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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hurricane and Champion Index

Steve Holland is a diligent hard working researcher of old comics, story papers, paperbacks and suchlike whose articles and books are always rewarding. His latest venture, an index for the Hurricane and Champion comics of the 1960s shows all the dedication and research one has come to expect of him.

Personally I was never a follower of those comics as a child. Compared to TV21, Smash! and Marvel Comics they seemed a bit flat and outdated. However I can appreciate Hurricane and Champion far more now from a mature perspective, and even though I only have a couple of issues in my collection I found Steve's history of those comics a fascinating read. If I enjoyed it I'm sure that actual fans of those titles will be over the moon with this book.

The cover itself is a treat. Shot from the original artwork it mimics the cover design of the early issues of Hurricane and is wraparound printed on quality stock paper. Inside, the first 29 pages are taken up with a thorough history of the two comics. Both were short lived Fleetway titles, with Hurricane running for 63 weeks and Champion for just 15. This is followed by the index itself, listing every story and the length of its run and, where possible, the names of the relevant artists.

Editors names are also listed, as are the free gifts given in the issues. The book is well illustrated throughout with sharp, well reproduced sample panels from the comics. There's also a cover gallery of the annuals in the back. (The annuals continued for several years after the weeklies folded.)

Hurricane and Champion were brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-them titles that soon merged into Tiger and Lion respectively. Champion was a curious mix of new UK material and European translated reprint that never really gelled with the British market. Hurricane was the better title, but still failed to make much of an impact in the busy comic environment of the 1960s. However it's great to see this nice pocket history of those titles and I hope Steve does more. (He implies that a Jag index might be in the future, which is a comic I really enjoyed.)

You can buy a copy of the index directly from Steve at Bear Alley Books at this link:

While you're there, take a look around the site to see his other books, and then visit Steve's other blog, Bear Alley. It's an essential site for anyone interested in the history of comics.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Happy Couple, - Beano and Dandy get Royal

Commemorative issues with a Royal theme, whether for weddings or coronations, have been a tradition in British comics from the start, over 100 years ago. This week, both The Dandy and The Beano celebrate some wedding you may have heard about (that's taking place even as I type) in their own inimitable style.

The Dandy cover is drawn by Wayne Thomson (with vignettes by Jamie Smart, Phil Corbett, and Nigel Parkinson) whilst The Beano one is by Barrie Appleby. Inside, both comics have Royal Wedding themes although it doesn't dominate every page. This week's Beano also kicks off a slightly new look, with a few tweaks throughout the comic.

Royal issues have always been very collectible so buy a copy or ten of each and save 'em for your grand kids.

Also out now (from comic shops and on Amazon) is Kate & William - A Very Public Love Story. Another British comic (in the American size) written by Rich Johnston and illustrated by Gary Erksine and Mike Collins. (Rich and Mike were on morning TV the other day in a quick segment to promote the comic. Today, Mike is commenting on the wedding for Dutch TV!)

I haven't seen the comic myself but you can read a review of it at John Freeman's Down the Tubes blog here.

Convict Commandos and Ferret are back

Here's the info on the latest batch of Commando comics that are in the shops now, and they include the return of recurring characters The Convict Commandos and Ferret plus classic issues from 1961 and 1980. My thanks to editor Calum Laird for providing the text and covers:

Commando 4387: Blood Money

If there was one thing the Convict Commandos — Jelly Jakes, Smiler Dawson, Titch Mooney — liked, it was easy money. Unfortunately the money their leader Guy Tenby had them chasing wasn’t easy, it was very difficult indeed. For it was in Nazi-Occupied Norway and the Nazis didn’t want them to get anywhere near it.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Benet
Cover Art: Benet


He’s back as you’ve never seen him before!
Veteran war reporter Fred “Ferret” McGlone celebrates his landmark 100th birthday in style — and reminisces about his earliest days as a roving newshound on the shady, cobbled back streets of Victorian London.
Naturally, that’s only the half of it. What about Ferret’s thrilling adventures on the high seas? Or his dangerous despatches from the front line chaos at the heart of the British Empire in India?
Get the inside scoop on this cracking story — a Commando exclusive, of course. It’s one you won’t want to miss!

Story: Norman Adams
Art: Keith Page
Cover Art: Keith Page

Commando 4389: RED RUNS THE RIVER

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

The early batch of Commando stories contained a fair few jungle tales — complete with fanatical enemies. But this one isn’t quite like the others as the fanatic is on the British side. He’s a fighting mad Irishman determined to settle a score with the Japanese, and any Japanese will do.
The trouble is that his own side need to keep him out of the fighting as he’s too valuable to lose.
Eric Hebden weaves a classic Commando here, ably backed up by Auraleon and Ken Barr.

Red Runs The River, originally Commando No 8 (September 1961), re-issued as No 2579 (July 1992)


Many and fearsome are the perils that can beset a man on a swift-flowing river after dark.
Japanese river patrols knew all these dangers, but armed to the teeth they feared none of them.
Then, one dark night, there glided into that gleaming river a new menace that was to strike terror into every Jap soldier…a swimming Irishman with hatred in his heart and a Commando knife between his teeth.

Story: Eric Hebden
Art: Auraleon
Cover Art: Ken Barr

First Published 1961 No 8

Commando 4390: PARATROOPER

Introduction by Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

I’d love to tell you how I remembered this story’s memorable characters, well-thought-out, men-on-a-mission plot and action-packed finale from the day I first read it. I’d love to…but, to be honest, the thing I remembered most vividly from reading “Paratrooper” in 1980 was the awesome sight of British soldiers whizzing around occupied France on cool little motorbikes.
As a child I recall wanting to have a go on one of those dinky Wellbikes. Thirty years on, re-discovering this great tale has been a wonderful trip down memory lane (but sadly, not on a Wellbike). And, yes, I still want to have a go on one.

Paratrooper, originally Commando No 1402 (March 1980), re-issued as No 2740 (March 1994)


They floated out of the sky into the fields of enemy-occupied France. For this crack team of British paratroopers it was the moment of truth.
Dropped miles from their objective, a handful of determined men on their special Wellbikes set off to complete their mission. The odds against them were incredible but they had no alternatives. The fight was on…

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Blasco
Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two comic events in Birmingham this Summer

There's no British International Comic Show (B.I.C.S.) this year due to the unavailability of the venue but while we await its return (hopefully in 2012) the organizers have replaced it with not one but two new events.

Both events will take place in Birmingham, which has played host to B.I.C.S. these last few years and is ideally located in the heart of the UK for people to easily reach.

First up, on Saturday June 18th, is Comics Launch Pad at The Studio, 7 Cannon Street, Birmingham. This one-day conference is, as its website states, aimed at "professionals, aspiring professionals, and those with a serious interest in the business of making comics". Speakers include DC Comics senior editor Joey Cavalieri, artist Klaus Janson representing Marvel Comics, and UK creators such as Emma Vieceli, Mark Farmer, Al Davison and others.

Admission is via advance online ticket sales only, and places are limited to 300. For full details visit the Comics Launch Pad website here:

Two months later, on Saturday August 27th comes 2011 B.C. (Birmingham Comicon) at the Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre, Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham B5 4EW. (Right next door to that excellent comic shop Nostalgia and Comics.) This is a show for fans and pros alike and will feature guests, exhibitors, discussions and the usual convention fun. Guests confirmed so far include Dave Gibbons, Chris Sprouse, Jimmy Broxton, Peter Hogan, and Declan Shalvey, (with no doubt many more to be listed soon).

To find out more details and to buy your tickets visit the 2011 B.C. website here:

As Birmingham was the city where the very first UK comics convention was held (way back in 1968) I'm always pleased to see it host new comic shows. The locations for both of these events are right in the city centre and literally only a few minutes walk from Birmingham New Street Station.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meet Mister Nostril! (Updated)

Just a quick post to plug a few comics I'm in this week. First up, the latest edition of Toxic is the Toxic Wicked Holiday Special and it comes bagged with seven, count 'em, seven "Awesome Gifts" for £3.99. It'll be on sale for three weeks instead of the usual fortnight.

Inside, Team Toxic encounter a brand new baddie, - Mister Nostril, who can telepathically control his own snot. There's also a reprint of an old Team Toxic strip in the back, Fists of Fury, wherein the Team meet Andy Wivisfists.

Other strips in this issue are Gorilla Kid by Jason Loborik and Anthony Williams, Robin Hoodie by Luke Paton and Laura Howell, and Laura's also done a nicely drawn two page spread of Holiday Pranks.

Out the same day, this week's issue of The Dandy is also a special issue, featuring 12 extra pages, a Snapping Teeth cover mount, and a bound-in "Make Your Own Desperate Dan and Korky" models for £2.50. The issue is jam-packed with strips, not a single reprint, and includes a four page Bananaman story by Wayne Thomson, new strip Bone-O, lots of good stuff from Jamie Smart, Nigel Parkinson, The Ethrington Brothers, Nigel Auchterlounie, Andy Fanton and all your other fun chums.

As for Kid Cops, what on Earth are they up to this week? Buy The Dandy and find out!

TOXIC website:

DANDY website:



Another comic which came out this week, BeanoMAX No.51, features Super School in its pages for the first time (and their first appearance in any comic this year). I originally drew this for The Beano last year but it wasn't published so perhaps the stock they have will now be appearing in the monthly instead.

I usually colour my own work these days but Super School is coloured in-house by the Beano colourists, - and they've done a great job on this one.

Other strips in the 44 page BeanoMAX include a nice long 10 page story featuring Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids, a Kick-Ass Koalas 3 pager, and a 5 page Billy Whizz reprint, plus a bunch of features and activity pages. Not to mention a giant peashooter gift with rubber darts. £3.50 from newsagents and supermarkets.

PLUS if you're over 18 (or one of those kids who reads it behind the bikesheds) the current issue of Viz features the return of Suicidal Syd that I did the script & artwork for. The issue also features numerous other strips including Finbarr Saunders and His Double Entendres, Tinribs, Buster Gonad, Lazy Disinterested 16-Year Old Supermarket Check-Out Girl, and Laura Howell making her Viz debut with Sir Benjamin Britten and His Embittered Bittern. Viz No.204 £3.20 off the top shelf, or, if your shop's like my local mini-market, in between Match Weekly and some pre-school comic with a fairy princess on the cover.

It's the first time in months that I've been in four different comics in one week, so I'm pleased with that, and proud to be in the top comics on the market.


As I'm still ill with this virus/bronchitis or whatever it is, I'm putting the blog on hold for the time being until I can catch up with paying work and I recover. (No sick pay for freelancers.) Sorry for that. Please check out blogs such as John Freeman's superb Down the Tubes site for news on UK comics. (He does the news material far better than me anyway. :))

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The return of Kid Cops!

This week's issue of The Dandy sees the return of my Kid Cops strip. This is their first appearance this year since their original eight issue run ended with the Christmas edition.

Also in this issue is your last chance to vote for your favourite new character in the Strictly Come Laughing contest. Which strip will win? We'll find out soon! Another new strip makes its debut this issue as cartoonist Stu Munro arrives with Justin Beaver!

This issue is the usual 32 pages for £1.50 but next week will see 12 extra pages plus a cover mounted Gnashing Teeth toy in a special 44 page bumper issue priced £2.50.


My apologies for the lack of any recent ventures into the archives. I've been ill with a chest infection/bronchitis for three weeks so rummaging through musty old comics is the last thing I need. Priority has to be given to catching up with work so normal service will resume as soon as possible. Cough. Wheeze. etc.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Commando: Four new titles out now

Here's the news from the front line, courtesy of Commando editor Calum Laird:

Commando 4379: Mask Of Death

The Convict Commandos — Jelly Jakes, Smiler Dawson, Titch Mooney — and their leader Guy Tenby are back in action. This time they are planning to snatch a scientist from under the noses of the Nazis in occupied Europe.
It’s no easy job and, with treachery afoot, the prison sentences they’re trying to avoid begin to look a very tempting alternative.

The second adventure for the latest band of Commando heroes.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Benet
Cover Art: Benet

Commando 4380: Attack From The East

Most people would think that nothing much happened in the peaceful village of Helmsbeath, situated on a remote island on Scotland’s North West coast. And most people would have been right to think that…until the fateful day in late 1944 when Helmsbeath was invaded. Invaded by the armed and dangerous crew of a Japanese C3 submarine and the crazed Nazi scientist who was with them!
Would the villagers survive…ATTACK FROM THE EAST?

Story: Tom Hart
Art Rezzonico
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando 4381: Jungle Fury

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

What hits you most about this story is the cover. Ken Barr’s image leaps clean off the page and you can almost hear that soldier screaming blue murder. Inside the story is of a jungle trek involving an elephant and train. It shouldn’t work, but it does picking up pace throughout.
Artist Cecil Rigby was a Commando regular from 1961 until No 3272 in late 1999 — a total of around 150 books — and he well captures the atmosphere of the jungle and the fury in this one.

In the steaming jungles of Burma, man has a thousand enemies…the wild animals, the snakes and poisonous insects, the deadly fevers. But the fighting British jungle patrols had an enemy more deadly that any of these…the creeping Japanese soldiers who could appear from nowhere and sow the lead seeds of death before melting again into the waiting green background.
But Sergeant Tom Flynn had his own way of silencing the Banzai cries of those Sons of Nippon.
With a handful of men and a heart full of courage he fought his way through them — and with him he brought a strange prize…ten million pounds in solid gold.

Story: Couglin
Art: Cecil Rigby
Cover Art: Ken Barr

Jungle Fury, originally Commando No 9 (October 1961), re-issued as No 2587 (August 1992)

Commando 4382: Six Of The Best

Introduction by Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

There are many types of hero but, in my opinion, the most interesting kind is the unlikely hero — the underdog. And, as you may have guessed from the title, in this brilliant tale you get six for the price of one (which, back in 1980 was a mere 12p — even at today’s prices we reckon we’re still good value).
So please join me in rooting for half-a-dozen ordinary (if admittedly a bit useless) blokes, left behind as a desert rearguard, determined to prove that they’ve got what it takes to be the best…

Six men — five private soldiers who couldn’t do a thing right and a brand-new Second Lieutenant who had never been in action. Left behind as a rearguard just in case the Jerries showed up, they landed in a hotter spot than anyone had bargained for — and became the most unlikely heroes of the Second World War!

Story: David Motton
Art: Ramon de la Fuente
Cover Art: Penalva

Six Of The Best, originally Commando No 490 (July 1970), re-issued as No 1379 (January 1980)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Here come the Summer Annuals!

With the death of the traditional Summer Specials a few years ago publishers began experimenting with a new format. If newsagents were no longer interested in the relatively low returns on glossy comic specials then perhaps bookshops could be targeted with a format tailored to their needs instead? It seemed an area worth trying and now D.C. Thomson have adopted the format with the launch of two Summer Annuals this week. A bit early for Summer? Perhaps, but these books are intended to be available for a few months, or at least until the Christmas annuals come out in, er, August. Such is the nature of comic publishing.

Both The Beano 3D Summer Annual and The Broons/Oor Wullie Summer Annual are 128 page softbacks retailing at £5.99 each. (Although they're considerably cheaper on Amazon at present.) Both books also feature free gifts. There's a Whoopee Cushion and 3D Specs with The Beano and a set of Playing Cards with The Broons.

Anyone who's been collecting The Beano avidly for the past several years may be a little disappointed to hear that most of the content in this book is reprint. There are some new pages, but apart from a very nice Ivy the Terrible four-pager drawn by Diego Jourdan I'm not sure which other pages are new. However, for anyone new to the comic (and every Beano is someone's first issue) or for those of us who haven't held onto copies, this is a great collection, packed with full colour strips and puzzles. The 3D gimmick is only used on a few pages (mostly the puzzles) but it works, and it's the modern 3D method using full colour rather than the old red/green technique.

The Broons/Oor Wullie book will probably be the better attraction for older collectors (as is its intention of course). A busy collection of classic strips, the majority of which are by the great Dudley Watkins, holiday-related historical features and puzzles. Plenty of summer reading indeed.
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