the pages of this legendary comic, from the luckless Aaron A. Aardvark of Judge Dredd to the weaponised (but very polite) undead crusader Zombo.

Since its creation in 1977, 2000 AD has been a powerhouse of British comics - consistently pushing at the boundaries of what comic books can achieve with series such as Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Strontium Dog, Nikolai Dante, Brink, and hundreds of others.

Discover fascinating facts about the acclaimed art and script droids behind 2000 AD’s success, including industry legends such as John Wagner, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Jock, Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Carlos Ezquerra and many more.

With a foreword by 2000 AD’s longest-serving editor, Matt Smith, this hardcover collection is indispensable for all dedicated Squaxx Dek Thargo and an essential addition to any comic fan’s book shelf.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2253
Cover: D'Israeli.

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Black Max Volume Two by Frank Pepper & Alfonso Font
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108862-3, 13 October 2021, 122pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon

Bi-planes vs giant vampire bats in this thrilling collection of war comics with a horror twist! Lieutenant Tom Wilson returns to battle Baron Maximilien Von Klorr and his attack force of giant vampire bats in a continuation of the popular series. The World War One era story moves to England with a monstrous albino bat attacking London with each page beautifully drawn by Alfonso Font working on one of his very first comic series. This exciting World War One aviation adventure is ideal for fans of Charley's War and Hammer horror films!

Megatropolis Book One by Kenneth Niemand & Dave Taylor
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108935-4, 13 October 2021, 96pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Experience the iconic city of Mega-City One as never before, in this visionary comic from Kenneth Niemand (Judge Dredd) and Dave Taylor (Judge Dredd, Batman). In this radical reimagining of the world of Judge Dredd, join disgraced Officer Amy Jarra and Detective Joe ‘choirboy’ Rico as they 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.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Vworp Vworp! #4 (September 2021)

After mentioning that I had received quite a haul of books recently and that reviews might take a while to appear, I offered Colin Brockhurst, editor of Vworp Vworp!, a one sentence instant reaction—"WOW! I'm amazed, astonished and in awe of the work you've put in. Five stars.

Now that I've had a chance to actually read some of the content, I stand by that fifteen word review.

That it is an astonishing production shouldn't be a surprise because I was blown away by issue 3 when that appeared back in 2017. 4½ years later, we have issue 4 – a shorter gap than the 5½ years between 2 and 3 – and I'm blown away all over again.

This issue is a 172 page look at the Doctor Who comic strips from the sixties and seventies as they appeared in TV Comic and Countdown/TV Action. Now, this is not a study of the comic strips themselves (there has already been a book covering most of that same period, Paul Scoones The Comic Strip Companion 1964-1979) nor is it a history of TV Comic or Countdown/TV Action (there has already been a book covering the latter, Countdown to TV Action by... ahem... ). Instead, it is an anthology of articles about the comics and the creators behind the strips that appeared in them, plus a couple of extra pieces covering other Who related works.

The whole thing kicks off with a look back at an art agency that supplied artwork for the 1976 Artus Publishing volume Doctor Who and the Daleks Omnibus. Simon Brett interviews everyone involved (those still living, I should say) and it becomes a fascinating story of how small agencies worked in the 1960s through to the 1980s, described by Ivan Rose, one of the co-founders of General Illustration Company, as a time of "earning money like crazy!"

Then onto TV Comic, introduced by Paul Scoones and Michael Baxter before we reach a feature on Neville Main, the first of a number of insightful looks at the creators working on Doctor Who's comic strip over a period of two decades.

The list of creators covered is astonishing: David Motton, Roger Noel Cook, Bill Mevin, Tom Woodman, John Canning, Pat Williams, Dick Millington, Alan Fennell, John Woods, Leslie Waller, Harry Lindfield, Dennis Hooper, Gerry Haylock, Alan Gilham, Frank Langford, Geoff Cowan and Martin Asbury. Phew! Some are interviews (Mevin, Lindfield, Asbury) while others are essays, some long, some relatively brief. I know how tricky it is to research the often anonymous creators of comics, but the magazine contains an array of photos (gold dust!), and snippets of conversations with people tangentially involved (even the guy who won a prize creating a monster for TV Action+Countdown).

The magazine also covers various modern takes on these old strips, a top 40 of weird facts about the TV Comic/Countdown strips, and collecting Who artwork. There is even a free gift in the shape of a packet of Vworp's Sugar Pats, which will enable you to make your own Trod. Oh, and there are comic strips, too.

There's so much information packed in here that, half way through, I was starting to feel a bit redundant. Brockhurst and his team of writers had everything covered and in astonishing detail. But wait... what's this? They didn't know George Marler died in 2007... I can breath again. Surely that will cost the Vworp team half a star.

Only kidding, Colin. You know what? After that sly dig, I'm going to give the magazine 5½ stars.

Order your copy from the official website. And pick up those back issues while you're there. They're well worth the tenner each of them costs.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Comic Cuts — 8 October 2021

After a few weeks of sifting through information and interviews I'm now in the writing phase of the Action project. I have a couple of areas written up, but I'm now trying to link all those disparate chunks of text and notes into one long readable essay. The notes run to over 28,000 words, but the introductory material that's in what I would call a reasonably final form is around 4,300 words. So there's quite a way to go yet.

I'm trying to make this as much of an oral history as I can, hence all the talk over the past few weeks of listening to podcasts, broadcasts, YouTube videos and even a few interviews I have done myself. I've always liked the format but it's a bit labour intensive and it is turning into a footnote fetishists fantasy, with 79 references so far. 

As well as trying to make sense of the history, I have been pestering people for even more information and working on the index that will accompany the essay. The intention is to expand and finesse any listing I've previously published, as I have been doing with the various books I've put out over the last dozen or so years. I'm often asked about the old photocopied indexes that came out in the early 1990s, and I say the same every time: no, I don't have copies, nor are they still in print. I only ever received one copy of each. My intention is to replace all of them, properly printed, and updated and expanded with thirty years worth of additional knowledge. They will be as definitive as I can make them.

Concentrating on Action to the exclusion of all else has meant I'm still running late with various reviews. One book that came in this week is Strange Stories of Sport edited by Chris Harte, a spin-off collection of tales from the Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, which I reviewed here. The book, a whopping 508 pages, collects together a run of 46 horror stories that appeared between 1905 and 1909. Long-time editor, Alfred Watson, and novelist and short story writer Frank Savile dreamed up the idea of publishing a run of stories over lunch in 1904, and Watson began commissioning tales soon after.

Eventually he would publish stories by 21 different authors, Savile prominent amongst them, but also including Herbert Knight-Horsfield, Geoffrey Williams, Charles Edwardes, George Charlton-Anne, Alma Scriven, Charles de Courcy-Parry, Laurence Hornibrook, Henry Bryden and Lewis Shaw.

Harte provides an informative introduction as always. The book is published through his own Sports History Publishing and will be available through the usual sources when it is officially released in about three weeks time. (Amazon lists the book as a hardback, but it is, in fact, a softcover, as are Chris's other books.)

Strange Stories of Sport, edited by Chris Harte. Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801015-9, 25 October 2021, £12.95. Available via Amazon.

I thought today we might have a special No Prize quiz for the sharp-eyed amongst you. Here's the question... what connection does the above episode of 'Montgomery of Alamein' have with Action? Remember, there's no prize. This is just for fun.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 6 October 2021

's latest "jumping on" Prog (2250) saw the return of the long-running and quite brilliant 'Scarlet Traces' series from Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, which launched into the new series, Storm Front.

If you don’t know – and seriously, you’re missing out – 'Scarlet Traces' is all about taking the ideas of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and spinning out a vast, enthralling steampunk sci-fi epic that all began ten years after the abortive Martian invasion of Earth, with Britain truly ruling the world with reverse-engineered alien technology.

The 2000AD website recently carried an interview with Ian Edginton and D'Israeli:

IAN EDGINTON: In the previous series we witnessed the overthrow of the Martians’ occupation of Venus and a spanner thrown in the works of their plan to disassemble the solar system and build a Dyson sphere-style habitat around the Sun. They’re now looking to take out their revenge on the Earth once more.

Meanwhile our heroes Ahron and Iykarus have recruited the reclusive Jovians (inhabitants of Jupiter) to help the Earth in her hour of need. It’s also been revealed that the Martians have reached a genetic dead-end, their numbers have dwindled drastically, this is the last stand for them as well. Phew!

The interview continues here. And now, this week's releses...

2000AD Prog 2252
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular
Cover: Tom Paterson

Britain’s kookiest, legendary anthology returns from the great beyond with 48 pages of brand new, HELL-arious comic strips! Frankie Stein, Kid Kong, Draculass, Sweeny Toddler, Gums, Teddy Scare and the Hire A Horror crew have returned with a diabolical host of new frights – including one of Britain’s best loved superheroes, The Leopard from Lime Street - to usher in the witching season with SPOOKTACULAR fashion!

Dark Justice: Torture Garden by David Hine & Nick Percival
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108972-9, 6 October 2021, 108pp, £7.99. [DIGITAL RELEASE]

The Dark Judges Death, Fire, Fear and Mortis have landed on the remote Mega-City colony Dominion. Now a few survivors must fight to survive, as the Dark Judges have transformed their colony into a necropolis and their loved ones into an army of zombies... Collected into a digital-only graphic novel for the first time, this series stars fan favourite villains the Dark Judges in a chilling storyline, with sensational artwork by Nick Percival.


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books