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Judge Dredd When I started reading comic books as a young lad, I was sometimes confused between English comics and American comics. You see, at the time, I did not really see the difference between the two! Well, they both entertained me, so why bother contemplating the matter! However, once I got to a certain age, that all changed. I begun to understand that English publications were more gritty in content and less publicized in the press. Now my mate John knows what I am talking about, as depicted in his great Brit-blog, downthetubes.

British Comics: A Cultural History

1) In your own words John, how would you describe your blog, downthetubes?   A news and features web site devoted to British comics and (mostly) British comic creators. With a handy guide to writing comics and 'The Really Heavy Greatcoat' cartoon archive thrown in for good measure!

TV Century 21
2) How did this site come into existence? Its ‘secret origin’ as it were?   I've grew up reading British comics like TV21, Valiant, 2000AD and more. I've worked in British comics - at Marvel UK, originally - since the 1980s. I started DTT in 1999, with the aim of promoting British comics and creators and to promote my own work. The site has evolved since its early days - early versions had more on TV shows I like, too - and the emphasis is firmly on British comics.

3) If your site was a movie, a piece of music, or an object, what would it be and why?   Something very eclectic! What goes on the site is influenced totally by what myself and contributors like Jeremy Briggs enjoy about comics.

4) What of your own origins John? How did you find yourself becoming editor of downthetubes?   I created the site myself for the reasons above. At the time there was very little coverage of the British comics scene online - there still isn't, in comparison with coverage of US comics. It frustrated me that I'd go along to comic events and no British comics - or very few - would be on sale.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury at Fast Fiction in the 1980s and the explosion in small and indie press as comic creators found it was the only way to get their work out there in the absence of originated British comics on the news stand, that's changed.

Lew Stringer regularly plugs British comics on his blog and there are other sources, too - Bear Alley, Broken Frontier, the Forbidden Planet International blog, Speech Bubbles at the Birmingham Mail, just to mention a few. But British comic creators deserve all the suppirt we can give them.

British Comics
5) The name ‘downthetubes’ obviously referrers to the London Underground network. But why was it used as a title of your publication?   Actually, the title has nothing to do with the Underground, even though I lived in London in the past.

There was a time when the Net was perceived as a bit like a set of imaginary pipes, delivering information to users. That concept's out dated now but I'm dated myself so it's stuck!

Downthetubes is also the overall title of a comic strip I created with 2000AD and Interzone artist Smuzz in the 1990s, which is finally going to see print in STRIP Magazine later this year. Which just shows that you should always file a good idea even if it gets rejected the first time around!

6) What is your favourite comic book, movie, and actor / actress? And again, why?   TV Century 21 remains my favourite all-time comic. I loved that it developed the Gerry Anderson TV shows beyond the shows themselves, creating a unified 'whole'. It would probably be impossible to do that kind of title today, licensing has changed too much. 2000AD gets kudos too, for its sheer raw energy and inventiveness. I don't read many US comic books now but I used to enjoy Daredevil and Batman, and short-lived SF titles like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.

My favorite movie changes. Many SF movies had an impact on me growing up, but Oliver Stone's 'Salvador' remains a movie that actually made me angry watching it, as did 'Memphis Belle'. But on the whole, these days I'd say I watch a movie to be entertained rather than preached at.

Lauren Laverne
7) Do you have any amusing stories about your site? Maybe someone visited of note or something?   We have several unoffcial backers and information feeders whose work I'm always happy to plug, like publishers who are still out there publishing British comics and creators still pushing the form - Bryan Talbot, David Lloyd, Paul Gravett, just to name a few.

I'd still like to do more with the site. The blog has meant more people have joined in as contributors - Jeremy Briggs, Matthew Badham, Ian Wheeler, Richard Sheaf, David Baillie... I'd love to have more people contributing but it is a site that is put together for the love of comics, not for money, so that's not easy!

It's difficult to know who reads the site but visitor numbers are pretty steady and being interviewed about it by the BBC's Lauren Laverne recently was a bonus.

8) If your website was a person, who would it be and why?   A Renaissance artist, dabbling in all sorts of things.

9) If your site was a singleton, who would it want to date on a rainy day in old London town?   Lauren Laverne, to thank her for that plug!

Thanks for that John, as I am sure that your great blog, downthetubes, is something that is well worth a click or ten. So go ahead dear reader, give it a go, because it would be very improper not to.

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