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Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Men Behind Flying Saucer Review

From 1955 until the present day, the Flying Saucer Review has been key to chronicling the appearance of Unidentified Flying Objects and the latest theories of why they have been appearing in our skies. A dedicated group of enthusiasts - amongst them an accountant, a publisher's editor, a test pilot, a novelist and a member of the House of Lords - were amongst those who helped put together this remarkable magazine. Who they were and how they came to work together makes for a fascinating tale, some of it as curious as the phenomena the magazine studied.

From the Foreword:
‘The Men Behind the Flying Saucer Review’ arose out of discussions I had with its co-author, Roger Perry, about writer and editor Charles Bowen. Roger had very kindly taken some time to interview his former colleague Dan Lloyd, the results of which were published on my Bear Alley blog in September 2013. Knowing Dan's connections with the Flying Saucer Review, I was interested in learning more about the FSR's former editor, Charles Bowen, who contributed features to Boys' World, a boys’ comic which Roger had worked on and which I was writing about at the time; the resulting book was published in September 2013. Roger also knew Bowen's name from his time on Countdown, where Roger was art editor and Bowen a contributor. It was our successful collaboration on this lengthy feature that led me to writing up the history of Countdown soon after, the finished book appearing in July 2014.
    Information on Bowen proved to be a little elusive but his career provided a fascinating thread through the publishing history of the Flying Saucer Review / FSR, and we used this thread to take a look at some of the other people who helped put together the magazine, the first magazine of its kind to study the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in a serious and objective way.
    So, while we started out with simple intentions, centred around expanding our knowledge of the extraordinarily competent Charles Bowen, we found ourselves exploring the lives of other people key to the creation of Flying Saucer Review until the results of what proved to be a fascinating journey through the magazine’s history were presented in a 12-part serial published between 14 October to 3 November 2013.
    Sadly, Roger passed away in 2016. I miss the critical back-and-forth of our e-mails as we argued over what should and should not be included in the series – a rather odd situation as both of us were of the “everything including the kitchen sink” school of writing. I have made only a few additions where new information has come to light and some minor changes for clarity to the original series and respectfully dedicate this e-book version to Roger’s memory.
Available as a Kindle ebook (61 pages) and a slim (50-page) print volume via Amazon.

KINDLE EDITION:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon JP | Amazon BR | Amazon CA | Amazon MX | Amazon AU | Amazon IN

CREATESPACE PRINT EDITION:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon JP
.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Countdown to TV Action


AVAILABLE NOW!

The latest comic index from Bear Alley Books covers the history and content of Countdown and TV Action, the Gerry Anderson-themed comic from Polystyle launched in the early 1970s. With the demise of TV Century 21, Polystyle stepped in to launch a comic based around the upcoming UFO TV series. Edited by Dennis Hooper, Countdown brought together some of the industry's best talents—amongst them Harry Lindfield, Gerry Haylock, John M. Burns—to create a comic that is remembered to this day.

As well as UFO, Countdown's early issues included many of Gerry Anderson's famous creations in its line-up: Thunderbirds, Lady Penelope, Captain Scarlet, Stingray, Joe 90, Fireball XL5, Zero X and The Secret Service. From its companion TV Comic—the two titles were edited out of the same Edgware Road offices—came Doctor Who, to star in some of the very best comic strip adventures of his career.

Over its run—during which the title morphed from Countdown to TV Action—the paper also featured the adventures of The Persuaders, Hawaii Five-O, Cannon and Alias Smith & Jones, plus the long-running science fiction epic, Countdown, created by editor Hooper. With artists like Keith Watson, Brian Lewis, Frank Langford and Don Harley working on strips, the paper was always a visual feast.

With behind-the-scenes stories from some of the original editorial staff, this volume includes a detailed index to the stories and strips that appeared over the paper's 132-week run and various spin-off publications, identifying artists and writers where possible.

Countdown to TV Action is the fifth volume of comics' history published by Bear Alley Books, following the publication of Hurricane & Champion, Lion King of Picture Story Papers, Ranger: The National Boys' Magazine and Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure.

 
 
 
 
 
Format
Countdown to TV Action is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 202 b/w pages with a colour cover featuring the work of Gerry Haylock, John M. Burns and Gordon King.
ISBN: 9781907081743

Publication Date
Published on 4 July 2014.

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(* Countdown to TV Action © 2014 Bear Alley Books)

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Iron Mask" The story of Harry Bensley's "Walking Round the World" hoax

On 1 January 1908, in London's Trafalgar Square, a man in an old-fashioned iron helmet began an adventure that was to take him to 172 towns and cities in the United Kingdom before heading overseas to visit another 118 cities in Canada, USA, South America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan, China, India, Egypt and seven European countries.

Although independently wealthy, the man in the iron mask was allowed to finance his trip only through the sale of postcards and pamphlets relating to his journey from a pram that he was to push for the duration of the journey and at no point was he allowed to reveal his identity. The final challenge was that, despite keeping his face hidden, he had to find a wife.

This astonishing journey was the result of a $100,000 (£21,000) bet between the Earl of Lonsdale and steel and banking magnate J. P. Morgan and the daring masked man had almost completed the round the world trip six years later and was on the point of collecting what would today be the equivalent of £2,250,000 when the bet was cancelled.

This is the story of that journey.

This is also the story of how Harry Bensley, released from jail for fraud and bigamy, dreamed up an astonishing hoax. Disguised behind his iron mask, Bensley trekked south from London, along the southern counties and into the west country, visiting towns, attracting crowds and selling his postcards. He claimed to have met and married a woman, although she was already known to him. He was even tried in a court of law without once giving his real name.

Iron Mask is the story of that journey, too!

This fully-illustrated book takes a look behind the legend of the "Walking Round the World" hoax, revealing the impoverished origins of Bensley and his family and documenting a criminal path that was the lead to his most audacious deception.

Format
"Iron Mask" The story of Harry Bensley's "Walking Round the World" hoax is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 42 b/w pages with a colour cover. ISBN: 978-1907-08179-8

Publication Date
Published on 24 May 2016.

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(© 2016 Bear Alley Books)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Complete Captain Future

One of the stars of the 1950s pirate era of comic publishing, Norman Light's 'Captain Future' was the star of the comic Spaceman, which Light published in 1953-54. One of the most successful titles from the minor publishers of the era, it ran for 15 issues before disappearing. But 'Captain Future' lived on, briefly, in reprints, after the rights to the strips were picked up by former Hank Janson publisher Reg Carter.

Now, over sixty years after their original appearance, Bear Alley Books had gathered this action-packed series of pulp sf strips together for the first time. In a packed 200-page volume, all of Captain Future's comic strips are reprinted and, as a bonus back-up, we include three short stories by Tom Wade (a prolific writer for the infamous John Spencer quartet of sf magazines under multiple pseudonyms) featuring the Space Patrol. The Buccaneers of Space are introduced in a revealing special feature about the history of the Spaceman comic, its lead characters and the creative force behind them: Norman Light.

From the foreword:
My fascination with the science fiction of the Fifties began in around 1978, inspired by a school project that I was planning to do about sf magazines. Key to this project was Mike Ashley’s History of the Science Fiction Magazine and trips made to the Science Fiction Foundation, then a smallish room at Northeast London Polytechnic in Dagenham where I spent two very long days cribbing notes from Walter Gillings’ ‘The Impatient Dreamers’ and reading copies of Tales of Wonder, Fantasy and the early New Worlds—the first pulp magazines I had ever seen.
    In this shelf-packed Wonderland, I also found copies of Futuristic Science Stories, Worlds of Fantasy, Tales of Tomorrow and Wonders of the Spaceways, four tawdry, paperback-sized compilations which laughingly called themselves science fiction magazines. They had been damningly described in Ashley’s third volume as part of an unwelcome phenomena  that sprang up in the early Fifties: cheaply printed, low quality SF written by authors with no background in the field...
    It was during my trip to Dagenham that I first caught sight of these lurid magazines and their gaudy companions, novels by Vargo Statten, Volsted Gridban, Vektis Brack, Bengo Mistral and a dozen other guttural-sounding science fictional pseudonyms. I had heard that the Vargo Statten novels were not so bad and, being a member of the British Science Fiction Association, I was able to borrow titles from the Foundation’s library.
    Despite the warning of librarian Malcolm Edwards that “They’ll rot your brain,” I rather enjoyed the lively, no-nonsense pulp action of Vargo Statten and began reading others of that ilk, only to find that most of these cheap publishers had no quality threshold at all. But I was drawn to them by their vibrant, colourful covers, and amongst the stand-out talent was Norman Light, second only to Ron Turner when it came to depicting thrilling space battles or alien invasions.
    Light’s action-packed artwork became the focus of my first published article, which drew parallels between the paperback publishers and the ‘pirate’ comic strip publishers of the era. Norman Light was a key figure in the piece because he was not only an artist but also a publisher.
    Thirty-three years later I’m still a fan of Light’s artistry. Not for its quality—there were better artist/writers on a technical level and Light’s figurework tended to be what Denis Gifford described as “asymmetric”—but for its enthusiasm, vivacity and the artist’s obvious passion for good old pulp-style action.
    Here, then, are the complete adventures of Captain Future and the Space Patrol crewmen known as the Buccaneers of Space, one of Light’s finest creations. I hope you enjoy their outlandish adventures as much as I did when I first discovered them.
If you like your spaceships to soar, your galaxies to collide and your BEMs to be bestial, this is the thrill-filled collection for you.

 
 
Format
The Complete Captain Future is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 200 b/w pages with a colour cover.
ISBN: 978-1907-08178-1

Publication Date
Published on 8 May 2015.

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(* Norman Light's Captain Future © GT Ltd.; this collection © 2015 Bear Alley Books)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Man Who Searched For Fear

The Man Who Searched For Fear gathers together three adventure strips drawn by one of Britain's comic strip masters: Bill Lacey. Lacey's first strips appeared in 1951, although the best of his early work appeared in the pages of Super Detective Library, where he was the original artist for Rick Random and Blackshirt. Lacey's work appeared in dozens of comics in the 1950s and 1960s, including Mickey Mouse Weekly, Cowboy Picture Library, Knockout, Express Weekly, Thriller Picture Library, Princess, Film Fun, Valiant, Buster, Tiger and Lion; during this time his strips ranged from adaptations of western novels such as 'The Covered Wagon' to weird fantasy classics like 'Mytek the Mighty'. In the 1970s he drew extensively for Look and Learn and for a number of D. C. Thomson's boys' papers, Bullet, Crunch and Buddy.

The Man Who Searched For Fear is Bill Lacey at his best. The opening series in this new collection relates how Hugo Masterman, a delicate, unhappy child, who dreamed of travelling the world, lived to see his dream turn into a nightmare. In darkest Africa, with his companions dead through injury or illness, Masterman discovers the legendary graveyard of the elephants. Mauled by a lion, he survives by dragging himself back to civilisation on paralysed limbs. His discovery makes him immensely rich, but the tortures he has faced leave him unable to know fear.

Hidden away in Castle Doomcrest on a remote Scottish isle, Masterman offers a prize to any man who can bring fear into his life. His visitors relate bizarre adventures in the hope of earning Masterman's reward: how a man escapes a shark attack and becomes a god to a lost island civilisation; how an assassin plans to destroy an emperor by crashing his imperial train; how a man survives being left without supplies on an Alpine mountain . . . these are just a few of the tales that Masterman hears in his search to stir his emotions.

Adding to the excitement are two bonus stories. "Agent of the Queen" stars Agent Smith of Britain's nascent Secret Service. When Queen Victoria's life is threatened with assassination at the Great Exhibition of 1851, Agent Smith teams up with Captain Jack Stalwart to thwart the threat; and, in a second adventure, they team up again to discover how Russians are smuggling arms into India.

Finally, Lacey's adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" is another—but very different—Victorian adventure as young Pip finds himself in the hands of people who may or may not have his best interests at heart: the convict Magwitch, the odd Uncle Pumblechook, the bizarre Miss Havisham, the beautiful Estella, the lawyer Mr. Jaggers, his rival Bentley Drummle . . . against all odds will Pip still achieve his goal to become a gentleman.

 
 
 
Format
The Man Who Searched For Fear is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 148 black & white pages with a cover by Bill Lacey.
ISBN: 9781907081736

Publication Date
Published on 31 January 2014.

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(* artwork © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Worlds of Adventure by Gino D'Antonio

GINO D'ANTONIO IN FULL COLOUR

"Superb production and a treasured addition to the groaning bookshelf!"—Dave Gibbons

Worlds of Adventure gathers together four never previously reprinted, full-colour strips illustrated by Gino D'Antonio.

In the late 1960s, while he was writing the epic Storia del West in his native Italy, D'Antonio was collaborating with Mike Butterworth to adapt some of literature's most famous adventure stories: 'The Wanderings of Ulysses', 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea', 'Quo Vadis' and 'A Tale of Two Cities'. These tales span history from Greek myth and the gladiatorial circus's of Rome to the French Revolution and an innovatory French tale describing the adventures of Nemo, a 19th century Ulysses wandering the oceans in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

D'Antonio was a popular artist in England, although his name was known only to the editorial staff and agents through whom he worked. He had been drawing for British comics for over a decade, his first illustrations appearing in 1955 followed by his first strips in 1956. D'Antonio worked for some of Britain's finest comics, including Eagle, Express Weekly and Boys' World, although he will always be remembered for his war comics, drawn for War, Battle, War at Sea and Front Line in 1958-68. Thanks to their constant recycling, they influenced a hugely diverse range of artist, including Dave Gibbons, Mick McMahon and Rufus Dayglo.
"The only artist whose work I copied and traced on a regular basis when I was growing up was the Italian master Gino D’Antonio"—Mike McMahon.
Format
Worlds of Adventure is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 90 full colour pages with a cover by Gino D'Antonio.
ISBN: 9781907081729

Publication Date
Published on 15 November 2013.

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(* Tell Me Why © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure!

Boys' World is one of the most fondly remembered of all British comics from the 1960s. An Eagle for the new decade, it featured across its centre pages the mighty 'Wrath of the Gods', an epic tale of deities and demons beautifully drawn by Ron Embleton. Readers thrilled to the adventure of 'The Sea Ape', puzzled over the question 'What Is Exhibit X?' and roared at the sporting antics of 'Billy Binns and his Wonderful Specs'.

Giants of science fiction Mike Moorcock and Harry Harrison were both contributors, Harrison writing one of the text story serials as well as adapting his novel Deathworld as 'The Angry Planet'. Harrison also penned the original Brett Million story 'The Ghost World', one of the finest science fiction strips to appear in British comics and complimented by some outstanding artwork by Frank Bellamy. Moorcock's contributions were more esoteric, ranging from numerous episodes of the feature 'Do You Know Your Name?' to essays on lost cities, submarines and volcanoes. Harrison and Moorcock were also among the many writers who contributed short stories to Boys' World, a list that also includes Barrington J. Bayley, Sydney J. Bounds, Wildred McNeilly, Rex Dolphin, Donne Avenell, Jim Edgar and Tom Tully.

The paper's roster of artists included many of the finest illustrators of the early Sixties, including John M. Burns, Frank Langford, Colin Andrew, Brian Lewis, Frank Humphris, Gerry Embleton, Harry Bishop, James McConnell, Don Lawrence, Roy Cross, Luis Bermejo and Gino D'Antonio.

Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure relates how the paper came into existence at a turbulent time for comics, how its original editor was replaced before the first issue even reached the newsstands and how it eventually folded into the paper it was meant to replace.

Compiled by Steve Holland, the book also includes extensive indexes to the paper's contents as well as those of the Boys' World Annuals; the book also includes title and creators' indexes, outlines of every comic strip storyline the paper ran and a unique look at the payments made for three key issues.

 
 
 
 
Format
Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure is published in A4 perfect-bound format, 208 b/w pages with a cover by Neville Dear and a rear cover featuring the work of Brian Lewis.
ISBN: 9781907081712

Publication Date
Published on 9 September 2013.

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(* Boys' World © IPC Media)