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Friday, 26 November 2010

Phil Latter Talks To Terry Hooper

Terry Hooper has been writing, drawing, and self-publishing comic books in England for several decades, now. He has been extremely prolific, creating his own characters, and putting them out himself, a one-man show. Some of his self-published comics titles have run over 50 or 60 separate issues, with no end in site. Also, Mr. Hooper has published some very popular titles which have interviewed, and which continue to interview, British comic book artists and writers from older as well as newer, and quite well-known British comics titles. He also chronicles the obscure and forgotten past of Britain’s rich and diverse comic book publishing history over numerous decades, right back to the earliest of them. Lest we forget.

Terry has, for decades, worked very hard at ‘filling in the blanks’, documenting therich, lavish history of British comic books, in numerous interviews and articles in his various publications. Additionally, he has written some quite interesting American comic book publications. He’s very talented in quite a number of areas, as you will see as you read on, right here! Shall we get started?

Phil Latter: Terry, I’d like to start by asking, where were you born, where did you go to school, what was it like growing up, what were your interests at that time, (comics, TV, movies, etc), how old were you when you first discovered comics, and what made you notice them and get some?

Hooper: Phil, I was born in the Saint Michael’s Maternity Hospital, Bristol, on the 6th of June, 1957. My mother said I looked like an orange with a black tuft of hair! I grew up in the St Werburgh’s area of Bristol which had a park. I went to school at the St Werburghs Infant School then to Mina Road Junior school before moving and attending Greenway Secondary Modern Boys School, in Southmead,from 1968-1974.
I took Science, Biology, Mathematics, and I got A grades in Art, History, English Language, English Literature and Geography. While at the Greenway School, I created the school-sanctioned magazine Starkers: The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth, in 1972, and which was supposed to be distributed and sold at other schools but it was banned because of the title.  I wouldn’t compromise so “ta-ta”.
above: Earliest photo of me so around 1957 sat on my mother's knee and my gran holding on to my older brother, Peter.

Like most kids of my generation, I began reading comics at the age of 5 years. Comics that I enjoyed ranged from Bimbo, Beezer, Topper, Lion and so many others. When my family moved to Germany, my reading, naturally, had to change and I began reading comics from companies such as Carlsen, Disney and Germany’s biggest publisher of European comics, Bastei.

Obviously, reading comics led to my trying to draw them, and this in turn led to helping other pupils years later in after-school classes to learn to draw. Starkers, of course, came later.

above:Billy The Cat -one of Hooper’s favourite comic strips.

Latter: Like The Man In The Yellow Hat’s Curious George, I’d additionally like to know: what was the first comic book you recall getting or reading? I want to make you feel comfortable during the interview with endless questions, so that you’ll feel right at home at ‘The Spanish Inquisition.’ Which reminds me: can I call you ‘Monty’? We’ll make it a regular flying circus.

another Hooper favourite -Billy The Whizz!

When did your family move to Germany, and what part of Germany did your family move to? You are originally from Bristol, England -why did your family move to Germany? Was it for your parents’ work-related reasons? I believe that in the past you have described yourself as being part German? Was your mom or dad German to begin with? Also, when did you return to England as a family, and why?

Hooper: My mother met my father while he was doing his national service in Germany. There were a lot of us German-British kids at junior school in the 1960s! My mother’s family originally came from Jauer, German Poland before WW II – some of her uncles died fighting the Nazis, another was shot as a conscientious objector by the Nazis. And one of my relatives who joined the Army  vanished in North Africa!  You can’t win! When the Russians got closer, the civilians fled and there was a lot of strafing of civilians by British fighters; a one-year old cousin of my mother’s was killed and had to be left at the roadside. They then settled in Dalborn, which is a village near the garrison town of Detmold -back to where she met my father….and where I nearly died. Simple as that.

I have Welsh, English and German blood in these here veins!

Growing up in the 1960s in England, and playing in that park, which I mentioned earlier, in St. Werburgh’s, there were still plenty of bomb sites from where the German planes had bombed in World War Two, right where we played. We wandered about and knew Bristol’s alleys and back streets as well as rivers well before we reached the age of ten!

Metropol Cinema was the main place to go where we went to watch The movie The Ten Commandments, Robinson Crusoe Of Mars, in addition to television’s Batman and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series. For TV, well, we had those U.N.C.L.E. guys – The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and later The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. , starring Stephanie Powers; To Catch A Thief, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, The Saint, Dr Who, Adam Adamant and later Doom Watch, Rat Catchers, Tarot, Tomorrow People and so on.

Oh, the Boris Karloff horror TV series – there was one with a scarecrow that scared the bejabers out of me!

circa 1967/68 in Sevier Street. Terry,his brother Peter and Lassie the Dog!

Latter: Boris Karloff? I take it, then, you’re not referring to Walt Disney’s The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh, which starred The Prisoner’s Patrick McGoohan.

As for Robinson Crusoe On Mars: I haven’t seen it, but I have heard about it. Wasn’t that a Dick Van Dyke comedy?

Hooper: No. This was a modern horror tale. Robinson Crusoe on Mars did not star the great Dick Van Dyke, but rather, Batman’s Adam West….a big eared chimp as well as aquatic…sausages! Great fun!
Latter: What a title: ‘Robinson Crusoe On Mars.’ It sounds absolutely insane. Like you said, great fun! The title, ‘Robinson Crusoe On Mars‘, reminds me of another old movie I’d give my left arm to see: Santa Claus Versus The Martians. It sounds like it’d be a real hoot! Or Billy The Kid Versus Dracula. Billy The Kid versus Dracula, that one I saw as a kid, but I barely remember it. I understand there were two versions with different titles. I’ve never seen the other version.

By the way, I just checked on the internet. Dick Van Dyke was in a 1966 Disney movie called Lt. Robinson Crusoe USN. That was the one I was thinking about…

Yes,it did exist! Adam West,pointy eared chimp and aquatic sausages!

Hooper: Of course, as I got older, I watched late night Saturday horror double-bills.

I was an insomniac and a manic depressive by age eleven. I lived with my grandparents and my grand dad, Bill, who used to buy me British comics such as Robin, Bimbo, Play Time and later a mixture of Fleetway and D.C. Thomson titles. Of course, playing with modeling clay (Plastacine) and soldiers was an additional past-time.

Johnny Seven O.M.A. - History's Best Toys: All-TIME 100 Greatest ...
oh if only I still had my Johnny Seven OMA (One Man Army)!!!

Latter: for me, aside from lots of comic books, it was the Marx’ toy company’s Johnny West and General George Armstrong Custer dolls (real men knew who they were back then and didn’t feel the need to over-compensate by calling them ‘action figures’.) Smile. I also had the fuzzy-bearded later 1970′s versions of G.I.Joe (the mod versions as I called them) and the like. Speaking of which, what was with that useless left hand on all of those vintage G.I. Joe dolls, where this so-called crack soldier couldn’t even hold a gun, with the fingers of his hand turned (molded) in? I never did figure out which brand of turpentine the Hasbro Toy Company people were drinking when they came up with that brilliant idea! EG: “I’m a soldier. I can’t hold a rifle (that takes two hands), but I’m gonna butt you to death with my head. That’s what the helmet is for.”

Hooper: There was a short-lived British made Action Man called Tommy Gunn -I got him and the first black version. The colour thing never bothered me because of where I grew up.


Latter: I grew up with black people, too. People were, and are, people, of course.

You just reminded me of something, Terry. I was out with a black girlfriend of mine about eight years ago in a pub, locally. We were talking about the accomplishments of blacks in history. She broached the topic with me. A Caucasian white 17 or 18 year old girl with lots of earrings through her face leaned over, butting into our conversation, and said, “You know, saying ‘blacks’ these days is blatantly racist. You should say ‘African Canadians’ instead. I know you mean well, but….”

Latter: So then my black lady friend Shalese, who I was with at the time, said, “Oh really?” to this blonde young girl. “How long have you been black?” Shalese then went on a tirade about whites who seek their best to butt into others’ conversations with their political correctness “fascist nonsense.” You know. Trying to ‘police’ the way people talk and express themselves. So much for a free society and freedom of speech and expression. Which struck me as extremely funny to me at the time. The narrow-mindedness of it all. Eighteen year old girls (and guys) who are brainwashed at an early age by this stuff, thinking they are open-minded and progressive by telling other people who are older and thus wiser, people who are in their thirties and forties… to talk ‘properly’ in ‘polite society.’ This is how we are raising our children these days. Eighteen year olds who probably still live at home, they haven’t really ‘lived’ yet, but they nonetheless think they have the answers to everything, and that they are more worldly and intelligent and open-minded than the rest of us who are more than twice their age, with more than twice their life’s experiences. My former Chinese roommate Dave Wong, who is also a comics collector, was a lot like Shalese, too. Speaking out against PC restrictions put on the way people express themselves. Dave Wong kept me laughing. He’s a hilarious guy. I think his ideas rubbed off on Chalese somewhat, as we would all hang out when she came over. Despite the fact that he is somewhat of an introvert. I was actually content, what I describe above. They both like to make speeches, and I must say, I’m with them in their points of view. You can call me a Liberal. Freedom of speech is a pet peeve of mine.

Terry, where did you go to school, what kind of work did you do, how did you get started drawing, and what did you draw? And, how old were you then?

Hooper: Initially, Mina Road Junior school, that was up to 11 years of age. I then had to move with my parents to another part of Bristol and ended up in the Greenway Secondary Modern Boy School until age 15. I drew all the time as a kid but my parents threw most of those illustrations out.

Latter: Gee, that’s encouraging….It didn’t stop you, though. You kept going and going and going. The Everready battery company is going to sue. Help! Here comes that big pink bunny rabbit with those drums. Run for your life!

Hooper: On leaving education in 1974, I went to work for H. Tanner & Son, a small printing firm based in Southmead. When I moved to Manston, Kent, in 1977, I began working as a paste-up assistant to Philips Printers. This involved designing and then laying out and pasting up newsletters, commercial flyers, and so on. From 1980-1984, I worked for Bennings Printers and Stationers, Keynsham, where I put together publications as well as advertising material until the company ceased trading in 1984.

Latter: You mean they went out of business?

Hooper: Yes. During 1977, I also began writing articles on astronomy, meteorological phenomenon, space exploration and other general subjects — something I have continued up until this date in the UK and Europe as well as in the United States. In the UK, the main market has been the County Magazine trade.

Latter: This is very interesting. As I said, you’re full of surprises. Not that it matters, of course, but, was this paying work?

Hooper: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I read and investigated everything; my German family called me “The Professor” because of this.

Latter: I know you’ve been drawing consistently, from a very early age. What types of paper materials did you use early on, to draw on, and with what sort of pens?

circa 1965[?] Sevier street again and ice cream eating Terry and his gran,Rose. that's "Ma" who supplied me with the books to draw in!

Hooper: My grandmother, Rose, got blank paged receipt books, etc, from work and I drew strips which combined British and American comic heroes together. Making the heroes out of modeling clay was fun, too!

Latter: Heh, heh. That’s interesting. I did stuff like that as a kid, also. I didn’t make action figures out of plasticine, but I did take those 1980′s Super Powers DC Comics action figures, having bought lots of duplicates, and I then made some duplicates of ones I already owned, into lots of OTHER characters, including all of the Silver Age Charlton comics’ Charlton super heroes, the JSA, and so on. I still have them all. Unfortunately, I ‘outgrew’ that hobby of transforming them into other characters, eventually. I was quite good at it. I’m delighted to know you didn’t stop modeling your own versions of characters with your hands. What were some of these team ups you drew as a kid which you described above, in particular? Meaning, what characters were in them?

Hooper: Captain America, Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, Thor, Goliath (Marvel), Iron Man, Hulk, and British characters Billy the Cat, Captain Hurricane, Billy The Whizz, and so on. Fun for me! The (Marvel comics) original Captain Marvel in the mid to late 1960′s was another favourite, in his old white and green cossie.

Latter: I remember that, as a young teenager, I drew a handmade comic book, wherein, I had the Marvel Kree Captain Marvel, in his red and blue outfit, meet the Silver Age 1960’s M.F. Enterprises’ alien robot Captain Marvel, who he found in a cave in suspended animation (like Captain America), only in the desert, sort of like the Silver Age Hulk’s old cave hideout. The Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel then revived this alien robot. Of course, the M.F. Enterprises’ Captain Marvel, once awake, assumed this Kree Johnny-Come-Lately was trying to cop his best gig, so there was this multi-page obligatory fight scene. Hey, how original is that? I tell you, an instant classic! I wish I still had it. I’d bust a gut laughing, now!

How old were you when you started drawing your early comics, and what year was this? What comics, characters and/-or artists were your inspirations? EG: British, American, foreign? Was it hard to get American comics? What were your favourite British comics?

Hooper: How old was I? Perhaps eight? Yeah….1965? It was perhaps hard to get American comics. I never knew they existed, then. We had British comics that reprinted, in black and white, Marvel strips in parts. Fantastic and Terrific were my favourite British comics titles. There was a truly unique look and feel to these comics….and the smell of newsprint of those British comics in the 1980s… I learned that most kids sniffed the ink print. It brings back great memories. Artists were mainly anonymous; not signed.


Latter: I know exactly what you mean about the musty smell of old comics, old paper. It’s true: particular odours from vintage periodicals can indeed bring back warm memories. It’s like, in your mind, it takes you back to an earlier time. Oh wait, I just said that. LOL.

above: I have Marvel's The Essential Sub-Mariner now but the story split up into weekly parts had me gripped!

Hooper: Between 1984-1994, I worked as a writer/artist/editor/agent in comics as well as comics journalism for MU Press, Blue Comet Press, Fantagraphic Books, Eros Comics, (both of which are American), Dorne, Fleetway, IPC and others in the United States, UK and Europe.

Above:circa 1987[?] Westminster Comic Mart. Brother Mike,to rear Darron Northall,the Kirk Douglas of comics John Erasmus,Terry and Tom Elmes.

During this period I also produced large numbers of single panel gag cartoons for agencies in Germany such as Boiselle-Lohmann and Baaske Agency — these going to magazines and publications around Europe.
And then, of course, Phil, from 1984-2004, I was also self-publishing comics as well as publications on a wide variety of subjects under my own (British) Black Tower Comics Group banner. Additionally, I have produced packages of work for India, Hong Kong and China. I’ve also been working as an industry advisor for smaller companies in countries such as India and Canada.

Latter: If you don’t mind, my being a Canadian myself, I’d like to enquire, in detail, more about this advising: what it entailed, and what companies were involved. Including, of course, the companies for which you advised in Canada.

Hooper: Basically, I’d be contacted by companies or people who wanted to publish comics or who were already doing so. I can’t tell you names of companies because that’s confidentiaI as part of the deal. Better recent examples are from India and China where, if they can get their act together, they will be the next big thing after Japanese manga. A couple of companies from each country (unbeknownst to one another and I was staying quiet because a lot of businesses are very secretive about new projects and if they know you don’t gossip or blab..more work!), asked me what the potential market was, how could titles be developed to fit that market, a whole bunch of questions and I drew up a document for each which I’m told they are happy with. Curiously, I’m still waiting for the mention of money!

In Canada, there was someone called John Brayton in 1987 who wanted to publish comics, but he never got any further than that. I think he got into music.

Most companies don’t like rumours that they are consulting foreigners about their business -it can be a big problem business-wise. I’ve been compiling a British Comics Industry Over-view since 1992 and at book fairs people talk to each other. Do you think maybe I should ask for a wad of cash up front?

Latter: Sounds like a plan. I’m your new agent, by the way. I get 60%. I’m in a generous mood today. Smile.

ILLO;Folks, here is one of many Lee Falk’s The Phantom pages that Terry Hooper drew some years ago, in an attempt to land a job drawing that feature professionally. If you ask me, he really has the knack for it!

Hooper: I am regarded to be a British comics historian, having met and interviewed many of the creators who worked for comics here in England, and I also traced the history of British publishers in my publications. As a talent spotter, I helped various creators break into the comic industry such as John Royle, Jon Haward, Duncan Fegredo, and Art Wetherell, to name some.

Lee Davis, as an introduction to an interview of myself in Imagineers magazine, noted that I was “…a near legendary figure in the British comics industry.” I was very flattered. However, I’d sooner have a lot of money…no, seriously!

Latter: Well, no one can put food on the table nor pay the rent based on ‘they love me.’

Hooper: That’s true. In the U.S. magazine Amazing Heroes, Hal Hargit described me as “….the hardest-working man in comics!” Gerd Hamer, in a German comics magazine, described me as “…the father of European super heroes…”

Latter: That’s high praise, Terry. When do you find time to sleep?”

Hooper: Sleep? I used to work twenty hours a day, 365 days a year, no Christmas, et cetera. I’d get artists or other comics people passing through Bristol who’d call in at one, two or three A.M. They all knew I was an insomniac. Of course, that later caught up with me after twenty years; pot after pot of coffee, not eating properly. Hey, I coulda been a drinker or smoker!

Latter: Instead, you’re a comic book addict, like me. Smile. We should both be in a comics ‘twelve steps program.’ “Hi, I’m Phil and this is Terry.” We’d hang our heads down low and continue, in shame: “…and we’re Comicaholics…”

Hooper: Apart from writing and drawing comics, I have, since 1986, been promoting European comics in the UK, both in my publications and on my various websites. My interests in this area include Russian, Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, German, Finnish, Belgian, Australian, New Zealand, and, naturally, British and American comic books.

Latter: Hey, you left out Canada. Although, I’m actually kidding. Because, folks, I know for a fact, having yakked with Terry Hooper for a couple of years, now, daily, by emails, that Terry is a big fan of Canadian comic books. He promotes them on not just one, but TWO different websites, which he created, some time ago, on the web, devoted to Canadian comics. He’s quite a fan of the Golden Age 1940′s ‘Canadian Whites’ comics, books, and Captain Canuck, to name just a few.

As it says elsewhere in the interview, folks, not only is Terry Hooper a writer, an artist, a publisher, a British comics historian, etc,etc,etc…..he is also a historian of history.

Illo -Awhile ago, Terry told me that the hood of the Silver Age ‘Nemesis’ superhero was based on hoods from the medieval age. I found that hard to believe. Well, he proved me wrong! Look at this scan!

Terry and I trade large parcels of British and Canadian (U.S. as well) — comic books by mail, regularly. Not only that, Terry has been working on a self-created tongue in cheek revival of the 1940′s Golden Age ‘Canadian Whites’ superheroes, intended as a comics mini series, which he wrote and drew himself. It is entitled ‘Canada Must Die!’

Hooper: “Tongue in cheek”? Did you think it was funny? I’ve just been reworking pages but there’s nothing meant to be “tongue-in-cheek” about it -they destroyed the JLA and Blue Beetle last time that phrase was used. Actually, look at what they did with that GLA title -or the New Defenders. Gods forbid I do that!

Latter: Sorry. What I was actually referring to was the title name itself, ‘Canada Must Die.’ I just meant, Terry Hooper is not out to destroy Canada. Uh….you’re not, are you?

ILLOS;Here’s some art scans, attached, folks, of Terry’s character studies for the 1940′s Canadian superheroes The Dreamer, and The Penguin, the second of which I should point out is NO relation to The Batman’s nemesis of the same name! Both of these characters were Canadian-created superheroes in the Golden Age of 1940’s World War Two era comics, also known as ‘The Canadian Whites’! Terry Hooper drew these as characters studies while doing his all-new ‘Canada Must Die’ comics mini-series, resurrecting these 1940’s Canadian superheroes, in brand-new comics stories!

ILLO;Terry Hooper has also created innumerable examples of his own created comics characters, just like many other comics fans have, including myself. The difference with Terry, though, is that he has published numerous comic books, self-published, over decades, with his own characters!
Here’s an illustration of just some of them.

Hooper: When I lived in Germany, I read comics from Bastei and the Disney stuff, but Bastei comics were drawn by French, Spanish, Italian and even Belgian artists. These were reprints in the German language.

Latter: I remember you mentioning that, awhile ago. You are part German, right? What can you tell me about that? And, do you speak fluent German? I know you moved to Germany at one point from England, but, were you born in England originally, or Germany? And if the former, how is it that you are part German?

Hooper: I’ve not been back to Germany in 24 years, my German is stale. Uh, I was born in Bristol.

Latter: Like the lyric from Elton John’s Made In England CD from the CD of the same name, “I was made in England, like a Ford Cortina…” Smile.

Hooper: I later learned that a lot of Italian and Spanish artists, as well as South American artists, worked on British strips -hence my odd mix of British/-European and U.S. art style.

Latter: Your style works just fine for me. As someone I have been chatting with for a couple of years now, on the internet, I am of course aware that, for decades now, you have been writing, drawing and self-publishing your own periodicals: comic books, interview type magazines or fanzines (including COMIC BITS, which I just love, very high quality stuff), and ongoing comic book titles including Adventure, and Black Tower Presents. Adventure, for example, has had many more than fifty issues written, illustrated, and self-published by you, for example. That’s pretty prolific, I would say, for a self-publisher!

I should also take a moment to inform our readers that your self-published comic books and other publications, of which you’ve kindly sent me many, come under the title heading of Black Tower Comics.

The black tower art logo of which, interestingly enough, Defiant Comics later used for their OWN line of comics, without your permission, after asking you for a copy of the design at a British comic book convention numerous years ago, for the stated reason that they ‘liked the design. Hey, can I have a copy of that?”

Meaning, they later stole/-plagiarized your design, which is something you’ve proven to me. You’ve told me this interesting story in the past. Would you be willing to share it with our readers?

I cannot remember when Defiant Comics was set up but it must have been around 1992 or 1993.

Latter: I have some of their comics, the earliest of which, first issues, including Dark Domain # 1, are dated inside as being from 1993.


Hooper: Certainly some British comic mags referred to the fact that Defiant had adopted a logo very much like my own Black Tower logo graphic-except they added a little namby-pamby window in it! By that time I’d already used the Black Tower as a letter head and as a publishing icon for…ten years or more! Long before Defiant Comics came into existence under Jim Shooter.

My Black Tower Comics with Black Tower cover logo graphic, depicting that black tower, dated from the 1970’s to the present! I know I met Jim Shooter at a UKCAC (UK Comic Art Convention) in London and gave him lots of my stuff, at his request, as well as story ideas. He stated that he was quite interested with my Black Tower design on the masthead covers of my self-published small press British comics, and he asked me for copies. At the time I was flattered to be asked, and I thought no more of it.

One night in…1994 or a little earlier, it was around 11:45pm, when the phone rang, and my brother called out to me that someone “legal” wanted a word. I took the phone and said: “Hello. Terry Hooper speaking.”
And this man, an American, on a crackly line spoke.

“Mr. Hooper, I am _______________ (I don’t remember his name), and I am from the Defiant Comics Legal Department in The United States. I am calling to tell you that you are infringing on our black tower logo and copyright and you must desist immediately or face the consequences”.

It was a thick New York accent. I asked what he was talking about? “That goddamn logo of yours. You are ripping us off, our reputation and possibly misleading comic buyers into thinking you are part of Defiant Comics.”

I said, “I’m sorry but I’ve been using that logo since the 1970’s, and I’ve been using it on my publications, self-created and self-published since 1983/ 84–”

Him: “Cut the bullshit! You continue, you’ll get your ass sued!”

This was a little bit of a shock and I reacted in kind by repeating what I’d said with a few expletives and stating that BEFORE Defiant was even an idea, I had handed Jim Shooter my own self-published British material, including that illustration Black Tower art/-logo at HIS request, since he sounded like a pro who also sounded like a fan, in front of several respected comic industry creators. And thus, if Defiant Comics wanted to sue me, well, “Go a-F******** head and sue me *********!”.

He said that I had not heard the last of this.

Well, I phoned Defiant’s phone number in the U.S.A. and I spoke to people there, who told me I should not use my own logo, which had been in published existence long before Defiant Comics was even an idea. Long before they used MY logo, having ripped ME off! I repeated the history and I told them to tell Mr. Shooter I await his pleasure in court!

Nothing more came of it. Because they KNEW they had plagiarized my logo. But this legal rep was from Defiant and he had tried to bully me over the phone. Now I have Scharf-Hooper-Case family blood – you DO NOT threaten us and expect a meek response. In fact, he seemed taken aback at my language!! That was it. A few mags PRINTED this story because at that time I had a phone call recorder and this cut in when the phone rang and so the whole conversation was recorded! The mag editors heard the whole thing. I would have expected the offer of money to stop using my OWN logo or whatever.

Latter: Defiant Comics’ War Dancer # 1 is an extremely disgusting comic book. In the final pages of this premiere issue, this weird character, War Dancers, kills this little girl’s dog by blasting the pet, with a force blast from his hand. The dog blows apart in every direction; you can see bits of teeth, separated jaw, bone, stomach contents and fecal matter.

The little girl, understandably upset, says, in tears, “You’re not a good guy at all!”

War Dancer replies, “I am the dancer”, then does the very same thing to her, and this scene is drawn in an even more disgusting manner, by Alan Weiss. Who wrote this gem of a comic book? Alan Weiss….and Jim Shooter.

Note: Dark Domain # 1 is dated inside as October 1993. Whereas, War Dancer # 1 is dated inside as February 1994. Numbers don’t lie.

Latter: Terry, you’re a gentleman and I know that you don’t like to think the worst of people. But think about it. You gave your designs to Jim Shooter at his request, who asked for them. Meaning you were flattered that he liked the design. Obviously, you did not mean that he nor anyone else could publish your design on their own comic books. And, this all happened at a British Comics convention in front of witnesses including industry pros. You had the whole thing on tape, when his crony (or him posing as his legal crony) phoned you in an attempt to scare you out of NOT using your OWN published company logo design, which Jim Shooter himself got a copy of from you, previously, in person.

Jim Shooter OWNED Defiant Comics. In the first issue of Defiant Comics’ Dark Domain, a comic book which bears the Black Tower ripped-off-from-you cover corner design, Jim Shooter, ironically wrote an inside editorial that an unrelated court case was over, the subject of which was that Marvel had sued Defiant Comics on another matter. The edititorial about this IN Defiant’s b>Dark Domain # 1 comic book covered the fact that the Marvel versus Defiant court case was over, but that a ruling decision had not yet been made.

Hooper: Yes, I’ve seen the Defiant LOGO but none of the comics. Remember, I live in the United Kingdom, not in North America. I think that they were perhaps counting on the fact that, likely I would never, ever see a Defiant Comic book, nor even hear about it. You’d think they would have at least offered me some money, having stolen my already-published-several-times design. I guess they just thought I was small potatoes, no threat to them. What could I do? It was because this suddenly appeared {Defiant} and the logo similarities that people thought I was involved there. Today, I’d sue them for every penny and have them withdraw the logo but back then I was kinda…..nice.

Worry about someone suing me?


Latter: Right. You can’t sue someone who has no money. And you would have won in court. They knew you could legally prove that they stole/-plagiarized your design.

Latter: I spoke to Shooter in…1991? I think they started publishing around 1992-93?

In 1991 or so, I showed him all the art samples from the people I represented including my Previews comic and Black Tower stuff -all with the Black Tower logo on cover and edit page. He took Previews there and then (a 60+ pages comic.) Of course, I think I was being nice to him but you are quite right that he was THE big boss there at Defiant Comics.

I guess Shooter must have thought it was pretty cool. I have no idea who the phone man was; it was long ago and who knows where he might be now?

Latter: When did Defiant start? I say, 1993 or not much earlier. You had them beat, time wise, by several years. And, we’re going to prove it.

Hooper: It’s time the truth came out. But after all these years who cares? Not me.

Latter: Also, about Jim Shooter: you said that Jim Shooter himself asked you for those printed Black Tower graphics logos at the British Comics Con all those years ago. WHICH year would this have been?  The point is, if it was Jim Shooter who asked you for it and you gave him a copy (not knowing he’d rip you off), does it not then sound reasonable that it was HE who gave it to Defiant, telling them to copy it? Jim Shooter owned and ran the company, and he got the design in his hand, from you, in person.

Hooper:Well,I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes.  Someone may have just seen the logo and thought it might work.  For all I know Shooter was being polite when he asked for samples and may just have put them in a box when he got back to the US.  Although I never liked the Defiant attitude and threats I have absolutely no proof that Shooter was behind anything.  He’s always portrayed as a villain so people jump to conclusions.  If I had proof I’d have written to him.

Latter:When you started self-publishing, decades ago, what titles did you publish, how large or small were your print runs, fanzines, magazines, and other titles, and where did you advertise them for sale? EG: publications, etc. In other words, how did you get the word out that you were in business and looking for readers and/-or subscribers?

Where in the world did you ship them to? How many people on average would be reading each issue?

Hooper: Well, the Hooper Coat of Arms has a black tower on one version and I had this flat, mini chess piece like that also, and it looked cool. So, from the 1970′s on, I used this on paper, etc.
In 1983, I put together lots of strips and published Black Tower Adventure and Black Tower Presents in 1984.

Latter: I have some of each which you’ve sent me over the past couple of years. I enjoyed reading them. I have some of the earliest issues, including Black Tower Presents # 2, which has that Black Tower logo. Preceding Defiant Comics, with that incredibly very similar logo, by several years. How many issues did each of those two Hooper Black Tower Comics Group titles run? What was their frequency? Are they still going?

Hooper: My comics interview magazine Comic Bits is due to re-appear in May,2006 in a new format. There is also its internet counter-part at

The comics? Well, there will be much more coming out in 2006 with a new look.

I advertised through the first small press news, reviews, interviews and PREVIEWS mag in the UK which I set up with Paul Brown and Jerry Holliday, titled ZINE ZONE. We had a ZZ mail order and comic mart stall and we really pushed the UK small press into the shops and so on. My PREVIEWS mag in the UK bears no relation what-so-ever to the American PREVIEWS monthly comics order catalogue.

Having done a survey, we know ZZ was read by about 200 people -some copies were read by 3 to 5 people and passed around. By 1990, I was running the whole thing, writing, editing, paste-ups and printing. I also worked for MU Press, in Seattle as a British reporter and distributor/agent.

Latter: That’s interesting. I didn’t know. What can you tell me about MU Press? What does MU stand for? You didn’t live in Seattle, right? You mailed your stuff to them? What kind of articles did you write for them and what type of a publication was this? Was it a newspaper, or?

Hooper: MU Press I think was Miscellanie Unlimited Press? They produced Donna Barr’s Desert Peach comics and compilation books, a series called Rhaj, oh dear lords I’ll have to send you references. I interviewed Edd Vick the publisher, for Zine Zone International; he publishes under AEON now -check out Previews. I wrote a column for their newspaper Comix FX under “Tel’s From The Crypt” and I acted as a promoter/ UK agent for MU and other independent publishers in the 1986-94 period….though none of them paid me as they were supposed to. Know why I dumped the job?? Bill Black’s AC Comics was a joy to promote. I love their stuff!

I was promoting AC, Chrome Tiger, Mu and others and I was in touch with Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory as well as creators in Europe and Canada.

Zine Zone was going out to Hong Kong, China, Russia, the then Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Germany, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Bahrain and the US so the title changed to ZINE ZONE INTERNATIONAL.

Latter: You were working for Zine Zone, not publishing it yourself, I take it? Is ZZ still going? When did ZZ start?

Hooper: I put together -typed, photocopied and pasted up artwork, photocopied and published Zine Zone International.

Latter: How many different titles did you publish, how many issues of each, etc? Can you name some more of the titles?

Hooper: I believe Adventure is at # 60. I published a new talent comic, Previews in the 1980’s, and creators like Art Wetherell, Matt D’Israeli Brooker, Duncan Fegredo, John Royle and even Jon Haward appeared in that and went on to pro work.

Jenette Kahn at DC liked this comic I put out. DC Comics hired a lot of creators from Previews. Tom DeFalco praised it and some editors told me they kept the copies in their desk drawers.

Latter: Interesting. How many issue numbers did Previews run?

Hooper: Previews ran four issues. And it was actually called by two comic mags, “One of the most successful – if not THE most successful United Kingdom New Talent comics. series.”

Outside of comics, I have worked with companies such as Yorkshire Television and HTV to create ideas and programmes for TV, such as the Channel 4 “Carry On” film weekend in 1999. I have also been featured in documentaries; TV/ Radio news programmes in my capacity as a veteran naturalist and police consultant. I’ve consulted with them on wildlife.

I am also a historian specialing in Pre-Roman and Roman Britain, Celts and rediscovered ‘lost’ history.
There is a whole idea in people’s minds that Colombus discovered America and that the only people before him were the Vikings. In fact, late Romans ended up in Arizona. This has been proven scientifically. Celts and even the Irish were going to America before Colombus, and traders from Bristol made their fortunes on that same route long before Colombus got there.

Ask yourself, why would a painting of a Roman feast contain an image of a pineapple, which is a New World fruit? There are tons of this information that academics laughed at but now, they have to take seriously. “Forgotten History”.

Latter: Interesting. About the documentarires, do you mean you have been featured IN those domentaries? Or that you yourself filmed those documentaries, wrote or consulted on them?

Hooper: I’ve been filmed for two or three BBC TV programmes and one independent film mainly as an expert on large cats and exotic animals in the UK countryside.

For others, I put together ideas usually with a company (when there was more than one!) -believe me, the idea of copyright and one TV executive I worked with told me: “They rejected the project. In a year, they’ll have made it and if we say anything, they’ll say they simply came up with the idea”….and he was right! I’m putting together research for some now but can’t talk about that or someone will steal the idea!!”

Latter: Hmm. What is that saying, something like humans will sink down to the lowest common denominator, stealing from others, and taking the credit for themselves. Hey—Defiant Comics!

Terry, what did the police consult you on? Or, what were you a Police Consultant on?

Hooper: Police have sightings, photographs, plaster casts of tracks, livestock deaths where its suspected a large cat, like a puma or panther –(panther being a black leopard), and they get in touch with me. I’m a Police Consultant but no fast cars, loose women or mystery murders in mansions! On both wildlife and history I have published numerous papers between 1979-2004.

Latter: Terry, you never cease to surprise me. Wow. How did that make you feel, that you gave these guys their start (comics pros.) ? And, what topics did you write some of these papers on?

Hooper: I was quite happy. A lot of these people are now “big shots” but there are one or two who publicly acknowledge me as “the man who gave me my break in comics” such as Jon Haward who draws Marvel UK stuff like Spider-Man and underground star Mark Stafford. I thought I sent you Mark’s comic the same time as Deadman & Hyde, etc. I have a mail from you on this…?

Latter: Yes, you did send me the British comic book Deadman & Hyde # 1 and # 2. They were quite good!

Hooper: Some of the titles I have published over the years are : Hanley’s Garage, Windows, Adventure, BT Presents, Previews, Turkish Locomotive, Dervish Ropey and the Maximin Sword, Walter Wicks, various one-offs, more recently Classic British Westerns, Classic British Action, Classic British Funnies, Chung Ling Soo and the Jade Dragon King, Liz & Jen….oh boy,that’s all I can think of!

Maximin was drawn by the wonderful John Erasmus.

Latter: I liked in particular Liz & Jen, a comics story you did about two lesbians. I am not kidding nor trying to pun, when I tell you it was a touching story. Well-done and with an important message. I wish more people could see it. It’s quite good. When did that one come out?

Hooper: Liz & Jen….I wrote and drew it and about a year later someone said “have you seen that new comic -Love And Rockets? Since you did this, Terry, you’ll love that”…when did Love And Rockets come out….1985? I actually got a great deal of mail at one time over that strip – including from women who read it and decided there was no shame in “Coming Out”. One woman and her girlfriend told me they cried over it. Was it that bad?!

Latter: No Terry. The problem with it was, it was that good. Smile. There was another, later American lesbian comic book short-lived series, also called Liz & Beth. This one was a porn comics title. I have # 1. Hey, how that version got into my home, I uh, have no idea….I think it came after yours. The titles Hanley’s Garage and Turkish Locomotive kind of grab me. What were those about?

Hooper: John Erasmus drew a load of strips and we published them under his own created comic title -Turkish Locomotive. Just seemed cool at the time! Hanley’s Garage only saw one issue as the creator couldn’t be bothered after writing/ drawing the first part.

Today there are quite a few American artists that I think are great. Gene Colan, Alex Toth, John Byrne (he really brought me back to a point where I got enthusiastic about comics again),Tong Wong, and lots of European creators. And, I have to add to the list and give a special mention to Los Bros Hernandez. I fell in love with Jaime’s work and I still think he is one of the most under-rated artists in comics! I’d give my right arm to work with him, or all three brothers, for that matter!


Latter: good choices. I grew up with reading Gene Colan and Alex Toth comics artwork in the Silver Age, although it wasn’t of course called The Silver Age,back then.

You know you’re not a spring chicken anymore, when you (me)reminisce, and it then suddenly dawns on you that you grew up in an era that now has a TITLE. You know: “The Silver Age”. Like The Mezazoic Age, The Precambrian Age. This is where I, finally, come to the irrescapable conclusion that I’m a dinosaur, any way you slice it! Smile.

John Byrne, of course, came later, from Canada. I still have a lot of his early stuff, including CPL (Contemporary Pictorial Literature), a 1970′s Charlton Comics fanzine done by many of Charlton’s later talent, Byrne’s Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch, Space: 1999, Rog: 2000 backups in E-man, and of course, Doomsday + One. Pre-Marvel stuff, for him. John Byrne was then, and is still, incredibly prolific.

Terry Hooper also wrote (not drew) the adult content Two Hot Girls On A Hot Summer Night mini series, for the U.S. company Eros Company, which has been reprinted frequently, all over the world.

How that came about: Years ago, Terry contacted them to see if they could use his comics talents. Well, they could, but they only published smut comics, so Terry, never one to resist a challenge, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and got to it! I’ve read some of them, including # 1, and they’re actually quite funny! And yes, well-done.

Terry, this is as good a time to mention, that you also have numerous websites of your own devoted to comic books of many countries, including England, Canada, India and New Zealand and Australia. You work hard to spread the word and educate people concerning comic books written, illustrated and published by numerous comics the world over! I don’t want to make you blush, but I’m been a rabid comics reader, collector and enthusiast for over three decades, and I nonetheless don’t know a single other soul who does this, in terms of websites devoted to comic books from foreign countries, to the extent that you do. In my opinion, you are quite unique in this regard!

And then of course, you have your very own Black Tower Comics website, for your own self-published, written and drawn small press comics. How about sharing with our readers the many URL website links for all of these links?

Hooper: Sure. Happy to. I don’t scan and post whole comic books to my sites, by the way, just covers, for info purposes. As well as some graphics, and a lot of text information. Background and historical information on them. I get a lot of compliments on my comics sites!

Here is a  list of some of them, their internet locations. To readers of this interview, simply click on them one at a time:

I should point out here, that I had the very first Alan Class website, which is provable from the dates of the earliest posts to that group. Now, there are more Alan Class sites from others.

Latter: You mean, there are more? GASP. Smile. That’s amazing. You’ve certainly got lots of drive and ambition, also known as ‘get up and go!’

Thank you so much for talking to us today, Terry. I know you don’t like interviews but it’s been a real pleasure, and exquisitely interesting, my friend!

And my online store is at:

Was The Iron Warrior A Villain???

It occurs to me that,today,a lot of comickers who have no real knowledge of UK Golden Age characters will make things up or make bad guesses based on what they might have seen.

This can be said to be true when it comes to the Iron Warrior.

I can onloy find one source with any information on the character up to 1990 and that is the late Denis Gifford’s Encyclopedia of Comic Characters [Longman,London,1987].  In the entry for The Iron Warrior,Gifford writes:

..the most violent and bloodiest strip ever seen in British comics to this time,and for several decades to come.  Rodney Dearth,seeking the Jewels of Junius,arrives at the site of the Temple of Sloth in Central Africa,accompanied by his robot,the Iron Warrior. Captured by a White Princess,he summons the Warrior (‘wavelength 60,impulse 400′).  Crying ‘I come Master!’ and also ‘Ahrrr!  Whoo-roo!  Roar!’,the Warrior’s built-in chopper slices up the Sloths,cuts up a giant crocodile,and pulls the head off an outsize eagle.”

And from this we get entries in the Internationalheroes site:

“A robot controlled by Rodney Dearth, who used it to hunt treasure with him in Africa.
The Warrior isn’t really a hero, as it kills anyone who threatens its master, whose own goals are far from altruistic.”

Hmm.  But then we get,at the League for Extraordinary Gentlemen fan site:

“The Surrogate League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

When the government decided to form the Worral’s League they based it very closely on Mina’s first League, “When in 1946 it was apparent that Miss Murray and her colleagues had deserted our employ by going missing in America, MI5 elected to replace the group with surrogates in an attempt to recreate the impact of the 1898 ensemble…
  • The Invisible Man (Peter Brady) = The Invisible Man (Hawley Griffin)
  • Prof James Gray = Nemo (both submarine builders, Nemo even inspired Gray in League V2)
  • Worrals = Mina (female leads experienced in death)
  • Wolf of Kabul = Quatermain (both in the great white hunter tradition, they even both wear pith helmets)
  • The Iron Warrior = Hyde (both really killers pressed into service).
The Iron Warrior is a robot built by Rodney Dearth, Dearth was not a hero and had a more villainous overtone. He would command the Warrior to do various illegal things, including kill people, but mainly Dearth used him to hunt for treasure in Africa.”


Oh. I do beg your pardon.  Had a bit of an “Iron Warrior” moment there.  Seriously,I hate this whole “we know nothing about the character but it seems it was a killer controlled by a killer so let’s write that” crap.

“…Dearth was not a hero and had a more villainous overtone. He would command the Warrior to do various illegal things, including kill people.”

Dearth was not a villain or scheming killer.  Anyone read any old boys adventure books or H. Ryder Haggard?  By applying what the League page and Internationalheroes entry has written then we have to re-classify Alan Quartermaine as a cold blooded villain.  In fact,up until more politically correct times,most heroes would need to be re-classed according to this methodology.  Biggles takes on arch villain proportions.  Even Indiana Jones would be classed as out-doing the Nazis considering how many deaths he’s caused directly or indirectly.  Think on that.

Let’s get a little bit of perspective here.  Sit down kiddies because if you’ve not watched any films made between 1920 to…well…now,and if you’ve not read any history on the British Empire or American Imperialism ["Hey,Japan:we've gun ships and troops harbored offshore now do business with us 'voluntarily' or we'll make you!"] -in fact any empire or power!- you may be shocked.

Most sea-faring nations such as Spain,Italy,England,France etc.,sent out exploratory ships/fleets to seek out new lands and new treasures and subdue the local population by any means including genocide [keep some alive for slaves,of course]. The Ashante were great at being slavers and made a lot of money out of it.  It’s a two-way thing you see -are black african slavers villains? Hey,slavery still exists today and amongst some of the West’s best pal nations.

But these Europeans were brave hero-explorers.  Anyone hear of a little group called the Conquistadores?  Dutch East India Company? The British East India Company -all had their private armies to,uh,”smooth things through”.

Ever read King Solomon’s Mines?

In comparison,Dearth was a limp-wristed liberal!  Hmm. If you were a British soldier at Rourke’s Drift with Zulu warriors rushing toward you would you throw down your rifle and wave -”Hello! I’m really against all this imperialism stuff -care for tea and a chat?”  Mind you,in Zulu Dawn,Denholm Elliott’s character more or less did just that -and was killed straight away!

Whichever city you lived in -London,Berlin,Paris- you would hear stories of strange lands,lost treasures and much more.  The urge to follow those tales continue to this very day.  If a chap was on his uppers and the old estate was falling to bits and,to be frank,the family coffers had been emptied long ago it was disgrace and destitution -but if you could find the “lost treasure” or anything worth a few quid you were saved!

I know that it is wrong to just go marching in,putting down the “locals” and stealing things that belong to them,whether they want to exploit it themselves or not –hey,I’m still for returning the Elgin Marbles and all those Egyptian artefacts we,uh,borrowed!

The context is that this was a totally different world.  Officers and troopers posing for photographs of themselves resting their feet on a heap of natives heads should have been totally unacceptable even in the 19th century but it happened -apparently “fun” hunts were organised with horse-riding officers carrying “pig-stickers” but I get a feeling the natives involved  weren’t having too much fun!

A white man would have his weapons because,even if a peaceful person,not all native persons were friendly in return [read some history].  I could write on the subject all day but it wouldn’t help.

The point is that we know,in the Iron Warrior strip,only that Dearth arrives in Africa with his creation.  If attacked he defended himself.  In volume 3 of the Black Tower Gold Collection,I published such a strip.  Dearth is exploring an area when a local priest stirs things up -Dearth is attacked and,though he could easily do so,he does not set about killing everyone.  In fact,he does fend off an attack by rushing straight at the warriors but then tries to use cunning to defeat the witch doctor.

Once the threat is sorted,Dearth goes on his way.  The one thing we see is that the Iron Warrior is far from some type of remote-controlled killer doing its master’s bidding.  It’s what would today be called a controlled vehicle or “power suit”.

Dearth get’s inside the Iron Warrior and operates controls and fires his weapons from here.  He also operates the axe-wielding arm.  Guessing at Dearth’s height the Iron Warrior has to be around 3-4 metres tall [10-12 feet]. But,it is still nothing more than a kind of hostile environment suit -almost similar to later [better designed] deep water suits.

What Denis Gifford wrote I have to take to be accurate -he did have a massive collection.  So,I’m guessing that there was  a remote control device and,it seems,a vocaliser of sorts.  This does not appear in the later strips I’ve seen.  That said,continuity was never a great strongpoint in comics back then.

Yes,the strip was violent but you have to recall that in early Tarzan films there were people being killed violently and arrows sticking out of heads. And,sadly,in war time Britain death was a daily event and kids [and adults] enjoyed a good “Darkest Africa” story with some white chap up against the natives.

So,do not think that,based on what people who have a narrow view of a character write,that Dearth and the Iron Warrior were just deadly killers.  They weren’t.

Now,back to Big Bong!

The Iron Warrior vs Big Bong:When Giants Fought,written & drawn by Ben R.Dilworth is available from:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

New Iron Warrior...versus Big Bong!

writer/artist:Ben Dilworth
black & white
Comic Album size [A4]
In the 1940s,deep in the South American jungles,Rodney Dearth,inventor and adventurer,is searching for the lost explorer Percy H. Fawcett and City Z. Then he hears the stories that terrify his native bearers. There is a city -guarded by Big Bong! But Dearth is not afraid -he has his own creation to protect him -THE IRON WARRIOR!
Ben Dilworth presents an action romp featuring one of the UKs most violent characters -tongue firmly in cheek. We think!
plus text back-up

Print: £4.00
Download: £3.90

Monday, 22 November 2010

Let The Deception Begin...

Back in the 1990s I got lots of art samples.  There was one set of three pages that stood out.  The Theatre featured the on-stage murder of conjurer Chung Ling Soo…by Chung Ling Soo.

The artist was Gavin Ross and he had an interest in stage magic and an art style that was very distinctive -almost art nouveau.

The thing is that I had an interest in a Victorian conjurer known as…Chung Ling Soo!

Was this the perfect opportunity or what?  I broached the subject of a joint project featuring CLS but in a murder mystery.  Something you might read in the 1920s or 1930s.  Gavin said “yes”.  Once the project was finished,The Curse Of The Jade Dragon,or was it The Curse Of The Jade Dragon King[?],it came to the part where it needed to be pitched. I tried for a year-and-a-half with no luck and then I lost complete touch with Gavin!

Around 2005 I published the strip in A5 format. It sold but not enough to make anyone real money!!

A few months back I caught up with Gavin who had been held prisoner by a mysterious Chinese Tong for 8 years.  I got better scans of the old photocopied pages and my brother Mike redesigned the cover and –there you have it.  In glorious black and white.

29 pages which include some text back-up which reveals the truth about Chung Ling Soo.  Or tries to.  Were we deceived? Was he deceived?  Who knows!

That written,I announce here and now that Gavin and m’self are working on the graphic novel follow up:Chung Ling Soo -The Mystery Of The Thames Serpent.

What’s it about?  Nope,not saying just yet but let me say that this could very possibly be Chung’s very last case.

But beware..let the deception begin!!

black & white
Album format [A4]

Chung Ling Soo. World’s greatest conjurer and said to be an American stage magician in disguise. Or was he? In this story,Chung Ling Soo is called in by Scotland Yard to investigate a gruesome series of deaths -all amongst a party who discovered a Jade Dragon statuette in China. Is the statuette cursed -and can Chung stop any other deaths? Story by Terry Hooper-Scharf Art by Gavin Ross Let the Deception Begin!

Print: £5.00
Download: £5.00

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Incredible John Cooper -From Agent 21 to SAS Force!

I first became aware of the art of John Cooper when I was reading through copies of the comic Battle…quite a “few” years ago now!  And “Coops” art-style is very distinguishable:the men of action in his strips look as though they have been through the hell of warfare!
But John is a far more versatile artist than even I imagined before this interview!  So,let’s jump to the only interview with the man who has fans amongst some of the UKs top comic creators and has been called “the British Gil Kane”!

Terry:Okay,John,we’ll start with the traditional Hooper Interview question;where and when were you born?
John:Featherstone,Yorkshire:in 1942.
Terry:As a child did you have a keen interest in comics –did you draw your own?
John:I began drawing as early as I can remember.  And I read comics as soon as I could read;I used to copy out of them.
Terry:Was becoming a comic artist your ambition,then?
John:I worked in a studio in Leeds after leaving Wakefield Art College then I went freelance at the age of 21.  I then acquired an agent in London who introduced me to comic strips.

Terry:So how did you get started in comics and what was your first job/strip in the industry?

John:Well,on meeting my agent in London,’Billie M. Cooper’ [no relation],I drew her a sample page of my interpretation of  comic art.  She took it from there.  My first job was “Agent 21” for the TV 21 Annual 1968 [“Mission Impossible”].

Terry:Have you always worked solely for the British comics industry or have you produced work for overseas publishers?

John:I mostly worked for British comics but did a short spell for Marvel comics.

Terry:For those interested,and I know there are completists out there,the Marvel strips were “Blake’s 7”[1981];”Trakker”[1993];”Dr Who” [1994 and “Biker Mice From Mars”[1995].
There is one –no,I tell a lie— two classic John Cooper strips.  The first one has got to be “Johnny Red” in Battle and the other “One-Eyed Jack” from Valiant and Battle and later,[New] Eagle.
Now,”Johnny Red” got a lot of us drawing aircraft and Russian troops and their gear.  Before that kids had thought only the British and Americans had fought the Germans!

In “Johnny Red” we weren’t seeing Russians as would-be democracy-smashing “commies” [as per US comics] but as human beings caught up in war.  Which of the two strips was your favourite and were there any problems in drawing either?

above:Creator bio from BATTLE -with which Coop had some fun!

John:I loved drawing “Johnny Red”!  I could easily let myself go.  “One Eyed Jack” was written by John Wagner –brilliant writer!  I based Jack on Clint Eastwood,one of my favourite actors.  I didn’t have a problem drawing either one.

Terry:Oddly,along with other artists I’d meet up with such as John Erasmus and Tom Elmes,we all thought Jack was Clint!  It was all there on the page I guess –though I don’t recall Jack ever singing “I Talk To The Trees”!

Now then,back in an issue of 2000 AD [and I forget which issue] it was decided that in “Judge Dredd”,the character would temporarily lose his helmet and you used various ingenious ways to keep his face covered.  It was fun!  But that wasn’t your first “Judge Dredd” was it?

John:I actually drew the first “Judge Dredd” but it was not published until later on because it was thought too violent so I “tamed it down”.  I went on to draw about twenty Dredd stories.

Terry:Twenty?! It’s been so long since I looked at the early 2000 ADs that I’d forgotten [though brother Mike remembered that there were “quite a few Cooper Dredds”!].  I do know that a couple of the strips got very badly coloured and reproduced by Quality Comics in the late 1980s.

I do know a few artists have claimed to have drawn the first “Judge Dredd” so I checked and,according to Gil Page,former head honcho at Fleetway/IPC,John was indeed the first Dredd artist.

So,John,for any of those “John Cooper completists” out there:what strips have you worked on?

John:ah,”Thunderbirds”,”Joe 90”,”Captain Scarlet”,”Lady Penelope” and “Doctor at Sea”. “Wurzel Gummidge”,”Grange Hill”,”Dredger”,”The General Dies At Dawn”,”Goalmouth” for Roy Of The Rovers.  Various football strips for D.C. Thomson,”Striker” for the Sun newspaper and currently [2001] “Roy Of The—?“ for Private Eye magazine.

below:I’d read the Marvel GI Joe but being honest Battle Comics ACTION FORCE was grittier and FAR superior.  THE classic is “Operation Claymore”. A few selected pages below -all by Coop!
(c)respective copyright owner

Terry:Out of all the strips you have worked on which would be your favourite to work on and which the worst?

John:”Johnny Red” and “Judge Dredd” were the most enjoyable.  The worst was “Doctor At Sea” and “Dixy of Dollycabs”,the latter for Mirabelle.

Terry:Artists rarely used to have contact with writers in British comics [who tended to be kept quite anonymous],but did you ever meet Tom Tully who wrote “Johnny Red” [and many more great comic strip scripts]?  To what extent did you have contact with people within the industry?

John:I met Tom Tully quite a few times and John Wagner but in general I didn’t get to meet many writers –we were spread all over the country.

Terry:Same as in the U.S. –get script-draw strip-send strip in-get paid –end.  No real difference –except in pay!

What type of gear do you draw with,John?

John:I used to draw with a brush only but later used a Pilot Pen and brush.  My pencils were quite rough.

Terry:Is there a project you’ve always wanted to work on but never had the opportunity to do so –and if so,what is it?

John:I always wanted to paint the sea and,since the demise of the comic in the UK,devote more time to marine painting these days.

Terry:What was the last comic strip you drew?

John:”Roy Of The Cock-Ups” for Private Eye –still do.

Terry:I think it’s fair to say that since you started in the industry,things have changed greatly –especially in the UK.   Presumably these changes have been noticeable to you as an artist in the industry?

John:Comics have almost disappeared these days but I have always considered myself very lucky getting paid for doing something I love.

Terry:So,based on what you are saying,comics’ future doesn’t look too bright.  How do you see the British comic industry of the future,John?

How’s that?

Terry:Sadly,it sums things up:dead.  I just realised there is a question I should have asked you earlier:has anyone influenced you great –art-wise- in comics and why?

John:I always admired Frank Bellamy in comics.  The man was a genius.

Terry:John,if you had to sit back and think about it,what would be your worst,most embarrassing moments in your career?

John:Art college when I arrived late for my first nude life class.  They say my face was a picture when I saw my first female nude!

Terry:Alright,John,the final question.  Is there anything I’ve not touched upon that you would like to mention here –any words for the fans?

John:Yes.  I would like to thank all the fans who wrote to the comics I worked on and to myself.  It was very encouraging.  And thank you for your interest.

Terry:Many thanks,John –and to Gil Page who helped John and I link-up.
Note:as with Mike Western,in 2004 I did a follow-up interview with John which means I was able to expand a little upon the first interview. 

This appeared in Comic Bits no.4,August,2004,under the title “On Johnny Red And Fame!”

Terry:John,the strip “Johnny Red” began in Battle Action comic in 1977 [though I swear it began long before that!] and in Denis Gifford’s Encyclopaedia Of Comic Characters [1987] he lists artist as Joe Colquhoun.  Now,to many of us who hear the title “Johnny Red”,we immediately think of you.  So the first question has to be:when did you take over the strip?

John:Phew!  I can’t really remember but I was drawing it most of the time Joe was working on “Charlie’s War”.

Terry:Checking,”Charlie’s War” began in January,1979,so I’m guessing you took over “Johnny Red” in 1978.  There is an excellent web site dedicated to the series at:

John,I know you are a big fan of Joe’s work on “Charlie’s War” so was there any point when you took over “Johnny Red” at which you thought to yourself  “I’ll have to draw in Joe’s style”?
John:I must admit that I was inspired a bit by Joe’s work.  All his characters looked like they had really been through it!  But no,not try to copy his style.

Terry:That’s something I like about your work:the characters look like they have had a really hard time and you can believe they’ve been through the horrors of war!  With “One-Eyed Jack” your style made him look like a really hard-nosed cop.

Anyway,when was the subject of you being asked to draw “Johnny Red” raised?

John:I really can’t remember when I started drawing Johnny. I was offered the strip now and then and then it was offered to me permanently.

Terry:Was this the first time you’d worked with the legendary [for lots of reasons] scripter Tom Tully –what was he like to work with?

John:I don’t think Tom wrote all my “Johnny Red” scripts at first.  Later on he wrote them on a regular basis.  I had no problem with Tom’s scripts.  He was a bloody good writer!

Terry:I know and he produced some classic stories in his time.  I think the trouble is that there are a lot of failed and very jealous comic writers out there who have referred to him as a “hack” and a not very good writer –I think that says more about the critics!

Now,I’ve mentioned,briefly,in Comic Bits,that the one thing that always struck myself and other artists was the amount of detail in your “Johnny Red” strips.  Land,air and sea action in one part I remember very fondly!  I’ve always used a couple of 1960s Blandford books on uniforms –as well as my trusty Osprey books for reference on historical strips –you’ll no doubt tell me all yours was done off the top of your head?

John:Not really!  You should see my reference books.  Over the years I’ve built up a large collection.

Terry:I know a lot of comic artists say “I did it for the money!”,but you’ve told me that you’ve had a career where you are paid to do something you love doing.  So I have to ask you whether at any point in drawing “Johnny Red” you ever got up in the morning,went to the drawing board,sat down and said:”No more!”?

John:NEVER!  I really loved drawing “Johnny Red”.  At one point in the 1970s I was drawing 11 pages a week,including 4 to 5 “Johnny Reds”.   Some strips got a bit boring now and then,but never “Johnny Red”!

Terry:You do get fans coming to your home and going over your original pages to see how you achieve “the look”,don’t you?

John:I receive letters and emails now and then from fans who want to know what brushes or pens I use.  What kind of board I use.  If my work influences anyone then I’m very pleased.

Terry:I know people like comic writer Garth Ennis have purchased original pages from you and that you have a big following in Norway [where some of the JR action is based] –and you’ve been invited over there for a convention?

John:Yes,I’m really looking forward to that.  As for Garth Ennis –I was quite flattered when he wanted to buy some of my artwork.

Terry:You’ve said you wouldn’t mind doing more “Johnny Red” strips,though with the current state of British comics that,sadly,isn’t very likely.  A shame.  Another big shame is that Titan has never put out a “Johnny Red” collection as they did with “Charlie’s War”.  Maybe with the Dredd Megazine now reprinting Mike Western’s “Darkie’s Mob”,they’ll look at JR next..?

John:That would be great.  But I’ll dream on….

Terry:I know you’ve done other war strips such as “Gaunt” and work for D. C. Thomson.  Were you working on “One-Eyed Jack” at the same time as JR?

John:Yes,for a short time they both overlapped.  “One-Eyed Jack” was another favourite.  That one was written by John Wagner –another brilliant writer!

Terry:Apart from the work for Private Eye,you’ve done nothing in comics in the UK:have you ever thought of sending samples to American companies?

John:Sometimes I thought about it,but I preferred the British stuff.  As for sending samples to American companies,I just don’t think that I could be bothered!

Terry:I know what you mean.  Anyhow,I know they used other artists on JR who tried to copy your style [Carlos Pino for one] but it never worked.  Why did you leave the strip?

John:I didn’t leave the strip.  I was told one day by the Editor that the comic was finishing or closing or something.

Terry:I was told that it was because Spanish artists cost less money.  That said,while at the company offices I was told they’d taken you off JR so that you could draw the “Action Force” strips.  Brilliant they were too!  And might I add that at least you got to draw SAS Force finishing off Hitler in a South American jungle –Classic!!

Aside from comics,you are an accomplished Marine artist and your paintings sell very well.  So,my last question:considering this,would you ever consider going back into comics?

John:I love marine painting but I think I could still fit in a few pages a week,especially if they were of “Johnny Red”.  Anyway,thanks for your interest,Terry.

Terry:Oh no:THANK YOU!

And John did have a good time at the Norwegian comic convention where he met fans and talked about his work [perhaps Egmont ought to republish more of his JR work there and in the UK].

John was rather excited when I next spoke to him via telephone.  It seemed that,though they were not interested in publishing the old “Johnny Red” Coop strips,the editors at the Judge Dredd Megazine had found that the old school artists attracted more readers.

Issue nos.266 & 267 of the Judge Dredd Megazine featured a new 9pp [in each issue] strip titled “Armitage”.  It’s about a Mega City One reporter.  Written by a Dave Jones and drawn by the great JOHN COOPER!

Maybe not all is lost?

below and above:ARMITAGE (c) Rebellion

Its taken years to track down but what follows is Coop’s first strip -enjoy!
(c)2010 respective copyright holder [which in the UK means this is Public Domain]
Part of the John Cooper interview extracted [but with extra added colour art here!] from THE HOOPER INTERVIEWS