Tuesday, June 30, 2015

JUNIOR EXPRESS

I've blogged about Express Weekly here before, and its later incarnation as TV Express, but here's the comic in its original form! It wasn't even a comic back then really. Junior Express was basically a newspaper for children, - as its title implies, it was a junior version of the Daily Express. Tabloid size, and printed on cheap newsprint, it was launched in 1954 but the issue I'm showing here is No.22, dated January 29th 1955. 

(Update: I'd presumed from the cover story that this issue was the last in the newsprint format before it switched to glossy photogravure the following week. However I'm reliably informed by Jeremy Briggs and Graham Bleathman that it continued for another year in newsprint before improving to photogravure with issue 75.)

At the foot of page one you'll see Bengo, by Tim. This character later appeared in the Blue Peter Annuals. As you may know, Tim (real name William Timyn) also created and illustrated Bleep and Booster, which was a static frame cartoon story that sometimes appeared on Blue Peter in the sixties. 

Junior Express had 16 pages but comic strips only appeared on two full pages, a half pager, and a few mini strips. (It would later be practically all-strip when it became Express.) One of those strips was The Think Pistol. I'm not sure who the artist was but going by some of the techniques and the style of speech balloons I'm wondering if it might be by Chas Sinclair? 
Jeff Hawke first appeared in the Daily Express of course but new strips, not by Syd Jordan, appeared in Junior Express. Unfortunately they're uncredited, as is its companion strip Silverstone Sam. Also unfortunate is that the colour registration is off. No wonder they upgraded the printing later.
Joanna of Bitter Creek gave us a spirited heroine. (Junior Express was aimed equally at girls and boys.) Art by Jac Darrel. Its companion strip, Biddy and Butch, carries no credit but I'm sure it's the work of Cyril Price.
As previously noted, Junior Express was mainly a newspaper, and here's one of its feature pages; Junior Show Page with a few items of interest. The mini-strip, Cap and Crew, is by Roland Fiddy (1931 -1999), a very popular cartoonist of the time.
Here's a couple of adverts from this issue. Firstly, an interesting one from the days when Lucozade was considered by the medical profession to have "remarkable" health benefits. Attitudes have changed somewhat now, but all I know is that whenever I was laid up with a virus as a kid, it certainly made me feel better when my mum brought me a bottle of Lucozade. (And that plastic amber outer wrapping made it look something really special.) 
Now here's possibly the most important advertisement of all, because it settles a debate about Wagon Wheels that's been going on for years. "They used to be as big as your hand" say people today. Well, here's the evidence that 60 years ago they were 3 1/4" in diameter. Are today's Wagon Wheels smaller, or is it simply that our hands were smaller then? Measure one and let me know! (A Wagon Wheel, not your hand.)

Some previous blog posts about Express:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2007/02/express-weekly-forgotten-treasure.html

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/this-week-in-1960-tv-express.html

Monday, June 29, 2015

There's a new blog in town

It's always good to see another blog dedicated to old British comics and the latest one is called nothingbutafan. It's still early days but I reckon it's going to be good, maybe even great! Take a look and bookmark it, and let's wish it the best of luck:
https://nothingbutafan.wordpress.com/

Horror in the National Archives!

There's some fascinating revelations about the 1950s British anti-comics crusade over on the Down the Tubes blog today. No point in me reiterating it, so take a look for yourselves here:
http://downthetubes.net/?p=23475

You may remember that a few years ago I found some news items about the campaign that had appeared in the Daily Mirror in 1954. If you've never seen them they're hilarious in their paranoia, with the Bishop of Coventry comparing comics to Satan! Click on this link:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/1954-year-britain-got-horrors-over.html  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Grindhouse, new character

American publisher Dark Horse have just published Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out No.6, and on the back page you'll find my newest creation, Sex Pest! - a story about pubic lice. (Sorry kids, it's adults only!) Don't worry, the obnoxious misogynist gets his just desserts, and to find out how, pick up an issue from your nearest comics speciality store or buy the digital edition from the Dark Horse app.  

Sex Pest! is only the back up strip. The main feature in the comic is part two of Lady Danger: Agent of B.O.O.T.I. by Alex de Campi and Mulele Jarvis. You can read a preview of a few pages over on the CBR website:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/comic-previews/grindhouse-drive-in-bleed-out-6-dark-horse-comics-2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hayley Atwell confirmed for LFCC

The guest list for next month's London Film and Comic Con keeps getting bigger and better! Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters etc) and Catherine Tate (her own TV show plus Doctor Who etc) were recently added to the list and now Hayley Atwell has been conformed as the latest guest.

Amongst her other screen appearances, comic fans will know Ms.Atwell as Peggy Carter in Marvel's Captain America movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, a few episodes of the Agents of SHIELD TV series, and her own Agent Carter mini series. 

The London Film and Comic Con takes place at Olympia on 17th to 19th July. Hayley Atwell will be attending on Saturday and Sunday.

Guests from the comics industry include Mike Perkins, Rachael Smith, John Wagner, Lee Sullivan, Dan Slott, Gary Erskine, David Lloyd, Mike Collins, and me amongst others! I hope to see some of you there! For full guest list and more info, visit the LFCC website here:
http://www.londonfilmandcomiccon.com/

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This week in British comics

Here's more proof there's still life in the UK comics industry with a brief look at several titles available this week that feature all new material. The Summer Special edition of 2000AD is out today, or 2000AD Sci-Fi Special as they like to call it, featuring revivals of a few old characters in brand new strips! 

The regular weekly 2000AD also hits the shops today with issue No.1936.

From London-based Titan Comics there's the second issue of Jay Gunn's excellent Surface Tension limited series. This is truly a superb comic with fantastic art by Jay.

Also from Titan Comics today is Scarlett Couture No.3, a thriller by Tottenham-born Des Taylor...

From Panini UK, Doctor Who Magazine No.488 will be in shops on Thursday (25th June), which includes another 12 page chapter of the serial Blood and Ice by Jaqueline Rayner and Martin Geraghty, plus a Daft Dimension strip by me.

There's also the latest issues of The Beano and The Phoenix of course, and probably some other titles I've missed. 

Support the UK comics industry! You'll find 2000AD, The Beano, and Doctor Who Magazine in WH Smith and other High Street newsagents. Surface Tension and Scarlett Couture are available from comics speciality stores. The Phoenix is available by subscription and in selected branches of Waitrose and Waterstones (plus some comic shops).   

Titan Comics: http://titan-comics.com/

2000AD: http://www.2000adonline.com/

Doctor Who Magazine: 
http://www.doctorwhomagazine.com/

The Beano:
http://www.beano.com

The Phoenix:
http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/


(2000AD cover images taken from the superb Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog. An essential place for every fan of the comic:
https://2000ad.wordpress.com/ )

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Commando - out now!

A little later than usual but here's the press release for the latest issues of Commando, Britain's longest running adventure comic.
All four issues are in the shops now.

Commando Issues 4819-4822 – On Sale 18 June 2015

Commando No 4819 – Brilliant Death
The Convict Commandos are not known to do things the conventional way. Titch Mooney, Jelly Jakes, Smiler Dawson and Guy Tenby — not forgetting their ruthless confederate Dr Jane Mallory — always get the jobs where conventional is not an option.
   Even by their standards, though, a boat chase through the centre of Venice was a bit extreme.
   You really have got to read this tale.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet
Commando No 4820 – Lost Patrol
Sergeant Jim Stark was trying to lead a lost patrol of fellow Chindits back to safety, through a jungle swarming with Japanese. A tight enough spot for any man, even worse for Jim who had lost his memory.
   But Jim didn’t know the half of it.
   Among the men of that lost patrol was a man already wanted in England for murder, a man whose burning dark eyes bored into Jim’s back every time it was turned, a man who had to kill the sergeant or die himself!

Introduction
The trouble with the records for the early Commando books is that the entries tend to be a bit cryptic. Take the details for the names; usually it’s just a second name with an initial added only if there are two creators with the same surname.
   Take the de la Fuentes, for example. There’s V de la Fuente, R de la Fuente and finally J de la Fuente. We know the first two are Victor and Ramon but we only think the last is José Luis as the work he’s known for is nothing like this.
   Not that it matters here as the work is as punchy as the hard-hitting Powell (no first name again) script. Classic Commando.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Lost Patrol originally Commando No 176 (August 1965)

Story: Powell
Art: J Fuente
Cover: Ken Barr



Commando No 4821 – A Motley Crew
In the lead-up to the hastily organised evacuation at Dunkirk, a disparate group of servicemen found themselves thrown together.
   A Pay Corps clerk…
   …an RAF policeman…
   …and a Royal Navy Able Seaman…
   …were joined by a shady civilian who was unsure whose side he was on, except his own.
   They would have to combine their skills, intelligence and abilities if they were to live to fight another day.

Story: George Low
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak



Commando No 4822 – Full Speed East
THE MEN — Tough British sailors schooled in the traditions of Trafalgar. Lean, hard-fighting Americans spurred on by the memory of Pearl Harbour.

THE SHIPS — MTBs of the Royal Navy — four torpedo tubes, six guns, capable of 40 knots. Patrol Torpedo Boats of the US Navy — four tubes, five guns, a top speed of 45 knots.

THE OBJECTIVE — To close with the enemy…FAST!

Introduction
Character clash is at the heart of all fiction. Without it we simply would have no drama. This tough sea and jungle tale has that character clash in spades — British Royal Navy sailors face off against their US counterparts as they struggle to put aside their differences and fight the real enemy, the Imperial Japanese Navy. The tension builds gradually, unravelling like the coils of a giant snake…
   Oh, there is a giant snake in it as well. Just thought I should mention it. 

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Full Speed East, originally Commando No 1080 (November 1976), re-issued as No 2372 (May 1990)

Story: Mclean
Art: Fleming
Cover: Ian Kennedy


Improper Books!

Steady now. This isn't a post about 'spicy' mags sold by men in dirty macs. We're still talking respectable comics, and some great stuff too. 

Last week, when I blogged about how diverse and busy the current British comics scene is, I was recommended to check out a company called Improper Books. I looked, and I liked what I saw, so I thought I'd give them a plug.

As their website explains, "Improper Books is a collective of comic creators formed in 2009 by Benjamin Read (Writer), Laura Trinder(Artist) and Chris Wildgoose (Artist). While collaborating together on the set of UK independent feature ARMISTICE, the trio discovered a mutual love for comics, illustrated books, and the darker side of fairy tales and set about making their own.

From that, the idea of Improper Books came about; a collective of writers, artists and designers with the know-how to make comics, books and apps, all of which have a touch of the fairy tale, the Gothic or the macabre, and focused on a creator-owned model that is fair to all involved."

The quality of their work looks fantastic. There's the cover of Night Post above, and here's an interior page by Laura Trinder...

Here's a page from Briar drawn by Chris Wildgoose...

...and the cover of Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale, also illustrated by Chris Wildgoose...

There's so much going on in the British comics industry these days with the independent scene that it's easy to miss gems like these so I'm glad they were brought to my attention. The traditional system of comics in newsagents isn't reflective of how the industry is buzzing with a variety of graphic novels for various ages. There's life in the comics industry yet!

For more information on Improper Books, and previews of the content, visit their website:
http://www.improperbooks.com/

(The images on this post are from the Improper Books website.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Frank Hampson art for sale

Image from The Art of Frank Hampson site.
Peter Hampson, the son of Frank Hampson, the creator of Dan Dare, has launched a website and gallery of his late father's work. Some of the classic Dan Dare pages from Eagle are up for sale, as are some pages that Mr.Hampson illustrated for Ladybird books. 

The Dan Dare pages are not cheap but after all they are important works in the history of comics and the quality of the illustration is so superb. There are few UK comic characters as iconic as Dan Dare, and Eagle changed the face of British comics forever.

There's also a gallery of original pages that are not for sale, such as The Road of Courage artwork telling the story of Jesus. 
Image from The Art of Frank Hampson site.
You can take a look for yourselves over at The Artwork of Frank Hampson at this link:
http://www.frankhampsonartwork.co.uk/index.html

"Where do you get your scans from?"

I'm posting this as a reminder because I've been asked a few times over the years "Where do you get your scans of old comics from?". Unless stated otherwise, all the images of old comics on my blog are scans I've done myself from comics in my collection. Unlike some, I do not nick images from other sites/blogs and pretend they're my own. (Why would anyone do that?)
The other question I'm sometimes asked is "Can you scan me the whole comic/serial?" Sorry, no, because a) I don't have time, and b) that'd be piracy. (Publishers don't mind a few pages being scanned to illustrate a post but not the entire comic.) The response to that is sometimes "You're being selfish by not sharing". Staggering! To those people I say, folks, there are already several thousand images on my blog. Don't be so #*¢%•>* greedy! If you want more, hunt down and buy those old comics yourselves, like I always have.
I must emphasize that it's only a tiny minority of blog visitors who post comments like that. The rest of you are fantastic and your visits and comments are always very welcome and appreciated.

Usual service will now be resumed. :)    

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Check out the Jinty blog

For a blog about British comics I'm afraid my Blimey! blog has been quite remiss in covering comics published for girls. This is mainly because I don't know a great deal about them, having never read them when growing up, and having never contributed to those comics as an adult. It just wasn't the done thing for boys to read girls comics, and as a result I never gave them a second thought. (Although I appreciate now that many boys did read them, often those of their sisters.) Subsequently I missed out on a lot of great artwork and stories. I have bought some in recent years and will make an effort to feature them more often here. 

However, one blog that is devoted to the subject is Jenni Scott's excellent A Resource on Jinty, which has just celebrated its 300th post. Superbly written and researched, the blog covers the artists, writers, and stories related to IPC's Jinty weekly and its related titles. It's essential reading for anyone interested in the subject so check it out at this link:
https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/

(Cover scans from Jenni's blog.)

Birmingham Comics Festival returns in 2016

The first Birmingham Comics Festival was a success this year so it's been confirmed that the event will return on Saturday 23rd April 2016. The venue will again be the Edgbaston Stadium. 

Here's the press release from organizer Steve Tanner. (Click on image to see it larger.) It sounds like it'll be another great celebration of the comics industry from the UK and beyond. You can find out more details over the months to come by following developments at the official website here:
http://www.thecomicfestival.com/

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic 1976

The 1970s saw a rising interest in fiction dealing with horror and the occult. The Exorcist and The Omen in the cinema for example, The Pan Book of Horror being a popular series of paperbacks, and the relaxation of the Comics Code allowing vampires, werewolves and other horrors in American comics that were reaching more UK newsagents than ever before. Teens, adults, (and kids if they could access it) enjoyed nothing better than a good scary story. 

How could British comics join the fun? The Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 had forbidden the production of horror comics in the UK due to alleged effects on children, a kneejerk reaction to 1950s horror comic imports (see here). However, stories of the supernatural had continued to appear in British comics occasionally, although they tended to be very tame.

In 1975, IPC decided to publish a one-off hardback edition called The Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic. The closest thing they could get away with to a horror comic without being too graphic. Most of the stories featured The Spellbinder character; the old magician who had been the lead strip in Lion weekly. (By this time Lion had merged into Valiant.) However the book also contained several one-off mystery stories illustrated by IPC's top artists.

The book had 144 pages, mostly in black and white. The full colour lead strip, The Hand of Tuthoon, written by Frank Pepper and drawn by Fred Holmes, reintroduced readers to The Spellbinder, revealing how Tom Turville had awakened his ancestor Sylvester Turville from suspended animation.

The book also included one of the Spellbinder serials from Lion, edited into a 33 page adventure. The rest of the book featured all-new material. Perhaps the most intriguing strip was The Final Victim, an early collaboration between Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun several years before they created Charley's War for Battle. In The Final Victim, Colquhoun drew himself as 'Albert Weems', a comic artist down on his luck. Presumably the comic's managing editor 'J.J. Legrun' was based on IPC's Jack LeGrand. Here's the whole story...





Joe Colquhoun also illustrated some other material in the book, including two text stories, The Red House and Nightmare and the short comic story The Man on the Road...



Other great talent in the book included Eric Bradbury...


...Fred Holmes...

...and of course Geoff Campion, the main Spellbinder artist who also contributed some art for text stories and the endpapers...



The Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic was a one-off, which suggests it either didn't sell very well or IPC decided to shy away from the subject. It's a fantastic book though, as you can see from the examples I've shown here. Well worth seeking out if you don't have a copy. 

There's one hugely important thing about it that you may have noticed; the stories all carry writer/artist credit boxes. Hats off to the editor for doing this as it was definitely not usual IPC policy at the time, and wouldn't be seen again until 2000AD started publishing credits a couple of years later. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This week in 1929: THE JOKER No.86

I recently bought a run of issues of The Joker from 1929 so you can expect to see a few more samples on my blog from time to time. This is issue No.86, dated 22nd June 1929, the issue that kids would have been reading 86 years ago this week.

Published by The Amalgamated Press, the comic's format is typical of the early 20th Century: tabloid, no colour, 8 pages equally divided between comic strips and prose stories. Thanks to the research by the late Denis Gifford I'm able to identify the artists of these strips.

Firstly that cover strip. Very racist by today's standards, Jim Crow and Oliver Twitter are a typical twosome of comics of the time, unemployed, sometimes homeless, wandering from one situation to the next. The name Jim Crow is particularly jarring as it derives from the slang term describing anti-black laws in America. Despite some of it being uncomfortable to read today the strip has excellent artwork by Percy Cocking.

Inside, one of the text stories was Burke, Chief of Police, a complete mystery tale. 
As with other comics of the time, he centre pages feature an array of short strips. Here are two of them, Our Wandering Boy by Albert Pease...
...and Tilly Tappit the Typist by Louis Briault. Note the blatant plug for two of The Joker's companion comics... 
On the back page, The Cruise of the Winklepin by H.C. Milburn. It's yet another variation of the wandering twosome that had been popularised by Weary Willie and Tired Tim in Chips. This time the spin on the theme was that the wanderers had a boat.
I know posts on pre-war comics aren't very popular amongst most visitors to this blog but I think it's important to show the history of British comics and to bring the work of those early artists to modern readers.  I hope some of you enjoy seeing them anyway. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts/opinions. 
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