Friday, June 28, 2024

Comic Cuts — 28 June 2024

As we wave goodbye to the first half of the year, I'm rather frustrated that I failed to get a second book out. Waiting on the second proof of HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES, I received a message from the printer saying that it was running late, along with the rest of my order (I needed a few books for stock). No revised schedule for when it will be dispatched, just "Your order is running late. We apologize that your order has not printed and shipped as quickly as we originally estimated."

These things happen, I guess, but that doesn't make me any happier about it.

With that aside, it has been a fun week, starting last Thursday with a trip down the pub for an open-air comedy gig at the Wivenhoe Funny Farm. There's a big, wooden gazebo at the back of the pub, open-sided so that people can also see the acts if they're sitting in the large tent on side or the pub garden on the other. It's a great venue if the weather is kind.

This month's acts were Jake Baker, Hazel Donovan and Robin Ince, compared by Hazel Humphreys. It might have been the longest day of the year, but the gig still managed to clash with the football as England drew against Denmark on their way to becoming one of the most disappointing success stories of the Euros — they're through to the next round but nobody seems to be happy about it. Come on, this is England we're talking about! (That's my football bants for this year.)

The gig started half an hour later, but as it was originally scheduled for six-thirty, that actually worked in our favour, as it gave Mel a chance to get home and to eat something before we had to rush out. All acts were very good and Robin Ince now has a copy of BEYOND THE VOID. Robin mentioned lending a John E. Muller to Frank Skinner, so the number of secret Badger fans is increased by one (I already knew Robin was a fan!).

Our attempt to visit the pram race on Friday was a resounding failure as we started out late, weren't sure where it started from or where it ended. We figured both out, but only in the aftermath of people milling around. And it was more of a wheelbarrow race than a pram race.

Still, we took the opportunity to go and look at the gallery opening of a new exhibition featuring watercolouro art by Emma Wren and Hanna Buck, plus some ceramic by Frankie Atkinson, at The Old Grocery. I wrote about the building ten years ago – scroll down and you'll see a couple of pictures. For some years the place was empty, but it's now a little gallery and has had some very nice exhibitions over the past couple of years.

This one was dominated by watercolours of flowers, colourful, vibrant and calming after our disappointing dash around the lower end of town (and not even a drink to show for it!).

After fourteen years living in Wivenhoe, we finally managed to see the annual Regatta, with its swarm of sailing boats and a lot of stalls set up along the quays. As the nearest I've ever got to sailing is reading Swallows and Amazons, I was prepared for a disappointing hour of boating types clogging up the roads, but it turned out to be a delightful hour of everyone just having a good time in the sunshine.

There were bands, food stalls, arts and crafts stalls, drinks, clubs, a charity tombola, a first responders training class, various stalls promoting everything from the local youth football team to the Freemasons, lots of food stalls, drinks stalls, expensive ice creams (£5 for a 99!) and—the first thing I spotted—a secondhand book stall. Drawn like an object into a black hole, I promptly spent my pocket money on a few books, including a couple of British Library Crime Classics that I didn't have, and two books by Alan Villiers, whose name I recognised as a contributor to Look and Learn.

The book-sellers were raising money for the Nottage Maritime Institute, which is a small museum dedicated to maritime history and the history of Wivenhoe's shipyards, boat building by hand, models, paintings and—useful to me—an extensive library. I was there on Tuesday trying to find a photo of a building, now demolished, called Wivenhoe Hall to use as an illustration for a forthcoming article.

In between, I have been filling in my time doing a little write-up on a guy called Philip Shoosmith and getting to grips with the history of an old paperback publisher called Scion. I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that I can put together another paperback history along the lines of the Badger one, although it will depend on what cover scans I have and what I can get. I have a feeling it might take a while as I have only a couple of handfuls rather than the 500 I had for Badger.

No time for gardener's corner... let's just say that there are now two corners and one is filling up nicely with new grass. More on that next week.


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 26 June 2024

War Has Been Declared!

This September, the Nort Army are setting out to conquer the 2000 AD Multiverse - and it's going to take some unlikely allies to stop them!

The massive crossover event story Nordland Rising will see Rogue Trooper's oldest enemies invade multiple different storylines from across 2000 AD's history, as they take on Judge Dredd, Bad Company, Fiends of the Eastern Front, The VCs and more. Spread across 2000 AD Prog 2400 and Judge Dredd Megazine 472, this is an all-out action assault - and The Norts aren't taking any prisoners!

Featuring stories from Ken Niemand, John McCrea, Peter Milligan, Ian Edginton, Nick Percival, Dan Abnett, Gordon Rennie, Simon Coleby, and more, Nordland Rising will see the return of familiar faces including Jaegir and Major Eazy as the War begins in 2000 AD and then crosses over for the epic climax in Judge Dredd Megazine. With both issues out on the 18th September, readers will be able to read the whole saga in one go - a veritable overdose of Thrill-power!

This is a great way to jump onboard 2000 AD for the first time and get a blast of action from some of The Galaxy's Greatest writers and artists. Easily accessible for new readers - but packed with surprises for long-term fans - the crossover will then be followed by 2000 AD Prog 2401: a jump-on issue featuring the return of Garth Ennis and Patrick Goddard on Rogue Trooper; the follow up to Judge Dredd: A Better World from Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt and Jake Lynch, and the return of fan-favourite series The Out for an all-new run!
It's never been a better time to become a regular reader of 2000 AD - or as we call it, a "Squaxx dek Thargo"! That is... assuming we escape The Norts in one piece...

Nordland Rising will begin in 2000 AD 2400 on the 18th September, and conclude the same day in Judge Dredd Megazine 472. Make sure to grab both halves of the story, Earthlets!

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2388
Cover: Andy Clarke.

JUDGE DREDD // RADICALISED by Ken Niemand (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S TERROR TALES // THE ESSENCE OF THE PIECE by Ed Whiting (w) Sinu Senan (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ROGUE TROOPER // SOUTHER BELLE by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

  • 26 Jun. The latest 2000AD Thrill-Cast is a lengthy interview with John Higgins. "From drawing dead bodies to colouring two of the biggest graphic novels of all time, the artistic career of John Higgins can only be described as unique. Even after decades in the industry, the 2000 AD great is still hard at work – with the second book of Judge Dredd prequel series 'Dreadnoughts' underway, John talks to the 2000 AD Thrill-Cast about his work, from his thoughts on 'Watchmen' and 'Batman: The Killing Joke' to 'Judge Dredd' and beyond..." Available as a podcast and also as a video (2h).
  • 19 Jun. Tom Shapira reviews Rebellion's Hugo Pratt collection The Iron Fist. "Other than Corto Maltese, a series that was fully translated by IDW / EuroComics in one of the noblest efforts for bettering the world of English-speaking comics, and the single-volume graphic novel The Man from the Great North, most of Pratt’s work remains untranslated. I’ll take the scraps offered by War Picture Library over staying hungry."
  • 18 Jun. Due to appear perhaps as early as August, Watchmen a two-movie adaptation of the Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons series, with the second part due in 2025.
  • ... and if you want to hear what Alan Moore sounds like playing Rorschach, you only have to look here. (video, 2m)
  • 13 Jun. Garth Ennis talks Battle Action with Nick Fausti of Previews. "What I always liked about the classic Rogue Trooper was the sense of tragedy hanging in the background - the godawful massacre of his entire regiment that drove his quest for revenge, his only comrades now dead men encoded on microchips in his equipment. You always knew that Gunnar, Bagman and Helm were that bit more determined to find the Traitor General than Rogue."
  • ... Talking of Garth, Eric Kripke has announced that Prime Video's adaptation of The Boys will end with season five, tweeting "Seaon 4 Premiere Week is a good time to announce: Season 5 will be the Final Season. Always my plan. I just had to be cagey till I got the final OK from Vought."

Friday, June 21, 2024

Comic Cuts — 21 June 2024

I mentioned last week that I was juggling a couple of projects. Well, I'm pleased to say that the problems I was facing with one were fairly quickly resolved and the second is completed.

The latter is something I want to keep close to my chest for the moment as it involves licensing some material, but I'm very excited about it.

The other is by a collector friend and is about female detectives in early crime fiction (1841-1920) and my involvement has been glancing, just shepherding the book through from 460 or so pages of heavily researched text, to printed copy. Whether I have been successful or not is still up in the air as I've arranged for a proof to be sent to the author. Whether the book becomes generally or privately available will be up to him, but I will say that it's an amazing bit of research.

Because I wanted to spread my costs, I was waiting for the other book to be finished before I put in a print order for some restocks and the second print proof of HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES. Proofs can take a while to come through, so I have been pottering around doing some research into old paperback publishers, or, more specifically, the backgrounds of some of the people who ran the publishing houses. Sounds easier than it proved to be as I spent the whole of Tuesday afternoon and into the evening trying to find the family connection between the founder of Scion Ltd. (B Z Immanuel) and its later manager (Lou Benjamin). I always thought they were brothers-in-law, but that isn't the case. (What a place to bring this astonishing anecdote to an end! All I can say is that the familial link will be revealed one day.)

I've had a couple of books arrive from overseas. The first is a collection of a delightful animal/nature strip by Eduardo Teixeira Coelho — who drew a few strips in the UK in the late 1950s — entitled A Lei da Selva [The Law of the Jungle]. This is a recent (2016) reprint by Libri Impressi from the Portuguese children's magazine O Mosquito in 1948. I have to confess that my Portuguese is limited pretty much to recognising Coelho's name, the magazine the strip appeared in and the date it appeared. But it's one of those stories with a block of text under the pictures, so I can get the gist of what looks like the story of an orphaned lion cub that grows up to join a pride. I think.

I'm on safer ground with ¡Combate! by Aitor Marcet. It's in Spanish and I'm as lost with Spanish as I am with Portuguese, but I had a small part in the book, so I know that it is about Spanish artists who worked for British war comics. There have been 100+ Spanish artists who worked for War, Battle, Air Ace and Commando — with artists like Vicente Alcazar, Carlos Pino and Manuel Benet still drawing regularly for the latter.

The fact that I recognise a lot of the names makes looking through the text interesting. So Air Ace artist Juan Abellan gets a mention, an artist I knew nothing about, but I can understand some of his career, his education interrupted by the Civil War, working in the 1950s for titles like Chicos and for the UK via Seleciones Illustradas. There's information on dozens of artists, which makes me wish that there was an English-language version of the book.

The book ends with a series of interviews carried out in 2023, the artists including Alcazar, Pino, Benet, Amador Garcia, Josep Nebot, Lopez Espi, Luis Collado Coch, Isidre Mones, plus some bloke called Steve Holland.

There are a couple of hundred pictures over the book's 130 pages, which amply illustrate the artists under discussion and more. We need more books like this... preferably in a language I can read!

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Commando 5759-5762

Commando's latest issues are on sale today, Thursday 20th June, 2024! Featuring mysterious desert tanks, air battles over Korea, a British officer turned coward, and the return of Warlord's Kampfgruppe Falken to comics pages!

5759: Kampfgruppe Falken: The Point Of No Return

The Original Warlord character storms back into comics! In 1940, Major Heinz Falken was a panzer commander court martialled for refusing to massacre refugees in the Blitzkrieg of France. As punishment, Falken was sentenced to serve in a penal battalion on the brutal Eastern Front, under the cruel command of General Heiss.
    Between Heiss’ cruelty, the fearsome resistance, and the extreme weather, Falken has it cut out for him and his men. But when an unexpected person from Falken’s past crops up, he’ll have to choose between survival or leaving his humanity behind!
    We are excited to announce the return of Kampfgruppe Falken to comics, as the original Warlord character is back in the pages of Commando! Join Major Heinz Falken as he fights for survival after his exile to the Eastern Front! Penned by Dominic Teague with indomitable artwork by the legendary Manuel Benet.

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

5760: Desert Fox

“The Ghost” — that was the British soldiers’ nickname for the solitary German tank which would appear mysteriously out of the desert wastes to create havoc, and then just as strangely disappear. Its tracks could never be seen, and everybody reckoned it was unstoppable — everybody, that is, except Sergeant Greg Fox. Greg decided to hunt it down — armed with only a tommy gun and two grenades!
    Classic Commando from 1970 incoming! With the powerhouse trio of contributors on board, Eric Hebden on script, Galindo on interior artwork and the great Ian Kennedy on cover!

Story: E Hebden
Art: Galindo
Cover: Ian Kennedy
First Published 1970 as Issue 514

5761: Fallen Sabre

Inspired by true events...
    During the ferocious fighting of the air war in Korea, both Allied and Communist forces were desperate to gain any edge in battle. Soviet-built MiG-15s dueled with American F-86 Sabres in the skies known as “MiG Alley” — and they would stop at nothing to capture an enemy aircraft intact!
    Commando Issue 5761 is hot stuff from masterful writer James Swallow. With stunning interiors by Italian artist Paolo Ongaro and a vibrant and exciting cover by the amazing Neil Roberts!

Story: James Swallow
Art: Paolo Ongaro
Cover: Neil Roberts

5762: Don’t Shoot!

The sergeant couldn’t believe his ears when Lieutenant Ron Deal ordered the men to lay down their arms. This was the brave officer who led them from the battlefields of France to the scorching sands of the North African desert. He’d never been known to give in without a fight, so what was he up to now? Surely he hadn’t turned coward?
    Issue 5762 is a dynamic Commando reprint with another dream team of Commando contributors on board. With prolific writer CG Walker on the script, CT Rigby on the interior artwork and Jeff Bevan’s artwork on the cover!

Story: CG Walker
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Jeff Bevan
First Published 1982 as Issue 1600

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 19 June 2024

Christmas just got Thrill-powered again – Rebellion is proud to announce the return of the 2000 AD Annual!

After an absence of three decades, the first 2000 AD Annual of the 21st Century arrives in November – in plenty of time to make it under the tree – from all good comic book stores, as well as the 2000 AD webshop!

This gorgeous hardcover collection will feature a mix of brand new and classic stories from top creators – including John Wagner (A History of Violence), Alan Grant (Batman), Simon Spurrier (Hellblazer, Coda), Dan Abnett (Warhammer 40k), Phil Winslade (Lawless), Fernando Blanco (Detective Comics), Ian Gibson (Halo Jones), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Mick McMahon (The Last American), and Emma Vieceli (Life Is Strange).

It will come in two editions with stunning new covers bringing a fresh twist to the annuals of yesteryear – the standard edition will feature a bold, contemporary ensemble of 2000 AD’s greatest heroes by breakout Judge Dredd and Rok of the Reds artist Jake Lynch (Judge Dredd), while the 2000 AD webshop-exclusive edition will have a special retro cover by the legendary Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke), drawing his first 2000 AD Annual cover since 1983!

And, due to popular demand, the 2000 AD Annual will be joined by a brand new Treasury of British Comics Annual!

Last year’s sold out hardcover returns this November with three brand new stories from industry superstars, including Simon Furman (Transformers) and Mike Collins (Doctor Who) on Kelly's Eye, Alec Worley (Hook-Jaw) and Anna Morozova (Lowborn High) on Black Beth, and Paul Grist (Jack Staff) and Simon Williams (The HOFF: Heroes of Fearless Freedom) on Robot Archie.

Rebellion has delved in its vast archive to craft a selection of some of the greatest strips ever to appear in British comics – including Adam Eterno, Cursitor Doom, Stryker, and Major Eazy from such esteemed titles as, Scream!, Battle, Tiger, Valiant and Lion!

It too will come in two editions – the standard edition will feature a new cover by David Roach (Judge Anderson), while the Treasury of British Comics webshop-exclusive edition will be by Andreas Butzbach (The Thirteenth Floor).

After the runaway success of last year’s Treasury of British Comics Annual, these new hardcovers are bringing the proud tradition of annuals back with a vengeance for 2025 – guaranteeing maximum enjoyment this Christmas!

Matt Smith, editor of 2000 AD, said: “The 2000 AD Annual was the highlight of many a reader’s year, and often a staple Christmas present. In the past they’ve showcased some of the best stories to emerge from the House of Tharg, and I’m delighted to see the annual return, containing a mix of classic Thrills and bold new strips. I’m sure the 2025 edition will be top of every Earthlet’s list to Santa!”

Both weighing in at 112 pages, the 2000 AD Annual and Treasury of British Comics Annual for 2025 will be available from all good comic book stores in November, with order details appearing in August’s editions of Previews magazine.

They will also be available to pre-order from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops from Wednesday 19 June, with the standard editions alongside special webshop-exclusive editions featuring brand new covers from Brian Bolland and Andreas Butzbach.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2387
Cover: Nick Percival.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
ROGUE TROOPER // SOUTHER BELLE by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine #469
Cover: Alex Ronald.

JUDGE DREDD: HARD COPY by Alec Worley (w) Ben Willsher (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ARMITAGE: BULLETS FOR AN OLD MAN by Liam Johnson (w) Warren Pleece (a) Jim Campbell (l)
New! MEGA-CITY 2099: THE CUCKOOS by Ken Niemand (w) Conor Boyle (a) Simon Bowland (l)
JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC by Paul Jenkins (w) Marco Castiello (a) Jason Millet (c) Shawn Lee (l)
New! PANDORA PERFECT: PERFECT SOUNDS by Roger Langridge (w) Gary Welsh (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)
New! DEPARTMENT K: MECHA-CITY ONE by Ned Hartley (w) Mike Walters (a) Jim Campbell (l)
HARROWER SQUAD: URBAN ROTATION by David Baillie (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DREADNOUGHTS: NOTHING TO FEAR by Mike Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Kelpie the Boy Wizard by Ken Mennell & John Burns
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786170-5, 19 June 2024, 96pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

In days of old, when King Arthur reigned over Britain, there was at royal Camelot an apprentice sorcerer by the name of Kelpie.

Together with his venerable master, the great and powerful Merlin, Kelpie uses his magic to protect the kingdom from evil doers including The Raven and the Weird Sisters of Doon!

First published sixty years ago by Odhams press in Wham!, the complete saga of Kelpie the Boy Wizard channels Arthurian legend through a Harry Potter filter, presented through the gorgeous black and white artwork of John Burns.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Comic Cuts — 14 June 2024

I'm trying to juggle two projects at the moment but ran into a slight problem with one that I'm working on for another researcher/collector. What was meant to be a little help with printing ran into the buffers, just as I thought I had everything organized to print off a handful of books in order to spread the cost of postage (mentioned in last week's column).

So I'm back onto the other book which is tantalizingly close to being finished. Three introductory features written, of which two are designed, plus the artwork pages are all in place with just the page numbers to sort out. One of the sticking points was the title of the third feature and I woke up this (Thursday) morning and thought: "Pastmaster".  The perfect title. Amazing how the mind works.

I should have it finished by the end of the weekend: there's some PDF proofing to do before it goes to the printers to get a printed proof. Believe it or not, given the occasional typo that creeps in, I do try to keep errors out of my books. Sometimes I'm responsible for perpetuating mistakes, despite doing my best to double-check everything (this is why I'm so darn slow these days). Spelling is my curse and spell-checkers are only so good; worse, I'm a constant tinkerer, and shift things around as I write, so an explanation can sometimes end up appearing long after the thing that needs explaining. You hope to pick these things up when you read through, but the occasional brain glitch means that you see what you meant to write rather than what you've actually written.

I'm also prone to rambling off the topic.

The new book, HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES, features three stories drawn by Jesus Blasco, who has been my favourite artist since childhood. My first experience of Blasco was an episode of 'The Steel Claw' from 1968, but the artist had changed by the time I began buying Valiant regularly in the Boulderman era of the strip in late 1969. Blasco drew the last of the original run of the Claw strip, a little 3-parter, in May 1970 before switching over to 'Slave of the Screamer', which was the first full-length strip drawn by Blasco that I experienced. (Worth noting that it will shortly be released by Hibernia with an introduction by yours truly.)

Fans of Valiant from that time will remember the horror... not just of the strip but the fact that industrial action took the comic off the shelves for almost three months between November 1970 and February 1971. A number of strips, including 'Screamer' were wrapped up rather too quickly.

However, it did mean that Blasco went on to draw one of my favourite strips of all time: 'The Return of the Claw'. This had the right mix of science fiction and nightmare that (I guess) the nine-year-old me wanted. It was during this period (1971-73) that the infamous incident of the forgotten dog occurred, where, between the counter and the door of the newsagent, I was already so engrossed in the latest episode that I had walked half-way home before a passing neighbour asked about our dog, and I realised he was still tied to a post outside the newsagent.

My next Blasco sighting would have been probably in Action and 2000 AD before he headed off into the sunset as far as British comics were concerned. During that period he had a sideline in nursery comics (in fact, had drawn fairy tale stories for the UK as early as 1957); it was only when I started collecting comics and seeing the collections of friends that I became aware of all the westerns he had drawn in the 1950s, and  1960s adventure strips like Val Venture, Danger Man (based on the TV series) and The Indestructible Man.

Every time I found something new, it just reaffirmed my belief that Blasco – and one must include his family, who all worked together – was the finest comic strip artist ever. And shortly there's going to be a collection of three of of his strips, although I suspect that next week's column will begin with "I'm still waiting on proofs." See you back here in a week to see whether Mystic Steve has the power of prediction or his printers have pulled out all the stops just to prove him wrong.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 12 June 2024

One minute he’s driving a bus, the next he’s getting an email from Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner – on this episode we talk to artist Dan Cornwell!

From self-published sci-fi sports strip Rok of the Reds (coming to the Judge Dredd Megazine soon!) to Judge Dredd and Spector, Dan has quickly cemented his reputation as a fan favourite at 2000 AD. Molch-R chats to him about his career so far, his craft, and what happened when his mum threatened to phone Tharg…

The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast is the award-winning podcast that takes you behind-the-scenes at the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic with creator interviews, panels, and more! You can subscribe to the Thrill-Cast on your favourite podcast app, whether that is Apple, Google, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can also listen now at or you can watch at

And now, this week's bumper-sized release...

2000AD Prog 2386
Cover: John McCrea & Jack Davies.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
New! THE LORD PROVIDES by Gemma Sheldrake (w) Petite Creme (a) Jim Campbell (l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
New! ROGUE TROOPER // SOUTHER BELLE by Geoffrey D. Wessel (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Chris Blythe (c) Jim Campbell (l)
New! FUTURE SHOCKS // HAPPY WIFE by Laura Bailey (w) Stewart K. Moore (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Charles T. Podmore — Writer and Decorator


By Robert J. Kirkpatrick

The name of Charles T. Podmore (or C.T. Podmore) may be familiar to some students of 19th century boy’s story papers – he contributed several stories to papers published by Samuel Dacre Clarke, alias Guy Rayner). He also wrote at least four novels, three stage plays, and was a local journalist for several years. Yet he spent his entire life living in Manchester and working full-time as a painter and decorator.

He was born on 3 April 1870 and baptised, as Thomas Podmore, at St. Jude’s, Ancoates, Manchester, on 26 February 1871. His father, Joseph Podmore (1818-1894) was a paper hanger and decorator, who had married Eliza Pickford (1834-1890) in Macclesfield, Cheshire, in 1858. Charles was the last of five children.

In the 1871 census the Podmore family was recorded at 11 Grosvenor Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester; ten years later, they were living at 26 Legh Grove, Ardwick, Manchester; and in 1891 they were living as boarders at 32 Clifford Street, Chorlton on Medlock, when Joseph was described as a decorator and Thomas was described as a journalist and author.

His first venture as a writer appears to have been the short-lived The Young Author’s Journal, edited in partnership (as C.T. Podmore) with W.J.R. Carey, which was launched in Manchester on 1 May 1887 when Podmore was only 17. A year later he began contributing to some of the story papers published by Samuel Dacre Clarke (under his pen-name of Guy Rayner). Amongst his contributions to The Young Briton’s Journal were The Golden Dragoon; The Story of an Outcast; Dick Arden’s Quest; and Sylvester Strood. For The Boys’ Popular Weekly he wrote St. Bartholomew; and for Guy Rayner’s Boy’s Novelette he contributed A Man of Mystery – A Tale of the Pressgang Days; and Porlock the Jew, or The Spectre of the Abbey. His stories appeared under the names of Chas. T. Podmore and C.T. Podmore. Why he added “Charles” to his name is a mystery.

He appears to have published nothing in the years immediately following 1890. He went on to marry Blanche Sarah Roberts, born on 29 April 1874 in Tipton, Staffordshire, at St. Thomas’s Church, Ardwick, on 20 April 1898. Blanche was the daughter of Edward Roberts, a railway station master, and his wife Sarah. The marriage certificate gave Podmore’s name as Charles Thomas Podmore, and his profession that of a decorator, having belatedly, perhaps, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. They went on to have three children: Cecilia Florence (1900-1987), Thomas Edward (1901-1972), and Charles Arthur (1904-1923).

His first novel, A Cynic’s Conscience, which portrayed the tragic consequences of an affair between a married man who has left his wife and another woman, was published by Edward Arnold in 1900, under the name of C.T. Podmore. This was followed by A Trombone and a Star, also issued by Edward Arnold, in 1905; and The Fault, published by John Long in 1909. A review of The Fault in the London-based newspaper The Era described Podmore as “a well-known Manchester journalist,” although what publications he wrote for has yet to be determined.

At the time of the 1901 census, he was living at 22 Albert Place, Ardwick. He was recorded as Charles T. Podmore, and was described as house decorator. By 1909, he had moved his family to 14 Meade Grove, Longsight, Manchester (where he was listed in a local trade directory as a decorator), and where he remained for the rest of his life.

In the 1921 census, he was described as a house decorator, with his sons Thomas Edward working as a house painter (continuing the family tradition), and Charles as an apprentice fitter.

As was the case before, there was a long gap between his last novel and his next work, which was a stage play, The Real Jeff Carbury, performed in Manchester in 1926, along with Labour on Top, also first performed in 1926. A year later came Put It There.

In 1932 he began writing for The Era, mainly contributing pieces on the theatre, music, and reviews. Another novel, Three Strange Men, was subsequently serialised, in 1938, in several local newspapers in the UK and in Australia. But he continued in his trade as a decorator, being recorded in the 1939 Register as a “grainer painting trade”. (A grainer was a painter who painted imitation of wood or marble grain).

Charles T. Podmore died on 27 March 1952, aged 82, at his home in Meade Grove, and was buried in the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, on 1 April 1952. He did not leave a will. His wife died just five weeks later, on 8 June 1952, being buried four days later alongside her husband, leaving an estate valued at £223 1s. 5d. (just over £7,000 in today’s terms), with administration granted to her daughter Cecilia.

It is widely known that writing can be a very precarious occupation, and many authors supplement their income from writing by working in other jobs. This is as true today as it was in the 19th and early 20th century, although many writers were so wedded to their craft, and spent so long on it, even if for very little reward, that a second job was out of the question, and they were content to live in poverty. Podmore clearly had ambitions to be a writer even at the early age of 18 – witness his boys’ stories. Why he stopped writing them can only guessed at. Was he disappointed with the fees he received, or did he run out of ideas, or were his stories not well-received?

His novels received mixed reviews. The Leeds Mercury, while praising Podmore’s style, said “A Cynic’s Conscience is a disagreeable and entirely unattractive book,” and The St. James’s Gazette found it “loosely constructed and slovenly written; while The Athanaeum called it “a remarkable piece of writing,” with The Sphere declaring it “an excellent story, full of truth and insight, full of beautiful human touches…..thoroughly convincing.”

A Trombone and a Star, the story of a musician and his only daughter, was described by The Daily Telegraph as “a distinctly clever book without being remarkable,” and by The East Anglian Daily Times as “an extremely clever and unconventional novel, marred only be certain affectations of style which prevent entire enjoyment.” And The Fault, a novel about the romantic entanglements of two young men, was either “a forcible and dramatic one” (The Bookseller), or “rather pompous, and lacks verisimilitude in some of its details.”

Perhaps these assorted opinions convinced Podmore that he could never become a major novelist, and, after his brief foray into writing for the stage, he focused on local journalism, while relying largely on his income from his job as a painter and decorator.

Friday, June 07, 2024

Comic Cuts — 7 June 2024

I've had a bit of a low energy week, despite receiving a proof copy of the next Bear Alley book.I'm working on another (secret) project before I get a second proof, but hopefully that one will fix a couple of very minor problems – although the spine lettering was fine  on the proof copy, some of the lettering rather filled the whole spine and if future printings slip by a millimeter, the lettering would have wrapped around onto the cover or back cover.

A minor problem, easily fixed, but I'm not going to the expense of ordering just one book. So I'm working on a couple of other things that I can get finished promptly and the cost of postage can be spread over a few books rather than just the one. I'll also do a mini re-stock to bring the costs down even more: getting copies posted to me can add £1.50 and more to my costs per book, but I have to ship books to the house because it's the only way I can fill Amazon and Ebay orders in the time they allow.

The original model for Bear Alley Books was to use print on demand so that I didn't have to carry stock, but changing buying habits mean I've had to adapt – where I used to have maybe £50 worth of books in a box, as Bear Alley Books has added more titles and had to carry more copies, I now have at least £1,500 tied up in stock in boxes and on shelves.

And I'll soon have more once the new book is out. So here's the lowdown: HIGH SEAS AND HIGH ADVENTURES reprints three stories drawn by Jesus Blasco: two based on Jeffery Farnol's pirate novels Black Bartlemy's Treasure and Martin Conisby's Vengeance and one based on H. Rider Haggard's Montezuma's Daughter. I should note that the comic strip of Martin Conisby's Vengeance was renamed 'Martin Conisby's Revenge', just in case you think I've made an awful error on the cover.

The book is 134 pages – about the same as the two Longbow volumes I published a few years ago. There are the usual bunch of essays that I like to cram into these books, so you'll find an introduction, plus biographical pieces on Farnol, Haggard and Blasco. I've slipped them between the comic strips so you can have a breather between them.

More news once I've got my second proof. I'll post some examples of the strips next week.

I've managed to attack the garden once again and have finally started putting down grass seed and also some wild flower seeds at the far end of the back garden. The photo above is what the garden looked like a year ago, covered with Alkanet and ivy. Below is a picture of how it looked yesterday; there's grass in most places and the ivy has (for the most part) gone.

I've put a mixture of grass seed and wild flowers at the far back in the hope that they will help keep the weeds at bay. I'm going to be mowing the lawn more regularly (rain allowing) to help out (sorry No Mow May – I had too mow twice!) and with luck between that and digging out the Alkanet wherever I see it we will eventually have a regular lawn again.

That's enough gardening. More book news next week.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Commando 5755-5758

Commando D-Day special issues 5755-5758 are on sale from today, Thursday 6th June, 2024! Commemorating the stories of those who valiantly stormed the beaches, flew above them, or parachuted inland is this special 80th Anniversary set.

5755: D-Day Pilot

1944, D-Day. While the men valiantly stormed the Normandy beaches, above them RAF Tempests took the fight to the skies. Among them, was pilot Ryan Casey whose cocky attitude could put a lot of men in danger!
    Ferg Handley’s story of heroism in the skies over the D-Day beaches is a classic in the making. With magnificent artwork accompanying the story from Esteve Polls and Keith Burns’ stunning Normandy cover!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Esteve Polls
Cover: Keith Burns

5756: Operation Bulldog

As the Allies poured men and equipment onto the Normandy beaches in an attempt to smash their way into Hitler’s Europe, many weird and secret weapons were used in action for the very first time.
Yet none of these secret weapons were anything like that of Private “Knuckles” MacNeil... the hero who stormed ashore with the strangest fighting companion ever — a bulldog.
    A well-loved and remembered classic Commando is Issue 5756 ‘Operation Bulldog’, featuring not one but two of man’s best friends! Yes, it’s the British bulldog versus the German Dachshund, and the arena is the beaches during D-Day!

Story: Allan
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Penalva
First Published 1969 as Issue 413

5757: Operation Dummy!

The German soldiers looked up with terror in their hearts as hundreds upon hundreds of parachutes filled the sky. Finally, the Allied invasion of Occupied France had begun… or had it?
Yes, there were hundreds of parachutes but only a few of them contained real, flesh‑and‑blood British soldiers, the others were paradummies designed to fool the Germans on the ground. For the real invasion hadn’t started yet — and this misdirection was vital to keep the Nazis off the beaches!
    Dominic Teague’s story is inspired by the true events of Operation Titanic, one of many diversion attempts by the Allies to confuse the Germans. Yes, their mission: Fool the Nazi’s before D-Day! With artwork from two relative newcomers to Commando named Alejandro! Alejandro García Mangana on interiors and Alejandro Perez Mesa on cover duty!

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Alejandro García Mangana
Cover: Alejandro Perez Mesa

5758: D-Day Drop

Private Steve Shields was really looking for a fight. Cheated out of his opportunity to hammer German boxer Horst Hartmann into the canvas by the outbreak of war, Steve had been trailing the Nazi ever since.
    Now, deep behind enemy lines, he was squaring up to his old enemy — not with a gun, but with bare, clenched fists.
    The second of Commando’s D-Day reprints incoming and it’s one written by Gentry about British Paratroopers! Victor de la Fuente is on interior artwork and there’s a bold cover by Fernando to top it off!

Story: Gentry
Art: V Fuente
Cover: Fernando
First Published 1970 as Issue 511

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Rebellion Releases — 5 June 2024

Rebellion presents three action-packed stories from the legendary Lion comic, all featuring the work master of chiaroscuro-style black-and-white art – José Antonio Muñoz.

In 1973, Muñoz worked on three short-lived strips in Lion. A Stitch in Time follows the adventures of a young boy named Stitch Cotton and his alien friend, Varl, after they steal a time machine from the sinister space-master, Mr. Universe. Lost in Limbo Land(written by 2000 AD regular, Chris Lowder), follows Barry Smith – a studious bookworm who is struck by lightning and flung into a world of Norse myth and legend. The final strip, Sark the Sleeper, sees a starship commander accidently woken from hypersleep by two boys who are completely unaware that they passengers flying through deep space in search of a new home.

You can pre-order the Standard edition or the hardcover Webshop Exclusive edition.


A Stitch In Time – Writer unknown , Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 24th March 1973 – 18th August 1973)

Lost In Limbo Land – Writer Chris Lowder, Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 13th October 1973 – 8th December 1973)

Sark The Sleeper – Writer Frank S. Pepper, Artist José Antonio Muñoz (originally published in Lion, 15th December 1973 – 18th May 1974)

And now, this week's releases...

2000 AD Prog 2385
Cover: PJ Holden & Pye Parr.

JUDGE DREDD // IRON TEETH by Ken Niemand (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS // BLUE SKIES OVER DEADWICK by David Baillie (w) Nick Brokenshire (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
INTESTINAUTS // BUSTED FLUSH by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a & l)
BRINK // CONSUMED by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
PROTEUS VEX // DEVIOUS by Mike Carroll (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Best of 2000 AD Volume 6
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786203-0, 4 June 2024, 192pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.

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!

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Lilliput Magazine: A History and Bibliography

Chris Harte has published yet another huge volume dedicated to a single magazine, as he has done with various sports titles over the past few years. This latest, dedicated to a tiny magazine, clocks in at 362 A4 pages, and lists the contents of every issue and spin-off, along with indexes of authors, illustrators, photo-journalists, and an astonishing number of photos of authors, artists and editorial staff scattered throughout.

While the indexes may prove invaluable in years to come (as have those in Harte's The Captain which I've grabbed from the shelf on several occasions), the best part of the book is the 40-or-so-page introduction covering the history of Lilliput.

The story begins in Hungary when 13-year-old Istvan Reich buys a camera. A chance snap of a former foreign secretary was used in the Budapest weekly Erdekes Usag, and the young boy decides he wants to be a photo-journalist. During the Great War, Reich works with Sandor Kellner on the trade journal Szinhazi Elet—Kellner would later change his name to Alexander Korda, a huge name in the film industry. Reich also involves himself in films as a photographer, screenwriter and cameraman in Germany.

In 1923 he changes his name to Stefan Lorant and edits various German picture magazines. In 1933 Hitler comes to power and Lorant is arrested and held in jail for six months. Freed after months of effort by the Hungarian Consulate General, he is released, returns to Budapest but soon makes his way to Paris and then London.

There he becomes the founding editor of the influential Weekly Illustrated, but leaves after only five months, citing a lack of appreciation by management. While freelancing, he was introduced to Alison Hooper; a year later Lorant invited her to holiday with him in the south of France. There, with other refugees, the discussion turned to producing a pocket magazine along the lines of the American Coronet.

With financial backing from Alison (who under her maiden name of Blair was assistant editor) Lilliput became a reality, albeit a loss-maker until it established itself and began taking advertising. Before long, Lorant was able to sell the magazine to Hulton Press for £20,000. Hulton was able to grow the magazine's circulation even during the war, doubling from 250,000 in 1940 to 500,000 in 1947. Lorant also created Picture Post for Hulton, which was selling over a million copies by its third issue.

Lorant's personal life included a number of acknowledged and unacknowledged children. Alison had his daughter and, with her other two daughters, moved to America. Lorant was classified as an enemy alien and he, too, fled to America, where he remained the rest of his life.

Much of the introduction is dedicated to a survey of the history of the magazine, its contents and the problems Lorant faced behind the scenes from Edward Hulton, with whom he disagreed on many things. Tom Hopkinson took over as editor in 1940 with Kaye Webb his assistant editor. Its easy style and mix of articles, stories, photos and cartoons made it entertaining reading during the blackout and increasing sales offset the increased costs of wartime production. Big name writers from George Bernard Shaw to Ernest Hemingway contributed and the occasional nude helped sales along.

Richard Bennett became editor in 1946 and Kaye Webb was let go in 1947, the contents began to change; there was greater interference from Edward Hulton, who thought the paper was publishing too much from left wing writers. At the same time, fewer writers from across Europe were appearing, changing the tone and removing one of the magazine's unique aspects.

Bennett was replaced by Jack Hargreaves in 1951 and dropped many of its contributors in a desperate attempt to modernise. Hargreaves was promoted to managing editor within months, and Colin Willock briefly installed as editor. Sales continued to fall, and Hulton took the unusual move of trying to tempt Stefan Lorant back from the USA. Lorant, however, owed money to the taxman and decided to stay in America.

New editor Michael Middleton didn't last long; Lilliput was enlarged in size at the suggestion of advertising management and Willock returned with plans to reverse many changes made by his recent predecessors. Advertorials, puff pieces and, in 1955, photographic covers of models. Mark Boxer and William Richardson occupied the editorial chair, the latter drawing heavily on American reprints from Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and Playboy. Richardson was promoted out of harm's way in 1958, and the magazine given a makeover... and another makeover six months later, these masterminded by executive editor Willock and assistant editor Denis Pitts, who became editor in 1959.

Pitts made some bold choices as editor, but it was too late, and Lilliput was merged with Men Only in August 1960, after 277 issues.

This, of course, is a brief precis of Lilliput's history, which is much expanded upon by Chris Harte. Along with checklists, indexes and an absolutely astonishing number of photographs of Lilliput's contributors (I haven't counted how many, but there are pages of them!), this is the ultimate trip through the history of this fascinating magazine.

Lilliput Magazine: A History and Bibliography by Chris Harte
Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801018-0, 3 June 2024, 362pp, £29.95. Available via Amazon.


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