UK comics Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Felix Dennis, who passed away this week at age 67, was the founder of a publishing empire that included the men’s magazine Maxim and the news magazine The Week, but he also has a place in comics history as one of the defendants in a famous U.K. obscenity trial that drew support of many prominent figures of the time, from John Lennon to Germaine Greer.
Dennis was one of the editors of the British satire magazine Oz, which published a mix of prose, art, poetry and comics. Stung by criticism that they were out of touch with youth, the editors in 1970 placed a notice in the magazine inviting schoolchildren to contribute to a special issue. About 20 teenagers came to London, singly and in groups, to create and edit a special “Schoolkids” issue. (One of those students, Charles Shaar Murray, described the experience 30 years later, and another contributor, David Wills, has posted the full issue online.) Although the “Schoolkids issue” was created by teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily created for them. On the other hand, teenagers were obviously already reading the magazine, as that’s where the call for contributions appeared.
(Warning: Potentially NSFW image below.)
“Unfortunately, the curators of the exhibition ‘Comics Unmasked’ at the British Library have been overwhelmed by the Gothic vision, at the expense of every other contribution to the medium. And as creative as [Alan] Moore’s gothic is, it is still a lot less interesting than the material that has been left out of the exhibition. It is an aesthetic for adolescent boys who think that unhappy and twisted stuff is correspondingly profound, while comedy is trivial and facile. The truth is often the other way round, where horror and gore are really just sentimentality, prurient and moralistic at the same time, while comedy allows marvellous slippages of meaning that are much more intelligent [...]
The gothic does encourage some flashes of imagination, but it is quite taxing to see yet another raddled prostitute eviscerated – in spattered ink, of course – for the entertainment of troubled adolescents. How much wittier to peer through the Desperate Dan-shaped hole that Desperate Dan leaves in a brick wall – right down to the buttons on his shirt. Where are those truly subversive characters, the Bash Street Kids? They’ve been elbowed aside by the showroom dummies (an unintended self-satire) in the Guy Fawkes masks that loiter in the shadows of the exhibition, threatening nothing.”
The British Library has debuted a trailer — a “Curators’ Introduction” — to promote “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” the largest comics exhibition to date in the United Kingdom.
Opening Friday to the public, “Comics Unmasked” spans the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries. The exhibition kicks off with a screening of the documentary Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot, followed by a conversation with Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth.
Nearly two years after their presumed demise, the United Kingdom’s Eagle Awards have reemerged with a new name and host convention: The Stan Lee Eagle Awards, to be presented July 12 at London Film and Comic Con.
Named after the British children’s comic Eagle, the fan awards were presented more or less annually from 1977 until going dormant in the early 1990s. They were resurrected again in 2000, only to be shuttered in 2012 with a surprise announcement that made public a riff between awards chair Cassandra Conroy and MCM Expo.
Conroy, daughter of Eagle Awards co-founder Mike Conroy, is again at the helm. “My dad’s intention was always to give the fans a voice, and I’m delighted that this latest initiative will take his vision to an entirely new plane,” she said in a statement.
Auctions | A rare copy of The Beano #1 from July 1938 — only about 25 copies are believed to exist — is being auctioned on eBay by Seaford, England, dealer Phil Shrimpton. With just four days remaining, the opening bid of £3,499 (about $5,875 U.S.) has yet to be met. As you can see on the website, the copy certainly isn’t in the best shape. The issue, which sold a reported 442,963 copies when it was released, introduced such characters as original cover star Big Eggo the ostrich, Lord Snooty, Wee Peem and Ping the Elastic Man (the racist caricature in the magazine’s logo is Little Peanut, who stuck around on the cover until 1947, when he was replaced by Big Eggo). “Every year or so another one seems to emerge – often found in someone’s attic,” Shrimpton says. “People didn’t really look at comics as collector’s items until the sixties and seventies, so lots of them got destroyed. Also a lot of the comics were destroyed during the war as people were more conscious about recycling the old issues.” [The Argus]
Digital comics | In today’s Amazon-acquires-comiXology article, Rachel Edidin deflates much of the hype, and the panic, surrounding the deal, pointing out that comics distribution is already a monopoly, large corporations already run the comics market, and comics have been available on Kindle all along: “Is the concern [...] a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins — or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers — is frankly ridiculous.” [Wired]
Awards | Michael Cavna talks with Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer about winning the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning. [Comic Riffs]
Veteran British writer Steve Moore, one of the original contributors to The Fortean Times who’s also credited with teaching a young Alan Moore how to write comics scripts, passed away over the weekend at age 64.
The news was first reported this morning by Strange Attractor, a journal for which Moore regularly wrote. “Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more,” the remembrance states.
A contributor to 2000AD, Warrior and Doctor Who Magazine, Moore’s list of accomplishments includes pioneering the Future Shocks story format and co-creating “Red Fang,” “Valkyries” and Axel Pressbutton. A longtime friend of Alan Moore (no relation), he wrote “Young Tom Strong” and “Jonni Future” in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, as well as a novelization of the film V For Vendetta.
Running from May 2 to Aug. 14, “Comics Unmasked” traces the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries.
Passings | British cartoonist Gordon Bell has died at the age of 79. He was a contributor to DC Thomson’s children’s comics, including The Beano and The Dandy, in the 1960s and ’70s; his creations include The Bash Street Pups. After that, he went on to become a political cartoonist (under the nom de plume Fax) for the Dundee, Scotland, newspaper The Courier, which is also apparently owned by DC Thomson. Lew Stringer has posted a sampling of his work at Blimey! [The Courier]
Passings | Another U.K. creator who drew for weekly children’s comics, Anthony John “Tony” Harding, has also died. While Bell’s work was on the goofy side, Harding drew soccer stories for action-packed boys’ comics such as Bullet, Hornet and Victor. His best-known gig was as the artist for “Look Out for Lefty,” the story of a hotheaded soccer player with a skinhead girlfriend, which got a bit too close to reality with its depictions of violence during soccer games. Again, Lew Stringer posts some of his work. [Down the Tubes]
This time last year, longtime U.K. book and magazine publisher Titan announced it was delving into comics with a new imprint titled, aptly enough, Titan Comics. And in the 12 months since, the company has published a number of creator-owned titles as well as new editions of formerly out-of-print stories such as Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom. But 2014 looks to see the company grow by leaps and bounds, as it recently announced the acquisition of the comics license for Doctor Who, previously held by IDW Publishing.
During IDW’s seven-year run publishing Doctor Who comics, it produced an ongoing series and a number of miniseries and one-shots to some success, so it’s conceivable that Titan Comics could do much the same. If so, it could help expand Titan from a boutique publisher to a sizable presence in the marketplace.
Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]
British publisher SelfMadeHero earlier today announced its publishing plans for the first few months of 2014. They include a biography of painter Vincent van Gogh by Dutch artist Barbara Stok, a political satire set during the Iraq War by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain (!), the true story of boxer Hertzko Haft, who survived Auschwitz to become a heavyweight prize-fighter, and a collaboration between David Camus and Nick Abadzis (Laika, Hugo Tate) that involves Orson Welles and a Cuban cigar-roller.
You can find the full descriptions below.
Crime | Federal prosecutors are seeking a lengthy prison term for Colleen LaRose, who was convicted, along with two other people, in a foiled 2009 plot to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who drew a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed. LaRose, who goes by the online name “Jihad Jane,” could face a life sentence, but as she assisted U.S. authorities with several terrorism investigations, they are merely asking that she spend “decades” behind bars. LaRose’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday; her co-conspirator, Mohammad Hasan Khalid, will be sentenced on Tuesday. [The Guardian]
Creators | Neil Gaiman, who maintains a highly visible presence on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr — he has 1.8 million followers on Twitter alone — is taking a six-month “sabbatical” from social media to focus on his writing. “I feel that I’m getting too dependent on phones, on Twitter,” said Gaiman, who began blogging in 2001. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. That instant ability to find things out, to share. I want to see what happens when I take some time off.” [The Guardian]
One of the real thrills of the U.K.’s graphic novel renaissance of recent years has been the reemergence of Rob Davis as a major talent. Both his short works for various sources (like “My Family And Other Gypsies” and “How I Built My Father”) and the longer-form Nelson, the format-busting anthology he co-steered to the prize for Best Book at the first British Comics Awards in 2012, reveal an artist whose greatest theme might be familial dysfunction. Davis’ next work will be The Motherless Oven, which looks like it’ll also be mining that rich seam of material. It’ll be released by SelfMadeHero, the U.K. imprint that published Davis’s impressive adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
Here’s how editor Dan Lockwood describes the book:
Passings | Chris Bird pens an obituary for Leon Kuhn, a British cartoonist who was active in socialist and progressive causes and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star as well as in The Big Book of Bureaucrats. He often marched in demonstrations carrying placards of his cartoons. Kuhn died last week at age 59; the sole news article about his death simply says he “died under a train” at a London subway station and that the death is not being treated as suspicious. [Counterfire]
Manga | ICV2 rounds up Viz Media’s announcements for the beginning of 2014, including three new series. [ICv2]
Creators | Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort talk about Avengers #24.NOW, which kicks off the All-New Marvel NOW initiative. [USA Today]