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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Illustrators #16

The latest issue of Illustrators (Autumn 2016) thumped onto the doormat the other day, reassuringly hefty in these days of lightweight Toblerones.

It's a particularly colourful issue which leads off with a nice long appreciation of Neal Adams, whose memorable run on Deadman made his name in the late 1960s. Adams went on to draw X-Men and The Avengers, before returning to DC to revive Batman,  team-up Green Lantern / Green Arrow, and Superman vs. Mohammad Ali before turning to book covers and independent comics, returning occasionally to the mainstream (e.g. Batman Odyssey, First X-Men).

Peter Stone covers his career in detail and the feature is accompanied with some great illustrations dating back to his early Sixties work on the "Ben Casey" newspaper strip and numerous comic covers. The only shame here is that the article doesn't cover much from the past 25 years.

Never mind. Here's Paul Slater to keep us amused with some of his wilful mischievousness. British-born but inspired by MAD Magazine, he is probably best known for his covers for The Listener and twenty years illustrating the "Eating Out" column for the Times Magazine and working on Saturday, the weekly Daily Express magazine, all of which has allowed him to draw and paint his absurdist illustrations in a wide variety of styles.

Canadian Will Davies worked for a wide range of America's top magazines, from The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal to Good Housekeeping. He returned to Canada and was soon earning $500 a week (big bucks in the 1950s) and named "Canada's top illustrator".

Cecil Glossop was an English illustrator who contributed to boys' papers in the 1920s and 1930s, most notably to Chums where he was one of the paper's chief adventure story illustrators, favouring stories of pirates, highwaymen and foreign legionnaires, although he was versatile enough to draw everything from African adventure to aviation.

Little-known these days, this exploration of his work by David Ashford is especially welcome.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 17 will feature Mort Kunsler, Gustave Dore, Zac Retz and Francisco Coching.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Comic Cuts - 2 December 2016

Having spent a little time working on the Valiant index, this week I've had to concentrate on the job that pays the rent. Hotel Business has taken up most of my work day and hasn't left time for much else. I did spend most of Saturday and all of Sunday working on another article about an obscure and long-forgotten author. And I would have gotten it finished if it hadn't been for those darn kids!

Actually there were no kids involved. Mel was away the weekend before last, so we've had a lot of TV to catch up with. As well as our usual weekly intake of humour (The Last Leg, Have I Got News For You, QI, Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish), and documentaries (Planet Earth II, Who Do You Think You Are?), we've been catching up with the second series of Missing, which has been brilliant.

We treated ourselves to fish & chips on Monday and a double-helping of the latter thriller, with a desert of No Such Thing as the News to finish off the evening on a lighter note. I think this second serial is the equal to the first series, which was a huge hit in the papers. It doesn't seem to have generated the same high count of column inches, but it has been as nailbiting. Tchéky Karyo has been brilliant as dogged detective Julien Baptiste and I've been a fan of Keeley Hawes for years. She played Diana Dors in a 2-parter about twenty years ago and has since been responsible for some of the most dramatic moments on TV in shows like Spooks, Ashes to Ashes and Line of Duty as well as playing the mother in The Durrells. She's one of a small handful of actors whose choices seem to coincide with my tastes (Celia Imrie and Olivia Coleman are usually good rules of thumb, too, although the former did appear in a film called Dude, Where's My Donkey, so it isn't foolproof).

My lunchtime viewing has been Dune, the mini-series that appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2000 starring Alex Newman, William Hurt and Saskia Reeves. I had the good fortune to pick up the sequel, Children of Dune (2003) recently and thought I'd reacquaint myself with the original series. It took a while, but I've finally ploughed through all three lengthy episodes. I remember it as being far better than the David Lynch movie – which I've also rewatched this year, but with no greater enthusiasm than I previously had for it – and it still holds up well. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

I was prompted by the news that there is to be another Dune movie. It's not an easy book to translate into a single film, as Jodorowski's failed early attempt and Lynch's butchered completed attempt proved. Maybe the producers are thinking of it as a two- or three-part epic story that will take more than one film to tell.

There hasn't been much time for anything else, so we'll go straight into our random scans... which are a few covers for comic strips that I've picked up recently. Three are old Private Eye strips, the first by "Monty Stubble" (the joint pen-name of PE editor Ian Hislop & artist Nick Newman, who later co-wrote the My Dad's the Prime Minister TV show). "Battle For Britain" originally ran in 1983-87. Nick Newman still draws the "Snipcock & Tweed" cartoon.

The Barry McKenzie series had an even greater pedigree as it was written by Barry Humphries (based on an idea by Peter Cook) and drawn by cartoonist Nicholas Garland. It inspired two films, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.

Lastly, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best, because if you see anything by Eddie Campbell, you pick it up. Right?

I should add that the column header is by Paul Lehr, another pair of scans that I've had sitting on the desktop of my computer for months. I have a feeling that I pasted the two pics together that way because the NEL version came out earlier than the Signet book. Not that it matters in the big scheme of things, but it does affect the way I list the art credit in my notes.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Commando issues 4971 - 4974

Commando issues on sale 1st December 2016.

Commando – 4971 – Island of Last Hope
In 1938, Germany invaded Poland…but Poland did not give in without a fight.
    Captain Micha Polanski and the Polish Air Force fought valiantly against the might of the Luftwaffe. But when his brother was slaughtered, Micha swore vengeance against the plane that cut him down, the plane that bore the symbol of a Black Eagle and Swastika.
    Micha was sent to Britain to continue the fight against Nazis, but he still hoped he would see that plane again and avenge his brother. As for Micha and many other Poles, Britain was wyspa ostatniej nadziei… The Island of Last Hope.

Story: Shane Filer
Art: Muller
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando – 4972 – Stringbag Ace
They said H.M.S. Adventurer was a haunted ship; haunted by a shadowy figure bent on sending the carrier to the bottom with all her planes and crew.
    Mystery lights flashed at night to guide enemy bombers to her. Men were struck down in shadowy corners and never knew what hit them. Guns jammed, planes blew up. Death, sudden and baffling, stalked by night along the quiet alleyways of the ship…
    And a young flight lieutenant wanted to get his Spitfires and their pilots to Malta in one piece.

If you’re searching for an outstanding adventure then look no further than this maritime gem. Tyson contrasts the claustrophobic confines of the H.M.S. Adventurer with the endless vistas of the skies to create a tense tale of ships, sabotage and Stringbags.
    To top it all off, this issue boasts a truly dynamic cover, courtesy of iconic and greatly missed Commando artist, Ken Barr. Set at a dizzying angle, it’s a dramatic and exhilarating depiction of aerial action.—The Commando Team

Story: Tyson
Art: Peter Ford
Cover: Ken Barr
Stringbag Ace, originally Commando No 265 (June 1967), reissued as No 935 (May 1975)

Commando - 4973 – Mountie Hunter
Mounties Drew Fraser and Ross McKinley were partners and best friends. But when Drew enlisted in the Canadian Army, Ross was left behind.
    However, Mountie life was far from quiet for Ross as the destruction of the war in Europe had extended its deathly claw all the way to Canada. Trains and supply lines were being targeted with ruthless precision, destroying vital supplies for the Allies. So ruthless in fact it spelled only one thing – sabotage!
    Hunting the German spies would push Drew to the edge and force him to make the ultimate sacrifice. But a Mountie always gets his man…

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Vincente Alcazar
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando - 4974 – Press Gang
Front-line action from the London blitz right through to the final American triumph against the Japanese in the Pacific. Not bad for a man invalided out of the R.A.F. in 1940 and not even in the fighting forces.
    But then R.D. Jones was a press photographer and he and his mate Tommy Vidler were a two-man team of war correspondents, risking death to get the news to their readers at home.

Alan Hemus’ celebration of wartime correspondence is a boyish adventure that runs the full length of the Second World War, from the London Blitz to the final days of the Pacific War.
    There is a great array of characters and show stopping set pieces, all brought to life by the dynamic pen of artist, Manuel Benet. Benet is a true Commando comics veteran, still illustrating new issues to this day, so it’s a real joy to be able to share some of his earlier artwork – enjoy!—The Commando Team

Story: Alan Hemus
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Press Gang, originally Commando No 2479 (June 1991)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion Releases for 30 November and 1 December.

2000AD Prog 2009
Judge Dredd: Cube Root of Evil by Arthur Wyatt (w), Jake Lynch (a), John Charles (c), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Savage: The Marze Murderer by Pat Mills (w), Patrick Goddard (a), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hunted by Gordon Rennie (w), PJ Holden (a), Len O'Grady (c), Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Return of the Revolutionaries by Rory McConville (w), Eoin Coveney (a), Ellie De Ville (l)
Flesh: Gorehead by Pat Mills (w), Clint Langley (a), Ellie De Ville (l)

Fink Angel: Legacy by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Mick McMahon, Peter Doherty, Carlos Ezquerra, Tiernen Trevallion
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08497-7, 1 December 2016, £14.99. Available from Amazon.
THE ANGEL GANG ARE THE MEANEST, MOST DERANGED VILLAINS EVER to come out of the Cursed Earth. The all-male family of psychopathic criminal hillbillies first encountered Mega-City One’s greatest lawman Judge Dredd when he was on a quest to find the Judge Child. Having despatched Pa, Link, Junior and Mean, Dredd later came face to face with Fink Angel, the eldest sibling of the clan who visited Mega-City One in search of vengeance for his fallen kin folk. The latest member of the Angel Gang is Fink’s son Ratfink – a Cursed Earth-dwelling fiend who preys on passing helltrekkers. Just like his father, Ratfink has a love of poisons, rodents and mayhem…

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 28
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08433-5, 1 December 2016, £19.99. Available from Amazon.
THE BAD AND THE MAD IN MEGA-CITY ONE! Mega-City One is plagued by a group of rebelling Jimmy Dean clones, underground murder clubs, a Sexmek serial killer and a revenge-filled taxidermist, back from the grave and looking for justice!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Martin Aitchison (1919-2016)

The obituary for Martin Aitchison appeared in the Saturday edition of The Guardian (26 November 2016). For those of you who missed it:

If you're like me and your eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, you can read the text online here at the Guardian website, where it appeared back on 10 November.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Bungle Brothers

Working on the Valiant index means trying to nail down a lot of artists that were still unidentified when I did the original version back in 1994. I'm rather poor on humour artists, but I know there are experts out there who may be able to help. If you know someone who might be able to help, send them a link to this post. I'll be eternally grateful.

I'm reposting the "Tatty-Mane" column, which you'll find if you scroll down. Here we take a brief look at "The Bungle Brothers", which first appeared in Valiant on 18 November 1972 and ran, with a few gaps, until 10 March 1973.

But who was the artist?

(* The Bungle Brothers © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.)

Tatty-Mane King of the Jungle

The funny animal strip was no stranger to Valiant by 1966. The paper had, after all, been running ''The Crows' since its first issue. Most of the humour strips in Valiant were by recognisable names (the mighty Roy Wilson even had a strip in early issues), but one or two names have eluded me.

Who, for instance, was the artist for 'Tatty-Mane King of the Jungle', which ran for almost two years in Valiant in 1966-68. It could be one of the Spanish artists who began filling the pages of British comics with slickly drawn humour strips in around 1960, most notably Angel Nadal who drew 'The Nutts' for Valiant for almost a decade and Martz Schmidt who, I believe, drew a couple of early Valiant strips.

Here are a few early strips featuring Tatty... hopefully someone will be able to identify the artist.

(* 'Tatty-Mane' © Time Inc. (UK).)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Comic Cuts - 25 November 2016

I'm happy to report that the trip to see James Acaster – trailed in last week's column – was hugely and hilariously successful. He has a very dry wit that will dart off on some very unexpected tangents, as anyone who has seen him on Mock the Week and other shows will have gathered.

As far as I can recall, I first heard him on the Josh Widdicombe radio show, which feels like a very long time ago, but which can only be three years, four at most. He's a storyteller, with loosely threaded themes running through the show – in this instance a desire to be able to reset ones life back to some earlier point, whether by time travel or being relocated into witness protection.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and we're in the same venue for a very different show: Alex Horne and the Horne Section, which had a far higher energy and was equally as utterly daft and surreal in places. I've had to use a photo from the Horne Section website as I only snapped a couple of the backdrop and neither of them were in focus. I've stopped taking photos when people are on the stage – I used to with my old camera, but with the new camera the bright light used to focus is very obvious to the person on stage. Hence the lack of photos from my recent reviews. The above will give you just a hint of what the show was like. All I'll say is that the whole audience was dancing at the end.

The rest of the week has been relatively quiet. I binge watched a series called Sense8 over the weekend, which is the perfect way to watch that particular show. Compared to most terrestrial TV it's a very slow-burning tale; by offering it to download via Netflix, you can watch multiple episodes at a sitting (these days two is my limit before I need to get up, stretch and do something else... I used to watch 24 four episodes at a time and then I only stopped because the DVD needed changing!). I managed to watch all 12 episodes of the first season over four days.

As a fan of both the Wachowskis – although they vary from utterly brilliant (Bound, The Matrix) to utterly awful (The Matrix Revolutions, Jupiter Ascending) – and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, lots of comics), I had high hopes for the show. And I wasn't let down. The story is about eight people from around the globe who find themselves developing a psychic connection which allows them to see, then feel and then interact with each other. This 'sensate' power makes them targets for a mysterious figure known as Whispers.

I don't want to spoil it, so I'll say no more. It tackles gender politics and there are some quite graphic scenes (childbirth and some of a sexual nature), so it won't be for everyone. But I enjoyed it.

I've also dipped into science fiction at the other extreme. We've been rather spoiled of late with big-budget SF drama (we're also watching Westworld), so I chose this week to start watching (or re-watching) BUGS, the BBC series from the mid- to late-1990s. Oh, boy, does it look cheap! It was a bit of a guilty pleasure even when it first appeared, but I'm watching it now thinking, "Why is there no security in that supposedly super-secure building?" Seriously, the lead characters just walk into anywhere they want and sit down at a computer... which is running something that wasn't even top of the range in 1995. And there's a countdown every few minutes. You'd swear the scriptwriters wrote (URGENTLY) "You only have..." fifteen times and then tried to figure out what to put in between in order to link to the next bit of dialogue without spending too much cash.

Anyway, in honour of Alex Horne, I've tried to create my own "horn section" in today's random scans. To start with, there's the C. S. Forester cover gallery featuring many a Hornblower novel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 23 November.

2000AD Prog 2008
Judge Dredd: Cube Root of Evil by Arthur Wyatt (w), Jake Lynch (a), John Charles (c), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Savage: The Marze Murderer by Pat Mills (w), Patrick Goddard (a), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hunted by Gordon Rennie (w), PJ Holden (a), Len O'Grady (c), Simon Bowland (l)
Counterfeit Girl by Peter Milligan (w), Rufus Dayglo (a), Dom Regan (c), Ellie De Ville (l)
Flesh: Gorehead by Pat Mills (w), Clint Langley (a), Ellie De Ville (l)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Spaceship Away #40 (Autumn 2016)

Spaceship Away completes its 13th year of publication with issue 40. Also coming to a close is Tim Booth's 'Mercury Revenant' after 8 issues and 18 episodes. One of the earliest episodes was set around Christmas, and the tale ends on a similar festive note. Sandwiched in-between has been one of Dan's hottest adventures on the surface of Mercury and a very satisfying old-school Dan Dare yarn it has been, too.

Tim Booth is also responsible for the longer-running 'Parsecular Tales', with episodes 26 and 27 appearing here. In all Booth has produced over 80 episodes of various stories and he's definitely Starship Away's star discovery. One hopes that he can keep up the pace in 2017 and beyond.

Concluding this issue are Jet Morgan's latest reprint from Express Weekly – or, in this instance, one of the annuals – and Nick Hazard's previously unpublished adventure 'Planet of Doom', based on an old 1950s Vargo Statten paperback yarn.

David Ashford leads off a trio of articles this issue with a look at a long-forgotten space hero drawn by Syd Jordan. Hal Starr first appeared (drawn by other hands) in a obscure series of comics published in the 1950s to promote body-building. Syd drew some schoolboy adventures featuring one Dick Hercules before jetting off into space with Starr. He drew only seven stories, although he revived the name for a series reprinted in Spaceship Away issues 8-15, originally published as John Stark in the Dutch weekly Eppo Wordt Vervolgd in 1987-88.

Next up, Jeremy Briggs introduces the people behind the scenes at the new B7 Media's Dan Dare recordings that are soon to be released on CD. As well as meeting the actors and production staff, we get a look at the various stories that are being adapted – the first set of three stories (released in December) are the first three that appeared in Eagle, but the second set (released February 2017) are stories eight, four and five.

Busy Jeremy is also behind an interview with Dave Gibbons who discusses his time drawing Dan Dare in 2000AD, strips recently reprinted by Rebellion. It's a good, insightful interview and I never knew that Dave met Frank Hampson... but you'll have to buy the issue to find out how that went.

You can find out more about the magazine, buy back issues and subscribe to the latest issues at the Spaceship Away website.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Space Ace volume 7

Ron Turner's Space Ace returns with a new serial story from the pages of Lone Star that was originally curtailed in favour of a rather more action-packed yarn: "Trouble on Titan" ran for only three episodes before Turner, feeling nervous that SF was on the downturn, decided to increase the emphasis on Ace's Space Patrol activities, just in case, and wrapped up the 6-part storyline with a new direction for part four and a new 2-part conclusion, "Slaves of the Zirkons".

Turner had nothing to worry about, as the strip would run for quite a few years. However, it means that this is a somewhat fragmented story, with the disappearance of the research ship Pandora from Saturn's moon, Titan, resolved with no real explanation.

But it's the artwork that most will be buying the magazine for, and that doesn't disappoint. Turner's designs for the Titan natives and wildlife is up to his usual high standards and while the story is slight (and you can easily see the point where Turner gave up on the original storyline), it is engaging enough to carry you through to the end.

This issue also contains a back-up tale from Lone Star Annual in which Space Ace and Bill track down a time-travelling inventor who has found himself trapped in the past with an invading alien race.

As always, the original black & white strips are enhanced by John Ridgway's colours, which take full advantage of what modern computer colouring can do whilst retaining the spirit of Turner's own colour palette.

You can get hold of this latest volume for £8.95 (UK) or £12.50 (Europe) and £14.50 (International) including p&p — and that's pretty much at cost, I can assure you — with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Comic Cuts - 18 November 2016

What a mixed week it has been. There has been moments of hilarity and one or two of agony, and times where I think I'm doing pretty well and one major moment of idiocy. On the plus side, there have been some nice surprises along the way.

Let's untangle this. The research on the Valiant index is going well. I completed another lengthy trawl through copies of the paper to check where some strips appeared or dropped out, completed my checklist of The Crows reprints – somebody had to compile one... turns out that poor sod was me – and I'm now working my way through Captain Hurricane. For the latter I now have a reprint index, and I'm working alongside David Roach and David Slinn trying to spot who was doing fill-in art on some episodes. It's quite a long haul but more fun than I expected. Roylance, Captain Hurricane's main artist, wasn't one of my favourites even as a kid, but I'm starting to appreciate the effort he put into the strip.

So the good news is that Rebellion have already started work on collecting some of the material they've recently bought from Egmont, and one of the first books out of the gate will be a collection of One-Eyed Jack from the very pages of Valiant that I was flicking through over the weekend. The book will be out next July and that's the promo art for it at the top of the column.

More good stuff: We went to see Gary Delaney at the Arts Centre on Tuesday. He's an incredible joker, a master of the one-liner, as you can see from this little snapshot from his twitter feed:

I'm not the greatest fan of one-liner comedians, and whilst we have seen (and I've thoroughly enjoyed) Milton Jones and Stewart Francis in the past, I tend to prefer something a little more structured. However, by breaking his stride so it's not pun after pun, Delaney managed to hold everyone's attention for a full hour, making good use of a Mac and a big screen to show off some funny photos and Wikipedia trolling, and a clipboard or two of new jokes that he was trying on the audience (well, that's what he told us).

This week's big surprise came on Wednesday night when Mel announced that we'd managed to secure tickets to see James Acaster on Thursday. We were caught out by how quickly his gig sold out earlier in the year, but had our names down for any returned tickets. And it worked. Was it worth it? You'll have to wait until next week to find out as I'm writing this before we go so it can be lined up for posting first thing in the morning.

On the negative side... my feet hurt. Or specifically my left foot hurts. I thought it was just wear and tear on one shoe that was causing it to rub, perhaps, but the problem wasn't solved by insoles, switching back to an old pair of shoes with which I'd never had any problems, or even buying new shoes, which, if I'm honest, I needed to do anyway.

As the problem hasn't gone away I finally took a trip down to see our GP, where the problem was diagnosed as Morton's Neuroma. This turns out to be a bit of a misnomer as it is not a neuroma (a non-cancerous tumour); what it is is a thickening and swelling around the nerve that runs between the bones of the foot and toes.. Nobody's 100% certain what causes it, but it appears that pressure on the nerve plays a part.

I'm hoping the new shoes will help, although I was walking for roughly 14 months in the previous pair without any signs of a problem; I'm using high-impact insoles and also a pad which is, hopefully, relieving the pressure on the nerve. It doesn't seem to have had much effect so far, but I'll keep using it.

I'm still able to take my daily walks, which, as it's the only exercise I get these days, I don't want to give up on. I did get a bit of a run on Wednesday as, half way around my walk, at about ten past eight, I suddenly remembered that I had a dental appointment at nine. I was 15 minutes from home and the bus takes 25 minutes to get into town, plus it's a 10 minute walk to the dentist. Add that up and I realised there was a chance I could actually make it in time – or not long after.

I checked in at three minutes past nine!

And there I had my teeth cleaned without an anaesthetic and a small filling, so I was aching at both ends by the time I left.

Guess what the subject for this week's random scans is going to be...