Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Support UK comics!

There's often a bit of negativity on the 'net about the British comics industry and how things were so much better in the old days. Well, the same could be said about the UK film industry, or its television output, or its music, or car industries.... You get the point. Yes, lots of things were more popular and plentiful years ago but that's no excuse to ignore what's happening now. We live in the present, not the past, so let's celebrate what we have, not run it down or dismiss it. Being snarky about comics does no one any good. You're not keen on some modern comics? Okay, then focus on the current ones you do like and tell people about those, to do something to support the industry. (Same applies to fans of US comics by the way.) 

Truth is, there's still a lot of good comics material being produced in Britain, from mainstream and independent publishers as I covered here a few weeks ago. The evidence is out there but that doesn't seem to stop the moaning minnies claiming otherwise. I can appreciate that people have a preference for the comics of their youth. We all feel that, but time moves on, and there's no more likelihood of something like Valiant returning than there is of Ally Sloper's Half Holiday making a comeback. The future of British comics is in the hands of existing professionals and fresh new talent. 

Anyway, I for one am pleased that British comics are still around, which leads me to a cheeky plug for the latest issue of Toxic magazine, out today. Yes, it's a magazine, but it does feature some comic strips, including my regular two pages of Team Toxic. This issue they go underground to discover the Troll Town and encounter a giant robot ant (see image above). This is what I've always loved about my 32 years in British comics; the pure daftness of what we can put into our stories. Long may it continue! 

Toxic magazine is published by Egmont and is available in newsagents and supermarkets. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GRINDHOUSE graphic novel out this week

This Wednesday, 29th July, Dark Horse Books are publishing a Grindhouse graphic novel which collects Slay Ride and Blood Lagoon from the current mini-series.

Both stories are written by Alex de Campi. The trade paperback is designed as a flip book; with Slay Ride (with art by R.M. Guéra) taking up one half of the book, then turn it over to read Blood Lagoon (illustrated by Chris Peterson).

Slay Ride is described as "Yuletide exploitation" and a brutal holiday tale of revenge and supernatural horror. Here's a couple of preview pages...

Blood Lagoon brings back Deputy Garcia from last year's Bee Vixens from Mars (in the previous Grindhouse series) to face the threat mutated giant cow-eating ticks! Here's a preview page...

It's all good, over-the-top horror comics fun and the book even features fake blood splatters on the cover flap. Er... at least I think it's fake...

Why am I promoting an American comic on a blog about UK comics? Well, vested interest declared, the book also contains two pages that I did; exclusive one-off creations Kung-Fu Cheesecake and Snowmanic! Here's a preview of a panel from each story...

(Yep, I censored the Snowmanic panel for this family-friendly blog. See the uncensored version in the book!)

The graphic novel also contains bonus items such as excellent fake movie posters, dark humour strips by Rick Parker and Dean Haspiel, cover roughs, and how some pages looked in their penciled stage.

Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight Double Feature Volume 3 goes on sale in comic speciality stores in the UK and USA from tomorrow, 29th July. The U.S. price is $17.99. Mature readers only!

Also available that day will be the latest issue of the Grindhouse monthly comic (No.7), - but not in Canada. (See here for more details about that!)

I know many comic readers are getting weary of superhero comics lurching from one revamp to the next, but there's more to American comics than capes and crossovers. There are loads of comics out there in any well stocked comics shop! Try Grindhouse and the many other titles from Dark Horse and other publishers for refreshing alternatives.

Monday, July 27, 2015

They're here! Dandy and Beano Annuals 2016

The 2016 cover-dated annuals are starting to appear now and The Dandy Annual 2016 and The Beano Annual 2016 were published just over a week ago. Let's take a brief look inside them.

I always find there's mixed emotions these days when The Dandy Annual appears; joy that there's 112 pages of all-new Dandy material, but sadness that it's a reminder that the weekly is no longer around. However, let's focus on the positive, and once again the book delivers a nice package of classic Dandy characters by contemporary creators.

Fans of Ken Harrison will be pleased to know that there's plenty of pages by him in here as he illustrates several Desperate Dan stories and a couple of puzzle pages.
I was pleased to see Desperate Dawg in the book too; the 1970s canine version of Dan. Originally by George Martin, the new version is drawn by Alexander Matthews.
Much-missed 1960s Ken Reid characters Big Head and Thick Head are back in a couple of new strips drawn by Mike Donaldson.
Jack Silver returns too, drawn by Wilbur Dawburn...
...while Nigel Auchterlounie once again draws Corporal Clott...
...and I tackle The Smasher and Keyhole Kate...
Other strips in this packed annual include Greedy Pigg by Nigel Parkinson, The Jocks and the Geordies by Paul Palmer, Brassneck by Steve Beckett, and the return of George vs Dragon by Andy Fanton, plus much more.

Like its sister publication, The Beano Annual 2016 kicks off with a cover by Nigel Parkinson. Nigel also draws several pages inside featuring top favourites Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx
It was good to see an adventure strip in the book, in the form of classic hero General Jumbo. I don't know who's illustrated it but the artwork is excellent.
Great to see work by Hunt Emerson in the annual, drawing Little Plum...
...and Laura Howell doing fine work on Les Pretend...
The annual features all the usual favourites such as Roger the Dodger, Biffo the Bear, Ball Boy, The Numskulls, the Bash Street Kids, Billy Whizz, Pup Parade, and of course Bananaman...
There's also three pages of Lord Snooty by me...
The Dandy Annual 2016 and The Beano Annual 2016 are out now at a R.R.P. of £7.99 each, but you're bound to find them discounted, or cheaper online. These are the only traditional British comic annuals left now so don't wait until they're remaindered after Christmas. Give them your support now, to help them continue for years to come.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015


This graphic novel was published last year but I only got around to buying a copy last weekend at the London con, directly from the author Rachael Smith. In fact it was the only thing I bought that weekend and it's a purchase I'm glad I made.

House Party tells the story of three ex-university students who share a house; the likable Michelle and her boyfriend Neil, and their friend Siobhan. Feeling somewhat lost and frustrated with life in the 'real world', the friends are feeling nostalgic for their heady days of uni, so Neil suggests they throw a big house party to recapture the fun times. 

Of course, trying to recapture the past doesn't always work out as expected and there are consequences that the characters have to deal with. 

Although Rachael Smith has been creating comics for a while this is her first graphic novel and it's an impressive debut. The story is immediately engaging and moves along at a brisk pace. Rachael's art style is modern and distinctive and displays a solid understanding of sequential techniques. She also has a good ear for dialogue, which helps to make the characters feel real and alive. 

I'm a firm believer that if comics are going to survive in the UK it's going to be through graphic novels like this; ones that have a wider appeal than 'traditional comics' and which resonate with the public not just with comic fans. House Party reminded me of the sort of self-contained Play for Today that television used to do so well. It's a fine example of the modern British comic book and if you're open to character-driven stories rather than just slapstick, sci-fi, or superheroes then this is for you.

House Party is published by Great Beast Comics and you can buy copies directly from Rachael Smith's online shop here: 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Back Max!

That maestro of the drawing board Hunt Emerson is bringing his brilliant Max Zillion character back into print, and he's started a Kickstarter campaign to help him do it. 

Max Zillion (and Alto Ego) appeared in a book called Jazz Funnies many years ago published by Knockabout, but the book is now long out of print. Hunt aims to publish the strips in a brand new collection called Hot Jazz which will feature some strips in colour for the first time and a new gallery of pages by guest artists.

As is the norm with Kickstarter campaigns, the more you pledge, the more you get, including a stunningly illustrated plate like this...

I've been a fan of Hunt's work since I first saw it in the 1970s and the cool cat that is Max Zillion deserves to be back in print. Only 25 days to go so let's make it happen. To find out more, visit this link and click on the video, where Hunt himself will tell you all about it...

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