Sunday, November 30, 2014

Here come the STIKKUMS!


Okay, it's not a comic, but it does feature artwork by a comic artist, - namely me! Stikkums, the new app that I told you about on my other blog a few weeks ago, is now approved by Apple and available to download for the iPad. As I mentioned before, the idea is Dan Whitehead's and I did all of the artwork, which was a very enjoyable job indeed. 

Stikkums is a behavioral reward app for kids, whereby parents set their children targets, to be rewarded with points they can use to 'buy' various character 'stickers'. There are 20 characters and two backgrounds per pack, that kids (or adults if you want a dabble) can use in unlimited scenarios. And yes, once you've unlocked a character you can use the same one if you wish multiple times. Build your own army! 
As it's all digital, the characters can be moved around the backgrounds at any time, flipped, rotated, resized, even coloured if you prefer a different colour scheme. You get the Knights pack free with the download, and other packs (Space and Monsters so far) to purchase at just 69p a pack.
Hopefully the success of Stikkums will lead to more work for me in creating more sticker packs, so if you have an iPad I'd appreciate you downloading the app. Find out more on the Stikkums website here:

Here's the link directly to the iTunes store to download the app:

All Stikkums artwork shown in this post is Copyright © The Zebra Partnership 2014.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Malta Comic Con

I hate letting people down, especially those who have gone out of their way to be helpful and supportive. Unfortunately due to a persistent bug I'm sorry to say I won't be flying over to Malta in the morning for the Malta Comic Con this weekend. Felt ill just getting to the corner shop and back.

I feel terrible letting down the organizers who have been so supportive of my work and promoting me online, and shouldering the finances of flight and hotel bookings. I also feel bad to let down any friends and readers who were hoping to see me there. It sounds like a great event and with temperatures still over 20 degrees C would have made a nice alternative to our winter climate. 

Yesterday, Malta Today published an interview with me that was conducted last week. All rather pointless now, but you can read it by clicking here if you wish.

I've also fallen behind schedule due to this bug so must press on with work now. My apologies to all concerned regarding the Malta Comic Con and I hope you guys have a great weekend.
http://www.maltacomic-con.com/ 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Funny Monsters Comic No.2 - It's Christmas!

Yes, it may only be November but the Christmas issue of Funny Monsters Comic is out now! As mentioned in an earlier post, this independent comic is produced and published by long-established cartoonist Joe Matthews. Fed up with the lack of new British humour comics being published by the major publishers he went out and did his own!

Funny Monsters Comic No.2 is another 16 pages of Christmas full colour fun including pages of comic strips featuring Zackster Kid Zombie, Scary Monsters, the Bed Bugs, and Werewolf Growl. There's also a two page text story featuring Milly, Monster Hunter, and several activity pages. It's a very nice package for kids and would be a good stocking stuffer for Christmas. The comic also has free gifts in the form of three character stickers and two trading cards. 

You can visit the comic's official Facebook page to find out more:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Funny-Monsters-Comic/713887701981304

Funny Monsters Comic only has limited distribution so far, so you won't find it in Smiths or Asda! However, you can buy a copy from Joe himself when he appears at various locations selling the comics (see the Facebook page for updates about this). Alternatively you can send for a copy by post simply by using PayPal (joe_1963@live.co.uk £2 including p&p - or £3 for issues 1 & 2).

There's no mention of when No.3 will appear, but it'll be early next year hopefully. Give Funny Monsters Comic your support and let's make it a regular comic!

Friday, November 21, 2014

FOOTBALL GALAXY kicks off!

A new comic magazine appeared on the shelves a few weeks ago, - Football Galaxy, a 40 page glossy all-colour publication for £3.99. It's bagged with gifts, as these mags usually are now, but amongst its features you'll find nine pages of brand new comic strips. 

All the strips are by Nigel Parkinson (with some scripts by Paul Palmer) and take place 'far away in time and space', centering around a football team on another planet. Here you'll meet cyborg soccer star Billy Basher...
...the fans of Space Kop...
...Old-time intergalactic groundsman Pop...
...and others including a tentacled alien in a sheepskin coat. The rest of the magazine is taken up with football features such as this...
The tone of the mag is very lighthearted and irreverent in the vein of Toxic and Mega, although there are also informative features on today's footie stars for the young fan.

Football Galaxy is published by Shubrook Bros. Media LLP, and I think the frequency is every three weeks. Issue 2 is in the shops now.


Nigel Parkinson's blog: 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Nits of the Round Table (Tiger, 1966)

I'm insanely busy at the moment so this blog post will be brief. In 1966, Leo Baxendale had been working for Odhams for a couple of years on Wham! and Smash! but then moved to Fleetway to freelance on The Nits of the Round Table for Tiger weekly, starting in the issue dated 26th November 1966. Here's a few examples of that short run strip. (It ended in 1967.) Some of these strips look like Mike Brown may have collaborated with Leo on them but I'm not sure. (I think Leo explained the situation in his autobiography, but I've mislaid it at present.) Anyway, classic 1960s fun! (The strip was reprinted in Buster in 1973.) Click on pages to see them much bigger. Enjoy!






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Commando Nos.4759 to 4762 out this week


Directly from Commando HQ, here's the intel on the four issues of Commando that will be in the shops on Thursday (or even Wednesday in some areas)...
Commando Issues 4759-4762 – On sale 20 November 2014

Commando No 4759 – Assault In The Alps
On the morning of the 28th of June 1914, two pistol shots fired in a Sarajevo street plunged the world into war.
   Four years later battles raged across the globe with some of the hardest fighting in the mountains between Italy and Austria. Lieutenant Roger Walton was sent to Italy as a liaison officer because someone in authority wanted to keep him away from the deadly trenches in France. They could have no idea that he was being sent to a far more lethal theatre of war.

Introduction
As a tribute to those who served during the years 1914-1918 — on the Home Front or at the 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 their experiences will not be a million miles from what actually happened to so many across the globe.
   Last time, we saw how the tank changed the face of the battlefield forever. This time we are in Italy where the terrain so dominated warfare that armies fought as they had since time immemorial — face-to-face.
   I hope you enjoy this and the other stories in the series as much as we have.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

The series concludes in four weeks with Armistice! Commando No 4767

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


Commando No 4760 – Vultures Over Malta

When Sir Francis Drake sailed into Cadiz harbour and attacked the Spanish fleet they said he had singed the King of Spain’s beard.
   Now meet Nick Corrigan, who sailed into an enemy-held harbour and burned the black whiskers off Hitler’s face. And all he had to do it with was the “Nelly”, a rusty old minesweeper.
   At least that’s what she looked like. Pound for pound, though, this vicious little tub was the most heavily-armed ship in the Royal Navy.

Introduction

I don’t want you to be misled by this cover so I’m telling you now that this ISN’T an air story. That, though, is the end of the bad news because this is a smashing (pun intended) naval story to rival any pirate yarn from any age. Add in a classic “stuffed shirt” as a second enemy and you have a classic.
   Sostres art I have commented on before, pointing out that his treatment of line and shading makes for as excellent night scenes as daylight ones. Once again he doesn’t disappoint.
   Ken Barr’s cover is the icing on the cake of this mini-classic. But that’s just my opinion, you can decide for yourself.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Vultures Over Malta, originally Commando No 130 (August 1964), re-issued as No 683 (October 1972)

Story: McOwan
Art: Sostres
Cover: Ken Barr



Commando No 4761 – Battle-Carrier!

Near the end of the Second World War, Flight Lieutenant Frank Mason and his photo-reconnaissance Mosquito bomber were sent to the Aleutian Islands to assist the USAAF’s search for Japanese vessels.
   There Frank found himself in the middle of a desperate battle for survival against a fanatical group of Japanese who refused to accept that Emperor had surrendered. To make matters even worse, they were in charge of an absolute monster — a Yamato-class superbattleship that had been converted into an aircraft carrier…to make a fearsome
BATTLECARRIER!

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino



Commando No 4762 – Walrus To The Rescue

With complete disregard for himself and his navigator, Colin Hamble threw his Mosquito around the sky like a madman. His only thought was to ruthlessly kill his enemy.
   Well, the day came when he was given something a lot slower than a Mossie — a Walrus amphibian with a top speed of about 130mph. Colin soon found that saving lives needed a lot more guts and skill than taking them!

Introduction

Mention a Commando air story to someone and there’s a good chance they’ll describe aerial action involving sleek fighters like Spitfires, Me109s, Corsairs or Zeroes — and they’d be right to, of course.
   However, it’s good when a tale does something different, focussing on a lesser-known aircraft — like the Supermarine Walrus, for example. These trusty amphibian bi-planes were a sight for sore eyes for many a downed pilot — for they were used for vital RAF air-sea rescue missions, their brave crews saving many lives. Proving once again that Commando’s format has the scope to tell stories that can be a little less obvious than what might be expected.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Walrus To The Rescue!, originally Commando No 913 (February 1975), re-issued as No 2252 (February 1989)

Story: R.A. “Monty” Montague
Art: Mira
Cover: Ian Kennedy


Monday, November 17, 2014

Ads of the past (1970/71)

I know some find them intrusive, but I've always liked advertisements in comics. They place the comic into a larger cultural context, and years later can evoke as many nostalgic memories as the stories themselves. Plus they help finance the comics, which can't be a bad thing. 

Here's a bunch of ads that appeared in IPC comics in 1970 and early 1971. Kicking off above with a promotion for space stickers that were free in boxes of Sugar Smacks. Back when cereals were allowed to carry incentives like free gifts. Back when there were Sugar Smacks! (Which I personally always found tastier than their rivals Sugar Puffs.)

Next, an ad for a very slim Cadbury bar which carried free cards. In fact the bar wasn't much bigger than the cards as I recall.  
Spacex! I barely remember this toy brand, but I think I had one of the models.
A full page promo for The Sun from the pages of Scorcher comic. A blatant way to encourage kids to get their parents to buy that newspaper...

Corgi Rockets were a rival to Hot Wheels. I had a Corgi Rockets Triple-loop set, because I was familiar with Corgi cars so the advertising didn't have to work too hard to convince me. 
Puffa Puffa Rice was another cereal that's no longer around, as far as I know. In 1970 they were giving away various plastic warriors. Nice little toy figures. I still have a couple of them, as you can see in the photo after the ad...

Spears Games produced several stocking fillers, - relatively cheap but well made games for the Christmas market. Here's their 1970 ad, alongside small ads for Jacoskates and Subbuteo!
This View-Master ad reads like something Don Draper might create in Mad Men. It really sells the product well. View-Master was incredibly popular back in the sixties and seventies...
Brooke Bond tea regularly gave away free cards, changing the subject matter on a yearly basis. In 1971, with the Moon landing still relatively fresh in the memory, The Race Into Space was the subject...
Free cards were considered a good incentive to sell products, and were comparatively cheap to produce. Even Walls Sausages were at it!
I'll post more old ads at a later date. By the way, if you're new to this blog, click on each image to see it larger. 

Some previous blog entries about ads in comics:





Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Black Archer (1966 - 67)

The notion of a modern-day Robin Hood type of character isn't new to comics. DC Comics' Green Arrow has been around in one form or another since 1941, (and is now the star of the Arrow TV series) and Marvel's Hawkeye debuted in 1964. With the issue dated 2nd July 1966, Tiger and Hurricane introduced their own version, - The Black Archer.


To be frank, The Black Archer wasn't a very memorable character, but I thought its novelty might interest some of you. Above is the origin story, illustrated by the great Eric Bradbury. 

I only have sporadic issues of Tiger from this period but by the 19th November 1966 issue, The Black Archer had a different artist. The following three pages look like the work of Sandy James to me...



You'll also note that the character has moved away from his original urban vigilante theme into a more fantastic vein, fighting bizarre villains. This was undoubtedly inspired by the success of the Batman TV series. By January 1967, The Black Archer was facing a very peculiar looking character called The Remover...

By now, the artwork was by John Gillatt, another of Fleetway's many top illustrators. Tiger's rotating cover strips meant that it appeared on the front page on at least one occasion (issue dated 18th February 1967)...



As you can see, the scripts were not great, but it was a quirky strip and it featured some very nice artwork so it deserves to be remembered for that at least. If you're interested in seeking it out, The Black Archer ran in Tiger and Hurricane from 2nd July 1966 to 7th October 1967.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: This Was The Wizard

British comics took a long time to settle into the format of all-strip content that most of us remember. For the first few decades of the 20th Century, the traditional comics (or 'papers' as they were often called in Britain) were half prose stories, half comic strips. Then of course there were the 'story papers' that contained all prose stories, and which happily continued on their parallel timeline of popularity alongside the comic papers for many years. One of the fondest remembered of those story papers was The Wizard, and this week a new book was published charting its 41 year history. 

This Was The Wizard is a splendid 254 page volume written by Derek Marsden and Ray Moore, whose names many of you will recognize. Ray Moore has authored various articles and books on British comics including The Beano Diaries, and Derek Marsden is the author of Free Gifts in the Big Five, which I reviewed here two years ago. This new book covers the entire history of The Wizard in its original incarnation as a story paper (1922 to 1963), but not the later comic version launched in 1970. 

Having read material by Derek and Ray before I know that both authors know their stuff. This Was The Wizard is a book that's solidly packed with information and I would say is the definitive work on the popular story paper. Derek has a very precise and thorough writing style, presumably developed by his years as a teacher, and his history of The Wizard goes into great detail about the stories and characters. This is also combined with well researched background information about the comic and its development over the years. 
The main portion of the book is a listing of every story, with a short synopsis, the length of its run, and the name of its artist. This list is accompanied by a small reproduction of the art and logo used in the header of each serial/story. These images are very small but the quality of the reproduction is so high that the detail is still clear to see. Story titles such as Kashgar the Terrible, The Waxworks of Secrets and Shivers, The Staring Eyes, and The Voice on the Wire hint at how exciting those prose stories must have been for the boys who devoured them every week. 
The creators of those stories aren't ignored of course. The book also provides biographical details of many of them, including photographs taken in the D.C. Thomson offices decades ago. So thorough is the book that there's even a floor plan of the art department, showing where the staff were situated! 

There are some nice colour sections too. One features a gallery of selected Wizard covers. Again, the images are small (12 covers to a page) but they give us a good idea of the range of covers and their approach in attracting their readership.
Another colour section reprints pages from the flyers that promoted various free gift issues of The Wizard over the years. These flyers were marvellously designed by the Thomson art department and made the gifts seem very compelling. 
The third colour section shows photographs of the free gifts that the paper carried over the years. Far more interesting items than the plastic foam bullet shooters and suchlike given in comics today.
Although primarily a text story paper, The Wizard did feature a few short humour strips at times, and some of those are reproduced in the book. 

There's also a listing of The Wizard Annuals and their contents. As I said earlier in this review, This Was The Wizard is the definitive book on its subject and covers everything one could know about the paper. Derek Marsden and Ray Moore have really worked long and hard on this volume and their dedication should be appreciated. I knew very little about The Wizard before reading this book so it's been an entertaining education, which is what the history of comics and story papers should be about. 

This Was The Wizard costs £25 and can be ordered from any bookshop worldwide by quoting ISBN 978-0955197819. It will be on sale at 30th Century Comics in Putney, from Sunday, and at Border Bookshop in Todmorden, Lancashire, from Friday November 21st. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's Grindhouse day!

Today at a comic speciality store near you the first issue of Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out goes on sale. As with the first Grindhouse mini-series, the eight issues will consist of 4 two-part stories. Issue one is Slay Ride Part One by Alex de Campi and R.M. Guera. You can read a preview of the first six pages here:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=24144

The comic's creator and writer, Alex de Campi will be on board throughout the run, with a different artist for each two part story evoking the twisted extremes of Grindhouse movies. 

But wait. Fine comic though it is, Grindhouse is an American publication, so why am I plugging it on a blog dedicated to British comics? Well, a) I do occasionally promote comics outside of the UK, and b) admittedly I have a vested interest in this one. On the back page of issue 1 you'll find a brand new full page strip I created for the comic. Kung-Fu Cheesecake is her name, and vengeance is her game. It's Grindhouse cinema meets Looney Tunes.

Catch Kung-Fu Cheesecake while you can, because next month in issue 2 there'll be a different strip by me, and two more in issues 7 and 8. I'll reveal more about those at a later date.  

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out No.1, $3.99, mature readers only. Published by Dark Horse Comics. On sale from today from comic shops such as Forbidden Planet, Nostalgia and Comics, Gosh!, etc. 
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