Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bonfire Beano, plus Daily Mirror freebies!

If you thought that the traditional 'fireworks issue' of children's comics was a thing of the past, check out the latest issue of The Beano. It features a fireworks-themed Minnie the Minx story drawn by Nigel Parkinson, and a great bonfire cover by him too. In the shops now!

More Beano news. If you hop over to the Daily Mirror website you can download a free digital Dennis the Menace comic worth £1.49 compatible with iOS or Android devices. The offer runs until Saturday November 13th. Full info here:

Speaking of that paper, this coming Saturday (November 1st) the Daily Mirror will contain a free special promotional edition of The Beano containing many of the regular strips in new stories. Never Be Without A Beano!   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Calculus Cat collected

Published in time for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last week was Hunt Emerson's Calculus Cat, a smartly produced A4 book consisting of 112 pages collecting all of his strips of the aforementioned moggy and new material to boot!

The book was funded through Kickstarter, as I mentioned here back in June, and managed to reach its target of £10,000 thanks to 338 backers. The standard edition is in paperback, but those who pledged over £20 received a limited hardback edition. 

I've been a fan of Hunt's work since the 1970s when I first saw his strips in the underground comics produced by the Birmingham Arts Lab. His distinctively energetic, surreal, and genuinely funny work raises the spirits and is pure comics. This collection of Calculus Cat strips, ranging back over 30 years and including brand new material, is a prime example of Hunt's best humour work. What is also evident is how Hunt has mastered the art of black and white comics. No colour is necessary; this is superbly balanced work. 

To add a bonus to the volume, Hunt invited a bunch of us comic types to contribute our own spin on Calculus Cat for a gallery section in the back of the book. My own humble effort is there and I'm proud to share pages with such great talents as Kevin O'Neill, Gilbert Shelton, Dave McKean, Graham Higgins, Roger Langridge, Phil Elliott, Kate Charlsworth, Steve Pugh and many more.

Calculus Cat is published by Knockabout and is available to buy now.

Directly from Hunt Emerson: 

From Knockabout books:

or from Knockabout's eBay store:

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Yesterday Once More

Even though I spend most of my time writing and drawing them, I very rarely dream about comics. However there was one vivid dream a few years ago where I discovered that some cancelled comics of yesteryear were actually still being published and you'd find the latest editions if you rummaged deep enough into the displays in newsagents' shelves. 

That's sort of what happened in reality today when I found The Topper and The Hotspur in Sainsbury's. Well, strictly speaking it's The Best of The Topper Annual and The Best of The Hotspur Annual, two of the newly published reprint books I mentioned a while ago.

I'd recently acquired The Best of Whizzer and Chips Annual and The Best of 70s Girls' Comics Annual too, thanks to the kindness of someone who sent them to me. These books are all exclusive to Sainsbury's, and not every branch is stocking them. The DC Thomson books have 80 pages and the Egmont ones have 72 pages. Yep, they've lost weight over the years!

I think the DC Thomson books win in terms of print reproduction and reprint choices. The Best of The Topper Annual has some very nice 1960s and 1970s strips, including a Dudley Watkins Mickey the Monkey page and what looks like a Davey Law Beryl the Peril strip. All the old favourites are there including Figaro, Big Uggy, and The Whizzers from Ozz. There are some later strips too, such as Tricky Dicky, but I'd guess at least half of the material is from the sixties and early seventies.

The Best of The Hotspur Annual is another goodie. I'm not too familiar with the DC Thomson adventure comics but from the styles and presentation it looks like the 70s and 80s are covered here. Possibly the 60s too. The only drawback is that as they're annual strips some don't feature the artists who did the weekly adventures, so although King Cobra is here, it's not by Ron Smith. (There is a great Ron Smith contents page though.) 

The Best of 70s Girls' Comics Annual has a selection of stories from Misty, Tammy, Jinty and Sally. The reproduction isn't as good as the Thomson books but everything is legible. There's a few features too, for nostalgic reasons. The Egmont books have chosen to add a 'tanning' effect to the edges of the pages to make them look aged but it's an unnecessary addition really.

The Best of Whizzer and Chips Annual seems to be a random selection of strips. Some are reproduced better than others but overall they're sharp. Oddly, even though the back cover declares 'Chips is inside', the book does not use the 'Two comics in one' gimmick but mixes up the strips instead. There's a Chips cover, but it's on page 10. Thing is, that 'two in one' gimmick never looked convincing in the annuals anyway (and who in their right mind would tear out the middle section of a book?) so perhaps Egmont felt it wouldn't work here, especially with a book that's only 72 pages. Still, it's a pity they didn't simply make the second half of the book a Chips section. 

There are other books in these retro series from Egmont and DC Thomson that I haven't seen yet. The Best of The Beezer Annual, The Best of Bunty Annual, and apparently The Best of Battle Annual and The Best of Roy of the Rovers Annual. Good luck finding them! The books have a RRP of £7.99 but Sainsbury's are selling them for the bargain price of £3.99 each. Alternatively, if you can't find them at your local Sainsbury's, you can buy the DC Thomson books full price from the DCT website:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Britain AD2170 (LION 1970)

Tonight's episode of Doctor Who (In the Forest of the Night) reminded me in some ways of a short lived strip that ran in Lion weekly back in 1970/71, particularly the cover shown above (drawn by Geoff Campion). 

Britain AD2170 began in Lion dated 25th July 1970. A three page serial illustrated by Solano Lopez (and possibly his studio assistants) it told the story of four British astronauts who return to Earth after a five year mission. They discover that Earth is covered in a dense jungle and people have reverted to a primitive state. Borrowing an explanation from Planet of the Apes, the story proposes that the ship must have travelled into the future and that they've actually arrived in the year 2170.

Here's the first episode. Click pages to see them larger...

As in tonight's Doctor Who, London is overgrown with trees and vegetation and wild beasts are on the prowl. We learn that society has broken down into tribes, one of which are the savage 'Snakemen' who wear armour made from car tyres. They appear on the cover to Lion dated 22nd August 1970, drawn by Geoff Campion (who was illustrating most of Lion's covers at this time)...

The astronauts use the remnants of civilisation to fight the Snakemen but there's a greater danger from a huge scaly Godzilla-like monster that roams London, although how and where it originated isn't really explained.

Along with Smash!, Buster, Valiant, and some girls' titles, Lion hit a glitch in late 1970 due to a printer's strike. The issues dated November 14th were the last for several months, and the comics vanished from the shelves until the ones dated 6th February 1971. As with all the other serials, Britain AD2170 continued from where it had left off but the strike had affected sales of the comics. Lion and Thunder were set to merge, and so in the issue of Lion dated 13th March 1971, Britain AD2170 was brought to a conclusion. Here's the final episode...

Britain AD2170 wasn't one of the greatest strips to have appeared in a British comic but it had its moments and was suitably exciting. Personally I found Lion to be one of the better UK adventure comics of the seventies and was a good comic to lay the foundations for 2000AD a few years later. I'll be blogging more about Lion in future posts when I have time, hopefully before the year 2170.  

Commando 4751 to 4754, - out now!

Latest Commando comics news direct from DC Thomson....

Commando Issues 4751-4754 – On Sale 23 October 2014

Commando No 4751 – Saxon Eagles

The 9th Century AD was a turbulent, violent time. Anglo-Saxon Britons had to fend off constant attacks from marauding and blood-thirsty Scandinavian warriors — the much-feared Vikings.
   Young Cadric was a Saxon — brave and willing to fight to defend his village from Viking hordes. As he did so, though, he had to face an equally deadly, but more sinister, enemy from closer to home.

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: John Ridgway
Cover: John Ridgway

Commando No 4752 – Colonel Scarface

All occupied France went in fear and trembling of him — ruthless SS Colonel Ludwig Bauer — a monster in the guise of a man.
   But one day Bauer went too far with a young Commando lieutenant, Rick Matthews. And Rick stayed behind after a raid in France to teach Colonel Scarface, step by blood-stained step, what it was to be afraid…


   Despite what Ken Barr’s magnificently menacing cover might make you think, this story isn’t all about the nefarious Colonel Scarface. It’s more the story of Lieutenant Rick Matthews, Commando. What’s more, it’s also a French Resistance story, a type that’s very difficult to make successful as there’s often not a lot of action to play with. The script neatly avoids tense, cliff-hanging moments by being filled with the crash and thunder of battle. All very well drafted by Gonzales.
   Lastly, watch out for the comedy moment on page 55. You have been warned.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Colonel Scarface, originally Commando No 135 (October 1964), re-issued as No 699 (December 1972)

Story: Mepham
Art: Gonzales
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando No 4753 – Royle’s Marines

After firmly putting a bully in his place with a well-aimed punch, young Thomas Markham knew he had to make himself difficult to find. He was helped by Sergeant Ned Royle who suggested joining the Royal Marines and losing himself there.
   While he was now out of plain sight, young Thomas was not out of danger for he was shipped off to fight in the Crimean War. There his mettle would be tested in the heat of battle as one of…


2014 is a truly momentous year for the Royal Marines as on the 28th October we mark our 350th birthday, completing three and a half centuries of unbroken service, committed, as an integral part of the Naval Service, to protecting and promoting the United Kingdom’s security, prosperity and reputation, both and home and overseas; truly 350 years of Timeless Distinction.

Formed in 1664 as the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot, the Royal Marines, the modern Royal Navy’s “go anywhere force”, have evolved into the United Kingdom’s commando forces, held at high readiness and trained to operate anywhere in the World and carry out the full spectrum of operations, be that peacekeeping, disaster relief, military training/advisory teams, specialist amphibious operations and high intensity combat. 

Now, whilst the stories contained in the Commando Comics are obviously fiction, there are numerous common values shared between the characters, the Corps today, and our illustrious forebears who have served the Corps and the Crown so well since 1664.  The Royal Marines Ethos is based on characteristics of courage, determination, cheerfulness in adversity and selflessness and they have stayed true throughout our 350 year history and have enabled the Royal Marines to be involved in virtually every one of the United Kingdom’s conflicts, and notably to have seen active service every year since the outbreak of World War II to the present day, with the sole exception of 1968.  

Today’s Royal Marines remain at the forefront of the United Kingdom’s crisis response force and are a key component of the Government’s conflict prevention agenda. Through our World-renowned brand of understated professionalism we hope to remain there for another 350 years and more.

Lieutenant Colonel Cliff Dare MBE RM

Story: George Low
Art: Benet
Cover: Benet

Commando No 4754 – Night Of Fear

Transylvania — an eerie land of legends, of werewolves and vampires, of hauntings and spine-chilling screams in the dark.
   Not the most welcoming place in the world to crash-land in at dead of night — especially when your Mosquito has been damaged, not by Nazi flak…but by a swarm of thousands of large, black bats!


Just imagine…
   A spooky castle in darkest Transylvania —
   The sinister Count who dwells there —
   Waited on a by creepy assistant —
   Swarms of large bats flying out of nowhere —
   Night of Fear may not be the most subtle Commando ever published — but it is certainly a hugely entertaining one. The influences on the plot — Hollywood vampire movies and American horror comics — are actually acknowledged in the text, so, nearly 40 years on this remains a fiendishly fun read.
   So, trick or treat?
   In my humble opinion, this is definitely a treat. Happy Halloween!

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Night Of Fear, originally Commando No 984 (November 1975), re-issued as No 2324 (November 1989)

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Patrick Wright
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...