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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Memories....D-Gruppe and Dalborn. It's An Age Thing!

A comment on CBO regarding Dalborn got me a bit nostalgic though I was slightly sad to hear that Der Alter Jager has now become a Kulturekneipe.  Times change.  I still remember the old days and even a few local mysteries.

Who Was The FIRST German Super Hero And Which Team Was FIRST?

I had to try to find some dates for a piece I'm writing on D-Gruppe. I really had to try to remember the rough date for creating the characters that went on to form D-Gruppe.

Well, I know we lived on the farm in Dalborn, which is a tiny village stuck between Detmold, Blomberg and Lemgo, in the mid 1960s. Germans are/were bigger on traditional folk tales than, say the English, and if you've ever seen the Narri Narro festival you'll know what I mean! But our monochrome TV (which I can only remember as being more brownish and white) was filled with faery tales and so I learnt of Rumpelstiltskin and the Singing Ringing Tree, Beauty and the Beast and so on.

I quite liked "dwarves".  I hate that term these days even though people who I knew who were classed as such used the term. But I did wonder why they always seemed to be portrayed as crafty or evil? Now, I can't even remember which TV show or story it was but I watched this blond-haired small person and he was quite acrobatic and clever.  That image always stuck with me and that, in the late 1960s, was the concept of the character who became Klaud von Happe -Kopfmann. Leader of D-Gruppe.

Now, as I've posted before on CBO (and probably here somewhere!), the first super hero to hit German comics was Superman in the early 1950s. Baron Munchhausen was a fantastical character and I saw a few versions of the story in picture books. But not a super hero.

Later Batman and the other DC heroes and those of Marvel -and briefly Archie comics- hit the shelves. There were also a lot of Franco-Belgian comics and in these Wastl (or "Jerome" in Suske und Wiske) was the nearest thing to a costumed super hero and later still Mykros joined the ranks (I've posted a good few times on Mykros on CBO but no actual homegrown super heroes.

On the old Droster farm I had to entertain myself and so I began drawing and the un-named D-Gruppe composed of a mixed bag of characters and were based in the nearby forest.  Today, of course, they are still based in the state of Lippe.  And do I wish I'd kept those early efforts but that was out of my hands.

So I can place Kopfmann and the initial spark of creating D-Gruppe as the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I soon found that in the UK no one was interested in German characters (I should have thought that through).  So when did the published D-Gruppe appear?

Well, I produced a "trash can" comic in 1983. I sent it out to some Small Pressers in Germany and I know copies even got to East Germany and I know that because I got some of the smuggled out East German comics!

The first printed glimpse of D-Gruppe was around 1984 and then in an issue of Zine Zone in which it was announced the first officially published story -Revenge of the Ice Queen- was to be printed in my Previews Comic -a favourite amongst comic professionals at the time. So 1985/86.

Around the same time I decided that the evil, semi deformed, psychotic "Soviets" and Chinese who were still featuring in Marvel and DC comics really needed more realistic counterparts!  I knew Chinese people and some Russians.  They were not inhuman monsters waiting to destroy democracy. So Red Star Squadron and the PRC Phoenix Team clashed but then cooperated on the Soviet-Sino border against...The Evil of The Salamander...actually the title of the strip which was later reprinted in Black Tower Adventure vol. 2 nos 1-3. Which got a lot of us laughing because some idiot, I can't even remember his name, wrote in a fanzine that I was glorify Communism and that I must be "a commie"! It was funny because no British person seriously ran around Commie bashing in the 1980s.

It was a mad period of creativity because, before Task Force Justice League there was Task Force Europe -Belgian, French, Spanish, Luxembourg and other countries providing heroes for the team and so I pretty much had Europe covered!

Watcher Das Internationale magazin fuer Phantastik was a photocopied fanzine of sorts published by Chris Dohr from Trier, in Germany.  It covered movies -such as The Fly (original), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Willow, the TV series UFO as well as fantasy literature and comics.

There were some great single illoes by American Dave Fontaine, from Attleboro who even did a couple D-Gruppe illoes -where is he now?? The third issue of Watcher contained a lengthy strip by David Stepheson (from the UK -another “Where is he now!?”) The Master Of Mengerheim (a strip originally published in Black Tower Previews Comic.

But earlier in 1989, Chris published the first story featuring D-Gruppe  –Rache Der Eis Konigin. By 1989 “Gruppe D” as it was titled in the magazine, was a well known strip in Germany amongst fans. Helge “Herod” Korda had already parodied it in a mini comic titled D-Suppe (“D-Soup”) which I no longer have sadly. Helge, of course, was creator of the parody Heroes From The Lost Lagoon comic strip and later comic album.

I was not very impressed by the way the strip was presented by Watcher (crooked printing on some pages) but where I had a big problem was…the translation.  Ice Queen is feminine so it should have been “Die” rather than “Der” (?). I was also surprised that the name of a German national monument such as Externsteine was miss-spelt as “Externen Steinen”!

Although I was not too keen on this German version I was surprised to learn that it had been copied and distributed to comic fans in East Germany where there was a strong underground zine scene.

But what the heck -here, unedited, is the story from Watcher. Helge "Herod" Korda  -if you see this PLEASE tell me you still have a copy of “D-Suppe”!!!

It was interesting to see the rather nasty responses to D-Gruppe on some German comic forums. "Super heroes" was a dirty word and "They have no place in German be fair neither did German creations because most things being published were Franco-Belgian and even British!  But there was some support and getting that was good.

I've covered the whole history on CBO so I'll not go into that here.  However, it shocked me to realise D-Gruppe has been with me nearly 50 years! Bloody hell.

But the team has not only featured in its own comic, trade but also in Return of the Gods: Twilight of the Super Heroes and the up-coming Green Skies.  And Ben Dilworth, who was the inker who really made that first published D-Gruppe strip my personal favourite, has drawn a darker, parallel Earth version in his EP 667 strips. Such as.....

D-Gruppe EP 667: The Grandfather Paradox...Now

I guess D-Gruppe were Germany's first and so far longest running team of super heroes -and they are not done with super heroing yet, oh no.

And I know you are asking "What local mysteries?"  I am glad you asked!

One day, after school, I went into the Greystoke Avenue Library, in Southmead, Bristol, and looked through their “Older readers” section.  In those days, if under 16 you weren’t really allowed to venture over to the adult section but the librarians let me.  I had read most of the paranormal/ghost books but saw two I had not read before.  I was in a hurry and on leaving the library discovered I had accidentally picked up a copy of Brisley Le Poer Trench’ The Flying Saucer Story.  I was annoyed. I could not take the book back until next day (lending policy).

On that day I read The Flying Saucer Story and much more than forty years later I’m still suffering the results of that read! It was only later that I heard from my parents that before I was born they had been on the farm in Germany and seen a large ball of light (UFO).  So it was fate!

Wildlife. I have never had a problem in this area.  While in Sevier Street, St. Werburghs, I looked out after a Summer rain shower to see an approximately six inches (15 cms) long caterpillar of some type –it was literally covered in long, fawn colour hair so it looked like a long mop.  It moved up the wall between the outhouse and coal shed and to this day I have never been able to identify what it was.

My grand mother had lived in Dalborn since the Second World War but had never seen any hares.  She was a bit miffed when I returned from a walk to describe watching groups of hares and even hare ‘boxing matches’!

When I was a bit older I did walk through the forestry and hear an odd noise. I looked down and saw wild boar piglets and at that point I broke into a cold sweat because I became aware and then saw the sow.  She stared at me as I slowly moved away, walking backwards and not taking my eyes off her.  She never charged me.

On one holiday, as a family, we went with our grand-father to pick dandelions for his giant rabbits.  The route was a familiar one to us –out through the farm orchard, down the tractor path and then along a basic road between cornfields and the forest. As we passed a tree stump a good few feet from the forestry my grand-father casually mentioned that the stump was where he had seen “the sturm-geist” (storm ghost/spirit). 

Now, Opa (Otto Peter Scharf) had suffered a stroke so his vocabulary was good but not great –he was still “re-learning” full speech.  The storm ghost had an ugly face and was covered in hair and when he saw it the beasty leaped from the trunk and into the forestry.  “It sounds like a chimp or monkey of some kind” I said.  Opa smiled that smile: “No. We don’t have monkeys here.” I thought “We don’t have monkeys but we do have storm spirits!”  Of course, Opa was probably thinking “He thinks we have monkeys in the forest?”

Opa had been alone that time but when we were all together on the rough track one day, right next to where the sturm-geist had been seen, he said “Look there!” All we saw was a glossy black, hair-covered back leap into the coniferous forestry. If you’ve seen black furred/feathered creatures you’ll know that in bright sunlight the fur/feather has that sort of brownish, even purplish glint.  So did this beasty.  I rushed forward determined to see what it was but the forestry was so wild at that point I could only get five feet ort so –but we all heard it crash through the branches of the trees.

My cousin later threw almost an hissy-fit as we explained the event.  I have no idea why he was so vehement in his dismissal of the sighting.  His explanation?  It was a “fishing bird.” I was puzzled having never heard of a “Fishing bird” –I found out it was a cormorant. I’ve seen so many cormorants over the years (we have them in Bristol) that I know it was not that we saw.  And besides, our critter was leaping not flying.

On another occasion I observed what I thought was a badger emerging from forestry across some fields. 

In Germany, while collecting wood for the fire in woods just outside Dalborn, my father about six feet ahead of me with the wood-cart, there was a sudden silence. I turned to my left to see a young fallow deer, a true “bambi”, looking at me curiously. Some ten feet (3m) beyond it, in amongst the trees, stood the mother also looking at me. This lasted some time before we all mutually moved off.

Everyone, including the local ranger, assured me that there were no badgers in the area. A few nights later I got up to go to the bedroom window because it was hot and sticky and the midges were being noisy pests. I heard a noise in the flower bed, about three feet (90 cms) below the window.  I looked down and there, looking up at me, was what for all the world looked like a fluffy black fox with white facial markings –almost raccoon like.  I tried to reach for the camera at my bedside that had a flash on it and trying to do so without taking my eyes off the critter.  My hand knocked the camera and I tried to grab it –when I turned back the animal was gone.

Next day..there was that look again in amongst chuckles as I explained what I had seen. I was dreaming it seems. No such animal existed. Alright, now I knew what people reporting a UFO or Sasquatch felt like!

Back in England I went through all my books and –there it was.  Fluffy black fox with white markings!  But it was not a fox, rather it was a raccoon-like dog which is a rather primitive wild canid that can hibernate and they were kept by fur farmers before escapes in the 1930s and, of course, during the war.  I had seen one the furthest west they had moved (though that was not known at the time.

Next year I took the book and showed everyone I could in Dalborn.  Not a single odd look just the very, very annoying response of “Yes. You saw one –so what?”  I was sure this was a conspiracy.

So you can imagine I thought everyone considered me a nut-case.  However, one day my aunt said to my mother: “Ask 'Herr Professor' if he wants coffee.”  I looked around and she was looking at me.  I had no idea up to this point that the family called me “Herr Professor” or that some of the locals were also referring to me in that way.  Apparently, my constant nose-in-books, asking questions and checking everything from insects, unusual plants and animals out had earned me a reputation!

there, not fantastic I know, but memories.

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