Thursday, June 22, 2017

Two from Titan

New this week from Titan Comics are the latest issues of Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem and World War Tank Girl

Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem No.4 is written by Kim Newman and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey. Fantastic artwork, and deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible so spread the word! 

World War Tank Girl No.3 by Alan Martin and Brett Parson continues the irreverent, adults-only saga of Tank Girl in World War 2. Funny stuff, with top class art by Brett Parson and a retro homage to comics of old. 

Both comics were published yesterday so hopefully your nearest comics shop may still have them. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

50 year Flashback: BEANO SUMMER SPECIAL 1967

When I was a kid, I'd wait until I was on holiday to buy the latest summer specials. Picking up this Beano Summer Special from a stall on Blackpool prom in 1967, accompanied by the sea air and the sounds of seagulls and trams, was all part of the holiday experience. It also provided something to read in the guest house during the inevitable rainy days. 

Let's take a look at a few pages from this wonderful special. The cover artwork is by Dudley Watkins, showing a seemingly reckless Biffo the Bear leaping off the pier, but there's a safe resolution on the back cover...

Inside, the 32 tabloid sized pages were packed with all-new strips and features. The layout was often interesting, with strips sharing space, such as this spread with Punch and Jimmy by David Jenner alongside Dennis the Menace by David Law...

Most of the strips had a holiday theme of some sort. This Roger the Dodger page by Robert Nixon shows an old-style railway carriage and a stereotypical boarding house landlady...

This special had a good selection of adventure strips too; General Jumbo, The Q Bikes, and a great full colour centrespread with The Iron Fish, drawn by Sandy Calder...

A really nicely illustrated Lord Snooty and His Pals story by Dudley Watkins...

A very funny Dennis the Menace page by David Law...

...and what I think may be the very first Bash Street Dogs story, simply titled Dogs' Tale. The dogs had appeared in a few Bash Street Kids episodes in the weekly, but this is months before they achieved their own Pup Parade strip. You'll notice that they look a little different to how they appeared in the regular series. Art by David Sutherland...

That was a few pages from the 1967 special. Don't forget that the current Beano Summer Special is in the shops now!
Cover by Nigel Parkinson

All artwork in this post ©D.C. Thomson and Co. Ltd.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's a comics themed month in Birmingham!

A reminder that there are various comics-related events taking place in Birmingham throughout this month as part of the Birmingham Comics Festival. The one I'm attending is the Birmingham Comic Art Show next Saturday (24th June) at Birmingham City University, along with other comics guests, but here's the full line up of events that are happening in other venues...

Preview: Judge Dredd Megazine No.385

It's always a good week when there's a new issue of Judge Dredd Megazine due, and No.385 will be in the shops this coming Wednesday, 21st June. Here's a preview, thanks to those folks at Rebellion...

UK & DIGITAL: 21 June 2017 £5.99
NORTH AMERICA: 21 July 2017 $13

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: The Third Person by Michael Carroll Carl Critchlow (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Tales from the Black Museum: Bite Sized by Rory McConville (w) Andrew Currie (a) Annie Parkhouse

Havn by Si Spencer (w) Henry Flint (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

New Books: Skizz, One-eyed Jack, Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!
Obituary: Edmund Bagwell

Bagged reprint: 
Necrophim: Civil Warlord by Tony Lee (w) Lee Carter (a) Annie Parkhouse 

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Preview of 2000AD Prog 2036

Leading with a superbly illustrated cover by Chris Weston, 2000AD Prog 2036 is another excellent issue. It goes on sale Wednesday 21st June, but you can see preview pages here now, courtesy of Rebellion...

UK & DIGITAL: 21 June 2017 £2.65
NORTH AMERICA: 21 July 2017 $7.99

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: The Fields by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Grey Area: Back in Black by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Hunted: Furies by Gordon Rennie (w) PJ Holden (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Harley Quinn cancelled

Perhaps the distractions on the cover caused "peek" to be mis-spelled.
With the exception of Batman, it seems pretty hard going to make DC Comics characters work in the UK. Panini UK's Marvel titles mostly endure, but Titan have had a few casualties with their DC reprints. Now, even Titan's Harley Quinn comic is to end after just seven issues. (Full title, DC Comics Showcase: Harley Quinn.)

Despite being a very popular character with cosplayers and attendees of numerous UK comics conventions, it would appear than not many of them are actually buying Harley Quinn's British comic. Perhaps because they prefer the American original printings, or perhaps they're only interested in the merchandise and the movie version. Whatever the reason, Harley Quinn No.7, on sale 22nd June, will be the final issue. It will merge into another comic the following month, resulting in the lengthy title DC Legends: Suicide Squad Ft Harley Quinn (out on 27th July).

Meanwhile, here's a synopsis of Harley Quinn No.7, now billed as a kind of summer special...
How chaotic could a road trip be for Harley Quinn? In this special, Harley Quinn enters the weird world of a super hero fetish club! And presenting: the Harley Quinn Road Trip Special - Gotham's finest ladies take their hijinks to the road! 
On Sale - 22nd June 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Dandy 80th Birthday Special

The Summer Specials for both The Dandy and Beano arrived in my local WH Smith yesterday, so they should be all over the UK. Here's my thoughts on The Dandy one, titled the 80th Birthday Special...

It was never going to be easy to comfortably cover 80 years of Dandy history into one 68 page comic and still please readers of all ages, but this special makes a good job of it. Personally I'd have liked to have seen more pages on the 1960s, as the decade is represented here solely by a couple of Winker Watson strips, but that's just me. 

In most cases, the special attempts to represent how Dandy characters have changed over the years, so we get examples of a (very early) Desperate Dan strip by Dudley Watkins, compared to ones by Ken Harrison and Jamie Smart. 
Desperate Dan's first cover strip is reprinted in full.
We also get several examples of Korky the Cat by various artists, but the character has undergone so many redesigns over the years that even that only cat-scratches the surface. A nice selection though!

With space being limited, it surprised me that ten pages are taken up with a five-part Jack Silver story from 1981. Artwork by Bill Holroyd is always welcome of course, but it's a shame so much of Jack Silver meant there was no room for memorable characters such as Corporal Clott, Black Bob, Brassneck, and more. No straight adventure strips are represented either, so there's no Umbrella Men, Iron Hands, or Crimson Ball
Jack Silver by Bill Holroyd.
Apart from Jamie Smart's Desperate Dan, none of the 2010 revamp is covered, but the 2004 redesign is, along with samples of Wayne Thompson's Jak. The back of the bookazine features a cover gallery of selected annuals and specials. (Sadly, one summer special cover is stretched to fit, giving Korky an odd shaped head.)
Cuddles and Dimples by Nigel Parkinson.
If this comes across as a bit negative, don't be put off. These are just things that niggled me a little personally, but over all, the Special is a very nice selection of top quality strips and a reminder of just how great The Dandy was. It credits a lot of the artists too, which would have been unthinkable when some of these strips were first printed. A good sign of how things have changed for the better at D.C. Thomson. 

I felt it was a bit strange that there was no mention whatsoever that the weekly comic actually ended five years ago, but as the Dandy brand survives in the all-new annual every year, and a reprint special every summer, it still counts as celebrating its 80th birthday.

The Dandy 80th Birthday Special, 68 pages, bookazine format, out now for £6.99.

Bright and breezy Brighton for the ICE Summer Special

The Hilton Metropole on Friday evening.
Saturday 10th June saw the ICE (International Comic Expo) Summer Special take place at the Hilton Metropole, right on the seafront at Brighton, and a fun day it was indeed. 

I'd arrived on Friday, in time for the launch party at a local pub, where it was great to catch up with Jessica Kemp, Gary Millidge, John Charles, Mike Conroy, Ken Gunstone, Paulina Vassileva, Dave Gibbons, Tim Pilcher, Chris Weston, Clint Langley, and more. A very pleasant evening that flew by too quickly.

The Comic Expo itself was on Saturday, a gloriously sunny day to be outdoors, although of course we were indoors at the Hilton. The venue was great though; nicely air conditioned and with a good layout. Comics guests and dealers were in one large hall, with talks taking place in another hall next door. 

Organiser Shane Chebsey and his team have always put on a good show for the ICE events in Birmingham and likewise for this inaugural Brighton expo. The friendly team are always accessible and attentive to guests and visitors, making the events some of the most enjoyable and relaxed comics shows in the UK. 

Here's a few photos I took at the show. As usual, I never take enough to do the events justice but you'll get a taster from these pics...

1: With our tables set up, we await the opening of the show. Some early bird arrivals talking to Simon Myers, cover artist extraordinaire of Titan's Doctor Who comics amongst other illustration work. Check out his website:

It was great to finally meet and spend time with Jessica Kemp, publisher of the upcoming Missed Deadline magazine. Keep an eye on the mag's Facebook page for developments!

Brilliant to see the ever-affable Dave Gibbons at the show. Here he is signing comics and books for attendees...

It's always good to see Jessica Martin, multi-talented actress, singer, impressionist and comics creator. Here drawing a Wonder Woman sketch.

The mighty Etherington Brothers were there too! Here's artist Lorenzo Etherington and his fantastic work. 

Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics had a table too, and it's always good to catch up with him. Here he is promoting Flintlock No.2 which I'll be reviewing soon.

A couple of shots of the convention floor. Pat Mills in the pink shirt on the left there talking to fans. Pat was promoting his new books which I'll be reviewing soon.

The comics news and rumour website Bleeding Cool did a quick video walkabout on the day, which you can see here:

My thanks to Shane Chebsey and the gang for a very pleasant event, and also thanks of course to everyone who stopped by my table to buy comics and/or a sketch. Thanks also to David Leach and his family, Olly MacNamaree, Samuel Savage, Jeff Chahal, Jim Stewart, Valentina Sannais, and more for being great company. 

Apart from a flying visit years ago, this was my first trip to Brighton so I stayed over until Monday for a mini-break. Time to get back to work now as my next convention will be the Birmingham Comic Art Show (part of the Birmingham Comics Festival) on Saturday 24th June.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Coming up in COMMANDO...

Here's the info direct from D.C. Thomson on the four issues of Commando that will be out this week...

Commando 5027-5030: On Sale 15 June 2017

Brand new Commando issues 5027-5030 are incoming, ready for all Commando fans to take home!

Size doesn’t matter in this Commando bundle, as our heroes range from the mighty John Littlejohn, a big Commando with an even bigger attitude, to weedy West Virginian combat medic Jimmy Hopper. But in Commando it’s about bravery, not bulk, and our heroes have it in stacks!

5027: Home of Heroes:
A Game of Hostages

The third instalment of Lieutenant Tom Dell and his S.A.S. squad’s adventures doesn’t disappoint as our boys prove they are still just as adept at landing themselves in trouble as they are at shooting their way out of it. But when their Yankee friend, Major Jake Ryan, rescues a reluctant German scientist, he is quickly dashed away to a secret soviet bunker, used as a hostage to negotiate the release of the scientist, for whom the Russians have their own nefarious plans….

All this is wrapped up in Ian Kennedy’s stunning pastel cover, in which we see soviet soldiers’ silhouettes shooting from the mist, an eerie fairground and Commando first, glowing in the background. Meanwhile, a departure from Muller’s stylistic interior artwork in ‘Hunt and Harass’ (Commando No 5015), Vila and Morhain’s character designs still match their previous iterations, but with their own flair, opting for a more classic Commando look.
|Story | George Low | Art | Vila & Morhain | Cover | Ian Kennedy |

5028: Gold Collection
Rogue Commando

Powell’s massive Commando John Littlejohn domineers the pages of R. Fuente’s illustrations, filling panels from head to toe! There’s an especially thrilling scene, justly captured in Jamieson’s cover in which a Yugoslavian partisan clings to a snapped rope, hanging perilously over a ravine, while the mighty Littlejohn bridges the frayed ends with only his muscles.

But big as he may be, Littlejohn also manages to find himself in trouble.  And hot-tempered, he was no stranger to a fight, be that with Italians, Nazis, the Yugoslavians he’s trying to help or even his fellow Commandos…
|Story | Powell | Art | R. Fuente | Cover | Jamieson |
Originally Commando No 349 (August 1968)

5029: Action and Adventure:
Hopper’s War

Jimmy Hopper’s cousin Rick always bullied him. Jimmy was an average kid, he never made the effort. But Rick was different, he joined the army the day he turned eighteen, never shying away from anything, so maybe he was right to judge him. But when Jimmy was drafted in 1968, he wasn’t ready to fight. He wasn’t happy with killing. That was when he decided to become a medic – saving lives instead of taking them. But when Rick is reunited with Jimmy amidst the violence of Vietnam, he sees him as only a coward, the bad blood still running between them…

Using this unusual perspective for a Commando issue, Janek’s cover, while dramatic, with windswept jungle, a smoking flare and medics hurriedly loading a wounded soldier onto the helicopter, attention is instantly drawn to the medical red cross, a stand out theme in the issue.

Also, like his work in ‘A Game of Hostages’, Morhain’s thick black lines take inspiration from Commando artists from the Golden era of pocket libraries, giving Commando its instantly recognisable artwork. But adding his own style, his illustrations use of white space during lulls in the fighting works as an excellent contrast to the use of dark, heavy blacks during the action, perfectly encapsulating the confusion and horror of battle.
|Story | Ferg Handley | Art | Morhain | Cover | Janek Matysiak |

5030: Silver Collection
Cold Sweat

Trust is the key theme in Costello’s Silver Age story from the 1990s. After Colin Copper falls off an icy slope and is left behind in a blizzard during the British retreat in Norway he is saved from death by a Norwegian villager. But, as the Nazis tighten their grip on Norway, Colin has to get out. Shown the way by the Norwegian’s son, Leif, Colin is soon captured by Nazis. Was is Leif? Has Colin been betrayed by the son of his saviour? Find out in this issue!

With a setting like Norway, it’s easy to show flat barren snows capes, but Rigby simply does not allow this, dotting the panels with tall, thick pines and carefully shaded slopes. As a result, this dramatic setting is not lost in Phil Gascoine’s dark and moody cover, with Colin, caught in fear and surprise as two German soldiers take aim at him, framing the cover and barring all escape.
|Story | Costello | Art |C. T. Rigby | Cover | Phil Gascoine |
Originally Commando No 2613 (November 1992)

Panini annuals for 2018

It had to happen. Thanks to the success of the movies, the Guardians of the Galaxy are getting their own hardback annual for the UK market this year, published by Panini. The description reads:

"Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit in cinemas the first time around, and a smash hit for the follow-up, making it a firm favourite with young fans. This intergalactic annual doesn't fail to entertain boys aged 6-9, filled with puzzles, comic strip and factfiles."

It's a shame that the marketing dept only think boys will be interested in the book. Superhero material appeals to both boys and girls and it's time that the old notions of gender division were dropped. 

Panini are also releasing the usual annuals for Marvel Heroes and Spider-Man. I'm presuming all three books will use material reprinted from Marvel's comics for younger readers.

These annuals each have a page count of just 64 pages, which is quite lightweight compared to some annuals, but they still prove popular. The books are available to pre-order now from Amazon

R.I.P. Adam West

Batman bubble-gum card, 1966.
The only bad thing about the Comic Expo at Brighton on Saturday was when the news broke that actor Adam West had passed away. For many of us, Adam West was THE Batman, as we'd discovered the Batman TV show before we'd even seen a Batman comic strip. 
Adam West with co-star Burt Ward.
Back in 1966, Batman made such a huge impact on pop culture. Every little kid wanted to be Batman, thanks to Mr.West's superb performance. Older comic purists of the time may have been dismayed that the TV show wasn't taking itself too seriously but for millions of us it was perfect. With a dry, earnest delivery and a straight face, Adam West helped ensure that the TV show worked on two levels; an exciting adventure series for children, and a marvellous superhero spoof for older, more savvy viewers. That's quite a feat to pull off, but it worked.
Me patrolling the front doorstep in 1967.
The Batman TV series was a direct influence on me creating Brickman, so I'll always be grateful for that. Adam West was due to be a guest at the London Film and Comic Con next month but sadly we'll never meet him now. 

Thanks for the many hours of TV entertainment and happy memories, Adam West, millionaire Bruce Wayne of stately Wayne Manor. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Next week's 2000AD...

One of the things I love about 2000AD, apart from it featuring the best talent in the business, and apart from it being the last man standing of the old weekly adventure comics, is that it still uses the sort of toplines over the masthead that address the reader. This is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th Century British comics and it's great that it survives to this day. Admittedly it's trivial, but to me it's something that shows 2000AD is acknowledging its legacy, and reminds me of the "Great new stories start inside, pals!" toplines of long ago.

Here's the info and previews of the next issue, on sale this coming Wednesday...

UK & DIGITAL: 14 June 2017 £2.65
NORTH AMERICA: 14 July 2017 $7.99

In this issue:

Judge Dredd: The Fields by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Dylan Teague (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Grey Area: Back in Black by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Hunted: Furies by Gordon Rennie (w) PJ Holden (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

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