The Broons and Oor Wullie: The Sensational Sixties


By Dudley D. Watkins & various (DC Thomson)
ISBN: 978-0-85116-712-8

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Evergreen Seasonal Traditions Celebrated and the ideal last minute gift… 10/10

Published eternally in perfect tandem, The Broons and Oor Wullie are two of the longest running newspaper strips in British history, having appeared almost continuously in the Scottish Sunday Post since their dual debuts in the March 8th 1936 edition.

Both the boisterous boy and the gregariously engaging inner city clan were co-created by writer and Editor Robert Duncan Low in conjunction with Dudley D. Watkins; a man who would become DC Thomson’s greatest – and signature – artist.

Three years later the strips began being collected in reprint editions as Seasonal Annuals; alternating stars and years right up to the present day and remaining best-sellers every single time.

Low (1895-1980) began at the publishing monolith as a journalist, rising to the post of Managing Editor of Children’s Publication and launching, between 1921 and 1933, the company’s “Big Five” story-papers for boys: Adventure, The Rover, The Wizard, The Skipper and The Hotspur.

In 1936 his next brilliant idea was the Fun Section: an 8-page pull-out comic strip supplement for Scottish national newspaper The Sunday Post. The illustrated accessory launched on 8th March and from the very outset The Broons and Oor Wullie were its unchallenged stars…

Low’s shrewdest move was to devise both strips as domestic comedies played out in the charismatic Scottish idiom and broad unforgettable vernacular. Ably supported by features such as Auchentogle by Chic Gordon, Allan Morley’s Nero and Zero, Nosey Parker and other strips, they laid the groundwork for the company’s next great leap.

In December 1937 Low launched the DC Thomson’s first weekly pictorial comic. The Dandy was followed by The Beano in 1938 and early-reading title The Magic Comic the year after that.

War-time paper shortages and rationing sadly curtailed this strip periodical revolution, and it was 1953 before the next wave of cartoon caper picture-papers. The Topper started the ball rolling again (with Oor Wullie in the logo and masthead but not included amongst the magazine’s regular roster) in the same year that Low & the great Ken Reid created Roger the Dodger for The Beano

Low’s greatest advantage was his prolific illustrator Dudley Dexter Watkins, whose style, more than any other, shaped the look of DC Thompson’s comics output until the bombastic advent of Leo Baxendale shook things up in the mid-1950s.

Watkins (1907-1969) had started life in Manchester and Nottingham as an artistic prodigy. He entered Glasgow College of Art in 1924 and it wasn’t long before he was advised to get a job at Dundee-based DCT, where a 6-month trial illustrating boys’ stories led to comic strip specials and some original cartoon creations.

Percy Vere and His Trying Tricks and Wandering Willie, The Wily Explorer made him a dead cert for both lead strips in the Sunday Post’s proposed Fun Section and, without missing a beat, Watkins later added The Dandy’s Desperate Dan to his weekly workload in 1937, eventually including The Beano’s placidly and seditiously outrageous Lord Snooty seven months later.

Watkins soldiered on in unassailable homely magnificence for decades, drawing some of the most lavishly lifelike and winningly hilarious strips in illustration history. He died at his drawing board on August 20th 1969. For all those astonishingly productive years he had unflaggingly drawn a full captivating page each of Oor Wullie and The Broons every week, and his loss was a colossal blow to the company.

DC Thomson’s chiefs preferred to reprint old Watkins episodes of the strips in both the newspaper and the Annuals for seven years before a replacement was agreed upon. The Dandy reran Watkins’ Desperate Dan stories for twice that length of time.

An undeniable, rock-solid facet of Scots popular culture from the very start, the first Broons Annual (technically Bi-Annual) appeared in 1939, alternating with the first Oor Wullie book a year later (although, due to wartime paper restrictions, no annuals at all were published between 1943 and 1946) and for millions of readers no year can truly end without them.

This particular commemorative collection is tinged with sadness as the strips included here – probably written by David Donaldson, Iain Reid and some anonymous others – are perhaps the very best of Watkins’ astounding career, as well as his last.

So What’s the Set Up?: the Brown family inhabit a tenement flat at 10 Glebe Street, in the timelessly metafictional Scottish industrial everytown of Auchentogle (sometimes Auchenshoogle); based on the working class Auchenshuggle district of Glasgow. As such it’s an ideal setting in which to tell gags, relate events and fossilise the deepest and most reassuring cultural archetypes for sentimental Scots wherever in the world they might actually be residing. And naturally, such a region was the perfect sounding board to portray all the social, cultural and economic changes that came after the war…

The adamant, unswerving cornerstone of the family feature is long-suffering, ever-understanding Maw, who puts up with cantankerous, cheap, know-it-all Paw, and their battalion of stay-at-home kids. These comprise hunky Joe, freakishly tall Hen (Henry), sturdy Daphne, gorgeous Maggie, brainy Horace, mischievous twins Eck and the unnamed “ither ane” plus a wee toddling lassie referred to only as “The Bairn”.

Not officially in residence but always hanging around is sly, patriarchal buffoon Granpaw – a comedic gadfly who spends more time at Glebe Street than his own cottage and constantly tries to impart his decades of out-of-date, hard-earned experience to the kids… but do they listen?

Offering regular breaks from the inner city turmoil and a chance to simultaneously sentimentalise, spoof and memorialise more traditional times, the family frequently repair to their But ‘n’ Ben (a dilapidated rustic cottage in the Highlands) to fall foul of the weather, the countryside and all its denizens: fish, fowl, farm-grown, temporary and touristic…

As previously stated, Oor Wullie also launched on March 8th 1936 with his own collected Annual compilations subsequently and unfailingly appearing in the even years.

The basic set-up is sublimely simply and eternally evergreen, featuring an imaginative, scruff with a weakness for mischief, talent for finding trouble and no hope of ever avoiding parental retribution when appropriate…

Wullie – AKA William MacCallum – is an archetypal good-hearted rascal with time on his hands who can usually be found sitting on an upturned bucket at the start and finish of his page-a-week exploits. His regular cast includes Ma and Pa, local copper P.C. Murdoch, assorted teachers and other interfering adults who either lavish gifts or inflict opprobrium upon the little pest and his pals Fat Boab, Soapy Joe Soutar, Wee Eck and others. As a grudging sign of changing times, in later volumes such as this, he’s occasionally caught in the company of fetching schoolgirls like Rosie and Elizabeth

A compilation in monochrome with some full-colour pages, The Sensational Sixties was released in 1999 as part of a concerted drive to keep earlier material available to fans: a lavishly sturdy hardback (still readily available through internet vendors) offering a tantalising selection of Sunday pages from 1960 to August 24th 1959, covering every aspect of that white-hot era of rapid change, and yet all still uproariously funny even now…

Each year of selected gems commences with an atmospheric photo-clippings and news-headlines feature, book-ending every following year with a similar capsule feature of the unfolding years and usually accompanied by a colour Watkins cover or title-page from an Annual of the period.

The endless escapades of the strip stars comprise the happily standard subject-matter: galling goofs and gaffes, family frolics, sly pranks and cruel comeuppances: a regular menu of gloriously slapstick shenanigans including plumbing pitfalls, decorating disasters, fireplace fiascos, school foolishness, dating dilemmas, appliance atrocities, fashion freak-outs, bothered Bobbies, teacher tantrums, excessive exercise exploits, chore-dodging and childish pranks by young and old alike, all glimpsed through the lens of a comfortably traditional world inexorably transitioning as fashionable technology slowly altered the lives of everyone, whether they wanted it to or not…

 

Although The Beatles, political and celebrity assassinations, space races and moon-shots or Vietnam apparently played little part in the lives of our Scottish stars, contemporary dance crazes are acknowledged, as are student-hostellers, package holidays, electric blankets and long-haired, fashion-crazed boys. There’s even an increase in football-related japery in the 1966 and 1967 chapters for some reason…

Uncontested and always welcome are wry and weighted comparisons of the good old days with mere modernity, rib-tickling scenes of sledding and skating, stolen candies, Christmas revels, torn clothes, recycled comics, breakings into one’s own home, sparring school kids, ladies and lassies lost and found, harmless practical jokes and social scandals: stories intended to take our collective mind off troubles abroad and at home, and for every thwarted romance of poor Daphne and Maggie or embarrassing fiasco focussing on Paw’s cussed recalcitrance, there’s an uproarious chase, riotous squabble and no-tears scrap for the little ‘uns.

With snobs to deflate, bullies to crush, duels to fight, chips to scoff, games to win and rowdy animals (from cats to cows) to escape, the eternally affable humour and gently self-deprecating, inclusive frolics make these superbly crafted strips an endlessly entertaining, superbly nostalgic treat.

Fans of the creative process will also delight in bonus features such as unused pencilled pages of Watkins’ art and the fulsome tribute section showing the illustrator’s first and last Broons and Oor Wullie strips: simply four more of the near 3500 pages he immaculately conceived for the staunchly timeless features.

Packed with all-ages fun, rambunctious homespun hilarity and deliriously domestic warmth, these examples of comedic certainty and convivial celebration are a sure cure for post-modern glums… and you can’t really have a happy holiday without that, can you?
© D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. 1998.

The Art of Sean Phillips


By Sean Phillips, Eddie Robson and various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-420-6

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: A Magical Trawl through Fan-favourite Moments… 9/10

Sean Phillips started selling comic strips in 1980. He was 15 years old, still at school and for all intents and purposes “living the dream”. He’s been doing it ever since, with dedication, professionalism and ever-increasing proficiency.

This magnificent oversized (234 x 310 mm) hardback reproduces hundreds of comics pages and covers, plus an assortment of out-industry artwork, as accompaniment to an astonishingly forthright extended interview and career retrospective of the phenomenally talented and terrifying dedicated illustrator, covering his earliest cartooning efforts right through to his next big thing. There’s even baby pictures and school work. Of course Sean and his friends did make their first professional strip sale – to the local newspaper – when they were twelve…

Compiled by Phillips and writer and journalist Eddie Robson, with contributions from fellow artists, writers and editors the artist worked with over the decades, the book includes an Introduction from co-conspirator Ed Brubaker and offers many complete strips fans will probably never have seen.

As well as many unpublished works the gallery of visual wonder include early strips on “Girls” comics and Annuals such as Bunty, Judy and Diana For Girls as well as college work, try-out pages and portfolio pieces created with the sole purpose of getting into the cool mainstream…

Phillips is equally adept with paints and pen-&-ink and the book tracks his career as a jobbing artist through Bunty to early “mature reader” title Crisis (Crisis, New Statesmen, Straitgate), 2000AD and The Megazine (Armitage, Devlin Waugh), and that crucial jump to America as part of the “British Invasion”; producing features and one-offs at Vertigo and becoming part of the initial intake who launched and cemented the radical imprint’s look. Of particular interest and strongly emphasised are his runs on Kid Eternity, Hellblazer and The Invisibles.

The longed-for move into super-heroics began with Batman, a sidestep into Star Wars and back to Spider-Man. Early hints of later specialisation can be spotted in Scene of the Crime, Gotham Noir and Sleeper, but he was also busy with Wildcats and X-Men. He truly became a major name through the monumental sensation that was Marvel Zombies, but more attention here is paid to poorer-selling critical hit and career crossroads Criminal.

The parade of pictorial perfection continues with finished pages and original art from many more titles including User, Intersections, Incognito and more, strips and covers for licensed titles such as Serenity, Predator, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower spin-offs and for classic film repackager Criterion. Other non-comics work includes true lost gems such as political strip ‘Right Behind You’ from The Sunday Herald depicting how a certain meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair probably went as a certain invasion was discussed…

The comics conversation concludes with sneaky peeks at then-upcoming projects Fatale and European album Void 01 and we know just how damn good those both turned out…

Also sporting a healthy Bibliography section, heartfelt Acknowledgements and a Biography page, this massively entertaining, vibrant tome is as much an incisive and philosophical treatise on work-ethic as celebration of a stellar career telling stories in pictures: a beautiful, breathtaking and brilliantly inspirational compendium for the next generation of artists and writers, whatever their age.

If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this rousing celebration offers all the encouragement you could possibly hope for – and is just plain lovely to look at too.
© 2013 Dynamite Entertainment. All artworks, characters, images and contributions © their respective creators or holders. All rights reserved.

The Broons and Oor Wullie 1939-1945: The Lighter Side of World War II


By R.D. Low & Dudley D. Watkins & various (DC Thomson)
ISBN: 978-0-85116-651-3

The Broons and Oor Wullie are, singly or in eternal conjunction, one of the longest running newspaper cartoon features in British history, having appeared continuously in Scotland’s The Sunday Post since their debut in the March 8th 1936 edition.

Both boisterous wee boy and eccentrically engaging working class clan were co-created by journalist, writer and Editor Robert Duncan Low and DC Thomson’s greatest artist Dudley D. Watkins. Once their addictively engaging strips began to be collected in reprint editions as Seasonal Annuals – with solo books or each star-feature appearing in alternate years, right up to the present day – the Broons and Oor Wullie became an international milestone, beloved by Scots far from home and all devotees of cartooning mastery.

Low (1895-1980) began at DC Thomson as a journalist, rising to the post of Managing Editor of Children’s Publication and launching, between 1921 and 1933, the company’s “Big Five” story papers for boys: Adventure, The Rover, The Wizard, The Skipper and The Hotspur.

In 1936 his next brilliant notion was the Fun Section: an 8-page comic-strip supplement to the publishing giant’s most popular national newspaper. This illustrated accessory launched on 8th March and from the outset The Broons and Oor Wullie were its standout stars…

Low’s shrewdest notion was devising both strips as domestic comedies played out in the charismatic Scottish idiom and vernacular. Supported by features such as Auchentogle by Chic Gordon, Allan Morley’s Nero and Zero, Nosey Parker amongst others, they laid the groundwork for the company’s next great leap. In December 1937 Low launched the very first DC Thomson weekly comic. The Dandy was cautiously followed by The Beano in 1938 and an early-reading title entitled The Magic Comic a year later.

War-time paper shortages and post-war rationing strictures curtailed this budding strip periodical revolution, and it was 1953 before the next wave of groundbreaking picture paper releases. The Topper started the ball rolling again (with Oor Wullie in the logo and masthead but not part of the magazine’s regular roster) and in that same year Low and Ken Reid created Roger the Dodger for The Beano

Low’s greatest weapon in those early days was his prolific illustrator Dudley Dexter Watkins, whose style shaped the look of DC Thompson’s comics output until the bombastic arrival of Leo Baxendale shook things up in the mid-1950s.

Watkins (1907-1969) had started life in Manchester and Nottingham as a genuine artistic prodigy before entering Glasgow College of Art in 1924. It wasn’t long before he was advised to get a job at burgeoning, Dundee-based DCT, where a 6-month trial illustrating boys’ stories led to comic strip specials and some original cartoon creations.

Percy Vere and His Trying Tricks and Wandering Willie, The Wily Explorer made him a the only choice for both lead strips in the new Fun Section and, without missing a beat, in 1937 Watkins added Dandy’s Desperate Dan to his weekly workload and Beano’s placidly outrageous Lord Snooty seven months later.

Watkins soldiered on in unassailable magnificence for decades, drawing some of the most lavishly lifelike and winningly hilarious strips in comics history. He died at his drawing board on August 20th 1969.

For all that time he had unflaggingly crafted a full captivating page each for Oor Wullie and The Broons every week as well as his many comics pages. His loss was a colossal blow to the company. DC Thomson reprinted old episodes of both strips in the newspaper and Annuals for seven years before a replacement was settled upon, whilst The Dandy reran Watkins’ Desperate Dan stories for twice that length of time.

A rock-solid facet of Scottish popular culture from the start, the first Broons Annual (technically Bi-Annual) had appeared in 1939, re-presenting the best of the Sunday strips; followed and replaced with Oor Wullie the next Christmas. However, as wartime paper restrictions increasingly began to bite, no annuals were published between 1943 and 1946.

Here you have a chance to scrutinise the rare strips of the war years in a sublime collection of pages tracking the cartoon icons’ experiences as typical folk getting by in the worst of all possible times…

Need a Mission Briefing?

Most of the multigenerational Brown family inhabit a tenement flat at 10 Glebe Street, in the timelessly metafictional Scottish industrial everytown of Auchentogle (sometimes alternatively dubbed Auchenshoogle and based on working-class Glasgow district of Auchenshuggle). It was and still is an ideal setting in which to tell gags, comment on events, spoof trends and fossilise the deepest and most reassuring cultural archetypes for sentimental Scots, wherever in the world they might actually be residing.

As is always the case, the adamant, unswerving keystone of any family feature is long-suffering, understanding Maw, who puts up with cantankerous, cheap, know-it-all Paw, and their battalion of stay-at-home kids – comprising in descending order of age and military preparedness – hunky, husky Joe, freakishly tall and thin Hen (Henry), sturdy Daphne, pretty Maggie, brainy Horace, mischievous twins Eck and the unnamed “ither ane” and a wee toddler referred to only as “The Bairn”.

Not officially billeted there but always hanging around is gruff patriarchal buffoon Granpaw – a comedic gadfly who spends more time at Glebe Street than his own cottage, constantly striving to impart decades of hard-earned if outdated experience to the kids…

Offering regular breaks from inner city turmoil and another chance to simultaneously sentimentalise, spoof and memorialise more traditional times, the family often repair to their But ‘n’ Ben (a dilapidated rustic cottage in the Highlands), always falling afoul of the weather, the countryside and all its denizens: fish, fowl, farm-grown and farm-folk…

In these wartime strips that formula was naturally disrupted as the entire family found different ways to contribute to the war-effort.

As able-bodied patriots, Joe and Hen instantly joined up but frequently found time to pop back to share tantalising tastes of the army game. Paw became an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden – as did Granpaw – revealing exhausting nights on fire watch and days working at the ship yards, Maw worked with the Red Cross whilst the older girls joined the V.A.D. (Volunteer Aid Detachment). Was it merely joshing when their siblings reckoned it was just to meet more men in uniform…?

Even the fractious and boisterous young ‘uns found ways to “contribute”…

Oor Wullie also soldiered on, giving a splendidly childlike boost to morale with his own version of “chin up and carry on, regardless”. His basic set-up has always been sublimely simply and eternally evergreen: the lad is just an overly-imaginative, good-hearted scamp with a talent for finding trouble and no hope of ever avoiding parental retribution when it becomes appropriate…

Wullie – AKA William MacCallum – is an archetypal rascal with time on his hands. He can usually be found ruminatively sitting on an upturned tin bucket at the start and finish of his page-a-week exploits.

His regular cast includes Ma and Pa, local copper P.C. Murdoch, assorted embattled teachers, relatives and other interfering adults who lavish gifts or inflict opprobrium upon the little pest and his pals Fat Bob, Soapy Joe Soutar, Wee Eck et al.

During this period Wullie’s world was heavily populated with adults always ready to apply some corporal punishment and thuggish bullies equally eager to prove their physical superiority – a fact repeatedly explained away and apologised for by the embarrassed and more-evolved editors of our more civilised age…

The Lighter Side of World War II was released in 1997: part of a concerted drive to keep the earlier material available to fans. This lavish and sturdy hardback compilation (still readily available through internet vendors) offers a captivating selection of strips from April 30th 1939, with the conflict still brewing far away, and includes the entire war era before concluding in December 1945 as servicemen all over the Empire – including Hen and Joe – readied themselves for demobilisation and life on Civvie Street.

These mostly monochrome memos of mirth-under-fire begin with – and are periodically punctuated by – full-colour cover adaptations of early Annual frontispieces. In attendance are atmospheric and informative year-by-year photo-features, period editorial cartoons, fact pages and excerpted headlines from The Sunday Post and other newspapers of the time, all combining to create a chronological chronicle of the Second World War through warm, funny and indomitably defiant eyes…

The endless escapades begin in 1939 with a few pre-Hostilities traditional teasers starring Oor Wullie before The Broons kick off the “Big Show” with a strip from October 1st reflecting everyone’s sudden concern over food supplies and the draconian discipline of The Blackout. The situation soon becomes a new normal and the cartoon stars slip back into familiar gag territory enlivened by recurring themes such as Hen and Joe coming a cropper after getting the lasses to launder their uniforms…

Bonus feature ‘Oor Wullie’s War Effort’ offers a colourful perspective on the wee lad’s morale-boosting capers (with plenty of superbly cruel caricaturing of Axis leaders Hitler and Mussolini) and is followed by fact-filled asides revealing how a major publishing house accommodated the public drive to cut paper use and recycle whilst still plugging sales for Dandy, Beano and the rest…

Many Wullie strips dealt with the boisterous boy’s attempts to dodge school and join any branch of the Services who would take him, whilst, not to be outdone, Paw Broon became obsessed with spies, suspiciously bulging bags and foreign accents…

The New Year dawned with a comedy poem from the Oor Wullie 1940 Annual plus a photo-feature explaining how the conflict had progressed, after which the usual subject-matter – gleeful goofs, family frolics and slapstick tomfoolery – are augmented by gas-mask gags, bomb shelter shenanigans and childish war-games involving young and old alike, as well as strips addressing the perennial problem of how to throw parties under government restrictions. Moreover, you can’t spit (or polish) without hitting some posh officer in need of taking down a peg and all involved are constantly collecting scrap to Hurt the Hun…

A similar eccentric ode – ‘The Broons’ Hoose’ – culled from their 1941 Annual with attendant news-based picture-feature leads into that tumultuous year as an aura of artistic anarchy returned, with tales of good-natured poaching, calamitous make-do-and-mend moments, brief encounters with spivs, conmen and black marketeers as well as increased emphasis on making your own entertainment and growing your own food.

Every so often, however, the strips became a vehicle for public information as when Maw Broon uses her Co-Op “Divvy” to buy Government Savings Certificates. Every war brings out blowhards and know-it-alls, but the ones here always regret their windy pontificating whether the unwilling audiences contain Wullie or the Broon clan…

A selection of headlines, full-colour reproductions of the painted covers for 1941’s Broons and 1942’s Oor Wullie Annuals (the last ones until 1946) and the by-now traditional photo-piece precede a range of strips from the key year of the conflict, with rationing and privation now an accepted part of daily life.

It only made the strips more imaginative and funny as Watkins’s style matured into a mesmerising melding of smooth caricature with slickly realistic slapstick as morale-boosting sporting fixtures and brief forays into the countryside countered the grim or gloomy news in the rest of The Sunday Post. The year concludes with ‘At the Barber’s’: a Wullie strip from 1944 deconstructing the artist’s skill with line and form…

The 1943 photo-feature deals with good news from North Africa and Southern Italy and leads directly into yet more graphic goonery; but although specific events are never mentioned it’s clear that growing optimism is infecting all the cartoon characters. Many Wullie strips in particular could be happening before or after the conflict and no one would be any the wiser.

Men in uniform are far more common in the Broons segments, but here too they’re having fun, playing pranks and chasing lassies again…

‘Domestic Bliss’ is another deconstructed exploration of Dudley Watkins’ astounding facility with comedy staging and characterisation and precedes the 1944 photo-feature which concentrates naturally enough on D-Day.

What follows is a splendid succession of classic gag outings, with sweets back in stock, eggs aplenty, holiday outings, hospital visits and parties taking the attention away from the real world. Proper Toffs are regularly embarrassed again, officious policemen outraged and teachers are once more hard-pressed to keep control as Wullie returns to japes, misguided helpfulness and get rich-quick schemes, whilst the Glebe Street irregulars go back to teasing Daphne and Maggie over thwarted romances, finding new definitions for Paw’s cussedness, embarrassing Maw in front of guests and indulging in all sorts of uproarious bad behaviour…

After a selection of Sunday Post headlines from 1943-1945, the accompanying history photo concentrates on V.E. Day 1945 showing renewed exuberance, focusing on servicemen and loved ones coming home and funny business very much back getting back to normal.

Most individual years are especially celebrated with their specific memorable and joy-inducing Christmas/Hogmanay strips and the collection concludes with Wullie’s May 13th celebration of the European war’s ending whilst The Broons episode for December 2nd 1945 shows Joe and Hen still in uniform but unable to tell the difference between home chores when On Leave and Jankers when back in Camp…

Crammed with all-ages fun, rambunctious hilarity and comfortably domestic warmth, these inspirational examples of enviable disgrace and wit under fire celebrate a mythic lost life and time are a sure cure for post-modern glums… and you can’t say fairer than that, can you?
© D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. 1997.

Dr. Who – The Eleventh Doctor volume 1: After Life


By Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Simon Fraser, Boo Cook & various (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-385-7

Doctor Who was first seen on black-&-white TV screens on November 23rd 1963 in the first episode of ‘An Unearthly Child’. Less than a year later his decades-long run of adventures in TV Comic began with issue #674 and the premier instalment of ‘The Klepton Parasites’. Throughout the later Sixties and early 1970’s, strips appeared in Countdown (later re-titled TV Action) before shuttling back to TV Comic.

On 11th October 1979 (although adhering to the US off-sale cover-dating system so it says 17th) Marvel’s UK subsidiary launched Doctor Who Weekly, which evolved into a monthly magazine in 1980 and has been with us under various names ever since.

All of which only goes to prove that the Man from Gallifrey is a hero with an impressive pedigree and hard to kill in any medium…

In recent years the strip division of the Whovian mega-franchise has roamed far and wide and currently rests with British publisher Titan Comics who have sagely opted to run parallel series starring the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth incarnations of the trickily turbulent Time Lord.

These tales starring the Matt Smith incarnation comprise the first five issues of the 2014 monthly comicbook; set just after the Time Lord restarted our imploding universe and saw his companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams married and settled down.

Naturally, the gregarious Galloping Gallifreyan is soon in the mood for a little company, as seen in ‘After Life’ scripted by Al Ewing (Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, Loki: Agent of Asgard) and Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Thanos) illustrated by Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Lilly MacKenzie).

She wasn’t dead, but Alice Obiefune’s life seemed to end after her mother passed way. Things started falling apart and Library Assistant Alice was drifting head-first into a bleak grey world of sucking depression.

Everything changed in an instant when a weird rainbow dog/dragon/thingie raced down the High Street, followed by a strange beanpole man in tweed jacket and bowtie. Barely pausing for breath, he somehow got her to help him chase it.

They would have caught it too, if he hadn’t seen something sinister at the edge of his vision and run into a lamppost…

He then vanished, leaving Alice breathless and bewildered, but popped back a little later when she was safely back in her memory-blighted house. He said she seemed sad and made tea…

Alice was suitably impressed by the incredible TARDIS, but couldn’t help thinking the strange self-confessed alien seemed lonely…

Eager to show off, The Doctor gave her the guided tour of his incredible ship, but Alice kept thinking about the rainbow critter and soon the Doctor was too. Kharitite Joy Beasts home in on negative emotion and bulk up on the mass and energy they generate. However it got there, a miserable, avaricious, angry place like London was no place to leave one wandering about…

The proof of that occurred when they tracked it to the Houses of Parliament in time to stop a riot becoming a bloodbath. Happily The Doctor had a rather good idea about how to calm down the overwhelmed Kharitite…

With new Companion firmly onboard, the roaming wonderment continues in a jaunt to Rokhandi. What was supposed to be a visit to the most beautiful planet in the universe is spoiled when the TARDIS materialises in a cheap and shoddy global theme park…

‘The Friendly Place’ (Ewing & Fraser) is crass, artificial and toxically anodyne but its not long before The Doctor and Alice uncover a sinister presence lobotomising troublemakers, vandals and people who refuse to be happy. With typical rebellious zeal the Time Lord and the Library Assistant challenge the massed delight of the customers and soon uncover a rapacious scheme by corporate powerhouse ServeYouInc

Moreover – thanks to the oddities of temporal mechanics – they meet for the very first time an old enemy who despises them for all their past/future meddling…

Security Chief August Hart is happy to share the secret of the alien wish-granting thing they’ve used to pacify and lobotomise troublesome visitors, but when he makes it enter the Gallifreyan’s mind, the result is not what the moneymen were expecting…

In fact that brief cerebral contact will have repercussions up and down the timeline…

Blithely unaware, the time travellers think it’s “job done” and hurtle home. However, in 1930 Mississippi a most ominous Talent Scout is trading potential fame for relative inconsequentials. The wishes he grants are on behalf of ServeYouInc, but ‘What He Wants…’ (Williams & Fraser) is largely unknown.

He’ll probably get it though, since an ensorcelled Doctor has succumbed to the effects of the corporation’s wishing-entity and become just another of his beguiled slaves. Hopefully Alice and before-he-was-famous Rock Legend John Jones can help bluesman guitar god Robert Johnson work with the consciousness of the TARDIS to save the day and the world…

Some secrets of ServeYouInc and the initial clash with August Hart are then exposed in ‘Whodunnit?’ by Ewing & Boo (Elephantmen, Judge Dredd) Cook, as the charming chrononauts – sucked in by an impending paradox – accidentally arrive at a commercial alien science station in the far future where a years-long conspiracy has boiled over into tragedy…

Something has breached the station and is attacking the staff, plundering their minds and leaving them in comas…

Naturally, nothing is truly as it seems and despite the best efforts of jumped-up, gun-happy temporary Security Chief Hart, the shocking truth about what has been going on in the name of science and profit is exposed when The Doctor, Alice and Jones meet an incredible creature drawn to ‘The Sound of Our Voices’

Smart, warm, edgy and subtly hilarious, this premier volume comes with loads of bonus material such as short comedy strips by AJ and David Leach, Marc Ellerby’s sitcom featuring assorted Pond Life, behind-the-scenes production photos and a vast gallery of alternate and variant covers (photographic, digitally manipulated, painted and/or drawn) by the likes of Fraser, Alice X. Zhang, Rob Farmer and Verity Glass.

If you’re a fan of the small screen Time Lord, this book might well make you an addict to both. After Life is a glorious treat for casual readers, a fine additional avenue for devotees of the TV show to explore and a perfect opportunity to cross-promote our art-form to anyone minded to give comics a proper go…
BBC, Doctor Who (word marks, logos and devices) and Tardis are trade marks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under licence. BBC logo © BBC 1996. Doctor Who logo © BBC 2009. Tardis image © BBC 1963. First edition April 2015.

The Phoenix Presents… Lost Tales


By Adam Murphy (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910989-19-7

The educational power of comic strips has been long understood and acknowledged: if you can make material memorably enjoyable, there is nothing that can’t be taught better with pictures. The obverse is also true: comics can make any topic or subject come alive and reveal how even the most ancient or alien of cultures is just people like us wearing different hats…

The same amiable ethos and graphic versatility that made Adam Murphy’s wonderful Corpse Talk collections such a treasure to read and learn with also informs this superb collection of visualised folk tales, gathered from distant, less-frequented corners of the world; ones not generally seen in our schools or nurseries.

In 2012 Oxford-based family publisher David Fickling Books launched an anthological weekly comic for girls and boys channelling the grand old days of British picture-story entertainment. Every issue offers humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material: a joyous parade of cartoon fun and fantasy.

Since its premiere, The Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – the totally engaged kids and parents who read it. Inevitably the publishers have branched out into a wonderful line of superbly engaging graphic novel compilations, the latest of which will magically broaden every reader’s fantasy landscape…

This superb compilation of tales – first seen in The Phoenix – goes beguilingly beyond mythical borders established by generations of westernised kids reared primarily on the works of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, and offers tantalising flavours far fresher to the jaded fantasy palate.

However, when you look closer, you’ll soon see that the themes, problems and solutions don’t vary that much and might well be universal…

Opening proceedings is ‘Strong Wind and Little Scabs’ which comes from the Mi’kmaq tradition of North America, detailing how a poor girl brutalised and maltreated by her older sisters becomes the wife of a god-like hero, after which ‘The Gifts of Wali Dad’ takes us to the ancient Punjab where a poor yet virtuous man finds his harmony and inner peace disrupted by too much wealth…

An old Romani legend becomes ‘Lucky Jim and the Golden Hair of the Sun’ as a vile king learns his daughter is fated to marry a simple gypsy peasant. His many scandalous attempts to thwart fate are futile and bring about his own doom, whilst a tale of avarice and guile defeated by honesty and ever sharper wits is revealed in ‘Two Merchants’, which comes from the lost Central African kingdom of Kanem-Bornu…

An honest, adoring but extremely simple peach-seller once married a beautiful and smart woman who gave him a drawing of her to keep him always happy. When he lost ‘The Picture Wife’ she was then compelled to orchestrate his rise to the heights of society in feudal Japan, before Brazil brings us a heartbreaking tragedy of sea-monsters, broken friendships and shallow, forgetful princesses which explains ‘Why the Sea Moans’

The high price of casual ingratitude informs the Russian fable of ‘The Snow Daughter’ who was magically bestowed upon a childless old couple and this fabulous lexicon of international wonders closes far closer to home with a Scottish tale of greedy, gullible and ultimately evil landowners who covet the precious few passions of a poor crofter. Thankfully, the old farmer has wits far surpassing the money and vicious intentions of his adversaries and ‘Riben, Robin and Donald McDonald’ has a happy ending with just deserts liberally served all around…

Witty, welcoming and utterly beguiling, The Phoenix Presents… Lost Tales seductively introduces readers to the myths of a wider world, and is also a fabulously fun read no parent or kid could possibly resist.
Text and illustrations © Adam Murphy 2015. All rights reserved.

The Phoenix Presents… Lost Tales will be released on August 4th 2016 and is available for pre-order now.
Why not check out the Phoenix experience at https://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/ and see what Adam’s up to at http://adammurphy.com/portfolio/comics/

Dr. Who: The Tenth Doctor volume 1: Revolutions of Terror


By Nick Abadzis, Elena Casagrande, Arianna Florean & various (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-384-0

Doctor Who first materialised through our black-&-white television screens on November 23rd 1963 in the first episode of ‘An Unearthly Child’. Less than a year later his decades-long run in TV Comic began with issue #674 and the premier instalment of ‘The Klepton Parasites’. Throughout the later Sixties and early 1970’s strips appeared in Countdown (later retitled TV Action) before shuttling back to TV Comic.

On 11th October 1979 (although adhering to the US off-sale cover-dating system so it says 17th) Marvel’s UK subsidiary launched Doctor Who Weekly, which became a monthly magazine in September 1980 (#44) and has been with us under various names ever since.

All of which only goes to prove that the Time Lord is a comic hero with an impressive pedigree…

In recent years the strip portion of the Whovian mega-franchise has roamed far and wide and currently rests with British publisher Titan Comics who have sagely opted to run parallel series starring the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth incarnations of the tricky and tumultuous Time Lord.

Scripted by the ever-excellent Nick Abadzis (Hugo Tate, Children of the Voyager, The Amazing Mr. Plebus, Laika) and illustrated by Elena Casagrande (Suicide Risk, Star Trek, X Files) & Arianna Florean – with art assistance from Luca Lamberti, Michele Pasta, Annapaolo Martello, Giorgio Sposito & Paolo Villanelli – these tales comprise the first five issues of the 2014 monthly comicbook and are set at the conclusion of the Fourth Season starring David Tennant, just after he lost his cherished (time) travelling Companion Donna Noble

‘Revolutions of Terror’ opens in picturesque Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where the locals are gearing up for Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Gabriella Gonzalez is less than joyous. A talented creative type, she wants to go to art school but her father is keeping her home to help in his restaurant and run his latest side-venture – a Laundromat. He is letting her go to night college though… but only to study accountancy and book-keeping…

When the washing machines all go crazy and spin out of control that day, prospective brother-in-law Hector is quick to pass on the blame to her, so Gabriella is feeling pretty annoyed and despondent. When the weird British-sounding guy turns up at the Castillo Mexicano for breakfast she barely notices him, what with grandma suddenly seeing ghosts and Hector being accosted by a demon…

Strange sights and uncanny apparitions continue throughout the day and Sunset Park is in no mood for celebrations as Gabby takes the subway to class, but when the train is attacked by monsters the weird Brit is there to fight the thing off with a buzzing blue flashlight…

Soon introductions are made and “The Doctor” has introduced her to an uncanny new universe she never believed possible… and one that might soon be ending thanks to an invasion by toxic-emotion devourers called The Silent. They are – apparently – voracious weaponised Cerebravores from another planet…

As she ingeniously holds the terrors at bay in the Laundromat, the Doctor visits their origin-world and, once he’s gained the knowledge he needs, returns with a plan to defeat them. Sadly it depends completely on Gabby’s artistic gifts and her family’s good mood…

Nevertheless global doom is averted, and the Doctor is preparing to slope off when Gabriella makes her big pitch to go with him…

Agreeing to just one quick trip, the Time Lord takes his new guest to the Pentaquoteque Gallery of Ououmos, one of the greatest collections of ‘The Arts in Space’ but, as Gabby’s cartoon strip journal shows, it’s much more of a pant-wetting scary adventure than a dry museum visit…

A driven artistic soul, Gabriella is naturally intoxicated with everything, but the real show-stopper is her introduction to puissant Zhe Ikiyuyu’s block transfer sculptures: a rare discipline which can manifest solid objects by mathematically manipulating Quantum Foam Harmonics through singing or chanting…

However the rapt fascination quickly turns into more terrified running after the Doctor takes her to Zhe’s private moon where they discover the compulsive creative artist has taken the ultimate step in her art and the creations now run the roost…

This racy, pacy, superbly authentic and in-touch little tome comes with a bunch of bonus material such as humorous strip extras by A. J, David Leach, Emma Price & Rachel Smith and a vast gallery of Gallifreyan alternate and variant covers (photographic, digitally manipulated, painted and/or drawn) by the likes of Casagrande, Alice X. Zhang, Rob Farmer, Warren Pleece and Verity Glass. Also on offer is a behind-the-scenes peek at ‘Designing Gabby’ making this a splendid slice of comics magic starring an incontestable bulwark of British Fantasy.

If you’re a fan of only one form, this book might make you an addict to both. Revolutions of Terror is a fabulous treat for casual readers, a fine shelf addition for devotees of the TV show and a perfect opportunity to cross-promote our particular art-form to anyone minded to give comics a proper go…
BBC, Doctor Who (word marks, logos and devices) and Tardis are trade marks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under licence. BBC logo © BBC 1996. Doctor Who logo © BBC 2009. Tardis image © BBC 1963. First edition April 2015.

Death Sentence: London


By Montynero & Martin Simmonds with John Pearson & Jimmy Betancourt (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-507-3

For most of us Sex Sells. If that’s not you and you’re easily shocked or offended, stop Right Here, Right Now and come back for a less grown-up review tomorrow.

As for the salacious, tawdry, vulgar majority of humanity, however, fornication is a force that will not be resisted and we’re always gagging for it.

One outrageous potential result of that inescapable biological imperative was recently explored in a dark, decadent fable from writer, artist and games designer Montynero who, with illustrator Mike Dowling, crafted a ferociously effective satire on modern attitudes in Death Sentence.

After an initial and truncated appearance in Clint Magazine in 2012 the sexily sordid saga was retooled as a breakthrough 6-issue miniseries which took the comics world by storm when released in 2013.

Something that good was bound to be tried again and a series followed, of which Death Sentence: London – illustrated now by Martin Simmonds – is but the first compulsive compilation…

In the World That’s Coming a sexually transmitted disease known as G+ is spreading rapidly through the population. It is invariably fatal and kills in six months. For that length of time, however, the victim “suffers” from increased vigour, stamina, sex drive and even develops super powers…

The true extent of the threat only became apparent to the public after media darling, affirmed libertine and proud G-Plus carrier DavidMontyMontgomery used his exponentially-expanding psychic powers to kill Britain’s government, royal family and one million Londoners.

Having crowned himself King of Britain, Monty was only stopped by two other critically enhanced G-Plus sufferers: frustrated artist Verity Fette and shambolic fading rock star Daniel Waissel AKA Weasel.

More through luck than effort – and despite the interference of a UN Taskforce, covert US super-weapon deployment and best attempts of the British military – the wonder kids narrowly managed to kill Monty in a blockbusting super-battle televised around the world. The conflagration especially terrified the assorted world governments who collectively feared their days of ruling the masses were over…

Britain’s bosses had been aware of the growing crisis for ages and had already tasked its shadowy Department of National Security to deal with it. The usual tactics of murder, blackmail, disinformation and cover-ups proved ineffective, however, and soon something else was being considered.

At least Verity died in the final battle and what’s left of the UK’s Powers-That-Be now only have sybaritic, self-destructive Weasel to manage until the disease finally kills him…

In the meantime, on a remote Scottish island, a very nice old lady runs a vast secret base beneath the heather where she and her team toil away with no sense of scientific niceties – or ethics – as they strive to find a cure for G+…

Dr. Lunn had been helping sufferers for quite a while. She crash-trained Verity and Weasel in the use of their abilities (also providing space, time, tuition and medical-grade drugs) before siccing them on the out-of-control Monty…

Following handy recap ‘Previously in Death Sentence’ the story resumes with ‘“A” Bomb on Wardour Street’ as Weasel is riotously fêted by the metropolitan populace whilst über-ambitious Old Etonian London Mayor Tony Bronson seethes and schemes. There’s a power-vacuum in the country at this moment and he’ll be buggered if he lets anyone else fill it… especially some oikish, pox-ridden musical miscreant…

An ocean away, undercover Fed Jeb Mulgrew is closing his latest case when everything goes tits-up after his targets display out of control super-powers. Luckily his keenly-observing back-up team are equipped with the latest horrific innovation in anti-G-Plus ordnance…

At City Hall, Tony’s latest opportunistic sound-bite does nothing to slow the looting tearing up the remainder of London; much of it seemingly orchestrated by new dissident movement the Invaders. The spreading violence even reaches a nearly deserted fast-food franchise where an armed robbery is foiled, giving first notice that Verity might not be dead after all…

As Jeb tries to reconnect with his wife and home in Texas, London sees another bloody crime stopped by the enigmatic Artgirl and Tony snaps, declaring martial law in His city…

Each episode is followed by a carefully-tailored supplemental feature and here ‘The Age of the Super G’ exposes the Americans’ thermonuclear contribution to Monty’s demise before the comics saga continues with ‘Uprising’ as Weasel attends a rally in Brixton. The borough is in the process of declaring its independence and seceding from Tory-infested London and big-business corrupted Britain…

Bronson’s response is uniquely typical: ramping up military action, closing down social media and arresting G+ carriers whilst ordering the public to stop having sex until a cure is found.

When tanks roll up during a memorial service, Weasel is just in the mood to share the misery he’s been feeling since Monty killed his little boy, but in the victorious aftermath it’s the anonymous mask-wearing Invaders who are making converts and dictating policy on the streets of Brixton…

In Texas, things just aren’t working out for Jeb so when his bosses ask him to infiltrate British intelligence and steal their potential cure for the super-sex plague, he can’t wait to start…

After a faux magazine feature on Creighton Baines and how his alien-masked Invaders haunt protest sites and agitate for social change, the story starts again in ‘Eton Rifles’ as dedicated journalist Fincham is handed a certain dossier by a mole with suspicious intent. Soon the Chronicle’s top scribe is making things hot for golden gibbon-esque, sexually-deviant Tony…

As tensions escalate everywhere, Verity assuages her own through increasingly bawdy encounters as she drifts ever closer to isolated, segregated, curfew-enduring Brixton. She has no idea that she’s been targeted for immediate assassination, but then again, her would-be executioners have no idea how powerful she now is…

Preceded by excerpts from reputable rag The Chimes – detailing the rise of international angst and the stalling of the World Powers debating a space-based weapons ban – ‘Sitting Here’ sees a turf war brewing between local gangster Retch and weed-dealing newcomer Roots. Both have their supporters and both are high-functioning G-Plus victims, with all the deadly benefits that condition brings…

As Tony’s Territorials rumble into Brixton savage violence erupts, but he’s elsewhere, busily indulging his nasty copulatory habits. Fincham, meanwhile, is tracking a rumour about a Scottish Island and a woman who might have a cure, even as Retch and Roots clash for control of their streets…

Following snippets from The Chronicle News – revealing the not-so-quiet war for dominance between power-hungry Mayor Bronson and top surviving aspirant Party-leader Michael DeGraves – the Mayor gets a rude and ribald awakening as the winner of the Brixton gang rumble exposes the hypocrite’s nasty upper-class peccadilloes in ‘Burn’. Across town, Verity gives doggedly determined Fincham an exclusive, comprehensive interview which will never see print…

Later, as Bronson strives frantically to keep ahead of the political game, an intimate well-wisher makes a big mistake by approaching G+ sufferers in tune with the old guard and hereditary rulers. They can be of immense service to this Sceptr’d Isle… after they pass a training course at a facility on a certain Scottish island…

An excerpt from Creative Review debating ‘Artgirl: High Art of Graffiti?’ leads the tale to a temporary halt in ‘Kill at Will’ as Dr. Lunn welcomes a new bioanalyst – who looks remarkably like American Jeb Mulgrew – to her little secret empire. In Brixton, meanwhile, the military are moving in to wipe out all resistance but are totally unprepared for the unlikely, unstable convergence of all London’s omega-level G-Plus super-beings waiting for them…

And then long-range telemetry shows that Verity’s condition has taken a terrifying and impossible turn nobody could have predicted…

To Be Continued…

Packed with plenty of bonus features including a breathtaking covers and variants selection by Montynero, Death Sentence: London is an uproarious adult fairytale blending superhero tropes with outrageous cheek, deliriously shocking situations and in-your-face irreverence.

Buy it, read it and spread it around to anyone you fancy… and maybe some you don’t…
Death Sentence ™ and © 2014 Montynero, Mike Dowling and Titan Comics. All rights reserved.

Wolf Country volume One


Jim Alexander, Luke Cooper, Will Pickering & various (Planet Jimbot)
No ISBN:

Jim Alexander has been around and done a lot. His other comic stories have been published by Marvel, DC, 2000AD and so many more bastions of graphic narrative success and distinction. He writes with sharp sophistication, an inherent understanding that comics are primarily pictorial and the certain knowledge that the majority of his audience are not morons.

His scripts always have a great sensitivity to place and a strong sense of directed motion, with sparse, spartan self-control that lets his smartly seditious ideas percolate. (Despite what the much-missed Alan Rickman may have said, “Subtlety is everything”).

With a few good men and women he is quietly creating a little wave of interest through the business through self-publishing enterprise Planet Jimbot (officially with work-partner Jim Campbell, and a number of splendidly effective artists): generating addictive, well-considered tweaks on established genre models such as superhero yarns, police procedurals (GoodCopBadCop), Samurai revenge sagas and a captivating distillation of westerns, horror movies and dystopian sci fi entitled Wolf Country.

As rumours percolate of a screen option for this last series, the first four issues and two vignettes from anthology Amongst the Stars have been enticingly reconfigured into a stunning graphic novel collection, perfect for introducing a larger audience to the otherworld religio-political saga with seductive echoes of Unforgiven, The Searchers and the Underworld franchise (although thankfully devoid of the silly fang-&-claw fights and skin-tight leather bodysuits…)

Somewhere far from here and now a land exists where blood-drinkers have built a nation. In The Kingdom, however, the people are moving from a religion-based culture to a modern meritocracy where science increasingly dominates: run by a progress-minded government and bureaucracy methodically ditching the old ways in favour of a soulless, ruthless, rationalist super-state whilst offering pious lip-service to dissenters and bribing the citizenry with a gory menu of bread and circuses…

Their brave new world is surrounded by ancestral enemies: humans who transform into beasts when the moon is full, whose toxic vital fluids mean instant death to the faithful and apostates alike.

The beasts control the wild lands beyond the city-state, but an uncompromising sect of devout vampires, adhering to the tenets of their faith, inhabit a fort in the desolate badlands, challenging the monsters and hostiles of Wolf Country. By the Grace of God – and largesse of the Kingdom – the fundamentalists struggle daily for survival in their frontier outpost following the doctrines of Holy Scriptures and confronting their eternal enemies in the traditional ways.

The drama opens as Alexander and illustrator Luke Cooper take us into the dreams and nightmares of the leader of that isolated, endangered enclave. From their beds Halfpenny and his wife Natasha foresee the next attack on their embattled fort and know that without the supplies grudgingly air-dropped to them by the increasingly hard-line secular government they cannot survive.

When the moon-maddened assault comes, the Faithful fight valiantly but are almost overwhelmed by the time crates of fresh plasma and silver bullets blossom in the night skies…

The scene switches to the city three years earlier, where a young man finds himself the unwilling star of a long-awaited, prophesied future. The destiny stalking ‘Luke’ catches him when a gigantic wolf-thing goes rogue in the metropolis yet is somehow miraculously destroyed by the inconsequential waif.

Now, the celebrated “Boy Who Killed Wolf” has freshly relocated to The Settlement. Following a close encounter with the hirsute savages, young Luke explains what actually happened that night to his companion, mentor and chief scout Carmichael

His impossible feat made Luke a sensation and a symbol of prophecy proved; but the adulation and agendas of others disgusted him and upon reaching his majority and -despite being an unbeliever – he fled to The Settlement to live his own life and find his own answers. When disaster strikes Luke goes native, remaining alone in the wilderness after he and Carmichael narrowly escape a wolf attack…

Will Pickering takes over the illustration for ‘Kingdom Come’ as Halfpenny reluctantly transports a captured werewolf back to the decadent, science-loving Kingdom. It’s not his idea. As the helicopter ferries the sacrificial beast for the populace’s next bloodletting spectacle, Halfpenny is ordered to go with it whilst a squad of arrogant, impious, heavily-armed troops billet themselves in his spartan home.

The High Executor wants to interview the leader of the quaint religious freaks since there has been fallout over The Settlement’s loss of the legendary, beloved “Boy Who Killed Wolf”…

Later, whilst atheist Sergeant Urquhart attempts to intimidate and dominate the Settlers, in faraway City Chambers Halfpenny learns the real reason he has been summoned…

‘Wax and Wane’ then sees Urquhart forcing the deluded religious throwbacks in joining his sortie against the lupine tribes just as the moon enters its most dangerous phase.

Meanwhile in the Kingdom, Halfpenny is dragooned into being a stalking horse for the draconian Department of Purity, interviewing radical spokesman Fabian in his bloodily bohemian stronghold of wrong-thinkers and backwards-lookers…

Back in the Badlands, natural enemies Carmichael and Urquhart warily test each other out and quite forget who their real enemies are, whilst a universe away Halfpenny’s interview with Fabian goes disastrously awry. The rebel has honeyed words and access to sacred writings which shake the devout outsider to his core, but before he can properly form a response the Executor’s troops move in and the slaughter begins…

At the Settlement, with the soldiers and able-bodied men still deep in-country, the massed wolf tribes attack the fort with an incredible monster…

The brooding tension explodes into horrifying action as the stockade walls are breached before the ‘Cavalry’ arrive, whilst in the Kingdom a full-blown riot ensues, forcing Halfpenny to reveal the uncanny abilities which underpin his ferocious reverence to Scripture…

And in the bloody aftermath at the fort, an unchecked, out-of-control Urquhart turns his sadistic attention on the settlers – and particularly Carmichael – in his quest for the truth about Luke’s whereabouts and in pursuit of the other hidden directives he’s been given by his scheming rationalist masters…

To Be Continued…

Complex, multi-layered and instantly engaging, Wolf Country takes a chilling proposition and dares the reader to pick sides in a burgeoning conflict between Church and State, science and mysticism, the sacred and the profane and every station in between. Moreover, despite the death, deviancy and destruction on show there is clear evidence that there is something deeper going on, so jump aboard and stick around: the best is certainly yet to come…
© 2016 Jim Alexander (story), Luke Cooper (art © Wolf Country intro, #1) Will Pickering (art #2-4).

Wolf Country volume One is available direct from the Planet Jimbot shop so go to:Wolf Country TPB volume 1

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three


By Jamie Smart (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910200-84-1

Way back in 2012, Oxford-based family publisher David Fickling Books launched a weekly comics anthology for girls and boys which revelled in reviving the grand old days of British picture-story entertainment intent whilst embracing the full force of modernity in style and content.

Still going strong, each issue offers humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material: a joyous parade of cartoon fun and fantasy. Since its premiere, The Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – the totally engaged kids and parents who read it…

The publishers naturally gathered their greatest serial hits into a line of fabulously engaging album compilations, the latest of which is a third contentious engagement in the dread conflict gripping a once-chummy woodland waif and interloping, grandeur-obsessive simian…

Concocted with feverishly gleeful inspiration by Jamie Smart (Fish Head Steve!), Bunny vs. Monkey has been a fixture in The Phoenix from the first issue: recounting a madcap vendetta between animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia which started out as a more-or-less mundane English Wood.

Book Three ramps up the tittering, tail-biting tension, detailing the ongoing war of wits and wonder-weapons over another half-year in the country. The obnoxious simian intruder originally arrived after a disastrous space shot went awry. Having crash-landed in Crinkle Woods – a scant few miles from his blast-off site – Monkey believes himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite the continual efforts of reasonable, sensible, genteel, contemplative Bunny. Despite patience, propriety and good breeding the laid-back lepine is increasingly compelled to wearily admit that the incorrigible idiot ape is a rude, noise-loving, chaos-creating troublemaker…

Following the vivid Contents pages and a spectacular pinup double-spread, the month-by-month mayhem reports recommence with January and chilly snow blanketing the ground. In ‘Log Off!’ Bunny is in need of a little firewood, but should never have asked happily brain-battered, bewildered former stuntman Action Beaver to help…

Blithering innocents Weenie Squirrel and Pig take centre stage next as the baking-addicted tree-rodent reveals he has an imaginary friend. The mocking fools have no idea that ‘Lionel!’ is actually one of the ghastly Hyoomanz intent on the demolition of Crinkle Wood and the building of something called a motorway…

Monkey’s greatest ally is ostracised outcast and hairy mad scientist Skunky (a brilliant inventor with a bombastic line in animal-themed atrocity weapons and a secret agenda of his own) whose latest bovine-inspired stealth weapon ‘Ca-Moo-Flarj!’ promptly goes the way of most of his ghastly gimmicks, after which both furry factions catch gold fever in ‘The Quest for Blackbeard’s Treasure!’ Sadly the old map found in a tree trunk is of most recent vintage…

February opens with ‘T3-ddy!’ as Skunky’s colossal and devastating robo-bear is suborned and defeated by its own innate need for a cuddle, after which Bunny discovers a vast cavern under his food store. Aft first he thinks its just Skunky’s latest indiscretion, but even the evil mega-genius is surprised at the hideous thing ‘What Lies Beneath!’

‘Casa Del Pig!’ sees the woodland folk unite to make the porcine ingénue a home of his own after which ‘Meet Randolph!’ brings them all together to greet a visiting raccoon. The masked stranger claims to be the cousin of surly radical environmentalist and keeper of ancient secrets Fantastique Le Fox, and he can certainly handle himself in a crisis, as evidenced by the swift and efficient way he despatches Monkey and Skunky’s rampaging mechanical Helliphant

March ushers in a not-so fragrant Spring as Skunky decides to weaponise his own natural defences, but ‘The Stench!’ proves yet again that his intellect far outstrips his common sense and any iota of self-restraint…

When an irrepressible yet lonely cyber crocodile finds a message in a bottle he unbends enough to ask Bunny for reading and writing lessons in ‘The Educating of Mister Metal Steve!’ Sadly his eventual RSVP proves that core-programming is hard to escape…

A rare victory for Evil is revealed through the creation of a giant beached flounder in ‘Fishy Plops!’ before nature reasserts itself in ‘Bad Crowd!’ wherein the tantrum-throwing Monkey meets some heretofore unknown woods-dwellers who terrify even him…

The Skunk scientist finally goes too far in his quest for knowledge and accidentally invents Boomantium, capable of creating ‘The Biggest, Mostest Enormousest Explosion in the World!’ Nobody expected dim-witted Action to find a solution to the imminent cacophonous catastrophe but as April opens ‘Billion Dollar Beaver!’ reveals that their crash-helmeted comrade is indestructible…

He should therefore be considered another actual ultimate weapon… unless, of course, you’re just a short-sighted, imagination-limited primate with delusions of grandeur…

Over the months the Woods have become home to an increasingly impressive variety of non-native species and an unsavoury crisis of explosive proportions is barely averted when ‘The Kakapo Poo Kaboom!’ defeats the ever-encroaching “Humans” but not the combined contemplative efforts of Bunny and Skunky.

His evil dominance in decline, the invader anthropoid is blackmailed by Pig and Weenie into being their ‘Monkey Butler!’ before May blossoms and ‘The Big Eye Am!’ sees a gigantic laser-firing orb crashing through the verdure, closely followed by its previous owner…

‘On the Road!’ finds the animals trying to decide on how to stop the human motorway builders when the meeting is disrupted by cute running-toy addict Hamster 3000. This allows Skunky and Le Fox to resume their own private negotiations after which Monkey returns to his devious top form when subjecting the flora and fauna to the inundation of

‘The Purple!’

May becomes June during ‘The Weird, Weird Woods! (Part One and Two)’ as the animals invade the humans’ building site shed. They are furiously repelled and pursued by the bizarre and terrified creatures within, but their first foray is soon forgotten when Bunny wakes up in proposed paradise ‘Bunnyopia!’ only to discover it is a monstrous and frightening sham…

Skunky’s perpetual and wanton splashing about in the gene-pool results in terrifying travesty ‘Octo-Fox!’ and only Monkey’s arrant disregard for all rules and laws – including Nature’s – saves the day by one-upping the tentacled terror, after which ‘Weenie’s Big Adventure!’ gives the benign waif a day to remember after waking an oversleeping bear. A little later, however, a mind-swapping device in the wrong paws leads to a plague of chaotic ‘Brainache!’

With a seemingly quiet moment to spare the animals all consider the past and their futures in ‘Woodland Story!’, leading to our latest hiatus in this ever more convoluted mystery after Skunky’s new Clone-a-Tron generates ‘So Many Monkeys!’ that the dream of Monkeytopia seems a forgone conclusion, resulting in tantalising puzzle-feature ‘Masses and Masses of Monkeys’… after which guaranteed audience participation we can only assure you To Be Continued

Absurdist adventure of the most enthralling kind, Bunny Vs Monkey is an absolute treasure-chest of weird wit, brilliant invention and superb cartooning: an utterly irresistible joy for youngsters of all ages.

Text and illustrations © Jamie Smart 2016. All rights reserved.
Bunny Vs Monkey Book Three will be released on 7th July 2016 and is available for pre-order now.

Mega Robo Bros volume 1


By Neill Cameron with Lisa Murphy (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910200-83-4

In 2012 David Fickling Books launched a traditional anthology comic for girls and boys reviving the good old days of picture-story entertainment Intent whilst embracing the full force of modernity in terms of delivery and Content. Each strip-packed issue of The Phoenix offers humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material in a joyous parade of cartoon fun and fantasy. In the years since its premiere, the magazine has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who actually matter – the perpetually-engaged kids and parents who read it every week…

Just like the golden age of Beano, Dandy and other childhood treasures, The Phoenix masterfully manages the magical trick of marrying hilarious comedy with enthralling adventure serials… sometimes in the same scintillating strip such as the stars of this latest compilation: a mega-magnificent sci fi frolic packed into an extra-long full-colour lexicon of high-octane comedy-action.

Plunging straight into the enchanting immersive experience, we open in a futuristic London on a Monday morning. Alex and his younger brother Freddie have missed the airbus for school and dad has to take them. It’s a uniquely Sharma-family catastrophe…

In most ways the boys are typical: boisterous, fractious kids, always arguing, but devoted to each other and not too bothered that they’re adopted. It’s also no big deal to them that they were created by the mysterious Dr. Roboticus before he vanished and are considered by those in the know as the most powerful robots on Earth.

For now though it’s enough that Mum and Dad love them, even though the Robo Bros are a bit more of a handful than most kids. They live as normal a life as possible; going to school, making friends, putting up with bullies and hating homework: it’s all part of the ‘Mega Robo Routine’

This week, however, things are a little different. On Wednesday the lads meet Baroness Farooq of covert agency R.A.I.D. (Robotics Analysis Intelligence and Defence) who is initially unimpressed but changes her mind after seeing what they do to her squad of Destroyer Mechs – all while between singing rude songs, reading comics and squabbling with each other.

Thursday is even better. As a treat, the entire family goes to Robo World where little Freddy rescues a trio of malfunctioning exhibits. The baby triceratops with dog-programming is ok, but the French-speaking deranged ape and gloomy existentialist penguin will be a handful…

And all because Mum was trying to explain how her sons’ sentience makes them different from all other mechanoids…

Friday wasn’t so good. Alex had another one of his nightmares, of the time before they came to live with the Sharmas…

With the scene exquisitely set, the drama kicks into overdrive with ‘Mega Robo School Trip’ as a visit to the museum gives a hidden menace watching the boys the opportunity to create chaos by hacking the exhibits and forcing the boys to use all their super-powers to set things right. It takes all of the Baroness’ astounding influence to hush up the incident. The boys are supposed to be getting as normal a childhood as possible, with friends and family aware that they’re artificial and sentient, but not that they are unstoppable weapons systems.

Now some malign force seems determined to “out” the Robo Bros for an unspecified but undoubtedly sinister purpose…

Even greater cloaking measures are necessary when the enemy causes a sky-train crash and the boys very publicly prevent a ‘Mega Robo Disaster’, but even they are starting to realise something big is up and Mum is a bit extraordinary herself.

Then Freddy overhears some disturbing news about another one of Dr. Roboticus’ other creations in ‘Mega Robo Full House’

The crisis comes in ‘Mega Robo Royal Rumble’ after Gran takes Alex and Freddy to a Royal Street Party outside Buckingham Palace. When the hidden enemy hacks the giant robot guards and sets them loose on the Queen and her family, the wonder-bots have to save them on live TV beamed around the world. The secret is out…

Now the entire world is camped outside their quiet little house, so Mum has R.A.I.D. restore some semblance of the ‘Mega Robo Status Quo’ by building a super-secret tunnel system in the cellar. It’s a big day all around: Farooq is finally convinced that Alex is at last ready to join R.A.I.D. as a full-fledged operative… after school and on weekends, of course…

Freddy is far from happy to learn that he’s not invited. The Baroness still considers him too young and immature…

He quickly proves it when big brother Alex becomes the ‘Mega Robo Secret Agent’. Freddy at last shares with dad the real reason he’s acting up, but has the opportunity to redeem himself and save the day when the ‘Mega Robo Nemesis’ at last makes his move and Alex finds himself completely out of his depth. Then only Freddy can save the day… if anyone can…

Written and drawn by Neill Cameron (Tamsin of the Deep, How to Make Awesome Comics, Pirates of Pangea), this is an astonishingly engaging tale which rockets along, blending outrageous comedy with warmth, wit and incredible verve. Alex and Freddy are utterly authentic boys, irrespective of their artificial origins, and their exploits strike exactly the right balance of future shock, family fun and bombastic superhero action to capture readers’ hearts and minds. With the right budget and producer what a movie this would make!

Unmissable excitement for kids of all ages and vintage, this is a true “must-have” item.

Text and illustrations © Neill Cameron 2016. All rights reserved.
Mega Robo Bros will be released on June 2nd 2016 and is available for pre-order now.