Thursday, August 17, 2017

Doctor Who and the Bookshops

I thought I'd give a plug for Panini's wonderful Doctor Who graphic novels as I rarely mention them here. These weighty large size softbacks reprint the Doctor Who comic strip serials from Doctor Who Magazine into handy complete collections. There's often also behind-the-scenes features on the strips as back-up articles too.

There have been more than 20 books in this line published over the years, and the newest is Doorway to Hell, gathering recent 12th Doctor stories, including his encounter with the original Master! It'll be out in September officially, but the DWM team say you might find some in shops already.

As there are still older stories to be reprinted, you never know what will turn up in this series. The previous book was Emperor of the Daleks, collecting a 7th Doctor story from the 1980s issues of DWM!

I know a few fans have said they'd like to see some of the 3rd Doctor strips from Countdown / TV Action collected into a future volume. There are no plans to do that yet, as far as I know, but Who knows...? 

The idea of books collecting comic serials has been the norm in Europe and Japan for many decades, and it's good that the practice has been employed in the UK for a few years now too. I really think this is one way forward for British comics at the moment. With these Doctor Who books, plus collections from Titan, The Phoenix, 2000AD, and Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics line, and all the new graphic novels published by companies such as Self Made Hero, bookshops are becoming the place to go to discover comics. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Children's newsstand comics: state of the industry 2017

Over on his Down the Tubes website, John Freeman has the latest circulation figures for British newsstand comics and children's magazines. (Or at least the ones that supply their info.) It makes for grim reading, with most titles having suffered sales dips since last year.

Of course, the reasons for the decline are many and varied. It's never as simple as some people think it is. Content is one reason of course (a branded comic will only appeal to fans of that brand for example), then there's price, distribution, and the complex ways of suppliers deciding which shops get what, regardless of what a retailer might prefer.

In my opinion, one major drawback for publishers today is the unkempt way in which their mags are stuffed into shelves. Not always by customers having a browse, but by the actual retail staff. Take a look at the photos here that I took a few months ago. For the most part, the displays are unattractive and very few titles stand out. 
Admittedly, the fact they're bagged with toys doesn't help, but bear in mind it's the retail giants that have insisted on that. The design of the shelves isn't helpful either, but again, that's deliberate. The more a publisher pays the retail giants for stocking a title, the more prominent it's displayed. (In theory anyway, if the shelf-stackers have read the memo and can be bothered to follow it.) So the shelves are designed as to not give every title equal visibility. As for titles that haven't paid the higher fees for display, - they're relegated to the darkness at the back of the shelves. One rule for the rich... and people wonder why new publishers don't launch a comic.

Incredibly, comics and children's magazines are sometimes displayed out of the reach of their target audience! It's the parents they're pitched at, so bang goes the days of a child discovering a comic that catches his/her eye. Yet even if a child did manage to notice a title that seemed interesting, they couldn't browse through it because it's usually bagged. Therefore the plastic gifts become the main attraction. "That cheap water pistol that was with a mag last month broke five minutes after using it. Oh, there's a similar one with a different mag. That'll do." 

How can that build reader loyalty? (Or brand loyalty, as that seems to be the key phrase these days.) 
How's a kid going to notice that Lego Batman comic on the top shelf?
I'm really not sure what the solution is. We have a generation (and their parents) who have grown up expecting UK comics to be based on a brand, and expecting them to be bagged with gifts. Previous generations had developed a habit of going to the newsagent every week to buy their favourite comic and read about their favourite characters. Today's kids haven't developed that habit, and instead have the privilege of lots of other things to distract them at the weekends.

There's also been a change in society's attitudes since the heyday of comics. Years ago, children as young as 8 would venture out on their own or with their mates, and after the Saturday movie matinee at the local ABC cinema they'd spend the rest of their pocket money on stuff they'd discovered for themselves, including comics. Parents put trust in telling their kids not to go off with strangers and to be home by dark and, for the large majority of kids, everyone was relatively safe. This isn't conjecture. Myself and my friends were part of that generation. It's what we did. The freedom of the 1960s.

It's a far murkier world today, and with a fear of drug pushers and perverts preying on their offspring, parents daren't let kids out of their sight. (In fact, if an 8 year old was in town shopping these days on his own I think social services would have firm words with the parents.) Subsequently, that whole culture of kids seeking out comics for themselves has vanished. They're often chosen by the parent now. 

Some things don't change though. The Beano still hangs in there because it's always stood its ground and pretty much remained faithful to its original concept; a comics-focused publication that has encouraged reader loyalty with enduring and familiar characters. As it's been around for so long it's become a recognisable brand in itself. Therefore it sells on its own merits and rarely carries free gifts. 

The Phoenix seems steady, but it relies mainly on subscription and its presence in shops is minimal. (My local Smiths takes two copies, and stuffs them at the back.) However, perhaps its success should be an incentive for more publishers to follow that model, if they can find backers with deep enough pockets to sustain it. 

From my experiences meeting families at conventions I know that children do like comics, even if they haven't developed the habit of buying them regularly. That's why I think graphic novels and specials with a longer shelf life are the most likely way for newsstand / bookshop comics to survive. We can't turn the clock back to the 20th Century heyday of weekly comics, so there's no point yearning for that, but we can move forward with new ideas for the future.

If you have thoughts about this, either post them on John's article at or on my blog below.

Justice League of Britain

Licensing brands is a complex thing. Titan Comics have the rights to publish a UK Justice League comic, and Panini UK publish a Scooby-Doo comic, but here we are with Parragon Books (part of D.C. Thomson) publishing annuals for Justice League and Scooby-Doo

Such is the strange world of publishing. If you're interested in these books you can order them directly from the D.C. Thomson online shop here:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Comic Cuts Seaside Holiday Number (from 1923)

Back before the days of the Summer Special, weekly comics had a holiday theme to their regular issues. One of which being Comic Cuts No.1735, dated August 11th 1923, which was re-named for this week as Comic Cuts Seaside Holiday Number. Let's take a quick look at some of the content.

The cover strip was The Adventures of Jolly Tom, the Menagerie Man, and was drawn by Percy Cocking, one of Amalgamated Press' top artists. (He also illustrated Weary Willie and Tired Tim on the cover of Chips at this time, along with many other strips.)

The format of this "special" was exactly the same as any other week; 8 tabloid sized pages in black and white. (The standard format of comics of the time.) There was an equal balance of prose stories and comic strips, with the centre pages featuring lots of short strips. Here are three of them...

Page 7 had a busy layout of humourous stories, cartoons, ads, and the "Orfice Boy" recounting his trip to Margate...

On the back page... an sad reflection of how black people were regarded back then, re-presented here for historical purposes and to help give younger readers an inkling of what they had to put up with. I believe the artist of Comic Cuts Colony was Julius Stafford Baker. I'm sure the intention was just a "bit of fun" with no intended malice but it's still dehumanising a race. I've heard the argument that "everyone was caricatured back then, including white people". No. Not to the extent of the grotesque exaggerations of black characters, as one can see by comparing Comic Cuts Colony to the strip beneath it. In comics back then, white characters had slight exaggerations, whilst non-whites were completely distorted and depicted as almost sub-human (and referred to in racist terms). We need to ensure we never return to those days. 

There's a new PULL LIST available

Cover by Darrell Thorpe
An essential read for anyone who's interested in the British comics scene, The Pull List is a downloadable digital magazine that features previews, interviews, and reviews of recommended titles and creators.

Superbly designed, The Pull List No.7 is the latest issue and contains interviews with Rozi Hathaway, Matthew Dooley, Darrel Thorpe, Sarah Millman and more.

There are also features and opinions on recent shows MCM London, ICE Brighton, and ELCAF 2017. 

The back of the magazine features several pages of reviews, and the Cosmic Cliff comic strip by Marc Jackson. 

The Pull List provides a great service in informing people of indie and small press titles that they might otherwise be unaware of. It reminds me in that regard of Paul Gravett's Fast Fiction zine of the 1980s that provided a similar benefit to indie creators back then. 

How much does this splendid magazine cost you may ask? Just .99p (or more if you're feeling generous) and you can download it from here:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Challengers of the UK

Back in the post-World War Two years, Britain still had restrictions on what it could import, and American comics were obviously not a priority. Therefore various British publishers such as Len Miller gained the rights to produce reprint editions of popular U.S. titles such as Captain Marvel, Human Torch, various crime and horror comics, etc. 

Fast forward to the late 1950s/early '60s and although distribution of American comics was starting to build up, there were still several UK editions being published. One of them being Challengers of the Unknown, that Leicester-based company Thorpe and Porter were publishing. 

As I understand it, the UK edition of Challengers of the Unknown ran for four issues in 1960. The issue I have (shown here) is No.2, consisting of 68 pages in black and white on pulp paper. The same format that Alan Class used for his long running comics. 

This issue reprinted two American DC comics:

The Wizard of Time from Challengers of the Unknown No.4 (Oct/Nov 1958).
Writer/penciller: Jack Kirby. Inker: Wally Wood

The Men Who Lost Their Memories and The Plot to Destroy Earth, both with art by Bob Brown, reprinted from Challengers of the Unknown No.9 (Aug/Sept 1959).

There's also a short story, I Was the Gulliver of Space reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected No.32 (Dec. 1958) and various one page prose stories and features from DC comics of the period.

Thorpe and Porter also had British editions of other DC comics advertised in this issue, such as The Flash and Mr.District Attorney.

The company also had the rights to reprint comics from other publishers too, so this issue also carries ads for Adventures Into The Unknown and Mad magazine. Mad of course became the most enduring of these UK editions and continued publishing until at least 1989 (after which the US edition was imported to newsagents, and still is.)

I think the UK editions of the DC comics were phased out not long after this issue was published, and replaced by imported DC comics. Thorpe and Porter handled the distribution, and you may remember their distinctive purple T&P stamp with the UK price on the covers of imported American comics of the sixties and seventies. 

These days, history has repeated itself in a way. American comics are no longer distributed to newsagents but Panini publish British editions of Marvel comics whilst Titan publish British editions of DC comics. Sadly they're not as well distributed as the UK editions of long ago but you should find them in your nearest WH Smith. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Preview: 2000AD Prog 2044, - out next week

Courtesy of Rebellion, here's a preview of next week's 2000AD, which will be in the shops on Wednesday 16th August.

UK & DIGITAL: 16th August 2017 £2.65
NORTH AMERICA: 16th September 2017 $7.99

In this issue:

Judge Dredd: Ouroboros by Michael Carroll (w) Paul Marshal (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

The Alienist: Inhuman Natures by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beebie (w) Eoin Coveney (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Greysuit: Foul Play by Pat Mills (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Grey Area: Signal Six Twenty-Four by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Hope: ... For The Future by Guy Adams (w) Jimmy Broxton (a) (c) Simon Bowland (l)

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

KIRBY 100!

A perfect choice for the book's cover, representing Kirby's powerful, imaginative style.
Although this is primarily a blog about British comics, there's been a lot of Jack Kirby's work reprinted over here so I thought readers might be interested in this. It's been 100 years since Kirby's birth, and to commemorate the late artist's work, TwoMorrows have published a new book. Here's the details...

The party starts here! TwoMorrows and the Jack Kirby Collector magazine celebrate Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday in style with the release of Kirby100, a full-color visual holiday for the King of comics! It features an all-star line-up of 100 comics pros who critique key images from Kirby’s 50-year career, admiring his page layouts, dramatics, and storytelling skills, and lovingly reminiscing about their favorite characters and stories. Featured are Bruce Timm, Alex Ross, Drew Friedman, Walter Simonson, John Byrne, Joe Sinnott, Steve Rude, Adam Hughes, Wendy Pini, John Romita Sr., Dave Gibbons, P. Craig Russell, and dozens more of the top names in comics. Their essays serve to honor Jack’s place in comics history, and prove (as if there’s any doubt) that Kirby is King! This double-length book is edited by John Morrow and Jon B. Cooke, with a Kirby cover inked by Mike Royer.
Diamond Comic Distributors Order Code: MAY171932
224-page FULL-COLOR Trade Paperback, $34.95 • Digital Edition, $12.95 (Sorry, the Limited Hardcover Edition is sold out!)
You can view a free preview and order here:

Order it from Amazon and other booksellers here:

Judge Dredd gets The Lawless Touch

Now that Rebellion own the rights to many of the post-1970 IPC comics they've been dusting off the archives to present some classics to new readers. Their range of Treasury of British Comics graphic novels is already off to a good start with One-Eyed Jack and The Leopard from Lime Street, and now another 1970s strip reappears next week.

Not being a long enough story to warrant a book, this classic will appear as a bagged comic with Judge Dredd Megazine No.387, on sale Wednesday 16th August. The Lawless Touch originally appeared in issues 11 to 22 of the short-lived weekly comic Tornado in 1979, created by Kelvin Gosnell, Steve McManus and Barrie Mitchell (with other creatives working on later episodes). 

Judge Dredd Megazine features all-new content, with the bagged reprint usually featuring old 2000AD material so it's good to see Rebellion expanding the concept to cover other strips. Hopefully more classic material will be considered for future issues. The Megazine also features an article on the upcoming Marney the Fox collection, with a new interview with artist John Stokes.

UK & DIGITAL: 16th August 2017 £5.99
NORTH AMERICA: 16th September 2017 $13

In this issue:

Judge Dredd: Platinum Wednesday by Rory McConville (w) Joel Carpenter (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Anderson PSI Division: NWO by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)

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

Dredd: Furies by Arthur Watt, Alex Di Campi (w) Paul Davidson (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

The Dark Judges: Dominion by John Wagner (w) Nick Percival (a) Len O'Grady (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Interviews: John Stokes, Liam Sharp

Reprint edition: The Lawless Touch (from Tornado) by Kelvin Gosnell, Steve MacManus, R. Tuffnell (w) Barry Mitchell, Mike White, John Cooper, John Richardson, John Higgins (a), Pete Knight (l)

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

Friday, August 11, 2017


As this blog has picked up quite a few new followers in recent times I thought you might be interested in a multi-part post I did several years back about the classic free gifts of decades ago.

Long-time collectors will remember how these cheap and cheerful gifts were mainly constricted of cardboard or plastic and inserted inside the comics. There were no bulky toys bagged with comics back then. The old style gifts were designed so the comics could still be displayed flat on a newsagent's counter. 

Anyway, without any further ado, here are the links to my old posts on the subject. I hope you enjoy them...

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Latest news on ICE 2017

The latest announcement for the International Comics Expo (ICE2017) in Birmingham on 9th September is that Jessica Martin will be there to exclusively launch her new book. Here's the full info from the convention's Facebook page...

We are thrilled to announce that Jessica Martin’s latest book, A Star Is Drawn, will be launching exclusively at ICE 2017!

A collection of Jessica’s distinctive portraits and sketches, featuring some of the brightest stars in entertainment from the last 100 years, put together for the first time in one volume.

As well as some never-before-seen artwork, this special limited Christmas edition for 2017 includes several bonus festive pieces.

Join Jessica on a journey through her influences and inspirations, from Bette Davis to Bowie, and experience the ArtyMiss collection as you’ve never seen it before.

Jessica Martin has spent over thirty years in entertainment, performing in theatre, comedy, television and radio. She is now a critically acclaimed comic creator and artist, and glad to be at ICE 2017!

As well as ’A Star Is Drawn’, you’ll be able to pick up her previous works (including comics ‘It Girl’ and ‘Vivacity’, and graphic novel ‘Elsie Harris Picture Palace’), and get a first look at some of the art for her upcoming memoir ‘Life Drawing – a life under lights’, which has recently achieved 100% crowdfunding and will be published next year with Unbound.

Find out more about Jessica and ArtyMiss on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (search ‘ArtyMissPublishing’), or visit


ICE2017 is shaping up to be a great day, with the following guests also confirmed:



It's an honour once again to be on the bill, as ICE is one of my favourite events and is 100% about comics. This year, the new venue is the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, part of the Holiday Inn. An excellent choice, as not only is it right next door to Nostalgia and Comics (one of the best and longest-established comic shops in the UK) it's also only a couple of minutes walk from New Street Station. 

So... come along and meet us all on Saturday 9th September! Here's the website with all the info...

Hook Jaw Archive receives new cover design

Only a month to go until Titan release their book that reprints the classic Hook Jaw strips from Action. This violent, controversial strip proved highly popular back in 1976 when it was first published in weekly instalments and the collection is being eagerly anticipated by fans of the series.

When I posted the first news about this book back in March, Hook Jaw had a completely different cover (see below). Perhaps that cover was judged to be too gruesome for High Street bookshops? (Unfortunately the quote by me has also vanished from the new cover, unless it's on the back now.)

The main attraction though is the content, and it sounds like the book will be quite comprehensive as it even includes Great White Death, the prequel story that was originally published in Action Summer Special in 1976.

Hook Jaw, written by Pat Mills and Ken Armstrong, and with art by Ramon Sola, is now scheduled to be published on 12th September.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Prepare ye for the GOOD NEWS BIBLE!

The complete Deadline strips of Shaky Kane are being collected into one book next month as the Good News Bible! Don't worry; this blog hasn't gone all born again. Read on...

Good News Bible
The Complete Deadline Strips of Shaky Kane
Release Date: SEPTEMBER 2017 UK / OCtober 2017 US . CANADA
ISBN: 978-0-9574381-4-9
RRP £24.99 / $34.99
22 x 31 cm / 8 x 12 in
240 pages

For the first time ever, Shaky Kane’s complete comic strips and illustrations from the ground-breaking British counter-culture magazine Deadline are reproduced in one stunning edition, complete with commentary from Eisner award-winner Nick Abadzis, comedian David Quantick and eminent comic-book critic Frank Santoro. Oh, and there’s a few rogue remarks from Shaky himself too of course...

“Read any GOOD BOOKS lately, punk?”

Between 1988 and 1995 Deadline magazine launched Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl strips, kickstarted dozens of other cartoonists’ careers, and, perhaps most notably, published Shaky Kane’s politically charged, hallucinatory, Jack Kirby-infused punk cartoons.

Drenched in wry wit, bristling with intensity and bombast, Shaky’s work remains as relevant now as when it was first published in Deadline 30 years ago. So, zone in, tune out and get ready to meet God’s own cops: The A-Men, The Sadistic Prowler, Pinhead Aliens invading Russia, trans-dimensional subhuman entities The Shadowmen, Pagan P.I.: Wiccaman, Dannii Minouge, and the man of destiny himself: The Space Boss SHAKY KANE.

With an introduction from writer David Quantick, foreword from cartoonist and writer Nick Abadzis, afterword from cartoonist and comics academic Frank Santoro, and annotations from Shaky himself, this is the ultimate tome for baptising oneself in the perverse and psychedelic world of Britain’s cosmic comics shaman.

Praise for Shaky Kane:

“The Shakyverse is a real place, it transcends the comics.” – The Comics Journal

“[Kane uses his] acerbic humour to take savage swipes at stereotyping.” – Down the Tubes

Shaky Kane emerged on the UK comics scene in the mid-’80s, drawing for
such publications as The NME, Escape, Deadline, 2000 AD, Judge Dredd
Magazine and Revolver. More recently he published The Bulletproof Coffin
(Image Comics, 2010—2012) and Cowboys & Insects (Alternative Comics,
2016) with long-term collaborator David Hine. Often described as both
hallucinatory and psychedelic, Kane’s visual tastes are influenced by
American pop culture, full-colour comic books, the frenetic energy of punk
rock flyers, and, of course, late night television. In more than one way, his
work pushes at the limits of what’s considered tasteful to show in print.

David Quantick won an Emmy as part of the writing team on HBO’s Veep,
a BAFTA for Harry Hill’s TV Burp and a Writers’ Guild Award for The Thick
Of It. His recent books How To Write Everything and How to be A Writer
(both published by Oberon) are indispensable, accessible and funny. He
has written for everyone from The Duke of Edinburgh to Chris Morris. He
writes and appears on The Now Show, writes The 15 Minute Musical, as
well as his own radio shows, The Blagger’s Guide and 52 First Impressions,
all for BBC radio.

Nick Abadzis is an Eisner award-winning cartoonist and writer known
for the graphic novel Laika (First Second Books) and his Deadline series
Hugo Tate. His work has been published in the USA by Condé Nast,
Marvel Comics, Titan Comics and DC Comics, in the UK by the BBC,
various national newspapers including The Guardian, The Times and The
Independent, elsewhere in Europe by the likes of Dargaud and Glénat,
and in Japan by Kodansha. He is also known in Doctor Who fandom as
the writer of a great many tenth Doctor adventures for an acclaimed run of
stories for Titan Comics.

Frank Santoro is a comic-book author, as well as one of the foremost
comic-book academics and critics of his generation. He has taught drawing
at Parsons, and now runs a highly regarded correspondence course of his

own devision about comics.
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