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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flame O' The Forest (1970)

Cover of LION by Tom Kerr.
Lion was always a good solid adventure comic and it produced some memorable characters such as Robot Archie, The Spider, and The Spellbinder. Some strips are less well remembered, but in some cases that was due to their short runs not for any lack of quality. One such serial was Flame O' The Forest, an excellent strip which ran in three page chapters from Lion dated 7th February 1970 to the issue dated 7th November 1970.

Flame O' The Forest was set in Norman England after Harold's defeat at Hastings. The hooded Saxon hero of the title fought against the invaders by using skills including magic tricks and archery. For an IPC strip of the time it was notable in its body count, with the Flame disposing of evil Baron Corbeau's men one by one. (Although any true violence happened off panel.) The artwork was by Massimo Belardinelli, several years before he'd be drawing Dan Dare, Inferno, Meltdown Man and Ace Trucking Co. for 2000AD. Belardinelli often poured a lot of time and energy into his work and Flame O' The Forest was no exception; dynamic and crammed with detail, dripping with atmosphere.

Here's the first chapter from Lion (7th Feb 1970)...

A few selected chapters from the series...

The final episode from Lion (7th November 1970)...

I always liked the strip as a kid. It seemed a bit more dangerous than most of the other stories in Lion. The theme of the lone freedom fighter against oppressive establishment has always been a good one to use since the days of the Robin Hood legend, and later developed by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in V for Vendetta of course. In Flame O' The Forest it's more of a traditional boys adventure yarn but it still had an edge to it. Definitely a classic. 

Space Ace No.4 just published

Ron Turner's Space Ace volume 4 turned up today and it's another great issue. Where the previous edition had featured several short stories, this one contains a long 24 page strip plus an 8 page back up. 

The longer story, The Island Universe, was originally a six part serial in Lone Star comic in 1954 and was Turner's first Space Ace story. For this collection, John Ridgway has carefully edited out the title banners and recap captions of each episode so the story flows better as one uninterrupted strip. John has also colourised the strip and re-lettered it. A controversial move perhaps, as hardcore Turner fans might prefer to see the strips exactly as they were originally presented as black and white chapters. On the other hand, the colouring is excellent, so I can see the argument for both sides really. 

The back up strip is The Raiders from Space, which originally appeared in Lone Star Volume 3 No.1 in 1957. The first short Space Ace story.  

The stories are good standard SF tales typical of the period. The sort of yarn where our heroes think the obliteration of an entire alien "heathen" planet is justified because some of its inhabitants pose a deadly threat to Earth. "They asked for it!" says Ace. I suppose we're expected to believe the whole alien species was evil, but to modern eyes it's a bit like destroying the Earth because of Nazis. Of course it's all just lighthearted fun really and we're not expected to think too deeply about it. The selling point of the book is the artwork and light entertainment. 

Publisher John Lawrence tells me that although copies of the original editions of Space Ace and Lone Star frequently turn up on eBay, the copies that feature The Island Earth are very rare. Therefore I'm sure this modern edition will be very collectible! 

This beautifully produced edition also includes a two page interview with Ron Turner about the story within, plus a three page letters section. It really is a must-buy for fans of Ron Turner's work and of classic UK comics. 

Ron Turner's Space Ace Vol.4 is available for £8.95 (UK) or £14.00 (overseas) including postage via PayPal to or cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DWM 486 preview

Doctor Who Magazine No.486 arrives in shops this Thursday (April 30th) and here's a few highlights from its 84 packed pages. 

The cover features seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy and two of the cast of the new Big Finish audio drama Damaged Goods, based on a Doctor Who novel by Russell T Davies from 1996. There's a nine page feature on the production inside.

Part two of the new twelfth Doctor comic strip Fire and Ice is in this issue, running to twelve pages. Jacqueline Rayner's script is engaging and intriguing, and it ties in nicely with a classic Who story from long, long ago. The artwork by Martin Geraghty and David Roach is excellent too. Can't wait for part three!

A few other features hearken to the early days too, with an article on the new book about Verity Lambert, plus an eight page interview with Carole Ann Ford and her recollections of press clippings of the 1960s. 

There's also the first part of the history of Doctor Who on home video, a tribute to the late designer Barry Newberry (who worked on many of the early Doctor Who serials), and a lengthy Fact of Fiction on the 1966 story The Highlanders.

Now that Panini are also publishing the junior title Doctor Who Adventures it's only right that DWM should run a feature on it and the comic's editor Jason Quinn gives us some background info plus a preview of issue 2. It's looking good, and I found myself agreeing with Jason's new direction for the revamped DWA. (Issue 1 is out now if you haven't already tried it.) 

All that plus much more, including another Daft Dimension strip by me. Don't miss your copy on Thursday, priced £4.99. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

TV Comic Holiday Special 1963

Firstly, my apologies for the poor quality of the cover image above. My second-hand copy of this special is unfortunately coverless so I've used an image from the GCD website which is the best I could find, albeit low resolution. However the rest of the scans are all from my edition. (Click on images to see them much larger.)

The TV Comic Holiday Special 1963 was the second in the series. It had 48 packed pages sized 300mm x 230mm featuring strips and text stories based on tv stars of the day. 

The versatile Bill Titcombe was the artist on a two page Bootsie and Snudge strip. Titcombe would be a regular contributor to the TV Comic weekly over the following years on strips such as Ken Dodd's Diddymen and Tom and Jerry.

A Supercar text story ran across two pages, illustrated with stills from the show.

One of TV Comic's longest running humour strips was Popeye, featuring brand new stories for the UK market. Various artists worked on the strip over the years. In this instance, Chick Henderson, whose style I really like...

Foo Foo was a cartoon that rarely seemed to be on TV in my area, but perhaps it was shown when I was too young to notice. 

Lenny the Lion was a rather camp puppet used by ventriloquist Terry Hall. The strip bares little relation to the stage act (and no Terry) but it's nicely drawn by Bill Mevin...

Apache, a five page Range Rider text story featured some good grey wash artwork by Mike Noble...

The centre-spread featured a full colour Supercar strip by Bill Mevin based on Gerry Anderson's early puppet series. Interesting that the TV Comic version is so dramatic, but when the strip moved to TV21 in 1965 it was treated as light relief.

One of the original, non-TV based strips in the special was Super Nan, who seems to be TV Comic's version of The Beano's Pansy Potter. Art looks like the work of Dick Millington.

There were two Fireball XL5 strips in the special. Here's one of them. Artwork by Neville Main...

Dickie Henderson was a very popular entertainer at the time and had his own comedy show featuring a fictitious family. TV Comic saw The Dickie Henderson Family as ideal strip material, although in the Holiday Special they decided to run it as a text story illustrated with scenes from the show.

The rest of the TV Comic Holiday Special 1963 featured non-TV strips such as Mighty Moth, The Bakers' Dozen, Lochy the Funny Wee Monster, plus second helpings of Foo-Foo, Popeye, and others, along with a few puzzles and games. All in all a decent publication that I'm sure must have been a good holiday treat for many readers. 

ICE 2015

Here's the ad for ICE 2015 that will be appearing in various publications soon. The International Comics Expo takes place in the centre of Birmingham on Saturday 5th September and promises to be a great event. As you can see from the guest list there's a fantastic selection of creators attending from the British and international comics industries.

To find out more, visit their website now!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pictorial Puppetry

In the late 1960s I used to have a weekly children's partwork magazine called Pictorial Knowledge. I recently came across my collection of them and thought this issue might be of interest to collectors of cult tv memorabilia. Pictorial Knowledge was a junior educational magazine covering pretty much everything it could, and one of the articles in this 1969 issue was on puppets. 

The Scott Tracy cover photo was a little misleading if anyone was expecting an article on Gerry Anderson, but the feature inside did include a couple of production shots. Too bad they refer to "Captain Scarlet of Thunderbirds" in the text. The article is quite lightweight but informative enough for the young readers it was intended for. Here it is...

Incidentally, you may have noticed that the cover price of 3/6d (17 and a half pence) was incredibly expensive for a 24 page magazine in 1969, when the average price of comics was 7d (3p) and the more in-depth Look and Learn was 1/6d (7 and a half pence). My parents were certainly not well off (we lived in a council house, my dad lost his job through ill health at this time, and my mum was only working part time) so I think my aunt must have bought it for me every week. At any rate, I lost interest in the mag after a year or so and switched to Look and Learn. Although that was mainly for the Trigan Empire comic strip I must admit.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

From the past... Captain Future!

Bear Alley Books have announced their latest offering and it's sure to interest fans of 1950s UK independent comics. The Complete Captain Future is to be a 200 page A4 softback reprinting Norman Light's space hero character. The artwork has a retro charm about it by modern standards but it's very well illustrated and certainly worthy of a collection. 

For some reason, outside of Eagle and The Beano, postwar and 1950s British comics are sometimes overlooked by collectors but it was an important decade for the industry. It was a time when comics broke free of the traditional formulas and more independent companies surfaced. Adventure comics began to hold their own instead of being a back up to the funnies, and the influence of American comics encouraged UK artists to create more dynamic page layouts. Basically that postwar/1950s period set the scene for decades to come. Captain Future is a perfect representation of those times. 

If you order The Complete Captain Future before publication you'll get a discount. (I've just ordered my copy.) Here's the Bear Alley Books page where you can discover more about the book and how to order it:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Adventures for the Doctor

As reported here a few weeks ago, Panini UK now have the licence to publish Doctor Who Adventures, a magazine previously published by Immediate Media Ltd. Panini's new version launched today with a new first issue.

Doctor Who Adventures is pitched at a younger target reader than Panini's long-running Doctor Who Magazine. The contents of DWA had previously been very lightweight, mostly featuring puzzle pages and pin-ups, and, frankly, quite a breezy read. Panini's revamp, edited by Jason Quinn, retains a few puzzle pages and pin-ups but offers the readers better value for money with more story pages and interesting features. 

Previously, DWA had just featured a 4 page Doctor Who strip. The revamp increases it to a 9 page strip plus a three page text story. For a kids magazine to include 12 pages of fiction these days is quite impressive. The articles also offer a bit more to read than before, and there's a good science feature on how to make a battery out of lemons and coins. Don't get me wrong; DWA is still not as sophisticated as Countdown was, but it's a welcome step in the right direction away from magazines that dumb down (or 'young up' as one editor called it). 

Good quality free gifts too, with plastic framed 3-D glasses, a note pad, and plenty of stickers. 

A few days ago, John Freeman's Down the Tubes website featured an interview with DWA editor/writer Jason Quinn and you can read that here:

Doctor Who Adventures No.1, 36 pages, out now, £3.99.


Also from Panini UK today, The Incredible Hulks No.14 is a good 'jumping on point' with the start of a new Hulk saga and the return of the She-Hulk in a new series. 

And what may interest long-time readers is that the back up strip is a reprint of X-Men No.66 from 1970. The story will be serialized across three issues in seven page episodes, just like Fantastic used to do back in 1968. Good to see some classic material again. 

The Incredible Hulks No.14, 76 pages, £3.50.

(Yes, it's not a typo. The comic is indeed using the plural Hulks, - because it features more than one Hulk. Yeah, irritating I know, as it's the character's name. It's as daft as if they had a comic called Thors. Well, I'm afraid Marvel in America are doing just that with Thors No.1 out soon! With more than one Cap around now can Captain Americas be far behind?) 
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