NOTE: Blimey! is no longer being updated. Please visit for the latest updates about my comics work.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dave Gibbons at work

This is fascinating stuff. Videos of Dave Gibbons drawing with the Wacom Cintiq tablet which allows artists to draw directly onto the screen with a stylus. In the videos Dave is using the Manga Studio software, which is specifically designed for creating comic pages.

There are several short videos of Dave at work, and you can see them all here:

TV21 returns... sort of

Reports are coming in from the blogs of both Steve Holland and John Freeman that publishers Reynolds and Hearn are to launch Gerry Anderson's Century 21 Annual 2011 on August 31st for the Christmas annuals market. As you can see from the cover above, the design is similar to the TV Century 21 Annuals of the Sixties, and in fact is composed from artwork taken from various old Annuals and comics from that era.

The contents will no doubt feature reprints but no word as yet on whether the stories will be taken from the weekly, from old annuals, or a mixture of both.

You may recall that this book was originally scheduled for last year, as reported here but was canned due to lack of orders. Seems the publishers are more optimistic for it to appear this year, which is good news for all fans of the classic 1960s comic.

For the past couple of years Reynolds and Hearn have been publishing luxurious reprint books of TV Century 21 material, and the third and fourth volumes are available from today according to their website.

To support the Century 21 Annual you can pre-order it from Amazon here:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tim Perkins interviewed on the BBC

Just time for a quick heads up this week to report that artist Tim Perkins was interviewed on the John Gillmore show on BBC Lancashire yesterday. It's a nice lengthy interview and Tim gives a good account of his work and comics in general. All very interesting stuff from a seasoned professional artist who's been in the business since the early 1980s.

You can listen to it until next Monday on the BBC iPlayer here:

Tim's interview starts about 16 minutes in, and runs until about 1:11 on the time bar.

You can visit Tim's website, Wizard's Keep here:

...and he has his own blog here:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crikey! No.14 - Out this week!

Despite the financial collapse of the Borders chain of stores, Crikey! magazine has managed to soldier on without High Street distribution and the 14th issue of the magazine of British comics is out this week.

Behind a fabulous cover by Bryan Talbot (and a three page strip by Bryan reprinted from The Guardian's Guide magazine) the issue includes articles on The Perishers (now back in the Daily Mirror), Alfred Bestall's Rupert, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Eagle No.1 by one of its original readers, interviews with Bryan Talbot and myself and much more. (Unfortunately they chose to illustrate my interview with some very old and crudely drawn material and an Oink! cover I didn't even draw, despite being sent a variety of scans of my work. At least the Brickman page they used was from the 21st Century.)

Crikey! No.14 will be available from many comic specialist shops or you could order it directly from the publishers by subscribing here:

Support Britain's premiere magazine about comics! Buy Crikey!

John Hicklenton 1967 - 2010

The comic artist John Hicklenton, who has fought a courageous battle against multiple sclerosis for ten years, has died aged 42.

Amongst other things John worked on Nemesis the Warlock for 2000AD with writer Pat Mills, and the two became good friends. Pat has written an excellent tribute to John, which will appear in the next issue of Judge Dredd Megazine, but you can already read it online here:

Diagnosed with MS in 2000, John wanted to make people more aware of the condition and appeared in an award winning documentary film entitled Here's Johnny dealing with the illness. This highly respected film has brought a better understanding of MS to the public to help its sufferers fight for better treatment and research into the condition.

John's artwork was an acquired taste for many but love it or hate it one cannot deny its visceral power. I started out disliking it but soon grew to appreciate the strength of John's work and admire the fact that here was a true horror comics artist with a powerful imagination. This was art being everything it should be: memorable, unique, and never boring.

Not allowing MS to play the final hand, John chose assisted suicide as his manner of death and traveled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with family and friends where he passed away on March 19th.

Here's Johnny preview:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Comic City this weekend!

This weekend sees the Spring Memorabilia Show take place at the NEC, Birmingham, and once again there's a packed list of guests from film, tv, sport, - and comics.

As well as the likes of Ron Moody, Alexandra Bastedo and Katy Manning being in attendance there's also going to be a number of UK comic artists there, such as Mike Collins, Keith Burns, Hunt Emerson, John McCrea, Lee Bradley, Kat Nicholson, Jason Cardy, Al Davison and Laura Howell.

I'm on the guest list too, although unfortunately I may not be able to attend now due to several factors. (Deadlines for one.) I definitely won't be there on Sunday, but hope to still attend on Saturday.

For more info visit the website at:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kimota! Marvelman returns this summer

Marvel Comics, who recently acquired the rights to Marvelman, will begin publishing the character this June, kicking off with the Marvelman Classic Primer, - a feature-based magazine introducing readers to the world of Mike Moran and his mighty alias including new pin-ups by today's artists.

Then, in July, issue one of Marvelman Family's Finest appears, reprinting vintage material from the 1950s. Also, a hardback book, Marvelman Classic Vol.1 Premiere, reprinting Marvelman's original adventures in chronological order.

I have to wonder if there's still a sufficient nostalgia market for Marvelman for these books to sell. There seems to be little interest amongst fandom itself for the pre-Alan Moore stories, and even if it was marketed to the general public would the original readers, now around 60 years old, be interested in shelling out for an expensive series of hardbacks?

Incidentally, the image above, one of the covers to the Primer, is said by Marvel to be by Mick Anglo, but Dave Gibbons posted on Twitter yesterday that it's the art of Don Lawrence. I'm inclined to accept Dave's word as he knows his stuff, so I hope Marvel do their research when they publish the books and give Don Lawrence, Denis Gifford, Norman Light, etc due credit for their contributions.

Here's the full info for the comics from Marvel's website:

Marvel is proud to announce the return of Marvelman to shelves everywhere with the release of MARVELMAN CLASSIC PRIMER #1 in June! Who is the mysterious Marvelman? And just why is he one of the most enduring super heroes of all time? The answers arrive in this commemorative one-shot featuring interviews with creator Mick Anglo, superstar Neil Gaiman and more who contributed to this character's history over the years! Plus, get all-new pinups of key Marvelman characters by superstar artists Mike Perkins, Doug Braithwaite, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, Jae Lee, Khoi Pham and Ben Oliver! This landmark issue features two covers--one with the timeless art of Mick Anglo and another with the now-iconic rendition of Marvelman by Marvel Editor-In-Chief--and superstar artist--Joe Quesada!

Then, in July, thrill to the debut of MARVELMAN FAMILY'S FINEST #1, a new ongoing series reprinting Marvelman's greatest adventures for the first time in the US! Plus, no comics fan can miss MARVELMAN CLASSIC VOL.1 PREMIERE HC, reprinting Marvelman's earliest adventures in chronological order!

Now's your chance to learn just why Marvelman is one of the most important characters in comic book history-it all begins in MARVELMAN CLASSIC PRIMER #1, this June!




Variant by MICK ANGLO

Rated A ...$3.99


Commando comics for this week

Thursday 25th March sees the publication of another batch of Commando issues for Britain's longest running adventure comic. D.C. Thomson release eight of these a month, four every fortnight. They're on sale in newsagents but distribution isn't great so visit for subscription info.

Story synopsis by editor Calum Laird...

Commando 4279: TOO MANY HEROES

With three older brothers all war heroes, it was no wonder Ben Fraser wanted to join up. And, as the Second World War entered its last year, he got his chance. But always at the back of his mind was a nagging doubt — did he have the same kind of courage as his brothers?

Story: Ian Clark
Inside Art: Salmeron
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Previously No 2590 from 1992

Commando 4280: PLUM’S WAR

Overweight, carefree and scruffier than your average sack of potatoes, you could hardly meet a less soldierly figure than Captain Albert “Plum” Duff.
Put Plum in a fight, though, and you’d find few better officers in the British Army — something the lean supermen of the Afrika Korps were about to discover…to their cost!

Story: Ian Clark
Inside Art: Ibanez
Cover: Alan Burrows

Previously No 2546 from 1992


Since ancient times it had been said, “He who controls the Nile controls Egypt.”
During the Second World War this saying was never more prophetic, as German and Italian forces had a secret plan in mind for the most famous river in the world…
…And it was up to a plucky bunch of mismatched heroes — including a young Ethiopian prince — to stop them if they could!

Story: Alan Hebden
Inside Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Commando 4282: “V-Bomber Down!”

When the forces of the Western Allies and the Eastern Bloc faced each other in the Cold War, Britain’s mightiest bombers were the Victor, Valiant and the Vulcan — the V-Bombers. Cutting-edge technology, they bristled with secret equipment.
When one crash-lands mysteriously on a snow-covered disputed island, special forces from both sides are ordered to the scene, each determined to be there first. As the heavily-armed troops close in, there is every possibility that their actions could turn a Cold War into a very hot one indeed.

Story: Alan Hebden
Inside Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Monday, March 22, 2010

1954: The year Britain got the horrors over comics

On 23rd September 1954 two Glasgow policemen were called out to witness an alarming sight: hundreds of children, some armed with knives and sharpened sticks, were patrolling a graveyard hunting a vampire.

Thus began the legend of the "Gorbals Vampire" and although, naturally, no vampire was found, a scapegoat for the children's behaviour was: imported American comic books. After this, the floodgates of paranoia opened and the church and media began attacking comics relentlessly.

Now the BBC are to revisit the story and expose some of the myths of the anti-comics propaganda of the Fifties. The programme, The Gorbals Vampire, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 next Tuesday, March 30th, at 11.00pm.

Just how intense was the anti-comics crusade in the UK? Fierce and hysterical. American "horror comics" became completely demonized in the media and church leaders condemned the stories as being "evil" and actual products of Satan.

Other blogs are also reporting this news today so I thought I'd research it a bit more and find a few of the actual clippings from the newspapers of the day. Here are a sample, just from September to November 1954, starting with the Daily Mirror's reportage of the incident (above) and then the reports and opinions of the Daily Express as the paranoia swiftly reached fever pitch. Click on the clippings to see them in a larger and more legible size.

The tragedy of the story is that there was never any foundation that comics were the incentive for the churchyard incident. Not a shred of evidence that comics "warped" children. Millions of comics were sold, yet millions of readers grew up to be normal rational adults. But the seeds of doubt were sown, nasty malicious rumours spread by church leaders and newspaper editors that damaged the reputation of comics forever. The hysteria caused parliament to react. In 1955 the (Children and Young Persons) Harmful Publications Act came into force to forbid the importation or publication of horror comics in the UK that are likely to fall into the hands of children. (Although it didn't seem to prevent the resurgence of the imported horror comics in the 1970s.) Even to this day some people still think there was some truth to the "dangers" of comic books and even amongst some British comic collectors there is an attitude that American comics are inferior and vulgar.

The establishment loves to create demons. A century ago it was "Penny Dreadfuls", in the 1980s it was "video nasties", then video games, and now it's the Internet that's the current scapegoat. Religious leaders and the media are always exploiting the paranoia of the public to hide the unpalatable truth: that humanity is flawed and the dark side comes from within. It's easier to blame external forces that "warp" people rather than face the fact that humans are nothing more than animals one step up from savages.

As readers here may know, several years ago Martin Barker wrote a fantastic book on the UK anti-comics crusade entitled A Haunt of Fears. Exposing the anti-American propaganda behind the campaign it's a fascinating read and well worth tracking down if you can.

The BBC news item on the forthcoming Radio 4 programme:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A tribute to Tom Browne

Tom Browne was possibly the most important artist in British comics. He died 100 years ago this week, on March 16th 1910, aged just 39, yet his influence on comic strips was considerable.

Born in Nottingham in 1872 (or 1870 depending on the source) and educated at a National school, he began work at the age of 11 as an errand boy in the Nottingham Lace Market. By the age of 14 he was serving as an apprentice at a firm of lithographic printers where he developed his artistic skills sketching cartoons. He also became a student at the Nottingham School of Art and sold his first professional cartoon in 1888 to Scraps. Impressed by the fee paid to him by the publisher Browne continued to moonlight for the comic papers whilst serving the rest of his apprenticeship.

At the age of 21 or thereabouts he moved to London to embark on what The Strand Magazine called "a hard struggle to obtain a foothold in London illustrated journalism". However he managed to earn a living as a comic artist, providing cartoons and strips for various weeklies. It was in one of those comics, Illustrated Chips No.298, dated May 16th 1896, where his most famous creations first appeared in a front page strip called Innocents on the River.

The protagonists of the strip, two tramps named Weary Waddles and Tired Timmy, impressed the editor G.H. Cantle so much that he asked Browne to continue them as a regular feature. Over the months the characters evolved in look as well as in name, becoming Weary Willie and Tired Tim, one of the most popular strips in British comics, running on the cover of Chips for 57 years until its final issue in 1953 (drawn from 1909 to 1953 by Percy Cocking).

Tom Browne brought techniques to comics that are still being used by comic artists today. Realising that the accepted norm of fine rendering and cross-hatching would not be appropriate for the cheap standard of printing that the early comic papers used Browne developed a simpler but nonetheless detailed style of solid blacks and bolder lines. His drawings also had a lively amount of comedy to them, with his characters falling into chaotic situations and exaggerating the slapstick into what would become a much imitated traditional comic style.

Tom Browne's popular tramps had an influence outside of comics too. They became the stars of several short British comedy films in the early 1900's, although sadly those films are now lost. However it was either these movies or, most likely, the comic strips themselves that influenced Charlie Chaplin in creating his world famous tramp character. Chaplin himself said "I started the tramp to make people laugh because those other old tramps, Weary Willie and Tired Tim, had always made me laugh."

Let's consider the importance of Chaplin's comment for a moment: the little tramp, one of the most iconic characters in cinema history, was influenced by Tom Browne's cover strip of Illustrated Chips. The similarities are obvious once one thinks about it: the flat-footed style, the ill-fitting jacket, the good-natured traveller flitting from one adventure to the next, and of course the slapstick sequences themselves. (In turn of course comic strips themselves would heavily borrow from the silent movies.)

Tom Browne was also prolific in areas other than comics. In 1897 he used his by-then considerable savings to establish a lithographic colour printing firm, Tom Browne & Co. in Nottingham. (The firm lasted until 1954 when it was acquired by the printers Hazel, Watson, and Viney Ltd.) He became a famous black and white artist and was quite a celebrity in his day, with exhibitions and events in his life being reported in the national press. (Such as this photograph below, of Browne in Geneose merchant's clothes for the Lord Mayor's Show in 1907.)

On April Fool's Day 1898, along with his fellow artists Phil May, Dudley Hardy, Walter Churcher, and Cecil Aldin, Browne founded the Sketch Club in London's Dilke Street. (The club is still going today, and for a while in the 1980s was the venue for the Society of Strip Illustration.) In 1901 Browne became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters and Water Colours.
In 1902 Tom Browne provided 95 illustrations for the book The Night Side of London, written by Robert Machray. A fascinating insight into London of the period, it saw writer and artist journey around the city to observe and interact with society in all its forms. The most striking aspect of the book is in its depictions of the dichotomy between rich and poor. Browne's own poverty-stricken background came in useful here to convey the hardship of the characters he'd met.

Due to the better printing process used in The Night Side of London Browne was able to produce some impressive grey wash illustrations as well as more detailed line work. The illustrations show his skills at caricature and figure work, and the ease in which he could capture the personality and mood of the era.

One chapter of the book, La Vie De Boheme, recounts lighthearted evenings at the Sketch Club, with members entertaining each other with songs, ventriloquism and impersonations. It all seems a very relaxed atmosphere and woe betide anyone who entered wearing anything as formal as a starched shirt front for it would soon be filled with drawings by the artists present. However considering the quality of the artists this was no doubt perceived as an honour.

A cheery character by all accounts Tom Browne was also a popular artist of comic postcards, which gave him the opportunity to work in colour. Again, using an economy of line and spotting his blacks carefully, Browne's style was ideal for this format and the cards are still highly collectible today.

Postcards featuring Dutch characters became a popular fad of the early 20th Century and Browne also illustrated many of those. Landscapes were another subject he painted although it was his character studies and figure work in which he excelled. Other publications included Tom Browne's Comic Annual, Tom Browne's Cycle Sketch Book and The Khaki Alphabet Book.

Browne was also in the Territorial Army, as shown by this clipping from the Daily Mirror of 8th August 1908.

What becomes evident when researching Tom Browne's work is how much he accomplished in his short life. He had risen from poverty to celebrity, becoming one of the most famous black and white artists of his day. The techniques he brought into comics would later be seen in the work of Dudley Watkins and Leo Baxendale and many others, even remaining an indirect influence on artists to this day.

After a long illness Tom Browne died of throat cancer at his home in Westcombe Park near Greenwich on Wednesday March 16th 1910. At his funeral at Shooter's Hill, his fellow soldiers from the T.A. fired a salute over his grave as tribute. From humble beginnings Tom Browne left over £18,000 in his will to his wife and children, - a considerable fortune by 1910 standards.

I think most of us working in British humour comics owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Tom Browne, even though we may not be aware of it. Any study of his comic work reveals techniques either blatant or subtle that we still employ today, whether it's in the body language of the characters or an approach to inking. The history of comics would certainly have been considerably different without him, and, I would venture, not half as funny.

Reference and further reading:

The Penguin Book of Comics George Perry & Alan Aldridge 1971

The Strand Magazine January 1902

Happy Days Denis Gifford 1975

The Night Side of London Robert Machray & Tom Browne 1902

Synopsis of one of the Weary Willie and Tired Tim films:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Introducing... Comic Heroes

Future Publishing, the UK company behind the highly successful SFX magazine, have today launched a brand new mag, - Comic Heroes.

As its title makes clear, Comic Heroes focuses on heroes from comic books, and the spotlight falls mainly on American superheroes. This is to be expected, what with the ever-increasing number of superhero movies around and in production. It's also a canny way to sell a magazine about comics to retailers like WH Smith and Asda because even their staff must have heard of Iron Man by now.

Comic Heroes doesn't come cheap. It's a staggering £7.99. For your money you get a 132 page glossy magazine that's packed with articles, and three free gifts (2000AD fridge magnets, a huge poster, and a free "mystery comic" - mine was Wolverine and Hulk No.6), - all packaged within a sealed cardboard envelope (shown above) so you can't thumb through the mag in the shop. Not sure that's a great idea but maybe it'll mean a few less browsers who clog up shop aisles selfishly reading mags they don't intend buying. (I saw one bloke sit on the floor to make his browsing more comfortable yesterday. That's just taking the p- anyway, I digress...)

The contents of issue one cover the new Iron Man and Kick-Ass movies, give a run through of recent "events" in the DC Universe (reminding me why I stopped buying DC Comics), spotlights the art of Guy Davis, interviews brilliant writer Al Ewing, features a five-page preview of an upcoming Superman comic, begins a feature on How to Write For Comics, and much more.

While it's fantastic to see a proper, slick, high profile magazine on comics in UK newsagents it's sad that, once again, British comics are low on the priority of contents. This is the same thing that, for me, blighted such previous magazines as Comics World and Tripwire. I can fully understand that superhero / sf fantasy material must take the lead in these mags because a) they're trying to attract the people who will be going to see Iron Man 2 etc, and b) they're also trying to attract core fandom.

Although The Beano sells more copies than The Incredible Hulk, the readers of The Beano are younger and not as integrated as fans of American comics are. And if the forum ComicsUK is anything to go by most nostalgic fans of old British comics tend not to like current comics very much, so as they're unlikely to plonk down £7.99 for Comic Heroes anyway it'd be pointless pitching the mag towards them.

So... by necessity Comic Heroes mainly focuses on the sort of comics you'll find in a comics specialist shop, not the ones you'd find in a newsagent. 2000AD does get a look in though, and there's a nice eight page article on French comics, so I'm optimistic that future issues might give some space to British comics of the past 100 years, particularly humour comics which mags like this always tend to overlook. (Just because comics such as Wham!, Funny Wonder, and Buster were created for children and not teenagers/young adults it doesn't mean the skills involved in producing them were any less accomplished. Let's hear it for those comic heroes Eagle-Eye Junior Spy, The Cloak, and I-Spy.)

It's one thing to give a necessary bias towards overseas material but quite another to ignore our product altogether. The mag's tendency to play down UK comics is most noticeable in the introduction to the French comics feature: "Comics aren't just an American thing, oh no. Guy Haley crosses the Channel to take a look at the bandes desinées of France...". Hello? Over a century of British comics right here? Sheesh. Consider if a similar sentence had been written about music, or film, or literature, and imagine how crazy it would be to read that in a British publication.

However perhaps I'm being a little unfair in focusing on one criticism that will no doubt be rectified in forthcoming issues. Comic Heroes is a good magazine; well written, expertly designed, and with a tone that's just right, being more mature than Wizard and not as aloof as The Comics Journal.
It's the sort of comics magazine we need and now is the best time to launch it. At the moment the magazine is quarterly, so that eases the strain on the wallet a bit. Let's hope it's a success.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The End of Brickman

Created in 1979 and having appeared irregularly over the last 31 years in various publications, the final Brickman strip appears today! Above is the page from the final episode, with most of it blacked out to avoid spoilers.

The two-page conclusion to Brickman's adventures appears as a back-up strip in the much-delayed issue 24 of Elephantmen, out now from Image Comics. Regular readers will know that I've been drawing an all-new Brickman Returns strip for most issues of Elephantmen for the past few years. The strip appears in full colour and occasionally co-starred Combat Colin, my character from the 1980s Marvel UK Transformers comics.

And now, the series is coming to and end, but although it's being dropped the Elephantmen comic itself will continue.

I'm grateful to Elephantmen creator/editor Richard Starkings for giving Brickman some exposure in the USA. He also put his money into publishing the Brickman Begins book in 2005 (a compilation of all Brickman strips up to that date). Unfortunately U.S. comics fandom is notoriously indifferent to humour comics, especially anything too "cartoony", despite the style being popular with the general public in the UK, with comics such as Viz and The Beano outselling most U.S. comics by a wide margin.

Elephantmen No.24, featuring the all-new FINAL episode of Brickman (And an excellent Elephantmen strip too of course)
is available today from comics specialist stores in the USA and UK (and other countries too no doubt).

What will be the final fate of Brickman? Will the Gormless Guardian of Guffon City ever return? Will there even be a Guffon City for him to return to after this finalé? And didn't Brickman die several issues ago anyway? Buy the comic and find out!

I've revived Brickman several times over the past three decades but perhaps now it's time to finally conclude the strip. After 30 years, I have no plans to produce any more new Brickman stories but my intention is to collect all 20 pages of the Brickman strips from Elephantmen into a comic I hope to self-publish sometime this year. Stay tuned for more info on the one-shot compilation comic Brickman Returns in the months to come.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in the earlier adventures of Brickman, copies of the 152 page digest softback Brickman Begins can be bought from my website here:
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