A blog about British comics from KRSinc


War comics – not just AAARRRRGGGHH!!!s and derring-do


‘Price of War’ by Kenny McBride, Wirral

I was flicking through some old issues of Battle and came across this on the letters page of issue #429

CAPTAIN’S BLOG: Mea culpa – on a not-so-exclusive ‘exclusive’ Judge Dredd strip

So, a quick catch-up blog – and an apology – on a post from last month.

I posted up a scan of a Judge Dredd strip from a 1990 issue of Sinclair User magazine, which I believed (based on Sinclair User‘s own claims) to be an ‘exclusive’ strip. By ‘exclusive’ strip, I took that to mean it had not previously been published. Oh, how wrong I was.

Reader Rodrigo Boeza commented that…

…this story had appeared before in Judge Dredd’s Crime File #1 (August 1989), published by Quality Comics. This was a short-lived Prestige Format series that consisted of reprints from various 2000AD/Judge Dredd annuals and specials, so I’m guessing that this particular story may have had an earlier appearance before.

Compounding my error, I actually remember the Judge Dredd: Crime Files series. I think I bought #2 and #3 (subsequently giving them away as a birthday present to a friend). They were rather nice editions – smaller than the Titan albums, but pretty decent colour printing and perfect-bound.

Anyway, the MCS link above also provides info on the contents:

6 page Judge Dredd story “none (Meanwhile?)”
Genre Science Fiction
Script John Wagner [as T. B. Grover]
Pencils Ian Gibson
Inks Ian Gibson
Colors Ian Gibson
Letters Tom Frame
Notes This reprint is untitled, but I’m thinking it may be “Meanwhile” from the 1987 Dredd Annual; the artist matches, the title could work, and the Seven Dwarves story is also from there.
Reprinted from 2000 AD (IPC Magazines Ltd, 1977 series) #? [possibly the 1987 Judge Dredd Annual]

Based on that, I went and bid on an eBay auction for a copy of  Judge Dredd Annual 1987 – a gap in my collection – and lo, there’s the ‘Meanwhile’ strip.

Again, my apologies to you all for misrepresenting the strip; and my thanks to Rodrigo for setting me straight.

SCANTASTIC! Dan Dare’s 1990 makeover covered by The Independent

More from the cuttings files – this time a 1990 article from The Independent by design writer Jonathan Glancey on the reborn ‘original’ Dan Dare.

A quick recap: when the ‘new’ Eagle was launched in 1982, it featured ‘Return Of The Mekon’, a strip retconning (the original) Dan Dare into a Battle of Britain test pilot sent into the future, Buck Rogers-style (per the requirements of a TV series then still in pre-production). As the strip developed, and the television show never materialised, the focus became the great-grandson of (original) Dan. Also called Dan Dare.

This (new) Dan Dare had eight years-worth of adventures in the (new) Eagle, with varying levels of enthusiasm from readers, and striking art from the likes of Gerry Embleton, Oliver Frey, Ian Kennedy, Carlos Cruz and John Gillatt.

By the late 1980s, the speculation bubble, plus a nostalgia boom driven by (original) Eagle readers now all grown up, out of short trousers and with some disposable moolah, meant that Mike Higgs was able to put out the high-quality Hawk Books reprints of the (original) Eagle‘s (original) Dan Dare adventures, which increased interest in the (not new) Dan Dare from younger readers. It certainly tickled my fancy – I got the ‘Dan Dare – Pilot Of The Future: The Deluxe Collector’s Edition‘ (Patrick Hawkey first edition) as a present for passing the Eleven Plus, and started from there.

Then there was the whole COMICS HAVE GROWN UP!11!!! marketing spiel from trad publishing houses realising there was a gravy train to jump onto, whilst carpetbaggers continued to skew the market, giving the impression of comics as some kind of magic money generator, all at the same time as juvenile titles’ circulation were sinking.

Throw all that together, and you have Fleetway in 1989 coming up with an idea to reinvigorate (new) Eagle: by ditching (new) Dan, and reintroducing (original) Dare. In a sense it was a masterstroke – not least because they secured the talents of (original) Eagle artist Keith Watson. It was a way of exploiting the canon, the back catalogue, the interest of older readers and the then-preoccupations of the publishing sector.

And that’s where this article comes in. By 1990 we were (if I recall correctly) three albums into the (original) DD saga, and Hawk was ready to release its ‘Dan Dare Dossier’, a big, glossy, full colour and comprehensively list-filled biography of the character, his creation and his memorabilia. The (original) Dan Dare in the (new) Eagle wasn’t working as well as it was hoped so there was a little bit of tinkering to update him; but by then one can imagine that the parameters available had been severely constrained. But modification were made, and younger bucks like David Pugh and Keith Page provided some excellent artwork for what must have been a tough brief (“more modern than the new ‘old’ Dan, but more more retro than the old ‘new’ Dan…”), and as a young reader then it did feel like perhaps the corner was being turned.

Of course, it was but a valiant rearguard action.

» Dan Dare article, The Independent (14/4/90) (PDF)

Apologies for the haphazard scans. I will transcribe the article into plain text when I have a free moment for ease of searchability. In their wisdom, Apple decided to sell me an HP scanner/printer that doesn’t have Twain drivers (which means that I can’t scan to Acrobat and use OCR) having accidentally missed out this somewhat salient fact in their sales blurb. Cheers!

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #6: J Marks

Okay, so here’s the last APB for ex-ZINE artists for the mo… Not as flashy as Champniss, stylised as Matt Saw or downright whacked-out as Steg, but I always had a soft spot for J Marks. Her/his pocket cartoons just seemed to hit the mark.

So, anyone got any clues on what happened to the google-proof J Marks? Drop me a line if you do!


SCANTASTIC! Leo Baxendale’s 1993 Harris Gallery exhibition gets luke-warm write-up in Independent

Another clipping from yore, this time on a celebration of Leo Baxendale‘s work, snipped out of The Independent‘s Saturday magazine back in November 1993.

It’s written by Ruth Picardie, and it’s somewhat snarky. However, it is interesting to read this short account of this exhibition at Preston’s Harris Gallery on the creator of comic icons such as the Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx and Little Plum alongside Baxendale’s own memoir, Hobgoblin Wars: Dispatches From The Front – which is available both as a high quality print edition for £120 and as a free PDF.

» ‘They’re playing our toon’ by Ruth Picardie (The Independent Magazine 6/11/93) (PDF)
» Hobgoblin Wars: Dispatches From The Front by Leo Baxendale (PDF)

Edited 15/10/12 because I just noticed I’d left off the end of the article! PDF now updated.

SCANTASTIC! Homemade lists of British comics…

Yo ho ho!

So the Cap’n was rooting around in his sea chest, and found some time-faded charts he worked up nigh on a quarter-century back, when he was but a young snotty…

Yes, even as a young comics fan, I had a fondness for lists. In those days we didn’t have the convenience of the internet, or handy databases like ComicVine or Comics UK. No, back in 1990 it was all about trawling through the limited resources on the shelves of the local library, or the occasional reference book gifted you at Christmas by indulgent parents, or your own meagre collection built up from boot fairs and village fetes and jumble sales.

So bearing all this in mind, may I present to you, my written-in-three-different-colours summary of British comics 1908-1990!

Yes, it is lamentably patchy, and betrays an embarrassing bias towards a very narrow (in both time and style) tranche of boys’ and humour titles of DC Thomson (arrgh! Misspelled too!) and Fleetway – but it was all my own work. Well, largely culled from Denis Gifford‘s Encyclopedia Of Comic Characters, Happy Days and The International Book Of Comics, plus the George Perry/Alan Aldridge Penguin Book Of Comics… But I definitely remember putting in the hours to consolidate it all!

I also put together an index of artists… If you are unlucky enough, I shall commit that too to the electronic fires of the scanner some day soon.

» Cap’n KRS’s boyhood comic lists (PDF)

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #5: Dr Adolf Steg

We’re onto part five of the ‘where are they now?’ quest for former cartoonists on The ZINE/Charlotte’s Mag – this time round it’s Dr Adolf Steg.

I know next to nothing about Thee Doktor, except I recall that he (or perhaps even she) was somewhat prolific – loads of his (slash her) stuff piled up in the internment cell at ZINE Towers waiting for publication.

I’m not sure Dr Steg’s artwork needs much describing… Perhaps it would be best to republish Adolf’s own words, as appended to the Jamie Smart post:

I loved contributing to the zine. I still create art in all formats and give it away for free. I also create street art and produce artwork for all sorts of underground people. The mainstream is a piece of shit.

Take it away, Dok!


ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #4: Andrew Gawne

A recap: on the former Charlotte’s Mag/The ZINE cartoonist front, we’ve established that Jamie Smart went onto become a hugely successful artist on The Dandy, and that Joseph Champniss pursued comedy. We have not heard anything about Matt Saw or Alex Mason – if you know anything, please do get in touch!

Next up: Andrew Gawne. Now, I only recall him doing one strip – ‘Shit Happens’ – which unfolded across issues 9 and 10 of The ZINE. I did rather like his style, and his mix of media. I knew nothing of him then and I know nothing of him now.

My research throws up five Andrew Gawnes across the UK who might possibly be him: in Derbyshire, West London, the Isle of Man and Birmingham, plus an Andrew G Gawne, location unknown.

But enough of the stalky talky, and onto the piccy-wiccies…

As per normal, CLICKEN to EMBIGGEN.

SCANTASTIC! Colin MacNeil’s brazen attempt to rig 1990 Eagle Awards

Okay, so it was nothing of the sort…

I was always more of a mainstream comic reader than a fanboy, but in 1989 and 1990 I did make the trek up to That There Lunnon for the 2000AD/Judge Dredd Annual signing thingummy organised by Forbidden Planet. It was the first time I’d ever met comic creators! I think it would have been in July, or maybe August. School holidays, definitely. The first time I went up with a couple of school friends, with my dad in tow, but by the next year I was trekking into Town fairly frequently on my own anyway, so I suspect that year’s trip was parent-free.

Anyway, my memories of exactly who was at what signing are somewhat hazy, not helped by the fact that I don’t have all the annuals I got signed (as I sold off some of my collection at the beginning of the recession due to pennilessness, d’oh). I do remember that the 1989 signing (of the annuals cover dated 1990) – at Cafe Mango I think? – was late to start because Simon Bisley was late… But when he did turn up, wow! He was like a rock god! Not that I had any interest in rock gods, but boy was he charismatic. Strange to think that a speccy dude in a mullet entranced me so much, but he did. Suddenly all the heavy metal muscled men and pneumatic warrior women in Sláine: The Horned God (the first volume of which was out as a 2000AD Books full colour TPB at the time) made a lot more sense… Bisley was great – rather tipsy, but good fun. He rattled off a great sketch of Joe Pineapples from the ‘ABC Warriors’ for me, unprompted. After the signing I rushed back to Forbidden Planet on New Oxford Street to get myself a JP badge, which I wore on my school blazer for ages!

Besides The Biz, there was Kev Hopgood, who seemed like a really nice chap, though I just wasn’t a fan of his work (Night/Beyond/Below Zero). Even at the time I felt guilty about not enjoying his stuff. Finally, there was Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell – this was the time of ‘Zenith’ – and the then deputy-Tharg Alan MacKenzie, who I knew as the author of How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips (illustrated by Steve Parkhouse), a book I had on perpetual loan from my local library.

The next year the signers included MacKenzie (again), writers John Smith and Pete Milligan, plus artist Paul Marshall (whose work I really wasn’t very familiar with). The big hitter, though – in the Bisley seat, so to speak – was Colin MacNeil. This was after Chopper: Song Of The Surfer had come out, but possibly before Judge Dredd: America. MacNeil was the antithesis of Bisley – shy, very quiet – but as generous to a humble fan. I think he sketched me a quick Marlon Shakespeare, but I can’t remember where I’ve stashed it. I then seized my moment, whipped out a blank Eagle Awards nomination form, and asked him to put his name in the ‘Favourite Artist’ section, and to sign it. He visibly cringed, but he did it anyway, sport that he was.

And, uh, that’s the story of how COLIN MACNEIL TRIED TO RIG THE 1990 EAGLE AWARDS!

Edited 5 October to correct foolish error

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #3: Joseph Champniss

Talk about synchronicity. Since first posting about The ZINE – which provided an early outlet for many talented cartoonists, including The Dandy‘s Jamie Smart, Matt Saw and Alex Mason – the artist I was planning on next mentioning has been (tangentially) mentioned in relation to the big British news story of the moment. So to Joseph Champniss.

In Charlotte’s Mag and The ZINE, Champniss specialised in these beautiful, almost puppet-headed caricatures of musicians, which he used to great effect in slightly unhinged biopic strips that were four-fifths feverish imagination, 15% teen bile and the rest back-of-a-fag-packet facts – in contrast to the hideously anodyne examples of the form that had previously filled the pages of Look-In, TV Tops and the like. It wasn’t just the likes of Zappa, The Smiths or Pink Floyd that were rendered in the Champniss way.

He also illustrated articles by others, including a delicious one on the nexus of tabloid papers and the royal family (which resonates rather well in the wake of the recent Prince Harry/Duchess of Cambridge furores); and his own strip ‘Verity’s Point’ demonstrated that he could easily handle the long form as well – and in painted colour as well as black line (with a lovely ‘3D’ sequence thrown in for good measure).

I never met Champniss, but The ZINE‘s editor Bo spoke glowingly of him and his talent. It wasn’t until the early 00s that I came across him again. This time it was via the Some Of The Corpses Are Amusing website he was involved in. Devoted to television comedy, SOTCAA – along with Glebe’s Thrift FunnelCook’d And Bomb’d and Off The Telly – was a fine way to while away the hours whilst the boss was out of the office. It was particularly good on why channel controllers were often the very worst people to have in positions of authority when it came to deciding what was funny enough to end up on television. I would imagine that this line of thinking made the young Champniss a philosophical confederate of Lee & Herring, whose own TV careers came to an abrupt halt when (despite decent ratings and a firm following) they came up against the likes of Jane Root. However the hook-up came to be, Champniss notched up his one and currently only IMDb credit through his L&H connection, with art department work on This Morning With Richard Not Judy.

Since then, though, I had heard not a jot. I know that there is a SOTCAA Twitter account, but whether that is Champniss or his oppo Mike Scott, I knew not. Then, whilst I was in the process of putting together this serious of blog posts on former ZINE artists, the Jimmy Savile child abuse thing blows up (overseas readers: find out more here). A somewhat plausible (yet also clearly faked) transcript of outtakes from an episode of topical comedy show Have I Got News For You supposedly recorded back in the 1990s, featuring an angry Paul Merton berating guest panelist Jimmy Savile in relation to underage sex, resurfaced, after years of floating around the interwebs. It had of course been cooked up on SOTCAA. However, only today did I discover the full story behind it, thanks to an excellent blog post about it by John Fleming, which features Champniss’ own account.

(On a related note, Pat Mills was only today talking about who inspired his hyper-sadistic character Torquemada.)

Anyway, so at least we have established that Champniss is still around! Let’s see some pics…

You know the score: CLICKEN to EMBIGGEN. For more Champniss delights, check the archive at SOTCAA.