Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jubilee japes in this week's comics

British comics have a long history of celebrating contemporary events, whether it's Christmas or coronations, and this week is no exception. Both The Dandy and The Beano, out today, have themes to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with covers drawn by Jamie Smart and Barrie Appleby respectively.

Inside the comics, only a few strips carry the jubilee theme, but The Dandy has two very nice pages from the archives, with Korky the Cat (by James Crichton) and Desperate Dan (by Dudley Watkins) celebrating the Queen's coronation from the June 6th 1953 issue. 

Forget the jubilee though. The BIG news in The Dandy this week is that The Banana Bunch are back! The old Beezer characters are given a facelift and their all-new adventures kick off in style as a centre-spread strip by Nigel Parkinson. No, I'm not showing a preview here. Rush out and buy a copy of The Dandy today. You'll love it.

Meanwhile, over in Toxic, there's a celebratory I-Spy double page jubilee street party spread I drew. Here's a small size preview...


Also in the same issue, Team Toxic attempt to honour the celebrations as Doc Shock constructs a giant robot of the Queen. Will things run smoothly? Well, the story title is Jubilee Rampage so don't bet on it!

That's Toxic No.204, also out today, priced £2.80 for 40 pages plus a bagful of gifts. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

This week in 1941: COMIC CUTS


The 1940s aren't faring very well so far in the poll but I hope you'll enjoy this posting. Here's a wartime edition of Comic Cuts (No.2,663) which was on sale 71 years ago this week in 1941.

Wartime cutbacks were taking hold and had already caused the end of Larks comic, which had merged into Comic Cuts in 1940. The price of the comic had also risen. No longer the penny comics of the 1930s, Comic Cuts now cost 2d for just 8 tabloid pages. 

The cover stars are The Crusoe Kids and this example is a smashing piece of work by Cyril Price. A slick inking style and lots of background detail pull the reader into the story, - and is 'The Pig and Faceache' one of the funniest names for a pub or what? This is top quality work printed on very cheap paper but it has been preserved by some careful owners over the years so is still immaculate. As for the bits of wood chip and greyness of the paper, - that's how it is. The paper is actually as grey as cardboard, but the orange spot colour livens it up considerably. 


Inside, one of the various strips across the centre pages was Waddles the Waiter. This strip's first series ran from 1912 to 1925, drawn by Alexander Akerbladh. Later, the editor obviously thought it still had legs so it was revived from 1938 to 1947 by Terry Wakefield. 


Here's a typical wartime strip which sees Plum and Duff resourcefully deal with the enemy, in this case, Italian soldiers. Sadly, a sign of the times mean it's any excuse to use offensive nicknames for foreigners. Artwork by Albert Pease. 

 
The League of Ovaltineys was the wartime equivalent of social networking, with kids eager to be a part of it. No video games to partake in back then though of course but instructions on how to make a paper plane would still provide entertainment...


On the back page, Pinhead and Pete drawn by Bertie Brown. Again, there's some racist language used casually here, but Pinhead (the big white guy) and Pete (the little black chap) are clearly good friends and equals, which hopefully was the message that filtered through to readers. 


The somewhat surreal strip at the foot of the page, Dizzy, was another fine Cyril Price job. All in all, a great issue with some of Britain's top humour comic artists of the era.
  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Flashback to 1990: Fleetway's new launches

  
It all seems very optimistic now. A UK publisher investing £1,000,000 to reinvigorate its line of comics. However that was the situation in May 1990 when this issue of Dez Skinn's Comics International revealed Fleetway's big plans.




Fleetway were taking a risk back then, as sales of comics had been sliding for some time. Rather than abandoning comics, they decided to try and reinvigorate what they had and launch a couple of new titles. Ah, how the comics industry was buzzing over the publication of Revolver and the new Judge Dredd Monthly (or the much-better titled Judge Dredd Megazine as it was renamed before its launch). 

What high hopes we had for the 30th anniversary of Buster, which editor Allen Cummings said "deserves to be talked of in the same breath as Beano and Dandy". Little did we know then that Buster would be axed just under ten years later, and that the new publishers would focus more on children's magazines than comics. 

Here then is the news of 22 years ago, when it seemed that British comics were on the verge of a renaissance. Noble thoughts, but of all of the Fleetway titles mentioned in the article, only Judge Dredd Megazine is still running (now published by Rebellion). 

For those critics who think that the drop off of comic sales are a recent problem (and that modern content is to blame) it's worth considering the words of Fleetway's group managing director Terry Humphreys in 1990 when he spoke of falling sales being a "long and steady decline". The million pound investment back then was their way of trying to fight the increasing disinterest in comics, and today publishers try other ways and other investments to try and turn the tide. In some ways it may be seen as fighting a losing battle that's been waged for decades, but hopefully publishers will continue to fight and keep British comics alive.

PS: It's a good article by Simon Rogers but the bit about Tom Browne introducing comic strip narrative to the UK is quite an exaggeration. Browne was brilliant, and his style was (and still is) massively influential to British comics, but he didn't invent the comic strip.

CLiNT relaunches with new No.1

 Published in time for the Kapow! Comic Convention last weekend, and now available in newsagents, the new issue CLiNT sees the adults-only comic reboot with a new issue one. (Technically it's issue 2.1 but there's no escaping the huge #1 on the cover.) 

Presumably the main reasons for such a relaunch are to attract new readers and also to encourage shops to stock more copies. Sadly, my local newsagents don't seem to have taken that on board and have only stocked the same quantities as before (ie: one copy in my corner shop, - and it's shelved between The Beano and some pre-school mag). I only hope the situation is better elsewhere. 

If you haven't bought CLiNT before, or are a lapsed reader, this is indeed an excellent jumping on point. 100 pages for £4.25, packed with comics and related features. The recent first U.S. issues of The Secret Service and Super Crooks are reprinted in full (comics that individually would cost you about £2.50) plus 11 exclusive pages of Rex Royd, and 11 pages of new series Death Sentence. There's also a very insightful interview with Mark Millar, who comes across as someone with his head screwed on right, an item on the 20th anniversary of Roman Dirge's Lenore, and a bizarre feature about some real-life masked vigilante who's running around London rooftops, calling himself Clint after claiming to being inspired by the comic. He says. Although the fact that thousands of CLiNT readers don't turn to using parkour and nightsticks would suggest there's a few other things that triggered him off there. It'll end in tears.

The next issue of CLiNT won't be out until July 5th. I can't help thinking that a six-week frequency isn't going to do continued stories any favours, but I appreciate that a longer shelf-life might sell more copies. It's up to you though folks. The more of you who buy CLiNT, the more likely it is to go back to monthly status.  

CLiNT No.2.1 (or #1 if you prefer, or No.16 if you're counting) is available now from comic specialist shops and newsagents, or you can subscribe at: http://titanmagazines.com/t/clint/

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chronos Commandos are coming!

  
At the Kapow! Comic Con last Saturday, I met artist Stuart Jennett who gave me a  flyer promoting a brand new originated British comic that's coming our way this autumn. Chronos Commandos is its title and from the sample pages Stuart showed me on his iPad it's definitely one not to miss! 

Stuart used to be a comic artist for Marvel UK back in the good old days and has since worked as a concept designer in the computer games industry. He's now the co-founder of his own company, Alien Apple Studios Ltd, who will be publishing this new comic book series. 

This really is top class artwork with a story that involves Nazis, dinosaurs (yes, that combination again!), time travel and Albert Einstein kicking ass. Yes, all great escapist fun!

To gaze upon Stuart's magnificent artwork and to keep up with developments visit http://www.stuartjennett.com and http://www.alienapplestudios.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Her name is Savage!

 The latest publication from British independent publisher Kult Creations is Savage! Jungle Princess, a 24 page full colour comic book for £3.75 ($5.50 in the USA).

Written by John A. Short and illustrated by Gabrielle Noble, Savage! Jungle Princess is a fun cheesecake romp that includes Nazis, dinosaurs, and scantily dressed women. Whilst certainly not suitable for a young Beano reader it still retains a coyness to the amount of flesh on show and is actually less revealing than the old Jane newspaper strip. 

Short and Noble also collaborate on Ms. Fortune for Mayfair magazine but don't expect any soft core (or even hardcore) shenanigans in Savage! This is closer in spirit to the pre-code 1950s jungle comics of Sheena and suchlike, albeit with skimpier costumes for more modern tastes. 

The story in issue one, Death Island, is self contained, so no worries about long cliffhangers until issue 2 arrives. John Short is an experienced professional writer and the story moves along at a good pace, with dialogue and captions containing the right amount of information to carry the story clearly. Gabrielle Noble's artwork also proves her worth as a storyteller, complimenting the script well.

No doubt some will find this type of comic exploitative of women, although it does actually feature strong, independent women (albeit nearly naked). However, I'm sure that most readers will see it for the lightweight escapist fun it's intended to be, rather than a wish-dream of how women should look.

To find out more about Savage! Jungle Princess and to purchase a copy visit the Kult Creations blog here:
http://kultcreations.blogspot.co.uk/

Commando reaches issue No.4500!

  
The UK's longest running adventure comic Commando hits 4,500 issues this week as the latest batch of four editions arrive in shops today. No sign of celebrations though, but no doubt that'll come when the comic reaches 5000 issues. Here's the lowdown kindly supplied by editor Calum Laird...

Commando No 4499: Hunting Mussolini

The Convict Commandos — Jelly Jakes, Titch Mooney, Smiler Dawson — and their commander Guy Tenby had been given another job. This time they were to hunt down Mussolini in his hide-out. Easier said than done when they weren’t the only ones doing the same.
   Guy, as usual, had a plan…but it wasn’t supposed to include Jelly hanging from the undercarriage of an airborne Fieseler Storch!

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet



Commando No 4500: Lightning Strike

The war in the Far East was almost over. Japan’s armed forces had been ground down and the country was on its knees. The Japanese hadn’t given in though, they hoped super-fighters like the Kyushu Shinden — Magnificent Lightning — could stem the flow of US bombers ravaging their country.
   They could never have guessed that the Shinden’s finest moment would come protecting the very enemies it had been designed to destroy.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: John Ridgway
Cover: John Ridgway
Commando No 4501: Night Raider

Out of the night sky he came – a man with no mercy in his heart and a blazing tommy-gun in his hands, whose one ambition was to wreak destruction on all things Nazi. He became the Scarlet Pimpernel of German-occupied Europe.


Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Women in Commando are a rare sighting but, like buses, when they do turn up there’s more than one. I counted at least three in here, and a bit of romance.
   Don’t think that it means that Stainton’s story isn’t an all guns blazing story as it is, running from the beaches of Dunkirk to a full-on Commando raid in France, and with barely time to reload along the way. His touch means that the espionage, beautifully pointed up by Ken Barr’s dramatic night drop cover, manages to be action-packed, not tension-filled.
   Add to that Alonso’s 100mph inside art and you have a solid gold winner. Makes you proud to be part of the Commando Team.

Night Raider originally Commando No35 (April 1962)

Story: Stainton
Art: Alonso
Cover: Ken Barr


Commando No 4502: Battle Flag

The Second Battalion, Daleshire Light Infantry, had something to be proud of — their very own “battle flag”, a standard given to them after their heroic triumph over Napoleon’s finest troops. Carried into action, it would inspire the men to further brave deeds.
   So when one young officer’s courage failed him and the flag was captured, the thought of it in enemy hands made him vow to keep it safe — even after his death!


Introduction by Scott Montgomery, Commando Deputy Editor

Gritty action is undoubtedly what Commando does best. However, over the decades there have also been comedies, capers, historical epics, science-fiction and…ghost stories. Battle Flag is a good example of the latter. After a detailed framing sequence, veteran writer Cyril Walker cleverly weaves a tale with an eerie thread that runs throughout but does not overwhelm the action and adventure. Interestingly, the working title for this story was “The Flintshire Phantom”. That’s a good one and, had it been pitched today, I’m sure that it would have been used! Enjoy.   

Battle Flag, originally Commando No 2063 (February 1987) Commando 4502

Story: Cyril G. Walker
Art: Cecil Rigby
Cover: Jeff Bevan
 


Vote! - and discuss


I've added a poll to the right hand side of this blog for you to vote for the era of British comics that you'd like me to cover the most. I've excluded the decades prior to 1930s as I don't have a great deal of material from that time (but what I do have will continue to be featured here from time to time).

Why do you visit this blog? Is it to familiarize yourselves with comics of your childhood, or to learn something new about comics from before your time? Post your comments below and let's discuss it.

Which era would you like to see Blimey! cover the most? Now's your chance to vote! (Poll ends in three weeks time.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This week in 1989: BUSTER


Here's a few pages from the issue of Buster that was on sale this very week in 1989, kicking off with a cover by Tom Paterson. Note the '32 pages' blurb. This was Fleetway's advantage over DC Thomson at the time, when Beano and Dandy still only had 24 pages. 

The Buster strip continued on the back page...


Inside, something a bit different than my two regular pages. Instead of Tom Thug's Skooldayz and Pete and his Pimple being separate strips both characters co-starred in a two page story. Incidentally, the villa shown in panel 7 is based on a tatty dive I stayed at in Kavos the previous year. As for the little character shown coming out of the door, that's one of The Vampire Brats, - a strip I drew that would replace Pete's Pimple a few weeks later.



Jack Oliver was one of the best writer/artists to have graced British comics and he produced a lot of material for Buster over the years. Curiously, when he did Vid Kid it was under his pseudonym as, er, Sue Denim! Nice work. Not so sure about the garish limited colour overlays Fleetway were using back then!


Mike Higgs was a hero of mine when he was writing/drawing The Cloak in Pow! back in 1967 and it was a privilege to work as his assistant for a while in the mid 1980s. By 1989 he'd returned to weekly comics to draw Thundercap and it was great to be in the same comic as him. That was something I could never have imagined happening when I was eight years old reading The Cloak!


That same week saw the publication of the Buster Holiday Special. Here's the cover by Mark Bennigton...


The special had 64 pages, many of which were sadly filled with reprint due to budget cutbacks. To compensate for this, editor Allen Cummings had some characters team up to fit in all the favourites. Being aware of this is why I'd had Tom & Pete in one strip in the weekly and now their holiday adventure continued in the special...


Other team-ups in the Holiday Special included Ricky Rainbow and Chalky drawn by Bob Hill...




Melvyn's Mirror and Nipper drawn by Vic Neill...


...and Mighty Mouth and Weedy Willy drawn by Terry Bave...


(Have to say, it's a shame the other artists didn't design a special team-up logo for their pages but the strips are still great and I bet readers must have been pleasantly surprised by various characters meeting each other.) 

I hope you've enjoyed this trip back to 1989. I must admit the 1980s still seem very recent to me, which is one reason I don't cover that decade very often, but if you'd like to see more from that time let me know.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Combat Colin - back in action this summer!


 As announced at the Kapow! Comic Convention in London yesterday, Combat Colin will make his long awaited return this summer in a brand new digital comic anthology! 

The bobble-hatted buffoon will appear in a new three page full colour one-off strip in the first issue of the new comic, alongside several other new strips from various creators. 

Combat Colin was a strip I used to produce for Marvel UK's Action Force and Transformers comics back in the late 1980s. After Transformers ended in 1991, the rights to Combat Colin were returned to me. In the Nineties I self published a couple of Combat Colin specials and three-issues of Yampy Tales featuring the character mostly in reprints. In 2006 - 2009 Combat Colin appeared occasionally as a guest star in the Brickman series running in the back of Elephantmen published by Image Comics. 

Since then I've been intending to revive him in his own strip and the opportunity recently arose when David Lloyd (V for Vendetta, Kickback) asked me if I'd be interested in contributing to a new digital comic he's publishing. When I heard more details about the comic I jumped at the chance. Stay tuned for Combat Colin and his sidekick Semi-Automatic Steve battling an all-new monster!

Copyright ©2012 John McCrea
Yesterday at Kapow! David Lloyd chaired a panel to reveal more details about this great new comic. Apart from myself, the creators involved will include Kyle Baker, John McCrea, Yishan Li, Mark Wheatley, David Hitchcock, Billy Tucci, Colleen Doran and many more. David Leach will also be reviving one of his old characters, - Psycho Gran from Oink!
  
In the style of the traditional UK anthology comics, the new venture will feature several three page serials plus complete three page humour strips. (Which is how Combat Colin figures into issue 1.) There will also be bonus features such as character sketches, penciled pages, and suchlike. The aim of the comic is to be suitable for all-ages, so no nudity, bad language, excessive gore and suchlike. However that doesn't mean it'll be twee kiddie stuff. This will be a solid comic that adults can enjoy that hopefully kids will enjoy too. Basically the sort of comic that used to be published but with a modern look.

The comic will be exclusively digital and online, not print, to cut out the middlemen and produce the sort of stories creators want to do. That means no stories based on toys or TV shows. No licensed properties at all in fact. Just brand new originated comics, at a great price, and with the creators retaining the rights. Each volume of the comic will run to seven issues and readers will be able to subscribe to each volume for just £6.99 / $10 (therefore working out at a mere £1 an issue!) to read online.

Selected panels from some of the strips
I feel privileged to be in issue one and I hope I'll be able to contribute again to a future issue. More details of this great new comic will surface soon, including the title. There will also be a website, Facebook page and so on, and hopefully the usual comic news sites will help spread the news. Stay tuned!

Bambos Georgiou is the editor of the project and you can contact him for more info at bambos.georgiou@yahoo.co.uk 

UPDATE: The name of the new comic has now been revealed... ACES WEEKLY, - and it debuts on September 30th! 

Brush logo is the trademark of David Lloyd
   

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kapow! on Saturday - Photo report

I was unable to attend the Bristol Comic Expo last week so to compensate for missing the camaraderie with my comic pals I bought a ticket to the Kapow! Comic Convention in London - and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's a bunch of pics from today's show at the Business Design Centre in Islington... 

Smaller than I expected, but a good venue. This is the scene just a few minutes after the doors opened before the majority of the fans arrived...


It was good to meet up with my old pals David (Psycho Gran) Leach and Bambos (multi-talented artist/writer/letterer/editor) Georgiou...


John Freeman, editor of Strip Magazine and Rok Comics...


A variety of guests including.... wrestlers? 

Yep, wrestlers!


Jonathan Ross turned up and had a fight. See video here.

By mid-day the hall was packed, but still comfortable...


Fiona Stephenson (http://www.fionastephenson.com/) and Dean Ormston (http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=934) were just two of many artists who were exhibiting there... 


Saturday afternoon, and Green Lantern shops for comics...


Indie creators Yel Zamor, Ian Sharman and David Wynne of Orang Utan Comics with Holly Rose as Loki, God of Mischief in the background...


What's better than comics and cakes? Comic themed cakes! More tasty stuff at http://www.cherryscupcakes.co.uk/ 


It's Noel Clarke from off the telly and films being interviewed about his career...


It's Clobberin' Cosplay Time!


Writer Mark Millar (Kick Ass, The Secret Service, The Ultimates, CLiNT and tons more) being interviewed about his work...


The event continues tomorrow, but I only decided to go for Saturday. (Tickets only folks, so don't turn up to pay on the door.) I haven't been to a London convention for years and although Kapow! has a different vibe to the old, much missed UKCAC events it was well worth attending. Great to meet up with Ian Edginton, Mike and Cassandra Conroy, Steve and Suzanne Tanner, Yel Zamor, G.M. Jordan, Tim Pilcher, Shane Chebsey, Emma Viecelli, Brady Webb, Ed Hammond, David Lloyd, Martin Averne and others again. Always good to see Dave Gibbons (albeit briefly this year), whose infectious enthusiasm for comics is always appreciated, and I was pleased to meet Kieron Gillan, Mark Millar and his wife Lucy Unwin, again too briefly. 

Well done to Lucy and Sarah Unwin for putting on a smashing event. Unlike some comic shows these days which downplay comics in favour of being autograph events for actors, Kapow! has the right ratio of comics and related media. Comics are definitely to the fore, but there's a small inclusion of media guests as well which adds more variety to the lineup without it overshadowing comics. Hopefully there'll be another Kapow! in 2013 so roll on next year! 
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