Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pictorial Puppetry

In the late 1960s I used to have a weekly children's partwork magazine called Pictorial Knowledge. I recently came across my collection of them and thought this issue might be of interest to collectors of cult tv memorabilia. Pictorial Knowledge was a junior educational magazine covering pretty much everything it could, and one of the articles in this 1969 issue was on puppets. 

The Scott Tracy cover photo was a little misleading if anyone was expecting an article on Gerry Anderson, but the feature inside did include a couple of production shots. Too bad they refer to "Captain Scarlet of Thunderbirds" in the text. The article is quite lightweight but informative enough for the young readers it was intended for. Here it is...

Incidentally, you may have noticed that the cover price of 3/6d (17 and a half pence) was incredibly expensive for a 24 page magazine in 1969, when the average price of comics was 7d (3p) and the more in-depth Look and Learn was 1/6d (7 and a half pence). My parents were certainly not well off (we lived in a council house, my dad lost his job through ill health at this time, and my mum was only working part time) so I think my aunt must have bought it for me every week. At any rate, I lost interest in the mag after a year or so and switched to Look and Learn. Although that was mainly for the Trigan Empire comic strip I must admit.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

From the past... Captain Future!

Bear Alley Books have announced their latest offering and it's sure to interest fans of 1950s UK independent comics. The Complete Captain Future is to be a 200 page A4 softback reprinting Norman Light's space hero character. The artwork has a retro charm about it by modern standards but it's very well illustrated and certainly worthy of a collection. 

For some reason, outside of Eagle and The Beano, postwar and 1950s British comics are sometimes overlooked by collectors but it was an important decade for the industry. It was a time when comics broke free of the traditional formulas and more independent companies surfaced. Adventure comics began to hold their own instead of being a back up to the funnies, and the influence of American comics encouraged UK artists to create more dynamic page layouts. Basically that postwar/1950s period set the scene for decades to come. Captain Future is a perfect representation of those times. 

If you order The Complete Captain Future before publication you'll get a discount. (I've just ordered my copy.) Here's the Bear Alley Books page where you can discover more about the book and how to order it:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Adventures for the Doctor

As reported here a few weeks ago, Panini UK now have the licence to publish Doctor Who Adventures, a magazine previously published by Immediate Media Ltd. Panini's new version launched today with a new first issue.

Doctor Who Adventures is pitched at a younger target reader than Panini's long-running Doctor Who Magazine. The contents of DWA had previously been very lightweight, mostly featuring puzzle pages and pin-ups, and, frankly, quite a breezy read. Panini's revamp, edited by Jason Quinn, retains a few puzzle pages and pin-ups but offers the readers better value for money with more story pages and interesting features. 

Previously, DWA had just featured a 4 page Doctor Who strip. The revamp increases it to a 9 page strip plus a three page text story. For a kids magazine to include 12 pages of fiction these days is quite impressive. The articles also offer a bit more to read than before, and there's a good science feature on how to make a battery out of lemons and coins. Don't get me wrong; DWA is still not as sophisticated as Countdown was, but it's a welcome step in the right direction away from magazines that dumb down (or 'young up' as one editor called it). 

Good quality free gifts too, with plastic framed 3-D glasses, a note pad, and plenty of stickers. 

A few days ago, John Freeman's Down the Tubes website featured an interview with DWA editor/writer Jason Quinn and you can read that here:

Doctor Who Adventures No.1, 36 pages, out now, £3.99.


Also from Panini UK today, The Incredible Hulks No.14 is a good 'jumping on point' with the start of a new Hulk saga and the return of the She-Hulk in a new series. 

And what may interest long-time readers is that the back up strip is a reprint of X-Men No.66 from 1970. The story will be serialized across three issues in seven page episodes, just like Fantastic used to do back in 1968. Good to see some classic material again. 

The Incredible Hulks No.14, 76 pages, £3.50.

(Yes, it's not a typo. The comic is indeed using the plural Hulks, - because it features more than one Hulk. Yeah, irritating I know, as it's the character's name. It's as daft as if they had a comic called Thors. Well, I'm afraid Marvel in America are doing just that with Thors No.1 out soon! With more than one Cap around now can Captain Americas be far behind?) 

Commando comics for April 23rd

Latest press release from DC Thomson....
Commando Issues 4803-4806 – On Sale 23 April 2015

Commando No 4803 – The Deadly Waters
When German forces invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Dutch Army Lieutenants Dirk Dreise and Ruud Aaker fought in the front line. The campaign went against them, though, forcing them to escape to England where they were assigned to clandestine intelligence work.
   Eventually the tide of war turned and in 1944 they were back in their homeland, determined to throw the invaders out. For them, the fighting raged not in the air or on land but on the waters of the flooded polders.

Story: George Low
Art: Vila
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4804 – Tough Guy
Joe Brady was as tough as the Liverpool slums that had bred him — and, boy, he could hate!
   The many Nazis he met knew the cold ferocity which blazed in his eyes as he swept into battle, but they could tell no one.
   For dead men tell no tales.

Some of you may wonder how we choose which titles to let you read again. Well, there are loads of different reasons but, it the case of this story, one trumps all others. It was drawn by Victor De La Fuente and, as far as I’m concerned, any excuse to let you see his magnificent art is good enough. I grew up reading Commando stories and his illustrations never let me down, combining accuracy, aggression and activity in every frame.
   Victor’s style influenced many other artists, and at least one reader, to get involved in comics. Thanks, Victor.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Tough Guy originally Commando No 149 (January 1965), re-issued as No 743 (May 1973)

Story: Kenner
Art: Victor De La Fuente
Cover: Scholler

Commando No 4805 – Brothers in Danger
Canadian sniper Michel Caron had been recruited by Gabe Dubois, his adopted brother, for a special mission that required expert, high-precision shooting.
   In the bombed-out ruins of Caen in Northern France, death lurked in every shadow — and the brothers soon realised that both of them would have to be ready to sacrifice anything, even their own lives, to complete their deadly task…

Story: Kris Roberts
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4806 – Secret of The Alps
All it took was one shot from a flare pistol to bring the entire German armoured column to a chaotic standstill.
   There was no shock wave, no heat blast…just a silent explosion of brilliant light that blinded every pair of eyes within a mile. Even inside tanks there was no protection from this unearthly glare, this terrible…

Secret Of The Alps

Saichan — responsible for the inside art here — drew 13 Commandos in total. Well, not quite, his final book (Unlucky 13) had to be finished by another artist. The reasons are lost in the mists of time but it wasn’t due to lack of quality for his style — though quirky, and cartoon-ish in places — is certainly effective.
   The story is classic Alan Hebden, a man well known for intricate plotting and (just) believable secret weapons. He was on his game for this one!
   Saichan’s Unlucky 13, by the way, featured some of Commando’s early recurring characters — The Bomb Gang. This story is as explosive as any of theirs.

Calum Laird, Editor

Secret Of The Alps, originally No 2343 (January 1990), re-issued as Commando No 3947 (October 2006).

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Saichan
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Friday, April 17, 2015

Festival appearance cancellation

I'm very sorry to say that due to a persistent virus/flu I won't be able to attend the Birmingham Comics Festival tomorrow. I'm annoyed with myself for several reasons because of this, especially as I was one of the first guests invited by organiser Steve Tanner who is one of the good guys in the UK comics industry. (Steve's also the publisher of Time Bomb Comics. Check them out.)

I'm also sorry to not be able to meet up with friends and colleagues old and new, and that I'll miss the readers who are attending. I was really looking forward to going and I'm gutted not to be there. My sincere apologies to those of you who were bringing comics along to be signed and/or hoping to buy a sketch. I hate letting people down. 

By sheer bad luck this is the second event in six months I've had to cancel due to some virus or other. All the months in-between I've been as right as rain!

On a positive note the guest line-up is so amazing that I'm sure my non-appearance will have no impact on the enjoyment of those attending. It sounds like it's going to be a fantastic event and the weather forecast is excellent so I'm sure that everyone who attends will have a great time.

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