Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The more things change...


...the more they remain the same. Last week I blocked the option for people to post anonymous comments to my blogs in order to prevent abusive trolling and the numerous spam messages I get. 

I said at the time that if it inconvenienced genuine visitors to my blogs then I'd have a rethink. Unfortunately some of you were inconvenienced because you prefer not to sign up with Google or the other similar accounts. I appreciate that, so a solution was needed.

I've given this some thought and one other option would be allow anonymous comments but with a CAPTCHA where you type in a code so Blogger knows you're human. This is a great way to prevent spam, which as I said last week, was the main problem. 

However, I don't like CAPTCHA. I find it adds even more inconvenience to commenting, especially when sometimes you have to do it twice. (But if other blogs want to use it, fair enough of course.) 

So... I've decided to go back to how things were before. People can choose to log in if they wish, or go anonymous if they wish. Although I'd prefer if you added your real name to any anonymous comments please. So Steve, Gareth, anyone else who preferred the old way; feel free to comment again if you wish.

Obviously this means the daily spam will be back, and the occasional trolling, but there are worse things to deal with in life than spambots and cowards.

One other thing; I've noticed that some people multi-post the same comment, presumably because they don't see it appearing on my blog straight away. I always have moderation enabled, so you have to wait until I'm back online before I can pass them for publication. It's the only way to stop spam being published here. 

Anyroad up. Business as usual. Carry on commenting! 

Angry Birds fly into newsagents


Today, Egmont UK launch a new monthly title, - Angry Birds Magazine, based on the hugely popular video game. Priced at £3.99 the first issue promises "puzzles, games and quizzes". From the advert shown here, there's originated comic strip in there too.

Angry Birds Magazine comes bagged with two posters, trading cards, a special game code, and a plastic slingshot. 

While it's good to see another publication for children on the stands, it's once again another sign of the times that it's based on a licensed brand with an emphasis on activities rather than enriching the imaginations of children with stories. I should point out though that writer Cavan Scott does say there is a narrative going through the magazine, so ABM isn't like other feature-based mags.

There have always been comics based on other media of course, from Film Fun to Sonic the Comic, but in those titles it was the stories that were the selling point. Activity pages are important for stimulating the logical parts of a child's mind of course, but a comic strip story can help children with their reading abilities and engross them in world where they can relate to the characters, and even learn about morality and integrity in a fun way. 

It's good to see that Angry Birds Magazine contains some story content at least, but wouldn't it be great to see more of a balance like this in most children's magazines? A lot of kids struggle with their reading at school these days because they see it as a chore, but reading is the most important skill a child can learn. Comics can help with that because they're bright, lively, funny and exciting. So, publishers, let's see more strip content in your magazines to help those kids develop into bright, lively, funny and exciting adults. 

Commando news


Fans of Britain's longest running war comic Commando will be pleased to hear there are four new issues in the shops tomorrow. (Or today if you're lucky, as they seem to come out a day early.) Here's the info direct from DC Thomson...


Commando Issues 4727-4730 – On Sale 31 July 2014

Commando No 4727 – Fisherman’s Foes

Fishing, particularly deep-sea fishing, is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for the sea is a harsh, cruel and unforgiving place to work. So the idea of strapping guns to a trawler and sending it to war might be expected to start a mutiny amongst any crew.
   Not the bunch aboard the Amity, though. They were not only prepared for war, they went looking for it! And that’s when they found themselves facing a legion of…
FISHERMEN’S FOES

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



Commando No 4728 – Ghost With A Gun

Corporal Benny Walker’s name will never go down in history — but he was the leader of the strangest fighting patrol the British Army had ever known.
   It was some patrol, that one!
   Benny, six yanks and a couple of ghosts. Yes, the ghosts wore uniforms too — and didn’t they get mucked into the Germans!

Introduction

In the early days, all Commando stories were set in the Second World War. It wasn’t for nearly three decades that they branched out, historically speaking. The only way round this restriction was to introduce substantial flashbacks or to introduce some characters from previous battles. In this case, the introduced characters happen to be ghosts and they just happen to want to use our hero to wipe out the stains of their own misdeeds.
   For fear of spoilers I won’t say any more except that you can enjoy Chaco’s cover and Cueto’s inside art, reasonably safe in the knowledge that those are their real names. The name Du Feu has to be a nom-de-plume, though. Surely!

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Ghost With A Gun, originally Commando No 104 (February 1964), re-issued as No 611 (January 1972)

Story: Du Feu
Art: Cueto
Cover: Chaco



Commando No 4729 – Balkan Battleground

Sergeant Pete Jenkins, a veteran Commando, was posted to Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1944. His mission was to assist and train a Partisan resistance group in their fight against the brutal occupying Nazis and their followers — a militia known as “The Black Wolves”.
   But there was a snag, the enemy seemed to know the Partisans’ every move. There had to be a traitor in their midst. Everyone was under suspicion — Pete included.

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Olivera
Cover: Ian Kennedy



Commando No 4730 – The Little Ships

Think of Britain’s fighting navy in the Second World War and you picture towering battleships, mammoth aircraft carriers, powerful cruisers, sleek destroyers. But alongside them are hosts of smaller craft, without whose efforts the mighty fleets could not operate. They are “the little ships” — trawlers, drifters, coastal craft of all kinds. They served on the seas of the world, and this is the story of just two of them…of the ice-cold courage of their crews.

Introduction

As the title suggests, this memorable maritime tale takes the focus away from sleek Royal Navy vessels and concentrates instead on rather less glamorous vessels. It’s a refreshing change and we get to see an authentically dangerous slice of life in the choppy North Sea. Veteran interior artist Gordon Livingstone delivers the goods as usual but special plaudits go to cover artist Jeff Bevan for his stunning trawler illustration — we can see the rust on the ship’s stern and even below the waterline as the trusty craft surges through the spray of the sea.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

The Little Ships, originally Commando No 940 (June 1975), re-issued as No 2260 (March 1989)

STORY: O’CONNELL
ART: GORDON LIVINGSTONE
COVER: JEFF BEVAN


Monday, July 28, 2014

Stay cool at ICE next Saturday!



With this current heatwave the coolest place to go is ICE, the International Comic Expo, that takes place in the centre of Birmingham next Saturday, August 2nd. 

The venue is just a few minutes walk from New Street Station, at The Studio conference centre in Canon Street, just off from New Street. I'm pleased to say that I'm one of the guests and I'm proud to be amongst a great list of comics professionals. Here's the full guest list:
Artwork © Yishan Li


  • ROLAND BOSCHI
  • JOHN PAUL BOVE
  • MIKE COLLINS
  • AL DAVISON
  • RUFUS DAYGLO 
  • D’ISRAELI
  • IAN EDGINTON
  • HUNT EMERSON
  • MARIE JAVINS
  • DAVID LEACH
  • TONY LEE
  • YISHAN LI
  • DAVID LLOYD
  • JESSICA MARTIN
  • BEN OLIVER
  • DAVID ROACH
  • STEVE RUDE
  • DECLAN SHALVEY
  • LEW STRINGER
  • BRYAN TALBOT
  • DAVE TAYLOR
  • DYLAN TEAGUE
  • EMMA VIECELI
  • PHIL WINSLADE
For more details visit the ICE website:

See you there! 

Photographs © their respective copyright owners.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dredd hits 350!

I don't cover 2000AD or related product here that often because those comics already receive good coverage in various places (such as the Everything Comes Back to 2000AD blog). However, a milestone is worth mentioning and currently on the stands is the 350th issue of Judge Dredd Megazine.

The 64 page issue kicks off with a brand new cover by Brian Bolland, and there's a free A3 poster of the same artwork, sans masthead, bagged with the comic. Inside, three new stories begin; Judge Dredd: Deadzone by John Wagner and Henry Flint, Lawless by Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade, and a series set in the movie continuity, Dredd: Uprise by Arthur Wyatt and Paul Davidson.


There's also the third part of The Man from the Ministry by Gordon Rennie and Kev Hopgood. Speaking of which, the comic also features a four page interview with Kev.

There are also interviews with the artist Trevor Hairsine, plus a chat with Leah Moore and John Reppion about their writing career. 

As always, the Megazine comes bagged with a 68 page collection of past material and this month it's Harke and Burr by Si Spencer and Dean Ormston, reprinting the 2000AD strip from 20 years ago. 


All in all issue 350 is a great package with high quality content. The price of £5.70 may seem steep at first glance, but you're getting a lot for your money here. This issue will be on sale until August 19th, but grab it before it sells out. 

********************

Also on the stands now is 2000AD Prog 1891 which sees the start of Moore and Reppion's great new series, Black Shuck, with art by Steve Yeowell. Cover by Alex Ronald. £2.45  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tales from Gimbley collected

The 1980s was a very interesting time for British comics. There were a lot of new creators emerging with their own stripzines (or 'small press comics' as they're called now) and breaking into the comics industry. There was also a lively social scene thanks to the monthly meet-ups at the Westminster Comic Marts. (Although all the real fun took place at the end of the street at the Westminster Arms.)

One of those talented creators was Phil Elliott, who produced his own Tales of Gimbley mini-comics as well as drawing the strip for the comics anthology / Escape magazine. Now Phil has collected all of the Gimbley strips into one book, - In His Cups, a 184 page paperback (also available as a downloadable PDF).

Here's the info about the book:
In His Cups is a complete collection of Phil Elliott’s comic strip, Tales from Gimbley featuring the eponymous everyman, Dave Gimbley. Gimbley recounts tales from his youth including his one-night stand with the Mona Lisa; a fight to the death with a sumo wrestler; deconstructing a de stijl chair; being an integral member of a Performance Art piece; meeting the Holy Man and many other surreal, humorous and often poignant adventures.  

You can order a copy of the book directly from Lulu at this address:
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/phil_elliott 

Phil's work has also appeared in Aces Weekly, The Real Ghostbusters, Power Rangers magazine and many other comics over the years. Visit his website here: 
http://www.elliott-design.com/index.html

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your attention please

Techno Troll gets the message.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself "Why should I put up with this rubbish?". I'm talking about the occasional abusive or confrontational posts I receive from anonymous people who have nothing better to do than troll. Yes, 'trolling'. If you don't like the phrase, stop doing it. It's cowardly and it's childish, and it's not welcome here.

Effective from today I'm blocking the option for anonymous comments both here and on my other blog. This should also cut back on the numerous spam comments that are notoriously frequent (as anyone on Blogger will know). 

Comments are already moderated so they don't appear until I approve them, but I needed to cut out the time spent deleting trolling and spam, so getting rid of the anonymous option seems the best way. 

Thing is, I know this will sadly inconvenience a few of you genuine readers who don't have accounts to log in with. I'm sorry about that. If you can log in with Google or whatever, please continue to leave comments as they're always appreciated. If not, we'll see how it goes, and if it proves counter-productive I'll reinstate the anon option. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Comic Heroes - The final issue


Issue 24 of Comic Heroes is now on newsagent's shelves and, as reported here the other week, sadly it's the final issue.

From the sounds of things, its demise was not only due to low sales but to company restructuring at Future Publishing. However, many fans have often stated that it was the £7.99 cover price that put them off. Even though that was approximately the same price as three flimsy comics and that Comic Heroes contained more to read than three comics. 

Comic Heroes tried valiantly to be all things to all fans, with articles covering a diverse range of comics. Unfortunately, this may have gone against it, as some fans only have specific interests. So someone who's a big Marvel/DC fan might have thought £7.99 was too much to pay when half the mag was taken up with other themes, or vice versa. 

A few issues back Future abandoned the £7.99 format of mag plus extras in a packet and redesigned the mag as a chunky 164 page bookazine at £9.99. The frequency switched from bi-monthly to quarterly, presumably with the notion that surely fans wouldn't think ten quid every three months was too much to pay for a nice long read? Didn't work.

Personally, I've always been interested in the whole world of comics, so Comic Heroes was ideal for me to read about Marvel, DC, European comics, British comics, interviews with creators, advance previews of comics, etc. This last issue has a good variety of content too. Although dubbed 'The sci-fi issue' it covers more than that. There's a feature on Charley's War for example...


A six page preview of Bryan Talbot's new Grandville book...


A look at Titan's new Doctor Who comics...


Paul Gravett choosing his top ten items from the Comics Unmasked exhibition...


Walt Simonson on his new Ragrarok comic...


Plus an interview with Dave Gibbons, features on Superman, John Constantine, cosmic Marvel, and much more.

I get the impression that the fate of Comic Heroes hadn't been determined while most of this issue was put together. The only mention of its demise is a quickly designed half page notice on the inside back cover stating 'Comic Heroes 2010 - 2014 Thank you for reading!' 

It's a shame that yet another comic feature magazine has closed. Even its digital companion weekly, Comic Review, is gone now. I'll miss buying Comic Heroes from my corner shop. It was a good mag. Not every item interested me but that's the nature of such magazines. 

I suppose most fans get their info from the Internet, which is understandable as it's 'free' and constantly being updated, but personally I still feel it's more comfortable to read longer articles in paper format. And Comic Heroes never needed plugging into the mains to recharge.

Comic Heroes No.24. 164 full colour pages. £9.99. Available in newsagents, WH Smith, comic speciality shops and other retailers. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Comics that won The War!

Who could have believed that in 2014 we'd see an annual with a cover strip featuring Big Eggo blowing up Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering? That's exactly what we get with The Beano and The Dandy: The Comics that won The War!, the latest collection of classic DC Thomson strips. 

These archive books have been published every year since the 50 Golden Years book in 1987 and I think this is the best one yet. Many of the previous books have often chopped up strips or overlapped pages to present a busy layout to appeal to children, but this one presents full page strips with no intrusions or redesigning. It gives the impression that this book is aimed at the older reader and the collectors so I hope it sells well in order to encourage DC Thomson to stick to this design.

The contents are marvelous, with numerous strips scanned from wartime editions of The Dandy and The Beano. My only quibble is that most of the art is uncredited, which isn't what one expects from a book aimed at collectors. 

One artist who is given his due is Dudley Watkins, and there's a fantastic pencil sketch of his in here that I've never seen before. There are also many of his Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty strips reprinted, showcasing some very bizarre and surreal stories. 

Just when you think the book is solely about The Dandy and The Beano it throws a curveball with some fantastic cover art from The Rover, The Skipper and The Hotspur story papers. 

There are also a few post-war strips that had WW2 themes, such as a complete Blitz Boy story from an early sixties Dandy Book, drawn by Paddy Brennan.

One of the weirdest strips in the book is a Wild Boy of the Woods episode which features a giant robot Hitler! That's right, - a giant robot Hitler! So bizarre it's worth the cover price alone. 

All in all, The Beano and The Dandy: The Comics that won The War is an excellent collection and deserves a place on the bookshelves of every collector of British comics. The R.R.P. is £12.99 but you'll find it cheaper than that if you shop around. 

Summer Specials 2014


The Summer Specials finally arrived at my local shops yesterday (although they've been in some parts of the country for a couple of weeks). These days they're no longer in the tabloid format they had years ago, but they're twice as thick and squarebound with sturdy card covers. 

The Dandy Summer Special 2014 has caused a little controversy in some fan circles because last year's edition promised to be the "Last Ever". Indeed, that was the intention, until WH Smith suggested to DC Thomson that as it sold so well it might be a good idea to continue it. This last minute decision to revive the title sadly meant that there was no time to commission new material (save for covers by Mike D) but what we have instead is a fine collection of reprints spanning the 1960s to 2010. Yes, as some have noted, one page of a Blinky story is printed twice by mistake (due to the short production time), but hopefully the other 66 pages in the comic will prove sufficiently rewarding. My opinion: focus on the positives. There's a lot of misery in life but a mistake in a comic isn't part of it.



I was particularly pleased to see one of my favourite Smasher strips by Hugh Morren from The Dandy Summer Special 1967, and a Dudley Watkins Desperate Dan from that year too. And look, - The Smasher strip features a teacher whacking him. It seems Political Correctness hasn't gone mad after all. 

There are also a couple of Winker Watson strips by Eric Roberts (from the 1970s I think) and a 1983 Brassneck strip by Bill Holroyd. For those of you with more recent nostalgia, there's a good selection of material from the 1980s and 1990s too.

The Beano Summer Activity Special 2014 contains a free gift of bound-in stickers, although a few people have reported these are not in their copies so check before you buy. 

The Beano one is all new, and features a good balance of comic strips and puzzle pages. Only the main Beano characters are included, so there's plenty of fun with Dennis, Minnie, Bash Street etc. but no appearances by Rasher, Tricky Dicky and suchlike. 

Both specials should now be available from WH Smith, Asda, and other retailers at £4.99 each for 68 pages. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcome home, TV21!


Here's the news I hinted at on my other blog on Wednesday. As part of their Supermarionation limited edition Blu-Ray box set in October, Network are publishing a brand new one-off edition of TV21!

Here's the info from their website:


*EXCLUSIVE*  TV21 – Edition 243
Unique to this box set, we present a brand-new edition of the classic Century 21 comic TV21, taking up where the original series left off. Produced to the same size and specification as the original, this all-new, single issue features newly-commissioned comic strips from original 1960s illustrators including Gerry Embleton and Martin Asbury, alongside the very best in contemporary comic talent. Contributors include Mike Collins, Martin Baines, Lew Stringer and 2000 AD writer John Freeman. This official and special edition is only available as part of this set.
I can reveal now that I'm doing a new Zoony the Lazoon mini-strip for this edition of TV21. (As fans of Gerry Anderson's shows will know, Zoony was the alien comedy relief in some Fireball XL5 episodes.)
This is a very exciting one-off project for all of us involved. TV21 (or TV Century 21 as it was originally called) was my favourite adventure comic of the 1960s. For those of us who grew up in that era, TV21 was the pinnacle of British comics, not only because it featured fantastic artwork and a distinctive contemporary design, but also because it brought Gerry Anderson's sixties shows into a connected Century 21 universe. TV21 was the coolest comic of the 1960s.
Make no mistake; this is an official edition of TV21, professionally commissioned and produced. Anyway, the deadline is tight, so I'd better blast off and get on with it! 
For the full details of the Supermarionation box set, see the Network website here:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bangers and Bracelets, they're Free Inside!


Back in 2010 I ran a series of blog posts showing old free gifts from comics. You can find the first part by clicking here and then check out subsequent days from that period for the other parts. Today I'm showing a few classic adverts for some comic free gifts of January to March 1972.

The four page 'pink flyers' that were inserted into The Dandy and The Beano at times to promote new comics and free gift issues have become very collectible amongst fans of UK comics. However, the small ads that were printed in the comics themselves were equally as well designed and compelling. Here are a few from the early months of 1972, scanned from the pages of The Dandy, The Beano, and Sparky. Click on the images to see them larger.








Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COMMANDO 4723 to 4726 out today!

Issue 4735 cover art by Carlos Pino
My thanks to DC Thomson for the latest info and cover images for the new Commando comics. Here's the details...

Commando Issues 4723-4726 – On Sale July 17th 2014


Commando No 4723 – To Vimy…To Victory?
On the morning of the 28 June 1914 two pistol shots fired in a Sarajevo street had plunged the world into war and pitched men of all nations against one another.
   Three years later, more and more soldiers were being dragged into the churning stalemate of the Western Front. Men from half a world away from France came to fight over her muddy battlefields,
   This is the story of one of them, Canadian Rick Strang.

Introduction

   As a tribute to those who served during the years 1914-1918 — on the Home Front or at Front Line — Commando has produced a series of stories of characters caught up in the tumult of the First World War. None of them are real people but we’d like to think that the experiences they have will not be a million miles from what actually happened to so many.
   Last month, tanks and flamethrowers were the perils our heroes faced. Now it is the very ground itself — from the mud to the ridge which dominated the battlefield. Added to this the Germans introduced shock troops — the Stormtroopers — who wrought havoc wherever they fought.
   I hope you enjoy this and the other stories in the series as much as we have.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

The series continues in four weeks with The Miners Of Messines, Commando No 4731

Story: George Low
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Ian Kennedy



Commando No 4724 – Dog Fight!

“Tally-Ho! Bandits!” That was the battle-cry of the British fighter pilot — the words the hunters in Spitfires shouted over their radio telephones when they had spotted German raiders.
   That famous battle-cry meant that a dogfight was only a couple of heart beats away — and there was glory and medals to be won…and death to be faced.
   “Tally-Ho! Bandits!”

Introduction

   I think it’ll be safe to say that most of you reading this will never have flown a Spitfire nor indeed gone to war. So we aren’t in a position to judge how a real pilot in a real dogfight is going to react. However, having read this tale of battles above the ground (and, indeed, on it) you can’t help but feel it has the smack of authenticity and that makes it believable.
   As well as that, though, it’s principally a good story given form by some very harsh black-and-white work by artist Sostres. His high-contrast work suits the black-and-white world that fighter pilots inhabited, where decisions had to be made in an instant…and acted upon.
   The drama starts with Ken Barr’s stricken pilot cover and doesn’t let up until the last page. Just like the real thing.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Dog Fight!, originally Commando No 110 (March 1964), re-issued as No 627 (March 1972)

Story: Kellie
Art: Sostres
Cover: Ken Barr



Commando No 4725 – Samurai Ace

“Tally-Ho! Bandits!” These might not have been the exact words on the lips of Lieutenant Azuma Takata’s lips when he threw his Nakajima Ki-43 fighter into a dogfight but the spirit of the warrior within him was exactly the same as that which drove the RAF men whose battle-cry it was.
   What he never imagined that he would have to turn that fighting spirit against his own side to prove he was indeed a…
SAMURAI ACE

Story: George Low
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino



Commando No 4726 – Ace Versus Ace

The two pilots were equally matched, both veterans of many vicious battles, both respected as the best in their squadrons.
   But in a duel to the death someone has to be the loser…

Introduction

With Ace Versus Ace we’re straight into a rollicking, classic Commando air story. However — with an apology in advance for this spoiler — things swiftly change tack and then we’re straight into a rollicking, classic Commando desert story! That’s the beauty of our 63-page format — the space to develop and steer a tale into a different direction if need be.
   And, without a doubt, Messrs Gregg, Jorge and Bevan are all on top here with some fine words and pictures for you to enjoy.

Scott Montgomery, Commando Editor

Ace Versus Ace, originally Commando No 2282 (May 1989), re-issued as No 3843 (September 2005)

Story: Bernard Gregg
Art: J.M. Jorge
Cover: Jeff Bevan
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