Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beano Collector's Edition hits the shops


DC Thomson have just published an attractive new 68 page softback book to commemorate the upcoming 70th anniversary of The Beano. Priced at £4.99 The Beano 70 Years of Fun is a full colour whirlwind tour through the history of "the best British comic ever".


The book is light on text, but what copy there is tends to be solidly informative. The strips themselves tell the story, and there's a nice amount of rarely seen classic material here. Some pages are reproduced from the original art, showing paste ups and all, - excellent images for fans of the medium. There are other exclusives too, such as un-inked Dudley Watkins pencils, development sketches of next year's new Dennis The Menace animated series, and photographs of the original Beano staff from 1938! (Update 28/6/2008: It's likely those pencil sketches are by Ken Harrison, not Dudley Watkins.)


There's some great examples of the work of Beano legends such as Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale, and the very first Billy the Cat strip (from 1967) by David Sutherland is reprinted in full. The book also brings us right up to date with current contributors such as Laura Howell (The Beano's first regular female artist) and Hunt Emerson. (Sadly Hunt's Ratz strip is printed low resolution by mistake, but that's a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent book.)


The book was stocked alongside the regular Beano weekly in the WH Smith I bought my copy from. I suspect the card cover and its cut-out porthole design might suffer some damage on those shelves before too long if the comic section of your local branch is as unkempt as mine, so be sure to buy a copy as soon as possible.


There will be more celebrations of The Beano's 70th anniversary in July, with Nick Parks taking over as guest editor on the weekly for the actual birthday issue, bringing inevitable media publicity in the press and on tv. A hardback history of the comic is also coming soon, - more news as it arrives.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The DFC has arrived


Issue No.1 of Britain's brand new weekly children's comic, The DFC, arrived today on schedule. The subscription-only comic is intended to be published every Friday, but the problem of relying on the Post Office is that the Post Office isn't always reliable and some subscribers are still awaiting their copies.

The comic comes within a distinctive DFC envelope which, once the rubbery glue is easily removed from the flap, is ideal for collectors to store the issue in. Enough of the packaging. Does The DFC live up to the hype? Read on...


I was pleased that the A4 comic is not printed on glossy paper, but instead is on high quality matt stock which makes the 36 page publication feel more substantial. The first issue kicks off with the much publicised Philip Pullman strip, John Blake, drawn by John Aggs. The title character himself is only seen in one panel, but that's excusable as it's the mystery surrounding him that is the main plot of this introductory adventure.


Next up is Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner. Easily the funniest strip in the comic, but unfortunately is only one page (whereas John Blake and some other strips receive five or six pages each).


Another single page humour strip, Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre, is charming and beautifully drawn and coloured. I suspect this strip will be more popular with girls, although I'm only judging that from this initial strip of course. For balance, I think the style of Monkey Nuts by the Etherington Brothers will appeal more to boys, but hopefully all children will get a kick out of the comic.


The DFC has quite a task ahead of itself. In trying to appeal to both boys and girls it risks alienating both if some are too put off by certain strips. The Boss looks like it may successfully appeal to both sexes, and could be a good modern day equivalent of a Children's Film Foundation type adventure.


What impressed me most about the first issue is that there's not one badly drawn strip in it. Everything is top quality material, and with the likes of Laura Howell, Dave Windett, and Jamie Smart in future issues it looks likely to remain that way. (Jamie is already here in a small way; providing illos for the contents page and drawing a puzzle page.)

The main drawback as I see it is that practically every strip is a serial. (This is because they're intended to be republished as separate books in the future.) Unfortunately it means that in some strips, such as The Spider Moon by Kate Brown, there's six pages of very little happening because the whole adventure has presumably been paced as a graphic novel. Considering that today's kids will be mostly unfamiliar with continued strips, having seven cliffhangers a week to suddenly deal with may be expecting too much. It also leaves the reader feeling a bit undernourished story-wise, in my opinion. One less serial and a few more humour strips instead wouldn't hurt.

I have a theory (probably mentioned on this blog before) that the most successful British comics over the last 100 years have been those which broke with formula and did their own thing, becoming very influential on the medium: Comic Cuts, The Dandy / The Beano, Eagle, 2000AD, Viz. In The DFC's favour, it breaks with the current tradition of comic/magazine hybrids and tv tie-ins and brings a sensibility from children's books to comics. Time will tell if it'll be a trend-setter.


The DFC reads like a posh kids' comic, with polite dialogue and mannerisms.There's no "traditional" slapstick, no cheeky kids, no Beano rip-offs, and certainly no fart gags. Surely today's "streetwise" kids will hate it then? Personally I'm not sure that many "streetwise" kids even read comics (or anything) today. I grew up on a council estate in the sixties where most of us seemed to read comics, and I still live near there but these days I never see any children, or even, come to that, their parents, buying comics on the estate. Society has changed, the so-called "underclass" don't buy comics, the old "working class" is now more affluent and middle-class, so The DFC may have the right idea in aiming at a different attitude than the comics of old. One reason the old weeklies eventually failed was because they didn't move with the times or shift their focus. The DFC feels modern and is more akin to a European comic than a traditional British one, but that's not a bad thing.

Overall, The DFC is a quality product. If it can be seen by enough kids, I'm sure it could work, but I do have reservations. The subscription-only method is an excellent way to circumvent retail giants and avoid their spiraling charges for shelf space. However it does make the comic invisible unless one chances across the website or hears of it through the media. I hear that publisher Random House are committed to it though, so hopefully it won't go the way of similarly-ambitious Nineties weekly Triffik! and suddenly have the plug pulled leaving contributors in the lurch.

I've initially subscribed for the first 13 issues but on the strength of this first edition I'll probably extend my sub later. The DFC has a struggle ahead of it, as would any new title, so I hope it finds the readership it deserves and thrives (which in turn may encourage other publishers to produce more comics). Good luck to all involved.

The official DFC website can be found here:
http://www.thedfc.co.uk/

Thursday, May 29, 2008

News from Bryan Talbot


Info just received from top comics artist/writer Bryan Talbot regarding his latest graphic novel:

"For any of you in the London area, there's a small do to launch Cherubs! - the new graphic novel written by me and drawn by Mark Stafford - on Friday 13th (gulp) June at the London Cartoon Museum. (Flier above. Click to enlarge.) It's a panel discussion, headed by Steve Marchant, followed by a party in a pub. Starts at 6.30, admission free."

Places are limited so check with the London Cartoon Museum first.

The following day (Saturday June 14th) Bryan is doing a signing with Steve Dillon at Waterstone's bookshop in London's Oxford Street at 2.00pm.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New look Blimey! blog



As you can see I've redesigned the look of the Blimey! blog using a different one of Blogger's free templates. However, it may not load properly for people using Internet Explorer. The best browsers to use for this site are Firefox, Safari, or Opera, which all should load the page so it looks like the screenshot above.

If any of you are experiencing problems with the site please leave a comment below and I'll see what I can do.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mike Western 1925 - 2008


One of the greatest illustrators of British comics, Mike Western, died on Tuesday May 13th, aged 83. Many fine tributes have already been written about him by people more knowledgeable of his career than I (links at the foot of this column) but I wanted to add my own short tribute here.

Mike's comics career began in the early 1950s on Knockout, but for many fans his style would be best remembered for his long stint as cover artist of Valiant. The comic was fairly unusual in that its cover featured an historical article (rather than a strip or full page story teaser). In lesser hands this idea could have turned out very dull indeed but Mike always made each cover strong and dynamic, no matter what subject matter he was asked to illustrate. In the 13 years he worked on Valiant Mike illustrated over 500 covers. Here's just a few of them:






Mike Western was also a regular artist inside Valiant on the popular and long running The Wild Wonders. With this strip Mike changed his style a little to reflect the comedy in Tom Tully's light adventure scripts. The story of the two "Wild Boys" who became super athletes was a perfect vehicle for Mike to draw action and slapstick as this page demonstrates:

Even in the strip's quieter moments, Mike's layouts still held the reader's interest with his superb balance of black and white art:


Mike was also the original artist for the first episode of Billy's Boots, another hugely popular IPC strip. This page from Scorcher No.1 (1970):


When Valiant had a revamp under a new editor in 1975 Mike moved on to IPC's new war comic Battle Picture Weekly. As the comic was tougher in its tone than other IPC weeklies Mike was able to use a gritter art style to suit the more realistic stories, such as his outstanding work on Darkie's Mob:


Comics historian Steve Holland was in the process of compiling a new book, The Mike Western Story, at the time of the artist's death. I'm pleased to hear that the book is still going ahead and knowing Steve's dedication to his subjects is sure to be a marvelous tribute to this most skilled and versatile artist.

Steve has written an obituary of Mike Western here:

http://bearalley.blogspot.com/2008/05/mike-western-1925-2008.html

and there are more tributes here:

http://www.downthetubes.net/features/tributes/mike_western_tribute.html

mike-western-personal-tribute.html

http://shaneoakley.blogspot.com/2008/05/mike-western-rip.html

http://hipsterdad.livejournal.com/326293.html

mike_western_remembered.html

Friday, May 23, 2008

Northern Ireland Comics Festival


Comic fans who live in Northern Ireland will be pleased to know there's another 2D Comics Festival coming up in Derry in two weeks' time. Guests include Charlie Adlard, Garry Leach, David Hine, Laura Howell and many more. Here's the details from the official website:
2D, The Northern Ireland Comics Festival returns this year and takes place from the 5th – 7th June in the Verbal Arts Centre and other locations here in Derry, N. Ireland. The festival is organised by the Verbal Arts Centre, an educational charity, and is a celebration of comic book culture. It features workshops, signings, sketching, panel discussions and portfolio review sessions. The workshops will be held mainly on Thursday and Friday in the Verbal Arts Centre; panels will be held in a local bar on Friday and Saturday evenings and the festival will culminate on the Saturday with the Open Day. There will be a closing party on Saturday night to round things off.


For full details visit: http://www.2dfestival.com/tests/parts/


Monday, May 19, 2008

Rewriting history

As mentioned here in past blogs, The DFC is a new children's comic that's due to appear at the end of this month. It's subscription only, so quite a gamble to expect parents to fork out the price of £30 for a 13 week sub, sight unseen.

All the publicity so far is claiming that The DFC is "the first new children's comic in 25 years" (see here also). I'm all for the comic succeeding but let's drop the hyperbole down a notch eh folks? I'm sure a good promotional soundbite can be found that doesn't write comics out of history such as Oink!, Nipper, Triffik, Champ, Wildcat, Sonic the Comic, Blue Moon, Acne, It's Wicked, The Bog Paper, TV Help, or any of the other children's titles that first appeared within the last quarter century.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bristol Comic Expo 2008: Brief review

As always this year's Bristol Comic Expo proved to be an enjoyable weekend, and this time we had the bonus of fantastic weather which was a blessing considering many of us were staying in different hotels.

Not a lot to report on the Expo itself as I missed most of the panels. (The Hypotheticals panel was good fun as ever, hosted by Dave Gibbons.) Not that there was anything unappealing about the rest of the panels, just that I decided to spend the weekend socializing with colleagues. (No, that doesn't mean drinking 24/7.) Comics can be a solitary job and conventions are often the only chance to meet up with friends old and new in the industry.

Thanks to all who attended the Dandy/Beano panel on Sunday afternoon and thanks to fellow panelists Hunt Emerson, Morris Heggie, Nigel Parkinson, Laura Howell, Duncan Scott and Gary Northfield. Thanks also to everyone who asked for a sketch afterwards. Hope I didn't disappoint.

I didn't take so many photos this year for some reason. I think I assumed that most people were a bit tired of people snapping them but given the amount of photos on other sites I probably assumed wrong. I'll take more at the next event for sure. Here's the handful that I did take:

1: Above: The Exhibition Hall on the Saturday was extremely busy. The photo above just shows one part of it around mid-day. I understand the Hall had to be closed for a while so that it wouldn't exceed its capacity. Good to know the Expo can still attract huge crowds.

2: Above: Good to see my old pal and mentor Mike Higgs attending the event. As most visitors to this blog know, Mike was the creator of The Cloak for Odhams' Pow! and Smash! weeklies back in 1967-69. He was also one of the organizers of the very first UK comics con, in Birmingham, back in 1968.


3: It's great to see more humour artists attending UK cons than there used to be. This year, DC Thomson had a booth to celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Beano and regular Beano/Dandy contributors such as Nigel Parkinson (above) and Wayne Thomson were around to sketch for the readers.


4: Above: The small press play a much larger role in conventions today. One such company, Time Bomb Comics, had a professional set up to promote their titles. Here, Time Bomb Booth Babe Suzanne Tanner and artist Andy Dodd show off their premier title Ragamuffins with future comic Dick Turpin previewed to the right.

5: Above: One of the busiest artists over the weekend was merry Mike Collins producing numerous sketches of NCsoft characters for the Draw the World Together charity. Like myself, Mike is celebrating 25 years in comics this year! Well done mate.


6: Above: Paul Roberts (left) and Tim Perkins (right) at the eye-catching Wizards Keep stand. Tim has worked hard on his new business and his work's looking great. You can visit Tim's website here and read his own review of the Expo (with more photos) here.


Above: Winding down on the Sunday night, a group of us went out for a meal at the Spyglass boat restaurant. Left to right: me; Ed Hammond (editor of Panini's Eagle Award winning Spectacular Spider-Man; Ferg Handley (writer of Spectacular Spider-Man and DC Thomson's Commando); Jim Stewart (creator of Ganjaman); William Couper and Tom Green (respectively copy editor and editor of the fantastic Dangerous Ink magazine); Dave Alexander (artist on Electric Soup and Northern Lights); Simon Frith (editor of Panini's Spider-Man and Friends). Photograph by Jon Haward.

It was fantastic to catch up people I haven't seen in years; Nancy Abnett from the days of Marvel UK and David Leach from the days of Oink! Also good to chat with Expo regulars such as Phil Clarke, Mike Conroy, Emma Vieceli, Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, Gary Millidge, Martin "Biff" Averre, Sam Morgan, Lee Townsend, Brady Webb, John Short, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Dave Windett, Dylan Teague, Simon Furman and many others. See you all at the next event!

Many more photos from the weekend can be seen at Matt Brooker's Flickr site here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasseye/sets/72157605056978302/

including this amazing one of the huge crowd of attendees:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Big 'Iron Man' push in latest TOXIC


The synergy between comics and multimedia in today's childrens magazines may not be to everyone's taste but there's no doubt such promotions help sell the mags. The latest issue of Toxic (No.115, out yesterday) features heavy promotion for the Iron Man movie (great entertainment and performances by the way, and Marvel's best movie to date).

Iron Man articles dominate the magazine and there's even an exclusive free 24 page Iron Man Marvel comic. In return, Marvel Studios have allowed Egmont to show clips from the movie on the Toxic website that can be saved as QuickTime movies:


http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/news/ref:T481AF8F3B2487/

http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/news/ref:T481AF7CE62F3E/

http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/news/ref:T481AF6BBBD0DA/

and an interview with the star of the movie Robert Downey Jr:

http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/news/ref:T481AF5B5ECF58/

Toxic is of course just a small part of the huge promotional bandwagon for the Iron Man movie. However if it attracts new readers to the magazine and they also enjoy the comic strips within then that's a few newbies introduced to the world of comics. (Next issue promotes the new Indiana Jones movie, and a brand new comic strip, Robin Hoodie begins by John A. Short and Laura Howell).

Toxic No.115 is on sale in all major newsagents and supermarkets now, priced £2.25

Above: A panel from the latest Team Toxic strip.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robots and Robin Hood at Bristol Expo


News just in from the people at Accent UK, the independent UK comics publisher:

Bellamy’s ROBIN HOOD in Bristol! By special arrangement with Geoff West of The Book Palace, independent comic publisher, Accent UK will have a supply of the newly released Frank Bellamy’s ROBIN HOOD the Complete Adventures book at both the International Comic Expo in Bristol on 10th / 11th of May 2008 and the Komiks.DK festival in Copenhagen on 31st May / 1st June 2008. Copies will be available to view and purchase from Accent UK’s tables or order through the Book Palace website as normal. This gives everyone attending the events the chance to see for themselves first hand this excellent book which brings back into print Frank Bellamy’s legendary early comic strips which have proven elusive for so many years! The book reprints Bellamy’s classic strip from the old British title The Swift with a special introduction and end notes from noted comics historian, Steve Holland. Special flexicover, 144 pages £14.99.

Accent UK , the team behind last year’s popular ZOMBIES and WOLFMEN titles will also be releasing their latest themed graphic novel anthology at the shows,
ROBOTS featuring a host of new and emerging comic talents in its 204 pages at the special expo price of £8, for full list of creators and previews please see www.accentukcomics.com, www.bookpalace.com and www.comicexpo.net and www.komiks.dk.



If past releases are anything to go by Accent UK's Robots will be another worthwhile comic book. The quality of the Frank Bellamy book is of course assured. I'll certainly be picking up a copy of both books at the Expo and will review them here as soon as I have time. - Lew

Monday, May 05, 2008

BULLETPROOF: Website launched for new UK adventure comic


Briefly mentioned here last August, the new UK independent comic Bulletproof is now on sale in comic stores and available from the publisher online. This value for money 80 page package features work by numerous comic creators, both established and new. There's also a 16 page sampler available, titled Bulletproof #0. Editor/publisher Matt Yeo explains...

"It's certainly taken longer than we expected," said Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Matt Yeo, "but it's great to finally launch our new-look site and put the finishing touches to our 16-page, black & white, Bulletproof #0 sampler."

Originally launched as a standalone comics site a few years ago, Bulletproof Comics was set up to showcase and promote the work of up-and-coming British creative talent. The site contains material from new writers, artists and creators as well as work from established industry professionals.

"We had a 'soft launch' for our first printed comic book last year in the form of our 80-page, black & white anthology, Bulletproof #1, containing work from the likes of Steve Yeowell, Alan Grant, Mike Perkins, Garen Ewing and more," said Yeo. "The online response was great, so we pushed forward with a website redesign, whilst simultaneously putting together issue #0 and the forthcoming Bulletproof #2."

"We're intending to make Bulletproof #2 as exciting as our launch issue, and it'll be another 80-page monster of a comic, featuring our usual mix of genre strips from superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy to adventure, crime and slapstick humour."

"Beyond that we have a number of mini-series and one-shots in the works, as well as more exciting products due later this year."

"There's just such a huge wealth of creative comic book talent in the UK that struggles to reach a wider audience, and that's where we step in," Yeo said. "We want to provide online and print-based platforms to make it easier for creators to get their work out to the rest of the world."

"It's a really exciting time for us, and there are some amazing comic book creations and creators ready to be unveiled, so expect more news from Bulletproof Comics soon!"

• Bulletproof issue #0 and Bulletproof #1 are on sale now from the Bulletproof Comics Online Store.

• To find out more about Bulletproof Comics, check out: www.bulletproofcomics.co.uk

Sunday, May 04, 2008

2000AD.... promoted in 1977AD

Another quick blog today. (More to come this week, with news of two new UK indie comics.) As most comic fans know, 2000 AD celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, - a remarkable achievement for a British comic, only eclipsed by a handful of others. The "Galaxy's Greatest Comic" has changed somewhat since it began, but here's how the first issue was promoted in the pages of IPC's Krazy Comic dated 26th February 1977....


Note the typical IPC hyperbole. Descriptions include "shattering" and "breathtaking", making the comic sound exciting and unmissable, - which to many of us it was! Somehow today's comics ads seem comparatively sedate in comparison!
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