Monday, February 27, 2017

Tank Girl goes to war

Tank Girl first appeared in the British comic Deadline back in 1988, with the punky, boozy, anarchic character immediately proving to be a success for its creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. Although Deadline folded in 1995, you can't keep a good Tank Girl down and the character has resurfaced in several comics and mini-series since. 

These days, London-based Titan Comics publish brand new Tank Girl comics, and her current mini-series, Tank Girl Gold, concluded this week. However, it leads right into a new mini-series, World War Tank Girl, starting in March. 

One of the stunning variant covers to issue 1 is shown above, with art by Chris Wahl, which I'm sure you'll agree is worth the cover price alone. 

World War Tank Girl, which sends the character back to WW2, will be written by Alan Martin and illustrated by Brett Parson, whose art has proven to be perfect for the series. I really like his work, which is why I'm happy to promote the comic here. Here's his regular cover to issue one...
If you've never read a Tank Girl comic before, give it a go. Its irreverent humour may or may not be to your tastes but a well-crafted comic is always worth looking at and you'll be supporting British comics. Hopefully you'll be hooked! World War Tank Girl No.1 will only be available in comics shops, not newsagents, and will arrive on March 29th.

For more cover images and info of upcoming Titan Comics visit their website:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

40 years of Judge Dredd!

You wouldn't know it from the cover but this was the issue of 2000AD which featured the very first Judge Dredd strip, on sale exactly 40 years ago today. It was issue 2, which appeared in newsagents on Saturday February 26th 1977.

Four decades later, Dredd is as popular as ever, with its black humour being a great part of that success. The appeal of the strip may fly over the heads of some, (usually people who have hardly ever read it) but the character's longevity proves that many people appreciate the balance of gritty science fiction and socio-political satire and insight.

Clearly no one back in 1977 knew that Dredd would swiftly become the comic's biggest hit. Indeed they were still promoting Dan Dare as the main attraction with the cover illustration showing the monster from the Dare strip, but Dredd's debut had something that set it head and shoulders above other UK adventure strips at the time. I for one had been a little bit indifferent about issue 1, but this issue hooked me for life, mostly due to Judge Dredd I think.

Created by writer John Wagner, Dredd was designed by Carlos Ezquerra, (who drew the first strip that was shelved for later use). The first published Judge Dredd story was drawn by Mike McMahon. It's a powerful opening chapter.

Back then, Dredd's adventures were self contained. Not only did this help make the strip more accessible to new readers it also gave the writers the opportunity to explore different aspects of Mega City One every week, building up the foundation of Dredd's world. The initial story concluded on the back page, giving us our first glimpse of Dredd's uniform in colour, using the basic primary colours available for newsprint at the time.
The rest of the issue featured more of the strips we'd seen in issue one, including another dynamic centre spread by Massimo Belardinelli. A far cry from previous IPC adventure comics which had featured tame strips such as Billy's Boots (Scorcher) or Phil the Fluter (Thunder) in the centre pages.
This issue also included another debut, - the first published page Kevin O'Neill drew for 2000AD. This was a feature on Harlem Heroes Power Gear, situated opposite the latest Harlem Heroes by Dave Gibbons.
If you're wondering what the free gift looked like, here it is. Biotronic Stickers! Back in the days when free gifts were simply placed inside the comic, not Sellotaped to the cover or sealed with the comic inside a plastic bag.
I remember when Judge Dredd's popularity prompted readers to ask if he'd ever get his own comic. Such requests were politely dismissed. Back then the reasoning was that removing Dredd to his own title would severely weaken 2000AD. It was felt that the alternative of using Dredd in both comics and finding new writers to do the additional Dredd stories wouldn't match the standard of John Wagner's scripts. But eventually they found a way and launched Judge Dredd Megazine whilst keeping Dredd in 2000AD as well, and having John Wagner write the stories for both comics in most issues.
Judge Dredd is one of the few comics characters who has aged in real time and is 40 years older than he was in his debut strip. 22nd Century science has aided him in that respect to keep him active, but readers have long wondered if Dredd's clone may replace him on the beat. Time will tell! 


This is an updated version of a blog post from five years ago. Images are scanned and photographed from the issue I had then, but I've since sold it to a collector for over £600. Someone must have really liked Judge Dredd! 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The origin of Weary Willie and Tired Tim

The first Willie and Tim strip, 1896, scanned from The Penguin Book of Comics (1971).
Tom Browne was the most influential artist who worked in comics in the late 19th/early 20th Century. He created Weary Willie and Tired Tim, the two affable wandering tramps who were the cover stars of Illustrated Chips from 1896 to its final issue in 1953. Browne himself only drew the strip until 1909, (succeeded by Percy Cocking) but it inspired many imitators and Browne's art style was also imitated by numerous artists. 

Certain characteristics of his style; the body language and mannerisms, are still evident in British comics today because they've been handed down from artist to artist, whether consciously or not. I certainly recognise that some of the gestures and facial expressions of my characters stem back to Tom Browne's initial template, although I would never regard my abilities as anywhere near his league of course. 

In 1909 one of the Brush, Pen and Pencil series of books on artists focused on Tom Browne. I have the second edition, from 1930, and although it mainly covers Browne's other endeavours such as his paintings and magazine illustration, there is a mention of his famous Weary Willie and Tired Tim strip. I've scanned the relevant pages for you to read. Click to enlarge them...

It says that Tom Browne moved on from the strip in 1909, although it's worth bearing in mind that he sadly passed away a year later so illness may have played a part. We can only speculate on whether he would have returned to comics had he lived longer than his all-too-short 39 years. 

I wrote a longer piece on Tom Browne a few years ago, and you can read it here:

I was honoured to hear from Mr.Browne's great-grandson and family after I wrote that piece. 

I'll be showing more of Tom Browne's illustration work soon. 

Prog Preview: 2000AD Prog 2020

Here's your weekly preview pages of the upcoming issue of 2000AD, courtesy of the publishers Rebellion. On sale next Wednesday from newsagents and comic shops.

UK & DIGITAL: 1 March 2017 £2.65
NORTH AMERICA: 1 April 2017 $7.99

In this issue:

Judge Dredd: Thick Skin by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Kingmaker by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Kingdom: As It Is In Heaven by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

The Order:  Wyrm War by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Sinister Dexter: Electric Landlady by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Jimmy Joy, the TV Boy (CHIPS, 1953)

Those of you around my age may remember a sixties strip called Charlie's Choice in Smash!, that featured a boy's magic TV set that enabled characters to enter our world. Well, there was a precedent of sorts in the 1950s with Jimmy Joy, the TV Boy, that ran in Chips from 1952 to the final issue in 1953. 

The difference was that Jimmy's set worked the other way; allowing Jimmy to enter through the screen into the TV programmes. The artwork was by Albert Pease, a long standing and excellent cartoonist for the Amalgamated Press comics. Here are a couple of examples from 1953. (Yes, Chips was printed on pink paper.)

...and for comparison, here's an episode of Charlie's Choice, with art by Brian Lewis, from Smash! No.109 (2nd March 1968)....

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