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Saturday, June 20, 2009

COMIX TELFORD — Calling All Comic Heroes!

Press release from the Comix Telford scheme....

For the first time, budding young comic artists in Telford have the chance to learn from Marvel/DC/DC Thomson professionals.

For the first time since it started five years ago, Hi8us will deliver its internationally successful and innovative Comic Art talent scheme in Telford! Comix Telford is a talent finding competition for budding young comic artists. The aim is to discover and nurture talented artists and support them to get into the comics industry with the help of world-class comic professionals such as John McCrea (X-MEN, SPIDERMAN, THE HULK) and Hunt Emerson (THE BEANO, WALL STREET JOURNAL, FORTEAN TIMES). The scheme is COMPLETELY FREE thanks to Telford & Wrekin’s Find Your Talent programme and the only thing applicants need to do to be considered is send in copies of their most recent comic strips and complete a short application form. The DEADLINE for postal submissions is Friday 17th July ‘09. The DEADLINE for email submissions is Sunday 19th July ,09. If people want to find out more about the scheme they can attend the informal recruitment session taking place at the Telford College of Arts and Technology from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm on Wednesday 8th July. Comix Telford will prioritise 16 to 19 year olds living or studying in Telford.

From July ’09 to October ‘09, 20 finalists will get the opportunity to train with the lead professional comic artists on the scheme John McCrea and Hunt Emerson as well as a wealth of other professional talent including Laura Howell (THE BEANO, THE GUARDIAN), Asia Alfasi (IMAF WINNER, BEST NEW MANGA, BLOOMSBURY GRAPHIC NOVELIST) and Andi Watson (GEISHA, BUFFY) amongst others. The invaluable experience of the professionals will be used to support and develop the talents of those on the scheme, giving them all the essential training, tips and tricks relating to the art of comics as well as a route into the industry by providing access to publishers and editors. The scheme will culminate in the trainees having their first comic book published and launched at the British International Comics Show in October.

Hi8us Midlands is part of an established charity with an impressive long history of utilising the skills of experts to guide aspiring artists and media producers, with professional results. “We run a range of arts & media projects in a range of communities up and down the country; we come across a great deal of untapped talent and this scheme is just one way of meeting the needs of the gifted individuals we know are out there.” Kulwant Dhaliwal, Hi8us Midlands Director. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity,” comments John McCrea “when I was breaking into the industry I would have loved the chance to be on this project”.

This scheme is fully funded by Telford & Wrekin Council’s Find Your Talent programme. Julie Jones, Creative Arts Manager at Telford & Wrekin Council said “Our aim is to support and nurture talented young people, we know they’re out there!”

Applicants need to submit examples of their best and most recent work. We are looking for good photocopies of 2-4 pages of original continuous comic strip (no posters), preferably without lettering. Submission guidelines can be downloaded from To book a place at the recruitment session and/or get an application pack, contact: Kulwant Dhaliwal on 0121 753 7700 or

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ron Smith cleared of all charges

Veteran British comic artist Ron Smith has recently endured the most appalling allegations laid against him but has now been cleared of all charges.

Smith, a former RAF serviceman now in his Eighties, was accused by a 39 year old woman of five counts of rape, two counts of buggery, and two of indecent assault, alleged to have taken place in the 1980s when the woman was aged 13 to 16. Ron Smith maintained his innocence throughout the five day trial at Guildford Crown Court, who found him not guilty of all charges yesterday.

The case first came to light amongst the comic community a few days ago, when the website of top selling lowbrow redtop The Sun newspaper carried the headline Girl of 13 'abused by artist'. The lurid fantasies of Smith's accuser were given prominence in the article which, typical of the newspaper's scaremongering stance, practically damned the artist before the verdict had been reached.

Disgracefully, as yet The Sun has not run the follow up story of the verdict clearing Ron Smith. However, the website Get Surrey carried the story yesterday in a much more level-headed way, revealing the not guilty verdict. Unfortunately The Sun is read by many more people than Get Surrey, so it's important for blogs such as this to spread the word on the fact that the vile allegations were all false.

There was something fishy about the story from the outset, apart from the woman waiting 26 years to report her tale. The Sun appeared to be the only newspaper that covered the accusations. Perhaps there was an agenda to the paper's story? When one considers that Ron Smith was the principal artist on the Judge Dredd strip in the Daily Star during the period in question (the early 1980s), and the Star being one of The Sun's biggest rivals, it's easy to see the way The Sun might have followed up this story had the allegations been true.

Although the allegations were proven to be unfounded there will sadly always be some morons who will think there's "no smoke without fire". This will have been a terrible ordeal for anyone to suffer, particularly an old man, and particularly someone who has made his living in children's comics. The truth of the matter is that Ron Smith has had a distinguished career in comics, ranging from his work for D.C.Thomson to 2000AD and that proud career is still unblemished. I hope that Ron and his family can put this matter behind them now and that The Sun finds itself some shred of decency to report the not guilty verdict with the same relish it gave in reporting the accusations.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cursitor Doom returns!

British comics expert Steve Holland has launched his own publishing venture, Bear Alley Books, and is set to reprint some comic classics for fans of UK material.

Working for various publishers Steve has been involved in the research of many British comic collections of recent years (The Trigan Empire, The Steel Claw and the various War Picture Library collections for example) and has decided it's now time to produce his own books. "Bear Alley Books has been born out of a desire to put some classic British comic strips back into print" says Steve on his blog. "There has been no tradition here for reprinting strips as albums as there is across Europe and, increasingly, in America. Almost none of the strips I remember with great affection from my youth are in print."

The first two reprint collections from Bear Alley are to be launched this August: Cursitor Doom, which originally appeared in IPC's Smash! in 1969-70, and The Phantom Patrol, which originally appeared in Swift in the early 1960s and was reprinted as The Ghost Patrol in Odhams' Smash! in 1966.

Cursitor Doom features artwork by Eric Bradbury and (below) Geoff Campion. Scripts are by Ken Mennell, M.Scott Goodhall and Christopher Lowder. Doom, a paranormal investigator with mysterious abilities, has been a firm favourite of UK comic fans for decades. Dez Skinn revived the character as Amadaeus Wolf for his Quality Comics line several years ago. The book from Bear Alley will feature a brand new wraparound cover by John Ridgway.

The Phantom Patrol, a group of British infantrymen who are transported back in time, features artwork by Gerry Embleton and a brand new cover by Chris Weston.

The books will be limited to just 300 copies each; a realistic figure for the relatively small market for classic British comics. It's a print run that larger publishers would not even consider, but which is feasible for a smaller outfit such as Bear Alley Books.

I wish Steve all the best with this exciting new venture. When it comes to classic UK adventure strips Steve knows his stuff so to my mind he's definitely the right man for the job. To find out more details of the books visit the website at:

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Comic Oddities: BUMPER COMIC BOOK (1946-49)

The years following World War 2 saw an increase in comic production in the UK, and many new titles from smaller publishers appearing in newsagents. One such title was The Bumper Comic Book from Barrett Publishing Co.

Bumper by name but not by nature, this comic was a mere 8 pages for its first issue in 1946, rising to 12 pages for issues 2 to 8. Its size was hardly "bumper" either, being just slightly wider than an American comic book. It became a tabloid sized comic with issue 9, through to No.16, its final issue in 1949. (With just 16 issues in three years its frequency must have been quite irregular.)

The only issue I have is No.6, shown here, so I don't know if it's typical of the whole series, or whether its contents changed as much as its format. This edition is quite simplistic in its tone, seemingly aimed at younger readers than its rivals Dandy or Comic Cuts for example. It's a mixture of strips and little features, and most of its strips feature the anthropomorphisized elephant Jumbo and the Jungle Boys in a variety of settings, by various artists and under various story headers.

It's very basic stuff, and easy to see why The Bumper Comic Book is pretty much forgotten today. (Although I understand Harry Banger arrived as an artist on later issues which I'm sure improved them considerably.) The one thing that amused me, unintentionally, was a feature entitled Fun With Old Wire. Yes, this comic for little kiddies was inviting its readers to find an old wire coat hanger and make items such as a soap dish or a chair (?!) with the help of a pair of pliers. Still, those same readers had just lived through the Blitz so compared to skipping around unexploded bombs on the way to school the risk of having their hands impaled on wire was kids stuff I suppose.
I've never seen any other issues of Bumper Comic Book, so whether they included features such as Party Time With Broken Glass or Toys From Dead Rats is pure speculation.

An Audience with Dez Skinn

As most readers will know, Dez Skinn has been part of the UK comics industry for several decades. Starting his career with early 1970s fanzines such as Fantasy Advertiser, his many accomplishments include working for IPC on Buster, giving Marvel UK a kick up the bum by introducing Doctor Who Weekly (still going strong 30 years later as Doctor Who Magazine), editing the award-winning House of Hammer and Warrior, and creating top industry magazine Comics International.

Now Dez has been invited to give a talk at the Not Part Of festival in Manchester next month, no doubt covering his long career and giving the audience his sharp insights on the comics industry.

The date is Wednesday 8th July 2009 at Lass O Gowrie, Charles Street, Manchester M1 7DB. Doors open 6.30pm. Price per person is £6.00.
The direct link for this event is:

Appearing on stage after Dez is chap-hop performer Mr.B, described as "
a 21st century cross between Noel Coward, Viv Stanshall, Chuck D, Terry Thomas and George Formby".

Sounds like an interesting night, so make Manchester the venue on July 8th to see wot Dez Sez!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Malcolm Douglas (J.T. Dogg)

I'm sorry to report the death of comic artist and illustrator Malcolm Douglas, who passed away in hospital on Sunday March 22nd 2009 after suffering from cancer. He was 54.

Malcolm, perhaps better known by his alias of J.T. Dogg, was one of the main artists on Oink! comic throughout its run in the late 1980s. Whilst many of us on that comic were still breaking in our styles, with our rawness and inexperience visible on the page, Malcolm's abilities were accomplished and solid, and helped raise those early issues far above a level they might otherwise have been without his input.

His comic strip work for Oink! included pig biker serial Street Hogs (written by the late Mark Rogers), which was followed by Dan Dare spoof Ham Dare, Pig of the Future, written by me. Malcolm also contributed the regular centre spread "Oink! Superstar Posters" which showcased his talents even more.

Writing Ham Dare was one of the first experiences I had of scripting for an artist other than myself. I enjoyed it immensely, even more so when I saw Malcolm's artwork. My scripts were a standard Dan Dare spoof (including the required pig theme) but Malcolm turned the series into something exceptional. He really went to town on detail and research, getting the colour and tone of the spoof just right. Due to Malcolm's superb artwork I always felt that Ham Dare was more true to Dan Dare than the series running in new Eagle at that time.

Ham Dare proved to be a success with the readers and after its initial serial (issues 15 to 19) returned in the Oink! Book 1989 (pub.1988) and the Oink! Holiday Special 1989.

It's the Special story in which I think Malcolm excelled himself on the strip. Originally intended to run as a serial in the regular comic, all five parts were instead published in the Holiday Special because the regular comic was set to merge into Buster. My story had The Weakun (a parody of The Mekon obviously) going back in time and change history by destroying the meteor shower that had wiped out the dinosaurs, before it struck Earth. Therefore humans never evolved as the dominant race and dinosaurs ruled the Earth forever, evolving into militaristic fascists for some reason. (I'm sure the idea had been used in SF before, but I wasn't aware of it.) Ham Dare, arriving out of time, had to change history back. The final part shows Ham going back to stop The Weakun, and thus the dinosaurs are wiped out. I decided to focus the extinction on just two dinosaurs - a mother and son, huddled together as the ice age wipes them out. Rather than the usual flippancy of my stories it was intended as a touching scene, and Malcolm certainly delivered the goods. Even today I find that sequence quite emotional, and it's due to Malcolm's artwork which drives it home. (Click on the image below to read it.)

I only met Malcolm Douglas once, - at the Oink! launch party up in Cheshire in 1986. We communicated quite a bit by phone during the Ham Dare work though, and I'd sometimes send him pencil roughs of ideas I had for the strip. After Oink! folded he moved on to freelance for UK adult comics such as Brain Damage, Gas, and Kev F Sutherland's UT. He also illustrated for Fiesta. In later years he dropped out of comics and no longer drew for a living but became very involved with the folk music scene, producing books for the English Folk Dance and Song Society. His knowledge of folk music earned him great respect amongst his fellow music fans.

Although Malcolm stated on his website that he didn't miss drawing, he had hoped to return to it: "I'll take up the pen again one day, I expect. It's in the blood and cannot forever be denied. When I do, though, it'll be on my own terms. No more hack work."

Sadly that was never to happen. However, Malcolm was happy in the folk scene, and fondly remembered, as can be seen by the many sincere tributes on this forum:

Of his work on Oink! Malcolm said "My, we had fun." We certainly did, and, I'm sure, so did the readers who enjoyed his distinctive contributions.

Malcolm Douglas' website is still active at present, and in his own words there the artist gives more background information on his work:

Update: Steve Holland has more information on his blog:

Also, an obituary appeared in The Guardian:

Rest In Peace Malcolm. You did a fine job.

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