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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Win Some Dave Taylor Art

(Via 2000AD artist Dave Taylor's blog): If you visit the wonderful site run by artist Andrew Glazebrook (bsmbow.blogspot.com) you can win a black and white version of this sketch by Dave Taylor, simply by entering his caption competition and being as funny as you can.

"Andrew's site is most entertaining and full of delightfully interesting things so why not pop over and see for yourself," says Dave.

Only one entry per person and the closing date will be Friday the 5th December 2008 and the winner will be announced sometime soon after that date.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Planet of the Apes Chronology Book Published

A new independently-published book about the Planet of the Apes films is now available. The 322-page Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, by Rich Handley, is described as 'the definitive unauthorised chronology' and is released to coincide with the franchise's 40th anniversary.

As fans of the movies and TV series will know, Planet of the Apes continuity is complicated and at times appears to be contradictory - this book aims to sort out the mess! Even the cartoon series is included.

Find out more and order copies of this worthy project, which is very reasonably priced at under eighteen quid, at: www.hassleinbooks.com

Hyde Pod Who!

My old friend Mat Hyde, who once wrote comics for Marvel UK but has moved into the audio podcast world thees days, has just released Hyde Pod Corner #30 - Doctor Who 45th Anniversary Special

"I'm doing my bit for the 45th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who," he tells us.

"It has a little background, a bit about sci-fi, lots of Doctors and even why it's not like Star Trek. Also a Quantum of Solace review. Comedy, chat and music. Beat that!"

Mat cautions his podcasts are often adult-oriented.

• More of Mat's Hyde Pod PodCasts Here: www.hydepodcorner.co.uk

Thursday, 27 November 2008

In Review: Derek the Sheep

Drek the Sheep collectionWe mentioned Gary Northfield's popular Beano (and first creator owned) strip Derek the Sheep earlier today with good reason. The first collection of the strip, published back in September by Bloomsbury but which just arrived here at downthetubes (thanks, Gary!), is an absolute gem.

This quirky collection features the first 13 of grumpy Derek's daft adventures, which appeared in the Beano from February 2004 onwards. This edition comprises the same stories as the French-language Norbert le Mouton, published by Actes-Sud-l'An 2, earlier in 2008 (below), but the stories are presented more Beano-style in this version.

It's interesting to see how quickly the character and supporting cast develop, including an irritated squirrel, annoyed Derek's antics have interrupted his TV viewing; Bernard the Goat, who will eat anything (unless Derek and his mates get there first); and Cecil, a bee that just wants a friend (especially a friend that will help him find a flower he can call his own) and loves snow. (I told you it was quirky).

Gary's artwork is confident in its 3 x 4 grid styling throughout, its simplicity disguising just how much work has gone into storytelling and layout.

With is eclectic collection of characters and absurdist humour that reminds me of the work of Glen Dakin and James Tunrer, Derek the Sheep is a wonderful invention. Its success is well deserved (the more so for being creator-owned in a title that in the past rarely credited its makers, an age now thankfully over). The tales, which include Gone with the Wind (Derek gets blown up a tree), Let's Bee Friends (Bee seeks friend, obviously, but with motive!) and One for the Pot (Red Riding Hood wolf decides to make Derek lunch), work on several levels like all the best humour -- true fun for all the family and not just the core target age of Beano readers.

If you've never read Derek the Sheep before then this is as good a place as any to start. This collection is a perfect Christmas present for any Beano or animal lover!

Norbert le Mouton aka Derek the Sheep(Beano readers should of course be bought the The Beano Annual 2009Beano Annual 2009 and The History of the Beano: The Story So Far, too!).

Buy the Bloomsbury Derek the Sheep hardback
Visit Gary Northfield's web site
View pages from Norbert le Mouton

Buy The Beano Annual 2009Beano Annual 2009
Buy The History of the Beano: The Story So Far, too!

Wicked Willie Returns!

Remember Wicked Willie, the creation of Gray Jolliffe? Well, he's back, as right and upright as ever in The Complete Wicked Willie, out on DVD in January.

Based on Jolliffe’s internationally best-selling series of cartoon books about the continuing adventures of a man and his “best friend”, the animated series from Oscar winning animator Bob Godfrey gives a wry and comic look at this evolving partnership, their attitude towards sex and the quest for new experiences.

In addition to the films, Wicked Willie - The Movie and Wicked Willie Rides Again, extras on this DVD include an interview with Gray Jolliffe; Checking the Undercarriage (Joliffe, who is actively involved in the Bob Champion Cancer Charity, has drawn a self-examination guide for men, so that ‘Dr Willie’ can assist in publicising this too often ignored condition); Where’s Willie?, Willie Trivia, biographies of Gray Jolliffe & Bob Godfrey, Early Artwork and more.

On My Radio...

Alex Fitch has just sent us details for the shows he produces that are being broadcast / podcast over the next seven days...

On air: Strip: The work of Art Spiegelman

Guest presenter Grant Rogers talks to Pulitzer Prize winning author Art Speigelman about his classic graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale and about the 30th anniversary edition of his first collection of strips Breakdowns, which combines the original book with a new autobiographical comic "Portrait of the artist as a young %@&*!"...

Broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM, 5pm GMT Thursday 27th November, repeated 11.30pm Sunday 30th November, extended podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

On Line: Reality Check: Life during Wartime

Alex Fitch introduces a pair of interviews about modern science fiction takes on warfare which have a classical, yet prescient feel to them: Duncan Nott talks to Garth Ennis about working on the new Virgin Comics version of the classic British sci-fi comic strip Dan Dare which sees Dare called out of retirement as Britain and Earth enter new hostilities with the Mekon due to a corrupt Prime Minister running the country. Also, Tripwire Magazine editor Joel Meadows presents and takes part in a brief press conference with actor Michael Hogan about playing the long suffering character Colonel Tigh in the 21st century reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, which is about to return to our screens shortly for the second half of its final season.

Online from 3rd December: www.sci-fi-london.com/audio

In the cinema: Hectic Peelers: Memories of Matsuko

For the latest Electric Sheep / Resonance FM film club they will be screening Memories of Matsuko, this week's Time Out magazine cinema critic's choice of the week, an exuberant bubblegum Japanese melodrama with a dark edge, which pieces together the tragi-comic tale of an eccentric woman who went looking for love in all the wrong places. Saturated colour, moody lighting and musical interludes make the film a pure joy to watch, and it is no surprise that it received the audience award at the Tiger Festival in June 08. Adam Torel, head of Third Window Films, the distributors of the film in the UK, will be in attendance to introduce the film and do a Q & A with Electric Sheep magazine editor Virginie Selavy afterwards.

Tuesday 2nd Decmber: Roxy Bar and Screen, 128-132 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LB 7:30pm, Free! (This month's Hectic Peelers is a week early due to Christmas bookings at the Roxy)

In print is the Electric Sheep Magazine Autumn 2008, available in shops now and features reviews of Dark City by Alex Fitch and Tom Humberstone (also available online), a review of Cube by Alex, and his feature on the two versions of Death Race, an excerpt of which you can read here:

The November electronic issue of ESM is now online and includes reviews of Waltz with Bashir by Paul Gravett, Virginie Selavy's review of A Bloody Aria, Oli Smith's review of the Future Shorts DVD and a transcript of Alex Fitch's interview with Peter Greenaway about Nightwatching and his recent multimedia projects. The print magazine also includes illustrations by Smith, Humberstone and Sean Azzopardi plus a comic strip by Mark Stafford.
Available at all good retailers now and from www.electricsheepmagazine.com

Podcast: Panel Borders - Handmade and Bound
Dickon Harris presents a special report about the affordable 'zine and comics book fair – Handmade and Bound – and talks to a quintet of small press comics creators: Gareth Brookes, Gavin Burrows, Sean Duffield, Richard Cowdry and Peter Lally. Dickon also talks to one of the founders of Handmade and Bound – Simon Last – about the success of the fair and the small press scene in genera...

Electric Sheep Magazine Podcast: Peter Greenaway and the Raindance Film Festival
This month's ESM podcast looks at last month's Raindance film festival and includes 2 Q&As recorded live at the festival with cinema audiences. Alex Fitch talks to short film maker Guy Ducker about his short film Lover's Lane and to the cast and crew of the British Basketball documentary Midnight Madness. Alex also interviews acclaimed British director Peter Greenaway about his new film Nightwatching and his multimedia project surrounding Rembrandt's painting The Nightwatch.

Cartoonists join Stars on Canvas Fund Raiser

The Willow Foundation, the only British charity of its kind providing special days for 16 to 40 year olds with life-threatening conditionshas teamed up with respected British artist Julie-Anne Gilburt to hold Stars on Canvas, a colourful and imaginative art exhibition guaranteed to inspire debate and festive fun this Christmas.

290 small canvases have been drawn by well-known names from the worlds of sport, design, art, music and entertainment including contributions from politicians, sports people and cartoonists such as Neil Bennett (above), Stan McMurtry and Andy Davey, along with artists such as Dan Baldwin, Rosie Birtwhistle and Peter Blake, and actors such as Steve Coogan, Catherine Tate, John Hurt and many others.

Also included are contributions from Dennis the Menace and Basil Brush and David McKee's Mister Ben canvas is sure to sell for a tidy sum.

Some demonstrate the individual’s artistic flair, others their personality or alter ego and the remaining a mix of interests, ideas or lateral thinking.

All the canvases are being auctioned online now and runs until 6th December. You can browse all the canvases (in alphabetical order) or see a summary of the canvases on the Willow Foundation web site.

• A public exhibition of all the canvases is being held at London's SW1 Gallery from December 2 to 6. There will be a preview event on 3rd December. To purchase tickets please contact the fundraising team by email or on 01707 259777.

Former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper and TV presenter Bob Wilson and his wife Megs founded the Willow Foundation in 1999 in memory of their daughter, Anna who died of cancer aged 31. The charity's name, Willow, stems from Anna's nickname and its aim is to replicate the positive impact special days had on both Anna and her family during her treatment.

• More information at: www.willowfoundation.org.uk

Unhappy Farewell to Stalag 666

Hope Falls and Doctor Who comics writer Tony Lee has bid an acrimonious farewell to Stalag 666, his first strip for 2000AD, which finishes its 15-part run this week.

Drawn by Jonathan Davis Hunt, the Prisoner of War camp-inspired strip sadly earned Tony and its creative team a plethora of abuse well beyond the usually more generally accepted forms of criticism, including hate mail and other unpleasantness to astonishing to go into here but reported by Tony on the 2000AD official forum last month.

"This week has the final ever episode of Stalag 666 in 2000AD, and to be honest, I'm glad it's over," he notes in an edition of his regular column for Comics Bulletin. "Usually when a book finishes I have a sense of loss, an 'aw, I wish I'd done a bit more in that world', but with Stalag 666? I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth and a sense of relief. And people who know my fun with fans over this book will hopefully understand... whether you loved it or hated it, thank you for your words on the internet. Whether good or bad, it's made me a better writer by default.

"Obviously we've had the insane contingent and to them I give a nice and healthy 'f*** you'," he continues. "You made Stalag 666 one of the most notorious strips in 2000AD's history when we were all happy for it to slide away into obscurity, and the notoriety wasn't in a good way. I hope you're happy. And you're probably not, as you made the bloody thing immortal when all you wanted was for it to stop."

While Stalag 666 may have left a nasty taste in Tony's mouth, a far cry from his enthusiasm for the story back in June, he's still writing for 2000AD. His "Citi-Def: Field Trip", drawn by Jack Lawrence, starts in Judge Dredd: The Megazine Issue #279 in two weeks time.

In my opinion, if you don't like a comic, a constructive letter or post expalining why is definitely preferable to what Tony suffered and the actions of one reader have largely been roundly condemned by 2000AD fans.

Tube Surfing: 27 November 2008

Drek the Sheep collectionForbidden Planet International is running a competition to win a thousand pound shopping dash in its Belfast store – a three minutes to dash around grabbing up to a grand’s worth of goodies. It’s only open to residents of Northern Ireland but I’m sure comics and SF&F fans there will be quite happy with getting this chance...

• The 20th annual Galaxy British Book Awards will take place at the Grosevnor House, Park Lane, London on the evening of Friday 3rd April 2009. Now is your chance to nominate your favourite graphic novels -- Gary Northfield's Derek the Sheep, anybody? (Got to be in with a chance!). Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman by Francesca Simon won the Childrens Book Award last year. For details, click here (PDF download) or visit the British Book Awards web site

Richard Bruton has been posting a number of items on The DFC on the Forbidden Planet International blog. Instead of us boring old adults waffling on about it we get to hear what one of the kids who reads it thinks about it as he interviews his daughter Molly (with the help of milk shake and cake bribes). "From the latest interview it seems to me the best way the DFC can boost circulation is not to sell in Tesco or in comics shops and newsagents but to sell in cake shops!" says FPI's Joe Gordon.
"
I like how there’s a good mix of comics inside," says Molly of the subscription-only title."And I like coming home on Friday after school and opening it up. It’s really exciting when you open it up and see who’s on cover. It’s nice that they give everybody a turn on the cover. That’s fair." (Read Richard's first psot on six months of The DFC here)

• If four decades ago you'd have walked down San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, the epicentre of counter-culture, you might have bumped into 25-year-old artist Robert Crumb selling the first issue of the then recently-launched Zap Comix from a pram. Among the barefoot, beaded hordes, he would have been hard to miss in his "old man" clothes. The Guardian reports on his career here: www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/robertcrumb

• Also in the Guardian, Ben Child ponders the week in geek: Should big-screen superheroes camp it up or keep it real? The Dark Knight and Iron Man scored big this summer with 'realistic' storylines, so is there still a space for camp characters like Captain Marvel on the big screen? Read his feature here

• Over on his blog, Edie Campbell reports on how effort to bring one of his stories to screen are progressing. The setting was Campbell's supposed bedroom in a house rented for the day, and Campbell played himself in a two and a half minute demonstration film based on the Snooter story from Bacchus. "Being a novice in this situation, it was weird being in bed with seven or eight other people in the room, the director, photographer, sound guy and all the rest, with blacked out windows in daytime." Read More...

• Cartoonist Jeremy Dennis' web site (www.jeremydennis.co.uk) has had a makeover. Both a Comics Creator and Web Editor living in Oxford, England, she's a prolific small-press creator of minicomics, altered books and other curious publications. who also run comics workshops, and is a founding member of the UK's longest-running comics convention, Caption. She's also involved in the latest issue of the anthology title The Whores of Mensa anthology which also features ace cartooonists Mardou and Ellen Lindner.

• It seems that the planned remake of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe may not be dead after all. Web site Mania reports that a month after it was reported the project fell back to development hell, El Mayimbe from Latino Review speculates that John Stevenson (Kung-Fu Panda) is in talks to direct the feature film for Warner Bros.
The project was reported dead a month ago. If this latest bit from the rumor vine is true, Warner Bros. may have found a willing director on bringing Justin Marks' script to the big screen.

• If you're a Glasgow-based comics creator, check out this new group, the Glasgow Comics Collective, which has just set up shop over on community network Ning.

• Indie comics creator and Clown Press publisher Adam Grose has a new comic in development, a new 'newspaper style' weekly comic strip called An Eleanor Moreau Murder Mystery: The Dragonfly. "It's a murder mystery and it will commence from the 9th January 2009," he tells us.

Wasteland #22 by Antony Johnson is on sale in all good comic shops. This is “Dog-Face Boy”, the second part of the new Dog Tribe story arc. Captured for ransom by the Red Fangs Dog Tribe, Michael and Abi are unarmed and helpless. But aid can come in the strangest of forms. Who is the mysterious cloaked man, so interested in their welfare? What does it all have to do with an impending marriage? And who will come from the city to save them?
Johnson also reports the third trade paperback collection, Book 03: Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos, is on track for release next week. Check his web site for updates.

(Compiled with thanks to Joe Gordon and Matthew Badham)

British Comics on the Rise?

Regular readers of downthetubes already know the British comics industry is far from dead, but now that gut feeling is backed by new figures which reveal sales are booming, up more than 70 per cent in the past five years.

While the boost in sales is largely the result of sales of licensed titles, most inspired by TV series such as Doctor Who and The Night Garden, the figures suggest children's comics are seeing off competition from more advanced playthings. Market research company Mintel reports comic sales are up by more than 72 per cent in five years since 2003, while sales of teenage magazines have fallen by 61 per cent in the same period.

The UK market now worth £136 million, up from £79 million in 2003, and is predicted to increase by a further 21 per cent to reach £165 million by 2013.

"It seems that the humble comic is standing the test of time and even today they provide an ideal treat for children," feels Mintel senior analyst Mark Brecchin. "The market for this traditional favourite has gone from strength to strength due to a host of new launches, price rises and the fact that publishers now bring out more issues per title each month.

"The popularity of these comics is an impressive feat for traditional media among 21st-century kids, who are increasingly technology-savvy. Sales of comics have flourished despite the wide variety of media and other forms of digital entertainment now aimed at pre-teens."

Commenting on the report, Toni Round, managing director for youth and children's magazines, BBC Worldwide, whose Doctor Who Adventures magazine had a top of the chart circulation of 155,000 in 2007 (although that has since declined), told the The Herald TV tie-ins had allowed publishers to tap into the pre-teen market, resulting in a surge in sales.

"Primetime shows like Doctor Who are watched by children across the country," she said. BBC Magazines sells an average of one million pre-school magazines a month and CBeebies Animals, which launched this year, has sold 58,558.

"Tie-ins have swelled interest and pushed up sales," says Round, "and branding has been the key element in the recipe for success.

"The magazine published in conjunction with In the Night Garden is an example of a refreshed brand that has responded to what kids are interested in at the time. It's a cyclical branding process."

While TV and licensed-inspired comics such as Titan's Simpsons Comics make up the bulk of high sales, traditional titles such as the Beano continue to fare well according to publisher DC Thomson, although in its report the Daily Telegraph notes that Beano has declined from a six-figure circ five years ago to a mere 64,000 today. The monthly Beano Max has been doing well, selling 51,000 copies an issue.

Former Dandy editor Morris Heggie told The Scotsman he feels the increase in popularity was down to the range available. "In the past, comics were either nursery, adventure, or funnies, but today there is such a great range of subjects, with lifestyle comics following television programmes, films, games, and even sports.

"There are more niche markets today with a huge variety of TV shows having their own comics and even every English and Scottish premiership football team now has their own comic and annual.

"Also there are lots of different comics coming in from abroad with a huge range of Japanese Manga and the graphic novels selling strongly."

Publisher David Fickling said that the subscription-only weekly title The DFC has also been able to carve a god market itself since its launch in June and blames businesses that thought that taking out comics were not profitable for killing the trade in the past, insisting that children had always wanted them.

"After a long time people have realised that children - and adults - really like the comic form," he said.

Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate, welcomed the rise of comics as "terrific", arguing that children enjoyed reading comics as "an artform in themselves.

"I don't know how it is they came to be regarded as simple in this country," he told the Telegraph. "They are very complex."

Morris Heggie feels the current economic climate would only boost comic book sales. "In times of depression book sales generally do well as they are a cheap alternative to buying more expensive presents," he told The Scotsman. "Comics today only cost about £2 and you get a lot of value for money. They have also always been popular in promoting children to read and this has helped sales."

Despite the impressive figures, some industry figures such as writer Steve Holland remain guarded in their optimism for the comics market. "The figures for 2008 did get a nice boost from the launch of High School Musical, based on the Disney TV movie series (which will almost certainly sustain its circulation in the latter half of 2008 thanks to the theatrical release of High School Movie 3)," he notes, "but I'm still unsure where the optimism comes from that makes (unnamed) "experts" predict that sales of comics are set to increase a further 21 per cent to reach £165 million by 2013.

"A launch like High School Musical may boost overall sales figures up by 100,000+ copies but, at the same time, sales on other titles are falling away: Teletubbies, Toybox, Balamory, Noddy Magazine, In the Night Garden and Fun to Learn - Favourites between them sold 50,000 less per issue in the same period that High School Musical launched.

"Add the falls in sales of other titles and that cancels out the success of any major launch leaving a roughly static market."

More information on Mntel's Report, "Children's Comics and Magazines - UK - October 2008" which costs £1500 to buy in full, is available here

Eagle in Portugal

... well, sort of. Thanks to a friend on a message board, we've come across information on this Portuguese comic, Foguetao, published in 1961, which includes strips from Eagle such as Dan Dare.

The Portuguese web site notes the title, which means "Rocket Ship" in English, was published in 1961 and ran for just 13 issues.

Contents of the first issue included Capitão Marte (Dan Dare), Asterix, Tin Tin, Sexton Blake and Blake and Mortimer -- a heady mix of internationally produced comics.

The DanDare.info site has already ocated this site, and notes the first appearance of Dan in Portugal was on 6th April 1955 in issue No. 25 of a 28 page comic called Titã (Click here for more info about Dare in Portugal).


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Doomlord's Credit Crunch Deal

UK indie publisher Hibernia Books are selling off their remaining copies of Doomlord: The Deathlords of Nox by John Wagner and Alan Grant until Christmas at half price for only £2.50 plus £1.50 for postage.

Doomlord started life in New Eagle on 27th March, 1982 as a photo story, or fumetti as they are also known which until that time had largely been the domain of girls' magazines.

Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner - the pair responsible for so much of IPC's comic output at the time, including Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog - it was an immediate success. Grant and Wagner's often brutal stories in the backdrop of suburbia in eighties Britain worked perfectly and the strip ran for three stories as photostories before being relaunched as a traditional comic strip with Doomlord: The Deathlords of Nox.

Again written by Grant and Wagner the strip was illustrated by Itialian artist Heinzl (which may have been a pen name for the itialian art agent Giolitti), who was later replaced by the legendary Eric Bradbury and became the definitive artist on Doomlord, staying with the strip until its end in 1988.

Doomlord stories have never been fully collected with the exception of a few reprints in The Best of Eagle monthlies and this collection of Deathlords marked the first time the strip had been properly collected. This half price offer is a great opportunity to treat yourself if you haven’t got one: the reviews were great.

Hibernia also has a handful of its Thirtheenth Floor collection from the pages of Scream! left (see news story) left but these are in limited supply.

• Contact Hibernia via doomlordATeircom.net if you are interested or visit their web site at: hiberniabook.bravehost.com

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

New Football Comic Launches

Rammie, the first issue of an all-new football humour comic for children will go on sale in UK newsagents tomorrow (26th November) featuring work by Duncan Scott, Nick Brennan, Nick Miller, Lee Healey, and Lew Stringer.

With a cover price of £1.95, the comic is the brainchild of Pete Wildrianne and Clive Ward of Comic Football and is produced in association with Derby County football club -- hence the name. Comic Football hope other football clubs will sponsor their own version of the comic (with an appropriate title for each version), with specific content for each club and copies available at their grounds.

The line up of comic creators on the title is impressive. downthetubes readers should already be familiar with Nick Miller, co-creator of The Really Heavy Greatcoat, which features on downthetubes and in Comics International but who has worked in comics since the 1980s on a wide range of titles. Lee Healey is the co-creator of the highly acclaimed Drunken Bakers for Viz, and creator of strips such as Sporting Swine.. Nick Brennan has been working in comics for almost 20 years, and like Duncan Scott, his credits including strips for The Beano, while Lew Stringer has surely drawn strips for pretty much every humour comic published in several years, but whose latest Beano strip, Super School, is proving a runaway hit with its readers.

"Three further issues will follow in February, April and June 2009," Pete Wildrianne says. "Derby County are purchasing a quantity to sell in various outlets, as well as giving [about 3000] copies to their junior club members."

The comic is being distributed wholesale through the news trade with Smiths News and Club Fottball are exploring further direct sales opportunities.

"Cynics who claim there is no longer a British comics industry should consider that recent months have seen the launch of comics with all-new content such as The DFC, Marvel Heroes, and now Rammie," comments contributor Lew Stringer on his blog, "not to mention additions to the Classical Comics line and the publication of Bulletproof No.2. They thought it was all over... but it isn't now!"

• Official Comic Football Site: www.comicfootball.co.uk
• 29/11/08 Update: Please note: Duncan Scott does not feature in this first issue.

Jim Krueger scripts Stand In for Ardden

Bestselling Avengers/Invaders and Superpowers scribe Jim Krueger has joined Flash Gordon publisher Ardden and will be penning the four-issue spy thriller mini-series The Stand-In, with art by Alex Cal, who has worked on The Amazing Spider-Man Family for Marvel and drew the North Wind mini-series for Boom! Studios.

The Stand-In chronicles the adventures of Dexter Laumb, a talented but troubled and out-of-work actor who's desperate for money. When he's offered a job to "stand in" for a low level Senator who has double-booked two events for the same evening, Dexter is excited by the prospective paycheck and thinks the job will be a breeze.

Hair dye and make-up transform Laumb into a virtual double of Senator Joe Murphy. However, he soon realizes that he's bitten off more than he can chew when he's partnered with one of the Senator's senior aides, beautiful but acid-tongued Jennifer Forsythe. The two quietly go at it like cats and dogs while Dexter acts the part of the Senator, schmoozing and boozing as necessary. However, when a bullet rips through Dexter's shoulder and the crowd scatters, he soon finds himself on the run with Jennifer, attempting to unravel the truth behind the assassination attempt, and finding himself in the middle of a conspiracy with earth-shattering consequences…

Jim Krueger is a journalism graduate of Marquette University who won two Addy Awards during his first year as a copywriter and a year later became a creative director at Marvel Comics and went on to become a freelance comic book writer/property creator. His original works include the titles such as Foot Soldiers and The Clock Maker and his first short film, They Might Be Dragons, which he wrote, directed, and produced won "Best In Class" at NYU and a "Best Short Film" award from The New York Independent Film Festival.

Other comic book writing includes the award-winning Earth X trilogy for Marvel Comics, as well as Avengers, Star Wars and Batman. He's also president and publisher of his own comic book entertainment company, 26 Soldiers, and was named as one of the top ten writers in comics and an innovator in the field by Wizard Magazine.

"It's a huge honour to be working with one of the most successful comic book writers currently working in the medium," says former Miramax/Dimension Films executive Brendan Deneen, Ardden's co-publisher. "I've known Jim for years and we've been trying to find something to work on together that whole time. The Stand-In is the perfect collaboration and I feel privileged that he's publishing it through Ardden."

Ardden will be debuting The Stand-In #0 at the New York Comic-Con in February 2009. The issue will feature an action-packed story that takes places before the events of the mini-series. Alex Cal's cover for The Stand-In #0 was inspired by John Byrne's classic cover for Uncanny X-Men #141.

Ardden Entertainment is the New York-based publishing house co-owned by British comics creator Ricard Emms, publishers of the new critically-acclaimed monthly Flash Gordon series that has recently seen a complete sell out of issues #1 and #2, with issue #3 hitting comic book stores nationwide tomorrow.

The company -- whose business model is to produce contemporized versions of classic licenses and exciting new creator-owned title -- was formed in mid 2007 and is set announce several more books in the months leading up to NYCC. Joining Deneen and Emms is veteran comic book creator and writer, JM DeMatteis, who was announced as Ardden's Editor-in-Chief at last year's New York Comic-Con.

• For more information visit www.ardden-entertainment.com

Pens, Pencils and Photocopiers: Alternative Press Fair 2009

The Alternative Press Fair 2009 in London has just been announced, bringing together the worlds of alternative comics, zines, self-produced art-books, poetry and diy/punk culture for one amazing day, like a great colourful blacmange that you can’t eat.

It's a good opportunity to meet the artists, see their work, buy some if you like it. Then relax and enjoy an exciting evening of music, song and melody, starring the Singing Sensation of the Nation, Mr. Trent Miller (& The Skeleton Jive).

Taking place on Sunday 1st February 2009, 12pm to 6pm (music to late) at the St. Aloysius Social Centre, 20 Phoenix Road, NW1 1TA, this event is free to all good men and women everywhere.

To Get there, alight Euston Station, venture up Eversholt Street on your right is Phoenix Road and a modern church - those dashed creative types will be in the basement.

• For more info contact: jimigherkin(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk or peterlally(at)gmail(dot)com or check comicsandzines.wordpress.com for the latest news
• If you’re a comics creator or publisher interested in having a table the costs are £15 for a whole table (old school table size roughly 1.25metresX80cm) for those with lots of stuff/ distros/ collectives etc.; £7.50 for a half, new to the scene/ small books etc. Please confirm asap with Peter Lally (peterlally(at)gmail(dot)com) who will send details on how to pay etc.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Commando - as you've never seen it before!


Here's a bit of comics-related fun from a recent edition of FHM magazine (not that we here at downthetubes read such things, cough, cough). To illustrate a piece about common men's problems (cancer, bereavement, being dumped by a woman etc), the magazine used mock-up covers of an imaginary publication called Survivor!. You don't have to look too closely to see which comic they've modelled Survivor! on! It's quite a compliment that a mainstream mag like FHM considers Commando recognisable enough to base their made-up magazine on. Commando lives on in the collective consciousness! Hurrah!

Tube Surfing: 24 November 2008

Kieron Gillen talks about writing the new Warhammer Crown of Destruction comic series from Boom Studios over on comiccon.com, the series inspired by on Nottingham-based Games Workshop's hugely popular gaming system and figures. "It's a world that lives on the cusp of destruction," he notes. "The good guys... well, they aren't good guys. The Empire are religiously fanatic, and it's only that devotion which stands between them and transmutation into a literal hell on Earth. It's grim. In, fact, it's GRIM. It's a universe which needs a lot of capitals...."

• Talking of Warhammer, you might also like to check out the Online Black Library of Warhammer stories, which includes work by Nathan Long, author of the Gotrek & Felix series, who has recently penned some stories for Warhammer Online.

Ben Templesmith will be drawing a Doctor Who one-shot (written by Leah Moore & John Reppion) in February for IDW. The company's head honcho Chris Ryall shares a bit of the creative process in putting together a book like this on his blog with some of Ben's initial sketches of the good Doctor and Martha.

• Talking of Doctor Who, former Time Lord Chriustopher Eccleston has been spoofing the character on The Sarah Silverman Show for US channel Comedy Central. One episode featured the obsession of one of the characters with a television show called Doctor Lazar Rage, and here's a behind the scenes video (left).

• Meanwhile, Lance Parkin posts about writing Doctor Who novels and talks about his own processes a little...

• Edinburgh's Evening News recently warned a new animated version of Dennis the Menace will not be "as generations of Beano readers might know him.
"The familiar red and black stripes are there, so is the mischievous look and the general air of having been up to no good. But this is one of our best known comic characters gently revamped and modernised for a new generation of fans. Read more about the new cartoon from Red Kite Animation here on the Evening News web site.

• Talking of The Beano, The Guardian notes how aristocracy still survives in the comic, "in the person of Lord Snooty III, inheritor of the Snooty fortune and embodiment of modern wealth," notes Jonathan Jones in the paper's Arts Pages. "That's right, The Beano is the home of acute social satire. Lord Snooty's world of toffs and hounds has of course long gone. So instead we have Lord Snooty the Third who terrorises his staff by riding his quad bike and driving a train through the house. He is modern, he is style-conscious, and he's still a bastard. In fact he treats underlings much worse than his feudal forebear ever did. Cartoonists looking for ammunition against David Cameron's Tory party might want to consult Lord Snooty the Third."

• Snooty of course is merely upholding a long tradition of British comics, that of anarchy and rebelllion, the kind of things that mean Mickey Mouse, for example, has never been really popular in Britain in the same way as Dennis the Menace -- that, and the fact that he isn't "home grown". Bill McLoughlin, an archivist at DC Thomson and who was a script writer for 40 years at titles such as the Beezer, Topper and Rover recently argued Mickey never really took off in Britain because he wasn't very British. "If you look at the history of our comics, they are all very British and what appeals to us is kids getting one over authority," he told the Sunday Herald for an article about Disney's mouse hero, "whereas Disney's characters had this middle American morality that said: if you do something that isn't nice, you get your comeuppance.
"You can see that reflected in the Beano, which was anti-establishment, but Dennis always got punished for what he did wrong. In the Dandy though, which was anarchic, the violence was total."

• Finally, check out this great Strontium Dog fan strip, A Girl Called Johnny, by Dan Whiston, Kames Kircough and Richard Clemonts, originally created for Dogbreath. A gem...

(Special thanks to Matthew Badham for some of the links in this round up)

Captain Eager comes to DVD

Anyone who's a fan of Dan Dare, Rick Random, Flash Gordon and perhaps even Captain Scarlet might not want to check out the new DVD Captain Eager and the Mark of the Voth, unless of course they're prepared to enjoy this spoof of these well known characters.

"Captain Eager is a whacky sci-fi film that doesn’t expect to appeal to the broad masses," admits the film's director Simon Davison, but it does look quite fun, so nip over the official web site for more information.

"You'll see there's a passing resemblance to Dan Dare and comic sci-fi of the 1950's and 60's," Simon tells downthetubes. "There are even speech bubbles in some scenes amd the website also includes a page from the (non-existent) comic Blast-Off!". Eagle fans will quickly spot a resemblance!


"I used to compose for film TV adverts, such as Blue Juice," says Simon. "But I wanted to write and direct. I’ve sold several scripts but Captain Eager and the Mark of the Voth is my first feature as a director.

In addition to the film, the DVD includes extras such as Scamp the Rocket Dog learning to use his exciting rocket pack, bloopers and more.

Visit the official Captain Eager web site

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Review: The Most Natural Thing in the World by Frances Cassavetti

Right, time to review cartoonist Francesca Cassavetti's The Most Natural Thing in the World (hereafter referred to as The Most Natural Thing).

Ok, here goes... The Most Natural Thing is a joy. One of the best comics I've read all year.

There. Job done. Time for a full English and a steaming hot mug of tea (it's cold, in case you hadn't noticed)... what's that? You want to know what makes this one of the best comics I've read all year? Awkward sods. Okay, let's try that again...

The Most Natural Thing (and Francesca admits that, in future, she's going to choose shorter titles for her comics) is a 96-page collection of Francesca's mini-comics of the same title, originally published and released in four installments. It's presented with a bonus story, Shadow of the Curriculum, that is, in itself, a tiny masterpiece and which perfectly complements the material that has come before.

The Most Natural Thing is Francesca's account of the difficulties inherent in deciding to have children, getting pregnant, giving birth and taking your first, few fumbling steps as a parent. Francesca doesn't pull any punches in her depiction of the stresses and strains of childbirth and parenthood. That's not to say that The Most Natural Thing is depressing; far from it, in fact. Francesca often manages to see the humorous side of even the most traumatic aspect of parenting, such as when mum and dad spend hours trying to calm their screaming baby, only for said baby to finally stop crying when they are both in tears themselves (trust me, it's funny on the page).

Inevitably, there are going to be two types of readers for this collection: those, like me, who are parents already and who laugh in recognition at the mistakes the two lead characters make as they negotiate being a mum or a dad for the first time. The second group of readers will be those who have yet to have children and, indeed, perhaps never will.

For the former group, The Most Natural Thing is all about recognition and memory; suddenly being transported back to that point when you had a new-born and life took on a slightly hyper-real quality (or was that just the sleep deprivation?). Most parents will, I think, be able to remember inadvertently waking their new-born because they were checking her to see if she was still breathing. I'm sure they will certainly remember the hours that it took to then persuade their baby to get back to sleep.

For those readers who do not have children, The Most Natural Thing provides a glimpse into a world that they are probably familiar with and may have been on the periphery of, but are unlikely to have engaged with fully (I suspect that there's nothing more boring to non-parents than proud mums and dads; a fact I try to remember to stop me from becoming a dad bore). The warts-and-all nature of The Most Natural Thing's portrayal of parenthood makes me think that it should be a set text for secondary schools as part of their sex education programme. It's a very balanced account; The Most Natural Thing shows the positive as well as the negative aspects of parenting and there's a sense in the comic that each low that comes your way as a parent will be balanced by an equal high.

In short, The Most Natural Thing is a triumph, with an insightful, witty script and easy on the eye cartooning. The bonus strip, Shadow of the Curriculum, shows how your priorities shift when your children become teenagers and is a welcome addition to what is already a very strong collection.

This comic is a must-buy for parent and non-parent alike!

• Frances Cassaveti's blog is here and her website is here.

Tube Surfing: 23 November 2008

"It's a cracking read, Gromit". Having appeared on the cover of the 70th anniversary Beano and with their next adventure due to be broadcast on BBC1 this Christmas, Wallace and Gromit's popularity is being used to give a boost to the 2009 city reading campaigns. downthetubes has previously reported on the One Book-One Edinburgh campaign which produced two graphic novels by Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy, Kidnapped in 2007 and Jekyll and Hyde this year. For 2009 Edinburgh will be teaming up with Glasgow's Aye Write! book festival and Bristol's Great Reading Adventure to present The Lost World Read 2009. The Lost World is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of a South American plateau where dinosaurs still survive which has been filmed numerous times for cinema and television from the 1925 silent film with stop motion dinosaurs to the latest American TV series. The Lost World Read 2009 will distribute thousands of free copies of the original novel, a quick read version of the novel and, perhaps more interestingly, a paperback comic biography of the life of Charles Darwin. The novels will use a specially created Wallace and Gromit image as their front cover and all three will be available in February 2009. More details at the Edinburgh City Of Literature website.

The art exhibition An English Interior is currently on at the Foundling Museum in London's Brunswick Square near the Russell Square tube station. The exhibition by Belfast artist John Kindness includes works inspired by Desperate Dan from the Dandy. In addition to the works by Kindness, DC Thomson have loaned original Desperate Dan art by Dudley D Watkins to the museum for the duration of the exhibition which runs until 31 December 2008. This is the fourth exhibition in 2008 to include artwork from the DC Thomson archives following on from exhibitions in the Cartoon Museum, Dundee University and Harrods. Entrance to the Foundling Museum is £5 and details of the opening hours can be found at the museum website.

A reminder for those who would like to sample a copy of the weekly DFC comic without committing to a subscription that issue 26 of the DFC will be hitting the shelves of Tesco stores this coming Wednesday, 26 November 2008. For anyone unable to make it to the supermarket to buy a copy it is worth a reminder that individual back issues are available from the DFC website at £3 per issue including postage in the UK and £4 per issue including postage to everywhere else.

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