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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aces Weekly is now live! (Updated)

The brand new digital comic anthology Aces Weekly is up and running! The website went live a short time ago and everything is looking good.

Aces Weekly is an online anthology comic that you can access from any computer. Unlike some digital comics it is not restricted to iPads or similar devices. You simply subscribe online via PayPal and within seconds the comic strips are unlocked for you to read on the Aces Weekly website. (Although it's not designed to work well on small devices like iPhones, but it looks great on computers and tablets.)

Your seven issue subscription (only £6.99/$9.99/€7.99) makes issue 1 accessible today, issue 2 next Sunday, and so on. The first issue features the beginnings of five brand new serials plus a complete, all-new Combat Colin funventure. There's also numerous pages of bonus material including character designs, pencil sketches and suchlike, plus a scan of the original artwork of the very first Combat Colin strip from 1987.

This is a creator owned project and all material has been produced with no money up front but we all have a share of any profits. So supporting Aces Weekly is supporting individual creators, not some mega-rich corporation. I hope you'll all subscribe and become part of this exciting new venture from day one!

More info on my previous blog post:

UPDATE: There's now an official YouTube video giving a preview of Aces Weekly. Stirring stuff! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

New comic! ACES WEEKLY is here!

Remember, remember the 30th of September... because this Sunday sees the launch of an all-new anthology comic, Aces Weekly, - and you won't even have to leave the house to buy it! 

Aces Weekly is a brand new comic that is exclusively online, not in paper form, not requiring trudging around newsagents, not needing to wait for the postman to deliver it. It's a comic that you subscribe to and that you can access from your computer, - all for a very reasonable price.

And, as revealed on this blog back in May, issue 1 includes an all-new Combat Colin three-pager in full colour. Yes, the buffoon in a bobble hat is back!

Here's all the info from the official press release...

David Lloyd (V for Vendetta, Kickback) empowered the world
with his iconoclastic Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta. Today, comic
conspirator Lloyd is changing the world with his publishing launch of an ambitious new online magazine called Aces Weekly.

Aces Weekly is a sequential art magazine, available exclusively through on-line subscription which will be released as seven weekly issues which form a volume. Each issue will have 3 landscape pages from 6 teams of contributors, plus many pages of extras such as artists sketches etc. Readers subscribe to volumes which cost £6.99/$9.99 per seven issue volume. 

Aces Weekly will be available exclusively on-line and feature all-new material.
Stored online, readers have access to their magazine wherever they have
web access. The website goes live September 30, 2012. 

What makes Aces Weekly special? The creators have more control then ever before. Lloyd explained the origin of the magazine, “The aim was to create something very much like a traditional weekly comic but without limiting the subject matter. We asked a range of creators who we knew to be excellent - the reason for the ' aces ' of our name - to do whatever they liked within certain bounds of taste, and they just came up with a great mix of stories. Creators in this business rarely get asked to do whatever they like, so that's part of the pull of the project for them. And they're enthused by the newness of the project and its potential for growth.”

Bambos Georgiou is the managing editor; “Most comic companies use creators to make money for the company, this company has been set up to make money for the creators. This time readers will know their money is going direct to the creators." All strips are creator owned.

Progenitor by Phil Hester & John McCrea

Lloyd, who along with writer Dave Jackson has created Valley Of Shadows for, has gathered together some of the top names in the comic industry to appear in Aces Weekly, such as Kyle Baker, Steve Bissette, Colleen Doran, Bill Sienkiewicz, Billy Tucci and Herb Trimpe, including, alongside him in the first volume ; Phil Hester & John McCrea (Progenitor), JC Vaughn & Mark Wheatley (Return Of The Human) Alain Mauricet & Alexandre Tefenkgi (Shoot For The Moon) and David Hitchcock (Paradise Mechanism) who all contribute twenty-one page stories serialized over the first seven issue run. Also included in the first volume are stand alone three page strips by Lew Stringer (Combat Colin), Carl Critchlow (Thrud The Barbarian), David Leach (Psycho Gran), Esteban Hernández(Harmony), Phil Elliott (Gimbley)Rory Walker (Chloroform) and Mychailo Kazybrid & Bambos (Dr Queer).

Check out 

Goes on sale September 30, 2012, a seven
issue subscription costs £6.99/$9.99/€7.99

For updates email

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Obviously we're all hoping this project is going to succeed. Vested interest aside, it sounds like an exciting new comic and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing what my fellow "Aces" have produced. (And very pleased that Oink's Psycho Gran is returning in an upcoming issue!) I really hope comic enthusiasts (and people new to comics) will support this because with the problems with distribution and retail in the UK the digital format is definitely one way forward. Aces Weekly is all-comic, no filler, no pandering to TV/toy brands, and definitely not bagged with a plastic toy!

Commando Nos. 4535 to 4538 - out now!

The latest news direct from Commando HQ:

Commando No 4535 – The Fighting Gendarme

A Gendarme, a French policeman. That’s what Raoul Laurent was when World War II broke out. Sergeant Laurent decided he wasn’t going to bow down before the occupying Nazis, escaping to England to join the Free French Forces and become a Commando.
   In time, Raoul was selected for a dangerous mission back in his homeland, helping the French Resistance to locate and destroy vital coded documents that were in Nazi hands. To succeed, though, Raoul would have to rely upon an old adversary from his police days. Not only that, pretty soon it looked like his new allies had a traitor in their midst…

Story: Peter Grehan
Art: Olivera
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4536 – The Tank-Killers

 Tank, panzer, char d’assault, tahk. Call them what you will, these armoured giants struck fear into all infantrymen who faced them in battle.
   Not quite all, though. This is the story of four men brought together by the fates of war who challenged the metal monsters and called themselves…

The Tank-Killers

Story: Stephen Walsh
Art: John Ridgway
Cover: John Ridgway

Commando No 4537 – Fly Fast Shoot First!

The machine-guns chattered their chant of death, the Spitfire spat its eight-forked tongues of flame — and from the wide blue sky tumbled another charred fragment of the once-mighty Luftwaffe.
   Mike Arden was a flying fool: a pilot with only one fault. In his eagerness to get into a fight he left more than burned-out Nazis behind him — he left a trail of broken Spitfires too!
   So they gave him a choice: “Transfer to Coastal Command or stay on the ground.”
   Mike transferred — and did things with a four-engined bomber that had never been done before!


I hope nobody minds that I’ve dipped into 1961 for a story to give a fresh airing but this one really does deserve to be seen again. It’s one of very few Commandos to have been written and drawn by the same person and it shows — some of the full-page illustrations which pepper this book are little masterpieces all on their own. If the narrative comes off second-best, it’s only because the art treatment is so accomplished.
   Oh and there’s no truth in the story that Ken Barr’s excellent cover features a Spitfire only because we couldn’t fit a Liberator in the space.

Calum Laird, Editor

Fly Fast, Shoot First originally Commando No 14 (December 1961)

Story: Peter Ford
Art: Peter Ford
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando No 4538 – Dakota Pilot

For Ben Smart, Dakota pilot, things had been going badly. Bad luck seemed to follow him wherever he went, and always managed to strike where it could do the most damage.
   And this time, of all places, it had to be the terrible battle of Arnhem…


If you’re reading the print version of this comic, then you’ve probably already marvelled at Ian Kennedy’s stunning front cover on the other side of this page.
   As usual, Ian has done Commando proud, producing an amazing image — a snapshot telling you everything you should expect from the story that appears in between the front and back pages.
   Aerial action and thrills abound, of course, but there’s also a solid, character-driven story — by writer Bill Fear and interior artist Terry Patrick — about a pilot who believes he is jinxed and wonders if he’s a danger to himself and his comrades.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Dakota Pilot, originally Commando No 2087 (May 1987)

Story: Bill Fear
Art: Terry Patrick
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Monday, September 24, 2012

40 Year Flashback: Mighty World of Marvel No.1

This coming Sunday, September 30th 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of The Mighty World of Marvel No.1, - and 40 years since Marvel UK set up business. (Even though, initially, the comics were edited and designed in New York, with a London office just handling advertising, printing and distribution.)

Marvel UK no longer exist under that name of course. For several years now Marvel have been represented in Britain by Panini UK who have the license to publish UK editions of Marvel Comics (and a great job they do too). However, Marvel UK had a good run and it all kicked off four decades ago with the comic shown in this post.

For whatever reasons I missed the TV advertisements on September 30th for the launch of the comic and the first I knew about it was a few days later when my Mum and I were about to embark on a day trip to Blackpool. Nipping into the bus station newsagent to buy a bottle of pop for the journey I spotted a pile of copies of The Mighty World of Marvel on the counter and my eyes must have popped out of their sockets. A British Marvel reprint comic to replace the much-missed Fantastic which had folded four years earlier! And with a brand new John Buscema cover to boot!

Needless to say, a good portion of the coach journey to Blackpool was taken up reading the comic from cover to cover. The weather was pleasant that day anyway, but I don't think I'd have noticed if it had been lashing down with rain. 

Although Odhams had previously published Marvel material in their late lamented "Power Comics", and Alan Class comics had haphazardly reprinted some Marvel classics, Marvel UK had been set up to introduce Marvel to Britain for a new generation. Therefore Mighty World of Marvel was printed Web Offset on matt paper (like Tiger and Cor!!) so it resembled the familiar British format. Like Fantastic, it was an anthology of three strips, reprinting half of each of the original comics, so we were given the first 10 pages of The Incredible Hulk No.1, the first half of Fantastic Four No.1, and the Spider-Man origin story from Amazing Fantasy No.15. (Subsequent weeks would continue this serialised approach, so issue 2 presented the second halves of Hulk and FF and the first half of Amazing Spider-Man No.1, and so on.)

Having 40 pages The Mighty World of Marvel (or MWOM as it was often referred to) was a bit more substantial than the average 32 page UK comic, and its 5p cover price reflected that. (Most UK adventure comics of the time were around 3p.) Like most British comics back then, full colour on every page was out of the question if they wanted to keep costs down, but rather than print in black and white MWOM alternated between green spot colour and pale green paper. (I know some readers hated this but I really liked it. Unfortunately it was dropped several months later and contents became entirely black and white.) 

Only 5 pages were in full colour (increasing to 8 a few weeks later). Issue 1 used the colour of one page for a pin-up by recolouring the cover of Fantastic Four No.1. 

The centre pages of MWOM were used for self-promotion, and who better to present those pages than Stan Lee himself? (Although there's no guarantee he wrote his own editorial every week.)

The rest of the spread was taken up with teasers for 'The World's Greatest Free Gift Offer', encouraging readers to clip out the coupons over 11 weeks and send them in for a mystery gift. Clues were provided every week ("It's bigger than a breadbox") and eventually it was revealed to be an excellent full colour poster drawn by John Buscema of Spider-Man, Hulk, and the FF. (Yes, I clipped out the coupons and sent away for it, and had the poster on my bedroom wall until I left school and decided I was perhaps a tad too old for superhero pin-ups.) 

The free gift in MWOM No.1 was heralded as "A Green-Skinned Monster T-Shirt Transfer". It was of course The Hulk, but bearing in mind this comic was aimed at a brand new readership, the words "Green-Skinned Monster" in the topline may have been more effective. 

With such an incredibly strong line up of characters and featuring some of Marvel's most iconic stories, how could it fail? Although I'd read some of the material before in Odhams comics and American reprint comics such as Marvel Tales I bought Mighty World of Marvel avidly every week. I was 13 at the time, perhaps getting a bit jaded by traditional British comics of the day, so this was just the ticket. Seems a lot of other people felt the same, as Marvel UK swiftly expanded with more comics, - Spider-Man Comics Weekly, The Avengers, Planet of the Apes, Dracula Lives, The Superheroes and numerous others. Some were successful, some were complete flops, but Marvel were firmly established as part of the UK comics scene. 

The back page of MWOM No.1
As the message in issue one said, "The excitement is just beginning". It certainly was. I could never have dreamed back in 1972, reading Mighty World of Marvel No.1 on that coach journey to Blackpool, that I'd be a contributor to MWOM's second series in the 1980s with some of my earliest cartoons appearing in its pages alongside Captain Britain by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. 

That second run was short lived, but after a gap of about 20 years Panini UK revived The Mighty World of Marvel for a third series a few years ago, followed immediately by a fourth series. Published every four weeks, that incarnation is still running and the latest issue (Vol.4 No.40) will be published this Thursday. The original MWOM had 40 pages for 5p with only a handful of colour. The current issue has 76 pages in full colour for £2.95. Not a bad evolution for the price. 

The latest issue, on sale September 27th.

Coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of MWOM on Sunday 30th September will see the launch of another new comic, - the first issue of Aces Weekly, the brand new digital title from a new publisher. More about that in my next blog post.

Ian Kennedy's Eagle covers

During the 1980s Ian Kennedy had a stint as the artist of Dan Dare for the revived Eagle comic, replacing Gerry Embleton. The comic had been relaunched in 1982 and presumably its initial use of photo covers hadn't proven too successful because in 1983 the new Eagle underwent a few tweaks. As well as new strips debuting, it also meant that the Dan Dare strip featured on the cover, just as it had with the original Eagle in 1950.

I always liked the idea of comic strips on the covers of comics, mainly because it showed that the publication wasn't trying to hide the fact that it was a comic. However I understand the reason publishers used them was the theory that if casual readers were hooked by a cover strip, and picked it up to read, they'd be more likely to purchase the comic. (Sadly it probably doesn't work in this day and age of covers being swamped by free gifts.)

Ian Kennedy produced some excellent covers for Eagle during this period. His skill at illustrating aircraft and suchlike had been known due to his work on various boys comics, but Dan Dare allowed his imagination to expand, rather than being confined to accurate depictions of existing hardware. One can only guess at what fantastic pages he could have illustrated for TV21 had he been on the team back then. Anyway, here's a few of his Eagle covers from 1983 for you to savour. (The scripts for these strips were by Pat Mills.)

Ian is still working today providing occasional covers and feature pages for Commando.

Return of the Jungle Princess

It's always good to see a comic from an independent publisher continue beyond its first issue as it shows sales of No.1 must have been decent. Therefore I was pleased to receive Savage! Jungle Princess No.2 the other day from Kult Creations.

Created by John Short and Gabrielle Noble, the second issue is, like the first, another fun adventure of jungle girls, Nazis and dinosaurs in a 22 page full-colour adventure story. There's also a letters page this issue, which always adds the personal touch to a comic I think.

Let's not beat around the (jungle) bush though. The main draw of the comic is pure cheesecake. Savage and her companion Friday Robinson grow closer this issue and their outfits are even skimpier than before, but certain parts of the body are still covered and the story manages not to cross the line into pornography. (Although there is some innuendo and a scene where the two women try to escape their bonds amusingly leaves it up to the reader to determine what's actually happening.) As I said in my review of issue one, this is closer in tone to the jungle comics of the 1950s, with a wink to the reader to read into it what they will.

As with issue one, Savage! No.2 was good fun. The script moves along at a good pace and the artwork is clear. Proper comics, in other words. Roll on issue three!

Kult Creations have produced some good stuff so far and they're definitely a company to watch. You can meet publisher/writer John Short and check out his comics when Kult Creations have a table at the London Comic Mart on 30th September and at the Thought Bubble event on 17th/18th November.

You can also check out the Kult Creations blog here where you can order copies of Savage! Jungle Princess and other titles that aren't available in the shops. 


Friday, September 21, 2012

Pulp Detective, the brand new story magazine

Sometimes the best ideas come from people outside the comic and magazine industries. Next week, on Thursday September 27th, a brand new monthly story magazine males its debut in newsagents, the brainchild of Richard Kavanagh, a bricklayer from Warwickshire.

Pulp Detective No.1 will be an A5 size publication with 136 pages for £3.25. The contents are based around three illustrated short stories. The stories are all set in a fictional 1930’s American city called Bay City, a city over run with organised crime.

The first story of each issue is written from a third person perspective and follows the life of Federal Agent John Munro, as he takes on Bay City’s most notorious criminals. The intention is for the story line to be ongoing through each separate issue, so that the reader always wants the next instalment. This is the same for the second story, which is written from a first person perspective (which works well for private detective novels) and follows the life of Private Detective Henry Reed as he goes about Bay City solving his cases.

The third story in each issue will be random each month. Bank robbers, prize fighters, hit men and other criminals will be the centre of these stories all still set in the underworld of Bay City.

Each story is around 14,000 words and intended for a predominantly male readership of around 10 to 18 years of age. "An age range which, in our opinion, is currently poorly catered for by the magazine industry" says editor Richard Kavanagh.

There are also other features within the magazine like the Character Profiles, Bay City Babe, Gang Territory Map and others that will change each month and evolve with the magazine.

As a recent article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph revealed, the idea for the magazine came to Richard last year when he and his wife Carly, a primary school teacher, were browsing through the Horrible Histories books which use a mixture of prose and comic strip. It occurred to them that a similar approach could be taken with crime and detective stories in an entertaining way to encourage boys to read. (As this article from The Guardian explains, there is a problem today with boys in Britain not developing satisfactory reading skills. See also this article on the subject.) 

Richard Kavanagh
Richard then went to ten universities in the UK and Ireland where he invited aspiring young writers to create a 14,000 word pulp detective story. He then chose the three best stories and matched them with three illustrators he'd hand picked. An unusual approach, but one which ensures the magazine will have its own style. 

Perhaps the most remarkable achievement so far is that Pulp Detective has landed a deal with Seymour Distribution to be sold in WH Smith and selected newsagents across the country. Considering that Smiths often have a reluctance to accept children's magazines unless they're based on a known brand and bagged with a toy this is very impressive.

Equally impressive is that Richard, and his company Plesio Publishing Ltd, have produced a press pack and have set up a nicely designed website. Not only does the site provide information on the magazine it also includes a store locator for people to find the nearest shop that stocks the mag. 

Up until a few decades ago newsagents sold paperback books, story papers, and science fiction "pulps". Today you'd be unlikely to find any prose fiction publication in those shops other than The People's Friend and, if you're lucky, InterZone. (Not helped by the fact that story papers and most pulps have died out of course.) No wonder that so few teenage boys develop the thirst for reading. Let's hope that Pulp Detective manages to rectify that. Good luck to Richard Kavanagh and his team with the launch on September 27th!

Official website:

Facebook page:

Pulp Detective on Twitter:

Monday, September 17, 2012

This week in 1965: WHAM!

There's nothing better than a bit of Wham! to brighten up that Monday morning feeling. (The 1960s comic that is, not the 1980s pop combo.) Here's a few pages from issue No.67 that was published on September 20th 1965. 

The cover is a smashing Tiddlers strip by Leo Baxendale. The strip often featured fill-in artists but not this week. Here's the continuation, on the back cover...

Yes, like several comics of the time, only the front cover was in full colour. And we didn't mind a bit. (Besides, TV was in black and white back then as well.) Inside, one of the many un-named Baxendale-copyists drew that week's Wacks strip. It's not exactly the height of comic art but it shows the anti-authoritarian attitude that Wham! often indulged in. (Which we as readers loved of course.)

Note the jokes page (Lucky Dip), and see how simple and clear the layout is. No cluttered design using half a dozen Photoshop effects. Just plain and straightforward. Admittedly this approach may be considered boring by today's standards, but I find it easy on the eyes myself. You'll see there's also an ad for a new Odhams nursery comic, Story Time (which had actually launched two weeks earlier). It would run for 87 weeks before merging into Robin...

Ken Reid produced some excellent pages of Frankie Stein for Wham, with these early ones embellished with a grey wash (diluted black ink). The script (possibly by Ken Mennell?) isn't one of the best, but Ken Reid does a great job with it...

Wham! - Even after all these years it's still one of the funniest UK humour comics ever produced.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Viz: Annual and new issue previews

This year's Viz annual, The Billposter's Bucket, will be in bookstores soon. Once again it's a nice thick 160 page hardback, just like comic annuals used to be. It has a nice busy cover by Simon Thorp featuring numerous characters, evoking memories of the sort of thing that Wham! Annual and the like used to do many moons ago. 

Inside, the pages are packed with choice strips and satirical features from issues 192 to 201 with contributions from Graham Dury, Davey Jones, Christina Martin, Alex Collier, Lee Healey, Barney Farmer, Paul Palmer, myself and many others. (My contribution is a Pathetic Sharks page from Christmas 2010 if you were wondering.)

The new issue of Viz (No.219) will also be hitting the shelves any day now. Under an eye-catching cover by Simon Thorp (who also does The Pathetic Sharks strip this issue) the contents include Drunken Bakers, The Fat Slags, Angela's Merkin, 8 Ace, and much more. 

My contribution this issue is the revival of Unlucky Frank (Lucky Frank's unlucky twin brother). And for the benefit of those who say today's comics only feature a few panels per page (and quite often they're right), Unlucky Frank has 12 panels in a half page. Do I spoil you or what? 

Viz: The Billposter's Bucket has a R.R.P. of £10.99

Viz No.219 is priced at £3.20 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Tough of the Track is back!

Fuelled by a diet of fish and chips, Alf Tupper The Tough of the Track was a recurring character in Victor comic. Tomorrow he runs again "for one last challenge... the Great North Run" in the pages of Friday's Daily Mirror!

The strip will be a special one-off, illustrated by Barrie Mitchell (veteran artist of numerous strips including the second series of Brian's Brain in Smash! in the 1960s). 

A collection of Tough of the Track classics will also be published soon, as reported on this blog back in July: 

Update 14/9/2012: The Tough of the Track pull-out in today's Mirror features four pages, three of which comprise the comic strip in full colour. Although uncredited, the script is by Ferg Handley (writer of numerous Commando comics and UK Spider-Man strips) with artwork by Barrie Mitchell. 

Each page is packed with panels, but it looks as though the strip was originally drawn for a different format. It's clear that some panels have been reorganized and resized, squashing or stretching artwork (sadly a increasingly common occurrence in some comics these days) to fit the Mirror's tabloid format. Nevertheless, it's a fine job from Ferg and Barrie and it's good to see Barrie Mitchell, and Alf Tupper, back in comics. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom, Syd, and Pete: More original artwork on eBay

I'm selling off a few more of my old pages on eBay this week. There's a full colour Tom Thug strip from 1995 with a relevant 'Back to School' theme (from Buster), a Pete and his Pimple strip from Oink! from the 1980s, and the Christmas 2007 Suicidal Syd page from Viz.

The auction ends on Sunday. At the time of writing this, two of the pages already have bids so if you're interested in owning some of my original artwork please click here to see the pages for yourself. Good luck! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Incoming Commando comics - on sale Thursday

Thanks to Scott Montgomery at DC Thomson, here are the details for the next four issues of Commando, - on sale from Thursday September 13th. (Or a day earlier if you're lucky!)

Commando No 4531 – Coming Unstuck

By 1943 the Germans, desperate to counter, the RAF’s superfast wooden fighter-bomber, the de Havilland Mosquito, began to build the Focke Wulf Ta154. It was even known as the Moskito!
   They soon discovered that holding its wooden structure together wasn’t as easy as they thought, and several broke up in in flight. The glue they needed to hold their airframes together was a secret formula only manufactured in Britain.
   So the Germans came up with a plan to steal some from the source…only to come up against a bunch of plucky Brits determined to stop them — or come to a very sticky end!

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

Commando No 4532 – Mario’s Express

Colonel Mario Girotti was not really much of a soldier. He was more than happy to be stuck in the North African desert, in charge of a rarely-used railway station. He spent his days listening to classical music on his trusty gramophone or reading poetry.
But the culture-loving Italian’s peaceful war was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a group of his fellow countrymen, followed by some Nazis, all bent on escaping the oncoming British onslaught with some looted priceless treasure and, naturally enough, they wanted one of Mario’s trains.
   Mario decided that maybe the time was right to fight after all!

Story: Stephen Walsh
Art: Vila
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4533 – Blood Valley

Every path that led upwards from Blood Valley to the Nazi-held fortress of Cassino was a path of death. On these bullet-swept slopes many a hero had been born — and had died. But still the German flag flew triumphantly from the battlements.
   And then the Commandos were sent for — hand-picked Commandos who had their own cunning and courageous ways of bringing arrogant Nazis to their knees.
   Here is their heroic story. 


There’s a saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case it’s exactly what you should do! Ken Barr’s Commando is loaded with contained menace and pent-up ferocity. Make no mistake, author Dorward is going to put a hard-hitting story in front of you with very few punches pulled. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.
   The inside art, with Philpott’s characteristic dark and brooding lines, backs up this hard edge. At times it’s difficult to remind yourself that this really is fiction.

Calum Laird, Editor

Blood Valley originally Commando No 49 (Dec 1962)

Story: Dorward
Art: Philpott
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando No 4534 – The Jokers

Alf Cunningham and Percy Potter were the jokers in the pack. Oh, they were good pilots, all right, it was just that they had a nasty habit of landing themselves, and everyone around them, in deep trouble. Not exactly the best pair of men to rely on when there’s a German cruiser on the loose in the English Channel!
IntroductionThe main conflict in this European World War II tale is, naturally, between British and German forces. However, there is another conflict going on. One between a couple of rebellious RAF pilots — the “jokers” of the title — and a stuffed shirt Royal Navy officer who they manage to continually annoy. Commando thrives on extra story flourishes like this and author Peter MacKenzie keeps the narrative flowing well, as does artist Keith Shone. And, of course, kudos to veteran illustrator Ian Kennedy for yet another stunning aircraft cover — this time of an Avro Anson right in the thick of the action.     

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

The Jokers, originally Commando No 2144 (December 1987)

Story: Peter Mackenzie
Art: Keith Shone
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Dandy 75 Years - Special Collector's Edition

Cover illustration by Ken H. Harrison
 Priced at £5.99 and on sale now exclusively from WH Smith is an 88 page "bookazine" format collection of classic Dandy strips which will surely delight any fan of British comics. 

Although it's published to commemorate The Dandy's 75th anniversary the contents mainly focus on the early decades of the comic with nothing beyond 1980. Personally I'm fine with this, as the choices are from the golden years of the comic and as it's a nostalgia collection it makes sense to focus on the past. (Besides, the 75th anniversary hardback, also out now, is a more comprehensive overview of 75 years so there's no point in mirroring that book.) 

Art by Allan Moreley

All of the material in this bookazine is of the highest quality and the strips are superb choices. There's a good selection of Allan Morley strips and some early Desperate Dan pages by Dudley Watkins. 

Art by Davy Law.

From the 1960s there are a bunch of great strips by Davy Law (Corporal Clott), Eric Roberts (Winker Watson), Ken Reid (Big Head and Thick Head) and others. Adventure strips are also represented, including chapters of Blitz Boy, The Crimson Ball and The Umbrella Men.

Art by Charlie Grigg.

This publication would be ideal both for young fans wanting to know more about Dandy strips of the past and for older readers wishing to remind themselves of their happy childhoods. The reproduction of the strips is excellent. It looks as though they've been scanned from the actual comics but they've been cleaned up to a high standard that still retains the fine linework and original dot-screen colouring of the originals. 

Art by Ken Reid.

The last 24 pages of the bookazine are printed on a rougher, pulpier, paper stock and reprint the first issue of The Dandy. For some reason four pages have been omitted (it originally had 28 pages) which seems to defeat the object somewhat. 

Art by Dudley Watkins from The Dandy No.1

As I said at the top of this item, this Special Collectors Edition is only on sale at WH Smith due to an exclusive deal with that chain of stores. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be in every branch, and some (such as my local one) had it tucked well behind this week's Dandy, on the top shelf. If I hadn't spotted the 'D' of the classic logo I wouldn't have noticed it. I would have thought an exclusive deal would mean that Smiths should have them displayed more prominently than that, so happy hunting!

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