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Friday, 25 November 2011

Spliffy The Stoner Chick

Spliffy The Stoner Chick!
Gabbys comics
John A. Short (W)  & Gabrielle Noble (A)
full colour
ADULT (18) Only

One of the strips I liked most in Ganjaman and later the much lamented Wasted (the Taxman never gets cheated!) was Spliffy -written by John A. Short (who has been around almost as long as me…well, I don’t think anyone is that old) and Gabrielle Noble.

John has been around a good time now and his writing is great –Spliffy invariably ends up losing her clothes –making her the 21st Century version of the old Daily Mirror character Jane.

Gabrielle’s art and colouring works really well and there are added treats in this comic –strips such as Malice In Wonderland: great art and a cracking punchline at the end. And then we have Dope Squad…very, very naughty…but nice.

For a full colour first issue this is a great start and I hope this will become a regular title –at £2.99 that is cheap.

Ten out of ten from me.
To order (but check out the blog first for posters, t-shirts and more news!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Classical Comics -BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA!

Normally, when a new book comes out from Clive Bryant’s Classical Comics I’m quite enthusiastic.  Not this time.

This time I’m overjoyed!

It’s been about forty years since I read Dracula as a novel.  A very thick book with more pages than I care to remember.  But I did read it in a week. And at my age I have seen many comic book adaptions of the novel -some quite fun some pretty poor.  Don’t get me started on the 1970s BBC TV adaption (19…77? with Louis Jordan).

Now, there is a certain Classical omics writer who repeatedly took me to task over not bigging up his writing.   But I think I always mention the writers fairly -or I hope I do.  Now a onfession.  When I heard Jason Cobley was to write the adaption I thought “Oh!”  I know of his work in the Small Press but I questioned whether he could adapt such a huge work into 150 pages.

In fact, he’s done an excellent job.

Staz Johnson’s art is probably the best I have seen from him in his long career.  The colour work by Offredi is spot on.  The combination of both men’s work and Cobley’s script make this probably the most commercial book so far.  The story pacing as well as the art should appeal to the general comic fan and certainly to American fans who might like to see more action and well paced stories but who are not into the classic works of English literature.

I do seriously doubt that either Marvel or DC comics could have produced a better adaption.
There is also the Bram Stoker biography at the rear of the book and for schools I think this is excellent because the art alone will catch the eye of pupils and, craftily, lure them into reading a classic.  As usual the number of projects a school could make as a spin-off from this book are only limited by the teachers imagination!

If the term “graphic novel” has to be applied to a comic strip adaption then Dracula is that book.
And all in time for Christmas!  If you are a horror film/comic/book fan then this is the graphic novel you need to grab.  In fact I’d just say “buy the book!!” and if you see it pop up in any comic award lists -VOTE!
Proof that UK creators CAN produce great comics.

check out the links to see sample art.
Dracula Original Text Preview
Original Text Preview
Dracula Quick Text Preview
Quick Text Preview
Dracula - Original Text - click to see PDF preview Dracula - Quick Text - click to see PDF preview
British English Language Versions
British Editions (Cover price £9.99)
Click here for an explanation of the text versions
Original Text Version
ISBN: 978-1-906332-25-9Click here to buy
Quick Text Version
ISBN: 978-1-906332-26-6Click here to buy
American English Language Versions
US Editions (Cover price $16.95)
Click here for an explanation of the text versions
Original Text Version
ISBN: 978-1-906332-67-9
(pub date: February 2012)
Quick Text Version
ISBN: 978-1-906332-68-6
(pub date: February 2012)
Bram Stoker
“I went down into the vaults. There lay the Count!
He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which –
for the eyes were open and stony but without the glassiness of death.”

Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece was first published in 1897, and has spawned so many classic films, all based on the character he invented when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Like Frankenstein, the films have pushed the characters into the very fabric of our society, so it is with great pride that we bring you a visual treatment that is true to the original – made even more exciting by the wonderous talent that is Staz Johnson!
Script Adaptation: Jason Cobley
Linework: Staz Johnson
Colouring: James Offredi
Lettering: Jim Campbell

UK Publication Date: 21st November 2011
Format: 152 pages
full colour
(click here for info)
Original Text (abridged)
Quick Text

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Interview From The Past…JOHN ERASMUS!

The Sensational JOHN ERASMUS!

When I started up Black Tower Comics as a zine (Small Press) venture in the mid-1980s, there were two creators who seemed to pop up in almost every zine I came across. One was Ben R. Dilworth and the other was John Erasmus.

Apart from the odd one off gag cartoon and strip, John also supplied me with episodes of Denizen Ark:Unemployed Crime-fighter and then my first digest sized graphic novel –Dervish Ropey And The Maximin Sword.
Foolishly, I had only printed off 100 copies and word travelled fast and within a month all copies had sold out (I don’t have a copy!).

Always bashful, John took a lot of persuading to be interviewed . So, from the now classic Zine Zone International 13 (1990), here is that interview with one of the most under rated artists ever!
Above:circa 1987 at a Westminster comic Mart -JE and Me!

TH: John, can you give us a little background info on yourself —I believe that you just managed to leap aboard an aircraft leaving South Africa with military police in hot pursuit:a rumour?

JOHN: Well, I left school in ‘82, feeling safe behind my British passport, thought I could soak up the South African sun for a few months to recover from the education ordeal, and received an April call-up to the Navy.  I dodge the security police getting to the airport but the military were waiting! I jumped into an army jeep and tore along the airstrip, shells exploding all around me as I tried to reach the open cargo door of an aircraft.  With bullets whizzing all around I leapt for the aircraft and made it just in time! I left in March ‘82.

TH: Okay, hands up. I added the text from “the Navy” to “I left”….I’m trying to sell copies here!  Alright, when did you first get interested in comic art, and were you encouraged to draw when you started?  Most parents think it’s a waste of time.

JOHN: My dad used to buy me comics. I underwent the change from Harvey to Marvel comics aged about eleven.  My folks are both artists so they stood back and watched me wind my way along this path from about that age onward.  I was reading before that age, too, but I’d stop more often and play with my yo-yo then.

TH: You told me once that your more “cartoony” style was inked straight off –no pencils.  How do you do it?

JOHN: Lots of Process White!

TH: The more serious style you do pencil before inking, is it a style you’d like to use more?

JOHN: I use it for the colour stuff mainly because there isn’t as much room for manoeuvre with the outline then.  Black and white I prefer to do straight off in the pursuit of dynamism but when a more considered and detailed style is called for (not something I myself care very much for) then I knuckle down and work out what I’m doing first.  I always use detailed thumb-nail sketches so I’m not being all that daring in fact.  The finished artwork is effectively an enlargement of these sketches.

TH: In case anyone thinks John is exaggerating about a “lot” of Process White usage I can state here and now that Ben Dilworth, who was doing the printing for Dervish Ropey and the Maximin Sword, had picked up the artwork and phoned me to say “I can believe he really does do this work freestyle!  You ought to see the amount of whitener used and paste-ups!”  That said, Ben did admit the work still looked “gorgeous”.

Now, John, you’re interested in Amerindians aren’t you?  How did this interest develop –is it something you’d like to incorporate into future work?

JOHN: American Indians are a much-abused population with a miraculously resilient culture.  I suppose I follow their story because it’s got more than a little in common with South African black history which I’d seen too much of to really want to think about.

TH: You are my favourite colourist –you use Magic Markers, right? How easy are they to use…is there hope for me?

JOHN: Magic Markers I met in ‘87/’88 when I thought I wanted to join an ad agency and earn £50,000 a year doing storyboards.  I used to use coloured inks prior to this in much the same way as I now use the markers.  The thing that took me the longest to master was the covering large areas with flat colours.  I decided against the ad agency (which meant, unfortunately, the £50,000 as well) but I kept using the markers.

They’re not that difficult to use at all once you get used to being constantly high on the fumes (now I take a Magic Marker where-ever I go!).

TH: You’ve done book covers and postcard illustrations –can you tell me (roughly) who you have done work for?

JOHN: I’ve done 75 or more book covers for the Overcoming Common Problems series for Sheldon Press over the past six years (1985-1990).  These books are available in health food shops and self-help sections of bookshops and have titles like The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Book.  My favourite book cover was for David Taylor’s Zoo Vet book called Dragon Doctor.  They did a TV series about that (pioneering veterinary work in UK zoos –TH) as well.

My greetings cards aren’t selling very well apparently.  They feature Dervish Ropey and since I said I’d like royalties for them they’re not making me any money!

TH: Am I right in assuming that your first colour comic work was for Brain Damage (now retitled The Damage) -how did you land this job?

JOHN: Yes. I don’t know.  The editor, Bill Hampton, found me (possibly through the Association of Illustrators) and visited me in person.  He picked out something he liked from my backlog of work and I developed it from there.

TH: Stonewall question: list ten words that you feel describe John Erasmus without cheating!

JOHN: I was answering these questions quite frankly up until now.  When I’m in difficulty I always try to think what I’d do if I wasn’t.  It’s the panic that really gets you.  If I could have one wishcome true it would be to always be able to stay calm and do the right thing in every situation.  Could you pick your ten words from amongst this lot?

TH: No.  But, lessee:talented, polite, friendly, a smoothy, helpful, non-egotistical, willing (!), unrecognised, intelligent, woman watcher!  Hah! I think that about covers you!

Dervish Ropey is a sort of Indiana Jones type character and the special, Dervish Ropey and the Maximin Sword, sold out within a month but through my naiivete it emptied my pockets instead of filling them!  You’ve more of this great character to come I believe?

JOHN: Sorry I dried up your resources.  The new one is 86 pages all about American Indians based on the three actual happenings in modern American Indian/White American history combined into one day in the life of a fictional traditional Indian tribe.  Paul Gravett of Escape magazine liked it and is seeing what he can do with it.  I’m very glad the card company liked Dervish Ropey, too, but wish they could shift a few of the damn things to the punters.

TH: and Denizen Ark: Unemployed Crime-Fighter –what’s happening to him?

JOHN: He’s my present spare-time-consumer. I like to be doing something I can call my own while still maintaining some sort of contact with money-earning sources.  Either he’ll eventually be a series of six comics or he won’t be.  Either way I’ll complete the work by X-Mas.  If the enterprise basks in the glow of unpublished anonymity after that it’ll be altogether in keeping with the nature of the character!

TH: Let’s hope the project succeeds –he is an excellent character.  But I understand that you’re making videos with Marek Wedler, who describes them as “hot and steamy”.  Is he lying as usual?  What are they about and is video film making something you’d like to do professionally?

JOHN: These are videos filmed almost exclusively in the nude.  However, all those appearing on the screen are at all times fully clothed.  Actually, the production team members generally cover their nudity before commencing filming, too —but of course it’s obvious to all concerned what they are really like underneath.

The films are short stories using whatever props or people are available at the time.  Movies are big time comics so, yes, the more of this I can do, the merrier I’ll be.

TH: What are your hopes for the future regarding your comics work —anything you’d really love to do?

JOHN: I’d really like to do just one Spider-Man comic.

TH: Any final comments –words for the fans, you know –the usual?

JOHN: Have you honestly read this entire interview?  See you at the next mart, Terry. Cheers!

TH: I’ll be looking forward to it.  An interview worth waiting three years for?   ANYTHING John does is worth waiting three years for!


End Note: Since this interview was published, John worked on Accident Man for Toxic, a comic based on Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct and much, much more.  Sadly, blinkered Marvel Comics has never offered John a chance to work on Sipder-Man!

You can more of John’s work at:

The project with Paul Gravett may not have happened but, after a good few years, Dervish Ropey is set to return in Dervish Ropey: The Totem from Black Tower. A book I am very excited about.

Hopefully, it might convince some European publishers to put work the way of Mr. Erasmus!

And…Dervish Ropey -Totem Pole is soon to appear from Black Tower Comics so here’s a couple of sneak pages!

DERVISH ROPEY:TOTEM is out mid-November

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Classical Comics DRACULA -An EXCLUSIVE Preview!!

So there I was, miserable day, and what pops up on screen? A message telling me Clive Bryant, head of Classical Comics, had emailed me.

In fact, other messages followed as Clive offered CBO an exclusive peek at their latest title -Dracula!
It is one I’ve been waiting for since, being a horror film/comic buff, Dracula has to rate pretty highly on my things to grab comic-wise.  Clive wrote:

“People tell me it’s Staz’s greatest work to date. I can’t comment, but I think it’s superb. It was a great adaptation by Jason Cobley, James Offredi did a wonderful colouring job, and of course the Lettering Genius that is Jim Campbell was in his element.

Overall I think it’s our strongest title yet, and one to be proud of.

The specs:
152 pages
soft back.
cover price: £9.99
Original Text: 978-1-906332-25-9
Quick Text: 978-1-906332-26-6
Available early November

So, I downloaded the pdf Clive sent and sat back to view them.  Firstly, the covers look great as you can see below:

Well, as anyone in publishing comics and books knows, the cover is the most important thing initially.  It needs to grab the eye of the punter (customer) and make them pick the book up. That’s the “hook”.  Both these covers do the job though the Quick Text cover grabbed my eye first -that would make a great poster!
Once hooked, the customer needs to be impressed by what is inside. To me that is the next important thing -if you browse throught a comic you are not going to read the entire thing and certainly not if it is 152 pages thick!

Now, I have always been a bit 50-50 when it comes to Staz Johnson’s work (I loved a zombie strip he drew in Super Adventure Stories waaay back in the 1980s) so it surprised me that this work won me over.  Mentally I can delete colour so that all I ‘see’ is the black and white work -colour can hide a lot of faults. The work is quite possibly the best I have seen from Johnson.

Great figure work and costume detail and each scene hits the spot so well that I feel quite excited about the fact the book will be available shortly. If Johnson or the team working on this book do not get some sort of industry award (we all know who I’m talking about) it will be a black mark on the industry.

It has been some forty years (eeeek!) since I read the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker but it’s no problem. The lines are burnt into my brain.  So, has it been well adapted?  In fact, based on what I’ve seen (far more than on show here) it does look like a faithful adaption.

Is it Classical Comics best book to date?


Not only will it be of interest to students but it also ought to appeal to the horror buff -whether a film, comic or book fan. The mood set by the colour work is great and if you run a book shop you need to order this one for the upcoming Christmas season.  The same applies to comic shops or comic dealers -this has all- year- round appeal.

I can’t wait for the review copies and if this isn’t a best seller I just give up. My big persuader is the art.  And I’ll leave you with some of those pages and see what you think.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

New:Ultimate Centaur Collection


The Ultimate Centaur Collection
143 pages
Ships in 3–5 business days
Previously available as two seperate volumes and now collected into one 146 pages volume! Vol 1 Centaur -the short-lived publishing house of some of the first and most unique Golden Age heroes that still live on in legend today!
The Eye Sees! Truly weird and bizarre! The Clock! Airman! The Sparkler! The Blue Lady! Plymo! The Arrow! And others. Volume 1 is a treat for all Golden Age comic fans and a must have! Volume 2 The Skull,The Shark,The Blue Lady and Amazing Man! These were part of the First Wave of US Golden Age comics that also includes Mini Midget and Mighty Man.
This book also reprints the one and only appearance of the very first comic book Owl from 1940! A must for comic fans and Golden Age buffs!



Terry Hooper & David Gordon

Ships in 3–5 business days
Maeve longs for the exciting, fast-paced life of the big city. However, she has a greater destiny ahead of her (see The Darke Child). While travelling on a train, Maeve is attacked by a servant of The Dark Disciple but is rescued in time by none other than M and J (Two Hot Girls On A Hot Summers Night). The duo have been guided there by the goddess and Maeve takes refuge with them.
“Communing” with a pagan witch wasn’t enough and, under M and Js tutelage, Maeve finds herself in Otherworld and becoming lover of the goddess herself. Drawn by “The British Manara”, David Gordon, this book abounds in adult adventures in bondage and much much more.

New: Two Hot Girls   

Two Hot Girls On A Hot Summers Night
Hooper & Wetherell

Ships in 3–5 business days
Almost a millennium ago, two women from different classes fell in love and carried on a passionate affair. Jayne was a brunette Saxon princess with a reputation for dabbling in witchcraft. Marian was a blonde, Norman peasant girl. They were meant to be lovers forever and to fulfil a prophecy. and to allow this, a wizened witch cast an ancient spell. In future lives, in future centuries, the pair were destined to meet again and again.
2 Hot Girls on a Hot Summer Night was an erotic, four-issue mini-series created by Terry Hooper and Art Wetherell for Eros Comics in 1991. It became a huge seller but the trilogy only saw part 1 and 2 completed…until now.
For adults only, this is part 1 of the trilogy which includes MAEVE and the never before revealed final story in The Darke Child.



Sizzlin' Sisters
Art Wetherell & Terry Hooper
Black and white
99 pages

Ships in 3–5 business days
Published by Eros Comix in 1997, Sizzlin’ Sisters continued the company’s line of books aimed directly at the adult market. Each issue, Sizzlin’ Sisters puts the spotlight on erotic tales featuring the sexual exploits of women with each other.
There are various plot devices of sorts that are used to place the women in, shall we say “compromising positions,” of which they happily, of course, take full advantage. The use of large panels, isn’t just to succeed in making sure that the reader has little doubt with regard to the action that is taking place in the story, this series was based on the original Two Hot Girls script written and rejected by Terry Hooper.
Here, for the first time, are all the issues in one volume. STRICTLY FOR ADULTS ONLY!!!

New:Ultimate Centaur Collection

The Ultimate Centaur Collection
143 pages
Ships in 3–5 business days
Previously available as two seperate volumes and now collected into one 146 pages volume! Vol 1 Centaur -the short-lived publishing house of some of the first and most unique Golden Age heroes that still live on in legend today!
The Eye Sees! Truly weird and bizarre! The Clock! Airman! The Sparkler! The Blue Lady! Plymo! The Arrow! And others. Volume 1 is a treat for all Golden Age comic fans and a must have! Volume 2 The Skull,The Shark,The Blue Lady and Amazing Man! These were part of the First Wave of US Golden Age comics that also includes Mini Midget and Mighty Man.
This book also reprints the one and only appearance of the very first comic book Owl from 1940! A must for comic fans and Golden Age buffs!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

New Black Tower Comics!

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!

Purple Hood 3:Rule Britannia

Purple Hood 3 (of 3)
Ben R. Dilworth
Black Tower

This is it! The pulse pounding, bullet riddled, high octane finale to the first Purple Hood series since 1967! Ben R. Dilworth guides the generational Purple Hood line from era to era fighting Great Britains enemies and hinting at future possibilities.

The hit comic of 2011

This is it! The pulse pounding, bullet riddled, high octane finale to the first Purple Hood series since 1967! Ben R. Dilworth guides the generational Purple Hood line from era to era fighting Great Britains enemies and hinting at future possibilities.

The hit comic of 2011

Purple Hood 2: Glory


Purple Hood 2 (of 3):Glory
Ben R. Dilworth
Black Tower




The second part of Ben Dilworth’s Purple Hood trilogy shows just how crime and international terror ought to be handled -with gloves. Not “kiddy gloves” of appeasement but Purple gloves of justice and retribution!
We see the Hood finally closing in on the European warlord responsible for the deaths of aid workers in a massacre.

Whether at Home of Abroad the Purple Hood cannot be beaten…

…and sales figures agree!

Purple Hood 1:Land Of Hope

Purple Hood 1 (of 3):Land Of Hope
Ben R. Dilworth
Black Tower

It began during the 1500s and The Dutch Wars. A man scarred while thwarting the Dutch invasion plans dons a purple hood and vowed to be Englands protector at whatever cost.

Generation after generation of the Britton family have taken on the role. The cost has been heavy but not one Purple Hood has ever bemoaned this.

The 1960s incarnation was one of many to wear the hood and in this first of a three part series, Ben Dilworth explores the past and present of the Purple Hood and what it takes to wear that hood. this is non-stop action and adventure!

The first original Purple Hood comic since 1967.

D.C. Thomson:I Take NO Joy In This…

I’ve been telling D.C. thomson and others for over 20 years WHAT is wrong with the books they produce but they have closed minds and, subsequently, are committing commercial suicide.

I did state that the new incarnation would not work.

Does it take someone with a rolled up copy of the Dandy to beat its editorial staff to a bloody pulp in their offices for anyone to take notice?

I had hoped it might bring in a few readers but even long time readers have stopped buying and Thomson’s recent rather brusque response to my polite and detailed suggestion of new projects goes to show that all editors need sacking and new people who know comics need to be brought in.

This is the death knell for Dandy. “Disappointing” sales. Christ on a bike, for Thomson that is not disappointing it is a downright disgrace and humiliation.

Sales of 7,448 copies. Time to get that revolver out of the drawer and do the decent thing. Thomson COULD make a comics come back but they just don’t want to and I only have one question to ask: 

What are the senior company management at Thomson doing? Is this a comic cancellation tax dodge?



Desperate Dandy: comic’s celebrity relaunch “backfired”

Desperate Dan still walks tall in Dundee but sales of the Dandy comic have slumped
A REVAMP of the Dandy has backfired and sales of the world-famous comic are at an all-time low, it emerged today (sun).

Scots publishers DC Thomson tried to reverse the comic’s sales decline a year ago by introducing celebrity-based strips and even a Big Brother-style voting system.

But the firm has admitted it is “disappointed” after half the readership abandoned the title and sales plunged to just 7,448.

A spokesman even referred to the Dandy as a “blot” on an otherwise successful period.

Some fans of the comic fear it is only a matter of time before the Dandy disappears altogether, although DC Thomson today insisted they remained committed to the title.

The Dandy was first published, in Dundee, in 1937 and delighted generations of youngsters with characters such as Desperate Dan.

But sales sharply declined in the post war years from their peak of more than 1m.

Household names such as Harry Hill, Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson were drafted in to try to appeal to a new generation of readers.

And fans of the comic were even given the chance to vote to evict their least favourite character from Dandy.
A spokesman for DC Thomson today admitted: “The figures for The Dandy are disappointing and there is no getting away from that.

“The Dandy is the one blot on an otherwise quite successful period for us.

“We will be taking steps to address that, but we are not looking at radical surgery.”

John Freeman, a former editor of the monthly Doctor Who Magazine, claimed The Dandy was facing possible closure.

He said: “Sales are nowhere near where they were even five years ago.

“It would become difficult for them to print the comic if sales dropped below 3,000.”

Mr Freeman added: “I know that comic titles with circulations higher than that have been dispatched.”
The decision to stop attaching free gifts to the front cover could have accelerated the declined of The Dandy, said Mr Freeman.

“Maybe kids don’t want a comic that’s just a comic. Sad news if that’s true,” he said.

Former comic strip artist Kid Robson said the decision to introduce celebrity-based characters is the central reason for the rapid decline of The Dandy.

He said: “The Dandy, in particular, pursues this position to the extent that the fix has resulted in it being far more broken than was the case previously.

“The evidence suggests that the treatment is killing the patient.”

Recent editions have featured ITV presenters Ant & Dec challenging BBC rivals Dick and Dom to a bare-knuckle boxing match.

Harry Hill’s Real-Life Adventures in TV Land and a paradody of rapper Tinie Tempah, Tiny’s Temper, have also appeared.

Experts have suggested that DC Thomson may merge The Dandy with The Beano, another legendary title but one whose sales are declining more slowly and which still sells 40,000 copies.

Several high-profile titles in the same market are continuing to sell well.

The weekly Doctor Who Adventures magazine has maintained its 50,000 sales over the past year. And the TV spin-off, Simpsons Comics, sold 65,000.

Taken from

Sunday, 18 September 2011 is still crap

Seriously, “2-4 days” to get a tech problem THEY created sorted out..but that was 26th AUGUST. It is now the 18th September and despite daily emails -nothing.  The Authors Spotlight page THEY moved me to still has multiple listings over 10 pages.  The page keeps re-arranging itself.  Books vanish but some do return. Some do not. I got a review in a national magazine of The Red Paper. I’ve had lots of emails asking why its not available and the magazine has had 20 emails asking the same thing. Its hit-or-miss if you find it on search.
Placed a trial order this morning -”No content available”.
So I’ve lost coming up to £400 in sales.  Lost.  I doubt after weeks of trying anyone is going to be interested in trying again.
So, is still UTTER CRAP in dealing with “its” authors problems.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Jean Marc Lofficier -The Interview

Now, I think that everyone who is a regular CBO visitor knows that I love European comics (you missed that?!) but in the last couple years one company has pressed my “Like Button” so many times that I’m quite dizzy!  That company is Hexagon Comics.

As I discovered, all these cool French characters from the 1960s and 1970s have been combined into one consistent universe -you have probably even read comics from the United States with them in and not realised it. But who could possibly be the mega brain behind such a venture?

Jean Marc Lofficier, that’s who. And I am very pleased and, I’ll admit to being excited at the prospect of this creator of a French comics universe answering some of my questions and revealing the story behind all of this!


Terry: Now, I’ve obviously seen the incredible Cool French Comics site set up by yourself and wife Randy ( ) which covers characters from A-Z from Adele Blanc-Sec to  Zembla but also includes a timeline of French comic book/strip characters.
Is it fair to say, in the nicest possible way, that you and Randy are French comic geeks?

Jean Marc: I definitely am the geek of the family! Randy used to read METAL MEN and some of the cool DC comics as a teenager, but obviously she wasn’t aware of the rich tradition of French comics; I’m the one who introduced her to it – as well as the films, TV series, etc. derived from those characters. It is of course much easier to find even the rarest of books or TV series today. We truly live in a Golden Age of Geekdom!

Jean Marc and Randy Lofficier 

Terry: I don’t think comic readers in the UK, and definitely in the United States, have no idea how rich and extensive French comic characters and comics have been.  After all –“It’s not in English”!

So, how old were you when you “discovered” comics -what are your first memories of French language comics: did you have favourite characters or a title you’d go out of your way to get a hold of?

Jean Marc: The first comics I read as a very young child was Le Journal de Mickey, which published Disney stories. Then, later, I switched to Spirou, Tintin and Pilote, but parallel to that, I also discovered French translations of DC’s Mystery in Space in the early 60s (the big name superheroes such as Superman or Batman weren’t imported until 1968, but I knew Adam Strange and Martian Manhunter!). I also read a lot of French digest-sized magazines which contained translations of British, Italian and American comics (again, DC), plus a number of original series created at the behest of the French publisher but often drawn by Italian artists. This was particularly true at Editions Lug, which created a large number of characters, which became the “Hexagon Universe” under my guidance. 

When I was a kid, I was particularly fond of Lucky Luke and The Smurfs, and Spirou too (which I preferred to Tintin). As far as more realistic stories are concerned, I was always drawn towards the more fantastic type of heroes. Because these were not well represented in the “mainstream” mags like Spirou or Tintin, I read in the  digest magazines: there were jungle lords like Zembla, Akim and Tanka, but also weird monsters like Wampus (which, even then, was supposed to be “mature readers”), super-agents like Mister Song of CLASH, and characters like Jaleb the telepath, Homicron and the Time Brigade which shared the spotlight in a mag called “Futura”, about the only comics mag fully devoted to home-grown sci-fi/superhero comics.

Terry: Now, Cool French Comics is a very, uh, cool site. Lots of history and, of course, colour illustrations.  But I was impressed by SHADOWMEN 2:Heroes & Villains Of French Comics. There is a great cover and the book is almost encyclopaedic in its scope. In fact, you detail the creators, the story behind the character, publishing history and a huge bibliography for some characters so the reader knows the chronology of the stories and their titles. This IS encyclopaedic. But it needs a larger format!  It’s 319 pages, indexed (!) and, I forgot to mention, full of black and white art.
How long did it take you and Randy  to put the book together –I’m guessing the Cool French Comics (CFC) helped to a degree; the entry on Super Boy on CFCs is a simple page but in the book the character takes up (with illoes) 13 pages. So was it a case of saying “We’ve got the basics now let’s fill in with more detail”?

cover by Andrew Paquette

Jean Marc: The source of all this is an 800-page book I did in the mid-90s for an American publisher of scholarly/academic tomes called MacFarland. The book was called FRENCH SCIENCE-FICTION and included an extensive section on comics. I’m not 1200% sure but I think I created the CFC website at about the same time, primarily to feature more art, in color, which I couldn’t do in the MacFarland book. Then when we started Black Coat Press in mid-2003, it was easy to spin off the materials regarding the LITERARY heroes into SHADOWMEN and the COMICS heroes into SHADOWMEN II. I already had all the information; it was mostly a matter of reformatting, and providing some historical context.

Behind all this, of course, was the same desire to share my knowledge of French popular fiction with US/UK readers. When I grew up, as I mentioned, the French, Italian, USA, UK stories were all published equally by the same publishers. I mean, bookwise you could find Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin at Livre de poche, or The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Black Coats at Marabout, and comicswise Martian Manhunter and Fulguros at Artima, or Zembla and Spider-Man at Lug. So to me, you (the US and UK readers) are the ones being deprived, because you grew up with only half of the stuff I grew up with!

another excellent cover by Paquette

Terry: I forgot to mention that, naturally, there was a first volume, again co-written by yourself and Randy: Shadowmen:Heroes & Villains Of French Pulp Fiction. I’m going to have to track that down one day!

But  I ought to mention that both you and Randy have quite distinguished careers.  I’ll quote here:
“Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier are writers, editors and translators of screenplays, teleplays, books and comic books, mostly in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, animation and popular literature.

They have co-authored a dozen books about movies and television, several novels, as well as numerous comics and translations, including the Moebius graphic novels. They have also contributed scripts to animated series such as The Real Ghostbusters and Duck Tales, among others. In 1990, in recognition of their distinguished career as comic book writers, translators and editors, Randy and Jean-Marc were presented with the Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comic Arts.”

Did this help when it came to getting hold of old French comic characters to reprint in collections under your Hexagon Comics imprint?

In case newer readers have missed the reviews:
And then the legend that is WAMPUS!

Jean Marc: First, when you decide to be a professional, you write whatever you’re being paid to write, so being in Hollywood, we were lucky to be able to write film articles, non-fiction books, short stories, comics, cartoons, film scripts, etc. I’m not saying we’re equally proud of everything we did – there are a couple of cartoons I’ve virtually never watched again since we wrote them – but overall, I think we’ve done OK, and I’m really happy with a comic series like TONGUE*LASH which is really unique, or the DC Elseworld “German Cinena” trilogy.

In the case of what became Hexagon Comics, the story is simple. In 2000, Thierry Mornet who was then editor-in-chief at SEMIC S.A. which had taken over the old Editions Lug, asked me to resurrect the old characters I used to read as a kid. You bet I was thrilled! So from 2000-2003 I was like the head writer & managing editor (under Thierry) of line of new stories featuring Phenix, Kabur, Dick Demon, Wampus, etc. and I created some new groups like Strangers and Hexagon. 

Semic went out of business at the end of 2003 and the original creators of the characters and I and several authors got together and started a syndicate or an association to exploit our properties. Under French Law there is no such thing as work for hire (yay!) so reclaiming the rights was perfectly legal. So I started with the idea of reprinting the classic stories (which Semic had not done) as well as some of the new stories we’d created. I did eight reprint books in English in a smaller paperback format, but I stopped because, a) it took too much time to translate & re-letter the strips, and b) a few years ago Diamond decided to no longer carry our books.

However the French reprint series, which is done in a Marvel Essential-like format is quite successful and that one, I intend to continue for the foreseeable future.

Terry: Now, you’ve not been content to just leave it at reprints. I was surprised to walk into a comic shop in 2003 and see the first issue of the full colour Strangers comic published by Image Comics. I’d heard of C.L.A.S.H. and vaguely recognised some of the other characters.  I looked at the assistant, I think it was Chris Rice and said: “These are French characters!” So I got my standing order set up as I didn’t want to miss an issue!

(Image Comics, 2003)

You and Randy had taken the characters to the next level in establishing them in a, shall we call it an “Hexagon Comics Universe”?  And then –BOOM!- “Nexus versus Wampus”—Wampus I’d seen the odd page of and loved the look of the character. Now I could see him go up against Nexus.

My first question is –I’m guessing that you both approached Image Comics with the project: did they take much convincing?

Jean Marc: That was entirely Thierry Mornet’s doing. Semic was publishing several Image books in France and it was structured as an exchange. We gave Image all the films lettered in English, and the only thing they had to do was print & distribute. They did rather well, starting at 8000 copies and finishing at 6000 which wasn’t bad for characters no one had ever heard of on that side of the pond.

Terry: Now, we’ve mentioned that you got hold of these old characters and I’m guessing you and Randy thought uniting them in one consistent comic universe would be cool. Creators can be a bit “odd” when it comes to others using and developing their characters did you get any problems?

Jean Marc: To give some historical perspective, the “Stan Lee” of Editions Lug, if you will, was its co-founder, co-owner, head writer & editor Marcel Navarro. His “Roy Thomas”, if you will, was Claude Legrand who came in the late 60s, started FUTURA, and created quite a few of the characters. Later, Claude went on to write several novels and was also the translator of all the CONAN comics in France. Claude is the one who first crossed over Jaleb and Time Brigade in one story. So when I came in in 2000, the idea of a shared universe was totally undeveloped, but not inexistent. Claude passed away a few years ago but I had a chance to talk to him and correspond with him, and he and the other original artists such as Luciano Bernasconi (who was the “Jack Kirby” of Lug to carry on with the analogy) have all been thrilled with what I’ve been doing. In fact, even today, Luciano keeps drawing stories for us in the “classic” style. He did an origin of Futura a year ago and is now doing an episode about young Kit Kappa. We’ve had a terrific relationship with all the “old” artists.

Marcel Navarro .

Below -sent to me years ago so I don’t know who to credit, but its a rare photo of Navarro at the LUG offices.

Thanks to Jean Marc -a photograph of legrand!!
Terry: Mike Baron and Steve Rude created Nexus –they had no problems with your using him?
And a final question here: why did it end with issue 6 in the English version?!

Jean Marc: Of course we received the permission of Mike and Steve to use Nexus! I don’t think they minded at all. Steve told me he liked Jay Stephens’ version of the character. 

Initially, SEMIC only did 6 issues in color, hence that’s what we gave Image. I had done one more issue in B&W, plus the origins of Starlock also in B&W, but we didn’t feel like going to the expense of coloring them just for Image.

Recently for the French TPB, we colored #7 and created an all-new issue #8. The Starlock Origins, I had reprinted in B&W in the tpb reprint of Starlock, but we’re having it colored now and we’ll reprint it again in a one-shot Starlock issue of HEXAGON UNIVERSE next year.

Terry: I did get a shock when I found that some of the characters published in Hexagon’s collections have several volumes in French. But this was nothing compared to my shock on finding, accidentally, Wanga Comics:

The number of comic titles and characters was a little mind-blowing. Can you tell me about Wanga Comics –what is it’s connection with Hexagon Comics?

Jean Marc: Wanga Comics is a small French publisher which was doing its own creator-owned comics, such as LE PATROUILLEUR and NOUVEAUX GARDIENS and wanted to expand its line, but didn’t have materials or resources, so we teamed up 50-50 so to speak, sort of like with Image: I provide the books; they print & distribute them. I continue the reprint line of TPBs in black & white, they’ll do all the new stories in color. It’s a good arrangement.

We have two bimonthly mags planned: one HEXAGON UNIVERSE is a 64-page rotating character mag like the old Marvel Super-Heroes, featuring different characters every issue; the other is a classic 32-page comic featuring the STRANGERS. #1 will be released at the Angouleme Comics Fest in January 2012.

above -a teaser courtesy of Jean-Marc

Terry: I think it’s a pity comic fans will not try comics because they are not in English. I’ve got Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Polish –lots of foreign language comics but not understanding the languages never ruined by enjoyment!

So what titles are you currently working on that you’d recommend and can you reveal anything about future plans  –Cinebook The 9th Art, under Olivier Cadic have proven that not only can English translations of French language comics prove interesting but they also sell! Maybe a route for Hexagon to take in the future?

Jean Marc: My friend Steve Bissette has been discussing incorporating some of our “classic” stories in his TALES OF THE UNCANNY “1963” spin off project because they are after all authentic, genuine old comics from the 60s. Otherwise, I’m afraid that with all the French projects in the pipeline, I haven’t had the time to pursue the American market lately.

above:cover by Stephan Martiniere
below:cover by J-M. Ponzio

Terry: Anything we’ve not touched on you’d like to mention?

Jean Marc: Leaving comics aside, I’d like to plug some of the books (I mean, prose novels) published by Black Coat Press which should appeal to folks who like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc. 

Every year we put out an anthology of literary pastiches in which pulp heroes and villains meet. It’s called TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN. There are 7 volumes to date with #8 coming up in December. Look it up:

It’s really exciting! We also have collections of stories with such great pulp heroes as The Nyctalope, Doctor Omega, Sar Dubnotal… Again, the perfect complement to comic book heroes.

cover art by Christine Clavel

Terry: Jean Marc –many, many thanks for taking the time to answer some dumb questions and hope to see yourself and Randy, or Hexagon, at a British convention some time!

Jean Marc: I’d love to be invited! Ryan Air has cheap fares from Carcassonne (near where I live) to London Stansted. If someone wants me to come over, I’d be happy to do it. 

Terry:There you have it -if the organisers of the International Comic Expo want to have a really good international feel invite Hexagon Comics and Jean Marc Lofficier!
sketch of the poster for Strangers (c) Hexagon Comics

photo of Jean Marc Lofficier from “Le bleu du ciel en hiver” which can be found here with links to other pages (all in French):

photo of J. M. & Randy Lofficier from the Black Coat Press site (in English):

Hexagon Comics: