Oh look, I haven't been here since November. How time flies! Last time I was here, I was in full-time employment being paid a decent salary, had nary a care in the world and had plenty of time for engaging in my favourite passtime - comics, both reading and writing them. Things have changed drastically however. My company went bust and closed before Christmas (cheers!) leaving me unemployed with no salary and forced to depend on the dole for my weekly survival (not easy when you have a mortgage and four kids!!)
To say that knocked me for six is an understatement. Took me quite a while to get my head around my new circumstances and I really didn't know what I was going to do with myself. Still don't, to be honest, but at least I've started to take a few steps in a new direction. As my wife is Japanese, we decided in January that we would make the most of this 'opportunity' (see, I'm a glass half-full kind of guy) and head to Japan for a while. It's something we've talked about before. It will be good for the wife to get home for a while, good for the kids to spend some time exploring that side of their culture and heritage, good for me for improving my Japanese skills, which I'm probably going to need sooner than later. Also, I can use the 'time-out' to try and come up with an 'action plan' for getting myself back into some kind of gainful employment. Or something. Kind of making this up as I go, to be honest. In any case, the tickets are bought and we fly on the 19th so I'm committed now. Just have to see how it all pans out.
All of which is really just a massive lead-in to explaining why this -----
---- is so damn late!
I pretty much lost all interest in my creative endeavours for a few months there and let everything slide, so by the time I started getting myself together and started organising things again, there was still a good bit of work to do. Nevertheless, the show must - eventually - go on, and so I am finally able to say - Vanguard Number 2 is now available! And there is good news, which I will get to in a moment.
This issue of Vanguard sees the continuation of the stories that began in issue 1. As before, art duties on International Woman of Mystery tale "Atomic Call" are by David Blankley, while Louis Carter continues to produce some brilliantly bizarre artwork on sci-fi, fantasy epic "Halo and the Gryphon". This issue's violent installment of 1800's "When Good Donkey's Go Bad" tale "Mammoth-Jack" features a change of artist however, as my good friend El Chivo takes over pencilling duties from Owen Watts. But fear not, Mr. Watts is still on board providing some fantastic lettering work for the 6 page tale...and that's not his only contribution to this issue, as you will see when you take a look.
Apart from this there is another single page Tucker story, featuring glorious, blood-soaked, full colour artwork by Bhuna. This tale features a change of direction for the psychopathic character originally created for Hallowscream, bringing a fantasy-based twist to proceedings in order to 'lighten' the serial-slashing tone somewhat. I've also got another two wonderful pages of art featuring the comic's fictional editor 'Redbats' by David Withers, who also provides lettering for two of the strips herein. And, of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention that lettering master Jim Campbell has also deigned to grace us with his presence lettering David Blankley's noir-tastic Atomic Call pages. It's 24 pages of cover to cover action, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, alien creatures, ass-kicking babes, angry donkeys, demons and deceased serial killers. Honestly, what more do you want from a comic? What's that? Free gifts? Oh alright then....but we'll get to that. First...have a look at some preview pages why don't you?
Page from Atomic Call - art by David Blankley
Page from Halo and the Gryphon - art by Louis Carter
Page from Mammoth-Jack - art by El Chivo
So, now to the crux of the matter. How do you get your hands on this? Well, there are two ways. Though I imagine the majority of you will be more interested in the first than the second. Because the first is...
OPTION 1) READ FOR FREE!!
Yes, that's right, I've decided to put this issue up online to be viewed, in it's entirety, for free. Why? Well, because I would like a lot of people to read it, to be blunt. Although I practically sold my entire print one of issue 1 over the course of five or six months, that still only came to a small number of copies distributed (less than 50). Which means less than 50 people read the comic. I'd certainly like to have more of a readership than that but since it's difficult to persuade people to part with their cash for something they can't see in the flesh before they take a chance on, I thought this might be the way to go. That, and the fact that I will be in Japan for at least the next six months and the postage costs back to the UK would be ridiculous! So, with that in mind, you can, right this very minute, make your way HERE and enjoy the comic.
The only thing I would ask in return is that you throw a few comments our way upon reading. The beauty of that site is that you can comment on each page as you read, so if something comes to mind, if you like something or hate something, if you have suggestions for how we could improve things, you can very quickly make a note of it before going to the next page. I would love to know what you think of the stories/writing and I'm sure my collaborators would love to know how you find their art so please do take a few seconds to do this.
Note - only issue 2 is available to view. I didn't think it would be fair to those who purchased a copy of issue 1 to then make it available for free, so I haven't done so. However, there is sufficient recaps given in the strips themselves that this shouldn't hinder your enjoyment of the comic. If you haven't read issue 1 and what you see here intrigues you enough that you would like to, I still have a few copies left which I would be more than happy to sell to you - failing that, the issue is also available to view as a myebook for the ridiculously low price of 50p - click HERE to access it.
OPTION 2 - BUY A PRINT COPY
So, now that I've told you how you can read the comic for free, you're probably not going to be all that interested in paying for a print copy, are you. NEVERTHELESS, if you are the type of person (like me) who prefers his comics 'in the flesh' and likes to hold some really, physical paper in his hand whilst reading, let me see if I can entice you. Because for those who DO avail of a print copy of the comic there are a couple of extras.
Firstly, you will receive - absolutely free - a copy of "Speed Date", a 16 page full-colour A5 comic that collects together both parts of slaser-serial killer story "Speed Date", which originally appeared in Hallowscream's 2010 and 2011 issues. Art on part 1 is by Ghostpockets and on part 2 by Bhuna. The story comes wrapped in a pair of beautiful covers rendered by Bhuna - check out his awesome "after Bill Sienkiewicz" homage:
Secondly, you will also receive a set of four, full-colour, gloss laminated artcards featuring art by some of the comic's contributors. There's an unlettered version of Liam Byrne's groovy issue 1 cover art, an unlettered version of David Blankley's issue 2 cover and brand new images by Owen Watts and Louis Carter, featuring 'Mammoth-Jack' and 'Halo and the Gryphon' respectively. They look really, really good, if I do say so myself.
So there you have it. If you would like to support us by purchasing a copy, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - or drop me a line on facebook, or a pm on the 2000ad forum - and I'll fix you up with as cheap a price as I can possibly manage. It's your feedback and comments - and readership - I'm after more than your money, so as long as my postage costs are covered I'm pretty much happy. The only thing is, if you want to go this way, you will have to let me know before Sunday so I can get everything ready for postage before I depart for distant shores. (Some travelling money would be nice, hint hint. :)
That's it! I hope you all enjoy the comic, whichever way you choose to read it! And don't forget - let us know what you think!!!