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Saturday, 26 November 2016

The FIRST German Super Hero Team ?

Again, the answer is "Yes"!
Re-posted on legal grounds.



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 wasSuperman 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 http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/jean-yves-mitton-photonik-meand-not.html 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 MassacreWillow, 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 comics...to 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 Stransky & Labbat have featured their ow darker, parallel Earth versions in their EP 667 strips.

I guess D-Gruppe were Germany's first and so far longest running team of super heroes (even if German comic readers don't know it!).

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