Thursday, 30 August 2012


The death of those we love is a rite of passage in every human’s life. We may not understand it, we may be angry, sad or relieved, and it may make us suddenly aware of our own mortality. That realisation is another marker in itself. Another is the death of people your own age, this underlines our essential fragility.

Then there is the death of those more famous people you have always liked, even though you have never met them, people who are public property through their creations. 

Everyone in a generation remembers where they were when they heard the news of the death of Kennedy, Hendrix, Elvis, Lennon, Strummer-take your pick, it will define your place in the timeline that is the big parade of humankind. (I just want to say for me it was Elvis, 1977, I was in The Queens Arms in Widnes, a Wednesday night I think, and the barman told us he’d just heard it on the news. We could not believe it, Elvis had always been there.)

Where am I going with all this you may ask, on a blog that deals with graphic novels?

Well, I was at the Purbeck Folk Festival this last weekend and on the Saturday night, I was watching The Mother Ukers, three older men playing ukuleles. It was about 10.30pm and they were just about to play their version of Space Oddity and almost as an aside they introduced the song with the news that Neil Armstrong had died that day.
I spent the rest of their set thinking about that news. I never met the man, I only really knew him for one thing, one tremendous event. I thought of Buzz Aldrin on After Hours, a Channel 4 late night chat show in the 1980’s, talking about the Moon Landing and how Armstrong had taken over the control of the Lunar Module and landed it with twenty seconds worth of fuel to spare.

I thought about how everyone Armstrong met must have wanted to ask him about that one event, those few fleeting hours in a long a rich life. It is no wonder he withdrew from the public gaze and became an academic.
For some people the whole event was just another date in a history book, it was and was not. It was the culmination of many years of hard work by an army of humans. The trouble was there was no next step. It was essentially a sideshow to the Cold War.

That’s all I wanted to say today, yes I know it’s me mourning the possibilities of my youth. I don’t care. I am leaving you with a poem:

On Hearing the Death of Neil Armstrong

Before he spoke that causal throwaway line,
The swallowing clouds,
Congregated to conceal from prying eyes.
But earlier I had seen it, a pearl perfection,
The quarter Green Corn Moon.

On the way back to my tent,
My head torch shines a circle on to the ground,
Each contour of the soil the moon’s sad face.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


That's right, comic publisher, business magnate and all round nice guy John A. Short, the brain behind Kult Creations ( ), was kind enough to call by the rookery recently and answer all manner of questions that I put to him. Recently we reviewed John's excellent comic The Clock Strikes! If you have not ordered a copy yet-why not? This is excellent stuff and you are doing yourself out of a reading treat-and the artwork is superb. But enough of my blusterings, lets hear from the man himself.

Why comics?

My brother got me into comics when I was young. I don’t think we should put the storytelling mediums into a pecking order (as some often do.) Many people put films, theatre, prose or even opera at the top of the pile and comics are usual way down near the bottom (along with radio drama!) But I think they all do things that the other mediums can’t.
  As I writer I love comics because they allow you to tell epic, fantastic stories with a tiny budget and little interference editorially (compared to TV or movies for example.)

How did I get started?

My first professional work was writing and organising comic strips for a local free newspaper called the South Coast Express. But I was soon sending strips to things like Rip Off Comix and Fantagraphics Magazines in the States. It wasn’t until I started selling scripts to kids humour strips in Egmont’s Toxic Magazine nearly ten years ago that I was able to turn fully professional though.

Who inspires you?

I get inspired by many things (a lot of them from outside comics.) 2000AD creator Pat Mills was an early influence, Alan Moore made me sit up and take notice on his Warrior strips. Garth Ennis and Mark Millar have shown how to break moulds. Outside comics, I’ve followed the work of (Doctor Who show-runner) Steven Moffat since his break-through TV series Press Gang in the 1980s. I love Joss Whedon’s work. Screen writing is often under-rated (no-one ever advertises a film by who wrote it… only who the actors are!)

Looking back what would you have done differently?

Maybe I wouldn’t have sold the rights to my Robin Hoodie strip to Egmont? You assume when you give away the rights to one of your creations that if you do a good job they’ll keep you on it… But the editor sacked me so that his little chum could write it instead (Not Egmont’s fault… I’m sure they never even noticed.)

What’s coming up?

We’re talking to some larger publishers about continuing ‘The Clock Strikes!’ (maybe into a graphic novel.) ‘The Clock Strikes!’ is a revival of the first ever masked hero in comic books – the Clock, from 1936. So far we’ve produced a one-off under the Kult Creations imprint… with fantastic art by Vincent Danks (currently drawing the Harker books for Titan Books.)
  But in the next few weeks we’ll have the second issue of Savage! Jungle Princess out on sale. SJP is a full colour romp under the Kult banner ( featuring dinosaurs, Nazis and (in the second issue) ninjas! With colourful, fruity art by Gabrielle Noble who draws my strip Mayfair Magazine (Ms. Fortune.)

In a film of your life who would play you?

An actor, I hope. Long after I’m dead (so I won’t be embarrassed by the whole sorry mess!) 

Thanks John. Modest to the end. Seriously if you don't know Kult Creations get over there now and have a good look.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


 I was going to write about the lack of science fiction poetry this week, stating that the only anthology I had ever seen was Frontier of Going from 1969 (my copy is the 1973 reprint), edited by John Fairfax. The Introduction to the volume speaks of its time.
If you consider the thousands of people who are closely involved-and remotely we are all involved-in the space programme, if you consider this and ask yourself “why?” then you are getting to close to where the poet stands.

Fairfax continues by stating that this questioning is the essence of all poetry. The need to make sense of the times the poet finds himself (or herself-oh 1969 and the maleness of our language!)living in.

I love this slice of unwitting testimony, Fairfax’s words take for granted a continuing commitment to space, he talks of progress, assumes that a mythology will grow around the space programme as space travel becomes more commonplace. From 2012 these thoughts and the numbers involved in the space programme seem both naive and optimistic. Hell! In 1969 we were all optimistic, (to quote my favourite person from Saturn) space was the place. Not anymore.

Anyway I digress, onto one of my main moans, the death of the space programme. A quick line search surprised me that there was more science fiction poetry out there than I had supposed. There is a Science Fiction Poetry Association ( ) and there are some fine poems there. It’s well worth a look.

Then I thought I’ll write about my favourite space songwriter, Pearls Before Swine main man Tom Rapp. Then I found a very informative interview with Tom here ( There was in the 1970’s much mystery around Mr Rapp and his band. One story I heard from Bob Pegg ( I know when to name drop for maximum effect), was a rumour that Tom was a rich American who lived in Italy and only returned to the US to record the lps. The other rumour was that he was a grave digger. If you are anyway interested in acid folk or psychedelic music then read this interview, it very good.

Here is a youtube post of Stardancer.

His best lp was either Stardancer or Balaklava, side one of which is amazing, multitracked vocals, who else would quote Herodotus? The Balaklava portions of the record are bookended by two historic recordings Trumpeter Landfrey (the inspiration for same name character in the soon to be published by Corvus steam punk novel The Jowler)and Florence Nightingale. If you have not heard this album then you are in for a treat.

Phew, I’m going to stop there, put Blaklava on the turntable, my headphones on and hopefully I’ll be back next week.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

KAGE BAKER Celebrating The Company

Though Kage was only professionally active as an author for thirteen years she produced one of the most original series of science fiction I have read in a long time.

The ten volume sequence began with The Garden of Iden in 1997, ended with the Sons of Heaven ten years later, and tells the story of the very human cyborgs who work for Dr Zeus Incorporated.  The central conceit is that by the year 2355 time travel has been discovered, but only augmented humans can travel back-and no one can travel forward. Dr Zeus Incorporated sets about doing what we would all do in their position-stealing priceless art works and artefacts and selling them in their world. Kage peoples the Company with some very believable humans, in fact CO2’s Mendoza was named in homage of the central character.

The Garden of Iden is to my mind, the weakest of the sequence, it is the only story to wear its research heavily.  I think that Kage was at her best writing short stories, many of the novels in the sequence wee adapted from shorter fiction. That said the second book Sky Coyote is a fully realised novel, and its poetic ending haunted me for some time.  Her writing is lyrical, poetic and there is a wry humour throughout all her work.

The conclusion of the sequence was stunning, I shall not give the game away but I shall say that the way she subverted the tropes of science fiction, setting the reader up to expect one type of ending and leaving us with something that celebrated the human spirit. As I say there is more than a touch of the poet about her writing.

I only ever spoke to her once, indeed I did not know she had died until nearly six months afterwards. She was extremely polite in the email I received from her after I had written over brimming with enthusiasm and praise for the sequence.  I got the impression of an old world politeness that is missing these days.

I had enquired if she had ever been to England, (the Somerset town of Crewkerne features in the sequence) she informed she had not and referred me to some recent archaeology in the area.

If you have never read any of her books I would urge you to persevere past The Garden of Iden and let yourself be drawn into a truly memorable world, you won’t regret it.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


This week the controls have been handed over to that uber-able steam punk sensation Tim Hart, so he can crow from the tree tops the result of his fanart competition. Take it away Tim!

So we here in the Cornwall division of Corvus press set up our first fanart competition via our Facebook page.

Over a month we had 6 excellent entries to then the difficult choice of picking a winner who’s image caught the feel of Victoriana and that Winner was One Tanya Johnson!







A very large congratulations to Tanya and all the other excellent entries from all of us here at Corvus Press and soon in November we’ll have our next competition ‘Cogs and Christmas’ ready for the festive season!

So get those pencils out and start drawing!