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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Search/Destroy: A Strontium Dog Fan Film now online

The Strontium Dog fan movie Search/Destroy has been released and is available online:




In the far future strontium-90 fallout has created a race of mutants, outcasts from society, despised by the ‘norms’ and given only the dirtiest job - bounty hunting. Johnny Alpha is one such mutant, working for the Search/Destroy (Strontium Dog) Agency, hunting down criminals for the Galactic Crime Commission, aided by his trusty Viking sidekick, Wulf Sternhammer.

Search/Destroy: A Strontium Dog Fan Film, is an unofficial, not for profit project, based on the work of John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Alan Grant. The short film is produced by the team behind the Judge Dredd based fan film - Judge Minty, and follows Johnny and Wulf as they investigate a spate of Strontium Dog disappearances.

Featuring Matthew Simpson as Johnny Alpha and Kevin Horsham as Wulf Sternhammer, preview screenings and production images have received positive reactions from co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. The film received its premiere at 2000 AD’s 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival, on February the 11th 2017 and is now available to view online for free.

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases 24 May 2017

2000AD Prog 2032
Cover: D'Israeli
Judge Dredd: Sons of Booth by TC Eglington (w) Nick Dyer (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Illustrators #18 (Spring 2017)

Mort Drucker, who leads off the latest issue of Illustrators, is famous for his caricatures of movies, TV shows, stars and celebrities. To anyone who has ever stumbled across MAD Magazine his work is instantly recognisable. His strength is that he not only produces spot on caricatures but that he places them in richly detailed and realistic settings. This maybe reflects his earliest artistic experiences drawing backgrounds for 'Debby Dean, Career Girl' for six months in 1947.

The 18-year-old had no formal art training but soon found himself working on the staff at National (later DC Comics) before going freelance in the 1950s, which led him to work as a cover artist (notably for Time), poster artist and illustrator for books, magazines, comics and advertising for the next six decades. Answering an advert in 1956 led him to MAD Magazine and launched a 55-year relationship which saw him parody everything from Saturday Night Fever to Star Trek.

Not so well known is Ernest Garcia Cabral, a Mexican cartoonist who trained in Paris and learned to tango in Buenos Aires. He brought Art Nouveau and Art Deco painting to South America, acted in movies and was one of the leading newspaper and magazine illustrators of the 1920s to the '60s.

 
This is followed by my favourite piece in this issue: a look at the origins and art of Puffin Books. The famous imprint was launched by Penguin Books-creator Allen Lane in 1939 at the suggestion of Country Life editor Noel Carrington when they met over lunch a year earlier. With Puffin Picture Books a success, 1940 saw the arrival of Puffin Story Books, but the line only became a phenomenon with the arrival of Kaye Webb, who grew the publishing line from 150 titles to 1,200 in her 20 years in charge.

Somewhat cheekily, this issue includes an interview with Illustrators editor, Peter Richardson, himself an illustrator, while the issue is wrapped up with a brief piece on Katyuli Lloyd, who found early success with her illustrations for Virginia Woolf's Flush: A Biography, which earned her a number of award nominations and commissions from The Folio Society. The issue closes with a short appreciation of John Watkiss.

 
For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 19 will feature James (Dinotopia) Gurney, Erik Kriek, J.O.B. and Philip Mendoza.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alexander Wilson

Alexander Joseph Patrick Wilson was born in Dover on 24 October 1893, to an English father (Alexander Wilson, 1864-1919) and an Irish mother (Annie Maria, nee O'Toole, 1866-1936), who were married in Hong Kong in 1886. His father had had a 40-year career in the British Army from 15-year-old boy bugler to Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps when he died in 1919. His father served throughout the Boer War, receiving the Queen Victoria and King Edward VII medals. He was mentioned in despatches for his managing and supplying of hospital ships and trains from the Western Front. In the final year of World War I he was responsible for all medical supplies to the British Army in Europe.

In his childhood Alexander Wilson's family followed his father to Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong and Ceylon. He was educated at St. Joseph's College, Hong Kong, a prestigious public school, and St Boniface's Catholic College in Plymouth where he played amateur soccer.

Wilson was a Naval Cadet in 1911-12, training at Devonport. He served in the Royal Navy at the start of World War I. A reference in a War Office document indicated he had been in the Royal Naval Air Service and crashed his plane. He was then commissioned in 1915 in the Royal Army Service Corps escorting motor transports and supplies to France.

On 2 March 1916, Wilson married Gladys Ellen Kellaway (1896-1991), the daughter of Frank Herbert Kellaway, a retired postal clerk, and Ellen Mary (nee Collier). Gladys lived at Foxbury, Lyndhurst, and Wilson at the time was living in Princes Crescent, Lyndhurst, the two marrying at the local church.

That same year, Wilson received disabling injuries to his knee and shrapnel wounds to the left side of his body before being invalided, and received the Silver War Badge. He attempted to re-enlist, pretending he was perfectly fit when he arrived at a recruitment office in 1917. Wilson's first son, Adrian, was born that same year.

In 1919, Wilson joined the merchant navy, serving as a purser on a requisitioned German liner SS Prinzessin, sailing from London to Vancouver via South Africa, China and Japan. He was arrested on his arrival in Vancouver, accused of stealing £151 and sentenced to six months with hard labour at Oakalla Prison Farm, British Columbia.

Wilson and his wife were actor-managers of a world-renowned touring repertory company in the early 1920s, during which time they had two more children, Dennis (1921) and Daphne (1922).

Responding to an advert in The Times, Wilson—now using the name Alexander Douglas Gordon Chesney Wilson—went to India to become Professor of English Literature at Islamia College, the University of Punjab in Lahore (now part of Pakistan). He began writing spy novels while in India and received his first contract for The Mystery of Tunnel 51 from Longmans and Green Co. in 1927. His fictional chief of the British Intelligence Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, first appears in Chapter IX from page 59. There is no documentary evidence that Wilson himself had any connections with MI6 (The Secret Intelligence Service), MI5 (The Security Service) IPI (Indian Political Intelligence in London) or the Indian Intelligence Bureau in Delhi at this time.

While in the post at Lahore, he travelled around the North-West Frontier, learned Urdu and Persian and was appointed an honorary Major in the Indian Army Reserve while in command of Islamia College's UTC (University Training Corps) which amounted to half a company. In his application for the Emergency Officer War Reserve in 1939 he said that during these years, he also spent time in Arabia, Ceylon and Palestine. Wilson had a leading role in Lahore's only all Muslim College that educated and trained for the British Indian Army the sons of Waziristan Chiefs and farmers from the North West Frontier. The Soviet Comintern was active in subversion and supporting insurrection. Between 1928 and 1932 the British authorities were combating a heightening of terrorist plots and assassinations. Tensions were raised by hunger strikes and the Lahore Conspiracy Case during which pro-independence activists died and were sentenced to death.

He was interviewed and appointed as an English professor by the then principal of Islamia College, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (an author, academic and educationalist who went on to translate the Quran). Wilson provided a positive and sympathetic portrait of Abdullah in his second novel The Devil's Cocktail (1928), as the principal of a fictional Sheranwalla College, Lahore. He succeeded Yusuf Ali as principal of Islamia College in 1928 until he resigned in 1931.

His first spy novel, The Mystery of Tunnel 51, featuring the character Sir Leonard Wallace, was published in 1928. The struggle by Wallace and his intelligence officers and agents to battle against the Soviet Union, terrorism and subversion in the British Empire, the tentacles of global organised crime, and Nazi Germany would feature in eight subsequent novels. That same year he also published The Devil's Cocktail.

Wilson's first four books were published by Longmans Green & Co in 1928–1931 and in addition to the two spy novels first featuring Sir Leonard Wallace and the British Secret Service, Murder Mansion (1929) and The Death of Dr. Whitelaw were both crime thrillers.

It was during this period that Wilson met Dorothy Phyllis Wick an actress and singer who arrived in India with the Grand Guignol Theatre Company. As early as 1928, newspapers in Lahore were giving her name as Mrs. Dorothy Wilson, although no record has been found of a marriage. Her husband began editing a daily English-language newspaper in Lahore in 1931 while Dorothy returned to England.

Alexander followed in 1933 and, in October 1933, Dorothy gave birth to a son, Michael Wilson. The family lived in Little Venice in London W9, but after 18 months Alexander Wilson returned to his first wife and family, now living in Southampton. After a further 18 months, in 1935 Wilson moved to London, telling Gladys that he intended to find somewhere for them all to live. Instead, he returned to Dorothy.

Wilson's next novel, The Crimson Dacoit, appeared in 1933 from Herbert Jenkins, who thereafter became his main publisher of novels for the next seven years. The novel was well-received by The Scotsman, who described it as
... a romance of modern Indian politics and crime by a writer, Major Alexander Wilson, who has considerable knowledge of the field and the subject. A series of risings, accompanied by outrages, occur in a district of the Punjab in which Ian Hunter is a superintendent of police. They culminate, to his mind, in the abduction of an English girl in whom he takes a personal interest. In the quest, zealous and efficient help is rendered by another, but a native, member of the Indian police, Rai Bahadur Surdar Gopal Singh, and suspicion falls on a certain Ram Chandra Jawaya Pal, a graduate of Cambridge, as being a secret agent of the Revolutionaries, although behind him is perceived the mysterious figure of the "Crimson Dacoit," so called because he keeps his face partially covered by a crimson veil. Failing other means of tracing the headquarters of the gang, where they have hidden Vera Saunders, Hunter and his two friends, Lambert and Chesney, set out on a private quest, very ill provided, as quickly turns out, with the means of accomplishing their purpose. They succeed, however, in tracing the dacoits to a cave in a nullah in the hills, where a thunderstorm and flood come in a timely way to their assistance; and, as the acute reader of the story may have come to suspect, the real villain of the piece is discovered in the immaculate Gopal Singh. (The Scotsman, 23 March 1933)
Two months later, T. Werner Laurie published another story by Wilson, which could not have been more different. Confessions of a Scoundrel appeared under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Spencer, the same surname used by the first actual 'C' Mansfield Smith-Cumming when renting the MI6 headquarters at 2 Whitehall Court. The book was a dramatic autobiography of a jewel-thief, forger, burglar and murderer, which some reviewers took to be factual. "Ericus" of The Bystander offered his blunt opinion:
Villainy, unmitigated and unashamed, is the main-spring of Confessions of a Scoundrel by Geoffrey Spencer. This is, I imagine, fiction founded on a modicum of fact, though how much of it is fact and how much fiction, I would not like to say—and, anyway, who cares about that? The central figure of this autobiography was set on the downward path by a pious fraud of a parson and early acquired that craving for women and the excitement that goes, as he says, with making money unlawfully, which brought him inevitably to the stickiest of endings. A crude, callous, and somewhat naive record of the glittering underworld of Europe, Australia and America, of card-sharping and forgery and jewel-thieving and brothel-keeping, ending with the violent extinction of the clergyman who began it all. (The Bystander, 31 May 1933)
Wilson's biographer, Tim Crook, has noted that the book "bears very close resemblance to the text, plot and theme of a novel published a year later by Herbert Jenkins titled ‘The Sentimental Crook’." Wilson's 1934 novel featured Michael Granville, who specialises in card-sharping and forgery and shows considerable ingenuity in planning his 'coups'. The Scotsman (28 May 1934) thought it daring to make such a character the hero of the book, but "There was something to be said for the young man, but not much. The excitement of the game meant more to him than its rewards, and he had been brought up very neglectfully. At any rate, his exploits are thrilling enough, but it is a pity that his eventual reformation is caused by a realisation, following a spell in prison, that the game is not worth the candle, rather than on moral grounds."
Tim Crook notes that only one New Zealand journalist appears to have noticed the similarities between the two books:
...here's a case of two novels which, although the books have different titles, were brought out by different publishers, and bear different names of authors, are almost identical, except for some pages at the beginning and the end of the volumes.
The reviewer for the Evening Post (26 September 1935) noted that "Certain incidents have been given a slight 'twist' in detail, but generally the settings and characters are the same. When approached on the matter of this 'coincidence' neither publisher would make a statement; they were 'going into the question.'"

Clearly Herbert Jenkins had no problems with the situation, as Wilson's books were proving very popular with the reading public and, one has to assume, none of the reading public had complained. Wilson had reintroduced Sir Leonard Wallace in a series of books that appeared throughout the 1930s, beginning with Wallace of the Secret Service (1933), a collection of stories which ranged through Egypt, Morocco, Russia, Greece and India, Get Wallace (1934), a novel involving the theft of national secrets in the UK, and His Excellency, Governor Wallace (1935), which saw Wallace solving a plot to undermine British control in Hong-Kong.

The following review of Wilson's next novel will give you an idea of how popular his books were with contemporary reviewers:
Alexander Wilson in “Microbes of Power” paints for us a picture of possibilities for a future war, when some ruthless power may utilise the  myriads of disease germs to cripple a rival nation.
    Certainly in this yarn,  when Sir Leonard Wallace, Head of the British Secret Service, and his subordinates get on the track of obscure events in Cyprus, they did not think they were being led up to a gigantic conspiracy to lay the world in ruins. The narrative is couched in the most exciting vein, with unexpected twists to the theme. It is hackneyed to say that it is impossible to put such a book down, but this only comes into this class. Adventures and death build up to a terrific climax in a burning house , and he will be a very exacting reader who does not get his money’s worth out of “Microbes of Power.” (Gloucester Citizen, 3 August 1937)
The next Wallace novel, Wallace at Bay (1938), took place in and around Little Venice, an area very familiar to its author, where Wallace tackles international anarchists. Wallace Intervenes (1939) dealt explicitly with Nazi Germany – even featuring a huge swastika on the cover – and concerned a British agent who has fallen in love with a confident of Marshal von Strom, who has him imprisoned and the girl sentenced to death.

This was followed by the collection The Chronicles of the Secret Service (1940), containing three novellas set in Hong-Kong, Afghanistan and London.

He also published under two further pseudonyms. Under the name Gregory Wilson, writing for The Modern Publishing Company, he authored The Factory Mystery and The Boxing Mystery in 1938. Under the name Michael Chesney he wrote a trilogy of further spy novels of imperial adventure featuring the central character Colonel Geoffrey Callaghan 'Chief of Military Intelligence' between 1938 and 1939. Callaghan of Intelligence, "Steel" Callaghan and Callaghan Meets His Fate were published by Herbert Jenkins. The novel Double Masquerade and the previously mentioned Wallace collection, both published by Herbert Jenkins in 1940, proved to be his last.

It was Michael, Alexander Wilson's son by his second marriage, who, in 2005 at the age of 73, began the investigation into his father's past. He had changed his name by deed poll to Mike Shannon when setting out on his career as an actor and poet. When he was only nine years old his mother and her family told him his father had been killed in the Battle of El Alamein and he did not discover the truth until 2006.

Michael suspected his father was involved in intelligence activities as an agent in the 1920s and 1930s and he based this supposition on his memory of seeing his father meet Joachim Ribbentrop at the German Embassy in Carlton House Terrace, London in the spring of 1938 and other meetings with mysterious men to whom his father spoke fluent German. It is certain that Wilson was in MI6 in 1940, by which time he had left Michael's mother Dorothy and met his third wife, Alison McKelvie, a secretary in MI6.

They were married on 8 September 1941 in Kensington, London (Wilson using the name Alexander Douglas Gordon Wilson), a few months after the death of Alison's father, George Lockhart McKelvie, a solicitor. The couple had been living together for some months and a son, Gordon, was born in January 1942.

In 1942, Wilson told his wife Alison that he was dismissed from MI6 to go into the field as an agent. He said his subsequent misadventures, including being declared bankrupt, though never discharged, and being jailed for petty crime, were part of the cover he had to adopt for operational reasons.

In May 2013 a second tranche of Foreign Office files connected with intelligence matters was released to the National Archives at Kew. This included a file marked 'The Case of the Egyptian Ambassador,' and concerned an MI5 investigation into alleged espionage by the ambassador and his staff in London from the beginning of the war. The papers refer to an SIS/MI6 translator who was accused of embroidering his record of eavesdropping on telephone calls to and from the Embassy. Although the translator's name is redacted it is likely to refer to Alexander Wilson since the details disclosed match those included in the first part of Alison Wilson's memoir written for her two sons and quoted from in Tim Crook's biography of Wilson, The Secret Lives of a Secret Agent, published in 2010.

The file reveals that the translator of Hindustani, Persian and Arabic had joined the service in October 1939 and been dismissed from SIS in October 1942. It was reported that he had faked a burglary at his flat and been in serious trouble with the police. The Director General of MI5 Brigadier Sir David Petrie stated that the fact he was no longer in the service was: '...perhaps some small compensation for the amount of trouble to which his inventive mind has put us all. A fabricator, such as this man was, is a great public danger.' The then Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Stewart Menzies wrote: 'I do not think it at all likely that we shall again have the bad luck to strike a man who combines a blameless record, first rate linguistic abilities, remarkable gifts as a writer of fiction, and no sense of responsibility in using them!

During the war, with the publishing industry in chaos, Wilson, then living at 32 Craven Hill Gardens, London W2, went into bankruptcy in January 1944. He was receiving financial aid from his eldest son Adrian around this time, although his bankruptcy notice reveals that he is "temporarily employed in a Government Department".

On 2 October 1944, as Alexander Joseph Wilson, he was charged at Marylebone with masquerading as a colonel in the Indian Army with seven decorations, to four of which he was not entitled.A detective said that he stopped Wilson when he was wearing the uniform, R.A.F. wings, D.S.O., D.S.C., the laurel leaf for mention in despatches, and the Croix-de-Guerre, in addition to the three decorations from the Great War to which he was entitled. Wilson told the magistrate he hated being out of khaki at this time, and this masquerade was sheer madness. He admitted the charge of wearing the uniform contrary to the Defence Regulations, and was remanded.

During his trial at Marylebone later that month, Detective-Sergeant Manning said that the accused was living far beyond his income from writing and had been under police observation for some time because he had been posing as a colonel. Wilson said that he was keen to get back into the army and it played on his mind when he was not accepted. The Magistrate said it was a scandalous thing to do and fined Wilson £10.

Wilson found work as a cinema manager, but was prosecuted in 1948 for embezzling the takings from one of the cinemas. He subsequently worked as a porter in the casualty unit of West Middlesex Hispital. Whilst there, he met and, in January 1955, married a 27-year-old nurse, Elizabeth Hill, with whom he had another son, Douglas. Elizabeth and Duncan later moved to Scotland, although she kept in touch with her husband, who continued his parallel life, living with Alison.

She had suffered greatly from Wilson's fantastical lies, one of the earliest that he was a relative of Winston Churchill and his grand home had been requisitioned and would be returned once the war was over. His arrest in 1944 occurred as they were leaving Sunday Mass, Alison pregnant with their second son, Nigel. After his second period of imprisonment, they were forced to move regularly: 17 times in  17 years. His compulsion to lie continued: in later life he claimed he was returning to work for the Foreign Office when, in fact, he obtained a job as a clerk at Sandersons Wallpaper factory in Perivale, Ealing.

Wilson died at 13 Lancaster Gardens, Ealing, W13, of a heart attack due to atheroma on 4 April 1963, aged 69. While Alison was aware of his affairs, and knew of Dorothy (from whom she believed Wilson was divorced) and her son Michael, she only found out about Wilson's first wife and children whilst dealing with his papers. Wilson was buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth, where Alison first met Grace – pretending to be distant relatives to keep the truth from Alison's sons.

At first with no tombstone, although one was erected in 2008 following a gathering of Wilson's extended family.

Sam Wilson, a BBC journalist, wrote a lengthy article for The Times in 2010 that explored the impact of his grandfather's complicated private life on his various families."In total he had four families; four wives and seven children ... None of the families was aware of any other. But he tended to them all – lavishing the same love and attention on them [all] ... he was a loving dad, generous, fun and a sincere Roman Catholic."

Wilson made a number of attempts to revive his literary career in later life, four unpublished manuscripts surviving him: the thriller Murder in Duplicate, a western The Englishman From Texas, a spy thriller Out of the Land of Egypt (written in the late 1950s as by Col. Alan C. Wilson; the author previously used the title in Wallace of the Secret Service) and a handwritten MS dating from 1961.

In 2015–16 Allison & Busby republished nine of Wilson's Wallace of the Secret Service novels. The Daily Mail said of the re-issue of The Mystery of Tunnel 51 "prepare for a romping read," and that it was the "first of nine fast and furious adventures."

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
The Mystery of Tunnel 51. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.
The Devil's Cocktail. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.
Murder Mansion. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1929.
The Death of Dr. Whitelaw. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1930.
The Crimson Dacoit. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1933.
The Confessions of a Scoundrel (as Geoffrey Spencer). London, T Werner Laurie, May 1933.
Wallace of the Secret Service. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1933.
Get Wallace! London, Herbert Jenkins, 1934.
The Sentimental Crook. London, Herbert Jenkins, Apr 1934.
The Magnificent Hobo. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1935.
His Excellency, Governor Wallace. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Microbes of Power. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Mr Justice. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Double Events. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Wallace At Bay. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
The Factory Mystery (as Gregory Wilson). London, Modern Publishing Company, 1938.
The Boxing Mystery (as Gregory Wilson). London, Modern Publishing Company, 1938.
Callaghan of Intelligence (as Michael Chesney). Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Scapegoats for Murder. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1939.
"Steel" Callaghan (as Michael Chesney). London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1939.
Callaghan Meets His Fate (as Michael Chesney). London, Herbert Jenkins, Nov 1939.
Wallace Intervenes. London, Herbert Jenkins, Dec 1939.
Double Masquerade. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1940.
Chronicles of the Secret Service. London, Herbert Jenkins, Aug 1940.

Non-fiction
Selected English Prose Stories for Indian Students, with Mohammad Din. Lahore, Shamsher Singh & Co., 1926.
Four Periods of Essays. Lahore, Rai Sahib M. Gulab Singh & Sons, 1928.
Selected English Essays (From Steele to Benson). Lahore, Uttar Chand Kapur & Sons, 1930.

(* I picked up a novel by Alexander Wilson on Saturday and, knowing nothing about him,  checked him out on Wikipedia. His life and various careers proved utterly fascinating, hence this column, which is partly based on his Wikipedia entry – they've lifted plenty from Bear Alley, so I think it's only fair – although I've added many additional details. Further details about his work can be found at Tim Crook's website, Alexander Wilson – Author, Adventurer and Spy)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Comic Cuts - 19 May 2017

After my production slowdown of last week, I've managed to pick up the pace somewhat, with some actual, honest-to-god paying work being squeezed in alongside my various projects.

Chief amongst the latter, of course, is the Valiant index, for which I've still got to think of a title. At the last count my notes for the introduction ran to 37,000 words, which is way beyond what I was anticipating. Admittedly Valiant ran to many more issues than some of the titles I've tackled over the past few years (Ranger, Boys' World, Countdown), but I was expecting the text to run to around 40,000 total, not with five years history still to cover. It does at least explain why it is taking me so long to put together.

I had hoped to have the book out in time for the arrival of One-Eyed Jack, the Rebellion reprint, but I'm definitely going to miss that deadline by a mile. Could I have the book out in time for the release of The Leopard From Lime Street, which follows on the 12th of July? I very much doubt it, as the longer text also means more pages to design, more words to proof, etc. But hopefully by July I'll be getting close.

Rebellion, incidentally, have released a new cover image and also announced a 200-copy limited edition hardcover which will include a numbered bookplate and art print. You can pre-order the books via Rebellion's new Treasury of British Comics website.

There are a number of other British comics reprints on the horizon and not limited to the titles announced by Rebellion back in March. Titan are also publishing a new Dan Dare volume, continuing the series of earlier titles, in October. I'm not sure what the precise contents will be but the volume seems to pick up from the last (Trip to Trouble, published in 2010) in the middle of Eagle volume 11 (1960), so I'm guessing it might include "Mission of the Earthmen" and "The Solid Space Mystery", the latter reintroducing Dan's nemesis, The Mekon.

At the moment, the promo cover has a slight error, giving the title as "Mission of the Earthman" (singular) rather than the "Earthmen" (plural) of the original Eagle strip. An easy mistake to make, but it will hopefully be fixed before the book goes to print. At the moment, the book is due out on 24 October 2017.

The Amazon entry for the book unhelpfully lists the authors as Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy, neither of which had anything to do with the strips at that point. Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell were the chief artists for the next couple of years, with Eric Eden writing scripts.

A month before that, on 12 September, we should be getting Hook Jaw: The Complete Original Collection, which is described as running to 160 pages... so it will certainly be more complete than the previous Hook Jaw collection from Spitfire Books, which ran to only 96 pages. I'm not sure if the book will include any strips from annuals or holiday specials, of which there were quite a few.

Rebellion have Marney the Fox out in September, too, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these titles will all do well and we'll start seeing a few more reprints of old British comics on the horizon.

Random scans. I picked up a couple of books by comedians recently, then realised I had a few others from months gone by already scanned, so to lighten your day...

 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Commando 5019-5022

Commando issues on sale 18 May 2017.

Offering four singular World War Two adventures, issues 5019 – 5022 of Commando delve into the comic’s classic roots, while delivering distinctive twists on archetypal tales. From battle torn French villages to the choppy waves of the English Channel, our heroes come in Matilda tanks, Henschel 126s, and Air Sea Rescue motor launches...and sometimes they fight on both sides…

5019: Tank Commander
Two tanks take centre stage in Janek’s stunningly realistic cover, as one Matilda’s gun barrel fires, the explosion mirrored where the shell hits the rival Panzer. However, this diminution of the war, focusing on only one squadron’s battle, acts as a microcosm, offering more attention to the characters, but keeping the stakes as high as ever.
    Handley’s story focuses on Lieutenant Mark Watmore, stranded in the French Hamlet, Saint-Nadine, and tasked with covering the allies retreat to Dunkirk. But when a lone Matilda tank crawls into the quiet Hamlet, crewed by its squad’s lone survivor, Sergeant Jack Taylor, who warns Watmore of approaching Jerries, they have only one choice: to train Watmore’s men in the tank and use it to defend their position!
    Filled with Vila’s strong-jawed Tommies, and stunning attention to uniform and vehicles, “Tank Commander” is a great addition to any collection.

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Vila
Cover: Janek Matysiak |

5020: Sea Ace
Brunt’s timeless story from 1968 is a Commando classic of friends turned rivals, allowing a varied view on war, duty, revenge and morality. In it, Norman Scott, an Air Sea Rescue pacifist wants only to save lives instead of taking them. Norman had witnessed loss and suffering on both sides from WWI, but Hugh Webster, a friend from his past, is blinded by revenge for his father’s mental degradation as a result of shell-shock from the trenches. Webster wants the Germans to pay – no matter the cost - and he won’t let Norman get in his way…
    Emphasising this rivalry, Gordon C. Livingstone’s cover highlights the dynamic binary of the characters by dissecting the page with the wing of Focke-Wulf 190, separating the red from yellow in the sky.

Story: Brunt
Art: Gordon C. Livingstone
Cover: Gordon C. Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 346 (July 1968) reprinted No. 1071 (October 1976)

5021: Caught in Crossfire
Rodriguez and Morahin’s cinematic artwork takes the reader from the dark, clammy interiors of the Burmese jungle to the perilous, icy heights of the Swiss Alps, the artists’ sense of scale adding to the tension of George Low’s gripping story of cat-and-mouse. It is this scene above Alps that David Alexander’s moody cover takes inspiration from, as we see a Henschel 126 strafing in the wind, tailed by two aircraft on either side, as lightning strikes against the snow-capped peaks behind them!
    Belonging to one of the “the evilest alliances ever formed”, Captain Isamu Nagata, an intelligence officer of the Imperial Japanese Army no longer believes in the war. But after accidentally shooting a German looter, Nagata is forced on the run, taking him across borders and against enemy and ally alike. For him surrender is no option...

Story: George Low
Art: Rodriguez & Morahin
Cover: David Alexander

5022: Trouble Trooper
Alan Burrows’s cover is pure Commando grit, creating a thrilling pairing with C. G. Walker’s story of one of Commando’s most “likable rogues”, Trooper Bill Bourne. Notorious for going A.W.O.L., despite his best intentions, Bourne is no stranger to trouble, or breaking the rules… But when war breaks out, Bourne must learn to obey orders and stick with his team.
    Charmingly drawn with thick, curly hair and a cheeky grin, Keith Shone’s illustrations of Bourne really capture the charismatic vagabond, while robbers in fedoras and trench coats, along with bleeding gutters between the panels add to the lure of his artwork and fully compliment Walker’s exhilarating story.

Story: C. G. Walker
Art: Keith Shone
Cover: Alan Burrows
Originally Commando No. 2594 (August 1992)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 17 May 2017.

2000AD Prog 2031
Cover: Cliff Robinson/Dylan Teague
Judge Dredd: Sons of Booth by TC Eglington (w) Nick Dyer (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 384
Cover: Cliff Robinson
Judge Dredd: Gecko by TC Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Havn by Si Spencer (w) Henry Flint (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Features: Interrogation - Chris Lowder, Interrogation - Rory McConville, New Books: Summer Magic, New Comics: Beast Wagon
Bagged reprint: Necrophim: Hell's Prodigal by Tony Lee (w) Lee Carter (a) Annie Parkhouse, Ellie De Ville (l)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Edmund Bagwell (1966-2017)

Edmund Bagwell, best know for his work on 2000AD's 'Cradlegrave' and 'Indigo Prime', died on Tuesday, 14 May, at the age of 50. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Born Edmund Richard Bagwell in Preston in 1966, Bagwell studied at Leeds Polytechnic where he was a contemporary of Duncan Fegrado. Two years his junior, Bagwell would later say that it was thanks to Fegrado’s encouragement and support that he found work in comics.

His earliest regular contributions appeared in Deadline in 1988 when he wrote and drew ‘Syd Serene’ as Anonyman. Using the pen-name E. C. Perriman, he contributed ‘A Single English Rose’ to Blaam! (1988-89) and further stories (as Edmund Perryman and Anonyman) to Crisis, The Revolver Horror Special and Speakeasy. After an early contribution to the Judge Dredd Mega-Special (1992) as Edmund Kitsune, Bagwell found work with Marvel UK, drawing ‘Motormouth & Killpower’ for Overkill (1992) and Black Axe (1993). During these few years he worked with Nick Abadzis, D’Israeli, Peter Hogan, Warren Ellis, Graham Marks and Simon Jowett amongst others.

Primarily he worked in animation and computer graphics, living for some time in Angouleme, France, before moving to Seoul in South Korea with his wife Hae Sook to be closer to family. He returned to comics in 2005, contributing to Liam Sharp’s Event Horizon anthology. “Edmund lived with me and Christina in Richmond, just outside London, back in the Marvel UK days,” recalled Sharp. “He also contributed to Mam Tor, drawing ‘Chase Variant’ and illustrating my prose story ‘Jed Lightsear’.”

Sharp remembers him as “Just a brilliant, under-appreciated talent with a unique voice.”

After producing a handful of ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’, Bagwell returned to mainstream comics with ‘Cradlegrave’ (2009), a horror story set in a sink estate that Ramsey Campbell described as “a fine rich achievement in modern supernatural terror,” whilst also praising the artwork, the story “well served by artist Edmund Bagwell, with his keen eye for the telling detail and his economical, often cinematic, way of conveying it. The Cradlegrave estate seems permanently steeped in dusk – in a light that can’t be bothered to raise itself. You can almost smell the rot in the streets laden with heat and rubbish.”

Bagwell took over ‘Indigo Prime’ for two series (2011), which allowed him to “access his inner Jack Kirby.” “I think you can see his influence in my designs for the series,” he told Matthew Badham in 2012. “Quite a lot of the machinery and vehicles are a bit Kirby-esque, plus I have used a fair amount of ‘Kirby Krackle’ for some sequences.” Chris Weston, the strip’s original artist, has said, “Edmund rebooted one of my old strips … and I’d always tell him that he did a better job than I did, whenever I saw him (a compliment he’d stubbornly refuse to accept, bless him).”

His most recent 2000AD work was ‘The Ten-Seconders’ (2013), written by Rob Williams, who wrote the storyline with Bagwell in mind. “I knew it was going to be big Kirby-esque gods, and when I saw his work on ‘Indigo Prime’, I thought he’d be perfect,” Williams told Mark Kardwell in 2013. Kardwell described the arrival of Bagwell on the strip thus: “It’s great to see Bagwell bring some much-needed clarity to ‘The Ten-Seconders’ after the murkiness of his predecessors; it’s like a new day has dawned on these characters. Unfortunately, it’s a new dawn that’s bringing with it an invasion of gigantic humanoid aliens. Bagwell tends to restrict his most Kirby-influenced drawing to the pieces he produces for his own amusement at his blog, otherwise it affects his published work in more subtle ways – some Kirby krackle in the skies, the occasional squared-off fingertip, a shared sense of cosmic scale, Again, Bagwell is bringing modernity to the strip, too.”

Bagwell was only occasionally active on social media: he ran a blog, Four Colours Good, in 2010-14, and was active on Twitter for some years (@BagG_E).

David Leach recalled on Facebook, “I first met him back in the glory days of Marvel UK and always enjoyed his company. He had an exceedingly dry sense of humour and a style of drawing I found utterly intoxicating.”

His family have asked that donations be made to Pancreatic Cancer UK in Edmund's memory.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Needles Battery, Isle of Wight

The Needles Battery is a tourist attraction on the Isle of Wight that was visited recently by friends who, knowing that I was a fan of Geoff Campion, picked up a set of postcards based on friezes he had drawn for the National Trust.

 
 
 
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eileen Owbridge

Mrs. Eileen Owbridge, of Three Ways, Whepstead, Bury St Edmunds, who writes under the pseudonym of "Jane Arbor," has had her first novel accepted by the publishers she first approached. "This Second Spring" is the title of her light romantic story, set in India, and is expected to be published early in 1948." (Suffolk and Essex Free Press, 9 October 1947)

Thus began the career of novelist Eileen Owbridge, whose novels from Mills and Boon were best-sellers. They found a wide audience and proved popular with reviewers who took to her vivid characters. Reviewing two of her early novels, XYZ of the Bury Free Press, described one as "an appealing story of a young and attractive war widow, who gives up a profitable London job to live in a small Suffolk village, where she eventually finds a new romance" (14 May 1948) and the next in even more glowing terms:
In this, her third novel, Mrs. Eileen Owbridge, of Three-ways, Whepstead, has written what is likely to become another best seller. She has the rare knack of being able to tell a story in such a way that one can believe that it might well have happened; her characters are beautifully drawn, her situations invested with a great sense of reality. In other words, Mrs. Owbridge is a writer who will make a big name for herself in the literary world. (6 May 1949)
Her next novel, Strange Loyalties, was serialised in at least one Scottish evening newspaper under the title "If Anyone Should Tell" (1950) as was the later "Blind To Her Love" (1953).

Eileen Owbridge subsequently disappeared into the treadmill of Mills & Boon, eventually penning sixty novels for the company between 1948 and 1984. For some years, Mrs. Owbridge ran a bookshop at Whepstead, a village of around 400 people south of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, from which experience she learned exactly what romance readers were looking for in their books. Although she described herself modestly as an “acceptable storyteller”, Arlene Moore (in 20th Century Romance & Historical Writers) says of her “[she was] a storyteller of great originality and sensitivity; she tangles her skein of characters and backgrounds into a many-hued tapestry of love and happiness.”

Most of Owbridge’s early novels fall into the hospital romance category, although many are set in more exotic locations – Morocco, Venice, the Greek Islands, Amsterdam, the Pacific Islands, etc. – which she researched heavily in order to write about them with effortless authenticity. Her heroines are usually well educated and employed in responsible jobs, although they inevitably fall in love with someone (a dedicated, brilliant surgeon, a nobleman) who cannot return their love. Invariably, love wins the day.

Owbridge was born Eileen Norah Murphy in Yeovil, Somerset, on 8 September 1903, the daughter of Irishman Patrick Murphy, an officer with Customs & Excise, and his wife Rose Emma (née Mothersole). She and her sister, Kathleen Ellen Murphy, were both born in Yeovil, but were living in 81 Fox Oak Street, Cradley Heath, Staffordshire, in 1911.

By 1939, she worked as a retail stationer, living at 29 Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, and had adopted the surname Owbridge, which became her legal name by deed poll on 15 January 1946.

The Whepstead address often given in early newspaper reports about the West Suffolk author was that of Major Walter Wills Owbridge, born in Kensington, London, on 23 January 1895. During the war, whilst serving in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, he married Loula Wilna Miller, an American born in Arkasas on 25 August 1891, who had previously married Jim Walter in April 1905. Her marriage to Owbridge took place in London in early 1917 and a son, Giles William Gidley Owbridge, was born in 1920. Both Walter and Loula were supposedly living together at Hunton Mill, Epping, Essex, in 1939 where Laula was a restaurant proprietor.

Laula Owbridge died in Cambridge in 1963. While probate records list her as a married woman, she leaves her effects to a waiter named William Sole.

It seems likely that Walter and Laula Owbridge separated before the war, but were never officially divorced, hence Eileen Murphy changing her name by deed poll in 1946. Walter died at Dene Cottage, Route Orange, St. Brelade, Jersey, on 12 June 1966. His son, Giles, died in South Africa.

Eileen Owbridge retired from writing in 1984. She died  in Worthing, West Sussex, on 4 February 1994, leaving over £360,000.

Publications

Novels as Jane Arbor
This Second Spring. London, Mills & Boon, 1948.
Each Song Twice Over. London, Mills & Boon, 1948.
Ladder of Understanding. London, Mills & Boon, 1949.
Strange Loyalties. London, Mills & Boon, 1949; as Doctor’s Love, Harlequin, 1962.
By Yet Another Door. London, Mills & Boon, 1950; Toronto, Harlequin, 1980.
No Lease for Love. London, Mills & Boon, 1950; as My Surgeon Neighbour, Harlequin, 1964.
The Heart Expects Adventure. London, Mills & Boon, 1951.
Eternal Circle. London, Mills & Boon, 1952; Toronto, Harlequin, 1958; as Nurse Atholl Returns, Harlequin, 1960.
Memory Serves My Love. London, Mills & Boon, 1952.
Flower of the Nettle. London, Mills & Boon, 1953.
Such Frail Armour. London, Mills & Boon, 1953; Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Jess Mawney, Queen’s Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1954; as Queen’s Nurse, Toronto, Harlequin, 1960.
Folly of the Heart. London, Mills & Boon, 1954 [1955]; as Nurse Harlowe, Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Dear Intruder. London, Mills & Boon, 1955; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1965.
City Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1956; as Nurse Greve, Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1958.
Towards the Dawn. London, Mills & Boon, 1956; Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Yesterday’s Magic. London, Mills & Boon, 1957; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1967.
Far Sanctuary. London, Mills & Boon, 1958; Toronto, Harlequin, 1960.
Consulting Surgeon. Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
No Silver Spoon. London, Mills & Boon, 1959; Toronto, Harlequin, 1964.
Nurse in Love. Toronto, Harlequin, 1959.
Sandflower. London, Mills & Boon, 1959; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1961.
A Girl Named Smith. London, Mills & Boon, 1960; Toronto, Harlequin, 1966.
Nurse in Waiting. London, Mills & Boon, 1962; Winnipeg, Harlequin, 1962.
Nurse of all Work. London, Mills & Boon, 1962; Toronto, Harlequin, 1962.
Desert Nurse. London, Mills & Boon, 1963; Toronto, Harlequin, 1964.
Jasmine Harvest. London, Mills & Boon, 1963; Toronto, Harlequin, 1963.
Lake of Shadows. London, Mills & Boon, 1964; Toronto, Harlequin, 1965.
Kingfisher Tide. London, Mills & Boon, 1965; Toronto, Harlequin, 1965.
High Master of Clere. London, Mills & Boon, 1966; Toronto, Harlequin, 1966.
Summer Every Day. London, Mills & Boon, 1966; Toronto, Harlequin, 1967.
Golden Apple Island. London, Mills & Boon, 1967; Toronto, Harlequin, 1968.
Stranger’s Trespass. London, Mills & Boon, 1968; Toronto, Harlequin, 1969.
The Cypress Garden. London, Mills & Boon, 1969; Toronto, Harlequin, 1969.
The Feathered Shaft. London, Mills & Boon, 1970; Toronto, Harlequin, 1970.
Walk into the Wind. London, Mills & Boon, 1970; Toronto, Harlequin, 1970.
The Other Miss Donne. London, Mills & Boon, 1971; Toronto, Harlequin, 1971.
The Linden Leaf. London, Mills & Boon, 1971; Toronto, Harlequin, 1971.
The Flower on the Rock. London, Mills & Boon, 1972; Toronto, Harlequin, 1973.
Wildfire Quest. London, Mills & Boon, 1972; Toronto, Harlequin, 1972.
Roman Summer. London, Mills & Boon, 1973; Toronto, Harlequin, 1973.
The Velvet Spur. London, Mills & Boon, 1974; Toronto, Harlequin, 1974.
Meet the Sun Halfway. London, Mills & Boon, 1974; Toronto, Harlequin, 1974.
The Wide Fields of Home. London, Mills & Boon, 1975; Toronto, Harlequin, 1975.
Tree of Paradise. London, Mills & Boon, 1976; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Smoke Into Flame. Toronto, Harlequin, 1976.
A Growing Moon. London, Mills & Boon, 1977; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Flash of Emerald. London, Mills & Boon, 1977.
Two Pins in a Fountain. London, Mills & Boon, 1977; Toronto, Harlequin, 1977.
Late Rapture. London, Mills & Boon, 1978; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
Return to Silbersee. London, Mills & Boon, 1978; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
Pact with Desire. London, Mills & Boon, 1979; Toronto, Harlequin, 1979.
The Devil Drives. London, Mills & Boon, 1979; Toronto, Harlequin, 1980.
One Brief Sweet Hour. London, Mills & Boon, 1980; Toronto, Harlequin, 1981.
Where the Wolf Leads. London, Mills & Boon, 1980; Toronto, Harlequin, 1981.
Invisible Wife. London, Mills & Boon, 1981; Toronto, Harlequin, 1982.
Handmaid to Midas. London, Mills & Boon, 1982; Toronto, Harlequin, 1983.
The Price of Paradise. London, Mills & Boon, 1982; Toronto, Harlequin, 1982.
House of Discord. London, Mills & Boon, 1983; Toronto, Harlequin, 1987.
Lost Yesterday. London, Mills & Boon, 1984.

Omnibus
3 Great Novels. Toronto, Harlequin Books, 1975.