Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Comic Heroes - The final issue

Issue 24 of Comic Heroes is now on newsagent's shelves and, as reported here the other week, sadly it's the final issue.

From the sounds of things, its demise was not only due to low sales but to company restructuring at Future Publishing. However, many fans have often stated that it was the £7.99 cover price that put them off. Even though that was approximately the same price as three flimsy comics and that Comic Heroes contained more to read than three comics. 

Comic Heroes tried valiantly to be all things to all fans, with articles covering a diverse range of comics. Unfortunately, this may have gone against it, as some fans only have specific interests. So someone who's a big Marvel/DC fan might have thought £7.99 was too much to pay when half the mag was taken up with other themes, or vice versa. 

A few issues back Future abandoned the £7.99 format of mag plus extras in a packet and redesigned the mag as a chunky 164 page bookazine at £9.99. The frequency switched from bi-monthly to quarterly, presumably with the notion that surely fans wouldn't think ten quid every three months was too much to pay for a nice long read? Didn't work.

Personally, I've always been interested in the whole world of comics, so Comic Heroes was ideal for me to read about Marvel, DC, European comics, British comics, interviews with creators, advance previews of comics, etc. This last issue has a good variety of content too. Although dubbed 'The sci-fi issue' it covers more than that. There's a feature on Charley's War for example...

A six page preview of Bryan Talbot's new Grandville book...

A look at Titan's new Doctor Who comics...

Paul Gravett choosing his top ten items from the Comics Unmasked exhibition...

Walt Simonson on his new Ragrarok comic...

Plus an interview with Dave Gibbons, features on Superman, John Constantine, cosmic Marvel, and much more.

I get the impression that the fate of Comic Heroes hadn't been determined while most of this issue was put together. The only mention of its demise is a quickly designed half page notice on the inside back cover stating 'Comic Heroes 2010 - 2014 Thank you for reading!' 

It's a shame that yet another comic feature magazine has closed. Even its digital companion weekly, Comic Review, is gone now. I'll miss buying Comic Heroes from my corner shop. It was a good mag. Not every item interested me but that's the nature of such magazines. 

I suppose most fans get their info from the Internet, which is understandable as it's 'free' and constantly being updated, but personally I still feel it's more comfortable to read longer articles in paper format. And Comic Heroes never needed plugging into the mains to recharge.

Comic Heroes No.24. 164 full colour pages. £9.99. Available in newsagents, WH Smith, comic speciality shops and other retailers. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Comics that won The War!

Who could have believed that in 2014 we'd see an annual with a cover strip featuring Big Eggo blowing up Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering? That's exactly what we get with The Beano and The Dandy: The Comics that won The War!, the latest collection of classic DC Thomson strips. 

These archive books have been published every year since the 50 Golden Years book in 1987 and I think this is the best one yet. Many of the previous books have often chopped up strips or overlapped pages to present a busy layout to appeal to children, but this one presents full page strips with no intrusions or redesigning. It gives the impression that this book is aimed at the older reader and the collectors so I hope it sells well in order to encourage DC Thomson to stick to this design.

The contents are marvelous, with numerous strips scanned from wartime editions of The Dandy and The Beano. My only quibble is that most of the art is uncredited, which isn't what one expects from a book aimed at collectors. 

One artist who is given his due is Dudley Watkins, and there's a fantastic pencil sketch of his in here that I've never seen before. There are also many of his Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty strips reprinted, showcasing some very bizarre and surreal stories. 

Just when you think the book is solely about The Dandy and The Beano it throws a curveball with some fantastic cover art from The Rover, The Skipper and The Hotspur story papers. 

There are also a few post-war strips that had WW2 themes, such as a complete Blitz Boy story from an early sixties Dandy Book, drawn by Paddy Brennan.

One of the weirdest strips in the book is a Wild Boy of the Woods episode which features a giant robot Hitler! That's right, - a giant robot Hitler! So bizarre it's worth the cover price alone. 

All in all, The Beano and The Dandy: The Comics that won The War is an excellent collection and deserves a place on the bookshelves of every collector of British comics. The R.R.P. is £12.99 but you'll find it cheaper than that if you shop around. 

Summer Specials 2014

The Summer Specials finally arrived at my local shops yesterday (although they've been in some parts of the country for a couple of weeks). These days they're no longer in the tabloid format they had years ago, but they're twice as thick and squarebound with sturdy card covers. 

The Dandy Summer Special 2014 has caused a little controversy in some fan circles because last year's edition promised to be the "Last Ever". Indeed, that was the intention, until WH Smith suggested to DC Thomson that as it sold so well it might be a good idea to continue it. This last minute decision to revive the title sadly meant that there was no time to commission new material (save for covers by Mike D) but what we have instead is a fine collection of reprints spanning the 1960s to 2010. Yes, as some have noted, one page of a Blinky story is printed twice by mistake (due to the short production time), but hopefully the other 66 pages in the comic will prove sufficiently rewarding. My opinion: focus on the positives. There's a lot of misery in life but a mistake in a comic isn't part of it.

I was particularly pleased to see one of my favourite Smasher strips by Hugh Morren from The Dandy Summer Special 1967, and a Dudley Watkins Desperate Dan from that year too. And look, - The Smasher strip features a teacher whacking him. It seems Political Correctness hasn't gone mad after all. 

There are also a couple of Winker Watson strips by Eric Roberts (from the 1970s I think) and a 1983 Brassneck strip by Bill Holroyd. For those of you with more recent nostalgia, there's a good selection of material from the 1980s and 1990s too.

The Beano Summer Activity Special 2014 contains a free gift of bound-in stickers, although a few people have reported these are not in their copies so check before you buy. 

The Beano one is all new, and features a good balance of comic strips and puzzle pages. Only the main Beano characters are included, so there's plenty of fun with Dennis, Minnie, Bash Street etc. but no appearances by Rasher, Tricky Dicky and suchlike. 

Both specials should now be available from WH Smith, Asda, and other retailers at £4.99 each for 68 pages. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcome home, TV21!

Here's the news I hinted at on my other blog on Wednesday. As part of their Supermarionation limited edition Blu-Ray box set in October, Network are publishing a brand new one-off edition of TV21!

Here's the info from their website:

*EXCLUSIVE*  TV21 – Edition 243
Unique to this box set, we present a brand-new edition of the classic Century 21 comic TV21, taking up where the original series left off. Produced to the same size and specification as the original, this all-new, single issue features newly-commissioned comic strips from original 1960s illustrators including Gerry Embleton and Martin Asbury, alongside the very best in contemporary comic talent. Contributors include Mike Collins, Martin Baines, Lew Stringer and 2000 AD writer John Freeman. This official and special edition is only available as part of this set.
I can reveal now that I'm doing a new Zoony the Lazoon mini-strip for this edition of TV21. (As fans of Gerry Anderson's shows will know, Zoony was the alien comedy relief in some Fireball XL5 episodes.)
This is a very exciting one-off project for all of us involved. TV21 (or TV Century 21 as it was originally called) was my favourite adventure comic of the 1960s. For those of us who grew up in that era, TV21 was the pinnacle of British comics, not only because it featured fantastic artwork and a distinctive contemporary design, but also because it brought Gerry Anderson's sixties shows into a connected Century 21 universe. TV21 was the coolest comic of the 1960s.
Make no mistake; this is an official edition of TV21, professionally commissioned and produced. Anyway, the deadline is tight, so I'd better blast off and get on with it! 
For the full details of the Supermarionation box set, see the Network website here:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bangers and Bracelets, they're Free Inside!

Back in 2010 I ran a series of blog posts showing old free gifts from comics. You can find the first part by clicking here and then check out subsequent days from that period for the other parts. Today I'm showing a few classic adverts for some comic free gifts of January to March 1972.

The four page 'pink flyers' that were inserted into The Dandy and The Beano at times to promote new comics and free gift issues have become very collectible amongst fans of UK comics. However, the small ads that were printed in the comics themselves were equally as well designed and compelling. Here are a few from the early months of 1972, scanned from the pages of The Dandy, The Beano, and Sparky. Click on the images to see them larger.

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