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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014

The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal.
Having been away from the convention circuit for a couple of years for various reasons I started doing a few shows this year to get back into the swing of things and I really enjoyed attending The Lakes International Comic Art Festival last weekend (17th to 19th October). I didn't make it to last year's event but I'd heard only positive things about it, and this year's festival certainly lived up to that. 

As one of the guests I'd been sent a lot of useful information from the organisers which helped a great deal. When I arrived in Kendal I made my way to the liaison point, where Guests Co-ordinator Sandra Wood greeted me and organised a lift to my guest house. I was pleased to see that my old pal Mike Collins (now storyboard artist on Doctor Who) was staying at the same digs and the guest house was very friendly and comfortable.

That evening Mike and I walked into town for the complimentary Festival meal at the Brewery Arts Centre, meeting up with other comics guests such as Panini UK editor/writer Scott Gray and John Freeman (also an editor and writer) who runs British comics news site Down the Tubes. After which we went to see John interview Dez Skinn at the library on his creation of Doctor Who Weekly (which was celebrating its 35th anniversary that week). 
Strangehaven's Gary Millidge being camera shy.
Unlike most other UK comics shows which are confined to one building, the town itself was involved with the festival and the events took place in several venues throughout Kendal. Also, the 'Windows on Comic Art Trail' had displays in windows of local businesses in the town centre, and banners for the festival draped across the street. 

As most comics folk work from home, often in isolation, we always enjoy a get-together at such events. Therefore it was no surprise to find most attendees ending up back at the Brewery Arts Centre bar in the evenings. Over the weekend it was great to catch up with David Leach, Gary Erskine, Davey Jones, Woodrow Phoenix, Debbie Tate, Robbie Morrison, Dave Gibbons, Jessica Martin, Kev F. Sutherland, John McShane, Gary Millidge, John Short, Doug and Sue Braithwaite, Gary Northfield and many others, including Eddie Campbell and Frank Plowright who I hadn't seen for many years. Good to put faces to names too, by meeting people such as Russell Willis and Jeremy Briggs. 

Next day, I was scheduled to do my presentation at 10.30 on the history of British humour comics so it was an early start to get ready. Although I'd been on many panels over the years this was the first time I'd done a solo presentation since one I did in Norway in 1997 (which wasn't great due to nerves I must admit). Therefore I was a bit anxious but the professionalism of the festival staff put my mind at rest and they'd set up the power point to run as smooth as silk with the 95 images I'd provided. (Thanks guys!)

The audience were let in, Hunt Emerson introduced me, and I was off. Off to a bit of a croaky start unfortunately as some dust irritated my throat but that was soon sorted and the presentation went ok I think. We'd called it 100 Years of Fun but in actuality I covered over 140 years in 60 minutes. A bit of a whirlwind journey through time, I started with the 19th Century titles The Glasgow Looking Glass and Funny Folks and ended on a positive note with today's comics including Joe Matthew's new one, Funny Monsters. I don't know how well I did compared to previous historians such as Denis Gifford and before him Barry Ono, but I hope people enjoyed it. 

Nigel Parkinson and his colourist Nika were in the audience so it was excellent to meet up with them afterwards and have a slap up feed at the local chip shop whilst talking comics.

Later in the afternoon my next gig was the Cowboy Henk vs Combat Colin 'live draw shoot-out'. Cowboy Henk being the creation of Flemish artist Herr Seele. As we were setting up it was good to finally meet Festival Director Julie Tait, as we'd previously only communicated by e-mail. Usually at these 'live draw shoot-outs' two artists have a friendly competition, drawing at desks as their work is projected on screen for the audience to see. Herr Seele, who is an extroverted but very interesting character, instead chose to start with a power point presentation of his work. I didn't mind this at all as it was fascinating to learn about his history and the development of his popular Cowboy Henk character. 
Herr Seele.

With the presentation over, Herr Seele (real name Peter van Heirseele) set to work painting a huge cubist image of Cowboy Henk while I drew characters projected onto the screen. Hunt Emerson was interviewing both of us as we worked. Probably the most surreal event I've done at a comics show but I enjoyed it and I think the audience did too. Afterwards I did a quick sketching/signing session. 

The weather on Sunday was quite wet and after my scheduled sketching session in the Comics Clock Tower I met up with Psycho Gran artist David Leach for lunch and a visit to the Magnificent White Elephant Emporium. Inside were the Viz lads Graham Dury and Simon Thorp and their bizarrely brilliant How a Viz Comic is Made lo-tech experience. Knockabout's Tony Bennett was also there so it was good to have a chat with him too. Woodrow Phoenix was on another table, displaying his giant book She Lives, a silent comic story. A book so big he had to bind it himself using the largest paper size available, and drew the story in the book itself, therefore exhibiting the original art. See it yourself in the photo below...
Woodrow Phoenix.

There were a lot of events going on over the weekend, giving visitors plenty of choice. There were talks and presentations by people such as Dave Gibbons, Joost Swarte, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips, Gail Simone, Charlie Adlard, Audrey Niffenegger, Becky Cloonan, Mark Buckingham, Bryan Talbot, Jeff Smith, Metaphrog, Emma Vieceli and others, plus exhibitions, dealers rooms, workshops, and more. The great thing was the diversity of comics, and the fact that this was entirely a comics-focused event, not part of a multi-media show. (Hardly any cosplayers too.) I'm sure that many curious members of the public who drifted into the Comics Clock Tower must have learned at least a little more about comics during the weekend, and that can only be a good thing. 
The superbly designed 52 page programme.

I was hugely impressed with the professionalism of the festival and the warm, friendly enthusiasm of the very helpful festival team. If there were any hiccoughs in the running of the event it certainly didn't show as far as I was aware. My thanks to Julie Tait, Sandra Wood, Jenny Graham and the whole team for a very enjoyable weekend indeed. The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has a positive and invigorating vibe about it, proving that comics in the UK are far from dead, and that they now appeal to a wider cross-section of people than ever before. 

Official website:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TV21 No.243: The return of yesterday's brighter tomorrows

The brand new issue of TV21 turned up today, just as it used to on a Wednesday back in the 1960s. Colonel White is back in charge of the letters page and all the strips begin new adventures. John Burns' Lady Penelope is particularly exciting, and it's good to see Gerry Embleton drawing Stingray.

In case you hadn't already read my earlier blogs on the subject, this issue of TV21 is a special one-off edition that is part of the package of goodies within the Supermarionation box set. The concept of this comic is that it's issue No.243 of TV21, dated September 13th 2069, - the issue that one imagines might have been published in 1969 had Joe 90 comic not merged into its pages. An issue of TV21 from an alternate reality if you like! 

The Brains behind this brilliant idea is editor Martin Cater of Network, the company responsible for the excellent box set. Assembling a team of comic creators he has constructed a 24 page comic that perfectly echoes the TV21 of yesteryear. It's even the exact size of those early editions and carries the same story logos that were designed in the 1960s. The content though is all-new! 

The strips include all the Gerry Anderson shows produced in the 1960s, so in addition to Supercar, Fireball XL5, StingrayThunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet plus Zero X we also have Joe 90 (who never appeared in the first series of TV21 until the relaunched merger with his own comic) and The Secret Service (which never previously appeared in TV21 at all). There's also a pitch perfect Agent 21 strip by Brian Williamson and a Zoony the Lazoon strip by myself, plus a Project Sword prose story. Graham Bleathman is also on board with a new cutaway of the Mars Space Probe.

It's good to see my old friends Mike Collins and Bambos contributing good stuff, and Antonio Barreti's Secret Service is a spot-on sixties homage, but I'm sure they'll forgive me when I say the highlight for me was the centrespread strip, - Lady Penelope by John Burns! The veteran artist is still a master of his craft and these pages look so authentically 1960s that for a moment I felt I was back in that decade. Rest assured though that this is definitely brand new material! 

John Burns isn't the only veteran artist involved, as Martin Asbury has contributed a two page Captain Scarlet strip and Gerry Embleton is back at the helm of Stingray! Embleton's style may be a little looser than it was but the skill is as sharp as ever. This is good stuff!

The comic even comes with a free gift in the form of six postcards of TV21 covers for the following few issues! Sadly those issues do not actually exist, but wouldn't it be great if they did? 

Lest we forget though, this issue of TV21 is only available as part of Network's Supermarionation box set and the main content of that set are the blu-ray discs with a brand new documentary, selected episodes in High Definition, and Stephen La Riviére's book Filmed in Supermarionation. For the full details see Network's website here:

It's been an absolute pleasure to contribute to the history of TV21, - my favourite adventure comic of my childhood, and certainly my favourite comic of this year! For one day, the brighter, optimistic 21st Century is with us once again. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Christmas comes early to Beanotown!

The Summer Specials are still in the shops but now there's also The Beano Christmas Special No.1 alongside them! The 64 page squarebound comic features a mixture of brand new material and reprint, plus various puzzles and activity features. It also contains a sheet of 21 free stickers. 

All the main Beano characters are included and the special kicks off with a new, nice looking six-page Dennis the Menace story illustrated by Nigel Parkinson...

I drew a couple of festive activity pages for the comic too. One of which is Who Ate All the Mince Pies?...

All the reprints are relatively contemporary; Tom Paterson Minnie the Minx and suchlike. No classic 1950s-70s material. This is a bright, fun, stocking stuffer, not a trip down memory lane. Well worth it though for Beano fans! The Beano Christmas Special 2014 is out now, priced £4.99. 
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