Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 31 January 2024

Duncan Jones wraps principal photography on Rogue Trooper movie

Duncan Jones’ (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft, Mute) eagerly anticipated movie adaptation of classic British comic Rogue Trooper has wrapped principal photography in the UK. Written and directed by Jones, Rogue Trooper  is an animated science fiction feature from Rebellion and Liberty Films.

Shot at Rebellion Film Studios in Oxfordshire, breakout talent Aneurin Barnard (The Goldfinch, Dunkirk) stars as the eponymous Rogue Trooper, alongside Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One), Jack Lowden (Slow Horses, Dunkirk), Daryl McCormack (Bad Sisters, Good Luck To You Leo Grande), and Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9, Saltburn). Rounding out the cast is an incredible ensemble, which includes Jemaine Clement (Avatar 2: The Way of Water), Matt Berry (What We Do in the Shadows), Diane Morgan (Cunk on Earth), Alice Lowe (Black Mirror), Asa Butterfield (Sex Education, Hugo) and Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings).

Rogue Trooper tells the story of 19, a ‘Genetic Infantryman’, who finds himself the sole-survivor of an invasion force. Desperate to track down the traitor who sold him and his comrades out, the super soldier is accompanied by three killed-in-action squad mates, whose personalities have been stored in his gun, helmet and rucksack.

Filmmaker Duncan Jones said: “2000 AD offers a very different flavour of comic action: Political and brutal at times, but always with a Pythonesque twinkle in the eye. Dredd (2012) was a taste of what 2000 AD has to offer and now we get to show the world another side of the beast. It is a genuine privilege to be given the opportunity to make Rogue Trooper.”

Treehouse Digital (The Well) is creating all imagery and animation for the film, working with Jones to bring to life the world of Rogue Trooper from concept art to final pixel in Unreal Engine 5.

Producer Stuart Fenegan commented: “The advancements in Unreal Engine 5 and the inclusion of MetaHuman rigs mean that it is now possible to achieve a very high standard of animation within an indie budget. Working with our amazing partners at Rebellion, Epic and Treehouse Digital we are pioneering and developing a new creative pipeline that will enable independent production of CG animated films.”

Unreal Engine from Epic is a development platform that enables creators across numerous industries to realise real-time 3D content and experiences.

Rebellion CEO, Jason Kingsley CBE, who is a Producer on Rogue Trooper, added: “We are thrilled to be working with Duncan Jones, who is a fellow British creative visionary and 2000 AD fan with global reach. Rogue Trooper highlights Rebellion’s leading position within the entertainment industries. It has been filmed at our dedicated Oxfordshire film studios and combines beautiful storytelling from our iconic 2000 AD comic book universe with animation and production technology from the video game industry. We cannot wait for everyone to see these incredible stories bought to life on screen.”

The Rogue Trooper comic was created by legendary artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Kingsman) and writer Gerry Finley-Day (Dan Dare) and released by British publishers 2000 AD, home to Judge Dredd, Halo Jones and Sláine.

Rogue Trooper is produced by Stuart Fenegan (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft, Mute) alongside Jason Kingsley (Dredd, School’s Out Forever), Chris Kingsley (Dredd, School’s Out Forever) and Duncan Jones. The film is set to complete in 2025.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2367
Cover: Alex Ronald

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ENGLISH ASTRONAUT by Paul Cornell (w) Laura Helsby (a) Matt Soffe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ENEMY EARTH // BOOK THREE by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)

War Picture Library: The Crimson Sea by Fred Baker, E. Evans, Donne Avenell (w), Hugo Pratt (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786199-6, 31 January 2024, 272pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The title story of this collection, The Crimson Sea, tells the tale of a younger brother of an officer, both survivors of the sunken HMS Grapnel, who feels he must step out of his brother's shadow with astonishing acts of bravery. There are three other stories in this collection; Pathfinder focuses on an Australian pilot joining the RAF, Up the Marines features tales of Royal Marine Commandos being sent on daring missions behind enemy lines, and in Dark Judgment two rescued POWs are suspected of not being who they claim to be - each of these four stories is stunningly drawn by the Italian comics maestro Hugo Pratt just a few years before he created Corto Maltese!

Strontium Dog Search and Destroy Volume 3: The 2000AD Years by Alan Grant, John Wagner (a), Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-187386103-3, 1 February 2024, 192pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

In 2150 a catastrophic war led to 70% of Britain's population being wiped out. Strontium 90 fallout led to an increase of children being born with strange mutations. Hated by average humans, the mutants faced terrible oppression when politician, Nelson Kreelman, introduced a series of anti-mutant laws enforced by a brutal police force.
    In 2167 the mutants decided to fight back. Amongst their ranks was a young boy with named Johnny Alpha with white blank eyes and a mutant power that grants him a series of powers, including the ability to see through many surfaces. Driven by tragedy, Johnny has a very personal reason wanting to topple the regime and bring Kreeler down.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Comic Cuts - 26 January 2024

This month seems to have flown by and I'm frustrated at not having Beyond the Void out already. This is what comes of trying to cut costs... 

My idea was to try and get the next Forgotten Authors book in a position where I could order a proof copy alongside some restocks of other books, plus the proof of Beyond the Void to spread the cost of postage. Unfortunately, one of the new essays has required quite a lot of reading, fun but time consuming, and I still haven't managed to get it finished. And then everything had to come to a grinding halt while I did my tax returns and sorted out payments that need to be in by the end of the month.

Hopefully everything that needed doing was done, but the actual numbers were a bit depressing, working out how little income Bear Alley Books had generated for the past couple of years. I've only had a couple of new books out, and I know I need to get more books out on a more regular basis. Hopefully the delays to Beyond the Void won't be a sign of things to come! I do have a couple of new books planned that will hopefully get me back on track.

Talking of sales, I though I'd share the Top Five best-sellers from Bear Alley in 2023:

1) The Trials of Hank Janson
2 =) Eagles Over the Western Front and Countdown to TV Action
4) Longbow volume 2
5) The Men Behind Flying Saucer Review

The latter keeps surprising me. It's only a slim volume available through Amazon, but it sells with reasonable regularity and has now topped 100 copies. Countdown to TV Action remains my all-time best-seller, and I should hit 450 copies some time this year. The Lion index is second best, but has sold only half that number.

But back to Beyond the Void. The (final????, I really hope so!) proofs have been ordered, but won't be here until early February. Meanwhile, I'll try to get Forgotten Authors volume five finished and then get I'm planning to get together a comic strip reprint before cracking on with Action. That's the plan as of today... things may change!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 24 January 2024

Best of 2000 AD
 is a landmark series from the cult comic, bursting with our greatest stories for a new generation of readers.

Every Best of 2000 AD contains a mix of modern classics and gems from the vault. In each edition you’ll find an explosive new Judge Dredd adventure, fresh essays by prominent popular culture writers, a graphic novel-length feature presentation by global legends and a vintage Dredd case.

In this volume: Judge Dredd makes a Tempus Fugitive of literature’s most famous time-travel enthusiast; tremble as Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint deliver galaxy-wide carnage at the hands of the retribution of a dead race, Shakara The Avenger; during a long, hot summer something rots at the heart of a council estate in John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s Cradlegrave; Dredd sends his cadets into the Cursed Earth to face The Hotdog Run; The government agents of Ice Station Delta find their problems snowball when they tangle with Shako, the only polar bear on the CIA death list!

Boasting brand new covers from an all-star line-up of artists including Star Wars concept designer Ian McQue and Eisner-award winner Anand Radhakrishnan (Blue in Green) with designer Tom Muller (X-Men), Best of 2000 AD is the essential gateway into the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic!

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2366

Cover: Rufus Dayglo.

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THISTLEBONE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (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, January 19, 2024

Comic Cuts - 19 January 2024

The release of Beyond the Void creeps closer. I felt I should delay getting a final proof until I had sorted out the problems with the previous printing errors. The copy corrected has now landed and I'm doing a quick stock take to make sure the latest proof benefits from the shared postage, as the various proofs have so far cost me about £70 in printing and postage. Obviously I want to get everything just so before I offer it to paying customers, but it has been a rather frustrating time as I had hoped to have the book out already.

Still, I'm very pleased with it and the delays have meants I've been able to add a couple of things that I've come across in the past week or two -- some additional books added to one of the bibliographies, for instance. The research for all of my books is ongoing and I stumble upon information all the time. It's usually quite minor, adding the name of an artist or a date. Then, once in a while, I come across some information that means revising an old piece quite heavily.

That happened to me this week with one of the essays for the next Forgotten Authors volume. I wrote a little biographical sketch of James Skipp Borlase back in 2009 or thereabouts that I gave a once-over when I included it in the reprint of On the Queen's Service, published early last year.

I thought Borlase was the perfect author for for the Forgotten Authors series, but I didn't want to do a straight reprint of something already available. So I did some digging and managed to open up a bit of a can of worms. Borlase was a prolific writer of newspaper serials and they included a lot of "by the author of" credits which I had never really followed up due, originally, to a lack of resources, and, last year, a lack of time... and, I might add, I wasn't expecting to learn anything more as the title chains I had seen repeated many of the same serial titles.

But for this revision I wanted to chase up all those titles and see if I could put dates to the serials... and there were some big surprises. I turned up three or four pen-names that he used, one in Australian newspapers and a couple used in British boys' story papers, and also found that he had written a boys' serial prior to the story I had thought his first.

I have to say that making discoveries like that are what I live for!

However, most of the work I have been doing has been tinkering around the edges of essays. There are a couple that were written a couple of years ago for fun (and, I admit, with an eye to putting together another FA volume) where I'd been very careful to note sources, most of which were newspapers and magazines, but what I hadn't done was note the page numbers on which information was taken. So I spent the whole of Wednesday retracing my every step that I'd taken to write an essay about Alfred Duggan, which has 90 footnotes. I'm probably going to spend all of Friday doing the same to other essays.

That said, I'm about 45,000 words into what is likely to be a 70,000 word book. So I'm getting there.

I don't have much else to say; the Forgotten Authors book has kept me busy to the point that I'm doing nothing else. So our illustrations this week are a few random scans (older readers might remember them from the pre-pandemic years when I was scouring the charity shops a little more regularly).

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Commando 5715-5718

Commando Issues 5715 – 5718 go on sale today, Thursday 18th January, 2024!

5715: Steer into Danger

The salty seadogs are back for another oceanic adventure in the Pacific! In mid-December 1943, the Japanese sent a cruiser squadron south to wreak havoc amongst the Allied shipping lanes. But they never counted on the experienced skippers of HMAS Tiger and HMAS Wombat to put a stop to them before too much damage was done! Three cruisers pack a heck of a punch, though, and the Aussie buccaneers will need all the luck they can muster to come out of it alive — especially when one of the ships has a man at the wheel who is afraid to fight!
    Commando Issue 5715 ‘Steer into Danger’ is another episode in Aussie writer Brent Towns’ series about the crews of HMAS Wombat and HMAS Tiger — the renegades from Down Under! With Esteve Poll’s amazing artwork and yet another stunning Keith Burns cover to top it off!

Story | Brent Towns
Art | Esteve Polls
Cover | Keith Burns

5716: Wear a Nazi Helmet

Only three men were left alive in a dug-out on the British front line in Italy, Lieutenant John Regan, his wounded batman and a captured German officer. Nazi soldiers were swarming forward to smash through this weak point. John had no men left to repel them, but he still had one desperate remedy. As the Germans charged towards him, he slowly lifted his field telephone...
    Issue 5716 ‘Wear a Nazi Helmet’ is a prototype for what makes up a classic Commando. Allan’s well-crafted story about brothers in arms turned enemies by a misunderstanding is wonderfully illustrated by Aguilar’s artwork. Jordi Penalva is on top form with his standout cover with a British soldier wearing a Nazi helmet!

Story | Allan
Art | Aguilar
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 507

5717: Allies at War

They were once allies — Britain and France. The two nations’ men stood together, united against the Nazi threat. But everything changed when France was overrun, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the unthinkable — attack Mers-el-Kebir and sink the French Navy’s ships.
Two men were caught in the middle — one British, one French. Two men who had once fought together and now fought each other. They were… Allies at War!
    Commando 5717 features a debut, as brand-new artist Alejandro Perez Mesa joins the ranks of Commando on cover duty! Returning to Commando is Rossa McPhillips, the writer of this hard-hitting piece about men caught on either side of the war. And let’s not forget Paolo Ongaro who always delivers on interior artwork!

Story | Rossa McPhillips
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Alejandro Perez Mesa

5718: The Line-shooter

 Flying Officer Hubert Shank seemed to be a daring, resourceful character. He’d done everything from motor racing to smuggling... or so he said. So when he and his crew had to force-land their Whitley in Germany, you could bet Hubert would have a few tricks up his sleeve to aid their escape... if his stories were to be believed, that was!
    And the final issue in this set is an RAF romp by RA Montague with artwork from legendary British comics artists John Ridgway and Jeff Bevan! This issue is so good, it has to be seen to be believed!

Story | RA Montague
Art | John Ridgway
Cover | Jeff Bevan
First Published 1981 as Issue 1565

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 17 January 2024


Air Ace Johnny Red and Angel of Death Nina Petrova face off against the Nazi invaders, lethal British agent Dredger deals with the abduction of the only person dear to his stony heart, and the louche Major Eazy must lead his men through the Devil’s Garden of El Alamein. There’s action aplenty with roguish British commandoes Rat Pack, along with Death Squad, their equally deadly German counterparts. And the hellish arctic ocean is the setting for HMS Nightshade, the classic tale of war at sea.

Writer Garth Ennis (PreacherThe Boys) is joined by an incredible roster of top-tier talent, with stories by original Battle Action writer John Wagner (Judge DreddRobo-Hunter), Torunn Gronbekk (ThorRed Sonja), Rob Williams (Suicide SquadPetrol Head) and Dan Abnett (Guardians of the GalaxyLawless), and featuring art by industry greats like Keith Burns (Out of the Blue), Chris Burnham (BatmanDoom Patrol), Henry Flint (Hawk The Slayer) and John Higgins (WatchmenDreadnoughts). There’s blazing Battle Action on every page!

Battle Picture Weekly was where the revolution in British comics began. Created in 1975 by writers and editors Pat Mills and John Wagner, it introduced new grittiness into comics with its cast of anti-heroes and misfits. Its bombast and energy sparked a sea-change in what comics could do, leading to Mills’ creation of the controversial Action and the globally influential 2000 AD.

The new Battle Action mini-series celebrates the merging of this landmark title with its controversial stablemate, Action, a combination that took the two comics to even greater heights. Now, more than forty years after the original, some of the cream of British comics talent are bringing these classic characters back to life.

This volume contains:

  • JOHNNY RED by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns
  • HMS NIGHTSHADE by John Wagner and Dan Cornwell
  • CRAZY KELLER by Garth Ennis and Chris Burnham
  • D-DAY DAWSON by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade
  • DREDGER by Garth Ennis and John Higgins
  • MAJOR EAZY by Rob Williams and Henry Flint
  • COOLEY’S GUN by Garth Ennis and Staz Johnson
  • DEATH SQUAD by Rob Williams and PJ Holden
  • HELLMAN OF HAMMER FORCE by Garth Ennis and Mike Dorey
  • NINA PETROVA AND THE ANGELS OF DEATH by Torunn Grønbekk and Patrick Goddard

 And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2365
Cover: Alex Ronald.

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THISTLEBONE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (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)

Judge Dredd Megazine #464
Cover: Lee Milmore.

JUDGE DREDD: RAVENOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Anthony Williams (a) 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)
BLACK MAX by Ken Mennell, & Frank Pepper (w) Alfonso Font (a)
HOOKJAW by Si Spurrier (w) Conor Boyle (a) Giulia Brusco (c) Rob Steen (l)
JUDGE DREDD: UNDER SIEGE by Mark Russell (w) Max Dunbar (a) Jose Luis Rio (c) Simon Bowland (l)
TALES FROM THE BLACK MUSEUM: THE UGLY STICK by David Barnett (w) Lee Milmore (a) Simon Bowland (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: CALHAB COUNTRY by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Case Files #43 by John Wagner, Gordon Rennie, John Smith, Si Spurrier (w) Colin MacNeil, PJ Holden, Carlos Ezquerra, Laurence Campbell, Simon Fraser, Paul Marshall, Peter Doherty, Inaki Miranda, Lee Garbett (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786094-4, 18 January 2024, 304pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

In this volume of the best-selling Complete Case Files series, Dredd uncovers the House of Pain, a no-way-out, brutal torture prison for serial perps, and must stop Orlok from spreading a lethal bio-virus – from beyond the grave! And, after a mysterious package is delivered to the Grand Hall of Justice, Dredd ventures into the Cursed Earth in search of answers that will unveil the history of the Judges, and their ascent to total power.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Comic Cuts — 12 January 2024

Because of an error on the last pair of proofs I had printed, I'm still waiting on a copy of Beyond the Void that I'm happy with. Hence no news of when the book will be available. (But it will be soon, I promise.)

I'm told that the corrected version will be with me in a couple of days, after which I will print off two more copies, just to make sure that the book is printing correctly, so there is still a couple of weeks to go. I should add that the problem with recent proofs wasn't the colour or anything like that. The printer had a problem with the trimming of the book, which meant that they cut about a milimeter off the top of the header (the text that often runs along the top of the book); I made the header smaller, but the trim was still very close, so I have since dispensed with it entirely. It's partly my own fault for trying to make the most of every page and not losing space to wide margins — the only way to keep the pagination down on what is quite a big (and expensive to print) full-colour book.

Not that I'm unhappy with the end product, and it has now been seen by one more person (I think outside of Mel and me, only two people have seen copies)... and they now have a printed copy to take home and read. That lucky (?) person is my book collecting pal Steve Chibnall, who was visiting the University of Essex to do some research. We spent an enjoyable evening at a local pub chatting about books old and new, catching up on our latest projects and enjoying what turned out to be some nice pub grub.

It was actually our second choice of pub, but the first (The Greyhound) was packed, with no tables available for eating. So we headed down to the Rose & Crown on the river front, and it was almost empty. By the time food arrived it was filling up quite dramatically and we realised why others had avoided it... there was a poker tournament planned for the evening which took over most of the tables. Mystery solved.

While I won't mention the project that brought Steve to the University (that's up to him to reveal), I can say that he is working on another book about books, and, more specifically, a book about book jackets. I suspect this is going to take some time to complete, but I'm already thinking of how I can guarentee getting the first copy off the presses. Maybe start bribing the author and praising him outrageously. So that's a book coming out from Steve "Mr Cool" Chibnall.

About five columns back I mentioned that I'd had to change a number of passwords that might have been compromised thanks to the ransomeware hack of the British Libraries databases. Well, part two of that fallout is that I might not see any PLR for a while, as the BL is in charge of paying out Public Lending Rights.

Now, I have to admit that this is not a big deal for me as very few of my books make it into the lending library system. The last books that did in any meaningful way were the large War, Battle and Air Ace reprints I did for Prion 15-20 years ago. I did reasonably well out of them in the period 2009-18, although not the thousands that JK Rowling or Richard Osman would expect to receive.

My best year earned me £81.26. Most years I don't get anything because I don't achieve the minimum of £1, although I had a surprise in 2021 when I was paid £4.78 — and all thanks to one book being taken out just before the Covid lockdown. With libraries closed, all books already on loan were automatically renewed, and that one copy of Aces High clocked up 100 loans! Thanks, whoever borrowed the book... it was a very pleasant surprise and would be just enough for a pint in 2024! (Seriously, the Office of National Statistics has worked out that the average price of a pint of lager is £4.58, up from £1 in 1987.)

It was bitterly cold on our trip out to the pub, but at least it wasn't snowing. We had snow earlier in the week, and, content provider that I am, I filmed it. Twenty seconds it took before I came to my senses and realised that most people have seen snow and didn't really need to see that latest snowfall in my back garden. But I'm putting it up anyway.

What is surprising is that a couple of trees are in bloom and I can only think that it is down to the mild weather we have been having. That's the mild weather we were having just before the snow. Things have gotten a lot chillier over the past week, and I'm going to end this seemingly ceaseless chatter because it's damned cold in my office and bed is warm and welcoming.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 10 January 2024

Pre-order the latest War Picture Library collection featuring the work of master artist Hugo Pratt – the Iron Fist collection is available to pre-order in print now!

The title story of this collection, The Iron Fist, focuses on the lives of the crew manning the Goliath and the battles they fight, ranging from El Alamein to the D-Day landings – the tank crew rely on each other to get through the hellish situations. Also included in this collection are The Big Arena featuring Australian soldiers fighting in Egypt, and Strongpoint featuring sappers in Italy – each of the three stories in this compilation is stunningly drawn by the Italian comics maestro Hugo Pratt just a few years before he created Corto Maltese.

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2364
Cover: Simon Davis.

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THISTLEBONE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (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, January 05, 2024

Comic Cuts — 5 January 2024

Well that was fun. Now, back to work.

I'm still waiting on the latest proof of Beyond the Void so no news there, but I have been busy with the next book. A sort of palate cleanser before I get to the one after next book, I have been working on a new Forgotten Authors volume, updating and rewriting (sometimes very thoroughly) some old essays that I think qualify.

Not that all the authors are completely forgotten. I have been working on two pieces this week, one about early 18th-century writers who wrote about pirates and highwaymen and another about a writer famous for her books about ponies. It makes for quite a contrast. Works by all the authors covered in these pieces are still available, some as eBooks, some through Gutenberg and other free text websites as they are long out of copyright.

And there are collectors of books that will know of the crime and historical writers I'm including, and one is a mystic still discussed over forty years after his death. Are they really forgotten authors? I'd argue that they are to the the vast majority of book readers. I had this same problem with a book that partly shares its name with my books, Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors--but his is a very different book to mine, with short, digestible biographies that skim the subject... mine are long and over-detailed, which is why I fit may 12 or 13 per volume to his 99. When I read the list of authors he covered I kept thinking, "Is (s)he forgotten?" But it's only because I collect old paperbacks that I come across names like Pierre Boulle and Dennis Wheatley with any regularity. To the wider public they really are forgotten.

Most of the works I'm covering are unlikely to be available on Gutenberg or the Internet Archive. They're often mid-list or paperback original authors that will only be found on the shelves of collectors.

They are not the sort of books that would be available to ChatGPT. I have been thinking about AI and the programmes that have been making the news over the past few months. I have had a little play with them, like many others, and the results have been mixed. I am not impressed with ChatGPT's ability to put together an obituary, for instance. The few I asked it to write were basic and often contained wrong information when I came to check the results.

The odd thing is that I suspect that Google's new Gemini AI launch, the basic version of which is described as "text in, text out", will have scraped this very blog. Blogger is owned by Google and, although the content of every post I write is my copyright, I doubt if that has stopped Google using the thousands of blogs it hosts to help its AI learn how to write or where to glean information.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem. After all, I put information out there to share. A link back or a citation would be nice, but I'm choosing to release that information for anyone to use. It's the wholesale lifting of my work that irks me, and that is what Google is capable of.

Similarly, I had a little play around with Midjourney when it came out and generated a few pictures. I didn't go beyond the free allowance and haven't used it since. However, the recent release of a spreadsheet that named 16,000 artists whose work had been scraped in order to teach Midjourney how to draw in certain styles, shows how pernicious AI can be. To quote ARTnews, "During the New Year's weekend, artists linked to a Google Sheet on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) and Bluesky, alleging that it showed how Midjourney developed a database of time periods, styles, genres, movements, mediums, techniques, and thousands of artists to train its AI text-to-image generator."

Access to the link to Google has been restricted, but you can still find the list at the Internet Archive. The list of artists is the third tab and it doesn't take long to do a search and discover that many of my favourite artists are on the list: Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Angus McKie, Chris Achilleos, Bruce Pennington and others who created the covers I loved when I was buying huge numbers of SF books in the Seventies and Eighties. And hundreds of comic artists, starting at the top with Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons, whose work informs Midjourney.

John Freeman put together a list of over 50 names of people he knew or had worked with. David Roach posted on Facebook that he had been told about the list by his daughter: "Who knows how much of an impact my own work has made on it all. I'm not sure how to feel... possibly a bit annoyed!"

I'd be very annoyed too. You can find plenty of David's work online and more if you dig around Facebook and elsewhere. The Midjourney list doesn't identify what work or how many works have been used for each artist, but it could be in the hundreds of images for some and as few as one for 6-year-old Hyan Tran (see the ARTnews link above).

It has already been decided that an image generated using Midjourney's software could not be copyrighted because of the way it was generated. But that currently means that once the image is released, anyone can reuse it, including the images in this post, which doesn't protect the original artists.

Like many, I'll be keeping an eye on cases as they go through the courts. Here's an article that seems relatively up to date (December 2023), which mentions problems that have faced a class action brought in San Francisco and that a newly amended complaint [linked material downloads as a PDF] was filed on 29 November.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Commando 5711-5714

Happy New Year from Commando with Issues 5711 – 5714 – which go on sale Thursday 4th January, 2024!

5711: 3 Company

In the midst of the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’, fate throws together three strangers — a soldier, a sailor and a pilot. Surrounded by chaos and tragedy, and each having miraculously survived up until now, the three men point the finger at each other’s branch of the British armed forces for the deaths of their comrades. But with the Germans closing in, the unlikely trio soon realise they must put aside their differences if they are to have a chance of escaping the enemy.
    Is it too late for the newly‑formed 3 Company or is there time for one more miracle?
    Kicking of the year strong with Commando Issue 5711! Writer Frank Buhagiar’s story is set among the chaos and upheaval at Dunkirk with three men blaming each other! But can they get along when it matters? Vicente Alcazar and Keith Burns perform their art duties in style in this issue!

Story | Frank Buhagiar
Art | Vicente Alcazar
Cover | Keith Burns

5712: The Desperate Men

Cut off far behind enemy lines, you’re fighting to get back to your own troops. For food and ammunition you have to rely on what you can steal, and for transport — well, it’s your own aching feet, for mile after weary mile. Of course, you could always steal a car from the nearest enemy headquarters just by walking up to the door and driving it away. Sound risky? It’s all part of the game if you’re one of the desperate men.
    A classic Commando if ever there was one is Issue 5712 ‘The Desperate Men’, first printed in August 1970. Our trio of contributors are on top form with the inspirational team of Leach on story, Victor de la Fuente on interior artwork, and Jordi Penalva on cover duty!

Story | Leach
Art | V Fuente
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 496

5713: Renegade Avenger

Ken Barrington’s father was disgraced out of the Boer War and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as Ken’s fiery temper ruins any plans of officer training at Sandhurst. When The Great War breaks out, Ken has no choice but to take the King’s shilling and sign up as a private, working his way up the ranks with steely determination and unshaken bravery. But when his CO is the son of the man who shamed his father, Ken’s hopes of promotion turn to bitterness as the renegade seeks out the German officer responsible for his father’s shame.
    Suresh pens a gritty story about the son of a disgraced officer from the Boer War determined to restore honour to his family's name. Yes, he was going to avenge his father no matter how much of a renegade he had to be along the way! Brand-new artist Marc Viure makes his debut on interiors for this Commando, with a blood-red cover by Staz Johnson!

Story | Suresh
Art | Marc Viure
Cover | Staz Johnson

5714: Rocket Raider

As the German train emerged from the tunnel, Gaston LeClare pressed the firing button on the weapon he had spent so long developing, and the special rocket flew on its way. Two seconds later, the locomotive was in a thousand pieces and the train was wrecked.
    The Nazis were totally bewildered by these terrifying attacks and had no idea who was responsible. The mysterious rocket raider had struck many times already and they knew it would not be long before he struck again.
    An off-beat Commando from the master of such writing — CG Walker. Yes, it wouldn’t be a CG Walker issue if there weren’t twists and turns and strings of stories that link up in the end! And what a story! Brought to life by Carmona’s amazing artwork and a cover by the legendary Ian Kennedy!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Carmona
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1980 as Issue 1464

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Rebellion Releases - 3 January 2024

2000AD Prog 2363
Cover: Steven Austin / Jim Boswell (cols).

JUDGE DREDD // VOX POPULI by Mike Carroll (w) Silvia Califano (a) Francesco Segala & Sabrina Del Grosso (c) Annie Parkhouse (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)

Essential Judge Dredd: Tour of Duty Book One by John Wagner (w), Colin MacNeil, Kev Walker, Patrick Goddard, Rufus Dayglo (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786095-1, 3 January 2024, 224pp, £24,99. Available via Amazon.

After Dredd’s discovery of a mutant branch of his bloodline during Origins, the lawman has started to take a closer look at Justice Department’s treatment of those unfortunates warped by the legacy of the Atomic Wars. Mutants are currently forbidden entry into Mega-City One, and exiled to facilities and townships in the irradiated wasteland, but Dredd believes it’s time the law was changed – but is even he prepared for the turmoil he’s about to unleash?
    The stories collected in this volume have affected the Dredd strip for years, and feature work by writer John Wagner (Button Man) and artists Colin MacNeil (Essential Judge Dredd: America), Kev Walker (Star Wars), Patrick Goddard (Battle Action), and Rufus Dayglo (Tank Girl).


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