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Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Improbability Of The British Super Hero ~updated

This 2014 article got some of the highest views on CBO so with all the behind-the-scenes stuff he's involved with this seemed a good time to add more images and repost!

At Long Last! The Return Of The Improbability Of The British Super Hero


I think it well worth re-posting this item (with some new artwork) because, as I pointed out in my post on Delcourt jumping on to the cash-cow of super heroes (admitting it!) by having its series Sentinels made into a film, super heroes are highly profitable and if the rather conservative big Franco-Belgian BD publishers realise this....

But where are the business entrepreneurs -hmm?

Myself, Stransky, LaBatt and Ben Dilworth sit ready.  Yes, after years of just saying "someone" needs to be a figure-head to launch such a project I am now so fed up that I am putting myself forward ("Blimey! A Saviour complex -I told you!" I can just hear that little moron screaming it now).
Forget skyscrapers. We have high streets, coastal towns, villages and cities -we have unique scenery in the UK and all are ripe for British super heroes!



“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.



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 werenot super heroes.


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!



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.




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.
Below the Jerry Siegel created Gadget Man and Gimmick Kid.  Siegel was said to have been behind a few other IPC/Fleetway characters but not openly credited for very specific reasons.


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#!

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!

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.  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.”

D. C. Thomson 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.
Jack Staff and cast
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!

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.
Image result for UK comic Spandex
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.

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 tp 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.

So the market is there but where are the moneymen, 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?

However improbable British super heroes might seem to some 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.

(c)2017 T. Hooper-Scharf/Black Tower Comics

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Monday, 22 May 2017

We Will STILL See The Green Skies (update)

John wanted to know (everyone knows they CAN comment on CBO, right?) so here we go.

Obviously with the need to get money to eat and the current legal battle (two actually) I have not had much chance to do more work on the book other than the 60 lettered pages I think I mentioned before. I have, however, gone over the pages and noted that two characters are missing -these are characters who were to be part of the Black Tower next generation of heroes.  So they will need to be included or I will never forgive myself!  :-)

A three page section has been expanded to seven pages and may be used in Black Tower Super Heroes 8 -the last issue of that run. But the main space battle will take some time to finish.  I have never claimed (despite what some idiots say) to be the greatest comic artist on Earth, but I want this to look good. Alien craft by the hundreds....but whether they are near Earth to save or destroy it.....?

Whatever happens I want this book finished and out before Christmas.  Which means my two proof readers will need to see it first!

So The Green Skies is neither shelved nor forgotten and I want to get this six inches (15cms) stack of artwork off my table asap!!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Gods! Giant Robots! Super Heroes! Alien Invasions! Cavemen And....

...you want more??

What an incredible read!!!!



Well over 300 pages!!!!!

What genius is behind this masterpiece???

This wreaks of desperation!


Invasion Earth Trilogy I & II-The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes/Cross Earths Caper

I -The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-42ZNRvzkxOU/U43QMbw9yzI/AAAAAAAADPo/Hc5VnGFrUUQ/s1600/NEW+RETURN+Front.jpg


Paperback, 
A4
Black & White
331 Pages
Price: £20.00 (excl. VAT)

It begins slowly.  It always does. It's a deception that everything in the world is as it should be and that never changes.

Earth’s heroes and crime-fighters are 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 psychics around the world have been sensing something.  A "something" that sends feelings of sheer terror through their psyches.

There is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon. Undetected by deep-space radar and other instruments, only a few on Earth have sensed it and they cannot penetrate the hull but only feel psychic screams and....worse.

And then it begins: strange orange spheres isolate and chase some of Earth’s heroes who then vanish into thin air –are they dead?  An attack by an old foe or foes -?

Black, impenetrable domes cover cities world-wide. 

Then it becomes clear to those within the domes what is going on: 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! 

No one suspects the driving force behind the events.  One single evil guiding events.  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? 



II-The Cross Earths Caper

 

 http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-S0uaExuRIPQ/UouqRS2lVzI/AAAAAAAACHs/NbnZvfVNLxc/s1600/CROSS+EARTHS+CAPER+COVER.jpg
The Cross-Earths Caper: Part II of the Invasion Earth Trilogy
Paperback, 
A4
Black & White
107 Pages
Price: £15.00 (excl. VAT)

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.

But things have to go on.  As heroes from other parallels who helped during the recent events return home, members of the Special Globe Guard are shocked at the sudden appearance of Zom of the Zodiac. Never a sign of good things a-coming!

Very soon, a group of heroes mount a rescue mission and find that a quick rescue mission can turn sour equally quickly. As they overcome one challenge the the heroes become lost between parallel Earths and face new 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!


NROTG 003

NROTG 004
NROTG 005
NROTG 006
NROTG 007
NROTG 009
NROTG 010
NROTG 011

NROTG 012 (2)
NROTG 013

NROTG 014
NROTG 015
ALL artwork and characters are (c)2013 T. Hooper-Scharf and BTCG

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Decision And Why. It Needs Explaining.


 I apologise for the ramble, though. I did say I would be open and honest about publishing so...

Firstly, I will make it clear that my severe financial problems have not gone away. They are here and I face them every day.  Nothing has changed there.

What has changed I will explain. I had a very long conversation and discussion with Frank Barrell on Friday and went over why I had made serious decisions lately regarding publishing.

All the lack of sales print outs from the online store were laid out. In fact, every printout covering 2010-2017 was laid out.

I will paraphrase Frank’s points.

I started publishing in 1984 though I was involved in printing in the 1970s and had even put together a school magazine (the story of that and why it was banned as well as my selling copies of Oz magazine can be found in my QRD interview).

1. When the school mag was banned did I give up and just say “well that’s it then”?

2. When I worked with small and later larger US Independent publishers and got ripped off or messed about did I quit?

3. When I invested more than a month tailoring Heroes Of India for Diamond Comics in India –almost 50 pages of art, colour samplers and covers- and they decided to drop the idea without telling me…the same thing another Indian publisher later did…did I quit?

4. When I put in weeks of work drawing horror/ghost stories and later, at the suggestion of a senior editor, put together a D-Gruppe sampler issue for Bastei Verlag who were then taken over by Egmont and all work in progress dropped without telling creators, did I quit?

5. Did I quit over the constant, daily, troll emails as well as lies these same people put on UK comic forums from 1999-2016?

6. When Fleetway cancelled projects I worked hard on and then never paid me the £5,00+ it owed me for scripts, did I quit?  When the two editors at Egmont did the same thing did I quit?

7. Marvel UK-same thing. Did I quit? (no mention was made of me holding a Marvel editor out of the window. Good)

8. Did I quit when the two best selling adult graphic novels I wrote were allowed (the publisher never even attempted to step in) to be illegally downloaded millions of times?

9. Did I quit when one artist after another who I had helped get into comics (when I was a creators representative) cold shouldered me?

10. When a lawyer from Defiant Comics threatened to sue me because my Black Tower logo (used since the 1970s) was similar to their logo (1993) did I just back down and quit or did I tell him I looked forward to seeing him in court and to **** off?   The answer to that is obvious.

11. When an idiot at IPC Media and their legal department threatening the full weight of Warner (who owned IPC then) if I did not stop using my own characters (seriously) and did not pay for using characters in Looking Glass, which was a project submitted to IPC a few years before, did I back off and quit? (same as with Defiant but I was on good terms with management at IPC and later Warner told me they had no idea any of this had been going on)

12. Did I back off and quite when a number of other such incidents occurred (I am not giving details here because the people involved are either no longer here (alive) or nothing to do with the companies today)?

At this point I have to say that points 13-20 involved personal events so I won’t go into those.

The obvious answer was “No” to each point. 

So when I asked what the point was I was asked “Why are you being a ****** quitter now?”

Bit rude, but….

Yes, I took the point that I have been without money before.  Yes, in the 1980s/early 1990s I did often go 4-6 days without food (note to youngsters: in those circumstances tomato ketchup in hot water tastes fine. I also lived on one cabbage for a week. Drink plenty of fluids and when you get food do NOT eat like crazy!! Small amounts only to start).

It was pointed out that with over 90 books over 9 pages on the online store it was stupid to just close it down.  There were also 10 other books prepared waiting publication.  And hundreds of pages of The Green Skies so was I seriously going to dump all that?

Frank then pointed out that Comic Bits gets thousands of views per day and has a truly world wide audience –more countries from Africa recently appearing in the stats, too.

I pointed out I still review books and the counter point was that “reviewing does not earn you money!”

I pointed out that a lot of genres were covered by Black Tower and these were in comics, comic albums and graphic novels –excluding the prose books.  Artists had turned in fantastic work but showing that on CBO had not resulted in sales –and I was told quitting meant those creators were being let down.

I pointed to the lack of sales and a few other things but the response was that I had never quit before despite major problems so why was I quitting now? 

Paraphrasing again: “You are too ***** stubborn to quit.  You know that once this rough patch is over you’ll be like an express train again.  You think about it. Can you live with having quit?”

I get the point.  But, for the foreseeable future, what?   Yes, I will continue reviewing books as they arrive but beyond that--?

I was told that I needed to keep the idea of one day comic marts in Bristol even if not before 2018.  Again, depending on how many people want to book tables to just sell comics because last time I mentioned this I got no real interest.

The look and design of the Black Tower comics and books?  No. The covers have nothing wrong with them and the quality of contents and printing are excellent. Black and white is the best and affordable option –one of the books at the store is £5,75 in black and white. In colour that same book would cost £12.00+ (and remember I only get a small percentage since the printer and Print On Demand company take sizeable cuts –I have no real say in pricing).

The quality of the books cannot be improved upon.  Maybe Mr Dilworth can think of a new jazzed up Black Tower log?

Apart from that I can only wait and see. Flow through the rough waters.


But I really do not like to quit.  I have seen so many small publishers vanish or meet their ends in the last two years. I’m not sure how but I’ll dig my feet in. I guess at my funeral someone is going to say “He was a stubborn sod. Never knew when to quit!” Until then I will be that old bearded man people point out but hope I never notice.