Saturday, October 16, 2021

  • 16 Oct. Interview: Rob Williams (video, 58m)
  • 14 Oct. Sophie Shevardnadze interviews Alan Moore for Russia Today (video, 27m). "It’s thanks to Alan Moore that comics have ceased to be just funny books with pictures – and instead have become a distinct genre with its own philosophy and culture."
  • 9 Oct. Barry Windsor Smith has been inducted into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame.
  • 7 Oct. Interview: Kek-W's 'Wiz War'.  "I wrote an outline for a possible one-pager while, bizarrely, sitting around for a few hours in hospital waiting to be anaesthetised for an operation. Most of the gags in that outline ended up in the final strip."
  • 5 Oct. Interview: Si Spurrier, on The Rush: "Of all the great Bonanza Kings, those lucky few who became insanely wealthy in a flash, who thought nothing of spending a fortune every night in the bars and brothels of Dawson, almost all ended up destitute. Some made and lost several fortunes in a row. They just couldn’t keep the gold. Yet all of them, later in life, remembered this strange dreamlike period with fondness. Like they’d gone through a fiery crucible and come out stronger. Like they’d survived a war."
  • 5 Oct. Interview: Dave McKean talks Raptor (video, 2hr 4m).
  • 3 Oct. Interview: Roger Langridge on Pandora Perfect: "There’s a more complex plot in Mystery Moon, certainly – a benefit of having the luxury of space to do that. And the stakes are a bit higher. A longer story seems to require a shift of gears."

Friday, October 15, 2021

Comic Cuts — 15 October 2021

Another good week on Action, with the first draft reaching 8,000 words so far. I'm into the stories now, discussing Hook Jaw, Dredger and Hellman, adding to my notes by reading 'Hell's Highway' yesterday, with 'Kids Rule OK' lined up to be read next. My notes have reached 30,000 words and I have no idea how long the final piece will be — not all these quotes and notes will reach the final draft, but I'm still writing a lot of inter-connective material.

There have been one or two frustrations along the way. I have been trying to get in touch with a number of people who were involved in the comic who have not been interviewed in the past and it would be nice to get their perspective on the comic. I'm thinking of Probationer! artist Tom Hirst as an example. I know he drew for Action and he was involved in a fanzine put together by Fleetway employee Milton Finesilver, but I know nothing else about him. This was one of the strips that disappeared from Action during its "re-appraisal" period, so it deserves to be looked at closely.

Similarly, the strip's author, Stewart Wales, also seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet. He was a sub-editor of Look-In and Valiant who later worked with Dez Skinn on Junior Quizzer, went on to work for Byblos, Marvel UK (Blake's 7), and Attic Books. He often worked with Geoff Kemp when it came to writing.

Any clues to his whereabouts would be welcome.

It is a shame that so many people have slipped through the net and disappear before some record of their career in comics can be recorded. One such is Tony Jozwiak who was an art assistant at IPC who contributed a few strips to 2000AD. I went searching for him yesterday and I believe he died last year without any mention of his passing appearing. I'm convinced that I met Tony once at the Cheshire Cheese, but the memory is vague and nebulous and I might be misremembering.

With only 40 or so days to go before Christmas, our walks in the morning are starting mostly in the dark or under overcast skies. Earlier this week we were treated to a couple of mornings with spectacular sunrises and views of low mist over the Colne and the fields on the far side of the river.

There have been a couple of exciting moments when we have seen the seal that (so it's said) is a regular visitor to the river. We have known about the seal for some years — Mel even saw it once when she was having a pub lunch at The Anchor in Rowhedge (the village across the river). I said earlier this year that I hoped to see otters and the seal during our walks. Well, I can cross the latter off the list.

Last Sunday week (the 3rd) we were walking along the road that runs parallel to the river because the footpath along the river was muddy when we bumped into an acquaintance who said she had just seen the seal. We rushed down the road to see if we could see anything and, sure enough, a head ducked back under the water as we arrived. I had the camera out and snapped a picture, but all you can see is a blurry, grey river with the slightest hint of a ripple.

Fast forward to Thursday morning (the 14th): as we made our way along the quay, we thought we saw something bob back into the water. A couple of minutes later a snout appeared and disappeared. A definite sighting, which we mentioned to a couple who were walking towards us giving us quizzical looks (we both had our cameras out, aimed at what was by then a still, mucky-looking river). All four of us waited patiently until we had a second snout sighting about 30 yards further up the river. It lasted so briefly that I didn't get a chance to focus the camera.

So you'll just have to believe me when I say we've now seen the seal twice. But I'll post some pics of the sunrise and mist. That I can prove... and I hope you approve.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Commando 5479-5482

Brand new Commando issues are out today!

5479: Judas in Jersey

As the people of Jersey anxiously await the expected invasion of the island by the Germans, a number of young Jerseymen plan to escape to England and join the British Army — including Billy Cooper. The only problem is Billy’s mum won’t let him! She wants her boy safe at home and will do anything to keep him out of harm’s way. But when Billy helps an injured Commando who is later betrayed by one of the islanders, he can’t take it any more and sneaks off to join the Royal Marines. Littles does he know that the war will bring him back to his sleepy island and the traitor from years ago…

A classic boys’ adventure from Steve Taylor, perfectly complimented by Paolo Ongaro’s skilful art and Carlos Pino’s enticing cover!

Story | Steve Taylor
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Carlos Pino

5480: The Long Walk

Dusty Rhodes was a lance-corporal and a tough reliable soldier. Yup, he was an ordinary enough bloke — until the day he found himself in command of a squad of brigadiers and generals! Only he could navigate them across the enemy-filled North African desert safely — and they were more than happy to obey his every command!

A thick and fiery cover from Penalva, the texture of the paint is beautifully rendered in this reprint, adding to the grit of this white-knuckle tale!

Story | Allan
Art | R Fuente
Cover | Penalva
Originally Commando No. 428 (1969).

5481: Vengeance

Peter Ford and Rahul Bose were masters of the skies in their Hurricanes. Meeting during the Battle of Britain, then flying raids together over France, there were no wingmen like them. But sadly, the war had different fates for each, sending Peter to North Africa and Rahul back to India. However, it wouldn’t take long for the two to cross paths again as the pair must face off against the Japanese and the impending Operation U-Go — all they need is a little Hart and a lot of Vengeance!

A debut Commando by Suresh Ramasubramanian, this issue has everything you could ever want — globetrotting through famous events and theatres of war before culminating in the skies over India.

Story | Suresh
Art |Carlos Pino
Cover | Keith Burns

5482: The Hawk and the Dove

The facts speak for themselves — from a speed of just over a hundred miles per hour to over four hundred, then one or two machine guns to many more and better ones with some cannon thrown in too — there was certainly a massive difference between the fighters of the First and Second World War. One thing they had in common though, was that to make the most of the machines called on men of great skill and courage to take them into the thick of the action — men like The Hawk and The Dove!

When Commando reprints a classic aviation issue, you know exactly the legend whose art graces the cover — and this Ian Kennedy number does not disappoint! Stripping back the cover to focus on both flying machines, the meticulous level of detail is unmistakable.

Story | CG Walker
Art | Denis McLoughlin
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1741 (1983).

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 13 October 2021

Wondering what the essential Judge Dredd stories are? Need to find out The Ballad of Halo Jones ran? Well look no further, Earthlets - the 2000 AD Encyclopedia hits stores next February!

Timed to coincide with 2000 AD's landmark 45th anniversary, this 336-page hardcover, with explosive brand new cover by artist Stewart K Moore, is a must have for comic book fans.

For the first time, the 2000 AD Encyclopedia celebrates 45 years of cutting edge sci-fi, biting dystopian satire and glorious fantasy by giving readers chapter and verse on this enthralling universe of Thrills, detailing the characters and stories that have helped make 2000 AD a groundbreaking comic book and major cultural force.

With jaw-dropping illustrations by some of the world’s top artists alongside detailed profiles on the stories and characters from the pages of this legendary comic, from the luckless Aaron A. Aardvark of Judge Dredd to the weaponised (but very polite) undead crusader Zombo.

Since its creation in 1977, 2000 AD has been a powerhouse of British comics - consistently pushing at the boundaries of what comic books can achieve with series such as Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Strontium Dog, Nikolai Dante, Brink, and hundreds of others.

Discover fascinating facts about the acclaimed art and script droids behind 2000 AD’s success, including industry legends such as John Wagner, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Jock, Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Carlos Ezquerra and many more.

With a foreword by 2000 AD’s longest-serving editor, Matt Smith, this hardcover collection is indispensable for all dedicated Squaxx Dek Thargo and an essential addition to any comic fan’s book shelf.

And now, this week's releases...

2000AD Prog 2253
Cover: D'Israeli.

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Black Max Volume Two by Frank Pepper & Alfonso Font
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108862-3, 13 October 2021, 122pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon

Bi-planes vs giant vampire bats in this thrilling collection of war comics with a horror twist! Lieutenant Tom Wilson returns to battle Baron Maximilien Von Klorr and his attack force of giant vampire bats in a continuation of the popular series. The World War One era story moves to England with a monstrous albino bat attacking London with each page beautifully drawn by Alfonso Font working on one of his very first comic series. This exciting World War One aviation adventure is ideal for fans of Charley's War and Hammer horror films!

Megatropolis Book One by Kenneth Niemand & Dave Taylor
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108935-4, 13 October 2021, 96pp, £19.99. Available via Amazon.

Experience the iconic city of Mega-City One as never before, in this visionary comic from Kenneth Niemand (Judge Dredd) and Dave Taylor (Judge Dredd, Batman). In this radical reimagining of the world of Judge Dredd, join disgraced Officer Amy Jarra and Detective Joe ‘choirboy’ Rico as they navigate the crime-ridden underbelly of the glamourous Metropolis, attempting to solve the murder of undercover Detective Fisher.
     Transforming Mega-City One into an art deco cityscape, Niemand and Taylor spin a tale of futuristic noir with luscious art and jaw-dropping set pieces. This over-sized hardcover collection includes a gallery of cover art and never seen before concept sketches.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Vworp Vworp! #4 (September 2021)

After mentioning that I had received quite a haul of books recently and that reviews might take a while to appear, I offered Colin Brockhurst, editor of Vworp Vworp!, a one sentence instant reaction—"WOW! I'm amazed, astonished and in awe of the work you've put in. Five stars.

Now that I've had a chance to actually read some of the content, I stand by that fifteen word review.

That it is an astonishing production shouldn't be a surprise because I was blown away by issue 3 when that appeared back in 2017. 4½ years later, we have issue 4 – a shorter gap than the 5½ years between 2 and 3 – and I'm blown away all over again.

This issue is a 172 page look at the Doctor Who comic strips from the sixties and seventies as they appeared in TV Comic and Countdown/TV Action. Now, this is not a study of the comic strips themselves (there has already been a book covering most of that same period, Paul Scoones The Comic Strip Companion 1964-1979) nor is it a history of TV Comic or Countdown/TV Action (there has already been a book covering the latter, Countdown to TV Action by... ahem... ). Instead, it is an anthology of articles about the comics and the creators behind the strips that appeared in them, plus a couple of extra pieces covering other Who related works.

The whole thing kicks off with a look back at an art agency that supplied artwork for the 1976 Artus Publishing volume Doctor Who and the Daleks Omnibus. Simon Brett interviews everyone involved (those still living, I should say) and it becomes a fascinating story of how small agencies worked in the 1960s through to the 1980s, described by Ivan Rose, one of the co-founders of General Illustration Company, as a time of "earning money like crazy!"

Then onto TV Comic, introduced by Paul Scoones and Michael Baxter before we reach a feature on Neville Main, the first of a number of insightful looks at the creators working on Doctor Who's comic strip over a period of two decades.

The list of creators covered is astonishing: David Motton, Roger Noel Cook, Bill Mevin, Tom Woodman, John Canning, Pat Williams, Dick Millington, Alan Fennell, John Woods, Leslie Waller, Harry Lindfield, Dennis Hooper, Gerry Haylock, Alan Gilham, Frank Langford, Geoff Cowan and Martin Asbury. Phew! Some are interviews (Mevin, Lindfield, Asbury) while others are essays, some long, some relatively brief. I know how tricky it is to research the often anonymous creators of comics, but the magazine contains an array of photos (gold dust!), and snippets of conversations with people tangentially involved (even the guy who won a prize creating a monster for TV Action+Countdown).

The magazine also covers various modern takes on these old strips, a top 40 of weird facts about the TV Comic/Countdown strips, and collecting Who artwork. There is even a free gift in the shape of a packet of Vworp's Sugar Pats, which will enable you to make your own Trod. Oh, and there are comic strips, too.

There's so much information packed in here that, half way through, I was starting to feel a bit redundant. Brockhurst and his team of writers had everything covered and in astonishing detail. But wait... what's this? They didn't know George Marler died in 2007... I can breath again. Surely that will cost the Vworp team half a star.

Only kidding, Colin. You know what? After that sly dig, I'm going to give the magazine 5½ stars.

Order your copy from the official website. And pick up those back issues while you're there. They're well worth the tenner each of them costs.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Comic Cuts — 8 October 2021

After a few weeks of sifting through information and interviews I'm now in the writing phase of the Action project. I have a couple of areas written up, but I'm now trying to link all those disparate chunks of text and notes into one long readable essay. The notes run to over 28,000 words, but the introductory material that's in what I would call a reasonably final form is around 4,300 words. So there's quite a way to go yet.

I'm trying to make this as much of an oral history as I can, hence all the talk over the past few weeks of listening to podcasts, broadcasts, YouTube videos and even a few interviews I have done myself. I've always liked the format but it's a bit labour intensive and it is turning into a footnote fetishists fantasy, with 79 references so far. 

As well as trying to make sense of the history, I have been pestering people for even more information and working on the index that will accompany the essay. The intention is to expand and finesse any listing I've previously published, as I have been doing with the various books I've put out over the last dozen or so years. I'm often asked about the old photocopied indexes that came out in the early 1990s, and I say the same every time: no, I don't have copies, nor are they still in print. I only ever received one copy of each. My intention is to replace all of them, properly printed, and updated and expanded with thirty years worth of additional knowledge. They will be as definitive as I can make them.

Concentrating on Action to the exclusion of all else has meant I'm still running late with various reviews. One book that came in this week is Strange Stories of Sport edited by Chris Harte, a spin-off collection of tales from the Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, which I reviewed here. The book, a whopping 508 pages, collects together a run of 46 horror stories that appeared between 1905 and 1909. Long-time editor, Alfred Watson, and novelist and short story writer Frank Savile dreamed up the idea of publishing a run of stories over lunch in 1904, and Watson began commissioning tales soon after.

Eventually he would publish stories by 21 different authors, Savile prominent amongst them, but also including Herbert Knight-Horsfield, Geoffrey Williams, Charles Edwardes, George Charlton-Anne, Alma Scriven, Charles de Courcy-Parry, Laurence Hornibrook, Henry Bryden and Lewis Shaw.

Harte provides an informative introduction as always. The book is published through his own Sports History Publishing and will be available through the usual sources when it is officially released in about three weeks time. (Amazon lists the book as a hardback, but it is, in fact, a softcover, as are Chris's other books.)

Strange Stories of Sport, edited by Chris Harte. Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801015-9, 25 October 2021, £12.95. Available via Amazon.

I thought today we might have a special No Prize quiz for the sharp-eyed amongst you. Here's the question... what connection does the above episode of 'Montgomery of Alamein' have with Action? Remember, there's no prize. This is just for fun.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 6 October 2021

's latest "jumping on" Prog (2250) saw the return of the long-running and quite brilliant 'Scarlet Traces' series from Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, which launched into the new series, Storm Front.

If you don’t know – and seriously, you’re missing out – 'Scarlet Traces' is all about taking the ideas of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and spinning out a vast, enthralling steampunk sci-fi epic that all began ten years after the abortive Martian invasion of Earth, with Britain truly ruling the world with reverse-engineered alien technology.

The 2000AD website recently carried an interview with Ian Edginton and D'Israeli:

IAN EDGINTON: In the previous series we witnessed the overthrow of the Martians’ occupation of Venus and a spanner thrown in the works of their plan to disassemble the solar system and build a Dyson sphere-style habitat around the Sun. They’re now looking to take out their revenge on the Earth once more.

Meanwhile our heroes Ahron and Iykarus have recruited the reclusive Jovians (inhabitants of Jupiter) to help the Earth in her hour of need. It’s also been revealed that the Martians have reached a genetic dead-end, their numbers have dwindled drastically, this is the last stand for them as well. Phew!

The interview continues here. And now, this week's releses...

2000AD Prog 2252
Cover: Cliff Robinson / Dylan Teague (cols).

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a) Jim Campbell (l)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Simon Bowland
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a) Simon Bowland
The Out Book 2 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular
Cover: Tom Paterson

Britain’s kookiest, legendary anthology returns from the great beyond with 48 pages of brand new, HELL-arious comic strips! Frankie Stein, Kid Kong, Draculass, Sweeny Toddler, Gums, Teddy Scare and the Hire A Horror crew have returned with a diabolical host of new frights – including one of Britain’s best loved superheroes, The Leopard from Lime Street - to usher in the witching season with SPOOKTACULAR fashion!

Dark Justice: Torture Garden by David Hine & Nick Percival
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108972-9, 6 October 2021, 108pp, £7.99. [DIGITAL RELEASE]

The Dark Judges Death, Fire, Fear and Mortis have landed on the remote Mega-City colony Dominion. Now a few survivors must fight to survive, as the Dark Judges have transformed their colony into a necropolis and their loved ones into an army of zombies... Collected into a digital-only graphic novel for the first time, this series stars fan favourite villains the Dark Judges in a chilling storyline, with sensational artwork by Nick Percival.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Eagle Times v34 n3 (Autumn 2021)

September saw the latest issue of Eagle Times landing, slightly early (as the editorial explains) after the lateness of the previous issue (again, the editorial explains). The magazine has been astonishingly regular for decades, so a few days is no problem amongst friends.

And Eagle Times is like an old friend, one who can occasionally surprise you. There are a handful of articles this issue that are run-ons from previous issues, including some of my favourite recent features: the studio ideas book, which includes sketches from the Frank Hampson studio, this time looks at the Phant war drum, while a second behind-the-scenes feature looks at the script for 'The Phantom Fleet' and how it came to a rather hurried end.

The New Eagle gets some coverage this issue, with Alan Hebden the subject of an interview — he wrote some fine comic strip tales during the photo-strip era, including 'The Tower King', 'The House of Daemon' and 'The Fifth Horseman', all illustrated by Jose Ortiz, as well as later strips 'News Team' and 'Comrade Bronski'. Something that doesn't get a mention is 'Manta Force', which I'll happily admit to barely remembering myself. There is also a review of 'The Tower King', which was a highlight of the new paper when it launched (I was no great fan of photo strips).

Back in the original Eagle, we have part 13 of David Britton's series on 'Charles Chilton & The Indian Wars', which analyses the historical background of Chilton's 'Riders of the Range' strip, which involved Jeff Arnold in many real situations, not always accurately.

John Ryan is the subject of a short article reprinted from Retro magazine, and Gordon of Khartoum gets the historic treatment, comparing reality with the back page strip that appeared in 1960, told by Chad Varah and drawn by Peter Jackson. Learie Constantine is the subject of a 'Whatever Happened to...' feature, inspired by the cricketer's series of 'Cricket Coaching' comic strips (credited to Leary (sic) Constantine in the first few issues), drawn by Denis Alford.

Steve Winders wraps up the issue with the first part of another P.C. 49 adventure, 'The Case of the Unconventional Convention', set at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention at the King's Court Hotel, London, in September 1957 and involving real-life attendees, including John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham) and Forrest J. Ackerman (who I met at a much later convention in 1979!).

It's another fine issue from the production team who run the magazine. More power to their elbow  as we reach the final issue of this volume, due out on 14 December.

The quarterly magazine is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £29 in the UK, £40 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Wellcroft Cottage, Wellcroft, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9EF; subs can also be submitted via PayPal to Back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Ally Sloper — His Life and Times

Alan Clark's latest tome tackles the fascinating subject of Britain's first comic character, Ally Sloper, the potato-headed entrepreneur with his grog blossom nose, ever dressed in his saggy frock coat and battered hat and boasting of his latest schemes. The name was a slang term for someone who sloped off up one of London's thousands of back alleys whenever a debt collector was around, and the caricature, born in a doodle by writer/artist Charles H. Ross on a piece of blotting paper, given character in the pages of Judy where Ross was a regular writer. 'Some of the Mysteries of Loan and Discount' appeared in August 1967, introducing Ally and his semi-regular partner, Isaac Moses (Iky Mo).

Ally's origins are laid out in a short introduction, as are those of his chief artist, Marie Duval (1869-78?), William G. Baxter (1884-86) and William F. Thomas (1888-1916). The character moved from Judy magazine to his own Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday, published and edited by Gilbert Dalziel, who exploited the character in reprint books, colour plates and merchandise.

While Ally's original paper fell during the Great War, it was revived in 1922 with Charles H. Ross junior writing and W. F. Thomas coming out of retirement to draw more cartoons, but was gone within six months. Tastes and styles had changed, and Ally was by then seen to be as old as his hat.

The bulk of the book is then a selection of cartoons, illustrations and covers from the various incarnations of Ally and the magazines in which he starred. Without doubt, this is the largest and most comprehensive selection of Ally Sloper related images I've ever seen, from his very first appearance to the announcement that Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday was merging with London Life and two rather odd post-WW2 one-shots. The only thing not illustrated is Denis Gifford's revival in 1976-77.

There is a quote from Ross that is worth exploring briefly. Ross once claimed that Sloper—or a Sloper-like character—had appeared as early as 1860 in a book called The Great Gun. Although certainly earlier than Sloper's first cartoon, the book actually dates from December 1865.

Over the years, Ally visited everything from the Suez Canal to the Paris Exhibition, and tackled the leading questions of the day, whether it was the Eastern Question or the fake Sir Roger Tichborne. Ally attended numerous Ascots, openings of Parliament, met Buffalo Bill, Sir Henry Morton Stanley, Lord Kitchener and Emile Zola, celebrated Victoria's golden jubilee, the coronation of Edward VII, and his own 1,000th and 1,500th numbers.

Along the way we meet Ally's family and friends, and stumble across some real surprises... like the cover of Tootsie Sloper, a magazine dedicated to Ally's daughter, which ran for a single issue in 1899, and Tootsie Sloper's Serio-Comic Journal, another attempt that also lasted just one issue in 1904. There is also an amazing array of Sloper merchandise, from match cases to music, movies and magic lantern slides.

Sugar-Plums nad Tootletum: The Works of C. H. Ross
is a companion book, Ross being the creator and chief architect of Sloper and his early fame. A slimmer volume than that dedicated to his creation, it is nonetheless just as packed with rare, unseen gems written and drawn by Ross or drawn by his wife, Marie Duval.

Beginning with a brief overview of his career, the book displays a gallery of Ross's work, in Judy, in book form and in various other titles he worked on, most notably the incredibly scarce C.H. Ross's Variety Paper, of which there are no known complete collections. This featured W. G. Baxter's creation 'Choodle', who had briefly appeared in an earlier paper, Comus. Choodle had none of Ally Sloper's following and nor did the Variety Paper have the publishing acumen on Gilbert Dalziel behind it. It folded after 34 issues.

Clark introduced Mrs. Ross in to the story, again with plenty of illustrations, and the book is completed with a reprint of Queens and Kings and Other Things, a slim volume from 1874 with short verses by Ross illustrated by Marie Duval.

Not for all tastes, but fascinating to anyone who has an interest in the origins of British comics, British comedy and the works of Marie Duval, one of the first female comic strip artists and illustrators.

Privately published, both books are available via Ebay as a pair, priced £30.00.

Ally Sloper. His Life & Times
by Alan Clark.
Alan Clark, 2021 [September 2021], 262pp (A5), £15.00.

Sugar-Plums & Tootletum, The Work of C. H. Ross by Alan Clark.
Alan Clark, 2021 [September 2021], 162pp (A5), £15.00.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Comic Cuts — 1 October 2021

I have spent most of September working on the Action project, the downside of which is that I don't always have a lot to talk about in these columns. I was worrying about what I might have to write about, this being week four wholly dedicated to Action... but was it?

Thinking about it, Action hasn't been hogging my whole attention. Saturday was Mel's birthday, so much of the day was dedicated to that. Then on Sunday I started reading and writing a review of one of the books I received during the previous week. I didn't quite get it finished (I do like to read the books before I write them up, which is why it can take so long!), but I should finish it off this week-end.

I have also been sorting out some scans for an upcoming book from Hibernia Press, who recently published a reprint of a fine old Jesus Blasco yarn, The Indestructible Man. Well worth checking out if you haven't already.

Then there has been a bit of back 'n' forth over some corrections and additions that I made to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and double checking some of the information that might have been misinformation that has crept in. The SFE is switching servers at the moment, so there might be a bit of down time, but it shouldn't be for long.

I did a little bit of tinkering with an article that I'm hoping to use in the upcoming mag. and was also contacted by the son of a publisher about whom I wrote an article last year, again for the upcoming mag., so that can hopefully now be checked over for factual accuracy by family members, perhaps even expanded with new information.

I'm also trying to resolve a bit of a mystery regarding the name John Gabriel, which at least three authors have used. Trying to figure out who wrote what a century on is proving tricky, although I've sorted some of it out.

There's also the little matter of the kitchen needing a new oven, as the old one is old, leaky and about to be condemned by the gas inspector. (I'll leave you to make jokes about my similarity to the oven.)

And that brings me up to today, where I have spent part of the morning reading about censorship in children's literature, and this afternoon's reading was on folk devils and moral panics. We went out this evening to a meeting about a local planning application that seems to involve removing the nearby bus stop, but the meeting must have been cancelled as the office where it was to be held was empty... so we went and bought fish and chips.

The pic of the top is me and comedian Simon Evans, who finally managed to bring his 2020 tour to Colchester Arts Centre. 'The Work of the Devil' is a densely layered critique of the modern world but seen through slightly different eyes compared to previous tours. There is a revelation about Evans that moves the show in a startling new direction and changes its tone entirely. To say more would be giving things away. I'm not in agreement with some of Evans' political and social views, but he's a marvellous comedian and, even as an affirmed tree hugging leftie myself, I agree that sometimes tree hugging lefties need their pomposity pricked. We can take it.

That could be our last gig of the year. Got to save some money for Christmas now... how can it be October already?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Commando 5475-5478

Brand new Commando issues are out today! And above we have a fantastic cover by Ian Kennedy, who celebrated his birthday a few days ago. Happy Birthday, Ian! He is still turning out new covers (see 'The Tygrys' below) and is the star of a short (25mins) film made by Phillip Vaughan that can be found on YouTube.

5475: The Tygrys

Colin Maxwell lends his pen to Commando with a tale of the daring escape of a Polish Sub and its crew! During the Nazi invasion of Poland, the ORP Tygrys was told to stay put while the other more modern submarines were sent out to defend Poland. This didn’t sit well with the Tygrys, and it set out to stalk its prey!

This excellent Commando is brought to life with interiors from duo Morhain and Defeo, and topped off with another classic cover by Ian Kennedy!

Story | Colin Maxwell
Art | Morhain & Defeo
Cover | Ian Kennedy

5476: Lair of the Leopards

Squadron Leader Roddy Duffield had an axe to grind. A nasty group of Nazi called the Black Leopards had killed his mate, levelled their airfield and Roddy was out for revenge — whatever the cost! Well, Roddy paid the price for his bloodthirst when he was accused of cracking up and reassigned to a photo-recce outfit. Now how was Roddy supposed to get even if he could only shoot photos and not bullets?!

There’s never a dull moment with this 1960s Commando masterfully crafted by RA Montague and marvellously illustrated by Amador and Mackay!

Story | RA Montague
Art | Amador
Cover | Mackay
Originally Commando No. 426 (1969).

5477: Bug Attack

And now for something a little different — GIANT BUGS! In this sci-fi meets war comic penned by veteran writer Ferg Handley, a fracking operation in Colorado goes wrong — very wrong indeed — when gargantuan insects come crawling out of the cracks and wreak havoc by swarming over everything in their path! Only Commandos in mech-suits can hope to exterminate these mega-creepy crawlies and save the planet!

Commando artist Dan Barnfield tackles this off the wall adventure and Neil Roberts doesn’t disappoint with his bug-tastic cover! This Commando is sure to bug you if you miss it!

Story | Ferg Handley
Art |Dan Barnfield
Cover | Neil Roberts

5478: Desert Showdown

The men who went behind the lines to raid Rommel’s communications and supply routes in the desert were a hard bunch of no-nonsense fighters. Lieutenant Julian Eastwood’s mob were no different, except that three of them had dark secrets in their murky pasts. But not one of those three suspected the terrible fate that was waiting out there for them in the wilderness of sand and rock!

A romp straight out of the 1980s from the mind of the master writer, CG Walker, and stunning artwork from Fleming and the legend Ian Kennedy!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Fleming
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1730 (1983).

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Rebellion Releases — 29 September 2021

Watch out parents - Britain’s newest comic is going to create little monsters everywhere!

Rebellion is proud to announce that Monster Fun will launch next year, the UK’s first all-new on-going humour comic for kids in 30 years.

The first issue will debut in April 2022, with new issues every two months - perfectly designed for holiday entertainment, whether it’s Easter, half term, summer, or Halloween!

The 32-page bi-monthly title is not only Rebellion’s first brand new title since it acquired the legendary 2000 AD in 2000, but also the first to be inspired by its archive of classic comics.

Packed with all new stories, the first regular issue of Monster Fun will be available from all good newsagents and comic book stores in April, but readers can subscribe now at and receive brilliant free gifts!

Every issue, young readers will laugh out loud all new adventures from familiar faces such as Sweeny Toddler, Frankie Stein, The Leopard from Lime Street, and Draculass, while new stories like Tokoloshe, Hell's Angel and Scare Salon will quickly become firm favourites thanks to breakout talents like Juni Ba (Monkey Meat), Robin Etherington (one half of the Etherington Brothers (How to Think When You Draw, the world's most successful crowd-funded art and writing tutorial series), Matt Baxter (The Phoenix), and kids' comics legends like Tom Paterson (The Beano).

And it all kicks off this Halloween, with the 48-page Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular Special issue! Out on 6 October from newsagents, comic book stores and, Britain’s kookiest anthology returns from the great beyond with plenty of brand new, HELL-arious comic strips that will have you howling with laughter, including Gums, Hire A Horror, Kid Kong, Teddy Scare, Wiz War and a diabolical host of new frights!

Jason Kingsley OBE, CEO of Rebellion, said: ‘They said British comics were dead - but Monster Fun is returning from the beyond to take over! I’m immensely pleased that we are launching the first new kids’ humour comic to hit newsstands for decades. There’s a huge market for all-ages titles out there and I’m proud that Monster Fun continues our commitment to bringing quality comic books back to life.’

Ben Smith, head of book, comic books, film and TV at Rebellion, said: ‘Monster Fun is a legendary and much-loved title from the golden age of British comics, that we’ve revived and reimagined for today’s kids. The team have put together a fantastic Halloween special to whet everyone's appetites for the launch next year.’

One of hundreds of classic comic properties now owned by Rebellion, Monster Fun was a weekly British comic strip magazine for children aged seven to twelve. Published by IPC Media, it ran for 73 issues in 1975–1976, before merging with sister title Buster.

Out this week...

Slaine: Dragontamer
by Pat Mills (w), Leonard Manco, Chris Weston & Kyle Hotz (a)
Rebellion ISBN 978-178108953-8, 28 September 2021, 96pp, £18.99. Available via Amazon.

The stunning new adventure of Pat Mills and Angie Kincaid's legendary Celtic warrior, Sláine! Originally serialised in 2000AD, this incredible hardcover sees Sláine lead a rebellion against the tyrannical reign of the Emperor Brutus and his Trojan army and features jaw-dropping art by standout talent Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer, Avengers). As Brutus uses dragons to bolster his despotic reign and spread terror across the land, Sláine takes the fight all the way to New Troy - and discovers the secrets that lie in Brutus's dungeons Dragontamer features multiple pages that have been remastered specifically for this collection by Manco, enhancing his storytelling and critically-acclaimed work, and transforming the original serialised story into a career-defining work of art!

2000AD Prog 2251
Cover: Mark Harrison.

Judge Dredd: The Hard Way by Rob Williams, Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a)
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a)
The Out Book II by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a)
The Diaboliks: Arrivederci Roma by Gordon Rennie (w) Antonio Fuso (a)
Pandora Perfect: Mystery Moon by Roger Langridge (w) Brett Parson (a)


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