Category Archives: Comics

Strips, graphic novels, albums, anthologies, BD, comix, small press…

Oops: missing Doomlord post finally published

Been doing some blog housekeeping in between dull work slogs today, and discovered a five year old post I never got round to publishing.

It’s on Eagle comic (the 1980s revival title rather than the Christian one of the fifties) and the reprints of The Thirteenth Floor and Doomlord strips which the small press imprint Hibernia Books put out a few years back.

It’s quite interesting, even if I do say myself. Hibernia has also put out another title recently, which I hope to cover in some depth over on my other blog, The BRISTLE.

The BRISTLE – full of lovely comicky goodness including rare Judge Dredd strip and behind-the-scenes photos from Eagle Mk II launch!

Okay, so this is nothing more than a shameless cross-blog promo plug for The BRISTLE!

But who wouldn’t want to know about the rare 1990 John Wagner/Ian Gibson ‘Judge Dredd’ strip?

Who would want to be left in the dark about Ron Smith, John Gillatt and Gerry Embleton working on ‘Dan Dare’ designs for the rebooted Eagle?

And who in all honesty isn’t interested in a letter sent by the assistant editor of a British comic to an eleven year old boy in 1988?

So get thee over to The BRISTLE – it’s a Bumper Bonanza of Inky-Fingered Fun!

Great news, chums – new UK comics-related blog The BRISTLE launched!

As part of a slowly-unfolding plan to hive off different aspects of this blog to more focused efforts, I am pleased to announce the launch of my new venture, The BRISTLE!

Devoted to all sorts of stuff connected to UK comics, The BRISTLE will be a handy resting place for musings on the peculiarly British anthology titles – both of yore, and contemporary efforts too.

So whether you were a fan of DC Thomson’s perennials like The Beano and The Dandy, or IPC’s more off-the-wall funnies like Whoopee!! and Oink!; or a boys’ adventure paper junkie revelling in The Victor and Valiant; or a pure child of the 70s with your Battle and Action and 2000AD, I shall endeavour to root around my boxes of delights for rare strips, odd titbits and aged newspaper cuttings to share with you.

Already I have posted up a ‘Judge Dredd’ six-pager by John Wagner and Ian Gibson that was exclusively published in Sinclair User magazine to tie-in to a Spectrum ZX game – so keep your eyes peeled on The BRISTLE for more such treats in the future!

PS

In tangentially-linked news, British comic writer par excellence Pat Mills has endorsed on of my posts about cop-spook-turned-academic Bob Lambert MBE!

The unsung engineer of British comics: Pat Mills – welcome to the blogosphere!

Just a quickie: Pat Mills – probably the comic writer who most inspired, influenced and guided me – has taken up blogging, and his first post, on the genesis of 2000AD and ‘Judge Dredd’, is a corker…

DREDD – THE KILLING MACHINE.

Commando tasked with four new missions…

I got me the latest editions of DC Thomson’s long-running war-themed comic library Commando yesterday, and it seems changes are afoot…

As Lew Stringer notes on his Blimey! blog, from this month Commando adopts a four-pronged assault on the reader. That means each publication cycle there will be two reprints (the ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ Collections) plus two new stories, one under the regular strapline ‘For Action And Adventure’, the other under ‘The Home Of Heroes’, and focusing on British characters.

In addition it would appear that the backroom boffins have resolved the problem of recent years and come up with a binding process or new glue that lets the pages lie flat, instead of fanning out as they had previously.

Good work chaps!

Wikipediaphile: The Droste effect

Whilst cruising through excellent comics website 2000AD Covers Uncovered I came across mention of the ‘Droste effect’ in a post about how artist Jock put together one particular cover for 2000AD.

Never heard the name before, but as the Wikipedia page on the Droste effect explains, it’s a pretty familiar concept:

The Droste effect is a specific kind of recursive picture, one that in heraldry is termed mise en abyme. An image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. This smaller version then depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on. Only in theory could this go on forever; practically, it continues only as long as the resolution of the picture allows, which is relatively short, since each iteration geometrically reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing which is the cornerstone of fractal geometry.

The effect is named after the image on the tins and boxes of Droste cocoa powder, one of the main Dutch brands, which displayed a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box with the same image. This image, introduced in 1904 and maintained for decades with slight variations, became a household notion. Reportedly, poet and columnist Nico Scheepmaker introduced wider usage of the term in the late 1970s.

The Droste effect was used by Giotto di Bondone in 1320, in his Stefaneschi Triptych. The polyptych altarpiece portrays in its center panel Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi offering the triptych itself to St. Peter. There are also several examples from medieval times of books featuring images containing the book itself or window panels in churches depicting miniature copies of the window panel itself. See the collection of articles Medieval mise-en-abyme: the object depicted within itself for examples and opinions on how this effect was used symbolically.

I vaguely recall it first making an impression on me on the front of some 1970s Blue Peter annual I picked up at a jumble sale or boot fair…

ETA1:

From a quick google I see that the Blue Peter annual has been axed.

ETA2:

I knew it! Here’s the Blue Peter annual cover I was thinking of (image via Nigel’s WebSpace Galleries Of Annuals) – the tenth one, from 1973.

Gone Rogue! A brief journey through a youth misspent writing lists, and other Genetic Infantryman notes

Firstly, some sad news – it seems comic artist Brett Ewins (Rogue Trooper, Bad Company, Judge Dredd, Deadline etc) has been seriously injured after an incident involving the police.

Reports the Ealing Gazette:

Brett Ewins…received serious head injuries after stabbing a police officer on Saturday morning at his home in Cowper Road. An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is underway.

Police were called to Cowper Road after receiving calls about a man who had been shouting through the night. Officers arrived to find Mr Ewins holding a knife before they were attacked.

During the ensuing struggle, one of the officers received minor stab wounds and the 56-year-old sustained a head injury. Both were taken to hospital.

The officer was released from hospital but Mr Ewins remains in a serious condition at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. The Met informed the IPCC of the incident immediately…

(Tip o’ the titfer: Tony Ingram on the Comics UK forums.)

For me, Brett Ewins’ style represented a shift away from the more staid, traditional styles I was familiar with in the various UK titles of IPC and DC Thomson, and towards something more exciting, more anarchic, more… Well, just more, really. Plus his propensity for gurt big orthopedic boot treads was as instantly recognisable a trademark as Carlos Ezquerra’s cut-and-and-keep-style serrated outlines: much imitated, rarely bettered.

So regardless of the circumstances, I hope Brett makes a full and speedy recovery.

Of course, one of the big name strips Brett first made an impression on was 2000AD‘s future war story, Rogue Trooper. Whilst recently digging through some old cuttings files (a big hoarder, filer and lister I am, and long has it been that way – only after several years of ‘Mr Trebus’ jibes did I relent and dump the twelve foot high pile of unsorted newspaper clippings that I realised I would never really get through), I discovered some interesting notes I had put together when a wiry youth.

Okay, I was neither a wiry youth, and nor will many people find them interesting, but anyhow, they are notes I made whilst reading through Rogue Trooper stories in my 2000AD collection, including the monthly ‘Best Of’ title, annuals, specials, and Dez Skinn‘s Quality reprints. Essentially it’s a glossary of terms used in the Rogue Trooper universe – military slang, characters, plot points and so on. There’s even a bit on the rebooted Rogue ‘Friday’, which Dave Gibbons and Will Simpson had just made a start on when I originally put together these notes.

I post them up here as low resolution jpegs, and as a hi-res PDF; apologies for my barely legible script. The right-hand column indicates reference points: ‘QC’ = the Quality Comics reprints; ‘WS’ = 2000AD Winter Special; ‘SF’ = 2000AD Sci-Fi Special; numbers in brackets refer to The Best Of 2000AD Monthly appearances. All other references should be from weekly Progs, or clearly marked 2000AD annuals.

Oh, and the image at the top of this post is a scan of a quick doodle I made around the same time, which pulls together some of the great Nort/Souther emblems used in Rogue Trooper.








» Download PDF of Rogue Trooper glossary

SEXISTPUNDITGATE: Andy Gray’s strip for young boys REVEALED!

This Andy Gray sexism thing – so I bought some old comics recently, the first few editions of DC Thomson’s early eighties boys’ paper Buddy, issue one of which came out thirty years ago, on 14 February 1981.

One of the strips is the ‘Super Personality Series’, a two page cartoon biography of a famous person (Sting, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Savile, Barry Sheene – you get the picture); and in the first issue who should it be but Andy Gray, following him from his schooldays (“I must get my four Highers. A good education could be a help in later years”) through to Cup Final success in 1980.

Click the pic to see the strip full size.

The Dandy – 100% funny (Again!)

Growing up I was more a Beano boy than a Dandy kid, but I always got the annual, and I bought it more often than Topper or Beezer.

I grew up in the dark days of the eighties, when the comics industry was going down the swanny, when the inexorable process of hatch, match & dispatch sped up, when each year left more yellowing newsprint corpses as the audience for children’s titles shrank whilst the speculators created an unrealistic boom in the market for more ‘adult’ material (“COMICS HAVE GROWN UP!” yadda yadda yadda)…

Long story short, by century’s close, the rich lineage of British comic strip weeklies had all been cut down to nothing. Only a few titles remained – and mostly TV- and merchandising-orientated, except for DC Thomson’s stalwarts The Dandy and The Beano. Both were tinkered with to try and make them more viable to today’s youth, to little avail; repositioned, renamed, redesigned. Each time each moved further from the essence of what made each of them so popular in the first place.

Until now. This new version is the closest to the ‘old’ Dandy, in spirit, in look, in attitude for many years. Sure there’s shiny paper, sure some favourite old characters don’t look how old fogies like me might remember them, sure it’s not the same as it used to be. No, it’s not 1985 anymore, and this is the Dandy we need for 2010.

Congratulations to editor Craig Graham and his team, including artists Lew Stringer, Nigel Parkinson and young turk Jamie Smart, for pulling off a stunning coup. A comic I can enjoy together with my boy :)

(Quarterly sub is only £15 – gwan, give it a go!)

[More detailed ponderings later, if I get the time - in the meantime check through the report on Down The Tubes.]

And comic artist John Hicklenton has died, too…

I’ve just noticed that the comic book artist John Hicklenton is also being reported as having died:

According to several news sites including Forbidden Planet, artist John Hicklenton has passed away. As you may know, especially if you watched the award winning documentary about him Here’s Johnny, he had lived with MS for many years.John Hicklenton came to the notice of 2000 AD readers as the new artist on Nemesis the Warlock during the late eighties. His work was striking, challenging and subversive. As you will see if you look back over The Slog covering that period, I had difficulty adjusting to his style initially. However, his comic strip work improved at a rate that matched my adjustment so that by the end of the eighties he had become one my favourite artists of the expanding 2000 AD line. His Judge Dredd work for The Megazine during the early nineties was both fresh and expressive.

Via Paul Rainey at 2000AD Prog Slog.

I remember John Hicklenton’s work on Nemesis being very different to everything that had come before, and when Paul says it was “striking, challenging and subversive”, he hits the nail dead centre. This was dark, scary artwork that evoked a bleaker world than that of Kev O’ Neill or Bryan Talbot, though always with a hint of humour.

His stint on ‘Third World War’ in Crisis was the first time I got to see him working on a ‘realistic’ strip, rather than fantasy, and he rendered the racist cop in the storyline incredibly well (Angie Mills’(?) colouring boo-boos aside).

He took a similar sensibility with him to Toxic, where he had a run on ‘Fear Teachers’, which never got a chance to be finished, thanks to the comic’s early demise. But again, his bent towards the grotesque – and his propensity for unpleasant, bald, stubbly men – was full of interest, regardless of the script, his skilled style of rich line draughtmanship adapting well to the then up-and-coming trend for painted panels.

Rest in piecework, John!

» Here’s Johnny film website
» Here’s Johnny IMDb page

ETA:

There’s now a report on John’s death on the BBC News website, confirming that he went to Dignitas, the assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland:

Mr Hinklenton’s agent, Adrian Weston, described him as a “clear-sighted and visionary” person.

…”He was one of the most clear-sighted and visionary people I have ever met.

“Having worked with him was one of the greatest privileges of my professional life.”

He said that Mr Hinklenton completed his last book, 100 Months, the day before he travelled to Zurich.

The MS Trust said: “John was best known for his work on comic 2000AD and for illustrating characters such as Judge Dredd, but he also led a high-profile campaign for better rights for people with MS.

…”The fact that John Hicklenton was prepared to use his fame to raise awareness of a condition so often overlooked by the media, and to wage his personal war on MS so publicly is something that is greatly appreciated by people in the MS community.”

A Week In Film #019: Getting warmer

Bad Boys (1983) title screen

Bad Boys
Sean Penn in an American Scum.

16 Blocks title screen

16 Blocks
Bruce Willis is *not* John McClane in this mostly taut (but sometimes slack) thriller about a past-it New York cop escorting a chatterbox witness (Mos Def) to a grand jury, with a whole lot of dirty blues in between. Could have been great, but it’s not.

Take (2007) title screen

Take (2007)
The paths of two strangers (Minnie Driver and Jeremy Renner) cross; the lives of each are forever changed. Some interesting ideas, very competently handled, but not really satisfying. I’m really not keen on the whole bleached out look, either.

Air Force One title screen

Air Force One
What was I thinking, watching this? It’s Die Hard on a plane, with Harrison Ford as a Presidential John McClane type.

Iron Man title screen

Iron Man
Rather spiffy Jon Favreau-helmed adaptation of the Marvel comic about über-capitalist arms dealer and all-round playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), who takes on a crime-fighting alter ego with the help of a battle suit he builds himself. Good fun.

Gacy title screen

Gacy
Psychological portrait of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the dude who killed loads of boys and buried them in his basement as well as dressing up as a clown for block parties. Not fun. Still, I learned what a crawl space is.

Old School title screen

Old School
Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn as heading towards middle age so try to reclaim the vitality of their youth by setting up a fraternity house.

Shakes The Clown title screen

Shakes The Clown
Bobcat Goldthwait as a booze-sodden clown. Nuff said. Also features a fresh-faced Adam Sandler.

Office Space title screen

Office Space
Really enjoyable mellow satire on white collar drudgery by Mike Judge, with Ron Livingston (the alkie S2 from Band Of Brothers) as a software engineer in Texas who hates his job. Good to hear Geto Boys on the soundtrack too.

Return of the Mekon

Mekon bin on Kingsdown Parade

Spotted this whilst we were on Kingsdown Parade.

KRS: Ooh look! It’s the Mekon!
LLF: The what?
KRS: The Mekon!
LLF: It looks like an alien.
KRS: He is! He’s from Venus!
LLF: Right…
KRS: The Treens!
LLF: Okay…
KRS: You know, Eagle! Dan Dare!
LLF: Mmmhmm…
KRS: Both the 1950 and the 1982 one!
LLF: Can you tell that I don’t really care?

:(

A sas birtokol leszállt (még nem…): The Hungarian Eagle-reading refugees story, part 2

Time for a brief update on the Hungarian-refugees-read-Eagle story I mentioned the other day. I’ve been in and out and rather busy the past week (including going to the rather spiffing Endorse It In Dorset festival with the wonderful ladyfriend at the weekend), so I have been a little remiss in following all this up.

First off, thanks again to Steve Holland at Bear Alley for blogging it, and to John Freeman at DownTheTubes for sounding out Eagle enthusiasts.

On the downside, after wading through the much vaunted BBC Archive system, I drew no clues – the BFI’s Screenonline website surrendered far more information and proved much more user-friendly – so I used a standard ‘contact the BBC’ form to try and glean some information about the film footage used in the programme. Unfortunately all this yielded was a breezily polite yet thoroughly empty declination:

Dear Chris

Thanks for your e-mail regarding ‘The Rock N’ Roll Years’.

I understand that you’re interested in a particular piece of film from the 1957 series.

As the BBC is committed to ensuring that we derive the best possible value for all Licence Fee payers, we can no longer justify researching some of the unique, individual enquiries we were previously able to handle. We regret that your request falls into this category and are sorry that we are unable to supply the information you requested on this occasion. We hope that you will understand the reasons why.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Regards

Sarah
BBC Information

Whilst I have no personal grievance with Sarah from BBC Information, this did somewhat tickle my complaining bone, so I am currently considering various approaches in order to prolong this avenue of investigation, drawing heavily from the school of persistent irritation. This will likely entail requests for details on the criteria employed to discern whether an enquiry should be assisted; a contextual hint that this might relate to a copyright issue; the suggestion that this refusal will lead to a range of official complaint procedures which themselves would take up more resources than simply looking at a file card or microfiche to find out where film for this episode came from; and an insistence that the factual error in the response means that I wish to resubmit the query. Frankly I’m embarrassed at myself, but the ends justify the means.

On a far more positive note, I’ve noticed that a Hungarian comics blog, Panel, has now covered the story. My Magyar is a little rusty, but through the power of InterTran I believe it’s a straightforward pick-up of the original.

I suspect help in resolving this little mystery will ultimately come from either comics fans or from those tapped into Hungarian folk memory – emigrés from that time, their relatives or even historians – so I am especially grateful for this mention.

Köszönöm!

Nice book, shame about the creases…

The other week I was well chuffed when I won a Roy Of The Rovers reprint album – pretty much the first thing I’ve won since a runners-up prize in Look-In one Easter back in the early 80s!

Well, today it arrived (along with – at long last – the flatmate’s WSM, but that’s another story), and whilst I’m still rather gleeful with my victory and its booty, my joy is somewhat mitigated by the condition it’s arrived in :(

The spine’s wrecked, and there’s big, fat creases running through the whole book, top and bottom. Most disappointing. It was sent direct from the publishers, so either it was a slightly manky copy lurking in the publicity department to start with, or else (and let’s face it, this is the more likely reason) Royal Mail has fucked up again. It’s a modern softback edition, which is a pretty damn sturdy format, unless you really have a go at the spine (and the creases go through all 200-odd pages of glossy high gsm paper – no mean feat), and it was posted in a new jiffy bag, so I can’t see how this level of damage can be down to everyday passage through the postal system. Grrr!!!

Anyway, I look forward to reading it (if I can prise the bloody pages far enough open), and I am still grateful to DownTheTubes for the comp in the first place, and to Titan for supplying the prizes.

PS The lady friend thinks it’s weird I have “children’s comics” on my bedside shelf :o

Racey reading

I’ve only gone and won a blinking competition!

That very fine comics blog DownTheTubes – sister of the equally excellent DownTheTubes.net website – has been running a comp tying in Titan’s latest Roy Of The Rovers collection (The Best Of ROTR: The 1980s) with that Euro 2008 thingummy, and for my sins my name got pulled out of the hat!

I very much look forward to reading it. I am a happy bunny today :)