downthetubes is undergoing some main site refurbishment...

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!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Judge Minty takes the Long Walk to YouTube success



Judge Minty is a fan film, inspired by the world of 2000AD's Judge Dredd, based on an old story from the comics and follows a Judge forced to take the ‘Long Walk’ into the irradiated, post-apocalyptic wasteland of ‘The Cursed Earth’.

The project has been in the works since 2008. Starring Edmund Dehn as Minty, It's a great-looking movie and has the blessing of 2000AD's owners Rebellion - and it's already attracted nearly 59,000 YouTube viewers since its release earlier this month.

Judge it for yourselves...

Cast:

Judge Minty Edmund Dehn
Judge Dredd Greg Staples
Director Steven Sterlacchini
Director of Photography and Digital Imagery Stephen Green
Prop and Costume Creator Daniel Carey-George of Custom Creations
Storyboards & Concepts Barry Renshaw
Written By Steven Sterlacchini & Michael Carroll, based on the work of John Wagner

Judge Minty is a NOT FOR PROFIT fan film, shown with the kind permission of 2000 AD and Rebellion Judge Dredd® is a registered trademark, © Rebellion A/S®, All rights reserved. Judge Dredd is the Creation of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Adam Cadwell's Northern Slacker Vampires head back to the shelves

Great Beast Comics has announced that the long awaited third issue of Adam Cadwell's Northern Slacker Vampire series Blood Blokes is due to be released on 15th May after debuting at Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It will be available in both print and digital editions from the Great Beast store and on Comixology shortly after.

Blood Blokes #3 sees Vince awaken in the vampire house with more than a few questions. When he discovers the hard way that going home isn't an option he finds the life of a vampire to be alarmingly familiar, yet Vince still longs for a certain someone.

Great Beast 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 our titles are creator owned and self published to a professional standard; these are comics brimming with passion and imagination. Great Beast takes it’s name from the very first Monster In My Pocket released in 1990 because we thought it sounded cool.

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

Latest Commandos feature first ever female lead for title

Art by Carlos Pino © DC Thomson
Art by Carlos Pino © and courtesy of DC Thomson
Here's details of the latest Commando war comics, on sale now in all good newsagents - and in a first for the title, Operation Nachthexen features their first-ever female lead character – the first part of a trilogy.

Based on the online preview the story echoes some of the themes first featured in Battle's Johnny Red and veteran creator Carlos Pino delivers a strip that certainly echoes the look of that classic tale - but the story soon takes its own course.

(Russia's Nachthexen have of course been a rich source of stories for other war comics, including issues of Garth Ennis much-praised Battlefields, released by US publisher Dynamite, reviewed here on Comic Book Daily).


Commando No 4599 – Operation Nachthexen
Story: Mac MacDonald Art: Carlos Pino Cover: Carlos Pino

The German forces that invaded the Soviet Union had much to fear once the Russians’ fightback got into its stride. For the Russians are fearsome warriors when roused.

But what the Germans feared more than anything was the night. For that was when the Nachthexen — the night witches — flew. Because, you see, when the Nachthexen flew, they carried death on their wings...

Art by Carlos Pino © and courtesy of DC Thomson
Nachthexen was the German nickname for the female military aviators of the Soviet Union Air Forces 588th Night Bomber Regiment, known later as the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. The regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 to the end of the war, in nothing but wood and canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a 1928 design intended for use as training aircraft and for crop-dusting.

At its largest size, the Regiment had 40 two-person crews and A Dance with Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II notes they flew over 23,000 sorties and is said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. The most highly-decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force (and, indeed, one of the few female fighting forces during the war), each pilot had apparently flown over 1,000 missions by the end of the war and 30 of its members died in combat.

Read a Preview on the official Commando web site


Commando No 4600 – Von Krieger’s Vendetta
Story: Bill Styles Art: Rezzonico Cover: Janek Matysiak

As the Germans rolled into Yugoslavia in 1941, with them came a particularly nasty Major by the name of Von Krieger. Arrogant and overbearing, he singled out one particular Yugoslav teenager as a particular target for his venom - Ancic Miro.

After an attempt on his life, he was determined to catch and kill Miro.

Ancic Miro, for his own part, was happy enough with that. After all, he had several personal reasons for meting out justice to Von Krieger...

The Axis invasion of Yugoslavia was another episode during World War 2 that proved catastrophic for the invaded as well as heroic rebellion from local partisans. The United States Holocaust Museum notes that more than 67,000 Jews were murdered on Yugoslav soil (including more than 3,500 Jews from other countries who had found refuge in Yugoslavia before the Axis invasion) between 1941 and 1945. Around 14,000 Jews survived, many by hiding with friends or neighbours or by joining the partisans. More than 4,500 Jews served in the partisan resistance movement; around 1,300 died in combat.

Approximately 27,000 Roma were also killed: the Ustasa, the Axis allies, killed about 20,000 at the Jasenovac camp system and perhaps as many as 6,000 more on the Croatian and Bosnian countryside. German military and police authorities shot most of the remainder, between 1,000 and 2,000, in Serbia.

After the war, many of the leaders of the German occupation authorities in Serbia were extradited to Communist-led Yugoslavia to stand trial.

Read a Preview on the official Commando web site


Commando No 4601 – Rogue Bomber
Originally Commando No 88 (October 1963).
Story: Stainton Art: Sostres Cover: Ken Barr

R For Roger was her name... but the air-crews called her R for Rogue.

There was something sinister about this four-engined giant, something uncanny that made brave men shiver with fear when they had to fly in her. For every pilot who sat at her controls came back dead!

Night after night she sat there waiting… waiting for her next victim!

"It’s very hard to capture night scenes in black and white," feels editor Calum Laird, talking about this re-presented Commando tale. "With colour you can use deep blues to help define the scenes but with monochrome, objects and people are either there or they’re not.

"Our inside artist, Sostres, doesn’t have any problems with this though. His use of heavy blacks and broad, bold lines gives the impression of everything being seen in the darkness that bomber crews would have experienced in wartime skies.

“Add that to a brooding cover and a tale of a hoodoo plane — always a Commando favourite — and you have a 1963 winner."

Read a Preview on the official Commando web site


Commando No 4602 – A Traitor In The Cockpit
Originally Commando No 2199 (July 1988), re-issued as No 3675 (December 2003)
Story: Ken Gentry Art: Gordon Livingstone Cover: Jeff Bevan

The roar of four mighty Merlin engines powering each Lancaster, the crump of flak bursting close to the planes, the rumble of bombs exploding far below — it was all in a night’s work for the bomber boys.

But for one Lancaster crew, on one particular night, things were going to be different — because their pilot intended to land at an enemy airfield and hand his aircraft and its secret equipment over to the enemy.

"It's been said that espionage stories are not ideally suited to Commando’s text-and-pictures format and to some extent this is true.,” notes deputy editor Scott Montgomery of A Traitor in the Cockpit. "Cloak-and-dagger antics usually require a great deal of thought balloons for characters to explain the twisty-turny plot.

"However, this book blows that theory out the (cockpit) window — because it’s a thrilling air espionage adventure tale that just never lets up, populated by plucky British spies, tough Resistance men and nasty Nazis. Fantastic stuff, we hope you agree."

Read a Preview on the official Commando web site

• There are more details of Commando titles on their official website, www.commandocomics.com, and Facebook page.

COMMANDO SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

downthetubes is pleased to offer a 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.

Tickets go on sale for the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Grandville by Bryan Talbot
Tickets for the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which will feature top talent from both sides of the Atlantic including Kurt Busiek, Ed Brubaker, Bryan Talbot and Jose Munoz, go on sale on Monday (13th May).

The festival will run from 18-20 October 2013 in Kendal, Cumbria with an exciting line up of more than 50 writers and artists including some of the biggest names in comic art from the United States, Europe, South America and the UK.

The range of guests show the diversity of comics, including biography, political cartoons, comics journalism, satire, superhero comics, comedy, adaptations of historical novels and innovative new story-telling.

Astro City 2 by Kurt Busiek
There will be more than 35 events including panel discussions, interviews, live drawing events, films and workshops. As well as the ticketed events, there will be a number of free exhibitions, including work by founder patrons Bryan Talbot and Sean Phillips, and free activities in a special Family Zone.

The organisers also aim to make the whole of Kendal part of the event, like the popular festivals on the continent in places such as Angouleme, so people can expect to find comic art around every corner.

One of the opening events on the Friday evening will be The Big Comic Draw, with Doug Braithwaite (X-Men and Storm Dogs), Carlos Ezquerra (Judge Dredd), Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy) and Jose Munoz (Alack Sinner).

They will be followed by The Write Comic Stuff, a chance to hear from two hugely popular American writers Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Criminal and Fatale) and Kurt Busiek (Spider-Man, Marvels and Astro City).

Other events over the weekend include 2000AD: An On-Earth Odyssey, a special celebration of the evolution and influence of the ever-popular British comic 2000AD with Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.

Another event will provide a rare chance to hear Viz creators Simon Thorp and Graham Dury discuss their work.

Festival patron Bryan Talbot will talk about Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition. Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) and Hunt Emerson (Dante’s Inferno) will be talking about their work from the underground comix of the sixties to the present day. And there will be a discussion on The Art of Crime and Noir with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Jose Munoz and David Lloyd (Kickback).

British political cartoonist Steve Bell will be interviewing the ground breaking American comics journalist Joe Sacco. Steve will also be discussing his own work in a separate event.

Other interviews with guests will provide opportunities to learn more about the work of writers and artists like Ed Brubaker, Kurt Busiek, Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe) and Andy Diggle (The Losers and Doctor Who).

A key feature of the festival will be the special live Watch them draw events. Artists featured over the weekend will include Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead), Glyn Dillon (Nao of Brown), Spanish artist Pau and Hunt Emerson.

In Quick Strips, a myriad of comic artists, some famous, others emerging, will talk about and present an aspect of their work-in-progress for a maximum of six minutes each.

There will be a chance to see Alan Moore and David Lloyd's seminal graphic novel V for Vendetta brought thrillingly to life on stage.

Festival patron Mary Talbot will be part of a panel for a discussion on The Art of the Memoir.  A group of innovative new wave comic creators who are published by Jonathan Cape will take part in a discussion on the Caped Crusaders and writers published by Selfmadehero will discuss adaptations in Re-imagining the Classics.

Nobrow writer and artist John McNaught, who won the award for the best newcomer at Angouleme earlier this year, will be interviewed together with Luke Pearson, the creator of the popular Hilda series of books. Both men have been nominated for Eisner awards this year.

Writers and artists will be running workshops including Al Davison (The Spiral Cage), manga artist Inko (Milk The Cat Comix), Karrie Fransman (The House That Groaned) and Hannah Berry (Adamtine).

The Brewery Arts Centre is putting on a special film programme including American Splendour, Tamara Drewe, 300, V for Vendetta, A History of Violence, and manga films My Neighbour the Yamadas and Oldboy.

The Comics Clock Tower will be the festival’s version of the marketplace.  Based in Kendal Town Hall it will champion breaking talent from all styles and genres. Many of the big name writers and artists visiting the festival will also be appearing in the Comics Clock Tower over the weekend and new adventure anthology STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine, which launched last month in newsagents, will also have a stand there.

A Weekend Pass will cost £25 and provide unlimited access to the Comics Clock Tower plus four daytime events (starting before 7pm).

A day pass on the Saturday or Sunday will cost £14, providing unlimited access to the Comics Clock Tower plus two daytime events.

Tickets for additional events can be bought separately.

Organisers are emphasising that places need to be reserved for most events, including the wide range of talks and discussions. So if people buy passes, they also need to plan which events they would like to attend and some of the events are expected to get booked quite quickly.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.breweryarts.co.uk or by phoning 01539 725133.

Festival patron Bryan Talbot says: "Our aim is to make The Lakes International Comic Art Festival like the European comic art festivals rather than the conventions that many fans will be used to.

"We think there's something for everyone in the wide range of events the team have put together, both the fans of different genres but also people who may not have read a comic book for many years.

"As well as being able to see artists drawing in our version of the comics marketplace there will be special live draw events, one of the most popular elements of European festivals. There will be interviews with some individual writers and artists as well as discussions on topics like the art of the memoir, horror and adaptations.

"People will be able to book their seats at events rather than having to waste time queuing. We also have a lot of free events including exhibitions and activities for children, so there's no excuse for not coming to find out what it's all about."

Fellow festival patron Sean Phillips says: "I'm really looking forward to this first event. Not only is it on my own doorstep but it's modelled on events like the Angouleme comic art festival, which is something I've long wanted to see in the UK.

"In countries like France and Italy they take comics very seriously and huge numbers of comics are sold every year, most of them to adults.  This event is a great opportunity to find out more about comic art and the writers and artists working in the medium."

• More details about the new event are available at www.comicartfestival.com.  It is also possible to keep up to date with plans for the festival by following @comicartfest on Twitter or by liking the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Facebook page.

STRIP Magazine Issue 2 on sale for IPad now, print edition in newsagents tomorrow


Slightly ahead of its print release, the digital edition of STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine #2 is now on sale for iPad in the iTunes store.

The print edition goes on sale in newsagents across the UK from tomorrow (Friday).

Wrapped in a Crucible-inspired cover by Benard Kolle (colour by Sebastian Cheng), the second stunning issue of Britain’s newest action adventure anthology includes strips from John McCrea, Stephen Downey, John Freeman, Smuzz and more.

BLACK OPS EXTREME (written by Richmond Clements, art by Stephen Downey) The anti-terrorist team run into trouble in the American Bayou – with survivalists and an angry alligator!

WARPAINT (by Phil Hester and John McCrea) Re-told from the very beginning - Mia learns more about an ancient war between gods!

CRUCIBLE (by John Freeman and Smuzz) Trouble on the streets when our adventurers set out to recover a mysterious artifact sought by the Temple of Orlyth!

OPERATION INFERNO (by Richmond Clements and Nick Dyer) Steampunk spy Ryuu heads to Paris as the British Empire faces a deadly new peril from a dangerous rogue scientist!

DENIZENS (by Miljenko Horvatic and Maxim Simic) Modern civilisation has been wiped out and the world is a greener, deadlier place...

Plus: KING COBRA SECRETS REVEALED – a special guide to the new incarnation of King Cobra, a hero who first appeared in DC Thomson’s Hotspur! KING COBRA MINI POSTER by Wamberto Nicomedes; and an interview with author Benjamin Read, writer of the highly acclaimed new graphic novel fairy tale, Porcelain!

Buy the digital edition of STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine from the iTunes store (iPad only)

Team MOBILE #3 audio comic on sale now from iTunes


The Team MOBILE #3 audio comic from ROK Comics is now on sale in the iTunes store for Apple devices.

The adventures of Team M.O.B.I.L.E. continue! They are the undesirables, the no-hopers, misfits… the teenagers who don’t fit in, who flunk every school test and often end up on the wrong side of the law.

But these teens have a secret – they are secret agents for a mysterious international organisation – the Mindmerge Organisation Bureau – International Law Enforcement. Selected using secret tests, they're gifted with skills to tackle any threat to the world, anywhere and any time!

In Game World, the teen agents investigate the disappearance of children from a major theme park - and uncover a sinister plot - the work of deadly Cyboks!

Team M.O.B.I.L.E. is a ROK Comics production from Ferg Handley (script), Andrew Chiu (art), Kris Carter and Kirsty Swan (colour) and Jim Campbell (letters), backed by a full UK-US voice cast and soundtrack. This issue also includes a background feature on the world of Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and the Cyboks.

Now on sale in the iTunes store for Apple devices

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

downthetubes.net: Main Site Closed, for now

Owing to rising costs - in part, it appears, due to a dramatic rise in "hot linking" to images on the site, which results in excess bandwidth charges of £50 per month - we have been forced to temporarily close down the main downthetubes.net web site.

downthetubes normally costs some £500 a year to operate - in part to pay for hosting of the main site.  The site is run by volunteers. I cannot currently justify that cost in the current economic climate.

Our news blog is still active and will continue here at: http://downthetubescomics.blogspot.co.uk/


We are very grateful to our 2012-2013 sponsor Panel Nine for their support,
without whom we would not have been able to continue publishing the site for the last 12 months.

John Freeman, WebMaster
Support downthetubes

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Breaking talent to be showcased at Kendal-based comic art festival’s Clock Tower

Some of the UK’s best emerging and established comic art talent will be showcasing their skills at the specially-dedicated Comics Clock Tower venue as part of Kendal's The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Print Media, publishers of STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine.

The festival will run from 18-20th October in Kendal in Cumbria. Held beneath the landmark tower of Kendal Town Hall, the Comics Clock Tower venue will be a vibrant mash-up of writers and artists from a wide variety of styles and genres, who will be signing, sketching and selling their original creations.

Occult antiquarians will rub shoulders with urban teen vigilantes. Slacker vampires will size-up the romantic poets in a venue that promises to have something for comic fans and those who may not have read comics since they were kids.

The aim of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival’s Comics Clock Tower is to champion some of the breaking talent of comic art, as well as some of the industry’s more established names. The focus is on writers and artists who are pioneers of new styles in the field of comics and graphic storytelling. The venue will celebrate and introduce their work to a new audience.

Owen Johnson, co-ordinator of the Comics Clock Tower, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to reveal some of the comic creators and publishers taking part in the three-day marketplace.  These are some of the brightest, freshest names in British comics and it really is a privilege to present them to a wider audience.

“In the lead up to the show, we plan to use our various social media platforms to present interviews and artwork from these guests in order to explore them and their work in graphic novels.”

There will be an emphasis on creators working or living in the North of England. These will be joined by a selection of cutting-edge names from across the country, as well as leading UK publishers.


Guests who will be appearing at the Comics Clock Tower include:
  • Emma Vieceli, 33, from Cambridge, who has worked on the Manga Shakespeare series for SelfMadeHero, Girl Comics for Marvel, Violet for The DFC, My Little Pony for Hasbro, and Comic Book Tatoo for Image Comics.
    Her more recent work includes The Avalon Chronicles, the award winning Vampire Academy and the graphic novel adaptations of the Anthony Horowitz Alex Rider series.
  • Great Beast, a publishing house which is dedicated to making fun, creative, accessible and pop-culture inspired comics.
  • Black Hearted Press – Scotland’s leading independent comic book publisher. The publisher’s leading title School of the Damned has been optioned to be made into a motion picture.
  • Andrew Tunney (aka 2hands) – Manchester-based, Andrew’s debut self-published comic GIRL&BOY was nominated for Best Comic in the first ever British Comic Awards in 2012. He is also the colourist for Peabody & D’gorath.
  • Nich Angell – Nich has been drawing explosive, vibrant and colourful comics for clients such as Mattel, Hasbro, WWF, Titan and the BBC for more than seven years. He has also recently produced concepts and games for an animated series for Nickelodeon UK.
Many of the more than 50 special guest writers and artists who will be appearing at the festival will also make appearances within the Comics Clock Tower., which will give an opportunity to people to buy from a wide range of new and existing comic art of all genres.

Names already announced as attending the festival include founder patrons Bryan and Mary Talbot and as well as Sean Philips, Ed Brubaker, Charlie Adlard, Posy Simmonds, Kurt Busiek, Joe Sacco and many others.

Julie Tait, festival director, said: “We want to give comic fans the chance to discover something new and also encourage others, who may perhaps think comics are just for kids, to pick up a graphic novel and find out what they are missing.

“The Lakes International Comic Art Festival wants to highlight the diversity of the UK comic arts community. One of the ways we will be doing this is through the Comics Clock Tower – our version of a comics’ marketplace.”

• More details about the new event are available at www.comicartfestival.com.

In Review: Thorgal - Ogotai's Crown

Thorgal - Ogotai's Crown picks up directly from where the previous book, Brand Of The Exiles, left off. However this Thorgal title is very different to the more traditional Viking tale of exile and slavery of the preceding book as writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Gzegorz Rosinki give readers a major dose of time-travelling science fiction.

After Thorgal lost his memory, the treacherous Kriss of Valnor convinced him that he was a merciless pirate called Shaigan as well as her husband. Shaigan and his men have been roaming the seas terrorising all travellers, including Thorgal's own people, the Vikings, ever since. When one Viking survived to tell his tale, Thorgal's true wife, Aaricia, was branded an exile and with his two children Jolan and Wolf Cub, set out to find him. When Aaricia was recognised by Kriss, Kriss had her and Wolf Cub imprisoned and taken to Shaigan's castle as slaves. Meanwhile the young Jolan buys a boat and with two friends sets out to rescue his mother and sister.

Losing his boat and friends to a storm, Jolan is washed up on an island with a man who seems to know rather too much about him - a man who turns out to be from the far future and who uses a sword-like device to time travel. He displays his ability by retrieving the lost crown of Ogotai. a device that increases Jolan's own psychokinetic abilities giving him a fighting chance to free both his mother and sister from Shaigan's castle and also to free Thorgal from Kriss' influence.

As with the previous Thorgal time travel story, The Master of The Mountains, the plot gets very complex very quickly as time lines are crossed and and an older Jolan is recruited to help his younger self. However at the core of the story, and its strength, is Jolan's single-minded determination to rescue his family from the injustice foisted upon them in the previous book.

It is worth pointing out that for all the stylistic differences between this and the previous Thorgal book, they are two halves of the same story and you really need to have read The Brand Of The Exiles to appreciate fully what is going on in this book. It may not be as brutal as the 'one story = two books' of Van Hamme's modern day series Largo Winch, but like the Largo books it gives him plenty of time to set up his situations and secondary characters which is always to the benefit of the story.

As the second part of the story begun in The Brand Of The Exiles, Thorgal - Ogotai's Crown was not how I was expecting the story to continue yet, as ever, Jean Van Hamme weaves a masterful story with more than enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing its outcome right through to its conclusion.

• There are more details of the English language Thorgal books at the Cinebook website.

• There are more details of the French language Thorgal albums at the official Thorgal
website (in French).

Monday, 6 May 2013

New 9th Art Award: Submission Details announced

Graphic Scotland and the Edinburgh International Book Festival have announced that submissions are now open for the inaugural 9th Art Award for graphic fiction.

The 9th Art Award will choose the best work of graphic literature originally written and published in English between May 2012 and July 2013, from anywhere in the world.
Judging the prize will be:
  • graphic fiction historian Paul Gravett
  • acclaimed arts critic and writer Hannah McGill
  • Freight Press publisher Adrian Searle
  • Costa award-winning writer of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes Mary Talbot
A casting vote will be given to Graphic Scotland chair John McShane in the event of a tie. The award will be presented during an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

Graphic Scotland Co-Director Gordon Robertson believes the prize could become a fixture on the international arts scene, and as important to sequential art as the Man Booker Prize is to literary fiction. “The 9th Art Award will be a significant annual award for recognition of excellence in the field of Graphic Literature," he says. "Its introduction as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival recognises graphic literature's rightful status as an art form.”

Graphic Scotland is an independent community interest company aiming to bring together Scottish-based writers, artists and publishers in international collaborations to create diverse and innovative new graphic fiction.

Every August, Charlotte Square Gardens in the heart of historic Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, becomes the home to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Founded in 1983, the Book Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world and has become a platform for audiences to debate with leading thinkers from the worlds of science, politics, business, economics and journalism as well as literature.

This year, from 10 - 26 August, the Book Festival will play host to authors, playwrights, poets, politicians, journalists and thinkers from around the world. Over 200,000 visitors will come to join the debate, meet the authors, browse the bookshops or just enjoy an ice cream in the tranquil setting of the beautiful gardens. To complement the adult programme there is a full children’s programme with events, workshops and debates for every age from toddler to teenager.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, says of the 9th Art Award: “We have featured graphic novel authors and illustrators in our programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a number of years now and I believe that this new Award will give the genre the wider recognition that it deserves.”

• The deadline for entries is 31st July 2013.
More details: www.9thartfestival.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/9thartfestival
Twitter: @9thArtAward

In Review: Thorgal - Brand Of The Exiles

Cinebook may have completed Jean Van Hamme's XIII series of books but they still have others from the bandes dessinee master and one of them is the Viking fantasy series Thorgal. Illustrated by artist Gzegorz Rosinski, The Brand Of The Exiles takes readers back to some characters the series hasn't dealt with for a while, Thorgal's wife Aaricia and their children Jolan and Wolfcub.

In their village the women, children and old men wait for their men to return home from a raiding expedition with food and treasure but instead a lone survivor of the ships appears. He tells the story of their ships being attacked by a pirate known as Shaigan The Merciless who killed or enslaved all but him, a pirate that he recognised as the missing Thorgal.

Because of this the women of the village turn on Aaricia demanding blood money for their dead menfolk. She is tried under Viking law and literally branded an exile, the brand on her cheek meaning that she must forever be shunned by all. Taking her children, Aaricia has no choice but to leave and make the dangerous trek to the coast in an attempt to find Thorgal and understand what has happened.

It has been some four books since we last saw Thorgal with Aaricia when she gave birth to Wolfcub and, in that time, while we have been following Thorgal's adventures, his family have been getting on with life, so it is good to have Van Hamme return to these characters. Indeed it is also good to see one of his books written from the underdog's perspective and, with her very visible branding, her young children, winter weather, and little rations, Aaricia is most definitely the underdog here.

As we discover more about the situation when the ever treacherous Kriss Of Valnor appears, it is Thorgal's son Jolan who comes to the fore and quickly becomes the hero of the piece. As his mother is captured and he is faced with the choice of watching her and Wolfcub sail off into slavery or attempt to free the Viking slaves to help him, he shows his resourcefulness.

Rosinski's rich artwork shows off the Viking village and its population before the story moves on to the family's trek through the forest and mountains, before he his given the chance of a night-time battle between the slaves and their jailers. As ever Rosinski's artwork reminds me of John Ridgway's colour work and it never disappoints.

While Thorgal himself appears in only a single panel of The Brand Of The Exiles, this should not put potential readers off as this is a book that shows off Jean Van Hamme's ability to write just as well for his secondary cast of characters in this series as he can for its hero.

• There are more details of the English language Thorgal books at the Cinebook website.

• There are more details of the French language Thorgal albums at the official Thorgal website (in French).

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Ranger Book Available From Bear Alley Books

The Rise And Fall Of The Trigan Empire is rightly considered one of the best British comic strips of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Written by Mike Butterworth and initially illustrated by Don Lawrence, it ran in Look and Learn magazine from 1966 until the magazine folded in 1982 yet while many people are aware of this, fewer are aware that the series was created not for Look and Learn but for its sibling title Ranger.

Ranger was an attempt in 1965 to return to the 1950s heyday of Eagle with comic strips and factual information in a highly illustrated and well produced format. Named after NASA's Ranger space probes, the comic ran for 40 tabloid-sized issues from September 1965 to June 1966 (plus 2 annuals) but failed to gain enough of an audience and so was amalgamated into Look and Learn.

As well as Trigan Empire, the other strip to transfer into Look and Learn was Mike Butterworth's other SF series Space Cadet featuring the character of Jason January and illustrated by Geoff Campion. Some ten years later Ranger may have been forgotten but both Trigan Empire and Jason January Space Cadet were considered commercial enough to be reprinted in hardback books in the enthusiasm for science fiction that followed the release of Star Wars.

Bear Alley Books latest publication is a book on Ranger with a long and heavily illustrated history of the title, a comprehensive index, and reprints of the full run of the Famous Fighting Aces feature by Colin Merrett as well as two complete comic strips, The Adventures of Macbeth by Ruggero Giovannini and Moby Dick by Franco Caprioli.

Ranger: The National Boy's Magazine is compiled by Steve Holland and David Slinn. The 162 page, A4, perfect bound book is priced at £15.99 plus postage and is available directly from the Bear Alley Books website.

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