Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Combat Colin's 30th Anniversary week

I hope you'll forgive me some self-indulgence (well, it is my blog after all) but today marks 30 years since my first Combat Colin strip appeared in print. It began in Marvel UK's Action Force No.5, published on March 28th 1987 (cover dated 4th April).
The first published strip.

At that time I'd been working full time in the comics industry for just three years, and was contributing strips to IPC's Oink! regularly as well as doing Robo-Capers for Marvel's Transformers. I was still relatively new in the business but keeping busy. 

The editor of Action Force, Richard Starkings, invited me to come up with an idea for a new humour strip for the comic. It needed to have some sort of militaristic angle to match the comic's theme, and my initial sketches (never submitted) had the character as a kid. I quickly dismissed that idea as it seemed too much like a Whizzer and Chips type strip. Eventually, I settled on the big gormless-looking character you're familiar with, except he was called Dimbo (a kind of spoof of the Rambo movie character). 

Marvel liked the idea, but the editors felt that the name Dimbo wasn't right and would date too quickly, as soon as the Rambo movies were out of the zeitgeist. They were quite correct, and I'm eternally grateful to Marvel UK editor Steve White who suggested the name Combat Colin as an alternative. (Steve himself became the inspiration for Colin's sidekick Semi-Automatic Steve, a name suggested by Richard Starkings.)

Richard commissioned me to produce Combat Colin as half-page strips and we were all set. 

The first few Combat Colin strips were self-contained gags, usually about Colin being an out-of-place mercenary type who lived with his parents. Gradually, I developed the character and his motivation and Colin and Steve became the local heroes fighting fantastic and bizarre threats to Wallytown. The strip became episodic, and I was allowed to develop the stories into short serials of two to six weeks. (This had always been an ambition of mine, inspired by the strips I grew up reading such as The Cloak and Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy.) Quite often though, they were just daft self-contained pages, which were equally fun to do. 
Action Force ran to just 50 issues, then merged into Transformers. Luckily, Combat Colin transferred over too, replacing my Robo-Capers strip. It would remain a fixture of the comic until the final issue in 1992.

I had a great time doing the Combat Colin strip, and the editors basically let me do what I wanted (within reason of course). The strips became increasingly bizarre and surreal at times (but still understandable enough for the target audience I hope) and I had a fantastic time on the strip. Colin even interacted with other Marvel characters on a few occasions...
The end of the Transformers comic meant the end of Combat Colin's time as a Marvel character, but I asked for the rights and was over the moon when Marvel's Paul Neary agreed, returning all rights to me. (In writing. I still have the letter.)

Since then, Combat Colin has returned sporadically, first in the three-issue Yampy Tales comic I self-published in 1996. (In case you didn't know, "yampy" is a Midlands term for crazy.)
...then in two specials I published in 1997 and 2000...

He's also appeared as a guest star in the new Brickman series I did for Elephantmen, published in the USA by Image Comics, which I later collected in the Brickman Returns comic I published in 2015...
Brand new Combat Colin stories have appeared in some issues of the digital comic Aces Weekly, and, time willing, I'll be doing more this year. Check out volumes 1, 8, 16, and 21 to read the new adventures.
What's next for the character? Well, starting this year I'm launching a Combat Colin comic, reprinting the old material right from the start in a series of issues. I'd hoped the first issue would be out now but I've been so busy on mainstream comics work it'll be out later, in May or June. I'll post more information soon of course.

Combat Colin still proves a popular request for sketches at conventions and it's a pleasure to now meet the readers who read it when they were kids in the 1980s. My thanks to everyone who has read the strip over the years, and special thanks to Richard Starkings for commissioning me to do it in the first place. Of all the strips I've worked on, Combat Colin remains my favourite gig. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Get out of the water... and read the HOOK JAW Archive!

Now that's what I call a cover, and the fact that it carries a quote from me hasn't biased my opinion one bit (well, maybe just a little). Titan Books are collecting the controversial original 1976 Hook Jaw strip from Action and bringing it to a new audience. 

Hang on, didn't Rebellion recently buy the rights to that material from Egmont? Well, yes, but Titan had previously negotiated with Egmont over Hook Jaw to publish a new comic (see here) so it looks like they still have time on that contract. 

Whatever the legal situation, the readers win, and the Hook Jaw Archive will be published in hardback this August. 

Writers: Pat Mills
, Ken Armstrong
Artist: Ramon Sola
HC • 136pp • $34.99
On Sale Aug 16, 2017

ISBN 9781782768043

SelfMadeHero to publish the story of Josephine Baker

News just in from London publisher SelfMadeHero about a new book coming out next week. Here's the PR...

“I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents… but I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad.” 
—Josephine Baker 
Speech at the March on Washington, 28 August 1963 

ISBN 978-1-910593-29-5
568pp, B&W, Paperback with flaps, RRP £14.99
Published: 3rd April

 Josephine Baker was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the Roaring Twenties, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier and Simenon. 

In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires. After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance (for which de Gaulle awarded her the Légion d’Honneur), Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally. She led by example, and over the course of the 1950s adopted twelve orphans of different ethnic backgrounds: a veritable Rainbow Tribe. A victim of racism throughout her life, Josephine Baker would sing of love and liberty until the day she died. An inspiration to musicians from Dame Shirley Bassey to Beyoncé, Baker’s extraordinary legacy lives on to this day. 

This thoroughly researched biography of the pioneering dancer, written with historical consultant and Baker’s son Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker, features over a hundred pages of supplementary material, including a detailed timeline, biographical notes on Josephine’s contemporaries and an extensive bibliography. 

Catel Muller is an award-winning comics artist and illustrator. José-Louis Bocquet is a novelist and comics writer. They previously collaborated on the award-winning graphic biography Kiki de Montparnasse, published by SelfMadeHero. They live in Paris. 

Are you ready for Christmas?

Spring is in the air and the first batch of children's annuals cover dated 2018 are ready for pre-order on Amazon. These days, annuals are mainly for the very young end of the market, with recognisable titles from film and tv. Alas, the days of adventure annuals for the 7 to 13 age group faded away decades ago so those of us of a certain age were fortunate to experience our Lion and Smash! annuals. Still, at least there'll be Rebellion's line of graphic novel reprints to cater for a similar market soon (and for nostalgists of course).

Most of these annuals will be published around August, traditionally intended for Christmas presents (or perhaps for birthdays in the latter half of the year). The Dandy and Beano Annuals are ready for pre-order too, although no cover images have been released yet. Here's a selection of covers that have been revealed. Are you feeling festive yet? :)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A sunny day in Sheffield

I had a pleasant day at the Robot: Illustration and Creative Arts Convention yesterday. I had to get up at 5.30am for an early start but after train delays I didn't arrive until just after 10am. Fortunately, the Millennium Gallery venue was only a short walk from the station. When I arrived, there were already some people waiting for sketches so it was a matter of setting up quickly and getting right into drawing. It was good to meet artist Ed Syder, who had the table next to mine. Check out his site here:

The pace slowed down as the day went on and the glorious weather may have played a part in that, but there seemed to be a constant flow of attendees visiting the event, attracting people of varied interests. As always at such shows, some were just out for a browse, but it was good to do some sketching and signings and to gain new readers for my Derek the Troll comic. 
It was great to meet up with old friends and familiar faces from the comics industry too. Good to see artist Peter Doherty looking well again after his recent spell in hospital. Also great to catch up with David Leach, Bambos Georgiou, Fiona Stephenson, Mychailo Kazybrid, and Carl Flint. 
Artist and colourist Pete Doherty.
Mychailo, Bambos, Darryl, and two young attendees.
It was a relatively short event, only running from 10am to 4pm, so afterwards, myself and David Leach, Bambos and his wife Jane, Pete Doherty, his daughter and her boyfriend had a walk to a nearby Chinese buffet bar.
100 years of comics experience between us. David Leach, Bambos Georgiou, and me.
Although I've visited Sheffield twice before for conventions on the outskirts of town, this was the first time I'd had the opportunity to stroll around the town itself, thanks to Robotcon being so central. I was very impressed with the place and I hope there's another event there next year. 

My thanks to my comic pals for being brilliant company as always, and special thanks to convention organiser Darryl Robson for inviting me and putting on the event. There's a very good video news item about it on the Sheffield Live! website that includes interviews with Darryl Robson, Mychailo Kazybrid, and Bambos Georgiou:

More photos from the event can be found on the convention's Facebook page here:

Here's a few photos I took around Sheffield after the convention...

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