Friday, January 20, 2017

Comics and mags out now...

My apologies for not updating my blog since Monday. Between work and having a heavy cold I haven't been online so much. Catching up today a bit with a quick rundown of a few recommended titles that are in the shops now.

Kicking off with The Phoenix No.263, this issue sees the conclusion of the John Blake serial by Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham. Other strips include Trailblazers by Robert Deas (who also drew the cover), Bunny vs Monkey by Jamie Smart, Pow! by Alexander Matthews, Corpse Talk by Adam and Lisa Murphy, and more. 

The Phoenix is mainly subscription based, but you'll also find copies in selected branches of WH Smith and Waitrose. 

The Beano No.3868 features an eye-catching Numskulls / Dennis cover by Nigel Parkinson relating to the story inside, and other contents include a four page Bash Street Kids tale, and all the regulars including my Pup Parade and Ivy the Terrible strips. Never Be Without A Beano; you know it makes sense.

A journalist recently asked me if today's children's publications could even be called comics anymore. Well, the term "comic" has always been flexible, as even the first comics of the 19th Century such as Comic Cuts only had 50% comic strips (sometimes less) and that format lasted for 50 years with everyone referring to them as comics. British comics have always evolved, and today's magazines, with limited comics content, are kind of a modern equivalent of those early titles. Realistically though, I think publications like Toxic are most definitely "children's magazines" rather than "comics", but that doesn't mean those strips aren't part of our comics industry. Decide for yourselves in Toxic No.283 which features the regular strips Captain Gross, Ruined Ronaldo, and my Team Toxic.

By the way, this issue of Toxic has a free full colour 16 page A6 sized mini-comic, Hilo, by Judd Winick, to promote the comic books published by Random House.

The latest issue of Comic Heroes has been out for a couple of weeks now but it was impossible to find in the towns and cities near me. Therefore I bought a copy directly from the publisher. It only took a few days to arrive second class and I'd recommend that option rather than trudging around the newsagents (and a certain comics shop that refuses to stock it). It's post-free if you buy it direct too. Here's the link:

This issue of Comic Heroes (No.30) is another bumper 132 pager designed to pass the time over the next three months until the next issue. Contents include features on 2000AD's 40 years, Commando's upcoming 5,000th issue, a tribite to Steve Dillon, and numerous items on American comics such as the all-new Iron Man, Ironheart. (I'm enjoying some of the changes that Marvel have implemented in their comics. It keeps things fresh and unexpected and I look forward to reading Ironheart's adventures when she appears in Marvel Legends.) 

That's just a handful of titles that may interest you. If you have any thoughts about any of them, drop a comment below.

Monday, January 16, 2017


It's a good jumping on point for new readers to the Judge Dredd Megazine this month with the start of three new stories for the new year. The issue goes on sale this Wednesday. Here's the info...

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: The Rubicon by Michael Carroll (w) Ben Willsher (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Angelic: Home Is The Hunter by Gordon Rennie (w) Lee Carter (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Features: Thrill-power Overload Update, David Hitchcock interview, Simon Furman/Geoff Senior interview

Bagged reprint: The V.C.s: Old Soldiers

Treat yourselves to one of the best comics on the shelves. Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond for £5.99.

EAGLE promoting POW! in 1967

In my previous post the other day (click here) I showed a few pages from Pow! No.1 on the 50th anniversary of the comic. To follow up, here's how Pow! was promoted back in January 1967 in the pages of its companion comic Eagle

The irony is that when Hulton were publishing it in the 1950s, Eagle had been initially created as an alternative to American comic imports, and now here it was, published by Odhams, promoting comics that featured reprints of American comic strips. Even Eagle couldn't escape the fact that British kids loved American pop culture.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

50 Year Flashback: POW! No.1

I've blogged about the first issue of Pow! before, but as this weekend is the comic's 50th anniversary I thought it was worth reposting my article. Pow! was a favourite comic of many of us back then, a lifetime ago, and is still memorable today. 

With its first issue published on Saturday 14th January 1967 Pow! was the third title of what had become known as the 'Power Comics' imprint published by Odhams Press Ltd. It followed Wham! (1964) andr Smash! (1966). Comprising 28 pages, Pow! contained a mixture of Marvel reprint and originated UK humour and adventure strips. Here's a selection of pages from issue one...

Interestingly, the reprints of Spider-Man began with strips from Amazing Spider-Man No.1 and not his full origin from Amazing Fantasy. Story: Stan Lee, Art: Steve Ditko. 

The Dolls of St.Dominics was a traditional British school humour strip in the vein of The Beano's Bash Street Kids featuring anarchic schoolkids. In this case, set in a girls school. Superb artwork by Ron Spencer imitating Leo Baxendale (who never worked for Pow!) but Ron was clearly an accomplished humourist in his own right.

The Python was an adventure serial that ran in the early issues of Pow! Compared to comics published by Fleetway and D.C. Thomson, the adventure strips in Odhams comics could sometimes have a rough and ready feel about them, as this does, but that energy added to their appeal I think. 

Full page ad for the next issue...

News page introducing Pow! This regular news feature ran in all the 'Power Comics'. 

The Group, with art by Mike Brown. Similar in many ways to The Beezer's Banana Bunch but with its own vitality.

Jack Magic, another strip that only ran in the early issues (so probably wasn't too popular with the readers). 

The second Marvel series in the issue was Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, reprinting the first episode from Strange Tales. Story: Stan Lee. Art: Jack Kirby.

Every Power Comic had a spy spoof and Pow's was Wee Willie Haggis, The Spy from Skye. Not a very remarkable character. Mike Higgs' The Cloak, which started in Pow! No.18, would prove to be a more popular parody of the spy genre. 

On the back page was one of the highlights of the comic; Dare-A-Day Davy by the fantastic Ken Reid. 

Like most British comics, Pow's contents shifted and changed a bit as the weeks passed. I felt it was constantly improving but sadly it only lasted for 86 issues, absorbing Wham! along the way and merging into Smash! in late 1968.  Nevertheless it remains a favourite of many of us who grew up on comics of that period. As the strapline on the first cover said, it was "The brand new comic for the new breed of comic fans". That was the thing about the Power Comics; they felt modern and young, and of the moment, unlike some of the the slicker, sometimes stuffier, rival comics from Fleetway and Thomsons. 

The free cardboard gun and ammo.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The BIG ONE merges into BUSTER (1965)

The Big One was a comic published by Fleetway from 17th October 1964 to 20th February 1965. A very short run, perhaps partly due to its cumbersome size, as the comic was a huge broadsheet format, far bigger than the tabloid-sized Topper and Beezer it was competing against. Perhaps another factor in its failure was that it was almost entirely filled with reprints. Now, its target group may have been too young to have read the stories before, but they may have found them too old fashioned. 

What may have really stuck the boot in though was that, as I understand it, the popular TV news / consumer programme On The Braden Beat did an item about The Big One, exposing it as a reprint comic. Something that may have led parents to believe they were being ripped off. 

Whatever the reasons for its downfall, The Big One didn't make a big impact and merged into Buster with the issue dated 27th February 1965. The cover of that first merged issue (above) is by Angel Nadal. 

Inside, the combined forces of Buster and The Big One had the unfortunate aspect of bringing in several reprints from the failed title, but Buster's own strips were strong enough to balance things. Here's the episode of Maxwell Hawke and the Phantom Zombie from that issue, drawn by Eric Bradbury...

The Micky the Mimic strip was a reprint of Hi-Fi Sid from Radio Fun.

At this period in time, publishers were still smarting from the anti-horror comics campaign of the 1950s. They were no longer allowed to publish horror comics as such, but they knew that kids loved such stuff. It seems to me that the compromise was to have a lot of dark, spooky material tucked away inside comics such as Buster, as you saw from the Maxwell Hawke strip. This air of shadowy menace was also evident in the new series, Toys of Doom, superbly drawn by Solano Lopez...

There was lightness amongsty the gloom too of course; a balance which was Buster's strength. The centre pages featured a variety of (reprint) humour strips from The Big One, including Tough Tex, a 1950s reprint from Comet by George Parlett.

Not all the adventure strips were grim either. Sweeny's Swingsters was Fleetway's attempts to relate to the pop fans of the day. I don't think they quite got it. Art by Mario Capaldi. It only lasted until May of that year.

On the back page, Charlie Drake, based on the TV star, with art by Arthur Martin...

It's worth noting that at this time, Buster was still a large format comic. Not as huge as The Big One had been, but the same size as a tabloid newspaper such as the Daily Mirror. It would reduce in size in October 1965, but gain twice as many pages. 
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