Saturday, December 24, 2011

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Spider-man

Here is a lovely painting by Bob Wakelin published in the Marvel UK Spider-Man Christmas Special 1984.



Have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Prison Funnies

Yippee! It's nearly Christmas. Here's a festive four page tale by Chip Zdarsky. This is from The Collected Prison Funnies, published in 2003. Click for the larger versions...




Saturday, December 17, 2011

CHRISTMAS COMICS: Doomlord

Heading towards Christmas, so I've scanned a festive cover and story featuring Doomlord, from a December 1983 edition of Eagle.

Doomlord began as a photo strip. In the early 80s, Eagle had a few photo strips alongside its drawn ones. These were in genres such as football, western, etc. Doomlord was sci-fi made with photos of someone in a rubber mask.

It was witty though, and dealt with moral and philosophical issues. It was also popular which meant when the photo strips were done away with, Doomlord continued with artwork from Eric Bradbury and Heinzl among others. The scale of the science fiction action could be expanded outwith having to photograph it.

Alan Grant wrote both the photo and drawn versions, so there's a real continuity to the entire series.

So anyway, here's a Christmas themed pause in the earth-shattering main storyline.




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

COMICS STAMPEDE 5: DC Comics

This lovely set featuring artwork direct from the comics was released in 2006. The set is split into covers and images.


The strange thing is I have precisely one Aquaman comic, purchased in the late 70s, and its cover is the image used for his stamp. There must be thousands of Aquaman comics out there.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS UK







In the interests of full disclosure, I must write that I was involved in a small way during the production of this book. However I would have written favourably on it even if I hadn’t been. This book is a collection of comics which were produced by the Marvel UK office in the mid 1980s. I enjoyed the initial run at the time, as mentioned here.

As well as the stories themselves, with terrific artwork from John Ridgway, Geoff Senior, and many others, there are really fascinating behind the scenes articles. These include photos of the offices, and new interviews with most of the artist and editorial staff involved. Lots of artwork produced for poster, sticker and transfer giveaways is reproduced.

It was interesting to note that so many of the team producing the comic were practically novices, learning their craft on the job. Amazing, when you consider the big success Transformers quickly became, and the all-conquering multimedia franchise it has ended up as.

It’s also amusing to see British pop culture explained for an American audience. Hence the description of British annuals as being hardback books that come out close to Christmas and bear the following year’s date on them.

One gripe I would have is that as someone that read the original comics, I am used to seeing these stories in their original dimensions, as opposed to their new smaller size here. I imagine this shrinkage wouldn’t bother you if you hadn’t seen them before in the first place.

The volume is sizable, just shy of 300 pages. A lot of love has gone into the production, as evidenced in IDW editor James Roberts’ introduction. A terrific volume.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

IT'S CERVANTES IN THE BOX


I've been reading Rob Davis' adaptation of Don Quixote. The original is one of my favourite books.



I was struck by the page shown here. It's near the start of the book. Cervantes is talking to the reader to introduce the story. It's a nice page, and artistically done. It does read like an afterthought though. The page could easily have been inserted once the book was finished. I wonder if it was? It's as if Davis is worried that readers really would not understand that the narrator was the person speaking in the boxes. Is it a subtler version of the guide to comics grammar as seen in the Evanovitch book?

Interesting times when comics are explaining themselves to readers who may not know how to read comics.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

COMMANDO 50th ANNIVERSARY - and Doctor Who in Comics.

The University of Dundee has an exhibition on of artwork from Commando comics, currently in its 50th year of publication.





Ian Kennedy gets his own frame with four covers.



The covers are certainly impressive. So are the pages themselves.



There are also scripts on show.



A piece that struck me was Jordi Penalva's "Noose for a Hero" cover. I already liked it, but to see those vivid red clouds in the original painting was impressive.



The exhibition runs until 19th November and is well worth a visit.

There's another on at the National Army Museum in London too, which has huge Ian Kennedy banners outside.

I also recently visited the Doctor Who in Comics 1964-2011 exhibition at London's Cartoon Museum. They have terrific John Ridgway and Roger Langridge pages. John Ross' work was interesting - he doesn't use any black space at all on the artwork itself. I was especially impressed by a fully painted Ron Turner page. I love his Journey to the Stars stories from Speed comic.

I haven't been to the Museum before so the regular material on show was all new to me too. Highlights for me were pages of Frank Hampson Dan Dare, David Lloyd V For Vendetta and Joe Colquhoun Charley's War. It was also interesting to see the Charles Schulz original, with all its erased pencils under the inks. He really worked hard at making Peanuts look effortless.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

HOW TO READ A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Here is a preface to Troublemaker by Janet and Alex Evanovich. Like comics work from novelists such as Denise Mina, James Patterson and Ian Rankine, Dark Horse Comics (or Dark Horse Books as they refer to themselves on the spine of this work) publish work by these authors in an understandable and laudable attempt to attract readers who would usually not read comics. It's the first such crossover book to include an instruction manual on how to follow a comics page though.

It does seem kind of ridiculous, especially to someone such as I who has read comics all my days, but I think they may be onto something. I have seen people look at comics pages and just think "No, I don't want to deal with this". This "comics are too difficult for people to read" argument has rumbled along for at least a couple of decades, and I've heard plenty of skeptical views towards it from learned comics individuals.

But consider this: I think it may be similar the disconnect felt when Yoof TV show Network 7 started putting words running along the screen in one or more places while a presenter was talking. The mix of looking and reading was confusing! It's now the norm and difficult to remember what was so jarring about it.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

SCOTLAND IN COMICS 10: THE JOCKS AND THE GEORDIES

This story is from #1929 of The Dandy, published in November 1978. It's one of the oldest comics I have. More specifically, it's one of the oldest I have that I got when it actually came out.


I liked The Jocks and The Geordies at the time, along with all the other strips in the comic. My enjoyment was very innocent - I had no idea what a Jock or a Geordie was at the time of reading.

I don't know who wrote or drew this, due to D.C.Thomson's policy of giving no credits.

The Dandy continues to come out after 74 years. The latest issue is #3539.

Click on images for larger versions.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

STAR WARS BLU-RAY

There's another release of the Star Wars movies imminent, this time on Blu-ray. There have been more changes made to the films and also included is a selection of deleted scenes. Posted online is an alternative take of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on Hoth. Watch it here. I checked it out and realised that I was familiar with the deleted dialogue. A lot of it was in the comic adaptation from 1980.

These comics took a long time to do, and so the writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson would work from scripts and reference photos, so as to have the comic ready at the same time as the movie was released. By this time, dialogue had changed and scenes had been cut, but they were still in the comics. I remember there was much more to Luke's training with Yoda in the comic, for instance.

This black and white artwork really shows up Williamson's work nicely. The writing at the bottom, "Next week! Re-Enter: Obi-Wan Kenobi! Miss it not!" is there because this page is from the UK weekly reprint comic. As six pages had gone by, it was time for a break until the next issue. I can still remember the anticipation for the next instalment. The arm bursting through the wall at the end is a wampa monster, in a scene that was cut from the movie but is also in the deleted scenes now offered.

Friday, September 02, 2011

THE SIXPENNY MURDER

The Sixpenny Murder is a new British comic written by John A. Short and drawn by David Hitchcock. Originally part of a project named Changing Places+ devised by a psychologist, it's now available from John's own comics company, Kult Kreations and in comic stores nationwide.



I recently interviewed John and it’s now been published over at the Down the Tubes UK comics website. Have a read here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL

In amongst all the revamped DC Comics, there is a series of one-shots called Retroactive, giving popular creators of the past another bash at the characters they've previously worked on.
I was delighted to see that Keith Giffen, J.M.DeMatties and Kevin Maguire have done another issue of Justice League International.
I really liked this series during its 1987-1992 run, and also the follow-ups Formerly Known as The Justice League in 2003, and I Can't Believe it's not the Justice League in 2005.
Unlike those latter two series which updated the storyline to the present day, this new issue takes place during the original storyline. It's a blast.
Personally I never tire of this trio's work. I was gutted when it finished in 1992, and have lapped up every revamp since. This issue was good too. Giffen's plots and situations are imaginative, clever and quite ludicrous at times. DeMatteis is very witty and keeps all the individuals in character. Maguire is a classy superhero artist.
The funny thing this go around is the computer colouring (as with the recent Ditko Hulk book). It just swamps the line art in my opinion. I guess I'm old fashioned and I want flat colours!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

SUPERHERO MOVIE EXCITEMENT



I'm looking forward to seeing the new Superman film when it's on Channel 4 Sunday night in four years.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMIC ART: MOORE/O'NEILL


The new edition of The International Journal of Comic Art is out now. It has an article by myself in it. A report on a talk given by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, discussing their careers and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

More details can be found here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

GET THEE TO A LIBRARY: GORGO

This is the BIG one!

Another great thing to do at your local library is have a dig through the newspaper collections. On a recent look through local press I found this 1962 advertising strip for the monster movie "Gorgo"



Quite nice actually. I wonder who drew it? I remember strips like this advertising movies 20 years later for things like "Clash of the Titans".

This paper had another delighful feature. Design Gorgo's head.



Looks like the same artist. I got curious and a referral to Phil Hardy's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies got me a look at a photo of the big monster.



Comics were used a lot more in the past to advertise anything and everything. I'm looking forward to chancing upon more of them.

Friday, July 08, 2011

NEW DITKO HULK BOOK



There's a nice Marvel comic out now called "Incredible Hulk & The Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault". It's a first printing for a story pencilled by Steve Ditko in the 1980s to serve as a filler for when the regular arist on Marvel Team-Up missed a deadline. However it was never needed before that series came to an end in 1985.

So now it's out and has been re-scripted by Karl Kesel who also inked it - recently. He writes a suitably gushing and proud introduction wherein he tells of his excitement at drawing over Ditko. He also says he's very fond of the character Johnny Storm and misses him now that he's gone, so he must be dead currently in Marvel Comics. It's great to see Ditko's Hulk back in sequences like the first one shown here (click for larger version).

I found the computer colouring really strange over Ditko's work. The story looks like his 80s work apart from that. The new writing from Kesel too throws in modern references - such as the one shown here to Youtube.



A lovely wee comic for Ditko fans.

P.S. Bonus bemused chuckle: The numbering on Marvel comics has become rather convoluted. There's an ad in this mag for a comic called Iron Man 2.0 #7.1

Friday, June 24, 2011

GENE COLAN



Gene Colan has died.

I remember his work from childhood days of reading Doctor Strange. He did beautiful work on Howard the Duck, Daredevil, Iron Man, Dracula, Spectre. Loads more.

In the 80s he did Nathaniel Dusk - a series which reproduced his pencils without any inks. Very interesting work.

I last saw work by him on a rock album cover in the late 90s/early 2000s. At first I thought someone was ripping him off, but no, it was the real deal.

A true original. One of the great American comic artists.

Friday, June 03, 2011

BARBIE

I picked up a book called "The Art of Barbie" recently. It's edited by Craig Yoe, who has put together many fine books on comics, so I figured there would be a good representation of cartoonists in there.



And indeed there is. The comic shown here is by Jay Lynch. The book also features Charles Burns, Guido Crepax, Chuck Jones and Milo Manara amongst others. Worth a look if you get a chance.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

SUPERHERO MOVIE EXCITEMENT

I'm looking forward to seeing Thor, Green Lantern and X-Men 1st Class when they're on Channel 4 Sunday night in a couple of years.





Friday, May 13, 2011

WRITING FOR ANOTHER ARTIST.

Last night I rewrote an already finished script called "A Book with Death in the Title" for another artist to draw. It was the first time I've done that as I usually do my own stuff.

It took 3 hours to rewrite 6 pages with notes so that he'll be able to follow it and give me what I want. An interesting process.

Very curious to see what he comes up with.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

SCOTLAND IN COMICS 8

Batman's been to Scotland a couple of times. In 1953 he visited in a Detectve Comics story by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back co-writer Leigh Brackett and Ed Hamilton. Bob Kane is credited, but who knows what he did on the story? As ever, click on the images for a larger view.
"Batmanor" is quite good, isn't it? I like that.


Batman gives Robin duff information concerning Scottish tartans. They both put kilts on with their superhero outfits.
Robin has a go on the bagpipes and then it looks like the Loch Ness Monster appears.
Batman returned to Scotland in 1998. The Scottish Connection is written by Alan Grant, so no dodgy Scots accents. Nice artwork by Frank Quitely. Look at the Forth Rail Bridge page.

Batman doesn't wear his tartan this time, but he does fight a kilted weirdo.

Grant reveals that Batman is part Scottish in this story.


These stories have recently been reprinted. The Lord of Batmanor is in "DC Comics Classics Library: The Batman Annuals Volume One". The Scottish Connection is in "Batman International".

Saturday, April 09, 2011

KA-POW!



I just got back from Ka-Pow! I didn’t take any notes or record anything, so here are my recollections.

It’s been an enjoyable day. I arrived at the venue 20 minutes early to find a massive queue. In the line, various characters appeared in their costumes – The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Harley Quinn, etc. My favourite was a slightly chubby Blue Beetle, reminiscent of the Adam Hughes rendition for the 1980s Justice League when Blue Beetle sat around eating too many cookies. I did wonder why on Earth people dress up like this, but then I saw a little kid shout to his parents “Look! The Joker”, to which the lanky green villain tipped his hat and winked at the wee one, making his day. Respect due there. At around 20 past 9, I got in. Stewart Lee ran into me, shouting “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault” to a lady. I picked up a program to get a bearing on what was coming up. There was lots on, often simultaneously, so you had to pick and choose.

First up for me was a talk by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. It was ostensibly to mark DC’s plans to publish Marshal Law, but it covered lots of their 2000ad work too. The higher ups at DC have changed, meaning the pair do not forsee any problems (as O’Neill experienced with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Next, a panel with 2000ad creators old and new. Main draws for me here were Dave Gibbons, Brendan McCarthy and Brian Bolland. In the event though Bolland did not show up. It was an interesting talk, Gibbons talked about the beginnings of the comic, and McCarthy mentioned that he’s doing a new strip about Judge Dredd becoming a zombie – “The Walking Dredd”. What really excited the audience more than the comic talk though was when conversation turned to the forthcoming Judge Dredd movie (yep, another one). Ka-Pow is billed as “an event dedicated to the comicbooks and the films, TV shows and games they inspire.” I am very interested in comics, and not very much in the other stuff at all. Talk of how Dredd’s movie bike and costume looks cool, how violent and dark it is, and how the screenplay is great but it depends on many factors, all of that bores me to tears and gets in the way of talking about 2000ad.

Next was a talk called “Meet the Creators of Clint”. It coincided with a DC Comics panel which I toyed with going to, but I decided to keep it British so to speak and check out this. No panel members were listed in the program, but I imagined Jonathon Ross, Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. and Frankie Boyle would be there. Out of those three only Mark Millar appeared. No explanation was forthcoming on Romita and Ross, but Millar did say that Boyle “couldn’t be arsed”. Stewart Lee was along though, and was his usual entertaining self. The whole talk was informal, and they made it seem like they were chatting and we just happened to be there.
I spent the next couple of hours checking out the stalls and picked up some nice bargains. These marts are amazing. You can literally pick up a comic for 50p and a stall around the corner is selling the same thing for £15. I bumped into Paul Gravett, who was going into The Stan Lee Awards with his VIP badge.

I went in there too, after seeing that the queue wasn’t impossibly huge. After ten minutes of everyone standing around, John Romita Jr took the initiative and to the mic and started telling stories and answering questions. He was a real crowd-pleaser and was obviously loved by the audience. I have to admit to being a bit starstruck myself. He has been drawing comics I was reading since I was a nipper, after all. That along with his family heritage in comics make him a bit of a legend. There was a comedian host onstage getting loads of laughs as he announced winners’ names, and they were not there to pick up the awards (Grant Morrison was nowhere to be seen, and was apparently in the pub and wouldn’t leave according to Millar). There was no-one to present half the time either. At one stage Romita Jr was called up to present an award for best movie in a category that Kick Ass was a contender in. He didn’t win. He presented it to no-one and the host took it from him. Awkward. The host asked someone from SFX to present an award. He did not appear and after a while Frank Quitely came down to do the honours. Comedian guy did not know who Quitely was and talked to him as if he was SFX guy. It was all farcical. Romita Jr. did receive an award for best artist and in his speech said this was the first award he’d ever won and that it genuinely meant a lot to him. A big round of applause for that one. Stan Lee won Man of the Year and had recorded a video message saying it should have been Man of the Century. Excelsior!

After all that fun, I had a coffee. It became apparent that Thor and Loki were about to appear on the IGN stage. The two actors were 45 minutes late and appeared just before closing time. I can’t remember their names because the IGN host kept saying “Thor and Loki are on their way” and “Let Thor in, dude, he’s Thor!” I think he was that guy who used to do “Rad” on Saturdays on Channel 5 about 12 years ago. He sounded like him. At one point it was announced that we now had on stage “the guy who designed Thor’s costume”. It wasn’t Jack Kirby.

I had another little browse around and met Dan Lester, the cartoonist who does Monkeys Might Puke. We’ve e-mailed back and forth and I was in an anthology that he put together. We’ve never actually met though, he seems like a cool guy. A dedicated small presser doing it for the love of comics.

So by this time the attendants were telling everyone to please make their way to the doors. It was a good event, I’d like to see another. But Mark Millar did mention that he’d lost a fortune today, so I wouldn’t count on it.