Friday, July 28, 2023

Comic Cuts — 28 July 2023

I'm close to completing two of the three books I'm working on. I was hoping to have them finished this week, but I underestimated how much time it would take to complete the Hank Janson.

When I wrote last week's column, I was about to scrap the work I had done on the layouts and start again as I had screwed up the top and bottom margin sizes, which meant the text was too close to the header (a line of text that runs across the top of each page, usually the book or chapter title) and page number. It didn't take too long to fix and flow the text into the new layout, but I then had to spend ages fixing all the footnotes, which had mysteriously switched to a different font and size, and fix some inconsistencies with titles.

Once that was done I was almost finished... damn, I'd forgotten to write a "by the same author" page and a little author's bio; I normally wouldn't bother with the latter (I have an idea that I wrote the bio. for publicity purposes rather than intending it for the book), but as there was one in the original I thought I'd write an update.

With that done, I was pretty much done... no, dammit, I'd forgotten the index. The book is slightly taller than the first edition, and the margins a little thinner, so although there's slightly more text, there are 18 fewer pages. There's also 2 pages fewer of front matter, so not a single page number matched up in the index between the two editions!

With the index finished, I confidently predicted I'd knock out the cover that same afternoon and... long story short, I didn't get it finished until Wednesday. I'm still tinkering, so I'll have to leave the full cover reveal until next week. But that's the logo I'm using at the top of today's column.

I've an idea — still vague at this point — to do a sort of scrapbook companion to Trials covering some of the authors and publishers and other aspects that make up the story told in the book. I'll put some more thought into this once I have the Badger book finished. I'm trying to stay focused because the one result of working on two or three things at once is that nothing gets finished.

Talking of which... I need to get on and finish this book!

(* Please note that the Hank Janson name and logo are trademarks of Telos Publishing and I'm using them with permission.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 26 July 2023

Good Shepherd, a Devolver Digital company, and Rebellion (Sniper Elite) have entered into a groundbreaking partnership for Good Shepherd to develop and publish video game adaptations based on stories from the beloved 2000 AD universe, the home of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, ABC Warrior and more, as well as Rebellion’s other comic IP, including Roy of the Rovers and Battle Action.

Though Good Shepherd has been producing games since 2011 with runaway hits like Monster Train and the Transport Fever franchise, the label has seen strong growth in the adaptation space in recent years propelling the label’s new dawn of marrying top-class, worldwide publishing services with sought-after entertainment brands like John Wick Hex and Hellboy.

“We are huge fans of Rebellion and 2000 AD” said Amanda Kruse, head of business development and publishing for Good Shepherd. “It’s still early days, but building this out with partners who understand the art of adaptation across mediums has been incredible. We are excited to bring fans the hits they are expecting, but even more excited to play with the deep cuts in the library.”

Rebellion is the custodian and rights holder for a huge number of the British comics created throughout history. Alongside the legendary Judge Dredd, Rebellion owns iconic British comics characters like footballing legend Roy of the Rovers, the original action detective Sexton Blake, supervillain-turned-hero The Spider – famously written by Superman co-creator Jerry Seigel, Romans-in-space epic The Trigan Empire, Alan Moore’s celebrated heroine Halo Jones and it also contains incredible curiosities such as Gorillaz artist Jamie Hewlett’s surreal graphic novel collaboration Hewligan’s Haircut.

With comics from throughout the history of the medium, Rebellion’s catalog features countless characters and strips from every genre; from sci-fi, sports, westerns, war, espionage, horror and mystery to adventure, humour, historical, super-heroes and villains, and dozens more.

“We are honored to be the foremost custodians of the rich history of the British comics industry, and as we aim to preserve these legacies. Rebellion is proud to bring these stories to entirely new generations who will experience them for the first time through our partnership with Good Shepherd,” said Jason Kingsley OBE, CEO and co-founder of Rebellion. “My brother Chris (co-founder of Rebellion) and I have read 2000 AD from issue 1, and we look forward to seeing some of these stories brought to life with Good Shepherd.”

The new agreement includes game adaptations of stories from 2000 AD, the long running beloved comic anthology purchased by Rebellion in 2000. 2000 AD has published countless iconic stories in comics, such as Sláine, Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper, and is currently on issue number 2,334.

Judge Dredd first appeared in the second-ever issue of 2000 AD in 1977 and his appearance would kickstart a massive, globally recognized franchise spanning two films (Judge Dredd, 1995, and Dredd 2012), five video games and numerous novels.

Rogue Trooper first appeared in 2000 AD in 1981, portraying the adventures of a Genetic Infantryman named Rogue as he searched for the Traitor General. These bloody, sci-fi adventures have turned Rogue Trooper into a recognized franchise featuring three novels, two board games and three video games, including 2006’s Rogue Trooper developed by Rebellion for PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2342
Cover: Tazio Bettin.

Judge Dredd: A Fallen Man by Ken Niemand (w) Tom Foster (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Azimuth: A Job For Suzi Nine by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Portals & Black Goo by John Tomlinson (w) Eoin Coveney (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Void Runners by David Hine (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hershey: The Cold in the Bones by Rob Williams (w) Simon Fraser (a) Simon Bowland

Battle Action #3
Cover: Keith Burns.

Battle Action returns with an all-new, five-issue mini-series of thrilling tales!

Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher) and John Higgins (Hellblazer, Before Watchmen) take a break from war stories to bring you a brutal tale set in 1981, featuring Dredger tracking down kidnappers and delivering justice in his own unique way.

And Major Eazy makes a comeback in a brand-new story written by Rob Williams (Suicide Squad, Sword of Hyperborea), as Eazy must ensure that his soldiers survive the Battle of El Alamein, drawn by Henry Flint (Hawk the Slayer, Judge Dredd).

Friday, July 21, 2023

Comic Cuts — 21 July 2023

Finally, some actual measurable progress after a couple of weeks where I've stumbled forward. Everything heading in the right direction, but no real news. Not so this week.

I have been working on another biography in the vein of And The Wheels Went Round, John Chisnall's bio that I published a couple of  years ago. This one is A Laverda Journey: My Trip Around The World By Motorcycle by George Coates, about George's decision to take his bike from Yorkshire, through Europe and the Middle East, into India, across to the Philippines and Australia, over to South America, via Mexico to the USA and then to Canada and back into the USA before shipping back to England. Quite a journey. And we've been able to use George's diary to tell the story, mileage charts, the photographs he took and even a few passport stamps from border crossings to illustrate the trip.

We met up on Tuesday to sign off most of the inside pages. I think there's one more caption to sort out, some typos, a picture to replace. And we need a back cover, but I'm hoping to have the book out for proofing next week.

With that under my belt, I was able to spend some time laying out the pages of The Trials Of Hank Janson. I managed to bugger things up slightly and made the text area too big, which didn't leave much room for a header or page numbers — these things happen. I've scrapped that version and will start from scratch once I've finished writing this. Having done it once I know what to look out for, so it shouldn't take too long. (He says, confidently... just before spending an hour trying to fix the footnote numbers so they run continuously through the book, only to learn that you can't do that if you break the text down into sections before flowing it into the page layout. Blinkin' flip!)

This is the first time I've re-read the book for some years and I'd forgotten how much fun it was to write. It was years in the research and written at white-hot pace in three weeks — a chapter a day — which meant I averaged 5,000 words a day over twenty days. I had the shape of the book plotted out already and I'd planned what was going into each of the chapters, so I knew what I needed to do each day. As I said, the writing was backed up by years of research and I'd also written up parts of the story previously, so I also had that to draw upon.

I've made a few tweaks as I've gone through the text. There's some additional information about people like Harry Whitby, for instance, who was instrumental in Steve Frances getting into publishing, and Geoffrey Pardoe, who supplied plots for some of the Hank Janson novels. I've also tidied up a couple of minor errors, e.g. Bernard Kaye operated under the name Bernard Kaye Publishers Agency, not Kaye's Rotaprint Agency, which was an entirely different company. Thankfully there weren't many mistakes that needed correcting.

I'm hoping to have a proof in my hands within the next fortnight and the book should be available in August. Fingers crossed!

And Project Three — Beyond The Void: The Remarkable History Of Badger Books — is, I think, written. Which is good because it already runs to over 75,000 words of history, indexes, biographies and bibliographies of most of the main writers, an artists' index plus some bios of a few artists. Phew!

I'm now waiting on some scans to come in before I start doing layouts. After that, who knows!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Commando 5663-5666

Four brand-new Commando comics hit shelves today, Thursday 20th July, 2023! With teething problems in Crete, gold thieves in Greece, partisans in Italy, and the return of The Victor character ‘Cadman’ for the first time in 30 years!

5663: Tooth and Nail

You might think life isn’t very exciting for an army dentist, but Lieutenant Keith Hooper certainly didn’t have a boring life during the Battle of Crete! As invading German paratroopers fell from the skies, Keith gritted his teeth and jumped into the action!

Surviving by the skin of his teeth, Keith was captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. But Keith was champing at the bit to escape, sick to his back teeth with how they were being treated by the Nazi guards.

In spite of some teething problems, Keith fought tooth and nail for his survival!

It’s a brush with death in Ferg Handley’s prisoner of war yarn, brought to life by the masterful Manuel Benet’s art on the cover and interiors!

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5664: Traitor’s Gold

Stolen gold always spells trouble. But in war, when every man is armed, and desperate characters are everywhere, the mere whisper of the word gold can set the trigger fingers itching and start a burning fever in the mind of every soldier. When such a fever strikes can any man be trusted?

Nothing says classic Commando like a double cross, and this Commando written by British comics legend Gerry Finley-Day has backstabbers abounds!

Story | Gerry Finley-Day
Art | Bellalta
Cover | Porto
Originally Commando No. 484 (1970).

5665: Cadman: The Fighting Coward

In comic pages for the first time since 1993, Cadman is back! Rebooting the classic Victor ‘hero’, original artist Mike Dorey takes up his brush to recreate more daring and dastardly Cadman adventures.

In the autumn of 1914, the Anglo-French and German armies launched a series of flanking manoeuvres towards the Channel, as cowardly cavalry Lieutenant Gerald Cadman tries to trick his captain into leading them away from the fighting. But every attempt to flee takes them into fresh action, while Cadman’s batman, Tom Smith, looks for ways to expose his deceptive master.

Commando is delighted to bring The Victor character Cadman back to comics with original artist Mike Dorey! And this is only the beginning because Cadman returns to Commando very soon – so keep your eyes peeled!

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Mike Dorey
Cover | Mike Dorey & Neil Roberts

5666: Guerrilla!

The small band of freedom fighters were a very mixed bunch —Italian partisans, escaped prisoners-of-war, and Italian army deserters. Now they waited tensely for the signal to open fire on their target below.

That target was a convoy of German lorries, led by one of the most cruel and ruthless officers in the SS —a man hunted by both British and Italian alike. And they had sworn to make him pay dearly for all his crimes...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so the saying goes, and nothing brings together a group like a McDevitt’s murdering SS Commander! And with Ibanez and Ian Kennedy on art, this is one you don’t want to miss!

Story | McDevitt
Art | Ibanez
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1450 (1980).

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 19 July 2023

Our future – is their reality! Mega-City Max is the brand new comic special set in the world of Judge Dredd.

Mega-City Max is the brand new one-shot comic set in the dystopian world of Mega-City One, the home of legendary comic character Judge Dredd.

Inside its 48 pages are some of the hottest breaking talent in the industry including Hannah Templer (Cosmoknights), Ramzee (Edge of Spider-Verse), Oliver Gerlach (Young Men in Love), VV Glass (Boom’s The Last Witch), Lucie Ebrey (Amazing World of Gumball), Korinna Mei Veropoulou (Escape From Bitch Mountain) alongside industry veteran Roger Langridge (The Muppets, Bill & Ted Are Doomed),

This new stand-alone comic presents fresh versions of classic 2000 AD characters – with no continuity knowledge required – like Harlem Heroes, De Marco P.I., Devlin Waugh and Walter the Wobot – as well as brand new characters!

Out on 19 July from comic book stores in the UK and 9 August in North America, as well as the 2000 AD webshop, this stand-alone sci-fi anthology is aimed at teenagers, with fast-paced, action-packed and hilarious stories, as well as cover art by Priscilla Bampoh.

The stories inside include: 

Story, Art and Letters by Hannah Templer

Galen DeMarco entered the Academy of Law to give her life a purpose, however she was unfairly expelled from the Academy. The incident didn’t stop her from wanting to help people, so she set herself up as a private investigator. DeMarco tackles cases that Justice Department can’t or won’t touch, helping out the unfortunate and needy, and she still keeps in touch with her friends from the Academy – straight-edge Barbara Hershey and psychic Cassandra Anderson.

Story, Art and Letters by Roger Langridge / Colours by Pippa Bowland

Built by the Interglobal Hardware Company, Walter the Wobot first served Mega-City One’s Justice Department, but through a series of misadventures he worked his way into becoming a free citizen! Or at least the Judges didn’t want him around anymore… Now, the meek drinks dispenser droid works to serve the citizens of Mega-City One, but he yearns forother experiences…

Story by Oliver Gerlach / Art by V.V. Glass / Letters by Simon Bowland

Devlin Waugh is a Brit-Cit born Olympian who has fallen on tough times. A parttime occultist, and full-time dashing rogue, Devlin is determined to be back in the spotlight, and will seize on any opportunity to become part of the in-crowd once again - even if that means having to roll his sleeves up and deal with demonic interlopers.

Story by RAMZEE / Art by Korinna Mei Veropoulou / Letters by Simon Bowland

The most popular sport of the future is aeroball - a mixture of football, jetpacks, basketball and fighting all rolled into one. While the name Harlem Heroes evokes a long history of trophy-winning success, the current roster of players (led by ex-Judge Cadet Gem Giant) are a team of rough-around-the-edges rookies and have a lot to live up to.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2341
Cover: Tom Foster.

Judge Dredd: A Fallen Man by Ken Niemand (w) Tom Foster (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Azimuth: A Job For Suzi Nine by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Portals & Black Goo by John Tomlinson (w) Eoin Coveney (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Void Runners by David Hine (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hershey: The Cold in the Bones by Rob Williams (w) Simon Fraser (a) Simon Bowland

Judge Dredd Megazine #458
Cover: Nick Percival.

Judge Dredd: Ratings War by Ian Edginton (w) Stewart K Moore (a)Annie Parkhouse (l)
Spector: Incorruptible by John Wagner (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Dark Judges: Death Metal Planet by David Hine (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson, Psi Division: The King of the Six Sectors by Matt Smith (w) Carl Critchlow (a) Shawn Lee (l)
Johnny Red by Garth Ennis (w) Keith Burns (a) Jason Wordie (c) Rob Steen (l)
Lawless: Most Wanted by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Simon Bowland
Dreadnoughts: The March of Progress by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Features: First Men on Mars, Interview: Ron Tiner, Interview: Conor BoyleInterview: Aly Fell, Mega-City Max

Mega-City Max
Cover: Priscilla Bampoh

Demarco P.I. by Hannah Templer (w+a+l)
Walter the Wobot: Don't Be Cwuel by Roger Langridge (w+a+l) Pippa Bowland (c)
Devlin Waugh: Wedding Hells by Oliver Gerlach (w) VV Glass (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Cranium Chaos by Lucie Ebrey (w+a+l)
Harlem Heroes vs The Venetian Vipers by Ramzee (w) Korinna Mei Veropoulou (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, July 14, 2023

Comic Cuts — 14 July 2023

Now that I've announced that I'm working on a thorough revamp of my old Badger Tracks "book" — in quotes because it was actually a photocopied newsletter, albeit a 104-page photocopied newsletter — I've had to knuckle down and actually get some of it written.

I've learned a lot in the last 25 years, so there's a lot to add as I piece together Beyond The Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books — my preferred title for the new book. The introduction, which covers the history of the company and the various different series that Badger published, clocks in at over 15,500 words, and the checklist and index are all done, identifying quite a few additional pen-names over what I managed last time.

The next section is basically "The Men Behind the Books", with little essays (and some not so little ones) on the likes of John F Watt, John Glasby, Tony Glynn, William H Fear, Bryan Haven and the mighty Lionel Fanthorpe. Some of these are new, and some I've gone back to original interviews and correspondence to expand them so that, even if you still own a copy of the original version, there's going to be something new. I've also written a piece about Henry Fox and I might squeeze in info. on a couple of other artists who were associated with John Spencer/Badger Books. Oh, and there will be a short piece on the old Spencer comics, too.

Digging back through correspondence has been lots of fun, and finding things like an appreciative letter from John Glasby that he sent after seeing the original version of Badger Tracks in which I'd heaped quite a bit of praise on his Badger science fiction novels. "I was very pleased with the piece you wrote around the A J Merak novels, 'No Dawns and No Horizons', especially as I recall one review of Hydrosphere which was extremely critical!"

There are also one or two frustrations. For instance, I know I had copies of Bryan Haven's They Lived In Glory and Operation Samurai because they're not on my wants list and... well, I remember having them! But where they've got to I don't know. They weren't on the shelf when I scanned all my Badger Books a couple of years ago, and I have a horrible feeling they might have been lost when Peter Haining died. Peter was writing a lot of true war books towards the end of his life, and he was borrowing a lot of Badger and Digit books, some of which might not have come back. Most frustrating, but I'll figure a way around the problem.

With essays completed on Haven, Watt and Glasby in the past few days, I feel I'm getting back to match fitness, although the big test will be when it comes to do all the layouts and whatnots that putting a book together requires. It also means that I haven't done much work on the other two books I'm working on, although one will be the subject of a meeting next week to hopefully finish up and move forward to getting a proof copy printed.

The rain has helped and hindered. The area where I have reseeded the grass in the back garden is sprouting nicely. On Friday and Saturday I dug out the few weeds that had survived the blitz and were starting to grow again and sowed more seed in the areas where the new growth was looking patchy. As it has only been a few days there isn't much to see, but we'll hopefully know whether it has worked by next week.

Normally I'm reporting on our tomatoes around this time of year. Unfortunately, the two plants we had were attacked by black fly and were looking a bit feak and weeble (as my ex- used to say). There are about six tomatoes and a handful of flowers,. A courgette plant has been attacked by slugs and we have a new cucumber plant that looks fine... so far. Frankly, we're not expecting the levels of home-grown salad that we've had in the past.

How has the rain helped? Well, it has kept me focused on work, hopefully given the new grass seeds a bit of a boost, and we had a double rainbow yesterday. Aren't they meant to bring good luck? We could do with some...

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 12 July 2023

Rebellion is delighted to announce a brand new series of collection of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s seminal sci-fi epic, Nemesis the Warlock – the Definitive Edition!

The five-volume Nemesis the Warlock Definitive Edition collection begins this December, presenting the landmark series by Mills (Marshal Law) and O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) in a comprehensive collection of the complete storyline in order.

Long regarded as one of the crown-jewel epics from the pages of 2000 AD, this new series of paperbacks of Nemesis the Warlock is being published alongside gorgeous hardcover editions with stunningly designed new covers – available only from the 2000 AD webshop – that present O’Neill’s groundbreaking and mind-bending art in all its glory.

The first 176-page volume measures 282 × 216mm and is on sale from 5 December, with pre-orders open now.

Along with the earliest stories ‘Terror Tube’, ‘Killer Watt’, ‘The Sword Sinister,’ ‘The World of Termight’ (Book 1), ‘The Alien Alliance’ (Book 2), ‘The Secret Life of Blitzspear’, and ‘A Day in the Death of Torquemada’, this edition features development sketches showing the evolution of the cloven-hoofed alien freedom fighter Nemesis and his living spaceship, the Blitzspear.

Termight is the ruling planet of a cruel galactic empire, an empire led by the diabolically evil 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!

But there is rebellion and resistance to his rule in the form of a devilish-looking alien warlock called Nemesis, who represents everything that Torquemada hates and fears. Together Nemesis and Torquemada are locked in a duel which will affect the fate of humanity and each of them on a personal level as their conflict spans time and space!

Burning with iconoclastic fire and wild invention, Nemesis the Warlock is the satirical sci-fi space opera that helped place 2000 AD as the true cutting edge, and catapulted Mills and O’Neill into the comics stratosphere.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2340
Cover: Stewart K Moore.

Judge Dredd: In The Event of My Untimely Demise by Mike Carroll (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Portals & Black Goo by John Tomlinson (w) Eoin Coveney (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: A Temp Problem by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Russel M Olson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Void Runners by David Hine (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Azimuth by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)

The 2000AD Art of Kevin O'Neill: Apex Edition
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786008-1, 12 July 2023, 160pp, £100 / $155. Available via Amazon.

An incredible insight into the art of one of comics’ most unique talents – The 2000 AD Art of Kevin O’Neill: Apex Edition contains art from 1977 through to 2022. From concept sketches of 2000 AD’s alien editor ‘Tharg the Mighty’ to complete episodes of Ro-Busters and A.B.C. Warriors, and previously unseen versions of his Nemesis the Warlock: The Final Conflict pages. Also included are his never before reprinted Metalzoic covers and the entirety of his final sequential work on Bonjo From Beyond The Stars.
    The Apex Edition is a deluxe, over-sized facsimile edition, and this 160-page collection has been compiled by O’Neill from his own archive, reproducing his original art pages at their actual size. This is an unmissable testament to his remarkable career.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

The Illustrated History of Warren Magazines

Here's a confession for you. For most of my life, my only exposure to the Warren magazines was a single issue of Vampirella that I had picked up years ago (the circumstances lost in the mists of time), which has lived in various boxes over the years. Eventually the cover came loose, but I still have it—somewhere—because... well, who knows when it might turn out to be of some use. (The collecting bit of my brain insists that, one bought, you keep everything. That way you have it and never need to seek it out again.)

I came to Warren later in life, my obsessive chronicling of British comics not allowing much time to look elsewhere despite the recommendations of friends and fellow fans. It was only in the early Nineties, while I was editing Comic World that I was able to dedicate more time to researching American comics and started to look more closely at Warren, whose comics not only contained the works of some of America's top comics' talent, but were in black & white, which, growing up on British weeklies, was the way comics should be.

I probably didn't know much about their background until The Warren Companion, a must-have book co-authored by my pal David Roach and Jon B. Cooke, who edited Comic Book Artist, which was full of fascinating history and illustrations, including a long interview with Russ Jones (issue 14, a Wally Wood special) that filled in many details of the early history of the Warren magazine Creepy and how it came to be. A biography of James Warren, Bill Schelly's James Warren: Empire of Monsters (2019), swiftly joined the others in going out of print...

... which makes Peter Richardson's Illustrated History of Warren Magazines all the more welcome. Heavily illustrated with covers and other artwork, in many cases taken from the original boards, Peter Richardson, tells the complex and engaging tale of how James Warren's magazine empire rose and fell — or more accurately ebbed and flowed like a tidal basin, sometimes filled with richly inventive and well-paid creators and earning a fortune for its publisher, and at other times barely more than a trickle of unpaid printers, distributors, artists and writers.

The creative well was constantly emptied and refilled, with Warren's fortunes often rescued by good fortune, often the arrival of a creative editorial talent. Built on the success of Famous Monsters in Filmland, the Warren magazines had patchy start, adapting B-movies into fumetto-style photo strips. There was a high as Creepy and its companion Eerie came under the editorial hand of Archie Goodwin, who was able to attract the likes of Frank Frazetta as a cover artist. Sales fell, as they did periodically. Goodwin was out, Bill Parente was in, working on a budget a fraction of the size of his predecessors. Then he was out and Goodwin was back, launching Vampirella, which helped stabilize Warren's finances, as did the arrival of Josep Toutain and his stable (no pun intended) of Spanish artists.

Warren didn't help matters by being fractious and argumentative with his writers, artists and editors. 18-year-old Bill DuBay was hired as editor in 1971, coinciding with a relatively successful period for Warren, despite heavy competition from Marvel and Skywald. DuBay burned out, Louise Jones filled the post, at first for little reward while she proved she could handle the job. Science fiction became popular in the wake of Star Wars, leading to another revival in fortunes, but it could not be sustained, even with later titles like The Rook and 1984 publishing some fine artists.

The artists are nowadays the main focus of fan attention, and pretty much every major talent worked for Warren in his two decades: Wally Wood, Will Eisner (there was even as Spirit magazine), Steve Ditko, Bernie Wrightson, Pepe Gonzalez, Alex Toth, Neal Adams, Richard Corben, and too many etceteras to list here.

Every page of this book could have been used to illustrate this review. I picked one — an astonishing splash panel by Reed Crandell for an early Creepy story — and the other was a random opening at some Frazetta covers (top of column)... and I couldn't resist putting in some Vampirella! Fans of the magazines will relish the artwork on display, while anyone with a passing interest, myself included, will want to know more on the strength of this history. Richardson weaves a fascinating story around many fascinating characters (I particularly like the description of rival Myron Fass as being "like a squirrel on crack"), all beautifully illustrated by some of comics' greatest talents.

This is a revised and expanded edition of Illustrators Special #14, which had a limited edition hardback print run when it appeared in 2022. You won't notice too many changes (a photo on page 26, a different edition of Castle of Frankenstein illustrated on page 27, some tints over pictures of Vampirella and The Spirit on pages 68 and 84 respectively), but there is a new Postscript which brings the story up to date.

The Illustrated History of Warren Comics (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Peter Richardson
Book Palace Books ISBN 978-191354820-9, 16 June 2023, 151pp, £75.00. Available via Amazon.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Battling Britons #5 (June 2023)

A somewhat late review, proving definitively that Justin Marriott is publishing issues of his magazines faster than I can read them!

The latest (fifth) issue of Battling Britons swerves slightly from its usual laser focus on war stories to take a look at spy stories of the Seventies. Behind a fine Dredger cover by Bill Cunningham, we have the usual introductory matter from Justin, including updates to previous issues, interviews with fans of war yarns (Andy Yates of the Commando Swapmeets facebook page is the subject this time) and reports of swapmeets and conventions before we get to the meat of the issue.

For me, the issue kicks off nicely with a look at the work of Pat Wright, whose work graced Commando, The Crunch and Battle during the '70s. His distinctive, thin line photo-realistic style will be well-remembered by readers of those comics on strips like 'Hitler Lives' and 'Return of the Eagle'. Rob Williams is interviewed about his current appearance in Rebellion's limited series Battle Action where he's writing 'Major Eazy' and 'Death Squad' for issues 3 and 4 respectively.

Yaroslav Horak is the subject of the first spy-related feature, Horak being the artist on the Daily Express's  James Bond strip for many years as well as war strips for comics. The cover star comes in for a solid study in Justin's overview of Dredger, as does Mike Nelson  in Paul Trimble's detailed account of the stories featuring Battle's wartime spy, The Eagle. Pete Clark, former editor of Warlord and Bullet has some interesting insights into how Warlord attracted many excellent international artists and some of the odder habits of writers on Bullet.

There's always room for something a little quirkier in Battling Britons and a feature on some of the odder spies to appear in DC Thomson's boys' titles reminds us that for every Peter Flint there was a Spy in the Suitcase or Volts of Vengeance. If that doesn't float your boat, how about a look at how bagpipes have been depicted in comics?

Reviews of aerial comics, comics relating to the Irish War of Independence, and spy comics (as you might expect), mingle with takes on Kev O'Neill's horror comics and Alex Nino's Bishop Fortune. I think its a safe bet to say that there will be something for everyone in the latest issue.

Battling Britons #5
Justin Marriott. ISBN 979-839313191-3, June 2023, 155pp, £6.99. Available via Amazon.

Comic Cuts — 7 July 2023

I have been having a whale of a time reacquainting myself with some terrible books and writing about them. Not that all of them are terrible... there are some gems amongst the chaff. I am, of course, talking about Badger Books.

Infamous as the home of the remarkable Reverand R. Lionel Fanthorpe, the Badger SF and Supernatural lines are some of the most collected of all British paperback originals. Lionel was the master of the weekend novel, using a battery of tape recorders to dictate his 45,000-worders in a matter of hours. The books are masterpieces of padding, poetry, go-nowhere conversations, and galloping endings when he realised he only had a couple of pages to wrap things up. There are around 167 volumes full of Lionel's marvelous Fanthorpisms.

All the more astonishing is that Lionel was not the company's most prolific writer by a long shot. John Glasby wrote over 100 volumes more than Lionel, his output clocking in at 269 novels and collections. And some of them are pretty good. As are novels by Ted Tubb, Vic J. Hanson and one or two other writers.

Yes, I'm finally getting around to revamping Badger Tracks, originally published through the high-end of self-publishing technology of the day (photocopying) back in 1997, and with a print-run of about 100 which I had to fold and staple myself to keep costs down. The "book" ran to over 100 pages and had the worst cover reproductions of any issue of PBO I put out. I have been promising a new edition for years — yes, people actually still ask me about it and whether I have any spare copies, which I don't as I printed enough to cover the subscriptions and no more.

Circumstances have meant I have a small window to put together a new edition. I'm revising all the text, switching out one article but adding two or three more, updating information on various writers, overhauling the checklist and index (quite a few new pen-names have been identified in the past twenty-five years) and printing the whole darn thing in colour so you can actually see the cover scans this time.

If you want to learn astonishing facts like the identity of the book that Spencers published four times under four different titles and bylines, and that the average Lionel Fanthorpe novel was written in early 1962, this will be the book for you!

I'm thinking of calling it Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books. The other title I toyed with was Assault From Infinity, but I think "assault" makes it sound too aggressive. This is Badger Books, not Honey Badger Books.

Of the other two books, things slowly move forward. A Laverda Journey now has captions and I have rejigged a couple of pages, but I still need to sort out the covers; and The Trials Of Hank Janson... well, that's nearly ready, too, although again I need to sort out the covers.

With all this activity, and a party (yes, we managed to get out of the house over the weekend to visit friends!), I have left the garden to its own devices. The recently sown grass seems to have taken root and is getting to a point where I might begin thinking about mowing the lawn. The last two days have seen a few persistent showers, so I don't have to make my mind today... but soon. As for the last area I seeded, that too is coming along nicely. I still need to pick out a load of stones, but rain and writing have got in the way.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Commando 5659-5662

Commando goes all out with its latest set of four rip-roaring adventure stories! From birthdays to remember in the Falklands to magical kidnappings, vintage valour and classic tales of comradery, get your copies July 6th!  

5659: Birthday Bash

During the Falklands War, when the lighthouse at Gideon’s Point went dark, British Marines led by Sergeant Steve Dennison were sent in to shed light on the situation. They soon found the area crawling with Argentine soldiers but before they could engage them, the Argentinians vanished out of sight. Where could a whole platoon disappear to?
Headstrong Marine Brian Imrie took it upon himself to get to the bottom of the mystery and tore off on his own. But he was going to find out that his twenty-first birthday was going to go off with a bang!

A tense tale from Dominic Teague taking place in one location over one night — the ticking timebomb ups the stakes to 11 in this one!

Story | Dominic Teague
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Neil Roberts

5660: Medal for a Mule

Equus asinus — that’s the proper Latin name for the weirdest weapon used by the Allies in the Second World War. It sounds unusual, but in fact it’s only the name for a common pack-mule. And the story of how one particular mule, a Commando squad, and a hotch-potch of assorted Greeks went into battle against the deadly Nazi war machine makes mighty exciting reading.

One of Commandos beloved animal-based stories, this classic comic adds to the tradition bringing plenty of heart with it.

Story | Spence
Art | Victor de la Fuente
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 486 (1970).

5661: The Amazing Armand

Abracadabra! Alakazam! Voila! During the war, the Amazing Armand was a two-bit magician performing on Civvy Street. Sure, he could pull a rabbit from a hat or tell you what playing card was behind your ear but the last place you’d expect a conjurer of cheap illusions was on a mission with British Commandos!
For The Amazing Armand’s next trick, he would have to perform a disappearing act on a high-ranking German officer! Only he’d have to go into Nazi‑occupied France to magic this Nazi away — and that was the last place he wanted to be!

Brent Towns’ story gives plenty for newcomer to Commando Luis Hernandez to sink his artistic teeth into, while also inspiring a tour-de-force cover from veteran Neil Roberts!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Luis Hernandez
Cover | Neil Roberts

5662: Flying Lifeboat

Most men of the RAF Coastal Command were brave and determined, totally dedicated to their job of saving countless ditched aircrews. But Australian navigator Red Dooley thought otherwise — he’d been posted from Bomber Command and he reckoned he was wasting his time and missing out on the real action.
    But Red was about to realise that his job was as important as any other… he’d soon discover that dropping airborne lifeboats to stranded airmen was doing as much to win the war as dropping bombs.

A classic Commando reprinted for the first time since 1980, this story speaks to Commando’s core values of duty and brothers in arms.

Story | RA Montague
Art | Jose Maria Jorge
Cover | Cox
Originally Commando No. 1449 (1980).

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 5 July 2023

What if two of Britain's biggest comics had merged – find out this September!

It’s a clash of the ages – what if two of Britain’s most famous comic books had merged at the height of their popularity in the 1980s?

In a brand new “what if?” crossover featuring some of Britain’s biggest comic book talents this September, 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine find the answer to the question: what would 2000 AD have looked like if it had combined forces with the legendary Battle Action?

Out in the UK on 20 September and in North America on 1 November, 2000 AD Prog 2350 and Judge Dredd Megazine #460 features stories by Ken Neimand, Alex de Campi, Gordon Rennie, Arthur Wyatt, Chris Weston, Staz Johnson and more. (Diamond codes: JUL231919 & JUL231920)

The special 48-page bumper issue of 2000 AD and the 132-page Judge Dredd Megazine will see Judge Dredd take on the anarchic, riotous teens of ‘Kids Rule OK’, the controversial comic strip that helped lead to Action being pulled from shelves in 1976.

The line-up includes Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra’s former enslaved gunslinger El Mestizo and laconic WWII officer Major Eazy, as well as deadly future sport ‘Death Game 2049’, and daring Panzer officer ‘Hellman of Hell Force’, as well as Dreddworld reinventions of strips such as John Wagner and Mike Western’s tale of the ‘Forgotten Army’, ’Darkie’s Mob’, and Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun’s WW2 air ace ‘Johnny Red’.

Matt Smith, editor of 2000 AD, said: “The history of comics on the UK’s newsstand is marked by the practice of merging titles, where two great anthologies combine. In the case of Starlord joining 2000 AD, it meant the Prog gained Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters. When Tornado’s Black Hawk joined the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, it led to a radical reinvention of the strip.

“Writer Ken Niemand suggested to me a special asking what would’ve happened if Battle Action merged with 2000 AD in the early eighties, with its war stories getting something of a science-fiction/fantasy makeover, and I couldn’t resist!

“Major Eazy, Hellman of Hammer Force, El Mestizo, Dredger – all these great characters get the 2000 AD treatment in Prog 2350, courtesy of the likes of Niemand, Simon Coleby, Chris Weston, Dan Cornwell, Jake Lynch and more. And over in Judge Dredd Megazine #460, we’ve got Dreddworld reinventions of ‘Rat Pack’, ‘Darkie’s Mob’ and ‘Johnny Red’ – it’s a ‘What if…’ that fans of both Battle and 2000 AD won’t want to miss.”

Battle Picture Weekly and Action were two of Britain’s most groundbreaking comics, both tearing up the rulebook on how comics should be in an age of conformity and falling sales. Their action-packed pages delighted young readers as much as they horrified parents and moralists. Following national controversy over the violence in Action, it was effectively banned by its own publisher, neutered and eventually merged with Battle, to create Battle Action.

For this was the age of “hatch, match and dispatch” – when new comics would be launched, then merged into more successful titles. 2000 AD itself absorbed its stablemates Starlord and Tornado, with strips such as ‘Strontium Dog’ and ‘Ro-Busters’ becoming some of its most popular ever series.

This mega-crossover will then be followed by a brand new ‘jumping on’ issue of 2000 AD – the perfect point for new readers to jump on board with the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, featuring an all-new line-up including ‘Poison’, a new ‘Judge Dredd’ story by Rob Williams and PJ Holden, more ‘Feral & Foe’ by Dan Abnett and Richard Elson, the return of ‘Helium’ by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, plus a special one-off clash between two classic characters by Garth Ennis & Henry Flint!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2339
Cover: Jake Lynch.

Judge Dredd: In The Event of My Untimely Demise by Mike Carroll (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dlan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Void Runners by David Hine (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Future Shocks: Laser Lennox by Elizabeth Sandifer (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Azimuth by Dan Abnett (w) Tazio Bettin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Rogue Trooper: Blighty Valley by Garth Ennis (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Rob Steen (l)

The Spider's Syndicate of Crime vs The Crook From Space by Jerry Siegel & Reg Bunn
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618971-4, 6 July 2023, 144pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

The Spider is an amazing mastermind with a stunning array of weaponry and a  vast network of villainous henchmen! Now the underworld is fighting back and have sent a strange assassin known as The Exterminator to lure the spider into a trap!

But one battle isn't enough for this arachnid adventurer - when a shape shifting crook from another planet arrives on Earth, the Spider must stop the alien from plundering the planet and toppling him from power!


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