Thursday, March 24, 2011
Here's the latest press release from the editors of Britain's newest magazine about comics regarding the next two issues to hit the shelves:
MULTIVERSE RETURNS FULLY REFRESHED FROM ITS WINTER BREAK
The second 52-page issue of Multiverse is now at the printer with copies due to go on sale at the end of the month.
Alongside the £2.50/$3.99 title’s regular news and reviews sections and Frame to Frame, Multiverse #2 also includes exclusive interviews with Garth Ennis, Frank Quitely, David Lapham, Mark Waid and the new Silver Surfer creative team of Greg Pak and Stephen Segovia. Also, newcomer Ross Mackintosh talks about his new com.X graphic novel, Seeds, while Dave West discusses Fall of the Wolfmen and the burgeoning British small press scene.
Multiverse #3 is scheduled to hit shops on April 21. Among exclusives lined up for the issue are Missy Suicide and artist David Hahn talking Suicide Girls; Peter Milligan, Tomm Coker and editor Sebastian Girner discussing Marvel’s latest Wolverine saga, 5 Ronin; writer Chris Roberson discusses Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse and Elric: The Balance Lost; and Christopher Monfette reveals all about resurrecting Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Batman is back on TV
This is the show that some comic fans find embarrassing. They dislike it because they think it shows comic characters in a bad light, that it fails to treat Batman seriously, and because it led to thousands of media articles on comics starting off with "Bam! Splat! Pow!" headlines.
However, for a generation of us, this was the Batman that introduced us to the character. At seven years old in 1966 I had no idea about Batman until I saw the TV show. It immediately became a hit for millions of kids across the world. Although dismissed as "camp" by critics, Batman cleverly worked on two levels; exciting light-hearted adventure for children, and a spoof of Batman (and the whole ridiculousness of superheroes) for adults. A winner for everyone, except for those who simply didn't "get it". Their loss.
I wonder how National Periodicals really felt about a series that basically sent up one of their key characters? Then again, in the 1950s Batman comics he'd often been plunged into the silliest S-F settings, so in comparison to that the TV show was quite urban and streetwise.
It wasn't long before "Batmania" swept the land and, for many of us, came our first exposure to a Batman comic strip... on the cover of Smash! every week. These were reprints of the American Batman newspaper strips and, like the TV show, swayed towards comedy more than drama.
Batman product was everywhere, and included a series or five of Batman bubblegum cards, some of which are shown here. The artwork was by pulp veteran Norm Saunders (who had illustrated the famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, Mars Attacks cards) based on pencil drawings by Golden Age comics artist Bob Powell.
With the TV show, the cards, the weekly Smash! strip and other merchandise being lighthearted fare it's not surprising that the public came to regard Batman, and superheroes in general, as fun entertainment. Even the DC comic book of the time followed the pattern and when I did eventually buy a proper Batman comic this was the one I had:
Hardly the Dark Knight then was he?
As with all things, the lighthearted Batman eventually had its day and as its popularity waned in the late 1960s DC decided to return the character to its darker roots. When Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams revitalized Batman many comic fans applauded, but I'm afraid it did little for me. Although Neal Adams is an undisputed fantastic artist, it wasn't the Batman I was accustomed to.
Then again, I was only 11 or 12 when I first saw Neal Adams' version. Too young to properly appreciate the artist's craft, and too old to be excited by Batman anymore. Mainly though, the version inspired by the TV show had been so predominant during my younger years that anything deviating from that would be a disappointment. To me, and many others, Batman was a daft superhero who escaped from insane death traps and fought villains even more ludicrous than he. For O'Neil and Adams to treat the subject seriously seemed to me as crazy as if they'd turned Dennis the Menace into a serious urban street kid.
Over the years I've read numerous Batman comics, trying to like the grim and gritter version but it's still the TV show that's my definitive Batman. (I did really enjoy Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns though.) I appreciate that Bob Kane's original Batman was a more somber character, and that most fans probably don't share my view, but I'm afraid the TV show version is the one that sticks with me. It's hard to take the character seriously after that. For me, Batman will always be a gloriously daft character, and it's that TV version that inspired me to create my Batman spoof Brickman in 1979, bringing back silly death-traps, corny dialogue, and straight-faced puns.
It's high time the Batman TV series appeared on DVD. Officially that is, not in the form of the dodgy pirate copies out there, but unfortunately there's some legal wrangle preventing it. The 1966 movie is available though. (You won't be surprised to hear that it's my favourite Batman film.)
If you grew up after the 1960s you may be giving the itv4 repeats a wide berth, but for readers of a certain age, Batman is back. Every day. On the telly.
To the Batpoles!
Monday, March 21, 2011
Khaki Shorts dropped
"Great News Readers! After nearly 12 years, Khaki Shorts is ending!"
The line, opening the latest issue, is of course a spoof of the old British comic positive spin of announcing a comic's closure, but sadly it's true. The Scottish small press comic Khaki Shorts ends its impressive 12 year run with the latest issue, No.28, and it's not even merging into another comic.
It's not leaving quietly though. The final issue is a bumper 60 page A5 comic with full colour covers and more than 20 strips. As ever, the quality is variable but there's a lot of good stuff in here, and it's all produced by people who just want to do fun comics. All for a ridiculously low £2.
Khaki Shorts will be missed. We really do need more funny small press comics, and I hope the contributors will work together again on a future project.
You can order your copy from the Bad Press website here. Bear in mind it's an adults only comic:
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Important news about a new charity comic
Tim Pilcher, Chairperson of the Comic Book Alliance has announced details of a very worthy project to help victims of the terrible recent, and ongoing, disasters in New Zealand and Japan.
"I’m sure, like me, you’ve been horrified at the devastating effects of the two enormous earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan" said Tim. "In order to do some good and help the thousands that have lost friends, family, their homes and entire communities, the Comic Book Alliance is putting together a fundraising comic."
"We are looking for creators to provide some work free of charge so that we can put together an impressive package that will hopefully sell thousands and to raise as much money as possible to help these countries get back on their feet and to rebuild their lives."
"The contributions can be around any theme (earthquakes, tsunamis, loss, hope, survival, manga, NZ comics, what that country means to you, personal tales, whatever...) and could be a pin-up, or a 1-4 page comic strip. We may accept the odd prose piece from writers, but we’d like to like to keep these to a minimum, so please team up with an artist you normally work with."
"If you are not a creator, but a publisher or editor, please spread this message to your freelancers and contact us if you can help with free/reduced rate printing and distribution issues. Alternatively, we need colourists and probably editorial assistance, so every bit helps."
Tim also gave details of the format for each page:
"Can you make sure that the artwork is drawn in pro to fit a standard US comicbook page size (w 17 cm x h 26 cm (6 ⅝" × 10 ¼")" "Ideally the art should be in colour (I have contacted several colourists if you don't have the time or feel confident). But black and white is acceptable if that is a deliberate artistic choice." "The final artwork needs to be delivered as a ready for print PDF AND as a layered TIFF CMYK file with the balloons and text on separate layers so that we can translate into Japanese. We will arrange to set up an FTP server for you shortly so you can upload the work."
"Our project editor is Alan Cowsill, who some of you know, and he'll manage the day-to-day running of the project. Please email him on: email@example.com, and copy in firstname.lastname@example.org, stating what you would like to contribute (page count) and whether you are working alone or collaborating with someone, or whether you need hooking up with an artist, writer, colourist or letterer."
"Obviously, time is of the essence here, so we would like to get the work in within the next two weeks (Deadline of Saturday 2 April). I know that doesn’t give a lot of time considering your busy schedules but I do hope you’ll agree that it’s for an important cause."
"Let’s show the world that comic creators care and how we can galvanise ourselves into positive action."
Creators already committed to contributing include:
Si Spencer & Glyn Dillon
Peter Hogan & Adrian Bamforth
Those of you in the press, please spread the message on your blogs and publications.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Four Commando issues in the shops now
Here's the latest batch of Commando comics as the title continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary with two classic reprints and two brand new issues every fortnight.
Commando 4375: DIARY OF A HERO
This story is taken from the pages of the diary of a true hero. It tells of seven men’s fight to survive behind enemy lines with a traitor in their midst. It brings courage to life, tells of bravery of the highest order.
Of this issue, editor Calum Laird writes: "This story had been one of my favourites as a young reader, read and re-read many times. Then in 1981 — when I joined the staff of Commando for the first time — it was one of the stories I had to check over for re-issue. And re-read again. Now I’ve given myself the chance to read it through once more.
It remains a cracking tale, full of Commando heroes, and with a belting sting in the tail. It’s wonderfully constructed and, with artwork by Cam Kennedy and Penalva, looks absolutely right into the bargain.
I like it as much now as I did in1967."
Story: David Motton
Art: Cam Kennedy
Cover Art: Jordi Penalva
First Published as No 545 in 1967
Commando 4376: SPACE WATCH
A battle in outer space tests G-Tex Wolf Brady to the limit – especially when a ruthless computer hacker makes his latest challenge even more dangerous!
In his introduction to this story, former Commando editor George Low said:
"Ricardo Garijo worked for Starblazer before Commando, and he brought all his sci-fi skills to this 1994 plot where Commando strayed off its usual course, taking to space…and beyond…with its linked G-Tex stories, the brainchild of writer Mike Knowles. The futuristic script (this time by Ian Clark) set the tone for Ricardo to work his magic, while Ian Kennedy took a break from Spitfires and the like to tackle spacecraft.
What’s it about? Saving whales and the world for a start. Quite an undertaking and great to read."
Story: Ian Clark
Art: Ricardo Garijo
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
First Published as No 2774 in 1994
Commando No 4377: THE STREET FIGHTER
Not every confrontation between United States Marines and the Imperial Japanese Army took place in the steamy jungles of the South Pacific. The battle for Manila in the Philippines was a house-to-house struggle, pure and simple.
This didn’t bother Marine Eddie Novak. In the war’s early fighting he’d lost buddies and now he was out for revenge, no matter when — or where — he got the chance.
Story: Ferg Handley
Cover Art: Janek Matysiak
Commando No 4378: THE FIGHTING JUDGE
As a High Court judge, Mr Justice Jardine had a fierce reputation as a hard man. Hard but fair. His judgements were respected even by those on the receiving end of a verdict.
When he joined the Army’s legal branch he remained the same hard but fair man. His working environment changed, though. Gone were the wood-panelled courtrooms, replaced by tents or makeshift offices.
And another thing changed too. He picked up a rifle…to deadly effect.
Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Mike White
Cover Art: Mike White
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Sixty years of menacing
An idea scribbled "on the back of a fag packet" is a cliché now, but that's exactly what happened in the genesis of Dennis the Menace. As D.C. Thomson archivist Morris Heggie explained in the coffee table book The History of The Beano during the initial meeting about the new character Ian Chisholm drew a quick sketch of Dennis on the back of a cigarette packet to illustrate to David Law how he wanted the character to look. A star was born.
David (or Davey as he was known) Law's version of Dennis shook up The Beano like a thunderbolt. This new energetic, anarchic character was just what the weekly needed at that time to liven it up for a new post-war Britain. Subsequently, the strip inspired a young Leo Baxendale to submit work to the comic, leading to the debut of Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, and The Bash Street Kids in the years that followed. Today it'd be hard to imagine a Beano without such iconic characters. It's even doubtful the comic would still be around in the 21st Century without them, and it all started with that sketch on a cigarette packet.
Dennis' famous dog Gnasher didn't arrive on the scene until 1968, but soon became a regular fixture of the strip. After Davey Law's untimely death in 1971 other artists took over the strip, initially David Sutherland, and in more recent years David Parkins, Nigel Parkinson, Barrie Appleby, Jimmy Hansen and others. All of the examples shown here though are by Davey Law, as a tribute to his fantastic talents. It was Davey's style that established the character as a much-loved favourite of millions of children, and the work of his successors continues to delight children to this day.
Both Dennis and Gnasher have always undergone gradual changes in their appearance over the years. (Dennis didn't even wear a striped jumper in the early strips.) However the most recent changes, connected with the launch of the Dennis and Gnasher animated cartoon, are the ones which caused the most disquiet amongst his comic fans. It's fair to say though that comics have always had to change to stay fresh and no doubt Dennis and his faithful tripehound will evolve again in the future.
UPDATE: Various news sources are reporting Dennis' anniversary today. I was even interviewed by the BBC myself on Tuesday about it, and some of my quotes can be found on the BBC website here:
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Remember Double Double Comics?
If you're under the age of 40 you may never have heard of them, as I believe Double Double Comics were only around from about 1967 to 1970. What were these curious items? Well, in the 1960s unsold copies of American comics were returned to the British distributor, Thorpe & Porter, who repackaged them into giant size "Double Double Comics", so called because they consisted of four individual 32 page comics in one 128 page edition.
The repackaged giants included four full comics, including advertisements and letters pages, but minus their original covers. New covers were bodged together (often having little relation to the stories inside) and the same artwork appeared on the front and rear covers. The interior covers were left blank.
If that wasn't weird enough, the contents of the Double Double Comics could be different even if they had the same cover! It all depended on what spare comics they had to bind together. For example, my copy of Action Double Double Comics includes Action Comics Nos.342, 344, and 348 plus Showcase No.63, but someone else's copy (as reported here) includes Action Comics Nos.342, 343, GI Combat No.117 and Inferior Five No.2.
Each Double Double Comic usually bound four DC Comics together, but I remember that sometimes the occasional Marvel title was included too. (I recall a Gene Colan Daredevil in one issue, alongside three DC Comics.) The drawback was that you might already have one or two of the comics in the selection, or there might be one comic in there you didn't like. Basically it was pot luck, but we couldn't complain. Back then four American comics would cost a shilling (5p) each but Double Double Comics were only 1/9d (9p).
Marvel UK tried a similar idea in the late 1970s with three softback books that bound together several unsold weekly comics, including their covers. However it's the Double Double Comics that seem to have become quite collectible. (Speaking of which, and vested interest declared, I currently have a couple up on eBay here and here if you're interested.)
I'm not sure how well the Double Double Comics sold in the 1960s. Perhaps repackaging the comics was more trouble than it was worth. They were nice value for money books though, and I'm surprised more publishers haven't attempted something similar in recent times.
Jings! The Broons and Oor Wullie are 75
Today's issue of The Sunday Post celebrates the 75th anniversary of its long-running strips The Broons and Oor Wullie. The paper includes a free 16 page supplement to mark the occasion, looking back at the strips over the years.
Created in 1936, the original artist of the strips was Dudley D. Watkins, who drew them up until his sudden death in 1969. The artist's style was considered irreplaceable for years, and The Sunday Post used reprints from September 1969 to September 1974. Following years saw various artists come and go: Tom Lavery, John Polland, Robert Nixon (on Oor Wullie), Ken Harrison, and the current artist Peter Davidson. "Of all the strips that Watkins drew his output on Wullie and the Broons was given top priority and work on all of his other strips was considered secondary to their production each week." said comic historian Ray Moore on the Comics UK Forum recently.
Originally the two strips formed part of the pull-out Fun Section, - two tabloid pages that could be folded up into a four page A4 comic. Several years ago the Fun Section was reduced to just The Broons and Oor Wullie being printed on one page of The Sunday Post. Recently the presentation was redesigned so that each strip now has its own page, with additional activity bits in the sidebars.
So popular are the two strips that even here in Warwickshire my local shops have all sold out of today's Sunday Post! If you're looking for a copy, good hunting!
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Show your wares at KaPow! Comic Con
Press release from the Comic Book Alliance:
SPECIAL SALES TABLES RELEASED TO RAISE MONEY FOR COMIC BOOK ALLIANCE
To raise money for an incredibly worthwhile cause Kapow! Comic Con has released 25 special sales tables at the show on 9th and 10th April 2011. This amazing offer has been exclusively created to raise funds for the Comic Book Alliance (CBA).
With a minimum suggested donation per table this is every aspiring creator and small press publishers chance to get their comics out to a waiting audience, and perhaps get that big break. Tim Pilcher, Chair of the CBA said, “We are deeply grateful to the Kapow! team for donating these tables, and the money they’ll raise for the Comic Book Alliance. Now, even those with limited resources have the opportunity to take part in one of the most exciting conventions happening this year. While there is a minimum donation we sincerely hope that creators will be generous and able to contribute more, so that the CBA will be able to continue supporting the British Comics industry.”
The tables are limited to one per small press publisher/creator and come with two chairs and one weekend pass (an extra pass is available for an additional fee). But the booking deadline is soon! Creators must contact the CBA and make their donations before Friday 18th March. To find out more details and to request a booking form email: email@example.com
The Comic Book Alliance, “The Voice of the British Comics Industry”, is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of British comic books, graphic novels, webcomics and sequential art in its many forms, as well as British-based and ex-pat comic creators—be they artists, writers, colourists, letterers or editors. The organisation arranges a wide range of activities from a legal fund and advice, press launches, exhibitions, gallery shows, fund-raising events, educational programs, publications and other events, for professionals and the public.
Visitors to Kapow! will be amongst the first in the world to get an exclusive look at various upcoming comics, games, movie blockbusters and hit TV shows from the biggest publishers and studios in the world.
Other confirmed events at Kapow! include:
• Jonathan Ross’ Comic Pros v. Comic Fans Gameshow
• The Stan Lee Awards
• Movie X: A secret screening of an upcoming superhero film that doesn’t release at until after the event
• Exclusive panels with hit TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Being Human, True Blood and Misfits
• Cosplay Competition
• The biggest names in UK & US Comic-Books
• Free autographs
• UK & US Publisher Portfolio Reviews
Tickets are on sale now at www.kapowcomiccon.com only available in advance. There will be no on the door ticket sales. Please join us on Twitter and Facebook to receive regular updates and announcements on the show.
If you require any further information on the CBA please contact Tim Pilcher on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07986 995 938
For further information on Kapow! please contact email@example.com
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Pat Mills interview on FPI blog
A true giant in the British comics industry, Pat Mills, creator of 2000AD, Charley's War, Requiem, and much more is interviewed over at the Forbidden Planet International blog. The two-part interview goes into depth on Pat's opinions on comics, including the reasons for his well-known dislike for superheroes. "Superman, for instance, is a symbol of US military power. It is also a Biblical thing, which makes it odious to me." says Pat, who later continues "Superheroes blind us to real heroes, e.g. ordinary soldiers in Charley’s War. Battle readers saw that clearly which is why the story was so popular."
Pat also talks about 2000AD, the difference between attitudes to comics in France and Britain, his opinions on people taking over his strips, and lots more. Some may dislike Pat's outspoken views, and I'm sure he would expect that, but his opinions are always worth reading. Personally I usually find myself agreeing with him, so his views are always interesting and welcome as far as I'm concerned. You can see the interviews here:
The interview has appeared at an appropriate time because Pat's in the news this week due to him revealing that Marshal Law, by himself and Kevin O'Neill, is to be reprinted by DC Comics. The strip has had several publishers over the years, from Epic (Marvel), Dark Horse, to the original Toxic in the UK. If you've never read it before you're in for a treat!
Finally, next week's issue of 2000AD brings back Flesh for a new series written by Pat Mills and illustrated by newcomer James McKay. Don't miss it, Earthlets!
Friday, March 04, 2011
Latest Commando issues in the shops... and on digital
Another four issues of Commando are in the shops now, continuing the comics 50th anniversary celebrations. They include the debut of new characters, Convict Commandos, in issue No.4371.
"We’re continuing our 50th year countdown from 12 to 1 of re-issues of the original dozen Commandos" says editor Calum Laird. "This month sees No10 Hun Bait given a fresh airing. These issues are available through our digital subscription service — DC Thomson’s first foray into this medium."
"Although it’s early days (the first month is just finishing), the numbers are building...as are those for the much longer established paper subscriptions." Good news indeed!
Here's the info on the latest batch:
Commando No 4371: CONVICT COMMANDOS
There you are — stuck in a military prison in Singapore when the Japanese smash into town. You know that if being a prisoner of the British is bad being a prisoner of the Japanese will be ten times worse.
So if a man in British officer’s uniform was to offer to get you out if you’d work for him, you’d agree to do anything he ordered, wouldn’t you?
The Convict Commandos did…and probably wished they hadn’t!
Story: Alan Hebden
Cover Art: Benet
A mini-series of adventure for these new Commando heroes devised by Alan Hebden which will run in Commando Nos 4371, 4379, 4387 and 4395. And maybe more to come…
Commando 4372: Sky Sniper
Soaring above the battlefields of the Western Front, the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps saw themselves as guardians of chivalry — gentlemen fliers.
So Lieutenant James Wilford, the pilot of a Farman MF11 Shorthorn, got a shock when he met his new observer, Captain Alan Kingston. This gun-toting, hardened veteran had already seen action in the trenches — and had no time for old-fashioned chivalry. If the Huns wanted a fight…they’d get one!
Story: Ferg Handley
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy
Commando 4373: Hun Bait
They were keeping him away from the front line — a man like Sergeant Kelly! And yet this big Australian had such a deadly hatred for the enemy it made him into a fighting fury, a battling, raging, soldier supreme.
But John Kelly was a trier, and exciting was the path he trod to defy authority and get his hands on the enemy’s throat.
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover Art: Ken Barr
Hun Bait, originally Commando No 10. Previously re-issued as No 2595. Now released in as near to the original presentation as possible.
Commando 4374: THE EYE OF RA
It was carved on the wall of an ancient tomb. The Eye of Ra, sun-god of Egypt. The legend said that if it gazed on anyone defiling the tomb, that person was doomed. The men who discovered it laughed at the idea, but one of them died violently and the others vanished without trace!
The war brought soldiers to Egypt, and among them was the brother of the dead man. From the moment his troop-train was ambushed until the moment he finally stood in that same tomb, Alan Fisher was to run into more dangers than he had ever thought possible.
Story: Mike Knowles
Cover Art: F.D. Phillips
First Published in 1978 as Commando No 1212 and chosen by Scott Montgomery, Commando’s Deputy Editor.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
The Beano on TV this Friday
News direct from The Beano office (posted on the Comics UK forum):
"On this Friday's episode of The One Show, twinkletoed TV presenter John Sergeant visits the Beano Office to kickstart both the celebrations of Dennis's 60th anniversary and of coverage of Comic Relief.
We've had a great day with the folks from the Beeb today. Dennis has been filmed menacing various members of staff. Don't miss it. Friday 4th on BBC1 at 7 o'clock."
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Phoenix: The New DFC... or is it?
Breaking news over at bleedingcool.com is that The DFC is allegedly returning under a new name, appropriately titled Phoenix.
Full information is still under wraps at present but it sounds like the same contributors will be involved, such as Emma Vieceli, Philip Pullman, Tony Lee... and surely with a comic title like that Woodrow Phoenix has to be on board again as well?
Hopefully Phoenix will have the long-term success that the previous comic deserved. Currently there's no news on whether it will be subscription only like The DFC was, or whether it'll be available on the High Street... or perhaps if it'll be a digital comic. Time will tell!
UPDATE: According to John Freeman's Down the Tubes blog, Phoenix (or rather, The Phoenix apparently) is not a revival of The DFC. "The Phoenix isn't affiliated to David Fickling Books or any other publisher" said Ben Sharpe, former DFC editor.
So, a new comic with the same editor as The DFC which held a party to announce the new comic, attended by many ex-DFC contributors, and allegedly also involving Will Fickling who was previously involved with The DFC. Other than that, not a revival of The DFC.
Confused? I think I've lost the will to blog. ;-)