Sunday, December 31, 2023

Eagle Times v36 no4 (Winter 2023)

After 36 years, it's no surprise that Eagle Times must occasionally depart from its core interest of the classic Eagle comic that ran from 1950 to 1969. Non-Eagle subjects don't often make the cover (the last was Captain Condor 18 months ago), but this issue highlights Classics Illustrated, as does the lead article by Kevin O'Donnell.

O'Donnell mentions that he was a reader of the British editions back in the early 1960s, which gives the article some personal insight into how the comic was perceived: he was encouraged by teachers at his primary school to read one a day, seeking out the creepier and more fantastic stories (Frankenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) while girls might have preferred The Song of Hiawatha.

No mention that some of the Thorpe & Porter issues included a number of originals, most notably (and expensively) an adaptation of the James Bond movie Doctor No. A couple of the originals were drawn by Norman Light who appears in my new history of Badger Books, Beyond the Void.

David Britton also slips off topic twice this issue, taking a look at a character named Dan Dare who first appeared in Fawcett's Whiz Comics in 1940. Nothing like the pilot of the future so loved by British schoolboys, this Dan was a fearless "freelance detective".

Later in this issue, Britton tackles another American comic in the shape of Eagle Comics, published by Rural Home Publishing Company of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1945. It lasted only two issues, mixing war-themed strips with non-fiction strips and features. A second Eagle predecessor is promised for next issue.

Milton Caniff is one of the most famous American artists, responsible for 'Dickie Dare', 'Terry and the Pirates' and 'Steve Canyon' (the latter presumably to be covered next issue). There is an insightful transcript of a brief radio talk Caniff recorded for Australian broadcast in which he discusses the origins of the strip and his creative process.

Off the beaten path, although related to Girl Annual, is Harry Royle's brief biography of actress Shirley Cain (nee Roberts), who was the subject of a Kay Weston article in the 4th annual volume. Shirley was then studying at RADA and went on to have a successful career on stage and screen.

Back to the Eagle itself, we have Jim Duckett's opening article on 'Knights of the Road', memorably drawn by Gerald Haylock. Inspired by Hell Drivers starring Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan and featuring future Bond Sean Connery and future Doctor Who William Hartnell amongst its astonishing cast. A thriller about lorry driving might not feel very 'Eagle', but writer JHG Freeman (writing as Gordon Grinstead) managed to squeeze out plenty of excitement over a two-year run, the first year of which is covered here.

'Cricket with the Master' was a feature by Patsy Hendren which six Eagle readers with six professional cricketers. This episode concentrates on Hendren's astonishing career, which had ended in 1937 after thirty years professionally in the sport.

This issue is rounded out with one of Jim Duckett's 'In and Out of Eagle' features and a story featuring PC49 by Steve Winders, suitably Christmas themed.

The quarterly Eagle Times is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £30 in the UK, £45 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Mayfield Lodge, Llanbadoc, Usk, Monmouthshire NP15 1SY; 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, December 22, 2023

Comic Cuts - 22 December 2023

The history of Badger Books is nearly finished. Again. I had a second proof of Beyond the Void arrive during the week, but there was a glitch in the printing that meant that the printer had trimmed the book poorly and cut into the header (the text across the top of the page). This wasn't a problem with the first proof I received at the tail end of November, so I've asked for a replacement, and spent a busy day on Tuesday reducing the size and height of the header to make sure this doesn't happen again even if the printing is wonky. (We're talking only a couple of millimeters, so it wouldn't normally even be noticeable.)

These things are sent  to try us... and hopefully you'll now understand why a book I had hoped to get out in November or, at the latest, early December, is now dragging its heels.

I'm now waiting on yet another proof. With that in mind, I think I'll leave any promotion and the book's release until January as we're now only days away from Christmas and the busy family week that runs through to new year. Mel and I are doing the family thing as usual, but she is back at work towards the end of the week, so I'll knuckle down and see what I can get done on the next book.

At the moment that would appear to be another volume of Forgotten Authors — the fifth — as I have been busy rereading a bunch of essays for inclusion. They include a lengthy piece about early writings about pirates covering Daniel Defoe, Alexander Smith and Charles Johnson, a long hard Paddington stare at Sexton Blake writer John G. Brandon, a revealing piece on historian Alfred Duggan, the surprising story of crime writer Donald Cresswell, and a glimpse behind the curtains of Tibetan mystic T. Lobsang Rampa. There will be a few more names added to that list, including -- if I stick to my current plans — a couple of pen-names that remain elusive. I do like my "mysteries that have me mystified".

I have spent the morning digging a little further into Rampa and adding a few more details that I can verify about his life. I first wrote about him for Dodgem Logic (remember that?) back in 2010 and published an expanded version as an ebook in 2014. Its latest appearance will hopefully find a different (albeit small) audience; the series doesn't sell many copies, but some of these pieces can be over 10,000 words long, so where else can I publish them?

There are still authors I would love to write about, but time always seems to be too tight these days to indulge myself spending two to three weeks writing about someone few people will have heard of for a book that nobody is really looking for because the Authors truly are Forgotten by all but a handful of collectors.

Once we get into the new year, I'll be looking at my history/index to Action. Again... that's the plan as of this moment of writing. Things may change.

All that's left is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Frankly, it has been a bit of a shit year with some glorious highlights — expanding and publishing The Trials of Hank Janson, writing Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books — and I'm hoping that 2024 will be better!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Commando 5707-5710

Season’s Greetings from Commando Issues 5707–5710 – which go on sale today,  Thursday 21st December! With out-of-this-world action in space and more grounded classic stories set around the globe!

5707: Duel in the Dark

In the early years of the Space Race, as the United States of America and the Soviet Union challenge one another for dominance of the ‘High Frontier’, two Air Force astronauts find themselves trapped in a dying space capsule when an out-of-control Russian weapon threatens to spark World War III...
    James Swallow blasts you off to space in this Commando, as Americans and USSR cosmonauts must work together in the icy depths of space — isolated from the world below. Gary Welsh’s artwork shines in this issue, with his strong use of black ink astounding the eyes! Topped off with an amazing Neil Roberts cover — it’s a gift this Christmas!

Story | James Swallow
Art | Gary Welsh
Cover | Neil Roberts

5708: The Hi-jackers

The war seemed far away as the cargo ship Baripore Star steamed peacefully along through the blue Indian Ocean. She had only one four-inch gun bolted to her after-deck, and her crew reckoned they’d never have to use it. But in the sky above, a certain plane was making towards her, and in the water below a submarine was headed in the same direction. Very soon now, war was to come to the Baripore Star...
    We return to earth — more specifically the Indian Ocean — in the Gold offering for this set with Issue 5708. Gordon C Livingstone takes up the brush on both interior artwork and the cover, displaying how much a master of his craft he was at bringing RA Montague’s story to life!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Gordon C Livingstone
Cover | Gordon C Livingstone
First Published 1970 as Issue 506

5709: Out of the Unknown 

Crash-landing in the Austrian countryside, a flying saucer and intergalactic pilot have fallen into the greedy clutches of the Third Reich. It’s up to SOE Lieutenant Philip Mercer to infiltrate the Luftwaffe base and take the new technology for the Allies. But with such unparalleled power, no-one could predict what would happen when either side tried to steal this weapon from... Out of the Unknown!
    And we’re back into the realms of Science fiction meets war in Commando Issue 5709 ‘Out of the Unknown’ as something from out of this world crash lands in the Reich. But can anyone be trusted with technology unlike anything we could imagine? You’ll have to read to find out! Plus a brand-new cover from legendary artist Kev Hopgood as he joins the ranks with his first Commando!

Story | Heath Ackley
Art | Jaume Forns
Cover | Kev Hopgood

5710: The Fortunes of War

Two men, one English and the other German. The Englishman saved the German from being knifed, then the German saved the Englishman from being shot. Later, each saved the life of the other yet again. They went through a lot together, those two, before the Second World War. And when the war between Britain and Germany began, things got even more interesting!
    In print for the first time since 1980, Issue 5710 ‘The Fortunes of War’ is an expansive look at war and mercenaries during conflict. This classic Commando features the dream trio of CG Walker and Fleming with Ian Kennedy on cover duty!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Fleming
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1980 as Issue 1441

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Rebellion Releases - 20 December 2023

The Treasury of British Comics is proud to unveil its first collection of one of British comics’ most famous and beloved characters – Robot Archie.

The most famous creation of Edward George Cowan, otherwise known as Ted Cowan, Robot Archie debuted in Lion in 1952 with his first series drawn by artist Alan Philpott. This new collection brings together Cowan and artist Ernest Kearon’s ‘Robot Archie and The Time Machine’ story from 1968 – the first book in the ‘time traval saga’, which sees Archie travel across the eons on new and exciting adventures!

Originally built by Professor C.R. Ritchie, the mechanical being known as Robot Archie was employed to battle injustices around the world, particularly in the jungles of Africa and South America. The automated action hero has worked with the Professor to create ‘The Castle’ – a fully-functioning time machine! Together with the Professor’s nephew, Ted Ritchie and his best friend Ken Dale, Archie is ready to embark on a journey through time that will bring him into conflicts with medieval knights and a terrifying, dystopian future where aliens have conquered the Earth!

Coming out in paperback on 23 May, this collection will also be available in a hardcover edition exclusive to the Treasury of British Comics and 2000 AD webshops, featuring a stunning infographic showing a cross-section of Robot Archie.

And now, this week's release (no 2000 AD, as the Xmas special was released last week)...

Judge Dredd Megazine #463
Cover: Mike Perkins.

JUDGE DREDD: DOLLMAN’S YULETIDE MASSACRE by Ken Niemand (w) Paul Marshall (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SPECTOR: INCORRUPTIBLE by John Wagner (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
DEMARCO, PI: A PICTURE PAINTS by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson Simon Bowland (l)
THE TRIGAN EMPIRE by Mike Butterworth (w) Oliver Frey
JOHNNY RED by Garth Ennis (w) Keith Burns (a) Jason Wordie (c) Rob Steen (l)
JUDGE DREDD: DEVIATIONS by John McCrea (w & a) Mike Spicer (c) Simon Bowland (l)
LAWLESS: MOST WANTED by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, December 15, 2023

Comic Cuts — 15 December 2023

I'm still waiting on my second proof of Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books, so I have no news as to when it will be available. Where it will be available on the other hand...

I spent a couple of days uploading details of many Bear Alley Books so that you can now "Buy It Now" through Ebay. I can't take pre-orders through Ebay or Amazon, but I might try and set up something that will allow everyone to order the book in time for Christmas. Life used to be a lot easier when I could set up PayPal buttons on the Bear Alley Books site. Unfortunately, since 2020, Google hasn't allowed this, and I've had to come up with various ways to get around the problem, either selling through Lulu, or through Amazon. I looked into setting up a website, but there are monthly subscription charges associated with them; the same goes for setting up a formal Shop on Ebay.

When I published the Rocket index back in April 2020, this wasn't a problem: PayPal buttons could be incorporated into the layout without any problems — and I'd like to assure everyone that they still work!

However, when I came to set up a post in precisely the same way for the two Longbow volumes in August 2020, I discovered that the buttons no longer worked — you could get them to appear on the page, but you couldn't click through to PayPal. Looking into it at the time, there were no solutions offered; discussions within the Blogger community asking Google what was going on petered out without any explanation. I looked again this week and there is still no solution offered. I'm experimenting when I get the chance, but nothing I've done so far — posting brand new buttons, reposting old buttons, repurposing old buttons — has worked.

After 12 years, you'd think I'd have a website set up for Bear Alley Books, but sales are so patchy that any sort of subscription model would end up costing me money — getting new books out so irregularly doesn't help the situation, but I'm trying to get on top of that... it's only three months since the last book (The Trials of Hank Janson) came out and I'm already in discussion about a couple of books I hope to publish next year.

If you hit the button to the left (the big EBAY button) you'll see 22 of the books I've put out. There are a few more to go, but I need to make sure I have copies to hand before I put them up. Ebay (like Amazon) doesn't like it's customers waiting because they get antsy and start complaining. That, unfortunately (there's that word again) for me, means carrying stock — and I say unfortunately, because it ties up my money in books that might not sell for six months.

Just as frustrating is to have a run on a single title; I have to order replacements, meaning I can't spread the cost of getting the books sent to me as part of a larger order. Postage is a huge problem for small publishers as costs have soared. A first class stamp cost 12p in 1980, 22p in 1990, 27p in 2000 and 41p in 2010. The price more than doubled over the next decade: in March 2020 a first class stamp rose to 76p and rose again in January 2021 to 85p. In 2022 the price rose to 95p and in 2023 to £1.10 and then to £1.25 (that a 942% increase).

Parcels have risen at a slower rate, but a 1kg parcel has gone up from £1.60 to £3.49 (+118%) and a 2kg parcel has gone up from £2.00 to £5.49 (+175%). International postage has gone into orbit!

That's enough moaning for one column. Let's end on a lighter note. The pics are a few books that I have stumbled across in my travels in the past couple of weeks. Nothing terribly exciting, but I was pleased to find both the Richard Ayoade and Joe Lycett books in close succession given their connection. (A Marvel "no prize" for anyone who knows what it is.) The other two are a pair of Penguins. Always worth picking up.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Rebellion Releases - 13 December 2023


Celebrating 40 years since IPC launched the UK’s most iconic ‘horror’ anthology, this wonderfully horrifying single volume collects all of the strips included in the 15-issue run of Scream!

Produced ‘from the depths’ of King’s Reach Tower by the mysterious ‘undead’ editor Ghastly McNasty, the first issue of Scream! was unleashed on 24th March 1984. More tongue-in-cheek than horrific, the comic was an immediate hit with younger fans as it included a pair of fake vampire fangs attached to the cover and a number of fantastic new strips from such talents as Alan Moore, John Wagner, Jose Ortiz, Cam Kennedy, Tom Tully, Alan Grant and Eric Bradbury.

This celebratory collection of the entirety of Scream! includes every single strip published in 1984 from issues 1-15 of the original Scream! run, making this an absolute must-have for fans of classic horror and thriller comics!

To make this even more ghoulishly exciting, true horror afficionados can take home a webshop-exclusive slipcase edition designed by David Roach!

The stories included in this collection are:

The Dracula File – Writers Gerry-Finley Day, Simon Furman, Artist Eric Bradbury
Fiends and Neighbours – Artist Graham Allen
Tales From the Grave – Writers Tom Tully, Ian Rimmer, Scott Goodall, Artist Jim Watson
Library of Death – Writers Barrie Tomlinson,James Nicholas, Angus Allan Artists Cam Kennedy, Ron Smith, John Cooper, Brendan McCarthy, Mike Dorey, Steve Dillon
Monster – Writers Alan Moore, John Wagner, Artists Henzil, Jesus Redondo
The Nightcomers – Writer Tom Tully, Artist John Richardson
Terror of the Cats – Writer Simon Furman, Artists Gonzalez, John Richardson
The Thirteenth Floor – Writers John Wagner, Alan Grant, Artist Jose Ortiz
A Ghastly Tale – Artists Mike Western, Mike Dorey, Jose Casanovas Sr

And now, this week's releases, the bumper Xmas issue of  2000AD...

2000AD Prog 2362
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

JUDGE DREDD // A MATTER OF LIFE & DREDD by Ken Niemand (w) Tom Foster (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
AZIMUTH // SNOW ZONE by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
ANDERSON, PSI-DIVISION // THE GAME WITHIN by Torunn Grønbekk (w) Kieran McKeown (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Rob Steen (l)
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT // SILENT KNIGHT by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Jim Capbell (l)
STRONTIUM DOG // ALPHA by Rufus Hound (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
ROGUE TROOPER // RUNAWAY by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Simon Coleby (a) F Segala & S. Del Grosso (c) Rob Steen (l)
HELIUM // SCORCHED EARTH by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE DEVIL’S RAILROAD by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FERAL & FOE // BAD GODESBERG by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Friday, December 08, 2023

Comic Cuts — 8 December 2023

I'm pleased to announce that Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books will be out shortly. I'm still working on how I can get the books into the hands of readers, but I should have that in place shortly.

This is a bumper book, 172 pages in full colour, and the proof that arrived during the week bowled me over. I'm making a few minor tweaks – just for consistency where, for instance, I have credited artist Henry Fox as H. Fox in some places and Fox in others – and then the book will be ready to print. I'm also reading through the text one last time, although I know that the moment I make a print order, I'll spot a typo. Always happens to every author, editor and book publisher. And I'm all three, in this instance.

I'm very pleased with how the book has turned out. The layout I based on my old PBO fanzine, which was a three column format, and the text and images can be jigsawed together in lots of different way, so, checklists aside, there aren't many pages in the whole 172-page book that look the same. It works well with paperback covers because they're roughly the same size and shape - there's a little difference between standard 'C' format and the old-style digest size, but not enough to worry about. I'm very tempted to use this format more often.

I'm going to stop talking about it now.

While I was waiting for the proofs to arrive, I took a look at a couple of old essays that I'm thinking of including in a new volume of Forgotten Authors - the fifth! The opener will be about some of the first authors to write about highwaymen and pirates. It was originally written about twenty years ago when I was active on an old Yahoo chat group dedicated to penny dreadfuls and dime novels (the bloodsanddimes group, for those with long memories). I've mined some of the material I wrote for the group in previous volumes (the essay 'Mysteries of the House of Harrison & Viles' in vol.3, for instance) and it was through correspondence with the likes of Justin Gilbert, Michael Holmes, John Adcock, Bill Blackbeard and others that led me to do little bits of research into the old penny dreadfuls of the late 19th century.

The era was full of fascinating stories and characters. I've included at least one in every volume - W. Stephens Hayward in vol.1, Bracebridge Hemyng in vol.2, Harrison & Viles in vol.3, and J. Reading Ware in vol.4), so I'm only following a tradition... and this one looks back at even older publications from the early 18th century.

Although I tend to call these my Christmas Projects, they rarely get finished over Christmas - there's too much else to do. I mentioned last week how my 2019 and 2020 Christmas Projects took until 2021 to see print. It isn't always a book... last year I put together a quite extensive bibliography of my own work for the FictionMags Index; even that doesn't cover half of what I've written, but it's a good start.

The problem with the Forgotten Authors books is built into the title... they're little known authors, so, of course, nobody is searching the internet or Amazon to find out about them. This is niche series even for the little niche I'm in, but it gives me a chance to write about authors I find fascinating and putting them together as books means I earn a little from them (not much, but I write for a living and everything I write has to earn me something).

Except Bear Alley, of course, although I hope that your discerning eye is drawn to the books visible in the left and right hand columns and that you're tempted to buy them. If someone you love likes comics, I can recommend them. Just order soon if you want one for Christmas.

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Commando 5703-5706

Issues 5703–5706 go on sale today, Thursday 7th December! With flying adventures in a Lysander, Nazis dressed as Americans, a mad Aussie murderer, and bow and arrows aplenty – you won’t want to miss these!

5703: The Flying Fool

When an RAF Hurricane cadet with a taste for practical jokes and horseplay is sent to a backwater squadron in India, he doesn’t let it dampen his spirits. What he didn’t know was things were about to get a lot worse!
     After pulling a prank on the wrong person, Pilot Officer Billy West is moved from being an ace fighter pilot to flying busted-up Lysander reconnaissance planes. Still, he’s ready to take on a Zero or two, and might even learn something along the way.
     Writer Suresh’s story of tomfoolery is masterfully brought to life by the legendary work of artist Carlos Pino! Ever wanted to see Pino illustrate an RAF cadet pretending to be a cow? Well now you can in Commando 5703 ‘The Flying Fool’!

Story | Suresh
Art | Carlos Pino
Cover | Carlos Pino

5704: Danger at Dawn

The American military policeman, fatally wounded, gasped out his last words — in German! And that was more than enough to set British Captain Bob Lawton thinking hard. For he and his CO, Lieutenant-General Digby, were in the care of Yank MPs behind enemy lines in North Africa and far from any friendly unit.

    To Bob, it seemed they’d been caught up in some nightmare Nazi trick. If they were, one false move could mean death. So Bob would just have to wait and pick the exact second to act...
    In print for the first time since 1970, ‘Danger at Dawn’ is a beautiful, classic Commando. With Allan’s story, Martin’s artwork and Jordi Penalva’s stunning cover, you’ll wonder why it wasn’t reprinted sooner!

Story | Allan
Art | Martin
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 501

5705: Hold Fast, Digger!

Aussie Corporal Jack Harris was in the thick of the action at Milne Bay when the Japanese invasion force landed. The fighting was fierce, and he and his unit were forced to retreat, leaving behind many comrades in the chaos, including a young private named Tom Cooper.
     When Jack got safely back to base, Sergeant Bob Cooper was told about his brother. Now he was out for revenge, blaming Harris for his death. Between the Japanese and Cooper, if Jack was going to survive, he had better watch his back.
    Commando 5705 is a companion piece to Brent Towns issue 5685 ‘Fly Fast, Skipper’ — both set during the Japanese assault on Milne Bay. But in this issue, rather than in the skies above Milne Bay, Towns takes the story down to the ground alongside the Aussie soldiers in the thick of it. Newcomer Guillermo Galeote’s artwork lends itself superbly to the gritty tale of attempted murder among the thick foliage of the jungle and his cover is the cherry on top!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Guillermo Galeote
Cover | Guillermo Galeote

5706: Shoot-out

For centuries the Nebbit family had been renowned for their marksmanship. Their skill with bow and arrow had won them the respect of a powerful Norman lord — and the right for them to keep their land.
    Now, hundreds of years later, Joe Nebbit was to prove that his family were still crack shots — this time with .303 Lee Enfield rifles!
    Issue 5706 ‘Shoot-out’ is a classic Commando from 1981 with the powerhouse trio of CG Walker, CT Rigby and Ian Kennedy on contributor duty! And what an issue it is — with bows and arrows turning into Lee Enfield rifles, we’ve really hit the bullseye with this issue!

Story | CG Walker
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1981 as Issue 1506

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 6 December 2023

Out Now! The 2000 AD Art of Mick McMahon Apex Edition

This unmissable book presents high-resolution scans of stunning original art pages by artist Mick McMahon – at their actual size – in a deluxe, over-sized hardcover facsimile edition. As well as his brush and pen work, these pages include original titles, word balloons, printer’s marks and other ephemera, giving fans the chance to see art by one of 2000 AD‘s biggest talents in all its glory.

Following last year’s Judge Dredd by Mick McMahon Apex Edition, this second Apex Edition showcases McMahon’s near-constant state of evolution and change, from his early roots in mimicking the great Carlos Ezquerra on Judge Dredd to the bold, impressionistic style of his later years. It charts his career in unprecedented detail and gives fans and admirers the chance to see just why McMahon became one of the greatest 2000 AD artists of all time and influenced generations of comic book artists.

In addition to the standard retail edition, fans can order a special slipcase edition exclusively through the 2000 AD webshop that comes in an attractive slipcase, adorned with one of McMahon’s epic wraparound Sláine covers. This edition also comes with an extra bound page – individually numbered and signed by McMahon – with brand new art created exclusively for this edition.

Mick McMahon is one of the most influential artists in British comics and this volume features eagerly-anticipated pages from his groundbreaking 1980s work on 2000 AD’s legendary barbarian, Sláine.

His work on Sláine – including ‘Warrior’s Dawn’, ‘Heroes Blood’, and the incredible ‘Sky Chariots’ – contrasts with the chunky shadows and bold shapes of his art on Judge Dredd, using inks and markers to create a style akin to woodcuts. From the gritty savagery and character work of ‘Warrior’s Dawn’ to crafting long ships in ‘Sky Chariots’ that appear to float effortlessly in the air, McMahon imbued Pat Mills’ saga of fantasy and legend with a quality that is both epic and dynamic.

This volume also includes pages by McMahon from Mills’ classic robotic-team series Ro-Busters and its successor A.B.C. Warriors, as well as the complete first episode and original concept art for Gerry Finley-Day’s fan favourite space war series The VCs.

McMahon is perhaps best known for his seminal work on Judge Dredd and this Apex Edition explores his colour work for the 2000 AD and Judge Dredd annuals, such as ‘The Fear That Made Milwaukee Famous’ (presented in its entirety) and ‘Mega-City Rumble’, with bold markers and bright shades competing to create pages bursting with light and energy. It also features pages from Mills’ Judge Dredd story, ’The Return of Rico’, in which Dredd’s evil twin brother is revealed. The story inspired the 1995 Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone as well as providing the storytelling spark that would lead to some of Judge Dredd’s biggest stories.

This stunning collection closes with one of his most important works outside of the pages of 2000 AD. Created for Marvel’s Epic imprint, The Last American is a profound meditation on loss and hope at the end of the world. Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant just as their legendary writing partnership was drawing to a close, McMahon’s pages sing with colour and clarity, his post-apocalyptic landscapes filled with despair and emptiness as its lead character, Ulysses S. Pilgrim, searches for what remains of humanity.

And now, this week's releases....

2000AD Prog 2361
Cover: John McCrea / Mike Spicer (cols).

Judge Dredd: Clanker by Kenneth Niemand (w) Nick Dyer (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Enemy Earth Book III by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Monster Fun #14
Cover: Chris Garbutt.

Tis the season to be jolly...scared!
    The Monster Fun Christmas Special is here again, bringing readers the gift of 32 pages of comics, competitions, and gags to entertain and inspire over the holiday period!
    Not only is there the return of Kid Kong, Hell's Angel, Gums, Witch Vs Warlock, Space Invaded! but this issue also sees the introduction of Peaches Jones, the globe-trotting 14-year-old meeting monsters from all over the world in Peaches’ Creatures, and making their debut in this Christmas issue is Rex Power, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from space!

Definitive Nemesis the Warlock Vol. 1 by Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neill, Jesus Redondo
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786010-4, 6 December 2023, 178pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Long regarded as one of the crown-jewel epics from the pages of 2000 AD, at long last Nemesis the Warlock is back in print and better than ever in a brand-new series of definitive editions. Written by Pat Mills (Marshal Law) and drawn by Kevin O'Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), this definitive series is a collection of the complete storyline in order, and features development sketches showing the evolution of Nemesis and the Blitzspear.
    Termight is the ruling planet of a cruel galactic empire led by the diabolical Torquemada, a twisted human despot intent on purging all alien life from the galaxy and punishing the deviants. His motto: Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave! Against his tyrannical rule, resistance rises in the form of devilish-looking alien warlock Nemesis, who represents everything that Torquemada hates and fears. Together, Nemesis and Torquemada are locked in a duel which will affect their fate and the fate of humanity itself as their conflict spans time and space!

The Helltrekkers by John Wagner and Alan Grant & Jose Ortiz, Horacio Lalia
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618796-3, 7 December 2023, 128pp, £17.99. Available via Amazon.

They were the new frontiersmen—men and women who hated life in Mega-City One so much that they were willing to travel 2000 kilometres across the radiated desert known as the ‘Cursed Earth’ in order to start a new life. The chances of reaching the new territories are slim – the hostile environment is full of danger, including acid rain downpours, killer viruses, mutants and herds of hungry dinosaurs! To increase their chances of survival, Helltrekkers set off in large convoys. But sometimes fellow travellers can cause just as many problems as the threats from outside.
    Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, The Helltrekkers is a monumental survival story and one of the earliest Dreddverse spin-off strips.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Comic Cuts — 1 December 2023

Plenty of news this week, but let's get the "How can it be December already?" out of the way. The year has certainly flown by. I was working mostly on scanning early in the year and working with Mel on some reprint novels that will eventually see the light of day. It took fifteen years to get On the Queen's Service into a publishable state,

OK, so for almost that whole time it was sitting as a proof on a shelf, but you get my point. Life and other projects get in the way. It was the first book published by Bear Alley for eighteen months, and the little set of Andrew Forrester books I put out in September 2021 was actually my Christmas 2020 project; and putting out some new editions of Gwyn Evans' novels was an idea that dates back to 2012!

If I could work on these books without interruption — that is, if I didn't have to worry about earning enough to pay the rent, bills, living costs and the occasional day off — I'd get more done. I started work on the updated edition of The Trials of Hank Janson in July and it was published in September; the work on George Coates' A Laverda Journey is done and dusted, and the book will be officially launched as soon as George has copies in his hands; and Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books is awaiting proof copies to arrive before that, too, is published, hopefully in a few weeks.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be too long before the next project is finished. I'm planning to get back to Action, which I started in September 2021. I was still writing it in February 2022, which was about when I ran out of money and took on more scanning work when it was offered. Scanning, incidentally, is the easy part: it's the repair and cleaning up that takes the time. Some of those comics were over 70 years old and not always in the best condition.

Of course, everything takes twice as long at Bear Alley Books as it might elsewhere because I'm a one-man band, so I'm writing, designing, publishing and fulfilling orders. Not only do I get to write the book, I get to hand deliver copies to the post office, and everything else in between.

All this talk of work disguises the fact that I've had a bit of a lazy week. I had problems with the Badger book at the weekend when I tried to upload it to the printers. It turned out that — and I have no idea why — a couple of footnote numbers had defaulted to an odd font and had to be replaced by good old Time New Roman. I'm not sure why this happened but might be a hangover from the original text being written for Adobe PageMaker, which probably used PostScript fonts. I went through the whole document looking for anything that wasn't a TrueType font and replaced it.

Thankfully that fixed the problem and I was able to upload the interior of the book on Monday; then it was a mad dash to get the back cover finished and uploaded for both hardcover and paperback proofs. It took me the whole day: Mel went off to work at quarter to eight in the morning and I started looking at fonts. She returned home at quarter to seven that evening just as PayPal confirmed that my payment for the proofs had gone through.

Tuesday was a lot easier. I had a tiny rewrite to do for the Guardian obituary of Michael Bishop, which went up that afternoon. It is 300 words shorter than the submitted draft, which itself was 300 words shorter than my original draft; so there's a version that's about 2/3rds longer. This is the case with most of the obituaries I write (I've said it before, but I like to include everything including the kitchen sink, and most of the kitchen utensils, too). Some of them have appeared here on Bear Alley (such as this one for Harlan Ellison), but some just end up clogging up my hard drive. I'm pleased to say that the longer version will be appearing elsewhere at some point. More news when it appears.

George, the author of A Laverda Journey, was over on Tuesday, along with John Chisnall, who wrote And the Wheels Went Round, which I published back in 2019. This was our final get-together as the book was already signed off; I helped set George up his own account with the printer and we ordered up thirty copies of the book for friends and family. It will be available commercially, but only directly from George. I'll link through to whatever site he decides to sell through when the book becomes available.

Wednesday was the Bear Alley Books' Christmas Party, which meant me, Mel and my Mum went out to the pub for lunch. A good time was had by all. I slept away most of the afternoon.

Thursday was a catch-up with everything else day, paying a couple of bills, returning a damaged SD card to Amazon (sent loose in a small envelope — no wonder it didn't work!), changing some passwords (thanks to the British Library ransomware hack), and writing this. Which brings you pretty much up to date.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 29 November 2023

There has never before been an anti-hero in British comics
like Hellman of Hammer Force!

From the invasion of Poland in 1939 through to the fall of Berlin in 1945, Hellman of Hammer Force saw action on many fronts, and this collection contains all the hard-hitting war stories told through the eyes of Hellman which were published in Battle from 1977 through to 1978.

This ground-breaking series of thrilling combat is written by Gerry Finley-Day (Rogue Trooper) and drawn by Mike Dorey (Ro-Busters) and Patrick Wright (Day of the Eagle).

Includes all the stories published in Battle, including the never before reprinted ‘Fall of Berlin’ storyline!

Hellman of Hammer Force: Downfall is out on 28 March from comic book stores and will be available for stores to order through Diamond Distribution’s Previews magazine. It will also be available in print and digital from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops and digitally through the 2000 AD app.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2360
Cover: Rufus Dayglo.

Judge Dredd: Clanker by Kenneth Niemand (w) Nick Dyer (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Enemy Earth Book III by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Smash! #2
Cover: Andy Clarke.

The King of Crooks latest heist has gone badly wrong, he has been trapped in Maxwell Towers by the caretaker computer programme running the building and Robot Archie is closing in on capturing the arch-criminal. Forced to face his fears on the nightmare inducing-thirteenth floor and evade the team-up of two AI programmes, this could be the master thief's last stand.
     This eighties-set thriller is brought to you by Paul Grist (Jack Staff) and Jimmy Broxton (Goldtiger).

Friday, November 24, 2023

Comic Cuts — 24 November 2023

I feel I've been dragging my heels this week, although the only difference to the past few weeks has been that I've managed to get out for walks four times, thanks to a mix of Mel's days off and necessary trips to the post office and the pharmacy.

My plan was to sort out the cover for Beyond the Void over the weekend, but I didn't get to it until Monday. I was very happy with the overall design that Martin came up with based on the covers and the brief I sent him. That's Martin Baines, incidentally, who has produced some fabulous covers for Bear Alley Books in the past, notably the Gwyn Evans reprints, which are exceptionally good, although this one has leapfrogged to the top of my favourites list.

As I want to do a proper cover reveal here, I'm going to waffle for a bit so that you have to scroll down and you don't immediately see the image... that's also why there's a pair of curtains at the head of our column this week, because that's the image that will show on Facebook and people will have to click through if they want to see the cover.

I had very little left to do this time last week, but I still have the bulk of the same pages to do, mostly because I'm an idiot. By which I mean I made a rod for my own back by deciding to make an advert for Bear Alley Books in the style of an order form from Badger Books. I'll post an example – up there, just before this paragraph started – and you'll see what I mean; the one I've chosen needs nine tiny book covers, nine little blurbs and a lot of fiddling around to make it work. I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday working on it, with occasional interruptions to check the edit of a piece written for The Guardian, a bit of research that unfortunately didn't go anywhere, setting up pairs of external hard drives (I'm copying files around to make the most of my shiny new hard drive!), write yesterday's Commando column, and trying to keep up to date with emails.

I also had a specific idea for the cover, so I had to do a bit of work to Martin's version – putting in a border and, because it's meant to be in the style of a film poster, I folded up some actual film posters and scanned the damage that it caused so that I could mimic it exactly. I must admit that I'm really happy with the results. And here it is...

As you can see, we tried to cover all angles of Badger's output, so there are cover elements from crime, war, western, science fiction and supernatural covers. I couldn't resist using the beaver from Rodent Mutation and the robots from March of the Robots. I'm seriously thinking of getting a few copies of this printed out as posters.

I'm still working on the back cover and I've a little tinkering to do with the insides, but I'm close to sending off to get a proof. I'm thinking of doing a hardcover version, which will be quite expensive, as it's 172 pages full colour. But it'll be worth it... I've put a lot of research into this one!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Commando 5699-5702

Action and Adventure soaked into every page of Commando Issues 5699 – 5702! They go on sale today, Thursday 23rd November!

5699: The Trumpeter’s Call

The sombre notes echoed against the sandy dunes of the North African desert, as New Zealander Private Calum Taylor played a lonesome jazz melody.
    His trumpet had no place among the din and clamour of war, but his instrument was the only thing keeping him going among the chorus of death around him. As long as he could play, he would live!
    A more melancholic note runs through this Commando wonderfully composed by Andrew Knighton. With artwork from the maestro Manuel Benet, this Commando will have your heart singing a tune.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5700: Friend or Foe?

Down through the night came the Nazi paratroopers, each heavily-armed man dropping as silently as a flake of snow. Their mission was to assassinate one man who had talked too much — and everyone who had listened to him.
    A classic Commando if there ever was one! With Penalva’s iconic cover that has been used in a Commando calendar, we thought it was about time we aired it out for another run — and with Allan and CT Rigby as back up, you won’t want to miss this!

Story | Allan
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 500

5701: The First Casualty

When a young Englishman came asking about his dead father’s last days on the Western Front, the only person who could answer his questions was Havildar Jared Singh of the 19th Lancers. But what Singh had to say may not be welcome, and what the Englishman thought he knew may not be the whole truth…
    Another corker of a Commando from Robbie MacNiven. Set amongst the backdrop of World War One, this gritty and hard-hitting Commando will have you questioning the meaning of the word ‘hero’! Mark Eastbrook delivers a magnificent cover and Alberto Saichann’s interiors are bleak but beautiful!

Story | Robbie MacNiven
Art | Alberto Saichann
Cover | Mark Eastbrook

5702: Last Man Out

Lieutenant Sammy Parker had seen no action at all during his army career, for he spent most of his time sitting behind a desk in a quiet office in Burma.
    But now it was different. Now the Japanese were advancing, driving everything before them. Now Sammy was on the run and fighting for his life. More than that — there was a bunch of soldiers depending on him for their lives too.
    Would he make it, this young officer who had never been in such a desperate situation in his whole life?
    A stunning Ian Kennedy cover on Last Man Out from 1980! RA Montague’s tale of courage in the face of a forced retreat is brought to life by Ruiz’s crisp interiors!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Ruiz
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1980 as Issue 1421

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 22 November 2023

The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic marks the end of another year with the traditional festive blowout – a 100-page mega-special featuring brand-new stories and a surprise creative guest!

2000 AD Prog 2362 is out on the 13th December – and you can pre-order this special issue now, with FREE postage within the U.K.

Within its pages you will find an all-new Strontium Dog story by comedian and actor Rufus Hound (Doctor Who) with artist Dan Cornwell! Speaking on his arrival in The Galaxy's Greatest Comic, Hound says:

"I'd never believed that I'd get a chance like this. That ACTUAL 2000 AD would ask me - ME! - to write so much as a single syllable for their illustrious pages. Not only that, but to be given the opportunity to reimagine something from the golden era of Strontium Dog? Proper dream come true stuff."

In Strontium Dog: ‘Alpha’, Johnny and Wulf are en-route to the planet Aminovarm in the hold of a star cruiser when Johnny intervenes in a domestic incident. When the son gives Johnny an alien delicacy as a thank you gift, things go south and psychedelic in equal amounts! Hound described the story:

Johnny Alpha always had it hard, but kept his upper-lip stiff and his chin granite-like. However, what if a diary of his was discovered? Something that peeled away a later or two of the man? That allowed us some insight into the mind of Johnny Alpha, not merely marvel at his tough-as-hell actions. That's what 'Alpha' is.

I've filled my story with classic SD references, but I hope the greatest act of fan service is the tale itself. I've tried to give Wulf and Johnny something that I think most fans have always craved for them, whilst still letting them be Johnny and Wulf. With Carlos' passing, getting this right seems even more important somehow. I just hope the amount of love and hard work I've lavished on it shines through.

The 100-page Spectacular will continue ongoing stories Feral & FoeHeliumEnemy Earth and The Devil’s Railroad, but they’re joined by a heavenly host of one-off stories: a new Judge Dredd tale by Ken Niemand & Tom Foster, Azimuth by Dan Abnett & Tazio Bettin, Rogue Trooper by Geoffrey D. Wessel & Simon Coleby, Fiends of the Eastern Front by Ian Edginton & Tiernen Trevallion, Anderson, Psi-Div by Torunn Gronbekk & Kieran McKeown, and Strontium Dog by Rufus Hound & Dan Cornwell!

All this wrapped inside a chaotic cover from Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague? Grud bless us, every one!

On sale 13 December, Prog 2362 isn’t a Christmas stocking-stuffer – it’s a Yuletide mind-expander!

2000AD Prog 2359
Cover: D'Israeli.

Judge Dredd: Poison by Rob Williams (w) PJ Holden (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Fall of Deadworld: Retribution by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Classic Gums by Roy Davis, Robert Nixon, Alf Saporito
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618999-8, 22 November 2023, 128pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The Great White (toothless) shark stalks a territory  around the Australian coast, where he constantly butts heads with local surfer, Bluey. While Gums is out to snack on the youngster, Bluey is determined to take the shark’s false teeth as a memento!
    Written by Roy Davis with art by Robert Nixon and Alf Saporito, this hapless, loveable shark with false teeth was a highlight of the short-lived humour comic Monster Fun and proved to be so popular with the fans that he appeared as the front cover strip for most of the run.
    This collection includes Gums strips from Monster Fun 7 February to 30 October 1976, as well as the Monster Fun Annual stories from 1977 to 1985.

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire by Mike Butterworth, Don Lawrence, Oliver Frey
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786009-8, 23 November 2023, 240pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

This fifth omnibus collection of the science-fiction classic, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire, reprints all the stories originally published in Look & Learn from 1975 through to 1977, and contains Don Lawrence's final flawlessly painted Trigan Empire pages.
    The Emperor Trigo, his nephew Janno, and the trusted scientist Peric all band together to face off against the threats to the stability of the Trigan Empire - be they frozen superior life forms from an earlier age, or the machinations of Trigo’s own courtiers who are determined to seize control of the government - in these fast-paced yet beautifully painted comic stories which enthralled readers on original publication.

Comic Book Punks by Karl Stock
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618694-2, 22 November 2023, 500pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

The influence of the comic book has never been greater, from movies to streaming and beyond, but the journey comics took from disposable kids' magazines to literary prize-winning books and global franchises turned on a highly unusual group of writers and artists. Few would have expected a small gathering of British comic book fans and creators in the early '70s to spark a cultural revolution, but this was the start of a disparate movement of punks, dropouts and disaffected youths who reinvented a medium and became the imaginative heart of a global success story.
    Based on years of interviews with a generation of leading writers, artists and editors, Karl Stock reveals the true story of the wild times, passion and determination that helped, hindered and saw the reinvention of comics.
    Stock brilliantly tells the story of the triumphs and disasters that rewrote the rulebook on what comics could be and who they should be for.


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