Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Combat Colin returns in Aces Weekly

There's a certain school of thought that would have us believe that digital comics 'don't count' as proper comics because they don't exist in a physical form. I'm not entirely unsympathetic to that notion because reading comics on a screen after being accustomed to having them in paper form all my life does take a bit of getting used to. 

That said, the main point of a comic is to convey a story in sequential words and drawings, page by page, and that remains the same whether the format is paper or digital. One of the valid arguments against digital comics was that you couldn't relax to read them in the same way you would a printed comic because they were on a bulky PC or laptop. However, advances in recent years now mean that an iPad mini (or similar device) is lighter (and smaller) than an average graphic novel. Although admittedly you don't have to recharge a book after you've read it.

The big advantages for digital comics is that they're a more direct and potentially cheaper way for readers to access the stories, and the comics don't have to compromise to suit the whims of retail chains or licensing companies. One such title is Aces Weekly, published by David Lloyd (artist of V for Vendetta, creator of Kickback). Each digital issue contains six different stories by various creators, plus extras that can include preliminary art and suchlike. The comic runs for volumes of seven issues, with each volume costing a mere £6.99. Yes, just a pound an issue. There's no way a full colour print edition could compete with that price. And you don't even have to leave the house to buy it.
Launched in 2012, Aces Weekly has now been running for 8 volumes of 7 issues each. Over those 56 issues it has featured work by top professional creators such as David Lloyd, John McCrea, Mark Wheatley, Herb Trimpe, David Hitchcock, Yishan Li, David Leach, Steve Bissette and many more. Small wonder that it recently won the Pipedream Comics poll for Best Digital Comic.

In the latest issue, Vol.8 No.7, my Combat Colin character makes his return in an all-new three page full colour strip that I created exclusively for Aces Weekly. Semi-Automatic Steve co-stars, along with the Giggly Sisters. The story begins where many British strips have ended, - with a slap-up feed, - but danger and daftness is just around the corner thanks to the return of Professor Madprof, the Mad Professor, one of Combat Colin's oldest enemies!

As some of you will know, Combat Colin was a strip I did for Marvel UK's Action Force and Transformers comics back in the late 1980s. When Marvel returned the rights to me I produced a handful of self-published comics such as Yampy Tales in the 1990s reprinting several of the strips. Combat Colin also guest starred in some episodes of the new Brickman series that ran in Image's Elephantmen comic a few years ago. A brand new Combat Colin story appeared in Aces Weekly Vol.1 No.1 in 2012, and publisher David Lloyd has been asking me to contribute another for some time now. I wasn't really ready to return to combat mode due to time and other factors but now I have, and I thoroughly enjoyed producing a new adventure for the bobble-hatted buffoon.

To find out more about Aces Weekly and to subscribe to each volume, visit the official website here: http://www.acesweekly.co.uk/home

Aces Weekly on Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/acesweekly

Aces Weekly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/acesweekly

David Lloyd interviewed about Aces Weekly, on the Forbidden Planet Blog:
http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2013/interviews-aces-weekly-one-year-on-we-talk-with-david-lloyd/

Commando Nos.4675 to 4678

My thanks to DC Thomson for sending over the info for the four issues of Commando that will be in newsagents from this Thursday (30th Jan). Here's the details....


Commando No 4675 – Grave Secret

Private Titch Mooney, the Convict Commandos’ man-mountain — ex-circus strongman and ferocious fighter — had no problem destroying a V2 rocket site in the face of a hail of lead fired by vengeful Germans as flames licked about his heels.
   But this solid granite character began to shake as he, Guy Tenby, Smiler Dawson, and Spider Mackay made their way through a Dutch graveyard. Was it superstition or was there a grave secret hidden there?

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Benet
Cover: Benet

Preview: http://www.commandocomics.com/latest-issues/30th-january-2014-collection?issue=4675


Commando No 4676 – Death Dive
It’s the moment a pilot dreads most — when he first discovers that he’s lost his nerve.
   Hands that have always been rock-steady now tremble as they touch the joystick. His mouth is dry with fear, a cold sweat breaks out on his brow.
   Flight Lieutenant Ted Ridge knew all the signs. But only he knew he wasn’t fit to fly his Mosquito bomber on any more raids.
   And then the RAF picked him for a specially dangerous flying job — a job that no one else could tackle. Ted Ridge just couldn’t convince them that he wasn’t still the best Mossie pilot they had.

Introduction

   In today’s enlightened times, post-traumatic stress disorder more accurately describes the phenomenon of service personnel being overwhelmed by the demands of active service in a war zone. In 1964, losing their nerve was the term used. Though this Kenner script deals with that situation but in a typically Commando way, it’s not hard to read a deeper meaning into this story with echoes of the famous Amiens prison raid — Operation Jericho.
   That’s if you don’t get completely distracted by Ken Barr’s movie poster-style cover and Gordon Livingstone’s gritty, angular inside art.
   Read it twice…just to make sure.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Death Dive originally Commando No 108 (March 1964), re-issued as No 619 (February 1972)

Story: Kenner
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr

Preview: http://www.commandocomics.com/latest-issues/30th-january-2014-collection?issue=4676


Commando No 4677 – Ludwig’s Luck

It is often said that it is a matter of luck whether or not a soldier survives a war. The luck young German Army corporal Ludwig Richter got ranged from bad to worse as the Second World War brought him repeated injuries and robbed him of so many of his friends.
   Surely it could only be a matter of time before Ludwig’s luck ran out…for good.

Story: George Low
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Jaume Forns

Preview: http://www.commandocomics.com/latest-issues/30th-january-2014-collection?issue=4677


Commando No 4678 – The Man In Black

He was rarely seen, this lone, mysterious figure clad completely in black who powered his way over the snow-covered slopes of the Swiss mountains. He was a sinister apparition bathed in moonlight, his only friends the shadows.   But there was even stranger thing about him. Why did his tracks lead to the German border?IntroductionIf you’re looking for a story featuring country music singer Johnny Cash, or even movie star Will Smith, than I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for an action-packed espionage caper then you most definitely will not be disappointed!   This pacey tale has just about everything: mystery, daring escapes, ski chases, people dangling from cliff edges, nasty villains, plucky heroes…and there’s even a faithful Alsatian!   Commando means action and adventure — and that’s never truer than here. Scott Montgomery, Deputy EditorThe Man In Black, originally Commando No 952 (July 1975), re-issued as No 2292 (July 1989)  
Story: Bernard Gregg 
Art: Mira 
Cover: Ian KennedyPreview: http://www.commandocomics.com/latest-issues/30th-january-2014-collection?issue=4678

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Knock-Out cover! (1940)


The schedule of a freelance cartoonist can often either be barren or blisteringly busy, and I'm glad to say it's the latter this month. Things could swing the other way at a moment's notice of course but at present I don't have time to post any detailed articles on this blog. Instead, here's a quick look at the cover of a wartime issue of Knock-Out from my archives. Issue No.88, dated November 2nd, 1940. World War 2 was well under way, but comics like these brightened up the lives of children across the UK. 

Knock-Out was published by The Amalgamated Press as a rival to Thomson's Dandy and Beano. The artwork to this Deed-A-Day Danny strip is by Hugh McNeill, and you can read a lot more about this talented artist over at Steve Holland's blog here:
http://bearalley.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/hugh-mcneill.html

Right, back to the drawing board to draw strips of my own that perhaps someone else will be blogging about in 70 years time! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Free comic mag in The Sunday Post


Today's edition of The Sunday Post includes a free 48 page magazine entitled The Broons Celebrate Robert Burns. As you can gather, the magazine commemorates the Scottish celebration of Burns' Night with a wealth of suitable strips and features. 

From the looks of things, most of the Broons and Oor Wullie strips in the mag are reprints from The Sunday Post. The majority were drawn by Peter Davidson but there is a resized Oor Wullie strip by Dudley Watkins from the 1960s, and a three page Broons by Ken Harrison that may be new.

There's also a two page feature on the Treasure Island adaptation that was drawn by Dudley Watkins. (Surely overdue for a reprint in full?)

There's a nice Burns' Night centrespread painting featuring The Broons which I think may be new but I'm not sure...

Amongst the other features there's Burns' Tam O'Shanter poem illustrated by Bash Street Kids artist David Sutherland. Very nicely done in wash.

Although a Scottish newspaper, The Sunday Post is available in England too (in some newsagents at least). Next Sunday's edition will include another free magazine; this time focusing on The Broons Family Tree.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marvelman returns today

No mate. You're Marvelman. Welcome back though.
As back stories go, Marvelman tops the lot. It's a Miracle he's back in print!

Marvelman was created in the 1950s for UK publisher Len Miller to replace their top selling Captain Marvel reprints (which had ceased in the USA due to legal hassles from National Periodicals who said CM was too similar to Superman). Marvelman ran until 1963, was revived in 1982 for Warrior comic, and had its name changed to Miracleman for its American reprint (due to more legal hassles from Marvel Comics who objected to the name). After Warrior folded, Miracleman continued in the USA with new stories but from what I understand, it never concluded. I dunno. I'd given up on it long before then. More legal twists and turns occurred between creators and, to be honest, I was too preoccupied with my own life to follow the proceedings too closely.

A few years ago, Marvel proudly announced that they had bought the rights from Marvelman's creator Mick Anglo and would be bringing the character back in print. They published a few reprints of the 1950s material which, let's be blunt, were not exactly highlights in UK comics history. Which brings us to today, and the commencement of Marvel's monthly reprint series of the really good stuff; the strips from Warrior by Alan Moore and Garry Leach (soon to feature the work of Alan Davis). Except that Alan Moore is not credited by his own request (not wishing to have anything to do with Marvel). Marvel have instead dubbed him 'The Original Writer' as though it was his wrestler name or something.

Oh, and Marvel, who were so insistent in the 1980s that no one but them could publish a hero named 'Marvelman'have chosen to call the series Miracleman. But that's the name most American readers will know him as anyway, so that's  understandable. But y'know, for readers this side of the Atlantic, the name's a bit of a nuisance. He's Marvelman to us.

Anyway, is the revived comic any good? It costs a bit more than a 6d copy of Marvelman would have set you back 60 years ago that's for sure. Expect to pay around £3.50 to £3.99 for this first bumper issue. Newly coloured by the excellent Steve Oliff and re-lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, Miracleman No.1 starts off with a Mick Anglo/Don Lawrence short story from 1955, then moves on to the first two chapters by Ala.. the Original Writer and Garry Leach. Even though this is one of the strips that started the whole darker, grittier mood of superhero comics it still comes across as modern due to the high quality of the script and art.

The cover of the paper version carries a 'Parential Advisory' but the digital version (which I bought) does not. The digital version states that it is edited, but the only edit I noticed was that Liz Moran was memorably nude in one panel of the original Warrior printing but someone has drawn purple pants on her for this version. Obviously people who buy Marvel digital comics are unaware of bottoms and the sight of naked bum cheeks could bring about the downfall of western civilisation. Let's risk it and show both versions here...

Expensive as it is, Miracleman No.1 is worth the money because it also features a fair amount of bonus material. There's a behind-the-scenes look at some of Garry Leach's original artwork and preliminary sketches, a brief article on Marvelman by Mike Conroy, snippets from an interview with Mick Anglo, and reprints of the very first Marvelman strips from 1954. And yes, in the case of the historical material, he is still called Marvelman, thankfully.

If you've never seen these stories before, there's no better place to start. Miracleman No.1 is in comic speciality stores today, or available to purchase as a digital comic via the Marvel Comics or ComiXology apps.   

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doctor What (1964)


My Doctor Flu strip is currently running in The Beano but there have been many spoofs of Doctor Who in comics over the years of course. The first was Dr What and his Time Clock, a weekly humour-adventure serial that ran in Boys' World in 1964, published by Odhams. The haistyle and clothing of the character is obviously based on that of the first Doctor as portrayed by William Hartnell.

Here's the episode from Boys' World Vol.2 No.33, dated 15th August 1964. The art is by Artie Jackson, who later drew Danger Mouse (preceding the TV cartoon of the same name/concept) for Smash! in 1966. Jackson also drew many of the Danny Dare strips for Wham!

 
Boys' World was a glossy comic magazine in the style of Eagle. Comics historian Steve Holland recently wrote a book about about it and published it through his Bear Alley Books imprint. You can find out more details here:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Frank Bellamy classic - coming soon

Frank Bellamy's dynamic artwork and inventive layouts made quite an impact on comic readers of the 1950s to 1970s. Sadly the artist passed away far too young at the age of 59 in 1976 - but he left us with an incredibly high standard of work that still impresses readers old and new. 

Some of Bellamy's artwork for Thunderbirds and Garth has been reprinted in recent years - as has his early work for Swift. There's also a luxurious edition of his Heros the Spartan strip in a limited edition. This March, Unicorn Press are to publish The Happy Warrior, the life story of Winston Churchill that Bellamy illustrated for Eagle in 1957/58.


I recall that this weekly, full colour series of full pagers was collected before, about 30 years ago, but that book is long out of print. 

Published as a 96 page paperback, The Happy Warrior: The Life Story of Sir Winston Churchill is out on March 1st at a RRP of £12.99. (Amazon currently have it cheaper.)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Old favourites and a newcomer in the first Beano of 2014

Cover by Nigel Parkinson
This week's issue of The Beano (out now) sees the return of some old favourites in brand new strips - plus a new character making his debut.

There's the return of Number 13 by Alan Ryan and Little Plum by Hunt Emerson...

Karate Sid making a comeback by Paul Palmer plus Tricky Dicky resurfaces by Laura Howell...

Gnasher's Tale is back by Barrie Appleby...

...and Hunt Emerson's superb brushwork can also be seen on the return of The Nibblers!

There's also the arrival of my new mini-strip Doctor Flu...

...plus all the favourites such as The Bash Street Kids and Dennis the Menace of course!

This is an ideal issue for new readers to jump on board - and may hopefully entice fans of the returning classic characters to consider buying the comic again. The Beano commences the new year in fine style with a good mixture of strips from long established artists and relative newcomers. Something to please everyone I think!

The Beano No.3717. 36 pages. £2. Not a single reprint and not bagged with cumbersome gifts! What are you waiting for? Jump in your cartie and set off towards the newsagent now!

Free art card with every issue of Commando!


Thanks to D.C. Thomson for the latest info on their Commando pocket comics. (Apologies for the delay in posting this which I received last Friday.) Here's the press release...


“For the first time in its very long history, Commando will giving a free gift with every issue. It may have been a long time coming but we think you'll think it's been worth the wait.

Along with the first eight issues released in the UK in January will be eight A4-sized postercards featuring some cracking pieces of Commando cover art which we know you love to have. There's one postercard for every issue and a different one for each story.

We have taped the cards to the Commando issues so you'll notice that your Commandos are taking up a bit more space on the newsagents' shelves. The stories themselves are the same action-packed tales you've come to expect and they're the same size you want...they're just a bit easier to spot!

If you don't have your copies set aside, it might be a good idea to get to the shops smartly...we're sure they be selling fast.

Once you've got yours, pass the news to your comrades-in-arms. Let's try to get the shelves cleared ready for the second batch.

Subscribers won't miss out, they'll get the cards through the post with their usual fortnightly package.”
Commando issues 4667-4670 – On sale 2 January 2014

Commando No 4667 – Nobody Loves A Genius

Private Hubert Wellington was a real nice chap — keen, well-meaning, anxious to please. There was only one thing wrong — anything he got involved in was doomed to disaster!
   And what was his job? He was an explosives expert! Yes, every man in Hubert’s platoon gritted his teeth and waited for the world to end with a big, big bang…

Introduction

When Stuart Duncan e-mailed his request to see this one again, I had my doubts. Its Ian Kennedy cover was a cracker but the story looked just a little bit comical to be a good Commando. But he wasn’t alone in asking for it so I decided to read it again. What a surprise! Despite the cover and the apparently bumbling hero, this is one hard-hitting Commando, beautifully realised in great detail by Pat Wright. Without giving the game away, with a change of uniforms and locations, this could be a contemporary story.
   It could be the work of a genius.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

PS Remember we are always open to suggestions when it comes to titles you would like to see again.

Nobody Loves A Genius!, originally Commando No 824 (March 1974), re-issued as No 2084 (May 1987).

Story: R A “Monty” Montague
Art: Patrick Wright
Cover: Ian Kennedy


Commando No 4668 – The Lost Squadron

“Slim” Sothern, fighter pilot, floated in the Channel in his Mae West and cursed his rotten luck. Sure, an ambulance rescue seaplane was circling above, but it was German, and Slim feared that for him the war was over, and only the deadly dullness of prison camp lay ahead.
   How wrong can you be?
   He was taken prisoner all right but inside a week such strange and mysterious things had happened to Slim Sothern that he, and other RAF pilots like him, had been turned into a “Squadron of the lost,” and were flying Messerschmitts for the Germans against the British.

Introduction

I reckon Peter Ford is an unsung hero of the early years of Commando. His crisp, accurate lines — especially, but not only, when dealing with aircraft — is up there with the best of comic illustrators. He was one of the few Commando artists to write stories as well, but here those duties are done by Boutland who manages to weave fighters, bombers, Resistance fighters and nasty Nazis together in a fantastic high-octane cocktail.
   Striking though it is, Ken Barr’s cover only hints at the treasures within.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

The Lost Squadron originally Commando No 134 (Sept 1964), re-issued as No 695 (November 1972)

Story: Boutland
Art: Peter Ford
Cover: Ken Barr


Commando No 4669 – Life-Line To Tobruk

Tobruk was under siege. Enemy troops lay around the port on three sides. No supplies could get through by any land route. Everything had to be brought in by sea.
   It was a dangerous business for the landing craft that were used as supply vessels. Slow and cumbersome, they were under constant attack by German ships and aircraft. But Lieutenant Jack Jarrat and his crew took on all comers, even the German army. It seemed that nothing could stop them!

Introduction

Here’s a chance to taste a slice of classic Commando, as requested by Commando readers. Bill Fear’s script leads us from sea to land and back again, twisting and turning as he weaves a tense story around the brave men fighting in North Africa and the equally brave men aboard slow-moving, lightly defended landing craft supplying them. Carmona’s detailed artwork brings action and characters vividly to life. Wrap that in a classic Ian Kennedy cover and we’re on to a winner.
I remember buying this one as a boy and after all these years it didn’t disappoint. Little wonder this it was requested by a number of readers, including Johnny Westbridge from New Zealand. 

Iain McLaughlin, Sub-Editor

PS We are always open to suggestions for titles you would like to see again.

Life-Line To Tobruk, originally Commando No 1408 (April 1980), re-issued as No 2620 (December 1992).

Story: Bill Fear
Art: Carmona
Cover: Ian Kennedy


Commando No 4670 – Survival!

A handful of shivering, crestfallen British soldiers, cut off in German-occupied Norway. Their mission…to destroy a Nazi airfield menacing the vital convoys to Russia. But before they could even think of tackling their target, they had a more difficult and far more urgent problem — simply to keep alive in the cruel cold above the Arctic Circle!

Introduction

Happy New Year!
Let’s kick off 2014 by telling you about some non-stop thrills, and spills – but enough about last month’s Commando Office Christmas party, what about this book..?
Survival! is perfect reading for a chilly January evening – with its relentless Arctic adventure, tough heroes, ski-bound villains and, erm…igloo-building…this defies the odds to become a real winter-warmer from the archives. 
So, put your feet up, pour yourself a nice, hot cuppa and enjoy.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Survival!, originally Commando No 921 (March 1975), re-issued as Commando No 2243 (January 1989)

Story: Mclean
Art: Ibanez
Cover: Ian Kennedy











Thursday, January 02, 2014

Introducing BATMAN: ARKHAM

Titan Comics have launched a new Batman title in UK newsagents today. Batman:Arkham replaces their Dark Knight comic and continues the reprints of contemporary material from DC's Detective Comics and Dark Knight US comics alongside pages from Batman:Arkham Unhinged No.1. 


Whereas Titan's Dark Knight comic was an A4 sized 52 pager, Batman:Arkham is a 76 pager in US comicbook format. This should help visibility in WH Smith, who often mistakenly shelved the Teen-rated Dark Knight comic alongside the junior titles such as The Beano and Moshi Monsters. Hopefully, the more distinctive smaller format will ensure that Batman:Arkham is shelved with Titan's other Batman comics and the Panini UK Marvel titles in the older readers section.

One point; although Batman:Arkham is £2.99, my local WH Smith charged me £3.99 as they claimed the barcode was wrong. I got a refund, but check your receipt when you buy this issue.

You can subscribe to the new monthly here:
http://titanmagazines.com/t/the-dark-knight/uk/subscribe/  

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

First comics of 2014

Years ago, shops used to be closed on New Year's Day but times change. Amongst the newspapers delivered to newsagents today were the first of this year's comics; 2000AD and Toxic

2000AD Prog 1862 continues the new stories that began in the Christmas triple-issue Prog 2014 a few weeks ago, so we have the second chapters of Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors and Ulysses Sweet, plus a complete Future Shock and the beginning of a new Judge Dredd epic, Titan. 


Britain's sole surviving adventure comic weekly enters its 37th year with a strong line-up. 36 thrill-packed pages and still only £2.35.

For younger readers, Toxic magazine No.231 comes bagged with several gifts including a Toxic Catapult Pen, a sturdy metal and plastic freebie ideal for kids to flick whatever they choose across a room. Use such power responsibly. 

Inside, there's a bunch of breezy features on movies, games and suchlike, an Angry Birds board game, and a few strips including Team Toxic, written and drawn by myself. As you may recall, Team Toxic went to reprint about ten months ago, but this issue marks the return of brand-new episodes. In this first new adventure, the Team encounter Guffzilla, a fart creature from Kid Zombie's nether regions. 

Toxic is £2.99 and is published every three weeks.

A new publication that launched at the end of 2013 was the Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Graphic Novel Collection. These hardback books are being packaged by Panini UK for Hachette, with Ed Hammond as editor and Alan Cowsill writing background material about the comics and characters. The books will reprint classic 1960s material alongside more contemporary stories. The first edition reprints Avengers No.1 from 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Avengers vol.3 No.0, and 19 to 22 by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez. Launch price is a very cheap £1.99. The second volume (featuring Spider-Man) will be £6.99, then the partwork settles on its full price of £9.99 per book.

If you're quick you'll still be able to catch the annual Comicraft New Year's Day Font Sale. Every Jan.1st, for one day only, Comicraft price their excellent fonts at just $20.14 each. These are the top quality lettering fonts in the business, perfect if you're producing your own comics, or if you're a designer in any capacity. Some of those fonts adorn this very blog, used for the Blimey! title banner and elsewhere. Don't settle for less. Buy the best!
http://www.comicbookfonts.com/      

Finally, my wishes to you all for a healthy and prosperous New Year. 2013 was a very bad year for me, with the passing of my mum, the last of my family, (details here if you're interested) but I'm hoping 2014 brings better fortunes - for all of us. 
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