Tuesday, 14 May 2019

SECTOR 13 ISSUE 5 (A 2000AD Fanzine)

The lastest issue of Belfast based fanzine Sector 13 certainly grabs the eye, with a superb Rogue Trooper (well, Venus Bluegenes anyway) cover made from live cosplay and digital tinkering. It's a cover that makes you want to see what's inside and so does it's job perfectly. Of course, regular readers will be wanting to take a look anyway, as Sector 13 is a high quality fanzine that has been getting better with each issue. It's A4 size with 42 thick, glossy pages and sumptuous colour, not your usual fanzine by a long shot.

Issue Five kicks off, as usual, with a Dreddworld photo story featuring the Sector 13 cosplayers, a motley crew of perps and ne'er do wells who meet up to get drunk and discuss knee pads. What they also do is star in very impressive photo strips that look great considering this is done on a budget. 'When I Lost Control' features the unexpected result of an EMP blast let off at Ed Norton Block by a known seditionist. It's a tight, interesting story with plenty of nice small touches, featuring character development for one of the strip's regular characters, Judge Knight.

'The Lament Of Gravlax' is next, and despite the title it's a rather silly four page humour story written and drawn by the very talented Cat Byrne. Basically, Aliens want to abduct some humans but because of all the PC nonsense on their planet they have to be subtle and kind about it, no 'zap bam boom' or death rays allowed! It's a wonderful antidote to the seriousness of the photo strip, and Byrne has a knack for humour that combines well with the colourful, cartoony vusials that jump off the page. Excellent work!

The third strip introduces the reader to a new title character, the excorcist Judge Whatley, who is not the barrel of laughs you might think. A demonic wossname is threatening the city and only Whatley and his apprentice West can stop it. A standard type of set up from writer Peter Duncan, but the devil is in the details, and this is an extremely good story that has a dark twist that left me hungering for the next issue. The black and white art, from Joseph V Parangue, is very impressive, reminding me quite a bit of 2000AD legend Boo Cook, and I can't wait to see more of his stuff.

The centre pages (and the next two!) are given over to a second Gronks story, following last issue's 'Legend Of Snarki'. 'The Gronk With No Name' is unconnected apart from the titular character's race, and we meet a Gronk who just isn't like the other Gronks, starting with the fact he's hanging out in a spaceport bar. Alan Holloway's script once again blends pathos with action and humour, while artist Ed Doyle (a known Gronkophile) delivers bright, colourful images that suit the story down to the ground. Your poor heartses will never be the same!

A short interlude, called 'Interlude' (ya see what they did?) is next, following on from the photo story as Judge McBride investigates a recent case converning Judge Knight. Donna Anita Black's Simon Harrison-esque visuals work very well with Peter Duncan's script, effectively filling out Knight's story a bit more, making you realize why he has become disillusioned with Justice Department.

We return to the darkness next, with another Excorcist Judge story, this time featuring Judge Merrin, sent to apply Judge boot to a demon's backside in 'The Terror Of Titus Tower'. Firstly, the strip looks great, with lovely clear black and white art from Morgan Brinksman. Secondly, it's another case of what is a standard set up being built on with clever twists and a satisfying pay off, so thumbs up for writer Mark Keenan as well. A great one off strip that made me think a bit more of what exactly is inside a cloned Judge.

Things get very silly for the next two pages, as Davy Francis' 'Revengers: Deadend' throws a few laughs around with a throwback to the likes of MAD magazine as some robot superheroes go nuts at a screening for the new Revengers movie. It's very daft but funny with it, but looks quite messy, like he sent the Editor a few pages out of an A4 notepad, with the result being we actually miss the final pay off line that is cut off by the page size. I'd have liked to see it redone on white pages, although it's still a good laugh with plenty of nice touches.

Finally, we return to the story of Judge Knight, and I can't go too deep into this without spoiling the ongoing plot. It does a decent job of setting up the next chapter in his story which I assume will continue next issue, and Sector 13 has to be appluded for this approach which has resulted in a magazine you have to take your time with to follow the story properly. Peter Duncan scipts again, and whilst I find Scott Twells' art a bit rough, it's rough in a McMahon sort of way, and fans of the old master should certainly appreciate it. Composition wise I've no conplaints, though, as it's all well handled and well told.

So that's Sector 13 issue 5. It's a ludicrously solid read, with thrills, humour and theological discussion. I genuinely think that several strips would be very at home if you found them in 2000AD itself, and as ever the photo strip is very well done. The fact that the story from it is continued throughout the mag is testament to the ambition of the people involved. Available through the post or at various conventions (such as Lawless May 18th in Bristol), it's well worth picking up.

Thursday, 11 April 2019


As someone who has entered their second half century, I'm well placed to remember British humour comics, having grown up with the likes of Monster Fun, Whoopee!, Whizzer  & Chips, Beezer, Krazy and many, many more. It seemed that every other month there'd be a new title unleashed as another was sucked into another comic to make room. The all conquering behemoth was Buster, which ran from1960 to 2000, swallowing up a multitude of other titles along the way. Headed up by Buster himself (originally billed as Andy Capp's son) it was a constant delight. One of the comics that ended up as part of Buster was Cor!, a similar title that launched in 1970 and ran for four years, and Rebellion have dug out characters from both (and more) to give today's kids a taste of some classic characters.

It all starts off extremely well with Sweeny Toddler getting a page to himself as "Sweeny's Soap Box", with a funny few lines to get you in the mood for his main strip on the following three pages. Writer and artist Tom Paterson dserves tons of credit for starting off this revival with as much talent as was ever seen in the original comics. It no doubt helps that he is an old hand, having drawn Sweeny before, as well as Grimly Feendish, Buster and more. The strip is genuinely funny for both kids and adults, with tons of visual gags squeezed in around the story of Sweeny going to nursery for the first time. I'd happpiy read a whole volume of this (there's one coming soon, readers!), and to say it's worth the entry fee alone isn't an exaggeration. Me like!

Monster Fun was one of my favourite comics, and when it merged with Buster I happily went with it. One of the strips was Kid Kong, unsurprisingly about an oversized gorilla who was definitely NOT King Kong's son, as that would get Universal's lawyers on the phone (but he was, really). Obsessed with bananas, he returns courtesy of scribe Alec Worley and artist Tiernon Trevasllion. The wonderfully banana-centric plot concerms Kid and Gran (who he lives with) going to Banana Con, the convention for banana lovers. Of course, Kid scarfs down too many "Dragon fire bananas stuffed with curried baked beans" and hilarity, as they say, ensues. It's a silly little tale, good fun and with a decent payoff line. Trevallion's art does a decent job and the script is light and fun.

Another old favourite is Faceache, who started off life in Jet from 1970, a creation of comics legend Ken Reid. He is a bit of a twatty little boy who can change his face into almost anything, often accompanied by the classic "Scrunge" sound effect (a bunch of the single page originals have been collected in a rather spiffy book that is highly reccommended). This time round he's had a bit of a makeover as Steve Mannion has given him a non-scrunged face that looks as grotesque as some of his monster faces. He's been teamed up with another Ken Reid creation (from Monster Fun), Martha's Monster Make Up, featuring a girl called Martha who has make up that turns anything it touches into a monster (well, duh!). Writer Ned Hartley delivers a neat little two pager that Mannion's art compliments nicely, and it should certainly get a chuckle or two out of the readers.

Yet another Monster Fun title (Hmmm... maybe this should have been the Buster and Monster Fun Humour Special) is Gums, who is a great white shark that needs false teeth. His nemesis Bluey, a surfer dude, keeps stealing them so as to render the shark harmless. That was the plot, every week, and so help me it was always fun so what the heck. Lizzie Boyle and Abigail Bulmer tackle this one, with Bulmer providing clear art that would be quite at home in The Beano. The script is pretty run of the mill but does a good job of retaining the original's humour with a totally up to date plot.

The first duffer comes in the form of a two pager featuring X-Ray Specs, in which a kid called Ray has glasses that allow him to see through stuff. It was always a bit of a naff strip when it was in (where else) Monster Fun, and things haven't improved much as Ray goes afer his Dad's wedding ring that falls down the plughole (really?). Sammy Boras' art is decent enough, with large, clear images, but Grainne McEntee's script is not big or clever or even funny.

I have to confess that I don't remember the next strip, a Buster original (I think) called Deadly Hedly, about a vampire detective. I was encouraged by the art fron Neil Googe, who provides the brilliant visuals for 2000AD caper Survival Geeks, and so approached it with good humour. With references to the fact the strip has been mothballed for a fair number of years and an opening exchange worthy of Morecombe and Wise, it's clear Paul Goodenough had his tongue in cheek when writing this, realising it would be read by old buggers as well as kids. It doesn't really go anywhere in it's two pages but is simple fun and full of (after)life.

There's 2 pages of child friendly puzzles next, after which comes a fruity foursome consisting or Ivor Lott and Tony Broke along with their female counterparts Milly O'naire and Penny Less. As you can probably guess, oen of each pair is poor, with the other rich (and a total twat). Ivor and Tony are the first characters here to orginate in Cor!, whilst the other two came from Jackpot, launched later in 1979 but not averse to a bit of recycling. 2000AD editor Matt Smith provides the story, whilst Tanya Roberts does a decent job, even if the lines are a little thick and the colours (in my download preview, anyway) too muted. It's... well, it's an okay strip but it never takes off or does anything too fun, and the end is just daft rather than fun daft,

Things get interesting now, with a three page look at some of the classic titles of yesteryear that is followed by a strip called "Who's In Charge" that brings together a multitude of characters that have just been discussed (pay attention, children!) as they argue about who should edit a new comic. It's only three pages but John Freeman's fun script is enlivened by Lew Stringer'senergy filled artwork. It points to a new comic being released at some point in the future, and I hope it's not just for the strip's plot, as it would be great to see a 'proper' comic joining The Beano and The Phoenix that concentrates on characters not free gifts.

Out of the pages of Krazy (and later Whizzer & Chips) comes Hit Kid, in which a trenchcoated kid gets revenge for children who have been wronged by bullies, parents, miserable adults etc. In a nice twist, Hit Kid has quit, with bullies running rampant, but his son appears to take over the mantle and deliver justice wherever needed. A snappy script from Robin Etherington keeps the fun coming and really works well with David Follett's art. Although only two pages, it introduces the character perfectly, gives him something to do and even gives a little giggle at the end. Ivor Lott and pals should have been this good.

One of the more unusual Buster merges was when it swallowed Oink! comic in 1988. Oink! was a pig based, rude humoured comic that did a good job of being funny to kids and adults alike, eventually finding itself condemned for being a bit too adult for it's own good. Although not an Oink! strip, "Swines Of Anarchy" is Oink! in everything but name. Very respected comic artist Pye Parr does an excellent job on The Feek's story of a pig biker gang at war with a monkey biker gang. It's lots of fun with a couple of bits that kids will snort at as intended. Definitely brings home the bacon, this one.

A veteran of several different titles (and yes, including Monster Fun), Frankie Stein is a bumbling monster forever getting on the tits of hs 'Dad', the scientist who created him. As usual, the poor Professor is being eaten out of castle and home by greedy Frankie and so invents a growth ray, like you would, to make all their vegetables bigger. Naturally, everything goes all Pete Tong, with Cavan Scott's script keeping things barrelling along in a silly way that's still bettter than Von Hoffman's Invasion (an old boys comic strip with stuff growing big). Speaking of Hoffman, Mike Hoffman's art works very well here, although the pastel colours do seem a bit soft.

Another lesser known character is Disappering Trix, a girl who turns invisible when she blinks. In the two page strip by Karl Stock and Andy Clift she helps the town sort out an invisible monster, though why only she can do it is very unclear. There's a couple of decent gags about the readers imagining the action (because it's an invisible monster), but overall Trix should have stayed disappeared.

There's a nice two pages of horoscopes next, featuring lovely Ken Reid creations with a silly rhyme each,  strangely called star signs when Horror-Scopes was begging to be used. After this it all goes a bit odd, as Fuss Pot meets Captain Crucial in the weidest match up of the comic. Fuss Pot is, well, a very fussy girl who originated in the 1970s, whereas Captain Cricial is a cool superhero from mid 90s Buster. It's a pretty mental two pager that certainly crams alot in and is lots of fun to boot. Full marks to Lee Langford and Edward Whatley for managing to make this work.

Hire A Horror comes next, a strip that never survived the merger between Cor! and Buster. In it, people can hire a horror (these literal titles, eh readers?), at which point things predictably do not go as planned. In the new strip, penned by The Feek (nope, no idea), a man wants to stop the heavy metal band next door keeping him awake. A simple set up that gives plenty of room for big, colourful fun (provided by artist Mick Cassidy)

After a new Creepy Creation from Brett Parson, we come to the final strip. This chap is the oldest of the bunch (apart from Buster himself), first appearing in an issue of Wham! in 1964, as the nemesis of Eagle Eye, Junior Spy. Yes, it's the lovable bad guy (and obvious basis for Groo in Despicable Me) Grimly Feendish. Another slice of genius by Leo Baxendale, Grimly is brought to delicious life by Sweeny Toddler artist Tom Paterson, and he again does a masterful job on the single page story. Ned Hartley matches him with a neat script, and to be honest it's the perfect way to finish this trip down memory lane.

If you've got kids, then buy them this as it's full of funny, silly, inventive strips featuring characters who still deserve to be loved today. If you're just an old fart who used to buy these comics in your misspent youth then buy it anyway, as there's enough genuinely funny stuff to go along with the nostalgia.  Everyone wins here, and if you don't like it just hire a horror to go and bust up Rebellion HQ. Sorted.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019


It's time to delve into the Treasury Of British Comics again, as publishers Rebellion trawl British girls' comics of the 1970s to unearth hidden gems that only our big sisters will remember. Appearing in the disarmingly named Jinty throughout the most of 1976, Fran Of the Floods manages to warn people about the dangers of global warming before it was even a thing. Thank writer Alan Davidson ('Little Miss Nothing', 'The Valley Of Shining Mist') for that.

The floods in question aren't just a case of people canoeing down the high street for a few days. Fran lives in Hazelford, not taking much notice of the dire warnings of excess rain coming from further down south. Instead of preparing for a national emergency life goes on as normal, with a school concert and squabbles with her sister, until the rains come and refuse to go away. Even though they are on relatively high ground, Hazelford is soon submerged, and Fran is separated from her family, trying to survive as best she can.


She sets out on a quest to get to Scotland, where she hopes to find both her family and higher ground, and it's this quest that provides the bulk of the story as she runs into groups of survivors both good and bad and is reunited with a school friend, Jill, bringing conversation and shared peril into the narrative. Phil Gascoine brings the scripts to life very well, with a style that is pretty standard for the time but nonetheless clear and highly readable.

'Fran Of The Floods' has it's flaws, like the world's stupidest doctor, but it's a surprisingly robust series with a sound basis for the frak weather that has stood the test of time. It's neither a girls or boys strip in the end, just a story that happens to have a girl as the main protagonist. A fascinating piece of comics history that has certainly earned it's right to be reproduced today.



Paul Zenon is a magician. No, scratch that, because it's not that simple. True, he may have started as a magician, all those years ago in Blackpool, but he's won awards for comedy as well as magic, is a prominent skeptic and bullshit detector, an actor, and also appears on Countdown to liven up Dictionary Corner. So, yeah, Paul Zenon is a magician, but like in all the best tricks things are not always just what they seem.

"Linking Rings" is not a magic show, rather it's a show about magic. It's ostensibly a tale of two people. The first is Jim Collins, Harry Houdini's right hand man and the one responsible for many of the sneaky tricks that allowed the great man to perform what would have seemed like miracles. The other is Zenon himlself, a boy who wandered into a Blackpool magic shop in the early 1970s and, in a way, never left. There's the odd bit of unshowy magic here, (notably in the way Zenon always seems to find a ready supply of alcohol), and of course the titular linking rings make an appearance, but it's really just a man on a stage telling a compelling story of his life and that of a man who's talent was not to be noticed as much as possible.

I'll be honest, I didn't expect this to be so moving, as Zenon lays his history bare with style and no small amount of humour. Collins' story is fascinating, and new to me, but The Adventures Of A Young Magician In Blackpool manages to be the better tale, probably because it's so personal and not gained from books and photographs. Zenon takes everything slowly and clearly, surrounded by appropriate props from the eras he talks about. Lighting and effects are used sparingly and very effectively to compliment the narrative, and I get the feeling this must have been a cracking show to see in the flesh, like experiencing a sixty minute time warp before returning to the unmagical world outside.

"Linking Rings" is a unique and very entertaining DVD, a compelling snapshot into Paul Zenon's early life and that of a man who has fascinated him for many years. Magic? Not really. Magical? Absolutely!

Pucrchase HERE

Saturday, 2 March 2019



Borag Thungg, readers. Once again it's time to take a look at the longest running and best 2000AD based fanzine, the mighty one itself - Zarjaz. Made from blood, sweat, tears and a crazed devotion to the source material, Zarjaz has rarely failed to impress and it's no surprise that it has been a springboard for future talent through the years.

As ever, the excellent cover is provided by a 2000AD regular, in this case Patrick Goddard (Savage), with colours by Steven Denton. It features a suitably scabby Angel Gang, and it's these low down varmints that kick off the issue inside with a tale that sees Pa Angel find gold on their farmland. Naturally, other people want the oil, but it isn't smart to try and get the Angel gang to give up anything, let alone a load of 'black gold'. It's a solid tale from Alec Robertson, with slightly cartoony art from David Parsons. Overall it's a decent read and it starts off the issue well.

A very quick trip to Maga City One comes next, with the daft single page story "Leading the Blind" by Alan Holloway. Taking us back to the days where the purpose of a Dredd strip was a bad pun in the final panel, this does it's job well, aided and abetted by some really nice art from Dan Goodfellow.

George Pickett is next, giving us the Future Shock "Gods Of The Hunt". It's a very smart story about hunting species to extinction, revenge and deception that has a twist that genuinely works. Sam Weller provides decent art that has some nice touches, and this is one of those stories that would not be at all out of place in 2000AD itself.

We return to Mega City One next for a proper Dredd strip featuring a rare foray into strip art by popular artist Lyndon Webb. He manages to breathe life into Rich Clements script for "Attack On Labour Camp 45" concerning Dredd's visit to a Cursed Earth labour camp that's gone dark. The story itself doesn't really give too much in the way of narrative but has some nice lines (including a great final panel) and plenty of action. Oh, and there's dinosaurs, so yay for that!

Getting something new out of Pat Mill's Nemesis The Warlock is Santiago Mayaud, who delivers a first class script that sees a Termight cosplay competition end in disaster. Amusing and exciting, with decent art from Adrian Bamforth, it's a definite high point here, featuring the debut of the strip's title character: "Trashquemada".

Next is "Death Takes A Holiday", coming under the "Tales Of Necropolis" banner. Judge Death has taken some time off in the radlands, and is interrupted by a preacher. Robomonkey47 handles script and art duties admirably, although the pay off isn't totally clear, to me anyway. It certainly feels like he's setting up three characters that come in late as a future strip, but their jumping to a conclusion with no evidence seems off.

A rare character in the magazine is Slaine, and it's nice to see him so well envisioned by artist Christian Navarro in the light tale "As You Wish". The art is dark and a little gritty, like the Slaine of old, which is appropriate as the story takes place when he was an outcast, wandering with the dwarf, Ukko. It's Ukko who is the focus of the fun story, as Slaine starts treating him nicely, much to his surprise. It's a snappy script from Alan Holloway, complimented well by the art. Nothing deep here, but a treat for fans of the character.

The final strip is another Dredd one, showing the love people have for the character along with the endless possibilities he has for scripters. "Rogue" sees Ed Whiting deliver a tight script that gives us something new and interesting, always a challenge in such a long running strip. Betrayal, undercover ops and body hopping come into play, and it's a strong read from start to finish. Artist David Broughton, as always, really helps with his energetic artwork using grey hues to good effect in a non colour strip.

So that's isssue 33, and as always if you're a fan of 2000AD you really should give it a go! While you're at it you can get the latest Futurequake as well.


Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Technofreak is a labour of love, and a long labour at that. the idea gestated about a decade ago, changing and evolving until finally we have an actual comic. The brainchild of (mostly) cover artist John Charles and writer Barry May, although they function here as co writers and creators rather than writer an artist. The art, based around Charles' designs, is handled by Tom Newell, a relative newcomer to the scene hoping to make a sizable dent.

The story concerns private eye Jon Sherlock, the technofreak of the title. He can do all sorts of, well, technical things, very useful in the future London setting. Interestingly, the most memorable character is Maurice (More-eece, like the french say), a sentient robiot cat with a knack for exposition. thrown into the mix are the thuggish Neville Brady, another, less cyborgy private eye, and the lovely Loretta, once Jon's squeeze, now Neville's and now missing presumed somewhere. Put simply, our hero has to find his ex girlfriend with the help of Maurice and the hindrance of Neville, a man who maims first and asks questions if he remembers.

The vibe I get from Technofreak is of 90s UK Marvel comics, especially in Newell's art style. It's not the prettiest but it has a certain charm and certainly gets the job done. The story itself doesn't take any risks and is agreeably easy to follow with several fun moments that let you know this is a comic that you're suuposed to enjoy and then recommend to a friend. As i've mentioned, it's Maurice that stands out, but that may just be because cats are awesome, so robot cats that shoot lasers may be even more awesome. John Sherlok himself is a bit bland, with Neville coming accross as the world's worst private eye and Loretta basically a standard femme fatale with a wardrobe of bikinis.

So Technofreak issue one is not deep, but it sets up the main characters very well, looks fine and is entertaining. The mark of a decent comic is would you want to read another issue straight away, and I certainly would. I want to see what happens to Jon, Loretta and Neville, and I want to see if Maurice catches any robot mice. Most of all I want to see an independant bunch of creators build their brand whilst delivering a fun, eminently readable comic. Check it out, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Buy HERE (Sunday Lunch Comics)