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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1/6d Summer Special sells for £1,371

British comic collecting circles are buzzing at present with the news that a copy of the 1963 Dandy-Beano Summer Special has sold on eBay for a record figure of £1,371.

According to the description, the 32 page tabloid sized glossy is in "fine unmarked condition" and the photograph (above) would certainly seem to prove it's been well looked after. Summer Specials are notoriously scarce in this condition as many were bought on holiday and were either discarded or at least well-read and dog-eared by the end of the week.

This particular edition is very collectible because it saw The Dandy and The Beano venture into the Summer Special market for the first time. (Although other publishers had created the summer special years earlier.) Hedging their bets, the publishers D.C. Thomson put out this combined issue and saved on expenses by using reprinted material from the weeklies. The special was presumably successful as the following year, 1964, saw individual all-new specials for the two comics which continued annually for decades.

The starting price for the comic on eBay was a mere £1.99 and 27 bids saw it escalate in seven days to £1,371.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crikey! No.16 - A grand finalé

The final issue of Crikey! is one of the best issues published, which makes the closure of the magazine even more frustrating.

In the three years since Crikey was launched some features have been stronger than others, and a couple of articles were so riddled with errors they were a complete waste of space, (ie: the features on Smash! and Countdown). However the magazine overcame its teething troubles and was getting better with each issue, gradually moving away from its patchily-memorized rose-tinted nostalgic slant and developing into a reliable solid read.

Which brings us to this final issue, No.16, just published this week. Despite the downbeat cover the contents are full of enthusiasm and positivity about the subjects under study. It kicks off with a new interview with Mick McMahon which was a pleasure to read as Mick rarely attends conventions these days so it was good to catch up with what he's been up to recently and it ends on a very optimistic note.

There's a short item by Shaqui Le Vesconte about the unseen Metal Mickey strip planned for Look-In, and the reasons it never appeared. Although it concerned a tv show that I personally couldn't stand the background information about the strip was a revelation.

Ian Wheeler presents a nice well researched article about the old Action Force strip that appeared in Battle whilst Rab Smith gives us a good retrospective of Les Barton's time on the classic I Spy strip from Sparky. Rab is a big fan of the strip so this was clearly a labour of love. Strangely, although the article is specifically about Les Barton's work, Crikey's editors have used Brian Walker pages as well to illustrate it for some reason. (Walker is a fantastic artist but not relevant to this particular article.) It was always these little niggles that were one of Crikey's drawbacks unfortunately.

Andrew Edwards contributes the history of The Bojeffries Saga. This Warrior comedy strip by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse was a real gem and deserves a collected edition. Hopefully this article will stir up fresh interest in the strip.

Glenn B. Fleming takes a look back at the distinguished career of Joe Colquhoun, easily one of the best comic artists the UK ever produced. Sadly the curse of Crikey creeps in again, using John Cooper artwork on page 31 by mistake. Nevertheless, the rest of the feature is excellent. Dez Skinn and Pat Mills also contribute their opinions on the great man.

Adding some variety to the issue Tony Ingram writes a breezy history of Keyhole Kate, the strangely voyeuristic character from The Dandy (and later, Sparky) whilst Jamie Hailstone presents a resumé of Stingray strips from TV Century 21. Tony returns later in the issue for a look back at the Rogue Trooper saga and John Devaney wraps up his mini series on comedy-horror humour strips.

The back cover features Comic Oddments. Uncredited but I think it's devised by Phil Clarke and Mike Higgs. It's actually an ad, but it could have developed into a promising new feature had the magazine continued.

It's sad (and annoying) that more fans didn't support Crikey but Tony Ingram and Glenn B. Fleming should be proud of the three year run of the magazine. (Many comics never even manage that long.) However, all is not lost. In his editorial Tony reveals that a new, digital, magazine is being planned, under the name Comics Unlimited. (Presumably no relation to the 1970's fanzine of the same name.) Available as a PDF download, Comics Unlimited will cost £2.99, which hopefully should please all those people who thought £4.99 was too much to pay for Crikey!

As one magazine ends, a new one dawns. Keep your eyes on for more news!

Crikey! No.16. 56 pages for £4.99. Available from Forbidden Planet International, Nostalgia and Comics and other comic shops (not Forbidden Planet due to some odd policy against "fanzines") or by contacting the above website.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Titan use YouTube to promote major new comic launch

From the 1960s to the mid 1980s all the major UK comic publishers used to advertise new comics and free gift issues on television. These snappy ten second ads, usually shown at teatime when children were back from school, were the perfect way to grab the attention of potential readers.

By the 1980s sales of comics had declined too much for such expensive promotions to be economical. Today the internet is a better (and far cheaper) platform for such marketing gimmicks and Titan Magazines are using YouTube to promote their brand new adult comic magazine CLiNT.

Titan aren't the first publisher to advertise comics this way, but it is fairly unique for a British comic from a major company to be promoted like this. What's strange is that other mainstream UK comic publishers haven't already done it, but perhaps now they will.

For those of you who haven't already heard about it, CLiNT is the brainchild of comics writer Mark Millar and the 100 page slick comic mag will feature a mixture of comic strip (some of which has already appeared in America) and articles.

With the involvement of Jonathan Ross and Frankie Boyle the media are already taking notice of the new comic, so expect to see more coverage of it on tv as publication day nears. An interview on BBC Breakfast news is already scheduled.

CLiNT launches on September 2nd and readers in London can attend a special signing of issue one by Jonathan Ross and Mark Millar at 4.30pm at WH Smith at London Victoria Station.

More information here:

Official Facebook page:

Official Twitter page:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sad news chums: Crikey! is cancelled

News just in from editor Tony Ingram, the magazine of British comics Crikey! is to fold with the 16th issue, out later this week.

Crikey! was originally launched by Brian Clarke in June 2007 and seemed to be just what UK comics fans had wanted; a regular magazine devoted to the history of British comics. Over the course of the past three years the magazine steadily improved and even made it to High Street newsagents due to a deal with Borders.

Sadly, after distributing just two issues the collapse of Borders dealt a huge blow to the mag. Ironically sales on those two issues had been higher than hoped through that outlet and had the company not gone under Crikey! would still be healthy. Having to depend on subscriptions and limited distribution through comic shops the fortunes of Crikey! declined. No doubt some readers who'd bought it from their newsagents thought the mag had already folded when Borders collapsed and never sought it out elsewhere. Annoyingly, some fans of UK comics simply never supported the magazine anyway. Perhaps they'll now wish they had.

It's a great shame Crikey! has gone, but editors/publishers Tony Ingram and Glenn B. Fleming should be proud of what they accomplished. A review of issue 16 will appear here once I've received my copy.

More details on the Crikey! website:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Classic fun from D.C. Thomson

The August issue of Classics from the Comics (No.173) is on sale this Wednesday (18th Aug.) and it's another good collection of strips from the D.C. Thomson vaults.

Nice to see a comic strip on the cover this time instead of an enlarged interior panel, and it's an edited version of a Dudley Watkins Biffo the Bear cover from an early 1960's Beano. It ties in well with the special feature this issue, which spotlights bears in the comics. The 13 page Bear Essentials section features the first appearance of The Three Bears by Leo Baxendale along with selected later strips by Bob McGrath and Bob Dewar and a snippet of Mike Pearce's more recent version of the characters, proving that it's a strip that's always had quality (and funny) artists.

This month's issue features another text story from the archives. This time it's Nutty the Coal Imp from a 1953 Beano. There are many such stories in the archives so it's good to see them revived for Classics. Material such as text stories, the General Jumbo strip, and the My Home Town feature help to break up the comic, giving a better feeling of variety to it than just 64 relentless pages of funnies.

Speaking of General Jumbo, this issue sees the conclusion of the reprints from Buddy. Next issue Ron Smith's King Cobra from Hotspur replaces it, although with Space Kids currently running which is also by Smith will that be overkill? Time will tell and the regular turnover of strips in Classics may mean that a different adventure strip will be along soon. (Jack Glass' The Stinging Swarm by any chance?)

The rest of this issue is packed with strips from various old comics as usual, with highlights such as a Dudley Watkins Desperate Dan (said to be from 1965 but looks more like a 1950s strip), a 1962 Corporal Clott by Davy Law, a Jonah page by Ken Reid, David Mostyn's Micky the Mouth from 1982 and much more. Classics from the Comics No.173 is £2 from newsagents and supermarkets. If you have difficulty finding it (as distribution is very patchy) you can subscribe here:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sick Squid returns!

In tomorrow's issue of Toxic magazine the villainous Sick Squid returns in my Team Toxic strip. I've been writing & drawing the strip for seven years now and have enjoyed building up a cast of recurring villains including Butt-Face, Hallie Tosis, Frankendrac, Sand Witch, Techno Troll and more to challenge Team Toxic.

Watch out for a brand new monster I've created that the Team will face in issue 172, but for now, Toxic No.168, with the return of Sick Squid, hits the shops on Wednesday 11th August.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Comic stars enter the MindField this September

MindField is the collective name of spoken-word events at the Electric Picnic music and arts festival at Stradbally, Co. Laois, Ireland from the 3rd to 5th September. This year sees a focus on comics included in the programme too, and guests will include Emma Vieceli, Pat Mills, (both pictured above), Steve Bell, and more alongside bands such as Roxy Music and Public Image Limited! Sounds like quite an event.

Here's the full details from MindField organizer John Byrne (no, not the X-Men artist):

"MindField at Electric Picnic has been described by Channel Four’s Jon Snow – one of last year’s undisputed stars – as a cross between Glastonbury and Hay-on-Wye and it’s difficult to better the great man’s take on it.

MindField, presented in association with RTÉ Radio One, is great meeting of minds and voices celebrating the art of conversation, debate and performance with subject matter that ranges from comic books to literature to the politics of the Middle East and all points in between. Essentially, MindField is a three day, seven venue conversation for the nation that will inform, inspire and entertain.

This year, the MindField arena at Electric Picnic has again expanded to seven elegantly decorated tented venues in the midst of parkland trees behind the main stage at Electric Picnic"

And here are the details for our event...

Graphic Content: The Big Comics Chat

Join us in the MindField on (Saturday) September 4th at 5 p.m. for a chaotic and fun-stuffed rocket ride through the inner and outer reaches of the comics and cartooning universes. Our intrepid and esteemed panel will cheerily dissect and debate the “sequential art” scene as it and was: offering thoughts, opinions and recollections on a wide range of topics, including: Classic British comics, Manga, Bande dessinée, Girls’ comics, John Major’s underpants, the Irish small presses, and much, much more. Masked and caped crusaders may also get an occasional mention…


Pat Mills is affectionately (and accurately) known as the “godfather of British comics“. A comic industry legend, he was the founder of 2000 AD, Battle and Action. As a writer he has created some of the UK’s most seminal and best-loved comic stories: Sláine, Charley’s War, ABC Warriors, Nemesis the Warlock and many more. Among the other credits on his extensive CV are Marshal Law, Metalzoic, The Punisher 2099, Requiem Vampire Knight and Batman: The Book of Shadows.

Emma Vieceli is a freelance artist and writer based in Cambridge. Artist for 2 of the acclaimed Manga Shakespeare graphic novels (and featured in the award-winning Comic Book Tattoo and Marvel's recent Girl Comics amongst other publications), she is currently working on two graphic novel series: one for Oni Press and one for Penguin Books. She also continues to work on her own independent series, Dragon Heir (printed through Sweatdrop Studios).

Steve Bell is one of most original and respected figures in contemporary cartooning. He has produced illustrations and comic strips for many different magazines, including Social Work Today, Punch, Private Eye, New Society, Radio Times, New Statesman, The Spectator and the Journalist. Since 1981 he has written and drawn the daily If… strip in The Guardian, creating such memorable images as - John Major with his underpants worn outside his trousers, Tony Blair with Margaret Thatcher’s rogue eyeball, and George W Bush as a chimpanzee. He has had twenty seven books published, including a cartoon autobiography of George Bush called Apes of Wrath, an anthology If… Marches On and, most recently, a Tony Blair self-help guide titled My Vision For a New You. His work has been published all over the world and he has won numerous awards.

Philip Barrett has been self-publishing comics since 2001, including writing and drawing 9 issues of his catch-all title 'Matter' and contributing to numerous anthologies. With Liam Geraghty he has produced 'Gazebo' and 'The Littlest Arsonist'. In 2010 the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry published Philip's 'best-of' collection 'The Human in Me'. He is a co-founder of Edition Book Arts which celebrates the craft of the book and self-publishing. Philip helped get the ball rolling on the regular Dublin Comic Jam and is particularly interested in how good comics are at documenting the collision between the worlds of the fantastical and the mundane.

Mel Gibson is a UK based comics scholar, consultant and Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University. She has run training events about comics and graphic novels for libraries, schools and other organisations since 1993. Her published research has addressed such varied topics as girls’ comics, picture books, children's literature, graphic novels and manga.

For more info visit the website at:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Incoming! This week's Commando comics

Here's the latest intel on Britain's longest running adventure comic Commando from editor Calum Laird. All four issues are out today:

This August it’s 65 years since the war in the Pacific ended. In respect of this Commando will be re-issuing a series of stories originally commissioned by George Low in 1995. Two of those stories appear this week, the second pair in two weeks’ time.

To go with them are four new stories of the war in the Far East — two now and two with the next batch.

Official website:

Commando No 4315: Heights Of Fear

Flying vital military supplies between India and China during the Second World War was not a job for the faint-hearted. The planes of the day only just had the power to climb over the mountains of “The Hump” that barred the way — and that was on a good day.
If you crashed, your chances of survival were slim and rescuers were unlikely to find you. But someone found Flying Officer Steve Long and his co-pilot Flight Sergeant Dave Trimble when they baled out. Someone and something…

Story: Alan Hebden

Art: Carlos Pino

Cover Art: Carlos Pino

Commando No 4316: Unlikely Ace

After months enduring the stifling heat and ever-present danger of the Burmese jungle, Flight-Sergeant Joe Griffin and his RAF Regiment platoon now had a to stage a fighting retreat from the advancing Japanese.
All of his lads, right down to cooks and mechanics, were determined to fight. All except one — Lieutenant Peter Clarke, the arrogant pilot of their Stinson L5 reconnaissance aircraft. He wouldn’t even pick up a rifle, let alone fire one.

Story: Ferg Handley

Art: Olivera

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy


August, 1945 — Japan was being forced to surrender and after six long years, the Second World War was over. For many thousands it had been a bitter, hard fight on land, on sea and in the air.
For Canadian army doctor Harry Murray, this war had started when the Japs had over-run Hong Kong in 1941. That was grim enough, but then he found himself a prisoner on a small, nameless island where men could die at the whim of the enemy guards. The only hope in the end for Harry and his mates was escape…

Story: Ian Clark

Art: Gordon Livingstone

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Originally No 2879 from 1995

Commando 4318: THREE ANGRY MEN

August, 1945 — Japan was being forced to surrender and after six long years, the Second World War was over. For many thousands it had been a bitter, hard fight on land, on sea and in the air.
For three battle-hardened NCOs — a British infantryman, a Gurkha and a Sikh — their worst moment had come when a fanatical Japanese regiment wiped out an ambulance train, murdering their wounded relatives and friends.
Despite their differences, the three angry men united to hunt down the killers…and collect a debt of blood!

Story: Ian Clark

Art: Benet

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Originally No 2880 from 1995

Monday, August 02, 2010

It's Summer, so here come the Christmas annuals!

Hardback British comic annuals were traditionally given as Christmas presents to children and the covers of the books often displayed seasonal scenes of snow and festive celebration. Even though the annuals would arrive in the shops in September most kids wouldn't receive them until Christmas Day. Over the years that tradition has weakened, and surprisingly the 2011 Annuals arrived in the shops last week, at the end of July!

With the demise of the Summer Specials some publishers have been experimenting with hardback Summer Annuals instead, so perhaps their rivals felt they'd be missing out if they didn't adjust the publication date of their books? Or perhaps kids and parents just don't bother saving the books until Christmas Day any more? Whatever the reason, W.H. Smith now have the 2011 annuals in stock, presumably for people to buy as birthday presents or for a treat for the summer holidays.

I've just bought two of the titles available so far, so let's take a quick look at the contents. The Beano Annual 2011 kicks off with a lively non-Christmassy cover and inside features 112 pages of full colour strips. There are not one but two board games across the endpapers by Hunt Emerson and Tom Paterson respectively, and Laura Howell provides a Happy Bunny Green frontispiece setting the humour mood to lead off the book. (Detail below.)

Nigel Parkinson has several pages in the book including Dennis and Gnasher, Billy Whizz and Lord Snooty the Third...

Fans of Billy the Cat will be pleased to know that Nigel Dobbyn is back drawing a ten page new story featuring the British superhero. General Jumbo returns too, in an all too-short two pager drawn by Steve Beckett. Good to see some adventure strip material amongst the funnies.

I received my first Beano Book 45 years ago and I'm as proud as punch to finally contribute to the series myself with four pages of Super School in this 2011 edition.

The annual also features work by Tom Paterson, Ken Harrison, Dave Eastbury, Dave Sutherland, Nick Brennan, and Barrie Appleby. Lots of fun for £7.99. (Or buy two annuals, get one half price in Smiths at present.)

The Dandy Annual 2011 will please haters of Dandy Xtreme because, as with last year, the Xtreme aspect of the comic has been ignored. Therefore it's 112 pages of solid comic strips with no photo features or game reviews. Nigel Parkinson provides the covers and a lot of material inside. (And why not? Nigel is one of our best humour artists.) Curiously, although Jamie Smart contributes to the book it's not his distinctive new version of Desperate Dan that's in the strips, with Nigel P handling the art duties instead. (And look! Dan still eats cow pies, despite what the anti-PC lobby may claim.)

Whilst not as tightly packed as last year's exceptional Dandy Annual, the 2011 book still offers a lot of fun. Good to see old Korky the Cat back, with a fun, frantically modern style by Clive McGhie.

McGhie also draws Bananaman for the book, whilst Wayne Thomson is here with Jak and Todd and Agent Dog 2-Zero, zipping along with the pace and style of an animated cartoon.

Other artists include Karl Dixon (on what may be an Ollie Fliptrick reprint), Duncan Scott, and Nick Brennan. So along with Nigel Parkinson, Jamie Smart, and Clive McGhie it's quite a small ensemble of artists this year but the quality of the work is still top of the league.

Like the Beano book, The Dandy Annual 2011 is £7.99. Something that may annoy purists is that this year the books are bigger! The format is now wider and taller, the same dimensions as the weekly comics. Personally I don't mind, as it gives the books more visibility on the shelves and makes them feel better value for money, even though they have less pages than they did years ago.

No sign of the much-anticipated Century 21 Annual in the shops yet, but I did notice the Oor Wullie/Broons hardback, Tinkerbell Annual, Dennis and Gnasher, and several more. The annuals are here. Happy Summermas!

Comic Horror

Regular readers of this blog will know I have a fondness for classic pre-code American horror comics and have plugged collections of such stories here in the past, as well as unearthing 1950s press clippings of the unbalanced animosity towards such fare. Now, news comes of another collection of old horror comics in the sensationally titled The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books The Government Didn't Want You To Read.

Published by Harry N. Abrams Inc and written by Jim Trombetta, this 304 page tome promises to present "over 200 covers and complete stories as they were originally seen, scanned from mint copies in the author's extensive collection". Apparently it will reprint stories that have "rarely been seen" rather than the often-reprinted EC Comics.

The book is published in October/November at £19.99 but can be pre-ordered from Amazon at £14.99.

Meanwhile, Marvel have recently published the third hardback volume in their Atlas Era Strange Tales series, reprinting ten remastered issues of pre-code horror from the likes of Stan Lee, Joe Maneely, Jack Katz, Bill Everett, Joe Sinnott and more. These Marvel Masterworks are very expensive (around £45 in UK comic shops) but a few years ago who would have expected these classics to ever see the light of day again, particularly in such a durable format?

For a really horrific image though, take a look at the cover of the latest Golden Age Human Torch book which came out a couple of weeks ago. In his introduction Roy Thomas calls the Alex Schomburg cover the most gruesome of Marvel's World War 2 comics. It's debatable which is the more horrific; the mutilation, the bondage, or the racial stereotyping, but in 1943 this was on the newsstands for children to buy. Today, it's the cover of a £45 book for adult collectors who can judge it as a product of its wartime era.

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