Friday, December 01, 2023

Comic Cuts — 1 December 2023

Plenty of news this week, but let's get the "How can it be December already?" out of the way. The year has certainly flown by. I was working mostly on scanning early in the year and working with Mel on some reprint novels that will eventually see the light of day. It took fifteen years to get On the Queen's Service into a publishable state,

OK, so for almost that whole time it was sitting as a proof on a shelf, but you get my point. Life and other projects get in the way. It was the first book published by Bear Alley for eighteen months, and the little set of Andrew Forrester books I put out in September 2021 was actually my Christmas 2020 project; and putting out some new editions of Gwyn Evans' novels was an idea that dates back to 2012!

If I could work on these books without interruption — that is, if I didn't have to worry about earning enough to pay the rent, bills, living costs and the occasional day off — I'd get more done. I started work on the updated edition of The Trials of Hank Janson in July and it was published in September; the work on George Coates' A Laverda Journey is done and dusted, and the book will be officially launched as soon as George has copies in his hands; and Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books is awaiting proof copies to arrive before that, too, is published, hopefully in a few weeks.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be too long before the next project is finished. I'm planning to get back to Action, which I started in September 2021. I was still writing it in February 2022, which was about when I ran out of money and took on more scanning work when it was offered. Scanning, incidentally, is the easy part: it's the repair and cleaning up that takes the time. Some of those comics were over 70 years old and not always in the best condition.

Of course, everything takes twice as long at Bear Alley Books as it might elsewhere because I'm a one-man band, so I'm writing, designing, publishing and fulfilling orders. Not only do I get to write the book, I get to hand deliver copies to the post office, and everything else in between.

All this talk of work disguises the fact that I've had a bit of a lazy week. I had problems with the Badger book at the weekend when I tried to upload it to the printers. It turned out that — and I have no idea why — a couple of footnote numbers had defaulted to an odd font and had to be replaced by good old Time New Roman. I'm not sure why this happened but might be a hangover from the original text being written for Adobe PageMaker, which probably used PostScript fonts. I went through the whole document looking for anything that wasn't a TrueType font and replaced it.

Thankfully that fixed the problem and I was able to upload the interior of the book on Monday; then it was a mad dash to get the back cover finished and uploaded for both hardcover and paperback proofs. It took me the whole day: Mel went off to work at quarter to eight in the morning and I started looking at fonts. She returned home at quarter to seven that evening just as PayPal confirmed that my payment for the proofs had gone through.

Tuesday was a lot easier. I had a tiny rewrite to do for the Guardian obituary of Michael Bishop, which went up that afternoon. It is 300 words shorter than the submitted draft, which itself was 300 words shorter than my original draft; so there's a version that's about 2/3rds longer. This is the case with most of the obituaries I write (I've said it before, but I like to include everything including the kitchen sink, and most of the kitchen utensils, too). Some of them have appeared here on Bear Alley (such as this one for Harlan Ellison), but some just end up clogging up my hard drive. I'm pleased to say that the longer version will be appearing elsewhere at some point. More news when it appears.

George, the author of A Laverda Journey, was over on Tuesday, along with John Chisnall, who wrote And the Wheels Went Round, which I published back in 2019. This was our final get-together as the book was already signed off; I helped set George up his own account with the printer and we ordered up thirty copies of the book for friends and family. It will be available commercially, but only directly from George. I'll link through to whatever site he decides to sell through when the book becomes available.

Wednesday was the Bear Alley Books' Christmas Party, which meant me, Mel and my Mum went out to the pub for lunch. A good time was had by all. I slept away most of the afternoon.

Thursday was a catch-up with everything else day, paying a couple of bills, returning a damaged SD card to Amazon (sent loose in a small envelope — no wonder it didn't work!), changing some passwords (thanks to the British Library ransomware hack), and writing this. Which brings you pretty much up to date.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 29 November 2023

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

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).

Includes all the stories published in Battle, including the never before reprinted ‘Fall of Berlin’ storyline!

Hellman of Hammer Force: Downfall is out on 28 March from comic book stores and will be available for stores to order through Diamond Distribution’s Previews magazine. It will also be available in print and digital from the 2000 AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops and digitally through the 2000 AD app.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2360
Cover: Rufus Dayglo.

Judge Dredd: Clanker by Kenneth Niemand (w) Nick Dyer (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Enemy Earth Book III by Cavan Scott (w) Luke Horsman (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Smash! #2
Cover: Andy Clarke.

The King of Crooks latest heist has gone badly wrong, he has been trapped in Maxwell Towers by the caretaker computer programme running the building and Robot Archie is closing in on capturing the arch-criminal. Forced to face his fears on the nightmare inducing-thirteenth floor and evade the team-up of two AI programmes, this could be the master thief's last stand.
     This eighties-set thriller is brought to you by Paul Grist (Jack Staff) and Jimmy Broxton (Goldtiger).

Friday, November 24, 2023

Comic Cuts — 24 November 2023

I feel I've been dragging my heels this week, although the only difference to the past few weeks has been that I've managed to get out for walks four times, thanks to a mix of Mel's days off and necessary trips to the post office and the pharmacy.

My plan was to sort out the cover for Beyond the Void over the weekend, but I didn't get to it until Monday. I was very happy with the overall design that Martin came up with based on the covers and the brief I sent him. That's Martin Baines, incidentally, who has produced some fabulous covers for Bear Alley Books in the past, notably the Gwyn Evans reprints, which are exceptionally good, although this one has leapfrogged to the top of my favourites list.

As I want to do a proper cover reveal here, I'm going to waffle for a bit so that you have to scroll down and you don't immediately see the image... that's also why there's a pair of curtains at the head of our column this week, because that's the image that will show on Facebook and people will have to click through if they want to see the cover.

I had very little left to do this time last week, but I still have the bulk of the same pages to do, mostly because I'm an idiot. By which I mean I made a rod for my own back by deciding to make an advert for Bear Alley Books in the style of an order form from Badger Books. I'll post an example – up there, just before this paragraph started – and you'll see what I mean; the one I've chosen needs nine tiny book covers, nine little blurbs and a lot of fiddling around to make it work. I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday working on it, with occasional interruptions to check the edit of a piece written for The Guardian, a bit of research that unfortunately didn't go anywhere, setting up pairs of external hard drives (I'm copying files around to make the most of my shiny new hard drive!), write yesterday's Commando column, and trying to keep up to date with emails.

I also had a specific idea for the cover, so I had to do a bit of work to Martin's version – putting in a border and, because it's meant to be in the style of a film poster, I folded up some actual film posters and scanned the damage that it caused so that I could mimic it exactly. I must admit that I'm really happy with the results. And here it is...

As you can see, we tried to cover all angles of Badger's output, so there are cover elements from crime, war, western, science fiction and supernatural covers. I couldn't resist using the beaver from Rodent Mutation and the robots from March of the Robots. I'm seriously thinking of getting a few copies of this printed out as posters.

I'm still working on the back cover and I've a little tinkering to do with the insides, but I'm close to sending off to get a proof. I'm thinking of doing a hardcover version, which will be quite expensive, as it's 172 pages full colour. But it'll be worth it... I've put a lot of research into this one!

  • 28 Nov. Roger Langridge talks Justice Ducks, the latest title from the Darkwing Duck series at Dynamite.  "Editor Nate Cosby ... said I had a pretty free hand in terms of the kind of stories I could tell, but suggested “aliens” as a starting point, as something I could take or leave."
  • 24 Nov. Alan Moore held an audience with the Scottish Book Trust in which he discussed magic, empowerment and how he saved Brazil. Rich Johnson reports.
  • 10 Nov. Garth Ennis interviewed again, this time about the 2022 Battle Action volume, the recent mini-series and what to look forward to in the next series (due next year). "I can tell you there’ll be ten issues, each one featuring an episode of a multi-part Johnny Red story by myself and Keith Burns (with the last issue all Johnny Red), alongside a one-off in the same format as the special and miniseries. You’ll see some of the stories we’ve been doing returning, along with some that haven’t featured before. Likewise, the creative teams will be a mixture of current and new."
  • Bill Cox of Comic Art Live chats with Chris Killackey, Roger Clark and Guy Mills, who are behind the new collections of David Wright's 'Carol Day' strip, published by Book Palace in oversized editions using the original artwork. (video, 1h 10m)
  • 5 Nov. Variety interviews Garth Ennis. “I never get used to the notion that I might be living in a movie. In New York, there are some incredibly cinematic moments, locations and characters.”
  • 27 Oct. CBR talks to Duncan Fegrado about Giant Robot Hellboy. "I know when I was drawing it, I could hear those huge metal joints clanking and protesting. If I couldn't hear it in my mind, then it wasn't working."
  • 25 Oct. Neil Gaiman is to be honoured with the Visionary Award at The Art of Elysium Benefit in January 2024, a non-profit that has brought together creators and those in need to create transformative healing experiences through art.
  • 24 Oct. Duncan Fegrado has teamed up with Mike Mignola for Giant Robot Hellboy. "Giant Robot Hellboy started life as one of many wonderful pencil sketches that Mike drew throughout the pandemic ... I guess he was still entertained by the idea, because when Mike suggested we collaborate on a new Hellboy one shot he suggested that Giant Robot Hellboy."
  • 23 Oct. Paul Grist and Anna Morozova discuss Smash!. Grist: "I’ve been a fan of The Spider since I first read his exploits in a Summer Special whilst on a family caravan holiday as a child in the 60’s. I was fascinated by the scratchy spidery drawings (Reg Bunn), and I think the Steel Claw was also in the same collection. That was my introduction to the slightly shadowy world of the British Comic Hero."
  • 22 Oct. Newsarama talks to Rob Williams about the latest Judge Dredd arc. "We so often see Dredd smashing down doors and firing his Lawgiver and being the man of action. But he is, first and foremost, a cop. I thought it'd be interesting to place him as a detective in a story. Following threads, tracking down clues."
  • 16 Oct. Steve Bell has been sacked by The Guardian over a cartoon depicting Benjamin Netanyahu cutting open his own stomach, the cut resembling the outline of the Gaza strip. "The image itself was inspired by the late, great David Levine's cartoon of President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) showing off his operation scar, which Levine draws in the shape of a map of Vietnam."
  • 16 Oct. Joel Meadows of TripWire fame, has been interviewed for the Pop Culture SquadCast, discussing his debut graphic novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Empire Builders. (video, 39m)
  • 10 Oct. Kate McAuliffe, content editor for DC Thomson's Heritage Comics department and occasional Commando writer, will be giving a live talk on the production of Commando followed by a Q&A on 17 October, 7-8 pm.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Commando 5699-5702

Action and Adventure soaked into every page of Commando Issues 5699 – 5702! They go on sale today, Thursday 23rd November!

5699: The Trumpeter’s Call

The sombre notes echoed against the sandy dunes of the North African desert, as New Zealander Private Calum Taylor played a lonesome jazz melody.
    His trumpet had no place among the din and clamour of war, but his instrument was the only thing keeping him going among the chorus of death around him. As long as he could play, he would live!
    A more melancholic note runs through this Commando wonderfully composed by Andrew Knighton. With artwork from the maestro Manuel Benet, this Commando will have your heart singing a tune.

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5700: Friend or Foe?

Down through the night came the Nazi paratroopers, each heavily-armed man dropping as silently as a flake of snow. Their mission was to assassinate one man who had talked too much — and everyone who had listened to him.
    A classic Commando if there ever was one! With Penalva’s iconic cover that has been used in a Commando calendar, we thought it was about time we aired it out for another run — and with Allan and CT Rigby as back up, you won’t want to miss this!

Story | Allan
Art | CT Rigby
Cover | Penalva
First Published 1970 as Issue 500

5701: The First Casualty

When a young Englishman came asking about his dead father’s last days on the Western Front, the only person who could answer his questions was Havildar Jared Singh of the 19th Lancers. But what Singh had to say may not be welcome, and what the Englishman thought he knew may not be the whole truth…
    Another corker of a Commando from Robbie MacNiven. Set amongst the backdrop of World War One, this gritty and hard-hitting Commando will have you questioning the meaning of the word ‘hero’! Mark Eastbrook delivers a magnificent cover and Alberto Saichann’s interiors are bleak but beautiful!

Story | Robbie MacNiven
Art | Alberto Saichann
Cover | Mark Eastbrook

5702: Last Man Out

Lieutenant Sammy Parker had seen no action at all during his army career, for he spent most of his time sitting behind a desk in a quiet office in Burma.
    But now it was different. Now the Japanese were advancing, driving everything before them. Now Sammy was on the run and fighting for his life. More than that — there was a bunch of soldiers depending on him for their lives too.
    Would he make it, this young officer who had never been in such a desperate situation in his whole life?
    A stunning Ian Kennedy cover on Last Man Out from 1980! RA Montague’s tale of courage in the face of a forced retreat is brought to life by Ruiz’s crisp interiors!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Ruiz
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1980 as Issue 1421

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 22 November 2023

The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic marks the end of another year with the traditional festive blowout – a 100-page mega-special featuring brand-new stories and a surprise creative guest!

2000 AD Prog 2362 is out on the 13th December – and you can pre-order this special issue now, with FREE postage within the U.K.

Within its pages you will find an all-new Strontium Dog story by comedian and actor Rufus Hound (Doctor Who) with artist Dan Cornwell! Speaking on his arrival in The Galaxy's Greatest Comic, Hound says:

"I'd never believed that I'd get a chance like this. That ACTUAL 2000 AD would ask me - ME! - to write so much as a single syllable for their illustrious pages. Not only that, but to be given the opportunity to reimagine something from the golden era of Strontium Dog? Proper dream come true stuff."

In Strontium Dog: ‘Alpha’, Johnny and Wulf are en-route to the planet Aminovarm in the hold of a star cruiser when Johnny intervenes in a domestic incident. When the son gives Johnny an alien delicacy as a thank you gift, things go south and psychedelic in equal amounts! Hound described the story:

Johnny Alpha always had it hard, but kept his upper-lip stiff and his chin granite-like. However, what if a diary of his was discovered? Something that peeled away a later or two of the man? That allowed us some insight into the mind of Johnny Alpha, not merely marvel at his tough-as-hell actions. That's what 'Alpha' is.

I've filled my story with classic SD references, but I hope the greatest act of fan service is the tale itself. I've tried to give Wulf and Johnny something that I think most fans have always craved for them, whilst still letting them be Johnny and Wulf. With Carlos' passing, getting this right seems even more important somehow. I just hope the amount of love and hard work I've lavished on it shines through.

The 100-page Spectacular will continue ongoing stories Feral & FoeHeliumEnemy Earth and The Devil’s Railroad, but they’re joined by a heavenly host of one-off stories: a new Judge Dredd tale by Ken Niemand & Tom Foster, Azimuth by Dan Abnett & Tazio Bettin, Rogue Trooper by Geoffrey D. Wessel & Simon Coleby, Fiends of the Eastern Front by Ian Edginton & Tiernen Trevallion, Anderson, Psi-Div by Torunn Gronbekk & Kieran McKeown, and Strontium Dog by Rufus Hound & Dan Cornwell!

All this wrapped inside a chaotic cover from Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague? Grud bless us, every one!

On sale 13 December, Prog 2362 isn’t a Christmas stocking-stuffer – it’s a Yuletide mind-expander!

2000AD Prog 2359
Cover: D'Israeli.

Judge Dredd: Poison by Rob Williams (w) PJ Holden (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Fall of Deadworld: Retribution by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Classic Gums by Roy Davis, Robert Nixon, Alf Saporito
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618999-8, 22 November 2023, 128pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

The Great White (toothless) shark stalks a territory  around the Australian coast, where he constantly butts heads with local surfer, Bluey. While Gums is out to snack on the youngster, Bluey is determined to take the shark’s false teeth as a memento!
    Written by Roy Davis with art by Robert Nixon and Alf Saporito, this hapless, loveable shark with false teeth was a highlight of the short-lived humour comic Monster Fun and proved to be so popular with the fans that he appeared as the front cover strip for most of the run.
    This collection includes Gums strips from Monster Fun 7 February to 30 October 1976, as well as the Monster Fun Annual stories from 1977 to 1985.

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire by Mike Butterworth, Don Lawrence, Oliver Frey
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786009-8, 23 November 2023, 240pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

This fifth omnibus collection of the science-fiction classic, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire, reprints all the stories originally published in Look & Learn from 1975 through to 1977, and contains Don Lawrence's final flawlessly painted Trigan Empire pages.
    The Emperor Trigo, his nephew Janno, and the trusted scientist Peric all band together to face off against the threats to the stability of the Trigan Empire - be they frozen superior life forms from an earlier age, or the machinations of Trigo’s own courtiers who are determined to seize control of the government - in these fast-paced yet beautifully painted comic stories which enthralled readers on original publication.

Comic Book Punks by Karl Stock
Rebellion ISBN 978-178618694-2, 22 November 2023, 500pp, £24.99. Available via Amazon.

The influence of the comic book has never been greater, from movies to streaming and beyond, but the journey comics took from disposable kids' magazines to literary prize-winning books and global franchises turned on a highly unusual group of writers and artists. Few would have expected a small gathering of British comic book fans and creators in the early '70s to spark a cultural revolution, but this was the start of a disparate movement of punks, dropouts and disaffected youths who reinvented a medium and became the imaginative heart of a global success story.
    Based on years of interviews with a generation of leading writers, artists and editors, Karl Stock reveals the true story of the wild times, passion and determination that helped, hindered and saw the reinvention of comics.
    Stock brilliantly tells the story of the triumphs and disasters that rewrote the rulebook on what comics could be and who they should be for.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Comic Cuts — 17 November 2023

And so ends a somewhat chaotic but productive week. I'm now close to having the latest two Bear Alley books finished and it's only two months since the publication of The Trials of Hank Janson.

We have signed off on A Laverda Journey, George Coates' memoir of his trip around the world by motorbike. There were a couple of minor problems that we picked up at the final proof stage that have now been fixed and as soon as I get a chance to set up an account for George, we will go to press.

While I was waiting for his OK on Monday, I took the opportunity to give the Badger Books' book – Beyond the Void – a good, hard Paddington stare and spotted a couple of pictures that I'd managed to use twice. These have now been replaced and the whole thing has been proofed, although I fear that the moment I send off for a printed proof, I'll spot a typo or a picture will have slipped over a footnote. These things happen, but I make every effort to try and correct everything beforehand and that the first printed proof off the presses is good enough to sell.

On Tuesday I had to start the research phase on another obituary for The Guardian, while keeping tabs on the gasman doing a safety check on our boiler and cooker and on the progress of a package from Amazon. I finally relented and bought another 8tb of external hard drive storage. So that's my weekend sorted... copying files around various hard drives to free up space on some of the others where I'm down to a couple of hundred gigabytes of free storage space. Everything is backed up onto two different drives, and I also have files stored on both my PC and a laptop... and for very good reason.

The PC isn't going to last forever and is sometimes desperately slow. On Wednesday morning it decided to do an update, which can take a while, so, as this was Mel's day off, we went for a walk. Arriving back 45 minutes later, I was greeted with the message "Restarting"... it still hadn't finished the update!

It seems to have worked OK and everything is working, touch wood. My email problems aren't solved but I have a workaround; and with the notion that problems can crop up unexpectedly high on my mind, I have just backed up onto a little thumb drive the latest version of the Badger Books' book and the obituary I'm working on.

I also have a front cover for Beyond the Void thanks to the man who has often saved me from catastrophe, Martin Baines. I won't show it off until next week because I still have to sort out a back cover, but I think you'll like it.

The icing on the cake is that I've now managed to sort out the last of the Christmas presents and cards I need to buy. I shall now return to writing an obituary, and reminding myself that happiness is only fleeting and death awaits us all. Happy dreams, y'all! (I'm only kidding.)

And that was going to be it, but I went to switch off the PC and it did another update, so I sat here for five minutes not knowing how long it was going to take. Then I made a sandwich and started reading a book that I had sitting on the pile next to my desk – a copy of A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin, which I picked up from one of the book banks in town. I've watched the TV series, which was terrific, and even the remake (Secret State, 2012) was pretty good thanks to Gabriel Byrne. The update eventually took 20 minutes and I was able to shut down the computer.  I am definitely going to have to read the rest of the book, which has many hints of the kind of thing happening in the current climate of "populist" presidents and prime ministers appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 15 November 2023

The best-selling series collecting The Law in order continues. This action-packed volume of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files contains the finale of the epic Origins saga, which sets Dredd on a new quest for justice as he begins to question Mega-City One’s treatment of the mutant population and the laws that keep them down. But what happens when the man upholding the law no longer believes in it?

Written by John Wagner (A History of Violence), Gordon Rennie (Warhammer), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), Ian Edginton (Batman), and Robbie Morrison (The Authority), with art by Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog), Ian Gibson (The Ballad of Halo Jones), Colin MacNeil (Devlin Waugh), Mike McMahon (Slaine), Jock (The Losers), Henry Flint (Rogue Trooper), Rufus Dayglo (Tank Girl), Vince Locke (A History of Violence), PJ Holden (Rogue Trooper), Patrick Goddard (Battle Action), Boo Cook (Doctor Who), Richard Elson (Sonic The Comic), Paul Marshall (Sinister Dexter), Cliff Robinson (Vector 13), Len O’Grady (X-Men Unlimited), D’Israeli (Nikolai Dante), Lee Garbett (Skyward), Anthony Williams (The Real Ghostbusters) and Peter Doherty (The Dreaming).

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files is the ultimate series for fans of the lawman of the future, collecting every case, in order, from more than four decades of adventures in the pages of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine. From the groundbreaking classics to the modern masters, this on-going and best-selling series collects the stories that have made Judge Dredd one of the world’s biggest comic book characters!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2358
Cover: Rufus Dayglo.

Judge Dredd: Poison by Rob Williams (w) PJ Holden (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Fall of Deadworld: Retribution by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 462
Cover: Alex Ronald.

Judge Dredd: Old Soldiers by Ian Edginton (w) Mike Collins (a) Jim Boswell (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Spector: Incorruptible by John Wagner (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Dylan Teague (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Mega-City 2099: The Multitronic Man by Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Jim Campbell (l)
The Exterminator by Garry Leach (a)
Rogue Trooper: Last Man Standing by Brian Buckley (w) Alberto Ponticelli (a) Stephen Downer (c) Tom B. Long (l)
Johnny Red: The Ghost Lands by Garth Ennis (w) Keith Burns (a) Jason Wordie (c) Rob Steen (l)
DeMarco, PI: A Picture Paints by Laura Bailey (w) Rob Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Most Wanted by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Friday, November 10, 2023

Comic Cuts — 10 November 2023

With something of a sigh of relief, I can announce that the bulk of Beyond the Void: The Remarkable Story of Badger Books is finished. I read through the whole thing and made a few minor adjustments and tweaks, but I'm happy with the way it looks and reads. I have one blank page at the back that I'm going to use for an advert; I have an idea to do one in keeping with the rest of the book, but we shall see.

That leaves the cover and I have a top man on the job. I mentioned last week that I didn't want to repeat what has been a standard cover for books about books, which involves a pile of books. I came up with what I think will be a fun idea at the weekend and spent Monday fretting over it because it's too good an idea to have me mess it up.

I know my limitations. I'm a not bad writer and I can put together a book that looks interesting while not being over-complicated (aided in almost every case by having brilliant comics and book covers to use as illustrations). But I'm not an artist or graphic designer. What I see in my head is deformed and distorted as it travels down my arm and out of the pen, pencil or brush and the result is a misshapen mess on the page. That's the last thing you want for a cover – the first thing a customer will see on my website or on Amazon. A duff cover can be the death of a book.

My obituary piece on Keith Giffen appeared on the Guardian website on Friday, but has yet to make the hard copy edition.

I had a "new music day" on Saturday, listening to some albums on streaming services that were new to me. I found a handful that I liked and will go back to listen to again.

Dave Foster Band features guitarist Dave Foster who has recently been playing with Steve Rothery (Marillion) and Big Big Train (replacing Dave Gregory), although was himself replaced on the latter's recent tour because of commitments to the former. The two albums I listed to both featured Dinet Poortman on vocals. Both Nocemo and Glimmer showcase Foster's playing and Poortman's vocals, nowhere better than the opening track of Nocemo ('Pata Dura'). Foster's guitar solos are slick and fast, slow and melodic where needed.

At the other end of the shredding scale is Liquid Tension Experiment, a side project for John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess, at various times of Dream Theatre, and Tony Levin of King Crimson. The 'experiment' of the title is that the band just jam, record everything and then pick out their favourite bits to expand on into tracks. It's riff-heavy with runaway guitar and keyboard solos, but still musically diverse enough (even reworking classical music) to keep tracks distinct and fresh. There was a 22 year gap between albums 2 and 3. Let's hope that the return of Portnoy to Dream Theatre means that there won't be another 20-year gap before album 4 for Liquid Tension Experiment.

Lastly, Head With Wings is a band I'd heard of. They had an EP out some while back (Comfort in Illusion) that I've often had on in the background; I spotted the new album Without Intervention and grabbed it, not really knowing what to expect. I'm glad I did. Tracks range all the way from prog to pop-rock. Great background music until I get a chance to really listen to the songs, as I'm sure there's plenty going on lyrically that I haven't picked up on yet.

I've also got the new (well... old, but remastered and with new tracks) David Longdon album Wild River to listen to. Longdon is sadly missed, but it's good to see his music won't be forgotten.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Commando 5695-5698

The latest Commando Issues are on sale today, Thursday, 9th November! Featuring two World War One Issues for Remembrance Day alongside two rip-roaring reprints!

5695: Monty’s Marauder’s: Machine-gun Mayhem

The fighting men of the First World War are back, as Monty’s Marauders return to wreak havoc on the Kaiser’s men!
     Autumn 1915, and Second Lieutenant Aubrey Monteith’s superiors have planned a local offensive aimed at reducing a salient and straightening out the British lines. This meant plenty of work for the Marauders, as they were sent behind enemy lines to take out the enemy’s machine guns ahead of the battalion’s attack. That is… if things went to plan!
      The Kaiser and his men had better watch out! Monty Marauder's return to wreak havoc in no-man's-land against the German lines in Ferg Handley’s returning series! With Carlos Pino’s outstanding artwork on the cover and interiors, you won’t want to miss this jaunt!

Story | Ferg Handley
Art | Carlos Pino
Cover | Carlos Pino

5696: Sea Snatch

It’s hard to leave a mate in the lurch, especially when he’s wounded and behind German lines. It’s hard to forget he ever existed, even when you’re waging war against the hated Nazis.
     That’s the spot Eric Carlsson and Chris Borge, two Norwegians who’d escaped to fly for the RAF, were in. They planned and plotted to rescue their friend who’d been left behind in Norway… even when they knew it meant disobeying orders and being called traitors and spies!
     After all, he was their mate…
     What a reprint this is! Clegg writes a tale as old as time about friends not leaving a man behind — no matter the cost! The bright and intense cover to ‘Sea Snatch’ is by the legendary Ian Kennedy and the clean, crisp interiors are by Amador! You put that all together and you get one heck of a classic Commando!

Story | Clegg
Art | Amador
Cover | Ian Kennedy
First Published 1970 as Issue 502

5697: Cadman: Up, Up and Away!

November 1914. As the fighting heats up on the Western Front, Lieutenant Gerald Cadman realises he is in real danger of having to fight in the war! But this cowardly cad has a cunning plan to escape battle yet again — take to the skies!
     Little does he know that flying an ‘unarmed’ reconnaissance plane makes him a target for falling bricks and fired bullets from the rival German kites!
      That cowardly cad returns! From the pages of The Victor to Commando, Cadman the Fighting Coward looks skyward to escape the trenches — but he soon finds that life in the Royal Flying Corps isn't any easier or safer than on the ground!

Story | Andrew Knighton
Art | Mike Dorey
Cover | Mike Dorey and Bryn Houghton

5698: The Reckoning

Alan and Dick had been friends for years. They were boys at the same school together. Alan was the quiet one. Not very interested in sport, he was usually to be found reading a book. Dick was the happy-go-lucky type, always playing football, tennis or cricket. Everybody reckoned Dick would make a better soldier than Alan.
     But the day of reckoning came. It was in the mountains of Italy, with the war raging fiercely all around. A lot of secrets were revealed that day — and no-one was more surprised than Alan.
      On its first outing since 1980, The Reckoning returns to Commando pages! But don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s been on the shelves for over 40 years that this yarn has gone stale! With twists, turns and a lot of action — you’ll be annoyed we didn’t reprint it sooner!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Gordon C Livingston
Cover | K Walker
First Published 1981 as Issue 1521

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 8 November 2023

The greatest stories of one of science fiction's greatest heroines - rereleased in an easily accessible format perfect for new readers

Judge Cassandra Anderson of Psi Division is one of the greatest minds on the Judges' roster. As a precognitive telepath and empath, her quirks, such as her sense of humour, are tolerated by the otherwise oppressively strict Justice Department.

In Mega-City One, citizens live in fear under the iron fist of the Judges’ unyielding rule, but PSI Judge Cassandra Anderson knows it’s a flawed system. In the second volume of her Essential line, Anderson grapples with matters of faith and damnation, as a chance at eternal life comes at the cost of losing her mind forever, while her pursuit of a just system leads her to investigate a religious cult, and ultimately to engage in a battle of the minds with the most formidable of foes: Satan himself!

With exceptional art from Arthur Ranson, whose creative partnership with Alan Grant produced some of 2000 AD's most challenging and consequential stories, Satan thoughtfully explores faith against the backdrop of the Judge Department's system of absolute power.

As Anderson faces up to the living embodiment of evil - a man of wealth and taste indeed - she'll be pushed to the very limit of her abilities!

Out on 7 June 2024, Essential Judge Anderson: Satan is available to pre-order from all good book and comic book stores, as well as 2000 AD's webshop!

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2357

Judge Dredd: Poison by Rob Williams (w) PJ Holden (a) Peter Doherty (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Helium: Scorched Earth by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland (l)
The Devil's Railroad by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Jim Campbell (l)
The Fall of Deadworld: Retribution by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Feral & Foe: Bad Godesberg by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Jim Campbell (l)

Treasury of British Comics Annual 2024
Rebellion ISBN 978-183786025-8, 9 November 2023, 112pp, £25.

For over a century, the comic book annual has been an essential Christmas stocking filler for British children. The Treasury of British Comics have dived deep into the archives, selecting slick and exciting stories from past annuals, specials and regular issues, including strips from such titles as Lion, Starlord, Misty, Action, Wham!, Scream! Smash!, Battle and Valiant to name but a few. Including the best of British talent like Brian Bolland, Cam Kennedy, Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Mike Western, Brian Lewis, Joe Colquhoun and Pat Mills, there are also three brand new strips - The Leopard from Lime Street Vs The Spider by Simon Furman, David Roach and Mike Collins, Black Beth by Alec Worley and DaNi and Gustav of the Bearmacht by Kek-W and Staz Johnson.

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Upcoming Releases

An occasional column of comic-related books and magazines that you might want to look out for...

CROK is the latest release from Justin Marriott, publisher of Paperback Fanatic and Battling Britons. This broadens out his coverage of comics beyond the war genre – CROK stands for Comics Rule, OK! – and its coverage mirrors Marriott's own experience of growing up reading Action!, 2000AD and Halls of Horror.

The first issue covers a broad range of subjects, from Lion's The Black Archer and Jet's Bala The Briton to the SF yarns in Judy and Bryan Talbot's art on Nemesis the Warlock. Written chiefly by Marriott and Jim O'Brien, the first issue dips into the work of Bill Ward (Judge Dredd), John Kent (Varoomshka), David Lloyd (his early fanzine career), Carlos Ezquerra (early horror stories) and Clifford Harper (Class War Comix).

A few of my favourite characters and subjects from this issue: Night Raven (I loved the text stories, and David Lloyd did a fantastic strip version; here both Dez Skinn and Steve Parkhouse contribute first hand knowledge), James Bacon's exploration of the Garth Ennis/John McCrea strip Troubled Souls, Marriott's look back at Kids Rule, OK and Jim O'Brien's take on Tammy's Slaves of War Orphan Farm.

It's an excellent debut, as you would expect from Justin,
Jim and James.

Comics Rule OK
Justin Marriott, 28 Oct 2023, 51pp, £5.99. Available via Amazon.

Comic Scene is back with its 2024 Yearbook, now published in A5 size with a spine rather than the A4 magazine of yesteryear.

Its a 100-page volume with an eclectic mix of contents, beginning with a tribute to the late Kevin O'Neill – could there be a better place to start? – and a round-up of highlights of 2023 (and so up-to-date that there's mention of the passing of Keith Giffen and Tony Husband). I won't list every article as there are over two dozen, but some highlights include Joan Ormrod's history of the early days of Wonder Woman, interviews with Aly Fell and Anna Morozova, a look back at Beau Peep, AXA, Bogie Man and Bunty, dips into Spirou, graphic novels for youngsters, classic British comics and Manga.

Comic Scene was always a supporter of the small press and there's plenty on offer in this volume. The book is rounded off by an extensive directory of creators working for both mainstream and small press. And Pat Mills returns with a 'Final Word' about his latest creation M17.

There's something here for everyone.

Comic Scene 2024 Yearbook
ComicScene ISBN 978-173968195-1, November 2023, 100pp, £9.99. Available via the ComicScene website.

The Chefs of Death is a recent Kickstarter project... indeed a Kickstarted project as it achieved its goal. Created by Alex Finch, the story will take you back to the photo-stories of early Eagle when it relaunched in 1982 with the likes of Doomlord, Sgt. Streetwise and Thunderbolt & Smokey.

Finch says of Doomlord, "it was the first time I'd ever read a comic which featured a violent anti-hero and a bleak view of humanity, and even at such a young age I fell in love with it, and apart from Tom Baker's Doctor Who nothing has influenced my passion for science fiction more. Ever since that age I've always wanted to create my own photo strip comic, and, well, it took longer than planned, but I got here in the end!"

And The Chefs of Death is the result. It stars Ian Lane, Chris Denton, Chloe Taylor, Ben Schenck, Louisa Gosse and Finch himself.

There's still time to support this project on Kickstarter and a number of stretch goals that could be reached if enough people back the project.

The Chefs of Death Issue 1 by Alex Finch & others.
Alex Finch, December 2023, 34pp, £4.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Comic Cuts — 3 November 2023

Moving the clocks back has meant lighter mornings but feeling hungry an hour before lunch because my stomach has yet to get the memo about moving from BST to GMT.

I was doing quite well about not snacking, but Mel was given a box of chocolates for her birthday and we have been munching our way through them. Lovely... but we've had so much rain and Mel's work schedule has meant I'm not getting out for walks like I used to. We tried this (Thursday) morning and we walked straight into Storm CiarĂ¡n and I was soaked in seconds. I was the lucky one as Mel was heading for work whereas I simply turned around and headed back home.

I'm close to completing the Badger book. I'm re-reading the whole thing and I'm 98 out of 172 pages in. I think it's looking good and I'm not finding too many typos; I've only found one cover that I'd managed to use twice, but I'm keeping an eye open for that. Contents page and index were the last pages completed and I have the introductory page to finish and the cover.

The cover... I haven't a clue what to do with the cover. There have been a couple of books that relate to Badger, and both Debbie Cross's Down the Badger Hole and Shane Agnew's John Spencer & Co Illustrated Bibliography No.1 have piled of books as their cover image. So I should probably avoid that. The earlier Badger Tracks just had one big cover (Radar Alert by Karl Zeigfreid) on the cover, plus the title. I think I need something a bit better than that.

I'll have to think about it, but I need to come up with something soon!

The Guardian
published my obituary of Tony Husband on Monday. There's often a delay between publication online and in the print version of the newspaper and the piece on Tony appeared relatively quickly (online Thursday, in the paper Monday). I'm still waiting for the obit. for Keith Giffen to appear but there are often delays when famous people die, and Sir Bobby Charlton and Matthew Perry will have bumped everyone back by a day or two.

Sometimes a piece will appear online that doesn't make it into the paper at all. This happened late last year with my piece on Greg Bear, which went online on 29 December, but Christmas and New Year holidays meant the paper not appearing as often around that time and poor Greg missed out on a print appearance. That's the problem with covering authors and artists I think of as BIG NAMES but whose work might not be known to the wider public. It has happened to me once or twice over the years—and five times between 2003 and 2010 the piece was paid for but never run at all—but that hasn't happened for over a decade.

I haven't really done anything else. Did a bit of digging around into the life of Percy Griffiths, the founding editor of The Magnet and The Gem, famously the homes of Billy Bunter and Harry Wharton of Greyfriars and Tom Merry of St Jim's. He was always a mystery man, even to Bill Lofts and Derek Adley, who probably dedicated more time than any other researcher into finding out about "Pushful Percy", as he was known. I managed to track down his birth, but his death is still a huge mystery as he left Fleetway House suddenly and was rumoured to have boarded a boat for Rio, never to be seen again.

Also resolved some questions surrounding Alfred Barnard, who was one of the authors who filled-in for Charles Hamilton under the Martin Clifford house name (used for the St Jim's stories). Hopefully I'll be able to write up all this research one day, but unless someone wants to finance me to do it – and I will do it at the drop of a cheque – it will have to wait, like everything else, until my finances stabilise again or I retire. I'm still owed a lot of money by one publisher in particular and I'm trying to fit in as many books as I can for Bear Alley before I have to start looking for work again. Hopefully I've enough to get at least one more book after Beyond the Void. I have two or three projects in mind that I'd like to do, but which one will it be...?

Definitely a decision for another column!

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Rebellion Releases — 1 November 2023

Pre-order 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!

Out on 26 March 2024 from all good book shops, comic book shops and the 2000 AD webshop, as well as digitally from the 2000 AD webshop and app, this first volume in this new Essential series features selected stories by co-creators Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), with art by Colin Wilson (Judge Dredd) and Cam Kennedy (Star Wars: Dark Empire).

Essential Rogue Trooper: Genetic Infantryman is the start of a new line of collections featuring the very best Rogue Trooper stories, in a new format perfect for both new readers and long-time fans alike! Pre-orders are available now!

And now, this week's release...

2000AD Prog 2356
Cover: 17th & Oak

Cadet Dredd: Deep Trouble by Paul Starkey (w) Ben Willsher (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Lowborn High: Fire & Frost by David Barnett (w) Mike Walters (a) Pippa Bowland (c) Jim Campbell (l)
Future Shocks: Content Provider by Karl Stock (w) Joe Currie (a) Rob Steen (l)
Bladers II by James Peaty (w) Mark Simmons (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Simon Bowland (l)


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