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Monday, 9 February 2015

Germany's First Super Hero Team: D-Gruppe And My Sad Dream!

When the above edition of Black Tower Adventure volume 2 appeared I had high hopes.  Of course, thanks to printers who do not carry out quality control checks any longer (printing as a trade has really gone down hill in the last twenty years) this cover and contents had to be re-jigged.

Still, I was an enthusiastic bunny.  

Must have been the medication.

You see, I thought that now there was a higher standard of print quality I could get on with a project I had been nurturing since 1985.  Getting my books to Germany. I had contributed some strips to Small Press titles back then, though I've no idea what appeared where or even "if" -it was all letters and people moving addresses a LOT back then (and that includes me -I was 48 years old before I had my first "permanent home" and could un-box things).

Bastei was the main company I dealt with and I have, in past posts, outlined what happened. Negative things included Germany's First Super Hero Group -D-Gruppe  falling into limbo when Egmont bought Bastei and all "kids books" got dropped.

 Growing up on a farm in Germany, visiting the forestry and reading as well as hearing old stories, I found that I had none of those incredible crime fighters/anti-heroes from British weekly comics so what does a kid do?  If you just said "make up his own" then you get.....well, nothing really.  But you were spot on!

Have no fear: I am not going to bore you with how D-Gruppe came about -again, there are previous posts!

 I knew full well that a crime-fighter, whether in costume or just a mask, did not need to have skyscrapers to work.  People who said -and still say- that are unimaginative buffoons.  What the hell, I'm not losing any friends here (not making any either, I'd bet!).  Did King Arthur, Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, Hercules, Baron von Munchhausen or heroes of European and British folk tales need skyscrapers to amaze and thrill people?

So I set up all the dummy art pages and cover mock-ups and set about tracking down and trying to re-establish communications with my old German publishing contacts.


Most had retired or been made redundant and all said the same thing "there is no imagination or incentive amongst German publishers to actually publish comics!"   Hey, I like up-beat chats with old professionals....well, usually.

I then thought that, perhaps putting D-Gruppe into Adventure and showing German publishers might be a good idea.  I re-thought and, eventually, after a lot of work, scrapped pages and covers the four issue Zeitgeist mini series appeared followed by the 2012 Annual.  This was all eventually pulled together for the D-Gruppe graphic novel.

So what reaction did it get?  Well, it seems there are some very snooty arty-farty types in German comics who see anything other than serious social-political or "serious satire" as a waste of time.  Bloody rude people, too.
Of course, theidea of translating the whole book into German seemed good.  However, how the hell do you translate "sub-atomic molecular destabiliser" and other such things into German?  Some words commonly used in comics I could not even find in my Langenscheid's Taschen Worterbuch (say that fast ten times!)

Even translated -how could I get the book into the market? German distributors are as, uh, "money interested" as those in any country.  And, bearing in mind the expense of the books (shipping them to distributors comes out of my pocket) would they even sell?  And distributors wanted anywhere up to 70% off the cover price for themselves.  When I worked it all out I realised it was not a possibility.
To be honest you really need a publisher who will handle everything once you have turned all the art in.  And pay you. Being paid is very important.  Seriously.

And you might think that with the massive upsurge in popularity of comics and super heroes (apparently there have been a couple successful movies -?) that some intrepid German businessman/publisher might jump up and shout "I'll have some of that!"

 In fact, as I've explained previously, I created heroes to cover most countries and particularly Europe -Belgian, Romanian, Russian, Dutch -heck -even a super heroine (Blue Flame) from Luxembourg. I'll not touch on the sore subject of the comics and characters I created for Indian publishers (there are posts on CBO).  There were/are of course heroes from Africa, Australia and so on but that's another matter.  It was nice to see them all in one book (Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes).

I have no doubt that German comic fans would like to see German super heroes.  Just as Bulgarian or Romanians would.  But you need the publisher willing to take the risk rather than just reprint DC and Marvel comics.

D-Gruppe is not dead as a concept.  The stories are all there and if you read Return Of The Gods you'll know some of the team, including its leader, vanished while pursuing a UFO.  Hence D-Gruppe: Lost In Space which I have the notes and sketches for.  And the major storyline, I must stop blabbing.

I do despair at times with comics.  D-Gruppe's creative birthplace is the Detmold-Dalborn-Lemgo-Blomberg and of course the Lippe state.  I would love to see a D-Gruppe book read by comic fans there but I think that is a "never happen" dream -a bit like the ones where Ella Endlich, Pe Werner, Utte Lemper and Helen Fischer are desperately chasing after me but, uh, yeah.  I'll leave it there!

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