Thursday, 31 January 2013

Cover of the day.

Cover of the day comes from the ever excellent Steve Dillon and another Marvel UK fill in cover.

I have been a fan of Steve Dillon's work since his Blake's 7 weekly days.

I am not sure but this could be his first published Punisher piece? Anyone know?


Spider-Man Photo Realistic!

Imagine if you will that it's the late 1970s and early 1980s.  None of us have got the internet or smart phones. Video shops are pretty hard to find and mostly a little shady when you do. Etc.

Now imagine that we had a weekly live action Spider-Man TV series. It's a bit shit but kinda fun (especially when there isn't much else about to watch).

OK. I know. I am being a bit harsh. When the Spider-Man TV series was being shown on British sets I was  just a kid and loved watching it every week. It got a bit lampooned by the press over here but I personally would have loved to see it run longer than it's short two seasons.

Marvel UK really threw themselves into the promotion of the comic by making use of quite a few photo covers. The previously named 'Spider-Man Weekly' became ' The Spider-Man TV Comic'. Being of the time many of the photos are a little banal (two men staring through a window on the cover of issue 460 for example). They also seem to have suffered from a lack of useable stills and the images were often repeated over and over as the series ran on.

So I thought for a bit of a walk down memory lane I would post some of the covers and interior pin ups on the blog. Hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Panel of the Day.


Panel of the day today dips again into the superb Herb Trimpe art from Killraven. Once again from the black and white pages of Marvel UKs Star Wars Monthly. It shows what you can fit into one small panel. Who these days would fit five characters, a wordballoon and a caption box all in such a small panel.

Killraven has always been one of my favourite runs and this is how I first got introduced to him. I went away and bought up all the back issues and waited for more material.

I fully intend to give it a decent shot at a review sometime soon but for now enjoy the richness of this panel.


Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale.

If you follow this link it has information on the upcoming release of Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose.

We over at NIA reviewed this great book after the last KAPOW in May.

Have a read of the review here 

I urge you to pre order a copy or get your LCS to contact improper books on  


John Ridgway on the X-Men.

During the 1980s Marvel UK experimented with a number of different formats.  The print industry was changing and new techniques in formatting and especially colour were surfacing.  It seems that Marvel grasped this as a reason to reboot a couple of their titles and begin back at the issue 1 stage. There was no internet back then so nobody really kicked up a fuss about it. We all just huffed at our disappointment and continued buying them anyway.

The X-Men always got a bit of a rough ride over here. Whilst our comic cousins in the states were enjoying (perhaps) the highest point in the Mutant Saga with Byrne, Cockrum, Smith and Romita Jnr on art chores we got sent back to the dark ages with X-Men 1.  Don’t get me wrong I loved the Stan Lee / Jack Kirby days but with irregular newsagents distribution of the American books I craved the cooler newer stuff.

There were upsides to this reboot and format change.  Because the page count often differed from the original materials we were often treated to bonus material and new covers.  These covers were often supplied by up and coming UK talent.

Covers and posters were done by such present day mainstays as Steve Dillon, Alan Davis, Dave GibbonsJohn Higgins and the ever great John Ridgway.

John is possibly best known these days for his Hellblazer work, Doctor Who (currently being reprinted as ‘Classic Doctor Who’ – Oh my aching old bones) and for his Babylon 5 work. His style to me always seemed to lend itself to book like this.  His figures are often slim but gritty. He did quite a lot of work for 2000AD, working on and off on Judge Dredd.  His work started with the UK Commado line of digest books and still looks amazing to this day. If you have missed his Spiral Path story in Warrior (issues 9-12) I suggest you have a look for it.

Whilst flicking through some old UK weekly comics I spotted his work straightaway.

His figures have an elegant and slightly wiry look to them. My favourite of the lot was his Namor. The covers were lacking any real backgrounds and were a little strangely coloured (a recurring problem at Marvel UK as I have mentioned in previous blogs). But you can’t deny that they have a really striking quality.

Hope you enjoy them.


Panel of the Day.

This is from the always excellent Herb Trimpe. From a Killraven story that was printed in the pages of Star Wars Monthly by Marvel UK.

Mr Trimpe's style always had a quirky strangeness to it that seemed to really suit the dystopian feel of the early Killraven stories. The detail on the handgun looks superb in black and white.

Loved this series. So glad that the Liefeld attempt at rebooting it never saw the light of day.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Cover of the Day.

This is from Marvel UK again in 1980.

Along with the resurgence in science fiction movies and TV series Marvel decided to group together some sci-fi stories (some well known like Micronauts and some not so well known like 'Seeker 3000' and 'Paladin') into one issue.

At the time I wondered how long these stories would last since they were sourced from Marvel US books like Marvel Premiere. But all in all it was a pretty cool package and a lot of the stories looked great in black and white.


Superman's Radio Times.

In 1988 the Great British Empire TV and Radio conglomerate that is the BBC pulled out a few stops for Superman's 50th birthday. For a company who at the time were very much of the opinion that comics were 'low brow' it was a little bit of a surprise.  Comics were in the midst of changing and perhaps they felt that there was something in the air.

Back then in the pre-Internet age this was actually pretty fun.

We got a radio special (which I think you can now find on CD and download) that was a mash up of cheesy dramatics and interviews with known comics connected people like Adam West, Jenette Khan and Dave Gibbons.

The drama centered around a trial. Superman was put on trial accused by Lex Luthor of corrupting the minds of the World's children and interfering in it's affairs. Lois Lane the annoying chatterbox works as the defence lawyer in this ever so slightly forced scenario. The Judge as if by magic was a Guardian of the Galaxy (Ganthet in fact) - which even to me back then seemed a little strange.

Each witness whether real like Dave Gibbons or imaginary (the Great Bob Sessions hamming it up for all his worth as Batman for example) were called to the stand to give evidence that was in both cases mostly scripted.

It was pretty goofy fun. But in the days before podcasts and easily accessible radio plays my tape of the show got played quite a few times.

A point of interest.  The writer Dirk Maggs also worked on both The Magic Roundabout and the Hitchhikers and Dirk Gently books as radio plays after Douglas Adams passed away. (That first name smells a bit suspicious though don't you think?) Sadly he also worked on the Mr Bean cartoon but we can't all be perfect. On the radio he continued to write and direct and produced further Superman, Batman and Spider-Man serials that were of a really high quality.  Most of which you can still buy or download from iTunes. 

Also as a side note Stuart Milligan who played Superman also played Nixon on Doctor Who in a couple of episodes in 2011! Gotta love those geek credentials.

To accompany it we got a Radio Times Special Superman issue. (Dated 4-10 June 1988) It featured a cracking Dave Gibbons cover and inside a short two page Superman comic strip written and drawn by Gibbons again. Also worthy of note is that the colour is by Watchmen's John Higgins. This story is the lead into the radio play and looks gorgeous.

I urge you to find this play. It suffers (as always it seems) from the 'BIFF' 'SMASH' style superhero cliches but this has always worked a little less cringingly with DC characters.

Adam West is his usual self and some of the accents are a little off but enjoyable nonetheless.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Experiments in Colour.

Last week we had a blur of colourist appreciation (by the way I am not misspelling that word - we include a 'u' in the UK). Twitter and Facebook had loads of comics peeps pointing out the worth of good colour on a page.

Rightly it was pointed out that a colourist adds a great deal of beauty and depth to a panel. They add everything that a good artist should.

So it seemed that we at NIA should add our voices to the choir.

Below is an example of some colouring from a Thor weekly comic from the early 1980s. The comic was almost entirely reprints (except for some covers and posters). This particular panel is from an early Jack Kirby drawn issue. Put out by Marvel UK at the start of their experiments with colour.

Up until this point UK weekly comics had in the most part been in black and white. But Marvel fans who often had access to the American issues were asking for colour interiors in their weekly comics too.

It may be that Marvel UKs hands were forced as it would seem that the process was unreliable at best and unreadable at worst.

Makes you see the worth of a good colourist.


Marvel Comics Side On.

Hi and good morning.

For those not in the UK we were treated pretty strangely by the big two comics companies through the late 1960s through to well now (I suppose).

In times gone by comics were sold in what are called ‘newsagents’ in the UK.  Similar to very large news stands that also sold sweets (candy) and other useful items.

The comics from the USA still appeared but were irregular and shipped a lot later.  We were forced to wait around three months for a comic to arrive (if it did at all) and they only got a few copies of each issue (at most). You have to remember that 'Trades' were a sci-fi dream to us kids back then and once the issue had passed we had to trek into central London to a Comics Mart ages later to find it in a back issue box.

So what we fell back on were the (initially) black and white reprints of characters that Marvel and later Marvel UK thought that the UK readers would like. Some characters were more successful in the UK than in the USA. Planet of the Apes ran longer than in the US (a story for another time) and I seem to remember that The Invaders were popular (but that might just have been because they had a UK setting).

These comics were weekly so spread out the contents of one American issue over a few issues.  They also often had redrawn splash pages and intro pages to make the comic flow better (later they didn’t really care).

Comics were during the 1960s through to the 1990s generally magazine sized (it’s what we were used to I guess). But for a brief period in the 1970s they tried a different format.

Some bright spark realised that you could fit two USA pages on one UK page by turning it on it’s side.  Now we would call it widescreen format or something like that.

Here are a few examples.

Some pages were redrawn to fit a splash page and some seem to have been merely stretched out.

All in black and white and up to six different continuing stories in each issue.

For example Spider-Man and the Titans issue 219 (the joining of two comics into one when sales were down was a common technique in the UK in all weekly comic books) contained stories about Spider-Man (by Len Wein and Ross Andru), The Avengers (by Steve Englehart and Don Heck), Thor (by Gerry Conway and John Buscema), Iron Man (by Allyn Brodsky and Don Heck), Captain America and The Falcon (by Stan Lee and Gene Colan) and The Invaders (by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins).

This really was the Golden age for Marvel in the UK for me. We had seen some of these stories in other issues but for 10 pence it was a whole hoard of classic and fun early and Bronze age Marvel comics.  How good does Barry Windsor Smith look in black and white!

All great stuff.


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Young Avengers issue 1 - Review.

OK. Well the print idea has hit a bit of a road bump (still happening but delayed until early Summer) so I decided to get back to doing some more on the blog.

My pull list this week was a little slim so I decided to review one of my son’s books.

Hope you enjoy it.

Young Avengers issue 1 - Review.

Young Avengers issue 1.

Written by Kieron Gillen.
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton.
Colour by Matthew Wilson.
Published by Marvel Comics.

Recently I handed my son a copy of Previews and told him to add a title to his pull list. He had lost a title to the DC Comics cull so we thought we would find him a new book.

For the record he is a big Deadpool fan. He also has loved Avengers Academy and Arena, Blue Beetle, The Ravagers and Legion of Superheroes.

After a while he decided on Kieron Gillen's Young Avengers.

And no. The Boy Wonder pays no attention to buzz on Twitter or any of that shit. He just likes fun books.

The Young Avengers are a team that seems to have been stalled by the release schedule of The Children's Crusade and in need of a jump start. To me it fills a gap in the Marvel NOW line up.  It certainly has a Vertigo Comics edge to it (but not in your face) and has moments of visual experimentation that are also not overbearing. (not quite anyway).

But it does what Marvel has always been good at.  It focuses on the characters. It magnifies in on their intertwining relationships and the emotions in their lives.  The action has a kitsch quality that works well in the first issue on a design level but hopefully this will not get old as the book runs on. It certainly (and comfortingly) shows it’s Phonogram roots.

The sexuality and romance is dealt with well and realistically (not that I have any experience of alien / human fooling around!?) Marvel is so good at this.  We love these characters and are genuinely involved when they hook up. 

We see the opening three pages as first person narration that is the equivalent of someone opening a door, hugging you and inviting you to a great party. Kate Bishop (of Earth) is a natural touchstone and the facial acting is the best I have seem Mr McKelvie do. The musical notes in the air remind me of a swinging Romita Snr Mary-Jane (and it does not get better than that in my book).

Post Prologue the book centers on the Earth bound characters. Starting with Wiccan and Hulking (and after a switcheroo Spider-Man scene that kept this old reader guessing) we center in on them dealing with their personal problems. It is a tiny bit melodramatic for my tastes but certainly flows really well. Oh how we have grown.  It’s not about them being gay and in love – it’s simply about them being in love. Refreshing that we have grown so far in comics. And genuinely touching.

Anything with Kid Loki works for me and it’s great to see him in the book. He must be a real joy to write. Miss America is new to me but from what I have seen so far will work as a foil to the God of Mischief in future issues I am sure.

[SPOLIERS] The book has a Twilight Zone twist ending. That should fuck them up!

It is however a quick read. And for me a little too ‘design heavy’ if that makes sense (but I think that may just be the grumpy 44 year old in me).  It also has one of those annoying credits pages (a double page spread in fact) that I could have done without. (Hickman are you listening.) But they are hardly big criticisms and overall the book rocks.

Jamie McKelvie’s style is simplistic and clean as always. The art has a bright Technicolor quality that is pop art different and pleasing to the eye. I am a little mystified by why he would need Mike Norton on board (but let’s face it any Norton art is always welcome).

Many of the Marvel team books have historically had a sense of family and this book overflows with a huge sense of this.  It’s what The New Mutants ( 1980s) book was like before Rob Liefeld got his mitts on it.  If I was my son’s age (15 , almost 16 years old) I think I would feel a kinship to these characters.

But the good thing about Gillen’s writing is that he does not pander to an age group.  He makes kids of this age hip and cool. He injects moments of  music and that early open eyed innocence when throwing themselves into possibly (probably) destructive relationships. I suppose like we all did at that age before cynicism crept into our lives.

They also represent characters who are unfettered by back story.  Sure they have been about for a few years now but I feel that they can still be stretched and molded. It's actually pretty refreshing.

I really hope it sells well. It gels in both style and content. Neither feels too heavy. The colour is remarkable and striking. It feels modern and retro all in one product which always seems to be a recipe to success. I am interested to see where it goes and will be reading it for as long as my son has it in his pull list - and possibly beyond.

It’s like Bowie. I don’t fully understand what ‘all that’ is about. But I am glad that he is out there doing it. (Just don’t have a heart attack on stage!)

Nicely done gents.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Marvel Fan of the Day.

Hey. The New Year officially rocks as I got named Marvel Fan of the Day on twitter.

Here is the proof.

Happy New Year you lot!