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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

WAR-TOYS # 3 Out this week!

After a few weeks delay, Image Comics release Elephantmen: War Toys No.3 this week. The 40 page $2.99 comic will be available in the USA on Wednesday (30th April) and in the UK on Thursday (1st May). A choice of two covers are available: one by Boo Cook (left, above) and the other by Ladronn (right, above).

The title strip is written by Richard Starkings with art by Moritat, and described thus:
"Even in the face of blistering resistance, it seems that nothing can stop MAPPO's advance across Scandinavia. But as Hip Flask comes face to face with the last vestiges of humanity in the frozen Scandinavian wastes, he discovers that only the dead see the end of warfare."

The back up strip is once again Brickman by myself. (A panel of which is shown below.) After the War-Toys mini series concludes with this issue, the regular Elephantmen comic resumes soon with No.12. Brickman skips that issue, but will return in No.13 in the summer.

The issue also features a nice tribute to 1980's Marvel UK colourist Steve Whitaker (who also coloured V For Vendetta) who died recently.

More info on Elephantmen: War Toys here:

More info on Brickman here (including an opportunity to buy the Brickman Begins collection):

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dudley Watkins and the Bimbo

With a title guaranteed to raise a smile for the wrong reasons today, D.C. Thomson's Bimbo was a "nursery comic" (for very young children) published from 1961 to 1972. However, unlike the comparatively insubstantial pre-school magazines of today, Bimbo featured a good number of comic strips, making up just over 50% of its content. (Judging by the issue shown here from 1965.)

Amongst the strips (all of which met Thomson's usual high standards) was Tom Thumb by Dudley Watkins, taking up the front cover. Watkins was of course Thomson's prize artist, and at the same time he was illustrating Bimbo covers he was also doing the same for The Beano (Biffo the Bear), The Topper (Mickey the Monkey), and The Beezer (Ginger), plus interior strips Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty. A remarkable output and always of substantial quality.

Interestingly, Bimbo featured a regular Baby Crockett strip, - a character that also appeared in The Beezer. Both versions were drawn by Bill Ritchie, although the Bimbo strip was naturally tailored for the younger reader.

With 11 out of its 20 glossy pages devoted to comic strips, Bimbo was an ideal publication to encourage children to read. It also stimulated their minds with the sequential art form as they learned to imagine movement and passage of time between panels. With standards of literacy dropping today, perhaps modern "activity magazines" should take note and shift their emphasis towards featuring more comic strips rather than mostly "make and do" pages.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Comic oddities: SBONCYN

I have to confess from the outset that I know absolutely nothing about this comic other than the one copy I have in my collection. However, I thought it may be of interest to historians to include it on the blog and hopefully inspire a bit more information about it via reader feedback.

Sboncyn was a Welsh language comic from a publisher based in Caenarfon, North Wales. Featuring just 16 pages with only four in full colour, the one shown here (issue 28) is dated August 1982. I've no idea if the comic is still being published but I visit North Wales every year and have never seen it in newsagents so I assume not.

On the whole, the artwork is quite crude in its execution. The exceptions being the Dick Turpin spoof Dic Dau Wn and mischievous schoolgirl Wini Wirion. The strips are mostly single pagers, with a few double pagers included. They're all humour strips except for a Western adventure strip in the centre pages. Several of the strips have a maritime theme for some reason, perhaps inspired by the location of the publisher and that the comic would be sold along the coast?

I'm sure Welsh readers of this blog may be able to shed more light on this comic. If so, please leave a comment below. Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Coleridge & Emerson's Ancient Mariner reissued

I've been intending to post a blog about this for a while, giving a wider retrospective of Hunt Emerson's work but various things have delayed this blog of late so without further ado I'll just focus on this one book...

Knockabout have re-published Hunt Emerson's splendid version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in hardback. The book was originally published in softback years ago, but Hunt's work always deserves a more enduring format so this hardback edition is perfect.

Within a striking new cover, Knockabout's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner sees Hunt adapt Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 200 year old poem into a fantastic and often surreal graphic novel (coloured by Carol Bennett). Sight gags abound, depicting Coleridge's descriptions with an askew and inventive way such as "ice mast high came floating by" illustrated as giant ice creams bobbing about in the sea. I could go on, but dry text such as this doesn't do such scenes justice. Better to buy the book and enjoy it for yourself as each page is a delight.

Hunt's work has always featured lively humour coupled with a great and unique sense of design, and this book, one of the artist's finest achievements, is no exception. This is proper comics, utilizing the medium to its best advantage.

Hunt has also recently updated his website where you can buy his books (including the one reviewed here) and even purchase original art! Brilliant!

Hunt's work also appears in The Beano every week, illustrating the comic strip Rats with Laura Howell.

Recently Hunt appeared on YouTube with his family (that's Hunt in the green T-shirt in the video below) performing their version of 1971 Middle of the Road single Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. The new Geordie version by the Emersons being Chorpy Chorpy Cheepnis! The video became a hit on the internet and was covered on regional news. Take a look. 30,000 hits and counting:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Look out for Look-In

Older collectors may bemoan the state of UK children's comics today, with their content of features elbowing out the strips, but Look-In was using that same format thirty years ago. Here's a bunch of old tv ads for Look-In from around that time, found on YouTube. (This may not work on some browsers. Works fine on Firefox though.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

DC Thomson creators reunited on Radio Four

News just in from Paul Gravett (author of Great British Comics) of an upcoming radio programme that is sure to be of interest to all fans of the classic years of Dandy and Beano:

"On Sunday morning April 20th, 11.15 to 12 noon pm BBC Radio 4, I've been involved with and interviewed for The Reunion, a fascinating series bringing people together to recall past eve
nts. In this case it's the heydays of The Beano and Dandy - the Beano being 70 this July. The main interviewees are artists Bill Ritchie (of Baby Crockett fame) and Jim Petrie (who drew 2,000 Minnie the Minx episodes) and writers Walter Fearn (at The Beano during the 1950s notably on Jonah with Ken Reid) and Dave Torrie (another ex Dandy editor). There are also archive quotes from Leo Baxenedale, Tony Robinson, Jacqueline Wilson, A N Wilson, Michael Rosen and others. It's repeated Friday April 25th at 9am."

Paul has also written an article on superheroes and their role as propaganda which will appear in The Guide supplement in The Guardian this Saturday, April 19th.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Panini promo in Borders

Congratulations to Panini UK for getting their range of Marvel comics some publicity in Borders bookshops. As you can see from the mobile phone pic above Borders are pushing the Panini comics with a promotional display stand. Excellent idea. (Cover below of the latest Marvel Legends which not only begins the Warren Ellis/ Adi Gravnov Extremis series but also reprints the very first Iron Man strip from 1963 by Stan Lee and Don Heck.) This issue is a 100 page special (rather than the usual 76 pages), as are all the Marvel Collectors Editions this month.

Well done Borders. Pity about WH Smith in Birmingham High Street though. Their section for children's comics takes up an area running the height of the shelves. Which means that Dandy, Beano, etc are on the top shelves well out of the reach of the very readership they're aimed at! Not the best idea perhaps, but then again when was the last time you saw kids buying comics for themselves?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

eBay gum!

Apologies for the lack of updates at present. Catching up with work. However, you might be interested in checking out what items I have for sale on eBay at present. More to come:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sorry folks! :)

Sorry for the deception folks but yesterday's blog about "long forgotten" Apollo comic was, as some of you guessed, an April Fool!

Apollo comic never existed. I created the phony covers with Photoshop, and the "panels" of artwork were enlarged scans of the 1971(?) Brooke Bond Picture Card series The Race into Space. The comics don't exist outside of my computer. (The photo above is also faked.)

Yes, the blog was uploaded after mid-day, which I suppose makes me the fool, but I was unable to post it before then unfortunately.

Anyway, no hard feelings I hope. Don't worry, any future blogs will all be genuine... at least for another twelve months. ;-)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Comic Oddities: Apollo (1972)

One of the rarest comics published in Britain in the 1970s was a mysterious short lived weekly entitled Apollo. Carrying no publisher details apart from "Printed by J.Ester, Worcester" this strange magazine/comic obviously attempted to imitate Polystyle's Countdown, even to the extent of using the same typeface for the masthead.

A curious novelty was that each week the logo would feature the number as part of the masthead. (Pictured here are Apollo 3 and Apollo 6.) This possibly confused readers as the comic didn't sell particularly well and was canceled after issue six! Apollo was probably expensive to produce too, being printed photogravure, so the anonymous publishers seem to have over-reached themselves.

Content of the title was mainly feature based; items on space exploration and UFO's, but not very well researched. An item on the moon landing puts the date as being January 5th 1968! The comic strips fared little better. Poor art and script on The Laughing Astronauts (two hippy spacemen!) and General Gemini (a sort of inter-planetary Captain Hurricane) could do nothing to salvage the comic. The third strip, The Pioneers, featured on the centre spread (and cover of No.6) and was much better illustrated, but the script was very slow and contrived. None of the artists seem familiar so it's possible that Apollo was running European reprint with poor translations.

Running at just 16 pages an issue, Apollo must have seemed poor value at 5p an issue and it's not surprising it folded so quickly. The cancellation was unexpected, as a new humour strip, Rif Apollo - Swede in Space was promised for issue 7 but by then the comic had vanished from our shelves as if it had never existed.
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