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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Questions Questions!

Just had to post this to my Yahoo groups:

"Please, everyone.
I have UK Golden Age reprint books available online as single editions or the large collected book. 

Many questions can be answered by buying those books, helping me buy food to eat and gaining you knowledge.

The books ain't worth buying -don't ask for the info.

Yesterday and today -TEN requests for detailed info which means me spending hours of MY time for no thanks.  I'm not doing this any more. I'm not a free research service.

Please buy the books and get the info.

I now have blurred eye sight and a headache.


Some Of These Super Heroes May Not Have Lasted Long...But They Had Impact!

Even though many do not have a single visual reference online!

I think many people have this idea that only I have published super hero books in the UK.  Well, yes, I've been doing that over thirty years so I'm the longest lasting!  But there are and were others going back to the early 1980s.

There are those out there, at a ripe old age who are about to see these covers and say one of two things:

"OH MY GOD!!"

or if you are in comics:

"******* Hell!  I forgot about this *****!"



Yes, Dave Hornsby's Apocalypse -it became a four issue (A4) comic after, forgive me if I get this wrong but we are talking 1977, Ad Astra an astronomy/science magazine.  Apocalypse's epic battle with Warlord for the fate of the Earth had a very explosive, and completely unexpected, ending!

I have no idea what Dave is doing these days but if he is out there -PLEASE reprint this as a one off book! I loved this.  I have mentioned I'm a sad old man -?

 

Now, Apocalypse is near mythical. In thirty plus years I have met no one else who admits to having ever read the comic.  I guess I just never met the right people yet!

The other 1970s British legendary comic was, again, A4, had lovely printing and good paper and I still have my A3 D-Riders poster!

Super Adventure Stories appeared in 1978 (issues 1 and 2 had no date but no. 3 is 1978) was from Third Kind Magazines, based in Hertfordshire.

D-Riders. Oh, man, if you loved weird stuff in comics -mystical, cosmic hippy trippy with a rather grubby little panda then D-Riders was for you.  Clive Boyd wrote the script and Michael-Jan Gibas took to the drawing board with this joint creation.  I really do need to get a nice frame for my D-Riders poster!
 These comics obviously had their Marvel/DC influences to a degree but Underground Comix were also, I'm guessing, an influence.  Nudity and very definitely not Comics Code Authority approved language.  I still take these out every-so-often because they are still enjoyable.

The cover above features Sons Of The Phoenix written by Michael-Jan Gibas (publisher of Third Kind Mags) and art by Stephen O'Leary  and there are some good story twists.  These guys were well ahead of Moore, Ellis and Morrison.  And here's a kicker of a next issue tag line: "Some of you...are going to die!"
Omicron was Jason Harris who was out on his motorbike, got involved in a UFO incident, grabbed an alien suit and became...oh.  I've already written it.  Script was by Stephen O'Leary and the art by Andrew Dyrdzinski though the character was created by Dyrdzinski and Gibas.

And, of course, there was the legendary, near mythical Red Dragon -the creation of one Jonathan "Jonny" Kurzman -the original publisher, based in Plymouth at the time.  To my knowledge this was the first British comic character to have the name Red Dragon.  And the story was an epic one.ending in a full issue story in SAS no. 5 (I think).



These creators were true inspirations because they took super heroes and put a British slant on them, made them grittier than any US company did.  I've tried tracking down the various creators in the past but failed -not even any photographs!

If there is one reason I want to maintain an archive and want to see it continue on when I snuff it then it is to make sure people like Dave Hornsby and the SAS crew get their rightful place in British comics history.

Into the 1980s Bath or Bristol Comic marts were not complete unless David A. Johnson had a new Blue Saviour comic out -or Enigma.  Okay, they were not the greatest drawn comics but there is one thing that actually shines through -even more so reading them decades on - FUN.

David obviously had a story to tell and comics inspired him and he had no big ideas of a mega deal with Marvel or DC.  He was having fun and if his readers enjoyed the comics....what could be better?

Even inspired Messrs Brown and Dilworth to draw Blue Saviour in Death Disco!  I still have a copy or two.

And, yes, I got involved in the Blue Saviour and Madame Mystery craze.  How? Well check out the covers and ads below and you ought to see...unless you need very strong glasses!





Spot it?  No??!! oy.


1987 and A. O. Potter's Alpha Omega Collection heroes..  I wrote about Alf back in 2011...



Peter Phillips (I hope I remembered the name (it was a long time ago) did a zine called The Super Heroes. He was 18 years old in 1986, living in Leicester and...unemployed (unusual for the 1980s!).  Aaaand, I just found the books which are A5 and, feck me I got it all right.  I need to get a woman.

The comic featuring The Liberty Rangers, which was written by him and art was by Ian Douglas -who showed some promise!  Only two issues that I know of as my letters never got replies but I hope Peter is still out there somewhere digging super heroes!



1986 was Atomic Comics of Scotland produce an A4 super hero comic -fastened inside a plastic folder (?) for some reason.  This was Captain Scotland!


In fact it was a fantasy gaming special "You Are Captain Scotland!"  The character was created and written by Tony Foster (another name I know!), Michael Duncan, Eggy Harding and Craig Conlan.  Craig Conlan also did the art chores.

That was it.  My question is: where is Captain Scotland when Scotland needs a hero, hmm??

In the mid 1990s -to be exact 1994-1994- there was CM Comics.  The owner of CM Comics was Southampton based Chris Morgan.









There seem to have been a number of titles all in the US comic format with glossy cover and pages.  There was some great art by people such as Russ Leach, who I think is fair to say had a bit of an Erik Larsen style going on. Andrew Radbourne (I am positive I've met him at a Bristol Comic Expo) did some pencil work -inked by Chris Morgan and Kelvin Cox did some layouts for Brit Force.


Not really sure why CM Comics stopped publishing but I do recall about, perhaps five years ago(?), Chris Morgan emailing me and saying CM Comics was returning.

Anyone?

A new century dawns and we have...The O Men!  created by Martin Eden -Doctor O gathers a new superteam to fight his nemesis, Anathema. But can they stop Anathema before she takes her revenge on their friends and family - and finally, on themselves?

Buy the book(s) and find out!

I have the Issue 0 from years ago but nothing else -though I have seen sample pages.  Yes: not in my collection and never ever reviewed a copy.  Someone just fainted at the back of the room again!


There is, of course, the rather fun...Spandex!  And I do mean fun.



 Then there was Sugar Glider appeared a few years ago but I think there were two books before it vanished?  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong. Sugar Glider was created by writer Daniel Clifford and artist Gary Bainbridge.

Set in Newcastle upon Tyne, Sugar Glider tells the story of Susie Sullivan - an 18yr old with a habit for giving up on hobbies, jobs and potential careers at a moment’s notice. Having given up on so many ‘dreams’ already in her short life, Susie is poised to drop out of college and give her mother, Brenda, an ulcer.

But Susie has a secret more likely to give Brenda a mischief; she’s gotten hold of a high-tech gliding suit and is quickly becoming attached to it. Susie’s late night crime-fighting adventures are becoming more frequent and more successful. But there’s something else about that suit - it bears a striking resemblance to the ones worn by MI5’s Vigilance super-agents. The same super-agents who are about to be rolled-out all across the UK.

 http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/SGS-1-Cover.jpg

Ahh, no, I have a note and image for the final issue -number 3.  Again, never saw a copy. I'm currently trying to sort that out!



As I wrote, there are others who have tried their hands at British super heroes.  These are a few and, as stated at the start of the post, some of the important ones have no presence on the internet!

It's taken me all day of sorting through books, scanning and trying to remember half this stuff.  I hope you think it was worthwhile!

Doing a super hero comic? I'll review it.  Know of obscure ones I've not mentioned? Get in touch.

Everything is now so blurry I am calling myself....

                  BLURRY MAN!






Maybe One Day...The Story Can Be Told!


Return Of The Gods & The Cross-Earths Caper

Parts 1 & 2 Of The "Invasion Earth" Trilogy

The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes

Terry Hooper-Scharf
A4
Paperback, 
Black & White
331 Pages
Price: £20.00
It begins slowly with Earth’s heroes going about their daily tasks –fighting a giant robot controlled by a mad scientist’s brain , attackers both human and mystical -even alien high priests of some mysterious cult and their zombie followers and, of course, a ghost and a young genius lost in time. 
 
Pretty mundane. But there is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon and strange orange spheres chase some of Earth’s heroes who vanish into thin air –are they dead?
 
 Then black, impenetrable domes cover cities world-wide. 
  
Alien invasion of Earth! 
 
A war between the Dark Old Gods and the pantheons that followed! 
  
Warriors from Earth’s past having to battle each day and whether they die or not they are back the next day!
 
 And no one suspects the driving force behind the events that could cause destruction and chaos throughout the multiverse —assaulted on all fronts can Earth’s defenders succeed or will they fail...is this truly the end?

THE CROSS EARTHS CAPER

 Terry Hooper-Scharf
Paperback, 
Black & White
107 Pages 
A4 
Price: £12.00
Following the events on Neo Olympus and the Boarman invasion of Earth, many heroes and crime-fighters have withdrawn from activity. 
 
 Some are trying to recover from injuries while others are fighting the mental scars left by the events. 
 
 As heroes from other parallels who helped during the events return home, members of the Special Globe Guard are shocked at the sudden appearance of Zom of the Zodiac. 
 
Very soon, a group of heroes find a quick rescue mission turn sour as they become lost between parallel Earths and threats. Sometimes one Earth just is not enough. 
  
The complete story published in issues 7-10 of Black Tower Adventure now in...one handy dandy book!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Rob Liefeld....So What Is The Problem?

Rob Liefeld posted some photos of art yesterday.  Blurry -which might be a technical thing but bloody hell what is wrong with people.  This comment is typical:

"I think he's a shitty artist/writer, but you can't deny his love and enthusiasm for the medium."

Which makes him a far better man than the person posting that comment.

If you do not like his work then do not go following his postings because, you know what? That makes you his bitch follower.

What is wrong with this Bible story Adam & Eve art piece?
 EVE_serpent_V04_200dpi_PB
And what is wrong with this?

example
Believe me, no comic book artist turns out 100% perfect art every page.  Ask a critic to look at Kirby or Ditko work.  Jim Lee....same thing. 

Everyone draws to the best of his/her ability and though there are some Liefeld pages I don't like I immediately say to myself "Seen your own work recently?"

I love how the critics never show their attempts at comic art...oh -perhaps they cannot draw?  So be quiet or do something constructive.

Liefeld has work in a medium he genuinely loves -you can see that in his interviews.  And he earns a living from it.  Oh -and comic companies employ him because of his reputation for getting a job done.

I actually really like this piece.
 example

Now, a Face Book page dedicated to him has 2,746 "Likes".  His actual Face Book page lists 4,811 Friends.  For a "shitty artist/writer" that is quite a lot of following.  Oddly, I know people who said the said about Moebius - "awful art".

I'm not here to champion Rob Liefeld.  He doesn't need my help.  I'm just sick and tired of the negativity from anonymous little arschlochs who probably can't even draw a stick figure.  Like Liefeld or not he has promoted and helped the industry and, say, did he not co-create a certain character you fan boys wet your panties over?

Deadpool-cover.jpg


Suck it up and do something constructive with your lives -complain about how the poor or homeless are treated.

Ultron Funk - Avengers Age of Ultron Song Parody

The Making of "The Twelve" Cover with Paolo Rivera (part 1 of 3)

Why Current UK Comic Conventions Are NOT Healthy For Comics



I have to say that comic events  are not healthy for those involved in this pretend industry.  I say that because it is NOT an industry.  Let me explain.

I've attended comic and zine events for a few decades. There were familiar faces but always a few new ones at events.  So you would meet someone or see books you had not before.  It kept things fresh. It does not work like that these days.

Firstly, as already explained, event organisers are pricing tables too high.  A small presser needs to accept that they are giving away books at these events because if they are making money  they are miracle workers.

Here is the posting that got me some very nasty responses -from event organisers.

http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/uk-comic-events-hate-me-for-who-i-am.html

What I did during the week was look at upcoming comic events (yes, I have not "won" a table at any of them....seriously) and who is exhibiting/selling at them.  With the odd exception -the same faces at every event.  So, as I used to do this sort of thing when it involved a table full of books, journals and files, I thought "it's all on the internet go on!"  Yes, I decided to see how varied attendances (Exhibitors/Dealers) at UK comic events going back five years.  

Well, the same comic creators with a very few minor variations, the same exhibitors and traders -again with only slight variations.  So, I went back ten years.  To me this was a bit shocking as the same thing applied.  As I have programs/catalogues from UK events I decided to delve back further. 

The last time comic events in the UK could be called fresh and unpredictable was the mid-1990s. From 2000 on it seems almost blindingly obvious (it is all there online if you have a few hours to waste) that events have developed into a little closed gang.  Everyone knows everyone else and tend to be selling the same books with occasionally announced "new books".

These are NOT people who depend on comics to earn a living.  The one thing I like about the internet is that social media and other outlets allow you to find out so much about people.  Who is a registered publisher and pays tax as a publisher earning an income and so on.  Social media also lets you learn more. People with full times employment and "do comics as a pastime". 

You can also see how the old back issue comic dealers have been squeezed out more and more and that means many have just gone out of business.  Some have gone to Ebay and found it such bad experiences that they quit and retire.

People "in comics" today do it to be part of a social club, to be "characters" but are not out to be full time comic publishers, earning a living from the medium.  They also have very little interest in comics outside of their own or those of their friends -I've observed this since 2000 events.  People interested in collecting old comics -the real comickers- have been pushed out.

With the Small or Alternative Press it is a hobby.  A group thing.  And, yes, the same people attend these events but they are not pretending to be comic publishers -very -very- few know anything about American comics let alone British comics.  They will all go to the same events but few will travel to events where they do not have the usual "entourage" -a group that basically hangs about but only buy from their specific creator and might look at other tables but they ain't buying.

The Small Press events seem to have their own individual "same old people" but that's no problem.  If they are not out to make money -a living- and its just fun why not?  It is a social thing.

But think of it from the perspective of a family group or individuals who pay money to get into an event and you hear "It seems to be all the same people as last time.  I haven't seen anything new" -and you've lost them.  I have heard that a few times. 

The old Bristol Expo used to have a good mix and events or items to interest families as well as the jaded old comicker.

I was noticing how the same old-same old faces were getting one or two tables for selling very limited numbers of books because they asked for two tables or three.  Now, a big publisher like Cinebook it is understandable as they have huge numbers of books.  But someone selling a new (single) book or 2-3 then if they have one table that is lost to another publisher who still pays but adds a new face to the crowd. Two tables should be two traders.  They still pay -even if they are not friends of the organisers.

I would really like to see the genuine comickers -those who collect and read comics- get back these events.  They are managing to do this in the US -the Clallam Bay Comic Con for one. 

Bring back the one day marts in your town.  A church hall, scout hall -it does not have to be a huge room so long as you can fit in tables, traders and comic buyers.  Work out the cost of hiring the hall and divide that up for the number of tables and that covers costs.

Charging £50, £60 and £80 tables are just plain extortion -in the US fans have started a backlash having realised events are getting more expensive for less event.  organisers are the only people doing really well!

If we really want to keep new people flowing into the hobby, and allow the old comickers to continue without being pushed out for cos-players (who generally do not go to events to buy comics) then changes must be made.

The one day marts need to return.


Just WHY Is No Businessman or Existing Publishing House Getting Involved With UK Comics?

 

We know that there is no comic industry in the UK. 

With the exception of Cinebook The 9th Art, which specialises in publishing Franco-Belgian comic albums in the English language.  Future generations of UK kids will grow up on these albums but not, sadly, UK originated comics.

 above Chris Weston's The Spider artwork


I have had a couple of conversations with companies this week but it was the same thing "We simply do not publish comics.  We couldn't compete with Marvel" oh, and (incredibly!!) "You ought to contact the guy does a website called Comic Bits Online, he's always banging on about British comics".....he seemed taken aback when I said "That's me"   but added "Well, there you go then"

There I go then -what?!

I think the last person who knew the UK comics industry for almost 45 years retired in...2000?  A year later I was told in a letter regarding IPC and Fleetway-Egmont "How the mighty have fallen!"

The idea that "only the Americans can do super heroes" is ludicrous.  There is still this stupidity that exists in the UK.  Back when we did have a comics industry I was told by top management and even senior editors that "We don't get super heroes.  We just don't do them because they are an American thing" -when I rolled off a list of characters I was told "Oh, those are action or masked adventurers!"  So WTF are super heroes.

Below: British Super Soldier Captain Hurricane


I mean, The Spider, Gadget Man and Gimmick Kid, The Phantom Viking, Kelly's Eye, Rubberman, Tri-man, Steel Claw (costumed for a brief period in the late 1960s), General Jumbo, Billy The Cat, The Leopard From Lime Street, The Iron Fish, Danger Man, The Black Sapper, Spring Heeled Jack (take your pick!), King Cobra, Nick Jolly -even Captain Hurricane, a World War 2 commando was a kind of "super-soldier" -especially after his "raging furies"!

The list goes on and on and that is just from the former "Big Two" -the Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke" and Fleetway/Amalgamated Press/IPC.

Last year (I think it was up-dated) I wrote this post so I'm adding more to it.  It will be my ultimate piece on the subject.

Ever......

....until next time.



The Improbability Of The British Super Hero

AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT ANY MASKED CRIME-FIGHTERS I PERSONALLY KNOW. JUST SAYING.




“Hmm. Don’t you understand?  Think about it –we have no skyscrapers!  How can you have American style super heroes in England?”

Those were the words of a Marvel UK editor (Dave White) back in the 1980s as I sat across from him having travelled from Bristol to London at his suggestion to discuss new projects.  About a month later a very senior Marvel UK editor responded in the same words but adding “That is why UK comics have never had super heroes.”

Firstly, as I pointed out to Dave White, we are the UK. Britain. You think of characters for a comic as being English you are excluding Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Why?

My response to the senior editor is probably why things went a little “odd” work-wise.  My first response was “So, what exactly is Marvel UK publishing? And Power Comics (Odhams) before it? And…” I went on to rattle off a very, very long list of British super characters going back to the 1940s.  I think I ticked him off.  Really, he should have known better though, in one respect, he was right.



British comics never had super heroes.

Before you start thinking that I’m on new medications and answering “Yes” and “No” at the same time allow me to explain.

Tim (Kelly’s Eye) Kelly travelled the world and even in time and space at one point and was totally indestructible.  He was not a super hero.  Yes, he was what some called a "supernatural character" or "magic character" because of the mystic amulet.  And later on science fiction as he travelled in time.

http://superitch.com/images/2011/08/19.jpg
Clem Macy, television news reporter had a costumed archer alter ego…The Black Archer.  He was not a super hero.



Cathy had amazing cat-like abilities and wore a costume.  She was not a super heroine.

William and Kathleen Grange were incredible acrobats and wore costumes as Billy the Cat and Katie The Cat.  They were not super heroes.

 

 Robots were big in the 1950s-1960s and Robot Archie was merely a remote controlled robot, from The Green Peril (The Jungle Robot) to travelling the world and, later on via tower-like device, travelling in time and space.  Yes, he foiled bank robberies and other criminal masterminds but he was not a super hero just a sci fi robot.



Likewise, the British secret weapon known as The Steel Commando was nothing more than that -though he answered only to Lance Corporal Ernie Bates' voice and seemed at times to make his own decisions -sometimes with very odd and funny consequences.

In fact, for my graphic novel featuring many old IPC and Fleetway costumed characters, The Looking Glass, I noted several times that the characters were not super heroes.  In the UK we tended to call them “costumed adventurers” or even “masked crime fighters” but not super heroes.

Some, of course, were…uh..”revived” for the Wildstorm Studios Albion mini series which had great art but, sadly, showed a lack of any real knowledge of the characters by the writers –which they admitted to.  In comics you get paying work you take it!

Below: Tri-Man. He wears a costume.  Has super powers.  Fights crime.  Obviously 'not' a super hero!





Characters such as Adam Eterno, the focal point in the Looking Glass story had no choice and were at times almost anti-heroes. 

Whereas The Spider had a choice of being a master crook and then changing sides (basically all ego driven), Eterno did not.  He was cursed to be taken by the mists of time from one period to another where he encountered Spanish Conquistadores, pirates, sorcerers and even modern day (well, 1970s) crooks.


http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_448y6kVhntg/RpTNCZFUX4I/AAAAAAAABCw/7VADkyrl7Dc/s400/LIONsp.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_448y6kVhntg/RpTNCZFUX4I/AAAAAAAABCw/7VADkyrl7Dc/s400/LIONsp.jpg
Olaf (“Loopy”) Larsen a rather meek school teacher found the Viking helmet of one of his ancestors and, donning it (that’s putting it on his head) became a super strong, flying Viking hero…The Phantom Viking.  There are stories of The Phantom Viking rescuing ships and much more and not a skyscraper in sight.


The great exponents of British roof-top crime-busting were, first, Billy The Cat and later Katie The Cat.  Running across the rooftops and leaping the often not so great gaps between one row of terraced houses and another, the duo were the fictional ancestors of today’s urban free-style runners/jumpers –examples found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ0YDF9bpZ8&feature=player_embedded#!

 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zuV3LI-FJ5c/T5seY6CAL6I/AAAAAAAAKZA/oY3-Qyd9hAY/s1600/gadgetman1.jpg
To most people who never get to see the rooves of terraced houses they assume they are all steep and sloping.  However, having on two occasions chased someone across terraced root-tops I can tell you there is plenty of room to move about (though at my age I now look back and get nauseous over that memory!).



Later, in the 1970s, William Farmer became the costumed crime-fighter known as The Leopard From Lime Street.  As one Fleetway boss told me (later confirmed by artist Mike Western) “Thomson had a schoolboy who fights crooks in a costume and if Billy the Cat was popular I was sure we could do better!”

Interestingly, in the Billy The Cat series he was later to be hunted as a vigilante by authorities who did not like what he was doing.  Likewise, The Leopard was also hunted down at one point.  In fact, a number of British comic crime-fighters found themselves not just ducking the crooks out for revenge but also the very side they were fighting for!




Towns, cities, villages, countryside, coastal locations –all featured in some very fun stories that endure in the memory to this day.  And not a bloody skyscraper in sight!

Now look at the UK again (or any country in Europe since this applies there, also -though Hexagon and Wanga comics are doing great work in France):  seaside resorts and coastal towns -in some of these areas larger "sea front tower blocks" have been built but even without those you have piers, amusement arcades/parks, sea forts, oil rigs out to sea -there is so much.

Towns and cities speak for themselves and Bristol has a mix of Medieval right through to ultra modern buildings and water fronts (our European colleagues in Germany did a lot of landscaping work for us between 1941-1944).  But there are underground caverns, cliffs, caves, old mine workings run many many miles from one end of the city to another and most are 'lost' or forgotten about.  And Pen Park Hole -wow.

Did I mention forestry and woodland?

And our ancient sites -everyone knows Stone Henge- but The Severn Sisters, Callanish, Avebury and even ancient woodland mazes -in Wales there are said to be ancient forests areas of which no one has probably ever seen.

Below:Callanish stones


There are the Green Man legends....


And then there are mountains and moors, ancient cave complexes and even underground lakes.

Just why would you need skyscrapers if you have all that -unless you lack imagination!

I used to love to watch the Narri Narro Festival in Germany where regional teams took part dressed as legends or myths from those areas.  In the UK there are the Green Children of Woolpit, Suffolk (12th Century)...





 And  there are many others to which we had the very well known ones.  King Arthur has been, perhaps, "over exposed" and we could say the same of Merlyn, but Merlyn is the British character intertwined in so many myths and legends that to ignore him would be rude!


When UK creators were recruited to save the ailing US comic companies such as DC in the 1980s (I was at those UK comic art conventions watching how desperate they were to recruit British talent –and in some cases introduced both parties to each other) the idea of outlawing super heroes and tracking them down so they could be arrested was a new concept....to Americans. 

In the UK we’d been doing that since the 1940s ( thanks to the creators who churned out material for publishers such as Gerald Swan)!



The mistake in the minds of publishers is that they equate costumed crime-fighters with skyscrapers and the United States.  Despite the long history of such characters in the UK going back to the Boys Papers of the 1900-1930s.

What it says, really, is “This is just a job.  I don’t care about comics history.”

The Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke (may they be forever cursed in the hallowed halls of British Comics Hell) have enough characters to produce good costumed-crime-fighter comics.  The same applied to IPC who appear to have now taken the stance (a letter to me from senior management dated 19th July, 2011) “We were once publishing comics but that was over 30 years ago and have no further interest in comics.” Of course, had a rich stable of characters.


I have no doubt at all that a good “super hero” comics could work in the UK but so few Independent Comics writers/publishers seem to be able to produce an obscenities free script that does not also include over the top violence and rape –the “Millar-Ennis-Morrison Legacy (MEML).”

But let’s mention, I really must, two shining examples of British “Super Heroes” by British creators that have excellent plotting, story and action without having to resort to the MEML.

The first is, naturally, Paul Grist’s Jack Staff.  Okay, he’s never accepted my offer to interview him in the last decade but I’ll not hold that against him!  When I first saw Jack Staff I thought “**** that anatomy is really off!”  I bought a copy.  I’m a comics bitch, I just can’t help it.

I read through issue 1 and do you know what? I..I..deep breath…I enjoyed it!  There it’s out now!  The anatomy did not put me off and, as the manager of Forbidden Planet (Bristol) said “It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference –it’s so enjoyable!” With references to old British TV comedy series and so much more each issue of Jack Staff was a must read. There was, I must point out here, a major flaw in each issue. There were not enough pages!


Jack Staff and cast


And while Grist takes a break from Jack Staff he came up with a new series –Mud-Man (which should not be confused with my German character Schlamm Mann –mud-man!).  Lovely stuff but, again, the major fault of not enough pages but maybe that is why this works: it is almost episodic like old British weekly strips…but with more pages…okay. Grist wins.


A boy with a remote control Army, Navy and Air Force stopping bad guys. General Jumbo 0'not' a super hero!


Then we have, and I have to say this on bended knees and in very humble tone…Nigel Dobbyn. When someone told me that he was drawing Billy The Cat I remember thinking to myself “I wonder whether his art style is any different than when he was drawing for Super Adventure Stories?”  (a 1980s comic zine).  I opened up the comic and a big thought balloon appeared above my head in which was written in bold Comic Sans “WOW!”

The style and colouring I had not seen outside of European comics (say Cyrus Tota’s work on Photonik).  After that I never missed an issue and I made a point of grabbing The Beano Annual as soon as it appeared in shops. But with this incredible talent working for them did Thomson take advantage?  No, they did something ensuring he would not work on new strips for them.  The story can be found here:

http://www.comicbitsonline.com/2010/12/12/nigel-dobbynbilly-the-cat-and-d-c-thomson/

You want to see how good Dobbyn is?  Visit his website which has great art on show including Billy The Cat colour pages:

http://www.nigeldobbyn.com/


Dobbyn even re-introduced (with help from scripter Kev F. Sutherland, of course) General Jumbo but as The General.  In fact, you go over those issues and I can see why so many people were telling me that they only bought copies for Billy The Cat. I could drool on and wax lyrical for hours about Dobbyn’s style and colouring.


Now here is the real kicker.  Two talents such as Grist and Dobbyn whom any UK publisher (I know –“Who??”) should be fighting, spitting and kicking to get their hands on but are they?  Nope.  And while Grist publishes his books via Image Comics you have to wonder why Marvel or DC have not tried to get him on a title?  Could it be his style is just not understandable by people in US Comics such as Joe “I’ll sell that for a Dollar” Quesada or Dan “I’ve had another brilliant idea on how to destroy DC” Didio?  What of Dobbyn, then?

I know that if as a publisher I had the money I’d be employing both full time!!

I need to stop mentioning Dobbyn now as my knees hurt (a lot) and it’s hard typing from this position.

What both creators have shown is that there really do not have to be skyscrapers for a “super hero.”  There is enough car crime, drug crime…violent crime of most types going on in the UK and believe it or not none involve a single skyscraper.  Incredible, isn’t it?

Also, the UK is rich in legends, myths, fairy tales and much more that are just crying out to be included in storylines.  The reason the Americans and other comic readers world-wide like UK strips is because they are uniquely British.  In India, particularly in Southern India, The Steel Claw, Robot Archie, The Spider and many others are still very popular in reprint form over 35 years since they last appeared in print here.
Above: Black Tower specialises in two things when it comes to new characters -super heroes and the supernatural/horror.  Kotar & Sabuta by Ben R. Dilworth.


Of course, now that the Evil Empire (Disney) has extended its stranglehold on Marvel (Panini) UK nothing new from the UK is allowed –though why doesn’t Panini with all its international branches pull in some new characters/books of their own? 

Oh. Its cheaper to publish reprint material, isn’t it?  I can be so silly!



Black Tower Comics has published a wide range of comics and the costumed crime-fighters (or even non-costumed in the case of Krakos) are the most popular.

No one is challenging Disney since its policy seems to be "make all comics American" and no one is challenging DC.  It is NOT how you go into this.  I've seen babies clothed in Marvel/DC super hero clothing, Avengers shoe laces, lunch boxes, Pez dispensers, t-shirts, socks, action figures, toy cars sweets -basically on everything.  Do you think that kids look at something and say "I could not possibly look at that comic.  It may have super heroes and be colourful but, really, it isn't Marvel, is it?"

Do my great nephews care if it's Marvel or DC or some other super hero? No. It's super heroes and that is that.

So the market is there but where are the money-men, the backers needed to help revive the corpse that is British comics so that it can proudly boast an industry once more that takes advantage of talents such as Grist, Dobbyn and Jon Haward?   And rake in some of that money!

However improbable British super heroes might seem to sum I can tell you they are not.  There is a history going back 80 years and even longer if you include the Penny Dreadfuls of the Victorian era.

Here endeth the sermon.

Garen's Billy the Cat


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