Thursday, September 30, 2010
Here's the second batch of Commando comics for September. All four issues are in the shops now, but if you have any difficulty finding them you can subscribe at:
Now here's the info on this week's incoming comics from editor Calum Laird...
Commando No 4331: Smash All Stukas!
Young Barney Gibson wanted to do his bit in World War II, joining the army as a gunner.
An orphan, Barney had always been a bit of a loner as a lad. Now, for the first time, he felt a sense of belonging — his new mates were the closest thing he had ever had to a family.
Then one sudden, vicious attack by German Junkers Ju87 dive-bombers — the dreaded Stukas — took all that away. Barney would never be the same again…
Story: Ferg Handley
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Commando No 4332: Climb For Your Life!
Mountain climbers are a hardy bunch. They have to be for the mountains can be as vicious an unforgiving an enemy as any human foe. Knowing that, they will help fellow climbers even at the risk of their own lives.
Tough as nails mountaineer Hans Kopfler was one such. A member of Germany’s elite Gebirgsjager he had total loyalty to those he served with. Unfortunately that loyalty would not always be shown in the other direction.
Story: Mac Macdonald
Cover: Janek Matysiak
Commando No 4333: DEADLY DOUBLE-CROSS
“Double-crossed!”…those chilling words seared in to the brain of Dave Gregory, a captain in the Special Boat Service, when a searchlight on a Russian minesweeper picked him out of the inky Baltic night.
For now he might be helpless, his Browning automatic no match for the Russian fire-power, but heaven help the man who had betrayed him when Dave decided it was time to even the scores…
Story: Mike Knowles
Art: Denis McLoughlin
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 2710 from 1993
Commando No 4334: RENEGADE ARMY
Deserters, bandits, common thieves — they had all banded together under a powerful leader to wage their own war on all-comers — for profit. Now war correspondent Matt Jarvis, never one to dodge a dangerous assignment, had fallen into their hands.
Just surviving was about to become more important than writing any story!
Story: Cyril Walker
Art: Janek Matysiak
Cover: Janek Matysiak
Originally No 2710 from 1993
Visit the official Commando comic website:
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Jon Haward is a UK artist who has been active in British comics for over 20 years, having illustrated a diverse range of strips from Spider-Man for Panini UK, Tales of the Bhudda for Wanted comic, and the highly regarded The Tempest for Classical Comics. I've known Jon for a few years now and always found him to be a dedicated, hard working artist with a genuine enthusiasm for the business.
With the comics industry not being what it was, Jon is currently looking for work. This surprises me, as he has an adaptable style suited to all kinds of comics. Here's just a very small sampling of his work which includes horror...
If you're an editor who'd like to get in touch with Jon, you can contact him via the phone numbers on his blog at:
To see much more of Jon's impressive work visit:
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Recession? What recession? With the launch of CLiNT last month, and big news about something else coming soon (watch this space) the UK comics industry is livening up again, - and now here's Strip Magazine to add to the parade.
Strip Magazine is a brand new adventure comic from Lancaster based Print Media Productions that will launch early next year. Edited by John Freeman the comic is set to feature strips by PJ Holden, Michael Pennick, John Ridgway, James Hudnall, John McCrea, Phillip Hester and others.
With the permission of Egmont UK, Strip Magazine will also be including a classic reprint strip, - Hook Jaw, the dynamic and gory story of a killer shark which appeared in IPC's Action back in 1976. When Hook Jaw first appeared, it and other strips in Action gave the media an excuse for another anti-comic outcry, which sadly led to the comic being suspended for several weeks before returning in a diluted form.
Will Hook Jaw cause an outcry again, or has society moved on? Find out next year!
John Freeman will be attending the British International Comic Show next month to promote Strip Magazine at the Print Media Productions stand. That weekend will also see the launch of their Iron Moon graphic novel by Stephen Walsh and Commando artist Keith Page.
To find out more about Iron Moon and to follow the developments of Strip Magazine visit their blog at:
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The third issue of Future Publishing's new quarterly magazine Comic Heroes hit the shops this week, once again featuring a busy variety of content.
Comic Heroes has come under fire from some fans for its high £7.99 price tag, but new magazines need to attract retail interest while they establish a readership, and a high price does grab the attention of W.H. Smith and Asda etc. Business methods aside, what does the reader get for his hard earned cash? Well, if the free DC Comics promo poster and Walking Dead badges aren't your cup of tea there's still the 132 page Comic Heroes mag itself plus Sidekick, a 36 page comic showing preview pages of upcoming comics.
Compared to other comic mags such as Alter Ego, Spaceship Away, Back Issue, or Crikey!, which feature far less pages than Comic Heroes, that still seems good value to me. (Not to dismiss those other excellent publications of course.)
The other plus point is that Comic Heroes is packed. There are thirteen articles in this issue plus columns, reviews and news, all featuring small text, so you're getting value for money here. Let's take a brief look at a few of those features...
The issue kicks off with an article on The Walking Dead, the long running zombie comic by Image, soon to be a tv series. This is one of those comics I keep intending to buy but never have as yet, but the article gives me a good incentive to seek out the books. I was a little disappointed that the promised interview with artist Charlie Adlard on the cover only turned out to be enough to fill a sidebar, but there are some good examples of Charlie's excellent artwork on show.
Bryan Talbot comes in for a more in-depth interview in a spotlight on his Grandville graphic novels. It includes a nice step-by-step item showing how Bryan develops a panel from pencils to finished colour artwork. It's good to see Comic Heroes featuring the nuts and bolts of comics in this way. (Further on in the mag there's an article on How to Draw for Comics by various professionals in their own words but it's mainly about how they broke into the business.)
The main interview in this issue is with writer Grant Morrison. I've never met Grant but he comes across as a decent sort here, showing positive enthusiasm for superhero comics because he can still bring something new to them. It's a refreshing alternative to much of the cynical comments often made about the genre.
Lest you think Comic Heroes is only about mainstream comics, Matthew Badham presents us with an item on the UK small press. This is the sort of thing that is admirable about the magazine; draw people in with cover features on blockbusters to satisfy their interests in mainstream American comics then offer them a side order on Manga, Euro comics, or, in this case, the small press. It all helps to expand the reader's awareness (and hopefully make them appreciate) the wider world of comics.
Comics reporter/writer Rich Johnston gives us his opinions on digital comics and how they might be developed to suit the devices they're on. There's some fresh ideas here and Rich makes some excellent points, one of which was so true it made me laugh out loud: "All this technological wonderment at our fingertips and what do we do with it? Show photocopies of slices of dead trees. It's like buying a car and using it to keep pigs in."
The Art of Sean Phillips comes under the spotlight with a good overview of Sean's career including an interview with the artist, known for his superb work on Criminal, Incognito, etc.
That's just a sampling of the latest issue. There's a lot more besides what I've shown here, but I have to admit the bit I liked best was this:
Blimey! The phrases "dead chuffed" and "I'm not worthy" spring to mind.
Vested interest announced: I'm working on another feature for issue 4. Would I be recommending Comics Heroes if it wasn't for that? Definitely, as I've been plugging it since issue one. Surely a magazine about comics, available in the High Street, is just the sort of thing comic fans have hoped for? Yes, it is a little expensive but as it's a quarterly it's hardly going to break the bank.
If one only has an interest in a single type of comic, such as humour or superhero, then the variety of features might not appeal, but for fans interested in exploring the wider aspects of comics this is ideal. The style of writing is positive and accessible without the low key irreverence of Wizard or the aloof aspects of The Comics Journal. Websites and blogs such as Blimey! are okay for a quick browse but Comic Heroes is a good magazine to relax with.
Comic Heroes No.3 is on sale for three months, until December 14th, but copies often sell out before that. It's available from WH Smith and other major retailers (and, I would hope, even some corner shops).
The official website is now open and accepting subscriptions:
Friday, September 17, 2010
There's not one but two Viz publications out this week; the regular monthly issue plus the annual hardback edition.
This year's Viz Annual, titled The Five Knuckle Shuffle (apparently it's a poker reference ;-)) is a 160 page whopper collecting selected material from issues 172 to 181 for the bargain price of £10.99. There's a wealth of funny material here that the critics of Viz would do well to study, because it's not all toilet humour. Like the best contemporary literature, Viz reflects the frailties of the human condition, exposing society's hypocrisies and laying bare the fragile structure of modern society. And it also features The Fat Slags and Nobby's Piles.
As ever there's a good variety of strips from Graham Dury, Simon Thorp, Alex Collier, Davey Jones and others, and even a couple of pages by me (The Pathetic Sharks and Suicidal Syd).
Also out today is Viz No.199 with 52 pages for £3.20. Amongst this month's offerings are Farmer Palmer, Tinribs, Major Misunderstanding, Samson's Arse, Suicidal Syd, and the return of God-botherer Ivan Jelical. There's also a fantastic centrespread drawn by Alex Collier of Tasha Slappa and her pals at an airport departure lounge that's scarily true to life.
One part that particularly amused me was this spoof ad. Let's hope it doesn't give ideas to any crusading anti-comics trolls who might stagger in here...
Viz No.199 is available at all major newsagents and supermarkets on the top shelf. Or in the case of some corner shops who don't look at the cover advisory, nestled in with Tinkerbell and Disney Girl.
Four more issues of Britain's longest running adventure comic (49 years and counting) have arrived in newsagents. Here's the info kindly supplied by editor Calum Laird:
The first three books complete our series of six books saluting the heroes of the Battle Of Britain, called Aces High. We’ve dug back into the archives to give some of the older books an airing. Very few Commando readers will have seen these, I hope, and will appreciate them.
Inside the front covers of them all will be individual aircraft illustrations by Ian Kennedy.
Commando 4327: BLACK ACE
A survivor…alone on a cold, dark sea…this was the best that any RAF pilot could hope for if he ran up against Von Stein of the Luftwaffe. The German flew a jet-black Focke-Wulf 190, and his emblem was the ace of spades, the card of death.
They called young Jack Collins a coward until the day he and his Hurricane took off to meet the Black Ace in mortal combat…
Story: Alan Parlett
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally No 124 from 1964
Commando No 4328: LONE ACE
“Stand by for a crash — young Danny Price has just taken off!” What a reputation for a young pilot to get. Too bad that every word of it was true.
From recklessness and bad judgement, or maybe just through bad luck, Dan finished up pranging every aircraft he ever flew. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Grumman Wildcats – they were all the same to Dan. In the sea, in the fields, on the decks of carriers he dumped them with amazing regularity, totally beyond repair.
Not until he crashed one with cold courage right on to an attacking U-Boat did anyone start believing in Dan — even Dan himself!
Story: David Bingley
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Originally No 275 from 1967
Commando No 4329: Divided Aces
Squadron Leader Jack Pearson was beginning to wonder if his first command might be his last. English-born Jack was determined to make the most of his posting to a base outside Edinburgh — even if the locals were less than friendly about his, and his fellow countrymen’s, presence.
As if that wasn’t enough, added to the mix were some veteran Polish fliers who didn’t like the way their new skipper was running things… Jack would have his work cut out for him if he was going to unite these
Story: Ferg Handley
Art: José Maria Jorge
Cover: José Maria Jorge
Commando No 4330: SNIPER HUNT
Lance-Corporal Matt Horne always wanted to be a sniper. So when the chance came to join an established sniper team as a flanker — to watch the backs of the sniper and his spotter — Matt grabbed it.
However, with a mysterious rival marksman causing carefully-calculated mayhem, Matt soon found out that sniping was a bitter, deadly game — one where there were no rules and the hunter very easily became the hunted…
Story: Alan Hebden
Cover: Keith Page
And if you like these stories, remember that Carlton’s latest jumbo Commando collection is 10 stories from the Battle Of Britain…it’s called Scramble! ISBN 978-1-84732-421-4
Thursday, September 16, 2010
News just in: The reprint monthly Classics from the Comics is to cease publication with issue 175, out on October 13th.
Launched in April 1996, Classics from the Comics was a 68 page black and white value-for-money title which reprinted selected strips from the rich history of Thomson humour comics. It provided an affordable way for collectors to revisit their favourite characters and for new readers to discover the fantastic work of artists no longer with us or retired.
Over its 14 year run Classics represented strips by Davy Law, Dudley Watkins, Leo Baxendale, John K. Geering, Paddy Brennan, Jack Glass, Eric Roberts, Bob McGrath, Jim Petrie, and many more. The comic was always a mixed bag, never keeping a fixed set of characters so it ensured that numerous strips had their chance to appear, from Black Bob to P.C. Big Ears.
Recent issues, edited by Garry Fraser, had seen Classics embrace its potential even more. A bright new logo debuted, and an expansion of contents included features on artists (somewhat of a miracle considering how secretive Thomson used to be), and reprints from boys papers such as Victor and Hotspur. Even text stories, unseen for years, were revived, with a 1958 Dixon Hawke mystery appearing in the current issue.
Sadly all this was an uphill struggle against the one thing Classics has suffered from for years: poor distribution. Very few newsagents seemed to stock the comic, so a portion of the potential market simply wasn't aware of its existence. (Only one of my local newsagents stocked it, where I purchased it every month, then they suddenly canceled their order for no apparent reason about six months ago. If this was the pattern across the country it's easy to see why sales were low.)
Even though it was only a reprint comic it was keeping those old characters in print, but the cancellation of Classics now means that many of those characters will now fade into history. At present there are no plans whatsoever to replace it with another reprint title.
The latest issue of Classics from the Comics came out yesterday (previewed here) and features an interview with veteran Minnie the Minx artist Jim Petrie. The final edition will be out next month on October 13th.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
One of the UK's top humour artists, Nigel Parkinson, has decided to put his thoughts to screen and has just launched his own blog. Although it's only been online a few days Nigel Parkinson Cartoons is already proving to be an interesting variety of postings.
Covering unseen art, Nigel's favourite strips, and personal anecdotes, it looks like Nigel's blog is going to be a friendly place to visit.
Anyone who has grown up with British comics over the past 30 years will be familiar with Nigel's work from The Beano, The Dandy, Ace Ventura Adventures, Scouse Mouse Comic, Thunderbirds, and many more. Nigel's produced a lot of material over the years, and is still busy today, so no doubt his blog will be providing some great insights into his career and future projects.
Check it out today: http://www.nigelparkinsoncartoons.blogspot.com/
Above: Hunt Emerson, Nigel Parkinson and myself earlier this year after a slap-up feed. Photograph by Laura Howell.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The latest edition of Classics from the Comics, out tomorrow, features the return of an almost-forgotten British superhero. King Cobra, who featured as the cover star of The Hotspur from 1976, featured artwork by D.C. Thomson stalwart Ron Smith, who'd later go on to illustrate Judge Dredd for 2000AD and the Daily Star.
King Cobra, in reality reporter Bill King, transforms his ordinary street clothes into a high-tech costume at the pull of a string, becoming a gadget-equipped masked hero thwarting crime in the UK. In other words, superhero action with a quirky British
It's good to see Classics branching out from the humour comics it originally focused on to bring in reprints from the old D.C. Thomson adventure titles as well. Recent issues have also seen selected reprints of Tough of the Track from Victor and 1980s General Jumbo stories from Buddy.
The latest issue isn't short on laughs though, and includes the usual variety of comedy strips from Beano, Dandy, Topper, Sparky and more along with a spotlight on the work of Jim Petrie, who drew Minnie the Minx for several decades. 68 pages for £2.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Over on Dez Skinn Dot Com the ex-Warrior editor is continuing to develop his new website nicely, with some fascinating insights into British comics history. I previously reported on how Dez had published anecdotes of his time at IPC and now he's added a page on projects that never made it to the publication stage.
As you no doubt know, over the years comic publishers have produced numerous "dummy" issues of titles that are only seen within the confines of the office, or, at most, receive small print runs for market research. Some titles are passed, but many never get off the launch pad for various reasons.
It's interesting to see Dez's selection of comics that never were, and I'd venture that a few of them may have proven to be more popular than some of the ones that did pass the "audition". I for one hope Dez develops this section of his site and we get to see more of the humour comic Chuckler!
Perhaps in the newsagents of some parallel dimension there are copies of Johnny Future, Oriental Heroes, and Saga rubbing shoulders with The Dandy and 2000AD.
To read about these unseen titles visit:
Saturday, September 04, 2010
"Grandpa had the Eagle, Dad had 2000AD and now you've got CLiNT, you lucky people."
Thus writes Mark Millar in his editorial for the first issue of CLiNT, the major new, hyped-up, reviewed-on-Newsnight, "boys comic" from Titan Magazines which is in all the shops now. Not just comic shops, but newsagents and supermarkets. Yes, a brand new UK adventure comic. Everywhere. 100 full colour pages for a mere £3.99.
Technically it's not really brand new. The two main strips, Turf and Nemesis, are reprinted from American comics published by Image and Marvel/Icon, and I hope that Nemesis gets back on schedule in the States before CLiNT catches up with it or there'll be a 22 page hole to fill in issue three. Another strip in issue one is an eight-page preview of the forthcoming Kick Ass 2 comic that Marvel/Icon are publishing in the USA later this month.
Of the actual, brand-new, not-connected to any other publisher, comic material that only leaves Rex Royd by Frankie Boyle and Jim Muir, illustrated by Michael Dowling, (11 pages) and a three page Space Oddities strip by Manuel Bracchi. The pale, red-bearded, somewhat anxious face of Frankie Boyle dominates the front cover and I think his fans might be disappointed that although he co-writes the comic strip inside (which has none of his style of humour) there's no interview with him. Instead we get an interview with Jimmy Carr. You know; that comedian who looks like he's wandered through a time warp from a Mack Sennett backlot and has been surprised by the headlights of a car more advanced than a Model T Ford.
The rest of the mag is taken up with articles destined to be the talk of the school lunch break such as Charles Manson's Death List and Hot Mums. Even so, it is comic strips that fill most of CLiNT and this is definitely a comic even though the cover design will suggest it's shelved alongside SFX or Nuts.
So who is it aimed at? Mark Millar definitely refers to it as a "boys comic", and some may think that's tongue in cheek but the whole package of the mag would suggest he's being honest. The promos talk about it appealing to 16 to 30 year-olds but maybe that's just to sell it to retailers. Personally I think CLiNT will really find an audience of 13 to 16 year-olds excited by the ultra-violence of Kick Ass and Nemesis. Don't be surprised to see some prudes rise up to bang on about comics "corrupting children". Every generation has those spoilsports and they've never proven their case yet. It seems to me that Millar and Titan have preempted such attacks by not making the cover look like a comic and clearly putting an "Adult Content" advisory beside the barcode. The responsibility is now with retailers to choose who to sell it to, and with parents to monitor what their kids read. No passing the buck this time for the blame culture.
Is it any good? Turf and Nemesis are the strongest strips, which is fortunate as they take up half of the comic. Turf, written by Jonathan Ross, is perhaps too verbose and full of information overload for new readers unaccustomed to comics but I hope they'll stick with it as it's a good story of mobsters, vampires and aliens. The artwork by Tommy Lee Edwards is fantastic.
I've never read Kick Ass and I missed the movie but from the Kick Ass 2 strip in this issue by Mark Millar, John Romita and Tom Palmer I found it easy to grasp the concept so that's a good start.
If CLiNT raises any controversy it'll most likely be because of Nemesis, a Mark Millar written tale of a super terrorist in the style of Italy's Diabolik. Nicely illustrated by Steve McNiven it features images of mutilation and carnage and a script littered with four letter words. I'm sure that teenagers will see it for the outrageous black comedy it is but there's always some resentful faction of society that have nothing better to do than complain about fiction.
Will CLiNT succeed? Too early to say. I'm sure comic fans will love it but the aim of this title is to reach beyond the fan ghetto and attract Joe Public in the way that comics used to. Comic fans love continuity strips but they're a much harder thing to sell to casual readers who prefer the instant laughs and complete stories of Viz. It's a lot to ask of people to remember the complexities of a serial strip over four-week gaps. In CLiNT's favour it has the same high-energy of a blockbuster movie but it's the "continued next issue" aspect that's the big hurdle. It may have worked for Dickens and Conan Doyle, and even for Eagle and The Hotspur, but this is 2010 and people like self-contained entertainment with sequels as an extension of a concept, not a result of a cliffhanger.
Is CLiNT easy to find in the shops? Well, if retailers do their job right it should be alongside SFX, Sci-Fi Now and 2000AD, but reports are coming in of it being next to anything from Match of the Day Magazine to Fun-Size Beano. In the branch of WH Smith I bought my copy from ten issues had been stacked back to front. That's the next biggest hurdle: retail intelligence.
Any new comic faces a big struggle to succeed today. Outside of faithful collectors and a gradually growing graphic novel readership, I've found that Britain tends to view comics with either indifference, ridicule, or contempt. The cover style of CLiNT should at least raise curiosity of casual browsers and maybe hook some new readers who thought comics were only for young kids.
Mark Millar has ambitious plans beyond CLiNT. As soon as the first issue was placed on the shelves he announced "I’m in this to win it, not fail and so using every trick at making this work where everything since 2000 has died" and announced intentions to revitalize the UK comic industry to "make sure it has as many jobs and as many readers as it had a generation ago".
That's quite a bold statement from someone who's comic had only been on sale for one day, but one has to respect Millar for trying to make a difference and wanting to pull the industry back from the abyss it could face in a few years. It may be hyperbole but in this day and age one has to be confident in order for talent to be noticed amongst the mediocrity. It'll be interesting to see how CLiNT fares and I for one will be following its progress.
The only surviving comic of the many titles launched in the 1960s, the latest Commando editions are in the shops now. Details below from editor Calum Laird...
Commando 4323: Island Ambush
The SOS came through weak and distorted by static. An American survivor of one of the many battles of the Pacific war, calling for help from a lonely island.
Radio operator Eric Aburto aboard PT Boat 1101 heard the message and knew he had to go to the man’s aid — not only was he a fellow US serviceman…Eric was sure he recognised a voice from his past!
Story: Sean Blair
Art and cover: Mike White
Commando 4324: ONE-EYED ACE
Newly-commissioned Pilot Officer Johnny Dangerfield dreamed of racking up the five kills needed to call himself an ace — and was determined to face anything the Nazis threw at him to do it.
However, it was to be the actions of one of his own squadron’s pilots that would cause him to lose an eye and Johnny’s dreams of being an ace would be over…
…Or were they?
Story: Alan Hebden
Art and Cover: Keith Page
This is the first book in Commando’s six-book salute to the RAF on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. We’ve commissioned two brand new stories and also scoured our archives for four cracking air stories which haven’t seen the light of day for decades. The remaining three books in the Aces High series will be released on the 16th of September.
Commando 4325: MUSTANG ACE
An ace…that’s what Joe Jennings was, one of the few gifted pilots who could make his kite do anything but talk. Nobody believed there was a Jerry alive who could match Joe in combat.
Yet the day did dawn when Joe was shot down in flames. And how it came about makes a fantastic story.
Story: Mac Macdonald
Art: John Ridgway
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally No 546 from 1971
This was John Ridgway’s first ever Commando book. At the time he had a day job and it took about four months of evening and weekend work to complete. He used very thick board back then and the stack of art stands about six inches high! John has gone on to establish himself as a fixture in the British comics world and we like to think that we gave him a helping hand in the beginning — I wonder if he agrees?
Commando 4326: CLASH OF ACES
When Squadron-Leader Alec Scott in his old, lumbering Gloster Gladiator was set about by a flashing Messerchmitt 109, it was David and Goliath all over again.
This time David needed more than a sling to down Goliath — but the big ’un was cut down to size just the same.
Story: Peter Newark
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally No 465 from 1970