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Terry Hooper-Scharf

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Dr Who Died At Christmas

Doctor Who, on 7.6 million viewers, also had an average audience 1.3 million fewer than in 2011. Not surprising since it has become a childish fantasy programme which, with an absolutely dire script, not even Matt Smith's acting could save. It was just awful awful awful! "I'm a sword carrying lizard lady from the dawn of time and this is my wife" (WTF??) and "Answer but use only one word"/ say why the doctor must help -but use only one word" -a test? More like the worst kind of sloppy writing I've ever come across on a Dr Who! And a pull down ladder (invisible until pulled down) that led to a spiral staircase that led to the Tardis sitting on solidified moisture particles. W T F??? And, excuse me but TWICE I looked around thinking I'd fallen asleep as the story/scene "jumped" with no explanation. Merlin each weekend brought in 12 million viewers. Dr Who viewing figures are falling but it continues (until the 50th anniversary at least) but Merlin is cancelled as the writing and performances were getting better. Christmas 2012 is the time Dr Who died for me.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Attila Fazekas And The Legal Bootleg Star Wars!

Taken a while but as CBO is very interested in comics from Europe the following email from János Verebics was quite interesting -with plenty of images!
“Maybe some news you will be interested in?

“As I informed you in previous mails, Attila Fazekas, one of the great masters of the Hungarian Golden Age of Comics is still alive (thanks God), and is very active. He completed an epic story on the early years of our greatest national hero, Janos Hunyadi (Brightness of the Morning Star) and…
The Return Of The Jedi!.

Above and Below: Fazekas at work

In 1982 – without the permission of Lucasfilm – he made a very good adaption of Star Wars, which was sold over 600,000 copies (yeah, no mistake: 600, 000) in Hungary. And two years later he produced an adaption of The Empire Strikes Back.

After 1990 the original US comics were published in my country too, but the Hungarian Star Wars fans have never given up dreaming about having a Fazekas-Return Of The Jedi. Now the dream comes true: Lucasfilm has kindly given permission to the Hungarian Star Wars Fan Club to publish Return Of The Jedi but limited to no more then 500 copies and for FREE (i.e. no licence fees were requested).

The first part was published last month and we love it…

This edition was fortunately published with an official permission, and the circulation is really under control (no more, than 500, really). Fazekas is working now on the second book, which will be published next year. I’ll enclose some photographs I took yesterday at Attila’s home. Please do not hesitate to use them as illustrations.
The whole thing was, of course, not a business venture. On the Star Wars conventions the booklets are sold for 4,25 euros. But it’s a huge victory to the Hungarian SW Club and the comics art, which proved it’s good quality, again.

Below: Nice to see another artist’s drawing space!

Above:a spread of Star Wars artwork by Fazekas. And below, as Janos writes:
“Fazekas made a small joke on the first page of the second part: he placed himself into the story (he put his own face one of the characters).”

0257, 0256 and 0259 are pics taken (by hand) of the “original” Hungarian Star Wars from the 80s (below).

I think this shows that, far from being some comic backwater that had no American comics, Hungarian creators were quite prolific and as good as any of their “Western” counterparts.
There is some lovely work here and my thanks to Janos for letting me know about this -I just hope Fazekas makes some money out of this!

Uncle Tel’s Corner –A Couple Comic Related Questions

First one:
Q: “Why do you say “comickers”?”
A: It’s an old term, I think back to the 1920s (?) referring to those reading/working in comics.
Q: “You’ve written a few times about ‘comic sets’ -what do you mean?”
A: In the old days the artwork for comics was cut into wooden blocks.  These were sets of blocks -”comic sets”.
Q: “Why did/do comics have everything in capital letters?”
A: Do they still do that? It was necessary at one time because of the machines used in cheap printing so everything was capitalised for extra clarity. No reason to still be doing that!

Marvel Comics The Untold Story -A MUST buy!!!

Above:Sean Howe with his book (c)Photo by Stefano Giovannini, Brooklyn Daily

Sean Howe
Harper Books
484 pp

Well, Mr. Brown gave me this book and told me “you’ll enjoy it!”  This from a man who allegedly hates comics.

So what is it about?  According to the blurb/info:

An unvarnished, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes account of one of the most dominant pop cultural forces in contemporary America.
Operating out of a tiny office on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s, a struggling company called Marvel Comics presented a cast of brightly costumed characters distinguished by smart banter and compellingly human flaws. Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Daredevil—these superheroes quickly won children’s hearts and sparked the imaginations of pop artists, public intellectuals, and campus radicals. Over the course of a half century, Marvel’s epic universe would become the most elaborate fictional narrative in history and serve as a modern American mythology for millions of readers.
Throughout this decades-long journey to becoming a multibillion-dollar enterprise, Marvel’s identity has continually shifted, careening between scrappy underdog and corporate behemoth. As the company has weathered Wall Street machinations, Hollywood failures, and the collapse of the comic book market, its characters have been passed along among generations of editors, artists, and writers—also known as the celebrated Marvel “Bullpen.” Entrusted to carry on tradition, Marvel’s contributors—impoverished child prodigies, hallucinating peaceniks, and mercenary careerists among them—struggled with commercial mandates, a fickle audience, and, over matters of credit and control, one another.
For the first time, Marvel Comics reveals the outsized personalities behind the scenes, including Martin Goodman, the self-made publisher who forayed into comics after a get-rich-quick tip in 1939; Stan Lee, the energetic editor who would shepherd the company through thick and thin for decades; and Jack Kirby, the World War II veteran who’d co-created Captain America in 1940 and, twenty years later, developed with Lee the bulk of the company’s marquee characters in a three-year frenzy of creativity that would be the grounds for future legal battles and endless debates.
Drawing on more than one hundred original interviews with Marvel insiders then and now, Marvel Comics is a story of fertile imaginations, lifelong friendships, action-packed fistfights, reformed criminals, unlikely alliances, and third-act betrayals—a narrative of one of the most extraordinary, beloved, and beleaguered pop cultural entities in America’s history.
And the reviewers say this:

“A WILD-RIDE ACCOUNT” —The Hollywood Reporter

“EPIC” —The New York Times

“INDISPENSABLE” —Los Angeles Times

“DEFINITIVE” —The Wall Street Journal

“SCINTILLATING” —Publishers Weekly


“AUTHORITATIVE” —Kirkus Reviews

“GRIPPING” —Rolling Stone

“PRICELESS” —Booklist


“ESSENTIAL” —The Daily Beast


“REVELATORY” —The Miami Herald


Now I never ever bother with what other reviewers write.  Why should I?  The whole point is that I review and make up my own mind.  So, first thing first: I had expected an illustrated book –photographs.  There is one small photo of Kirby & Lee from 1965 and that’s it.  There are more images on Howe’s site but why? If you buy the book you do not expect to have to go to the author’s blog to see what should be in the book.

That is my gripe because how many reading the book would know what Don Heck, John Verpoorten, John Romita, Herb Trimpe et al look like?  A photograph humanises the account more.

The book itself I opened preparing to read the worst of former Marvel favourites.  However, very few people come out well in this history other than the old school creators and staffers –the Romitas, Trimpe, the Buscemas, Heck and Stan Lee.  I was surprised by the Stan Lee aspect because, despite stating he was a loyal company man –Jeez, he built Marvel up from the ground so he would be— Lee really was a fierce and loyal supporter of his staff and freelancers.
There is the story of when Lee was forced to lay-off staff and how he would give them the bad news then visit the toilet to throw up.  A process he had to repeat all day. It was after this that he decided “no more” and began to build things up –the frustrated writer who wanted to convince people that comics were not just for dummies but were an art form.  Lee desperately trying to get Marvel properties into movies.

At one point when Lee was planning on leaving Marvel he wrote a letter to a friend stating how he would like to take Kirby and others with him but pointing out that if he couldn’t no problem –they were so talented they would land on their feet. As more of the behind the scenes story played out (not all new if you are into comics history) my respect for the old time freelancers and staffers grew.  They did their jobs and never messed around.  Comics sold.

When it comes to Ditko my opinion was reinforced.  He is one of the great comic artists but a very “fractured” person.  Yes, if you, as a writer, create a character and describe his/her abilities, etc., to an artist YOU have created the character.  The artist coming up with the design and art you can call “co-creator” and Lee even put this in writing for Ditko regarding Spider-man (despite some of what Ditko said and wrote) but Ditko wanted to be THE creator, not a co-creator.  Ditko made his own problems and to be honest yes, like Lee said and wrote, Ditko was “co-creator” and if Ditko wants to be a pain and bleat about semantics and imagined wrongs well…let him.

Jack Kirby and his various claims are also touched on.  We all know that certain people in comics adopted Kirby as a “down-trodden creator bullied by Marvel” simply so they could snipe at Marvel.  I have always stated, and the facts are there, Stan Lee was not the mastermind behind some sinister plot against Kirby.  The problem was to be lain at the people running Marvel.

There is the mention of Kirby’s signature being on a work-for-hire document from, I believe 1972 and this was “unexplained” so are people claiming this was forged?  If so why were experts not called in to examine the signature?

As I read a lot of what Kirby was alleged to have said/written or had been said as coming from him over the years one thing became clear.  I think to some degree Kirby was being used but I also think Kirby was having memory problems –I have one printed interview in which Kirby’s wife is repeatedly noted as answering for him. And there were outlandish claims made by Kirby –that Lee had never written a script, that he never knew what was in a strip until Kirby turned it over and that he created characters and wrote them himself.

Lee made a call when Kirby was on radio to wish him a happy birthday and the exchange was pleasant.  At a convention Kirby had said to Lee that Lee had done nothing to be ashamed of.  Then came another anti-Lee rant.  Lee, through his statements and recorded interviews, is genuinely dumbfounded by all this –and there is enough recorded Lee history at Marvel and after to show that he never said a bad word about Kirby or Ditko (unless someone tried to trick him as in the infamous Jonathan Ross interview for the documentary In Search Of Steve Ditko).

Yes, I think Kirby should have gotten some reward for all the merchandising based on characters he and Lee created and that were used in toys, etc., but even Lee got no royalty –it was work-for-hire. The problem lay in those money men running Marvel.

The rot set in when, as in the UK comic industry, the fans got in!  Drugs, drink and even worse.  Yes, some good comics were created but we now learn what was going on with stand-in story issues, very bad continuity and other things that bugged us over the years.

It was the editors and writers who were back-biting, demanding complete control of what they were working on, getting to edit their own books and sneaking stories past their editors that they knew they normally would not get away with. Quite honestly it is a wonder Marvel never died an earlier death.  Imagine a bunch of screeching, in-fighting children who try to sabotage each other –and often dumb-ass editors.

It’s no wonder Lee quit.

Everyone wanted more money and to be in complete control: “get rid of him or I’m quitting!”  And these children continue this behaviour to this day –even in court.  I found it very difficult to feel sorry for any of the later creators/staffers.

The complete corruption of an industry can be said to have started with acid taking creators and ….I cannot think of adequately describing the editors.

Doing the dirty of Sal Buscema and Don Heck and other loyal freelancers makes me look at editors with no respect.  Even one of my favourites, Roy Thomas, doesn’t come out of this well.

Reading of the Shooter days I got the impression that at one point Shooter was having a nervous breakdown but no one realised.  That or he became a real bastard because he was having to deal with problem creators and just was not experienced enough to do the job (though he wrote some good comics).

Then I got to the bit where Quesada and Palmiotti jumped in.  Really, you need to read this.  I’ve not had much regard for Quesada but after this book I’ve no regard for him at all.

The cover price hike-ups to “cover printing costs” were nothing of the sort (as a lot of us knew) it simple was to screw the fans who owners and creators seemed to have no respect for. “Put Wolverine in every and any book because it will sell even if it stinks” was and is a genuine company policy.

There is account after account of creators leaving Marvel and swearing never to work for the scum again…until more money was offered.  Hypocrisy as a word does not even get close to covering it.  How much did creators care about fans and what they as creators were working on?  You’ll find quote after quote of creators who moan and complain that they were working on “shit –but I made a barrel load of money out of it!”

I know the people who go out and buy Marvel don’t care about any of this so long as they get their Wolverine or Deadpool –even when they get fewer pages for more money.  Well, Marvel says it so I might as well –screw ‘em.

As a plain straight forward comic historian there is only one thing I can say about this well indexed and referenced book.  It should be must reading.  It is well written and none of the quotes given at the start of this piece are wrong.  I wrote that a lot of this is not news to us oldies but the thing is that Howe has set it all out in one concise and well written book –there ought to be a reward for writing this.

Now we just need one on DC!

Once you start reading this you will not want to put it down.  My copynis already referenced with post-it notes!!!!

Did I enjoy it, Mr. Brown….well, you tell me.

Friday 14 December 2012

NEWSLETTER del 14/12/2012
Cerchiamo volontari per la settima edizione di BilBOlbul! I volontari avranno modo di fare un’esperienza formativa e di contribuire attivamente alla realizzazione del festival. Diversi sono i settori in cui si potrà essere coinvolti: allestimento mostre, organizzazione eventi, documentazione, comunicazione, attività pedagogiche. Se siete interessati, mandate un’e-mail entro il 7 gennaio 2013 con il vostro cv a, indicando come oggetto “VOLONTARI”. È importante specificare il settore in cui si desidera essere inseriti.

È aperto il bando di concorso "Noi e gli altri", a cura di Flashfumetto, in collaborazione con l’Anci – Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani, Hamelin  e Associazione Yoda. L'iniziativa è rivolta a giovani dai 15 ai 35 anni di tutta Italia. Scadenza: 27 gennaio 2013.

Come nella scorsa edizione il concorso sarà suddiviso in Sezione e Sezione Yoda (con workshop il 9 e 10 gennaio). Gli elaborati migliori di entrambe le sezioni verranno esposti in una mostra collettiva all’interno di BilBOlbul a cui seguirà la pubblicazione di un libro-catalogo.
Da dicembre potete trovare in molte librerie di Bologna i segnalibri di BilBOlbul: una serie di tre dedicata ai personaggi di Vittorio Giardino e uno con l’immagine che Henning Wagenbreth ha realizzato per il festival.
Cercateli tutti in libreria!
BilBOlbul Festival internazionale di fumetto fa parte della
Rete dei Festival del Contemporaneo di Bologna
BilBOlBul: 21 > 24 febbraio 2013 - bilbolbulnet :: Future Film Festival: 12 > 17 aprile 2013 - :: Live Arts Week: 16 > 21 aprile 2013 - :: Angelica- Festival Internazionale di musica :: Biografilm: :: Gender Bender:

Thursday 6 December 2012

Things Strange And Sinister

Some Things Strange & Sinister
Price: £10.00
Ships in 3–5 business days
After more than 30 years as an investigator and more than forty as a naturalist,the author has opened some of the many files he has accumulated dealing with such things as.. The Terrifying EventsAt The Lamb Inn,The Ghosts Of All Saints Church,Dead Aquatic Creatures of Canvey Island,captured bigfoot like creatures in India -all exclusively presented for the first time and with new added research previously unseen. 
PLUS a vastly expanded section on Spring-heeled Jack! Photographs,maps,line drawings and up-dated to make 358 pages looking at Things truly Strange and Sinister. 
Cryptozoologist,Ghost Hunter,Ufologist or Fortean:this book has something for everyone -including the just plain inquisitive!

Some More Things Strange & Sinister

Price: £10.00
Ships in 3–5 business days
Follow-up to the hugely successful Some Things Strange & Sinister. For those interested in Ufology,cryptozoology,hominology,unusual natural history,ghosts and mysteries in general. The secret history of gorillas -before they were 'discovered'.

Wild men of Europe, the UK and US. Hominology. Giant snakes. Amazons. The Giant serpent of Carthage. Girt Dog of Ennerdale. The Beast of Gevaudan. Crocodiles in the UK. Silent City of Alaska.

And much more. Updated with extra pages and photographs

Pursuing The Strange & Weird

Price: £10.00
Ships in 3–5 business days
From Dead Aquatic (Humanoid) Creatures, the giant squid and yet undiscovered sea creatures;submarine and ships crews encountering true leviathans. 
Extinct animals at sea that have been re-discovered and the subject of Sasquatch and other Hominids around the world as well as two early French UFO entity cases that still baffle, ghosts, strange creatures-and the Star-Child hoax.
 All dealt with by the naturalist and pursuer of the strange and weird 

Black Tower -NEW! Black Tower Adventure 9

Price: £5.00
Ships in 3–5 business days

This is it!! Yes, the one that someone has been waiting for!

Runestone gets to try out his new powers as he faces…The Beast of Exmoor!

Kelvin Jones gets to try out his shiny Helmet of Power while our heroes are on a parallel Moon and fighting off Selenites in The Cross Earths Caper!

Kotar has his hands full in a solo adventure while Lady Silana faces a demon of her own.

The quest for the Iron Warrior continues in the Amazon.

A prequel to two British Golden Age comic strips in Return To Lost Man’s Gulch and more…including The Thinker and The Phantom Detective –


Black Tower Comics: ADVENTURE 8

Artists: Ben R. Dilworth, Terry Hooper-Scharf, Rey Prothero and Perry O’Thore
58 Pages
Price: £5.50
Ships in 3–5 business days
At last! After cameo appearances in Tales of Terror and one strip over the last twenty years THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE returns in two tales to horrify!
Plus, The Thinker…thinks DOOM!
Having discovered the Iron Warrior in the African jungle, three adventurers are about to get a shock”
A wizened old man offers to give Kelvin Nolan his helmet which creates a few misunderstandings in Kelvin Nolan and His Helmet of Power!
Runestone tests the rune that has embadded itself in his hand while, in The Cross-Earths Caper (pt.2)Bristol is, quite virtually, The Wild, Wild West Country..and Selenites threaten to destroy Earth. Thought that ought to be mentioned.

Black Tower Adventure 7

Adventure 7

The First part of a new series begins this issue!
How do you follow up Return Of The Gods? “The Cross Earths Caper” is how!Zom the Mystic calls upon Earths heroes to help out those on another Earth and, against their better judgement, some of those still active after the Gods saga agree. Part 1:”The Ages Of Swing, Pop and Techno”
In the final part Xendragon confronts the Legacy of Frankenstein and has to re-assess some of his old beliefs. But with a cracked Frankenstein creating creatures and a werewolf on the loose will Xendragon survive?
And there are tragic consequences for Thaddeus Twatt in the final part of The Jungle Planet.Any dry eyes left at the end of this tale will belong to heartless swine!
Silvermaigne tracks down a vampyre.
The Thinker over thinks.
And more. This is The Black Tower Age Of Comics!