downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...

Saturday, 7th October 2017

The downthetubes news blog was assimilated into our main site back in 2013, but we're glad you're here, because that's currently undergoing some under the bonnet refurb! So we've brought this blog back from the dead to tide us over.

We expect to be back up and running next week, just before the 2017 Lakes International Comic Art Festival - see you there?

Hop over to www.downthetubes.net for other British comics news, comic creating guides, interviews and much more!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

WebFind: New official Gerry Anderson web site preps for Go

Gerry Anderson
A new official website is in the works for the late, great Gerry Anderson, with a launch page in place inviting interested fans to sign up. The Gerry Anderson Legacy site is simply described as "GerryAnderson.co.uk is the new home of Gerry Anderson’s legacy – both classic productions as well as new projects.”

It will be interesting to see what it features. There's no doubt a wealth of information that could be included on such a site dedicated to the man most associated with shows such as Thunderbirds, Stingray, UFO and their related comics such as TV Century 21.

Last month, ITV announced it was teaming up with New Zealand-based Weta Digital and Pukeko Pictures on a new 26-episode series of Thunderbirds, to be produced using a mix of CGI animation and live-action model sets while also paying tribute to the legacy of model locations from Anderson’s original.

The show will air on ITV and CITV in the UK in 2015, while ITVSGE will handle worldwide rights. “Thunderbirds is a highly respected brand that continues to hold recognition around the world” said ITV’s Denise O Donoghue. “This cult series is often credited as changing the history of animation and action-adventure, and we look forward to taking the show to another level while retaining the much-loved heritage that has endured over the past 50 years."

• If you would like to be notified about the Gerry Anderson Legacy website’s launch, then follow the link here.

•There is also an official Twitter feed and a Facebook page.

• Gerry’s son Jamie Anderson maintains a JustGiving page dedicated to supporting the Alzheimer’s Society. If you would like to make a donation in memory of Gerry Anderson please follow the link here: www.justgiving.com/RememberingGerryAnderson


Web Find: Bunty And Judy Digest Covers

Here on downthetubes we regularly promote DC Thomson’s (and indeed the UK’s) last digest or ‘Picture Library’ comic, Commando, a title that has changed little in the half century since it was first published. As well as war, DCT’s boy’s digests also covered science fiction with Starblazer, and football with Football Picture Story Monthly.

But it is often forgotten that DC Thomson used to published a range of girl’s digests as well and, unlike the boys titles, these tied-in with the company’s range of girl’s weekly comics. Judy, Mandy, Debbie and even the long running Bunty had digest-sized siblings, all of which were tagged as Picture Story Library For Girls.

With the collecting bug of keeping comics not as prevalent amongst girls as it was amongst boys, old girls comics tend to be harder to find now than old boys comics are and, for most, these girl’s digest titles are all but forgotten.

So it was a treat this week to be pointed towards a website that documents both Judy Picture Story Library and Bunty Picture Story Library with a very impressive selection of covers from both titles plus the beginnings of a selection from the Fleetway title June and School Friend Picture Library. Created by “Doeth”, the website shows how the style of covers of the two DCT titles changed over the years and, while the images are relatively small, it is possible to distinguish some of the artists who created them.

Ian Kennedy, with his artwork on well over 1000 issues, is today considered to be the pre-eminent Commando cover artist but in the past he also provided covers and strips for DCT’s girl's titles. Commando readers may enjoy the challenge of finding Ian's distinctive artwork amongst these hundreds of Judy Picture Story Library and Bunty Picture Story Library covers. We will give you a start with these two covers by Ian Kennedy.

The gallery of Judy Picture Story Library covers are here.

The gallery of Bunty Picture Story Library covers are here.

The gallery of Judy and School Friend Picture Library covers are here.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Anthology Three to be released at Dundee Comics Expo

An anthology of work from aspiring comic and graphic artists from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) will be launched on Saturday the 30th of March at the Dundee Comics Expo, wrapped in an all-new cover by Dave Gibbons.

Anthology Three will showcase the work from the Comic Art and Graphic Novels module undertaken by Level 3 students at DJCAD, part of the University of Dundee. The 120-page, full colour comic is published by 'UniVerse', an imprint specially created to provide exposure for the students' work.

The cover for Anthology Three is provided by legendary comics artist Dave Gibbons, who is a visiting lecturer on the module.

He was one of a number of leading industry professionals who hosted workshops with the students as part of the module.

Lecturer Phillip Vaughan, who runs the module, has been very impressed with the high standard of the students work. “This time around the module was made available to all Level 3 undergraduate students within DJCAD, and the class was full to capacity…”

"Again the work was completed over a 12-week period, which is a tight turnaround, although I am happy to say that the students were up for the challenge. The results speak for themselves! The work is attracting the attention of major comics creators and publishers, which is great exposure for the students!

“Dundee Comics Expo is a great launch pad for this new book, as we have some top comics creators coming to the event, people such as David Lloyd (V for Vendetta / Aces Weekly) and Bryan and Mary Talbot (Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes / Grandville), who won the Costa Biography Award 2012.”

Dr Chris Murray who runs the MLitt in Comics Studies at the University, and who also teaches on the module, paid tribute to the work contained in Anthology Three, saying, “The comics created on this module were outstanding! The students certainly rose to the challenge and it was wonderful to see this work come together over the course of the module.

"The students also benefitted enormously from masterclasses and workshops by Kate Brown, Cam Kennedy, Colin MacNeil, Ian Kennedy, and Dave Gibbons. We are honoured to have the support of top industry talent in the Comics Studies modules at the University of Dundee.

"We are particularly indebted by Dave Gibbons for the incredible cover art, which makes this issue a little bit extra special!”

The cover price of Anthology 3 is £6.00, and the venture is not for profit, with funds from sales being put directly back into the cost of publishing promotional copies of the next issue. Anthology Three will be launched at Dundee Comics Expo 2013 at the Tower Building, University of Dundee.

• For information, please email: universecomicATgmail.com. To buy online go to (Anthology One & Two Available now – Anthology Three from the 30th March): http://ukondisplay-com.mybigcommerce.com/universe/ 

• Dundee Comics Expo is on Saturday 30th March: http://on.fb.me/14h1Hdq

Self Publisher Magazine interviews Spandex creator Martin Eden

The latest free issue of Self Publisher! Magazine is out now – a US based title devoted to the creation of independent comics but one that regularly features British creators talking about their craft . 

"Issue 63 has a lot riding on it," says editor Ian Shires. It's the first issue that we are making available to read on-screen through issuu, it is the issue that we are printing and taking to the SPACE show in Columbus in a couple weeks, and it will be the first issue to go onto Kindle and iPad distribution through Cloud 9."

This issue's British creator is Martin Eden, creator of the acclaimed O-Men and Spandex, looking back on 10 years of writing his characters and forward to Spandex Book Two, tentatively scheduled for release next year.

Also in the 48-page issue are interviews with Chad Lambert, creator of Possum at Large (along with a Sneak Peek at the comic), Dan Dillard, Drew Close, Mark Lesie Lefebvre, Canny Cooper, Michael C. Williams, and Richelle E. Goodrich.

The title is still looking for more writers to bring their perspectives to the magazine. "We have room for more interviewers, a need for reviewers, and a place for people who want to express how-to ideas," says Ian. "We are continuing to expand into literary, music, and movie indy areas as topics to cover. 

"SP! Is 'by the people, for the people', so I thank you each of you I send this message to, for taking the time to read it. I hope it resonates. I have been working on incarnations of SP! Since 1989 – and I don’t think we’ve ever been as close to reaching that 'critical mass' as we are right now. I pledge to continue to put everything I’ve got into making it work, until it does."


Radio interviews with postmodern webcomic creators, including Paul O'Connell


Panel Borders: Collage and reappropriation

Continuing a month of shows looking at webcomics, Panel Borders examines the work of a quartet of creators whose online strips and cartoons reinvent retro images and iconic characters from film and TV to beguiling effect. In a pair of short interviews recorded at Thought Bubble, Leeds 2012, Alex Fitch talks to American creators Scott C - about his webcomics Double Fine Action Comics and The Great Showdowns -  and Becky and Frank about Tiny Kitten Teeth, cartoons which utilise imagery from toys, cereal packaging and children's literature.

Also, Alex looks into the varying merits of print and web-based comics with British writer / artist Paul O'Connell, in an interview recorded at the University of Brighton. Paul's postmodern fumetti mash-ups mix comedy and horror via strips such as A Muppet Wicker Man and The Seinfeld Matrix, and the artist discusses his collaborations with other Brighton based creators, including Lawrence Elwick on Charlie Parker, Handyman, plus his aspirations for using the medium of online comics to its full interactive potential.

6pm, Sunday 24th March / 4.30pm, Tuesday 26th March, Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com / podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

'Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition' Signing at Gosh announced


Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill will be signing copies of Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition at London's Gosh! Comics in London on Saturday 20th April, 2-4pm.

This whopping 480-page collection been a long time coming. Since it began in 1987 Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s superhero satire Marshal Law has been through a string of publishers before finally finding a home at DC Comics.

Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition collects the original series plus Fear and Loathing, Takes Manhattan, Kingdom of the Blind, The Hateful Dead, Super Babylon and Secret Tribunal.

This hardcover collection is £37.99 and Gosh! will have plenty of copies on the day. If you’d like to reserve one or can’t make it and would like Gosh! to set you up with a signed copy by mail order, drop them a line at info@goshlondon.com.

• More Info: http://www.goshlondon.com/2013/03/pat-mills-and-kevin-oneill-marshal-law-signing

Modesty Blaise Comic Challenge drawing to a close, deadline extended

Today is intended to be the last day for our Modesty Blaise Comic Challenge - but we've decided to extend it until Monday 25th March, 12 noon GMT, just in case there any more entries artists had almost completed between paid work, since we had several entries "close to the wire".

We have entries from a range of talented creators with their own take on Modesty, including Davey Candlish, Keith Page, Dave Windett, John Britton, Peter Hayes, Luke Scoffield and more.

If you don't have time to enter yourself, and you're a member of our British Comics Forum, perhaps you'd like to check out the entries. You can 'Like' an image on the forum by clicking the 'heart symbol' below it. So, if you have time, please 'like' one or two of your favourite entries. It might influence our decision on the winner, who will get a copy of the latest Modesty Blaise collection from Titan Books, The Girl in the Iron Mask.

I'm sure the artists who have already taken time out to enter would appreciate any feedback on their work, too.

You can view all the entries  so far here: http://downthetubes.ning.com/photo/albums/comic-challenge-modesty-blaise 

• Entries by email only to to johnfreeman6-mb@yahoo.co.uk, to arrive no later than 12 noon GMT on 25th March 2013, please. Full competition details are here

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Prisoners of Time: An Interview with artist Mike Collins

British comic creators are heavily involved in US publisher IDW's Doctor Who at 50 celebrations for their 'Prisoners of Time' maxi series, which launched  in January with a First Doctor story drawn by Simon Fraser and continued with a Second Doctor story drawn by Lee Sullivan.

'Prisoners of Time' will feature every incarnation of the Doctor, as well as a long list of villains, some new, some old.

downthetubes caught up with Issue Three's artist Mike Collins, whose both written and drawn several Doctor Who tales down the years

Entering the industry in the mid 1980s, smuggled in under Alan Moore's beard, he drew Alan's Dourdevil - Man Without A Sense of Humour strip for Marvel UK. After that he worked as writer/co-artist on a short-lived Spider-Man UK strip, then moved onto various licensed properties (pretty much all there was at the time): Transformers, He-Man, Action Force, Thundercats, Zoids and oh so many more.

It was here he began his long-running connection with Doctor Who, as occasional writer on the Doctor Who Magazine strip, writing adventures featuring the Sixth and Seventh Doctors (and later drawing Sylvester McCoy while I was editing the title).

Branching out to 2000AD, Mike drew Slaine and Judge Dredd. He was one of the artists press-ganged in the Second DC Wave, working on various of their superhero and fantasy books - Flash, Teen Titans, Dragonlance, Spelljammer amongst them. At the same time he served as artist on the Judge Dredd newspaper strip for the Daily Star.

A brief dalliance at Marvel had him working on Sub Mariner and the X-Men (drawing the first appearance of Gambit), returning to DC to write and draw Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, then Star Trek, Babylon 5 and various JLA titles, and solo hero books including Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman.

In the last decade he's worked on a series of Norse Noir albums for the Norwegian market Varg Veum, took over the long running Panini Doctor Who Magazine comic strip when the TV series returned, and co-created American Gothic with Ian Edginton for 2000AD.

He's storyboarded for various pre-school TV shows, amongst them: Grandpa in My Pocket, Claude, Hana's Helpline, Igam Ogam and Horrid Henry. Definitely not for pre-school, he also boarded on the recent Warhammer 40k CGI movie. He's also boarded adverts for Colmans, Coca Cola, amongst others.

Outside of comics, he's illustrated for various magazines and newspapers, and runs workshops for schools and libraries using comics, primarily for the Read A Million Words In Wales campaign.


Mike's pencils and colour for his cover for Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #3




downthetubes: Prisoners of Time is far from your first Doctor Who project but I gather you have a particular fondness for the Third Doctor's era of the show?


Mike Collins: Pertwee was 'my' Doctor - as a little un, I was terrified by the odd snippets I saw of the show (I remember an episode of The Krotons that I caught, maybe round a friends house, but got traumatized by it). I was a bit of a wimp as a kid. When Pertwee took over I was 8, 9... old enough to cope with the scary stuff! So for me, Pertwee was the Doctor.
 Just like the comics you read at 11 are the best ever, whoever is the Doctor at that age is best. (Though if I'm dispassionate about it, Matt Smith is absolutely the best Doctor ever.)

Watching back to back old stories, it's obvious that some of them were better than others, inevitably but Holy Crow, they're so slow! It's the starkest testament to the way we've become inured to rapid cuts and compressed storytelling: you probably get as much plot in a modern 40/45 minute episode as a four part plot back then!

When the Pertwee stories are good though, they're really good: there's a level of sophistication in the plotting and themes that sailed far over my pre-teen sensibilities. When you get past the not-even-Chewits Godzilla ad stop motion SFX, Invasion of the Dinosaurs plays like a cross between a Troy Kennedy-Martin thriller and - in one subplot- a JG Ballard 13 To Arcturus riff. Amazing for a family TV show.

downthetubes: Can you tell us which companions feature in the story?

Mike: The Brig, Liz Shaw and Sarah-Jane. If the Tiptons could have shoehorned Jo Grant and Sergeant Benton in there, I'd've had a full house.

downthetubes: Is there an old TV Monster in this part of the story?

Mike: They're new monsters but fit in exactly with the feel of the best Pertwee stories, as they address ecological and political issues. I can say no more!

downthetubes: How do you approach the thorny issue of 'capturing likeness' - always an issue with licensed series based on real actors?

Mike: Likenesses have been - I hope- one of my strengths over the years. I develop a shorthand for the characters so that if they don't look exactly like the actors, they should look how you think the actors look - it's a bit of a trick - I discovered on the Panini strip that getting screen grabs off episodes is great but the actors mid-scene hardly ever look like themselves.

downthetubes: Were there any particular aspect to working on this story that proved a particular challenge (and why?)

Mike: I had a clear idea in my head when I started this that it should feel like a 70s strip, that aspects of the storytelling and page design should be authentic to the period. I slipped in a couple of TV Century 21 panel designs to add to the ambiance.

downthetubes: You've both drawn and written Doctor Who - do you have a specific approach to tackling adventures for the franchise?

Mike: I always refer to the brief at Panini: always conceive adventures that TV couldn't afford to stage!

A digression: I've written and drawn Star Trek properties for Marvel and DC. I realized that for DC I was creating Trek stories in comics form but for Marvel, it was a Marvel story that just happened to be about Star Trek... does that make sense to anyone besides me?

downthetubes: Which Doctor Who story you've worked on has been your favourite to date?

Mike: Not dismissing anything I did after, there have been some amazing stories but my favourite Who comic strip I've drawn is The Cruel Sea, written by Rob Shearman, still his only comic script I think. He used the format and genres of comics in a way I've never seen anyone within the industry approach... brilliantly barmy.

In terms of things I've written, episode 2 of The Futurists is probably the tightest scripts I've ever done, and the jokes actually work, also, I ended with the villains proclaiming 'Now WE are the Lords of Time!' which could've be the corniest payoffs but I seemed to get away with it. I could've written a dozen episodes around the Welsh versions of Asterix I'd accidentally created there.

downthetubes: Why do you think Doctor Who has proven such an enduring success over the past 50 years - in print as well as on TV?

Mike: Go anywhere, do anything. Be decent, save lives, right wrongs. It's a concept that reinvents itself every story, every new location.

downthetubes: What's your next project and when is it on sale?

Mike: Currently running in the Judge Dredd Megazine is a three parter featuring Hondo City being besieged by Zombie Samurai. Written by Robbie Morrison, inked by Cliff Robinson and coloured by Len O'Grady, all doing stand-out work it's up there with the art I'm most proud of in my career. And it has ZOMBIE SAMURAI fer gawds sake!

Other than that, I'm back storyboarding for telly right now, on the new season of pre-school fave Igam Ogam... Upcoming for comics, I'm drawing an utterly brilliant Dredd for the Megazine written by old mate Ian Edginton which harks back to Dredd's roots through the darker lens of today. And is very, very funny.

downthetubes: Above anything else, what one piece of advice would you offer aspiring comic artists?

Mike: Draw every day, draw everything. I've sketchbooks full of drawings of foreign walls, plug sockets, window frames. Be aware of the world around you and infuse your work with a plausibility even if you're drawing a 40 foot tall jellyfish in a time vortex full of ruined worlds. Make the reader believe those panel borders aren't ruled lines around your pictures but window frames into worlds that-if you could push through and look around- extend to infinity.

• Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #3 written by Scott and David Tipton with art by Mike Collins is on sale from 27th March from IDW Publishing.

Mike Collins Official web site

Read our interview with Simon Fraser, who drew Prisoners of Time #1

Read our interview with Lee Sullivan, who drew Prisoners of Time #2
 
More about IDW's Doctor Who range on the official web site

Read an interview with David and Scott Tipton about the maxi series on Comic Book Resources  

BCExpo eXclusive charity prints by Ian Gibson

The Bristol Comic Expo - back on 11-12th May 2013 at Brunels Old Station, Bristol - is publishing a series of "Expo eXclusive" charity prints and the latest is by the long running comic festival's special guest Ian Gibson, who brings his eponymous heroine Halo Jones (from 2000AD) back to print.

Only 50 of these will be printed and they are sure to go fast.

These high quality A3 prints will be signed and numbered with all proceeds going to the charity.

• To pre-register for one of the prints,  contact the Expo at info@bristolexpo.co.uk.
For more information (and 'variants') see www.bristolexpo.co.uk

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Showmasters plan 'Independents Day' events to promote British indie press

Showmasters, who run the London Comic Marts at the Royal National Hotel, have announced a number of 'Independents Day' events through 2013. The aim is that there will provide a platform for the independent press and celebrate their work.

The dates are Sunday 7th April, 4th August and 3rd November and table booking should be made by calling 01908671138 quoting 'Independents Day' or, for any queries on the event, emailing Mike Conroy via demigodATbtconnect.com.

• Web: http://londoncomicmart.co.uk
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/londoncomicmart

Book Palace release "Illustrated British Classics"



Book Palace Books have just published Illustrated British Classics featuring some simply stunning-looking strips collecting three stories - King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain and Montezuma's Daughter, each written by H Rider Haggard, the father of the lost-world genre.

The three collected British comic strips that boast the talents of Jesus Blasco, perhaps best known for his work on strips such as The Steel Claw, Mike Hubbard, Cecil Doughty, Bill Baker and John Millar Watt.

The strips are reproduced from the original artboards and have never looked better.

King Solomon's Mines is one of H Rider Haggard's most famous of all adventure novels: adventurer Allan Quatermain is asked to help find his friend's brother who is presumed lost deep in the unexplored interior of Africa whilst looking for the legendary King Solomon's Mines. The artwork is some of Bill Baker's best and one wonders why the equally talented C. L. Doughty took over part-way through.


In Allan Quatermain, while mourning for his only son, Quatermain persuades his friends (jncluding Zulu chief Umslopogas) to accompany him into Maasai territory. Travelling by canoe, they find themselves in the kingdom of Zu-Vendis, a country ruled by an isolated warlike white race … The artwork is in line and wash by Mike Hubbard.



Montezuma's Daughter is superbly adapted and penned by Jesus Blasco. In the story Thomas Wingfield sets off to avenge the murder of his mother. After a brush with the Spanish Inquisition, shipwreck and slavery, his search leads him to the shores of Mexico where he is captured by the Aztecs. He is taken to the emperor who will decide his fate. Then the Spaniards arrive…

• With an introduction by Steve Holland, this edition of Illustrated British Classics from Book Palace Books, ISBN: 9781907081163 is priced at £15.99. Buy it from Book Palace Books here

Lou Scannon becomes a Fad Deity!


The latest issue of Eagle Award nominated sci-fi/comedy comic Lou Scannon is now available.

'Fad Deity', by Jim Bampfield, Dan Harris and Kris Carter, shows the adventures of a lone office lackey, who (due to bizarre circumstances) comes to worship Lou Scannon as a god. But what will happen when he meets his unwitting hero?

This fifth issue was launched at the 2013 Cardiff Comic Con, and can be ordered from www.louscannon.co.uk for £3 plus postage. In addition to a full self-contained 22 page story, there's an additional six pages of fact files, making of's, letters pages and a back up strip.

• A 6 page preview PDF can be downloaded at www.louscannon.co.uk


XIII x 18 = A Full Set


With our review of The Last Round, downthetubes has now reviewed all 18 of the XIII books published by Cinebook over the last two and a half years - from the beginning of the saga of the amnesiac agent in The Day Of The Black Sun, through two presidential assassinations in America plus an attempted military coup in between them, a Central American revolution and the search for century old Mexican gold coins, right up to its finale.

Written by Jean Van Hamme and translated by Jerome Saincantin, with art by William Vance plus a guest spot by Jean Giraud/Moebius, the series has been, along with Lucky Luke, one of the two mainstays of Cinebook since 2010 with a new XIII title appearing every two months as the company showed its dedication to a series which had never been translated beyond book three before.

Due to the non-graphic novel nature of the 13th French book, The Investigation, and it basically retelling the story up to that point, it was not included in the main Cinebook series although the company have plans to publish it in English later in the year.

Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin spoke to us about the series in 2011 in XIII Questions About XIII while each of the 18 book reviews are listed below.

1 - The Day Of The Black Sun

2 - Where The Indian Walks

3 - All The Tears Of Hell

4 - SPADS

5 - Full Red

6 - The Jason Fly Case

7 - The Night Of August Third

8 - Thirteen To One

9 - For Maria

10 - El Cascador

11 - Three Silver Watches

12 - The Trial

13 - Top Secret

14 - Release The Hounds!

15 - Operation Montecristo

16 - Maximillian's Gold

17 - The Irish Version

18 - The Last Round


• Details of each of the XIII books are available on the Cinebook website along with the first two pages of artwork for each.

• Details of the original French XIII books, and the spin-off series XIII Mysteries, are available of the official XIII website (in French).

View all the XIII books on amazon.co.uk

Zarjaz Postcards released

Judge Dredd by Alex Ronald
New from FutureQuake Press and only available in a limited quantity are the first set of high quality art cards from ZARJAZ, the 2000AD-inspired comic created by fans of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic.

Featuring Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Slaine, Robo-Hunter and the A.B.C. Warriors these postcards are presentations of classic covers by some fantastic British comic artists from Zarjaz - and only 100 of each have been made.

The cards are Judge Dredd by Alex Ronald , Robo-Hunter by Nigel Dobbyn, A.B.C. Warriors by Clint Langley and Rogue Trooper by PJ Holden & Steve Denton.

• The cards are available singly for and as a pack of five from the FQP Webshop. For more info, head over to the FQP web site and check out this post.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Call for Papers: Contemporary Uses of Fairy Tales

Melissa Leons - hunting fairies in
contemporary culture
Doctor Melissa Lenos, an Assistant Professor of English at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, is inviting submissions for an edited collection of essays on contemporary uses of fairy tales in popular culture.

Contemporary Uses of Fairy Tales, which offers the chance for commentary on comics such as Alan Moore's Lost Girls and Bill Willingham's Fables, will focus on recent reinterpretations and reboots of classical fairy tales, ways the contemporary texts address the original tales and narratological implications of the repetitions and adjustments of these stories.

In essays that explore the functions and consequences of fairy tale reboots, remakes and updates, authors will consider the ways fairy tale generic conventions have been revised over time, representations of race, gender, class and sexual identity, the roles of archetypes, mythic tropes and patterns and the emergence of self-referential and meta-tales within these texts.

Essays may also address fan culture influence on contemporary tales, opportunities for interactivity and the roles of stars in fairy tale reboots.

Text focus could include television series, feature-length films, comic books and graphic novels, games and animation.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:


  • Fables (Bill Willingham/Vertigo, 2002-present)
  • Lost Girls (Alan Moore/Top Shelf, 2006)
  • The Red Shoes (Kim Yong-gyun, 2005)
  • Hansel and Gretel (Yim Pil-Sung, 2007)
  • Sydney White (Joe Nussbaum, 2007)
  • Bluebeard (Catherine Breillat, 2009)
  • The Sleeping Beauty (Catherine Breillat, 2010)
  • Red Riding Hood (Catherine Hardwicke, 2011)
  • Hanna (Joe Wright, 2011)
  • Beastly (Daniel Barnz, 2011)
  • Once Upon a Time (ABC, 2011-present)
  • Grimm (NBC, 2011-present)
  • Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders, 2012)
  • Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)
  • Hansel and Gretel (Anthony Ferrante, 2013)
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Tommy Wirkola, 2013)
  • Jack the Giant Slayer (Bryan Singer, 2013)


  • Submit a two-page proposals by the deadline of June 19, 2013 to Dr. Melissa Lenos at melissalenosATgmail.com; questions may be addressed to the same. Please also include a short bio. If your proposal is selected, the final essay (5000-8000 words) will be due on December 1, 2013.

    Melissa teaches film studies, composition, popular culture and whatever else her tiny department requires. Her research interests include narratology in Hollywood, mythic structures and archetypes. Visit her blog at: http://cargocollective.com/flyover/index

    In Review: Hit-Girl

    By Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
    Publisher: Titan Books
    Out: Now
    Warning: Contains swearing and extreme violence. Not for younger readers

    The Book: Hit-Girl spins off into her own blood-soaked saga in this prelude to the Kick-Ass 2 film. Mindy McCready tries to settle into life as a regular school-girl, but wants nothing more to be dispensing hot justice to the scum of New York City.

    Her mother thinks she's doing her homework, but in reality she's taken Kick-Ass on as her sidekick and training him up to punch, shoot and stab ... just like Daddy would have wanted. And in return, Kick-Ass is helping her learn to survive middle school - without spilling anyone's blood.

    But when Kick-Ass gets benched, leaving Mindy to take on the mafia solo, even Hit-Girl may be in over her head. Meanwhile, Red Mist pursues his goal of becoming a super-villain ... and faces a final test of his own. Hit-Girl is the first act of the upcoming Kick-Ass 2 movie!

    The Review: Regular Mark Millar and Kick-Ass readers will know exactly what to expect from this stor and, sure enough, there's more than enough blood, high octane action, mass murder and shock moments to satisfy them. But what about the rest of us?

    Despite a by now surely trademarked torture scene in its opening episode, this gritty, no holds-barred adventure, set in a world where real people turn superhero, only to find the role is often far from the comic books that inspired them, opens quite slowly. Millar focuses instead on character building: fleshing out the background to the psychotic 12-year-old vigilante, a girl trained for combat by an equally deranged, now dead father. A parent who clearly took to this ask with all the commitment to his work of one of those equally deranged parents that determines to turn their child into a tennis star or beauty pageant queen from the age of three.

    This characterization, accompanied by moments of black humour, are what ensure the Kick-Ass series delivers an underlying if truly warped snapshot of humanity. "Nasty, brutish and short" pretty much sums Mindy up, as she fails in everything except her mission to kill bad guys, in the most brutal and revolting ways possible (feeding body parts through a lawn mower and decapitation being just two in this volume, in case you're wondering). Her inter personal skills are lousy: although her means to deal with a school bully - dropping her from a roof into a dumpster - will probably appeal to many. (Drugging her parents to cover her activities as Hit-Girl, probably less so).

    Alongside Mindy's gruesome trail of death and vengeance, other threads continue to build in the background. The world's first super villain, Chris Genovese, is seeking vengeance for the death of his gangster father and heads to Asia to train with martial arts experts. He's ripped off, royally - but there's a twist in the tail by the end of the book which will cost Kick-Ass dear as the story continues.

    The Kick-Ass series is brutal, bloody and steeped in violence. On the surface, it would appear to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, appealing directly to a desensitised mass audience for whom the shock value of grisly death and violence has become some twisted norm. While Millar's storytelling pushes and exploits those demands, while perhaps overplaying the superhero and popular culture references, Hit-Girl proves a riveting, if horrifying, read because of his characterization, complemented by John Romita Jr.'s distinctive art.

    Let me be clear: Hit-Girl is not a title for younger readers. This is nasty, violent fare, referencing and dependent to some degree on the audience's awareness and familiarity with not just superhero but gangster fiction. But it merges both genres to great, if unpleasant effect.

    Dave Gibbons 'Whaat' art challenges Lichtenstein's dubious 'legacy'

    'Whaat' by Dave Gibbons, after Irv Norvick
    'Whaat' by Dave Gibbons, after Irv Norvick

    Watchmen artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons was interviewed on a recent BBC TV documentary about the Pop Art painting 'WHAAM!' by Roy Lichtenstein, which is currently on show in a major retrospective at Tate Modern, London.

    Gibbons was probably the only dissenting voice in the documentary, critical of Lichtenstein's appropriation of comic art In some of his 1960s work - and has now created a piece of art honouring the original comic panel by American artist Irv Norvick that inspired 'WHAAM'.

    Dave hopes the eventual sale of his canvas will raise funds for the Hero Initiative, a US-based charity that dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need.

    Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work.

    While Gibbons refuted accusations that Lichtenstein was a plagiarist - as suggested in an article headline from the period the painting was released, ‘Pop Artists All Copycats’ - he said he would describe him as a "copycat".

    "In music for instance, you can’t just whistle somebody else’s tune or perform somebody else’s tune, no matter how badly, without somehow crediting and giving payment to the original artist," Dave argued. "That’s to say, this is ‘WHAAM! by Roy Lichtenstein, after Irv Novick’.”

    "From the point of view that I come from, I find there’s something slightly dishonest about it, there’s something that is trying to be ironic that I think doesn’t actually work," Gibbons said later in the interview. "It seems to be doing a disservice to comic art because of that.”

    Comics expert and advocate Paul Gravett reports on Dave's interview in a detailed piece on his blog here, which also throws a thought provoking spotlight on how modern artists are still appropriating comic imagery, some to the point of outright plagiarism.

    "Another disappointing legacy is the continuing widespread public assumption that Lichtenstein’s paintings still sum up and represent what comics art looks like today," Paul notes, "when the range of media, techniques and approaches is actually more diverse than ever.

    "Astonishingly, I heard about someone who owns a print of ‘WHAAM!’ and had absolutely no idea that it came from comic books at all! When they were told, not only were they horrified, but they also treasured the piece less as a result. The stigma of ‘despicable’ comics lingers on."

    Gibbons has now responded further by going back to Lichtenstein's original source, a DC war comics panel drawn by Irv Novick, to create a brilliant satirical 're-purposing' of this iconic image, now titled 'WHAAT?'

    "I intend to do a huge stretched canvas version," he reveals. "The idea would be to present it in as much the same way as the Lichtenstein version as we could. I would then sell it and donate the profits to the Hero Initiative.”

    Meanwhile, Paul wonders if the art world will continue to turn a blind eye to image appropriation. "Perhaps it can, as long as these works sell and nobody makes an issue of it. But is it now time for this practice to stop or at least be debated, for the sake of comics and for the sake of contemporary art? One idea might be to regulate this process, perhaps requiring artists to pay for their samples in the same way that musicians already do."

    Designer and comics creator Rian Hughes, who has previously commented on the issue of plagiarism of pop culture imagery, is now responding by co-ordinating an exhibition called Image Duplicator from 16th - 31st May at the Orbital Gallery in London. He's inviting comics artists to follow Dave Gibbons’ lead and consider such questions as: ‘Is this an act of brilliant recontexturalisation? The elevation of commercial “low” art to “high” art? Art world snobbery? Artistic licence? Cultural annexation? Gallery shortsightedness? Or something else?’. And then to share their views by making new works.

    “Every interested comic artist should 're-reappropriate' one of the comic images Lichtenstein used, and rework it," Rian proposes, "using some of their ‘commercial art’ drawing skills, to warp and twist it into something interesting and original,
 and in the process to comment on this type of appropriation.

    "The important thing to stress is that you’d be going back to the source material and re-reappropriating Coletta, Novick, Kirby et al – not copying Lichtenstein, as we don’t want copyright issues from the Lichtenstein estate. Take Back the Art!"

    • You can choose your images here, at this handy “compare and contrast” site: Deconstructing Lichtenstein. Please give credit to the original artist: “Artist Name after Irv Novick”, for example. The new work could be shown next to the original, so viewers could compare and contrast. See this as a celebratory, positive show which aims to get the point across that the original artists deserve credit and respect.

    • Read more of Dave Gibbons interview comments and find out about Lichtenstein's sources and legacy, including current fine artists who continue to copy from comics artists such as Brian Bolland, here: http://paulgravett.com/index.php/articles/article/the_principality_of_lichtenstein

     

    Monday, 18 March 2013

    2013 British Comic Awards Committee confirmed

    Plans for the second annual British Comic Awards are well underway -- so here's a reminder that you can nominate titles for consideration by the BCA Ccommittee via the Awards  Nomination Form or on the BCA home page.

    The Committee for 2013 has also now been assorted and confirmed and are Zainab Akhtar, Clark Burscough, co-runner of Thought Bubble, Richard Bruton, writer for the Forbidden Planet International blog, Dr. Mel Gibson, Dr. Ian Hague, director of the Comics Forum, Tom Humberstone, David Monteith co-runner of Geek Syndicate, Vicky Stonebridge, Stacey Whittle and Lisa Wood, founder of Thought Bubble. BCA Founder Adam Cadwell is taking the role of Committee Chair.

    "We believe we have a great range of skills and interests on the Committee,' says Adam, "meaning we should be able to cover every aspect of British comics, delivering a nominations list to the Judges that represents everything that is magnificent and vibrant about British comics in 2013."



    What has been your favourite British comic or graphic novel since last September? What treats have you bought at a comic show or received for Christmas? If you're a creator, what work have you made that you’re especially proud of? Let the BCA know.

    Any title by British creators published between 1st September 2012 and 31st August 2013 are eligible as long as the rights remain in the UK. Please check the Qualifying Work page for further info.

    Please note this isn’t a most-votes-win process, this is a nomination process, you only need to nominate a title once and creators and publishers can nominate their own work too. You can send the BCA numerous (different) suggestions from now until the 31st August.

    The 2nd Annual British Comic Awards will be held on Saturday 23rd November 2013 at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, UK.

    • Follow the British Comic Awards at http://britishcomicawards.com, on Twitter and on Facebook



    • Short bios and flattering photos of the whole Committee can be found on the BCA Committee page

    In Review: Dead Space - Liberation

    By Ian Edginton and Christopher Shy
    Publisher: Titan Books
    Out: Now

    Warning: Contains violence and swearing - not for younger readers

    The Book: Following the events of the video game Dead Space 2, we follow Earthgov Sergeant John Carver whose wife and son are attacked by fanatics trying to liberate the Marker site where she works. Racing to solve the clues his wife left behind, Carver teams up with Ellie Langford, survivor of an earlier Necromorph outbreak on the Sprawl, and EarthGov Captain Robert Norton. Together they unlock deep secrets about the Markers in an epic adventure that will determine the fate of mankind.

    The Review: For the benefit of non-gamers, Dead Space is a series of best-selling games centering on a carefully crafted mythos in which humanity is being influenced - and distorted - by alien 'Markers', whose 'technology' includes the gruesome ability to turn the dead into slavering, murderous zombies. In short, it's Aliens meets Dawn of the Dead, but the makers of the games have, I'm told, taken this concept and made it an impressive saga.

    In the games, the chief protagonist, systems engineer Isaac Clarke, takes on not just space zombies but the might of a dangerous religion that has protected and actively sought out the deadly 'Markers', a cult that has backers in high places.

    Promotional art for Deep Space: Liberation - an example of all the right things about the art on this book...
    This third graphic movel - Titan have also re-released the first two - is something of a curate's egg as it blends an ongoing comic story with the overall narrative. In this prequel to the latest game, Ian Edginton offers more character building to the story's main characters and, as the race to find Marker secrets hots up, there are some great insights into the battle hardened, emotionally-scarred Carver and his companions.

    Christopher Shy also delivers an atmospheric take on the tale, with some genuinely impressive scenes, particularly those involving spacecraft and aforementioned 'space zombies'. The panels where the parasitic, visceral zombies spring from some dark corner are truly haunting and visually impressive.

    There's a fantastic sequence, also, in which Carver returns from a foray against his enemy bathed in what I assume is the blood of his foe, that emphasizes how far he's prepared to go to defeat them.

    -- but the lettering style proves a major stumbling block in terms of best presentation of the tale
    Sadly, though, these impressive elements of the art are let down by the static, wooden, possibly photo referenced figure work in scenes where characters discuss tactics or helpfully move the plot forwards. There's little or no animation to the faces - although perhaps this is a deliberate choice, suggesting the human characters are as dead as their enemy. But the results are rather disappointing and stilted.

    What really lets down the whole story, for me, is the lettering. In dispensing with traditional word balloons in favour of a chalk marker, which lack much emphasis and sensible placement at times, this jars with the storytelling rather than enhances it. Good lettering should be 'invisible'; that is, it should complement and not distract from the art and story. This design choice fails achieve that objectives and consequently mars the delivery of this Dead Space tale.

    A good game tie in? Yes. A good comic? In part yes, in terms of script and some of the art - but largely, could be better.

    London's Comiket is back - bigger and bolder than ever!


    London's Comiket is back on 20th April 2013 - and the Comica Festival-organised event has a new and much bigger venue.

    This year, they've teamed up with Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design to stage the biggest and best Comiket Independent Comics Fair yet, in their spectacular new headquarters, mere minutes away from King’s Cross rail and tube stations.

    Spring Comiket will again offer the opportunity to discover the very best in comics and enjoy the Drawing Parade of superstar artists, all for free.

    With lots more space in the Platform Theatre in Handyside Street, London N1C 4AA and the adjoining Studio and Foyer, complete with convenient and affordable all-day Student Bar and with the White Lab space right next door too, Comica say they can present a wider range than ever of creators, publishers, exhibitors and events throughout the day.

    "We’re also programming an extra session of Comica Conversations on the Friday afternoon, April 19th," says Paul Gravett. "Sign up to the Comica Newsletter on our web site for exclusive details of who’s participating and how you can join the audience.

    Meantime, now’s the time to book your tables, at the same rate as before and at the width of 160cms by 68cms. Comiket is a premium event and major attraction of Comica Festival, a not-for-profit social enterprise promoting public appreciation of and involvement with the comics medium in all its forms.

    To book a table, visit this page on the Comics web site

    In Review: XIII - The Last Round

    It has been a long haul, 18 books over almost two and a half years, but Cinebook have stuck with Jean Van Hamme and William Vance's amnesiac tattooed agent XIII and that has lead us all to the final book of the series, The Last Round.

    XIII and his friends are still in their safe house in Mexico as they decide what must be done to clear their names in the USA where, unknown to them, two books have been published about the "XIII Mystery" which has made what has been happening public. However before they have a chance to return to the States, their safe house is discovered and attacked.

    Pretty much everyone who has survived the last 17 books is in here which is as it should be as the series comes to a conclusion. The last couple of books have tied up the plotlines of the Mexican gold and just exactly who XIII is, although XIII doesn't yet know, which leaves Van Hamme with the problem of clearing the name of a supposed presidential assassin and IRA terrorist in front of a fascinated media which have just read two expose books about the XIII events.

    One of these fictional books, The XIII Investigation, is the original 13th French book that Cinebook skipped in their series as it was neither a regular graphic novel nor vital to the ongoing plot due to it retelling what had happened in the series up to that point, while the other fictional book, The Kelly Brian Story, appropriately released by Moebius Publishing, is the equivalent of the XIII series' prequel title The Irish Version illustrated by Jean Giraud.

    It is hard to say much about the plot of The Last Round without giving too much away, but Jean Van Hamme gives us an instalment that is both action packed and full of political intrigue as the different factions try to manoeuvre themselves to safety.

    As always William Vance's artwork is more than up to the job and, while it was nice to see Jean Giraud's take on the characters' younger selves in the previous title, it is good to see Vance back with his planes, explosions and close-ups of pretty women - and he even manages to squeeze another fight in the rain in there as well.

    I first read XIII via CatCom's Code XIII American publication of The Day of The Black Sun, the first book in the series, but I never expected that any English language publisher would ever have the dedication to get deep into the series let alone finish it. It is to Cinebook's credit that they did and, given that it has been such a backbone of their publishing schedule over the last few years, it will be interesting to see what they choose to replace it with.

    XIII - The Last Round is a more than satisfying conclusion to a series that has never disappointed over a total of 18 books. If you haven't indulged yet, what are you waiting for?

    • There are more details of the English language XIII books on Cinebook's website.

    • There are more details of the original French XIII albums on the official XIII website (in French).

    • You can read an interview with Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin on downthetubes at XIII Questions About XIII

    Sunday, 17 March 2013

    Comic Classics in the Spotlight – 2000AD

    2000AD Prog 1824
    By Matthew Charlton (re-published with permission from thefictionstroker.wordpress.com)

    2000AD is one of the UK’s leading weekly comics. It has been publishing for 36 years now. The anthology approach and cast of colourful characters have been crucial to its longevity. Snarky Judge Dredd, effectively the comic’s lead character, has gone down in legend and was recently brought to life by Star Trek‘s Karl Urban in a critically acclaimed film.

    2000AD doesn’t take itself too seriously. For example, its own brand of slang has become legendary throughout the comic world. Instead of issues, 2000AD does Progs and the all-mighty alien Tharg sits in the editor’s chair.

    Jumping into an on-going comic at Prog 1824 might be daunting, but 2000AD regularly cleans the decks and has jumping on points for new or lapsed readers. Prog 1824 is one such point with four tantalising opening instalments.

    Judge Dredd is the lynch pin of the comic. As the only regular fixture, stories take their time to develop and aren’t afraid to rock the established Dreddverse with their layered politics. It is with a little surprise then that ‘Cypher’, this week’s adventure is a punchy and fast moving episode with an assassination attempt and a thrilling chase sequence that sets up the next instalment nicely.

    Dashing dandy Dandridge – a merger of Derek Acorah and Jason King – is being pursued by the Police who are in search of a stolen Faerie blade in ‘The Copper Conspiracy’. This highly entertaining strip is reminiscent of the flamboyant ITC series of the 70’s, and ought to be terrific fun if this first episode is anything to go by.

    Next up is Tharg’s 3hrillers – three part stories akin to Tales of the Unexpected. With more than a touch of The Big Bang Theory about it Part 1 of ‘Survival Geeks’ entertains with its pop culture references and light tone. An unlikely cross-over between Skins and Sliders, it’s sure to raise a few chuckles.

    The final strip is Ian Edginton and D’Isreali’s Stickleback. ‘Number of the Beast’ which re-introduces cover star Stickleback – the self-styled ‘Pope of Crime’ (How timely given this week’s news!) as he is brought back from the dead. But the world has changed whilst Stickleback has slept...

    Easily my favourite of the four strips, Stickleback is slightly confusing due to the sometimes unclear, yet gorgeous, black and white art and assumed familiarity with the set-up. However, the strip drips atmosphere and the mayhem looks like it has only just begun.

    Overall, this is a great jumping on point with reader-friendly entry points, and some damn-fine characters to meet. And with the return of fan-favourite Zombo next week, there’s even more Thrill-Power to tempt you over the coming weeks!

    • More info: www.2000adonline.com

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