Saturday, March 30, 2024

Comic Cuts — 30 March 2024

Where was I? Oh, yes, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, at the Paperback and Pulp Book Fair.

By mid-day I'd sold out of BEYOND THE VOID and, feeling flush, I hunted around for a treat. I don't buy load of books at these fairs. I had the money from the Badger book, but half of that was needed to pay off the printing costs and the postage charges I'd had to pay to get the books to Wivenhoe. Then there was the train fare on top. I'd already been paid for three of the books so I'd sold 11 on the day at £20. £220 cash in hand, but only about £60 profit after print costs, postage and train fare.

So I bought a £30 book from Maurice Flanagan (Zardoz Books) that he generously knocked a fiver off. So one book ate up half my profit. Ah, but it was a nice book that I've been looking out for for many years. It has the unpromising title of The Plant From Infinity and appeared in 1954 under the house name Karl Maras. But Phil Harbottle, back in the 1980s, wrote up the story synopsis for our British Science Fiction Paperback and Magazine 1949-1954, and he thought it a bit of a lost gem. He said the same thing on a recent video (Phil published 68 videos on his 1950s British science fiction Youtube channel).

I picked up a second SF title, Sphero Nova by Berl Cameron, a Curtis Warren I realised I didn't have when I was writing about John Glasby for BEYOND THE VOID (it was one of his early sales). plus an old Emile Zola paperback reprint from the 1940s because I just liked the cover.

The only news I picked up that''s worth repeating here is that Rian Hughes' Rayguns and Rocketships has now sold out and there's a plan to reprint the book with a handful of corrections and some additional covers. No idea when, but if you didn't buy a copy previously, this will be your chance.

By one-thirty, the number of people in the room had dropped considerably; people were wandering off to try and find somewhere to have lunch or getting together for a drink. I thought I'd take the opportunity to head off as I had no more copies of the Badger to sell, and I think everyone had seen me wandering around in my t-shirt. There was no more promotion to be had by sticking it out for another hour and a half. I said my goodbyes and left.

The trip back was a lot easier – the trolley was a lot lighter – but I was still carrying quite a weight up and down stairs and my back was making its displeasure known. I got home about four and the house of quiet. Mel, still ill and not sleeping well overnight, must have dozed off; I put the TV on quietly and watched an episode of Halo (a solid if unimaginative SF show with plenty of action – super-soldiers vs. aliens). Mel woke up, we made some drinks and she went back to bed. I watched another episode of Halo and generally took the evening easy.

Monday morning and I had a pinpoint sharp pain in the muscles of my left-lower back, a general overall ache, a hacking cough, and no enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I also had a deadline, so I started work on an obituary for The Guardian to a background of caughs, splutters and sneezes from both Mel and I.

Apart from gathering something like 60 pages of notes, I wrote no more than 300 words.

Tuesday: Hot toddies was the smart suggestion Mel came up with; we did our own version with a huge slug of scotch, lemon, hot water and honey. It kept my throat from being torn out by huge, wracking caughs. The frustrating thing is that I don't feel ill, per se, just knackered from lack of sleep. Keeping hydrated means I'm up and down all night needing a wee.

By the end of the day I had a long draft of the obituary, but only 200 words too long, which is good for me – normally I'm waaay over! Remembered at the last minute I needed to get my Rebellion Releases column sorted, so ended up going to bed later than I planned.

On Wednesday morning I trimmed back and submitted the obituary.  Sorted out Thursday's Commando Releases column. Mel is testing negative for Covid and plans to head back to work tomorrow, so we headed out of the house for the first time in days and did some shopping. Chatted to my Mum for the first time in ten days. An hour flew by, mostly about symptoms (!). In fact the whole day flew by.

I was waiting for a FedEx delivery on Thursday which was due 8.50 to 12.50, so I started on Friday's Comic Cuts column, interspersed with some scanning and double-checking that was needed by The Guardian. I was eating a lunchtime roll at one o'clock when I spotted the FedEx van pull up outside. I went to the door and opened it and stood in the open door.

Nobody came. It was raining, so I stepped back inside and watched out the window. Still nobody came. I took a photo of the van outside through the trees and shrubs at the front of the house. And then the van drove off.

I checked the status of my package on the tracking app and it told me that they had delivered my package. I tried phoning and spoke to an AI computer. "How can I help you today?" "You've delivered a package but not to the correct address." "Let's see how we can help you... what's the package tracking number?" I tell the computer. "That package was delivered at 1:08 pm." "Yes, but where? Because I'm here and it hasn't been delivered here." "It was left with a neighbour." "We only have one neighbour and they aren't in... so where is the package?" "It was left with a neighbour." "No it wasn't." "Can we help you with anything else?" "You haven't helped me with this problem. Let's not complicate things." "Good bye."

I received an email soon after telling me that the package was with a neighbour named Doughty.

You've guessed correctly: we don't have a neighbour called Doughty. Eventually, via the electoral roll, I tracked down Adam Doughty, who I've never met, but who lives about six doors down the road; he was as confused as I was, since he also knew that he didn''t have a neighbour called Steve Holland.

If this is an example of The Singularity, I'm going to have to disagree with Vernor Vinge. He was saying that AI would develop at an increasing rate until it surpassed human understanding. In the real world, AI's lack of human understanding will earn it a thorough reprogramming with a baseball bat.

The package, by the way, had travelled all the way from Japan: a lovely looking magazine called Idea, which has published an issue dedicated to "Cross sections, floor plans and exploded diagrams: visualizing the invisible" to which I had been asked to contribute an article on Leslie Ashwell Wood. This was the article I was working on a couple of months ago.

Now it's Friday afternoon and I'm having my first day off in a while. The Vernor Vinge obituary is now up at The Guardian website, although it might be months before it appears in the print newspaper.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Comic Cuts — 29 March 2024

Well, that was a heck of a week, with some highs and lows and a relentless pace. In the movie of my life this week would be interrupted by two songs, one an uptempo all-cast dance number possibly called The Badger Burlesque, set against the backdrop of the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury; then there would a a darker, more tragic song about regret, ageing, and working through pain. I'm going with Old Bones, but I'll try to think of a better title later.

So, Friday was fine; I had a visit from Karl Kennedy, who helps run some of the comic swap meets that have now been running for the past couple of years. I had a table at the Colchester Swap Meet last October and did surprisingly well, and was kept cheerfully busy in between sales signing old copies of the Prion War, Battle and Air Ace reprint books.

What I didn't realise at the time was that having a table meant I also had a raffle ticket... and I won a poster of Codename: Warlord in a nice clear frame. My thanks to Karl, who came round despite a dodgy knee to deliver my prize. I'll have to see if I can dig out something suitable for the next raffle.

On Saturday, I tried to get some notes together for an obituary that The Guardian commissioned and spent part of the day reading True Names by Vernor Vinge, which was an astonishingly accurate depiction of 'cyberspace' before the term was coined three years later by William Gibson (Neuromancer, 1984). Vinge thought its denizens would create a fully immersive fantasy landscape (the Other Plane) where warlocks (hackers and trolls) attack corporations and vandalise their data sets. Vinge also predicted The Singularity, and in 1983 gave us 30 years. Well, all he missed was man's (and I do mean man's) ability to be distracted by using any new technology for porn so that AI is swamped by deep fake pornographic pics of some 4,000 celebrities and you can now chat to an AI girlfriend, as long as you sign away every quantum of privacy and you don't care who knows everything about you.

Once we've got over the "horny young men" bump (think of it as a speed bump on the information superhighway), AI will get back to the task in hand: astounding the world with new medicines and slowly crushing the population as it takes over your job. Something cheerful for you to mull over while you head for work this morning.

I was also prepping for my Big Day Out to the Paperaback & Pulp Book Fair on Sunday. I'd pre-booked my ticket and had a shopping trolley full of books... all I needed to do was get down to the train station on time. We're on a direct route to Liverpool Street, which is useful. Then it was four stops on the Central line to Holborn, a walk up Southampton Row, a right turn and a left turn and I'd be at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury.

It's days like this that make me realise how physically unfit I am. Overweight, sure, but quite weak through sitting in front of a computer all day, tapping on a keyboard; the most physical things I do are rolling a tiny wheel on a mouse and carrying the kettle to the tap when I need more water for coffee.

The trolley was very heavy — and top heavy because of the way I had to pack the boxes in, so the wheels weren't taking the most weight. I managed to turn off Southampton Row a road too early and wandered around for fifteen minutes trying to reorient myself; before that, I'd forgotten the stairs at both Liverpool Street and Holborn. By the time I got to the Fair, my back was aching, and every tendon twanging.

But I was there! I parked my trolley next to Bob Wardzinski's table(s) and whipped off my coat and jumper to reveal a one-off t-shirt I'd had made of the BEYOND THE VOID cover a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty quickly inundated (in a nice way) by people who were interested in the book — some had already ordered copies to be sent to their home,  three of the copies I'd taken up were earmarked for collection and I knocked the book out for a "Fair Special" price of £20.

And the books all went. I had to keep one back to show people that it existed as a real book, but the rest... gone. I even sold a couple of THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON.

It was incredibly busy for some hours, and I spent most of the four hours or so I was there chatting with people, about Badger, about paperbacks, about how busy it was... I met up with old friends, made some new ones, was briefly filmed for Jules Burt's latest Book Fair video, which I recommend you watch if you want a taste of what it was like. Jules' video has snippets of interviews with dealers, punters, and the organisers, through whom we learn that there will be a second Fair later in the year,  most probably on 24 November.

I doubt I'll be dragging up books for that one. It'll be dark and cold, but I'll certainly bring up anything if it's ordered. As long as I don't need to bring that damn trolley.

This has rambled on far too long. I'll do another Comic Cuts column for Saturday morning to fill you in on the rest of the week's doings. See you tomorrow.

(* I'll put in some links to Jules' videos as they become available. The pic of Jules and the column header are screengrabs from his video — my photographic skills let me down! — and the other two pics are by Karl Kennedy and used with permission.)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Commando 5735-5738

Commando celebrates legendary Commando cover artist Ken Barr with four special issues in an one-off set dedicated to the master himself. Commando issues 5735-5738 are on sale from today, Thursday 28th March, 2024!

5735: Sniper’s Island

Throughout the South Sea Islands, he was known as ‘Big Alec’. Six feet three inches of bronzed, husky, Australian beach-comber, gold prospector and hunter.
    Big Alec roamed the islands in a tattered shirt, slacks and an old bush hat, his only companion his big game rifle, with its deadly telescopic sight.
    Then came the Japanese, island-hopping their way to Australia, mowing down everything in their way — until they reached Big Alec’s island.
    There they stopped dead — very dead — for Big Alec never missed...
    The first up in our four issues dedicated to Ken Barr is one from his early Commando days, all the way back in 1963. Featuring the first of the two issues written by the wordsmith Eric Hebden and with stellar artwork by Medrano.

Story: E Hebden
Art: Medrano
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1963 as Issue 72

5736: Killer Crew

When Major Tod Raike and his ‘Raiders’ went on the warpath in their high-speed armed jeeps, the best thing a Jerry could do was dig a quick hole in the sand and pull it in after him!
    What a bunch of blokes!
    Issue 5736 is the second of our special one-off set dedicated to the legendary Commando cover artist Ken Barr! 'Killer Crew' features Eric Hebden’s rag-tag group of raiders operating behind enemy lines! With artwork by the legendary V Fuente to boot!

Story: E Hebden
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1964 as Issue 139

5737: Jet Menace

The Spits and the Hurris couldn’t get near the pilotless V1 flying bombs. So the Typhoons and the Tempests were rushed into the air.
    They did the job and were just getting their breath back when another menace appeared in the sky. A new jet, with a pilot this time. A plane they couldn’t touch, one that blasted them to pieces and then vanished without a trace.
    Ken Barr was an avid body-builder and often modelled for Commando covers, but while he was known for his amazing figure work, his covers featuring aircraft are not to be overlooked as the Glaswegian was a master of his craft!

Story: Newark
Art: Amador
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1967 as Issue 287

5738: Battle Crazy

Pilot Officer Peter Culver flew his hurricane slowly over a row of parked Me 109s, fired a
short burst to let them know he was there, then circled over the Nazi air base, waiting. They’d be coming up for him soon, and the odds would be twenty to one. They would shoot him and his plane to pieces, and he didn’t care...
    Issue 5738 ‘Battle Crazy’ is the final issues in the set dedicated to Ken Barr, and you’ll be crazy about it! It was the reader’s request to have more reprint sets dedicated to our artist and Commando was only too happy to oblige!

Story: Wilkinson
Art: Ken Barr
Cover: Ken Barr
First Published 1968 as Issue 330

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 27 March 2024

New readers start here! The new issue of 2000 AD has been precision-tooled for those hungry to discover why it’s called the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic – with bitingly good stories from top comics talent!

Acclaimed Scalped and Django Unchained artist R.M. Guera heads the new issue’s stunning creative line-up alongside Suicide Squad and Petrol Head writer Rob Williams, Alex de Campi (Dracula, Motherf**ker!), Eduardo Ocaña (Messiah Complex), Simon Davis (The Royal Society of Portrait Painters), and many more in a special bumper issue.

2000 AD #2375 is a 48-page special on sale from 27 March, with a bold new cover by Hitman artist John McCrea and colourist Jack Davies.

This latest issue is designed to make it easy for new readers to pick up 2000 AD, with a mix of brand new stories and ongoing series that showcase the best the GGC has to offer!

Reunited on Judge Dredd for the first time since 2014’s ‘The Man Comes Around’, Williams and Guera’s new story, ’First Man Up’, is the prelude to their forthcoming thriller ‘Rend & Tear with Tooth & Claw’, which begins in 2000 AD #2376, on sale 3 April.

Supported by colourist Julia Brusco and letterer Annie Parkhouse, ’First Man Up’ sees Dredd plunge into the dangerous streets of Mega-City One to select a Cadet Judge for a new, top secret mission – but what many-fanged horrors await them in the coming weeks?

There is the senses-expanding return of alien space Imperium super-agent Proteus Vex in ‘Devious’ by Michael Carroll (Dreadnoughts) and Jake Lynch (Judge Dredd). As the centuries-long war between the Alliance and the Obdurate people ends, Vex is now wanted, missing, and presumed dead...

With the announcement of the Rogue Trooper movie in 2025, it’s the perfect time to discover the missions of the lone blue-skinned Genetic Infantryman and, in the complete story ‘War Child’, writer David Barnett (Eve Stranger), artist Paul Marshall (Judge Dredd), colourist Pippa Bowland and letterer Jim Campbell reveal the all-too-harsh realities of life on war-torn Nu Earth.

Meanwhile, Alex de Campi, Eduardo Ocaña, Eva De La Cruz and Annie Parkhouse continue the space opera on Full Tilt Boogie as teenage bounty hunter Tee, her grandmother and cat – as well as their unintended passengers, a prince and a resurrected warrior – seek refuge but find their troubles only multiplying; and Kek-W, Lee Carter and Jim Campbell step into a world where everything really is black-and-white in reality-warping saga Indigo Prime.

Plus there’s the mind-shattering conclusion of the latest series of fully-painted folk horror Thistlebone, ‘The Dule Tree’ by T.C. Eglington and Simon Davies.

2000 AD #2375 is a 48-page special on sale from 27 March from all good comic book stores and newsagents, as well as digitally through the 2000 AD webshop and app.

The full line-up appears below, along with details of this week's other releases...

2000AD Prog 2375

Cover: John McCrea / Jack Davies

: JUDGE DREDD // FIRST MAN UP by Rob Williams (w) RM Guera (a) Giulia Brusco (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
NEW: ROGUE TROOPER // WAR CHILD by David Barnett (w) Paul Marshall (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Jim Campbell (l)
NEW: PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Essential Rogue Trooper: Genetic Infantryman by Gerry Finley-Day (w), Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson & Cam Kennedy (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786108-8, 26 March 2024, 160pp, £21.99. Available via Amazon.

The first of a new series in the Essential line featuring 2000 AD’s legendary war machine, Rogue Trooper!
    Rogue Trooper is the last of the G.I.s – genetically-engineered infantrymen designed to withstand the noxious atmosphere of Nu-Earth, a planet ravaged by the conflict between Norts and Southers. A lone survivor of the Quartz Massacre, equipped with the bio-chips of his fallen clone brothers, he crosses the war-torn landscape in search of the Traitor General, the man responsible for their deaths – and will not rest until he has his revenge!

Hellman of Hammer Force: Downfall
by Gerry Finley-Day (w), Jim Watson, Mike Dorey & Patrick Wright (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786098-2, 28 March 2024, 128pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

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

Friday, March 22, 2024

Comic Cuts — 22 March 2024

The week started badly, with Mel feeling poorly and then testing positive for Covid. Then I received a message on Monday from the printers of BEYOND THE VOID to say that the order was "running late" but with no indication, why, how long, or whether the books would arrive in time for me to take them up to the Paperback & Pulp Book Fair on Sunday (the 24th — I'll post details below if you fancy coming along).

Thankfully, the books arrived on Wednesday, which I don't mind telling you was a huge relief.

I will not be taking many copies with me as I'm travelling up by train, and some are already spoken for, but at least people will be able to see a real, live copy. I will also hopefully have some copies of THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON, so if you want one, let me know, and I'll keep it to one side. I will be doing a "show special" price to try and make sure that I'm not carrying books home with me at the end of the day. I won't be bringing up any other books from my catalogue, unless you ask — you'll save some postage and I won't have to pay fees to PayPal, eBay or Amazon, so it's a win-win situation.

With Forgotten Authors almost finished, I was working on a possible cover on Tuesday. It didn't turn out as good as I wanted, so I'm going to have another bash at taking some photographs, but I have to confess that our living room isn't the best place to take photos. I might have to revert back to the old design (which was deliberately the same design with variations) or go for something entirely new.

I have done a couple of interviews this week. One with Justin Marriott for the pages of Paperback Fanatic and a video interview with Jules Burt for his video channel — there was a moment of panic when we thought the sound hadn't recorded but everything turned out fine. I think Jules is planning to put it up next Friday, so I'll post a link.

Since nobody else seems to want to talk to me (I'm not bitter!) I've a couple of 'Ask Steve' videos to put up and another fun little item that I'm thinking of putting up next week — I've just got to work out the best time to post it.

I have a piece to write for The Guardian, so there might be a small gap in my ceaseless promotion of BEYOND THE VOID. I'm still posting a picture a day to the new Bear Alley Books Facebook page. If you haven't joined, please do — the more the merrier.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the Book Fair on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Rebellion Releases – 20 March 2024

At the very end of 2023, the legendary artist John M Burns sadly passed away. While well known amongst 2000 AD fans for his extensive work on stories including Judge Dredd, The Order, and Nikolai Dante, Burns’ career spanned six decades and endeared him to generations of readers thanks to enthralling and enchanting work on TV tie-ins such as Champion The Wonder Horse, Doctor Who, Mission Impossible, Buck Rogers, Magnum P.I., as well as Dan Dare and Kelpie the Boy Wizard, plus phenomenally successful newspaper strips such as The Seekers, Danielle, George & Lynne, Jane, and Modesty Blaise.

Whether pen and ink or fully-painted, John’s work brought so much joy, evoked so much admiration and respect from fans and his peers alike. A true artist’s artist, he was someone whose work is instantly recognisable and someone who maintained the highest quality throughout that extraordinarily long career full of page after page of perfect comic art.

In the latest episode of the 2000AD Thrill-Cast, Michael Molcher and a panel of guests – Tim Quinn is a comics writer and editor who worked with John for many years, Sean Phillips is a multi-award winning artist, Robbie Morrison is the co-creator and writer of Nikolai Dante, and Paul Duncan is an editor and writer working on a book about John’s extraordinary legacy – pay tribute to this extraordinary talent. Together, they paint a vivid picture of the man, his work, and his legacy.

You can find the latest Thrill-Cast here, or via your normal podcast feeds.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2374
Cover: Toby Willsmer.

JUDGE DREDD // A DIMENSIONAL TRAVELLER'S GUIDE TO MEGA-CITY ONE by Ken Niemand (w) Joe Currie (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #466
Cover: Patrick Goddard & Len O'Grady.

JUDGE DREDD: RAVENOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Anthony Williams (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEMARCO, PI: NO SMOKE by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
TALES FROM THE BLACK MUSEUM: AESTHETE by Liam Johnson (w) Cam Smith (a) Jim Campbell (l)
HELLMAN OF HAMMER FORCE by Gerry Finley-Day (w) Mike Dorey (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)
DEVLIN WAUGH: NIGHTCLUBBING by Aleš Kot (w) Steven Austin (a) Matt Soffe (c) Simon Bowland (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: CALHAB COUNTRY by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, March 15, 2024

Comic Cuts

Let's talk about a classic of science fiction:
"Not long got back home to discover a copy of Steve Holland's latest magnum opus – I should say, mega-magnum opus – his history and study of Badger Books, BEYOND THE VOID. This is astonishing as it not only looks at the whole history of Badger Books – not just the sf and supernatural series but everything else – war, westerns, hospital romances etc etc – and goes into great detail revealing many identities behind pseudonyms and reproducing masses of covers and illustrations. No self-respecting collection should be without this.  Well done, Steve. An astonishing job." — Mike Ashley, 8 March 2024.

Yes, BEYOND THE VOID is officially on sale, although I've set the publication date as 25 March so that I have a chance to get some copies in hand and get some others distributed to people who have taken me up on my pre-publication offer of 10% off the cover price.

So a couple of copies bound for America went in the post on Tuesday (Mike, to whom the book was dedicated, got one of the early copies) and others will be ordered up from the printer over the next few days. I have an order in for copies that will be heading here so that I have copies to hand to take to the Book Fair on 24 March, but they'll be in limited supply. Best get your order in sooner rather than later.

I'll also be taking copies of THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON to the Fair, including a small number of hardbacks. I have three left, so if you want one let me know sooner rather than later.

A copy of Sinister House has arrived from Stark House Press, who rescue out of print hard boiled crime novels. Publisher Graham Shepard got in touch in May 2023 asking if he could reprint a Bear Alley post as an introduction; instead, I revamped the whole thing so that Greg had something new to print. It proved to be an interesting story, as Booth was British-born but lived most of his life in Canada and the USA, becoming a  naturalized American citizen in 1927.

Sinister House (1926) was his first novel, a mystery, but I've argued that his use of dialogue and criminal argot makes him one of the first hard-boiled writers, following in the footsteps of Carroll John Daly, who penned what is recognised as the first hard-boiled story in 1922 and created the first hard-boiled detective in Race Williams. Booth's novels were mysteries and thrillers rather than hard-boiled, some even featuring a comical French policeman, and his eight novels are all but forgotten today. He was probably better known as a screenwriter, and he won the Academy Award for The House on 92nd Sttreet (1945).

The book came out in February, meaning the intro. takes the prize for being the first piece of mine published in 2024, although that is going to be immediately followed by BEYOND THE VOID and, very shortly, by FORGOTTEN AUTHORS Volume 5. I think I had 17 pieces published last year, and one book (THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON), and I'm hoping to beat that total this year.

On Wednesday I finished compiling the index to FORGOTTEN AUTHORS Volume 5, so the text is now complete. All I have to do is sort out a cover. I have an idea what to do, but it will depend a lot on whether I can get some good photographs. Wish me luck. I still need to get printed proofs, so we're not quite finished yet.

Wednesday and Thursday were Dune days. We re-watched the first part of Denis Villeneuve's mighty (and sandy) saga on Wednesday evening and we're off to see part two at the cinema this evening. I re-watched  Blade Runner 2049 earlier in the week and Arrival not so long back. Villeneuve must be the best director of SF movies around at the moment, which makes me hope that, once he's done with Dune** he'll get back to Rendezvous with Rama. Good as that might be, I still think Eon by Greg Bear would make a fantastic movie or TV series... it, too, starts with a Big Object arriving in the solar system, a la Rama, and would tie in nicely with another of Villeneuve's upcoming projects, Cleopatra (you'll have to read the novel to see why).

(** He's writing part three at the moment, but has no intention of taking the story further... only Alejandro Jodorowsky should be allowed to tackle the mess that the later series became (I gave up after Dune and Dune Messiah)

It's six-fifteen Thursday evening at the moment and I'm due at the cinema at eight, so I'm going to have to bring this to a close.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Commando 5731-5734

Commando Issues 5731-5734 are on sale from today, Thursday 14th March, 2024!

5731: Leg Before Chindits

Major Charles Beevor thought his hope was all out as he led a depleted group of Chindits deep into the jungles of Burma. Surrounded by the Japanese and cut off from British lines, only the support of Subedar Singh and their mutual love of cricket could save the day. Together, they were out for six and would not stop until the Japanese threat was bowled over!

Cricket puns ahoy! Troy Martin bowls us over in his writing debut for his first Commando about Chindits in Burma. Marc Viure returns to work on interior artwork in his second-ever Commando and Keith Burns is on top form for covers!

Story: T Martin
Art: Marc Viure
Cover: Keith Burns

5732: Hide and Seek

They called it “Monte Morte”— Mountain of Death. Dark and brooding, its mighty bulk towered over the plains of central Italy. It had claimed many lives over the years of peacetime, but that was nothing to what was to happen on its slopes when war came.
And two men — one British, one Italian — joined forces to fight on this savage mountain against a common foe — Nazis! This is their brave story...

A powerhouse trio of contributors feature in issue 5732 Hide and Seek, with the prolific CG Walker on story, J Fuente, one of the legendary Fuente brothers, on interior artwork, and the issue is graced by an instantly recognisable cover by Jordi Penalva.

Story: CG Walker
Art: J Fuente
Cover: Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 505

5733: Magic Moment

Egypt, 1942. While the battle for El Alamein raged, two magicians were locked in a battle of wits. On opposite sides of the war, they had been tasked with acts of deception — fooling the enemy with magical feats of misdirection.
And now it was time for their next illusion… but which one of them would pull off the biggest magic trick of the Second World War?!

This issue was inspired by true events of misdirection employed in the Desert War of World War Two, and Rossa McPhillips casts an enchanting spell in yet another of his stories. Juan Fernandez makes his debut on interior artwork, bringing a flare for the dramatic in his first-ever Commando!

Story: Rossa McPhillips
Art: Juan Fernandez
Cover: Alejandro Perez Mesa

5734: Fighting Fool!

As a member of a group of hit-and-run raiders operating behind enemy lines, Corporal Mike Braddon knew a man needed strong nerves and raw courage to survive.
But he also had the common sense to realise that charging blindly into battle wasn’t the answer. That’s where he disagreed with Private Joe Russel whose bull-at-the-gate attitude marked him down as a fighting fool — and a danger to all!

Classic Commando adventures aplenty in issue 5734, with two men at odds and one being deemed a coward! Jeff Bevan and Philpott shine on interiors and cover duties but will McDevitt’s story work out in the end? Read it to find out!

Story: McDevitt
Art: Philpott
Cover: Jeff Bevan
First Published 1981 as Issue 1566

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 13 March 2024

It’s the story that’s shocked readers and shaken Dredd’s world – and now you can grab every episode of ‘Judge Dredd: A Better World’ in one print or digital bundle.

It’s ‘defund the police’ comes to Mega-City One as writers Rob Williams and Arthur Wyatt, with artist Henry Flint, craft a taut political thriller in which a large-scale experiment by Justice Department accountant Judge Maitland threatens to destroy the very power of the Judges themselves – but with so much at stake she has made some powerful enemies…

A ground-breaking, heart-breaking story of hope, fear, politics and pathos, ‘A Better World’ is the modern Judge Dredd classic you do NOT want to miss.

Get 2000 AD issues #2364-2372 in a single bundle and prepare to be blown away by three creators at the top of their game on one of comics’ biggest characters.

Praise for ‘Judge Dredd: A Better World’:
“Please excuse me while I pick my jaw up after that one” – Comics Beat

“Taut, pointed and bizarre, like much of the best Dredd … Flint is a trippy-noir marvel” – Kieron Gillen

“Destined to rock Dredd’s world to its very core” – Geeky Brummie

“How many different ways do I have to say it? This is one of THOSE Dredd stories, one that will reverberate across the series for many years to come. Stellar plotting and scripts from Williams and Wyatt, coupled with career-high artwork from Flint have made this one just a great read” –
And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2373
Cover: Stewart K. Moore

JUDGE DREDD // R.U.R. by Ken Niemand (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd: A Penitent Man
by Kenneth Niemand (w) Tom Foster (a) Chris Blythe (c)
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786097-5, 13 March 2024, 144pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

Former Judge Kyle Asher returns from the penal colony on Titan after serving twenty years. Working as a third-class sludge technician he is determined to prove that he can still serve the city he swore an oath to, Judge Dredd is not so sure of him, and questions whether there is such a thing as a penitent man in a place like Mega-City One. However the SJS, the Judges Internal Affairs division, are determined to run Asher out of town, and Dredd wants to know the reason why!

Friday, March 08, 2024

Comic Cuts – 8 March 2024

Finally, I can announce a release date for Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books which will be available from 25 March. I've picked that date because the day before, Sunday, 24 March, is the Paperback & Pulp Book Fair at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in Coram Street, London. The fair sits alongside the Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair, so there will be something for everyone to browse through.

I need to get an idea how many copies I need to print, ready for the Book Fair – my back will only take so much strain as I'll be travelling up by train – and for launch day. In order to get some pre-orders, I have set up a new Bear Alley Books Facebook group to keep people up-to-date with news and to inform people how to pay ... it's by PayPal.

Incidentally, I have finally figured out why the buttons on the Bear Alley Books web page still work but I can't generate new ones. It's not Google or Blogger that's the problem, as I thought, but PayPal itself, who changed their nice and easy to use button set-up so you now have to sign up to a developer and sandbox system before  you can generate any buttons. Being an occasional user of said buttons, I must have missed the memo informing me of the new requirements, and I've only just – Thursday morning, some three years on – learned about it. I might explore further as I like the buttons (click, pay, that's it). But as with all things new, I'm a bit nervous!

At the time of writing – it's 7 o'clock on Thursday evening – the Bear Alley FB group has 68 members! I've had three orders for books, although no money has come through yet, so I can't call them sales. I'll be keeping a close eye on the group over the weekend as I'm here on my own (Mel is off at a convention).

The price for the book is £21.99 plus p&p – it's 172 pages full colour but I'm keeping the price as low as I can. If you pre-order you can get 10% off the cover price, so the total is £23.99 including p&p in the UK. If you take up the hand delivery at the Book Fair offer, it still counts as a pre-order, and costs £19.80. Drop me a line at the email address at the top left (below the photo) and I'll point you at my Paypal account.

The only other news worth mentioning is that the essays for the latest Forgotten Authors volume are done and I've just started working on the index. They take ages and I'm trying to promote the Beyond the Void book at the moment, but I'll have more news on that next week.

We're up to 72 members and I've just received by first SALE! I'm off to make dinner and watch some TV.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 6 March 2024


As Marshal of Badrock, Metta Lawson saved the town she has come to love from being annihilated by the corrupt corporation Munce Inc., established it as a thriving haven of free trade, and brokered an uneasy peace with the enigmatic Zhind race. Now, having resigned her position as Marshal, Metta faces a new kind of fight, a political battle for the mayorship of Badrock.

But without Metta enforcing the law, things aren’t looking good for Badrock. The mysterious Mr Roke continues to establish a hold over the citizens of the town through his protection racket, the town’s major employer, Getz, is conducting shady experiments with potentially disastrous consequences, and the SJS continues to work to undermine the fragile balance that Lawson managed to establish before her resignation.

Dan Abnett (Aquaman, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Phil Winslade’s (Howard the Duck, Wonder Woman) frontier epic continues in this fifth action packed volume!

Available from 31 July 2024, but the book can now be pre-ordered from the 2000AD website or from Amazon.

2000AD Prog 2372
Cover: Alex Ronald.

JUDGE DREDD // A BETTER WORLD by Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt (w) Henry Flint (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INDIGO PRIME // BLACK MONDAY by Kek-W (w) Lee Carter (a) Jim Campbell (l)
THISTLEBONE // THE DULE TREE by T.C. Eglington (w) Simon Davis (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD // RETRIBUTION by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
FULL TILT BOOGIE // BOOK TWO by Alex de Campi (w) Eduardo Ocana (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monster Fun #17
Cover: Chris Garbutt.

GUMS by Stacey Whittle (w) Brett Parson (a+l)
KID KONG by Alec Worley (w) Karl Dixon (a+l)
HELL'S ANGEL by Chris Garbutt (w+a+l)
SPACE INVADED! by John Lucas (w+a) Barbara Nosenzo (c) H.A. O’Millar (l)
PEACHES' CREATURES by Ned Hartley (w) Dan Boultwood (a+c) Sarah Fimm (l)
MARTHA'S MONSTER MAKE-UP by Dave Bulmer (w) Abigail Bulmer (a+c)
WITCH VS WARLOCK by Derek Fridolfs (w) Rebecca Morse (a+c) Ozwaldo Sanchez (l)
REX POWER by Ramzee (w) Claude TC (a+c) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (l)
MOLLY'S MUMMY by Alec Worley (w) Rositsa Vangelova (a+c) Niall Deltah (l)

Friday, March 01, 2024

Comic Cuts - 1 March 2024

Finally, I'm back onto the Forgotten Authors book after a lengthy distraction. I wanted to write something that I could dip in and out of while I was trying to sort out my laptop, and it rather took over the last two weeks.

It wasn't even the thing I planned to write. I have been thinking about how to follow-up the Badger book, and one of the ideas is to do a similar sort of thing about Curtis Warren, a contemporary paperback publisher plus some connected threads. I've already written up one tie-in piece about a company that they shared offices with, and I have been meaning for years to write a piece about the advertising in their books — if you've picked up any titles published by the firm, you'll instantly recognise the ads for bamboo growing and for the lucky Cornish piskie, Joan the Wad.

The background to both businesses is quite interesting... but when I began digging into it, I discovered there was a connection to Wivenhoe, and to Wivenhoe Hall, a large estate that existed until the 1920s, that was just around the corner from where I live. Being easily distracted, I took a look into that connection, discovered it involved a family of conmen, and ended up writing an 11,000-word history of them that I only managed to complete on Monday.

It still needs to be thoroughly checked over, but I'm thinking of handing the results to the local Historical Society who I contacted to find some details.

Maybe I'll get back to the article I intended writing at some point. As long as it doesn't involve the laptop crashing again!

So it's back to volume five of Forgotten Authors and a read-through of a couple of essays I hadn't managed to rewrite before the Big Crash. (They're safely restored, by the way, and I'm in the process—literally as I write—of backing stuff up to a newly purchased Micro SD card. This one will hopefully work as I've picked a name brand and paid quite a bit for it. I was scammed a couple of months ago, buying a 1tb card for a remarkably cheap price through Amazon which looked legit, but turned out to be a crooked operation.

The card arrived loose in a small padded bag, which set off alarm bells, so I set to copying a load of music. It took a little while to realise that the card had filled and had no more space, despite what the card itself was claiming. I reformatted it and tried again, but had the same problem. At which point I reformatted it again and returned it. Whatever you have to say about Amazon, they refunded my money the moment I had the card back in the post.

If this works I'll buy a couple more and keep them safely stored away with up-to-date back-ups. Hope for the best — that my laptop doesn't crap out again — but plan for the worst, is my motto, and it stood me proud this time as I have managed to restore everything on the laptop without losing much. There are some e-mails that have gone forever, but even there the bulk of my e-mails are safe.

It hasn't all been work. I  had a very nice meal out on Saturday for someone's birthday and then everyone piled back to Wiv for cake and conversation, mostly about cake but also catching up with Alex Stewart, who tells me that he's working on a new Ciaphas Cain novel to add to what's already a fantastic series of nine novels. There hasn't been a new one since 2013, so I'm really looking forward to it appearing, probably next year depending on how many cake-breaks the author takes.

I'm trying to read more this year, and I'm already two-thirds of the way through one of my Christmas presents — Irontown Blues by John Varley, whose work I love; he was a newcomer around the time I started reading SF seriously in the mid-1970s and I read everything I could as it came out. There was a crash in the SF market here in the UK in the 1990s that wiped out British editions of a lot of American writers. Varley was one of them, so I had to buy the Ace editions of his later novels. Irontown Blues came out in a trade paperback edition in 2018 and, like many I expect, I waited for the 'C' format paperback so that it matched the others. It didn't come, and by the time I realised it was already nigh on impossible to buy over here.

Finally I bit the bullet and asked for the trade paperback for Christmas and Mel came through. Irontown Blues mixes my two favourite genres: science fiction and crime noir; its set in Varley's Eight Worlds universe, intersects plotwise with another of his finest books, Steel Beach, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

It's sad to think that this could be Varley's last book, He's retired from writing and living on social security and small royalty payouts. A potential animated version of his Titan series (Titan, Wizard, Demon) failed to achieve its goal on Kickstarter — badly publicised? I only saw it mentioned on one website. The books came out forty years ago and are long out of print, so the failure of the Kickstarter was perhaps inevitable.

I like to think that he's secretly working on another book, quietly, steadily, and carefully avoiding any mention of it, having seen the growing trend of entitled fans who think complaining that an author is too slow will make them write faster (cf. Varley's contemporary, George R. R. Martin). Says the guy who has rambled through nearly 1,000 words of nonsense rather than getting his nose to the grindstone to finish off the last of the Forgotten Authors essays.

Time to get on with it, or I might be distracted into telling you all about the futuristic, space-age kettle we've just bought.


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