Thursday, December 05, 2019

Out now! A wonderful new book on the life and work of Charlie Grigg

Just in time for Christmas is this marvellous surprise that would make an ideal present. The Life of Charlie 'Chas' Grigg, The Black Country's best kept secret is a 160 page paperback on quality paper and will be the best £10 you'll spend this year. 

In case you didn't already know, Charlie Grigg was one of D.C. Thomson's premier artists, drawing Korky the Cat, Desperate Dan, The Umbrella Men, The Red Wrecker, Splodge, Foxy, and many more strips that delighted millions of children over the years. When he retired from comics in the 1980s he went on to illustrate numerous "saucy seaside postcards" for Bamforth; fantastic full colour works delighting many adults. 
Sadly, in his later years, Charlie developed dementia, until he passed away in 2013. His family are dedicating half the proceeds of this book to The Alzheimer's Society and half to the Me, Myself and I group which gives support to people looking after others long term. 
The Life of Charlie 'Chas' Grigg is a wonderful book, written by Dr Brian Dakin in collaboration with the Grigg family to celebrate Charlie's life and work and his relationship with the Black Country, an area of the Midlands that derived its name from the industrial times. 
The book includes memories and anecdotes from Charlie's relatives and friends, as well as a good portion written by Charlie himself years ago, recounting his career and the various strips he drew. It's profusely illustrated with well reproduced strips, covers, photographs and other pieces of artwork showing Charlie's immense talent. There's also letters of correspondence shown from D.C. Thomson and others, and additional work that Charlie drew for calendars, birthday cards, etc. 
This really is the perfect book for all fans of Charlie Griggs' work and for aficionados of British comics in general. You can buy it directly from this link:

Charlie Grigg was the first artist that made an impression on me when I saw his Korky cover on the first Dandy I had in 1964. I was captivated by it right away, and seeing what Korky got up to next was a highpoint of my week when I was five years old. I still enjoy looking back at his work now I'm a 60 year old. He was one of the best comic artists the UK has produced and could handle humour and light adventure strips with equal skill. This book is a fine tribute to the man. Don't miss it!

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Christmas BEANO (2019)

Cover art: Nigel Parkinson with Beano designers Leon Strachan and Gary Aitchinson.
Christmas really wouldn't be complete without a festive issue of the Beano for kids to read would it? This year's Christmas edition was published today and is packed with seasonal fun. 

That's the cover of the actual comics above by Nigel Parkinson. However it comes bagged with gifts so this is what to look out for in the shops...
Open the bag and you'll find the comic plus five gifts which include a melted snowman (!) and a shoe squeak prank.
However, three of the gifts are wrapped up like Christmas presents so it's mystery what they contain... and I'm not telling you. (If you know, please don't post spoilers. Let's keep it a mystery in the spirit of the season. I might even save mine to open on Christmas Day!)
The comic itself, Beano No.4014, has a great festive design throughout, with snow on the logos and in the borders, - and follow that snowball that's rolling across the logos through the comic to see where it ends up. (I'm not telling you that either. ;-)) In another nice touch, the blue "sky" of the borders gets darker as we go through the comic.
Art: Barrie Appleby.

Art: David Sutherland.
Art: Nigel Parkinson.
Art: Laura Howell.
These little Christmassy touches are the sort of things that kids will always remember and they make the festive issues something special. Some years the Christmas Beano hasn't been as spectacular as perhaps it could have been but this one, and its gifts, are really impressive. 

I have a nice memory of 50 years ago, reading the Christmas Beano of 1969 on Christmas Eve, and I hope the kids of today will have fond memories of this year's issue to carry with them too. Comics are important in not only helping children to read but also by being a small addition to their happy times of childhood. (If you're interested you can see that 1969 issue here: 
https://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-christmas-beano-1969.html )

There are no mini-strips in this issue by the way, which means no Pup Parade. A bit of a disappointment for me to miss doing a Christmas strip but they'll be back soon.

The Christmas Beano is on sale now, and for the next few weeks. Price £4.99. 

Not to be confused with the Beano Christmas Special, a 68 page bookazine that's been on sale for a few months now. I previewed that here:
https://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2019/08/cover-preview-beano-christmas-special.html

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THE TEMPEST collected edition out now!

As a follow up to my previous post that reviewed the final issue of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's masterpiece I thought I'd do a brief review of the collected edition that's just arrived here at Blimey Mansion. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 4: The Tempest is a luxurious cloth bound hardback with dust jacket and it deserves a place of the bookshelves of any comics connoisseur. 

You'll be pleased to know that the book not only collects all the stories from the six part mini-series, but all the covers, features, and letters pages as well. They're all arranged in order, rather than lumping all the covers and extras at the back like some collections do, so it feels more like a bound edition of six complete comics, and is all the better for it. 


There are new bits too, which is a nice bonus, such as endpapers, a "This Book Belongs To..." page, and a brilliant new four page epilogue that had me laughing out loud. As this is Alan and Kevin's final journey into comics it seems appropriate that they'd leave us laughing.

And, yes, you get a free pair of 3-D Glasses for the 3-D sequences in the book. 

This is a chunky book, well produced by its creators and publishers. Treat yourselves or a loved one (or just a close mate, no funny business) to a copy this Christmas! Co-published by Top Shelf in the USA and Knockabout in the UK, you can order it directly from Knockabout's eBay shop here:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/League-of-Extraordinary-Gentlemen-THE-TEMPEST-Hardcover/202832371025


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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Review: THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN - THE TEMPEST No.6

Catching up with reviews and this one has been difficult to do. Not because there's anything wrong with it. Far from it! It's as skillfully crafted and enjoyable a comic as you could wish for, but it's also the final comic that Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill are producing and that left me with a feeling of sadness. Yes, they're both retiring from comics and this issue is their swan song. 

I've followed the careers of Alan and Kevin throughout their entirety, and they were good friends to me when I started out in this business, so although I wish them both a very happy retirement from comics it's tinged with melancholy that we'll not see any new comics from them again. But let's not look at it as a glass half empty, but as a glass half full and topped up with a measure of quirky lunacy and spectacle that only these two gentlemen could deliver.

Continuing that drinks metaphor, this final issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest is like a cocktail that your mates would buy you in Majorca in 1989 that would have you chasing the girls around the tables and you wouldn't remember a thing about it the next day if it wasn't for photographic evidence. But the less said about that the better. Let's move on to reviewing the comic shall we? 

As with the previous issues, The Tempest No.6 begins with a cover spoofing an old British comic. In this case it's the early cover design of 2000AD, obviously a deliberate nod to the time when Kevin O'Neill was on staff there. Naturally, Kev's art is superb but let's also respect his wonderful skills as a designer on the covers of this series and their spot-on parodies.

Inside, there's another prose tribute to a "Cheated Champion of your Childhood" where Alan and Kevin tell the story of a UK comics giant. In this issue they pay respects to the great Ron Turner.

The story itself is a fitting ending to the saga of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. As those of you who have followed it will know, the series has included a dazzling array of references to popular culture stretching back over history and this final outing manages to cram in even more. Actually, "cram" is not the best description, as although Kevin includes a staggering amount of detail, everything is clearly presented. You'll see numerous homages to characters you may have forgotten... and many you may never have known if you're younger than me, but it's all done with affection and a good dollop of dark satire. 

No other comic could bring together elements from Victorian / Edwardian fiction, James Bond, Rupert the Bear, obscure British comics, Gerry Anderson, Planet of the Apes, UK sit-coms and numerous other pop culture references and make it such a pleasurable experience. I won't reveal too much of the story of this final chapter, and indeed it references its own past in places so I'll need to re-read the series to fully appreciate it anyway, but it's a jolly good intellectual romp with a lot of giggles along the way. There's so many cameos in the comic that it'd be a crime if Alan and Kevin didn't turn up as well, as indeed they do in a brilliant nod to another comic of long ago. 

It's a case of "That's All, Folks" then for our super-talented duo, but what a legacy of work they've gifted us, not only as a top class double act but also working with other creators over the years to produce some of the finest, funniest, and most thought provoking comics in the world. Most of us in this crazy business we call comic have had to compromise at times, or regularly, to earn a crust, but Alan and Kevin have both pretty much followed the vision they wanted to, and we're all the better for it. Happy retirement my friends, and thanks for all the entertainment. 

It's taken me so long to get around to reviewing this issue that the collected graphic novel is also out now. A sumptuous hardback that's available to buy directly from Knockabout at this link:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/League-of-Extraordinary-Gentlemen-THE-TEMPEST-Hardcover/202832371025

Here's the info from the publisher....

(W) Alan Moore (A/CA) Kevin O'Neil

After an epic twenty-year journey through the entirety of human culture-the biggest cross-continuity "universe" that is conceivable-Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill conclude both their legendary League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and their equally legendary comic-book careers with the series' spectacular fourth and final volume, The Tempest. Tying up the slenderest of plot threads and allusions from the three preceding volumes, The Black Dossier, and the Nemo trilogy into a dazzling and ingenious bow, the world's most accomplished and bad-tempered artist-writer team use their most stylistically adventurous outing yet to display the glories of the medium they are leaving; to demonstrate the excitement that attracted them to the field in the first place; and to analyze, critically and entertainingly, the reasons for their departure.

Opening simultaneously in the panic-stricken headquarters of British Military Intelligence, the fabled Ayesha's lost African city of Kor, and the domed citadel of "We" on the devastated Earth of the year 2996, the dense and yet furiously paced narrative hurtles like an express locomotive across the fictional globe from Lincoln Island to modern America to the Blazing World; from the Jacobean antiquity of Prospero's Men to the superhero-inundated pastures of the present to the unimaginable reaches of a shimmering science-fiction future. With a cast list that includes many of the most iconic figures from literature and pop culture, and a tempo that conveys the terrible momentum of inevitable events, this is literally and literarily the story to end all stories. Originally published as a six-issue run of unfashionable, outmoded and flimsy children's comics that would make you appear emotionally backward if you read them on the bus, this climactic magnum opus also reprints classic English super-team publication The Seven Stars from the murky black-and-white reachers of 1964. A magnificent celebration of everything comics were, are, and could be, any appreciator or student of the medium would be unwise to miss The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Tempest. Welcome to the story to end all stories. Two decades of literary League lunacy have all been building to this, the most ambitious meta-comic imaginable.


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Monday, December 02, 2019

Early Review: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TRIGAN EMPIRE Vol.1

I've never met anyone who bought Look and Learn just for the articles. Yes, those features were superbly illustrated, and they certainly taught us a few things about everything from geology to Medieval life, from the nocturnal habits of bats to the story of space flight, but they were but a bonus to the main attraction. Everyone I've met who read Look and Learn bought it for The Trigan Empire

The Rise and Fall of The Trigan Empire (to give it its full title) actually started out in Ranger in 1965, a companion magazine to Look and Learn but one that had more comic strips. Then, as kids' publications often did, the two titles merged, bringing The Trigan Empire to Look and Learn in 1966. The strip was created by Mike Butterworth and artist Don Lawrence and told the story of a distant planet called Elekton and its strange culture that seemed like a mash up of Ancient Rome, futuristic technology and a good dollop of fantasy thrown in for good measure. 

The stories were intriguing but it was Don Lawrence's photo-realistic artwork and stunning use of colour that made it compelling. Most kids' publications of the 1960s were printed on newsprint, which meant basic flat colours with few variations. Ranger, and Look and Learn, were of the few that had the luxury of Photogravure printing, and Don Lawrence certainly made the best of it. 

The Trigan Empire ran in Look and Learn until its final issue in 1982. By that time other artists had replaced Lawrence, who had left the strip in 1976. Now, Rebellion are to publish a huge chunky 300 page volume reprinting the series from the start in what is hoped will be an ongoing series of books. The Rise and Fall of The Trigan Empire Vol.1 will be published in March 2020 and having seen a preview of the whole book I think it'll be a winner.

I can only show a few pages from the start of the book so here's the first four pages of the saga...


Yes, the early Trigan Empire stories have been reprinted before, but it was many years ago or in an expensive format. The new collection will be affordable and superb value for money. Another bonus is that, like the deluxe expensive editions of several years ago, Rebellion's version replaces the dull typeface dialogue of the originals with a comic book style font that's easier on the eye. This is, quite frankly, the best Trigan Empire collection there's been. 

CREATIVE TEAM: Mike Butterworth (w) Don Lawrence (a)
RELEASE DATE: 17 March 2020 (US) 19 March 2020 (UK)
PAPERBACK, 304 pages
PRICE: £19.99 (UK) $24.99 (US)
ISBN: 9781781087558
DIAMOND: TBC

Under the leadership of Trigo the Vorg tribesmen band together to resist the Lokan Empire, forming an empire of their own: The Trigan Empire. And this is the story of its rise and fall. Originally published in the educational Ranger magazine in 1965, and continuing in the similarly themed Look and Learn. The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire uses elements of the Roman Empire and ancient Greece to tell a fascinating sci-fi story. The first in a series of books collecting all the stories beautifully painted by Don Lawrence in their originally published order.
Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and UK comic book stores.

Available in digital from: Treasury of British Comics webshop & apps for iPadAndroid and Windows 10

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