Friday, March 01, 2013
When, in my previous post, I announced that I was ending this blog it took a few people by surprise. Reaction from readers has been very heartening and much appreciated. Although I still don't have the time or inclination to continue with Blimey I've been sufficiently encouraged to return for one last round-up of items that have been published recently, some of which I'd promised to promote a while ago. There's a lot to cover here so relax, have a cuppa, and here we go...
Above is the cover to a brand new comics magazine, Scraps, published by Blasé Books. Edited and designed by my old mentor Mike Higgs (I know, "Not so much of the old", - sorry Mike) who also contributes two strips Kevin and his Comics and The Yesterfiles. The 16 page A4 full colour mag also features two very informative articles by Peter Hansen on British comics and annuals, a Comic ODDments feature, and promotions for books by Blasé and Ugly Duckling Press.
A copy of Scraps No.1 will appear as a free insert in Multiverse magazine soon, or can be picked up in its single magazine format at various comic marts around the country (especially the Birmingham and London ones). However, if you'd like a copy posted to you, you can send a pound coin to cover postage to Blasé Books, Hazelwood, Birchfield Road, Reddich B97 6PU. Alternatively you can pay £1 via PayPal, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Another recent debut is Hairy Steve, an all-new 32 page comic book by Jamie Smart and Steve Bright. If you thought you knew what they could accomplish from their contributions to children's comics over the years think again. With Hairy Steve the creators give us a darkly funny adult comic that pulls no punches. A lupine hero! A mad scientist! Zombies! Violence! And more.
Both creators are highly talented writer/artists in their own right but with Jamie Smart on script and Steve Bright on artwork it's a winning combination that's a must-buy. Hairy Steve was made possible via Indiegogo crowdfunding so those of us who funded it have already received our copies. However if you weren't part of that and you'd still like a copy, a few are still available at a reasonable price. E-mail Jamie at email@example.com and he'll sort out a signed copy for you.
Fans of classic British comics will be pleased to hear that Steve Holland has revised and expanded his index for Lion comic into an impressive 262 page A4 softback book. Lion, King of Picture Story Papers is published by Bear Alley Books for £25.99 plus £4 postage. Well worth it for fans of the fondly-remembered weekly, as the book features a 100 page history of the comic, profusely illustrated with sharp, clear samples of strips, behind the scenes photographs of the editorial staff, and the index section itself runs to around 160 pages with details of all the strips in the weekly, annuals, and specials.
Even if Lion was before your time this is still an absorbing book for anyone with a genuine interest in the history of British comics. It's a great showcase of the outstanding artistic talent that was working in comics back then, with many full page examples of artwork from Joe Colquhoun, Reg Bunn, Leo Baxendale, Don Lawrence and many more. (Many pages are also reproduced smaller than published size, but the reproduction is still clear and legible.) Available here from Bear Alley Books website:
Speaking of classic British comic talent, Terry Bave has published his autobiography as a chunky 298 page volume. Cartoons and Comic Strips takes us on a journey from Terry's early days right up to the present, with many examples of his artwork from over the decades.
Terry's work has always had a gentle fun aspect that has appealed to children over the years. He understands the essentials of comic storytelling, with strips that are always clear to follow, and characters that are engaging. Credit must also go to Shiela Bave of course, Terry's wife, who has worked with Terry on the scripts for practically his entire career.
Copies of Cartoons and Comic Strips can be ordered from Terry's new blog at http://terrybave.blogspot.co.uk or directly from the Lulu website here:
An excellent graphic novel from a mainstream British publisher is The Complete Rainbow Orchid by Gavin Ewing, published by Egmont. This previously appeared as three separate comic albums but now they're collected into this sumptuous 136 page book.
The Rainbow Orchid is a real epic. An old-school quest type of adventure with the heroes traversing the globe. Garen Ewing's artwork is incredibly detailed. He draws in the fine line style inspired by Hergé and Edgar P. Jacobs but brings his own approach to it. The standard is phenomenal.
There are also bonus features at the back of the book (character designs and suchlike) and nicely designed endpapers showing specially created ephemera that perfectly mimics the early 20th Century era of the story. Let's hear no more complaints about Britain no longer doing all-ages adventure strips. This is one. Right here. And the quality is as high as anything that preceded it. The Complete Rainbow Orchid is a real treat, and a bargain at only £14.99. (ISBN: 978 14052 6385 6)
The third issue of indie comic Savage! Jungle Princess was published by Kult Creations recently. It's another full colour adventure by John Short and Gabrielle Noble featuring dinosaurs, Nazis, and 'saucy' fun.
You can order the latest issue of Savage, plus back issues and other good stuff from the Kult Creations blog here: http://kultcreations.blogspot.co.uk/
There's a new event for fans of British comics in the shape of Comic Empire coming to the Royal National Hotel on March 3rd, June 2nd, and October 5th. This replaces the dormant ABC Shows at that venue but will feature items to appeal to collectors of British comics, pulps, magazines and ephemera. See the flyer below for more details and keep an eye on the website http://www.londoncomicmart.co.uk/
Jim Alexander has been a professional comics writer for quite a few years now, and he's recently produced his own comics such as Scout One, Gabriel, Good Cop, Bad Cop, and Amongst the Stars. (The latter with artwork by Mike Perkins in issue 1.) Check out Jim's blog for details on how to order your copies:
Comic Heroes, the bi-monthly magazine about comics is on its 17th issue now (and some said it wouldn't last). Available from WH Smith, Tesco and other retailers this current edition features a load of excellent features. The history of Iron Man in comics, interviews with Mark Waid, Ramona Fradon, Roy Thomas, Liam Sharp, Andy Diggle, plus Paul Gravett writing about the work of François Schuiten, with reviews and much more. A very solid issue. £7.99.
PS Publishing have released a new batch of books recently in their line of pre-code American comics reprints. There's Phantom Lady, The Heap, Witches Tales Vol.2, and Chamber of Chills Volume 4 (which concludes that particular title, having now reprinted every issue). It's great to see these classic horror comics back in print for those of us who weren't around when they were originally published.
The nice thing about these 'Harvey Horrors' is that PS reprint the entire comic, adverts and all, which adds to the experience of capturing the times. Five to seven comics appear in each volume, and there's bonus pages of features and scans of original artwork. You can order the books directly from the publisher here:
Fans of horror comics may also be interested in The Best of From the Tomb, a softback book from Twomorrows Publishing reprinting articles from the UK From the Tomb fanzine, which also includes unseen pages that were scheduled for the unpublished 29th issue. A fascinating look back at the era of pre-code horror and crime comics, plus interviews with Joe Sinnott, Shane Oakley and others.
There's a new issue of CLiNT in newsagents and comic shops right now, with another 100 page helping of over the top action and breakneck entertainment. This issue (No.6 in the second series) features the latest chapters of Hit Girl, The Secret Service, Death Sentence and more.
Look out for another British adventure comic hitting the shelves of newsagents on March 28th! That's the day when Strip Magazine is scheduled for a relaunch with its second series (numbered 1.2). The line-up of stories looks fantastic, and the big news for fans of classic British comics is that it features the return of 1970s Hotspur superhero King Cobra, revamped for the modern age. More info here: http://stripcomicmagazineuk.blogspot.co.uk/
So, plenty happening print-wise in the UK but if you want to support a digital British comic as well, hop over to Aces Weekly which is now in its third volume. A mere £6.99 ($9.99) gets you access to each seven-issue volume. Yes, only a pound an issue, cheaper than any print comic. I created an all-new Combat Colin strip for issue 1, and will be doing another one soon, exclusive to Aces Weekly. Find out more about the comic and its creators here and subscribe!:
And finally... news about my new blog! Yes, Blimey! is still ending (for the reasons I gave in my previous post) but I'm launching a new blog lewstringercomics. As the name suggests, this one will only focus on my own material. (Which won't take me so long to research for one thing.) It won't be updated as often as this blog was, and the commentary will be shorter, concentrating on showing you samples of my artwork from the past, present and, hopefully, future. I hope you'll all give it a visit and bookmark it. You'll find it here:
Thanks again for visiting Blimey! over the last six years and for your kind comments after my previous post. See you over on my new blog!
Monday, December 31, 2012
|Final 'Adam Eterno'. LION 16/10/1976|
This is something I've been considering for a few weeks now, and with today being the end of the year it seemed an appropriate time to bring down the curtain. 2012 has not been a good year. I began the year as I usually do with some optimism but, as the months went on, work became scarcer. Being a freelancer holds no guarantee of security of course and one cannot expect it to. I'm just telling it like it is.
|Final 'Indestructible Man', JAG 29/3/1969|
In previous times there would be new comics springing up to replace work that was lost, but that happens with less regularity now to say the least. Retailers aren't as hospitable towards new titles as they used to be, sales are far lower than they were in the golden age of comics, so publishers naturally have to work within limited budgets. Subsequently, the comics industry has become a more competitive place because there's less work to go 'round. By nature I'm not a competitive person, and certainly not the sort to perceive other cartoonists as rivals to be knocked down to get what I want. There used to be room for all with no need for dirty tricks, but I'm noticing that changing and it's an unpleasant shift. On the whole, the comics industry is a very friendly and relaxed place and most comics folk will look out for each other as best they can. But there's always going to be one or two who'll undercut you and/or fabricate tales to give their own career a leg up. The comics biz is too small for such slyness. People like that always get rumbled eventually.
|Final 'Two Faces of Janus', POW! 7/9/1968|
|Final 'Rubberman', SMASH! 7/9/1968|
When I started Blimey! back in December 2006 I gave no thought to how long I'd be writing it. I've never considered myself a comics 'expert' but I am enthusiastic about the history of comics. I wanted to share some thoughts about old British comics which were mainly neglected by other websites and I was very pleased with the response. (My only regret was spending some time a while back arguing with a couple of trolls and wasters here instead of ignoring them from the outset.)
|Final 'Steel Claw', VALIANT 27/10/1973|
Mention should also be made of John Freeman's Down The Tubes website, which has been running longer than Blimey! and is an excellent place to keep up with developments in the British comics industry, as is the Forbidden Planet International blog. There's also Bear Alley by Steve Holland, a true expert of British adventure comics and pulp books. Bookmark 'em all today!
If you want to keep up with any developments of my career my website will continue to operate at http://www.lewstringer.com/ and I'll try to update my Deviantart page more often over at http://lewstringer.deviantart.com/ .
I'll also be selling off more of my old artwork on eBay next year, so please keep an eye on the following link to see what I put up for auction soon. (Ironically, earlier this year I joked that I was selling off my artwork to pay my mortgage. Guess I shouldn't have tempted fate.)
Trying to end on a positive note, I'm pleased that Rasher will be continuing in The Beano for at least the next few weeks, and the next few days will be busy as I have three Smasher pages to draw for The Dandy Annual 2014 (out next summer). I also have a couple of bits and bobs coming up in BeanoMax soon, and hopefully I'll be drawing a few more pages for Viz next year too.
I should also mention that I'm on the guest list for the Bristol Comic Expo (11th-12th May 2013) so all being well I'll see you there!
|Final 'Thor', SMASH! 8/3/1969|
Anyway, there's just over 1,000 posts on this blog (with this one being No.1,003) so some of you who have discovered Blimey! in recent years may not have seen all of it. If you enter a keyword (such as Ken Reid or Eagle for example) into the search window at the top of the right hand side of this post you'll hopefully find something you're interested in that you haven't read before.
The New Year dawns tomorrow so I hope it's a prosperous one for all of us. Thanks for following this blog over the years and may 2013 bring all of us good fortune, good health, and happiness.
|Final 'The Umbrella Men', DANDY 13/8/1966|
Sunday, December 30, 2012
So here we are, at the furthest point back in time that this blog has ever ventured. The dawn of time. Well, the dawn of British comics to be more precise, which is the dawn of time for a blog about British comics I guess.
As Denis Gifford's book The Complete Catalogue of British Comics tells us, the earliest regular 'comic' (a collection of strips and jokes) was a fortnightly publication in 1825 entitled The Glasgow Looking Glass which, as its title suggests, originated in Glasgow. (I recall that this fact was also confirmed by collector John McShane years ago, - or perhaps he was the one to inform Denis, I'm not sure.) Yes, British comics originated from Scotland, and of course comics from North of the border have led the way in the UK for the last 75 years as well.
|1st Ally Sloper (1867) from 'Victorian Comics'|
The first regular British comic character was Ally Sloper, who first appeared in the satirical paper Judy on 14th August 1867. (See the scan above from Denis Gifford's book Victorian Comics.) Written by C.H. Ross and drawn by his wife Marie Duval, Ally Sloper became a recurring character and a collection of his strips and cartoons was published in the 216 page paperback book Ally Sloper: A Moral Lesson in 1873.
The first publication to set the standard that British comics would follow for decades was Funny Folks, with issue 1 published by James Henderson in 1874. This was an 8 page tabloid with a 50/50 split of text and cartoons/strips, - the format that comics such as Comic Cuts, Illustrated Chips, and others would imitate for years. Funny Folks ran for 20 years, but the issues I have in my collection are all early editions from 1875 which I'm showing here.
Bear in mind that in the 19th Century such publications were aimed at adults, not children. Subsequently their content is a mixture of political comment, satire, and social observation. The covers of Funny Folks were filled with a large cartoon by John Proctor reflecting on the news of the day, very much like the political/social comment cartoons in newspapers of today.
Inside, page 2 led off with 'Mrs.Grundy' opining on current events. As we can see from this example, complaining about England giving overseas aid, little has changed in 137 years. In places it reads like an editorial from the Daily Mail.
Considering that Funny Folks is regarded as an early comic, the actual comic strip content was minimal. (Some issues featured no strips at all.) There were plenty of well illustrated cartoons though, such as this one of society's lost souls waiting for the pub to open. (Again, little has changed.)
Some comic strips were reprinted from overseas publications and translated into English, such as The New Hat in issue 11, from a German paper...
Some strips were more richly rendered than others. Here's The Serenade from the back page of issue 11 (February 20th 1875) with cross hatching aplenty...
A week later, and the back cover of issue 12 (Feb 27th 1875) has a different artist and another technique (the large headed caricature)...
Comics have always featured humour based on a series of unfortunate events (a tradition still upheld in some Viz strips) and an early example was A Nice Long Day In Town in Funny Folks No.22 (May 8th 1875)...
Jokes about punching the wife just aren't acceptable today (and never seemed right to my mind even when Andy Capp was doing it) so this cartoon from issue 24 (May 22nd 1875) appears jarring in a modern context. Notice also the typical advertisements of the time for iron tonic, hats, and, er, a pamphlet on "Lady-Helps". (It's about advice on domestic services. What were you thinking?)
Funny Folks No.25 (May 29th 1875) was full of cartoons and comment pertaining to the Irish Derby. Proctor's cover cartoon couldn't resist a comment about home rule which was also in the news at the time, complete with a stereotypical caricature of an Irishman that would naturally be frowned upon today.
Of all the cartoons inside that issue, this one caught my eye. A loosely drawn and, in places, surreal full page illustration by Montbard of The Derby Night-Mare...
Pympkins's Public Dinner from Funny Folks No.27 (June 12th 1875) is an amusing nine-panel strip which actually features speech balloons. Nicely illustrated too.
Funny Folks was definitely inspirational for other publishers, as Ally Sloper's Half Holiday (1884) virtually copied the format with Sloper spinning off from the pages of Judy into his own title. As I mentioned earlier, Comic Cuts (1890) and others followed that format too. The combination of cartoons, social/political comment/satire and a few short strips gradually evolved over the decades into the comics we know today.
These days, the closest equivalent to Funny Folks would be Private Eye, perhaps raising the question that as Funny Folks has always been considered a comic, should Private Eye be redefined as one too? I imagine the majority of its readers, and its editor, would say not, but in essence Private Eye is more deserving of the name 'comic' than some childrens' activity magazines listed as such on the stands today.
For more information on the early comics I'd recommend Victorian Comics by Denis Gifford. It doesn't feature any artwork from Funny Folks but it has plenty of full page covers from The Big Budget, Illustrated Chips, Funny Wonder and other titles of the era. It was published in 1976 but copies still turn up today. (I bought the one above in superb condition from eBay recently.)
Saturday, December 29, 2012
The original Knockout comic (or The Knock-Out Comic to use its initial hyphenation) was launched by the Amalgamated Press with issue dated March 4th 1939. It was clear from the outset that, like A.P.'s Radio Fun, Knock-Out was intended to be a rival to D.C. Thomson's relative newcomers Dandy and Beano. The size was similar, as was the page count (28), the mixture of humour strips, adventure serials, and prose stories, the arched logo design and the price. Knock-Out even featured animal stars on its cover to rival Korky and Big Eggo, although Our Crazy Broadcasters lacked the charm of the characters that inspired it, despite nice artwork by Walter Bell.
Inside, Knock-Out No.1 led off with Kiddo the Boy King, a sort of higher ranking Lord Snooty but not as appealing. Good art by Frank Minnitt though. Beneath it was the more original Stone-Henge Kit, who would prove to have much more longevity, running for 701 issues! Art on this first episode is by Norman Ward.
On the facing page was Knock-Out's own page three girl, Merry Margie - The Invisible Mender, drawn by Frank Minnitt. No doubt this strip was inspired by The Dandy's Invisible Dick, and I'm sure readers could see through this character as she only lasted for 34 weeks.
Robots (or 'Mechanical Men') were becoming popular in pulp magazines and Knock-Out had its own in the form of The Steam Man (great name). This precursor to Robot Archie was illustrated by Joseph Walker. Sadly the series ran out of steam with issue 50.
Frank Richards' Billy Bunter had been running as a prose series in The Magnet for years so it seemed a natural to feature him in Knock-Out as a comic strip. Initially drawn by Charles H. Chapman, Billy Bunter became the comic's biggest success, running in every issue (taking over the comic as Billy Bunter's Knockout at one point) and continuing into Valiant for many years when the two comics merged in 1963.
The centre pages of Knock-Out No.1 featured several short strips, including Simon the Simple Sleuth by Hugh McNeill.
Sexton Blake was another popular prose fiction character (originating in 1893) who had a comic strip series in Knock-Out. This also proved very successful for the comic. The artwork in this first episode is by Joseph Walker.
One of the best remembered Knock-Out characters was Our Ernie, Mrs.Entwistle's Little Lad. It seemed anything was possible in this strip, with the plots taking surreal turns. Later, the strip would always end with the catchphrase "Daft, I call it!" Artwork by Charles Holt originally.
The free gift in No.1 was a Paint Box and Brush (or alternatively a bag of sweets). An ad for No.2 showed the readers what they could expect the following week; a Popeye mask, an edible pipe, and spinach made of sweets! Popeye wasn't a character in Knock-Out but he was extremely popular at the time due to the movies and newspaper strips.
The original Knock-Out lasted for 24 years before merging into Valiant in 1963. Eight years later, IPC decided to revive the title with the un-hyphenated Knockout in June 1971. The cover strip was The Super Seven, drawn by Mike Lacey.
Like its predecessor, the new Knockout was again trying hard to imitate Dandy and Beano. Those two weeklies were then 20 pages for 2p so IPC followed suit with their new launch. Unlike other IPC comics of the time, Knockout had every page in colour, - albeit mostly single colours (known as spot colour) but it still looked bright and cheerful.
One of the strips I liked most in Knockout was Pete's Pockets, drawn by the prolific Mike Lacey. As schoolkids we did tend to have all sorts in our blazer pockets, and this strip took it to ludicrous, and amusing, extremes.
The editorial page was a bit... bland in its design to say the least, but at least the advert for the next issue looked lively.
The centre spread featured The Toffs and The Toughs, drawn by Reg Parlett. Unfortunately the off-register colour doesn't do it much favours but it's an enjoyable strip and Reg's work was of course a pleasure to see. This sort of upper/lower class rivalry was always a good theme to use in humour strips.
In one of its more blatant imitations of a D.C. Thomson character, Knockout had its version of The Dandy's Dirty Dick with Mucky Mick, drawn by John Geering...
The only adventure strip in Knockout No.1 was Barry and Boing. I really disliked this strip I'm afraid, but I'm showing it here for the benefit of the many who did enjoy it. D.C. Thomson could do light adventure strips perfectly (eg: General Jumbo, Billy the Cat) but although IPC were masters of straight adventure stories (The Steel Claw, Hook Jaw, etc) they seemed to veer too far into silliness when they attempted more juvenile adventure strips. (Thunder's Steel Commando for example.) The plot of Barry and Boing is fine, but a crying robot and his annoying "Boing" sound effects? It all seemed a bit wet and made me cringe. Nice artwork on this first episode though. Mike White perhaps?
Joker became Knockout's most popular character, and here's the first episode, drawn by Sid Burgon...
New comics always start out as 'dummy' issues before publishers give them a green light (or consign them to oblivion). Subsequently, by the time a comic appears in print, using the dummy strips for its first issue, its artists may not be available to draw following issues. I think this may have been the case with The Katts, with this first episode drawn by Leo Baxendale but taken over by other artists from issue two.
The new Knockout didn't fare as well as the original version. After just two years (106 issues) it folded and was absorbed by Whizzer and Chips.
Comparing the two versions of Knockout it's evident how comic styles changed between 1939 and 1971, just as styles of today are often different to those of the 1970s. Yet the objective of comics always remains the same, - to entertain!