Monday, February 28, 2011

Beano Editor Alan Digby retires


Alan Digby, who has been doing a fine job as editor of The Beano and Beano Max these past few years, has taken early retirement from D.C. Thomson after 40 years with the company.

Alan joined D.C. Thomson in 1970, becoming chief sub-editor on The Beano where he masterminded the famous 'Gnasher Goes Missing' story arc as well as the creation of Ivy the Terrible with artist Robert Nixon. (Ivy was based on one of Alan's daughters.)


In the late 1980s Alan became editor of The Beezer before moving on to head the Comics Projects department launching the popular hardback The Broons and Oor Wullie compilations and the Funsize titles.

Alan became editor of The Beano in 2006, replacing Euan Kerr, and also took over BeanoMAX the following year. The new editor is Michael Stirling, deputy head of childrens entertainment at D.C. Thomson.

On a personal note, it was a pleasure to work with Alan on the development of his Ultras concept, which became the Super School strip debuting in The Beano in October 2008. The strip became part of the new look given to the weekly at that time which proved to be successful with the readers.

These are hard times for publications, but in the last five years Alan has managed to steer The Beano on course, tweaking the long-running weekly to bring it more up to date whilst retaining its unique identity. My very best wishes to him for a long and happy retirement.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Comic Heroes issue 5 hits the shops

Future Publishing released the fifth issue of Comic Heroes this week, and once again it's another chunky edition with loads of information. On sale now from WH Smith and other retailers the £7.99 issue comes packaged in a card envelope with two extras; another issue of Sidekick, previewing forthcoming comics, and the complete 48 page Cinebooks album XIII: The Day of the Black Sun by W.Vance and J.Van Hamme. (The latter isn't much use to those of us who have already bought that book but it's a great introduction to the series for anyone that hasn't.)


Contents of the 132 page issue of Comic Heroes include...

The second part of the interview with Kevin O"Neill, this time covering his early years working at IPC. Fans of those 1970s comics might bristle at his comments but his frustration about seeing people such as Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid being "chained to a certain way of doing things" for the "sausage factory" only echo what other insiders have said about that period. I found myself agreeing with his remark that Odhams were "the last great blast of humour comics". Personally I think there have also been a few maverick titles since then, but not enough to prevent the industry from its decline. (Outside forces were at work too of course, with a general move towards a nanny state. How could anything daring and different survive in such an environment?)


Also blasting the staid nature of those British comics is Pat Mills, with an article about girls' comics, and how Tammy tried to radicalize that genre.


Tying in with the bonus album this issue, Paul Gravett takes a look at the thriller XIII...


Keeping with an international flavour Paul also brings us a feature on Italian artist Milo Manara, known for his sensuous illustrations. Such artwork is not only stunning but also displays the gulf between British and European comics, showing how prudish British culture is that similar work has never really flourished in UK adult comics outside of seaside postcard humour.


Other highlights of this issue include a look at Green Lantern to tie in with the upcoming movie (including Dave Gibbons reflecting on his time drawing the strip); a Bluffer's Guide to Daredevil; JH Williams on his Batwoman work; The Art of Michael Wm Kaluta; plus features on Archie Comics, the X-Men, colouring for comics and much more. There's also a review of Darkie's Mob, the classic war strip by Tom Tully and Mike Western, presumably from an advance copy from Titan Books as I don't think it's in the shops yet. Nice to know it's on its way at last though!


All in all another fine issue. It's good to know that a magazine about comics can survive on the High Street and I for one will continue to support it. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Dandy bumper issue today!


This week's edition of The Dandy, out today, is another bumper 44 page special. Again, the cover is in a taller format to hopefully give it more attention on the crowded newsstands. (Next week reverts to the usual £1.50 32 page format.)

Once again it's another packed issue full of brand new material. There's a good range of material here from Nigel Parkinson, Wayne Thomson, Andy Fanton, Jamie Smart, David Mostyn, Nik Holmes and many more.

I think this issue sees the last Postman Prat for a while, but he will return! Next issue sees the debut of four new strips (including a revamped Harry and his Hippo) for a vote-off where the readers decide who stays and who goes.

The cover mount for this issue is an early April Fool's joke of the old fake knife through head toy. Just the sort of gruesome but harmless fun that kids enjoy.


The Dandy No.3523 • £2.50

Visit the Dandy website: http://www.dandy.com/

Join The Dandy on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheDandyComic


Garth and beyond. An interview with Martin Baines


As mentioned in the previous posting, the reprints of Garth which began this week in the Daily Mirror have the addition of colour for a new audience. The work is being done by Martin Baines, who is an accomplished artist in his own right. Martin kindly agreed to my request for a brief interview about Garth and his other work...


LS: Could you give me a brief rundown of your career? Comics you've worked on, and projects you have coming up?

MB: By trade I work as a visualising and storyboard artist drawing my own work and colouring others for TV commercials. Some stuff I have done recently are for Walkers crisps, Clarks shoes and British Gas. What I like about it is that you never know what you're going to get and got in initially through Sydney Jordan.
My comic work includes a six month gig on Match of the Day, drawing Commandos, painting for People's Friend, colouring Titan's Wallace and Gromit and being the back up colourist for Scorer in the Mirror. I also drew the Dan Dare Project Pluto in the early issues of Spaceship Away which I even got away with killing Dan off in the last episode...

LS: How did the Garth gig come about?

MB: To be honest I was a bit lucky... For 5 years I was the back up colourist on Scorer when David Pugh was on holiday and was out of the blue asked by the cartoon editor was I interested. Incidentally I learnt a lot from the guys on Scorer and wish them well. I know the editor knew i was a a huge fan of Garth an actually was in the running to draw him when there was a plan to launch the strip in 2008. You can see some of the sample work here...


LS: Were you a fan of Bellamy's work before this job?

MB: Frank Bellamy is in opinion my favourite artist and I actually collect his work. I am hoping that Heros the Spartan gets reprinted one day.

LS: Technical stuff. What software do you use for colouring? Does the Mirror send you a batch of TIFFS?

MB: I use Photoshop CS and the Mirror supply me with a story at a time...

LS: The colours are subtle and enhance the line, which is a benefit now that Garth is reprinted in a slightly smaller size than it was originally intended. Did you choose the colour palette?

MB: The cartoon editor supplied me with a rough sample of what they were looking for so as an good commercial artist you do as you're told... The palette I have developed from that one. I must admit I have started to look at Fraser of Africa to try to make it Bellamy like in terms of colour.


LS: How far ahead are you with The Angels of Hell's Gap? Any idea what we can expect after that story ends?

MB: I am 30 days ahead...I will let you know what story will come next.

LS: Thanks for your time and best wishes for the future.



You can see more of Martin's work at this website:
http://www.smudgepencil.co.uk/portfolio/martin-b/

Garth runs in the Daily Mirror every Monday to Saturday. The strip can also be viewed online at the Daily Mirror website:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/fun-games/cartoons/

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Changes at the Daily Mirror: Scorer ends, Garth returns (UPDATE)


It's all change for the Daily Mirror's comic strip page on Monday as the classic strip Garth makes its welcome return. The humour strip Simon's Cat, by Simon Tofield, also comes to the Mirror that day. To facilitate the new arrivals, the long-running football strip Scorer ends today.

Garth ran in the paper from 1943 to 1997 and according to the Mirror's website it's being revived due to many requests from the readers. (The same paper brought back The Perishers in a series of selected reprints a while ago.)

Created by cartoonist Steve Dowling, Garth was also illustrated by John Allard, Frank Bellamy, and Martin Asbury over its 54 year run. Three years ago Huw J revived the strip for an online comic book. (See news item here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2008/11/new-garth-comic-book-online.html)

Which version of the classic strip will the Mirror reprint? We'll find out on Monday. (Note: See update below.) Chances are it'll be the popular Frank Bellamy version, although my personal favourite was the atmospheric Dowling/Allard era that I grew up with. Here's an example from 1964:


Scorer
, written by Barrie Tomlinson and illustrated by David Sque and David Pugh, has been in the paper since 1989.
A hybrid of traditional boys' football adventure and saucy seaside postcard humour the lighthearted strip was created by Tomlinson, who was the editor of Tiger and Roy of the Rovers for many years. Today's final episode ends with Ulrika, the girlfriend of the strip's hero Dave Storry, saying they'll live "happily ever after".


Simon's Cat, debuting on Monday, was created by freelance animator Simon Tofield, has been around for some time now, appearing in books and short online cartoons. You can visit the official website here:
http://www.simonscat.com/


UPDATE 21st February 2011:
The Garth story kicking off the reprints is The Angels of Hell's Gap, illustrated by Frank Bellamy, first serialized in the Mirror from 15th January 1975 to 2nd May 1975. If today's example is anything to go by it looks like they'll be running two episodes a day, which of course would speed things along somewhat. If the stories are going to be run in order the next serial will be The Doomsmen, followed by The Bubble Man (currently being reprinted in Spaceship Away).


Reproduction on today's reprint is as good as it can be considering a) it's smaller than the size it was intended for in the seventies, b) it's digitally scanned, and c) paper quality is poorer than it was in 1975. The addition of colour, by Martin Baines, is new and although it might upset some purists I thought it was nicely subtle and helped clarify some details that might otherwise be hard to distinguish in such a small size.

While it's good to see Garth return, and Frank Bellamy work being given an airing for a new generation, it's a shame it comes at the cost of David Tomlinson, David Sque, and David Pugh losing their regular gig on Scorer. With The Perishers also being reprinted is this the future of newspaper strips, - to be recycled instead of commissioning new ventures? Hopefully not, as Simon's Cat is a brand new arrival, so at least that adds some balance.

Personally I'd like to see the strips reproduced larger, as they used to be. There's no reason why they have to all be on one page. (In the 1960s The Flutters, The Larks, and Garth would be on one page, and The Perishers and Andy Capp would be elsewhere in the paper, with gag cartoons Laughter, Playboy, and Useless Eustace scattered on other pages. Of course that's not going to happen again, and with companies cutting back on spending we're lucky to have the current balance of new strips alongside the classics. In that regard, long may Garth enjoy his return to life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Horizon - A long way to fall


Horizon - A long way to fall is a new project created by Andrew Wildman, an artist who'll be known to many of you for his work on various comics over the years from Thundercats to Transformers and the strip Frontier: The Weird Wild West for The DFC. He's also worked outside of comics, in character and environment design and animated movie production for the TV and games industries. He also founded the charity Draw the World Together to raise funds to enable education possibilities for street children around the world and co-owns Wildfur Productions with Simon Furman.

Having always worked as an artist, Andrew is now expanding his own horizons to draw and write his own graphic novel. Horizon - A long way to fall is described as "a graphic novel about love and loss, fear and freedom, a toy rabbit, and VERY big robots".

The main character is Ali, a 15 year old girl. As the website explains: "An age in-between. An age where she isn't a child or an adult. An age of confusion. Bullied at school and after a row with her mother that she cant even remember the reason for she sits in her room. Alone. With that dark tension boiling in her gut again. Why is it like this? Why don’t they ever listen?
The tears dry in her eyes and she grabs hold of the only thing she cares for from 'back then' and may even take with her into her future, her toy rabbit... and falls asleep.
BANG! Eyes wide open she is awake, or so she thinks. And then... The adventure begins."

The novelty with this book is that Andrew is looking for "Crowdfunding", which is basically readers funding the project up front, with a figure of your own choice. In return the sponsors will receive updates on the book and, depending on the amount you contribute, anything from having your name printed in the book (and a signed copy) to an opportunity to own an original canvas of the characters painted in acrylics.


The book itself sounds like a refreshing change from much of the dark, heavy material around today, and should appeal to all ages. It seems like a worthwhile project to donate to if you can afford to. The goal is to raise money to seed the project and to help with marketing costs but, as Andrew says on his website, "its not necessarily about that. Its more to do with giving others the opportunity to be involved in the genesis of something new. A pre-order campaign that will allow you to be along for the ride and get your name forever in the book. Or to take up any of the other opportunities on offer here to order limited edition prints, deluxe format books and original artwork. The choice is yours. You can be involved as much as you like."

As ever, British comics have to adapt to survive. Today it's tougher than ever, with a retail system that makes publishing new titles difficult and established publishers are reticent to be experimental in the current economic climate. Crowdfunding may be one way forward to help new ideas off the ground.

To find out more about Horizon, and to see samples of the book, visit the website and join in if you can:

http://www.indiegogo.com/Horizon

Andrew's blog:
http://wildwords.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Antimatter Hari, - She'll blow your mind

It may be a few days after Valentine's Day but in the latest issue of Toxic Doc Shock thinks love is in the air when he meets Antimatter Hari. Unfortunately Hari's only interested in Doc's mind, - literally! She's out to steal his brain for her own nefarious purposes and her kiss achieves it with skull-popping results.
Antimatter Hari is a brand new villain I've created who debuts this issue in the Team Toxic strip and who, I hope, will be turning up there again from time to time. Although the Team have faced numerous male baddies, from Butt-Face to Techno Troll, there's only been a few femme fatales such as Hallie Tosis and the Sand-Witch who have clashed with our heroes. Now Antimatter Hari joins the rogues gallery of the long running comic.


This issue of Toxic also features a new Robin Hoodie strip by Luke Paton and Laura Howell, another Zoikz adventure strip, a pull out Toxic Gamer section with six pages of cheats, and various fun and activity pages.

The free gift is a pair of Googly Glasses. (I drew the artwork for the blister pack.)


Toxic No.179 • £2.75 On sale now.

http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/

Commando goes digital!


Don't worry, the paper version remains as well. Here's all the info direct from the bunker at D.C. Thomson along with a couple of screenshots....

Commando, the iconic action and adventure comic published by D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd., starts its 50th anniversary year in 2011 with a bang, courtesy of a brand new website, http://www.commandocomics.com, officially launched today. The much-loved comic, which has now surpassed 4300 stories since its inception in July 1961, has launched a full-scale assault on the digital world, including a new website, digital subscriptions service using iPhone & iPad apps, a first from DC Thomson’s stable of publications. The new service ensures that Commando adventures, famed for their accuracy and authenticity, are now available in digital form as well as print.


The new website, created by DC Thomson’s Digital team in partnership with Edinburgh-based digital agency, Storm ID, has a range of new features which ensures that Commando is well positioned for the digital future. Users can explore the stories, including new issues, using the free interactive viewer as well as obtain information on the military hardware featured throughout. There’s also the chance to enjoy various story features and the reminiscences of both the current editorial team and contributors from throughout Commando’s 50 years. Visitors will also have the ability to purchase a digital subscription directly from the website or buy a print subscription for delivery. Also, for the first time, users can get their hands on some famous Commando cover posters (in A1 size format) exclusively through Commandocomics.com, for the introductory price of £19.99.

Commando Editor, Calum Laird, said: “Being the first DC Thomson title to offer a downloadable digital comic via a web-based subscription service is quite a responsibility but one we are delighted to take on. Commando is a unique product in the UK marketplace and now, it can be made available worldwide at the click of a mouse, or the tap of a screen for iPhone and iPad. These devices are almost tailor-made for the unique presentation of Commando. Backing up the subscription service with a fully-loaded website giving access to our timeless story archive will be welcomed with open arms by Commando fans.

The iPad and iPhone apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. For those not sure there are 4 free issues to download prior to making a purchase so you can be sure! The new website, digital subscriptions and iPhone/iPad apps will be backed by digital marketing campaign, featuring paid-search, Facebook and online display advertising.


There’s much more to come from Britain’s only war/action adventure comic in its Golden Jubilee year with a full programme planned. Favourite characters are due to make returns alongside new heroes specially created for the anniversary year along with delving deep into Commando's past to dust off classic stories like “Walk or Die” that haven't seen the light of day for many years. Commando is one war veteran that isn’t done fighting yet.

*********************************

Now here's the news about the latest four issues, all available from tomorrow:


Commando 4367: PIRATE BREED

“Hey, Bluey!”
— The length and breadth of the China Seas that’s all he was called — Bluey. Gold-smuggling, gun-running, he was a tough guy who took all kinds of chances in his fast old converted MTB to make a quick dollar.
When the Australian Navy had a tough job to do and needed a guy who knew the China Seas backwards, had smuggling contacts on nearly every island, could handle a gun and take a chance in a thousand — did they look among their own officers? Did they blazes!
“Hey, Bluey!”

Story: Spence
Inside Art: Cecil Rigby
Cover: Lopez Espi
Originally No 234 from 1966




Commando 4368: MIGHTY MIKE

Mighty Mike Mansell, top fighter ace, was the guy chosen as test pilot for the fastest aircraft produced for the RAF. The plane was so top secret that it didn’t even have a name as Mike put it through its paces over the remote north of Scotland.
Yet, despite all the security, the Nazis believed they could get their hands on the plane…and no wonder they were confident. Flying for the Luftwaffe was Mike’s identical twin brother…

Story: Cyril Walker
Inside Art: Cam Kennedy
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally No 417 from 1970, re-issued as No 1355 in 1979



Commando 4369: Swastika Squadron

A bunch of RAF men fighting in planes with swastikas? Traitors, surely, flying German kites?
Well, no. they were a group of Blenheim crews for whom a ferry flight turned into a fight for survival in planes carrying the sign of the crooked cross.

Story: Norman Adams
Inside Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page



Commando 4370: MONGREL CREW

They were a mongrel crew all right. Half-a-dozen men lumped together in a Mitchell bomber for the wrong reason — a propaganda stunt. Though each had a score to settle with the enemy, they were not really expected to fight.
But, when push came to shove, the mongrels would show they had a bite to match any pedigree hound.

Story: Mac Macdonald
Inside Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

All in all it looks like a great time to be a fan of the UK's long running adventure comic!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

D is for Decimal Day ...and Dandy Day!


Forty years ago today Britain officially turned over to decimal currency, and even The Dandy, also out that very day, became part of the historic event by using the theme in the Korky the Cat strip. (Art by Charlie Grigg.)

That same issue also saw the decimal price appear on the cover for the very first time. Unfortunately it came with a sting. Previously both The Dandy and The Beano had been 4d, but now they rose to 2p (5d in "old money"). However, a few weeks later both comics gained four extra pages each (going from 16 to 20) which compensated for the price rise.

D.C. Thomson converted their comics from the old system to the new overnight, but IPC had been using both systems on their covers since 1970. This cover shows the first appearance of decimal currency on Smash! in October 1970. The IPC comics would continue to use both prices for several months, even after "D-Day".


Although February 15th 1971 was "Decimal Day" the new coinage had been gradually introduced into the UK for some time, with the 5p and 10p coins coming into circulation in 1968.

This card was issued to every home in 1971 as a conversion guide. Those of you born after 1971 may be interested in seeing it.



Kids of my generation soon adapted to the new system as kids easily do, although some older people struggled with it. Whatever the pros and cons of the new coinage were at least the new pence were not as bulky as the old pennies and ha'pennys.


Above: 4d (comprised of three old pennies and two halfpennies). The price of a Dandy before decimalization.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Forty years on, this week's issue of The Dandy (shown below) which is out tomorrow, will cost you 250 new pence. Yes, it's a pound more than usual, but for your money you get more pages (44 instead of 32, all in full colour) and a "Slime & Squidgy Eyeballs Playset".


Whilst some critics may complain that comics of the past didn't increase their prices for free gifts I'll point out that at no point does The Dandy refer to the cover mount as "free" or a gift, or anything of the sort. Plus you're getting 12 pages more than usual so they are trying to play fair. The special issue is an incentive for retailers to stock more copies and hopefully attract the attention of new readers. (You may also have noticed that the cover is taller in size this week, to literally give it an edge over other comics.) Next week's issue will also be 44 pages, with a "Knife through Head" toy.

For those of you who speculated that the extra 12 pages would be stuffed with ads or cheapo features, fear not. The issue is full of comic strips and the extra pages are taken up with a bonus length Harry Hill story (drawn by Nigel Parkinson in fine form) and the three page opening chapter for the return of old Sparky strip Thingummyblob, given a completely new makeover by Jamie Smart. Also, contributing to the new Dandy for the first time is Hunt Emerson with a puzzle page. It's all good stuff.

The Dandy No.3522 Out Wednesday Feb 16th, £2.50.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

40 Year Flashback: COUNTDOWN No.1

Four decades ago today, on Saturday February 13th 1971, Polystyle Publications launched their new science fiction weekly Countdown. With 24 glossy pages for 5p it may not have seemed the best value for money compared to many of its rivals (which mostly had 32 pages for 3p) but it did have the exclusive use of tv strips such as Doctor Who and UFO.

Countdown's main rival was Look-In, launched just a month earlier. Personally, although I bought both comics, Countdown definitely had the edge for my tastes with its emphasis on science fiction and fact. Look-In was very grounded. Countdown was sheer escapism.

The other tv adventure comic of the period, TV21, was still around in 1971, albeit heading towards oblivion later that year. A shadow of its former self, TV21 no longer had the rights to produce strip versions of Gerry Anderson's tv shows. Those rights had now been picked up by Countdown.

The editor of Countdown was Dennis Hooper, who had been the art editor on TV Century 21 in its earlier, and better, days. Alan Fennell had been the editor of TV21 back then and now by a twist of fate Hooper found himself competing with his old colleague, for Fennell was the editor of the new Look-In.

It was easy to see that someone with a creative eye was in charge of Countdown. It looked very modern and stylish. In many ways it was very similar to the early issues of TV21 but it also had its own unique gimmicks, such as the page numbering which ran backwards! Living up to its name, the pages began at 24 and counted down to the back page being 1. Don't worry; the stories themselves were not printed in reverse order.

The free gift in issue one was a fantastic "Giant Spacefact Wallchart" with the first set of stickers to adorn the edges of the chart. (Other stickers would be given free in following issues, thus hooking the reader into continuing with the comic.)


Inside the comic, Dennis Hooper greeted the readers with a message telling them how Countdown had the best printing. Perhaps not the best way to interest the readers but it was the first time I learned that such glossy printing was called photogravure.


On pages 4 and 5 (or 20 and 19 as Countdown insisted) was the first episode of the comic's Doctor Who serial. The strip had previously been running in companion weekly TV Comic for years but had always been very much dumbed down and often with scripts that were at odds with the tv show. With its leap to Countdown and, presumably, a slightly older target audience, the scripts became a bit more sophisticated. I'm sure the fact that Dennis Hooper was a fan of the show would have helped in this regard. The artwork also improved, with Harry Lindfield drawing it for the new comic. Here perhaps was Countdown's most important contribution to comics, for it actually credited its artists. Few British comics had done this before, and it was virtually unheard of for a comic of this period to do so. Rivals IPC and D.C. Thomson were making sure their artists stayed anonymous, but here was new upstart Countdown thumbing its nose at tradition and giving the artists the credit they deserved.


The following two pages gave us Think Tank, a place for readers to ask scientific questions, and for a lighter balance, Dastardly and Muttley, drawn by Peter Ford. (Sadly, it seems humour strips were exempt from crediting its artists.)


Page 8 (or 16) asked Do Flying Saucers Exist? Countdown was on the ball here, as UFO sightings, whether imaginary or not, were often in the news at the time. Such features would become a regular part of the comic, (although even when I was 11 I wasn't convinced by the photograph on that page because the "UFO" was clearly closer to the camera than the objects it was allegedly flying over.)


Page 9 (or 15) began a five page UFO strip based on the Gerry Anderson series that had started on ITV the previous year. Artwork was by Jon Davis, and it also used the technique that TV21 used in its early days, of integrating photographs from the tv show into the strip. I never felt it really worked, and perhaps Dennis Hooper felt likewise as it was soon dropped.

The next two pages continued the UFO strip and added a "Battleships" type game for readers to play, but with UFOs instead of ships.

The centre pages of the comic looked great. A stylishly designed feature explaining the setup of the Shado organization as seen in UFO.

The following two pages concluded the UFO strip. Another of Countdown's unique elements was that it would feature a different complete story every week of 5 to 7 pages. This would give the comic the opportunity to feature all of Gerry Anderson's shows (or at least the ones made after Supercar) as well as occasionally featuring new sci-fi stories.

Page 16 (or 8) featured Thunderbirds with artwork by Don Harley...

...continuing after the Brooke Bond Picture Cards ad on page 18 (6). The strip, with characters mainly in close up, seemed very confined and low key after years of dynamic layouts of Frank Bellamy's TV21 version. Perhaps Countdown's smaller page size (compared to those early TV21 comics) didn't help either.

The following two pages gave us a real treat, with episode one of Countdown, illustrated by John M. Burns. A totally new story, non-licensed except for using spacecraft as seen in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but otherwise unconnected with that film. This saga would run for many months and was the most sophisticated strip in the weekly. Perhaps too sophisticated at times for the age group reading it. (I confess it went over my head some times and I lost track of it. I must re-read it.) Burns would use some interesting techniques on this strip and visually it was a highpoint of 1970s comics.

The final strip in the first issue was Captain Scarlet. It's obvious that page two was originally intended to run the following week, with the top tier adjusted to run an ad where the logo would be.The artwork by John Cooper uses lots of close ups, but it's understandable as he had a lot to fit into 13 panels on each page. It's strange that this strip should have so many panels but I presume it's because it was supposed to only be a single pager and they wanted to get as much story into a page as possible.

Incidentally, the typeface used for the strips throughout the comic would thankfully be replaced by hand lettering from issue No.2.

The back page ran an ad for Dinky Toys, which I thought you might like to see.

It seems Countdown didn't fare as well as Polystyle had hoped. It underwent several cosmetic changes as the year progressed, tweaking the logo, adding reprints from TV21, and eventually, a year later, changing its title to TV Action. Despite its modern look, Countdown was behind the times in some respects. Its focus on Gerry Anderson shows and spaceflight may have served TV21 well in 1965 but by 1971 such things were going out of favour. Man had walked on the Moon. The obsession with all things "space" wasn't as attractive as it had been ten years earlier.

As we now know, Look-In outshone, and outsold, its rival and thrived for many years. Even a change of title to TV Action and an emphasis on action shows instead of sci-fi couldn't save Polystyle's weekly, and it eventually merged into TV Comic in 1973. However Countdown should not be forgotten. It was a very good comic and I'll be spotlighting various issues again at times in the future.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...