Saturday, October 31, 2015

WHAM! Fireworks issue, 1964

Wham! was such a great comic in its early days. It was diluted somewhat later in its run with a reduction of colour, a change to newsprint, the loss of Leo Baxendale and the addition of Marvel reprint, but in its first few years it was incredible. Perhaps not quite the 'Super-Beano' that Baxendale had intended it to be, but still the funniest comic on the stands at the time.

Here's a few pages from Wham! No.21, when the comic was in its prime. It's the first firework issue of the comic and what a fantastic cover by Leo Baxendale! Complete anarchy with fireworks flying around recklessly. There's no way you'd see something like this in a newsagents today. It'd cause a public outcry and claims of irresponsibility. But back in 1964, everyone took it for the bit of fun it was intended to be.

This issue had a packed 24 pages of strips, most with a fireworks theme. Here's The Wacks, drawn by Gordon Hogg...

There are seven pages by Leo Baxendale in this issue, including The Tiddlers. In these early strips, the teacher, 'Super Sir', was a pal of the pupils, often joining in with their unruly antics. Super Sir was sadly later replaced by a more traditional teacher type who was in opposition to the kids.


The full-colour centre pages show how Leo Baxendale used the photogravure printing to its best advantage with a build up to a big painted fireworks explosion. 

Oddly enough, the Frankie Stein episode that week had no fireworks reference. However with Ken Reid artwork this good I couldn't leave it out...


Baxendale rounds off the inside of the comic with a simple but effective Georgie's Germs strip with more fireworks fun. 


Wham! A fantastic issue of a fantastic comic. 

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...and with this post I'm taking a break from blogging for a short while. I have deadlines and a few other things to deal with over the next few weeks but rest assured that Blimey! will feature new posts before too long. In the meantime I'll continue to update my art blog with any news of my own work. (You do know I have two blogs I presume?) http://lewstringercomics.blogspot.co.uk/

Happy Halloween and have a safe Bonfire Night next week!

BOMB SCARES is a Halloween chiller!

The new British comics keep on coming! Independent publisher Time Bomb Comics has unleashed a 96 page anthology of all-new horror comic strips entitled Bomb Scares 2015. With a varied mixture of art styles and short, snappy stories, the book gives us a good selection of established and up and coming talent. 
Beneath a fantastic cover by Richard Elson and Dave Kendall lurk 18 horror stories, often with a vein of dark humour about them. Under the editorship of Paul H. Birch, creators include Jasper Bark, Dave Hailwood, Joe Matthews, Jim Alexander, Gary Crutchley, Christine Logan, Anthony Summey, John D. Williams, Steven Austin and many more. 


There's even three pages of The Suburban Satanists by me...
Time Bomb Comics have produced some interesting books and I think this is the best one yet. “We aimed high and recruited respected editor Paul H Birch to put together a truly breathtaking array of talent,” said Time Bomb publisher Steve Tanner. “The artwork throughout is breathtaking - each of the artists involved producing some incredible pages of comic art to realise the dark and macabre tales of the writers they collaborated with.”

Bomb Scares 2015 will be available to buy soon from the publisher:
http://www.timebombcomics.com/

Friday, October 30, 2015

OCTOBRIANA: The Underground History

I'm a sucker for books on the history of comics, particularly those that cover an area of comics unfamiliar to me. British indie publisher Kult Creations have recently published Octobriana: The Underground History, wherin author John A. Short tells us the story of a mysterious character that has been around for years but has never really been covered in such depth before.

Octobriana, we are told, is "the Russian Devil-Woman. A free-thinking Communist superhero with a red star tattooed on her forehead". Apparently in the public domain, the savage Octobriana has appeared in numerous comics and various pop culture over the years. A version of her even cropped up in the Nikolai Dante series in 2000AD

In his 120 page book, John A. Short delves into the rich history of the character, starting with the 1971 book that introduced her, Octobriana and the Russian Underground. It's quite a journey, and full of twists and turns including one major twist that I won't spoil here. 

John has clearly spent an amazing amount of time and research in producing this book. It's extremely thorough and must be the definitive tome on the character. Not only that, but he adds to the history himself by including an all-new 34 page full colour Octobriana strip illustrated by Gabrielle Noble. There are also guest art illustrations from Vincent Danks, Neil Edwards, Hunt Emerson, and myself.

Octobriana: The Underground History is a fascinating, well illustrated, thoroughly researched book that is a fine addition to the history of comics. An absolute bargain at just £9.99. You can find out more, and order your copy, from the Kult Creations site here:
http://kultcreations.blogspot.co.uk/

Birmingham Comics Festival announces more guests

Next year's Birmingham Comics Festival has added more guests to its line up. Recent additions are Rachael Smith, writer/artist of graphic novels House Party and The Rabbit, and artist on back-up strips for Titan's Doctor Who Comic; artist and actor Jessica Martin (It Girl, Vivacity, Elsie Harris Picture Palace), and Ian Gibson, long established artist on Star Wars, 2000AD, and many other comics. 

They join artist Ariel Olivetti (Marvel and DC Comics), Luca Pizzari (artist on Marvel's upcoming Black Knight series), Leigh Gallagher (2000 AD), writer/artist David Hine (Strange Embrace, Spider-Man Noir, and many other comics), artist Ryan Brown (IDW comics), and myself (Buster, Beano, Doctor Who Magazine etc). Even more guests will be announced over the next few months!

The event takes place at the Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham, on the 23rd April 2016. Although it's quite a while away yet the show is shaping up well. It looks like it'll be a good one!

With at least one comic event practically every weekend of the year, the UK comics community has never been busier. This is a marvelous time to be a comics contributor or reader.

For more info on The Birmingham Comics Festival, visit their website here: 
http://www.thecomicfestival.com/home

Review: JOHNNY RED No.1

This week London based Titan Comics published Johnny Red No.1, an all-new 8 issue monthly comic mini-series reviving the WW2 fighter ace from long-defunct Battle comic weekly, thanks to an agreement with copyright holders Egmont UK. 

Of all the Egmont properties that Titan could have revived, it seems a brave move to bring back a war comics character. Johnny Red is only available in comics speciality shops, usually visited by customers mainly interested in SF, fantasy and superheroes. One would think that Adam Eterno, Doomlord, or even The Leopard of Lime Street would have been a better option for that demographic, but time will tell. What Johhny Red has on his side is fan favourite writer Garth Ennis, whose work is always worth a look, and artist Keith Burns, who is new to me but handles the artwork admirably.

The comic itself, although British, is in the American format, and has 32 full colour pages. The Johhny Red story is 20 pages in length and unexpectedly the first half is set in the present, concerning the salvaging and imminent repair of a familiar old Hawker Hurricane airframe. This is an aircraft that has seen some action in the past and the story eventually leads to a flashback to World War 2 when the plane was in its element. No prizes for guessing who the pilot is. 

As is often the case these days, this first issue is quite slow moving initially and full of exposition. Garth is clearly writing with the collected trade paperback in mind. Don't let that put you off though. The first issue sets up the story and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. Keith Burns' artwork is very interesting. In some ways reminiscent of traditional British adventure comics, but also looking modern. His depictions of aircraft are wonderful and he's obviously the right man for the job.

There are also two back up features, with one giving the background of Johnny Red in Battle comic. Although it correctly credits Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun as the creators of the character, it makes no mention of artist John Cooper who illustrated most of the series. Quite disappointing, especially as they use some of John's art to illustrate the piece. Perhaps this will be rectified in a future issue. The second feature is a historical item on the Hawker Hurricane aircraft.

Johnny Red is a good, solid comic that I hope will appeal to old fans of the character as well as a new audience. It's great to see the character back and I for one will be following the rest of this series.    

Johnny Red No.1 (of 8), published by Titan Comics. $3.99 

The Phoenix hits the High Street



The Phoenix is 200 issues old this week and apparently is "the first independent comic to reach such a milestone in over 40 years" says The Guardian and several other newspapers. Meanwhile, Viz comic is quietly celebrating its 250th issue this month.

The press are missing a vital word. The actual PR from The Phoenix said the comic was the first weekly independent comic to reach 200 issues since 1969, but even that is questionable. Which previous indie comic was that then? Step forward TV Century 21, somehow reclassified as an independent comic just for the benefit of The Phoenix's boast.  TV21 was published by City Magazines, one of the major players in British comics of the sixties. They also published various other titles including Yogi Bear's Own, Huckleberry Hound Weekly, TV Tornado, Solo, Lady Penelope, and Joe 90 Top Secret. Hardly what one would think of when talking about indie comics.

Thing is, The Phoenix doesn't need to resort to such flawed hyperbole in order to big itself up. The fact that it's reached 200 issues is a fantastic achievement in itself and well worthy of celebration. Surely a better, and more accurate, boast would be "The Phoenix, an independent comic, is celebrating 200 issues this week. A milestone that many mainstream comics have never reached."

So, well done to The Phoenix on its 200th issue. An edition that not only has 16 extra pages for no extra cost but also finally arrives on the shelves of many branches of WH Smith. Yes, The Phoenix is now in the High Street of some towns and cities across the UK. 

Issue 200 gives us a striking cover by Chris Riddell, and opens with the start of a new serial, Saint Georgia and The Ends of the World, by Robin Boyden. 
There's also a new adventure for the Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron...
A new comedy adventure serial Battlesuit Bea by Jamie Smart, and much, much more...
The good thing about The Phoenix is that is has its own identity. It doesn't follow the traditional formula of Beano-inspired funnies, and has little in common with British comics of old. It seems to be more inspired by the style and tone of modern children's books, and although this aspect sometimes comes across as a bit too polite and twee to those of us who grew up with raucous comics like Wham!, Smash! and Oink! it can't be denied that many children find it appealing. And of course the response of that target audience is the only thing that matters for a children's comic. 

The arrival of The Phoenix in WH Smith is an interesting development. The strength of the comic is that it's all-story, no features, no ads, and no bagged gifts. If it proves a success, as I hope it will, there's a strong possibility that other publishers will want to follow suit. It might even lead to a revival of the story-driven comic, instead of the 'bagged magazines with a few pages of strip' that have dominated the shelves over the past 15 years or more. That in itself is a good reason to buy The Phoenix from Smiths, if your branch is stocking it of course. (Some people are already reporting that their local Smiths has never heard of the comic. I bought mine from the branch in Birmingham city centre.)

Who says the British comics industry is dead? The Phoenix No.200 is out now, 48 pages for £2.99, available from selected branches of WH Smith, Waterstones, and Waitrose. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Brickman in Belfast

I'm not part of the Belfast Film and Comic Con this weekend but Brickman is! Those top Beano talents Nigel Parkinson and Nika Nartova will be at the event and amongst the goodies on their table you'll find copies of Brickman Returns! they're kindly selling for me. If you haven't bought a copy yet and you're attending the show, drop by their table. (In fact, drop by their table even if you do have a copy. It's the legendary Nigel Parkinson!) 

Brickman Returns! is a 32 page comic collecting all the full colour strips I did for Image Comics a few years ago, now published in the UK for the first time. See the secrets of Brickman's origins, his battles with The Poker, The Ostrich, The Mad Cobbler and more! Plus learn the identity of The Mystery Girl From Brickman's Past, and see the final fate of Brickman and Trowel! Plus back-up strips featuring Combat Colin and The Suburban Satanists! 

If you're not attending the show and want a copy, you can order it directly from me here, on its own or together with the previous collection, Brickman Begins!:
http://www.lewstringer.com/page7.htm

Belfast Film and Comic Con website:
http://filmandcomicconbelfast.com/

Nigel Parkinson's blog:
http://nigelparkinsoncartoons.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Ron Turner's SPACE ACE Volume 5

John Lawrence has just published Volume 5 of Ron Turner's Space Ace and it's dazzlingly good. The 40 page publication, full colour on quality paper stock, reprints two Space Ace stories from the mid 1950s. The Nine-Bomb Menace smoothly edits a six parter into one 24 page epic, and there's a shorter back-up story, Magnetic Meteor. There's also an interview with the late Ron Turner about the lead story, plus a letters section. 

These Space Ace collections are far more than just reprints of course. Artist John Ridgway has painstakingly adorned the pages with his wonderful colorization techniques. It's a process that's far more intricate than merely colouring the strips, as John has added depth and his own enhancements. I suspect there was some line reconstruction needed too, in order to make the old strips printable, as some panels do bear John's distinctive inking style. 

These sixty-year old stories rattle along at a fast pace and get the job done efficiently with no padding. It's a sharp, no-nonsense method of storytelling that is sadly too absent in many modern comics. 

Ron Turner's Space Ace Vol.5 is available to buy directly from the publisher John Lawrence and is available for £8.95 (UK), £12 (Europe) or £14.00 (International) including postage via PayPal to spaceace.54@virginmedia.com or cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.  

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My apologies to those of you waiting for me to review your books and comics. As I'm sure you appreciate, blogging is only a part time hobby that I fit in between deadlines, and Blimey! is primarily a blog about vintage comics, but I will get around to promoting your titles when I've had chance to read them. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Leo Baxendale!

BEANO No.852, Nov.15th 1958.
The great Leo Baxendale is 85 today! The history of British comics would have been completely different (and poorer) without his input and massive influence. Let's all wish Leo good health and happiness as we take a look at just a handful of his marvelous pages... 
BEEZER. © D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.

EAGLE EYE from WHAM! (1964)


Leo took over the Swots and Blots in SMASH! in 1969.

Five year Flashback: The new-look Dandy

Cover by Nigel Parkinson.
Five years ago today, on October 27th 2010, comic readers had their first view of the new look Dandy as it went on sale in newsagents across the UK. A complete revamp that jettisoned the Dandy Xtreme magazine/comic hybrid version to return to the traditional all-comics format. It was a bold move but the reaction from many was positive, welcoming the changes and enjoying the comic for what it was; 32 pages of all-new, all-daft fun for kids of all ages. 

Sadly the revamp probably came too late to halt the decline in sales that had begun years before. After the expected rise in circulation due to speculators, collectors, and curious types, the sales dipped again (not helped by shops cutting back their orders after the initial push) and The Dandy closed for good in 2012 on its 75th anniversary. But we went out on a high with a bumper issue and it was a comic we were all proud to contribute to. Typically, those speculators, collectors, and curious types came back for the last issue and it had to be reprinted to satisfy demand! That's the comics biz! 

You can read the post I did five years ago about the revamp here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/dandy-xtreme-is-dead-here-comes-new.html

Thankfully The Dandy Annual survives, and the 2016 dated edition is out now. We're also currently hard at work drawing pages for the 2017 edition, out next July.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

New site for classic fanzines

For months now, David Hathaway-Price has been scanning covers and pages from old UK fanzines, contacting those of us who published them, and planning his website. Today, it's gone live, with Classic U.K. Comics Zines celebrating the British fanzines of the past.

This is the start of a marvelous repository of old fanzines, some long-forgotten, many fondly remembered. It's a fantastic opportunity for older fans to revisit those 'zines, and for younger fans to discover the sort of publications that existed long before the Internet took over with blogs and forums.
© Lew Stringer 1978

Many of us working in the comics industry today started out publishing our own fanzines, and my very first fanzine, After Image No.1 is available in its entirety on David's site as a free PDF download with my permission. I was 19 years old when I produced it back in 1978, and the artwork is crude, the production of the 'zine is rough around the edges, but it was great experience and one of the early steps on the road to my career so I have a great affection for it. 
© Lew Stringer 1978

Take a journey into history by visiting the Classic U.K. Comics Zines website today:
http://classicukcomicszines.weebly.com/  

© Lew Stringer 1978

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mega busy MCM show

I had a good day at the MCM London Comic Con yesterday. A massive show with a huge attendance (rumoured to be 100,000) with visitors of all ages. The great thing about modern conventions is there's a much better balance of male and female attendees these days. Comic and cult media shows are no longer mainly the domain of the male 'geek' and the occasional female fan or bored girlfriend as they were 30 years ago. There are many young women now who are as passionate about comics and sf as their male counterparts, and this applies to the creatives as well as the fans. Whatever changed things (and I suspect it was mainly Manga, Animie, and stronger female characters in comics and sf) it's done the comics community a power of good. 
I spent the day at Panini's Doctor Who tables, doing a few sketches. It was great to see Tom Spilsbury (my editor on Doctor Who Magazine), Scott Gray (Panini editor and writer), and Jason Quinn (writer/editor of Doctor Who Adventures), and to meet Russ Leach (artist, Doctor Who Adventures, see his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Art-of-Russ-Leach-295669653824411/) and John Ainsworth (editor, Doctor Who The Complete History). A few other Doctor Who folk dropped by too, including artist Rachael Stott, showrunner Steven Moffat, director Rachel Talalay, writer Sarah Dollard, and even 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy. 
Editors Scott Gray and Tom Spilsbury.
Artist Russ Leach, with editor Jason Quinn looking on.
Next door, in Panini's Marvel booth were editors Brady Webb and Ed Hammond who had brisk trade on the Marvel graphic novels. One thing that occurred to me was where were all the other mainstream UK comics publishers? There were many families in attendance and this would have been the perfect opportunity for D.C. Thomson to promote their new Thunderbirds Are Go comic and the latest Beano and Dandy annuals, or for Egmont to promote Toxic and their other magazines. (Update: D.C. Thomson were at a different event on the same day, so fair enough.)
To infinity and beyond!
One drawback to being at a con is you don't get much exercise sitting behind a table so I took a few breaks to walk around the massive hall and take some shots of other guests...

Mighty Grant Perkins was there, showcasing some of his excellent artwork. Check out his website here: 
http://www.thegrantperkins.com/
Grant Perkins.
Very nice to see Paulina Vassileva again. A fantastic artist who often attends these shows. Visit her website here: http://pauscorpi.daportfolio.com/ 
and follow her on Twitter here:
https://twitter.com/pauscorpi?lang=en-gb
Paulina Vassileva.
Time Bomb Comics had a stand, with publisher Steve Tanner launching the latest book, Bomb Scares 2015. (Which I'll review on this blog later this week.) See their website here, and support British indie comics:
http://www.timebombcomics.com/
Steve Tanner.
It was great to see Rachael Smith again, one of the top new comics talents of recent years with a very appealing style. I'll be reviewing her new book, The Rabbit, soon. Visit her blog here: 
http://rachaelsmithillustration.blogspot.co.uk/
Rachael Smith.
I also had a quick chat with writer Tony Lee, artist Gary Erskine, and a few other comic pals, and it was good to finally meet artist Lynne Triplett, whose Far From Faith comic I'll show here soon. 

This was my first visit to an MCM London show. It's quite a trek getting there by train as it's about half an hour or more on the tube from Euston, but shows like this and the London Film and Comic Con attract so many people they have to use huge 'out of town' venues to accommodate everyone. There were also other conventions around the country on the same weekend, as there are nearly every weekend these days, and they're also well attended, so it's clear to see that the interest in comics and sf/fantasy media is growing exponentially. Long may it continue!

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

Panini Comics website:
http://www.paninicomics.co.uk/web/guest/home
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