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Monday, 30 December 2013

Anime, Manga & Pop culture!


aniManga POP!

The South West kick starts the Convention season with a special one day celebration of
Anime, Manga & Pop culture!
 
Comic Expo teams up with Kawaii store Keep it Secret!  to merge the very best of popular culture for one amazing day suitable for the entire family.
 
Saturday 8th February
Holiday Inn Plymouth
 
Cosplay Competition, Traders, Artists, Small Press Spotlight, J Fashion Show 
and full programme of LIVE events feat.
Naomi Suzuki, Becki Cruel
and Hachimisu 2 
 
... plus Plymouth Kendo Ronin Kai Showcase! 
 
Full details and ticket information available at
 
 
 
 


Mike Allwood

Producerwww.fantasyevents.org


Monday, 23 December 2013

Black Tower Comics & Books -An Announcement

Over the last couple of weeks the "End of Mankind" teaser for the 2014 Green Skies book has received almost 3,000 hits. Other items on CBO get similar large hit numbers.

In November, 2013, there were some 139,325 page views for CBO. That comes out at around 34,831.25 page views per week.

So, you might think that this means it helps sell my Black Tower Comics and Books? Nope.  November saw 3 books sold.  My online store is here, by-the-way:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/hoopercomicsuk

David Gordon's (see the Chang3lings link to right) interview and look at his Chang3lings/My Excess business has received 1,699 views.  I haven't heard reports of a Scotsman running around screaming "I'm rich! I'm rich!"

Titan Book, Cinebook and Casterman reviews as well as the review of the Kick-Ass DVD have also received high numbers of hits.  How that has affected their sales I have no idea.

But this is publishing. People will snap up free pdf of books and ask question after stupid question about books....and NEVER buy a copy. And what do I, as a publisher, do about this?  Let me tell you.

There are over 70 collected books or individual  books in the online store covering science fiction, horror, fantasy, super heroes, haiku (!) and books on world mysteries and wildlife. As of 1st January, 2014, BTCG will not be publishing any more new books -we've a massive inventory allready.  What will happen is that occasionally, Black Tower Super Heroes will appear but most other things are on hold until June and "The Green Skies" -an epic in itself.

There are no "discount sales" or "special offer" reduction prices because, the way POD (print on Demand) works I am getting the barest minimum for a sale. The highest price book, once sold, will earn me around £3 or $6.  Not a lot when you consider all the hard work involved. I need to sell a heck of a lot of books to make anywhere near decent money.

In some cases, where I have worked with an artist on a book, I will be looking for a non-UK publisher interested in publishing that work under license so the artist can earn something!

So, Black Tower is NOT closing down -just taking a little snooze!


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Titan Books: Garth Ennis Presents - Battle Classics



Garth Ennis Presents - Battle Classics
Contributors: John Wagner , Cam Kennedy , Alan Hebden , Mike Western , John Cooper , Garth Ennis
B/w comic strip
Hardback: 256pp
Dimensions: 296 x 220mm
ISBN: 9781781167410
Publication date: 9 January 2014
RRP £19.99 BUY NOW


Comics writer Garth Ennis,  selects his favourite stories from the seminal 1970s British boys’ comic Battle. Included in this fantastic volume for the very first time is the complete HMS Nightshade, and the never-before-reprinted The General Dies At Dawn.


With insights and introductions by Ennis himself, this collection of war comic rarities is not to be missed!
I am far less interested in what Garth Ennis has to say, but a fan of British weekly war comics needed to offer some kind of introduction and Ennis is a fan.

What can I write? Titan Books has cornered the market in producing beautifully produced and packaged collections.  

I have written before how newspaper strips such as James Bond or Modesty Blaise could suffer in the printing process –the perils of newsprint.  The same equally applies to the weekly comics such as Battle. I have some of the strips in this collection in their original weekly format. Printing from the next page has seeped through, the “solid blacks” are far from solid and, of course, with age, the paper the comics are printed on has become even more delicate –and it wasn’t that good back in the day. Here the pages gush with lovely solid blacks –all balanced out well on the page as only true pros like Mike Western, John Cooper and Can Kennedy could.

If I have one complaint it is that no one has ever collected Mike’s The Leopard From Lime Street together in one book.  The other –really MAJOR- complaint is that we simply do not have enough collected work from one of the greats of British comics –John Cooper.  Coop needs far more of his work collected together. “The General Dies At Dawn” is a now almost forgotten classic –and I do mean classic- and here you have it printed in true quality.

This is true, gritty and hard war action comics at their best –and even US creators such as Wally Wood were inspired by British war comics.

To those wannabe comic artists I’d say study these strips. See how they were quality and all drawn by hand –no computer in sight. LEARN the skills of drawing the way a real man draws (spits out chewed tobacco and gets dirty look from cat).  Until you’ve the ink stains on your fingers and the taste of India ink on your biscuits or sandwiches you aint a real man (or woman –we don’t want to get into trouble here).  Waking up to the smell of drawing ink early in the morning. Better’n napalm.

A bit too late for Christmas maybe but this is one of a delayed gift to give a comicker. A great, hefty collection that is a must by!!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Titan Books: Mouse Guard The Black Axe vol.3




Mouse Guard - The Black Axe
David Petersen
Hardback:
192pp
Full colour
Dimensions: 209.5 x 209.5mm
ISBN: 9780857681430
Publication date: 13 December 2013

£14.99

This prequel, set in 1115, fulfills the promise the wise oldfur Celanawe made to tell Lieam of the day his paw first touched the Black Axe. The arrival of distant kin takes Celanawe on an adventure that will carry him across the sea to uncharted waters and lands all while unraveling the legend of Farrer, the blacksmith who forged the mythic axe.

This is the first Mouse Guard book I have seen and its volume 3 –collecting together the series from Archaia Comics.

It is beautifully illustrated and written and I almost thought “a family read” BUT it is very “Red in tooth and claw” –in other words you get to see animals killing and being killed –the perpetual cycle of life in the wild, if given a different slant in this book. Wind In The Willows meets Lords Of The rings is my sad attempt to describe it.

The art really is magnificent. Look at what I’ve been missing!



Battle Classics


Monday, 16 December 2013

Green Skies


KICK-ASS 2 FANS GET CREATIVE AT LIVE KICK-ASS COMIC CANV-ASS EVENT


KICK-ASS 2 FANS GET CREATIVE AT LIVE KICK-ASS COMIC CANV-ASS EVENT IN SHOREDITCH, LONDON
KICK-ASS 2 IS OUT ON BLU-RAY™ AND DVD WITH ULTRAVIOLET™ NOW
 
cid:image001.jpg@01CEFA49.8064F660 cid:9366762f-dac5-429f-a4e0-9256d19a0dc1cid:94fd8766-9492-4b79-a18a-1d298b7a4034 cid:93ca709a-90fd-441b-af3d-de06e0805d51
 
Last weekend, fans of the KICK-ASS franchise celebrated the release of KICK-ASS 2 on Blu-ray™ and DVD at the Kick-Ass Comic Canv-Ass, recreating writer and executive producer Mark Millar’s favourite scene from the superhero blockbuster.
Comic book buffs and aspiring artists proved they could give John Romita Jr. a run for his money at the Rockwell House Rooftop in Shoreditch, contributing to a giant comic strip that is currently being showcased at the venue and on the official Kick Ass Movie Facebook page.
The fans sketched out the dramatic battle between Hit Girl and Mother Russia under the watchful eye of one of the most foremost street artists in the UK, EndoftheLine Creative Director Jim Vision, and his team of talented artists including Rufus Dayglo, Dr Zadok and Ed Hicks.
People travelled from across the UK to take part in the event, with Louie Moselhi. a student from Aberdeen University, commenting, “I saw the event on Facebook and had to come down as I’m a massive fan of both Kick-Ass and Jim Vision. I’ve never spray painted before but the artists showed me the ropes and I’m really pleased with my finished scene.”
Speaking of the event, Mark Millar said “The event was a fantastic opportunity for fans of KICK-ASS 2 and anyone with a talent for cartooning or a passion for comic books to be involved in the creation of an exciting piece of art. The turnout was amazing and shows just how supportive KICK-ASS fans are. The reason I chose the scene with Hit-Girl versus Mother Russia in the final act is because it shows Hit-Girl, who's always been the bad-ass of the franchise, up against someone she's slightly scared of and I loved seeing her really showing us what she's capable of.”
Anyone that couldn’t make it to Rockwell House yesterday can still take part from home by tweeting pictures of their KICK-ASS 2 inspired sketches with the hashtag #KickAss2DVD or submitting them into a competition to win exclusive merchandise and copies of the DVD via the official Facebook page from tomorrow. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/kickassmovie
Kick-Ass and Hit Girl return for more action-packed encounters and fearless crusading in KICK-ASS 2. Having inspired a new wave of self-made masked crusaders, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson; KICK-ASS, Savages) joins forces with his fellow vigilantes in Justice Forever. Meanwhile, Hit Girl AKA Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz; KICK-ASS, Carrie) is struggling to navigate the terrifying world of High School. But when Red Mist, reborn as The Mother F%&*^r, (Christopher Mintz-Plasse; KICK-ASS, Super Bad) assembles an evil league in his quest to become the world’s first super villain, Mindy is forced to come out of retirement to prevent their total annihilation.
 
Don’t miss the next installment of explosive action in KICK-ASS 2, packed with dark humour, badass combat, and adrenaline-fuelled fight scenes, available to own on Blu-ray™ and DVD with UltraViolet™ and digital download now.
Order your copy now via Amazon.co.uk at: http://amzn.to/14GlmFV
 

For more information on Endoftheline or Rockwell House, please visit: www.endoftheline.co / www.facebook.com/endofthelineldn / www.rockwellhouse.co / www.facebook.com/rockwellhouse

 
PRODUCT INFORMATION:
  • Title:                      KICK-ASS 2
  • Release Date:    9 December 2013
  • Rating:                  15
  • Cast:                      Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carey,                                         Morris Chesnut, Claudia Lee, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew, Donald Faison,                                                              Matt Steinberg, Amy Anzel
  • Director:              Jeff Wadlow
  • Retailer SKUs:    DVD (RRP £19.99)
Blu-ray (RRP £24.99)
Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray (RRP £29.99)
KICK-ASS and KICK-ASS 2 DVD (RRP £22.99)
KICK-ASS and KICK-ASS 2 Blu-ray (RRP £29.99)
 
BONUS CONTENT:
Blu-ray Disc:
  • Alternate Opening  + Commentary
  • The Making of Kick-Ass 2
  • Extended Scenes + Commentary
  • Hit Girl Attacks: Creating the Van Sequence
  • Big Daddy Returns: The Unshot Scene
  • Feature Commentary with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz and Writer / Director Jeff Wadlow
 
For further information, review discs or film imagery please contact Fever PR:
Sophia Dryden                                                                  Felicity Pentland
020 7792 7458                                                                    020 7927 7426
sophia.dryden@feverpr.com                                      felicity.pentland@feverpr.com

Sunday, 15 December 2013

'Lawrence of Arabia' star Peter O'Toole dead at 81

Sad news...

Associated Press
FILE - In this March 23, 2003 file photo, Peter O'Toole appears backstage without his Oscar after receiving the Academy Award's Honorary Award during the 75th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died. He was 81. O'Toole's agent Steve Kenis says the actor died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at a hospital following a long illness. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
.
LONDON (AP) — Peter O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died, his agent said Sunday. He was 81.
O'Toole died Saturday after a long illness, Steve Kenis said in a brief statement.

The family was overwhelmed "by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. ... In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," O'Toole's daughter Kate said in the statement.

O'Toole got his first Oscar nomination for 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia," his last for "Venus" in 2006. With that he set the record for most nominations without ever winning, though he had accepted an honorary Oscar in 2003.

A reformed — but unrepentant — hell-raiser, O'Toole long suffered from ill health. Always thin, he had grown wraithlike in later years, his famously handsome face eroded by years of hard drinking.

But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.

"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it," he once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."

O'Toole began his acting career as one of the most exciting young talents on the British stage. His 1955 "Hamlet," at the Bristol Old Vic, was critically acclaimed.

International stardom came in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia." With only a few minor movie roles behind him, O'Toole was unknown to most moviegoers when they first saw him as T.E. Lawrence, the mythic British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks.

His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence's complex character garnered O'Toole his first Oscar nomination.
O'Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean's spectacularly photographed desert epic was unforgettable.

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O'Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie "Florence of Arabia."

In 1964's "Becket," O'Toole played King Henry II to Richard Burton's Thomas Becket, and won another Oscar nomination. Burton shared O'Toole's fondness for drinking, and their offset carousing made headlines.
O'Toole played Henry again in 1968 in "The Lion in Winter," opposite Katharine Hepburn, for his third Oscar nomination.

Four more nominations followed: in 1968 for "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," in 1971 for "The Ruling Class," in 1980 for "The Stunt Man," and in 1982 for "My Favorite Year." It was almost a quarter-century before he received his eighth and last, for "Venus."

Seamus Peter O'Toole was born Aug. 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie Patrick "Spats" O'Toole and his wife Constance. There is some question about whether Peter was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern England, where he grew up.
After a teenage foray into journalism at the Yorkshire Evening Post and national military service with the navy, young O'Toole auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship.

He went from there to the Bristol Old Vic and soon was on his way to stardom, helped along by an early success in 1959 at London's Royal Court Theatre in "The Long and The Short and The Tall."

The image of the renegade hell-raiser stayed with O'Toole for decades, although he gave up drinking in 1975 following serious health problems and major surgery.

He did not, however, give up smoking unfiltered Gauloises cigarettes in an ebony holder. That and his penchant for green socks, voluminous overcoats and trailing scarves lent him a rakish air and suited his fondness for drama in the old-fashioned "bravura" manner.

A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, O'Toole announced his retirement from a career that he said had fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing "me together with fine people, good companions with whom I've shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits."

"However, it's my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one's stay," he said. "So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell."

In retirement, O'Toole said he would focus on the third volume of his memoirs.

Good parts were sometimes few and far between, but "I take whatever good part comes along," O'Toole told The Independent on Sunday newspaper in 1990.

"And if there isn't a good part, then I do anything, just to pay the rent. Money is always a pressure. And waiting for the right part — you could wait forever. So I turn up and do the best I can."

The 1980 "Macbeth" in which he starred was a critical disaster of heroic proportions. But it played to sellout audiences, largely because the savaging by the critics brought out the curiosity seekers.

"The thought of it makes my nose bleed," he said years later.

In 1989, however, O'Toole had a big stage success with "Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell," a comedy about his old drinking buddy, the legendary layabout and ladies' man who wrote The Spectator magazine's weekly "Low Life" column when he was sober enough to do so.

The honorary Oscar came 20 years after his seventh nomination for "My Favorite Year." By then it seemed a safe bet that O'Toole's prospects for another nomination were slim. He was still working regularly, but in smaller roles unlikely to earn awards attention.

O'Toole graciously accepted the honorary award, quipping, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot," as he clutched his Oscar statuette.

He had nearly turned down the award, sending a letter asking that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hold off on the honorary Oscar until he turned 80.

Hoping another Oscar-worthy role would come his way, O'Toole wrote: "I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright."

The last chance came in, for "Venus," in which he played a lecherous old actor consigned to roles as feeble-minded royals or aged men on their death beds. By failing again to win, he broke the tie for futility which had been shared with his old drinking buddy, Richard Burton.

O'Toole divorced Welsh actress Sian Phillips in 1979 after 19 years of marriage. The couple had two daughters, Kate and Pat.

A brief relationship with American model Karen Somerville led to the birth of his son Lorcan in 1983, and a change of lifestyle for O'Toole.

After a long custody battle, a U.S. judge ruled Somerville should have her son during school vacations, and O'Toole would have custody during the school year.

"The pirate ship has berthed," he declared, happily taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood. He learned to coach schoolboy cricket and, when he was in a play, the curtain time was moved back to allow him part of the evenings at home with his son.
__
AP writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report.

Titan Books: Number Cruncher




Titan Books: Number cruncher
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: P. J. Holden
Colours: Geordie Bellaire
Hard cover
130 pages? Pages un-numbered, none given on PR and I am NOT counting them.
£14.99
available January, 2014

Originally from Titan Comics as a series (really?) collected here along with some sketches and text features.

1969, a brilliant young mathematician, Richard Thyme, discovers a way to cheat the terrifying Divine Calculator.

He schemes to be endlessly reincarnated into the life of the woman he loves, Jessica Reed -a spiritual, "fluffy-headed" young thing.  No matter how often the violent bailiffs of the Karmic Accountancy cut short each life -and in so dying, according to his contract with them,  Thyme is supposed to take their place-  the young schemer is ahead of them, however.

It falls to one such Karmic agent - the surly Bastard Zane - to put a stop to the time-twisting romance once and for all, before the Mathematician can pull-off his greatest trick and escape Existential Justice forever!

Hmm. Firstly, I note "Richard Thyme" -the name of one of my 30+ years old characters who is a brilliant mathematician and time traveller.  The Karmic agents also look a lot like my Reality Check Controllers who go back almost as far as Thyme.  Comic synchronicity I'm sure.

Black and white art with grey washes for the after life scenes and plain flat colouring for "our" world mixes better than you might think.  The art is okay and I enjoyed it, though in places it looks almost sketchy.

The story, well, that was enjoyable, too, if at one or two points I sat there and went back to re-read pages it was because something was not too clear -or trying to be too clever(?).  Take away the violence and there is a worthwhile story here but not the most original. And I need to qualify that by stating there are only a certain number of story scenarios in fiction -comics or prose- so very little (even Alan Moore work) is wholly original as some would have you believe. In the end it is how the writer has used the concept and developed it.

Use of the word "F---" and even that purile usage of the "C" word so beloved of contemporary British comic writers ruined the story.  It flowed well enough and I think that resorting to expletives just shows a lack of creative imagination. Look at Alex Cox's film  Repo Man -for various reasons he replaced constant usage of "mother ----" with "melon farmers" and it was hilarious and I've known people who have seen both versions and think the "melon farmer" version is brilliant while the original is not even 50% as good.  But writers make their own choices.

I think the twist ending was okay but I do think all the little incidents that turned out to be link at the end were, in some cases, a little contrived?

So is it worth buying a copy? Yes. I think it was quite enjoyable mind fluff for reading at 02:00 hrs on a windy, Wintery morning! Seriously, it was not as bad as I may make it seem. I'm cranky. No doubt someone will say "movie" and Vinnie Jones as Bastard Zane....ooh, he gets so type-cast!



Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Ultimate Game and The Return Of The Gods-Interview

Somehow this posting vanished from the blog after posting in May!  So...

******************************************************************************

The British Comics Industry…Cancelled.Frank Barrell talks to Terry Hooper-Scharf  about The Ultimate Game, The Cosmic Fulcrum and The Return Of The Gods!

I’ve interviewed Terry a couple times before –the last time about his resurrection of an old UK Golden Age character in The Bat Triumphant.  Not easy to interview someone who doesn’t like interviews and has rarely taken part in one in 30 years but here goes nothing!

Frank: Now I know you are a major fan of the obscure UK Golden Age heroes and you’ve incorporated many into your “Black Tower Universe” since 1984 and you have also published a book -400 plus pages?- of many of these old obscure strips, both humour and action. So, Return, is the biggest all original work book you’ve published to date?

Terry: Yes, biggest comic book or “graphic novel” if you prefer. I’ve published about five (?) bulky prose books –Some Things Strange & Sinister, Some More Things Strange & Sinister, Pursuing The Strange & Weird, The Red Paper and, of course, the best of 25 plus years of interviews in…The Hooper Interviews. Normally, I’ve published A4 comic albums of between 15-120 pages.  Return, however, is the first graphic novel.

Frank: How many pages?

Terry: It’s 318 pages.

Frank: I may have gotten ahead of myself a bit here –I was reading Paul H. Birch’s Q&A with you on SpeechBalloon and got diverted –

http://blogs.birminghammail.co.uk/speechballoon/2013/02/return-of-the-gods-and-a-chat.html

Now, I know you’ve read comics since you were about six or seven years old and your influences were outlined in a full interview by Phil Latter (yeah, give a Canadian the opportunity to interview you but not your mates!)

http://www.comicbitsonline.com/2011/06/27/the-terry-hooper-interview-by-phil-latter/

and you’ve expanded on this background with postings on Manhwa, Manhua and Manga as well as European (particularly German) comics on CBO….

Terry: This is going to be a very long interview, isn’t it?

Frank: I’ll get there in a minute just hang about.

Terry: Then hurry up!!!!

below:art from the original The Ultimate Game. Pencils T. Hooper/Inks B. R. Dilworth.cbo ug 001 001
Frank: Okay, we’ll get back to Golden Age stuff in a while. As you are so impatient maybe you can tell us just how Return started?

Terry: In a way I think it goes back to when I was a nipper, drawing comic strips in old receipt books my gran, Rose, used to get me from work (she worked at Pople’s Popular Pies in Mina Road, St. Werburgh’s, and old blank receipt books were thrown away but she found it a very “economic” way to stem my need for paper to draw on)—

Frank: And you don’t have any of those books any more, do you?

Terry: Sadly, no. My parents kept moving about and I lost so much stuff but only managed to keep the odd cherished comic.

Any old way, I used to draw UK characters such as Billy The Cat, Billy The Whizz and The Spider –even The Phantom Viking—alongside US comic characters like Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Batman and so on. Actually, as I’m saying this I suddenly realise that Return is a sort of expansion of those old books. That is weird. I never really thought about it until now.


below: More of the original UG -credits as before!cbo ug 002 001

Frank: To save any legal threats we need to make sure that its clear you have not used any of those characters in Return!

Terry: Absolutely not. I’m not insane!

Frank: So you started drawing these strips in old receipt books and so on and you never lost interest in comics as you grew up?


Below: a colour “swatch” page for the colourist.
cbo ug colour

Terry: No. Not at all. I never had a terrible childhood –my grandparents, Rose and Bill, mainly raised me and though we were poor Bill did try to keep me supplied with a weekly comic or a shilling (5p today!) pocket money so comics and plasticine were always with me.  And when I eventually went to Greenway Secondary Modern Boys School in Southmead, Bristol, I found a few people interested in comics and later on taught a few younger lads to draw comics. School was not a good time for me so drawing and comics were a distraction.

Frank: Your original plan was to get into publishing and publish comics as a business or work as a comic editor, right?

Terry: Yes. All my contact was mainly with editors or publishers and I soon learned that it was a real closed shop. But that’s a very, very long story!!

Frank: Alright, zooming ahead. You were going to various comic companies in the mid 1980s and trying to sell comic title or strip series ideas.  It was at this point that the germ of what was going to become Return started: can you tell us about that?

Terry: Well, in a way it began (excluding those old receipt book cross-overs) with Fleetway in the 1980s. I had met Steve McManus and Dave Hunt and others at the editorial level but my real insight into things came through Managing Editor Gil Page –when he later retired (around 2000) he had been with the company since 1957 and had been there from Amalgamated Press, IPC, Fleetway, Maxwell PP and then Egmont.

I learnt things such as the fact that, as Gil put it in a letter: “everyone was excited about this big American comic writer who had created the Spider for us” –yes, Jerry Siegel created The Spider. And talk of the old characters they still had and never used led to me “kinda” talking Gil into letting me put together a 10 page preview titled “The Ultimate Game”.  I say “kinda” because no one could persuade him to do what he did not want to –he was affectionately known as “the UK Stan Lee” and I still hold him in great respect.

However, though the end result –The Ultimate Game– was liked and copies made and passed around all over Fleetway –I went to see Steve McManus about a 2000 AD related idea and he took the pages out of a drawer and said “You’re the guy behind this, aren’t you?”  Ah, the recognition at last!  Anyway, “someone” put a spoke in the works. Sheer malice but they bi-passed the editors and contacted upper management. From then on the old characters were really “a thing of the past” and later incarnations never treated them properly –though I love Shane Oakley and George Freeman’s work on Albion.

By total accident, I met a fella who was in management at Maxwell Pergamon Publishing and he blurted out -by accident?- that Robert Maxwell was buying out Fleetway and that Maxwell really wanted to publish successful comics in the UK. I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes but apparently Rupert Murdoch had a newspaper empire and had said at some point his company was going to publish comics -red flag to Maxwell!  I met the man once, very enthusiastic. I counted my fingers afterwards.

It took a while but then his people decided The Ultimate Game was going to be a full colour, 32 pager,  old style weekly –a bit like Battleor the new Eagle but full colour. At this point I was very excited but a warning voice always tells me to not get carried away.  Everything was ready…then Maxwell died and I have no idea what was going on.

Eventually, I was writing for Egmont, mainly on Revolver and then someone found the old Ultimate Game project. I think they were trying to impress their bosses with ideas which should have warned me!  I spent a lot of time up-dating it. Then the editor involved left, apparently on not very good terms with Egmont, and the project died again.

Marvel UK had shown an interest but wanted all rights so I said no. It would have been nice money but giving up rights to all the characters? No.

I ought to point out that after Fleetway and Egmont and Maxwell I had incorporated my own characters, some that I had created in the 1970s, into the story as I could not use the old Fleetway characters.

When I re-launched Black Tower Adventure in…2009  I needed a meaty main feature. The Ultimate Game had been adapted and the title changed to The Cosmic Fulcrum for Marvel UK and that title was used when it finally appeared in a Small Press version.  So, what I had in 2009 was a strip that had been reworked and re-titled as The Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes. I had thought Adventure would only go for six issues so the strip was perfect and I would finally see it in print in some form!


cbo old RETURN OF THE GODS FRONT COVER

Frank: And Adventure is at issue 10 now!  But you combined the strip into Black Tower’s first graphic novel in 2012 and it did quite well –glowing reviews— so why a new version and how is it different (I know I’ve read my copy and its brilliant but for the readers)?

Terry: Well, the original book was a trade version of the six part series from Black Tower Adventure and came to a total of 196 pages. I talked to reviewers who are also comic artists/writers and we had a round robin discussion of the book. Most said that it was far better and certainly more enjoyable than DC Comics “52″ series and…fun!

But as we talked I realised that I had missed an opportunity because, since 1984, Black Tower has incorporated a lot of very obscure old UK Golden Age characters and some of these just appeared in a strip -no origin or anything.

Frank: But not included in the original six part story?


Terry: No, and as far as I was then concerned,  it was too late to sort that out and include some of them –though the Golden Agers are represented. However,  I had to re-think seriously re-think this later on.


cbo nrotg

Frank: You notoriously do not use scripts for your own work so how did you go about this series?

Terry: As you say, I never ever work with a script on things I am working on myself. I always start with a blank sheet of paper, pencil, pens and then see what develops. It gives a lot of spontaneity -I really have no idea what is going to happen on a page or even the next panel!

As far as the story is concerned I found that I was incorporating bits of The Ultimate Game and The Cosmic Fulcrum –another multi-character series.

After Return was published I was rummaging through an old box looking for an old reference image and found a thick wad of A3 pages –about 45 pages in total that were the build-up to the original strip -I thought those pages had been lost years ago. I read through it and realised the pages actually explained a few things and was paced for the big event. That put me in a rather odd position.

I had a week or so to decide whether or not I wanted to leave Return as it was or to tidy up the old pages and make it more complete. I also realised that there would have to be new  pages drawn to bridge the various story links. Then I thought that this was a chance to once and for all explain everything that had been going on in Black Tower strips since 1984 and explain the incorporation of the old Golden Age characters and their origins. It also helps to set up The Green Skies book in late 2013.

I figured the final book would total 250-260 pages so when I finished it and found over 300 I was a little taken aback.

A few people who got the advanced rough book just started raving about it so I thought “Okay. Job done. Move on!”

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Frank: And it is a real cracker. But for those who know nothing about the book could you summarise it?

Terry: AGH! Well, it begins slowly enough with Earth’s heroes going about their daily tasks –such as fighting a giant robot controlled by a mad scientist’s brain, some villains,  both “regular” and mystical not to mention even vampire alien high priests of some mysterious cult and their zombie followers attacking various heroes to put them temporarily out of the way. Oh, of course there is a ghost and a young genius lost in time.

Pretty mundane super hero stuff really. “Just another day”.

But there is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon and psychics around the world have been getting vivid images of this for months –even non-precogs. Earth’s mystical heroes are stumped.

Then strange orange spheres chase some of Earth’s heroes in the UK, France, Czech Republic, Mexico, Russia and other parts of the world. Once touched by the globes that deliberately seek them out the heroes vanish into thin air –are they dead? Is some super villain exacting revenge?

Black, impenetrable domes suddenly appear and cover cities world-wide. Those outside are puzzled while those within face a terrifying reality…

…Alien invasion of Earth!

And then there is a war brewing between the Dark Old (Lovecraftian type) Gods and the pantheons that followed –Greek, Babylonian, etc.. After millennia of waiting the new gods will either triumph and return to Earth or be defeated…and whichever side wins it won’t be good for humanity.
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There are warriors from various conflicts in the Earth’s past that are having to battle each day on some mysterious endless plain and whether they die in battle or not they are back the next day!

No one suspects the driving force, the evil twisted schemer,  behind the events that could cause destruction and chaos throughout the multi-verse.  Assaulted on all fronts can Earth’s defenders succeed or will they fail…is this truly the end?

The final words of the character Jack Flash on the last page apparently gave readers goose-bumps!

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Frank: Those are chilling final words!!  But, as no shops or distributors wanted to touch what I, in my honest opinion, consider the really be one of the greatest British super hero sagas I’ve ever read –better than my old favourite Zenith- how can people buy a copy?

Terry: I thought you would never ask! It’s only available online at the moment so people will need to check out:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/terry-hooper-scharf/the-return-of-the-godstwilight-of-the-super-heroes/paperback/product-20659931.html

Frank: Terry, good luck with the book and I cannot wait for Green Skies!!

Maybe a  low res glimpse will pull you all in?
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ALL artwork and characters are (c)2013 T. Hooper-Scharf and BTCG