Tuesday, 17 October 2017

OINK!: A DREDD-FULL COMIC

It's Scream and Misty Eve.  What am I on about?  Rebellion, owners and publishers of 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine are resurrecting a gruesome twosome for Halloween this year.  The classic horror comics Scream and Misty are joining forces in one very special comic and it creeps its way onto shop shelves tomorrow!

After the acquisition of Egmont's back catalogue, who in turn had bought Fleetway's comics many moons ago, Rebellion are also the new owners of Oink!, so I thought this was the perfect reason (read: decent excuse) to gather together the few times the fearsome Mega-City One Judge was the subject of our comic's good natured ribbing:


All but one of these have been featured on the blog before but as a special treat for this occasion I thought I'd collect them together in one post, alongside the one strip I hadn't shown you yet, namely this first one below.  Written by co-creator and co-editor Mark Rodgers and drawn with the exact right atmosphere this spoof needs by Steve Gibson, Judge Pigg first appeared in #14.  He was right there in the very first issue of Oink!, and thus first ever comic, my younger self ever bought for himself!  As someone who is now collecting the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files series of books and the 2000AD Ultimate Collection partwork, this now seems like perfect synchronicity!:


I wouldn't have known at the time I first read that strip and neither did I know when I read the issue as part of my blog read-through back in November 2013, but now I can see there's some lovely Easter Eggs in there for Dreddheads.  If you're familiar with Joe in the pages of 2000AD did you spot any of them?  Like the spoofing of the way the blocks are named, the replacement for the eagle usually found on the shoulder of a Judge, or the graffiti reference to a certain perp from Dredd's very first year back in 1977/78?  Great stuff.

So below are the other three times Uncle Pigg's minions set about taking the hand out of future justice, all of which have featured on the blog when those issues were written about.  I'll not bother you with any further waffle from me about them, because I've already done that!  So here then for new readers, or as "another chance to read" for regulars are the return of Judge Pigg in #58 from April 1988 on probably his most important mission to date, Judge Dredd's run-in with Psycho Gran after she finds herself warped into the future courtesy of the mind (and pen) of David Leach and then finally there's David's cut-out Gran doll with various forms of attire included:


From Holiday Special #2 (1988)

From #42, the fashion special from November 1987

It may not be Christmas Eve yet, but it is the eve of something I'm really looking forward to.  Having never read either comic, but knowing they'd have been right up my street, I'm looking forward to my introduction to both Scream and Misty tomorrow.  Expect a full write-up at the end of the month around Halloween itself and click on the banner below to be taken to Rebellion's website with all the information (and one brilliant video advert!) you'll need:


Remember to set your alarms that little bit earlier in the morning, I'm certain you won't want to miss out on this!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

COMIC BOOK HERO: KICKING IT WITH THE KIDS

Released on 1st September this year, the book has a
brand new piece of cover artwork from David Sque

Firstly, I should say I do not like football.  I sometime go see our local ice hockey team here in Belfast, I run and cycle, then every two years I become obsessed with the Winter and Summer Olympics to the degree that I simply don't sleep so I can see as much as possible live.  But aside from these I'm not what anyone would call a fan of sport.  Unless it was on the Wii.  It's important to state this before writing about this book, because if you look into it you might see there's a lot of sporting references within and that might put you off if you don't like sport, but that would be the wrong thing to do.  This is a wonderful read.

Barrie Tomlinson is a giant in the world of British comics.  Recently I've started to (slowly) expand the blog as you'll know and two of the comics Barrie edited are top of the pile, namely Ring Raiders and Wildcat, the former of which is currently part of a fortnightly series of posts.  He also edited Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures, Mask and Super Naturals, all of which form memories of some sort from my youth.  But these licenced and/or short-lived titles were only the tip of the iceberg of comics Barrie created and this hardback volume sees him take us on a trip down memory lane in the most personal of ways.

The Wildcat spacecraft taking pride of place on the back cover

Lion, Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, Top Soccer, 2000AD, Battle, Speed, The New Eagle, Scream, Mask, Super Naturals, Wildcat, Hot-Shot, Ring Raiders, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures, Toxic Crusaders, The Big Daddy Annuals, The Geoff Boycott Annual, The Suzie Dando Annual, Johnny Cougar's Wrestling Monthly, Scorer, one-off specials, magazines, World Cup poster magazines, sports quiz books, greetings cards, Ladybird books... this is a career which could take up several volumes of books full of intricate details, facts and figures, making-of features etc.  But instead what we have here is something much better than that.

 
Lion was a roaring success (sorry)

It's hard to describe Barrie's writing style in Comic Book Hero and do it justice.  To say it's "natural" is to use a well worn cliché and to sell it short.  But it really does feel like he's sitting next to you having a casual chat, reminiscing about his creations, his colleagues and friends, the personalities he met and all the fun he had along the way.  It's an extremely readable book and when you see there's no chapters as such, just the occasional comic title sub-heading in one, big diary of sorts it really stands out as something unique.  Before settling in to read it you may think this is a very brave move on the part of the writer, but just a few pages in you'll come to realise this is the perfect choice for Barrie's particular story and his style of storytelling.

Part of the typed instructions given to Barrie when he was
covering for the holidaying Lion editor

Barrie's work with Fleetway Publications began in 1961 and this book covers everything he worked on right up to 2011(!) and his subsequent retirement from the field.  The majority of the book is taken up with Tiger, the action comic which focussed on sporting stories, but not before we've had some fantastic insights into how the comics of the day were edited thanks to Barrie learning from the likes of Bernard Smith.  Even in times of high work volumes and obvious stress, Barrie is completely respectful and understanding of those he worked for and it's refreshing to read a book which doesn't relish in "exposing" or "bitching" in order to sell.

Now here's a real megastar for this non-sporting reader, the
one and only Eric Morecambe giving Barrie his patented face slap!

As I said I'm not exactly a sports fan, but I found it fascinating to read how loved and respected Tiger was in the world of sport, particularly football and cricket.  Obviously money and exposure would be part of it, but it genuinely reads like a lot of these stars would've taken part for free, such was the fun they had working on the comic as regular writers, as photo stars, at competition days with readers or special Tiger award events.  The photos of these latter gatherings in particular are fantastic and it's amazing to think of all these celebrities, including even the likes of Morecambe and Wise, came together in such a way for a children's comic title.

In many ways it's unfortunate some of his contemporaries accused Barrie of only wanting to further himself by holding such events or inviting stars onto the titles he edited, but as he explains it was all for the comics.  It worked a treat too!  Comics like Tiger and Roy of the Rovers enjoyed long lives and huge circulation figures and the exposure these guest stars brought certainly wasn't to be sniffed at in my view.

When the British Action Force toys and comics became
part of G.I.Joe Barrie's comics created their own original version

It's not all glitz and glamour, although there is a further section at the back of the book where we hear more about the celebrities Barrie met during his career (along with a naked radio interview story which has to be read to be believed).  There's plenty of insider information on the creation of the comics themselves, all delivered through the casual memories of a incredibly talented individual.  For particular interest to me were Barrie's personal thoughts about Ring Raiders' short lifespan, taking the helm of the Turtles juggernaut in the U.K. and some wonderful insider knowledge on the creation of Wildcat.  This takes the form of some Ian Kennedy sketches and the original synopsis for the script of the preview comic given away with the last issue of Oink!

Original Wildcat notes and sketches were a highlight for me

It was also fun to find out about comics I'd never read originally and I found it particularly fascinating to learn about Storm Force.  I'd seen adverts for its Battle comic debut in the pages of other Fleetway publications such as the very one this blog was created to cover.  I knew it was a big deal to the publishers at the time but didn't know why until finding out in the book that their contract to create Action Force comics had come to an end, with Hasbro taking over the toy line to relaunch it as the British version of G.I. Joe.  Here we see some sketches and get plenty of insights into how it came about and I agree with Barrie when he states the characters would've made good toys themselves!

A good example of not only the top celebrities within, but
also of Barrie's self-deprecating humour

Yes, this book covers a lot of comics from the 70s and early 80s, before the likes of Oink! came along, but I can promise you'll find a hugely entertaining and interesting read here.  I didn't discover the joy of reading comics for myself until #14 of Oink! towards the end of 1986, so I wanted to categorically state for any pig pals who were only introduced to the medium at around the same time, that if you collected any comics from IPC or Fleetway in your youth you'll love this.  I can almost guarantee you Barrie had a hand in it.

But it doesn't stop there, Comic Book Hero covers the formation of Creative Editorial Services, when Barrie and his team worked freelance at home creating comics for the publishers.  You'll know I'm covering Ring Raiders at the moment on the blog and to think this was created in the comfort of his own home, I'm insanely jealous of Barrie's job at that time!  Also in here are the later publications Barrie created when he moved on from weekly/fortnightly comics, right up to the final episode of Scorer in the Daily Mirror in 2011 after it ran for an incredible 22 years!

That in itself is a huge achievement.  Indeed, the last section of the book is simply entitled, 'What A Life!' and I couldn't agree more.  From chatting with Barrie about the comics he worked on, both for the blog and over on Twitter, I can say he's an absolute gent, is hugely open about all his work and puts the fans first even to this day.  This all comes across throughout every page of this wonderful, personal book.

If you're a fan of British comics you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of Comic Book Hero.

To purchase it for yourself you can click here to do so on Amazon.

There's also a two-part interview with Barrie here on the blog where he discusses both Wildcat and Ring Raiders, which you can jump to part one of by clicking here.

Ring Raiders still remains a cherished childhood favourite and it's currently being covered, starting with an introduction you can read here.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

RING RAIDERS #3: A CHILLINGLY GOOD READ


Poster segment by Sandy James (we think), Chiller
is by regular cover artist Ian Kennedy

So last time Skull Leader Chiller appeared both in the first story of the issue and on the introductory letters page and I told you how he was a fan favourite, with his Wing being a difficult one to come across in the toy shops.  It was one I missed out on as a kid because of this, but that didn't mean he was any less of a favourite character in the comic.  Think "Megatron" and how difficult he was to get as a toy back then due to demand, but we still loved to hate him in the comic and on the telly!  Chiller was the equivalent for 'Raiders collectors.  Those memories came flooding back with this issue because he's all over this one.  As well as co-starring on the free poster and on the comic-produced advert (both below), he's also on the cover, has his own pin-up inside and is the star of no less than two of the five strips, including as the title character of the complete story, the first Skull pilot to do so.

With a sleek plane equipped with a freeze ray and am equally slick haircut equipped with a white stripe he was the epitome of villainy, probably more so than their leader Scorch at this early stage.  Although to be fair there's only so many pages to develop characters and the comic is slowing moving its way through the large ensemble cast.  Speaking of ensembles, I picked up this issue to read for this post and was pleasantly surprised to feel it was heavier than usual, because the poster was still inside, still attached by its staples!  I had both posters (Ring Raiders were on #2's) on my bedroom wall at the time but we're a bit lost as to who drew them.  I did previously state it was Sandy James but a close look at it and, when comparing it to Freedom Flight I'm not so sure.  Even editor Barrie Tomlinson isn't sure when I asked him, so hopefully I can track the answer down:

The two posters worked well side-by-side on the wall as one
long poster of all the top Wing Commanders and planes

The poster may have looked well on the wall, but to be honest when compared to #1 and then #4 onwards which had some dynamic air action, the covers of this and the previous are rather tame.  Not that I was complaining at the time of course, it was still a novelty to see these toys drawn as full-sized machines.  For the first story inside, part two of Battle Zone '99 we're given the reason for the attack last issue; to de-stabalise the balance of world power.  This was the raison d'être for Skull Squadron from the toys, to take advantage of time travel and attack key targets that would form a future where they could assume control of the whole world.  It was an original idea for the time, even if it's become somewhat clichéd these days.  But this was 1989, looking towards the future of 1999 remember...

Apart from Chiller's toy fact-file stating he often flew missions alone instead of in his Wing, there's no explanation in Barrie's story as to why the usual formations aren't used here, but as an extended introduction to the early days of the comic and some of the Wing Commanders it works really well.  Especially for Chiller, who has already destroyed a sub and killed dozens of people and then gets rescued by Skull Leader Scorch from an ambush:

Carlos Pino's colouring has a lovely energy to it,
perfect for such a high-action comic

His plane damaged, Chiller ejects and ends up parachuting onto the deck of the sub he was about to destroy, where the crew attempt to capture him.  Scorch then flies by and takes a pot shot at the sub, not realising Chiller is on it until it's too late.  He and his captors leap into the water for safety, all of them thinking Scorch was targeting them, but Chiller clambers back on board, kicks the rest into the water and heads towards the inside of the sub looking for its weapons system.  Cursing all the planes in the air, we were left wondering how far he'd go to enact his revenge and would that include Scorch?  These characters' blank slates were slowly getting filled and we were learning what they were all about, so it was anyone's guess as to what was coming up next, and I can't remember.  So I'll have to wait another fortnight.

Next, writer Angus Allan and artist John Cooper continue their epic Trackdown! with part three of this epic tale.  The comic feels so confident here, it not only continues to have two original pilots (unnamed in the toy line) as the main characters at this part of the story, but we also only see the fighter aircraft in one of the final frames of page four.  For the majority of this episode Raider Riley and Skull Runtz stick to a Mountain Forestry helicopter, stolen by Riley when he realises he doesn't have the time to tell the Rangers the fantastical tale and convince them it's the truth.  But it's no less exciting and below you can see how the guest chopper is the main mechanical star this time around:

A cross section of Trackdown Part 3

The story and its characters are the most important thing here, they come first and foremost above everything.  Of course in an action comic you always have to factor in some adventure and we always got that in each issue overall, but if it's pointless and you don't like those taking part it falls flat.  A perfect blockbuster movie for me will contain a good overall story, it can be complicated or it can be simple as long as it's told well, with good characters that are three-dimensional enough to care about what's happening to them.  Without those key ingredients all the special effects and action in the world ends up a boring mess.

It never felt like Ring Raiders' team of writers were trying to shoehorn in the toy planes and the action that the title was based on; this was a proper, quality comic!  Even though we'd no idea at this point how long Trackdown would last, it still felt like the main story.  There was something epic about it only twelve pages in and it stood apart from the other strips. Perhaps it was the fact it was inventing new characters, maybe it was the scope of Skull Squadron's plot, or maybe it was the human element.  Whatever it was, this felt like the comic's star strip and I would be proved right in the end.  More on that in a future post though.

The middle strip was always a page longer than the "main story", although it was a series of complete tales as regular readers of the blog will know by now.  Chiller returns again and now it's his turn to reminisce about an event from his past to paint a picture of his character.  I honestly don't intend for this to be a pun, but this is a rather chilling tale!  This is definitely my favourite out of the profile stories:



It's interesting (to me anyway) to note how it's the same team of writer Scott Goodall and artist John Gillatt that come back every issue to tell us a complete, original story.  Having read back over the whole of the comic's run previously, it's clear each of the serials would be followed with another from the same creative team.  If the comic had lasted longer it would've made for nice consistency and I'd like to think these complete stories would've carried on for months and months and months under the guidance of these two wonderfully creative individuals.  They've settled into a format, starting with a battle in the various aircraft before getting lost in the memories of the protagonist.

CHILLED TO THE BONE

What I really like about this one is how this character, who was just "another evil doer" in the toys, was actually painted as a regular guy with a job (which of course was tied to flying), trying to scrape a living and generally pissed off with life.  Even though he obviously had some kind of inner evil streak given what he shows he's capable of in the end, he most likely wouldn't have ended up in Skull Squadron if he hadn't run into this "American".  I quote that because it's use makes me think Chiller is meant to be British, though I may be jumping to conclusions.

The image of the frozen climber was somewhat shocking to me as a kid and was totally unexpected.  Chiller epitomised Skull Squadron to me.  He's certainly leaving the highest death toll in the comic so far.  Along with Battle Zone '99's sub massacre, actually killing a Ring Raider at the start of this strip, then leaving a man to freeze to death... he was a genuinely evil, menacing presence and after this story we couldn't wait to see him return.  More than ever.

Moving on, pages 16-19 were forever destined to feature stories written by aviation fanatic (and editor Barrie's son) James Nicholas and illustrated with the intricate detail of Don Wazejewski.  Last time I mentioned how the cliffhanger involved Raider "Cub" Jones unconscious in his cockpit, his canopy blown out and Hubbub's Artificial Lightning Guns were baring down on him.  I said how I hoped Cub didn't get out of the situation too conveniently.  Well, he didn't.  He got shot down!:

Don's artwork and Nicholas' love of aircraft combined to bring a
great World War II atmosphere to Bomber Blues

A Raider shot down, the airfield of World War II bombers almost completely destroyed, Skull Squadron returning to finish the job.  Hope seemed lost.  A quick blast into the future shows Ring Commander Vector instruct there to be no rescue attempt, that Cub had a score to settle and would want to do so on his own.  Indeed Cub's craft was repaired just enough to fly again, but the undercarriage had been completely destroyed and the aircraft was up on maintenance stilts.  He had no way of getting it into the air.  That is, until the young, ingenious pilot who'd originally fought in the War came up with the plan in the final photo above.  I loved this as a kid, but now I'm just wondering how on earth the Bomber itself was able to take off when it's clear its own undercarriage wouldn't have touched the ground with the F-5 underneath it!

But anyway, previously I'd mentioned how the letters pages were alternatively hosted by the Raiders and the Skulls each issue, with readers picking sides, leading to some strips having cliffhangers where it'd actually be the Skull Squadron pilot in a life or death moment.  This was the first such case and was a nice reversal of fortune from the immediately preceding issue.

IT'S ALL BEGINNING TO AD UP

Speaking of the Skull Squadron, they were also the stars of the toy advertisement for this issue.  Created by the comic team instead of Matchbox they'd started off rather sparse and dull, but now we were starting to see original comic artwork from Sandy James come into the full-page ads.  I don't know of any other instance of a comic creating the adverts for the property it was based on, but they tied in these tiny planes to the stories in the comic in brilliant fashion.  I do wonder, if the comic and toys had carried on for longer (as they both deserved to) would we have seen this relationship tighten further and where would it have led?  Would we have seen Sandy's artwork eventually on the toy packaging?  Would Barrie and his team have taken responsibility for the tiny fold-out comics we got with our planes?  Just wondering aloud as a fan who really saw their potential and continues to do so to this day:

More unique advertising to come

This issue contains our first letters page with reader content, the aforementioned Chiller pin-up and a coupon to join The Ring Raiders Club, and one of the copies of this issue I have is actually my original and this coupon has been cut out and was sent off back in 1989.  Not that I ever received anything back.  I'll be taking a look at these features in future posts.  For now though, we've got to the final three pages and the strip which has surprised me the most in this read-through; Freedom Flight.

RINGING IN THE ACTION

I enjoyed all these stories when I was younger and again a few years back when I wrote my original Beyond Oink! post, but the ones that really stood out were other strips.  However, this time I'm just being sucked in here more than before and I think it's thanks to a new found appreciation of Sandy James' superb artwork.  Solid, colourful and extremely dynamic in its storytelling, it brings Tom Tully's script blasting out of the page.  Last time former-Russian-pilot-now-Ring-Raider, Commander Kirkov was plummeting towards the fort, his death seemed imminent and so did the successful change of a key moment in history:

Bold artwork and a bold introduction to the
namesake feature of the toys

Now, as I've said before when we played with the toys it wasn't the "power of the ring" in the way you might think from reading that above.  The ring itself didn't have any kind of power source inside it, instead it used the energy of its pilot to boost the plane in times of emergency and/or when extra power was needed.  It quickly drained the pilot's energy though, so could only be used as a last resort, and if used for too long could send him into a coma or even kill him.  The caption above may just be worded poorly though because after Kirkov dramatically pulls up, just missing the fort and taking out a Skull plane in the process, he frantically looks for a place to land his damaged bird before it's too late.

Mako (my second favourite Skull Squadron pilot after Chiller, thanks to his shark-themed motifs and a jet that could temporarily submerge itself in water) doesn't make it easy for him though and uses the above information about the ring to his advantage.  As he keeps Kirkov in the air by continually firing upon him, he screams, "Time's running out, Kirkov!  You can't fly on ring power forever or you'll burn out your own nervous system!".  There we go!  While previously I thought the comic didn't establish the ring properly it's now just proved me completely wrong and I'm very happy about that!  Great stuff.

The time travelling, the pilots and planes from various eras, the aim of the Skulls to de-stablise the world as we know it, and now the rings and the dramatic way they can be used (as well as for other little gadgets and as a pre-Bluetooth comms unit); all of these things were adding up to what could only be a thrilling comic!  For now though it's time to break for another fortnight:


With Kirkov losing Mako in the smoke of battle and landing in an area which seems to be overrun by rebels, the last page closes off another exciting issue.  It's sad to think we're already halfway through the run of the regular comic, but there's many more thrills, tightly scripted plots, great characterisation and amazing artwork to come over the next three issues and the big, fat special next year too!  Strap in and stay tuned!

Issue four will be winging its way to you on Saturday 28th October.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

PIG PAL PEOPLE: MARC MAKES COMICS, YOU KNOW!

Back in August fellow pig pal Dan Whitehead graciously allowed me to probe his brain with questions regarding his write-up about Oink! in the pages of Big Issue North for our comic's 30th anniversary.  Oink! had definitely had an effect on Dan as a child and was one part of the puzzle which inspired him to follow his dream of being a freelance writer.  It gave me an idea.  What about other pig pals?  Who else out of those young readers went on to do something with their lives thanks in part to Uncle Pigg's porky publication?  So here's the next instalment of Pig Pal People (I've just edited the title of Dan's interview!) and this time it's the turn of an insanely talented humour cartoonist by the name of Marc Jackson.

This is what you get when you ask Marc for a photo.

Marc is also a member of the Oink! Facebook group and after some chat over there he got in touch directly to talk about his comics.  Marc's style and sense of humour is something which wouldn't look out of place in a modern day Oink! and I'll definitely be investing in his self-published comics, so look out for some write-ups at a future point.  But it's not just his independent work we'll talk about here, as he's been featured in The Beano and Aces Weekly and also organises a comics festival in Macclesfield!  Here's a pig pal who really grabbed his dream and ran with it with all four trotters!  It wasn't just inspiration Marc took away from Oink! too, as over the years he's cultivated friendships out of the comic and one of its contributors in particular helped open a very big door for him.

Here was a great story, a great guy and some truly great, creative comics.  I just had to include Marc as part of this semi-regular series!

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Me: What are your overriding memories of Oink! and how important do you see it when you look back on your life and where you find yourself now?

Marc: My memory of Oink! is the general craziness of the comic.  I would have been 11/12, something leapt out at me and initially this would have been the art.  I really enjoyed Ham Dare, which Lew Stringer wrote and I'm a big fan of Lew.  My dad introduced me to Dan Dare when the Eagle relaunched and that strip and art really resonated with me.

Me: You've specifically mentioned Lew Stringer to me as being a huge inspiration to you, can you elaborate?  Was there anything in particular about his drawing style, story-telling etc. and did you follow him in other comics of the day, such as other Fleetway humour titles and Marvel action comics?

Marc: Lew's worked leapt out at me from the pages of Marvel UK comics that Lew worked on - Transformers, Action Force etc.  I loved Macho Man and Combat Colin and looked forward to those strips as much as the rest of the comic, maybe more some weeks to be honest.  It was the fact he was drawing in a way I wanted to, I found that fascinating in a comic with more realistic art.



Me: You ended up creating two brand new characters for The Beano!  How did that come about?

Marc: Yes, the two characters I created were Lenny the Lettuce and Dawgtective and it was actually Lew (can you see the theme?) that gave me a contact from the editor.  I submitted a number of things over a couple of years and one day, after sending lots of greatly improved strips I'd worked on, they came back to me and wanted to run with Lenny, which was incredible!  I couldn't believe I was going to be in The Beano, it was a great moment.  The year after I submitted Dawgtective and they liked that one too, in fact he ran for a little longer than Lenny the Lettuce.

Me: You've also organised your own comic festival!  How did that come about?

Marc: Yes, I organise MACC-POW! a mini yet mighty comic event in my hometown of Macclesfield and have done so for the past two years.  I was approached by a local arts festival called Barnaby which runs every two years for ten days and fills the town.  The event was my contribution, in fact it was Lew who I first asked to come along and it went from there.  It has been great to meet him and I consider him a comics pal now, which is pretty crazy after all these years.


MACC-POW! has been very well received and this year I grew it, bringing twenty-seven creators to the town, some old faces, some new, all inside the Town Hall building.  It's been great to bring comics to the town in such a way.  We also have live Skype link-ups from the US.  Both years we have had James Kochalka and this year Tillie Walden, a current indie comics up-and-coming star!  Next year it will grow again and I welcome back Lew and David Leach who attended this year for the first time, so there's another Oink! link right there!

Me: On to your self-published comics.  Are you still working for other publishers or are you concentrating on your own titles now?

Marc: This year I was commissioned by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and received a grant from the Arts Council England to create a new comic called Here Comes Cat Stevens!, a spooky mystery comic that is inspired by classic Scooby-Doo and the Netflix TV show Stranger Things.  It involves a cat in a red jacket, his friends, pizza and the possibility of a monster that only orders said pizzas to eat the delivery guys!

You can read a preview of Here Comes Cat Stevens!

I'm very proud of my work on this and look forward to showcasing it this weekend (14th/15th September) at the festival, whilst running workshops that are based around it, one of which is inside Pizza Express that I have also created window graphics for, featuring two of the characters.


I've also self-published a new adventure comic series, launching #1 over the weekend, called Robo Hats which is a sci-fi comedy adventure for all-ages.  There will be four issues of that, hopefully a second before Christmas.  I'm also serialising it on my Patreon page.

PIG OUT ON MARC'S COMICS!

I think Oink! readers would enjoy all my work, but particularly my sci-fi comedy comic Goons of the Galaxy which appears in Aces Weekly, an online anthology comic from David Lloyd.  It's a gag driven romp into the ridiculous!

You can read a review of Goons of the Galaxy on
the Adventures in Poor Taste website, or click
the Aces Weekly logo to go to there instead

My comics are inspired at times by cartoons more than comics.  I like to put a lot of frantic energy into them and keep them fast-paced, packing lots of ideas in along the way.  Plus they are bright, bold and hopefully great fun to look at!

My inspirations also come from Calvin and Hobbes, my favourite comic strip, Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones one of my all-time favourite cartoonists who I'll be working with at the Lakes and cartoons like The Pink PantherRen and Stimpy, Spongebob and lots more!

Wish to sample the crazy world of Marc's Comics?
Just click the logo!

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Marc's characters are certainly original, his premises are certainly barmy and his sense of humour is certainly on point.  Thanks very much to Marc for taking the time out to take part in this post and for all the information.  I'm looking forward to getting stuck into his creations and in the meantime here's a list of links you may want to check out to catch up on everything so far, as well as those future titles mentioned above.  

Don't forget if you're able to attend Lakes that Marc will be there this coming weekend, running workshops and showing off his latest work and previewing Here Comes Cat Stevens!.  As for myself... what's the best way to get to Macclesfield next summer from Belfast I wonder...









Great stuff!

Friday, 6 October 2017

MEET DAVY FRANCIS FOR PEANUTS

Pig pals in Northern Ireland who have their own piglets should make their way to the Ulster Museum in Belfast this Sunday 8th October for a special event being hosted by the city's best comic store, Comic Book Guys.


As part of the Cinematic Film Festival not only will your kids get to enjoy a special screening of The Peanuts Movie starring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Marcie and the gang but afterwards they'll get the chance to devise and create their own comic!  The link here to the blog, and the main reason I'm sure the adults will be there, is Cowpat County and Greedy Gorb creator Davy Francis.

Davy and the Comic Book Guys will help your little 'uns create their own strip, developing their own characters, stories and worlds!  It's a proper workshop and after having met Davy a couple of times now (the last time being at the Enniskillen Comic Fest when he drew my caricature in the blog's logo) I can whole-heartedly say it'll be a treat for pig pals to get themselves there and have their children take part.

Could your piglets' puns give Davy a run for his money?

The event begins at 10:15am and continues until lunchtime at roughly 12:30pm.  Tickets for the movie and workshop are only £5.50 (including booking fee) and you can grab the final ones for yourselves at the We Got Tickets website right now!

You can also check out the Comic Book Guys' own website and nip along and see them anytime in their shop on Great Victoria Street, Belfast.

Say hi to Davy for me!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #1 of 77

<< GO TO THE INTRODUCTION


#1 of 77?  Yes, this is going to be rather a long venture, but hey at least you know the blog will be around at least that long, right?  As explained previously (click above to go and check out the introduction to all of this) I've decided to show off my entire Marvel UK Transformers comics collection from the 80s and early 90s on photo sharing social media site, Instagram.  Every week for a good few years to come I'll be posting a selection of photos of each issue on their original release dates, which is kind of a theme here.  No scans, no long write-ups, all of which is explained in that previous post.

If you've read it you'll know that while I have read the full story thanks to the seasonal reprint specials, I still don't actually own all of the physical comics from the first year, so I decided to do a series of catch-up posts over 10 days in September to show off what I do have.  Then, from #25 right the way through to #332 there's not a single gap!  Every week, another issue, more photos and brief comment on some of the personal highlights from its pages.  Then, at the end of each month there'll be a recap right here on the blog with all the photos and the captions copied straight over.

So to follow Transformers Instagram on my personal account you can either click on the Instagram camera next to the Twitter bird at the top left of your screen (you don't need an account to check them out, but if you do they'll pop up in your feed) or check out the blog on the last Thursday of each month from now on.  For now, here's September's rather lengthy selection of highlights.


ISSUE 1


#1: STARTING TODAY FOR 6+ YEARS!  I'm showing off my Transformers UK collection!  I've got all the weeklies from #27 to #332 and I'll be posting them up like this on their original release dates!  First, daily posts to get caught up with my 10 issues from year 1 (they reprinted the stories in specials so I've read the whole amazing epic!)  Off we go!

With a superb cover by Jerry Paris and part 1 of the original story, with Machine Man as the back-up.  32 pages, a mix of colour and black and white, with some "unique" features as you'll soon see.  This is how it all began! READ A FULL INTRO ON MY BLOG IN MY BIO.  (Which you already know about if you're reading this recap on the blog)


ISSUE 2


#2: The 2nd issue of 332!  Check out my recent blog post for the background on my huge #Instagram project with these amazing classic comics!


Back to catching up with the first year, #2 has part 2 of the US comic's first story (confused yet?) but mostly in black and white, and two pages were taken out of the story and made into a poster in the middle.  Check out those Marvel annuals too, they should take you back!  And who had one of those watches??  I did and I remember wearing it 24/7! Classic painted cover by John Ridgway.


ISSUE 7


#7: Rounding up the few first year issues in my collection before starting EVERY ISSUE from #25 onwards.  On to #7, the first half of US strip The Last Stand (the final of the original mini-series), partly reproduced black and white and recognise the Marvel Universe reference?  Yep, The Transformers were originally part of it!

Add in the first Bumblebee fact-file using toy art instead of comic art and he's somewhat different than what most of us are used to today!  Finally, a robot news feature!  Well it was the mid 80s after all!


ISSUE 9


#9: As I continue to catch up on the issues I have from year one here's #9, unfortunately in bad condition but still a classic.  Another John Ridgway cover, the first part of the UK's first ever originated material (oh, how they'd develop from here!), some retro Star Wars advertising and the entrance of Matt and the Cat as a humour strip (though I wasn't a fan).


ISSUE 13


#13: Halfway through the first year the 32-page comic had 11 pages of TF strip, the rest made up of Machine Man (who had more pages!), robot news (yes really) and features... and a really dodgy 2-page "adventure" strip of a boy and his sentient robot toys.  It was terrible!  Another classic British strip though and even @schwarzenegger got a look in!


ISSUE 19


#19: Issue 19 & The Transformers feels like it's struggling to fill its 32 pages with only 5 pages of pretty piss-poor TF strip to be honest.  The excellent Machine Man gets twice that & there's some terrible space fillers!

That Planet Terry strip has 8 pages! And Battle of Hastings too?!  What?!  Add in Chromobots and I wonder what TF fans thought at the time!  After a great start the comic was faltering badly!  Thankfully it's not long before a new editor took over, and it became the comic we all loved...


SUMMER SPECIAL: COLLECTED COMICS 1


#CC1: The first ever Transformers Collected Comics!  This 1985 Summer Special has a lovely thick, glossy cover with an actual spine.  Such a shame they didn't keep that format for the rest.  Inside, the first two chapters (from #1 to #4) are, well, collected and now in full-colour.


ISSUE 25


#25: I have every issue from here on in and starting on Thursday I'll be doing this weekly for each & every issue on their original release dates!  Here's #25, a new editor brings much more TF strip & no stupid childish fillers at last, and a splash more colour.

The layouts are starting to form into the comic we all remember & love, there's Soundwave answering letters &andan advert for the UK version of Secret Wars!


ISSUE 26


#26: The final fortnightly issue is a feast for fans!  A whole 22-page US story (partly in black and white) sees Ratchet and Megatron duke it out; a sparing partnership which would return in grotesque fashion six years later when their bodies merged!

Also here is one of the early Robo Capers humour strips from Lew Stringer who'd stay with the comic with this and Combat Colin until the very end!  There's also an exciting next issue page previewing the comic as we all remember it now... and who else had one of these watches?


ISSUE 27


#27: A brand new look to #27 which will instantly be recognisable to many!  Down to 24 pages from 32, but now in full-colour, more TFs with 11 guaranteed pages of Transformers strip, 5 or 6 pages of backup (still the excellent Machine Man) and a few features.  Finally no filler and it's weekly!  52 issues a year!

This first weekly issue came out only seven days after the last fortnightly (so surely the previous one was the first weekly?! Oh well, why quibble) and this also includes the first epic battle between Shockwave and The Dinobots which was A BIG THING to us young ‘uns!  COME BACK TOMORROW FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL!!  (Or just read on down on this recap, obviously.)


ISSUE 28


#28: On this date 32 years ago!  I’ve shown the issues I have of year one but now I’ve ALL the rest so off we go... I’ll be posting these up on their original release dates every single week for years to come!

Each issue has the release of the NEXT issue on the cover, like a kind of “valid until” date for each issue.  Even though they appeared last issue the Dinobots get the cover treatment & after Shockwave they’re now up against Megatron himself!  He’ll get discovered in the snow months from now...


ISSUE 29


#29: 32 years ago today #29 of Marvel UK's The Transformers hit newsagents across the country.  The TF story, Decepticon Dam-busters is a complete rip-off of the first cartoon story, here unofficially adapted by Simon Furman and passed off as “one of those stories the cartoon got right”.  The comic’s letter answerer Soundwave even has the cheek to say the cartoon “builds up stories around” the so-called real events of The Transformers.  The cheek!

Gorgeous colouring by S. Whitaker on John Stokes’ art though.  An old cover gets turned into an eye-catching calendar for October 1985 and check out the ad for Captain Britain monthly.


Phew, that was a busy couple of weeks.  From the last Thursday of this month (Thursday 26th October) onwards you'll get a regular fix of four or five weekly issues and the occasional special or annual thrown in for good measure too.  I hope you're enjoying this new trip down memory lane and feel free to leave any and all comments either here or on Instagram and I'll see you all (somewhere or other) soon!