Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TOXIC reaches issue 300 today!

These days, it's rare for a children's magazine to have such longevity, but Egmont's Toxic magazine for boys has just reached a milestone of 300 issues. The magazine began publication in September 2002, and is published every three weeks (it was originally monthly) so a run of just over 15 years (and counting) is very impressive for a contemporary publication. A top selling publication for its target audience, Toxic has spawned several rival imitators over the years. Even the legendary Dandy had a makeover at one point, as Dandy Xtreme, in an less than successful bid to try and capture the magic. 

Originally edited by Matt Yeo, then Andy Davidson, Frank Tennyson, and Simon Ward, Toxic's current editor is Paul Lang with Matthew Pratt as his Deputy Editor. Contributing artists and writers over the years have included Laura Howell, John Short, Alex Paterson, Jasper Bark, Paul Palmer, Nigel Kitching and Jamie Smart. The premise of Toxic is to provide its young readers with breezy news and features on the latest movies, toys, games and suchlike, with a strong sense of fun and irreverence. 

"Gross" humour abounds, particularly in the comic strips. Team Toxic has been in the mag since the very first issue, with its core characters Doc Shock, Bog, Sludge, Kid Zombie, and Krunk initially created by Matt Yeo and original artist John Rushby. I was invited to script the comedy adventures of Team Toxic from issue one, and also became the artist from issue 15 when John left the strip. I've been writing and drawing it ever since. The Team protect the city from numerous bizarre villains that I've created, such as Sick Squid, Frankendrac, Techno Troll, Antimatter Hari, and Butt-Face. The solutions usually involve the aforementioned "gross humour" such as Bog unleashing a mighty fart or Kid Zombie bowling the villains over with his detachable head. The style of humour, with monsters, crazy villains, and cringe-inducing puns, is similar in style to my old Combat Colin strips, but with more jokes about bodily functions. It's been a pleasure to write and draw Team Toxic for all these years, and long may it continue. 

The latest Team Toxic story, Birthday Bash, sees Butt-Face and Sand-Witch steal the Toxic collection from comics critic Grumpy McGrumpyface, which interrupts the Team having a slap-up feed to celebrate the magazine's 300th milestone. 

Also in this issue, stinky superhero Captain Gross, by Russ Carvell, who has also worked for the magazine for years, plus Ruined Ronaldo, drawn by Steve McGarry. 

Apart from the Team Toxic strip, the magazine doesn't make a fuss about the 300th issue, focusing instead on features on superhero movies, Star Wars, a Thor Ragnarok pull-out poster, and puzzles.

As is expected of kids' magazines these days, Toxic comes bagged with a mixture of toys, cards and stickers. Here's what to look for in the shops...

Toxic No.300 is on sale now from newsagents and supermarkets. £3.99 


New from Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics imprint comes The Beatles Story, reprinting the serial written by Angus Allen and illustrated by Arthur Ranson that ran in Look-In during 1981 and 1982.

Although Look-In is not one of the comics that Rebellion now own, The Beatles Story is unique in that Angus Allen and Arthur Ranson own the rights to the strip.

Sure to be a hit with fans of the Fab Four, The Beatles Story is an affectionate photo-realistic take on the saga of what many of us consider to be the greatest band in music history. 

CREATIVE TEAM: Angus Allan (w) Arthur Ranson (a)
REGIONS: UK, worldwide digital
RELEASE DATE: 22nd February 2018
HARDCOVER, 57 pages
PRICE: £12.99 (UK) $17.99 (US)
ISBN: 9781781086179

The very first graphic novel to chart the creation, evolution and breakup of the fab four, first published in 1981. The Beatles Story is an exceptionally drawn account of the band from one of the UK's leading artists of his generation, Arthur Ranson (Judge Dredd, Button Man). It includes fascinating insights into Paul McCartney and John Lennon's first encounter, their early gigs in Hamburg's Kaiser Keller, through to the recording of the legendary Abbey Road album and the band's break-up. First published in the pages of legendary UK youth magazine Look In, this beautifully illustrated account is a treat for both the devoted Beatles admirer and new fans alike.

Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond

Available to pre-order now from the Treasury of British Comics shop:

Monday, January 15, 2018

35 Year Flashback: SPIKE No.1 (1983)

D.C. Thomson launched a new weekly comic 35 years ago, when Spike No.1 arrived in newsagents on Friday 14th January 1983. Although Thomsons had attempted a few tougher styled boys' comics with WarlordBullet and Crunch a few years earlier, this new comic was playing it comparatively safe and was more of a mixture of traditional comics like Victor and Buddy. That said, Spike did have its own style and felt more casual than its companion comics, helped considerably by the comic's mascot, Spike himself. 

Under a nicely designed logo, the cover of issue 1 featured two proven methods to hook the reader; an exciting announcement that the comic contained a free gift, and the opening panels of the lead strip, Iron Barr (art by Mike White). The perceived wisdom at the time was that if a reader picked up a comic to read the cover strip, you were almost guaranteed a sale. Whether this worked in practice was debatable, as Spike only lasted for 67 weeks before merging into Champ.

Inside, the comic contained a nice variety of adventure strips, including sci-fi hero Starhawk (who had previously starred in Crunch) fighting the Powerbeast. (Art by Terry Patrick.)
A D.C. Thomson boys' comic wouldn't be complete without a war story, and Spike gave us The Ghost in the Cockpit (art by Gordon Livingstone)...
The main draw of Spike started in the centre pages. The Man in Black told the story of a mysterious, seemingly ageless athlete with extraordinary strength and stamina. The clues to the man's identity were revealed over the weeks that followed, eventually identifying him as William Wilson, the Wonder Athlete who had appeared in Thomson story paper The Wizard many years earlier, and in The Hornet in the 1960s. His revival in Spike acted as a sequel to those earlier stories but was also a retelling, using updated scripts as I recall. The artist of the strip was a Wilson too; Neville Wilson...

The Bleak Street Bunch was a traditional school strip, but with a contemporary setting. Art by Peter Foster...
Ticker Tait, the Man with a Time Bomb in his Heart, was also drawn by the very-busy Neville Wilson, and was the spy thriller of the comic's line up...
Spike also featured a few articles, a text story, plus a strip featuring Spike himself, drawn by Brian Walker...
On the back page of the 36 page first issue was an ad for future issues and the free gifts to come! 
...and if you wondered what the Ghostly Glow Badge in issue 4 looked like, here it is...
...and yes, it did glow in the dark!
Spike was a very enjoyable, well produced comic but sadly it arrived at a time when traditional adventure comics were on their way out. Had it been launched in the 1960s it might have stood a better chance, but not in 1983 when it faced so much rivalry from comics based on toys and tv shows. The comics industry was changing and publishers soon found they had to adapt to survive.

All of the images in this post are my own scans and photographs, but I'm indebted to Jeremy Briggs at Down the Tubes for his excellent article on Spike which you'll find here:  which enabled me to identify the artists.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

MODERN WONDER (1937 to 1941)

Issue Vol.1 No.10 July 24th 1937.

As mentioned here in November, the latest issue of Spaceship Away includes an excellent article by Andrew Darlington on the innovative 1930s weekly Modern Wonder. Inspired by the feature I decided to seek out some issues myself and was impressed by the results. 

Modern Wonder was a weekly publication that ran from 1937 to 1941 (changing its title along the way in 1940 to Modern World). It was a large sized glossy magazine providing articles of speculative science, current technology, and prose text stories. Initially, its page size was huge; 41cm high by 27cm wide, then it reduced to the standard tabloid size later used by Eagle and TV21. Although it featured no comic strips (apart from reprints of Flash Gordon from American Sunday papers later in its run) it was pretty much a template for what followed years later with Eagle, even down to full colour cutaway illustrations. 

Modern Wonder was a fabulous publication that conveyed the 1930s hopes for a brighter tomorrow where fantastic technology would be a boon to mankind. Sadly, World War 2 scuppered those hopes, and, I'd venture, made Modern Wonder suddenly seem increasingly naive in places. That, plus paper rationing forcing a cut back from 16 to 8 pages, was probably the death knoll for the publication as it limped to its grave in 1941. 

That national optimism returned in the 1950s, but it was too late for Modern Wonder by then. However, let's take a look back at parts of the few issues I have to see what a great mag it was, and how it envisioned a future that might have been, had war not sent the world tumbling off into another direction...

Is it just me, or does this train look like Judge Dredd's helmet? Coincidence of course. Modern Wonder Vol.2 No.24, October 30th 1937...

Yes, they did indeed speculate that a train would run on giant ball-bearings and reach a speed up to 250mph....

From the same issue, a back page feature on then-current telephone technology...

Modern Wonder relished in its visions of motorways and high speed trains. We're not quite there with streamlined cars like this yet, and even Pendolino trains don't quite tip sideways that far! No.42, March 5th 1938...

From the same 1938 issue, an early prediction of widescreen cinema, which would later develop in some ways (but with different technology) as the IMAX cinema...

Television was just starting to take off in the late 1930s, until war postponed that too. Modern Wonder Vol.3 No.67 August 27th 1938...

As mentioned above, Modern Wonder also featured prose stories, illustrated with high quality artwork. If anyone knows the identity of these artists I'd be obliged...

I've only scratched the surface of what a fantastic magazine Modern Wonder was. I hope you enjoy seeing the amazing covers in large format. (In case you don't already know, click on the images, and click again to see them full size. Best viewed on a computer, not a phone.) To reiterate, the current Spaceship Away (No.43) has a much more detailed history of Modern Wonder so I urge everyone to buy it.

Prisoner TV event next Sunday at Elstree Studios

Just a quick plug for an event that old friends of mine are organising for next Sunday, 21st January, that's sure to interest fans of The Prisoner TV series. Guests include Alex Cox, Nicholas Briggs, Ian Rakoff and more. To find out full details and buy tickets visit:

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