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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, 2 February 2013

In Review: Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale


WARNING: While I have tried to be circumspect in this review, mild spoilers do feature!

Written by Benjamin Read, illustrated by Chris Wildgoose, coloured by André May, and lettered by Jim Campbell

Publisher: Improper Books

Out: Limited, indie release on 27th February, and will be available from Page 45, Travelling Man, Gosh! and Orbital Comics stores in the UK.

The Book: Porcelain A Gothic Fairy Tale is set within a world that’s a darkly magical echo of our own. It follows the story of a street urchin, known as Child, who leaves the cold streets of a snowy city behind when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s secret garden in a bid to steal whatever she can.
The Porcelain Maker discovers Child trespassing but, amused by her audacity, he offers her the chance to stay. He’s a lonely man, kept company only by his alchemically-powered automata, and he and Child form an unlikely friendship.
Shut off from the world beyond the wall, Child wants or needs for nothing as the Porcelain Maker heaps affection and luxury upon her, indulging her like daughter. In return, she can do as she pleases, except for one command: one rule that must never be broken, she must not look behind the workshop door...

The Review: To say I've been wanting to read this graphic novel for months is an understatement. Ever since I first saw and blogged about this project, I've been eager to see the completed tale, and I'm pleased - no, delighted - the final production lives up to expectation.

While it's the truly stunning art of Chris Wildgoose that first draws you to the tale - very loosely based on Beauty and the Beast - some of the best comic art I've seen of late has to be matched by a strong story and, for me, Benjamin Read delivers. From the moment the gruff but ultimately kindly Porcelain Maker - a man troubled by numerous demons - rescues Child from his artificial guard dogs, Gog and Magog, through to a grim finale, Porcelain should capture even the hardest of hearts with its exquisite characterisation and carefully developed plot, laid out with the precision of a Victorian watchmaker but told with enormous emotion.
As Child is drawn into the Porcelain Maker's world, constantly pushing the boundaries and rules he tries to impose on the girl he hopes may make up for the loss of his daughter, we're treated to some incredible art throughout.
For example, the Maker spares no effort in making Child feel welcome to his sheltered world, creating a 'Secret Garden' for her to enjoy. He builds porcelain pets as playmates to keep her occupied. But despite so many conjured wonders, his own busy schedule and the secrets he tries to keep from Child ultimately bring conflict, never more so than after he creates more human-looking companions for her to enjoy, in an effort to prevent her from leaving his estate and losing her newly-found company.

The scenes featuring these scary living mannequins are truly haunting, and lead to Child breaking the Maker's rules in such a way as to end in disaster.

Overall, this is a wonderful, beautifully told tale in both story and art, the story itself accompanied by a gallery of character portraits (which include art by Andy Bloor and PJ Holden), plus copious 'Making Of' background.

With this release, Improper Books don't just deliver a beautiful, tragic, gothic fairy tale: they set high standards in terms of production and content, on a par with the best of French bande dessinees and the work of ground-breaking British artists such as Bryan Talbot. The quality of this title cannot, in my opinion, be understated, on so many levels.
Needless to say, I would urge you to track down a copy on release and I sincerely hope you enjoy the story as much as I have.

• A free digital promo of the first 12 pages of Porcelain is now available to view and download via: http://www.improperbooks.com/projects/porcelain
Improper Books is a comic and graphic novel imprint focusing on creator owned stories that have a touch of the fairy tale, the Gothic or the macabre.
Benjamin Read writes comics and makes films including the True Grit and Super 8 comic adaptations, and also wrote and produced the films Warhouse and 500 Miles North.
Chris Wildgoose is an illustrator, and conceptual and storyboard artist. Northern born, but London based, Chris made his comic debut with the official True Grit and Super 8 comics. 
Porcelain © Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose. Images courtesy Improper Books

Friday, 1 February 2013

British creators support Peter David charity art auction

British creators are supporting an auction to help American comics writer and novelist Peter David get back on his feet after he suffered a stroke late last year.

The auction, which will take place later this month, has been organised by US comics artist JK Woodward and will offer art featuring all of Peter David's characters; those that he created or those that belong to Marvel and DC that he brought to life in that special Peter David way.

"Originally, I wanted to do one big jam piece of all the characters drawn by different artists so I called on some friends to see if they'd be interested," he explains in a blog post. "Then it occurred to me that one big jam piece (as great as it would be) would not bring in as much money as separate pieces and would be a logistical nightmare as well as costing a fortune in postage stamps.

"So I decided separate pieces of art from each artist, but I would still have every artist contribute a unique character, otherwise we'd have 20 Maddrox's (though that might be somewhat appropriate when you think about it).

"I approached IDW edtor, Chris Ryall and Marvel X-book editor, Nick Lowe to see if I could make use of their rolodex. They were kind enough to send out emails and as a result I received responses from most of the contributing artists."

Among the contributions is the Incredible Hulk cover, above, drawn by Madefire's Liam Sharp and inked by Robin Riggs. "It's the second cover from our run with Peter on the Hulk in the mid nineties," says Robin, "and has always been one of my favourite pieces. I hope it makes a decent amount for Peter."

Other ways to support raising funds for Peter, suggested by his wife, Kathleen, include:

• Buying his e-books from Crazy 8 Press (via ComicMix) or from Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites. These are books that he gets the money from directly and the most per book. The quickest and most money is buying the EPub versions from ComicMix, by the way. "The more we sell of these books, the easier it will be for us to pay the [medical] bills as they start to pour in," says Kathleen.

• Buying his other books does help – especially the Marvel graphic novels he has written. The Crazy 8 books are the most immediate help but all his writings do help the family and the family’s ability to pay bills. If you buy via Amazon, please use this link, and if you buy via Barnes & Noble, please use this link, which will bring in even more funds.

• Buy X-Factor. Put it on your pull list at your local comic book store. Encourage others to do the same. Peter is still writing it and will continue to write it. Issue 250 [which shipped in mid January to comic shops] is a great jumping on point for both X-Factor and something Peter has been working on in the Marvel Universe since his Hulk days."

•  There's also a donate button at this blog post

• The actual auction is in mid-February and will be announced on JK Woodward's blog and elsewhere soon.

Radio interviews featuring Denise Mina and John Higgins

Starting a month about the links between comics and literature, radio show and podcast Panel Borders presents Swedish Thrillers and dark Sci-Fi Fantasy this coming weekend.

Alex Fitch looks at an example of a series of books that are being adapted for comics and comics that are being continued as novels. Scots novelist Denise Mina discusses her adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy as a series of graphic novels for DC Comics, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Plus, writer / artist John Higgins explains the transition of his SF / horror comic series Razorjack into a series of books written by himself and other authors.

• Panel Borders: Swedish Thrillers and dark Sci-Fi Fantasy airs at 6.00pm, Sunday 3rd February 2013, repeated 4.30pm, Tuesday 5th February 2013, Resonance 104.4 FM (London) / streamed at www.resonancefm.com / podcast after broadcast at www.panelborders.wordpress.com

In Review: Nemo - Heart of Ice

By Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
Publishers: Knockabout/Top Shelf
Out: February 2013

The Book: It's 1925, 15 long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her dying science-pirate father, only to accept her destiny as the new Nemo, captain of the legendary Nautilus. Now, tired of her unending spree of plunder and destruction, Janni launches a grand expedition to surpass her father's greatest failure: the exploration of Antarctica.

Hot on her frozen trail are a trio of genius inventors, hired by an influential publishing tycoon to retrieve the plundered valuables of an African queen.

It's a deadly race to the bottom of the world -- an uncharted land of wonder and horror where time is broken and the mountains bring madness..

The Review: This 56-page hardcover graphic novel, set in the richly-textured world of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, offers a delicious side story of Nemo's daughter, Janni, as she seeks to emulate her father's last doomed mission and explore the dangers of the deepest Antarctic - a land steeped in dangerous myth and magic.

Homaging HP Lovecraft, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe (to name but few), Moore and O'Neill weave a disturbing and unsettling tale of fate-filled exploration, crammed with startling and horrific yet hypnotic imagery - and I'm not just talking about a human-sized penguin in a fur coat.

Ever pushing boundaries, the tale is crammed with literary and visual detail from start to finish, opening with the finale of a daring raid to steal the valuables of a sadistic, deposed Queen in New York and not drawing breath until the final page.

Included in the adventure is is a head-scratching three-page sequence where time runs together and Janna's expedition run afoul of Cthullu creations; and more references to the inspiring work of several masters of science fiction and horror than you can shake a stick at.

Overall, it's a dark, gloomy and unsettling story, peppered with horror and the deaths of some of Janna's most loyal Nautilus crew members - but, without giving too much away,  the tale does close on a happier note for some of the cast. O'Neill's art is as ever, glorious and unique, successfully startling more than once with a range of stunning panels as Nemo's daughter descends ever deeper into the world first conjured by Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness story..

Moore and O'Neill are by no means the first to tread into Cthullu mythos, but between them they conjure imagery and story that successfully emulates the original. As ever with such work, it should hopefully prompt some readers to seek that out (perhaps even picking up a copy of INJ Culbard's stunning graphic novel adaptation, published by SelfMadeHero).

This project is, possibly, just a taster of more Lovecraft-inspired work to come from Alan. Last year, during the first N.I.C.E. convention, he announced his new 10-part comics project, Providence, a sequel to his four issue mini series Neonomicon, which will be published by Avatar Press. Set in 1919, featuring Lovecraft himself as a character, it will explore the inspiration behind the horrific mythology he created.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Improper Books' Porcelain set for limited release

Improper Books' Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale is having a limited, indie release on 27th February, and will be available from Page 45, Travelling Man, Gosh! and Orbital Comics stores in the UK.

A gorgeous-looking 96-page graphic novel, written by Benjamin Read, illustrated by Chris Wildgoose, coloured by André May, and lettered by Jim Campbell, Porcelain A Gothic Fairy Tale is set within a world that’s a darkly magical echo of our own. It follows the story of a street urchin, known as Child, who leaves the cold streets of a snowy city behind when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s secret garden in a bid to steal whatever she can.

The Porcelain Maker discovers Child trespassing but, amused by her audacity, he offers her the chance to stay. He’s a lonely man, kept company only by his alchemically-powered automata, and he and Child form an unlikely friendship.

Shut off from the world beyond the wall, Child wants or needs for nothing as the Porcelain Maker heaps affection and luxury upon her, indulging her like daughter. In return, she can do as she pleases, except for one command, one rule that must never be broken, she must not look behind the workshop door.

• A free digital promo of the first 12 pages of Porcelain is now available to view and download via: http://www.improperbooks.com/projects/porcelain/ - here's a few of the amazing pages...


Improper Books is a comic and graphic novel imprint focusing on creator owned stories that have atouch of the fairy tale, the Gothic or the macabre.

Benjamin Read writes comics and makes films including the True Grit and Super 8 comic adaptations, and also wrote and produced the films Warhouse and 500 Miles North.

Chris Wildgoose is an illustrator, and conceptual and storyboard artist. Northern born, but London based, Chris made his comic debut with the official True Grit and Super 8 comics.
Porcelain © Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose. Images courtesy Improper Books

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Convict Commandos in a Frenzy of Fear


Here's the rundown for the latest issues of war comic Commando from DC Thomson - the usual great mix of the new, including a new "Convict Commandos" story - and the carefully selected and re-presented, with plenty of air action this month to enthuse fans.

Commando No 4571: Frenzy Of Fear
Story: Alan Hebden Art: Benet Cover: Benet

With the exception of Private "Jelly" Jakes - the unit's resident coward - the Convict Commandos were three of the most fearless fighters in the British Forces. So why were they running in terror from a unit of Germans leaving their quaking comrade behind in their haste?

Something was badly awry. Something had happened to throw the Convict Commandos into a ... Frenzy Of Fear!


Commando No 4572: Barracuda Attack!
Story: Bill Styles Art: Carlos Pino Cover: Carlos Pino

At flying training school, they said Sub-Lieutenant Martin Archer wasn't good enough to be a fighter pilot. Too steady, they said, not quick enough to react. What they didn't say was that he lacked nerve. And that was just as well -- because they gave him a Fairey Barracuda dive-bomber to fly into the teeth of flak and fighters.

That took guts of a different kind altogether.

This sounds like a good choice of story.  Despite it being built in greater numbers than any other British-designed Fleet Air Arm type with 2,572 of all marks coming off the production lines, the Fairey Barracuda was really unloved, due its appalling accident record in its early years of service. A replacement for the elderly Swordfish, key.Aero notes the Barracuda was the first all-metal torpedo bomber and none survive today, except for remnants held by the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

Commando No 4573 - Torpedoes Away!
Originally Commando No 55 (February 1963)
Story: Maitland Art: Ford Cover: Millar

They called it the riskiest job in the RAF...

To throw a big Beaufort torpedo bomber around the sky like a fighter-plane; to battle through flak and air attack right up to target, to roar in on your torpedo-run a bare 50 feet above the waves and lay your single “tinfish” right in the belly of a German warship - and then to fight your way back out of the flame and fury you've stirred up and bring your bomber and crew safe home. This was the job of a Beaufort pilot - and it took a special breed of hero to do it.

Young Bill Overby was a Beaufort pilot, one of the best. He couldn't help becoming an ace. You see, it looked as if Bill didn't care about staying alive…

"Just to prove that Ken Barr didn't do every Commando cover in the early years, this issue features one from Graeme Millar," notes editor Calum Laird, “one of the many talented artists who worked on the staff at DC Thomson's Dundee headquarters at that time.

"His efforts are ably backed up by the team of Ford and Maitland, both of whom seem to have had a penchant for air stories. They must have done as this one works very well indeed with some crackerjack fighting and flying scenes.

"Enjoy!"


Commando No 4574 - Dragon-Ship
Originally Commando No 2178 (April 1988)
Story: Bill Fear Art: Keith Shone Cover: Jeff Bevan

A Viking longship, its fierce dragon head staring proudly out from the prow, rode the choppy seas as it pulled away from the Norwegian coast. But this was nineteen-forty, and the ship was manned not by Vikings but by the crew of an RAF flying-boat, a couple of British army officers and a Norwegian.

Just what was going on?

"Following last fortnight's Silver Collection wintry wonder 'Arctic Victory' (No 4570), here's another classic Commando with a decidedly chilly Scandinavian setting,” says Deputy Editor Scott Montgomery. “Not only that but we also have the astonishing premise of a small group of Allied heroes battling the Germans from the prow of a fearsome Viking longship!

"Kudos to all the creators involved in this brilliant adventure yarn from a quarter of a century ago - but with a special mention in particular for staff artist Jeff Bevan and his stunning, evocative cover."

COMMANDO SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

downthetubes ispleased to offer an exclusive discount on a subscription to DC Thomson's Commando comic, entitling readers to save 50% by ordering using our special discount code!

Follow this link to DC Thomson's subscription page.

When prompted, enter this unique code COMDT - then make your payment and your subscription will be up and running. The price quoted offers a 50% discount for three months at £12.50. That’s £68.50 off the shop price.

Please note, although the offer is not restricted to UK delivery (you need a UK bank account), the price increases for overseas delivery although the offer of 50% discount for three months is the same.

*Saving based on discounted Direct Debit price compared with shop price. First quarterly payment discounted by 50% at £12.50 and £25 per quarter thereafter. UK bank accounts only. One year discounted subscription rate of £99.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Great Beast Comics launches titles by Marc Ellerby, Adam Cadwell


Great Beast Comics has announced the release of their first two graphic novels, Ellerbisms by Marc Ellerby and The Everyday by Adam Cadwell.

Ellerbisms is the story of a relationship told in pictures through the autobiographical comics of Marc Ellerby.

Ellerbisms catches a glimpse into the life of a young couple, their highs and lows, their sighs and LOLs. Collecting more than 200 original strips from the cult web-comic plus an additional 30 pages of brand new material exclusive to this handsome softcover edition.

Ellerbisms - first conceived back in 2007 - has had write ups by Wired Magazine and The Guardian as well as receiving praise from notable comic industry professionals such as Warren Ellis and Kieron Gillen.

This new collection is a gem - the strips encompassing so many things about life and relationships it's impossible to detail them all. Head over to the Great Beast web site and check out some of the samples.

Since graduating with a First Class Honours in Illustration from the Kent Institute of Art and Design, Marc has illustrated comics and work for a number of clients as well as actively pursuing self initiated projects. His comic work has been recognised by bodies such as the Young Adult Library Services of America and the Harvey Awards and Eagle Awards.

In addition to Ellerbisms, his comics work includes Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter (also published by Great Beast).


Adam Cadwell's The Everyday cherishes the fleeting moments of our day to day to create an honest and hilarious portrait of modern life and the many little miracles and mysteries within. With crisp black and white artwork, keen observations and humble humour, Cadwell captures the minutiae of life we can so easily miss, a comic strip at a time, over 4 years of his life.

This hardback book collects all 200 comic strips from the acclaimed web-comic for the first time, at the size they were drawn and includes an introduction by the artist.

Based in Manchester, cartoonist, illustrator and storyboard artist Adam Cadwell also publishes his slacker vampire series Blood Blokes (an Eagle Award nominee 2012) through Great Beast. In June 2012 he launched the British Comic Awards, a national award to recognise important works and talent in the thriving UK comics culture.

Cadwell himself was one of the 54 British artists chosen for the Eisner nominated, graphic novel anthology Nelson, published by Blank Slate.

Cadwell’s comic work has been published by Jonathan Cape, Image Comics, Blank Slate Books, We Are Words + Pictures and Solipsistic Pop. His illustration work has also appeared in magazines such as MOJO and Shortlist.

Great Beast - takes its name from the very first Monster In My Pocket released in 1990 because the team thought it sounded cool  - was founded in April 2012 by UK based cartoonists Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby to provide fun and creative stories to as wide an audience as possible. All of their titles are creator owned and self published to a professional standard; these are comics brimming with passion and imagination.

Both books, as with all Great Beast releases, are available digitally too and the web site not only offers the opportunity to buy some great books but tie-in merchandise.


• Find Great Beast online, on Twitter, on Facebook and on Tumblr

Immediate Media to Launch Pre-Teen Boys Title, Mega

Immediate Media Co is to launch Mega magazine next Wednesday (6th February 2013), a new humorous and fun title aimed at 7 to 11 year-old boys which, from the look of it, emulates the format of titles such as Egmont's TOXIC and Titan Magazine's Totally... format.

The four-weekly title - priced at £2.99 - will focus on a different popular theme or brand each month, enabling it to tie in with current trends that appeal to this young audience.

Mega magazine will be packed with funny celebrities, cartoon characters, TV shows, facts, jokes, posters and competitions. In issue one, TV stars Dick & Dom reveal their  secrets, there's news from Cartoon Network's hit programmes Adventure Time and Regular Show, favourite boys brands Gumball, Almost Naked Animals and LEGO – plus the title's own "Mega Gang" kick-off their prank-fuelled comic adventures.

As with all titles in this sector Mega will feature a cover mounted gift - these aiming to reinforce the brand's fun value. The launch issue comes with a free joke kit containing a whoopee cushion, slimy snot splat, a bendy pencil and a toilet with 'fart putty'.

The title is being produced by Immediate Media Co's award-winning youth and children's editorial team, with art from Jamie Smart and others.

"We've had great fun producing this exciting new title," says Martin Stahel, publisher of Immediate Media Co's Pre-teen titles. "Each issue will give children the opportunity to explore a new or popular theme or brand, to keep the title fresh and current. We're looking forward to working with new licensees and fantastic brands to develop great content for this young audience."

Kevin Pettman, editor of Mega magazine, adds: "Mega contains everything young boys love and like to talk about in the playground. Capturing their enthusiasm for the latest trends and TV characters, the title will be full of our readers' heroes and the jokes and facts they can share with their friends."

"We’re going for a mix of licensed and unlicensed material, anything we think boys of that age would like," deputy editor Ned Hartley tells us. "It will be quite fluid, but Jamie Smart’s fab comic (and characters he created) will be a very important part of Mega."

Mega magazine will be priced at £2.99 and will be available at all major retailers and independents around the UK from Wednesday 6th February.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Manchester Art Gallery to host Zine Fair and publication launch

(With thanks to Matt Badham): Manchester Art Gallery is to host a Zine Fair and the launch of a new publication, Dreams Without Frontiers, on Thursday 31st January.

Running fom 5 - 8.45pm, this is the first time the Gallery has hosted a zine fair, which will feature stalls around the ground floor selling self-published magazines and fanzines, small press books, comics, hand-made prints, poetry, and limited run vinyl records.

In an extra busy evening at the Gallery, Dave Haslam will help launch new publication as an accompaniment and response to themes arising from the Gallery's current exhibition Dreams Without Frontiers in the Manchester Gallery.

There will be speeches and readings at 6.45pm. Just turn up and enjoy.

• More info: www.manchestergalleries.org/whats-on/thursday-lates/ (Scroll page down for info)

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