Monday, November 30, 2015

The Avengers by Pat Williams (1966)

Just time for a quick post today. Over on the Comics UK Forum, Sue Butcher recently asked members for samples of Pat Williams' artwork on The Avengers strips he did for TV Comic. This is the only example I have, and is from TV Comic No.769, dated 10th September 1966.

There are examples of selected panels over at the excellent Winged Avenger website here:
http://wingedavenger.theavengers.tv/comics/tv_ep_era.htm

I must admit I hadn't paid much attention to Pat Williams' work before but I really like his style. It's superb for black and white work, with a great inking technique. It'd be nice to see these strips collected in the same way that the Diana strips by Emilio Frejo and Juan Gonzales are soon to be. 
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-avengers-comic-strip-1967.html  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back soon!

My apologies for not posting for several days. I'm quite busy at the moment but regular posts will resume soon. I have a stack of new comic books to review and plug, although as we're living in such a vibrant time for the UK comics industry it's not possible to keep up with everything. I'll also be blogging about plenty of vintage comics again soon too of course. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The British Superman from Australia

Back in the 1950s, when wartime import restrictions were still in place, American comics were not widely distributed in the UK. A few got through unofficially at portside cities but, for the most part, it was down to UK publishers to produce reprint editions for British kids. There were dozens of titles reprinting American material, mostly in black and white, from London publishers such as Len Miller. However, some reprint comics came from much further afield, such as the Superman family of titles that were imported to the UK from Australia.

Here's a few pages from Superman No.52, widely available in the UK in the early 1950s but actually an Australian comic. This was published in 1953 (October '53 I believe). The format was Golden Age U.S. comic size (ie: a bit wider than modern American comics) with 28 pages including full colour glossy cover, blue ink on inside and back covers, and black and white interiors on pulp paper.

The cover art is by J.Winslow Mortimer and was originally the cover to Action Comics No.179, February 1953. The lead story, Super Manor, is reprinted from that same issue, with artwork by Wayne Boring.

The 1950s and very early 1960s is my favourite era of Superman, when the strip featured a lot of humour and lighthearted plots. No grim and grittiness or universe-endangering crisis, just Superman in almost sit-com situations. Here's another page from the same story...

The same issue of this Australian Superman comic also reprinted The Search for the Bravest Woman from Superman No.83 (July/August 1953). Art by Al Plastino.

Other Australian reprints of DC Comics that made it to UK newsagents included Batman, Super Adventure Comic (reprinting World's Finest), and Superboy.

The Australian Superman comic also featured short back-up humour pages. Here's a selection. I'm presuming these may be originated Australian strips rather than U.S. reprint...



With a cover price of 6d it's likely that most British readers just assumed these Superman comics were produced in the UK, unless they read the small print: "Printed by Gale and Polden Ltd, for the K.G. Murray Publishing Co. Ltd., 56 Young Street, Sydney, Australia. Distributed by Atlas Publishing and Distributing Co. Ltd, 18 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London E.C.4"

I've no idea how long this Austalian/British Superman comic ran for. Perhaps as long as 1959 when the U.S. editions began to be imported? If anyone knows, please post a comment.

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

Here's the original cover to that issue, from Action Comics No.179. Image from the excellent Comic Vine website:
http://www.comicvine.com/action-comics-179-supermanor/4000-119009/


Monday, November 23, 2015

Snap up those annuals!

With Christmas fast approaching it's time to grab your copies of this year's annuals while you can! My local WH Smith sold out of The Dandy Annual 2016 weeks ago and sadly shows no sign of restocking.

I know some of you wait until December to buy the annuals (or even wait until the January sales) but the books have been out since July so it's better to buy early to ensure your copies. 

Sainsbury are currently selling The Beano Annual 2016 for £3.49, which is an absolute bargain. They've sold out of The Dandy Annual in my local branch though. Fortunately I bought my copies back in July, and reviewed them here if you want a preview of the contents:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/theyre-here-dandy-and-beano-annuals-2016.html

I'm currently drawing pages for the Dandy Annual that will be out next year, which inspired me to post this plug for the current books. Never Be Without A Beano (or Dandy) Annual! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ken Reid's HUGH FOWLER (Scorcher, 1971 to 1972)

Continuing my look back at Ken Reid's Scorcher strips, here are a few examples of Hugh Fowler, The Man who HATES Football. This strip replaced Ken's previous series, Manager Matt, and Hugh ran in Scorcher from the issue dated 14th August 1971 to 6th May 1972.



Hugh Fowler and his hatred of soccer was a refreshing change from all the football-mad characters that populated Scorcher. However, in the final strip even he changed his mind in some sort of Road to Damascus moment. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.    


Here's a cross-reference of all the other series that Ken Reid did for Scorcher. Have fun!

SUB (1970:

FOOTBALL FORUM (1970/71):

MANAGER MATT (1971):

HUGH FOWLER (1971/72):

THE SOCCERNAUTS (1972):

HARRY HAMMERTOE THE SOCCER SPOOK (1972/73):

JIMMY JINX (1973/74):

TRIPTOE TRIERS (1974):


British Star Trek strips to be reprinted in 2016

Just a heads up for any of you who may have missed the news on Down The Tubes last week. Next year, American publisher IDW is to publish collections of the UK Star Trek strips that appeared in British comics almost 50 years ago.

Volume 1 of Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics will contain all of the Star Trek stories that appeared in Joe 90 Top Secret in 1969 and the strips that appeared in the merged TV21 and Joe 90 in 1969 to 1970. (Volume 2 will presumably reprint the strips from Valiant and TV21 from 1971 to 1973.) 
The first UK Star Trek strip from JOE 90 No.1 (1969).

A number of top British artists worked on the strip, including Harry Lindfield, Mike Noble, and Harold Johns. IDW have a great reputation for producing books of high quality so I'm sure we'll be in for a treat. 

Readers need to bear in mind that the the storylines and dialogue of the UK Star Trek strips are very much in the tradition of British adventure comics of the time. For example, Mr.Spock tends to be far more hot-headed in the strips, and the characters don't always 'sound' like their TV versions. The first two episodes (from Joe 90 Nos.1 and 2) even call the lead character Captain Kurt! It'll be interesting to see how American readers react to these stories but hopefully they'll accept them as the fast-paced fun strips they were intended to be. 

To read more about the project, see John Freeman's Down the Tubes website here:
http://downthetubes.net/?p=27194

(All the scans above are from my collection, not from the book.)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

SPACESHIP AWAY No.37

There's a brand new issue of Spaceship Away out, and it's a cracker! Published three times a year, this quality independent comic is a must for fans of both the classic and 'new' Dan Dare. The issue kicks off with another chapter of the all-new serial Mercury Revenant by Tim Booth, complete with a festive cover in the style of classic Eagle...

Other strips include Episode 3 of the 1950s Jet Morgan serial The World Next Door, a Davy Rocket humour page (which I'm still not sure if it's new or reprint), more chapters of Tim Booth's other Dan Dare serial Parsecular Tales, and a great Nick Hazard strip by Phil Harbottle and Ron Turner...

Speaking of Ron Turner, there's a very informative article in this edition by Philip Harbottle recounting Ron's science fiction work, well illustrated with lots of perfectly printed cover images. Other articles in this issue cover the life and times of artist Eric Eden, and a retrospective of the Dan Dare stories from the 1980s incarnation of Eagle, with both features also accompanied with excellent artwork.

To top it off, there are a few new pieces by veteran artist Don Harley (including the cover shown above). The back cover shows the much-loved Dan Dare Radio Station toy, which was on sale in toyshops for many years. (Launched in the 1950s, I had one as late as Christmas 1969 or 1970! Same box design, same toy design.)

Spaceship Away No.37 has 40 full colour pages on quality paper and is available from the comic's website:
http://spaceshipaway.org.uk/ 

The Christmas Viz, now with added Hunt Emerson!

Along with mince pies, mounting debt, and illicit workplace affairs, nothing could be more festive than the Christmas issue of Viz. A tradition for 2000 years now, the festive edition is on the top shelves of newsagents everywhere, with contents to delight everyone who enjoys satire, swearing, and snow-topped logos.

Beneath a wonderful cover by national treasure Simon Thorp, there's a cracker of an issue featuring nearly all your favourites including Roger Mellie, 8 Ace, Jack Black, The Fat Slags, Johnny Fartpants, Gilbert Ratchet, and many more. As an extra special Christmas treat this year, the comic sees the debut of Midlands-based mirth-maker Hunt Emerson. Surprisingly, this is Hunt's first contribution to Viz, but he's a natural for the comic. His full page strip features the merry escapades of Johann Sebastian Bach going out dogging.

The free gift with this issue is the traditional Viz Calendar, which this year features spoof magazine covers such as this one...

Still the funniest British comic in the world, this festive issue of Viz (No.251) is seriously not to be missed! Out now, only £3.20. 

http://www.viz.co.uk

Friday, November 20, 2015

Brickman in Newcastle!

This weekend top Beano artist Nigel Parkinson and brilliant colourist Nika Nartova will be guests at the Newcastle Film and Comic Con. Drop by their table for a sketch of Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, or any of those other great UK comics icons. There'll also be a few copies of my comic, Brickman Returns!, on sale at their table too, which they're kindly stocking. So if you're attending the show and you haven't bought a copy yet, Nigel's the man to see. 

More details of the event:
http://filmandcomicconnewcastle.com/  

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ken Reid's MANAGER MATT (Scorcher, 1971)

Manager Matt was Ken Reid's third humour series for football weekly Scorcher, following the runs of his previous strips Sub and Football Forum. It began in Scorcher dated 23rd January 1971 and concluded in the issue dated 7th August 1971. 

In typically funny Ken Reid fashion, the strip featured numerous consequences leading to brilliantly rendered comic violence. Manager Matt himself was a somewhat unusual, and more cartoonish, design for a Ken Reid character, with his head and body out of proportion to his limbs. Ken's characters usually had fairly normal proportions, so I'm wondering if the artist was perhaps following a design by the art editor? In any case, it made no difference to the stories which for the most part were as funny as any of Ken's great works. 

Here's a selection of strips from that 29 week run. Click on each page to see it larger.








Here's a cross-reference of all the other series that Ken Reid did for Scorcher. Have fun!

SUB (1970:

FOOTBALL FORUM (1970/71):

MANAGER MATT (1971):

HUGH FOWLER (1971/72):

THE SOCCERNAUTS (1972):

HARRY HAMMERTOE THE SOCCER SPOOK (1972/73):

JIMMY JINX (1973/74):

TRIPTOE TRIERS (1974):


COMMANDO comics out this Thursday

The latest Commando war comics. All four will be in the shops this week...


Commando Issues 4863-4866 — On Sale 19th November 2015
Commando No 4863 – Legacy Of The Eagles
While researching his family history for a book, Ryan Carrick found out that he was descended from a long line of warriors. During World War II, however, he was stuck in a reserved occupation but eventually found a way to join up.
   From D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge, Ryan worked as a vehicle mechanic but also saw action. When two unscrupulous fellow soldiers discovered that their families could be disgraced if Ryan’s book were to be published, they set about trying to silence him. An age-old feud that had raged for centuries was about to end — once and for all.

Introduction
With only a few notable exceptions — step forward the Convict Commandos — recurring characters have been rare on the pages of Commando over the last 50-odd years. However, we were of the opinion that you, our readers, might like a series which carried the story over more than one issue. With the pen of Ferg Handley recruited to do the writing, we decided that a historical saga spanning many generations would hit the spot.
   This saga began two years with the publication of “Eagles In Battle” (No 4655) in November 2013 — with twelve further instalments, including this, following after.
   As always, sincere thanks go to our comic creators. Ferg’s set of scripts were excellent and for one author to craft an ongoing story that began in Roman times and ends in the 20th Century was no mean feat. Thanks also to artist John Ridgway, who drew the first three stories, and, of course, to Keith Page for illustrating the rest. They all rose to the occasion.
   So, our century-striding, epic tale of three inter-linked, entirely fictional families has now reached its conclusion. This has been an ambitious project, something a little different for Commando but one that we hope you thought worthwhile. Enjoy the final chapter.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page


Commando No 4864 – Desert Traitor
Thundering across the desert wilderness came the savage band of Tuaregs-veiled warrior horsemen. Suddenly their mounts faltered, shied and pulled up, to stand trembling. Amazed, the Tuaregs cocked their rifles and looked around for signs of an enemy. Nothing! Then, from beyond a high ridge ahead came again the strange, unearthly sound that had frightened their mounts. A kind of music, it seemed to be.
   They dismounted and crept over to the edge of the bowl-shaped depression. One by one their heads came up, until the hollow was ringed with them. Every Arab was pop-eyed at what he saw down there!

Introduction
This quirky classic from 1965 features a maverick Scottish captain, in charge of a tough team who specialise in hit-and-run raids. Sound familiar?
   No, this is not an unseen tale from half a century ago featuring our popular “Ramsey’s Raiders” squad.
   Desert Traitor’s main protagonist, Captain Rory Maclean, may have some similarities to his fellow officer, Jimmy Ramsey, but these are genuinely coincidental, however surprising.
   So who knows, if such a thing as a parallel universe is ever discovered — perhaps its Commando readers are still enjoying the continuing adventures of “Rory’s Raiders”?
Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
Desert Traitor, originally Commando No 173 (July 1965)

Story: Bounds
Art: Vasquez
Cover: Scholler



Commando No 4865 – Viktor’s War
A proud Red Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Viktor Petrofsky flew his Yak-9 fighter above the skies of the Eastern Front, facing-off against the Luftwaffe and their deadly Focke-Wulf Fw190 aircraft.
   However, soon disillusioned by his squadron’s harsh treatment at the hands of their feared NKVD political officers, and then shot down by the Germans, Viktor’s allegiances were thrown into serious doubt.
   Now, technically a traitor, how would Viktor’s war end?

Story: Steve Taylor
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Ian Kennedy



Commando No 4866 – No Way But Down
If you’re an army glider pilot. You’ve got a dodgy job — landing yourself and your troops in the teeth of anything the enemy throws at you. 
   Hazardous at the best of times, it’s grimly suicidal when thick flak is coming up, the exploding shells chucking your frail Horsa all over the sky.
   If an unlucky burst cuts your tow-rope long before you reach your landing ground, there’s only one way to go — down…and fast!

Introduction
This story packs a real punch, with a fictional insight into the dangers of flying into battle as part of a glider squadron. No Way But Down is brimming with aerial action, vividly brought to life by veteran Commando interior artist Gordon Livingstone.
   Gordon’s good friend and fellow veteran artist, Ian Kennedy, provides a stunning, moody cover, featuring his trademark aeronautical illustration the likes of which has been so highly regarded by comics fans throughout a career that has spanned decades and continues to this day. 
   Superb stuff.
Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
No Way But Down, originally Commando No 1052 (August 1976), re-issued as No 2387 (August 1990)

Story: Mclean
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Monday, November 16, 2015

Storytime Christmas Issue

Cover art: Lorena Alvarez.
It'll be a week or two before the first Christmas comics start appearing but one publication is already full of seasonal cheer. The 15th issue of Storytime, the monthly prose story magazine, is the festive edition and is on sale now.

I reviewed the first issue last year (see here) and although I haven't seen many issues since I'm pleased that it's kept on schedule and is still around. To reiterate what I said last time, Storytime is a quality production; 52 full colour pages on high quality matt stock featuring illustrated text stories for young children. 
Art: Audrey Molinatti.

This issue offers six seasonal stories such as The Queen of Winter, The Little Fir Tree, and The Snow Child, plus an illustrated version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, four activity pages, and a page promoting children's Christmas books. The entire magazine is superbly illustrated and designed and evokes the timelessness of Christmas joy. If you have young children, or you just enjoy well illustrated magazines, this is ideal. 
Art: Teresa Martinez.

To find out more about the magazine, visit the Storytime website here:
http://www.storytimemagazine.com/       

Weirdo Alert!

The new British comics keep on coming! Cartoonist Marc Jackson, who has created strips for The Beano, Aces Weekly, his own Man In Space comics and lots of other groovy stuff has just launched a new self-published comic, Weirdo Comics Annual 2015.  
Here's what Marc had to say about it:
"It’s a collection of strips from the past year featuring the likes of Cosmic Cliff runs in my local paper and the Red-hook star revue in NYC. A short preview of Duckless, my strip from Volume 15 of Aces Weekly, plus a number of brand new comics specially for this. An 8 pager ‘Get a job, Mr Pooch’, a 2 page collaboration with my writer friend from the US Jacques Nyemb called ‘Betty Spaghetti’ and a new super-hero comic ‘KA-PUNCH!’ which is hopefully going to be appearing in a UK based comics magazine early next year. Watch this space!"
It’s priced at £10 + Post and Packaging and is full colour. Copies can be ordered directly from Marc and he will event throw in a drawing too! Bargain!
Contact him at:
yowsa@marcmakescomics.co.uk

...or Twitter: @marcmakescomics

...or message him from his Facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/marcmakescomics/

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Two Marvel classics for 2016

Cover by Alex Ross.
Ah, if only a UK publisher would do something like this for British comics. In 2016, Marvel Comics are releasing two new books in their huge Omnibus format that are sure to appeal to fans of their classic comics. Doctor Strange Omnibus Volume 1 will reprint all the Stan Lee / Steve Ditko Dr.Strange stories from Strange Tales, plus the Spider-Man/Dr.Strange team up from Amazing Spider-Man Annual No.2, and a load of back up features. Some of the best comics of the 1960s (or of any decade come to that) in one big volume containing hundreds of pages, with pin-sharp printing on quality paper, no doubt to be released in time for the Doctor Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Shang-Chi's first appearance. Cover by Jim Starlin.
In summer next year, Marvel are also publishing the first of four Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus hardbacks. Fans had given up hopes of ever seeing this series reprinted as it includes the Fu Manchu character owned by the Sax Rohmer estate that Marvel no longer had the rights to use. Apparently any legalities have been sorted out now and the fan-favorite series will be back in print in 2016. Although it was created to cash in on the 1970s Kung-Fu craze, Master of Kung-Fu spun off in its own direction as a martial arts spy series with great art by Jim Starlin, Paul Gulacy, Gene Day and more, and scripts by Doug Moench that raised the bar for superhero comics at that time.

I hope you'll forgive this blog's temporary foray into American comics but this material is too good to ignore! For more information check out the interview with the editor of the books, Cory Sedlemeier at this link:
http://www.collectededitions.com/marvel/features/ce_spotlight_111215.html  (Images shown here are from that site. More to see there.)

Festival Fun

A full-size TARDIS made entirely of Lego!
I had a terrific day at the Doctor Who Festival in London on Saturday. My thanks to Tom, Peter, and the Panini guys for letting me have a share of the table space to do some sketching for the readers. I arrived around 9.30am as it was starting to fill up and after a quiet start the rest of the day was extremely busy indeed. Doctor Who Magazine, Doctor Who Adventures and Doctor Who: The Complete Collection gained a bunch of new readers and the variant cover Festival Edition of DWM sold like hot cakes. 

I'm grateful to everyone who dropped by to commission a sketch. It really is a pleasure to meet people who enjoy my strips and it makes the job worthwhile. People of all ages were there, from wide-eyed kids amazed to see a drawing take place as they watched, to long-time Doctor Who fans who seemed more excited that I was the artist who drew their childhood favourite Combat Colin. It was the busiest I've been at an event this year and my only regret was that I had to turn a couple of people away at the end because I'd run out of paper! 

It's not always easy to express this in print (or rather, pixels) without seeming insincere or over they top but it genuinely boosted my spirits to hear the nice comments from people and was very touching. 

In fact the whole atmosphere of the event was great. Since it returned in 2005, Doctor Who has clearly attracted a wide fanbase and appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds. The enthusiasm at the event was terrific.

Here's a few photos I took early on in the day before it got too packed. I didn't see any actors from the show unfortunately as they were in another part of the huge ExCel building for their interviews and suchlike, but here are shots of the exhibitor's hall...
The crowds begin to arrive.
The Panini UK stand.
The Big Finish stand.
Forbidden Planet's stand.
Titan Comics' stand.
The Lego TARDIS attracted a lot of attention.
Drama School Daleks!
Dalek voice-artist Nick Briggs and writer Cavan Scott.
Front and back variant covers for DWM 493's limited edition.
This was my last convention for this year so it was great to go out on a high. Good to see artist Russ Leach again (check out his work in Doctor Who Adventures) and (all too briefly) meet artist Brian Williamson (see his work in Titan's Doctor Who Comic). Also good to finally meet DWM Deputy Editor Peter Ware at last, and to once again share a table with DWM Editor Tom Spilsbury, DWA Editor Jason Quinn, and Complete Collection editor John Ainsworth. The brilliant writer / researcher Marcus Hearn (editor of The Essential Doctor Who) also briefly dropped by but by the time I realized who it was I was too busy sketching to go over and chat. Sorry Marcus! Hope to see you all again for another adventure in space and time in 2016!
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