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Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Sunday Sermon -and it is NOT a "rant"...Do not get me angry....


I am not going to do a "super heroes in German comics" mega mix-up style post.  Incidentally, that post in particular got a lot of views.

Heino is in the background singing "Junge"  -on German Schlager radio, not in my room itself..not sure if that is relevant to anything really.  Would you sooner here that I am sat here, naked in the baking heat? I'm not. It isn't.  Getting distracted.  "Who is Heino?"  Well, remember the character Ed Straker from the TV series UFO?  Well, imagine him with sun-glasses on and being German and a singer and you've got, okay, maybe more Joe 90 in this photo.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  I think that I have covered the topic of why it is not ridiculous to have super heroes in Germany nor in the UK.  Both countries have so much to offer as I've written -and Belgium and Must not veer off subject again.

When you say to a parent: "You ought to get your kids to read comics.  It encourages literacy so it can't be bad -and it's fun for them. A bit of escapism!" You get asked: "What comic would you recommend?" And this is where things can go a bit "off".

You see, I would love to recommend a British written and drawn comic.  A mix of action, humour and maybe a few "brain teasers" or "Make Your Own---" pages.
 Marvel Legends Vol.2 #10
But I cannot.  We know that British comics as such do not exist.  Egmont produces the usual promo magazines with cheap China made toys -novelties- attached.  Comic strips do not even come into it.  Panini produces US reprints.  Stuff you could go out buying in comic stores but how many youngsters under 11 years of age go into those?

There you go.

Let me get off the point a second.  Just over ten years ago now -I found the entry in my Day Book- I was talking to someone in Forbidden Planet, Bristol, and the subject of women in comic stores cropped up. "I think I've seen maybe one in the last three years" said Mr A (I don't want to embarass him).  I looked at him. "Are you being serious?" He protests "No. It's true -I saw one!"  I pointed to one side where a group of five young women were looking through the latest comic releases.  Mr A looked shocked. The thing is that there have always been women going into comic stores but the average comic guy has "woman blindness" -you know, like "traffic light blindness" in that the lights were on amber and changed to red but he never saw the lights; they were no part of his world view.  Same with comic guys in comic stores -they can be two steps away from a woman but "they ain't there".  I see comic documentaries and even TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory where the very concept of there being women in a comic shop is thought near impossible -or all the geeks stop and stare if one does walk in.  Those writers and comic folk need to wake up.

Anyway, reminded me of talking to a boss at Fleetway in the 1980s and I mentioned "girls comics".  The response was: "Those days are gone.  No market.  I get 4-5 letters a week asking why we don't publish a girls comic now. No interest!"  Well, if you get 200-250 letters a year and statistical experts will tell you only about 1-2% of people who fill strongly about something will write or complain then you do have a market.

But let's not go into girls comics here.

I have two great nephews -three year old and 4 year old who, according to their parents are "Well into their Marvel super heroes!"  Super hero crazy in fact.  You have to be pretty dim-witted not to realise that.  I've mentioned this before and, today, a father and his youngster (about 3 years old) were in the same store as me and not only did the kid have his super hero wear on but he was absolutely into his super hero chatter.

A parent asks me about comics for kids between 3-12 years of age and I say "Cinebook The 9th Art covers your child's age" but then you get the add on of "Do they do super heroes because my youngsters are mad on super heroes!"  No.  Cinebook do not do super heroes.

At one point I used to tell the parent where the nearest comic shops were and what to look for but these shops are not 3-11 years old friendly!  One parent actually told me how she had gone into one of the shops in Bristol and explained she was looking for comics for her 5 year old.  Apparently the moron in the store laughed at her and said "You need to get the Beano at the newsagents!"

Crass moronic.  Sad to say typical of 75% of comic shop staff, though.

I have had parents tell me they were shocked at what they saw in comic shops.  One book had liberal use of the "F" word and another was a comic -"It wasn't like the old war comics" I was told. Someone having their head very graphically blown off, another character having his bowels blown out and, yes, a "rather graphic and violent rape".  I stopped myself from laughing when a parent in her thirties told me that on looking at the comics in a shop it all "seemed very soft core porn like or like one of those 'lads mags' with scanty dressed women on the covers" -to be honest any of these people could have been talking about any number of comics.
Archie Comics are not that easy to recommend any more since they "went dark" -I just simply am not recommending a company I no longer see the out-put of because that recommendation reflects back on me!

Parents are not "all starched knickers and collars" as we used to say.  They know their kids watch Dr Who, they do play computer games, they read, or are read, Harry Potter and other books and TV in general can involve some "physicality".  I'm reminded of the time I recommended comics to a couple who just grabbed a few for their kids -in particular an Avengers comic as I had been speaking about that series fondly (the volume 1 series not later ones!).  What made their eyes pop was the Falcon punching the Red Skull (disguised as Dale Trusk was it?) in the jaw.  Not a normal punch but one that shatter old Red's lower face.  I recall seeing that myself and thinking it was waaay OTT.

A right hook to a crook or villain's jaw, even gun play.  It's part of a story and most normal parents know that.  Kids play super hero, they play with their super hero toys, computer games but most parents would also like to see their children read something physical.  Hold something in their hands they can read several times and maybe even collect if they get into that.  And it's no good saying "add a PG onto the cover" because the only comics, other than Cinebook, they are going to see are American ones and if you think DC or Marvel are going specially print off UK editions with warnings've lost it!

And my young brother must have been, what, 5 years old when 2000 AD appeared and he got into Dan Dare and the Biogs!

Well, I was going to write "the industry" but there isn't one!  Seriously, kids now are going to know only one publisher from an early age -Cinebook. And not only will Cinebook cover their reading material from ages 5-11 years but beyond that, unless they succumb to US comics!
Image of May Contain Sharks!
I have seen (I am an inveterate "watcher" of things) people go up to tables at Small Press and comic events and ask whether there "is anything for my kids ages?" (pointing to mentioned kids).  The answer has always been no unless the superb Jess Bradley-Bove is there in which case there IS! You can check out her Squid Bits online store here:

But no action or adventure in the traditional sense. No costumed adventurers, no ghost or spooky stories or sci fi adventure that does not contain profanities or very graphic violence.  Because creator-publishers are publishing what they like -they are not there to look to fill a niche in the market.  They just ain't in the comic business.

Do not get me wrong, Black Tower Comics can be just as guilty -I try to ensure any naughty words are rare or very necessary.  I do NOT allow "rape for entertainment" -that just disgusts me.  There is violence but try to keep it not really over the top but I still would not say to a parent "Yeah, but this one!" It is why Black Tower Super Heroes is designed to be more of a friendly title that will appeal to all age groups.  Not dumbing down for kids.

Yes, I know it is not a newsagents available comic. You may not like it because it is black and white (live with it) but it is an attempt to have "something" there.

Comics DO NOT make kids violent. Look at 99.9% of comic fans and see what I mean.  Look at "fun" You Tube videos where people laugh at animal reactions to popping balloons and things used to scare them.  That is not funny. Look at the TV wildlife programmes where kids can sit down and eat pizza while dramatic music leads up to some small animal being ripped to shreds by bigger animals. THAT desensitises kids to animal cruelty and I've seen this happen.  I saw a lion and later a cheetah hunting gazelle and killing them on a TV nature programme in the 1960s. Now we get super high definbition, slow motion replays to a backing track.  THIS is where parents ought to show more concern.

Same thing applies to toy soldiers.  I was seven and when my favourite soldier was stood up on the table again my gran pointed out "He was shot. He's dead."  Wow.  But it made me realise that this was playing and I was seeing enough horror on TV news to know the difference between play and reality. To people of my generation from the UK the name Aberfan and 1966 brought home that reality.

So comics are meant to be fun and escapism for all ages but kids are being left out.  "Kid Friendly" publisher sign could denote a publisher at an event who sells for all ages but has books parents can have pointed out as being safe.  Not all kids live in middle classville and have stacks of toys, computer games and other "home entertainment resources" -believe it or not there are poor families out there and youngsters for whom a single comic can offer hours of escapism.  Those kids deserve comics.

But, no, Small Pressers and Independent publishers are too far up their own egoes and, as I've written, you want to do personalised comics then fine.  But you do not want to invite kids into the fun of comics and encourage reading, writing and drawing -our next generation of creators?- but would sooner say "Yeah, but that isn't my business -that's for big companies to do!"  And, yes, I know that many -many- small pressers have never read a comic book in their lives therefore really just do not care.

Truth is that I know at least 99% of those involved in comics in the UK, whether Indie publishers or Small Pressers (I count them as one myself), will never ever change their attitudes and this is why -scream and screech all you want but you are doing nothing to make this different (you and your little cronies know who I am talking to)- the current and future generations who get into comics will do so via Cinebook the 9th Art: because Olivier Cadic (the publisher) knows how important it is to cater for reads from youngsters to wrinkled old pensioners.

Now, go hate me some more.


  1. Same sort of experience with one of the Lew Grade shows in the sixties. Lots of punch ups, some gun stuff . My dad looked at my concerned face and said , " If this was real then there wouldn't be any actors left , look there he is again " . Presumably it was a crowd punch up and the same actor , having been socked , donned another hat or jacket and had come back into the fight again .
    My reality button had been well and truly pressed . thanks again, Dad .

  2. Yes, finding comics for kids is a tough one. LEAVE IT TO CHANCE was a good one that could also be enjoyed by kids but that has been canceled. Still, if you can find the oversized hardcovers they´re pretty cheap.

    I think I would go to the french classics I read as a kid like the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Yakari, Yoko Tsuno and so on. As for superhero stuff, maybe JACK STAFF although I fear LOVE AND CAPES would be too boring for kids. There are some new ones I found through the FREE COMIC BOOK DAY issues I got this year like CLEOPATRA IN SPACE and BODIE TROLL that are great. But US superheroes for kids ? You probably have to stick to Bronze Age Marvel or DC for that because beginning with the 70s they went way too serious for kids to enjoy. Hulk was always best when he was just smashing things and fighting monsters instead of being complicated and dealing with all this emotional stuff.

    Okay, I forgot one of the best comics for kids with US superheroes : the adventure comics from DC based on the cartoon series. No matter if it´s BATMAN ADVENTURES, SUPERMAN ADVENTURES or JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES those are comics with great art ( especially the early BATMAN ADVENTURES by the late Mike Parobeck ) and fantastic stories. Especially the BATMAN ADVENTURES stories were far superior to what was going on in the regular Batman books.

    So that´s my recommendation. Those comics are good reads for kids and you can get the single issues or cheap pocket books. I have all the pocket books in my collection I could get.

  3. Hi, Subzero. There were those Marvel Adventure titles meant for young readers -the Avengers is the one I found and got some issues of. They have great artwork and the stories are really fun. I was surprised -BUT it is another continuity. Yakari, Lucky Luke and a few others Cinebook publish in English. Jack Staff was replaced by The Weird World Of Jack Staff and then Mud-Man. Must write to Paul Grist and find out what is happening. But, yes, it had threats, action and adventure but was bloody fun -and had old UK TV comedy stars in it such as the characters from TVs Dad's Army and Bramble & Son -Vampire Hunters are the TV scrap merchants Steptoe & Son. Apart from European comics reprinted in English it would be a case of trawl through comic shops for back issues...oh,as I've found, UK comic shops no longer have boxes of 1990s or pre 1990s comics now. But I live in hope.