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!
Monday, 31 December 2007
Grant is internationally acclaimed for stories featuring heroes like Batman, Robocop and Terminator (based on the blockbuster Arnold Schwartzenegger movies). He is also the co-author of The Bogie Man, Scotland’s best-selling independent comic, and the recent comic incarnation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped.
The Edinburgh Lectures were launched in 1992 as part of a programme of events celebrating the UK’s Presidency of the European Union which culminated in the European Summit held in Edinburgh in December that year. The Edinburgh Lectures were such a success they have continued every year since.
Each series addresses a range of major public issues in a national and international context. Over 179 high-calibre speakers from home and abroad, including Stephen Hawking, HRH The Princess Royal, Mikail Gorbachev, Jackie Stewart and John Simpson, have provided insightful and stimulating contributions
The Lectures are led by the City of Edinburgh Council and presented in partnership with The University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, Napier University, The Open University in Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Executive and The Royal Society of Edinburgh.
The lectures take place throughout the autumn and winter and are open to the public.
• To book tickets for the lecture, go here.
• More comics events on the downthetubes events page
Friday, 28 December 2007
Berg said that the film would have been his next project, but the US writers' strike is preventing the film from moving forward through development.
According to Berg, the David Lynch version "left the door wide open for a remake."
A gob smacking science fiction epic, Frank Herbert's Hugo and nebula award-winning Dune, first published in 1965, is set on the desert planet Arrakis. The story of the boy Paul Atreides, Dune sees him become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib and avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family, and bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
• Official Dune novels web site
Lost Girls, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's controversial take on the adult lives of Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Wendy (from Peter Pan) and Dorothy (from Wizard of Oz) will finally be released in the United Kingdom and European Union on 1 January.
Publishers Top Shelf say that potential readers should get their copies fast, "as the limited supply will most likely disappear within a few weeks".
Publication on this side of the pond was delayed after officials for Great Ormond Street Hospital – which was given the copyright to Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie in 1929 – asserted that Moore would need their permission to publish the book in the UK (and by implication, elsewhere in the EU). Moore indicated that he would not be seeking their licence, claiming that he hadn't expected his work to be "banned" and that the hospital only holds the rights to performances of the original work, not to the individual characters. In October 2006, Newsarama reported that after "amicable discussions", Top Shelf had signed an agreement with the Hospital that, while not conceding copyright infringement, they would not publish Lost Girls in the UK until after the copyright lapsed at the end of 2007.
(Great Ormond Street Hospital's copyright on Peter Pan originally ended in 1987, but was reestablished through 2007 due to the EU directive. In the US, the Hospital claims copyright on Peter Pan through 2023, based on the copyright of the play of the book, published in 1928. Additionally, the UK government gave the Hospital a perpetual copyright, allowing it to receive a royalty for any publication or performance of the work (or works based on the play), although the ruling does not allow Hospital to refuse permission or exercise creative control. The US copyright has been contested for years, by Disney and others. For more on the copyright of Peter Pan, see this Wikipedia article).
"For more than a century, Alice, Wendy and Dorothy have been our guides through the "Wonderland", "Neverland" and "Land of Oz" of our childhoods," reads the promotional copy on amazon.co.uk for Lost Girls. "Now like us, these three lost girls have grown up and are ready to guide us again, this time through the realms of our sexual awakening and fulfillment. Through their familiar fairytales they share with us their most intimate revelations of desire in its many forms, revelations that shine out radiantly through the dark clouds of war gathering around a luxury Austrian hotel... This is erotic fiction at its finest."
Reaction to the book has been mixed: Village Voice reviewed the book as "a beautiful dirty book 16 years in the making" while Neil Gaiman describes the story as "a bitter-sweet, beautiful, problematic, exhaustive, occasionally exhausting work". Variety's Bags and Boards praises the work but warns that "Bearing no shortage of material to potentially shock or offend the conservative or faint-hearted, Lost Girls is undoubtedly a dicey (and pricey) proposition – even for Moore’s mainstream fan base."
• Lost Girls Cover and Preview Pages Here:
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Created for Bryan's critically-acclaimed and top selling book Alice in Sunderland, Comicraft advises the Bryan Talbot font "will take you on a journey into delirium, through the looking glass of British underground comix into the complex world of experimental narrative techniques and bestow upon you semi-legendary cult status and prestigious awards from no less than the New York Times.*"
The new font is the latest in a long line of fonts specially created in the style of individual letterers or for special projects, joining the likes of the Dave Gibbons and Starkings own distinctive Hedge Backwards fonts in the Comicraft's ever-expanding catalogue.
* Comicraft also advises results may differ if you are not actually Bryan Talbot.
The Poseidon Adventure-inspired episode (Doctor Who has a long history of successful homage), scored 13.8 million viewers and a 55% share of the TV audience and averaged 12.2 million viewers across its 70 minutes to rank as the second most-watched programme of Christmas Day, with the BBC's EastEnders winning the top spot with 14 million viewers.
The figures are Dotor Who's highest since the screening of City of Death in 1979. The previous best for the new Doctor Who series was 10.8 million for its first episode, Rose, back in 2005.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
The music is of course, not Bob Dylan's classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues" to which this strip pays humble tribute.
• Read the web version
• Read the ROK Comics version (Free to View)
Monday, 24 December 2007
Sunday, 23 December 2007
Fans of sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf can already relive the series by watching exclusively created ‘mobisodes’ of the show on their mobile phone thanks to a service from international mobile entertainment company Pitch that launched back in October.
Now the show, rated "Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Show of all time" by the Radio Times back in October, is returning for a new animated Christmas special - but only for users of the Red Dwarf mobile service.
The subscription service, which costs £3 a week, enables subscribers to receive a brand new Red Dwarf animated ‘mobisode’ and access a new social network allowing them to utilise all the functionality of social networking whilst on the move. Fans can chat, upload and rate their pictures and videos.
Subscribers can also choose six enhanced mobile features for their phone each week as part of the Red Dwarf service, including specially created ringtones, wallpapers, screensavers and videos.
Animated episodes made up from classic moments in the show have been released on a weekly basis since October.
“Pitch Entertainment has created amazing, ground breaking technology that gives our fans the chance to access and enjoy Red Dwarf whilst on the move," explained Charles Armitage at Red Dwarf. The weekly animated ‘mobisodes’, the social networking functionality and the exclusive content will enhance the Red Dwarf experience for everyone.”
Back in November, Pitch executive director Martin Bowley described the company's Red Dwarf licensing deal as the most important of his career.
Based in London's Covent Garden, Pitch Entertainment Group (www.pitch.mobi) employs 60 staff and is predicting that its new “mobisodes” venture will help lift turnover from £12m to £20m in 2008, while profits are forecast to grow from £500,000 to £1m.“Red Dwarf has a massive following which is all over the world,” he told the Daily Telegraph. "We could see how that could be leveraged if we could find a way to make mobile phone episodes, or “mobisodes.”
The revenue share based licensing deal has seen Pitch make 24 “mobisodes” of the animated series just 25 seconds long, coming up with the miniscripts itself and organising the production.
As well as the UK, Pitch is available to mobile users in 13 territories such as Malaysia and Singapore, as well as across Europe, with plans to launch a new territory every month over the next year. The Red Dwarf site also offers fans the chance to interact via a dedicated social network as well as download the animations.
“Established fans can access new episodes, interact with each other and share their passions for Red Dwarf," feels Bowley, who also argues the new service will enable a new generation of fans will also be able to discover Red Dwarf for the first time. "This is the future of entertainment.” he declared.
• Subscribers in the UK can receive the brand new Red Dwarf ‘mobisode’ each week by visiting www.red-dwarf.mobi or text RD1 to 87000.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Two busts are currently being stored at Atkinson Art Gallery in Lord Street. A second statue was made for an exhibition, which is due to go on display at the Botanic Gardens Museum while the "real" Dan - a bust created some time ago which had been located at Cambridge Walks Arcade but had been vandalised - will be put in Wayfarers Arcade.
“Dan Dare is a massive part of the town’s history," Eagle Club member and local councillor David Tattersall says. "Everyone who knows about the Pilot of The Future should be able to see the bust in Wayfarers and share their memories.”
Meanwhile, the Southport Visiter, which regularly reports on Dan Dare because of the town's connection with his creator, has a feature on the new Dan Dare comic, reporting on the first issue's strong sales.
Colin Gould, of the town's Planet Eater comic book store in Union Street, told the paper he can’t sell his supply of the new comic quick enough.
He told the Visiter: “A lot of the regular customers have been coming in and asking for it, many are people who read the original Eagle in the 1950s.
“It is selling really, really well and the suppliers have had to order another shipment from America."The paper also reports a collection of Dan Dare memorabilia, loaned by Frank Hampson’s son, Peter, is currently on display at Churchtown Botanic Gardens Museum.
Thursday, 20 December 2007
of which have aired their last episodes.
4400 creator and Executive Producer Scott Peters confirmed the cancellation on a message posted on the official 4400 Web board, repeated on TV Guide's Web site, telling loyal fans "The 4400 has been cancelled. We've had a great time bringing you this story and submersing you in the lives of all these incredible characters.
"I just spoke to Joel [Gretsch, who played male lead Tom Baldwin] and we had a great talk about what we all accomplished and how much we'll miss our family that is our crew and our cast... and our fans. But at least we got to go out with a bang! I had an awesome time directing the last episode. I think I got to make almost every single cast member cry (on camera). How much fun was that?!"
The Dead Zone was an impressive hit for the USA Network in its early seasons but the show was revamped for its sixth season and the re-formatting proved unsuccessful.
• The 4400 IMDB Entry
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Hopefully, my blog post makes it clear that the strong sales are UK sales -- there was no claim in Virgin's press release that Dan Dare sales are as strong in the US. Indeed, recently published Diamond orders suggest to me that retailers there were basing their orders for Dare on their orders for other recent revamps of British characters.
Most Virgin books don't sell big numbers but Diamond orders for Dan Dare #1 are much higher than for some of their other titles -- 9,434 according to trade site ICV2.
If you look at Diamond orders for September 2006, orders for Albion #6 were 9,465, compared with 18,791 for #1 back in June 2005. Battler Briton #3, another Garth Ennis title, had orders of 9,985 in September 2006, more than for Albion #6.
Some downthetubes readers have sugested UK retailers may have under ordered Dan dare #1 and been caught out. I'm not sure if the ICV2 figures include UK orders -- I don't think they do -- but I would think that UK retailers would perhaps order more copies of a comic featuring such a big UK hero by a top 'Brit' writer, but it's clear they haven't ordered enough - we've had lots of people asking me where they can get copies.
It will be the orders for #2 and 3 that will be telling, but of course, those will have been placed before the sales of #1 were known.
Virgin is of course not dependent on the English language versions of its comics -- I assume there will be a translated edition of Dan Dare in the works for India, where they also sell, and perhaps Hong Kong, too, where theire John Woo book has apparently done very well (and was one of their best selling titles).
UK sales of the first issue of Virgin's new Dan Dare have made the title one of the most requested and most difficult to find in the run up to Christmas.
Specialist comic shops have done brisk business on the first issue of the new title and Virgin reports some disappointed fans of “The Pilot of the Future” have been paying five-times the UK cover price to have copies flown in from the USA.
One downtheubes reader told us London comic shops had been visited by fans of all ages trying to track down the book by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine, which pits a jaded but still idealistic Dare against a renewed Treen menace threatening Earth.
“We’ve posted a list at blog.VirginComics.com of retailers with copies of Dan Dare on their shelves,” said Larry Lieberman, Chief Marketing Officer of Virgin Comics. “By the time fans arrive at the comic shops they all seem to be sold out.”
Forbidden Planet, the UK’s largest comic retailer, is using FedEx to send more copies of Virgin’s Dan Dare to its stores in time for Christmas.
Comments on the the first issue from reviewers include "a modern comic book take on the classic British kids' comic character, filled with well-executed modern comic book things" (Comic Reporter), "a solid effort" (ComicMix). Over on PopCultureShock, which also features a short review with Ennis, Ernie Estrella gives the book an "A" rating and declares "the first issue of Dan Dare doesn’t bog down the reader with any unnecessary recap of who the protagonist is, instead Ennis places us behind the wheel of a great adventure -- but he’s steering. Whether you’ve read Dare as a child like Ennis, or you’re meeting him for the first time, you’re instantly comfortable and confident in Dare."
"[Garth Ennis'] new version of Dan Dare from Virgin will undoubtedly hit the right nostalgic notes for long-time Dare fans," feels Tim Janson over on Newsarama, "and (thanks to the writer and updated storyline) pull in new readers as well. It's definitely worth checking out."
Kurt Amacker, reviewing the first issue for mania.com, concurs, also giving the book an "A" rating. "Ennis and Erskine have effectively carried Hampson’s character into the 21st Century, with subtle commentary on current events that proves both touching and even-handed – a pleasant surprise from the usual hammer blows Ennis drops on things he dislikes."
"The art has a timeless, independent feel," feels ComicBloc's Doug Zawisza. "While I may not be steeped in the legend of Dan Dare, I found myself able to jump right in, comprehend what was going on and enjoy what I read."
"I really, really liked it," commented Forbidden Planet International's Joe Gordon on his blog The Woomaloo Gazette. "I enjoyed it; I liked Ennis’ take on him, I like the way he has set it years after Dan and Digby’s ‘glory days’ as the prime minister refers to them so we can maintain links to the original but still have something new... Will I be picking up the second issue now? Oh, hell, yes!"
Variety's Bags and Boards is a little more cautious, with Tom McLean praising Erskine's art but adding that "It seems unlikely that die-hard fans of the character will be doing backflips over this first issue — it’s just too heavy on the exposition to really tell how the space stuff everyone wants to see will work out over the next six issues."
On IGN, Dan Dare failed to impress Richard George who gave the book just 5.1 out of 10. "The concept of a disillusioned hero isn't a bad one," he acknowledges. "Ennis pulls off a [end of issue] revelation with great effect, but it's basically the only remotely interesting scene in the entire issue. Due to his isolation, Dare doesn't have much of a supporting cast. Nor does he have much of a personality aside from his hostility at life. It works on some levels but grows old and I honestly don't care to read about a bitter, dull hermit."
"There’s nothing I particularly disliked about this book," writes Wizard's Associate Editor Andy Serwin, "but there wasn’t anything in this ish that made me stop and say, ‘Holy crap! That was awesome!’"
While many seem to have enjoyed the opening issue response from older readers, who grew up on the original Dan Dare in the Eagle, has been mixed, with some prefering the new story featuring the "classic" Dare being published in the quality, licensed fanzine Spaceship Away.
Doubtless the shortage of the new Dare might have readers walking from comic shops sensible enough to stock it with this great magazine instead.
• Read our interview with Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine
Monday, 17 December 2007
Hidden away on BBC2 it told of the tortured love life of a stand-up comedian and starred Robert Bathurst before he moved on to Cold Feet. The first season of the show was released by Replay DVD several years ago and they have just announced that the second series, plus the original pilot episode, will be released on DVD on 17 March 2008.
Craig Robins of Replay says "It will be a two-disc set this time and the extras include commentaries on all episodes featuring Steven Moffat, Robert Bathurst, Fiona Gillies, Tracie Bennett, Paul Raffield, Andre Ptaszynski (producer), Bob Spiers (director) and Stacey Adair (Production Manager); the 1991 Joking Apart pilot episode (one of a series of pilots that were shown under the umbrella title of 'Comic Asides'); a complete set of scripts in pdf format; 'Joking Apart in the Studio' pdf article; plus a colourful companion booklet."
The DVD is available to pre-order now direct from Replay. You can buy Series 1 from amazon.co.uk
Cosmogenesis is not, I have to say, for the faint hearted. The 500 plus-page collection starts with a number of story strands which may appear confusing at first (other critics have commented on the bizarre sequencing of the original version), but for those determined to make sense of it, Cosmogenesis soon settles into a generally understandable yet no-holds-barred (if still, at times, bewildering) galaxy-spanning tale featuring a tale of 'good' versus 'evil' and how such concepts affect the man (or in the case of central character, Quongo), the intelligent ape on the street (or in a spacecraft).
The book charts the rise of simian Quongo from unwitting adventurer to possible messiah. Using the galactic setting, the narrative explores the writer's interest of grand cycles of time, numerology, and the recurring motif of mythological lone saviours prevalent in many cultures.
"The story is set within another time and place, in a galaxy not so far removed from our own, yet resides in a higher dimensional reality," says Adam of the story, which will give you some of idea of what to expect. "The premise comes from an idea that there are many civilisations out there in the Milky Way, yet we can not see them, because our reality is on a lower plane of vibration.
"... The whole story reveals a galaxy coming to the end of a great cycle of time. A time which would bring about a shift in consciousness in each individual and bring about the return of 'Those of Many.'"
I warned you it might blow your mind. It's difficult to really describe Cosmogenesis without making the obvious references: think Planet of the Apes meets Star Wars, with all kinds of things Joseph Campbell perhaps never even thought of thrown in.
Mix that with the detailed, painstaking art style of Tony Suleri and you will understand why I'm advising some caution before going in cold (you might want to check out some of the various promotional videos Adam has created to get a taste of what to expect and a feel for the core characters).
It's to Adam and Tony's credit that they've re-worked their original, tidying up a number of typographical errors that detracted from the initial pubications, and striven to give this collection a little clearer in terms of narrative. It's still a very dense tome, embracing and developing many ideas and concepts dear to the creators' hearts, and, is a far cry from many of the simpler comic tales you may enjoy on a regular basis. But if you're looking for thought provoking, mind-boggling storytelling then give this a try.
• Buy Cosmogenesis from amazon.co.uk
For the record, we of course don't know any pubisher or anyone in advertising who behaves like this. (Do you?). This mashup was conceived, written and produced by World Wide Wadio ("an All-Star team of writers, directors, producers and sound designers... from all facets of the advertising, entertainment and Internet industries.")... who apologise to (and much admire) the original source material (from "It's a Wonderful Life", in case you didn't know. And if you didn't, go play in traffic).
Sunday, 16 December 2007
The site has be given a revamp with more regular updates, artwork features derived from the title's inside covers including of course Ian Kennedy's aircraft illustrations, and wallpapers based on various Commando covers. There is also the beginning of an online adaptation of one of the stories, Wall of Death, originally published in 1966.
In addition, and unfortunately a little late for this Christmas, there is now a range of merchandise including mugs and adult sized T-shirts with the Commando logo and a range of illustrations covering combat on land, in the air and by sea.
"There are some lovely illustrations by Doctor Who Magazine comic artist Mike Collins," Paul tells us. "I hope you enjoy it."
(Report originally posted by Richard Sheaf) Two of Carlton's Commando collections currently available have now been produced in alternative covers by Ian Kennedy. Fetaured here are the two Anzacs at War and the True Brit covers...
There's also a new title from Carlton in the offing next Summer entitled Rumble in the Jungle and described as featuring the 12 best jungle fighting episodes of Commando ever.
"Stories set in the jungles of Malay and Burma are, like all other Commando comics, packed with action and adventure," Carlton announces via Amazon.co.uk. "But there is something about these plots that really get the writers in top gear and they pull out all the stops. Who couldn't get enthusiastic about ambushes, impenetrable undergrowth, mysterious caves, deep river gorges flooded by monsoons, samurai swords, slithering snakes, fiendish fevers, strange cries in the night, menacing idols, dangerous insects and animals added to the usual threats from bullets and bombs?
Featuring such stories as "Jungle Madness", "Grudge Fight", "The Black Pagoda", "Halt - or Die!", "Danger Everywhere!" and "Jungle Sniper", this carefully selected anthology will transport you into a world of sweat, swamps...where our ever invincible allied heroes battle bravely and honourably to victory."
We've edited out the blatant racism from the book description, and we suspect Amazon or Carlton will too once they have a better look at it...
• Rumble in the Jungle on amazon.co.uk (May 2008 release)
Friday, 14 December 2007
A Daily Telegraph review describes the tome "as the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery", (we're not sure if that's a description the reviewer came up with) which is a bit hysterical to say the least. There certainly isn't a guide to making an atomic bomb made from LEGO which one parent railed against, but that hasn't stopped the often sensationalist Daily Mail from claiming "Lego is set to turn slightly more sinister with the launch of an unofficial book that teaches children how to make weapons out of the iconic plastic bricks."
(The book's publisher, No Starch Press, reveals the plans included are for a toy gun that shoots LEGO plates, a candy catapult (which admittedly could be reconfigured to shoot something else), a high voltage LEGO vehicle, a continuous-fire ping-pong ball launcher, and "other useless but incredibly fun inventions").
In reality there are only a few models detailed in the book, but the plans are pretty comprehensive, and I'd hope get you thinking about exactly what is possible when it comes to using LEGO - which would be better than idling away in front of the TV, surely. And, despite the concerns of the Mail, the paper also admits the book's launch has seen a huge surge in LEGO sales.
Among other things there is news of the contents and cover of the current issue, Eagle Times, Volume 20 No 4, which includes features on the untold stories of Dan Dare, a tribute to Dan Dare writer and founder of the Samaritans, the Revd. Dr. Edward Chad Varah, and much more.
Membership of THE EAGLE SOCIETY is via Annual Subscription to EAGLE TIMES magazine, which is published four times annually.
Current Subscription rates are: UK £22, Overseas £26 (in £s Sterling, please)
Please apply by snail mail to: Keith Howard, 25A Station Road Harrow, Middlesex HA1 2UA United Kingdom
• Part I
As big newspapers and magazines start giving away their content "violating the first rule of capitalism", Ted tries to convince his bank to apply the principals of revenue share to his mortgage payments ("I don't have a budget to pay you per se," I cooed. "But think of the awesome prestige your corporation receives just by being associated with a cartoonist and columnist whose work is literally read by millions of --" Click. Citibank (Bangalore), Ltd., signing out. Back to work!")
• Part II
Ted warns that "If the future of media looks like the Web does now, things are about to degenerate from grim to grisly" and intellectual property vampires will suck creators dry." (Ouch. Good job there's a built in fee for every download of a ROK Comic...). The solution? If content is appropriately priced, of an appropriately high quality, and easy to access, people will pay for it," asserts Simson Garfinkel, a fellow at the Harvard University Center for Research on Computation and Society and the author of Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century. "What is required is a system that is easy to use and licensing terms that are not onerous."
Ted warns of the perils of the rise of free newspapers, warning that "Ultimately [free dailies] will breed in people the idea that news shouldn't cost anything, even that news is cheap" (and by extension, the visual contents such as phtographs and cartoons that come with them).
Both Ted Rall’s editorial cartoons and columns are distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.
The acquisition expands Impossible Pictures’ operations outside of London and the company says it will enable the company to explore new ways of approaching factual and drama, as well as tap into opportunities in the children’s market.
Co-founded by Steve Maher and Jonathan Doyle, Firestep is best known for its work on the animated serial Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest.
"This is an important stage in the development of our business, which is based firmly on creativity and the ability to bring innovation and ambition to everything we do," says Jonathan Drake, the managing director of Impossible Pictures, who will also chair the Firestep board. "There’s already a real buzz around the new opportunities we can pursue together. At the same time we hope to contribute to the energy and creativity that’s there to be tapped in the Manchester production community.”
Thursday, 13 December 2007
Spectacular Spider-Man is reprinted in a number of territories including Germany, Spain and France in magazine form and is one of just two Panini titles featuring originated strip (the other being Doctor Who Magazine).
In addition to featuring some stunning upcoming Spider-Man art, Ed talks frankly about the UK comics market, explaining most children's titles are now based on licensed characters, arguing this is due to pressure from the big chain stores that will not risk stocking a kid’s title unless it has an already established presence either as a toy range, TV show or movie - the only exceptions being long standing comics brands in their own right like Beano and Dandy.
"Kid’s titles in the UK have changed to become more interactive, including things like fact files, activity pages, lifestyle features etc, in order to stimulate and satisfy readers," he comments. "The unfortunate side effect from this is that the amount of strip has been cut to only a third or in some cases a quarter of the page count. They’ve really become more like activity magazines than traditional comics."
Panini's argument is that titles have had to "evolve" beyond the comic strip only format. "Whilst a good story with excellent art is important, greater variety is needed to sell comics for kids in the UK market," Ed argues.
What isn't mentioned is that such pages are also far cheaper to produce than a comics page, and when you're in a very competitive market, vying for shelf space against companies such as Titan, Egmont and DC Thomson, you have to watch those costs.
"I know a lot of editors and creators who would love to produce a new fully originated, 100% strip, UK comic containing original characters," Ed says. "Unfortunately, due to the amount of control the big chains have over distribution, it would be a huge challenge to get it into enough shops to make a profit."
No argument there - launching an originated comic today in the UK woudl depend on a lot of retailer goodwill and those big chains like Tesco and ASDA are not in it for goodwill. But despite this, Ed's also right to point out how bouyant the UK comics scene is in terms of the number of comic titles, even though most are licensed and most feature just reprint strip.
"There are an awful lot of titles out there," he says, "which is making for some healthy competition amongst publishers. "
• You can read the full interview here.
The news has come to his millions of fans, including me. I've nejoyed his work for years, since the release of The Colour of Magic, to be broadcast as a drama by Sky next Easter..
The 59-year-old writer made the announcement through a web posting to fans on the website of illustrator Paul Kidby, who has worked on many of Pratchett’s Discworld titles.
Describing the illness as “An Embuggerance” and also advising that he is definitely not dead, Terry told fans he would have liked to keep the illness quiet for a little while, "but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".
"We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism," he continued. "For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet.
"I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as'I am not dead'," he added. "I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry."
In addition to the immensely popular Discworld series, Prachett co-authored Good Omens with Neil Gaiman, and several of his novels have been adapted into comics. His books have sold more than 45 million copies around the globe.
Last year, Pratchett told the Daily Mail that he had been unaware that he had suffered a stroke until he had a brain scan, which showed that a stroke had been caused by a blood clot which created a blockage in the artery to his brain. Two or three years before the stroke was diagnosed, he had noticed "that his typing had been going all over the place", he said. Pratchett finally decided to see a doctor while working on a manuscript and felt as though he was "typing wearing gloves".
Alzheimer's disease is a (currently incurable) progressive, degenerative and irreversible brain disorder that causes intellectual impairment, disorientation and eventually death and it's estimated that 2-5 per cent of people over 65 years of age and up to 20 per cent of those over 85 years of age suffer from the disease. Some 417,000 people suffer from Alzheimer's in Britain, but of all those diagnosed, only 3.5 per cent are aged under 65.
"Mr Pratchett's decision to discuss his diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a brave one," Neil Hunt, chief executve of Britain's Alzheimer's Society commented. "It is all the more encouraging because of his resolve to remain so positive... [his] commitment to continue working reflects the experiences of many people, who in the earliest stages of dementia will work and socialise with the support of loved ones and carers."
You can support the work of the Society by making an online donation or taking part in one of their many fund raising events.
Submissions are now being accepted for consideration by the judges for the 2008 Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards. Publishers wanting to submit entries should send one copy each of the comics or books and include a cover letter indicating what is being submitted and in what categories.
The tentative categories include best single issue, best short story, best continuing comic book series (at least two issues must have been published in 2007), best limited comic book series (at least half of the series must have been published in 2007), best new series, best title aimed at a younger audience, best humor publication, best anthology, best graphic album—new material, best graphic album—reprint, best reality-based work, best archival collection, best U.S. edition of foreign material, best writer, best writer/artist, best penciler/inker (individual or team), best painter (interior art), best lettering, best coloring, best comics-related book, best comics journalism periodical or website, and best publication design. The judges may add, delete, or combine categories at their discretion. The cover letter should include both a mailing address and an e-mail address.
Creators can submit materials for consideration if: (a) their publisher is no longer in business; (b) their publisher is unlikely to have participated in the nomination process; or (c) they have severed connections with the publisher or have similar reasons for believing that their publisher is unlikely to consider nominating them or their work.
Publishers may submit a maximum of five items for any one category, and the same item or person can be submitted for more than one category. Each imprint, line, or subsidiary of a publisher may submit its own set of entries. There are no entry fees.
All submissions should be sent to Jackie Estrada, Eisner Awards Administrator, 4657 Cajon Way, San Diego, CA 92115, before the deadline of 14 March 2008.
Entries are also being accepted for the category of best webcomic. This category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2007.
Webcomics must have a unique domain name or be part of a larger comics community to be considered. The work must be online-exclusive for a significant period prior to being collected in print form. The URL and any necessary access information should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Eisner Award nominees will be announced in April, and ballots will go out in May to professionals in the comics industry, including creators, editors, publishers, distributors, and retailers. The results will be announced by celebrity presenters at the gala awards ceremony on the evening of July 25 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
• Further information on the Eisner Awards and a downloadable pdf of the Call for Entries can be found at www.comic-con.org/cci/cci_eisners_main.shtml
• Anyone with questions about submitting entries for the awards can e-mail Ms. Estrada at email@example.com or call her at (619) 286-1591.
Many of Britain's most celebrated actors and technicians worked for Hammer - Joseph Losey, Freddie Francis, Val Guest, Robert Aldrich, Terrence Fisher all directed Hammer films.
Now, a selection of stills from the national collection are described by Wayne Kinsey and on display daily on the Mezzanine Level of the BFI on the South Bank, London from 11.00am until 10.30pm daily until 6 January 2008. Admission is free. (Nearest tube Waterloo. London SE1 8XT). For more news check out www.hammerfilms.com.
Beyond the Rave (pictured above), Hammer's first new production, will be broadcast in episodes on MySpace next spring before being released on DVD. Featuring Sadie Frost, the film is a UK co-production with the social networking website. The Guardian reports that Hammer says said Beyond the Rave would contain "all the ingredients of a Hammer classic made for a 21st Century audience: vampires, blood, death and suspense throughout".
Friday, 7 December 2007
Broadcast reported 12 December that the US network had until 11 December to give a full-season pickup to time-travel drama but has allowed the option to lapse, which means it has all but cancelled the 20th Century Fox-produced series.
This terrific show, which centres on a man who unexpectedly finds he can time travel but has no control over when or where he goes (but it is generally to help people, drawing comparions with Quantum Leap and, perhaps, Early Edition). If you aren't watching, give it a try -- it's really good!
Produced by Kevin Falls (also producer and writer on legal drama Shark and the The West Wing, interview here on Premium Hollywood), the show stars Kevin McKidd as the time travelling reporter Dan Wasser and Gretchen Egolf as beleagured wife Katie, coping not only with Dan's disappearances but an eight year old son who thinks his father can do magic and the knowledge that one of Dan's fellow timespirits is his believed-dead fiance.
Sadly, ratings have not been strong in the States and NBC has opted not to pick up the series for any additional episodes, although a fan campaign is underway to try to convince NBC otherwise. (It looks as though NBC may also have cancelled Bionic Woman starring former Eastenders' actress Michelle Ryan). Over 1500 people have signed a campaign petition and one campaign group also tried to boost the show's chances by organising a mass buy of the episode Blowback via iTunes in the US.
"All indications are that NBC doesn’t want to cancel this show," say campaign organiser. "They love it. They just can’t justify keeping it on the schedule."
They're urging people to send letters in support of the show to NBC's president and chief executive officer Jeff Zucker c/o NBC, Re: Journeyman, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112 USA - and even send him Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, which you can buy by the case from Amazon and attach a short message using their sending options. (The length will limit your creativity, however).
"Orders trickling in over several days or weeks at 30 Rock might be even more effective - it’ll keep reminding Jeff Zucker that Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, has an order to place.
• Details on the fan campaign can be found at http://savejourneyman.net
Postscript, August 2008 (with thanks to Ian Cullen): Journeyman was not saved as we all now know, but in August 2008 AintItCool News published an interview with the series creator Kevin Falls about what would have happened on the show if it had continued: read the interview here
MocoNews reports UK tabloid Sun has rolled out a quick response (QR) mobile barcode service that it hopes will enrich print ads by giving readers a quick way to access mobile web sites and their content.
Readers must first download the QR reader from software firm i-nigma on to their phones (some 150 handsets are supported), though some of the latest Nokia handsets have it pre-installed. (That's a plus, as I know from experience that the vast majority of web users don't like to download additional software to make a web site work, and I expect this will be even more the case for mobile, with their still limited memory capacity).
Once they have the reader on their phone, the service enables readers to send a photo of the QR code found in its paper in a print ad to launch them directly into its mobile sites where readers can download content such as videos, film trailers, and music.
There are of course other applications beyond providing connections to the mobile web: imagine taking this one stage further than downloading electronic content and being able to take a photo of an image, send it off and voila, you've just ordered a comic or magazine, the cost charged to your phone bill (the price of an item may admittedly might be higher than buying it in the shop, but I suspect publishers will set the prices to encourage usage at first). Fulfillment is a doddle: no filling in addresses as the seller simply uses the billing address for the mobile.
NMA.co.uk reports that News International, the Sun’s owner, is watching the take-up of the service closely, and may roll it out across all of its titles (which include The Times) if it proves successful. For its launch yesterday, the tabloid splashed the service across an eight-page pull-out supplement.
QR codes have proven highly popular in Japan since their introduction in 2002, where they have allowed people to download content as dense as mobile novels (and, I expect, mobile comics). Almost every Japanese phone ships with a built-in barcode reader that can decode both QR Codes and standard barcodes you find on retail items.
The potential cost savings in terms of advertising are enormous: publishers could run ads with a number of simple images for subscription deals for their entire stable of titles, enabling them to promote many more titles or products in a smaller space - a poster? a beermat? - than they could through traditional advertising.
This system could surely combine an electronic download with a real world item very easily. It will be interesting to see how this develops...
Thursday, 6 December 2007
With election posters now on sale via thejoestore, the first slate is Londo/G'Kar (or, for those who wish to be contrary, G'Kar/Londo is also available.) "They bring a combination of military training, a love of freedom, and sartorial excellences," the store advises as it offers election posters for sale. "They are also excellent public speakers and true patriots who put their people ahead of their own interests. Should the electorate find themselves not happy with the slate as elected, whoever is in second position will gladly assassinate the other in order to bring about a referendum."
Similarly, we're told the ticket of Zathras and Zathras "promises the best in crisis management at a difficult time for our nation. Their wisdom is inscrutable (also incomprehensible), their dedication to detail is almost frightening, and in times of economic belt-tightening by electing one Zathras you elect all Zathras, nine for the price of the One."
So, American readers, the future is here. You're so lucky. We just have Mr. Bean...
The SFTV blog points out that considering SciFi's regular shows have been struggling to get much above a 1.0 rating, drawing a 4.2 Household rating is pretty significant. "It looks like if SciFi puts together something that catches peoples interest, they can still find the channel."
The series is an epic re-imagining of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that gives the story a heavy science fiction fantasy emphasis and gives only allusionary references to most of the original story.
In total viewers, Tin Man surpassed both Dune (4.6 million viewers) and Taken (5.0 million viewers).
There's no word yet on whether SciFi UK or any other UK channel has accquired the rights to the mini series, but I'm sure it won't be long before there's an announcement. Both Hallmark and Sky One have screened RHI series in the past.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
In the issue, Huey, Dewey and Lewey have just downloaded a new album for personal use (saying they will buy the CD when they have the money), and are shocked when Donald tries to sell pirate CDs of the download, and tell him it’s not fair because the CD is copyrighted. “If nobody buys CDs anymore, the record labels and artists will become beggars,” they tell him.
Strange that Disney should appear to be supporting personal use downloading... but such titles are licensed and will have gone through a rigorous aprovals process.
Torrent Freak reports that Deicist, the administrator of Comicsearch, wrote a letter to Marvel arguing that a good part of the reason for the recent surge in sales of comics and the growth in the comic market was the laissez faire attitude that the publishers took toward Internet downloads of their comics (in 2002, publisher CrossGen felt its online promotions boosted sales back in 2002, though sadly not enough to prevent its demise), but Marvel countered swiftly with a cease and desist arguing instead that "People download comics not because they don't want to buy them, but because they want an electronic version they can read, and organize more easily without damaging their precious print versions."
The site is now removing trackers for Marvel comics.
This may seem a victory for comics publishers who understandably want to protect their copyright - we've seen much harsher action from other publishers over the years (The Simpsons, anyone?) to keep their carefully built brands the way they want them. But as the comic retailers website ICV2 points out, there is the possibility that it could become a Pyrrhic triumph.
In his open letter to Marvel Deicist argued that the publisher may not want to emulate the Recording Industry Association of America, which has won numerous legal battles with music downloaders and totally lost the war, and prompted a huge amount of resentment and anger toward the organisation.
IVC2 suggests Marvel and other publishers could eventually be involved in a "whack-a-mole" conflict as new file sharing sites, with servers in various countries, pop up all over the place. (Indeed, many file sharing sites are already outside the US).
A strange twist in the US publishers' attempts to protect their investments comes news that DC Comics recently demanded that an ebay auction for a Batman convention sketch (see right) be pulled on the grounds that it infringed DC copyright (although it might also have been pulled because it was homo-erotic), which may result in having a considerable impact on the income of some comics artists.
Rich Johnston first reported the story on his Lying in the Gutters column on Comic Book Resources, revealing that "one artist, let’s call him Christian (because that's his name) found out when his auctions were suspended by eBay after Warners requested it.
"The Director of Warner Bros Entertainment's Worldwide Anti-Piracy Corporate Communications told Christian 'no one is authorized to manufacture, reproduce, copy, sell and/or offer for sale any products/services which utilize the Batman Property without the express written permission of Warner Bros. The drawing which you have offered for sale has not been authorized by Warner Bros., therefore we suspended your auction. I apologize for the inconvenience of your suspended auction; however, I hope that you understand our position. Further, please be assured that we never attempt to single-out any one, or group of, sellers. In that regard, please feel free to forward any other questionable auctions to our attention and we will be sure to investigate and take appropriate action.'"
As Rich points out, it's entirely understandable that the comic publishers wish to protect their characters, but could this mean an end to the well known practice of comics artists drawing sketches of even more well known comic characters and charging for them at conventions to supplement their income?
Also, how might this action also affect people trying to sell original comics art either at conventions or online?This latest action strikes me as rather heavy-handed (although of course it might be more related to the actual image iteself in this case, rather than the actual practice of selling character sketches). As Rich says in his column, charging for character sketches is technically in breach of copyright and Warner Brothers or other publishers/studios are entitled to issue such notices and cancel such auctions, "but," he cautions, "if they were to take the same attitude to comic book creators industry-wise, it would have disastrous consequences for many.
"Especially, say, if this was extended to selling original art returned to the creator by the publisher."
"Every comic book convention I have ever attended has had a plethora of comic book artists doing sketches of comic book characters for money," points out blogger Rick Rottman, who picked up on the story. "Some artists charge hundreds of dollars for an inked sketch of a comic book character. I can’t even begin to guess how much revenue comic book artists are able to earn doing sketches at conventions. If the official position of Warner Bros is that no one is authorized to reproduce and offer for sale any product which utilizes a DC Comics intellectual property, I have to believe this will have a monumental impact to the whole comic book convention sketch business.
"What would happen if comic book artists couldn’t do commissions at conventions?"
Rottman feels fans would certainly have more money to spend at a convention on comics and other licensed material rather than sketches, but I'd argue that if artists found themselves being threatened with copyright infringement, would they then stop attending them? It's a strong possibility, certainly in the US where charging for sketches is more commonplace and charging for sketches has long been a way for an artist to earn extra money.
It might 'professionalise' comics conventions in the same way that British literature festivals pay author fees and expenses for their attendance, although it would also probably mean less artists would be in attendance.