Saturday, April 29, 2017

SPACE ACE No.8 is here!

It may only be published three times a year, but editor John Lawrence keeps to a regular frequency and always delivers a quality comic. Ron Turner's Space Ace No.8 is out now, featuring more classic work by the late, great artist Ron Turner. 

This 40 page issue reprints four short Space Ace stories from the 1963 publication The Book of Space Adventures. Each story has been recoloured, re-lettered, and remastered by John Ridgway, so in effect it's a new version of the classics and a team effort between the two artists. 

There's also a four page article written by John Ridgway, where he explains his painstaking process to colourise the strips. 

There's also a lively two page letters section rounding off the issue. 

In this age of multi-part story arcs, crossovers, and "event" comics, it's a refreshing change to have short, self-contained adventure stories. Something of a lost art in many cases. Fans of Ron Turner will be happy to see this latest issue and I hope anyone genuinely interested in classic British comics will buy it too.

Ron Turner’s Space Ace is not available in newsagents. Issue 8 costs £8.95 UK, £12.50 for Europe and £14.50 for international orders. Copies may be obtained via PayPal (please use friends and family option) at: Otherwise cheques (UK funds only) payable to: John Lawrence, to 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU5 4RB 

Is this the end of PSYCHO GRAN?

Say it ain't so! Will Psycho Gran meet her maker? Well, she meets the Grim Reaper in the first episode of her latest adventure in Aces Weekly Vol.27 No.5, online now. 

Psycho Gran first appeared in Oink! comic back in 1986 and since then, her creator David Leach has given us brand new stories from time to time, particularly in Aces Weekly. Will her 31st anniversary year be her last? Find out by subscribing to the latest volume of Aces Weekly for just £6.99 for seven issues.

The latest issue also includes:

FLIGHT by Jeff Vaughn and Brendon and Brian Fraim. 

SICARIOS by Roberto Corroto and Erito Montana.

DUNGEONS AND BURGLARS by Santullo and Jok.

BOOM! NOWHERE by Kate Cunningham and Heather Fisher


There's also a Psycho Gran digital solo comic, and you can buy that from ComiXology here:


The Art of Stranski is a new 100 page full colour hardback book by Lorenzo Etherngton, one of the best illustrators of modern day UK comics. It's scheduled to be published this August, and a copy can be yours by backing it now on Kickstarter. And you know how Kickstarter works; the more you pledge, the more bonus items you get!

It looks fantastic! To find out the full details, and to see a video about the project, visit this link:

Prog Preview: 2000AD Prog 2029

Here's your weekly advance preview of the next issue of 2000AD. This edition will be in the shops on Wednesday 3rd May. Thanks to Rebellion for the images. Click on each page to see it full size.

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Leo Baxendale 1930 - 2017

On Monday, myself and others in the comics industry were given the very sad news that the great Leo Baxendale had passed away on Sunday 23rd April, at the age of 86. His family asked us to hold back on mentioning it on social media until the rest of Leo's relatives had been informed, so naturally we respected their wishes. We now have permission to post our tributes and several will be appearing online from today.

An absolute giant in the world of British comics, Leo Baxendale created such enduring characters as Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, and The Bash Street Kids for The Beano in the 1950s and memorable strips such as Eagle Eye, Junior Spy, Bad PennyGrimly Feendish, Clever Dick, and Sweeny Toddler for various other comics in the 1960s/70s. 
It all began in the early 1950s. Filled with enthusiasm when he saw Davy Law's first energetic Dennis the Menace strips in The Beano, Leo submitted work to the editor, which led to him creating Little Plum, When The Bell Rings (later known as The Bash Street Kids) and Minnie the Minx. The characters struck a chord with the readers and the impact and influence of Leo's style on British humour comics from the 1950s onwards was immeasurable. Along with Davy Law (Dennis the Menace) and Ken Reid (Roger the Dodger), Leo revitalised The Beano and his art style became the one that other artists were encouraged to emulate. He also drew for The Beezer at that time, creating marvellous full page illustrations for The Banana Bunch

In an interview for Cotswold Life in 2010, Leo said:
"When I was creating my characters for The Beano, I made them part of an uncertain world, and there were two strands to this world. One was the medieval concept of disasters happening out of a blue sky for no reason whatever. And the second one was the more modern idea of cause-and-effect. Very often, the ambitions that made my characters set events in train led to disaster; but the thing was, they were absolutely unaware of this so they made the same errors again and again."
The Beano, 1958.

Banana Bunch in The Beezer.
Leo's work revolutionised British comics. Even though he left The Beano in 1962, and quit mainstream comics altogether in 1975 to pursue independent publishing, other artists were still required to follow his style, particularly on The Beano. The Bash Street Kids still bears Leo's influence to this day, even though the current artist, David Sutherland, has been drawing it for over 50 years.
The Beano. 1960.
I still clearly remember the day I first saw a Leo Baxendale strip. I was six years old and shopping in town with my mum. I was allowed to choose a comic myself from a newsagent's counter, and picked up Wham! No.77 (dated 4th December 1965). I'd never seen this bright, dynamic comic before. Leo's Tiddlers cover strip immediately grabbed my attention and I remember, even now, walking around the nearby department stall, totally engrossed in that cover strip. Most comics were fun but this was funny. From that day onwards, Leo Baxendale became my favourite humour artist. I started having Wham! regularly and began creating my own comics not too long after that, thanks directly to how much Leo's work engaged me.

Wham!, published by Odhams, had been created in 1964 specifically to woo Leo over from The Beano to originate strips for a rival comic. It didn't exactly turn out to be the "Super Beano" that Leo had hoped for but Wham! still had a modern and anarchic vitality to its strips (many created by Leo) that excited its readership and is still remembered with fondness today. The editors allowed artists to sign their work if they wished to, (a rarity back then) so it was evident which pages Leo had drawn. The same applied to Smash!, a companion comic that began in 1966. Leo's Bad Penny and Grimly Feendish strips were a joy to read.

First Grimly Feendish strip from SMASH! No.1, 1966.
Leo didn't stay with Odhams for too long, and began freelancing for the Fleetway comics instead in 1966, with others taking over his Odhams strips, drawing in his style. I wasn't aware of his Fleetway work until years later, but he was producing some cracking stuff such as The Pirates for Buster
Buster, 1967.
When Fleetway / Odhams evolved into IPC Magazines, Leo took over The Swots and the Blots strip in Smash! in 1969, providing wild and genuinely funny stories. He also originated Clever Dick for Buster, and other strips such as the Badtime Bedtime Story Books (pull outs) in Monster Fun Comic

Smash! 1969.
Eventually, Leo quit mainstream comics in the mid seventies, frustrated by the practices of UK publishers (such as the reprinting of old pages without payment, and his lack of creative control). Ahead of his time, he set to work on producing hardback comic albums featuring his new creation Willy the Kid, published by Duckworth. A bold move, considering Willy was a completely untested character. Books in strip format featuring one character were a common format in Europe but not so much in the UK then as they are now.

It was also around this time that Leo's autobiography A Very Funny Business was published, which was a fantastic revelation about the inner workings of life for a freelancer in the British comics industry. A real eye-opener for those of us who were looking for a career in comics.
In the 1980s, Leo engaged in a long legal battle with D.C. Thomson over ownership of his characters. He was the first UK comics artist to stand up to a publisher over creator's rights in this way. The case was settled out of court. 

In 1987, Knockabout Books published Thrrp! a bizarre, brand new work by Leo for adults. 
Later, he created Baby Basil for a strip in The Guardian and began to self publish books under his Reaper Books imprint. These included a hardback called I Love You Baby Basil (collecting his 1990-91 strips rom The Guardian), and the softback Down the Plughole in 1995.

I only met Leo once, at a small informal event in Preston in 1993 celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Beano creations. A small group of us went out for dinner later and Leo was excellent company. We exchanged letters for a while but dropped out of touch over the years. I'm very pleased that I did get a chance to meet my hero though and I valued his encouragement.

It's been very saddening writing this tribute. I knew Leo as an acquaintance but not as a close friend, but his work was such a massive influence on me and brought me so much joy as a kid. It's a cliché to say that comics would have been poorer without him but they genuinely would. Leo's artwork impacted on the look of British humour comics from the early 1960s onwards, establishing a style that so many artists emulated. Leo demonstrably helped modernise the industry in the 1950s when the Roy Wilson style of artwork was falling out of favour, and its arguable that the traditional humour weekly wouldn't have survived for so long as it did without his significant input. 
Eagle Eye, Wham!, 1964.
My sincere condolences to Leo's family and friends for their loss, and I hope that the knowledge of the happiness his work brought to so many of us will bring them some comfort at this sad time.
Beezer Book, published 1963.

1976 interview by Denis Gifford for Ally Sloper comic.

More tributes to Leo Baxendale...

from Joe Gordon:

from John Freeman:

from Nigel Parkinson:
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