Sunday, April 22, 2018

The debut of BILLY THE CAT (1967)

The Beano's famous crimefighter Billy the Cat first appeared in a 1/4 page teaser ad (above) in the Easter 1967 issue of The Beano (No.1288). His strip began the following week, in The Beano No.1289, dated April 1st 1967. Although this was the April Fool themed issue, there was no mention of that in Billy's debut strip.

The artwork was by David Sutherland, who had been drawing The Bash Street Kids since 1962 (and indeed still draws those Kids today). An excellent artist who is able to adapt his style from humour to adventure. Curiously, there's no origin story. We're not told how William Grange became such a remarkable acrobat or who made his costume and the funny looking customised biker helmet with the whiskers. However, years later, a fan named David Carman wrote his own origin for the character and published it online with the permission of D.C. Thomson. You can read it here:
http://www.davidcarman.co.uk/billy.htm

Presumably The Beano had decided to feature a superhero in their pages because of the success of the Batman TV show, although Billy's premise was closer to that of Spider-Man (running at that time in rival comic Pow!). Billy the Cat became very popular with the readers and ran on and off until 1974, even joined by his cousin, Katie the Cat, for later adventures. He was later revived and rebooted as a slightly older character in Buddy comic in 1981, and you can read that story here:
https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/buddy-no1-1981.html

The Beano has revived Billy the Cat on occasion, drawn by various artists including Wayne Thompson, Nigel Dobbyn, and Laura Howell. With the current popularity of superheroes, and this being The Beano's 80th anniversary year, it'd be nice to see him return again. My choice would be Steve Beckett as artist, as he's another creator who can switch from humour to adventure, and he has that suitable light adventure style that works well in The Beano. 

Will Billy the Cat return? I've no idea, but time will tell.



Saturday, April 21, 2018

New graphic novel from Rachael Smith

Any new comic from writer/artist Rachael Smith is worth a look, and her upcoming graphic novel Isabella and Blodwen, a 200 page hardback, sounds like it'll be another winner. The project is currently looking for funding on Unbound and you can find out about the story, and how to pledge, here:
https://unbound.com/books/isabella-and-blodwen/





Coming up in 2000AD...

Thanks to Rebellion for the info on the next issue of 2000AD, on sale Wednesday 25th April, kicking off with a striking cover by the master himself, Carlos Ezquerra.

UK and DIGITAL: 23rd April 2018 £2.75
* NORTH AMERICA: 23rd May 2018 $6.75
* DIAMOND: FEB181725
* COVER: CARLOS EZQUERRA

In this issue:
JUDGE DREDD: FLAWS by Michael Carroll (w) Staz Johnson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
JAEGIR: IN THE REALM OF PYRRHUS by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

SINISTER DEXTER: THE DEVIL DON'T CARE by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION: UNDERTOW by Emma Beeby (w) Mike Collins/Cliff Robinson (a) Jose Villarrubia (c) Simon Bowland (l)


STRONTIUM DOG: THE SON by John Wagner (w) Carlos Ezquerra (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond
Available in digital from: 2000 AD webshop (http://shop.2000adonline.com/) , 2000 AD iPad app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/2000-ad-featuring-judge-dredd/id993151052) , 2000 AD Android app (http://www.2000adonline.com/android) , 2000 AD Windows 10 app (http://www.2000adonline.com/windows10)




Thursday, April 19, 2018

CHIPS 'Happy Gift Number' (1932)

These days, free gifts in comics are usually promoted on the polybag they're kept in. Before that, they'd be mentioned on the front cover, often accompanied by an illustration of said gift in action. Back in 1932, this "Happy Gift Number" of Illustrated Chips didn't show the "Splendid Toy Pistol" it was giving away but the occasion did merit a fancy celebratory masthead. 

As ever, those jolly wandering tramps Weary Willie and Tired Tim held the cover position, drawn by Percy Cocking. I've always liked comics of this period; the storylines are basic and contrived but the art is so full of life and expression. 

The long tradition of British comics giving away toy guns continues to this day, except now they're called "blasters" (never guns or pistols) and they shoot sponge darts. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

U.S. News: Action Comics reaches issue 1000 today!

It's been 80 years since Superman first appeared and it's a double celebration as his original long running title Action Comics reaches issue 1000 today! On sale in comic shops across the USA and UK, Action Comics No.1000 is an 80 page giant and features a choice of variant covers designed in the style of each decade. The UK's own Dave Gibbons has drawn the cover representing the 1950s issues. I'm sure Dave's younger self back in the late '50s could never have imagined he'd one day be drawing the cover for the 1000th edition! 

Here's the info on this issue:

Celebrate 1000 issues of Action Comics with an all-star lineup of top talent as they pay tribute to the comic that started it all! From today's explosive action to a previously unpublished tale illustrated by the legendary Curt Swan to the Man of Tomorrow's future-this very special, oversized issue presents the best of the best in Superman stories! 

FEATURING ALL-NEW ART AND STORIES BY:

•  BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS 
•  JOHN CASSADAY
•  OLIVIER COIPEL 
•  PAUL DINI 
•  JOSE LUIS GARCIA-LOPEZ 
•  PATRICK GLEASON 
•  BUTCH GUICE 
•  GEOFF JOHNS 
•  DAN JURGENS 
•  TOM KING 
•  JIM LEE 
•  CLAY MANN 
•  BRAD MELTZER
•  JERRY ORDWAY 
•  TIM SALE 
•  LOUISE SIMONSON 
•  SCOTT SNYDER 
•  CURT SWAN 
•  PETER J. TOMASI
•  MARV WOLFMAN
...AND MORE! 

DECADES-SPANNING OPEN-TO-ORDER VARIANT COVERS BY:

•  STEVE RUDE (1930s) 
•  MICHAEL CHO (1940s) 
•  DAVE GIBBONS (1950s)
•  MICHAEL ALLRED (1960s) 
•  JIM STERANKO (1970s) 
•  JOSHUA MIDDLETON (1980s) 
•  DAN JURGENS (1990s)
•  LEE BERMEJO (2000s) 
...PLUS A BLANK VARIANT COVER!

In Shops: Apr 18, 2018
SRP: $7.99

You can see the rest of the variant covers here:





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