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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coming this Spring: The Art of Doctor Who

Here's an interesting magazine I've just seen listed in the new Previews catalogue. In a few months time, Panini UK will publish the next issue of their Doctor Who Special Edition quarterly and this time it'll focus on The Art of Doctor Who

The info tells us: "The latest Special Edition of Doctor Who Magazine is devoted to the artists who have brought the television series' concepts to life in other mediums. New interviews and previously unseen artwork reveal the inspirations behind the annuals, the classic comics and the greatest book covers, from the early 1960s to the present day."

It will also bring the story up to date with articles on the digital work of concept illustrations for the latest episodes. 

It sounds like an essential purchase for fans of classic Doctor Who strips! It'll have 116 pages and is scheduled for an April release. 

(My apologies for the cover image being grainy, as it was scanned from a small image in the catalogue which is printed on cheap paper. The actual glossy magazine will look far better.) 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Trade Ads for Sixties Comics

My thanks to Shaqui Le Vesconte for discovering these ads for 1960s comics that appeared in the magazine National Newsagent Bookseller Stationer for the retail trade. I've always been fascinated by stuff like this; the way comics were promoted to retailers in adverts that we as readers would never have seen. 

The ads speak for themselves so I'll post them without comment, - except to say that promoting "The comic the children have asked for" with what might be perceived as a picture of a naked man with a logo covering his modesty might not have been the wisest choice. (Yes, we know it's the Sub-Mariner and he's wearing trunks behind that banner but would the old lady running the corner shop know that? Still, it was the 1960s. Crazy times, man!) 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

An early BEEZER (1956)

Most of us will have grown up with The Beezer comic of the 1960s to 1980s but in its early days it was quite different to the later issues. Here are a few pages from the year of its launch, 1956. Issue No.37, dated September 29th.

Although Ginger was the cover star for the first 33 issues (and would be again later), Pop, Dick and Harry had proven popular enough to be given the treasured cover position every week until 1962. The strip above is by Tom Bannister displaying his excellent skills in depicting physical comedy.

In its early days The Beezer had a good proportion of adventure strips. One of them being The Voyage of The Bushwhacker on page 2. According to Ray Moore's indispensable Beezer index (The Book of The Beezer) the artist was Bill Holroyd. This surprised me as there's barely any similarity to Holroyd's later work for The Dandy on Brassneck, Jack Silver, and Spunky and his Spider etc, but closer inspection does reveal that style emerging.

Fans of Leo Baxendale will know that his style kept developing throughout his career. In this 1956 Banana Bunch page there is very little resemblance to his Badtime Bedtime material of 18 years later but his style evolved gradually.

Westerns were big in the 1950s and The Beezer got in on the act with Lone Wolfe with artwork by Ron Smith. This is the second episode of the series. It's interesting to see a few silent action scenes. Very unusual for a British comic.

Although he was off the cover for a while, Ginger still had a full page inside. Drawn by the late Dudley Watkins with very contemporary images for the fifties, with its wind-up record player, door-to-door brush salesman, and old-style telephone, kettle and lawn mower. For a youngster Ginger was being a bit conservative in his music tastes for 1956 though, preferring Hillbilly music to rock 'n' roll!

The back cover went for an educational theme back then, with a wildlife feature and a cutaway. Presumably this was Thomson's attempt to rival similar features in Hulton's Eagle

The early Beezer only had 12 pages but its huge A3 size and bright colour on every page (8 full colour, 4 in red spot colour) still made it look good value for money. It's no wonder it endured a long run of many years!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Facebook page

Apologies for interrupting this blog on British comics in order to self-promote but I thought some of you might be interested to know that I've just set up a new Facebook page for my artwork. 

I've had a private Facebook page for years but I'm limiting that now to personal friends and acquaintances and people whose work I know. My new public page is open for anyone to 'follow' and read. You'll find it by clicking here:

I'll be showing bits of artwork there and posting news of upcoming work, convention dates, etc. (Pretty much similar stuff that I already post on my other blog but it always helps to expand in social networking.) If you're on Facebook it'd be great if you could follow my new page. If you choose not to, no worries. I won't feel offended. 

Thanks for your time. Normal service to this blog will resume with the next post.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coolest Comic Covers: Lady Penelope and Joe 90

When it came to cover designs for comics, Century 21 produced some excellent ones for City Magazines. The flagship title TV Century 21 was groundbreaking with its futuristic newspaper design of course, but the comic's companion titles looked great too. For example, above is the cover to Lady Penelope No.1 from January 1966. Its contemporary style instantly made other girls comics look old fashioned. (And the cover design would change from week to week just to keep it looking fresh.)

Even Joe 90 Top Secret looked more exciting and modern than most other boys comics when it was launched in January 1969. Here's the cover to issue one, with artwork on the strip by Frank Bellamy...
The interesting thing is that Century 21 didn't follow what IPC, DC Thomson, Odhams, or anyone else were doing with cover design. They ignored formula and did their own thing. Admittedly Joe 90 didn't last long but both TV21 and Lady Penelope had respectable runs. Cool-looking comics for the coolest decade.

(By the way, I don't have copies of these issues but the adverts for them in TV21 were clear and sharp enough so I scanned those, enlarged them, and cropped off the advertising stuff that was around the cover images.) 

Incoming: Commando Nos.4779 to 4782

This blog is all about the past, present and future of British comics so let's take a trip to the future! Well, two days from now anyway, when these issues of Commando go on sale on Thursday 29th January. My thanks to DC Thomson for sending the images and details...

Commando No 4779 – Evil In The East
The jungle can be a hostile place, besides the strength-sapping heat and humidity, dangerous animals and plants abound.
   This counts double if you’re a confirmed coward, born and raised in London, separated from your comrades and being pursued by a deadly assassin.
   That was the position that “Jelly” Jakes of the Convict Commandos found himself in. let’s be honest, he had every right to be terrified.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

Commando No 4780 – Fighting Fury
He was only a skinny little guy, about five feet nothing at all…but, by jiminy, any Nazis who ran up against Private Sam Small were out of luck.
   While his ammo lasted, Sam shot them; then with his empty gun he clubbed them; when it was in splinters, he started in with his bare hands!
   Only one man knew what drove that little guy to such a fighting fury — only one found out the terrible secret of Sam Small — and here he tells Sam’s amazing story.


Hiding behind Aldoma’s magnificent all-action cover is one of the most idiosyncratic Commando stories you’ll ever read. Told in the first person, and an American first person at that, it chronicles the acts of a man with a death wish over a very short period of time. These are traits not normally associated with Commando and, indeed, very difficult to get right. But right they are here, very right indeed.
   Sit back, suspend your disbelief and enjoy this roller-coaster ride in the thick of the action in the company of ace reporter Jim Dawson.
   By the way, we had noticed Jim’s similarity to Robert Mitchum.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Fighting Fury originally Commando No 159 (April 1965), re-issued as No 747 (June 1973)

Story: Wilding
Art: Martin
Cover: Aldoma


Commando No 4781 – D-Day Dodgers
In 1944 someone named the servicemen in Italy the D-Day Dodgers; as though somehow the war they were fighting was a cushy number compared to the battles in France. Outraged, one national newspaper decided to expose these loafers once and for all.
   That’s how reporter Perry Potter and his photographer Chalky White came to be standing on a freezing airfield in “sunny” Italy. The weather was just the first of the eye-openers the pair was going to see.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Vicente Alcazar
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4782 – Tempest Fury
In the summer of 1944, a frightening new weapon was unleashed against the war-weary British — the dreaded V1 flying bomb.
   Sergeant-Pilot Jamie Collins had a personal score to settle with these robots of death. So when his squadron-leader grounded him after yet another display of reckless flying, it didn’t stop him.
   Where there were V1s, that’s where Jamie wanted to be, at the controls of his hard-hitting tempest fighter. Orders or no orders…


Scott the Deputy Ed is on holiday so I get to write the intro to this story from our 25-year-old collection. Growing up with Commando in the 60s there were no creator credits on the books but there was one inside artist whose style stood out. Very individual, angular, with strong, strong blacks and peppered with skilfully-employed Zip-A-Tone — the sheets of dots which provide shading. To me the style looked just right for Commando. His name? Gordon Livingstone.
   I still think that, which is why you’re getting another chance (or a first chance) to read Ken Gentry’s crackling air/ground story and marvel at the magnificent economy of composition that is Ian Kennedy’s cover — there’s nothing there that doesn’t have to be.
   This really is a mini-masterpiece. Should I let Scott read it?

Calum Laird, Editor

Tempest Fury re-issued as No 2420 (November 1990), originally published as Commando No 1092, (January 1977).

Story: Ken Gentry
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy

TV21 No.2 Highlights (Today in 1965)

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post last night I said that every week from now on I'd be showing a few highlights from the issue of TV Century 21 that went on sale exactly 50 years ago that day. However, after sleeping on it for a few hours I realised what a crazy notion that was. Not only would the idea get old very fast, not only would it take until September 2019 to complete, but many TV21 strips are available in reprint collections anyway, so most fans who want them already have them. 

Still, now that I've done the work for this one I may as well re-post it. As I said on the original post, I don't actually have a copy of TV21 No.2 so what I've done is find a few pages from various sources. The cover shown above is actually from an eBay shop selling fridge magnets of all things! 

The Stingray strip by Ron Embleton ran across the centre pages of TV21 No.2. In its absence of the actual comic I've scanned the reprint of it from Stingray the Comic No.1 (1992), which ran across two pages, hence the gutter. Nevertheless it still conveys the impact of Embleton's dynamic and colourful artwork. 
On the back page of that issue, the origin of The Daleks continues with art by Richard Jennings. With no comic to scan from I've used the appropriate page from Marvel's The Dalek Chronicles instead, but the result is the same. This is the strip that first appeared exactly 50 years ago today on Wednesday 27th January 1965...
I'll still be revisiting TV21 from time to time, but the plan of doing it every week like clockwork was just one of those mad middle-of-the-night ideas that seemed good at the time but not so appealing in the cold light of day. I'm sorry if anyone is disappointed by my change of mind. I'd rather keep this blog operating like a rackety old TARDIS so that readers never know what to expect from week to week. What year will we visit next? Wait and see!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Captain Hurricane arrives!

I was never a fan of war strips and I must admit I often used to skip the four pages of Captain Hurricane that were at the front of Valiant every week. However it can't be denied that he was a popular character, lasting the duration of the comic's 14 year span. 

In the early days he was depicted in a more 'straight' adventure style but after a while the art and stories became more exaggerated. The main artist was R. Charles Roylace, who drew both the strips I'm showing here today, although other artists such as Jack Pamby and Fred T. Holmes also filled in from time to time. Looking back at it now, the strip does have a certain charm, could be very funny, and it's certainly well illustrated, although some of the racist remarks made by Hurricane towards Germans and the Japanese make one wince today.

Without further ado, here's the very first Captain Hurricane story from Valiant No.1, dated 6th October 1962, (scanned from a photocopy)...

Now a story from ten years later, from Valiant and TV21 dated May 27th 1972. This exaggerated, more humourous style, is the one that most readers will remember...

Captain Hurricane was a character very much of his time, when war strips appeared in virtually every boys' adventure comic. By 1976, when Valiant merged into Battle Picture Weekly, he'd had his day. Presumably not as popular as he once was, and perhaps too jocular for the deadly serious Battle comic, the strip was dropped and he only appeared in the merged comic as a mascot on the letters page, eventually being phased out altogether. He later turned up alongside other old comic characters in the mini-series Albion written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, illustrated by Shane Oakley. 

FRANKENTHING: A new Banx creation!

Many of you will be familiar with the work of Jeremy Banx, inventive creator of excellent strips such as Burp, Mr. Bignose, and Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt for Oink!, co-creator of The Driver for the original Toxic, and cartoonist for the Financial Times amongst other publications. Now he's unleashed another creation upon the world in the form of Frankenthing.

Frankenthing is a new comedy horror e-book written by Banx, profusely illustrated with his expert penmanship. It's available for the Kindle for just £1.99. (And there's a Kindle app for the iPad so you can read it on that instead if you wish.)

Here's the description of the book:

Dr Frankenstein tries to make a friend for his Monster. But it’s not so easy. The locals have locked up their cemeteries, they’re patrolling the streets and even the village butcher won’t serve him anymore.
So he makes one from something the castle cat (called Igor, of course) dragged in from the garden. Even though he hasn’t a clue what the something is.
Thus Frankenthing is born.
Frankenthing and the Monster become great friends. They play and laugh and dance. But Igor is lurking. He enjoyed killing Frankenthing so much the first time; he can’t wait to get his teeth and claws stuck in again.
Written and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Jeremy Banx, FRANKENTHING is a humorous horror story filled with jokes, quirky characters and bizarre plot twists. For children and adults of all ages.

It's a great read and Banx's artistic skills are better than ever. A must for fans of his work and for anyone interested in a good fun story with an edge to the humour. To go to the Amazon page to buy it click here

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Double take!

Above is the back cover to Valiant No.1, dated 6th October 1962. A fantastic piece of artwork that I believe is by Geoff Campion. 

The main figure was considered so striking that it was used as the inspiration for the cover to Smash! Holiday Special 1969, also by Geoff Campion...

And why not? It's a powerful image and made a very eye-catching cover to that special. Same artist, same publisher, two versions. The second version simplifies things a little by streamlining the head-dress and doesn't include the shield but it's clearly inspired by the Valiant art from seven years earlier.

Friday, January 23, 2015

That 1964 WHAM! promo - more info!

Remember a couple of weeks ago I showed an ad for Wham! No.1 from 1964 that collector 'stevezodiac' had kindly let me post here? Well, I found a copy of the mag it was in on eBay and promptly bought it, so here's a bigger scan of the advert. It appeared on the back cover of Odhams' Today magazine dated June 20th 1964.

But that's not all! Inside the magazine on page 26 is a little promotion for the comic...

Here's a bigger image. Click to see it larger.

...and a close up of the accompanying cartoon by Leo Baxendale, which I think was drawn exclusively for the magazine...

Good stuff eh? Interesting that Wham! was promoted as "a new concept in children's comics, designed to include everything the youngsters enjoy". It was pretty accurate I think, as Wham! seemed more modern than other comics of the time.

I had to smile at the back page ad saying that the comic was "wholesome". Conductive to good health or moral well being? Well, it certainly cheered us all up that's for sure! If you're interested in looking for a copy of this issue of Today on eBay or wherever, here's the cover. Despite appearances it's not a naturist magazine!

The Mega-Collection begins!

As reported here a month ago, Hachette are publishing a new partwork called Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection - and the first edition is in newsagents now!

You won't be able to miss it. Volume one is mounted onto a huge display card (see above) and is prominently displayed in shops. This first issue has a special low price of £1.99 which is an absolute bargain.

So what do you get? A chunky hardback book reprinting the famed Dredd saga America in full, along with associated back up stories. There are also a few background notes and Colin MacNeil's character sketches. 

There's also a free A2 poster with this first volume, with art by Brian Bolland. 

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection will be published every fortnight, building up to 80 volumes. Volume 2 will feature Machismo, and will be priced £6.99, and volume 3 features The Apocalypse War and will be £9.99 which is then the regular price. Even at a tenner, it's still good value compared to most graphic novels.

Some readers may have preferred the books to reprint the stories in chronological order but it's understandable that they'd hook buyers with some of the most acclaimed stories first. The quality of the books look great, and this is a fantastic way to bring in new readers and to give older readers a nostalgia fest. Hopefully it will also boost sales of 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine.

Judge Dredd is one of the best known British comic characters of all time so he's a natural choice for a partwork. It would be ideal to see Hachette expand to produce books on other classic UK comic characters too, but that's not too likely unfortunately. In the meantime, let's celebrate the fact that Dredd is getting this treatment which hopefully will prove to be a success. 

Here's the official website to read more about it and subscribe:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MARVEL FACT FILES focuses on Marvel UK

Marvel Fact Files, the weekly partwork published by Eaglemoss, features an issue devoted to Marvel UK this week. No.97 contains articles on the various comics and strips produced exclusively for the British market such as Night Raven, Dragon's Claws, Death's Head and of course Captain Britain.

Contributing writers for this issue include Mike Collins, Alan Cowsill, Glenn Dakin, Jamie Delano, John Freeman, Simon Furman, John Tomlinson, Win Wiacek and myself. I was very pleased to be commissioned to write the feature on the originated Incredible Hulk strips that had appeared in Hulk Comic. The remit from editor John Tomlinson was to write a synopsis of the adventures in a few hundred words so it's a fast and furious tour through this period of the Hulk's life but was very enjoyable to do. Here's a preview of page one...
To illustrate the article, editor John Tomlinson chose panels from Dave Gibbons' Hulk story from Hulk Comic No.1 (1979). The strip had originally appeared in black and white but John commissioned Alan Craddock to colour them, and he's done a great job. 
Like most partworks, Marvel Fact Files is basically subscription only now but some newsagents and comic shops still stock it. Issue 97 is out now with a cover price of £2.99. 
For more information on the magazine and to subscribe visit the Eaglemoss website:

Now that's MAGIC!

Screen grab from the BBC website.
The BBC are reporting that a bound collection of DC Thomson's pre-war Magic comic has sold for £15,600 at an auction. See here for the full article:

While I'm pleased for the seller in gaining that amount I always think that the problem with such news reports is that they put the focus on monetary rather than artistic value. Naturally when comics do sell for high figures then it's news and worth reporting, but it would be good to have more of a balance.

The attitude I've often encountered over the years from non-collectors is that the only reason an adult would collect comics must be for financial investment. Some people just can't get their heads around any artistic or historical merit a comic could have. To some, if collectors buy comics and they're not for profit then those collectors must have arrested development. 

This way of thinking isn't entirely the public's fault of course. It's been encouraged by the media and its 'cash in your attic' mentality whilst at the same time hardly ever promoting comics as an art form or as socio-historical documents. It's the old adage about 'knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing'. If Britain respected comic art in the same way as France for example perhaps a more balanced attitude would be the result. 

I may be preaching to the converted here but if you have any opinion on this please leave a comment. 
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