downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...
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!
Friday, 9 January 2009
On Air Now: Strip - The work of Raymond Briggs
The UK's only weekly radio show about comic books returns after a three week break for Christmas and the theme of this month's shows is four generations of British cartoonists. Later episodes this month will feature Alex Fitch's interviews with Peter Doherty (not the Libertine!), an underrated Judge Dredd artist from the early 1990s to the present day, an up and coming young artist called Marc Ellerby who is currently featured in a group show at Brent Museum; and with Alan Moore and Pat Mills about their favourite cartoonist, the late Ken Reid, who drew classic humour strips such as Faceache, Frankie Stein, Roger the Dodger and many others.
This week Alex is talking to the beloved British children's illustrator Raymond Briggs, creator some of the most treasured kids books of the late twentieth century such as The Snowman, Father Christmas and Fungus the Bogeyman.
TX: 11.30pm Sunday 11th January, Resonance 104.4FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com Podcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com soon after transmission
Lucky Cat: The films of Tetsuya Nakashima
In the second episode of the new series of Resonance FM's weekly show about Asian Culture, alongside examples of the region's music and food in the "dim-sum lunchbox", presenter Zoe Baxter will be talking to Alex Fitch and Dan Lester from Electric Sheep Magazine about the films of Tetsuya Nakashima, including Kamikaze Girls (which is this season's comic strip review in ESM by Dan) and Memories of Matsuko, which showed at a recent Hectic Peelers screening. Regular listeners of Lucky Cat may have heard Alex cameo on the show before, tasting some of Zoe's previous dim-sum lunchboxes live on air!
Broadcast live on air at 9.00pm GMT, Tues 13th January, Resonance 104.4FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com Podcast at www.luckykitty.blogspot.com soon after transmission
A reminder that the Electric Sheep Magazine -- Winter issue 2008 -- is available in shops now and features reviews of Hansel and Gretel / Captain Eager and the Mark of Voth by Alex Fitch, and Lady Snowblood / Far North by Virginie Selavy. Alex also looks at the Christmas Trilogy by Tim Burton (Batman Returns / The Nightmare before Christmas / Edward Scissorhands), there's a comic strip review of Kamikaze Girls by Dan Lester and illustrations by Mark Stafford, Lee O'Connor and Tom Humberstone.
Available at all good retailers now and from www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/magazine.html
The December electronic issue of ESM is online until the end of this week and includes a review of Patti Smith: Dream of Life by Sarah Cronin with a comment by Ms. Smith herself (!),
John Berra's review of the Italian adaptation of Strangers on a Train - The designated Victim,
Oli Smith's review of The Mindscape of Alan Moore on DVD and a transcript of Virginie Selavy's interview with Asif Kapadia.
Above: the latest promotional video for Watchmen featuring more on the Minute Men's role in the movies story and includes brief interviews with Zack Snyder and Dave Gibbons who worked on the graphic novel with comic’s writer Alan Moore.
By Ian M. Cullen via SciFiPulse: It's common knowledge that Fox have successfully won their case against Warner regarding the distribution rights for the feature film of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen. However Warner Bros are not backing down and still plan to release the movie on its scheduled 6 March release date.
In an open letter on the HitFix.com Web site, Watchmen producer Lloyd Levin revealed his thoughts on the whole legal situation regarding the case between Fox and Warner, and without addressing the legal issues directly. He proposed a possible compromise. Below are excerpts from his letter.
"From my point of view, the flashpoint of this dispute came in late spring of 2005. Both Fox and Warner Brothers were offered the chance to make Watchmen. They were submitted the same package, at the same time. It included a cover letter describing the project and its history, budget information, a screenplay, the graphic novel, and it made mention that a top director was involved.
"And it's at this point, where the response from both parties could not have been more radically different.
"The response we got from Fox was a flat 'pass.' That's it. An internal Fox e-mail documents that executives there felt the script was one of the most unintelligible pieces of s--t they had read in years. Conversely, Warner Brothers called us after having read the script and said they were interested in the movie-yes, they were unsure of the screenplay, and had many questions, but wanted to set a meeting to discuss the project, which they promptly did. Did anyone at Fox ask to meet on the movie? No. Did anyone at Fox express any interest in the movie? No. Express even the slightest interest in the movie? Or the graphic novel? No. ...
"It seems beyond cynical for the studio to claim ownership at this point. ...
"For the sake of the artists involved, for the hundreds of people, executives and filmmakers, actors and crew, who invested their time, their money, and dedicated a good portion of their lives in order to bring this extraordinary project to life, the question of what is right is clear and unambiguous -- Fox should stand down with its claim."
We look forward to developments...
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Ex Astris is a multi-strand CGI-created strip written by John Freeman and drawn by Mike Nicoll. The strip also appears in print in Spaceship Away and featured in Bulletproof Comics #2.
The stories in print are currently set in different time periods to that of the online story.
Clickwheel is a young, UK-based company with big ambitions featuring the online version of 2000AD and Active Images superb Elephantmen comic, written by former Marvel UK editor in chief Richard Starkings (the print edition of Elephantmen #15 is out in specialist stores next week).
All the strips on the service are offered in downlaodable iComics, which can be viewed on iPod and iPhones, and .cbz, adapted zip files whcih can be viewed in a .cbz reader such as Comic Book Lover.
Other strips include Sword of Dracula by Jason Henderson, featuring the art of Greg Scott, William Belk, Terry Palloy and Tony Harris and many others, encompassing a wide range of styles and genres.
• To view Ex Astris on Clickwheel click here: www.clickwheel.net/features/256
• A more traditional newspaper-styled web version features on Bulletproof Comics
• Ex Astris Official web site
"I can't think of a single character I'd rather write regularly in comics than Dredd, so hopefully these few tales are the start of a long and happy relationship. Which means I need to speed up a tad. That's my resolution for 2009, anyway."
• Also worth checking out is Rebellion's The VCs, 2000AD’s tale of space warfare, in which the 'Vacuum Cleaners' take on the power of the alien Geek empire. Created by Gerry Findley-Day (who also created Rogue Trooper) with art from Mike McMahon, Cam Kennedy, Gary Leach, it's a story in the spirit of Joe Haldeman's Forever War and Pat Mils Charley's War, about the futility of war told from the perspective of new recruit Steve Smith as his steep learning curve throws him into the midst of a vicious intergalactic conflict.Personally, I wsn't a big fan of the strip when it was first published but it has a loyal following nonetheless. The VCs is available from amazon.co.uk and bookshops.
• ICV2 reports Boom! Studios is to offer retailers free comics and other incentives to support its new Hexed series, launching this week, in conjunction with making the book available free online on MySpace. Boom!, who have cultivated several British creators of late, have had considerable success with some of their titles, including Farscape - the first issue sold out in just five days.
• (via Lee Robson): Kieron Gillen of Phonogram fame, amongst others, has posted a small little article on 'breaking into comics' over at his blog, which is definitely worth a butchers for any aspiring creators. And, talking of good posts, Michael Alan Nelson has also posted this excellent piece, "Put Your Armor On", on dealing with criticism in the Internet Age over on Kung Fu Monkey. "I think the trick to dealing with criticism (aside from growing a very thick, impenetrable skin) is to learn which criticisms to take to heart, which to accept with a grain of salt, and which to just simply ignore," he advises. "At first, my default rubric for accepting or dismissing criticism was usually binary. If the criticism praised me and my work, I accepted it. If it didn't, I dismissed it. That approach made sleeping at night a bit easier, but it didn't help me use those criticisms to better my writing." Read the post
• Congratulations to Tony Lee, who has won the award for 'Best Writer' by Regie Rigby in his incredibly coveted 'Jester Awards' at his Fool Britannia column on Comics Buletin, an award that in the past has been given to luminaries that include Garth Ennis, Bill Willingham and Warren Ellis.
• Despite the gloom and doom circulating in the media, Starship Troopers writer Cy Dethan reports that 2009 is shaping up pretty well for him so far. "Cancertown's into 'coming soon' territory now, and there may even be a very exciting extra announcement to make about it before release," he reveals on his blog. "Harlan Falk and Slaughterman's Creed are also developing nicely, and I see that Insomnia have just announced both Cancertown Volume 2 and another graphic novel of mine on their blog, so expect an announcement about The Ragged Man fairly soon.
"As always, there are a few other projects at earlier stages of development, but I'll get to them when there's anything concrete to tell."
After what seems like months of no news on the project since it was first announced back in May last year, reports are appearing online suggesting Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have reportedly signed up to play the Thompson Twins in the new Tintin movie from Steven Speileberg and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
While Tin Tin himself has yet to be cast after Thomas Sangster dropped out of the movie, which will use motion capture to create a comic book feel to its look, Ain't It Cool News reports the Hot Fuzz stars will team up with Andy Serkis, who plays Captain Haddock.The proposed trilogy of movies based on TinTin will be co-financed by Sony and Paramount after Universal opted out. The first film is scheduled for a 2010 release.
Firtst created in 1929 by Belgian artist Herge, Peter Jackson's special effects team Weta Digital will use 3-D animation to bring the junior reporter to life.
"Herge's characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we've seen to date with computer animated characters," Spielberg, a longtime TinTin fan, told Variety last year, which revealed WETA had created a 20 minute test to prove the project could work. "We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honour the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created."
The TinTin series is estimated to have sold 200 million copies and been translated into over 50 languages, and has a huge following in the UK.
Last year, Moulinsart, who maintain Herge's most famous 'brand', courted controversy and outrage by cracking down on fan TinTin sites (see news story).
• View TinTin books on amazon.co.uk
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
• UK Publisher: Jonathan Cape
• Released: 15 January 2009
For the residents of Yopougon, everyday life is good. It is the early 1970s, a golden time - work is plentiful, hospitals are clean and well equipped, and school is obligatory. The Ivory Coast is as an island of relative wealth and stability in West Africa. For the teenagers of the town, though, worries are plentiful, and life in Yop City is far from simple. Aya tells the story of its 19-year-old heroine, the clear-sighted and bookish Aya, and her carefree and fun-loving friends Adjoua and Bintou...
When the first volume of Aya debuted in 2007 it was to plenty of well-deserved critical acclaim and I named it as one of my favourite graphic novels of the year. It rightfully gained a Quill Award nomination, and praise for its accessibility and for the rare portrait of a warm and vibrant Africa it presented.
Aya of Yop City is the continuation of this beautifully-told story by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, with life in 1970s Yop City as dramatic as ever. The original cast of characters is back in full force, with a case of questionable paternity fanning the flames of activity in the community. The new mother, Adjoua, has her friends to help with the baby, perhaps employing Aya a bit too frequently, while a new romance leaves Bintou with little time for her friends, let alone their responsibilities.
The young women aren't the only residents of Yopougon involved in the excitement, however; Aya's father is caught in the midst of his own trysts and his employer's declining Solibra beer sales -- a storyline that brings this volume to a dramatic conclusion -- and Adjoua's brother finds his share of the city's nightlife.
From the miscreant antics of deceitful men such as Gregoire, persuading several women he is a rich man back from Paris while in reality he is as poor as them, to the innocence of Aya, unaware of her father's indiscretions, to cameo scenes as the girls deal with both wanted and unwanted male attention, Aya of Yop City maintains and indeed, surpasses the twists and turns of the original volume.
Oubrerie's artwork synchronizes perfectly to Abouet's funny and lighthearted writing, delivering a heart-warming, humour yet also angst-filled tale filled with genuine emotion and superb storytelling and even stronger characterisation than the first book in the series. It's great to see this second volume available in the UK -- I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the third, Aya and Friends, due for release in the US in June from Drawn & Quarterly, to find out what happens to Aya and her family.
• Buy Aya of Yop City from amazon.co.uk
I also recommend Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's Aya, the first volume of this story: a simply wonderful, beautifully illustrated tale of life in an African city with none of the Western stereotyping of the continent in sight. In Aya, lives are lived, hearts broken, romances kindled. There is no famine, no war, simply life as you'd expect on the streets of London or New York with all the complications that entails -- except the backdrop is the Ivory Coast, brought to vivid life by Clement Oubrerie's gorgeous art.
• Buy Aya from amazon.co.uk
Issue #12 of the popular Indie comic Sgt Mike Battle: The Greatest American Hero! “reprints” the titular hero’s adventures in the 1960s when he was an Agent of STARS AND STRIPES. The big difference this time is that the communist threat is so deadly that he has to team up with the suave spy Roger Knightly to save the world.
“Yes, Roger Knightly is a suave British Secret but he isn’t James Bond” explains writer/artist Graham Pearce. “Roger has drunk more martinis, killed more bad guys, blown up more underground bases and swept more women off their feet than James Bond. There aren’t many people that Sgt Mike Battle looks up to -- but Roger is one of them”.
Pearce explains that the latest issue isn’t just a Sgt Mike Battle/James Bond crossover. “There’s much more going on but I can’t say too much without ruining the end. I’ve only been playing up on the James Bond angle because the book came out the same time as Quantum of Solace”.
While it would appear that Pearce, a self-confessed walking James Bond encyclopaedia, is only spoofing Ian Fleming's Secret Agent, Pearce explains the main influence on the latest issue. “It’s all inspired by Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics! They are some of the most visually stunning books I have ever read and I still can’t believe they are over 40 years old. They are so unique and so iconic that I simply had to try and do my own version of them.
"Also, it makes sense because Mike Battle was originally a parody of the World War 2 version of Nick Fury so it was inevitable that I would also do some stories about him working for a 1960s covert intelligence agency with a ridiculous acronym”.
Whereas most of the previous issues of SMB:GAH have been self-contained, issue #12 is slightly different. “Yes, elements of the story do continue into #13 but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy #12 on its own," says Pearce. "It can be read a single story, albeit a story where the characters have another adventure in the next issue. I also make each issue so that you don’t need to have read the previous ones to understand what is going on. Every issue is the prefect jumping on point.
Pearce is known for playing around with and subverting comic clichés in SMB:GAH and issue #12 is no exception. “If anything I go a bit overboard. There are some many elements of James Bond and Nick Fury to play around with that is was a struggle to get them all in. The obvious ones are things like the Bond girls, gadgets, the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier, Life Model Decoys and lots of ridiculous acronyms. They're all in there -- and there are even a few other references to other comics that will amuse readers.
• SGT. MIKE BATTLE: THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO! #ISSUE 12, 36 PAGES, Colour cover, b/w interiors, £1.50, available now from www.sgtmikebattle.co.uk or email@example.com
"Bookings won't be open for a week or two yet, but it's still free of charge and will be at Barrow Library (upstairs) on February 18th (during half term hols)," she says.
"I moved the age limit up, because there were a few twenty year olds wanting to come last time!"
The last workshop covered the basics of character design, scripting, panelling and pencilling your own doujinshi (that’s Japanese for a self-publication).
To see if booking has started, call 01229 894370 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Visit the IndieManga web site
Since it debuted in September Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead has been getting some great reviews. Most recently SFX Magazine described it as "A darkly whimsical engaging read" which pretty much sums it up! (Read our review here)
"Ask your local comic shop (or shops, if you're fortunate enough to live somewhere where there's more than one!) to order some copies if they haven't already done so," urges publisher Steve Tanner.
• You can read the first five pages of Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead on TimeBomb Comics' ComicSpace gallery.
• Visit the official TimeBomb Comics web site
Wanted are mini-comics, underground comix, alternative comics, fanzines, APAs and mainstream comics. "Generally speaking, we're looking for material published in the 1980s or earlier," says founder Rick Bradford, "but there are always exceptions.
"We pay in cash or trade."
If you're a fan of fanzines or worked on them either now or in the past it's worth checking out the Foundation web site.
• Drop Poopsheet a line and let them know what you've got
Monday, 5 January 2009
• (via Andrew Moreton): Paul Rainey has started a new weekly strip on his site at: www.pbrainey.com. His There's no Time Like the Present series is highly recommended, as is his 2000AD blog progslog at: www.progslog.blogspot.com
• (via Warren Ellis' blog): David Langford notes via Ansible that Gordon van Gelder's The Magazine of Fantasy & SF is switching to bi-monthly publication. "Rising costs — especially postal costs — and the economy put us in a position where we either had to raise our rates severely or cut back somewhere," Gelder explains. "Given the state of the economy, I decided a cutback on frequency made the most sense.
"We’ll lose a little more than 10% of our content this year, but publishing on a bimonthly schedule should put us in a great position for the coming years."
• Over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland has just posted a round up of comics titles that were released on the run up to Christmas. A handful of titles that were announced have been delayed or publication has been pushed back and these can be found on his Upcoming Releases listing.
• Gez Kelly, organiser of the Golden Orbit Sci Fi and Comic Fairs around the UK has been in touch to give us the latest dates (see our events page for these) and to say he's offering some free exhibiton space to creators / small press publishers at several of the of the venues in February and March. For further info please contact Gez via the Golden Orbit web site.
The next Fair is on Saturday 17 January at the Nautical Club, Bishopsgate Street, off Broad Street and a short walk from Smallbrook Queensway in Birmingham, followed on Saturday 24 January with an event at Sachas Hotel, Tibb Street, Piccadilly, Manchester. Both events start at 12 noon.
• Dave taylor has joined a taleneted line up of comics artists contributing to the online comic HUZZAH!, which itself follows hot on the heels of Who Killed Round Robin. A simple parlour game where creators take it in turns to tell a story, in HUZZAH's case its theme is Space Opera.
"Not all available artist slots have been filled as yet but so far we have a great line-up," says Dave. "Ian Culbard, Colin Fawcett, Faz Choudhury, D'Israeli, Rob Davis, Stetchybeast and little old me." See the epic evolve here: huzzah2009.blogspot.com
• Neill Cameron's strip Mo-Bot High recently won the Golden Oinky award for Best Strip in The DFC, as voted for by the readers of that august periodical. "I even got to appear in the comic, collecting my award in person, as illustrated by the very talented Zak Simmonds-Hurn," he reveals on his blog. "I kept my 'acceptance speech' on the brief-and-flippant side as, y'know, I thought that would be funnier, but I just wanted to say here how genuinely thrilled and just absolutely bowled over I was by the whole thing."
• Thomas Cochrance has published a new Chapter of his graphic novel The Fat Man via
myebook.com. To catch up with the story so far - (78 pages) go to www.myebook.com/ebook_viewer.php?ebookId=2170
• And finally, an extended interview with new Doctor Who Matt Smith from Doctor Who Confidential has been made available online via YouTube and the BBC website. Meanwhile, Forbidden Planet International notes that just a couple of short hours since the announcement PJ Holden (he of Judge Dredd, the ‘86ers, DeadSignal and more) already had the first Matt Smith illo up online...
The Observer got in touch with me on Saturday night to ask me what I thought of the casting (the reporter is an old friend), but my comments didn't make it to the paper, it seems. Hardly surprising since just as the media were digesting the casting news, Israel went into Gaza tanks ablazing.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
Telltale Games have just released the first in-game screenshots from their upcoming new series, Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, which is based on the award-winning franchise.
This new series of interactive Wallace & Gromit stories will be launching in 2009, with players assuming the roles of both the quirky inventor and his faithful canine companion as the duo embarks on a series of ambitious business ventures, then scramble to pick up the scattered pieces when plans go awry.
We’ll have a lot more details later in the year – including the release timeframe and platform announcements – but for now, here's a couple of in-game screenshots...
• For more imagery, information and a game trailer visit: www.telltalegames.com/wallaceandgromit
The cover was provided by John Tomlinson and Richard Starkings who then worked for Marvel UK, and their support for SCAN eventually helped me join the company.
SCAN, which was put together by me and Matthew Badham over a couple of years had a huge range of contributors including Mike Collins, Mark Farmer, Bryan Talbot, Andy Dodd, Dave Jones (of Viz fame). We satirised British comics of the time ruthlessly, much to the delight of many industry professionals, including Alan Moore who was one of our (few) subscribers.
Russell's collection features 180 scans of fanzines and small press comics from the 1980s (and a few from the 1970s that he collected at that time) including Lew Stringer's Brickman, Supercook, Paris Man of Plaster, Ratman, The Owl's Effort, Fantasy Advertiser, BEM (including BEM #1) Paul Gravett and Pete Stanbury's Fast Fiction and many more.
You don't have to be a member of Facebook to view these albums, which offer a fascinating snapshot of a very inventive time for the British small press.
• Album One
Includes covers of Paris Man of Plaster, Supercook, Ratman, Vigilante Vulture, Brickman, The Owl's Effort and more
• Album Two
Includes covers of Fast Fiction, Myra, Warren Ellis early work Doctor Death, The Alternative Headmaster's Bulletin and more
• Album Three
Includes covers of BEM, Graphic Sense, Fantasy Trader and more - some from the 1970s
• Album Four
Includes covers of Infinity, Fantasy Advertiser, Fusion, Hellfire and more
From Techno-trousers, the Telly-scope and the Shopper 13, Wallace is famous for his wacky contraptions and now he and Gromit will guide visitors through the world of well-known inventions to discover how simple ideas can transform into life-changing devices.
Intended as a fun family experience, it's an opportunity to see some of the greatest objects ever invented, from the printing press to the telephone, plus some of the first ever patented inventions from the Science Museum's collection. The exhibition has been put together by the Science Museum in collaboration with Aardman, supported by the UK-Intellectual Property Office and produced by SGA.
What device in your house could you not live without? Let Wallace's expertise inspire you in the 'create your own' workshop and develop your own idea for the next big thing.
• You can book your tickets online from 7 January 2009, cost of tickets yet to be announced. More info on the Science Musuem web site.
Art and script by Nick Miller. We haven't been doing many Greatcoats lately, maybe there will be more opportunities in 2009...
• More Really Heavy Greatcoats on the main downthetubes website
• Check out Nick Miller's fab work over on his blog: www.teamsputnik.co.uk/blog