Dead again

Do you miss Dead­line? Then you won’t want to miss Missed Dead­line, the new an­thol­ogy re­viv­ing the spirit of the old

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Dead­line was a mag­a­zine that de­fined the in­de­pen­dent Bri­tish comics scenes in the late ’80s and ’90s. Hewlett and Martin’s Tank Girl de­buted in its pages, and it launched the ca­reers of many creators in­clud­ing Philip Bond and Nick Abadzis. Its edi­tors, Brett Ewins and Steve Dil­lon, were ma­jor play­ers in the in­dus­try. Dead­line ended in 1995 but from 2017, Missed Dead­line will take its place.

“The long-term goal was al­ways to bring Dead­line back for the modern gen­er­a­tion, with a 50/50 split of new and old creators,” its cre­ative di­rec­tor Jes­sica Kemp tells Comic He­roes, “but for many years this just seemed to be im­pos­si­ble in terms of man­power and fi­nan­cial out­lay, not to men­tion time.

“We started Missed Dead­line as a col­lec­tive for sev­eral mem­bers of the group in­clud­ing, Damian James Schofield, Kerensa Creswell-Bryant and a few oth­ers to work as a col­lec­tive at cons and for comics pub­lish­ers over three years ago now,” Kemp ex­plains.

“We went on to work with David Lloyd on Aces Weekly, pro­grammed the first comics stream for Nine Worlds and wrote and/or drew for Spin­dle Mag­a­zine, SFX, Bleed­ing Cool and oth­ers un­der the col­lec­tive’s name.”

The mo­tive for cre­at­ing a new Bri­tish comics an­thol­ogy in this mould? “It’s a gen­uine love for the orig­i­nal mag­a­zine and all its creators, many of whom in­spired us all to work in comics and be­come writ­ers/artist and now pub­lish­ers. We all felt a gen­uine loss when Dead­line dis­ap­peared from the shelves. When Brett Ewins passed we felt a need to pre­serve the good work that he did along with Steve Dil­lon and many, many oth­ers.”

This is how they de­scribe the revived mag­a­zine them­selves: “We are by our own ad­mis­sion ‘a mag­a­zine for those who just can’t be ar­sed in the morn­ing.’ It will be full of the strips no one else was stupid enough to risk in­cur­ring le­gal pro­ceed­ings by pub­lish­ing and some frankly scan­dalous (if not li­bel­lous) gos­sip from the Slanda Panda. I can name those al­ready fea­tured on the cov­ers we’ve re­leased that in­clude Shaky Kane, Jane Kane, Lind­say Pick­ett, Hal Laren, with a logo from Rian Hughes. We also have a cover fea­tur­ing the face of Missed Dead­line Coco Deville from Hal.”

Missed Dead­line will launch as a pre­view edi­tion at ICE Brighton this June with fur­ther de­tails to fol­low. missedead­line.blogspot.co.uk

Joe Halde­man’s 1974 novel The For­ever War re­mains one of the best­known and best-loved science fic­tion nov­els of all time. Some 14 years af­ter its orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion, Halde­man trans­lated the story into a well-re­ceived comic se­ries drawn by artist Mar­vano (real name Mark van Op­pen). Out of print for decades, the se­ries is be­ing reis­sued by Ti­tan in a monthly for­mat.

The book tells the story of hu­man­ity’s war against the alien Tau­rans – a con­flict that lasts not years or decades, but mil­len­nia. A vet­eran of the Viet­nam war, Halde­man brought his own ex­pe­ri­ences to his darkly funny novel, which also makes head-spin­ning use of time di­la­tion: when­ever the hu­man sol­diers are sent out to bat­tle, huge pas­sages of time have passed by the time they re­turn to Earth, and they find that hu­man­ity has changed in of­ten rad­i­cal ways.

When Comic He­roes asks him how it feels to be re­vis­it­ing the project to­day, Halde­man says “It’s won­der­ful! Mark and I spent sev­eral good years on the project. Mark’s fun to hang around with and a good ex­cuse to go snorkelling and ca­noe­ing. If I twist his arm, he might have a glass of wine.” As a self­con­fessed comics fan “since 1949”, he says, Halde­man was thrilled to trans­late his story into the medium, de­scrib­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tion as straight­for­ward but en­joy­able. “I trans­lated the novel into sto­ry­board form. Then I re­fined that with the help of Mar­vano. Then we went back and forth a few times, fur­ther re­fin­ing it.”

Mar­vano agrees that the col­lab­o­ra­tion was good. “We’re both easy to work with – though I guess a few peo­ple wouldn’t quite agree with that!”

So how does the artist view the book’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity? “On the one hand, as a story, it still func­tions won­der­fully well, af­ter a quar­ter cen­tury,” he says. He’s not un­crit­i­cal of his younger self, how­ever. “My mas­tery of the craft has im­proved quite a lot dur­ing this same pe­riod, so the im­per­fec­tions are highly vis­i­ble to me. But that’s life. I’m still proud of the re­sult.”

De­spite this, nei­ther artist nor writer was tempted to fid­dle with the book. “That way lies mad­ness,” says Halde­man. Like­wise, he’s not tempted to re­visit the set­ting for se­quels. “It would feel ghoul­ish. That story was over with the last book, and shouldn’t be dis­in­terred. I can write [new] things that are re­lated in a metaphor­i­cal sense.”

But why has the story of The For­ever War en­dured for more than 40 years? That’s sim­ple, says Mar­vano. “It’s a time­less story, sadly enough. Mankind doesn’t seem to learn much from its past, I’m afraid. The For­ever War will re­main rel­e­vant for a long, long time to come...”

Amer­i­can comics leg­end Will Eis­ner (1917-2005), cre­ator of sem­i­nal masked hero The Spirit and pioneer of the graphic novel, would have been 100 this year. Paul Gravett talks to De­nis Kitchen, Eis­ner’s edi­tor, agent, pub­lisher, fel­low artist and friend, about co-cu­rat­ing two ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tives, in France’s cap­i­tal of comics, An­goulême, and in the city of Eis­ner’s birth, New York, with an im­pres­sive ac­com­pa­ny­ing cat­a­logue from Dark Horse. Comic He­roes: What drove Eis­ner’s life­long ded­i­ca­tion to comics? De­nis Kitchen: Will had a gen­uine love for the comics medium and a deep faith in its po­ten­tial long be­fore any of his con­tem­po­raries. He was a true in­no­va­tor con­stantly push­ing at the bound­aries of sto­ry­telling, lay­out and tech­nique. CH: What were your goals with the Eis­ner ex­hi­bi­tion in An­goulême? DK: Co-cu­ra­tor Jean-Pierre Mercier and I wanted to, first, pro­vide a full over­view of Will’s long ca­reer, with his ear­li­est sur­viv­ing paint­ing, etch­ings and draw­ings from his teenage years, his Eis­ner & Iger Stu­dio pe­riod, The Spirit, his army work, and then ed­u­ca­tional comics, lead­ing up to graphic nov­els, the ac­com­plish­ment he was most proud of. Within each pe­riod, we wanted to show the best ex­am­ples and mean­ing­ful se­quences.

CH: How does the Eis­ner show in New York dif­fer?

DK: It was tough find­ing a “bal­ance” so that each show con­tained ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples of Will’s work. In the New York ex­hibit, co-cu­ra­tor John Lind and I made a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion to in­clude more art and sto­ries where Will de­picts the city it­self. Like­wise, there was one story about a World War I bat­tle in France that log­i­cally went

We see a kid­with vi­sion and tal­ent take the form to new lev­els

to An­goulême. I also in­cluded more pan­tomime pages for France to help non-English-speak­ing view­ers. Aside from that, and the New York venue be­ing a bit smaller than the An­goulême Mu­seum, they’re very sim­i­lar in na­ture.

CH: What are the most sig­nif­i­cant and sur­pris­ing items on dis­play?

DK: The old­est sur­viv­ing Spirit splash page, of The Spirit spank­ing Ellen Dolan, from 1940, is in France. It was the only art of his own that Will had hang­ing in his own home for decades. Both shows in­clude ex­tremely rare late 1930’s “Es­pi­onage X” pages from Smash Comics, which show Eis­ner de­vel­op­ing the un­usual per­spec­tives and feather­ing tech­niques that would be­come trade­marks of his Spirit work from 1940 on. For some, his later work on A Con­tract With God, which rev­o­lu­tionised the comics in­dus­try, will be most sig­nif­i­cant, or the di­dac­tic work near the end of his ca­reer, like Fa­gin The Jew and The Plot. CH: Eis­ner’s oeu­vre is a mas­ter­class in se­quen­tial art – what are the most im­por­tant lessons it can teach us? DK: Amer­i­can comic books in the 1930s and 1940s were pretty lame. Even the most fa­mous ones suf­fered from hack­neyed art and pre­dictable plots. With Eis­ner we see how an in­di­vid­ual – a kid – with vi­sion and tal­ent could trans­form the aes­thet­ics and sto­ry­telling and take the form to new lev­els, in­spir­ing oth­ers from his own era and later to keep pace. Will would have been a leg­endary fig­ure in comics for his work on The Spirit alone. But dur­ing World War II and later he de­vel­oped ed­u­ca­tional comics for the army and pri­vate in­dus­try, an im­por­tant field now taken for granted. And later still, in his 60s, he jump­started the modern graphic novel with A Con­tract With

God. Comics are re­garded to­day as a le­git­i­mate lit­er­ary and artis­tic medium and Will Eis­ner, prob­a­bly more than any­one else, is re­spon­si­ble for that.

The Eis­ner Cen­te­nary Ex­hi­bi­tions con­tinue at the Musée de la Bande Dess­inée, An­goulême, France, un­til 15 Oc­to­ber, and The So­ci­ety of Il­lus­tra­tors, New York, un­til 3 June.

Above: Art­work by Jane Kane.

Be­low: Is­sue 0 cover (un­der­ly­ing Ant­man im­age by Shaky Kane) and is­sue 3 art­work by Lind­say Pick­ett.

The For­ever War #1 is out now from Ti­tan Comics.

Above and be­low: Ti­tan is se­ri­al­is­ing Halde­man and Mar­vano’s comics adap­ta­tion from 1988 with strik­ing mul­ti­ple cov­ers by modern-day artists and bonus ma­te­rial in each is­sue.

Above: The weekly Spirit news­pa­per sec­tion ran from 1940 to 1952. Var­i­ous ghost artists and col­lab­o­ra­tors played a ma­jor role, but that still leaves a huge body of ground­break­ing work by Eis­ner him­self.

Right: Cel­e­brat­ing the innovative graph­ics and sto­ry­telling tech­niques Eis­ner de­vel­oped in the course of The Spirit.

This page: Vis­i­tors to the ex­hi­bi­tion in An­goulême, ti­tled “Will Eis­ner: Ge­nius of Amer­i­can Comics”, take in art­work span­ning Eis­ner’s en­tire ca­reer, from the ear­li­est sur­viv­ing Spirit splash page to some of his last graphic nov­els.

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