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!
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Friday, 11 April 2008
(Updated 11 April): Now being screened in the UK is this fun Thunderbirds-inspired advertisement for Specsavers featuring an updated Virgil Tracy and The Hood in a mini adventure to promote their Specsavers Reaction lenses. The advertisement was shot using the same techniques as employed in the original 1960s production.
The mini adventure sees Virgil pursued by his arch-enemy, the villainous Hood, through snow capped mountains. Virgil comes out of a tunnel into the glare of the sun and his Specsavers lenses immediately darken to protect his vision. The Hood is not so lucky and, blinded by the bright light, he crashes into a mountain. The chase is over and Virgil escapes again, thanks to modern technology, and to the relief of his father, Jeff.
Specsavers Creative Director Graham Daldry worked with director Tobias Fouracre at Tandem Films to film the new TV ad, which recreates the excitement of the hit 1960s children’s series, including the original Thunderbirds March music written by Barry Gray.
"It was a fascinating experience working with the guys from International Rescue and The Hood," says Daldry. "They were all extremely professional and I was particularly impressed by the fact that The Hood did his own stunts (and yes, he did walk away from the explosion).
"It's been a long time since they were on our screens and we hope that the Specsavers advert will relaunch their careers."
The filming, which took place in Clapham Studios in London, marked a departure from computer-generated imagery in an effort to stay as close as possible to the original "Supermarionation" production techniques. This meant enlisting experts who had worked on the original supermarionation, using miniatures for the wide shots and filming a chemical explosion. The team even got to work with one of the puppeteers from the original series.
Continues Daldry: ‘It was great change to be filming in three dimensions, where real characters cast real shadows on the model makers scenery.’
The commercial is already attracting interest from die-hard Thunderbirds fans, and Granada Studios, who own the rights to the original series, haven’t ruled out that it may be shown on our screens again in the future. Says a spokesman; ‘We are delighted to introduce Thunderbirds to a new generation."
• Specsavers on YouTube
• Specsavers web site
• Tandem Films' blog notes on the advertisement
After getting a phone call from a TV producer this week seeking comics that could be adapted for TV - and suggesting a few British independents and UK publishers he should try -- it seems it's TV pilot pitching season out there in meeja-land. Here's some more ideas from the wacky 1970s and 1980s -- anyone remember their original airings?
Thursday, 10 April 2008
On Saturday 17 May at 10am there will be a family workshop entitled Let's do Kamishibai! This is suitable for children of 7 and over who can make manga-style picture cards with artist Julianna Capes based on traditional Japanese stories told by Mio Shapley and Fergus McNicol, while on Friday 23 May at 2.30pm, the Metaphrog team will be running a workshop to introduce children of 8-12 years to basic design and illustration techniques.
Meanwhile, for older readers, current Dan Dare artist Gary Erskine will give an illustrated talk on his career on Tuesday 6 May at 7pm, and the season of events will conclude on Wednesday 28 May at 7pm with an illustrated talk from D C Thomson's Managing Editor David Donaldson who has been scriptwriter for The Broons and Oor Wullie since 1962.
As ever more details of the events and the exhibition itself are available from the NLS website.
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
"I'm pleased to say that the script has been accepted without any changes," says Nigel, "so I'll be drawing it up over the next few months.
"Since this was so well received, I aleady have plans for writing and drawing further, modern day, Billy strips. I'd never realised writing would be so much fun!"
Nigel has also just completed some illustrations for the next issue of the fanzine Dogbreath, published by the recently Eagle Award-nominated Futurequake team.
In the 1930s, Maloney joined the Communist Party and renounced his Catholic upbringing and the church and volunteered for the International Brigades fighting in the Spanish Civil War in November 1937 and was assigned to the British Battalion's machine-gun company.
Steve recounts how he survived a shrapnel wound to the chest at the battle of the Ebro in August 1938, the last great Republican offensive, having already seen many of his comrades killed fighting around Gandesa. He had earlier encountered the enemy when he inadvertently crossed the lines in search of drinking water but, thinking he was an Italian, Maloney slipped away - minus the company's water bottles - before Franco's troops realised who he was.
Maloney was 'lucky': it's estimated that of the 2,000 soldiers in the British Battalion, 500 were killed and 1,200 were seriously wounded during the conflict.
He also fought in the Second World War and afterwards helped design posters for London Underground and became art editor of Spain Today (originally called first called The Volunteer for Liberty), produced by the International Brigade Association to publicise the repression in Spain under Franco.
He also took up astronomy, which led eventually to work, briefly, in Frank Hampson's studio, working on Dan Dare for the cover of Eagle, then finding work producing a number of book covers paperback science fiction novels before beginning to concentrate on work as a writer/illustrator and editor of books in the mid 1950s. His non fiction work included Other Worlds in Space and The Sky at Night.
• Read Steve's tribute in full...
I also remember reading someone else’s Look and Learn for The Trigan Empire stories. Working here at DC Thomson, we used to see all the war comics on the market and I really enjoyed Battle.
Favourites? Sparky and, yes really again, Commando.
Writers: Alan Hebden, Ferg Handley and Mike Knowles provide a lot of stories.
Other writers, like Norman Adams and Sean Blair, provide regular contributions, just at a lower frequency.
Calum: With the exception of a few covers, all the illustrations arrive on board. It’s much more satisfying to open a parcel that an e-file.
downthetubes: Some of the artists provide covers as well as the comic strip. Is it preferable for the same artist to do both?
Calum: No, not really. Every case is different and our arrangements with artists are different.
downthetubes: The covers display a range of styles: José Maria Jorge’s fully painted covers, Keith Page’s coloured line art and John Ridgway’s computer generated covers for instance. Is there an editorial policy of varying the styles of covers for a given batch of four titles?
Calum: The range of styles reflects the range of inside artwork and we do try to have a mix of stories and styles in every four. I suppose it’s like a comic where you have different artists doing different strips rather than one doing every story.
downthetubes: Most non-readers consider that Commando stories only cover World War 2 despite the title covering most conflicts from the Roman Empire to the Gulf War. Do you have a favourite era and are there any eras that you would like to see more stories from?
Calum: At the risk of giving what sounds like a politician’s answer, what I like has nothing to do with it. It’s what our feedback tells me that the majority of our readers and potential readers want that counts. My job is to make sure that the stories are set when and where they want them and they are good, entertaining yarns.
I like to give them something different every now and again, though, just to keep it interesting...
Commando have recently been asked to take part in a survey. As Commando has never had a letters page, has there ever been that much feedback from readers prior to the survey?
Calum: Yes, we get plenty of feedback. Our readers have always been happy to put pen to paper.
downthetubes: One of the survey questions asked readers where they purchased their copies. Could you tell us where we would expect to be able to buy the title?
downthetubes: Foreign comics websites show the number of foreign editions of Commando. Are Commando stories still being licensed in other countries?
Calum: Yes. Finland’s Korkeajännitys has been a long-time collaborator and Eurokids in India have just come aboard. There are contacts with Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well. We are also available by subscription to all corners of the globe at very reasonable rates. (More info by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org).
downthetubes: The D C Thomson syndication website shows Starblazer issue 269, which was originally published in black and white, coloured for potential reprinting. Other than the two Commando annuals which used a larger coloured format, have any Commando stories been reprinted in colour around the world and would you like to see some Commando stories reproduced in colour?
Calum: I know about those images because I organised their colouring. That story was chosen because those particular images lent themselves to being coloured, a lot of black and white illustration doesn’t. I have seen coloured Commando artwork that would turn you green. [See example below].
Would I like to see artwork in Commando meant for colour from the word go? Yes I would -- but I don’t think it would be an economic proposition as things stand. However, all things are possible and I live in hope that we may be able to do something in the future.
downthetubes: The Commando website (www.commandomag.com), is being promoted more heavily both on the back cover as well as on the inside. Has the extra promotion increased the number of visitors to the site?
Calum: It’s early days so it’s difficult to say.
downthetubes: The letters section of the website has now been replaced with a blog style comment option to go with the news and features. Are you pleased with the response of reads to the site and its various features?
Calum: All the reaction I’ve had has been positive so, yes, I’m pleased.
downthetubes: The site now has an ongoing e-comic version of Commando Issue 221, Wall Of Death, in addition to inside cover features from a variety of artists and an increasing number of covers available as wallpapers. Can we look forward to seeing more along the same lines?
Calum: Yes. The website is a developing project that will evolve over time. There will be more things to come that we haven’t even thought of yet.
downthetubes: The website also now has a shop with mugs and T-shirts available with various exclusive designs featuring the title logo and the knife emblem. Has the response to these been good and are any other items planned?
Calum: The response has been okay and we expect it to improve as we find out more about what our online shoppers want. There are more products planned including limited-edition T-shirts. Another calendar is a possibility too. E-mail me (email@example.com) with suggestions.
downthetubes: The Carlton/Sevenoaks Commando reprint books have been very successful, inspiring similar IPC boys and girls titles to be published. Can we expect to see these Commando titles continuing?
Calum: There are two more planned for this year, but after that nothing has been settled. All fans of the compilations should e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with their support.
downthetubes: With the success of the reprint books licensed to another publisher, would DC Thomson not consider doing their own annual Commando publication alongside the current Beano, Dandy, Broons and Oor Wullie publications?
Calum: I’m not sure that the two products (the compilations and our annuals) are comparable, so I don’t know how the success would impact on that decision. And just because there hasn’t been a Commando Annual since the early 1990s doesn’t mean it hasn’t been considered...
downthetubes: Of all the titles that you have worked on in your career which do you look back on with the greatest affection?
Calum: This is impossible to answer. The titles are mixed up with the people I worked with as well as the work I was doing. They’ve all been great fun to put together.
downthetubes: Commando reached Issue 4000 last year. Despite the contraction and juvenilisation of the comics market in recent years, do you foresee the title reaching its 5000th issue in around nine years time?
Calum: This is another impossible question. However, as I’m not due to retire before 2021, I certainly hope so!
All illustrations are © D C Thomson
DC Thomson's Finnish partner
José Maria Jorge
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
In 2007, long time Commando editor George Low gave downthetubes an interview on his retirement. As the title approaches issue 4100 in 2008, Jeremy Briggs talks to current editor Calum Laird, who joined DC Thomson in 1979, on the recent changes he has made and the growth in Commando related tie-ins... Read the Interview on the main downthetubes site
While downthetubes is not one of the comic web sites on the voting form - despite a few nominations from our loyal readers - the sites that are there are well deserving of inclusion. (It's a shame the Forbidden Planet International Weblog or Bear Alley didn't get there either, hard luck and better luck next time!)
We don't want this to sound like sour grapes, but as Joe Gordon said this last year on the FPI blog, there is still a lack of British websites in general on the voting form - but the good news is that the 2000AD Online is. And in other categories there are several British nominees, including Simon Spurrier and Tony Lee, Alan Davis, Bryan Hitch and many more, so get over to the site and get voting!
• Vote in the Eagle Awards Now
Monday, 7 April 2008
Any former Victor readers out there who would like to re-live their childhood can now purchase a new fully licensed Tough Of The Track t-shirt - and this time they are available in adult sizes.
Fine'n'Dandy specialise in D C Thomson licensed merchandise, which inevitably means Beano and Dandy, however it is worth looking through the rest of their catalogue at the other items they have. While the Jackie alarm clock may not be top of your list, you might be more interested in the Dennis The Menace place mats or fridge magnets of classic annual covers.
The Fine'n'Dandy website can be found here.
The winner of the Hero for Leicester competition - part of the Blam! comics season organised by Leicester library earlier this year which included appearances by Bryan Talbot and others - was Fox Spirit by Giles Meakin.
Eight entries were shortlisted for the Hero for Leicester competition from all those received. A panel of judges including Matt Smith (Editor, 2000AD), John Freeman (ROK Comics), Bryan Talbot (Tale of One Bad Rat, Luther Arkwright) and Jay Eales (publisher of Factor Fiction) selected Fox Spirit for its sophisticated storytelling and graphic style. All the other stories received praise for their strengths but in the end there could be only one.
Talking about his strip to the Leicester Mercury, Meakin said he wanted to portray a more positive message about the city rather than draw a vigilante tackling alcohol-related crime.
"I thought that it detracted from the good work that regular people were doing behind the scenes and it was about time the unsung heroes got some recognition.
"I just needed something that linked all those people together and the idea of a guardian spirit struck a chord with me."
The strip has been published by the local newspaper as part of their coverage of the Blam! events. "We've had great feedback on the BLAM season overall," Literature Development Officer at Leicester City Council Damien Walter told downthetubes, "and we've already started planning another season of events next year."
• View The Fox Spirit by Giles Meakin in full and the shortlist
Cult street artist The Artful Dodger, aka ADee, achieved huge recognition when he live-painted the astounding Star Wars Urban Art mural over the three days of Star Wars Celebration Europe. He’s also worked for MTV, the South Bank Show and the Sunday Times. Working live, he’ll be painting five canvases, each one a unique, one-off piece of original urban art: Iron Man versus Batman! Gothic and CyberPunk art, Manga art, plus a Dead Space image based on EA Games title (look out for free copies of the comic).
The cntrepiece will of course be a Star Wars image, with work beginning Friday 25th April and continuing through Saturday 26th April in the run up to the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival which opens on 30 April and runs until 4 May at the Apollo West End and online.
In attendance on Friday and Saturday will be the 501st UK Garrison: Vader's Fist in full Stormtrooper gear.
As a major bonus, thanks to the Sci-Fi London, the Star Wars canvas will be available to be won through the Forbidden Planet website (www.forbiddenplanet.com) at the end of the event.
The show centres on the dangers caused by genetic mishaps and, perhaps, deliberately engineered genetic versions of “humanity”, a darker side to the evolution of mankind which has let monsters loose in the world -- but may be the key to the future of our race.
Each webisode of Sanctuary follows the exploits of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis) as she seeks out all manner of terrifying and monstrous creatures.
Also in the cast are Dawson's Creek actor Robin Dunne who plays reluctant protege Will Zimmerman and Emilie Ullerup, (seen in Battlestar Galactica), who plays Helen's intrepid, if somewhat reckless, daughter Ashley. Together they are drawn into a frightening and mysterious world populated by beings that defy explanation.
Sanctuary, made by Toronto-based producer and distributor Tricon Films & Television, is the creation of veteran science fiction writer and producer Damian Kindler and directed by Martin Wood (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis). Kindler, Tapping and Wood serve as executive producers along with N. John Smith.
The TV version of the drama, currently in production from Vancouver-based Stage 3 Media for the Sci Fi Channel in the US, will air later this year on ITV4, which already screens a number of cult SF TV shows from the ITV archive including The Champions, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased and UFO.
Sanctuary is probably the first television series shot almost entirely on green screen with live action actors and uses the same style as seen in feature films 300 and Sin City.
read more | digg story
Regular titles such as Modern Monstrosity, Summer Ball Tongue of the Dead, Monkeys might Puke, Ninja Bunny and Twelve Hour Shift will be displayed at the Bookartsbookshop at 17 Pitfield St, N1 6HB, London, along with the vast talents of the every changing table stock.
There's an opening night and private view on 11th April 2008 around 6ish, and the show will run until the 25th April.
Bookartsbookshop features the publications of some of Britain’s best-known artist presses and publishers of artists’ books, as well as books from abroad. The shop is a centre and a service for individual and institutional collectors, artists, publishers and the aesthetically and bibliographically curious. It is presently a not-for-profit organisation, ploughing back any profits into the improvement of the enterprise, and while it aspires to have a team of full paid staff it is still dependent partly upon volunteer labour.
• Vist the Bookartsbookshop web site
Sunday, 6 April 2008
The issue includes a competition to win some ClanDestine artwork, Alan's latest Marvel Comics book.
• Visit the Comics International web site
"The books collect the best part of five years work from a host of contributors to all 11 issues of Solar Wind, Sunny for Girls and Big War Comic across two 250+ page volumes," Paul tells downthetubes. "Solar Wind was a spoof kid's comic, in the mould of those great comics from the late 1970s and early 1980s, helmed by a criminally irresponsible editor called Cosmic Ray.
"The comic was created by myself and Gareth Whitty after we'd written a story (Deathsphere, a future sports strip) and didn't want to give it to a publisher," he continues. "Solar Wind was my first experience of creating a comic book, and I learnt a lot from it. Especially that I don't envy the work of an Editor! But we got great reviews, won a National Comic Award, nominated for an Eagle and best of all, lots of praise from readers.
"Highlights for me included Issue 4, the Action!-inspired Aggro issue," he reveals, "Griefbringer (by Ben Clark, which is soon to become a web comic) the tale of a past-haunted tyrant in a distant fantasy kingdom and Jack Knacker, a man who deals with all of socities problems with a piece of 2x4 wood.
"There are so many other good strips that people did, that I felt it was a shame that it was doomed to oblivion once the print runs ran out, so I put together a reprint via Lulu.com (an on-demand internet publisher) to keep it available for contributors and readers alike.
"While the publisher takes its cut, I take no profits myself, so it's possible to order both volumes and all 500+ pages for £15," says Paul, who is impressed by the lulu service, also used by other UK comic creators such as Chris (Moon Queen) Reynolds. "I think it's a publishing revolution more small press people should take advantage of, and I couldn't have dreamt of doing this without it."
The issue includes strips such as 'The Optician', 'Mexican Surgery' and Daze: The Post Apocalyptic Avon Lady in Happy Daze, among others.
Also on sale from the same site is the beautifully drawn She's Leaving Home Mini Comic, featuring art by Lawrence Elwick.
Always busy on the comics front, Paul tells us he's currently accepting submissions for the second Soda anthology of illustrated song lyrics - a collection of illustrations inspired by lyrics from those songs that get stuck in your head all day.
Submissions should be single page A5 300dpi, deadline 1st June 2008. More information here, plus details of the contributors to the first volume, who included Indigo, Nelson Evergreen, James Daniel Rory Price, Lawrence Elwick, Lee O'Connor and many, many others.
His aim is to do the right thing and have it spayed, but despite taking food from him for eight months or so, it's proven remarkably savvy about what might be about to happen to it. You can read his diary of the experience here.
Good luck, Mark! Given the reproduction rate of feral cats and the problems they can cause (bless 'em), you're doing the right thing, honestly. I speak as someone who has rescued a stray myself in the past.
Other celebrity cat adopters I know include J. Michael Stracyznski and others - mainly SF writers by the way, is there some unwritten law?
Back in November 2007 downthetubes reported on the nameless character who was being introduced via a competition to name him. Seven year old Steven Mitchell of Lisburn came up with the winning name of Diamond Dan The Orangeman - Dan Winter being one of the founding fathers of the organisation. Other possibilities had included the rather obvious Sashman and the amusing Boyne Wonder.
The character will now be featured on merchandise including badges, notebooks and fridge magnets.