Tomorrow!

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Is how they may have advertised a re-launch 100 years ago (which would have been a full 27 years before the first issue came out, but there you go). But this isn’t 1910, it’s 2010! – and the ALL-NEW, ALL-STRIP Dandy is out tomorrow! Or was today if you looked in the right places. Reaction on Comics-UK has, from my skim-reading to avoid actually reading it (heh) looks very very positive! So get buying and show the money-men that we like this kind of thing!

BICS bits

A few years ago i went to the Bristol comic convention two years on the trot. On both occasions i only decided to go the day before and thus was extremely tired and spend hundreds of pounds on train tickets and last-minute hotel bookings. Mind you the first year i went the hotel i got was actually closer to the convention than the official hotel.

Anyway, i decided to revive that tradition by deciding to go to the Birmingham International Comic Show less than 24 hours before the doors opened! Though i sensibly left out the hotel booking and just went for the Saturday… Birmingham doesn’t take the whole day to get to, after all. I also wore a black armband in tribute to Jose Maria Jorge.

In another tradition of me going to comic events i took NO pictures whilst there, so instead i’ll take a look at some of the comics i bought.

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Selected bits and pieces. I actually left out another one i bought there that i have been slowly collecting for a few years called Vampire Freestyle. It’s good so read it.

 Realms

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Fantastic cover, whoever designed this knew what they were doing.

A strange one this, a group who were selling some superhero type comic were giving it away for free. It dates from 1998, when self publishing was still just about in the photocopying and mail-order era, and when internet-capable computers were still not quite within the reach of everyone. To reinforce this fact it actually has no email address or website on it. The authors have actually put in a postal address to send comments and feedback to!

Oh, i suppose that isn’t “strange” after all, if they didn’t have a computer! Right, then, what about the stories – those are strange!

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My normal camera, itself from 2002, has given up the ghost at last so i have to use a more modern but far inferior one. The blurriness really doesn’t bring out the quality of this artwork.

The stories are very eerie horror tales, most of them have almost no dialogue and bizarre endings. The artwork is fantastic – very dark with acres and acres of hatching rather than solid black areas. It’s also very big and bold, this is an A4 sized comic yet has at most about 4 panels to a page.

Comics Forum

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A cover that would not disgrace a traditional British adventure annual!

The Comics Creators Guild is a sort of trade union of comic creators large and small (though mainly small!). They produce this book yearly. It’s not a half tabloid sized hardback like “proper” annuals, but you can’t have everything. It’s a real mashing together of disparate styles and genres within. Some familiar small press names like Space Babe 113 pop up regularly. These books are always worth buying!

 Alison’s Room

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Wooooo

I recently joined the forums of Sweatdrop Studios, a Cambridge-based comic creating group that i had somehow not had any contact with all these years (and who i ought to do an article about!). I bumped an old thread saying i was going to BICS and was anybody going – i got a reply from Yuri Kore. So i went to talk to her and bought this!

It’s an eerie horror story about a girl who believes that a monster lives in her wardrobe, and that if she doesn’t play with her dolls it will come out and get her. Her father is also dead and people blame her mother for the death. Various other characters pile on the pressure, scheming and backstabbing – all the while the monster in the wardrobe grows stronger and stronger. You can tell this won’t end well!

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Fantastic artwork once again. Also the book is tightly bound so i used the very professional journalistic device of “my hand holding the page open”. Come to think of it why didn’t i scan this? It’s not like it’s going to be damaged by being put in the scanner unlike the 100 year old bound volumes i’m normally delving in to.

London Calling

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A familiar look? If not, why not!

A new comic with art by Keith Page – who also works for Commando and recently completed The Iron Moon, a story about the British Space Empire of 1897! I actually went to BICS to get The Iron Moon (and some sushi), but the printers hadn’t come through in time (and i had a devil of a time finding the sushi restaurant too). Instead i got this, published by Time Bomb Comics who state that they specialise in “one shot” books.

The story in this is actually a little confusing, as it uses a character called Charlotte Corday who first appeared in a webcomic that i haven’t read. So searching that out first is recommended. The story revolves around Charlotte going on a secret mission in London, whilst trying to maintain psychic contact with her superiors in France. Also her enemies are vampires. And the police are after her with some odd listening equipment. And another police deparment want to fight the vampires… phew.

The story is also framed by a section set in a flooded modern London with Charlotte “making up” the story with her children. The actual story appears to be set in the late 1940’s – which means lots of lovely cars!

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Oh and did i mention her commander is a skeleton?

The back of the book says it’s for “all ages”, though really i think a “12” rating would be better. Mind you there’s no end of cultural references in it that will fly over the head of anybody not between the ages of about 40 and 60. Or else people like me who just live in an idealised version of the past.

Anyway, here’s the first page of that webcomic i haven’t read yet: http://dennisthedonkey.blogspot.com/2009/10/story-begins.html

Poot!

The image uploader has decided not to work for the picture of Poot… hurrah. Anyway it was one of the multitude of Viz ripoffs of the late 1980’s that died out within a few months (except for one called Smut that somehow lasted up until 2007, though i have no idea how, not even Borders stocked every issue… and it wasn’t funny). However now Poot is back!

Compared to Viz, Poot is more… silly. That might seem a bit strange since Viz has a bit of a silly reputation itself… but Viz also does some pretty vicious satire (like The Modern Parents) that i couldn’t see appearing in Poot. Mind you they do ridicule Macs and iGadgets a lot… which is a good thing.

I had a bit of a chat with them, but if i may i’ll hand over to Kevf off the Comics UK forum:

Another very positive stand was Poot! comic. I was pretty sure I’d not seen Poot! since I was was working for the comics that shared a shelf with it in the early 90s (the Viz-alike titles Gas, Brain Damage, Zit, UT, remember them?). And I was right. The guys had run Poot as kids, folded it when the bubble burst in 1991, got proper jobs as accountants and the like and, last year, revived the comic for fun. And now, after a dozen issues, they have a distribution deal with Seymour, they’ve been accepted by WH Smith’s travel outlets, and are currently selling 16,000 copies a month. On newsstands. I don’t know about you, but I find that one of the most heartening stories in comics I’ve heard this year. An independent publisher is selling a comics magazine, printed on paper, in good old fashioned newsagents, and people are buying it.

Their starting point was simply looking at the shelves, seeing that Viz was the only funny comic there, identifying a hole in the market, and filling it. They’re not making a fortune, but they are paying their contributors, breaking even, and enjoying themselves creating and publishing comic strips. If others could replicate this success I’d be delighted, and I get the feeling it’s possible.

Of course Titan ought to be trying to replicate that success by publishing Roy of the Rovers Volume 1.

I bought the latest issue, and also the “pilot issue”, which has much of the content of issue 1 (of the new version, not the one from the 80’s!) but a few different strips and layouts… might be worth a few bob one day!

Crikey!

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Ten pounds worth… but ‘worth’ a lot more!

Excitement abounded on Comics UK when it was revealed that a new magazine about British comics was to be released. Many people, including me, took out subscriptions… but were a little disappointed by the presence of several mistakes and also waffle-filled articles in the early issues. I allowed my subscription to lapse and largely forgot about the magazine (despite joining it’s forum and talking about Doctor Who on there, ahem). Until it was suddenly announced that issue 16 would be the final one!

Anyway, as a penance i bought several issues from the Crikey stall, and they certainly show a lot of improvement over the early ones! There’s also a nice article about Spaceship Away in one, and several ones that focus on some slightly more obscure comics that had my ebay bid finger itching.

I still feel like i ought to do more, mind you. Like start my own magazine about comics! Mind you it’d probably just regurgitate posts from this blog, come out once every decade, and only be available on one day of the year.

In all, a decent convention. Next up (maybe) is the London MCM Expo, the last weekend in October. This time i’ll try and remember to take some photos!

Farewell, Jose Maria Jorge

Last week saw the sad death of one of my favourite comic artists, Jose Maria Jorge. Hailing from Argentina, he worked for DC Thomson’s Commando comic, which is incidentally the last-surviving title in the Boys’ Own genre that is properly published in newsagents.

He specialised in flying stories (though occasionally did submarine stories too – and in “Fire over England” in the “True Brit” reprint book did both!). In 42 years he drew 163 issues. The final one of which was “Divided Aces”, Commando 4329, which appeared in September as part of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. He also had the honour of drawing issue 4000 – quite possibly the highest number any comic has ever reached!

He could turn his hand to flying stories of any era with equal skill. I’ll let the artwork speak for itself here, fans of classic warbirds might want to hang around!

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Starting off in World War 1 with Albatross fighters against “gunbus” pusher biplanes. This is from the story “Ace Versus Ace”, number 4091

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Into World War 2 now, with the story “Let Me Fly!”, number 4181. This story begins and ends with the air force but spends most of it’s time on the ground, with Germans fighting Russians. The uniforms and weapons no less authentically depicted. 

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Not bad at drawing explosions, either.

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Coming to the end of World War 2 in “Operation Extinction”, number 4144. Early jets could be bad enough to ‘just’ fly, let alone be shot at in! And just look at the attention to detail in that cockpit.

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And now it’s Sabres and Migs over Korea in “Iron Cross Yank”, Number 4104. Look at all the panels and rivets on the top of that Sabre! I bet a 1950’s American ground crew could find their way around this illustration!

Jose Maria also drew what is one of my favourite Commando stories of all time – “Aces Wild”, which is featured in the book “The Dirty Dozen” that can still be found knocking around in some book shops.  His artwork is good enough in the small Commando’s but really comes alive in those big books. In a just world we would, of course, have a big book dedicated to his Commando work as well as his paintings (mostly of classic motor racing) with lots of large-scale pictures. But i suspect instead the comics world at large will be left not knowing what a shining light it has lost just because he never drew Spider Man.

No updates lately…

Sorry, i’m too “busy” working on my own comics to write about other people’s at the moment!

BUT i’ll post a link to Lew Stringer’s blog, a short and sweet post about the impending re-design of The Dandy, with a cover gallery of the re-designs that have occurred in the past:

http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2010/10/dandy-regenerates.html

What will it look like next? Find out in a few week’s time!The signs seem to be pointing to a more ‘classic style’ Dandy returning. The recent Dandy Xtreme rebranding was the biggest and most controversial one of all the changes it has undergone over the years… however nothing is quite certain as yet… references to the redesign are being kept pretty low-key and the creators that are working on it are saying little. We’ll have to wait and see!