Sunday, July 22, 2018

Beano: 80 Years of Fun, The Box Set

You'll be hearing a lot about The Beano this week, and rightly so. It's the first British comic to celebrate 80 years of continuous publication, and most likely the only British comic that will ever reach that milestone. The actual anniversary is 26th July (the original publication day of The Beano No.1) although the official birthday is 30th July (the cover date of the first issue). 

You don't need to wait to celebrate though, because D.C. Thomson have just published a handsome limited box set full of Beano goodies that is available now from selected shops or directly from the publisher. Beano: 80 Years of Fun, The Box Set includes the 100 page bookazine I reviewed last month (which is available in shops on its own for £6.99) packaged with a whole lot more for £25. 

Within the slipcased box you'll find reprints of eight significant issues of The Beano. Naturally, there's the first issue, and we also have...

No.272 (1945): The first Beano to sell over a million copies.
No.452 (1951): The first to feature Dennis the Menace.
No.954 (1960): One of the first 'new look' issues to modernise it for the Sixties.
No.1768 (1976): The first to announce the Dennis the Menace Fan Club.
No.2280 (1986): One of the 'Gnasher is missing' issues that had nationwide publicity.
No.3052 (2001): The issue with Jim Petrie's final Minnie the Minx artwork.
No.3800 (2015): Record breaking issue number.

The reproduction of the comics is wonderful. The ones that were originally on newsprint have been reprinted on a nice matt paper with a 'yellowed' effect to look as authentic as possible. Printing is sharp and clear. The more recent ones are reprinted on a quality glossy stock. 

They're excellent facsimiles, although it should be noted that the racial stereotype character of 'Peanut' has been removed from the mastheads of Beano Nos.1 and 272. There have also been four pages removed from Beano No.1, one of which also featured Peanut. Should this have been done? I think so. We live in troubled times with the rise of far right groups, and anything to help minorities feel less demeaned has to be a good thing. Such minor edits won't lessen a reader's enjoyment of the comics themselves.

The selected comics are a great showcase of the high standard of creative talent that The Beano has always employed. My favourite issue from this set is the one from 1960 which includes pages by Leo Baxendale and, on the back page, Ken Reid's Jonah. You'll find other creative giants in these comics too, including Dudley Watkins, Robert Nixon, David Sutherland, Nigel Parkinson, and many more who have made The Beano the long-lasting comic it is.

Along with the 8 comics the box also contains perfect reproductions of a classic Gnasher Snapper free gift, and a replica Dennis the Menace Fan Club pack complete with badges. There are also four postcards using artwork from memorable Beano Book covers, and a huge A1 sized poster featuring every Beano character from the past 80 years! I don't know who drew the poster, but he/she has done a spectacular job. I was very pleased to see the characters from Super School included (a strip I drew for the Beano several years ago). 

As I already reviewed the 100 page bookazine the other week (see here) I won't go into too much detail again, except to say it gives background information on each of the reprinted comics, so is an essential asset to the box set. 

This truly is a superb collection and well worth the money. Collectors who have long been wishing for such comic facsimiles should be very pleased, and younger readers will enjoy the experience of seeing ephemera from the past. Check out your local WH Smith or bookshops to see if they have a copy in stock, or order one directly from D.C. Thomson at this link:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Preview: The next issue of 2000AD

Here's your preview of the upcoming issue of 2000AD, on sale this coming Wednesday. That's quite a... distinctive alien on the cover illustrated by Mark Harrison!

Top class artwork throughout, and I'm pleased to see David Hitchcock in there this week!

UK and DIGITAL: 25th July 2018 £2.75
NORTH AMERICA: 25th August 2018 $6.75

In this issue:
JUDGE DREDD: A BETTER CLASS OF CRIMINAL by Rory McConville (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

THE ORDER: THE NEW WORLD by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

TERROR TALES by Laura Bailey (w) David Hitchcock (a) Simon Bowland (l)

GREY AREA: M.I.A. by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

DAMNED: THE FALL OF DEADWORLD by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Available in print from: newsagents, book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond

Friday, July 20, 2018

Have you gone for GOOF! yet?

After the Issue Zero launch issue, the all-new online comic Goof! gets rolling next month with No.1, available from 4th August. Here's publisher/editor Marc Jackson with the details...

GOOF! issue one brings back all the new comic strips you discovered in issue zero (Nona the ninth, Two Wizards, Donald Dogsbody, Olivia and Puff and Derek the Troll) plus some new additions. Cartoonist Nick Brokenshire who has worked for Dark Horse and most recently for IDW on Star Wars adventures brings us ‘Space Stupids’ an outer-space adventure about bounty hunters rounding up ‘stupids’ It’s a hark back to classic 2000AD style strips like Robo Hunter, so expect sci-fi thrills, with a crazy twist. It will be two-pages per month and the story will unfold over the coming months, so this is a great time to subscribe. On being involved with GOOF! Nick said ‘There is no way on earth that I could not get involved in a comic titled "GOOF!" I relish the opportunity to entertain readers with my ridiculous SPACE STUPIDS alongside all the other wonderful creators. Fun and whimsy can take on many different forms and you'll find them all in GOOF!’

In addition to that, the main website will also feature a letters page (send yours to and a ‘GOOF! of the month’ section, where we profile our creators and ask them about making their comics. It’s a great opportunity to connect the creators with the readers, something that GOOF! is all about. This month we have a double-whammy of Jim Boswell (creator of Stick-Pig) and Observer comics prize winner Tor Freeman (Spells in the forest) for you to discover with many more to come!

Subscribe now to read issue zero and be ready for issue one when it arrives next month!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The unseen Warrior!

Every comic starts with an idea, and often with a "dummy issue" to give publishers or distributors an idea of what it'll look like. Those dummy issues are often quite different to the end product, and can utilise edited material from other comics just to give a flavour of the style of content. Once approved, the dummy issues are forgotten, and never released to the public, as work commences on production of the actual comic that will be issue one.

Well, now you can see what the dummy issue of Warrior was like, way back in 1982. Dez Skinn has published it (which he's titled No.0) in a limited quantity that you can order by post directly from him. Payment to be made by PayPal to for £15.95 plus £2.00 UK postage, or by postal order (uncrossed) made payable to Quality. Details are on the supplied graphic below...

Dez has also set up a Warrior Facebook page which gives updates on the project and I'm sure he'll answer any queries you might have:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Preview: Judge Dredd Megazine No.398

The latest info on the next issue of Judge Dredd Megazine, on sale this coming Wednesday...

UK and DIGITAL: 18th July 2018 £2.75
NORTH AMERICA: 18th July 2018 $6.75

In this issue:
JUDGE DREDD: THIS CORROSION by Michael Carroll (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Annie Parkhouse 

THE RETURNERS: IRMAZHINA by Si Spencer  (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse 

DEVLIN WAUGH: KISS OF DEATH by Rory McConville (w) Mike Dowling (a) Simon Bowland (l)

CHOPPER: WANDERING SOUL by David Baillie (w) Brendan McCarthy (a) Len O'Grady, Brendan McCarthy (c) Ellie De Ville (l) 

STRANGE BRIGADE by Gordon Rennie (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Features: How To Write A Future Shock, Strontium Dog miniatures game.

 Bagged reprint: THE STREETS OF DAN FRANCISCO by Arthur Wyatt, Al Ewing (w) Paul Marshall (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, July 13, 2018

It's here! The Dandy Annual 2019

The weekly Dandy comic sadly ended on its 75th birthday in 2012 but the annual continues every year with all-new content. The Dandy Annual 2019 is available now, with 112 full colour pages featuring favourites such as Desperate Dan, Cuddles and Dimples, Corporal Clott, Korky the Cat, and many more, including a new Jack Silver adventure story. 

I've produced four new Keyhole Kate pages for this book, plus a puzzle page. I've created a new nemesis for Kate in the form of Doorknocker Donna, who spoils Kate's nosey antics and gets wrongly accused for the door-knocking. 

Another supporting character I created, Kates's mad inventor uncle Black Hole Bert, returns in one of the other stories, bringing with him Dupli-Kate, a robot double of Keyhole Kate!

The Dandy Annual 2019 (along with its companion the Beano Annual) is out now at a R.R.P. of £7.99. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: The Tempest No.1

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest is the conclusion to the long-running League saga, and is being issued as a six-issue mini-series, co-published by Knockabout in the UK and Top Shelf in the USA. The first issue is available in comics shops now, and it's a treat to read.
There's a sense that Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill are really having fun with this comic, as evidenced right away from the cover, which is a homage to the old Classics Illustrated comics. (Subsequent issues will homage other comics, such as TV21 with No.2.)

On the inside cover there's a tribute to Leo Baxendale, covering his life, achievements and legal battle against D.C. Thomson. It's likely that a lot of League readers won't have known who Leo was, when really he should be as well known to comic fans as Jack Kirby, so this feature was very welcome (and will spotlight other creators in subsequent issues).
In the comic itself, the story techniques incorporate traditional colour comics, a parody of the Daily Express James Bond strip (above) and even a spoof of an old-style British superhero comic (complete with fake ads and an hilarious letters page). The latter brings back Mick Anglo's Captain Universe, a fairly obscure British superhero from the 1950s (used with permission). 

Of course, as is expected with League stories, there are numerous visual references inspired by pop culture from The Beatles to Stingray and many more dotted throughout. Each turn of the page offers us a delightful nod to the past either prominently or tucked away in the background. It's a dazzling mixture that brought a smile to my face several times, and a few laugh out loud moments too. 

I've followed the work of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill practically most of my life, and its been fascinating to see their styles develop and mature over the decades and remain as enjoyable as ever, with both creators still at the top of their game. 

With so many comics today being part of the factory system of creators playing musical chairs as writers and artists are replaced on a frequent basis it's always refreshing to read a creator-owned comic that can maintain its own vision. To accomplish that in such an enjoyable way is a bonus. If you enjoy well crafted comics you'll like this. If you're a fan of old British comics and pop culture you'll get even more of a kick out of it. Jump on board The Tempest today!

Here's the story synopsis as published in Previews:

After an epic twenty-year journey through the entirety of human culture, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill conclude both their legendary League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and their equally legendary comic-book careers with the series' spectacular fourth and final volume, "The Tempest." This six-issue miniseries is a celebration of everything comics were, are and could be. Opening simultaneously in the panic-stricken headquarters of British Military Intelligence, the fabled Ayesha's lost African city of Kor and the domed citadel of 'We' on the devastated Earth of the year 2996, the dense and yet furiously-paced narrative hurtles like an express locomotive across the fictional globe. This is literally, and literarily, the story to end all stories. Here's how it begins.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest No.1. Writer: Alan Moore. Artist: Kevin O'Neill. Colourist: Ben Dimagmaliw. Letterer: Todd Klein. Publisher: Knockabout (UK), Top Cow (USA). 32 pages (plus covers). $4.99. Out now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Commando comics out this week

Cover art: Ian Kennedy.
The latest info on the new Commando comics from D.C. Thomson. Yes, it's still being published with four issues every fortnight, and every other issue is a brand new story! 

5139: Home of Heroes: The Forlorn Hope
The Forlorn Hope was the name given to those who were placed on the front line in battle. The 45th Sherwood Foresters Regiment of Foot were among those who would advance on the sieged City of Badajoz. It would be one of the bloodiest battles in the Napoleonic Wars, but on they fought against French cannons and muskets, ready to take out the best of Napoleon’s men.

Manuel Benet’s stellar interior and cover art looks straight out of a scene from Sharpe, the dedication to regimental uniform astounding!

|Story | Andrew Knighton | Art | Manuel Benet | Cover | Manuel Benet |

5140: Gold Collection: Shooting Star
Rex Barton was used to action — both on and off the camera. A film star used for propaganda pictures, Rex had had enough and took to the skies in his own kite, desperate to take down any Jerries in his path — and he was dang good at it. But when the Nazis got their hands on Rex they decided to make their own propaganda piece. The only problem was that Rex wasn’t game to play ball…

Instantly recognisable, Gordon C Livingstone’s cover shines just as bright as Newark’s film star come RAF pilot hero.

|Story | Newark | Art | Gordon C Livingstone | Cover | Gordon C Livingstone |
Originally Commando No. 483 (June 1970). Reprinted No. 1404 (April 1980).

5141: Action and Adventure: Outfoxed!
In the last bitter days of the Second World War, many soldiers were happy to wait out the end in a sleepy prisoner of war camp in the Scottish Highlands — but not Gefreiter Fritz Schmitt. He wore the uniform and had the identity papers, but he did not act like a corporal, and he did not speak to any of the other Germans. No, his only ally was Military Police Sergeant Fred Foxley… but even he would balk when he found out what Schmitt had done in the Ardennes and why he must escape…  

Inspired by Cultybraggan in Scotland, Ian Kennedy brings the POW camp to life, the perfect backdrop for Watson’s adversaries, Police Sergeant McKay and MP Sergeant Foxley, to play out their battle of wits.

|Story | Colin Watson | Art | Morhain | Cover | Ian Kennedy |

5142: Silver Collection: High Risk Rescue
First World War Coastal Motor Boat skipper Lieutenant Frank Judge was no stranger to danger; CMBs had a top speed of forty knots and launched eighteen-inch torpedoes at enemy U-boats. But when Frank is assigned a mission to sneak ashore behind enemy lines and rescue missing naval Commander Richard Berry, he wishes he had just stayed at sea!

Ian Kennedy’s moody cover perfectly suits the vintage tone of Clark’s unique World War I naval issue.

|Story | Ian Clark | Art | Olivera | Cover | Ian Kennedy|
Originally Commando No. 2824 (January 1995).

Monday, July 09, 2018

Cooling off 50 years ago

Kinky from 1968.

As the heatwave continues, here's a look back at the ice cream and ice lollies us old 'uns had to cool us off half a century ago. All images have been scanned from comics in my collection.

Strip art: Ken Reid.

Strip art: Frank Bellamy

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Steve Ditko R.I.P.

The comics industry was saddened last night to hear the news that Steve Ditko had passed away. His body was found in his Manhattan apartment on 29th June, and he's thought to have passed away a few days earlier. A sad end for the co-creator of Spider-Man, yet he lived his life as he wanted to, avoiding the public gaze and minding his own business. 

The first imagery of Steve Ditko's I saw as a child was when Odhams' Smash! weekly began reprinting The Hulk stories in 1966. They began with reprinting Hulk No.2, and that powerful image of the Hulk emerging from the swamp burnt itself into my brain forever. The art was actually by Jack Kirby, but it was Steve Ditko's inks that dominated the images, in a positive way. 
Odhams later went on to reprint Spider-Man in the pages of Pow! in 1967, with Steve Ditko on art, co-creating the character with Stan Lee's scripts, producing arguably the most popular superhero in the world. 
It was Doctor Strange that enthralled me the most though. Another Lee-Ditko co-creation, Odhams reprinted the strips in Terrific weekly in 1967. Comic readers had never seen anything like this before, with the stories taking us on unexpected journeys to nightmare realms and other dimensions, expertly realised by Ditko's unique artwork. This sequence from the first Dr.Strange story, where Strange says he will enter a dream amazed my 8 year old self and still leaves an impression today. 
The British reprints were in black and white, but we didn't mind. All the better to see Ditko's stunning designs in a way without being distracted by colour. 
Steve Ditko's run on Doctor Strange concluded with an astonishing battle between Dormammu and Eternity, - pretty much Marvel's equivalent of Satan vs God at that time. Was it any wonder I wasn't impressed by the likes of Victor and Hornet comics when such wonders as these lay in the pages of Terrific
Over the years I've discovered Ditko's earlier works, through reprints of his 1950s horror/mystery stories and they're moody and magnificent strips well worth checking out. 

Steve Ditko was quite reclusive, refusing interviews and publicity, but he carried on producing his own comics right up to his death. I'm sure others will go into more detail about his life, but today I just wanted to post my personal thoughts about his work. His classic strips continue to be popular, and Panini UK's Mighty World of Marvel is currently reprinting his early Doctor Strange strips every month. Check them out!
I'll also recommend the hardback books on Ditko published by Yoe! Books / IDW that reprint his early work. Essential reading!
Rest In Peace, Mr.Ditko, and thank you for the memories of such amazing work, and for the work of yours I've still to discover!

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